If you've been snowed in during the past few days, here's some consolation. According to such great thinkers as Hippocrates, Montesquieu and Kant, you're probably rugged, enterprising and hard-working, strong, intelligent and frank, with a sense of superiority but controlled in your passions. If you're reading this online in warmer climes, however, basically you're stuffed. These days we're much concerned with what we're doing to the climate, but the thrust of The Empire of Climate, presented by geographer Dr David Livingstone, was what the climate has traditionally been thought to do to us. Bisecting the world along meteorological lines, there's the tropical bit, where the heat has turned humans into sloths, unable to get out of bed, and there's the temperate bit, where we alpha males and females rush around constructing civilisations in our lunch breaks.
It was a dichotomy employed to justify all manner of colonial cataclysms, and even today, the president of the Tearfund charity revealed, people sometimes say there's no point in giving because, well, they'll only waste it. These were fascinating little programmes, quarter-hour nuggetty chunks nudged along nicely by Livingstone's soft Ulster burr and the kind of relaxed delivery that would be ruined by media training.
There was the same feel to Decoding Basquiat, in which the poet Benjamin Zephaniah, whose warm, embracing tones I first heard on a John Peel show 30-odd years ago, padded round New York (you imagine him padding) in search of the meaning of the words scrawled over so many of Jean-Michel Basquiat's canvases. In the process he presented a vivid portrait of an artist who burned brightly, but briefly.
There was one particularly nice story. Because Basquiat's prices were rising so rapidly, his paintings were all scarfed up sharpish by the SoHo set. Zephaniah met the gallery owner Annina Nosei in her plush Manhattan apartment, and she told him in her plush, fruity tones how, in lieu of a debt, she was given three Basquiats when they weren't worth very much. She waited. She had one on her wall. One of the other two paid for the apartment. I'm sure she gave the third to charity.Reuse content