mcgillianaire: (Union Jack)
"But my father summed it up pretty well by saying, "Nobody in our family has ever voted Conservative, without a stiff drink before, and afterwards."" ~David Owen

If a week is a long time in politics1, what about a lifetime? Tasked with the challenge of teasing out salient introspections from the life and times of some of Britain's grandees, is the contemporary political historian, Peter Hennessy. He delivers an insightful programme, as it launches its third series with the enigmatic David Owen. Having listened to several episodes, Owen's is among the best. I also recommend the one with John Major from last year. In all, Hennessy has talked to:

01. Shirley Williams
02. Jack Straw
03. Norman Tebbit
04. Neil Kinnock
05. John Major
06. Roy Hattersley
07. David Steel
08. Margaret Beckett
09. David Owen

And by the end of this series he will have interviewed Norman Lamont and Clare Short too. Each episode is either 28 or 43 minutes (depending on the series), with the latter forming the perfect length to explore a lifetime without inducing boredom and avoid glossing over multiple events or issues. But there are a few peripheral shortcomings. For instance, by the end of this series the uneven ratio of guests by political party will have been exacerbated to comprise: 5 Labour, 3 Tories, 2 SDP/Lib Dems and 1 Liberal. Given that Williams and Owen were also cabinet secretaries with Labour, you could question whether the breakdown was a matter of design, bad timing or lack of Conservative enthusiasm (I find this doubtful). This only matters because it's produced by the BBC. There's also the issue of gender ratio with three women out of eleven by the end of this series. And one other minor criticism about Hennessy's interview technique. When teasing out their reflections, he sometimes comes across as presumptuous, but it may have been an intended tactic or perhaps more likely, my imaginative nitpicking. Those minor quibbles apart, it is an absolutely fantastic programme and essential listening for the anorak.

1 Possibly misattributed to former British prime minister and Labour leader, Harold Wilson.
mcgillianaire: (Cricket Stumps)
I've updated my entry from a couple years ago to reflect this week's episode with Freddie Flintoff. As with almost every episode of this awesome programme, it's worth a listen, not least for that gorgeous Lancastrian accent.
mcgillianaire: (BBC Logo)
0700 - BBC Radio 4             - Today
0900 - BBC Radio 2             - Sounds of the 60s
1000 - BBC Radio 6 Music       - The Huey Show
1300 - BBC Radio 2             - Pick of the Pops
1500 - BBC Radio Asian Network - Official Asian Download Chart
1600 - BBC Radio 1             - Dance Anthems
1800 - BBC Radio 6 Music       - Craig Charles Funk and Soul Show
2100 - BBC World Service       - Newshour
2200 - BBC Radio 2             - Sounds of the 80s
mcgillianaire: (Default)
For about the next four weeks, depending on the episode, five excerpts of this fine book read by the author himself, will be available to listen anywhere in the world. Each episode is a delightfully compact fourteen minutes, so there's no excuse to miss out on any of them. Apparently, it was originally broadcast in 2010, repeated in 2011 and again in 2012, but I seemed to have missed them all. I guess it doesn't help that all these broadcasts, including this one, have been on BBC Radio 4 Extra.

I've blogged one of my favourite quotes from the book. I bought it many years ago but unfortunately I never finished it. Then I lent it to an Irish lass who was just getting into the sport and had quite taken to the longer forms of the game. She kept it.
mcgillianaire: (Union Jack)

Keen listeners of this delightful programme would not have been surprised to hear the contents of the recorded conversation between Thatcher and Reagan from 1983 that has just been released. The Radio 4 programme was broadcast in August last year, and we learnt from it via the Downing Street note of the conversation, that Reagan initially tried to defuse the situation, by suggesting he would first throw his hat into the room if he was in London, before walking in. We also learn that Reagan used the phrase 'zero hour' before he could do anything about it. Exactly as it is in the recording. If you've got 8 minutes, it's worth listening from about 3:40 to the whole section on Grenada from the UK Confidential episode. It includes a brief interview about the declassified documents with Lord Owen (former British Foreign Secretary) and an American diplomat who was working in the US Embassy (in London) at the time. It is rather instructive that the American diplomat had dinner with Geoffrey Howe (the then British Foreign Secretary), the night before the invasion, and yet neither knew anything about it! It is also worth noting that the American diplomat refers to the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing, that killed nearly 300 American and French servicemen just a couple days before the invasion, as a tragedy so severe that it may have resulted in the invasion as a diversion.

