Friday, 13 January 2017

1.      A Historical Overview & The Emergence of Online Publications
According to Chovanec’s (2014) publication dedicated to the emerging genre of the football match reports in the Times in the 1860s, football match reports, and sports reporting in general, were a major development of 19th century journalism. This paper, the most comprehensive of its kind on the topic of football match reports in Britain, suggests the years between 1862-1877 represent a formative age for the genre, with people hired specifically for the purpose of reporting on sports matches during this time.
     In the past, football reports were brief and dedicated to a sport still in its infancy in the 1860s. They contained uncertain, technical and circumstantial information, sometimes detailing the length of the pitch and the rules of the game to audiences unfamiliar with the sport (Chovanec, 2014). Today, with football now an institutionalised and incredibly popular mass spectator sport, football match reports are a permanent and recognisable fixture in national newspapers and their respective websites.
     National newspapers began publishing online in the early to middle 1990s (Thiel, 1998). The Guardian, for example, launched its website in September 1995 and just five months later, a dedicated site for the Euro’96 competition was launched, In 1999, the Guardian Unlimited network of websites was launched comprising ‘Football Unlimited’ among three other networks and in September of that year the site registered one million users (“History of the Guardian Website, 2010). As Thiel (1998) rightly suggests, online media is so popular because of its ubiquitousness. Thiel (1998) comments that online media is ‘never put to bed’, meaning news is available at any time of the day for any reader with access to the website. However, although most likely true at the time of writing, Thiel’s (1998) assertion that writers ‘disappear’ online is one that has now been proven wrong. With the emergence of social media platforms such as Twitter, the writer’s name at the bottom of an online article often contains a link to their personal Twitter profile where readers can access more content written by the writer and find out more about the writer’s personality. Twitter gives a voice to journalists outside of the article where they are more at liberty to disclose their personal views and to interact with their audience.
     In 2003, 35% of Americans were reported to go online for news once a week (Kawamoto, 2003). That number is bound to have increased. Nic Newman, a Research Associate at Reuters Institute, wrote in May, 2016 that 51% of the Digital News Report 2016 sample said they use social media as a source of news each week. When one looks at readership totals for the UK’s top circulating newspapers published by the National Readership Survey in 2014, it is clear to see how many people go online for their news, with the Daily Mail recording over 20 million reads on electronic platforms.
Figure 1: National Readership Survey figures, 2014. (Ponsford, 2015)
     With the rise in popularity of the journalist has come a higher demand for more opinionated pieces of writing. Football match reports are a sub-genre of news reporting and were traditionally objective pieces of writing that reported facts (Politis, 2008). Today, match reports ‘fall in between the grey area between news and more observational writing’ (Prior, 2016). According to the Football Editor of the Sun, Charlie Wyatt, writers are now ‘encouraged to give opinion rather than just ball-by-ball coverage’ and this development marks a significant change in the way football match reports have developed over time. One would argue that the emergence of social media, especially Twitter, has motivated this change. Readers are now more inclined to read a particular piece of writing if it has been written by a particular author. Social media allows readers to interact with and keep up to date with a particular journalist’s material, and many readers now have a significant interest in the opinions of the writers they follow. Accounts dedicated to the sport and football sections of newspapers are widely followed online. For example, the ‘Guardian Sport’ account (@guardian_sport) has 712 thousand followers while the ‘Mirror Football’ account is followed by 424 thousand people. The Twitter profile of the Times’ Chief Football Writer, Henry Winter, which is followed by 1.2 million people, pays testament to the rise in popularity of the journalist; they are no longer just a name at the bottom of the page, but an online personality.
2.      Stereotypes: Tabloids vs Broadsheets
Football match reports, like other news pieces, can carry the overall style employed by a particular newspaper. While ‘tabloid’ and ‘broadsheet’ technically refer to the two main physical formats of British newspapers, they also connote a certain style of reporting (Rogers, 2016). Traditionally, the British tabloid press has a reputation for ‘emotionally charged journalism’, notorious for a focus on scandal and sensationalised human interest stories. Its style is reader friendly and content is ‘malignly concerned with titillating readers with the worst in human behaviour’ (Sterling, 2009). Sterling’s (2009) description of British tabloid newspapers is overwhelmingly negative, but does uncover some characteristics that still exist in today’s newspapers. If football match reports do exhibit the same characteristics seen in the regular news stories of tabloid newspapers, it’s possible that they will have a human focus and consist of reporting high in emotion.
     However, it is important not to tinge all UK tabloids with the same brush. Sparks (2000) suggests that three different types of tabloid newspaper exist, with ‘serious popular’ tabloids straying away from the sensationalistic stereotype and reporting ‘some serious news’ with extensive treatment of health and personal finance. Examples include the Daily Mail and the Daily Express.
     ‘Classic tabloids’, on the other hand, are aimed at a poorer working class readership and are dominated by scandal, celebrity news and TV (Sparks, 2000). Examples include British ‘red tops’ such as the Sun, the Daily Mirror and the Daily Star. It is possible that ‘classic tabloids’ and ‘supermarket tabloids’, which place an even greater focus on scandal and sexual content, are responsible for the negative reputation of British tabloid newspapers portrayed in Sterling’s (2009) publication.
