Author Archives: Ian-Luke Penwald

About Ian-Luke Penwald

A Londoner and a Brit working in niche media in the UK.

Thought I’d ask the world

imageThe weather in the heart of London has been weird today. I noticed as I took a stroll at lunchtime in Westminster, the seat of government for the UK from eons past where I work. I don’t work for the Government; just located within the immediate audio radius of the chimes of Big Ben.

There was a glowering, shifting, heavily overcast sky, the distinct ‘ting’ of water droplets in the air on my face yet no sense of impending deluge, a restless breeze at the same time slightly chill and slightly humid but all the time unpredictable and uneasy. A typical British Summer in some ways or my day oddly reflecting my inner turmoil at a time of great need in my country?

Tomorrow the UK votes on whether or not to remain in the EU and I am required to fulfill my duty to vote. At this point in time just hours before the polls open I remain torn and undecided. I have devoured miles of column inches in press reporting, analysis, opinion. I have listened to hours upon hours of high brow radio and watched TV reporting from across the globe. I remain undecided as I write.

On the train home tonight, some teenagers in school uniform walked through our walk through train. “I’m voting to stay in the EU”, said the first, an Asian young guy. “I’m for the EU”, said the next Asian guy. “I don’t give a fuck if I’m in the EU or not”, said the black girl who tailed them.

People are talking about what we are about to decide on both at home and abroad so I decided to reach out to the world as far as I can by the means I have – in his case social media – and find out via Periscope what people around the world were thinking about it all.

If you aren’t familiar with Periscope, it’s a video interactive, live broadcast social media where you can engage with hundreds of thousands of ordinary people broadcasting in real-time from their devices either scenes or events they are witnessing or turning the camera on themselves and inviting you to interact with them through texts which they read and respond to live verbally. Here are just five of those who gave me their thoughts.

FitBusinessman: New York, USA

This guy never reveals his real name but he is a Forex stock market trader on Wall Street. He has a large and regular following on Periscope and Twitter and he ‘scopes’ (ie broadcasts) regularly on his take on the financial markets. He normally interacts with other financial peeps but will take questions from all comers. I asked him if he thought the UK would Brexit. His emphatic answer was yes. At the time I talked to him it was a Sunday. He said his entire bank of colleagues were in work that day purely and only to discuss and prepare for the possibility of a UK exit from the EU. I’d say he was resigned to the fact but unimpressed and nonplussed.

Kristian: Copenhagen, Denmark

Not sure what Kristian does for a living. An ordinary Danish bloke living in Copenhagen who loves to show people around his lovely city, which I have had the pleasure to visit for real, via his live scopes on a daily basis. Kristian’s view was one of goodwill to the UK but that he thought we would be making a big mistake to leave and he sees only bad this ahead for us.

Stephanie: Nice, France

Stephanie is a teacher of French as a foreign language and regularly scopes at several points of the day from her beloved Nice, one of my favourite cities of all. You’ll catch her at sunrise on the Cote d’Azur as she shows you her city and teaches you French along the way. Stephanie is charming and polite and won’t express a political opinion in her scopes but she fully supports the right of the British people to make their choice.

Liora: Netanya, Israel

Not sure what Liora does for a living but she loves to sing and show you her country and she will actually sing to you live in Hebrew and English in her scopes and she’s not bad…at least kind of in tune. Brexit is not such a high news topic in Israel but Liora is aware of it. She believes the UK should stay as part of the EU because many are stronger together than one alone.

CrazyRussian: Sunderland, UK

True name unknown or what he does for a living and why he is here. He’s a fitness freak who swears he found the secret to weight loss by eating omelettes cooked Russian style between 0900 and Noon and after 1800 hours with nothing outside those times. Even watched a whole live scope of him cooking this magic omelette, which looked a complete disaster and nothing the French and Spanish haven’t already discovered. Crazy thinks the whole EU vote is irrelevant because the next world war will be a cyber war and first one on the trigger wins.

Karen: Boston, USA

Finally to sweet and lovely Karen who has a very large Periscope following and who, like Liora and Kristian, just loves to show you around her native city and in her case Boston, MA, which I love and have visited, via her live roaming scopes. Karen has heard of the U.K. but not Brexit but she hopes we can find a way to all be one nation again. Not as ignorant as that may sound.

So it looks like from my asking of just five random fellow Periscopers, the overwhelming majority are in favour of the status quo that Britain should remain in the EU.

As I write, storm clouds are gathering overhead and I’ve just seen the first lightning flash. They warned us that the storms would arrive this evening coming in from the Continent to the south and how fittingly they reflect my inner thoughts. Uncertainty, turmoil and unknowing as to how or if I will do my duty and the simplest of things in placing my ‘X’ as my answer to just one of two straight questions: do we stay or do we go?

