Posts Tagged ‘politics’

Ary Barroso’s Aquarela do Brasil for BBC News

25 June 2014
060812football.JPG

A piece for the BBC News Magazine about Aquarela do Brasil:

One rainy night in 1939, he wrote the opening lines of Aquarela do Brasil (Watercolour of Brazil): “Brasil, meu Brasil brasileiro.” This translates as “Brazil, my Brazilian Brazil”. Never have four words been more Brazilian, before or since.

The censors had issues with some colloquialisms and a folksy reference to tambourines, but Barroso persuaded them that his “samba exaltacao” was modern and patriotic enough to meet their exacting requirements.

I thoroughly enjoyed Misha Glenny’s radio documentary The Making of Brazil, Bryan McCann’s book Hello, Hello Brazil: Popular Music in the Making of Modern Brazil and Scott L. Baugh’s reference work Latino American Cinema: An Encyclopedia of Movies, Stars, Concepts, and Trends. I am indebted; they are recommended.

My favourite versions:

And here’s that Disney, and Ze Carioca alive and well in 2014:

Louis Armstrong’s What A Wonderful World for the BBC

10 December 2011

Mont St Michel

A piece about Louis Armstrong’s What A Wonderful World for the BBC.

It’s also irrepressibly public-spirited, people shaking hands on the street are, apparently, ‘saying I love you’ – illustrated in the Attenborough video, oddly, by two hippopotamuses fighting each other in the Okavango river.

And this is not the first time What A Wonderful World’s generosity of spirit has been juxtaposed with less-than-cheerful imagery.

No room, sadly, for Armstrong’s 1957 refusal to join a goodwill visit to the Soviet Union, saying: “The way they are treating my people in the South, the government can go to hell.”

Black Mirror: The National Anthem

4 December 2011

I made a thinkribution to The National Anthem, the first story in the Charlie-Brooker-yielded Channel 4 drama collection Black Mirror, but (a) barely perceptibly and so (b) you should watch it — with a caveat about adult themes.

Black Mirror: The National Anthem

  • date/tx/channel: Sun 04 Dec/2100/C4

Party Conference Music: Primal Scream or Dandy Warhols?

5 October 2011

Staithes rocks

A rapid-response piece for the Guardian about Primal Scream’s outrage over being played at Conservative party conference:

“But whoever initially misidentified the music must have a tin ear. Bohemian Like You sounds like a Rolling Stones megamix with an emphasis on One Hit (To The Body) off Dirty Work, while Rocks sounds like a Stones megamix with an emphasis on Little T&A off Tattoo You.”

I am also compiling a Big List of all music played at all party conferences, politicians’ Desert Island Discs, etc. This will help.

The Clash’s London Calling for the BBC and NPR

28 July 2011

London punks

As the countdown to the 2012 Olympics kicks off with an unlikely theme song, I look London Calling and its zombies and heroin for the BBC.

“The Clash were supporters of pirate radio and considered launching their own station; this love song to the wireless signal recounts what, in punk terms, is up-to-the-minute and truthful news. But it isn’t saying ‘come and enjoy the canoe slalom’.”

Major hoorays to Marcus Gray’s Route 19 Revisited for the key fact that London Calling was originally inspired by Joe Strummer’s dislike of sports fans visiting London, as he explained to Kosmo Vinyl (Clash On Broadway box set booklet, 1991). Awkward [Update [1 Aug]: Praise be! Route 19 is imminently in paperback. There is nothing more interesting to say about 1979; I know – I tried! Buy it – it is The One.]

Sadly there was no space to mention Clash fan of Indian origin Harraj Mann, questioned in 2006 under the Terrorism Act after a taxi driver taking him to Heathrow airport became alarmed that he was listening to London Calling and called the police. The incident was seen as a massive overreaction, suggesting either that the song has lost its incendiary power, or that the authorities were being over-cautious – or both.

Also neglected was the way Strummer starts “doing” Tommy Steele’s Singing The Blues at the end (“I’ve never felt so much a-like…”), never better described than by Tom Ewing: “No consonant is safe with Steele around, words pool into one another in a shrugged gush of pre-meditated moodiness.”

Update [30 Jul]: Here is wireless nabob Scott Simon of NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday yakking with me (see also NPR’s blog The Record):

Anders Breivik’s Plagiarised ‘Manifesto’

25 July 2011

Fascist sculptureIf Anders Breivik has just printed off the internet, maybe we shouldn’t make too much of his manifesto just yet.

Among the blogs I read every day is My Right-Wing Dad, where appalled young American Democrats share emails they’ve received from relatives who have done the “FORWARD TO EVERYONE YOU KNOW!!!” thing. Among the icky racist cartoons and the odd genuinely funny bulletin-board-style gag are volumes of interminable implausible “research” about Bad People.

It’s the type of content that’s sometimes neither visible on the normal old web, nor hidden in the darknet: the stuff that pings in and out of inboxes, across forums and onto Yahoo! Groups. And if you’ve read that stuff too, Anders Behring Breivik’s “manifesto” must seem drearily familiar.

