Was talking Christmas music with Catalan Brian and The Luck Habit earlier this week in the wake of my moment on The Robert Elms show last weekend – see Radio Radio. In the good ol’ US of A of course it’s a genre in its own right, as reflected in the iTunes genres/CD metadata which includes Holidays Music or something like that. So we agreed to put together a selection of the best ‘Holidays’ tunes by way of party game cum useful list.
1. Last Month of the Year – Blind Boys of Alabama
This is the one we kick off proceedings with every year in our house.
Father: Tell me when was Jesus born?
It was the last month of the year
Was it January?
Children: no [etc.]
March, April, May? no
June, July, August, September, October, November?
It was the 25th day of December
It was the last month of the year
What’s not to love?
2. Children Go Where I Send Thee – Nick Lowe
This was our 2013 acquisition – it was the year I got to really appreciate Nick Lowe. I saw him live at a recording of Songwriter’s Circle a couple of years ago for BBC4 and really started to rethink his music. I’ve always had a soft spot for Rockabilly, right back to when the local greengrocer’s delivery boy was in The Polecats.
3. Fairytale of New York – The Pogues and Kirsty McColl
I’ll get it out the way – at the risk of losing TLH from the discussion. I just love the slagging bit in the middle. And Matt Dillon (Rumblefish era) featuring in the vid. I spoke to Kirsty’s mum earlier this year while writing my book – Jean Newlove – an incredible 91 year old who looked after Dance and Movement for some of Joan Littlewood’s theatrical enterprises. Sinead O’Connor has also played this live with The Pogues in Kirsty’s absence.
4. Jingle Bells – Frank Sinatra
From Frank’s cracking Crimbo LP imaginatively entitled ‘The Christmas Album’. The voice – unbeatable.
5. Merry Christmas Everyone – Shakin’ Stevens
Christmas has nothing to do with good taste.
6. Let It Snow – Ella Fitzgerald
A voice as pure as driven white stuff.
7. Cool Yule – Louis Armstrong
The dude was cool as the white stuff.
8. Santa Baby – Eartha Kitt
Naughty but nice.
9. Silent Night – Sinead O’Connor
What Sinatra is to the male voice, Sinead is to the female voice i.e. as good as it gets. Seems like a good one for this centenary year of the outbreak of the First World War and that Christmas moment in No Man’s Land.
I’ll be adding more to these over the next few days. In the meantime Brian has got together a formidable list which I’ll post in the first comment. Feel free to add your faves…
I listen to about 30 plus hours of radio a week. It’s a great medium. “Skull Cinema” is what a colleague at work called it the other day.
One of my favourites shows on the radio is the Robert Elms Show on BBC London 94.9 – the current unwieldy name for GLR. GLR, founded in 1988, burned brightly for just a few years like a flare in the night, lighting up the faces of Chris Evans, Chris Morris and Danny Baker; Mark Lamarr, Gideon Coe, Phill Jupitus and Gary Crowley; lightening the hearts of 20somethings across the capital, feeding telly for years to come. By 2000 it was no more – except in those hearts.
Robert Elms is into much of the same stuff as me – London, music, architecture, trivia, history and music. You said music twice…
Hedley Lamarr: Qualifications?
Applicant Outlaw: Rape, murder, arson, and rape.
Hedley Lamarr: You said rape twice.
Applicant Outlaw: I like rape.
He shares a birthday with my Other Half. That must mean something.
Anyway, this weekend I got a real kick getting a mention on the show. Robert asked for ideas for Christmas tunes to play over the next couple of weeks. I sent in these two.
This is the latest Christmas record in our household, acquired this time last year. Robert said he’d played it a couple of days ago. Good, we’re on the same wavelength. It’s got that Rockabilly heartbeat.
This one is our core Christmas record. It goes on first thing on the big day and means it’s finally here – the pressie-opening, the turkey, the film, the family, the fun&games. Robert said he hadn’t come across this one and would follow it up (he says he takes these suggestions from listeners very seriously – I believe him).
So I whack off a quick email upstairs and by the time I get down to the kitchen I hear my two proposals coming out of the old Roberts, a veritable honour.
