The baby boom there won’t be.


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I love Radio 4’s ‘More or Less’.  It’s a programme about statistics (and data) and it’s brutally anoracky.

But I care not if you think this makes me socially unacceptable, because you learn fascinating things .

Like how misguided you are when your friends say, “Well, there’s gonna be a massive baby boom in nine months after this, eh?” and you nod; because of course there will be.

Well, I have news for you.

There won’t be.

Never is one.

When big events like this happen, and people are unexpectedly shacked up together, for long and even short periods, it simply doesn’t happen.

Not even once.

Not after epidemics, pandemics, floods, power outages, wars.

Never.

That’s what I learned on this week’s episode (available here for a bit).

Here’s why it won’t happen.

a) The biggest cause of pregnancy is teenagers fooling around without protection – but they are all at home: masturbating.

b) In vitro fertilisation has stopped.  It’s bigger than you might think.

c) Family planners have stopped planning families – would you want to conceive right now?

On the other hand…

d) Prophylactics have vanished from the shelves because they’re mostly made in China.

So mistakes will happen.

But a, b and c outweigh d.

I thank you.

 

 

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.


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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


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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

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.

Ross and Brand


The furore over the childish prank fashioned by Jonathon Ross as guest presenter on the Russel Brand show is appropriate.

As it happens, I am currently reading Brand’s autobiography and in it (early days so far) he comes across as not far short of mentally ill. He has conquered drink and drug addiction but his sex addiction is far from cured.


And, actually, it’s not funny.

It seems to stem from a childlife immersed in porn and the overseeing of his father’s sexual proclivity. In this paragraph, recounting an experience from a holiday at Pontins as a seven year old where he spies his father about to ‘have it off’ with the mother of the girl Brand is hanging about with you can see the complexity of Brand’s relationship with sex. It’s great material because the metaphor that forms the basis of this tale is sad, but outstanding…

“…at that point the woman walked out of the bathroom naked and shrieked. She tried to cover herself up – all knockers and skin everywhere almost independently trying to escape her – like she was a vet’s assistant bungling her way through her first day, mishandling a litter of recalcitrant piglets…Intriguing I thought.”

I think my point is that Brand almost can’t help himself. He has a problem that perhaps needs to be understood as opposed to vilified. It’s the basis of much of his humour, but we all know how many comedians are tortured souls (no question Brand is).

Ross, on the other hand, is a trumped up chance-taker. He revels in titillation of a homo or hetero style. He flirts outrageously with every single guest on his much overrated TV show whilst declaring undying love to his long suffering wife. (His radio programme is far superior.)

It was Ross that initiated the badness, in my view spiced up by the frisson of danger that hosting Brand’s, The BBC’s enfent terrible, show might have afforded him. It was him that told poor old Andrew Sachs that Brand had had sexual relations with his granddaughter. I believe Brand just went with the flow, (not that I’m endorsing his behaviour I have to say).

It’s all rather sad. And I do think both of them need a bollocking. Brand for being stupid. But Ross in particular, the perhaps calculating ringleader and school bully.

But you just know, don’t you, that a bit of grovelling, a charity cheque or two will smooth the whole thing over.

Freakzone


Is it just me or is Stuart Maconie’s Freakzone not the best programme on the radio.  There is ALWAYS something new and interesting to hear.  He’s not afraid to play 30 minute tracks every now and then.  He is knowledgeable, likeable and tasteful

6 Music.  Every Sunday at 5pm.

Tune in or drop out.

Fiona’s Story


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Give the BBC their due.  I know I’ve ranted a bit about their Olympic bias but they sure can do drama and despite mixed notices in front of tonight’s Fiona’s Story I thought it was outstanding.

Mind you, it had Gina McKee as the lead and she cannot put a foot wrong in my book.  An A-class actress indeed and she carried off a very difficult and sensitive role with great subtlety.

It was a complex emotional plot, based on McKee’s husband being nobbled (no pun intended) for downloading child porn and then gradually attempting to take the emotional high ground by assuming the position of victim as opposed to perpetrator.  McKee’s character, the wife, got landed with all the emotional shit and painted into the bad corner at every turn, despite being as sympathetic as one could possibly tolerate.

A very fine performance (BAFTA anyone?) in a very fine production.

Michael Johnson has a wee laugh to himself


Usain Bolt once again bolted up, this time in the 200m final, becoming the only man ever to set world records in the 100 and 200m Olympic finals in the same year.  He destroyed the field again.  What an incredible pair of performances.

In doing so he robbed Michael Johnson of his 200m World Record and Johnson responded, when asked by Sue Barker on the BBC tonight how he thought Bolt compared to Phelps (if one can even make a genuine comparison ) by saying, and I kid you not that (and I paraphrase) “Bolt had a far greater impact because Phelps never ‘rewrote’ anything.”

Och man.  Have a word with yourself

He won eight gold medals, more than any other human being EVER.  To add to his six from the last Olympics.  That’s 14 Gold medals.  What’s more he broke six world records.

Now, I’m not comparing the two but to say Phelps never rewrote anything smacks of a collosal ego.

What the subscript says is this.

“Bolt is great because he beat MY long standing world record.”

Boo.

2012 olympics. London.


BBC bias.

Why oh why oh why does every event in Beijing have to allude to 2012 in London.  Please just let us enjoy these Olympics.

Please?

You know what it is.  It’s Britain’s endless ability to see itself as superior to the rest of the world.  And they’re scared.  These Olympics have been astoundingly good.  Forget the politics for a moment.  It has been a feast of sport in magnificent facilities with an opening ceremony that you simply could not have conceived of. So what does the BBC do?  It projects forward to 2012 in such a way that makes this Olympiad seem of secondary importance.

It insults me.

It insults Britain’s Olympic team.

It insults Beijing.

It sucks.

Asymetric bars


Get out the freaking road ya radge.

Get out the boody way.

We watched Beth Tweddle kick the lower bar in her qualifying routine but still qualify. ( i think it was a secret part of her routine that added to the degree of difficulty. I mean, it would have been much easier to miss it!)

But the thing that gets me is those blokes that dive in and about the poor lassies’ feet in case they fall off

It’s my contention that it’s not despite these crazy guys that they fall off it’s because of them.

GET OUT OF THE FLIPPIN’ WAY YOU BIG GALLOOTS!

You didn’t see that big British lass, Becky Downie, using one of those ‘catchers’ – she’d have flattened the poor gadgey. And she never fell off.

Point proven!

The highlight of the competition was listening to that female English commentator (Christine Still) willing, really willing, the French to fall over on every piece of apparatus so that England could qualify.

The sense of hollow compliments as time and again the French did a bit better than they needed to was hilarious.

“Yes (I suppose) that was very good (bitch)” She’d proclaim through teeth more gritted than the M8 in a snowstorm as another French burd got a 14.3 or thereabouts.

“We only need one of them to have a cardiac and the English are through.” she said at one point. (Nah, she didn’t but she might as well.)

The Genius of Photography


BBC4 is running an unbelievably good series on the history of photography called “the Genius of Photography”.

It is unmissable.

And this week one of the featured photographers was new to me (I’m ashamed to say)

Nevertheless he is wonderful and I’d like to share his work with you.

A German called August Sander who shot some of the most stunning portraits of the inter-war years.

Here are just a few.

This man is focussed.

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Ditto.

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I love the humour in this shot.

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I believe this is the seminal Sander shot and I can see why…

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And so is this…

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I found this and love it…

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