Why, you might otherwise wonder, would a Norwegian who claims an affinity with England write with the rhythms and cadences of amateur American net culture? And why is he so interested in the 1980s curriculum at Stanford University? The answer may be that Breivik didn’t so much “write” much of what he calls his “book” as copy, paste and twiddle. If you’re fascinated by plagiarism – I know I am – the twiddling will be familiar too – find/replacing terms throughout, the odd rejigging of sentences at the top of paragraphs to leave an apparently new document, still leaving inconsistency in tone, spelling and style.

Hulking chunks of the document come with attributions, and the latte wing of the UK twitterverse is currently sharing mentions of Jeremy Clarkson, Melanie Phillips and other apparent provocateurs; simultaneously scary and pathetic is the amount that should be attributed, but isn’t.

The lengthy “how the world is” section, for example, is a barely-finessed paste of a 2005 report called Political Correctness: A Short History of an Ideology by American think-tank the Free Congress Foundation; Life Site News hosts what appears to be the original. Breivik might have found it all together, or in the various forms it’s been scattered across the net.

Here’s an extract from Chapter 1, What is “Political Correctness”? by William S. Lind, apparently a military pundit and sometime senatorial aide:

"If a man from America of the 1950s were suddenly introduced into America in the 2000s, he would hardly recognize it as the same country. He would be in immediate danger of getting mugged, carjacked or worse, because he would not have learned to live in constant fear. He would not know that he shouldn’t go into certain parts of the city, that his car must not only be locked but equipped with an alarm, that he dare not go to sleep at night without locking the windows and bolting the doors – and setting the electronic security system."

And here’s Breivik, changing the location to Europe:

"If a man of the 1950s were suddenly introduced into Western Europe in the 2000s, he would hardly recognise it as the same country. He would be in immediate danger of getting mugged, carjacked or worse, because he would not have learned to live in constant fear. He would not know that he shouldn’t go into certain parts of the city, that his car must not only be locked but equipped with an alarm, that he dare not go to sleep at night without locking the windows and bolting the doors – and setting the electronic security system."

From Chapter 2, The Historical Roots of “Political Correctness” by Raymond V. Raehn, apparently a strategist:

"The significance of the historical roots of Political Correctness cannot be fully appreciated unless Betty Friedan’s revolution in sex roles is viewed for what it really was – a manifestation of the social revolutionary process begun by Karl Marx. Friedan’s reliance on Abraham Maslow’s reflection of Frankfurt School ideology is simply one indicator. Other indicators include the correspondence of Friedan’s revolution in sex roles with Georg Lukacs’ annihilation of old values and the creation of new ones, and with Herbert Marcuse’s transvaluation of values. But the idea of transforming a patriarchy into a matriarchy – which is what a sex-role inversion is designed to do – can be connected directed to Friedrich Engels book The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the Sate. First published in 1884, this book popularized the now-accepted feminist belief that deep-rooted discrimination against the oppressed female sex was a function of patriarchy."

And Breivik:

"The significance of the historical roots of Political Correctness cannot be fully appreciated unless Betty Friedan’s revolution in sex roles is viewed for what it really was – a manifestation of the social revolutionary process begun by Karl Marx. Friedan’s reliance on Abraham Maslow’s reflection of Frankfurt School ideology is only one indicator. Other indicators include the correspondence of Friedan’s revolution in sex roles with Georg Lukacs’ annihilation of old values and the creation of new ones, and with Herbert Marcuse’s transvaluation of values. But the idea of transforming a patriarchy into a matriarchy – which is what a sex-role inversion is designed to do – can be connected directly to Friedrich Engels book The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State. First published in 1884, this book popularised the now-accepted feminist belief that deep- rooted discrimination against the oppressed female sex was a function of patriarchy. "

Finally for now, here’s the end of Chapter 3, Political Correctness in Higher Education by T. Kenneth Cribb, Jr, apparently a Reagan aide:

"One of Edmund Burke’s most famous sayings is that “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” For generations, Americans have treated higher education with respect and awe – a token of their faith in the liberating power of the liberal arts. But in the face of Political Correctness, it is time for the American public to temper its respect with a critical sensibility and to undertake a more direct effort to call academia to account. It is time for good men and women to demand that American higher education live up to its best traditions and eschew the tyranny of Political Correctness."

And, again, with a transatlantic transplant:

"One of Edmund Burke’s most famous sayings is that “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” For generations, Western Europeans and Americans have treated higher education with awe – a token of their faith in the liberating power of the liberal arts. But in the face of political correctness, it is time for the Western European and American public to temper its respect with a critical sensibility, and to undertake a more direct effort to call academia to account. It is time for good men and women to demand that Western European higher education live up to its best traditions and eschew the tyranny of political correctness."

If this really took Brievik nine years, someone should have told him about CRTL+C; CRTL+V. You don’t need to type it all back in again. “Nine years” is a great line to get attention, but not one to be repeated without a bit of scepticism.