     Broadsheets receive a more positive review in Sterling’s (2009) book. They have a reputation of seriousness and have a serious and educated readership. Rogers (2016) describes the tone employed by broadsheet newspapers as being ‘sober ‘and their coverage as being ‘in-depth’. The differences presented by Sparks (2000), Sterling (2009), and Rogers (2016) between tabloid and broadsheet newspapers advises that one should expect to find differences in their respective football match reports.
3.      The Football Match Report: Structure & Content
     The football match report can be considered as its own text type, part of a larger genre of football writing. While the football match report is defined by its own internal, linguistic characteristics, football writing in general is based on external, non-linguistic criteria such as audience, purpose and activity type (Lee, 2001). Supporting this claim is the fact that football match reports have a discernible structure. According to “How To Write a Sports Report” (n.d.),football match reports contain the result of the match, which teams played and which players scored the goals. Incidents that occur in the game are described, and quotes from managers and players after the game may also be included. However, while the article does provide a very basic overview of how match reports are produced, it fails to disclose the effects of the ever-growing accessibility of online media on the development of football match reports over time. While match reports in newspapers are published and released to the public the next day, online media is immediate and often free to read. As a result, many football journalists reporting on matches are now required to submit ‘on the whistle’ match reports which, for obvious reasons, may not include post-match quotes from post-match press conferences which usually commence at least 10 minutes after the final whistle. Nevertheless, the basic, recognisable structure of the football match report, which cannot effectively meet the requirements of its audience without referencing the score, which teams played and events that occur in the game,  has remained intact and this is what makes it analysable from a linguistic perspective.
     Editors are generally flexible in what they permit from their writers, so long as facts are reported accurately. Although there are no written rules (more unwritten rules that journalists abide by) to enforce how a football match report should be structured, newspapers often have house style guides to ensure material is clear. According to former Sports Editor and current Digital Editor of the Guardian newspaper, Ian Prior, the Guardian has a house style guide that ‘makes several recommendations in terms of clarity and brevity but places few restrictions on vocabulary other than that which is offensive, outdated or plain incorrect’. Football Editor at the Sun, Charlie Wyett, explains that writers are ‘urged to express ourselves and use a bit of humour’, but insists ‘we are never told what to write’. It is clear then that factuality is of paramount importance to the football match report.
     In terms of word length, and although the issue of space does not apply to online editions in the way that it does to printed newspapers, editors do impose word count restrictions on football match reports written in both contexts for purposes of readability. When asked about the restrictions placed on him when writing match reports, journalist Sam Lee, who writes for football news website, said that ‘they tell us to keep it between 400-500 words, but if there’s a good talking point it can reach up to 800 words’. In the present study, the Daily Mail sub-corpus had the highest average word count with 818 while the Daily Express had the lowest with 408.2 words. A football match report shorter than 400 words is likely to lack depth, while a report longer than 800 words may lose the interest of the reader. The average word count of the 45 match reports compiled in the present study is 638.
4.      The Football Match Report: Language
     Bergh & Ohlander (2016) argue the language of football is the world’s biggest ‘special language’ in their article on football verbs and transivity. As one has discussed above, football’s following and its status as a mass spectator sport means it can also be considered as a general or public language (Bergh & Ohlander, 2016). The article posits that special languages owe much to technical vocabulary. A game of football and the events which occur in it, of course, cannot be described accurately without reference to technical terms such as ‘defenders’, ‘midfielders’ and ‘attackers’, to name but a few. Berg & Ohlander (2016) also make an accurate point on object omission, explaining that the ‘ball’ in a football match is so crucial that it need not be mentioned by the writer/commentator reporting on the game.
     The significance of the ball is also noted in Leitner & Hesslemann (1996), Politis (2008) and Muller (2008). In their respective articles, Leitner & Hesslemann (1996) regard the ball as the central object, Politis (2008) as ‘the focus of the game’, while Muller (2008) accurately claims that the pronoun ‘it’ in a piece of football commentary usually refers to the ball. Skill or failure in controlling the ball successfully can constitute the focus of attention in a football match report (Leitner & Hesselmann, 1996). However, as Bergh & Ohlander (2016) state, the ball is not always explicitly referenced. For example, standard body points often have derived action meanings such as ‘header’ and ‘left-footer’ which reference particular types of contact with the ball (Leitner & Hesslemann, 1996). It is common in a football match report for a writer to say ‘he headed into the back of the net’ rather than ‘he headed the ball into the back of the net’ because the ball is central to all actions completed in a football match. It must also be noted that derived action meanings from particular body parts such as those listed above can also be described by the writer. For example, ‘he directed a powerful header into the net’. In this sense, Bergh & Ohlander’s (2016) article was useful in putting forward a selection of possible node words to be investigated in the present study.