The best show of the year is one he does on New Year’s Eve day where he collects the best of his live music sessions of the year from the small Radio London studio with the dodgy Joanna. Always a total treat. Last year I remember finding Cecile McLorin Salvant and Laura Mvula through it.
I loved Newsround as a kid. And now after all these years a bit of me gets on it – in the form of Don’t Stop the Music, the multiplatform project I’ve been working on all summer with pianist James Rhodes and Jamie Oliver’s production company, Fresh One.
Over 7,000 instruments were collected in the Don’t Stop the Music Instrument Amnesty thanks to the huge generosity of the British public and their care about music education. That makes it the biggest UK instrument amnesty ever.
Here’s the Newsround item which shows the last step in the journey as the instruments reach the kids…
A special evening at the Phoenix
Originally posted on Dr Sue Black:
Having spearheaded the most recent campaign to save Bletchley Park and being part of the campaign to get Alan Turing on a banknote I was very apprehensive about seeing the new film “The Imitation Game” starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley. The Imitation Game is based on Andrew Hodges biography of Alan Turing and his codebreaking work at Bletchley Park during WW2.
I spent several years of my life trying to raise public awareness of Bletchley Park and the contribution of the more than ten thousand people who worked there and have learnt a lot along the way. I’ve had conversations with several people who knew Turing, including his nephew and nieces and have spoken to many Bletchley Park veterans over the years.
I was apprehensive about seeing the film because I really didn’t want to see a film like “Enigma” again, a film which I’ve never actually managed to…
View original 1,320 more words
What piece of music means the most to you?
The guitarist/vocalist from pioneering Belfast punk band Protex picks a short sharp blast of punk-pop not a million miles away from Don’t Ring Me Up and other Protex 2-minuters.
The Song: Sheena Is a Punk Rocker by The Ramones
Here’s how that inspiration played out:
And here’s the inspiration itself: (2 mins 39 V 2 mins 51 – what’s 12 seconds between friends?)
Bach to the Future (James Rhodes)
So it’s that time of the year again – my first BAFTA viewing of the season. To get things off to a strong start I went to see Jason Reitman’s Men Women & Children. He was at the screening (we crossed paths at the door of the Gents in the Ham Yard Hotel in Soho – I’ve seen him once before a couple of years ago at a screening of Up in the Air – he’s the son of Animal House producer, Ivan Reitman). Also present in the immaculate new screening room were stars Ansel Elgort (The Fault in our Stars) and Kaitlyn Dever (Bad Teacher), plus producer Helen Estabrook, all interviewed after the movie by Jason Solomons (more comfortable than incisive like that old jumper with the paint spots on it).
I was going to ask director Jason Reitman why he had decided on a female English voice-over (Emma Thompson, who sounded like she didn’t really understand the American words she was being asked to say about sports and stuff) but the fella before me asked that one so I had to improvise. First I asked him why he used a voice-over narration at all (and quite a lot of it), and then I asked whether he had gone to Framestore for the space shots as a no-brainer in the wake of Gravity (it’s wonderful to see a London institution in such a dominant global position).
On the way out I had a chat with Ansel Elgort about selfies and who took the photos in the movie story of his screen mum and her lover. I thought it was a Judas scenario – who is narrating when he’s alone in his torment? – but Ansel reckoned the obnoxious couple took a photographer along to the wedding proposal, a “cheesy” act. I’m not entirely convinced but maybe that happens in the good ol’ US of A. He has 4 million Instagram followers so what do I know?
So the reasons to go see the film are:
1. Rosemarie DeWitt – I fancy her something rotten, very distinctive nose. She looks oddly like Davina McCall (who I bought a coke a few years ago at a BAFTA nominees party in Marylebone). Probably first noticed her in Rachel Getting Married and loved her in the delightful Your Sister’s Sister.
2. Carl Sagan’s words – My friend Doug Miller is always going on about Carl Sagan and he’s a man of taste. His taste is well proven in this movie as the voice-over of a Carl Sagan DVD provides the philosophical perspective in this story. It’s the “Pale Blue Dot” speech from Cosmos which says that us humans are basically a race of jumped-up monkeys floating in the blackness on an insignificant lump of rock – and that’s why we need to be kind to one another.
