Sunday, August 07, 2022

Watch Michael Sandel on the tyranny of merit

From the YouTube blurb:

What accounts for our polarized public life, and how can we begin to heal it? Political philosopher Michael Sandel offers a surprising answer: those who have flourished need to look in the mirror. 

He explores how "meritocratic hubris" leads many to believe their success is their own doing and to look down on those who haven't made it, provoking resentment and inflaming the divide between "winners" and "losers" in the new economy. 

Hear why we need to reconsider the meaning of success and recognize the role of luck in order to create a less rancorous, more generous civic life.

And here is perhaps the key paragraph of the talk (which I've split in two):

Encouraging people to go to college is a good thing. Broadening access for those who can't afford it is even better. But this is not a solution to inequality. 

We should focus less on arming people for meritocratic combat, and focus more on making life better for people who lack a diploma but who make essential contributions to our society.

Liz Truss's leadership campaign is being run from a Westminster house owned by a former private secretary to Enoch Powell

A couple of week's ago the Guardian took us Inside Team Truss.

The one interesting thing I learnt from this article - and thanks to the reader who pointed it out to me - is that Truss's campaign is being run from a Westminster townhouse owned by the Conservative peer Greville Howard, who was private secretary to Enoch Powell between 1968 and 1970.

Beyond that. it's largely gush. 

We're told of one team member:
"She’s as dry as a pancake but got a great policy head," said one Tory source.
And before we've finished wondering why this Tory source thinks a pancake is proverbially dry, we've been told that one of the two people directing "strategic communications" is a former media adviser to Prince Andrew.

But no political journalist is going to slag off the backroom staff of a possible future prime minister. Because these may well turn out to be, for years to come, the very people this journalist needs to take her calls.

Two weeks on, we know that Truss's campaign has been run in a harebrained manner unrivalled in modern times - unless it is by the campaign being fought by her rival Rishi Sunak.

The Mark Five: Baby What's Wrong

The blurb for this on YouTube says:

The old Jimmy Reed blues number vamped up by Scotland's Mark Five. At a time when the big London-based record companies ignored talent over the border, the lads protest-marched from Edinburgh to London which resulted in a Fontana signing. This one 45 sold so poorly they called it a day. Singer Manny Charlton eventually joined Scots rockers Nazareth.

That's one version of the story. I prefer the one I got from the Scotsman:

January 1963 ...

The Mark Five, featuring Manny Charlton who later plays in Nazareth, walk from Edinburgh to London, hitching a ride whenever photographers were not present. The walk is a publicity stunt to protest about the lack of record companies coming to Scotland to see Scottish bands, and a ploy to demand a record deal.

They are met in Market Harborough by a record company executive and offered a contract. The Mark Five release a version of the Isley Brothers' Tango but are soon dropped by the label.

It appears that Tango was the A-side and this was on the reverse. Anyway, it appears today as a tribute to Manny Charlton, who died last month. He enjoyed success with Nazareth in the 1970s.

Saturday, August 06, 2022

If you think I'm obsessed with Malcolm Saville...

I made an extraordinary discovery on YouTube the other evening. 

Hinckley's Red River Theatre Group has posted two plays that each show us the current-day lives of the characters from one of Malcolm Saville's lesser-known and gentler series of children's books.

Return to Nettleford catches up with Elizabeth the vicar's daughter, Sally and Paul at the Wise Owl bookshop and the rest of the gang.

But things are not going well in Nettleford. No one goes to church any more and the Wise Owl is on its last legs.

This reminds me of Flip Chart Rick's sobering account of what will have happened to Camberwick Green, Trumpton and Chigley since their television heyday.

I've not finished it yet, but I hope there will be a happy ending. Malcolm Saville would certainly have given us one.

I'm also halfway through Susan and Bill Refreshed.

The Susan and Bill books were set in a new town, but the attempt to be up to date was rather undercut by the illustrations. They were drawn by E.H. Shepherd, Saville's neighbour and walking partner in Guildford, so recall children's classics rather than anything modern.

Again, I am halfway through this and hopeful that things will turn out well.

I've no idea who wrote these plays, but they know their Malcolm Saville. When two characters in Return to Nettleford discuss possible honeymoon destinations, they reel off the locations of the Lone Pine books.

Backstreet fantasy: The Clare Street Drill Hall, Northampton

I should have gone to Braunston yesterday, which is a Northamptonshire canal village that, with some justification, calls itself the "Heart of the Waterways". But the vital bus was cancelled - blame Brexit or Covid - so I spent the day wandering the back streets of Northampton instead.

At one point a slightly Toy Town turret appeared in the distance. Eventually, it turned out to be the Clare Street Drill Hall, though the building looks far grander than that name makes it sound.

Wikipedia tells us the it was designed "in the Fortress Gothic Revival Style" and opened in 1859 as the headquarters of the 1st Northamptonshire Rifle Volunteer Corps.

That entry goes on to detail its varied and diminishing uses since. It's a reminder of both Northampton's importance as a centre and the decline in numbers of the British Army.