     From a methodological point of view, Politis’s (2008) article on lexical variation in written sports reports was particularly useful. The article discusses the core vocabulary of written sports reports and posits that shooting is the prototypical action in football. Additionally, Politis (2008) offers a list of statistically dominant modifying evaluative adjectives from sports reports in two Greek newspapers, including ‘short’, ‘long’, ‘deep’, ‘straight’, ‘volleyed’, ‘impressive’, ‘powerful’ and ‘unstoppable’. As football match reports contain a large number of adjectives and actions described by particular adjectives that corpus software cannot detect without manual input, Politis’s (2008) article was extremely useful in directing me towards a subset of node words appropriate for investigation.
5.      Adjectives & Evaluation
Central to the football match report are adjectives. As “How To Write a Sports Report”( n.d.) convey, the Six Ws (Who, What, Why, Where, When and How) are incredibly important in the football match report. Match reports are written for an audience who are presumed to have not seen the game and therefore accurate description is of paramount importance to the genre.  It is therefore taken as given that adjectives have a prominent role in the core vocabulary of football match reports (Caldas-Coulthard & Moon, 2010).
     The present study is largely based on the findings of Caldas-Coulthard & Moon’s (2010) paper which suggests adjectives are a distinguishing characteristic between tabloid and broadsheet newspapers. The study uses corpus methodology to investigate how social actors are classified in the public discourse of the media and findings suggest that tabloid and broadsheet newspapers use adjectives differently. For example, when using the adjective ‘curvy’, The Sun used it predominantly to describe women as objects of desire. Comparatively, broadsheet newspapers were found to use the same adjective mainly to comment on shape and design. This suggests tabloid newspapers may have more a human focus and that adjectives used in these newspapers are often sexually oriented.
     The investigation is also relevant to the present research in that it uses corpus methodology as a research tool. In comparison to my own study, however, Caldas-Coulthard & Moon (2010) retrieve their data from the ‘Bank of English’ corpus, a 450 million word corpus implemented in 2002-2003. Although the corpus used in this study is much larger than the bank of 28,725 words my own study uses, I was keen to provide an as up-to-date as possible analysis of adjectives being used in football match reports being written today. Caldas-Coulthard & Moon’s (2010) investigation requires a much larger corpus for the researchers to acquire an as representative as possible sample of the nature of the labels which provide categorisation of gender relations. The Bank of English corpus serves its purpose effectively in their study, whereas a more specific study such as my own can make more use of a custom-made corpus such as the Antconc corpus.
     In terms of limitations, Caldas-Coulthard & Moon (2010) only compare adjectives used in the Sun and those in what they term ‘quality newspapers’. The study therefore does not deal with a truly representative sample of tabloid newspapers. The term ‘quality newspapers’ is often used to describe broadsheet newspapers, but it also suggests that the authors may have conducted analysis with a preconceived bias towards broadsheet newspapers. Additionally, only the use of three adjectives chosen by the authors is analysed, meaning the study is very limited in what it can tell us about the general use of adjectives in tabloid and broadsheet newspapers. Nevertheless, the idea that tabloid newspapers may have more of a human focus is an interesting one and a finding that my own study supports.
     While adjective use in tabloid and broadsheet newspapers has received some attention, research into the use of adjectives in football writing has been comparatively sparse. Wiredu & Anderson’s (2008) investigation into adjectives in football reporting was therefore of particular interest to myself when conducting the present study. The report that analysed 121 news reports in the Daily Graphic, Ghana, found that adjectives were used to qualify four main categories: matches, teams, players and fans.
     Wiredu & Anderson (2008) found that most adjectives were used to describe matches and that 62.23% of these adjectives were ‘personal assessments’. Contrastingly, ‘performance’ and ‘assessment’ adjectives (32.39% and 40.85%) were used the  most to describe players, while ‘behaviour’, ‘size’ and ‘emotion’ adjectives (30.44%, 21.74% and 26.8%) described fans. Other classifications included ‘physical appearance’, ‘age’, and ‘basic elements’. 
     In relation to the development of football match reports over the years, Wiredu & Anderson (2008) make an interesting point, stating that the audience want football reports to reflect the tension in the game and that in correspondence with the rise in popularity of sports, the media have a duty to enhance the enjoyment of sports in their reports. A way in which they can do this, surely, is to enhance their description of events.
     In general, I found that Wiredu & Anderson’s (2008) results mirrored my own in many ways. Wiredu & Anderson (2008) recognise that there are separate areas of the football that require description in a report and are also aware of the different types of adjectives used to describe these areas. I found their classifications to be highly representative of the various areas (teams, players, fans, etc.) in need of attention. However, while the report is extremely useful in terms of building a model for adjective categorisation, it analyses football reports from only one newspaper and therefore cannot offer any detailed insight into the differences between tabloid and broadsheet newspapers.
     As Wiredu & Anderson’s (2008) publication evidences, adjectives carry different functions. They can be descriptive e.g. ‘small’ or emotive e.g. ‘disgusting’, however one would argue that both of these functions fall into a larger function of evaluation. As Bednarek (2006) explains in her highly enriching book dedicated to evaluation in media discourse, evaluation is a device for interpreting the world and can simultaneously be used to express the writer’s opinion, to construct relations between the writer and reader, and to organise the text. Evaluation is therefore of paramount importance to the football match report writer who is expected to impart his or her opinion on events that happened in the game through the use of adjectives.
