Archive for November, 2008|Monthly archive page

Songlines #3 – She Moved Through the Fair

What song means the most to you and why?

Una chose She Moved Through The Fair
HEAR HER EXPLANATION HERE: She Moved MP3

My young love said to me my mother won’t mind,
And my daughters won’t slight you for your lack of kine,
He went away from me and this he did say,
‘It will not be long love til our wedding day.’

He went away from me and he moved through the fair,
And slowly I watched him move here and move there,
He went his way homeward with one star awake,
As the swan in the evening moves over the lake.

The people were saying no two were e’er wed
But one has a sorrow that never was said,
And I smiled as she passed with her goods and her gear,
And that was the last that I saw of my dear.

I dreamed last night that my young love came in,
He came in so sweetly, his feet made no din;
He came close beside me, and this he did say,
‘It will not be long love, till our wedding day.’

Songlines #2 – Rich Mix

What song means the most to you and why?

James aged 12 chose Dayenu (trad.)
HEAR HIS EXPLANATION HERE: Rich Mix MP3

“The Jewish perspective on thanksgiving is to magnify the kindnesses that God has performed for us. Thus, we dwell on each of the momentous things that He performed for His people as He brought them forth from Egypt. The refrain, dayenu, means that each of these kindnesses is sufficient to cause us to give thanks.”

If He had split the sea for us,
and had not taken us through it on dry land
— Dayenu, it would have sufficed!

Crossing the Red Sea

Crossing the Red Sea

UPDATE Jan 09:

Conor McK from Connecticut gave a remarkably similar answer – he chose the song James Connolly

HEAR HIS EXPLANATION HERE: ws_10007conormck.mp3

The man was all shot through that came to day into the Barrack Square
And a soldier I, I am not proud to say that we killed him there
They brought him from the prison hospital and to see him in that chair
I swear his smile would, would far more quickly call a man to prayer
Maybe, maybe I don’t understand this thing that makes these rebels die
Yet all men love freedom and the spring clear in the sky
I wouldn’t do this deed again for all that I hold by
As I gazed down my rifle at his breast but then, then a soldier I.
They say he was different, kindly too apart from all the rest.
A lover of the poor-his wounds ill dressed.
He faced us like a man who knew a greater pain
Than blows or bullets ere the world began: died he in vain
Ready, Present, and him just smiling, Christ I felt my rifle shake
His wounds all open and around his chair a pool of blood
And I swear his lips said, “fire” before my rifle shot that cursed lead
And I, I was picked to kill a man like that, James Connolly

A great crowd had gathered outside of Kilmainham
Their heads all uncovered, they knelt to the ground.
For inside that grim prison
Lay a great Irish soldier
His life for his country about to lay down.
He went to his death like a true son of Ireland
The firing party he bravely did face
Then the order rang out: Present arms and fire
James Connolly fell into a ready-made grave
The black flag was hoisted, the cruel deed was over
Gone was the man who loved Ireland so well
There was many a sad heart in Dublin that morning
When they murdered James Connolly – the Irish rebel.

Songlines #1 – Hammertime

For over a decade I’ve been collecting answers (in audio form) to this question:

  • What song means the most to you and why?

I’ve asked people from 8 to 80, using my crapped up old tape recorder with masking tape holding in the batteries in the absence of the battery compartment cover which fell off years ago. Well this week I finally went digital. I bought an Olympus WS-100 voice recorder on the recommendation of Amanda Gore, who is doing a project with me for Ofcom and uses the self-same machine to record meetings. Then I downloaded Switch Mac to convert the WMAs to MP3s at the suggestion of my C4 colleague Mark Sheldon. And Bob’s your uncle…

#1 is 8 year old Charlie. His choice of song is U Can’t Touch This by MC Hammer.
HEAR HIS EXPLANATION HERE: Hammertime MP3

Big trousers of MC Hammer

Big trousers of MC Hammer

50 people who buggered up Britain (and 20 who saved it)

