May, 2010

Election Coverage Tonight

C4 Alternative Election Night Helicopter
Channel 4’s obviously not voting Green.
They were advertising their alternative election special this evening with a helicopter dangling this ad at lunchtime over Soho.
That follows a very expensively produced booklet that fell out of one of my newspapers at the weekend.
The thing is, even though I really like the people involved (Charlie Brooker, David Mitchell etc.), I’ll still be watching the "proper" election coverage on BBC1 and maybe a bit of Sky. But I’ll record it…
Actually I’ll also be listening to the radio – Radio 4, Five Live and Geoff’s Election Show and generally blogging and entertaining myself. I suspect that Twitter will be busy too.
I wonder what C4 will do if there needs to be a second election in October?

Enron

If you’re into plays based around colossal financial scandal, then now is a great time to be in the West End. Last autumn I saw The Power of Yes at the National, but the play that everyone was talking about was Enron. And this evening I finally got around to seeing the play that’s won so many awards.
It got a West End transfer at the start of the year following runs in Chichester and the Royal Court. And its cleaned up in most of the awards that have taken place since.
That’s not altogether surprising since Lucy Prebble’s play puts an entertaining yet appropriate fantasy edge on what was an extraordinary yet potentially dry financial story.
Actually, that’s not altogether true. Even the fairly average TV movie, The Crooked E, was watchable in part because of the true nature of the fantasy they were building in Houston.
The cast is led Samuel West as Jeffrey Skilling, the CEO who begins to take Enron down the route that Chairman Ken Lay (Tim Pigott-Smith) had been heading. Tom Goodman-Hall plays Andy Fastow the “creative” CFO who comes up with the convoluted mechanisms to hide the enormous amount of debt that Enron was actually acruing as it reported record profits each year. The other main cast member is Amanda Drew as Claudia Roe, the Enron executive muscled out of the business as she tried to actually develop some actual products for the company to trade. But she’s not white amongst the blackness of the illegality.
The staging is stark, as was that of the Power of Yes, but it employs smarter multimedia techniques than that play with projections and an omnipresent stock ticker keeping us abreast of Enron’s stock price.
As I mentioned, there are some fantasy elements – musical interludes if you will – that work really well to paint a picture of the vibrant atmosphere in the company as its share price leapt skywards. And a sequence involving light-sabres to depict the deregulation of the Californian electricity market is stunning. I can see why the play won so many Best Director awards.
Overall – a good night out, and worth catching while it’s still on.
PS The performance I saw was supposed to be followed by a Q&A. I was going to stay for it, but the play lasts rougly 2 hours and 45 minutes, so by 10.15pm I felt less inclined to get into a discussion surrounding the circumstances of how Enron happened. And I wasn’t alone, with barely anyone in the audience apparently staying around. In retrospect, those sorts of discussions possibly work better prior to the play. Nobody went into Enron not knowing the general outcome.
PPS Somebody wants to let the producers of the play’s website that The Guardian’s logo hasn’t been like that for some time. At least not since the time this play takes place.

Magnificant Maps


Have I mentioned before how much I love maps?
Oh yes, I have.
The latest exhibition at the British Library is Magnificent Maps which opened on Friday. It shows off an enormous range of maps, from a Roman era floorplan engraved on a rock through a reproduction of the Mappa Mundi (recently commissioned by the Folio Society – and a snip at just £745), through maps for political purposes and ending with some very contemporary examples, some of which were partially featured in one of two accompanying BBC Four series recently (Hurry, hurry: The last two parts of The Beauty of Maps are still on iPlayer for a few days, as are all three episodes of Maps: Power, Plunder and Possession).
In some respects, an exhibition such as this can be somewhat overwhelming. The sheer level of detail in many of these maps, be they Venice or London, can mean that you need to contemplate and examine the maps in immense detail.
Some of the larger maps have some clever interactive table-top versions of them. Projected onto a white surface, you can “magnify” areas of the maps by holding a “magnifying glass” over the map’s surface.
One particular favourite must surely be The Island which was only created in 2008 by Stephen Walter. It imagines London as an “island” and is enormously detailed across every single London borough. Click through to launch a fullscreen version and be prepared to spend ages looking at the map – at least if you’ve lived or worked in London anyway.
Elsewhere, it was interesting to see how maps have been used for political purposes over the ages. The octopus theme has been especially well used to express empire-expansion.
The exhibition is supported by a sumptuously illustrated book which I immediately bought. And you can get various postcards and prints of details from the maps.
I think that I may need to pay another visit in a few weeks just to take in some of the maps I couldn’t properly take in.
Anyway, if you’re at all interested in maps, and live somewhere vaguely close to London, I can’t recommend this exhibition highly enough.

Station Cross Promotion

Richard Bacon hosted an Election Special on 6 Music on Friday discussing how each party might approach the music industry.
John Wittingdale was on the programme for the Conservatives, and while I wouldn’t suggest that what he said on the programme would affect my vote, I did enjoy this bit: