#METROBLOG: Train Driver/Commuter Bitch War: Let’s all play “Who’s got the best opinion?”

The Metro opinion page has been playing “Who’s got the best opinion?” again. Which is always a laugh for me because literally everyone that plays it comes across like an idiot. For those unaware “Who’s got the best opinion?” is a game the Metro plays on their opinion pages where one day they randomly introduce a subject right the fuck out of nowhere and take the most vehement and objectionable opinions they can find baiting the other side to yell back at them tomorrow and printing the resulting bitch war over a series of several days.

Its called “Who’s got the best opinion?” because…they’re not opinions. Its a disputed fact that people base their opinion on because of one random example they can think of. Like say “Is it difficult to claim benefits in the UK?” you’ll think either yes or no but that’s not an opinion, its either a fact or it isn’t. So one day people present their opinion validated by one example, or not even that in a lot of cases, next day people present the opposite side validated by one example, next day the previous people call them stupid faces, then the next day the other side responds, you get the idea. But neither say anything concrete or conclusive, its just some vague musings by people with only the basest understanding of what they’re talking about which means fuck all in the long run, passing the baton back and forth to see who wins.

This time it was about train drivers’ salaries. This debate’s been brought on since the tube strike a couple of months back and the death of Bob Crow (personal nomination for best person ever, rest in peace) and the looming potential for further travel disruption. This game was always gonna happen and seriously fellow commuters: you aren’t exactly helping yourselves by saying some of this stuff, it only makes a strike more likely when it makes it firmly clear you have no respect for the guy driving you to work. You don’t call the designated driver a thick twat, first rule of being a passenger.

1I know this may seem weird I’m taking the other side of the argument. As I’m generally known to bitch about train travel a fair bit, but I don’t blame the people doing the job they’re told to do with shit equipment. And I feel a certain kinship with people whose career sees them doing menial repetitive tasks for prolonged periods of time.

The main thing that got me about the opening shot in this bitch war was the guy saying the main reason train fares are so high is the drivers are the ones that are overpaid ruling out more funds for anything else…………okay, I know its not exactly the grown up thing to go in response to that: “EUEUUU!!! DUMMY!!! BIBLDYBIBLDYBIBLDYBOO!!! DO YOU WANT ME TO BUY YOU SOME PLAYDOUGH?!?!?” but I feel it wholly appropriate in this instance. Rail companies are private businesses now, they have to turn a profit and have a service that has its users hostage because they’ve got no other choice of transport…and yet for some reason the drivers are the ones doing the hostage holding because they feel they should see some of that insane profit margin….yeah I wouldn’t trust any of the people in charge of it to not decide to thinly disguise lining their pockets with unjustifiable fare hikes and their bonuses and no guarantee of improved service, why would you fall so heavily for that one unless you seriously need primary re-schooling? Yeah, this is what we call “naive capitalism” here, we don’t blame the boss we blame the workers.

Another interesting thing about the opening shot is this thing about a main beef with train travel:

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Now, I’d all but forgotten about this by the end of the day but as I was on my way home going from Kentish Town to St. Pancras on Friday, we came to a red signal. And the driver, God salute this man said this over the tannoy (I am paraphrasing slightly):

“I apologise passengers, we are being held at a red signal. But of course according to Mr Jonathan Bright if he’s on this train, that’s no excuse is it? Of course if he’s ever held a driving licence in his life he would know you can’t exactly go when you see a big red light in front of you or you might kill somebody. So I apologise for the dog eating my homework. We’ll be on the move shortly”

….I seriously wanted to stand up and applaud that man. Because…well yeah its a highly valid point, the driver’s not exactly who you should be directing your fury at, is he?

Then the train drivers responded next day.

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I felt they all had valid points but all it really amounted to was more people winging about how “theirs is harder than everyone else!” which is a difficult thing to do without coming across like a whiny teenager. I do see the point about the possibility of hitting someone though and is a main reason I would never want to be a train driver. Thing is though, no matter how justified you feel, if you ever talk about how your job is stressful, which of course it is, everyone feels stress in different ways and all jobs are….weeeell then we get people being self important dicks moaning about how you should count your blessings in an monumentally insulting way when guys, they just stood up for themselves when people slung their insults at them when its their bosses they should be blaming. These guys are just doing what they’re told. Cause then things got slightly nastier:

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…you think being a train driver’s bad? Try being a nurse or a care worker! Yeah I get it alright, so does everyone, nurses and care workers are hideously underpaid, but no one was saying train drivers have it worse than nurses ya fucking idiots. The response rail workers gave was about misdirected aggro and being seen as responsible for the dicks in charge of the company, where the fuck are you bringing this unrelated subject from? Because someone said “my life’s not exactly brilliant” so everyone can now have a good old moan and lock themselves in their room listening to Linkin Park going “My life is so unfair!”