It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.
3. Mobile phones – it really draws your attention to how much we all use them, especially while walking around.
I took this picture a couple of weeks ago in The Wolesey – these people never came off their phones in over an hour and hardly exchanged a word. One of the few things that sticks with me from Dr Susan Greenfield’s slightly odd book Tomorrow’s People is the new state of mind which sees us regularly living in two places at once thanks to this technology.
4. The Internet – this is probably the first movie I’ve seen that has a serious stab at examining what the internet is doing to us – through blogs, porn, social media, games et al – and how we connect in all regards these days.
Passed a poster on the street of the president of Uruguay – he looks like a friendly granddad. Seemingly he lives in a modest house in the country, drives a VW Beetle and has a dog with three legs. After a harsh Mandela-like imprisonment for years, he came to power and leads what I understand is a benign, liberal regime. Certainly the city has a good vibe, a bit slower than Buenos Aires, sunny disposition.
Another thing I saw on the street was ‘mate’. People young and old were walking along with a small, rounded glass in one hand holding a silver spoony thing with perforations and in the other a thermos of hot water. Nothing like a nice hot cuppa sitting in a car park with a blanket on your lap. This is the world of trendy students and enamoured young couples and they’re all sucking at their infusion of dried leaves of yerba mate.
Talking of leaves, we took ours of Uruguay before noon, back on the boat. Luckily there’s still some proper old-school bureaucracy in Argentina/Uruguay so I’ve managed to amass a decent set of stamps in my new passport. The immigration officer I just encountered had a slightly daunting look with Amy Winehouse type tattoos on her upper chest and knuckles – turned out to be as charming as can be.
As we pulled out of Montevideo we got to see the ‘monte’ in question, a green hill overlooking the city, now surrounded by favelas. I didn’t see much poverty on my visit but that’s tourist life for you – I often heard references in MV and BA to areas being safe or not. A bunch of Mexicans were playing a raucous game of cards on the boat back, adding a bit of analogue to the digital life of cameras and phones around them.
Took my leave of Damian back at the Hotel Plaza. Saw a sepia image of it with the Graf Zeppelin flying above this morning. I’ll catch up with Damian again in London when he comes over for Power to the Pixel and Mipcom in a couple of weeks. Also said by to Vale, who may be over in London in a while. Great trip, fine travel companions.
For my last half-day in South America for now I headed over to Palermo Hollywood, the chi-chi quarter of cafes and design/clothes shops. Had a late lunch which turned out to be the best meal I ate in Argentina – coated chicken in orange and tequila sauce. Combined with some cool jazz, a bit of birdsong and a great people-watching crossroads at Borges and El Salvador everything aligned for a beautiful meal. Wandered the tree-lined streets after taking a few pics and looking for a couple of gifts for the Mrs and the Enfants Terribles.
Headed back to the Plaza for a quiet evening and a not too late night. Very comfy beds by the way if you’re into sleeping equipment.
South America Day 9 – BA-LHR: Adios Amigos
So here I sit at Puerto 9 awaiting the plane home. Nothing much to report – pack, breakfast, taxi, airport. It’s a grey day in Buenos Aires so ideal for leaving.
What do I take away with me?
This is a (surprisingly) friendly country. Everyone I met here and in Uruguay was invariably warm and polite. They do this one cheek kiss all the time which beats a handshake. All friendly except a single grumpy taxi driver who can kiss my Irish arse ;-)
There’s a terrific enthusiasm for learning and competing, developing and pushing the boundaries in digital media and beyond. Whatever the economic pressures, it seems a well organised country which should have everything it needs to thrive, not least a terrific younger generation.
Bottom line, a fabulous trip sweetened by lovely people.
And then the sun came out…
And then I got three empty seats in a row on the plane…
Argentina is separated from Uruguay by the River Plate, which from the shore looks like a sea. On the Argentina side it is muddy brown. On the Uruguay side, a bit bluer. It takes around two hours to cross by boat. Valeria, Damian and I boarded from the modern passenger terminal in Buenos Aires, built only two years ago, complete with a wall of falling water.