     In her book, Bednarek (2006) questions how news writers express opinions about events, people and situations they are reporting on and whether tabloid and broadsheet newspapers differ in terms of how they express opinion. Significantly, the study analyses ten hard news stories reporting on the same issues in the same year from the Guardian, the Independent, the Daily Telegraph, the Times, the Financial Times, the Daily Express, the Daily Mail, the Daily Mirror, the Daily Star and the Sun. Issues reported on include ‘Israel’, ‘Rio’, ‘HIV’ and ‘Barclays’. Methodologically, the present study was highly influenced by Bednarek’s (2006) work in that match reports analysed were all dedicated to the same five games to ensure similar events were being described. I also chose to analyse nine of the ten newspapers Bednarek analyses in her own study as they represent nine of the United Kingdom’s top circulating newspapers. The Financial Times was not included in the present study as it does not publish football match reports.
     Bednarek (2006) references the work of Francis (1995), who devised six evaluative parameters assuming speakers can evaluate the world as:
·         Good or bad – the parameter of EMOTIVITY
·         Important or unimportant – the parameter of IMPORTANCE
·         Expected or unexpected – the parameter of EXPECTEDNESS
·         Comprehensible or incomprehensible – the parameter of COMPREHENSIBILITY
·         (not) possible or (not) necessary – the parameter of POSSIBILITY/NECESSITY
·         Genuine or fake – the parameter of RELIABILITY
Francis’s (1995) model shows that different kinds of description exist and that evaluative writing/speech can be categorised. Essentially, as Bednarek (2006) suggests, the categorisation of different evaluative methods can give an indication as to whether newspapers differ in terms of how they express opinion.
     It is also true that categorisation can help to explain evaluation in many other genres of writing. As an example, Swales & Burke (2003) investigated the differences in evaluative adjectives across academic registers and devised a coherent seven category model to classify adjectives used in academic articles taken from the Michigan Corpus of Academic English (MICASE) corpus:
·         Acuity – smart, stupid
·         Aesthetic Appeal – beautiful, elegant
·         Assessment – good, bad
·         Deviance – likely, unlikely (how closely related something is to what you would expect)
·         Relevance – how close something is to the topic or field being discussed
·         Size – small, large
·         Strength – weak, strong
When compared to Francis’s (1995) model, the above list of categories is much clearer in that it provides examples for each category/parameter. Further, Swales & Burke’s (2006) model contains categories that can account for a much larger spectrum of adjectives. For example, ‘Assessment’ adjectives in this model could accommodate both the ‘EMOTIVITY’ and ‘IMPORTANCE’ parameters in Francis’s (1995) model, as both parameters include general, opinionated evaluations of situations. It is also difficult to envisage where ‘Strength’ and ‘Size’ evaluations would fit into the Francis model, meaning it would have to be adapted to account for a wider range of evaluations or adjectives. In conclusion, Swales & Burke’s (2003) model is clearer, more accommodating and, as the present study illustrates, much easier to apply to different genres than Francis’s (1995) model.
6.      Corpus Studies
     Corpus methodology allows the researcher to analyse a generalizable set of data, such as adjectives in the football match reports of tabloid and broadsheet newspapers, and to analyse language its broadest sense (Paltridge, 2006). With the aid of corpus analysis, one is able to make comparisons between textual objects at a large scale and test intuitions about texts from other digital methods (Froelich, 2015).
     In her article on corpora and discourse, Bednarek (2009) identifies three kinds of corpus study. This three-pronged approach involves a) large-scale computerised corpus analysis, b) semi-automated small-scale corpus analysis, and c) manual analysis of individual texts. When dealing with large samples of text of over 100,000 words, large-scale computerised corpus analysis is most suitable. Material in the corpora is usually representative of the variety of language for which it has been designed and computer assistance can uncover features of language that are inaccessible to intuition/can’t be discovered through analysis of one or a few texts (Bednarek, 2009). Nevertheless, as Bednarek (2009) explains, the sheer amount of data present in a large-scale computerised corpus means that researchers can only execute searches for formally defined items.
     In a study of adjectives in football match reports where context is very much crucial, semi-automated small-scale corpus analysis is effective. For example, the adjective ‘huge’ may appear in a corpus but may be used to describe the importance of something, rather than the size. In a large-scale study, analysing and contextualising the appearance of every single adjective could prove to be a time-consuming task. Semi-automated small-scale is optimal for sample sizes large enough to require some computer assistance, but also small enough to be manually analysed. This type of analysis makes use of qualitative and quantitative data and is large enough to show a certain degree of representativeness. Alternatively, a researcher may wish to complete manual analysis of texts when dealing with one or a few individual texts (Bednarek, 2009).
     If one is to use Bednarek’s (2009) definitions, Wyatt & Hadikin (2015) conducted a large-scale computerised analysis of football expression in three corpora. Using Sketch Engine, a corpus manager and analysis software developed to enable linguists, lexicographers and translators to search language corpora in more than 80 languages, Wyatt & Hadikin (2015) analysed three sets of data from the British National Corpus (BNC), the SiBol/Port corpus, and the enTenTen corpus. While the BNC is a long-standing corpus consisting of 100 million words from written texts largely produced between 1960-1993, the SiBol/Port corpus of 787,000 UK broadsheet newspaper articles and the enTenTen corpus of 19 billion words solely from internet articles are relatively modern in comparison, having been created in 1993 and 2013, respectively (Wyatt & Hadikin, 2015). While all three corpora are useful for large scale studies such as Wyatt & Hadikin’s (2015), they consist of too many words for semi-automated small scale studies and manual analysis.