I expect tomorrow someone’s gonna write in “You think being a nurse is tough? Try being a CEO of a tax dodging corporation, my harem of prostitutes won’t see to themselves, they’re just so needy” ………….okay yes that was uncalled for but it was sort of called for because of the ultimate point I’m trying to make here: if you’ve never been in the position you’re criticising, your opinion’s just as improvable as that of the person in that position. These are not opinions, its a bitch war based on nothing and its ultimately pointless.

And you’re buying into it guys! The paper has two pages to fill here, you’re being used as a tool to fill that space here goading you into a formless unopinion. I guarantee you they go looking for shit like this to fill this page and make shit up to tempt these opinions out of you and prod the ensuing argument with a stick. I bet they have templates that look like this:

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So yeah: in short: this “Who’s Got the Best opinion” is a crappy game, stick with something more fun. Like chess.

…you think I’m joking but I’m actually being serious, that’s how much of a fucking slog these pages are.

METROBLOG: My Commute to work in pictures

The news has been boring recently. So for some reason (there must have been one…I’m sure it’ll come to me) I decided to take pictures on my commute to work to share with you the environment my derranged news analysis and piss taking blogs are written in until something interesting happens in world or national events.

Note: These are only the slightly interesting/sort of in focus ones out of 200 or so pictures.

For my commute from work, turn the brightness down to make it the evening and flick backards

METROBLOG: Real Time Newsprint: St. Jude’s a bitch isn’t he?

I find stuff like this interesting because I’m a nerd for journalistic technique and if you don’t it probably means you have a life but get this:

Last night the MET office issued a severe weather warning saying there would be the worst storm the UK has seen in three years….or five years….or since 1987 depending on which news outlet that misheard the story you happened to be reading. Following that, most of the UK’s train companies issued a statement to the effect that all services would be cancelled between midnight and 9AM. So the free paper for commuters the Metro had quite an interesting route for its Monday morning edition open to them. The morning paper for the trains is specifically meant to be designed for the harrassed commuting office worker and now they had a glaringly obvious real life issue that would affect their readers that they could print about to try and make themselves seem relevent to their target audience. And boy did they go for this one:

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Since I went in to the station at 9AM and found a note scrawled by rail staff saying the 9AM limit on trains had been pushed back to 11 and found about twelve commuters that had bothered to hang around I also found the pile of copies of the Metro virtually untouched. Now I’m at home writing this blog and this copy of the Metro is precisely what I’ve been saying this paper should be since the beginning because they’ve themed almost every article in their opening few pages around weather and commuter misery and transport. How awesome is that?

This showed that in the age of instant smartphone updates, print media can still actually have some relevence to its audience as they go about their lives. The morning paper for London commuters is meant to be a comforting read. You’re depressed that about a fifth of your income goes on actually getting to work, you might have work problems or are just finding it hard to wake up, the morning paper is meant to socialise you again at that time of day. The only problem is printing media takes time and tailoring it to your audience even more effort to broaden your scope as there are quite a lot of people that could potentially read this. Yet here they had a firm warning for something that would affect commuters’ lives so they could tailor their news to be able to talk to commuters about their problems in real time and that front page article is so conversational in tone I’d say its exactly the sort of front page the Metro should be printing. If it was any other newspaper I’d complain it shouldn’t be front page news but here its highly relevent to their target audience.

So that got me thinking: why stop at the weather? The morning paper could speak to the reader about their daily life and act as that socialising comfort on a regular basis. The life of your average commuter is very bland and generic, you can’t get out of audience tailoring just because there’s a lot of them; life working in London isn’t thaaaat different for most people. Example, here is a list of keywords I regularly come across in my daily life as a london office worker:

Rail, travel, weather, coffee, underground, office, chair, desk, computer, wages, expenses, invoice, spreadsheet, meeting, email, logistics, lift, notes, folder, filing, minutes, accounts, lunch break, kettle, enquiry, phone call, numbers, calculator, etc

Most of these words could potentially apply to just about anyone.

So what you could easily do is construct a piece of news print that can speak to thousands of people but appear to be personal to them as they’re reading it which would be quite extraordinary and seriously unlike any piece of print media you would ever read. Just stick a few more keywords into this and you’ve basically got: PAPER FOR COMMUTERS. You can relate to their lives and go “Yeah your life is boring but here’s some interesting stuff we found on the internet” Its what the Metro’s really for but I just feel they could make their stories more personal. For example this is the front page for my fictional paper that speaks to commuters in real time:

yourpaper

Weather News: It’s Dreadful, isn’t it?

