Monthly Archives: June 2003

Art failure

The Guardian reports on the release of a new package of six world cinema titles, called “Discoveries”, that distributor Optimum Releasing and BBC4 are launching this week in conjunction with the Edinburgh film festival in an attempt to revive the flagging market in foreign-language films. Elsewhere in the piece, a director of the ICA attributes the unpopularity of these movies to the total lack of those shown on TV these days. I couldn’t agree more – in the eighties and early nineties, Channel 4 and BBC2 used to show a great range of art-house and foreign films. True, some of them I couldn’t understand at all, but at least they exercised your brain, and movies like Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Three Colours trilogy (Blue was my favourite), which you never see anymore, were fantastic. The news is good in some ways but I can’t lie about my contempt for the BBC’s creation of a two-tier British Broadcasting Corporation, which (a) feeds us non-digital licence-fee-paying proles a load of old tosh every night and (b) is transparently only putting the good stuff on digital to make money.

A radical idea for Westminster

The improbably-named Daniel Finkelstein writes an interesting piece in the Times today headlined “How do you know when a politician is lying? When his lips move”. He concludes: “Claiming that the world can be transformed radically and quickly by political action is bound to result in disappointment. But politicians don’t do this because they are liars. They do it because they are fools.” Can I take it then that the bottom line is that the public wouldn’t be interested in an honest politician? Go on, Westminster! Break the mould!

A triumph of faith over reason

The Guardian is running a competition to win the six shortlised titles for the BBC4 Samuel Johnson Prize. The single question is easy and it closes next Wednesday.


University Challenge tonight was one of a series of shows given over to teams of “professionals”, i.e. not students as such but graduates who have moved on from the festering fridges of their halcyon days and onto better things. A team of lawyers was utterly thrashed by their opponents, four members of Anglican clergy, and Jeremy Paxman was barely able to contain his glee at the result. One of the few questions the lawyers got right was a “starter for ten” in which a snippet of a famous rock song was played and the identity of the band requested. As it was played I had that great feeling I only get occasionally when watching the quiz – I knew the answer! However, one of the lawyers took the words “Derek and the Dominoes” right out of my mouth, leaving me shamefaced. The next three questions were all about bands Eric Clapton has been in, so at least I had a chance to make up for lost ground. Thankfully I managed to get each answer correct – which was more, sadly, than the lawyers were able to do. But, I mean, Eric Clapton in a University Challenge question! As someone who is university challenged, maybe there’s hope for me yet. Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to more “professionals” games, especially House of Commons v. Journalists (9th June) and Poets v. Nurses (14th July).

In defence of bloggers; reality politics

Following a moan by a New York Times journalist about the exposure Google gives blogs in its page rankings, John Naughton writes a defence of bloggers in the Observer, pointing out that the contempt held for blogs and their authors by experienced journalists is misplaced. “Journalism has always been, as Northcliffe observed, ‘the art of explaining to others that which one does not oneself understand’,” explains Naughton. Let’s hear it for Northcliffe! Wasn’t he the chap in Wuthering Heights?


Elsewhere in the Observer, it is reported that the producer of Big Borether, Peter Bazalgette, modestly asserts that the way to get more people interested in politics is for Westminster to adapt to the voting methods used in his “reality TV” (an oxymoron if ever there was one) programme. I somehow have my doubts that MPs in the House of Commons will agree to let themselves be nominated for eviction by each other on a weekly basis and then have their political future determined by text message. And who could be bothered to sit through 659 sets of nominations every week? In any case, Bazalgette is missing the point completely to infer that politics can only be made more relevant and interesting to “the masses” with the use of such trendy techniques. What people would actually respond to are some politicians who capture their imaginations, and above all, who they can trust.