On the recording, Reagan says he wanted to inform Thatcher of the invasion before some rogue informant did, but in an interview with the US President's authorised biographer on the wireless last night, this was quickly dismissed. The biographer was convinced Reagan was fibbing and had intentionally delayed informing her before it was too late (about 8 hours). However, the biographer also added that on two counts, Thatcher was somewhat embarrassed. One, was not responding to the situation in Grenada, having been requested (along with the French) to do so by their government, and two, she found herself in a similar situation to that of Reagan after Britain's own invasion of the Falklands, a year earlier. Yet despite these two foreign policy setbacks, they still seemed to share a politically intimate relationship. A point driven home by the biographer's final anecdote about a poster* Reagan kept in his stable, recreating the famous Rhett Butler-Vivien Leigh pose from Gone With The Wind, with the two of them on it instead. The biographer asked if he had shown it to Thatcher, to which Reagan said no-way, she'd get upset. The biographer apparently told him, on the contrary, I think she'd rather like it, mischievously adding that it was probably her ultimate fantasy... 

I also found it interesting that the biographer seemed to suggest that the Americans were justified in their actions on the pretext of protecting the 500 or so American students on the island. In contrast, Lord Owen suggests that the students didn't seem worried at all, lending credence to alternative theories. Either way, the release of the recording has thrown further light onto an important episode in the history of Anglo-American relations. One just wonders what else will be released to us in days, weeks, months, years...even decades to come, 

(* I don't think the picture above is the exact poster. This seems to be some anti-war poster from the 1980s, but I suspect it looked something like this.)

mcgillianaire: (BBC Logo)
Every Sunday at 10pm, Carolyn Quinn presents Westminster Hour on BBC Radio 4. For the past five weeks, she has filled a fifteen minute segment before What the Papers Say, with a fascinating profile into the careers of five 20th-century British politicians who "made the weather". The phrase was invented by Winston Churchill in reference to Joseph Chamberlain, the former Colonial Secretary, of whom he wrote, that although he never became Prime Minister, he still managed to play a crucial role in shaping the political agenda of his day. The profiles have been chosen by Vernon Bogdanor*, one of Britain's foremost constitutional experts, as part of a lecture series under this entry's subject title, at London's Gresham College.

Founded in 1597 under the will of Sir Thomas Gresham, an English merchant and financier who founded the Royal Exchange in 1568, the College plays host to over 140 free public lectures each year. In this six-part series, Bogdanor has profiled the political careers of Aneurin Bevan, Iain Macleod, Roy Jenkins, Enoch Powell, Tony Benn and Sir Keith Joseph. All the lectures at the College have already been delivered, while the last segment on Joseph will air this Sunday on Radio 4.

Depending on your interest and/or time, you can listen to the condensed segments from Radio 4 here, if not you can watch, listen, download and even read the full-length lectures at Gresham College here. As a keen student of British politics, these lectures have been thoroughly informative and enjoyable. Bogdanor is undoubtedly an engaging and fluent speaker. He has also clearly researched his material thoroughly. Without giving too much away, one of the most fascinating things I learnt was how Tony Benn had started off as a Labour-centrist or even Labour right-winger, actively supporting and voting for Hugh Gaitskell to become leader in the 1950s, before gradually shifting (permanently) to the hard-left only in the 1970s.

On a more general note, it is indeed incredible the amount of free and easily accessible online multimedia content that we have at our disposal on our politicians. Whether it be a peek into their personal lives on Desert Island Discs, a meeting with their younger self through Archive on 4, their biography by an admirer on Great Lives, a secret memo released via UK Confidential, or a BBC Archive recording, there is an incredible body of material to choose from. And that's just radio content. Add to it these lectures, other Gresham College lectures, other freely available public lectures, BBC documentaries, Channel 4 documentaries and the BBC Parliament channel, and you've got a lifetime's worth of political programming.

(* Bogdanor's most famous former student at Oxford University is the current PM David Cameron, whom he has described as "one of the ablest" students he has taught, whose political views were "moderate and sensible Conservative".)
mcgillianaire: (BBC Logo)
Radio 4's Today presenter James Naughtie interviewed the late Christopher Hitchens and his equally feisty brother Peter at the 2005 Hay Literary Festival about their controversial views, the Iraq war and religion. Listen here. There's also a transcript of another interview with the two from the same Festival. And below is an interview with a cancer-stricken Hitchens from last year.

mcgillianaire: (BBC Logo)
Regular readers will know of my love for etymology. Now my favourite radio station has chosen a recently published book that describes itself as A Circular Stroll through the Hidden Connections of the English Language, as its Book of the Week. Starting today, extracts will be read from an abridged version till Friday by one of my favourite comedians, Hugh Dennis. Pure heaven!

