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posted by [personal profile] emperor at 07:15pm on 29/06/2017 under , ,
Ian Hislop is doing history on the TV again, this time "Who Should We Let In?" [available on iPlayer until 27 July], where he looks at how our attitude to immigration changed from the Victorian period where our open door policy was a point of national pride.

It's a disturbingly contemporary account, beginning with antisemitism in London's East End. Early on the press realise that lies about foreigners sell papers (the "Yellow Peril" stories about Liverpool resulted in the city council conducting an inquiry that concluded that the Chinese were in fact model citizens), and it is politically expedient to blame the woes of the poor on aliens.

It's not all depressing - the British took in a quarter of a million Belgians during the first world war, and people put them up in their own homes, rather as some people are now doing with refugees from Syria and other parts of the world. But, as the women who is hosting a Syrian refugee points out, we're a very rich nation and we are taking far fewer refugees than far smaller and poorer countries are.
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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...
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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 )
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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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posted by [personal profile] emperor at 02:47pm on 20/07/2013 under , , , ,
Meet the Landlords (available on iPlayer until the evening of Thursday 25th) is an interesting but depressing look at the private rental sector. Perhaps inevitably, it gives us stories of things going wrong, from the self-styled "HMO Daddy" with his £26M housing portfolio and army of unhappy tenants to the single mother with cancer who no-one will house (and her local council saying they won't house her until the baliffs have thrown her onto the street), and a couple of people who have rented out their own home to discover that eviction is a time-consuming and stressful business.

I was alerted to it by the housing law blog Nearly Legal, whose take on it is here. What struck me is how desperately we need a decent supply of social housing again. I concur with them, though, that it's worthwhile viewing.
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posted by [personal profile] emperor at 02:25pm on 07/04/2013 under , ,


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