Category Archives: radio

When You Have Nothing to Say…

…say nothing.  That’s advice I’ve been following for the last couple of weeks, but a blog can only stay silent for so long before people Begin to Wonder.  It’s like radio silence – if it goes on too long people begin to question whether the station is there at all.

Speaking of radio silence, the other day this was stretched to the limit during the broadcast of Pinter’s play ‘Betrayal.’  It’s a good title, since the play itself is a betrayal, heaping insult onto injury by making public Pinter’s affair with Joan Bakewell.  She wrote her own play in retaliation (also broadcast) but no such redress was available to Vivien Merchant, the wronged wife, who not only had to suffer the pain of her husband’s affair but then the indignity of having it plastered all over the stage.  I can’t begin to imagine how I’d feel if it was me.

But the Beeb were flirting with danger in other ways too.  As anyone familiar with Pinter knows, his plays are pregnant with pauses, so much so that the phenomenon is known as the ‘Pinter pause’:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Characteristics_of_Harold_Pinter%27s_work#The_.22Pinter_pause.22

A Pinter character can barely say half a dozen words without lapsing into a brooding silence.  Which is not to say that the pauses are contrived or meaningless; far from it – a pause, a silence, can convey far more than any number of words when used in the right way.  Pinter could almost have been a Quaker (except that it is not very Quakerly to have an affair and then write a play about it!)  Anyway, this is me breaking my radio silence and telling you all that I am Still Here.  I’ve mostly been in the garden, digging up stubborn brambles with roots the size (although not the shape) of my head, and ivy that has convoluted and thickened everywhere.  Ivy horrifies me, the way it embraces and kills every other living thing: it’s very cathartic to rip it apart and chuck it in the garden bin.  We have just signed up to this scheme, which gets you a brown bin that’s emptied fortnightly.

I promise from now on to blog more often than the garden bin is emptied.  Hope you all had a good Easter.  Anyway, here’s the play, featuring Andrew Scott who was so brilliant as Moriarty in Sherlock:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01kr71s

and here’s Joan Bakewell’s riposte:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08n4qq5

Kirk out

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Verb and Re-Verb

In the last year or two I’ve been collecting examples of new verbs.  These are usually existing words which have been either squashed or repurposed and made into verbs.  Previously they were either phrases (eg to manage a project becomes to project-manage) or nouns (eg to window, meaning to schedule a delivery within a particular period of time).  So here’s a little list, by no means exhaustive but comprising the ones I’ve managed to capture and commit to pen and paper:

to re-platform (heard at the railway station)

to window (seen on Facebook)

to project-manage (heard in conversation and rendered somewhat redundant by the phrase ‘I project-managed a project’…)

to part-time work

to offshore (as in tax)

to vacation (to be fair, this has been around for a while in the US but has only recently made it over here)

to semi-final (heard on University Challenge)

to sunblock (read just today on Facebook)

I’m sure there are thousands more.  Have you come across any?  I’d love to hear them.  Please send them to me and I’ll post them

Thanks

Kirk out

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And What Am I?

So, following on from  this post:

https://wordpress.com/post/lizardyoga.wordpress.com/15116

I want to ask the following question; who or what decides who we are?  Who or what is the ultimate arbiter of identity?  I guess in previous generations it was decided by factors such as social class, occupation, nationality and so on: Kwame Appiah gave a series of talks on this as the 2016 Reith lecturer called ‘Mistaken Identities’ in which he covered culture, nationality, colour and creed.  He could easily have covered gender as well: there’s certainly enough debate going on about this at the moment.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00729d9/episodes/player

Although ‘debate’ is perhaps something of a misnomer for what is basically a boxing match.  On one side we have the traditionalists who think men should be men and women, women: in the same corner are the TERFs  who believe that a trans woman is not a ‘real’ woman.  And in the opposite corner stand the trans community and their supporters who maintain that a trans woman is, and always has been, a woman.

So how does this work?  In what sense is a person born with male sex and reproductive organs, who develops chest and facial hair along with other secondary sexual characteristics, a woman?  Explanations are not readily forthcoming: neither is it easy to have respectful debate, with those on one side saying often very rude and hurtful comments and those on the other stating that anyone who doesn’t accept them is effectively denying their right to exist.