A free hairstyle

A free hairstyle

An up-tight hairdo

An up-tight hairdo

Having given the Daily Mail a hard time recently with my Fear & Death analysis of its content and my highlighting how at odds it was with its own readership over The Sex Education Show / Sexperience, I’ve decided to take some inspiration from the rotten rag in the form of its political sketchwriter and theatre critic Quentin Letts and his new book Fifty People Who Buggered Up Britain. I haven’t actually read it but I have read a review which got me thinking about my own list – I’ve only just started really and could definitely use some help so feel free to join in. The timeframe is the last 5 decades. I thought I’d also counter Mail miserableness by adding a list of 20 inspirational figures in Britain from those same 50 years who helped counter-balance the malign influences. I’m hoping to have the full 50 (+ 20) in place by the New Year so do chuck some ideas into the pot… [names added post 2008 have the date added in square brackets]

Buggered up Britain:

1 Ashley Cole – stands out as the most unpleasant character in the Premiership and that’s no easy feat

2 Rupert Murdoch – brought vulgar anti-culture and arrogant anti-democracy to the country in equal measure – I vowed many years ago to throw a big party the day he shuffles off his awful coil and you’re all invited

3 Viscount Rothermere, co-founder of the Daily Mail which published his editorial on 15th January 1934 entitled ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts!’

4 Ian Paisley – spent his whole toxic life saying No!

5 Doctor Richard Beeching – killed our (relatively green) railways

6 Lord MacAlpine – the Tory treasurer whose family’s firm vandalised Battersea Powerstation, ripped its roof off in the service of…

7 Margaret Thatcher – brought so much misery into Britain in such a short time – I’ll leave this one to Elvis Costello:

I saw a newspaper picture from the political campaign
A woman was kissing a child, who was obviously in pain
She spills with compassion, as that young child’s
face in her hands she grips
Can you imagine all that greed and avarice
coming down on that child’s lips?

Well I hope I don’t die too soon
I pray the Lord my soul to save
Oh I’ll be a good boy, I’m trying so hard to behave
Because there’s one thing I know, I’d like to live
long enough to savour
That’s when they finally put you in the ground
I’ll stand on your grave and tramp the dirt down.

When England was the whore of the world
Margaret was her madam
And the future looked as bright and as clear as
the black tarmacadam
Well I hope that she sleeps well at night, isn’t
haunted by every tiny detail
‘Cos when she held that lovely face in her hands
all she thought of was betrayal.

Notice the link to MacAlpine via Tarmacadam. Notice the link to Murdoch via lively celebrations of the passing of a big bugger.

8 Simon Cowell – for spreading the corrosive myth of instant fame

9 Oswald Mosley – married to one of the Mitford whores in Goebbel’s drawing room with Hitler present as one of only 6 guests – nuff said (do we detect a residual anger in my tone? give me another 50 years and I may start getting over the Nazis …but I doubt it)

10 Stock Aitken Waterman – for devaluing music, torturing us with the likes of Rick Astley and Jason Donovan

11 Howard Shipman – undermined trust in GPs and the NHS in a rather extravagant way

12 The Queen Mother – epitomised how anachronistic royalty and aristocracy are, and how unhealthy reverence of royalty can be. [This choice inspired by Adam D's suggestion - House of Windsor]

13 Erno Goldfinger – typifies the brutalist school of architecture [not sure this is exactly the right culprit but the notion, of Practical Psychologist, is spot on]

14 Victoria Beckham – “She succeeded in her desire to be ’more famous than Persil Automatic’ and is as about as interesting as a box of it. I think she has created such a one-dimensional aspiration for the young. Success can now be measured by vacuity and the meaningless.” [Practical Psychologist] Her husband by contrast captures some positive values such as leadership, commitment to a passion/skill-set and rehabilitation.