5 Tips on escaping Brexit

imageYeah I know. For you who have not made up your minds it’s like ‘leave me alone I need time to think’. For those of you who have it’s more ‘Bollocks. You are wrong and I am right.’ There is a halfway house. I discovered it driven by sheer desperation but it’s REAL. It’s a place you can find to help you escape the BREXITMAGEDDON that is upon us. A place to find ways to escape the social media politicos in the same way you can the TV political broadcasts. You can zap the broadcasts but you can’t zap your social media set spouting their politics et al on social media without offending them. Or can you?

Well you can. I know this because I’ve done it, do it and have had it done to me regularly. So here are my Top 5 Tips:

1: Learn how to ‘eye glaze’

This is easy. I do it all the time though especially at the back end of the month when the pay is low and the month is still there and I get those phone texts from the bank updating me on my current account. Acknowledge the bank’s name on the text. Then think of anything at all you really don’t want to know the result of on TV and just glaze your eyes over or like when the GF asks about her bum size and a jeans buy or a Holby City a Hospital emergency op scene or Porcupines mating on Springwatch and then loosen the muscles in your eyes so everything goes blurred. Trust me it works. I do this ALL the time.

2. Close your social media account

If your social media feed is Brexitstuffed you can close it for a while. Perhaps not in the case of LinkedIn which blitzes your account after 72 hours so you have to start again. Twitter and Facebook will enable you to come right out of your accounts without unliking friends or losing data then reawaken without lost history. They will penalise you for your absence though and you may lose and not gain followers on Twitter or seem to be ignored on Facebook for a while. All to do with their ‘algorithms’. Go Google that.

3. MUTE! MUTE! MUTE!

If you don’t see why you should vacate your social media platforms while all around you are BREXITBASHING for one side or another, then there is the facility in your privacy preferences to mute offenders. They will not know you have muted them so you don’t have to worry when you next bump into them on the Tube or in the office, church, shop, colonic irrigation therapy unit. You won’t see their posts anymore once you’ve muted them and it can stay that way for as long as you like. Just be mindful if you depend on your social media platform to remind you when birthdays happen and to UN-mute them after the crisis period or risk an embarrassing future social engagement when as Sod’s Law goes you will be sat on a table next to the one you muted.

4. Emigrate

Probably too late an option now but last-minute holidays could be an alternative . Best not Spain, Portugal or France where British immigrants have colonised the landscape and refuse to learn the local lingo or adopt paella instead of chips and deep-fried Mars Bars. Choose a country to go to that is not that bothered about the UK and may most likely ask you for its geo-satnav co-ordinates just to prove it exists and whether President Trump might visit some day.

5. Be Naughty

Every child knows this one. The schooling system beats it out of us all somehow yet still when we are older we still remember how to do it whether physically or in our minds, souls or spirits.

Shut your eyes. Stick your fingers in your ears. Stick your tongue out and blow for all your might and feel proud to say: “I’ll make my own bloody mind up in my good time even if that is very late in the day or last-minute but I can do this without you poncing your views repeatedly to a tiny audience on social media just because you don’t realise that it takes 3.1 times exposure to an advert for me to register your message and then decide what I want to do with it so go and boil your head.”

Exiting before Brexiting

imageThis is not a political post. It’s not about expressing any political views and not intended to influence others. This is an important moment in history for my country, the most important to my mind since the decision to enter WW2. Ironically, looking at cross media and international coverage over recent months it could be argued that the UK is about to vote on on whether or not to kick-start Armageddon in 17 days time.

I studied history for my degree and it would be wrong of me not to record on my blog/diary how I feel at this unique historical time and the plain truth is that I’m worried, which ever way things turn out. My stomach was knotted on the day the Scots voted on whether to leave or stay in the Union of the United Kingdom recently. I care much about this country. Ironically, one of the fall outs of this vote may see a highly acrimonious and uncertain replay of that scenario. My stomach is knotted again today and has been for a while.

It’s not just that worries me. I think as a nation we are still very much in denial even despite the wall to wall, brow beating coverage and I’m very possibly in that denial camp too. Even though I know how we have arrived at this point, being an avid news addict, I still can’t get my head around the enormity of this happening.

In my head, I see two immediate post Referendum scenarios: we choose to remain in the EU and it will soon be business as normal except in the Tory/Governing Party, which will sink into civil war. The other is that we choose to leave and the world as we knew it for us and everyone else has gone, so all the world’s leaders, pan-global economic organisations to anyone who is anyone suggest.

In three years time Facebook will remind me of the day I posted this blog as a point in time of my life’s history. What will the world be like then? What form will my country have then? What impact did my vote make then?

I haven’t yet decided how I will vote, despite what I post, like or share on social media wherever I’m present. I take this event seriously and it weighs me down to the point I honestly think I may not know how I will vote until I’m in the ballot booth at this moment of writing with 17 days to go. I don’t want my vote to be based on emotions or political dogma and for that reason, I think it will go down to the wire for me as I consider and meditate.

