Sunday, May 27, 2012

Eurovision 2012 - Baku

Well, 2012 was a vintage Eurovision I thought, and I applaud Sweden’s worthy win with Loreen’s Euphoria (although I was sneakily hoping those Russian grannies would take the prize). I watched most of it but my heavy social schedule on Saturday took it’s toll and I fell asleep during the scoring and awoke to find it was all over.

Memorable moments have to include Albania’s bonkers screeching lady (which nevertheless scored quite well - scary, Europe!):

As well as the above mentioned Russian grannies:

I think the Russian entry marks the moment when an Eastern European country knowingly sends an ironic entry into the competition.

France’s Anggun and her gymnast backing troupe were superb:

And Italy’s Amy Winehouse tribute was also a favourite:

Gaitana from the Ukraine stole the show with a storming performance: But what to say about the UK’s Englebert Humperdink? I am sorry, as his song was quite pleasant and certainly deserved to rank higher than second last (becoming something of a fixture for the UK). I thought his performance on the night however was below his best. A grand old artist needlessly humiliated by the BBC.

We in the UK must try to get over our tendency to be too cool for school about Eurovision, take the piss mercilessly, and then be furious the others don’t vote for us.

Well done Loreen! Next year in Sweden.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Boris's brush with art criticism

OrbitYesterday Boris Johnson wrote such an extraordinarily provoking column in The Telegraph and on his blog that I broke a lifetime’s resolve and left a comment (on the blog). A couple of hours later my comment disappeared, so I thought I may as well vent my reactions more fully on my own blog.
In his column Boris reacted to two small criticisms made of the AcelorMittal Orbit by the BBC’s arts correspondent Will Gompertz: he felt it was too small and was a pity entry wasn’t free (Anish Kapoor, the Orbit’s sculptor, is on record as being against the entry fee too). Boris’s bile knew no limits and from these minor and entirely reasonable personal comments Boris concluded that the BBC as an organization was biased towards the Labour Party and that the next BBC chief must be a Tory.
I’m very disappointed in this; I hope his column was flung off two minutes to deadline (apparently a common practice) and doesn’t represent Boris’s considered opinion. I imagine he would have lost a few votes if this had come out before the election.
The BBC was set up during the last major financial crisis in the 1930s by a political establishment concerned to neutralise extremist views in the UK media. They succeeded brilliantly. However it seems the modern Tory’s attitude to public service broadcasting is far closer to that of Goebbels and Stalin than it is to their own Tory forebears. Today’s Tories are clearly absolutely determined to create a Fox News in the UK – with all the consequent divisive coarsening of public debate that will result. It’s worth noting the BBC had its worst clash ever with the (Labour) Blair Government over Iraq – and despite the Hutton enquiry the public still believed the BBC’s version over Tony Blair’s. To this day the BBC remains the most trusted news source for the British public - vastly more trusted than, say, The Telegraph itself.
Boris complains the BBC is suspiciously interested in the Leveson enquiry despite the public not being that interested.
Whether or not the public is interested in the Leveson enquiry, the apparent wholescale corruption of our political classes, the police, and the intimidation of celebrities and members of the public alike are clearly issues which go to the heart of our democracy, as Boris as a senior politician should realise.
Boris also claims that public funding somehow corrupts the BBC. As Boris’s Mayoral salary is also publicly funded, and he enjoys a generous £250,000 per year from The Telegraph for his journalism, will he abstain from claiming his Mayoral salary? - Mrs Thatcher of course didn’t claim her salary as PM back in the 80s.
About the Orbit I tend to agree with him that it’s better and more interesting close up – at least as far as I could see from the BBC television pictures. However, you can’t have it both ways – it’s either a monument to the public munificence, advanced aesthetic taste and civic pride of Mr Mittal and Boris Johnson or it’s a commercial fee-paying attraction. As Boris knows, the famous bread and circuses of ancient Rome were free to Roman citizens - that was the entire point. The London Eye was always meant to be a fairground ride – the Orbit is supposed to be public sculpture. And the £15 entry fee is on top of the £10 fee you have to pay to get into the Olympic grounds – so despite what Boris claims it does work out as considerably more expensive than the Eye to go up a not very tall stationery tower. Boris should have insisted on slides!
Boris’s tiresome diatribe has been dissected brilliantly by Dave Hill in The Guardian, who particularly points out Boris’s dodgy denial of any links to Rupert Murdoch’s News International during his election campaign. Boris’s full-throated diatribe against the BBC will, of course, endear him to the Murdochs père et fils, whose long-term objective is to eliminate their rival media organization in order to maximize their own personal profit and influence.