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Desert Island Discs is 75: An appreciation.

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I’d like to say I’ve grown up with Desert Island Discs, but the truth is I was a terrible snob about ‘middle class radio’ in my disapproval of it as a youth.  I was brought up in the punk era. DID did not fit with the zeitgeist.  (I didn’t even give Led Zeppelin the time of day then, for God sake.)

I remain a terrible snob in different ways today.

For example, when it comes to class and political affiliations I’m a mess.

I feel like a Liberal but don’t vote Liberal.  I voted Yes for Independence in Scotland but am beginning to mistrust the SNP as they have unfettered power.  I deplore the Tories, but love Kenneth Clark.  I would not vote Labour but hugely admire Jeremy Corbyn.  I love the Greens but they are too hippy dippy for me.

When it comes to music I can’t abide the current state of the charts but am fully doting on BBC Radio 6 and its general output, yet when I open The Skinny to look at their best of the year I barely recognise a band and worry that I am losing touch.

My best of 2016 included David Bowie, Radiohead, De La Soul, King Creosote, Nick Cave, A Tribe called Quest, Massive Attack, Mogwai, Pixies.

Dad Rock (and Dad Hip hop) if ever you saw it.  Not one a day under 50 years old and Seaford Mods are not far off it either.

So where does DID fit in to all this?

Right at the top of the tree.  That’s where.

My aforementioned ‘political disdain’ for Radio 4 has long been eroded and DID sits as the King of the BBC’s castle, patrolling the battlements the real life Queen, Kirsty Young.  Surely the greatest voice and most empathetic interviewer to ever grace the world of radio.

I listen to the archives and cannot bear the sound of the Wicked Witch of the West that preceded her; Sue Lawley.  Where Kirsty embraces, Lawley shunned.  Where Kirsty giggles, Lawley sneered or simply tossed off a harumphlike snort.

Parky was good though and so was Roy Plomley in that so very BBC era.

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The beauty of DID is that it gets under the skin of its interviewees like no other programme.  Sure, the music can be special but the formula (and it’s ingenious mixologist) works at pulling the truth from people.  Not the scandalous truth but the personal truth.

How they really felt about their mum and dad.

Why they were turned from the straight and narrow for a while (no REALLY why).

What embarrassing (but not headline) secrets they have.

How childhood bullying made them.

These sorts of things.

If you want to hear that in an absolute nutshell listen to the enthralling interview with Kathy Burke.  And try not to cry.

Listen to how Atul Gawande saved thousands of lives by creating a checklist for surgeons.  Genuinely inspiring.

I’ve not yet heard the Tom Hanks interview but I understand he was reduced to tears by Kirsty, but in a very nice way.

Lemm Sissey, a poet, was another who brought me to tears as he told his adoption story.

This programme does not tolerate big heads.  How could you show off with Kirsty anyway? Although, there was probably more opportunity in Lawley’s days, because I think she was more in the thrall of her big shot interviewees.  Kirtsty often is too, but in a completely different way.  Like a little girl mouth agape at her first Spice Girls gig sort of way rather than a Lawley “look at me interviewing Henry Kissinger ” way.

The list of the most chosen pieces reflects an aspect of the show that I think represents its strictly middle class past, because over the last ten years this picture must have changed.

Beethoven – Symphony No 9 in D minor ‘Choral’
Rachmaninoff – Piano Concerto No 2 in C minor
Schubert – String Quintet in C major
Beethoven Symphony No 6 in F Major ‘Pastoral’
Elgar – Pomp & Circumstance March no 1 in D Major ‘Land of Hope and Glory’
Beethoven – Piano Concerto No 5 in E Flat Major ‘Emperor’
Elgar – Enigma Variations Nimrod
Beethoven – Symphony No 7 in A major

That’s not exactly Radio 1 (or 2 for that matter) is it?

Interviewees divide, for me, into two groups.  Those that truly love classical music and their list is wall to wall  classical with a token Frank Sinatra thrown in, and those that think a token classical piece or two will make them look more profound.  I’d likely have no classical in my choices but if I were to play that game it would be either Faure’s Requiem or Barber’s Adagio for Strings.

Look. There.  I’ve done it.

Faux Classicist.

But that minor criticism (and it’s of some of its interviewees not the show itself) Desert Island Discs really does deserve the tag “National Institution”.

Here’s to my grandchildren enjoying it at the turn of the 22nd century.



Why is the BBC killing the Met Office? Money. That’s Why.
August 23, 2015, 11:20 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,

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The John Kettley is a weather man app will be released shortly.  Because from now on although the Met Office will be forecasting the weather it will be broadcast to us by some fucking dot com that will be taking the Met office’s data and delivering it to us through some diaphanous cloud of bits and bytes.

This is the work of evil.

Some fucking BBC procurement officer went home on Friday night to be kissed on the forehead by his ugly wife as she said;

“Hello Henry how was work today?”