Time to quit some parts of social media for a while until this is over. I don’t want to know your voting intentions and I will not publish mine. For that reason I will quit Facebook soon for a while that is the only social media I’m part of that matters.

However we vote and with whatever passion, conviction and drive we have behind our beliefs, we need one country post June 23rd 2016.

We will need to build it together, either as an EU member state or not.

Just don’t ask us to name a boat…

imageAwww. Nothing quite so sad as unrequited love. Harrow Online is one of my local social media communities trying to engage the 215,000 residents of this one of London’s 32 boroughs in local affairs. They fairly often do this asking us what we love or like about our corner of the metropolis and the locals are not shy in telling them what they think. Today they asked: “Can anyone guess what the major news we will be announcing for this summer is?” Not quite how I would have worded it but the responses still piling in are typical of the stuff they usually get back from a local population that seems to be grinning and bearing life on the far northwestern edge of London rather than enjoying it:

“Open a few more chicken shops”

“You will clean up Wealdstone of all the drug dealers and all the rubbish that hang out there”

“It’s been decided to close all the chicken shops and make the centre of town into one big chicken superstore”

“They are going to build houses entirely out of bottles and cans pulled out of hedges and flowerbeds stuck together with sticky paan scraped off street corners and insulated with tons of chicken boxes?”

“The Olympics are moving from Rio to Harrow?”

“They will actually fix the pot holes and clean the streets and stop ripping residents off?”

“The Civic Centre will be blown up in a controlled demolition for all of us to celebrate.”

“Harrow is still the Tuberculosis capital of the U.K.?”

“Harrow Council are closing down street cleaning services completely to save the £5.99 they spend annually?”

“Harrow will be bulldozed out of existence to make way for airport expansion plans?”

And these were just some of the kinder responses. Life sure has changed here on Walton’s Mountain. Just don’t ask us all to name a boat.

Eurovision 2016

imageIt’s that time of year again. The night of the biggest entertainment show in the world with an estimated 200 million global audience, which this year will air live in the USA for the first time. China will tune in again for the 2nd year running. Tonight the final 26 of the 43 original entrants will battle it out to win the Eurovision Song Contest. This time last year I was in Vienna to experience my very first event live and what a great experience that was and I would have been in Stockholm tonight if I’d thought to book earlier before things got ridiculously expensive. So what to expect of tonight’s show? Well, be prepared for a seismic change.

There has been a HUGE change to the voting system. The votes each year are the result of the combination of the expert 5-person Juries of all the competing countries and the public televote but we never usually know how the juries voted versus the public. This year we will. The voting will be announced in the usual way after all songs have been performed but only the jury results will be announced. At the end of this process we will appear to have a winner. AHA! Then comes the sting in the tail. The public votes will be amalgamated so all the votes across Europe and Australia for, say, the U.K. will be added together and so on and then finally the public amalgamated vote for every finalist will be revealed meaning the public vote may well undo the rankings of the jury vote and we won’t know the true winner until the end of the show. Confused? Me too TBH.

OK, so before I reveal my Top 10 picks for tonight – and I’ve got to say this has been the hardest year ever to do that because the standard is so high, a word about the real star of what you will see: the stage. Sweden will provide one of the most hi-tec stage settings ever and the artists who make best use of it will do very well and two will in particular. OK, so on to my picks.

Cyprus

imageHeavy rock is not my thing at all and this was not on my radar until I saw their performance in the semi-finals. 5 man band Minus One will rock the stage tonight with a song called ‘Alter Ego’. It’s a dark, heavy performance but delivered with such driving confidence that you can’t help but pay attention, even if this isn’t your thing. Guaranteed to get top marks from Greece, of course, but don’t bet on others not scoring this highly too.

The Netherlands

imageIn complete contrast to the Cypriot rockers, the Dutch have gone for Country & Western with a song called ‘Slow Down’ sung by Douwe Bob and his band who, refreshingly, will all play instruments when they perform. I liked this from the very first hearing and was embedded in my Top 10 even before both semi finals when the bookies and pundits made it a 100/1 rank outsider. A stunning semi final performance reversed those odds and now this is tipped as a dark horse destined to do well and I would agree. It’s a toe-tapper, happy feel song with a refreshing message for our manic lives: “you gotta slow down brother, slow down brother, slow down if you can’t go on…”. This is the only song of its genre tonight and for that reason will stand out from the crowd.

Israel

imageUnlike the Dutch entry, this one was not on my radar at all and I was pretty dismissive of it as were most pundits…until the Stockholm rehearsals where singer Hovi Star quite literally brought the Globe Arena to a complete, awestruck standstill. This guy has one of the best voices in the contest and clearly has the respect of many of his competitors who are wishing this song well. The song is called “Made of Stars” and follows in the traditional ‘power ballad’ style that has done so well at Eurovision over the years.

