Sunday, 13 July 2008

On colds, snuffles, hot lemon and radio days.

'Tis a common place to say the internet thing has changed a lot of business and cultural practice. What I hadn't taken on board was the transformation it can make to being sick in bed, provided you have a have decent laptop, an adsl connection and a home wifi zone.

As a consequence during my two bouts of incapacity over the last ten days, though a total pain in terms of coughs, splutters, and occasional fevers, it has been a great opportunity to catch up on some of the drama and other radio type offerings on the web.

A big part of this has been the UK BBC. However, I've also been off to Australia.

On the BBC front it is hard to know where to start. Some friends and colleagues already know I am regular listener to The Archers, the radio soap that has being going for more than 50 years. However, I'm finding more and more options available from both Radio 4 and BBC 7 - with Radio 3 also offering a bunch of  offerings.

BBC 4 has just finished another series of McLevy - the 19th Edinburgh detective. Like all good drama, the different episodes are carried by strong plots and strong characters. In this case McLevy is joined by an Irish sidekick with his nemesis coming in the fair form of the local brothel keeper Jean Brash.

In Our Time
The talking heads series In Our Time, chaired by Melvyn Bragg has also offered me some great listening. The current series has just finished, but I recommend the archive. Some examples worth looking for? The Black Death, The Library of Nineveh,  The Metaphysical Poets, Lysenko, and The Brain, a history. 

BBC Programmes and Archives
The BBC has also created two new sites  which are worth checking. The first is a new programme portal [currently in beta] which aims to give every BBC programme its own unique web record. This doesn't mean you get to listen or see everything, but you can track stuff down.
Secondly, there is the  beginning of a comprehensive archive

The future of the BBC  - Stephen Fry 
Lastly, on the BBC, I came across a podcast  [or what he calls a Podgram] from the inimitable Stephen Fry on the future of the BBC. In it he makes the most brilliant analysis of why he thinks the  New Zealand On Air model is not the way to sort radio broadcasting in the UK.
NZOA - New Zealand on Air
Apparently the NZOA model is being touted as a possible way of offering other broadcasters in the UK access to the license fee currently only offered to the BBC. This would mean that the funds  currently raised by the fee would be distributed by a UK version of NZOA which would allocate the funds to any broadcaster who was intent on making programmes which fitted a public service broadcasting model. 

Stephen Fry is having non of it. For him public service broadcasting in the the UK is the BBC. By this he means he sees the BBC as having the institutional mana to carry the ethos of pubic broadcasting as a set of values and beliefs. 

This is interesting - note in this analysis he is dismissing the detail of the content as being the core to public service broadcasting. Content, for him, especially in the digital age, though important, is not the institution.  The institution is the framework which needs to transition to the IP pathways of the internet,  not the content. 

Its a compelling argument - and I might even just be convinced. You can make your own mind up here.  It might also be of interest to the both the current NZ Minster of Broadcasting, Trevor Mallard, as well as John Key, who recent news reports here in NZ suggests is also turning his attention to the issue of the future of the NZ state broadcaster, TVNZ. 

On that note, see also the perceptive analysis of some of the NZ issues by the head of the NZ Broadcasting School, Paul Norris in the NZ Herald of today, here 

ABC : Philosophy in Australia

Moving on to  another public service broadcaster, the other series I stumbled  across [when I was searching for podcasts on iTunes] is a brilliant series of interviews with modern day philosophers  hosted by the ABC Australia program, The Philosphers Zone

The series described as your guide through the thicket of logic, metaphysics and ethics is hosted by Alan Saunders. He recently interviewed the UK philosopher /academic John Gray who was a guest at the Auckland and Sydney Writers Festival. 

I must say Saunders  is an excellent interviewer and gave John Gray a very perceptive run for his money, here

Made  me think it was time for a decent podcast/interview  online program here in NZ. In short time to start doing some thinking, especially with an election coming on this year. 

The Balkan Trilogy - Levant Trilogy
As for the reading thing, I have been concentrating on the Fortunes of War series by Olivia Manning. These consist of two trilogies- The Balkan Trilogy, and the Levant Trilogy. The six books, described by Anthony Burgess as ' the finest record of the war produced by a British writer' , follow the fortunes of Harriet and Guy Pringle during  World War Two as they are hunted out of first Bucharest, then Athens, Cairo and into the Levant.

Like others, I get a bit bored with Guy sometimes - but find Harriet a really great character, I also enjoy the way  Manning manages to bring in the sub cast of other characters in and out of the text while refreshing each volume with a new variant just to keep things open and interesting.

She also has a brilliant eye for detail, and her descriptions of the likes of Bucharest, Athens and Cairo, especially the way the different light affects her landscapes, are just masterful.

PicLens and Flickr
I also found a new trick - use the PicLens plugin in Firefox to set up these brilliant image collages out of Flickr of The Cairo City of the Dead and the Bucharest parks and squares described in the text. Its just amazing to watch these images move past the eye with the ring of the text still in your mind. And, joy of joy, as I checked the Pic Lens link, I discovered they ow have a way of showcasing You Tube

As for Ms Manning, I have half of the last volume still to go. But 'tis time  raised myself and got back to the revolution. Things to do and people to pester!


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