But what makes a trans woman a woman?  Explanations are long on what a trans person isn’t and very short on what they is.  Basically they throw out biology and genetics as indicators of gender and seem to say ‘I am what I feel I am.’

I can’t go along with this.  Quite apart from my own issues with what gender dysphoria can do to a heterosexual marriage, I cannot simply throw out biology and agree that your gender is whatever you decide it is.  (And yes, I realise this is not done on a whim, but still…)  This makes no sense to me – and neither, I suspect, does it make sense to most people.

And there’s the rub: because what concerns me is that an orthodoxy is emerging in academic circles, where one view is being promoted and debate is not encouraged.  Some speakers (notably Germaine Greer) have been banned from campuses for expressing certain views, including anti-trans opinions:

http://www.independent.co.uk/student/news/campus-censorship-an-epidemic-at-uk-universities-as-aberystwyth-edinburgh-and-leeds-named-among-most-a6818896.html

Free speech or hate speech?  Is expressing anti-trans views to a mixed audience, as some have claimed, like shouting fire in a crowded room?

What do you think?

 

Kirk out

 

 

 

 

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The Church of the Frightened Male

Yesterday I listened to an item on PM (radio 4) about a new church initiative.  It will come as no surprise to learn that most churches are concerned about falling attendance: what did come as a surprise was to be told that attendance is now predominantly female.  This does not accord with my experience; and according to at least one survey I found, more men than women attend traditional churches:

http://www.singlechristians.co.uk/p/2.9.1http://www.singlechristians.co.uk/p/2.9.1

But even if the statistic were true I would question the attitudes of CVM or Christian Vision for Men.  They claim that to many men the church has been ‘feminised’.  Doyleys were mentioned; flowers were cited as reasons why these men do not feel comfortable in the modern church.  Leaving aside the question of doyleys (and haven’t flowers always featured in churches?) the idea of ‘feminisation’ is highly questionable.  We’ve had two millennia of the church being dominated and run by men.  The God of the Bible is male.  Yet barely a quarter of a century after the first women priests, we find that some men cannot cope.

Of course I want everyone to feel comfortable in church – but every place I’ve attended has managed to make that happen without needing to establish a separate space with hog-roasts and other male-bonding exercises.  The CVM website also endorses patriarchal ideas about the man as the head of the family (‘if you get the man, you get the family’ – in other words, women and children do not make their own decisions.)  Maybe there is an argument to be had about whether men need to hang out together and do stuff without women, the same as there is about women doing stuff without men – but come on guys!  If the mere presence of a doyley can put you off going to church, you need to examine your faith.

Here’s the programme anyway – it’s about 20 minutes in:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08hl5wl#play

 

 

 

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Good News is No News

It has probably not escaped your attention that the news nowadays is unrelievedly gloomy.  Douglas Adams spotted this decades ago when he invented a spaceship powered by Bad News, since this travelled faster than light:

http://www.clearwhitelight.org/hitch/harmless.txt

At Quaker meeting this morning a Friend spoke of rationing their intake of news: later on another Friend spoke of the wisdom of avoiding news bulletins first thing in the morning or last thing at night: because in the morning it colours your day at a time when you’re just waking up, and late at night it affects your sleep.  Midday is considered to be the best time: and whilst that doesn’t work for me as I’m otherwise engaged, I do generally allow an hour for waking before I put on the headlines.  I listen to the main news at six, though I usually find myself switching it off and turning to some joyous music on radio 2 instead – because what I hear generally causes me to feel either angry or depressed, neither of which is good for me.

Of course it’s important to keep up with what’s going on – but there’s a question as to how far the mainstream news actually informs us about real-life events.  There is a bias in everything; and as Owen Jones points out in his book ‘The Establishment’, at the moment it is a pro-business and (god help us) a relentlessly anti-Corbyn bias.  This can be seen in the BBC as well as most newspapers.

I could have a rant about political bias, but what concerns me most right now is the bias towards the negative.  As I said in the post about drama, happiness is considered dull: only misery, it seems, makes good news.  So that even when a positive item makes it onto the agenda, it is usually qualified by doubts about how long it will continue – doubts which are never expressed, say, about a war or an economic crisis.

