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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Want to know what the BBC's real problem is? My son.

Went to the recording of the Media Show's debate on the future of the BBC, chaired in exemplary fashion by Steve Hewlett. It's here.

I came away thinking these things are a ritual dance.  James Purnell, the Corporation's director of strategy, makes exaggerated claims for the unique quality of BBC output; Trevor Kavanagh, leader writer for The Sun, makes equally exaggerated claims for the damage the BBC supposedly does to the rest of the media landscape. All the panellists are asked what will happen in twenty years time. None of them really know.

The people who will ultimately decide about the licence fee are not the people on stage or the politicians or the loyalists in the audience in the BBC Radio Theatre. They will be people like my son.

He's just moved into his own flat, has no intention of getting a TV and gets his TV pictures from Netflix, You Tube and various time-shift platforms, watching them on a laptop. If he has a preference it's for American drama and comedy, which the BBC seems to have cleansed from its output, and big sport, which has all gone to Sky or BT.

I'm sure he's not the only one. This is a different generation which has grown up in a radically different climate. (As Greg Dyke said in the debate, last time the BBC's Charter was discussed, back in 1990, there was not a single mention of the internet.) The BBC doesn't figure in the life of this generation as much as it likes to think it does.








Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Americans will never understand our sport because they're not pessimists like we are

American publisher wants to know what I mean by "digging out an away point". Fair cop. It's a book about music after all.

American journalist on New Yorker podcast says it wasn't until he lived in Britain that he heard and understood the expression "a result"

In "Fever Pitch" Nick Hornby says something like "the natural state of a football supporter is disappointment, no matter what the score".

There's something in all three thoughts that points up the role sport performs in this rainy little country. We are pessimists by culture and disposition. The best we can hope for in sporting encounters is they don't make us feel worse.

This is nothing to do with whether the team's any good or not. I have a New Zealander friend who simply can't bear to follow the All-Blacks in the Rugby World Cup because so much of himself is bound up in their winning that he couldn't bear the idea of them losing.

This may be coincidence but it rains a lot in New Zealand too.




Monday, October 19, 2015

After almost fifty years of trying I found a Grateful Dead album I really like

Always preferred the concept of the Grateful Dead to the sound of them. I tried their albums over the years and could never get past the bloodless voices and the lack of whomp in the rhythm section. "You have to see them live," said people. I did that a few times but always felt like an unbeliever at a revival meeting.

That's all changed now. In the spirit of Alan Bennett's parents who delightedly announced "we've finally found an alcoholic drink we like"  – it was bitter lemon –  I've found a Grateful Dead album I can listen to all the way through. Well, apart from the drum solo.

The band wanted to call it "Skull Fuck". The official name is "Grateful Dead". The fans call it "Skull & Roses". It's live, of course. Most of the songs are standard blues band warhorses like "Not Fade Away", "Going Down The Road Feeling Bad", "Johnny B. Goode" and "Big Boss Man". It's a delight to find that here they finally achieve that benign shuffling sound I've read about so much and never heard.

When was it made? 1971, of course.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Cold weather tips for the house-bound scribbler

Spring and summer are easy for those who write at home. Put on a pair of shorts and a tee shirt and you're ready.

When there's a cold snap in the morning it gets more challenging. I read Janice Turner's column in the Times today where she mentions a fellow writer who can't work unless she's in full fig, earrings, heels and all. I'm sure Peter Robinson wrote that you can't do proper work unless you're wearing shoes and socks, which is an interesting point.

I'm always alert to hints about how other hacks work. Mark Ellen and I compare notes all the time. Mind you, he put the central heating on the other morning, which won't be happening here for quite a while.

I got through last winter without having the central heating on after nine o'clock. In the last couple of years I've been following a personal central heating plan which is best described as "head to toe in Uniqlo" involving gilets, wooly hats and the kind of underwear people wear on skiing holidays.

When the weather's in a transitional phase I follow The Beatles plan, otherwise know as "I'll Follow The Sun". This means I take my laptop to whichever part of the house is getting the most natural warmth at any part of the day.

Because I need physical movement to have any kind of original thought, I go for walks in the park a couple of times a day. Sometimes I sit on a bench writing on my phone. Sometimes I go to a cafe. It's amazing how the proximity of other people can help you concentrate.

I'd be interested to hear about other people's regimes.




Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Why do American magazines never have actual editors?

The New York Times piece about Playboy dropping pictorials of naked women starts with "a top editor" at the magazine going to see 89-year-old Hugh Hefner to check that it's OK.

In British magazine culture there's only one top editor. That's the editor.

I've never understood how American magazines can have so many people called editor, particularly when the staffs are as shrunken as they must be now.

You generally find the actual the editor is called Managing Editor or Editor-in-chief.

You also find they have no power.