Today on Radio 4…

Today on Radio 4…

Stuart Millson briefly forsakes the Third Programme and tunes in to a day of left-leaning bias on BBC Radio 4

Famous for programmes which have become “national treasures” such as The Archers, Desert Island Discs, Any Questions, Today and PM, BBC Radio 4 is conventionally seen as an influence for civilised, open debate, intellectual curiosity and the sort of listening which readers of broadsheet newspapers would regard as their cherished, familiar choice of network.

The BBC in general has long been criticised for left-leaning bias – by Tory backbenchers in rabble-rousing conference speeches and by media-bias vigilantes, who are often able to compare the number of broadcast hours given to (for example) “Remainers”, Labour spokespeople or the heads of “progressive” charities, as opposed to Vote Leave supporters, Christian fundamentalists or climate-change sceptics. However, despite the BBC’s duty to provide impartial political coverage, and Radio 4’s pride in its own editorial integrity, a day’s listening to the network – despite the quality of its programmes – shows how our national broadcaster now reflects the in-built cultural and political prejudices of its leading personnel; confirming, not necessarily a party-political bias, but a predisposition to a liberal-left view of the world which – in this age of resurgent “Corbynism” – could easily be taken for a broadcasters’ version of political activism. Continue reading

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Wisdom, beyond Consolation

Sigmund & Amalie Freud

Wisdom, beyond Consolation 

Freud: An Intellectual Biography, Joel Whitebook, Cambridge University Press, 2017, reviewed by Leslie Jones

Professor Whitebook believes that Freud’s theories were profoundly shaped by certain emotional experiences, notably by his traumatic early years with his mother Amalie, then later by his insensate hero worship of Dr Wilhelm Fliess. Concerning the former, Amalie was evidently a depressive person lacking warmth. Contrary to the myth that she unreservedly worshipped her “golden Sigi”, her love was contingent on his success. She regularly retreated to the spa town of Roznau. According to the author, after the death of Sigmund’s younger brother Julius, she became “a dead mother”.[i] He attributes Freud’s recurrent mental difficulties to his anxiety and helplessness as an infant.

In 1886, Freud married Martha Bernays after a protracted engagement. In the following year, he met Wilhelm Fliess. The attempts by Freud’s epigones, including his daughter Anna, to suppress key aspects of this pivotal relationship, notably his infatuation for Fliess and his use of cocaine, persisted until 1986, when Jeffrey Masson edited the first complete and unexpurgated version of Freud’s letters to Fliess. Continue reading

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ENDNOTES, 21st September 2017

Edmund Blair Leighton – God Speed

ENDNOTES, 21st September 2017

Edward Gardner conducts Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder for Chandos Records, reviewed by STUART MILLSON

Several works proclaim the creed of the late-romantic period – in particular its transition into the world of early modernism: Mahler’s ‘Symphony of a Thousand’ – and his ‘Resurrection’ symphony; Havergal Brian’s Symphony No. 1, ‘Gothic’; and Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder – the latter appearing in a dazzling, deeply-felt new recording on the Chandos label, conducted in Bergen by Edward Gardner, and supported by soloists of the calibre of Stuart Skelton, tenor, and Sir Thomas Allen.

Berg, Schoenberg and Webern, the Second Viennese School, and those of their predecessors, Wagner and Mahler, are often viewed in terms of a musical progression or evolution: the mysterious, melancholic, descending phrase at the opening of the Prelude to Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde taking symphonic and operatic music beyond mere “storm and stress” to a darker, or to some, more brilliant horizon. In this supercharged musical closure to the late-romantic era, dissonance and chaos began to grind against established harmonies: the vast orchestral scores of the period breaking free from all hitherto normal frameworks. Like a painting exploding out of its own physical boundaries, the music of Schoenberg brought music into an entirely new dimension. Continue reading

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Denial and Disaster

Hue, firefight

Denial and Disaster

Mark Bowden, Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam, Atlantic Monthly Press, 2017, reviewed by WILLIAM HARTLEY

For those of a certain age it is sobering to realise that the men and women who fought in this 26 day battle are now in their sixties and seventies. The Tet offensive of February 1968 and the ensuing battle to retake the city of Hue may once have been seen as another wearisome episode in a war which was to drag on for seven more years. Yet as author Mark Bowden shows, it was far more important than that.  

Tet was the Vietnamese equivalent of the Chinese New Year. In the weeks leading up to the holiday the North Vietnamese had been infiltrating thousands of troops into the south. At Hue these troops aided by local civilians invaded the city, seized key installations and began the revolution. The North Vietnamese leaders had assured their troops that there would be a popular uprising against the American supported regime of President Thieu. Continue reading

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ENDNOTES: September 3rd 2017

View from the Downs, photo by Stuart Millson

ENDNOTES: September 3rd 2017

Music and Landscape – the works of John Ireland, by Stuart Millson

In this season of harvest and late-summer sunshine, what could be a more apt musical accompaniment than the music of John Ireland (1879-1962). Born in Cheshire, Ireland belonged to a group of English composers (whose unofficial figurehead was probably Sir Arnold Bax) which possessed a feeling for remote country places, for stone-circles and ancient earthworks, whether in rural Dorset, the Channel Islands or the South Downs.

