The Snow In The Summer or So-So

Knowledge is liberation


If your heart is true and your instincts wild, a wolfblood pack will accept you gladly... #

19 February 2018
Really deep things

So there's this post and comment thread on Metafilter talking about Little Earthquakes, and describes the album as "music for weird high school theater nerds in the process of figuring out their sexuality".

Mmm, hello.

This blog was aware of Little Earthquakes on first release: enjoyed the singles, and added it to the nebulous list of "would like to get at some point, when we've got through more pressing stuff. And perhaps when it's cheaper."

And that's where it stayed for years. Until this blog started dating a weird high-school theatre nerd who very much was in the process of figuring out their sexuality. As regular readers may recall, this relationship ended messily; said theatre nerd insisted on turning the knife into a wound they'd made, and both of us may still carry the scars.

Said theatre nerd might have figured out their sexuality, got married, had kids. This blog hadn't, and likely still hasn't. Tori Amos has persisted throughout, a little bit of the divine, a few of the bonds that connect humanity and keep everyone together.

But it's the connections we treasure, that there are caring and supportive people who are united by meaningful popular culture. My So-Called Life was this blog's muse, Tori Amos for others, all things Titanic for the next cohort beneath, and then Harry Potter exploded. It's the same bonding as sports fans, for we who are not sports fans.

Who's treading these paths today? Lorde is the weird nerd vibe. Lucy Spraggan does the storytelling and emotional connection. The 100 and Stephen Universe attract various forms of outsider. All have rabid fanbases, and we hope to read about them in Metafilter circa 2042.

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24 January 2018
Popular in early 2002

Not Quite as Popular covers the top five singles on the CIN chart. This episode covers the first half of 2002. We move at the same speed as Tom Ewing's Popular project, which explains the eighteen-month gap between installments.

The new year began with a quiet week; the de facto two week Christmas break was now established. Sales were so weak that Hermes House Band hit number 1 in Scotland with Country roads. We can't blame that on drunken Scotsmen streaming all sorts of shite at Hogmanay parties; streaming had been invented, but not over dialup.

(More: With number ones for Aaliyah, George Harrison, Enrique Iglesias, Westlife, Will Young, Gareth Gates, Oasis, The Sugababes, Holly Valance, Ronan Keating, Liberty X, Eminem, and Junkie XL. Plus a superlative lyric from Ant and Dec.)

Nelly's Hot in herre (sic) only made number 4, but it's the most famous song from June. The track drips sex and sensuality from every fibre of its being. "The sauciest record ever," said the NME. Perhaps let down by relying on one musical hook, it's the breakthrough hit for rapper Nelly, and for his producers The Neptunes. More - much more! - from both as the century unfolds.

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6 January 2018
It's Still In the Top Twenty

Top of the Pops Christmas Day 2017

Silver dress for Fearne, and an ill-fitting red dress for Reggie. Hang on, that's not Reggie, it's Clara Amfo! New blood! Our first new TOTP presenter since 2006!

Kick off with the song of the year, ED SHEERAN Shape of you. Ed's on a large stage, decorated with reindeer and Christmas trees, and he's wearing a festive jumper. That'll look strange when they do Ed Sheeran at the BBC in autumn 2019. Live vocals, and some of the most anaemic overhead clapping we've ever seen. This song drags on a bit, doesn't it.

STORMZY does Blinded by your grace part 2 from the circular stage. He's joined by the Fifteen-to-One gospel choir, dressed in black and standing in a semi-circle around the stage. This is yer obligatory religious content, Mr. Stormzy attesting to his faith. Expect to hear this in black churches before Easter, and in the Anglican churches circa 2117.

DUA LIPA gives New rules on the small stage. Lots of dry ice, and a floor-length dress - we can tell straight away that she's not moving far from that spot. Concentrate on the vocals, and let the cameras do the movement, so lots of shots tracking towards (or away from) Ms Lipa. Good to see the BBC have taken on the basic ideas of Every Song Tells a Story.

Some actual talent, RITA ORA performs Your song from a small stage in the middle of the crowd, and she'll use all the stages before finishing. She's in firey red, with a cape to look like an evil supervillain; the dancers are in very civilian clothes, enhancing Ora's special look. We find the song a bit pedestrian, but this was another ooh-some performance.

(More: Ed Sheeran, Dua Lipa, Rita Ora, Clean Bandit, Anne-Marie, and many more.)