There’s plenty more, of course: Unabomber borrowings; reading lists cribbed from university courses, inevitable Wikipedia scrapes, and a critique of mass media seemingly lifted from an old leftish site after the removal of an approving reference to a John Pilger programme about Palestine. If you’ve ever said to yourself, “what a world we live in!”, you’ll probably shudder as you find something you agree with: even the bonkers end of the net is right at least twice a day.

It looks at the moment as if Breivik is positioning his murders as a kind of “marketing” for these pages of bilge, hoping they’ll be translated and read across the globe. So here’s the thing.

We should bear in mind that Brievik hasn’t, as some reports have it, proved himself “articulate”, or “well-read”, or some kind of intellectual mastermind. There’s little in his manifesto that couldn’t be produced after an all-nighter on the net hopped up on meds. There are, let’s say, plenty of self-published first-time authors whose work deserves more serious attention.

The manifesto might contain technical clues of use to the police; it  might contain political or philosophical clues as to why he did what he did. I’d be fascinated if it did, but I don’t know, and neither do you.

Perhaps Boris Johnson is right, and this is a story about “a narcissist and egomaniac who could not cope with being snubbed” by a girl “in favour of a man of Pakistani origin”; perhaps anti-conservative commentators are right that the amount of hate-text and fear-screeds already published are necessary or sufficient for acts of terrorism. It’s – obv – far too early to say.

But it’s not too early to say that Breivik is trying to build up his pontification in court today in the hope that international media will handle it like an evil genius’s plot-changing scene in a thriller rather than a mish-mash of other people’s wibble. That would seem to be missing the point and playing a loser’s game.

Murdoch ‘Pie’ Attack: I Was There

20 July 2011

'Jonnie Marbles' getting handcuffed

Above is an image of “Jonnie Marbles” getting handcuffed outside the Wilson Room in Parliament. Below are images of the rest of us in the room being ejected. Here’s why everyone there found the stunt infuriating:

  1. The queues had started over seven hours before the committee began. It was like the Royal Wedding, but – genuinely – with normal people. Oldies, supermarket employees, families – normal. And while it was a festive mood, it was also tense: the official line as to how many people would get into the room kept changing, and some people were certainly facing a wasted day. Questions popped about. Was space being cleared for the Dowler family? Had the tiny Wilson Room been chosen so as not to look like a show trial? Was Jemima Khan trying to hop in? At one point, we were told that the Doorkeepers were considering letting us sit on each other’s laps if we so fancied. Westminster reporters were heckling sketchwriters about their slim chance of making it in. So when we later found out that the front of the queue had been a gang with a bag full of shaving foam, “comedy” wasn’t the first word that sprang to mind. Nor was “activism”. “Shabby oaf” and “stupid tit” were some of the descriptions I did hear.
  2. The dynamic in the room was entrancing – until it was cut off. Murdoch Jnr’s longer spiels were worthy of your favourite guest on Just A Minute – circumscribed vocabulary expressed with eerie diction, fending off attempts at interruption. “I’m happy to answer that,” indeed. As for Murdoch Snr, each time he rhythmically rapped his fin on the desk, the Wilson Room started by going instantly silent and then seemed to get more so. It wasn’t possible to tell whether this was deference on the part of the MPs, or anticipation of a juicy detail – but it was spell-binding. Knowing that the Murdochs, as non-subjects, were not compelled to attend meant that the ultimate authority never seemed to settle, though Headmaster Whittingdale had the lion’s share. Some of the questions felt a little random, but might have been leading somewhere that’ll become apparent in the months to come; we simply couldn’t tell. The experience was like those Richard Norton-Taylor inquest-recreation-play things, except real. Except – again – sometimes it didn’t seem real. There was Rupert Murdoch! In a room! Boom! Gone! For one afternoon, a functional room filled largely with shirted men was the greatest show on Earth. I swear I never once heard anyone whisper “You know what they should send in? Some clowns.”
  3. Which brings us to another shared source of exasperation. Moguls don’t tend to hang out in public space. This was like seeing Thor in a Job Centre. You don’t have to be fanciful or grandiose to feel proud that This Is How We (Eventually) Do Things – after all the tales of deceit and connivance, here was an open, public event, open to the public, where the public would show it was decent and fair. The public wasn’t supposed to be baffling, threatening or in any sense dickish. People were surprised that they were allowed to nip to the loo, drink fizzy water and chew gum. Hey – The Authorities don’t think we need to be treated like infants! Hmm.

Then, at just after ten to five, it was all over. An amazing, inspiring event ceased to exist as a piece of public property. I’d even missed the affray itself, because I was incredibly preoccupied with another bag-holder behind me, who had also stood up and seemed to be working his way round from the other side. Next we shuffled around as per the coppers’ yelled instructions, before eventually and sullenly trudging down the corridor to join Jemima Khan in the Boothroyd Room, cursing Jonnie Marbles. The committee was on the screens there, but what’s the point of watching something on TV if you have to remain decently dressed and you can’t even nip off to get a sandwich during another of Murdoch Jnr’s sixty-second dashes?

Finally, the speculation started again, including the inventive theory that News Corp had put the jackass up to it. “Because,” a punter noted, “that was the best thing to happen to Rupert Murdoch all day.”

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