emperor: (Phoenix)
posted by [personal profile] emperor at 10:27pm on 21/04/2016 under , ,
I quite enjoy Ian Hislop's programmes (mostly HIGNFY), although I suspect he probably annoys Proper Historians. Currently (until 6th May), you can see Workeer or Shirkeys? Ian Hislop's Victorian Benefits on iplayer (publicity piece on the programme).

It's about how the Victorians tried to deal with poverty, and how many of the same arguments and behaviours crop up now; there's some unforgiving segues between a Victorian and some Tory MPs. But the arguments we're familiar with now were all there: is poverty the result of individual misbehaviour or a failure of society? can we make sure people in work are better off than those out of work without punishing the latter? Who should suffer in a time of austerity? And can middle-class journalists report on the experiences of the poor without othering them?

Given how IDS was reviled for his policies, the interview with him suggests he really did think he was trying to improve the lot of the less well-off.

Ian Hislop handles a serious issue with a mixture of insight and wit, concluding that you might divide people into workers and shirkers - those who think poverty is something we can and should fix, and those who think it's inevitable and there's nothing we can do about it...
emperor: (Phoenix)
posted by [personal profile] emperor at 01:43pm on 17/01/2016 under ,
I really loved Ancillary Justice, the first of the Imperial Radch trilogy, and voted for it for the Hugo award; I was rather less taken with Ancillary Sword.

I got Ancillary Mercy for Christmas, and have now read it. And it's really, really good. It has plenty of the politics you expect from Leckie, including a chunk of stuff about the relationship between humans and AIs (which reminded me again of Banks). But it also has a narrative that picks you up and sweeps you along, with some neat twists and turns and some well-drawn characters. I also liked that a lot of what has come before in the trilogy matters, too - not in the sense that you have to remember every detail to understand the plot, but that you keep seeing things that refer back to previous events in a way that feels right.

The ending is solid, too - it feels like a satisfactory ending to the trilogy (and the plot of this book), without being too trite nor trying too hard to pick up every loose end. I wouldn't be surprised to see more in this universe at some point in the future
emperor: (Phoenix)
posted by [personal profile] emperor at 09:11pm on 10/01/2016 under , , ,
This afternoon (after a hurried lunch following Mattins at GSM), I went to the Arts Picturehouse to see Draw On, Sweet Night, a biopic of John Wilbye (followed by Q&A with the director).

I must confess that I nearly didn't bother going, having read This Grauniad review; and it is somewhat correct - the dialogue does sound rather stilted at times, and if you are looking for a steamy romp then this isn't really for you. It's almost more like a Wilbye musical - while the music does cut between Wilbye and more modern work by Tony Britten, the Wilbye madrigals really are the star of the piece, and they are very well performed. I certainly found myself much more into the madrigals, and the very pretty historical drama took second place.

That's not to say the plot isn't without its moments, both funny and affecting, but really see this for the music. Although there may not be many more showings, you can at least pick up the DVD from the end of February, and it doesn't really need a big screen as long as you have decent speakers...
emperor: (Christmas)
This was an episode that veered dangerously close to shark-jumping on several occasions, played rather too fast-and-loose with the 4th wall for my liking, and was rather too pleased with its own cleverness. It did work, however...spoilers )
emperor: (Phoenix)
posted by [personal profile] emperor at 10:43pm on 17/12/2015 under , , ,
The TL;DR spoiler-free version: good fun, not great, lacking new ideas. longer, many more spoilers )
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posted by [personal profile] emperor at 12:50am on 06/12/2015 under , ,
Quite the series finale, that. But I feel a bit cheated spoilers )
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posted by [personal profile] emperor at 10:01pm on 01/12/2015 under , ,
This episode of Doctor Who was different from the usual in a number of ways, notably the plot structure and the number of characters. On the whole I thought it worked, although to some extent I must reserve judgement until I've seen the next episode.spoilers )
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posted by [personal profile] emperor at 12:23pm on 29/09/2015 under , ,
I was worried that the resolution of last week's plot would be too cheap. While it was a bit cheeky, I didn't feel too cheated. I'm quite enjoying how Missy keeps being evil just when you think she's actually helping out.there may be spoilers ahead )
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posted by [personal profile] emperor at 11:56am on 21/09/2015 under , ,
Due to the wonders of iplayer, I caught up with this when I got home yesterday. The spoiler-free summary is that I thought this was a decent bit of drama, but I worry about what it says about the series' direction: Moffat does like to set up impossible problems and then have the resolution feel like a cheat.once more, with spoilers )
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posted by [personal profile] emperor at 09:01pm on 08/03/2015 under , , ,
The BBC has recently broadcast Reginald D. Hunter's Songs of the South [first episode available on iplayer for another 15 days, the rest a little longer]. It was a chance find - I was idly browsing iplayer the other week when feeling a bit low, and nearly passed it by. But I'd found Reginald D. Hunter funny on HIGNFY, so thought I'd give it a go. I'm glad I did.