So it was snowing when I cycled to the station today. Nothing really out of the ordinary except the fact that it’s fucking March. The end of March. So far towards the end of March it’s practically June. This is not how things should be. It’s like life’s turned into Game of Thrones…not the sex and dragons stuff, the fact winter never ends. So you can gather why I immediately thought “I bet the front cover of the Metro will be something along the lines of “WEATHER IS BAD AND MOTORISTS SAY IT SUCKS” or “HORROR FOR COMMUTERS AS MORE SNOW ON THE WAY” or “SNOW IS RUINING MY WEEK SAYS SOME CELEBRITY”. So what have you got for me Metro?

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Wow, I must be clairvoyant or something.

The tabloid press gets a lot of really kind of deserved slack for placing such massive importance on “FROZEN FLUFFY WATER FALLS FROM CLOUDS!” as opposed to serious stuff like “PEOPLE IN SUITS IN ROOM TALK ABOUT POLITICS AND STUFF!”

The general mantra of “it’s just a bit of snow, why do we whine so much about it? This is not news, it doesn’t deserve to be in a newspaper”, has been repeated by most people. Although I do think that tabloid newspapers that do it are base and crass, I find it almost comforting in some cases. Granted Newspapers need to do important stuff like politics, death, war, etc but in the case of “The Metro” I believe it to be highly appropriate front page material because as I’ve said before, at seven AM you aren’t in the mood for serious news. You want something nice to look at for half an hour that makes you feel nice.

“The Metro” is something to read on your miserable way through to work. I guarantee that anyone who got a train into London this morning was grumbling about the weather and seeing the front page of the Newspaper share their gripes is comforting. I was reassured to know that the newspaper was agreeing with me for a change.

It’s like when someone comes and tells you that, say; they’ve got a cold or someone said a mean thing about them. They don’t expect you to do anything other than agree with them: “I know, it’s horrible, isn’t it?” At seven AM on your way to work; a newspaper that understands what you grumble about is what we need. However I think the language “The Metro” employs could be a bit more chummy and conversational, something along the lines of this:

BIT NIPPY

Other appropriate topics of conversation for the morning news include:

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headache

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“The Agreeable News” would be handed out outside tube stations to frowny people who can’t be arsed to go to work. So instead of grumbling about politicians in suits doing stuff and people killing each other somewhere you can’t pronounce the name of; now you can grumble and go “too bloody right” instead. It would foster a sense of community between commuters, it would bring us together if we could share our everyday first world gripes and it might make us happier and more empathetic.

….shutup, it would!

The Morning News: Spidercrabs, anyone?

So this morning I actually actively picked up a copy of the Metro. I didn’t just absent-mindedly grab it from someone’s seat on the Tube and start flicking through, no  , I actually picked it up from the stack they have in the station. I opened it to a random page because the pages were stuck together. I arrive at this image.

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gahh! Fuck! What the hell? If you can’t read it, because I’ve scanned it really tiny because I think there’s less chance I’ll get sued for copyright, its some piece about a spider crab that was rescued from being steamed as some freak’s dinner and is now in an aquarium or something….

Yeah I know, I don’t care either. Why? Because aside from freaks that actually keep pet tarantulas (seriously, people that do own tarantulas ought to be locked up without evidence, having a pet tarantula should be indication enough that you’re clearly a psychopath. Better now than before it’s too late… off topic) But yeah, who wants a whopping great picture of a spider crab waving itself in their faces at seven AM?

I’m not the type to complain with regards to taste. I am one of the people who says when people complain to Ofcom about tasteless programming “well watch something else then”, it is the same in this situation. “Well don’t read the Metro then Stuart”. However I’m complaining about this because its an instance of The Metro editors really not understanding their target audience.

The News is bleak. We know this. Watch any rolling news channel for long enough and you will want to cry until your body can’t produce tears anyone and has to use surplus piss and semen your body has leftover as moisture.

“HE KILLED EIGHTY SIX PEOPLE BEFORE SHOOTING HIMSELF” “WOMAN OF 23 WAS GANG RAPED ON HOLIDAY” “KILLER TERMITES NESTED IN ATTIC FOR YEARS, KILLED 8 CHILDREN” and stuff like that. By definition a newspaper has to include important stuff like this, but at seven in the morning, you need to talk down to people and get them feeling calm and relaxed and ready for work. When you’ve just woken up you can barely comprehend words that have more than one syllable. Morning Newspapers shouldn’t really be Newspapers, they should be visual hugs that make you feel like the day will actually be okay for a change. Appropriate reading material for the train should include Noddy and Spot the Dog but we’re all too embarrassed to admit that that’s what we’d prefer to be reading on our way to work.