The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll through the Hidden Connections of the English Language [Amazon UK]
Inky Fool Blog
mcgillianaire: (BBC Logo)
Here's how Wikipedia describes it:
    "Four regular panellists discuss moral and ethical issues relating to a recent news story. The debate is often combative and guest witnesses may be cross-examined aggressively. The programme is hosted by Michael Buerk. The format is loosely based on the Select Committee procedure at the House of Westminster, in which invited guests on a particular topic of discussion are mercilessly grilled (often to the point of humiliation) by a regular (and carefully chosen) panel (such as the MPs on the Select Committee).

    Michael Buerk delivers a no-holds-barred (often irreverent) preamble launching the topic, then introduces the first witness. In the ensuing interrogation, the witnesses are teasingly goaded into philosophically tripping themselves up (contradicting their own beliefs). Platitudes are quickly exposed for their fragility. Witnesses taken unawares by the incisive, unceremonious questioning, may then replace civility for discourteousness - usually when their arguments have been hit for six. When being briefed for their appearances, witnesses were encouraged to be as aggressive as you like."
With a passion for politics and as a budding lawyer, The Moral Maze should've been essential listening every week. But for some reason I hadn't appreciated its value until recently. Better late than never. Each forty-five minute episode examines the moral issues behind one of the week's news stories, and in the past month we've had discussions about the morality of income tax, the point of having prisons, science & morality, public figures & public morality, and slut walks.
mcgillianaire: (Cricket Stumps)

I must admit this was probably one of the most surreal things I've ever heard on the radio and to hear it live during yesterday's play had me doing double takes. And I'm sure I wasn't alone. But to be gifted two slog sweeps for six by Sir Geoff (he's not really knighted) on the same day was quite something. As rare as a blue moon I suppose. Enjoy them both and while you can. We may not hear anything like it for a long time to come! TMS Zindabad! And long live Mr Boycott!
mcgillianaire: (Cricket Stumps)
364 runs, 6 wickets. A brilliant double-century and some inept bowling barring P Kumar's stellar effort. Two performances added to the Lord's Honours Board. A decent day's cricket. I hope our batsmen get stuck in tomorrow and eke out a draw because there is only one other possible result: an England win. Ishant Sharma needs to sort himself out and Sreesanth better stop heaping praise on Twitter and prepare for Trent Bridge. He was rubbish at Taunton and will need to step it up if Zaheer is unavailable. However there were encouraging signs of Zak working out at the Lord's gym which suggests the injury/niggle is not serious. Let's hope for the best!

In other interesting developments, Lily Cooper nee Allen was the secret guest at tea time on TMS. Her knowledge of the game was surprisingly good. Moreover she attends village cricket regularly. She provides the cakes and tea! Apparently she got into the game because of her partner whom she recently married. I remember the media interest generated by her previous appearance on TMS a couple years ago. Aggers was obviously having a good time, flirting on-air with the London-based singer. She also earned brownie points for turning down an ECB-inspired Twenty20 initiative to exploit her celebrity value because it wasn't Test cricket! [SCORECARD]
mcgillianaire: (Cricket Stumps)
It's not quite the end of day's play yet but I doubt they'll return before tomorrow morning. How disappointing the rain and bad light have played spoilsport, though as an Indian cricket fan it's probably a good thing. Hopefully Zaheer's injury is not as serious as it looked when he winced off the field in pain with a twinge behind his right leg. A hamstring perhaps? With Sehwag already out until the third test, Zak's exit will ruin our series chances.

Dhoni won a good toss and I was happy he put England in to bat. I thought we bowled well without much luck in the first session. Perhaps the lack of experience of bowling in such conditions worked against Kumar and Sharma who couldn't control the pronounced movement, both in the air and particularly off the pitch. Kumar especially seemed to start off really well but tailed off as the session went on. We also suffered from the lack of a genuinely quick opening bowler to make use of the new ball and overcast conditions. Nevertheless, it was no surprise Zaheer secured the first breakthrough with a fantastic delivery to trap Alistair Cook in front. The TMS commentators questioned whether the ball had done too much but the replays showed it would've probably still hit the top of middle and leg. At lunch it was pretty even at 1/43 with Strauss playing Khan fairly comfortably.

