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  • Jake Wallis Simons

    Jake Wallis Simons

    Journalist. Digital, print, radio, TV. Author of four novels

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  • Digital

    Digital

    "Meet the Settlers: A journey through the West Bank"

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  • Fiction

    Fiction

    Jake's fourth novel, "Jam", is out now. "A skilful road rage novel" – The Telegraph

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  • Broadcasting

    Broadcasting

    Jake presents radio and television for the BBC and others.

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  • Cartoons

    Cartoons

    Has been known to put pen to paper.

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Blog

It’s time to tell it like it is: the Serial podcast was rubbish (Telegraph)

Smug, petty, low-brow, plodding, voyeuristic and self-indulgent, the much-hyped Serial podcast doesn’t deserve the plaudits, says Jake Wallis Simons

I used to be a fan of This American Life.

For years, I would recommend the iconic NPR radio programme to my British friends, waxing lyrical about its innovative combination of everyday stories, off-the-cuff delivery, and knack for finding extraordinary narrative threads.

Recently, however, it has all changed. Legendary episodes like Parent Trap – which included an extraordinary segment about a chimpanzee who was raised as a human – have been replaced with pieces of petty whimsy in which painfully middle class Americans naval-gaze about An Experience I Once Had And What It May Have Meant.

The programme has become a parody of itself, with an absurdly stylisedIra Glass (the presenter) cooing in his nerdish, nasal way about such irrelevances as poultry. Seriously. Poultry.

Not only have I stopped evangelising about the show, I have even stopped listening to it, sticking instead to Radiolab, which – if you haven’t heard it – remains the best radio programme in the world, ever.

Then came Serial. Presented by Ira Glass’ second-in-command, Sarah Koenig, under the This American Life umbrella, it was a 12-part re-examination of a murder that occurred in 1999. Yes, 12 parts. So much so meh, right?

Wrong. The series rapidly clocked up a record-breaking five million downloads on iTunes, and was quickly hailed as the world’s most popular podcast. Even Radio 4 jumped on the bandwagon, gaining the rights to broadcast it simultaneously.

The Guardian called it “a truly remarkable piece of journalism”. The New York Times said it made “plenty of us drive a bit wobblier” and “feel the occasional tingle of campfire-narration awe”.

So, a week or two behind everybody else, I began to listen, allowing myself to expect great things. I even endured the juvenile tedium of the first few episodes, in the hope that something would “click” and I would see what all the fuss was about.

But I was sorely disappointed. Continue reading on the Telegraph website

Parents: Stop lying to your kids about Santa (CNN)

It’s all very well to have Santa as a make-believe tradition, but many parents now go too far in fooling their kids into believing in him, says Jake Wallis Simons

Let’s play spot the villain.

On Monday, a group of children from Stalham Academy in Norfolk, UK, received an unexpected message in their Christmas sermon.

The Reverend Margaret McPhee, a trainee vicar, shared with them the simple truth that Santa Claus doesn’t exist.

The real meaning of Christmas, she said, wasn’t Santa, Barbie and Xboxes. It was about the birth of the baby Jesus and the light that he brought to the world.

Parents were hyperbolically outraged. One posted on Facebook that McPhee had “put me off taking my children to church just in case something else gets said.”

This was the second such incident this month. A few weeks ago, when Father Dennis Higgins, a devoted, octogenarian Catholic priest, dared to — shock horror –tell children the truth at church, a local headmaster by the name of Brendan Hickey intervened.

“I want to reassure all Year Three pupils at St. Anne’s, and their parents, that I have personally spoken to Father Christmas and told him about what has happened,” he lied.

“He was sorry to hear about the confusion and has promised me that he will arrange for his elves to write to each of the children and reassure them that he will definitely be coming to visit them this Christmas.

So who are the real villains here? Father Dennis, Rev. McPhee and their inconvenient truth-telling? Or Hickey and the disgruntled parents?

In my view, anybody in their right mind will side with the clergy. Continue reading on the CNN website

Sky News: JWS and a parenting expert debate the “pinkification” of toys

Russell Brand and the politics of the male flesh flash (Telegraph Men)

The increasing trend for men to bare their skin sounds a death knell for the integrity of modern masculinity, writes Jake Wallis Simons

When it comes to offences against decency, Russell Brand does pretty well.

He published a book promoting Socialist revolution through the corporate giant Random House. He rails against millionaires making profit despite himself being one.

And, most recently, he accused the United States of being “the people who do ‘terror’ best” – just as Taliban gunmen murdered more than 100 children in Pakistan.

But his brazenness doesn’t stop there. Yes, reader, I’m talking about the effrontery that is his chest hair.

That awful open shirt is a sartorial reflection of everything that is wrong with masculinity today.

There it was on Question time, winking suggestively at the viewer like a triangle of boiled halibut that had been dropped on the floor of a barber’s shop.

Here I am, it said: you can’t look at me without looking at my bare chest. I’m imposing my chest upon you, just as I am imposing my half-baked opinions and nonsensical flights of metaphorical fancy.

It was, quite frankly, obscene. Yet this is just the tip of the iceberg; Mr Brand is at the vanguard of a trend for male flesh flashing that all right-thinking people must oppose.