A morning newspaper has to cater for grumpy people who’ve just woken up and have trouble digesting information on top of especially creepy crawly images like this one. It’s a common problem with The Metro; it seems to think people are interested in these things at seven AM. A couple of weeks ago there was a story about a drunk student who stir fried his roommate’s hamster, not content to chill sleepy grumpy bastards with something like that, they actually had a picture of the poor little squished hamster in the frying pan. You don’t do this to tired grumpy people about to go to work, you just don’t fucking do it. Midday maybe, after seven is fine, weekends are okay but not when you’re the only free available reading material there to comfort tired people about to go to work.

The ideal morning newspaper for depressed miserable commuters would include the obvious big news, the budget, death, politics etc because that’s what a newspaper is for, but ideally a morning newspaper would be peppered with about six or seven articles like this:

puppy

There, congrats, you’ve just made a miserable office worker feel a bit nicer on his way to work by thinking about cute little puppies. I mean obviously actual journalists would be more creative than this, this is just an example.

The Metro does do this occasionally and publishes cutesy nice stuff. In the next page after the Spider Crab thing they had this picture of a cute little hamster that got stuck in a pipe or something:

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D’aww, just look at his lickle face d’aww…

But what I’m saying is to market well to your chosen demographic: tired grumpy commuters, what you really should be doing is filtering out anything that will make them feel more alone and miserable and make their skin crawl, and say change your name to “The Everything’s Alright” and publish a daily newspaper consisting of nice bits of news instead. I guarantee you will get much more respect from commuters in the long run. A lady somewhere is organizing a bake sale for the Girl Guides, a blind kid has been given a Seeing Eye dog for his birthday, stuff like that.

Not this Spider Crab shit cause I’ve no idea who the hell wants that on their way to work.

MetroBlog Not sponsored by the Metro

If anyone out there has been unfortunate enough to run into me between 8:24 and 9:16 between Monday and Friday (my morning commute to work); you will have noticed I’m rather distant and moody. I’m usually sat with a book in my hands while listening to obscure Norwegian bands I claim you’re just too ignorant for. Or I’m sat with a copy of “The Metro” (The free newspaper available in railways stations in and around London) mumbling the word “bastards” at regular intervals.

The Metro proclaims loudly on the cover that it is “The World’s Most Popular Free Newspaper” …you do know that’s not something to be proud of, right? That’s like saying “Try having a head cold, its ten times more popular than a sore throat”. It’s a meaningless phrase for the simple reason that your audience is trapped. It’s the same reason why I really don’t understand why First Capital Connect have a marketing department, there is no point in marketing something people have no alternative to. You’ve kind of already guaranteed yourself customers just by being there. I know the Metro is a different thing entirely since whether or not I read it is based on choice whereas First Capital Connect are directly profiting from people with no choice how they travel. Yet at the same time reading it feels compulsive.

The commute into London is grinding misery and I don’t know why I read the Metro and I guarantee that neither does anyone that picks one up. It’s just there to give your eyes something to look at because at that time of the morning you have the brain capacity of a five year old. It’s the newspaper equivalent of a can of Pepsi. No one really likes it but if there’s nothing else available you just think: “Ah screw it; it’s there, it’s more interesting than water, might as well have it”. It’s the same with the Metro, it’s there, it’s better than just sitting here breathing in and breathing out for between twenty minutes and an hour depending on how much the train operators can be arsed to do their jobs properly.

So this blog is basically going to be my thoughts after reading the Metro. It won’t be a daily thing as I neither have the time nor energy. This blog may be news related topics, general hate towards the Metro’s style of news reporting, as based on all the paper’s I’ve read, it’s definitely in the lower middle class of tabloid bracket. It’s the Daily Mail of bland placid eye fodder designed for miserable commuters. One step up from The Sun; it’s nothing to be proud of yet there they are, every morning, the tubes are littered with them. Then again, I don’t see much difference between the Metro and the Sun. Tits or articles about boring people I don’t care about and pictures of people’s pets, they’re both just “something to look at for a bit”. Hopefully it’ll coerce me into coming out with something insightful or witty. Only time will tell.

Also in terms of qualifying my bastardised opinion on the free London rag, I present my evidence in case they want to sue me for slander:

Can’t remember when, a couple of weeks ago, they published on the inside of their front cover their quote of the day. It is the single dumbest thing I have ever read in a newspaper.

“I’m not worried about North Korea, Nuclear weapons are so old school” – Will.i.am, Record producer and Musician

……………..that quote is the new definition of the word facepalm.