Reginald came to the UK from Georgia in 1997, and says that by the time he left, he hated the South. Still, much of what we think of as American music comes from the South, so he felt it was time to go back. So it's a bit of him re-evaluating his relationship with his home, a bit of looking at the South's past and perhaps its future, and quite a lot about the origins of American popular music.

I don't know much about American music - with a growing range of exceptions, I've never really been into pop, and while I did study it in school, that gives you a very strange way of thinking about music. To pick an example, I could once have described the chord progression in a 12-bar blues; but in the same way you wouldn't start a discussion of Bach Chorales by talking about how parallel fifths were bad, I feel that music qua subject at school taught me nothing of the context of American music.

So as Reginald travelled through Tennessee and Kentucky, Alabama and Georgia, and finally Mississippi and Louisiana, visiting key cities from which a range of music (from bluegrass to hip-hop, zydeco to soul, and many others) emerged, and talking with artists young and old, I felt that I began to get an idea of some of what these styles of music are about.

One theme that ran through all of this, of course, was race. Time and time again, racial issues were discussed - the presenter's discomfort in some of the white-dominated parts of the South, slave songs, blackface minstrels, segregation and the civil rights movement, and so on. Reginald's view was, I think, that you cannot talk about Southern music without talking about race, that you cannot understand much of that music without understanding the racial tensions of the time, but also that only by understanding the past and coming to terms with it could America move forwards.

Lest that make it sound terribly heavy, it wasn't all thus. Reginald went to a lot of good parties while making this series! He clearly enjoys meeting a lot of the artists, and there is plenty of laughter. There's also a fair bit of tourism - moonshine joints, theme parks(!), music festivals. He remarks dryly at one point that the American way is to take a great cultural movement, tear it down, turn it into a tourist industry, and sell it back to you. "Local girl done good" means, usually, that she made a lot of money.

I learned a lot watching this series, but a couple of notable surprises were genres of music I'd never encounted, including zydeco (from the Creole people of Louisiana) and some of the darker strains like the murder ballad. I've been to Knoxville a number of times for work, and I never knew it used to be known for the high murder rate! "The Knoxville Girl" is pretty creepy.

One of the things I love about music is how a particular piece can remind you so strongly of particular memories; they can be silly or profound, but sometimes a particular work can immediately bring something to mind that I'd thought long forgotten. This series threw a couple of those at me, so I found myself listening to songs from a particular era - Nightswimming and One of Us were played endlessly on a trip youth-hostelling with friends just before a Mammal Society field trip. Listening to them, I could remember the pool table where we used to hang out (and play a lot of terrible pool), and some of the nonsense we got up to...

If I was going to be critical, I'd say that 3 hours wasn't really quite enough time to cover all the material, which meant that you hardly got any footage of some interviews, and there were places where it felt like Reginald wanted to go into things in more detail but there just wasn't time. Still, I thought this was very good television. Hurrah for iplayer :)

There's a playlist of many of the songs here, though you need an account on a streaming music site to make much use of it.

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