     A corpus software toolkit more appropriate for smaller analyses is the Antconc software package designed by Laurence Anthony. In her article on the software, Froelich (2015) describes Antconc as the ‘standalone software package for linguistic analysis of texts, freely available for Windows, Mac OS and Linux’. Instead of rooting through piles of data in corpora such as enTenTen, Antconc allows the researcher to search for concordances, collocations, N-grams and clusters in their own pre-selected data which must be converted into a .txt file before inserting into the software. Antconc is therefore highly convenient for researchers conducting very specific investigations. 

Monday, 10 October 2016

What day is it today?

Image result for mind battle

What day is it today?
A comforting, but crippling, slump into the sofa
A day when the crumbs scratch against the back 
the pots and pans solidify on the side 
I'll do it tomorrow - the most productive line in my book
Pour some wine 
Lay back
Wake from that dream where everything's clean
to the hiss of your boy, he stinks of weed
Why does he never talk to me? 
The question you answer most days of the week but find it too hard to speak
£40 out of the purse
Still so proud, so proud
The devil on your shoulder holds you accountable for everything you gave your life to avoid
So you second guess yourself
Did I do this to my boy?
It was nice outside today 
but I still managed to talk myself out of every spontaneous plan I made
the rays were warm but I'll pull blanket over anyway
Immobile from the icy grip of depression

But today's another day
Do I look OK?
You look great 
The lipstick, the coat, the smile on your face
I ask how she could ever feel that way? 
But it's a feeling you wouldn't wish upon your worst enemy
She doesn't ask for sympathy
just a hand on the shoulder, a message in the inbox, a phone call at night, a compliment
Something that makes her feel of worth
In a world where selfishness intoxicates
she lives her life through you
The night she spends alone with her thoughts
the good ones are saved for you
Bank notes and fast cars fill your dreams
Oh for those what you would do
While in the next room she hopes for another day
When her son will say 'I love you'

Monday, 23 December 2013

The Story of Krampus; Santa's Evil Twin

He's making a list, and checking it twice, gonna find out who's naughty or nice,
Krampus is coming to town.

Deep in the fantastical folklore of many of the world's Alpine countries cackles a cataclysmic creature the Austrian's call 'Krampus'. 

Whilst the plump and jovial figure of a borderline diabetic Santa Claus chuckles his way through an army of Christmas wishlists from the good little boys and girls of the world, his satanic sibling frantically flings out the clutter in his lair to make space for the bad. 

For many, the piquant prospect of piles of presents symbolises the magic of the festive period, but for Krampus, there exists no greater pleasure than punishing the children that have behaved blunderingly all year.

History and Origins
According to Maurice Bruce (1958), the existence of the Christmas creeper should not even be a matter for discussion. Bruce comments that 'there seems to be little doubt as to his true identity' and suggests that 'chains could have been introduced in a Christian attempt to 'bind the Devil'. 

Austrian's also believe the 'demon' is a figment of some ridiculously religious imagination and say Krampus derives from a pagan supernatural who was assimilated to the Christian devil. However, despite the aura of negativity surrounding the unfortunately ugly beast, his 'existence' certainly influenced the Habsburg Empire who announced am annual celebration of St.Nicholas's evil twin would take place on 5th December in Austria.

(A Krampus festival in Salzburg)


Unlike his peculiarly pretty older brother, Krampus is one repugnant motherfucker. Although he appears in many variations, common characteristics include:

  • Brown/black hair
  • Cloven hooves
  • Goat-like horns
  • A long and pointed tongue
  • Sharp, pointed teeth
Krampus is also depicted carrying a chain believed to symbolise the binding of the Devil by the Christian Church. In some cases, the chain is accompanied by a variety of bells and bundles of birch branches used to swat badly behaved children. 

Krampusnacht - The Festival

Primarily celebrated in Alpine countries, Krampusnacht is celebrated on December 5th, the day before the Feast of St.Nicholas. During the night, Krampus patrols the streets visiting homes and business whilst searching for naughty boys and girls. 