I spent much of the journey doing my Spanish lessons on Duolinguo. Lo siento, no hablo Espagnol. Funnily enough, I got to use that phrase on Uruguayan television later in the day.
The journey is a flat expanse of calm river, punctuated with the odd vessel but otherwise without features. Eventually the Uruguayan mainland looms into view, and then Montevideo, a largely low-rise city. On disembarking we passed pretty much the whole of the country’s navy in port, grey hulks labelled 1 to 24 under huge yellow cranes.
We were picked up by a colleague of Damian’s from TV station Estudio 9. She drove us along the coastal road, the Ramblas, a crescent promenade bordering the river-sea. We went first to Channel 10 where Damian did an interview on a daytime show. He was preceeded by Chico Novarro, a famous Argentine romantic singer of boleros, and his leather-trousered son, a well-known actor. The two presenters and crew were really welcoming and friendly, especially the older host who couldn’t have been warmer.
Everyone in the crew, cameramen, sound, the works, were on their phones the whole time they were shooting. I watched a voice-over artist at the side of the set do the sponsor presentation live, delivering each bit perfectly and on time then returning to his magazine the second the mike went off.
The set was a comfortable house with living room, kitchen and (fake) garden beyond the French doors. Damian chatted in the kitchen with the younger host (with whom he made the multiplatform show Conectados a couple of years ago) and efficiently got across his activities with Mediamorfosis.
We left the beautiful shade-dappled side street where Channel 10’s studio is located for a hotel in the city centre, not far away, it’s a bijou city. After dumping our stuff, the three of us walked ten blocks to the old city centred on Independence Square (this is Uruguay independence from Argentina). It is defined by the old theatre Solis, a strange masonic tower and a stone arch – very atmospheric and typically hispanic.
We had a late lunch outdoors (a lovely fresh white sea fish steamed with carrots and onions). Then I dragged them in to a beautiful late 19C book shop with high shelves, a book-lined balcony, a stained glass window half-way up the stairs and a café up above. If I lived in Montevideo, this would be my HQ.
Also at my request we popped into the Torres Garcia museum next door in a tall old townhouse, five or six narrow floors high. Joaquin Torres Garcia is Uruguay’s most famous Modernist artist. The early work on display (like Adam & Eve) shows the influence of Cezanne, Picasso and Gauguin. He lived in Paris, Barcelona and New York. Other roots seem to be Klee (searching for a symbolic universal picture language) and native South American Indian art (flat hieroglyphic planes). He was clearly both a restless experimenter and a relentless theorist. Note to self: pick up a book about him on my return.
We then headed off to El Observador newspaper in a quiet, more industrial quarter, beautifully designed offices in black and white, stylish. I had a look around the newsroom, then got roped into an interview despite my Duolinguo Spanish. That’s when I got to say “Lo siento, no hablo Espagnol” on air. We talked about the future of TV and media with a similarly stylish young journalist with blue glasses (Dame Edna Everage-style but dialed down and cool).
Off for a siesta listening to Kind of Blue (= perfect siesta length, finishing on flamenco vibe) then over to Estudio 9 where Damian and I were doing a two-hander evangelising transmedia. The venue was a black-curtained studio, subtly lit in the beautifully lit and decorated former dance hall. We had fun doing it, it seemed to go down very well.
From the studio we headed out for a suitably late a l’Espagnol supper in a former market with various folk from the British Council Uruguay office. In the corner of the open-to-the-air market (a bit like Spitalfields market) was an enclosed space with windows housing a tango school. Tonight was tango night so I got a chance to watch some regular couples at work. I liked their ambition. When I eventually got back to my 8th floor room I realised what I was looking down on was the corrugated iron roof of the mercado. So I fell asleep in Montevideo listening to the sounds of tango from below.
Started the day by putting in an application for tickets for the Rugby World Cup in England & Wales next year. Have seen occasional signs of Argentine rugby during my stay – a pitch here, a newspaper report there.
Made a bright and early tourist start across the sleepy Sunday morning city in the direction of the gallery of 20th Century Latin-American art, Malba. The BA at the end stands for Buenos Aires (Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires).