After lunch India gave away a few cheap runs before Zaheer Khan surprised Strauss with his first bouncer of the day. It was a clever delivery and resulted in yet another scalp reading "Strauss c whoever b Khan", though as one tweeter pointed out, such a dismissal could have repercussions both for the IMF and the French Presidency. The wicket put the breaks on the English scoring rate and just when it seemed like we were getting into the groove, Zaheer pulled up with yet another injury and the two South African-born English batsmen built up a fifty-plus partnership. There were a couple of tough chances put down and a couple direct hit run-out opportunities, but England did well to battle their way to 2/127 before bad light enforced an early tea break. This was followed by a downpour which kept the players off the field for even longer but apparently it has stopped, the covers are off and the umpires will inspect the pitch in a bit. I doubt they'll come back on with only an hour left but ye never know. On balance, England have the edge and India will be praying Zaheer returns.

EDIT @ 1825:
I have been proven wrong as the players are back out on the field and will attempt to deliver 13.4 overs by the closing time of 1930. I didn't realise they could play until then. It's still gloomy but the floodlights are still on.

EDIT @ 1826:
Oh. The covers are apparently back on, the players and umpires are running off... and that seems that. Well, that re-start ended almost as quickly as it began. Onto tomorrow!
mcgillianaire: (BBC Logo)
In the 1930s when the population of this most cosmopolitan of cities used to be between 700-800,000 about 300,000 was made up of Greeks. There was also a significant number of Armenians and Jews. But today there are no more than 20,000 Jews; 50,000 Armenians and less than 3,000 Greeks out of a population between 13 and 16 million. By any measure that is a shockingly disappointing transformation. I'd still love to visit it though.
mcgillianaire: (Cricket Stumps)
From this afternoon's BBC Radio 4s More or Less programme presented by the delightful, Tim Harford:
    "You may remember that in our New Year's Eve special, sports statistician Bill Edgar from The Times, calculated the chance of key football moments being wiped out by advertisements on ITV, as indeed they were. How we chuckled smugly in our advertising-free zone. But while Radio 4 has no commercial breaks, it does have a break for the Shipping Forecast. As Jack, the not so psychic monkey predicted, England beat Australia three times in the recent Ashes Test series, so what were the chances of all three Radio 4 LW broadcasts being interrupted by the Shipping Forecast right at the moment of English triumph as, alas, happened.

    The Shipping Forecast is broadcast twice a night with a total length of twenty minutes. The Test match day is six hours long, overlapping both of those broadcasts. Bill Edgar reckons that this means any randomly chosen moment in the Test match has a 1 in 18 chance of being obscured by the Shipping Forecast. For this to happen three times is a 1 in 18 chance cubed, or a 1 in 5832 chance. There are various possible complicating factors but we and Bill reckon that unlike Mitchell Johnson's bowling, it's fairly accurate."
I love it when one of my fave programmes on my favourite radio station mixes cricket with statistics. A heady cocktail for a Friday afternoon!
mcgillianaire: (BBC Logo)
The Now Show is one of my favourite programmes. It airs Fridays on BBC Radio 4 and is a satirical review of the week's news. The latest episode ended with a listener-generated list of low-budget film titles in response to the government's axing of the British Film Council. Enjoy!

The Devil Wears Primark
The Discount of Monte Cristo
Star Wars: The Empire Cuts Back
Bridge over the River Wey
Murder on the National Express
The Burger King and I
A Coupla Things I Hate About You
The Tramp and the Tramp
Schindler's Post-it Note
The Bargain Hunt for Red October
The Six Billion Zimbabwean Dollar Man
Honey I've Sold The Kids
The Bournemouth Ultimatum
The Mancunian Candidate
Seven Brides for £7.50
Breakfast at Ratners
Scratchcard Royale

You can tune into this programme and any other BBC Radio show from anywhere in the world for free. And if you miss the live transmission, all programmes are available for a week after the last live airing. And for several programmes, they are always available. You can also download the podcasts of many programmes from iTunes to access through your iDevice. Radio 3, 4 and the World Service produce the best Factual content, while Radio 7 is a brilliant source of Comedy and Drama along with Radio 4. And as I've just learned, unlike the restrictions on live football commentary even within the UK, TMS is freely available abroad! It's all worth taking advantage of while it's free.
mcgillianaire: (Motown Logo)
1. Reply to this post and I'll assign you a letter.
2. List (and upload, if you feel like it) 5 songs that start with that letter.
3. Post them to your journal with these instructions.