I don’t think this is necessarily conscious and deliberate: the news outlets may even be unaware that they are doing it.  They may simply think that this is what news is: good news is no news.  But it means that our vision of the world – as we see it through these outlets – is overwhelmingly biased towards the negative; and (which should concern them more) it means that people like me are reaching more and more for the off-switch.

Kirk out.

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Off She Went with a Trumpety-Trump…

Comedians, we are told, are finding it hard to keep up with the antics of POTUS.  What with international gaffes, vitriolic press-conferences, coercive handshakes and a positive hail of presidential edicts, it’s hard to know where to look next.  I draw some comfort, in a sense, from the thought that he is royally screwing this up by approaching the Presidency as though it were like being the CEO of some multinational.  You go in there, you shake things up, you fire everyone who disagrees with you and then you run things exactly how you want them.  As someone recently commented, Trump has to stop behaving like an absolutist monarch (comparisons have been made with Louis XIV) because a democracy is not a company, nor is it an absolutist monarchy.  There are checks and balances; there’s a judiciary, there are protocols.  You can’t just steam in there and do exactly what you want, much as you would like to.

Yet no matter how much he screws up, his fans still seem to like him.  It’s utterly baffling – and the best explanation of this I have yet heard was on the radio (sorry I’m not providing references today because I simply can’t remember where I read or heard anything, but if in doubt it’s probably either radio 4 or the Guardian).  Someone on the radio said that being a Trump supporter was like being a football fan.  You support your team because you support your team – and moreover, you don’t stop supporting them just because they screw up.  They can play abysmally, they can foul up time after time, they can incur penalty after penalty – but you don’t stop supporting them because they’re your team.  You get up in the stands and you chant ‘America First!’ Saturday after Saturday.

So that’s my thought for today.  Trump is a football team – and though it pains me to say it, he could be Leicester.  He won last year against all the odds, but this year he is royally screwing it up and heading for the bottom of the league.

 

Kirk out

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Merry Christmas to All

Before the sun dips below the horizon and before I dip below the sofa, I shall take this opportunity to wish all my readers a merry Christmas and a happy new year.  This afternoon I turned the radio on and realised it was time once again for the Nine Lessons and Carols, which always starts with the announcer saying:

‘And as the sun dips below the horizon a single voice begins the service of Nine Lessons and Carols’ (or words to that effect) and then a choirboy sings the first verse of ‘Once in Royal.’  There’s a great power in the annual repetition of these carols: this afternoon I went to an open-air carol singing next to the Carillon, a famous bell-tower in the centre of Loughborough, where the choir had to synchronise carols with the ringing of the bells.  I like carols: they’re atmospheric, poetic, cheerful and above all they link every Christmas back to my earliest childhood.  I usually find I know all the traditional ones by heart, having sung them so often.

When I was a child Christmases always followed the same pattern: church in the morning, Christmas dinner around one o’clock (the full works, usually with ten or twelve of us round the large dining-room table: this was used as a lumber-room for the rest of the year and only cleared out for Christmas).  There would be a rest before a Christmas pudding which would be set alight in a darkened room; served with custard, cream and home made mince pie, after which the adults would go for a lie-down and we kids would play with our presents.  At around seven the adults would dress (I kid you not) and we would assemble in the living-room for parlour-games until about nine when we would eat a buffet supper of rice salad, cheese, ham and other savouries.

But I forgot the Queen!  How could I forget the Queen?  At three o’clock precisely the entire family would settle in the lounge, the TV would be ceremoniously switched on and silence would prevail for the ten minutes or so of Her Madge’s address, after which the TV set would be returned to darkness.  At no time either before or subsequently was the TV watched on Christmas Day.

As a child I chafed against this: all my friends were watching the fabulous array of films and seasonal programmes which were only available at this time of year: and we were missing them.  As a teenager I thought it was unutterably lame to play parlour games – but I have to admit we’ve reinstated some of these traditions in our own Christmases, so that Holly and her boyfriend were yesterday subjected to charades.

They seemed to enjoy it, though I did discover it’s extremely difficult to mime ‘Minority Report.’

Anyway, at the risk of sounding too much like HM herself, it’s been a pleasure getting to know all my readers and followers.  If you follow or even comment I will take a look at your blog and I’ve come into contact with some really interesting life stories.  So keep it up; keep safe and warm and have a fabulous Christmas.

Love, Kirk

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