Sweden

imageThe host nation and six times winners were a reluctant last in my top 10, narrowly beating Hungary, which will do very well. Why did it make my top 10 then? Well…it’s Sweden and you can never underestimate them. Don’t be fooled by the fact they are the only Nordic country to make the final because the fact they are means the other 4 Nordics only have one Nordic to concentrate their votes on and that’s potentially 48 points in the bag before he’s sung a note. That said, it’s a pleasant song and a completely different genre which I’m not hip enough to categorise. Sung by Frans, the youngest competitor in the contest who has a British Nigerian father and Swedish mother – and when you hear him he could be from any corner of London. This will not give Sweden their 7th win to equal Ireland’s record but could well make the top 10. Oh…sorry. Almost forgot. The song’s called ‘Sorry’. Sorry.

Austria

imageAs with Israel, I dismissed this one on first hearing but it’s proved to be as much a grower as it is a shower, so to speak. This is one of two entries that maximizes on the technical brilliance of the stage tonight. This is a feel good song called ‘Loin d’ici’ or ‘Far from here’. It’s the first time Austria has presented its entry in French. It’s also one of only 3 non English language entries this year and the first time ever a song sung entirely in French has qualified from the semis. Apart from being a memorable performance as it is, Zoe will take to the stage 3rd from last and will be the entry immediately preceding the UK. If for nothing else, you will remember her as that girl and the flowers come voting. You’ll see what I mean.

Italy

imageI went with Italy as my first choice last year and they ended up 3rd. I don’t think this one will do as well but it’s another I liked on first hearing. The Italians are passionate about Eurovision and were the inspiration behind its creation with the original format based on the San Remo Song Festival, which still takes place today and from which this year’s entrant, Francesca Michielin, was selected. She will sing in her native Italian, bar one chorus in English. The song is called ‘Nessun grado di separazione’ or ‘No degree of separation’. I’ve heard her sing this ‘unplugged’ with just her singing and playing the piano and if only she’d gone down that route tonight I’d put money on her winning. This one polled well with the 43 international Eurovision fan clubs pre the contest and that’s a strong indicator of how well or not a song is likely to do.

Spainimage

The choice of this song caused a national outcry in Spain and reached the no.1 global trend spot on Twitter because for the first time ever Spain will perform their entry entirely in English. It’s a funky dance number called ‘Say yay yay yay’ or I guess ‘Decir si si si’ en Español, so I guess she made the right choice in defying national fury and insisting she will sing in English. This is the best shot Spain has had in winning for decades and singer Barei will deliver it with high energy and a quirky dance that has itself already gone viral across the globe.

Australiaimage

After what was supposed to be a one-off last year, Australia are back again now they have secured permanent affiliated status with European Broadcasting Union. There is still a host of moaners around mocking their participation but this year’s singer, South Korean born Dami Im, will certainly shut mouths. This is a stunning entry performed by a singer with an amazing voice. Prepare for the roof to be blown off. Ironically, the song is called ‘Sound of Silence’. It’s another ‘power ballad’ and this may well see the Aussies improve on their impressive debuting placing of 5th last year.

Russia

imageOK, this is the one to watch out for. You will never have seen a performance like this ever in the history of Eurovision. It makes full use of the technical brilliance of the stage and reviewers in even our own sceptical national press have described this entry as ‘jaw dropping’. The strength of the entry is not just based on gimmickry. Singer Sergey Lazarev is a confident performer with a powerful voice and among the best eye candy of the night, whether you are male or female. The song is called ‘You are my only one’ and topping it all – it’s a very good song. Sergey will perform this mostly on his own bar the mysterious appearance and disappearance of 4 male backing singers. Oh…and watch out for the only female cast member and her (literally) two seconds of fame.

France

imageAnd so to my choice for the evening. France have kind of followed in step with Spain to submit their first ever entry in English. Well, half of it but a huge step for a nation that fights passionately to preserve francophone culture. This is a real feel good, happy, toe tappy song delivered with every ounce of Gallic charisma by French-Israeli Amir Hadded. The song is called ‘J’ai cherché’ or ‘I’ve searched for’ and this actually won the combined Eurovision fan club vote topping Russia by a considerable margin. I’d take the results of the fan clubs with considerable pinches of salt given that they base their votes after endless pouring over the entries whereas 99.99% of voters tonight will judge on first impressions and this guy is the master of making a good first impression. I’d be very happy for the show to come from Paris or preferably my favorite French city, Nice, next year.

And finally a word on the UK. Pundits and bookies place Joe and Jake in the top 10 tonight but I just don’t see it. If they make onto the left side of the results board they’d have done good. If we get zero points then just watch that be politicised into the Brexit debate.