“Splendid Daphne. I ended 93 years of brilliant service, scuppered a large number of meteorologists careers and saved the tax payer threepence halfpenny when I appointed Meatoffice.com to do the weather from now on.”

“Oh Henry you are so adorable.  Shall we make some jam?”

“Yes Daphne.  No, actually, I am so high on adrenalin.  Let’s make…marmalade.”

Whoever Henry is in real life he is to be despised.

Let’s hear it for John Kettley as the BBC procurement team stuff action man sized models of Michael Fish up their anuses.



The Crimson Petal and the White

I love Michel Faber’s writing and it’s  a toss up between this and Under The Skin for his greatest work.  The two could be no more different; Under the Skin is a taught contemporary sci fi horror set in Scotland and this; an 800 page monstrous take on Dickensian Victorian London.

Both are really great books and consequently both run the risk of taking a good pasting when put on screen.

There has been many year’s of talk that TCPATW would be Hollywood-made and for a while rumour had it that Kirsten Dunst was to be the heroine, Sugar.  However it fell eventually to the BBC to make this near epic adaptation.  I say near epic because big and bold as it was I think it had even greater potential.

The previews did not make great reading; the panel on Newsnight Review, with the honourable exception of Maureen Lipman, annihilated it, so I approached fearing the worst.

I needn’t have worried.

The, at times, over tricksy focus pulling in the camera work was a bit heavy handed but this was overcome on balance because otherwise it was excellent (moody, creepy, almost surreal in places and beautifully emphasised by a particularly odd (in a good way) score written by newcomer Cristobal Tapai de Veer).

The set and costumes are astounding and the acting of the entire cast, but Particularly Chris O’Dowd (the IT team) and Romola Garai were of BAFTA winning standards, and had to be to pull it off.

In particular O’Dowd’s tortured portrayal of sappy rich boy William Rackham is magnificent.  It’s as if he can’t decide how to play the role, but that’s just how Faber wrote it.  In the end he comes across as merely a weak sap who is  only in it for himself.  Perhaps he cannot help it as we frequently see when he is led astray by his particularly vulgar “friends”.

Romola Garai, by contrast, is nailed to the tracks in the conviction of her character, as the upwardly mobile Sugar; pulling herself out of the stench thanks to the interest of Rackham who gradually exalts her social profile in a London where status was everything (and boy did she have status in the underworld, starting off as the top prostitute in London).  Her gritty but sometimes tender performance is the beating heart of the book and this ultimately excellent adaptation.

It’s still on iplayer but I’d wait for the DVD and splash out.

For me it would play out better as an epic four hour movie rather than a four part TV series.

Wonderful.  Bring on the BAFTAs. (And the Emmys).



‘Mon the Salmond
April 27, 2010, 10:57 pm
Filed under: conservative, humour, Labour, liberal, life, politics, Scotland, stories, UK election | Tags: , , ,

aye aye

Salmond’s challenging of the SNP’s right to be in the leadership debate is at the very least entertaining and at best an interesting constitutional call.  I’m in favour of him winning the court case I have to say.

He has two reasons for justifying his claim;

  • He has managed a coalition with little fuss for three years
  • He governs 10% of the country


John humphries
November 12, 2009, 11:43 pm
Filed under: Rants, tv | Tags: , , ,

john+humphries

He is a poor imitation of Magnuss Magnusson and now he is a parlous imitation of David Dimbleby.

Please BBC, spare us this torment.

 



Yes Minister meets Jackass.

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In the Loop is a quite extraordinary political romp.  I say romp because the film does 0 -60 in three seconds and then stays in top gear to the end, smashing through red lights, taboo barriers, and political incorrectness like a deranged Starsky and Hutch.

It’s a political satire, sure, and so in that respect it should be compared to West Wing or Yes Minister, but both of these are so relatively genteel that they occupy very different spaces.

The central character, The Minister for Development played beautifully by Tom Hollander, bumbles his way deeper and deeper into an international crisis that is a nod and a wink to Bush and Blair’s hapless invasion of Iraq.  The star of the movie though, is Peter Capaldi, unquestionably lampooning Alistair Campbell with a ferociousness that makes your eyes bleed.  At one point he threatens to sever hapless Toby Wright’s leg off at the knee, break his shin bone in two and stab him to death with it.

You get the drift?

Capaldi puts in a career best performance as a complete and utter bastard.  Power mad and every second he is on screen is gold dust.

Armando Iannucci’s script is packed full of foul one-liners that serve up belly laugh after belly laugh.  It actually makes In Bruges look restrained.

9 out of 10.

This clip pretty much sums the movie up.  But beware, it is wholly intended to offend and features that C word that many of you find most unappealing.

Or try this.  It’s misogynistic, foul mouthed in the extreme, rude, violent, sexist and with a reference to bestiality thrown in.

Apart from that it’s perfectly innocent.



I M Salmond

Political leaders do not usually demonstrate this level of humour. His critics will call it a stunt.  Me? I call it personality.  The fritters gag’s sweet.

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