15 Reggie & Ronnie Kray – for the misguided hero-worship they have subsequently inspired and inspiring Guy Richie innit [courtesy of Practical Psychologist]

16 Steve McClaren – humiliated himself and England simultaneously under that umbrella with his stupid fucking biros and spiral-bound notepads. Saw him once in a hotel in Manchester (with Anthony Lilley) and there was no question who was the centre of the group… not him, but El Tel.

17 Paul Dacre – Mail supremo who reckons (vis-a-vis the Max Mosley case, son of #9 of course) distinguishing between ‘a sick Nazi orgy’ and ‘people having sex in military-style uniform’ is “almost surreally pedantic logic”

18 Melissa Jacobs – the mad bint who screwed up England’s World Cup 2018 bid for the sake of some Mail on Sunday pieces of silver [16.v.10]

19 Rebekah Wade (now Brooks, for a while at least) – sups with the devil, not with a long spoon, not even a short one, with a tongue in his mouth and up his other orifice from which much the same stuff dribbles [2010]

20 Edward VIII – a proven traitor and Nazi-sympathiser [2012]

21

22

23

24

25

Counterbalanced the buggers:

1 David Hockney – picked up where Picasso left off

2 Bob Marley – brought some Jamaican colour to the grey London of 77

3 Joe Strummer – with The Clash helped British musicians discover the honest energy of DIY

4 Tommy Cooper – just makes me laugh (could equally have been Eric Morecambe in this slot)

5 Francis Bacon – one of the two greats of 20th century art (alongside Picasso)

6 Hannah Billig, the Angel of Cable Street – too busy looking after people to collect her MBE (she asked them to post it)

7 John Peel [courtesy of Adam D “…fades in quietly” ]

8 Tony Hart: “We’re sorry we can’t return your pictures” [courtesy of Adam D] what nobler calling than bringing art and inspiration to children

9 Tony Wilson – for bringing together shining talent in a bold, rounded way – Martin Hannett, Pete Saville, Ian Curtis et al – and showing how to champion your hometown

10 James Bond – [courtesy of Practical Psychologist, in his words...] “overcame the stereotype of the sexually repressed Brit who liked a cold shower before having his bare bottom spanked by a tart” – those Pan edition covers certainly captured my young imagination

11 Michael Young – for the Open University and other progressive policy [courtesy of Practical Psychologist and in memory of Naomi Sargant, first Head of Education at Channel 4, appointed by Jeremy Isaacs in a more adventurous, imaginative age]

12 John Betjeman [courtesy of Practical Psychologist, in his words...] “he saw what we were doing to our land and tried to stop it”

13 Joe Orton – for reviving the Comedy of Manners and finding humour in the black stuff

14 Lennon & McCartney – for taking pop music up a gear or three. PP’s view below: “we led the world in something for the first time in a long time”

15 Geoff Hurst – for scoring that goal

16 Jonny Wilkinson – for scoring that try and creating a Perfect Moment

17 Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger – for bringing Technicolor British Romanticism to the big screen

18 Rabbi Hugo Gryn – for his efforts in uniting the faiths and demonstrating how to survive to do good, a true Mensch

19 Steve Redgrave – for being a model of commitment, plus his work on dyslexia & education

20 Humph (Humphrey Lyttelton) – for combining the quintessence of Englishness with jazz

Bubbling under: [date added]

Danny Boyle – created something of once-in-a-lifetime specialness in the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics, making us reflect in a fresh way on what Britishness actually is [2012]

Tony Benn – doing his best to show what politicians could be like {courtesy of Scanner, Adam D and Overthewire} [I'm not sure about this one, keep wavering]

Lost & Found (your help needed)

My lost pen

My lost pen

I’m just embarking on my next project here at Channel 4, an arts one, working with Tim Wright and Rob Bevan with whom I made MindGym in the pioneer days. It’s to do with lost stuff and we need to gather some people’s experiences to get the ball rolling…

Here’s the questions:

  • What was the last thing you lost that you really cared about? and when was that?
  • What was the last thing you found that might have been difficult for the loser to replace? and when was that?