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27 December 2017
Correspondents Look Ahead to 2017

Time for the annual review of the BBC's Correspondents Look Ahead. The edition predicting 2017 was broadcast in the World Service, and domestically on Radio 4, between 28 December 2016 and 1 January this year.

Jon Sopell begins by talking about a sex pest. This blog does not give the oxygen of publicity to this sex pest; we would also like to deny him the oxygen of oxygen, but this is not possible.

(More: President le Pen, Li and Rouhani, and a token moment for Africa.)

We're not going to declare a winner this year; the correspondents suffered from tremendous groupthink, and were unable to present differing views.

Correspondents Look Ahead to 2018 airs in the BBC World Service from 28 to 31 December, and on Radio 4 on Friday evening and Saturday lunchtime. We hope to review it next year.

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11 December 2017
"And by 'sovereign state', you mean..?"

A statement from this blog's MP. We've slightly edited it to remove swearing.

So when [a named sex offender] says he recognises Jerusalem as Israel's capital because it's the choice of a sovereign nation, shouldn't he also recognise East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine as the choice of a different sovereign nation? Or don't Palestinian choices count?

Let's unpick this a little.

(More: Explain the status of Jerusalem, define "sovereign state" and "nation".)

Let's run with Mr. Burden's position, that Palestine is an actual "sovereign nation". If this were true, then Palestine would have the ability to do whatever it liked over territory it controls. Palestine could make its own laws, establish its own judiciary, and site its capital wherever it likes on territory it controls.

This changes Mr. Burden's position. He has long campaigned for Palestine to become a sovereign state. Yet here, he takes Palestine's sovereignty for granted, when it is neither de facto nor de jure sovereign. If Palestine is a "sovereign nation", then Mr. Burden's earlier arguments have been consigned to history.

The same argument extends to other "sovereign nations" such as Israel. Israel can make its own laws, establish its own judiciary, and site its capital wherever it likes on territory it controls.

It's almost as if there's a different standard at work here, where Palestine is given advantages that Israel is not, where Palestine is held to a different standard from that applied to Israel. Some might call that "anti-Semitic".

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3 December 2017
The curious case of Damian Green

Further leaks from the police, claiming that they found thousands of smutty thumbnails when they raided Damian Green's office in 2008. Some claimed that merely having legal smut on your work computer is grounds for insta-firing; this blog doesn't agree.

The normal channel for this sort of complaint is through the Cabinet Office. Instead, the police have gone straight to the press.

The standard procedure is to destroy findings when it's clear there will be no prosecution. But, nine years after the initial raid, the evidence is still around.

Even the police accede that the images are legal, no crime has been committed. And yet the police leak the cache to the press. This stinks, and the stench does not come from Damian Green's office.

Back in 2008, there was a mighty protest about the fact of this raid. The police were convinced that Damian Green's office was receiving leaks to damage the police. They arrested Damian Green on charges made up out of whole cloth, and persuaded speaker Michael Martin to authorise the raid as "national security".

Martin was a failure as speaker, hopelessly pro-Labour, and would be the first casualty when the expenses scandal broke a year later. It appears that he's still exacting his revenge, from beyond the political grave.

Let's make a few things clear:

  1. The police were out of order to arrest Damian Green and raid his office. It appears that they were acting outside their constitutional powers.
  2. By retaining information, and leaking it to the police's advantage, it's clear that the police are still outside their constitutional powers.
  3. The leaks are designed to smear Green, and remove him from the deputy prime minister's office. It is not clear what else the plotters expect to achieve.
  4. We don't like the implication that Damian Green had smut on his computer. It is a fact that this smut was and is legal.

We would welcome an independent inquiry. It needs to be into the behaviour of the police, as it appears the police have grossly overstepped the mark.

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31 October 2017
Sounds Like Friday Night

Greg James and Dottie are in The BBC Studios, a BBC Studioworks studio, for Fullwell 73's Sounds Like Friday Night. The crowd cheers everyone on the show - Jessie Ware, Charlie Puth, Scunthorpe. Well, maybe not Scunthorpe.

If I'm lucky is the first track, performed by Jason Derulo. He's on a low stage, in front of the crowd. We reckon about 150 heads in the main pit, a few dozen on balconies around the arena. The crowd cheer all sorts of lighting effects, spotlights changing colour, and moving around the arena, and even when they flash on and off. The warm-up man has told them not to clap along, this isn't a show for grannies.