Continue reading on the Telegraph website

Sydney siege reveals the hidden face of Islamic extremism down under: Disturbing rise of plots in ‘soft target’ Australia (from MailOnline)

  • A beheading plot foiled by police in September was planned to take place just yards from the Lindt cafe, where hostages are now being held
  • 800 police raided homes across Australia in September – arresting 15 people linked to a plot to behead a member of the public in Sydney
  • At least 70 from Australia fighting for ISIS in Syria and Iraq
  • 185 Australians now thought to have links with fanatics in the Middle East 

The Sydney siege has thrown a spotlight on the disturbing growth of terror threats in Australia in recent months, with one expert claiming that the country is being targeted because it is a ‘soft target’.

‘I suspect that cities in Australia or Canada are seen as relatively soft targets, compared with London where you can’t turn a corner without seeing a heavily armed policeman nowadays,’ said historian Michael Burleigh.

In September, Australian police carried out the largest counter-terrorism raids in the country’s history, after uncovering an alleged plot to behead a member of the public just yards away from the Lindt cafe that is currently under siege… Continue reading on the MailOnline website  

 

Daily Telegraph column: How British is Christmas really?

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Secret video: Is anti-Semitism alive on the streets of London? (Daily Telegraph)

A new report suggests that hate crime is on the rise in the capital. Jake Wallis Simons donned a kippah and filmed the results

“Christ,” muttered the fat man in the suit. My heart skipped a beat. Was this anti-Semitism?

But no, he wasn’t blaming me for the crucifixion. He was just irritated that I had got in his way.

I sighed, adjusted my skullcap and ploughed on in the direction of the Finsbury Park mosque.

But let me begin at the beginning.

Yesterday, a new report commissioned by the Mayor of Londonrevealed that 95 per cent of hate crimes against faith groups in the capital – which have surged by 23 per cent compared to last year – were anti-Semitic.

And it’s not just the case in London. In July, a rabbi was attacked by four Muslim teenagers outside a Jewish boarding school in Gateshead. In Belfast, the windows of the city’s only synagogue were smashed on two consecutive nights; in Manchester, a Jewish cemetery was defaced with swastikas.

Has our country’s famous tolerance deserted it? Is it no longer safe for Jews to walk the streets of Britain?

Many of my Jewish friends are beginning to feel that way. And as somebody who is half-Jewish, I feel both sides of the problem keenly.

So I persuaded a friend to join me in a “social experiment”. I would put on a Jewish skullcap, or “kippah”. He would cut a hole in the brim of a beanie, hide a video camera inside, and film me as I walked the streets.

Everybody told us it was a bad idea. A relative persuaded me to buy a stab-proof vest, then offered to be responsible for arranging my funeral. A Muslim friend looked worried, and told me to “be careful”. Continue reading on the Telegraph website

Toy companies want your kids to have a gender-specific Christmas (Telegraph Men column)

Opposing gendered toys is not political correctness, it’s common sense, says Jake Wallis Simons

Boys should be boys, and girls should be girls. This is the “common sense” approach taken by Tony Abbott, the Australian prime minister, when it comes to the debate about gendered toys.

“I certainly don’t believe in that kind of political correctness,” he said, referring to a campaign by the Green senator Larissa Waters to abolish “separate aisles of pink and blue” in toy shops for the month of December.

“Let boys be boys, let girls be girls; that’s always been my philosophy. And above all else, let parents do what they think is in the best interests of their children.”

On the face of it, there is much to be said for Abbott’s red-meat-and-beer attitude. Society is being forced to embrace a radical Left agenda that disapproves of gender on ideological grounds, and Abbott is not alone in resenting that. Continue reading on the Telegraph website

Are the baby boomers really to blame for everything? (Sky News)

Jake Wallis Simons and Francis Beckett, author of What Have The Baby Boomers Ever Done For Us?, debate whether the post-War generation really are the cause of all ills on Sky News.

 

Is Lego is ruining our kids’ imaginations? (CNN)

Modern toys make for depressing indictment of society’s view of childhood, argues Jake Wallis Simons

Lego might not seem like the sort of thing to make your blood boil.

The venerable toy is one of the most popular playthings of all time. People of all ages love it. And if previous years are anything to go by, Christmas stockings will soon be bulging with the stuff.

But the irony is that because people feel such visceral affection for the toy, they tend to fly into a rage when they believe its standards are slipping.

In fact, I’m getting a bit hot under the collar myself.

The latest furore concerns Lego’s “franchise” sets, which depict scenes from movies like “Star Wars,” “Lord Of the Rings,” and “Marvel.”

Principled Lego enthusiasts have been arguing that they undermine the whole point of the toy, as they encourage children to construct showpiece models from instruction booklets rather than building something from their own imaginations.

“Lego taught me the art of creative destruction — the need to break something in order to make something better,” wrote the blogger Chris Swan.

“Lego for me was always about creativity, remaking and improving on existing designs. Those things don’t happen with the sets that are designed to build a model of a single thing.

“Good old generic Lego, with endless possibilities on offer, hasn’t gone away, it’s just been drowned in a sea of marketing for other brands.” Continue reading on the CNN website