Although not as well known as Elgar, Vaughan Williams and Britten (Britten, for a time, was a student of Ireland’s), this unassuming composer was a skilled craftsman, able to produce reflective melody – tinged with an element of sadness – building an often powerful musical atmosphere, revealing a visionary personality attracted to occult forces and supernatural states. He did not write a symphony, and his longest works, though full of concentrated ideas, tended to be short. Continue reading

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Bistro Vadouvan, Putney Wharf

Bistro Vadouvan, Putney Wharf

Em Marshall-Luck enjoys “French and Spice”

Located on the south side of the River Thames, a stone’s throw from the serenely gliding swans, and the busier bustle of Putney Bridge, is Bistro Vadouvan. Ignore the trendy pubs and Carluccios, in the knowledge of a finer meal to be had in this restaurant, whose strapline “French and Spice” describes the cuisine aptly – elegant cuisine with the addition of oriental spices and ingredients (many of them Middle-Eastern).

Bistro Vadouvan is tucked away in a courtyard area with square cobbles and pretty trees and flowers: there is a long frontage with pale-peach-coloured sun awnings which also serve to provide shade (or, depending on the vagaries of the Great British Summer, shelter) for the outside seating at café-style tables and wicker chairs, while huge ale barrels serve as informal standing tables.  Continue reading

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Alt History

Painting, by Zdzisław Beksiński

Alt History

Mark Wegierski considers the science fiction subgenre of “counterfactual history” or uchronia

It is important to note that alternative history pertains to events that are in the past at the time when the narrative is being written. So, for example, the 1920’s projections of Hugo Gernsback about the 1980s cannot be properly termed as alternative history – even though his vision of the world of the 1980’s is much different from what has actually occurred.

One common type of alternative history is the “Hitler Victorious” scenario. A prominent work of this genre is Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle (1962), now a U.S. television series. Clearly, most commentators today condemn Hitler and Nazism. However, there is less agreement about the irredeemable evil of the Old South, although several treatments of “Dixie Victorious” have envisaged the upshot as negative. Continue reading

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Canada, Matrix of Modernity, part 2


Untitled Photomontage, by Zdzisław Beksiński

Canada, Matrix of Modernity, part 2

Mark Wegierski continues his analysis

An essay based on an English-language presentation read at the First Sir Thomas More Colloquium: ‘Diplomacy, Literature, Politics’, at the Akademia Polonijna (Polonia University) in Czestochowa, Poland, held on March 11-12, 2010

The concept of “soft totalitarianism”, as distinct from the “hard totalitarianism”, typified by regimes such as those of Hitler and Stalin, emerged from various dystopian novels and political writings of the Twentieth Century.

In his dystopian novel Brave New World (1932), and a subsequent preface, Brave New World Re-visited (written after World War II), Aldous Huxley posited a future society that would be mostly non-coercive, but at the same time, totalitarian. While George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), portrayed a highly coercive society, in his “Appendix” Orwell noted that the control of vocabulary and language was the key to the maintenance of the system – “Newspeak is Ingsoc, and Ingsoc is Newspeak”. If semantic control could somehow be maintained through non-coercive means, an apparatus of coercion might become unnecessary. In The Managerial Revolution, likewise, James Burnham identified a caste of managers controlling society. Continue reading

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Parsifal, Reloaded

The Attainment: Vision of the Holy Grail, by Edward Burne-Jones

Parsifal, Reloaded

Parsifal, Bayreuth Festival, Germany, 21st August 2017, director Uwe Eric Laufenberg, conducted by Hartmut Haenchen, reviewed by Tony Cooper

Parsifal, Wagner’s farewell to the world, was completed in January 1882 and was first seen in that year. This production by German director, Uwe Eric Laufenberg (Intendant des Hessischen Staatstheaters, Wiesbaden) marks its tenth outing at Bayreuth since its première.

The philosophical ideas of the libretto fuse Christianity and Buddhism but the trappings of Wolfram von Eschenbach’s 13th-century poem – focusing on the Arthurian hero Parzival and his long quest for the Holy Grail – are essentially Christian based. Continue reading

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Contention City

3.10 to Yuma

Contention City

Bill Hartley, in a mythic landscape

In Tombstone, none of the locals knew precisely where Contention City was. They’d all heard of it but even the otherwise helpful ladies at the information office were at a loss. In the sweltering heat of an Arizonan summer we set off to find the place. The general rule in Arizona would seem to be if it still has rooftops then it goes on the map, which is how we ended up at Fairbank marked as a settlement but in fact deserted. Fairbank, it turned out, was an old mining camp which had been preserved; the schoolhouse and some other buildings were there, dating from the late nineteenth century. We found a man cutting the grass who wasn’t much better informed than the people in Tombstone. He pointed us northwards but that was all the directions we received, plus advice to carry more water. Continue reading

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