Greg James appears in a comedy skit with Dave Grohl from The Foo Fighters, in which Grohl records continuity announcements for BBC1. Can we see Dave on Ballroom With the B-List? Not this series. Idea behind this sketch is safe, as derivative as they come. The execution was no better than OK.

Then Greg's in the balcony, talking to Jason Derulo. This starts a bit slow, though livens up when Jason talks about his first gig, Michael Bolton. They talk about Taylor Swift's new video, but commit the cardinal sin of not showing it. Don't tell us, show us!

Back to the one stage, where Greg shouts down to Charlie Puth. An interview with one person on the balcony and one on the floor? Have we tuned into Romeo + Juliet 3.0? Puth eventually performs How long. Something like seven minutes since the last song, a huge gap on a "music" show.

Puth's performance is entertaining, though his song is a little too close to Derulo's - another mid-tempo plodder. If the crowd cheered the dancing before, they'll cheer the slight vocal extensions here.

Dotty is joined on stage by Jessie Ware, talking about Sam Smith. Then a film of the regulars playing basketball with Jason Derulo while asking him questions. Don't think it'll catch on as the new Mastermind. The session is interrupted by a Very Tall Man, and then by a mariachi band. Again, what are we watching? Derulo's fans will have been irritated by the interruptions, everyone else will have zoned out before the end.

Performing next: Jessie Ware with Alone, a piece of blue-eyed soul. Confession: this blog has a problem with Jessie Ware, we have a naggling fear that she's been hyped well beyond her abilities. Sure, she's got great pipes, and a fine vocal technique, but we don't get any emotion out of her work.

We can't see Taylor Swift, but we can see a new clip from BBC comedy Korrupt FM, and an interview with some of the characters. Nice to see the show's priorities. Jason Derulo begins and ends this show, with an acoustic version of Want to want me, just Jason and his guitarist on a small stage. Jessie, Charlie, and the hosts join for the final goodbyes.

Initial thoughts? It's a work in progress. There's almost a narrative through the show, there's almost some good ideas with the inserts. We wanted to hear a music news bulletin, or something outside of this studio. They desperately need to mix up the bookings - all three acts were in a narrow area, rhythmic pop with a dash of soul.

We're reminded of very early CD:UK, when they had decent ideas but hadn't cracked the execution. It took CD:UK about four months to find its voice; Sounds Like Friday Night needs to improve by the end of the run.

That said... the problem might be that BBC1 runs to a slower pace. Pointless is a beat slower than The Chase. Tipping Point is a bit faster than The Boss. Can't Touch This was much slower than Cannonball!, and The X Factor moves faster than Strictly Come Dancing. Would it be such a surprise that Sounds Like Friday Night is just that bit slower?

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7 October 2017
Our Town

Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, 4 October

Our Town is a difficult play to do badly - if everyone knows their lines, it'll work. But it's a very difficult play to do well, and each of the audience will have their own idea of what "well" is.

This was a stylised performance. Audience and actors sit round tables, and later around the edge of the stage. They're on plastic chairs, as found in school halls and waiting rooms everywhere.

The cast use their natural accents, we have a token Yank as the Stage Manager, lots of Manchester-area, a Scouse, some RP. Standout actors: Youssef Kerkour is the Stage Manager, a role that has to command the stage and never overshadow it. Get this right and you're on the road to greatness. Patrick Elue and Norah Lopez Holden are the heroes of the play, the romance of George and Emily.

The Exchange is a theatre in the round, and it allows for lots of pacing around the stage. Lots of pacing around the stage. Unusually, the Exchange theatre stands in a greater hall, and can be circumnavigated from the outside. At one point, we see George running outside the hall, his shadow appearing on the canvas walls.

(More: The company got a lot right in this play, we concentrate on design flaws that stopped it from being even better)

The production misses the Scylla of schmaltz, but we found it sailed into the Charybdis of meh. "Take me back! Take me back!" emotes Emily, but it's not the emotional catharsis we're here for. There are enough distractions to jolt us out of our reverie, enough to concentrate on the mechanics and not the plot.

This blog doesn't make a habit of awarding "marks out of ten", or "stars". People concentrate on the score, not the content. That said, we don't quite see a path to four-stars out of five, unless there's a very generous piece of rounding from around three-and-a-half.

Overall, this take on Our Town hit the big notes. It got the whole faith in humanity, it emphasised the importance of small detail. Problems with design and staging meant it didn't pack the emotional whoomph we came for.

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