It was a 45 minute walk, back to the area where TV Publica lives. As I went past the law courts, motorcyclists of all shapes and sizes were gathering. About an hour later I saw them parading down Avenue Presidente Figueroa Alcorta making as much noise as possible, even the little Vespa at the back.
I checked out the embassy quarter as the gallery didn’t open til noon, too enthusiastic for my own good, need to get myself on Latino time. The embassy area could easily have been in Paris, tranquil streets with 19th Century European style residencies. Some lovely trees, some interesting architecture (including a modernist building with metal oval door and oval windows), no-one around in the light drizzle.
Once I got into Malba I made a bee-line for the permanent collection of 20th Century art, the collecting of Argentine businessman Eduardo Constantini, offered to the city as a permanent and public home for his significant collection. The city’s artist community backed him to the hilt, persuading the municipal authorities to grant him land on which to construct a purpose-built home for the artworks.
My visit centred on the stand-out exhibit, Frida Kahlo’s Autorretrato con Chango y Loro (Self-portrait with Monkey and Parrot) (1942) of which more here. Worth the price of admission and the 6,900 mile trip alone. Other highlights included Antonio Berni’s Manifestacion (1934), a great example of politically committed painting from Argentina and The Dressmaker (1935) by Amelia Pelaez of Cuba, really original drawing.
I walked back to Plaza San Martin a different way, enjoying the Sunday afternoon calm. The streets were mainly populated by young people and young couples.
After a bit of writing and feet resting in the comfortable, old-school hotel room, I taxied across to Palermo Soho, a bar and shop district on the other side of town, for the day’s meal. Highlight of that: tortilla. I wonder whether this Soho is named after New York’s SoHo, London’s or neither? A coffee and read to round off, then back to base ready for an early start on the journey to Uruguay. It’s not every day you get to visit a country beginning with U. Right up there with the day we walked across the bridge from Zimbabwe to Zambia, a double Z bonanza.
Headed out of Rosario early and flew back to Buenos Aires where Damian, Valeria and I went to visit TV Publica aka Channel 7, the main publicly owned channel, designed to counter-balance the power of the privately owned networks which have for a long time wielded immense influence, amplified by cross-media ownership. It is housed in studios built for the 1978 World Cup, state of the art at the time, massive by normal standards (in the way BT’s set-up out at the London 2012 IBC on the Olympic Park is) – the only station in BA in purpose-built facilities. Victor Taricco kindly showed us around the Newsroom, Studios, Control Rooms and other facilities (including a complete set-building workshop). There’s a groovy air of the 70s about the place e.g. the studio auditorium chairs have a white leather 70s thing going on.
Victor showed me how the channel archives all its output onto YouTube; went through their social media activity; and played me some of the content that works best online, notably a very funny old-school satirist who seems to have adopted the web aesthetic very happily. I particularly liked a show where he plays a vegetarian who gets increasingly irritated and violent due to excess of salad.
Had a brief siesta listening to Miles before heading out to Puerto Madero down by the old docks. Indulged in a long, slow Saturday lunch with steak in red wine sauce with added red wine in a large glass beside (and no excess of salad), watching sailing boats slide by in front of me, just the masts visible above the concrete dockside. Drifted in a Malbec cloud over to the Costanera Sur ecological reserve where I hung out with the varied bird life of the city, from ones with little quiffs to ones with pointy beaks, and a few green parrots to boot. There really is great variety and a constant accompaniment of birdsong as you wander around the city. I found myself a fine spot overlooking the River Plate, a constant rhythm of waves lapping at the shore below.
Enjoyed watching a turntable bridge in action as I left the port area – second bit of heavy duty engineering I watched this particular day. Had marvelled over a German air-bridge at the airport – crudely tough yet precise. On the subject of engineering and crudeness, I made my first ever Skype call home this evening. Enfant Terrible No. 2 was at the other end (along with his mum but that didn’t seem to cramp his style) and his main question was whether the Argentine women were hot. He’s 14. I told him that, thanks to a rich mix of genes including Italian, in general they are, which seemed to please him. He met a Mexican girl this summer at a drama course in the East End and seems to have taken quite a shine to Latinas, the little monkey.
More on Latinas and little monkeys here