January, 2003

Wynton Marsalis in the Snow

A very long day has just about ended. Starting with a five o’clock taxi for RAJAR (down basically – thanks for asking).
Later on, the weather took a turn for the worse, and by the time it came to the highlight of my day, a Barbican concert given by the aforementioned and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, the snow was really coming down.
It’s a strange relationship that Britain has with snow. We live in a climate where it’s not unusual, yet the slightest downfall and everything grinds to a halt. It was crowded getting on the tube, and by the time I got to Kings Cross, they decided to close the station altogether. The Barbican is two stops from Kings Cross, so I thought about a bus, but it was snowing, and buses were packed with long queues.
Half an hour later, freezing cold, I arrived at the Barbican Concert Hall.
The concert was wonderful, featuring the music of Benny Goodman. I enjoyed every toe-tapping minute of it. My cheap ticket (the lowest price available) also seemed to secure me a front row wing seat which wasn’t at all bad.
I’ll spare the details of the trip home, which needless to say, was equally as fraught. At least it’s not quite midnight yet…

Protest Blocked from Hyde Park

Now this really isn’t clever. The planned march in London in February 15, against war in Iraq, has been told that it can’t end in Hyde Park where a rally was planned.
Upwards of 500,000 are expected, and so obviously it will need to end somewhere. The reason given is that the park is not suitable at this time of year given the possibility of inclement weather.
Hmm. This isn’t the sort of protest that can wait until the Spring, and parks are the only really plausible end locations. We’ll have to see.

Pepys Diary

A fantastic new website is putting Pepys Diary on the net in the form of a blog, posting it on a day by day basis.
The really clever part of this proposition (which might take ten years to complete at a day by day rate) is that readers can annotate the entries themselves to help others understand what’s going on.
I went out and got an el-cheapo Wordsworth Classic copy of his concise diaries yesterday so that I can get properly up to speed. Last night Claire Tomalin’s biographpy won the Whitbread Book Award – I must get around to listening to my recording of Radio 4’s reading of this book.

Five is the new Channel 4

Last night Five had the start of the new series of CSI and later Boomtown. The former is tried and tested, and very interesting, with its Miami spinoff this weekend. From the first episode of the latter, I couldn’t say. The cast is very strong, but whether the complex narative structure can be kept up week after week without being obviously strained is a tougher call. At the moment it’s future is not completely certain, although NBC say that they’re getting behind it.
Meanwhile C4 is finally airing old episodes of NYPD Blue which is great. 11.35pm is not great.

World Cup Cricket in Zimbabwe

Yesterday the players finally came out and told the ECB that they didn’t want to play their opening match in Zimbabwe. They spoke under the aegis of The Professional Cricketers Association. It really is dreadful that it came to this.
An excellent couple of articles in today’s Guardian explain why the ECB, and the ICC are so reluctant to cancel the game. It’s not political – it’s cash. Basically the ICC managed to sell the rights to the competition for a considerable amount of money to a company owned by Murdoch. His company, GCC (no website to be found), in turn have not been able to reap the rewards they were expecting to, so any changes in what they’ve been promised could open up a loophole for renegotiation. And that’s what the ICC are scared of.
Of course if players are not actually safe in the country, and injuries or death follow as a consequence of the match taking place, then no financial burden should prevent the game being called off.
All going well, the match will be moved this Thursday following another ICC meeting. Failing that, the World Cup and the ICC risk ridicule if England players refuse to play in Zimbabwe. I don’t think that the British public will have any problem with them pulling out.
As an aside, Radio 4 is broadcasting an edition of The Archive Hour in a couple of weeks entitled Rebel Hell, which is all about England’s tour to South Africa in 1982 and the turmoil it caused.

Telewest Result

It seems that I might have had a result.
Telewest Digital have recently had an annoying habit of shutting down BBC4 at 2.15 every night, regardless of whether programming had finished. This is particularly frustrating if you’re recording one of their regular late night repeats.
Anyway, today I got a positive response from the BBC and the closedown on Telewest tonight is 2.25 at the end of programming.
Bodes well for the future.


Wow. Barcelona are unbeaten in the Champions League this season, with a record 10 matches unbeaten, yet their poor league form means that they’ve sacked their manager Louis van Gaal.
Some jobs are simply impossible.

The Castle

We watched this 1997 Aussie film to celebrate Australia Day. I’ve seen a bit of it before, but it’s a good example of what the Australians can do so well. They have character actors par excellence, and aren’t afraid to take the piss out of one another.
OK, so the ending is a tad melodramatic, and ever so obviously signposted ahead of time, but it’s the rest of the film that makes it so good. Indeed, you could remove the overall plot and the characters themselves would carry a Royle Family type sitcom.

Robert Fisk

Thank goodness that at political times like these we have journalists such as Robert Fisk to provide a counter-argument. Today in The Independent he has an article pouring scorn on the feeble parallels that are being made between Saddam Hussein and Hitler. As if this war is nothing to do with oil? Yeah, right.
Yesterday, Fisk wrote an article on the Independent on Sunday, summing up the literature of 9/11 that put the pro-war arguments the most. Particular distain was heaped upon The Threatening Storm.
Despite The Observer backing war in Iraq in a leader last week, Terry Jones writes quite succinctly on what’s wrong with Bush’s point of view this week.