I was graciously conferred with the letter R:
1. Rock Around The Clock - Bill Haley & His Comets [spotify; youtube]
2. Respect - Aretha Franklin [spot; yt]
3. Rag Doll - Aerosmith [spot; yt]
4. Rapunzel (Live in Chicago '98) - Dave Matthews Band [spot; yt]
5. Reptilia - The Strokes [spotify; yt]

As a fan of BBC Radio Four's Desert Island Discs programme, I really enjoyed this short exercise. All the tracks were chosen from my custom-made playlists on Spotify of: Pre-60s Classics, 60s & 70s Classics, 80s Classics, 90s Classics and 2000s Classics. I picked a track from each playlist but was surprised to find so few beginning with the letter R! The first track brings back memories of high school, the second track is an all-time classic that became Franklin's signature song, the third track takes me back to middle school when one of my best friends who had just moved to Oman introduced me to the band he was obsessed with. The fourth track takes me back to my first year at uni. I'd never heard of Dave Matthews Band until I met the people on my floor who turned out to become my best friends at McGill. This particular version of Rapunzel was my best friend's favourite and it quickly grew on me. And finally the last track reminds me of my mum. I heard it on the radio hours before flying to India after her passing away (which I didn't know of at the time). It gave me peace and comfort.

If you'd like a letter, leave a comment. :)
mcgillianaire: (Statue of Liberty)
Just finished listening to a fascinating radio discussion on the subject of "Entitlement". Here's the blurb from the Beeb's Programme Page:
    "When did what we desire become what we feel we deserve? In an age when foreign holidays have become routine and over 25,000 public sector workers earn £100K a year and more, we tackle this mood of relentless entitlement with Heather Brooke, whose tireless use of the Freedom of Information Act helped to break the MPs expenses scandal; stand up Simon Evans, whose routine includes a description of his accent as exotic 'and that's because it is educated'; and Naomi Alderman whose first novel Disobedience won the Orange Award for Young Writers and who feels our sense of entitlement should be replaced by a purer feeling of gratitude."
Ever since I first heard about Heather Brooke during last year's expenses scandal, I have been extremely fascinated by her contribution to showing up the lack of transparency in British democracy. That it took an American-born journalist (of Liverpudlian parents) to shake up the system did not surprise me in the least. As she has pointed out several times in the past and in the aforementioned radio programme, kids in America are brought up (and ingrained) to believe that they are entitled or have a right to know how their taxes are spent. But in the UK as she discovered upon moving here at the age of twenty, there is a sense of deference in which the public usually accepts that those in power know what's best for us. To which the presenter of the show made a good point, that while in America the founding fathers were able to start from first principles when establishing the constitution, no such thing has happened over here. Moreover it would be fair to say that modern British democracy is largely a muddled result of piecemeal changes to a system dating back three-hundred twenty years to the Glorious Revolution! And even that was not a revolution in the sense of starting from scratch as resulted from American independence.

I'd definitely recommend listening to the half-hour programme which'll remain available on the BBC Radio Four website until 17 June - regardless of where you live. Unlike the Beeb's TV programming which is only available to those resident in these parts (except for some BBC News stuff), radio programmes are available everywhere. However if you are unable to listen to it or for whatever reason would like to download a copy of it instead, click here. People like Heather Brooke are good for society because they inject vitality into democracy. Her second and latest book hit the shelves in April and is titled, The Silent State: Secrets, Surveillance and the Myth of British Democracy. I've already ordered a copy for my summer reading. And if that's not enough, you can watch her BBC HARDtalk interview from 2 April here.
mcgillianaire: (Default)
Test Match Special hits the airwaves. Oh how much I've missed you. :D [SCORECARD]
mcgillianaire: (Football player)
"One of the best and worst things about listening to sport on the radio is when you turn on mid-match and, before the score is given, try to discern what is happening to your team from the tone of the commentators and their particular choice of words. We all become amateur linguists, and the moment is fascinatingly pregnant with possibilities."
~ Rob Smyth in The Guardian, 25 September 2009 ~
mcgillianaire: (Default)
I watched the two latest episodes of the new series of Have I Got News For You last night and it reminded me of just how much I miss the real world. Just cannae wait till these darn exams get over. I never used to be such a huge fan of Paul Merton, but after religiously tuning into the latest series of Just a Minute, that's certainly changed. I love HIGNFY a lot but I still think that at it's peak, Mock The Week was better. On an unrelated note, I have received three free tickets to go watch a live broadcast of Quote... Unquote, another of my favourite shows on BBC Radio 4 at Broadcasting House in a week's time. I've also applied for free tickets to watch Just A Minute and The News Quiz, to make up the trio of my favouritest radio shows. Mix that with two more law courses, The Ashes (and other cricket), a 'heatwave' of a summer and a month in Oman before my solicitor's training and it's a season to look forward to!


mcgillianaire: (Default)

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