Seems only fair if I kick off…

The last thing I lost: A Parker Duofold fountain pen, Mosaic model, red white and grey, limited edition. The first time I ever splashed out on a fancy pen. Loved the weight of it, the pearly surface, the resonance of the Jazz Age. Lost it in Dublin airport I think. Just over a year ago. Thought it was irreplaceable as it was an old limited edition, was gutted. But ended happily though it was never found – thanks to my trusty browser, found a bloke still selling them in NYC. It currently has Saffron coloured ink in it from Caran d’Ache – most decadent.

The last thing I found: A mobile phone in the ferns along the path up Slieve Foy, the mountain that overlooks Ceol na Mara, my mother-in-laws house in Carlingford, County Louth, Ireland. It turned out a fella had lost it mountain biking over the ridge near Queen Meabh’s Gap. I rang the first number in it which was the owner’s pal, he got the owner to ring me and we fixed a rendez-vous at PJ’s (officially The Anchor Bar but no-one calls it that) where he bought me a hot port and the Enfants Terribles red lemonade (it’s an Irish thing) by way of reward. That also was just over a year ago.

So now over to you – it would be really helpful if you’d spend a moment recalling what you last lost and found…

Landshare

Landshare with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Landshare with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

In the wake of Sexperience and Embarrassing Teenage Bodies, I’m moving on to get some more light, space and fresh air…  next up for me is Landshare, a project to link up people who want to grow their own food (and can’t get an allotment) with people who have land where food could be grown.

The project is in its initial phase – gauging and registering the interest of growers, land-owners, land-spotters and all the people & groups who will be needed to make it work well and sustainably. 6,000 people registered in the week after launch. I’m doing the project with the River Cottage folk (Keo Films and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall) and, if you’re interested in any of the roles mentioned, you can register at the nascent Landshare site at www.landshare.net.

Here’s a vid of Hugh getting going, securing land from the Church of England. Old grannies with arthritis who can’t do their garden any more through to property developers with wasteland temporarily on their hands are equally in the frame for sharing land and the produce that comes from it.

And here is Hugh explaining the basic idea.

Update 11.xi.08 :

An interesting post about Landshare by the formidable John Thackera on Doors of Perception – you gotta love the graph at the bottom.

Public Value defined

This comment was recently posted on the Embarrassing Bodies website:

“After watching your show, my husband decided to check himself one night
whilst having a shower. To his shock he found a lump. He went straight
to his doctor and within a week he had surgery for testicular cancer,
needs to have a few more scans, but thanks to the show he managed to
find it in time.”

by Sinead in response to the How to Check your Balls video

One of four Embarrassing Bodies Self-Check videos

One of four Embarrassing Bodies Self-Check videos

648,000 videos were viewed on the site during the week of broadcast of Embarrassing Teenage Bodies last week.

How to Check Your Balls has been watched nearly 300,000 times in the last six months.

Reaching the parts…

Bit of a turn up for the books today – the Sexperience sex education/information site I commissioned from Mint Digital and Cheetah TV to complement The Sex Education Show on Channel 4 in September/October is now really making its mark on Google…

Searching "sex"

Searching "sex"

Searching "sex education"

Searching "sex education"

So #1 for “Sex Education” and #2 for “Sex” itself – with 660,000,000 returns for the latter on Google that’s a pretty competitive space, making it quite a result for an 8 week old UK public service factual cross-platform project.

When I checked a few weeks ago Sexperience was running at 6,000% of the traffic of the official government sex ed site for teens (the sponsored link above). Meanwhile, the interactive dimension of Embarrassing Teenage Bodies which I commissioned from Maverick TV in Birmingham and which broadcast last week on C4 prompted 99,000 online STI Checks during the week of broadcast alone. So the big question for me remains how on earth do you get the government and its services to plug into and support this kind of energy, interest and engagement? Now those are parts that are harder to reach than you might think…

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