Whilst St.Nicholas dispenses gifts for well behaved children, Krampus desperately locates the children who haven't behaved so well and supplies them with coal and ruten bundles.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Ian Watkins: Signs In The Songs?

On November 26th 2013, Ian Watkins, former lead-singer of the popular rock band Lostprophets, pleaded guilty to thirteen sexual offences.

Fame and fiasco tend to concoct a curdling mix that the general public find unpalatable and difficult to comprehend. For one reason or another, we accept the crimes of an ordinary civilian as an unfortunate feature of society; but when the culprit is famous, complete and utter uproar ensues. 

The Ian Watkins case is enough to bring sweat to the forehead of any experienced professional, and in this article, the grimy details will be spared. Customarily, questions will be asked of the police regarding their failure to prevent Watkins from engaging in his most aphotic fantasies. Concerns were raised and ignored, and the officers that neglected their duty will be duly punished.

That, however, changes nothing. Watkins utitlised his sparkling reputation and rock-star ruggedness to target obsessed fans and to ensure that he would be remembered as one of the UK's most twisted paedophiles in history. 

Despite the deceptiveness of the Welsh singer, clues were there to be clutched and many of them could be found in his actual song lyrics. Of course, there exists the prickly problem of ambiguity, but in one song in particular, I believe the dark mind of Ian Watkins was projected onto paper...

Lostprophets - Still Laughing (2001).

Released in 2001 and included on the Lostprophet's first album 'The Fake Sound of Progress', 'Still Laughing' is one of the band's less popular songs. Its sinister introduction and slow pace develops an eerie aura in any situation, but it is when we look at the lyrics that things become unsettling.

Contributors to the website submit their thoughts on underlying messages within songs and had this to say about 'Still Laughing':

  • 'I think he's confused on what to do, which direction to follow in life... and that others just follow the crowd'
  • 'He leaves his past behind and forgets the people he knew'
  • 'I think the song is about someone that has lost all that he holds close'
As we know, Watkin's certainly did not 'follow the crowd' and was indubitably 'confused'. In hindsight, it is easy to attribute lyrics to some deeper meaning, but in my opinion, the lyrics in 'Still Laughing' are too blatant to ignore. 

Come take a look
Because all this could mean, that I
Don't really care
Who ends up gettin' hurt

Please take a look
If it's judgment versus instinct
How do I feel
When my feelings don't even work?

You know that I'll believe
'Cause I can see it in your smile
Time stood still for me
When you called

Said I, answer me this
Yes, all I have is questions
You can't slip away
And hide behind a false truth

Time takes too long
Just seems like
I'm still standin' here now
And I can't even feel
The rain that hits my shoes

You know that I'll believe
'Cause I can see it in your eyes
Time stood still for me
When you called

I'm still waitin', I still bleed
That's a sign that I'm still me
I'm still breathin', I can see
So I must be alive for real

When will I get there?
I should be here by now
Got it all worked out
Did I see you laughin'?
Yeah, funny, it's not me

In time
All I want is in away
Gone too long
And now it's gone, it's gone

I'm still waitin', I still bleed
That's a sign that I'm still me
I'm still breathin', I can see
So I must be alive for real
So I must be alive for real
Yeah, I must be alive for real
I must be alive for real
  • 'Come take a look, because all this could mean that I, don't really care who ends up getting hurt'
Is Watkins asking for help? Is he inviting people to investigate him and stop him from hurting the people that have made his career so successful (fans etc.)? 
  • 'How do I feel when my feelings don't even work?'
Is Watkins acknowledging that he is different to everybody else? Is he admitting that he has an illness and does not care who he causes harm to? When linked to the line above, connotations of inflicting pain and mental instability arise. 
  • 'You can't slip away and hide behind a false truth'
Although he knows that his thoughts are wrong, they are too intense and too appealing to ignore. His life as a lead singer of a rock band hides his dark inner thoughts, but it is becoming too much for him and he cannot continue to let these thoughts rest in his mind without acting upon them.
  • 'I'm still waiting, I still breathe, that's a sign that I'm still me'
He had not yet acted upon his darkest thoughts and the little sanity within him is preventing him from doing this. The monster inside of is still waiting to commit these horrific crimes, but the morality he knows he possesses will continue to stop him from carrying them out.

Again, the problem lies with ambiguity and any old meaning could be attributed to the lyrics in 'Still Laughing'. The crimes have been linked to 2008 when Watkins was engaging in heavy drug use, however, a burning desire to rape a child does not spontaneously emerge in a normal human's mind. Watkins is, and was, ill and personally, I believe these sick ideas and fantasies plagued his mind from a young age and these thoughts are reflected in this very song. 

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

7 Of The Strangest Things People Have Tried To Smuggle

If, like me, you're a dedicated viewer of 'Nothing To Declare', you'll be aware of some of the aberrant shite that some of the more peculiar people on this planet try to smuggle over the border.

Drugs, food and even live insects are all common creepers in the smuggler's suitcase, but spare a thought for the baggage handler who comes across a friendly old dead body making its way through the X-Ray machine.

Below are seven of the strangest things, items and animals people have remarkably tried to smuggle. 

