The Week In Radio: A salute to the BBC – where every word counts
Thursday 09 December 2010
Jim Naughtie's Atonement moment concerning the Culture Minister has titillated the Twittersphere all week. I saw him that evening and commented that the slip-up would probably dog him for the next three months. "The rest of my life, more like," he replied gloomily.
If he's right then he would join a select band of people who are especially remembered for their one-liners.
People like Stevie Smith, whose "Not Waving but Drowning" has reverberated through the culture in headlines and pastiches and was explored in the first of a new series of Adventures in Poetry. One thing BBC radio is really good at, witness Soul Music or The History of the World in 100 Objects, is taking a microscope to iconic artefacts and subjecting them to intense analysis. Could this 12-line poem, published in 1957, possibly expand to fill half an hour? Need you ask? As Peggy Reynolds explained, the number of negatives in the poem give it a "dark power". According to one sports editor, it's popular for sports headlines because "professional sport is about the appearance of strength and people don't see sportsmen struggling to cope." Kevin Kirwan the director of Bristol Samaritans, even uses it in training. "The phrase 'I was much further out than you thought' is particularly apt," he said. There was endless debate over who the drowning man was supposed to be, with some people suggesting it was Christ. "How could they think that?" said Stevie Smith incredulously. "It's obvious that it's everybody."
Another person remembered for one-liners is Socrates, who has been the subject of a fabulous Book of the Week on Radio 4. As a child, Socrates's intelligence disturbed his parents enough to take him to the Delphic oracle – the Greek version of the child psychologist – who advised them to leave him alone. Famously ugly, with "a pot belly, thick lips, swivelling eyes, pug nose and broad nostrils, and a wit that struck home like the touch of a stingray," he was eccentrically grubby, hung out with Euripedes, Aristophanes, Herodotus and Plato, fought in the Peloponnesian wars and fell in love with a man half his age. He was eventually tried by Athenians for corrupting the younger generation. Yet it was the detail of everyday life in fifth century BC Athens that made Bettany Hughes's book come alive. Some of it – like the fact that 18-year-old men had to race naked through the city while spectators slapped their bottoms – sounded especially fun.
John Lennon, you might think, would have no problems with posterity, yet I can't be the only person who choked during a recent edition of University Challenge when the assembled teams failed to recognise "(Just Like) Starting Over". The world is now divided between those who remember exactly where they were when John Lennon died, and those who don't remember John Lennon. Radio 2 clearly has more of the former among its listeners, hence a comprehensive Lennon week to mark the 30th anniversary of his death. Susan Sarandon was the celebrity host of John Lennon: The New York Years, though her delivery was probably a little ponderous to British ears. Lennon loved New York. "All the different nationalities, it's like a festival and I just dig it," he said. He met Bob Dylan, who introduced him to marijuana and he began to reject celebrity. "One has to completely humiliate oneself to be what The Beatles were and that's what I resent." He also composed his iconic song "Imagine", so good that the FBI tried to have him deported for it. "They considered it an conspiratorial communist socialist scary song," said a friend. "It turned out to be the anthem of his life." The one thing this compilation did effectively was to bring vividly back Lennon's wit, intelligence and common sense compared to many of today's singing celebrities. X Factor he wasn't.
BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital moveTV
Final Top Gear reviewTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Florida man sentenced to two-and-a-half years for having sex on the beach in front of a child
- 2 Autistic teenager beaten up by bullies makes them watch 20-minute video about autism
- 3 Nick Kyrgios calls former Olympian Dawn Fraser a 'blatant racist' after she tells Wimbledon star to 'go back where their parents came from'
- 4 World learns of app that shows you who unfriended you on Facebook, app promptly crashes
- 5 Chris Moyles reportedly set to make radio comeback with new breakfast show on XFM
Game of Thrones season 6: Daenerys actress Emilia Clarke says '50/50 chance' Jon Snow is alive
Chronixx interview: Reggae sensation on taking the opening spot at Glastonbury and calling Barack Obama a 'waste man'
Game of Thrones season 6: Director Jack Bender says showrunners 'communicate closely' with George RR Martin
Top Gear: Jeremy Clarkson 'can't front ITV motoring show' due to BBC contract clause
Amy Winehouse film: Mark Ronson praises 'respectful' movie as it scores highest ever UK opening for British documentary
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Osborne to cap family benefits at £23,000 – announced ahead of his post-election Budget
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Sickness and disability benefits could be reduced by £30 a week as part of £12bn welfare cuts
Greece debt crisis: Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande issue Athens with 24-hour ultimatum to avoid crashing out of the euro
Greece crisis: Referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its lack of genuine legitimacy