Well THAT's a feast of material. It almost reads like a Newsnight Review edition (funnily I nearly typed The Late Show which was its long-since-past predecessor, most fondly remembered by me for when the Stone Roses blew the limited speaker provision and bemoaned "amateurs!").
Lowdham Book Festival
Only been to two events so far and we're scheduled for another on Friday. Yes, as befits most book festivals - especially small ones held in obscure little Notts villages - it was a very white and very Guardian/Independent reading affair. That was pretty depressing. Cloud and I were also probably the youngest (certainly for the opening session with Mike Marqusee, 'lovable' leftie, discussing Bob Dylan).
Nevertheless, the Dylan talk was worth the price of entry for just being able to indulge in someone smart acknowledging le Dylan's ambiguity and contrariness (as well as for intro-ing the talk with a nice amount of Dylan selections playing). A witty, honest and intelligent discussion of lyrics, politics, and the political/personal context of Dylan's work. If you haven't already bought Chimes of Freedom, it's now been reissued in paperback with a new title and some revisions/expansions as Wicked Messenger. Highly recommended.
Next up was Will Hodgkinson talking (and playing) about his book Guitar Man, the story of one person's journey to learn the guitar in 6 months and then do a live concert. Along the way he was advised and taught by some of the great guitar players like Bert Jansch and Johnny Marr (the former helpfully and critically; the latter rather too positive to be useful) and given pertinent - if dismissive - advice by Les Paul ("practice"). He did an admirable rendition of the nigh impossible-to-play Anji by Davey Graham, and reported with much affection how the now raddled Graham met a woman when he was visiting an out-patients mental health centre and, embarrassed at his situation let her believe he was a doctor. Shetold him she was a social worker. Only some time later did each discover they were in fact BOTH out-patients. Very amusing and engaging young man whose looks belied his mid-30s age.
Friday, we go to see Simon Callow talk about Orson Welles. Looking forward to it.
The final episode is on next Sunday (I hope - they booted it from the BBC2 schedules weekend before last, much to our indignation. Still, I called the BBC and got put through to a LOVELY guy called Paul who not only confirmed it would be back this Sunday just gone, but also happily chatted with me about how good it was. He was, as I told him, a sweetie, and made what could have been me ranting at the BBC schedulers into a very pleasant conversation indeed).
I know some of you may have watched this on BBC3, but as you all should know - grumble, grumble - no Freeview in our house. So Cloud and I have picked this up on BBC2. It's not easy viewing it has to be said. In fact, I would happily admit to it being depraved, twisted, sick and full of barking mad characters. It is also horribly, horribly funny and bleak.
Needless to say, we've been loving it! No spoilers please from BBC3 viewers, though I can't imagine there are entirely happy endings.
That bit of depravity neatly brings me to last night's cultural spot:
Jerry Springer - The Opera
Cloud had won two tickets via the council (for an eco-friendliness questionnaire raffle, bizarrely).
Wow. Friends had seen it, either live or on the BBC screening, and both had praised it.
Let us be clear: it IS offensive. It is bawdy, obscene and excessive. It is also hilarious (though I'm not sure whether ALL the audience got that or whether they just appreciated a musical version of an actual Jerry Springer show...)
But it is much more than that. It is, in many respects, a deeply MORAL piece, in so much as medieaval works were usually morality plays. If you imagine that Chaucer is the accommodatable side of medieval writing - with all its bawdiness - imagine all the stuff that didn't make it down through the centuries (partly because of oral traditions).
I doubt I'm the first to say it, but in this instance, viewing it can help you critique it. For example, there was a lot of horse-crap from protesters about how it depicted Jesus in a nappy. Oh lord. NO. That is NOT what you see.
In the first act a black guy confesses to wanting to be treated as baby. He pulls off his suit to show he is wearing a nappy.
In the second act, when Jerry is 'dying' he is called to referee a special Jerry show to arbitrate between Satan and Jesus/God, and the same actor from the first half reappears as Jesus WEARING A LOIN CLOTH. A LOIN CLOTH. Not a nappy (though the visual link is smartly witty).
The best analogy I can think of is how in the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy's imagination of the good and bad guys draws on the real-life counterparts she knows (the quack travelling salesman becomes the wizard, the nasty lady the witch, her friends at the farm her inspirational but flawed travelling companions of metaphorical significance: courage, brains, heart). Sheesh, I can't believe that anyone aware of the tradition of morality plays and the like could ever make such a simple error of reading the play. It really ISN'T Jesus in a nappy!!!!!
Anyway, choreographed Ku Klux Klan dancers aside, it really was a smart satire on the role of television in our lives, the pseudo-morality of reality TV, and - astutely - on even the form of musical theatre, especially opera (lots of knowing bemusement when singers were doing their most excessive operatic stylings: and by the way, the singing was excellent).
And you have to love a show that features a warning "may not be suitable for those without a strong grasp of Judeo-Christian mythology." Provocative genius...