7. A Crocodile

One quirky fellow took it upon himself to complete the unenviable task of smuggling a crocodile with him on his flight to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Amazingly, the giant reptile made it on to the plane and in the comfort of his new surroundings, decided to pop his sunglasses on and crawl out of the passengers back towards the end of the flight.

As expected, the reaction was hysterical and the sane members on board made a frantic dash to the front of the plane. The sudden redistribution in weight caught the pilot off guard and the plane subsequently crashed. The ridiculously unbelievable disaster tragically killed twenty of the twenty-one passengers on board and the crocodile's holiday was cut short with a machete soon after.

6. A Cocaine Cast

In March 2009, a 66 year old Chilean warrior purposefully broke his leg so he could use the cast to smuggle cocaine from Chile to Barcelona. In fact, the entire cast was compiled of the Class A drug and it would have circulated the streets of the Spanish city had security officers failed to locate the other 9lbs of coke stashed in six empty beer cans. 

5. Bear Paws
Earlier this summer, 213 bear paws were confiscated on their way from Russia to China, where they are a delicacy.
In the summer of this year, Chinese police arrest two Russian men trying to smuggle 213 brown bear paws into Inner Mongolia where they are a delicacy. The paws were discovered hidden in the tyres of the men's vehicle when they were pulled over by customs officers at a border checkpoint.

According to officer Wu Qingyan, the biggest paw weighed around 2kg and the men were pulled over because 'they looked very anxious and nervous'. In China, a kilo of bear paws sells for around £620.

4. An Entire Zoo

Meet Robert Cusack, the man who in 2002 was arrested and sentenced to 57 days in jail for attempting to smuggle over fifty live animals and plants into a wildlife refuge in Costa Rica. After landing on a flight from Thailand to Los Angeles in 2002, Cusack was arrested after a bird of paradise flew out of his luggage.

Customs Agents proceeded to find three more rare birds in his suitcase, but the fluorescent flappers weren't the only species of wildlife in the smuggler's company. Cusack was also hiding two pygmy slow lorises in his underwear and fifty rare orchids in his luggage. 

3. A Nun's Skeleton

In January 2011, a Cyprian monk and two accomplices were caught trying to board a plane in Athens carrying the skeleton of a deceased nun. When questioned about his rather radical smuggle attempt, the 42 year old monk claimed he was transferring the remains from Greece to a monastery in Cyprus because the nun was a 'saint'.

Cyprus Orthodox Archbishop Chrysostomos II has recently branded the perpetrator a 'charlatan' and said his actions were 'sacrilegious'. 

2. A Human Corpse

The British like to think that the world's most preternatural events occur far, far away from the UK. Sadly, they don't, and this strange story beautifully sums up why.

In April 2010, two women were arrested after they tried to take the body of a dead relative on to a plane at Liverpool John Lennon Airport. Staff became suspicious when they tried to check in 91 year old Curt Willi Jarant, who was wearing sunglasses, for a flight to Berlin. 

The women, one his widow and one his step daughter, said they thought Jarant was asleep. Both were arrested on suspicious of failing to give notification of death.

1. A Dead Baby Carrying Drugs

The urban legend is one of the most horrific stories you'll find on the internet and although the story may not be true, it highlights the viciousness of the drug world.

The internet rumour tells the story of a a couple and their two year old son planning a weekend trip across the Mexican border for a shopping spree. They had been across the border for around an hour when their son got free and ran around the corner. Although the mother chased after her son, she could not find him and subsequently located a police officer who told her to go to the border gate and wait.

Doing as she was told, she waited 45 minutes until a man approached her carrying her two year old son. She ran to him, grateful that he had been found. However, when the man realised it was the boy's mother, he dropped him to the ground and fled. The police were waiting nearby and arrested the man soon after.

The two year old boy was dead and during the 45 minutes in which he had disappeared, he was cut open and stuffed with cocaine. 

Saturday, 19 October 2013

10 Most Famous Suicide Landmarks


It's an occult domain the majority of people choose not to delve into, as if to respect its victims. However, some believe the forbidden and prohibited semblance that surrounds the topic renders it a compelling area to actually go and research. 

The truth is, around 800,000 million people commit suicide every single year, making it the 10th leading cause of death worldwide. Unfortunately, suicide doesn't seem to be an unpopular means to an end for the many people who have to endure intolerable and unbearable despair and pain every day. 

So does the place in which the individual chooses to take their life carry much personal meaning, or is the location merely based on convenience? It's a controversial topic you have to scatter around as if it's broken glass on the floor, but a number of famous landmarks exist that exhibit disturbing suicide statistics that certainly can't be referred to as coincidental. 

10. Humber Bridge, England

The world's seventh largest suspension bridge, residing in Hull, England, is 2,220 metres long and beholds a distressing record of suicides. Since it's opening in 1981, over 200 suicide attempts have taken place with only 5 surviving. A plan to deal with the unfortunate problem was devised on Boxing Day 2009 when it was announced that a suicide barrier would be erected along the walkways of the bridge.

