Saturday, February 18, 2006

Fall of the mighty

For the first time in my life, I advised a student to not watch the BBC, but use CNN, this week.

Since having access to BBC on cable ( BBC World and Prime) here in Hungary I have become steadily disenchanted and regularly annoyed.

The thing that has finally pushed me over the edge is the Winter Olympics - and the attrocious coverage on the BBC. It seems as though the BBC is too mean to fork out money to get the rights to show images from the games and so what coverage there has been has been imageless for the most part - Amazing, a TV station, image driven, trying to report on what has to be the biggest sporting event at this time, without pictures.

I suspect CNN is constrained by similar restrictions - but they have managed to get live reporters at the games and whenever they show a result illustrate it with still photographs. And what great photographs they have been on the whole.

In fact, the stills are far more illustrative of both the sport and the personalities than video would be.

Not only that, but the BBC persists on leading with football and other sports, principally male, first, before the Olympics. Why?

On complaining about the male-football dominance on what is supposed to be a report on "All the International Sport", the unanswer 'Editotial decision' came back: Exactly! What sort of Editor, driven by what factors and under what constraints?

Working in an internatinal situation, seeing the terrible sports coverage, and susspecting motives and motivations, has made me look again at the rest of the coverage: And the BBC is found wanting.

No report on the Russian film industry awards (editorial decision) and a report focussing on the anti-Iran complaints at the Beril Film Festival but nothing else (despite the festival's high standing and wide ranging programme - which I know from the DW televison channel - who incidentally frequently report in greater depth on the arts scene in the UK than the BBC ever does - a good report on the Brit Awards this week for example).

An obsession with events in the Middle East which, if it is not political certainly looks it: I hear the cry, it is what people want to hear about: I reply, no, it is all they know about because that is all you report about. I suspect political interference, but will concede it could just be money and resource limitations - the BBC can't afford to report seriously in anything other than a couple of areas, so pretend thesea re the important ones.

Inaccessibility is also I suppose the excuse for none-reporting many of the things that are happening in the world today - Having seen the devestation of the floods in Europe last year, where far more damage to people's livelihoods was done in Romania tha Austria, and far more images shown and reporting done of Austria, I only despare.

CNN is not perfect - but at least treats a wider range of issues, frequently in more depth, although not always with my point of view (which is a good thing). DW is a far more reliable source of information on what is actually happening here in Europe - and again, has great Arts coverage. It also does not pretend to be more than it is.

So, BBC, move over - my students will be told, from now on, to watch you only if there is something special on - like the Imagination programme, or the report on Med. Sans. Frontier.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Shallow Profundity and Deep Superficiality

21st Century Schizoid Man

Talk about my generation! Rather a lot of them will be dropping to their knees at this point and go into automatic Head Banging.

Oh, what fun Pip.

I bought the King Crimson cd yesterday, slipped it into the machine and the thoughts that came flooding back: Did I really do that? Down on the floor in the disco at school, long hair (had hair then) and rhythmic head banging.

How great the lyrics seemed, and what energy the music contained. I still have a residual fondness for it - which I suspect goes deeper into admiration. It is of my generation, and opened up a wider world to me - and some of my friends.

What is it about popular music? I suspect we are like a dandilion: our childhood is the flower, growing in the sun - then we enter adolescence, close up only to emerge as the great fluffy seed head - waiting to be blown by a strong enough gust of wind. Off into the world where our adult form has to develop and survive.

That wind will be of the moment - the music, fashions and ideas popular at the time.

It is as if we need something to hitch our emerging thoughts on to - ideas of independence, protest against the human condition, visions of human relationships.

Popular music provides the scaffolding we need - it is fertile ground: 'Poets Starve and Children Bleed' is what crystalized the crude emotions caused by the overdose of hormones surging through my blood.

To change metaphor, it was the first hacking through of a path through the jungle - a crude tool being essential - the fine scappel of 'art' music being irrelevant to the job.

And it had the necessary support of my immediate, emerging from childhood community.

It was ours. It had a novelty and it supplied thought patterns needed to comprehend our world.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The House where I was Born:

Sits at the end of the row, in Ryeburn Ave.

Here is a picture I have stolen from the Manchester Public Library service. The house is the one at the end, just being obscured by the lampost - complete with our Caravan.

This was taken in 1979, so my father was dead and the caravan waiting to be sold.

The avenue was a haven of safety when I was a child. Outside the circle at the top, danger, strange creatures, chaos: In the circle, a place of security. It is a time of pre-traffic - notice how few cars there are. And there is grass on the sides of the very narrow entrance.

A Garden City - social engineering from a Utopian view.

But the house where I was born, and the room I spent most of my childhood sleeping in, is visible in this black and white image. As are the houses of the Coley's and the Cockles - our neighbours.

Shiela Holgate's house is there too - the girl I shot in the ear with an arrow from a bow, so recently acquired at Blackpool Pleasure Beach so soon destroyed as punishement by the old cow, Daisy, Lady Ryeburn (my mother). It was, I must say, a magnificent shot. Later in life I toyed with the sport archery as a direct consequence of my certainty of a natural gift, based on the shot of Sheila's ear.

I notice the gates, jointly owned with the Coley's. He had an immacculate, lined lawn and cut the hedges with a pair of nail scissors (literally). Not the ideal neighbour for a growing child - but kind and considerate in many ways.

And Mr Cockle, the other side, he of the rampant blackburry bushes: Equal in Garden-ship, but of a very different nature - wild vicious utilitarian plants, and a warm welcome smile always on his face.

Fifty years ago today I was born into this world, in the house you see - in a back bedroom, not pictured. I presume it was the same bed i was conceived in. My time here ended not so long ago with the death of Lady Ryeburn, after around seventy years in the huse, I suspect her spirit still infects the place.

Et In Arcadia Ergo.