9. London Underground, England

Many will be surprised to learn that the world's most famous public transit system is also a hotspot for suicide attempts. 145 deaths were recorded on the Northern Line between 2010 and 2011, however, statistics show that only 40% of people die. 

8. Eiffel Tower, France

The elegant 'Iron Lady' illuminates above the 'City of Love', but all is not what it seems in France's most famous landmark. The exact location is actually France's third most popular means of suicide behind poison and hanging. Safety nets and railings make the task difficult, but many still attempt to jump from the tower.

7. Nusle Bridge, Czech Republic

The nickname ('Suicide Bridge') says it all. The bleak looking construction plays an instrumental role in Prague's transport network, however, it has also assisted 300 suicides since it was built in 1973. To prevent further suicides, the city erected tall chain link fence railings along the sidewalks in 1997 and ten years later, the fencing was topped off with a 3ft wide strip of polished metal to make it impossible to climb.

6. Beachy Head, England

The stunning location in East Sussex presents visitors with a luxurious view of the south east coast, however, the chalk sea cliff's height (162m) also makes it one of the world's most notorious suicide spots. The site averages 20 suicides a year although these numbers are decreasing thanks to regular patrols and signposts.

5. The Gap, Australia

The Gap is an ocean cliff in Sydney with a horrendous suicide record. It's Australia's version of Beachy Head, however, over 50 jump to their death every year at the location. The Gap's suicide rate would be even more repugnant if it wasn't for the late Don Ritchie, a local WWII veteran who would approach jumpers and offer them help. Before his death in 2012, Don saved over 160 people and was even awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for his services.

4. Niagara Falls, USA

The falls offer a stunning spectacle between the border of Canada and the USA and it's beauty has often been portrayed in Hollywood for the world to see. However, between 20-40 people jump to their deaths every year at Niagara and an estimated 5,000 bodies have been found at the foot of the falls between 1850 and 2011. 

3. Golden Gate Bridge, USA

The three mile long structure between San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean watches over San Francisco like some Godly protector. It has been referred to as 'possible the most beautiful, certainly the most photographed, bridge in the world' and has been declared on of the Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

However, the Bridge's undoubted beauty doesn't stop it from being the second most common suicide site in the world. By 2005, official suicide records were up to 1,200, only second to the Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge in China. Jumpers hit the water at 75mph and often die from impact trauma or hypothermia from the freezing cold water below.

2. Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge, China

It may be longer, but China's infamous river bridge in Nanjing is most definitely uglier and boasts a significantly more horrific suicide rate than San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. With over 2,000 suicides on it's blood stained record, the bridge is the most common suicide spot in the world. 

1. Aokigahara Forest, Japan

The notoriously creepy forest in Japan is known for it's haunting affiliation with the supernatural. Since the 1950's, an average of 30 people a year have committed suicide in the dreary forestland and many bodies are sadly never found.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

5 Most Famous Ghost Pictures

Whether you believe in them or not; ghosts tend to terrify the toughest of us.

Long gone are the days of Casper; a friendly floating chap who went out of his way to reassure children that spectres were in fact very approachable beings. 

Today our screens are polluted by hideously ugly, dead women that scream into the faces of the living and make their lives a living hell. 

Their existence will be up for debate until the end of time, but the five photos below put forward a strong argument for their legitimacy. 

5. Spirit In The Woods
A case of photoshop?

No. Photoshop didn't exist in 1959 when this famous photo was taken by Reverend R.S. Blance near Alice Springs, Australia.

The woman appears to be wearing a white dress and holding her hands just beneath her chin. 

4. Monk In Church
This ghost, captured in 1954 by Reverend K.F. Ford, bears an uncanny resemblance to the main antagonist in the Scream movies. 

Ford accidentally snapped the screaming spectre whilst taking pictures of his church in England. Examinations have taken place and no evidence has been found to suggest the photo has been tampered with. 

3. Lady Of Bachelor's Grove
Cemetery's are a place you'd expect to find ghosts and this shot, taken at Bachelor's Grove cemetery in Illinois, lives up to that stereotype.

The ghost was captured by Mari Huff, a member of the acclaimed paranormal investigating group Ghost Research Society. However, rather eerily, she claims the spectre was not there when the picture was taken.

2. The Fire Girl
November 19th, 1995 saw Wem Town Hall in England crumble to the floor in ash as a fire blazed through its walls.

Local photographer Tony O'Rahilly was on hand to capture a few photo's from the disaster and was stunned to find this image as he flicked through his images. A young girl appears to be watching on, unfazed by the inferno before her. Firefighters claims there was no one in the building and no missing report was submitted.

1. The Brown Lady
This photo, considered to be the most famous ghost photo in the world, was taken in 1936 at Raynham Hall in Norfolk. 

The spectre is said to be that of Dorothy Townshend, a former resident of the hall along with her abusive husband Charles. Dorothy is rumoured to have engaged in an affair with Lord Wharton. When Charles learned of her affair, he imprisoned and killed her.