Anyway, this sort of backstreet fantasy is just what I enjoy coming across.

Later. It used to be even more fantastic.

Farewell to Judith Durham

Judith Durham, the lead singer of The Seekers, has died in Melbourne at the age of 79.

The Seekers, were an Australian group who played pop tinged with folk, and enjoyed enormous success in Britain in the 1960s.

They won the New Musical Express poll for the best new group of 1964, were heavily played by Radio Caroline and had two UK no. 1 hits and three other top 3 singles before they returned to Australia in 1968. They were also the first Australian group to have major his in the US.

One of their members, Bruce Woodley, co-wrote songs with Paul Simon, who was around on the UK folk scene at the time.

But through it all it was Judith Durham's voice that made them distinctive. This performance is taken from their farewell (to Britain) concert, which I remember watching on television in July 1968.

Friday, August 05, 2022

Roman Leicester wasn't built in a day 1

What with one thing and another, it's been two years since I posted something from this series. So let's carry on the with the first part of its treatment of Roman Leicester.

The blurb from Jim Butler's Hidden Histories channel on YouTube says:

Leicester's transformation from Iron Age settlement to Roman Civitas Capital didn't happen overnight. This film charts the evolution of the Roman Town from its earliest days to the middle of the occupation, using the amazing archaeology discovered to highlight key events and people.

Thursday, August 04, 2022

Inside the mind of a former conspiracist

From the blurb for this podcast in the Conspiracy Games & Countergames series:

For 15 years Brent Lee not only believed in conspiracy theories but helped produce and popularize them. Today, he warns others about both the danger and the appeal of conspiratorial world-building.

We have been taught to imagine that people fall into the proverbial "rabbit hole" because of isolation, idiocy and paranoia. But in this interview, Brent explains how he and many others came to it from through critical thinking, scepticism towards the operations of social power and empathy with those who were suffering.

We explore with him why he stayed in the conspiracy world thanks, in part, to the sense of righteous community it provided. And we cover how the right-wing weaponization of conspiracy theories in the mid-2010s triggered Brent’s exit from the community. Today, motivated by contrition for what he helped create and compassion for those who, like him, are taken in, he dedicates his time to helping those inside and outside conspiracy worlds understand and challenge them.

This is a valuable podcast because it brings out that people can be led to belief in conspiracy theories through intellectual curiosity.

The modern left is too prone to believe that anyone who disagrees with it must be stupid.

Wednesday, August 03, 2022

The Joy of Six 1066

"The Conservatives of today are possessed of a small idea: that they should be able to do whatever they want, whenever they want (to whoever they want), and that the rest of us should not just accept this but facilitate and celebrate them." Alan Finlayson watches the Conservative leadership election.

Andrew Screen says Edge of Darkness owes a tremendous amount to Bob Peck: "On his death from cancer in April 1999, at the age of only fifty three, Edge of Darkness was not only one of the most ambitious British television productions, but also the most critically acclaimed and successful ratings grabbers the BBC ever produced."

"This isn’t a problem of a place lost in the midst of time either — confusion set in barely a day after the event. The report of the defeat near the village of Dadlington that first reached Yorkist loyalists in the North referred to the king’s death at the “Battle of Redemore”. Nowadays, nobody even knows where Redemore was." Fergus Butler-Gallie visits Bosworth Field.

About SE11 travels back to 1971, when The Who and Rod Stewart rocked The Oval.

The Old Oak Estate in Hammersmith was once described as the London County Council’s "finest contribution to the revival of English domestic architecture". Municipal Dreams takes us there.

A London Inheritance finds what used to be the Saville Theatre, where I once sang with Danny La Rue.

Tuesday, August 02, 2022

Follow the Willow Brook beneath the Midland main line in Leicester

We left the Willow Brook as it disappeared towards the Midland main line after the Cobden Street bridge.

You have to be intrepid and in a group to follow it under the railway, so thanks to the Walk About Wazzock and the rest of the crew.

Because the culvert they take us through is extraordinary. It's much larger than I expected and perhaps and indication that the Willow Brook could be fearsome before it was tamed by flood prevention work.

As the commentary keeps saying, it looks like a railway tunnel. The Great Northern Railway line to Leicester Belgrave Road did cross under the Midland near here, but I have photographed the spot and it is nothing like so impressive as this conduit. Still, I'll post those photos one day.

These explorers start where I left off, at the Cobden Street end of the conduit. The amount of greenery they find there proves that the last photo in my pervious post does not show the conduit's portal.

There are more photos of the culvert, including one of a shaft coming down from above complete with rungs for hands and feet, on the Derelict Places site.

So it's over to me again now and one day soon I shall pick up the Willow Brook as near to the eastern portal of the conduit as I can and see where it takes me.

The Spectator tries to have fun with Liz Truss's Lib Dem past again, but she made more sense in those days

Liz Truss once suggested that "the age of criminal responsibility should come to us with the right to vote" in an article titled "So why can't kids have the vote?"

tweets James Heale, the editor of the Spectator's diary column.

He leads us to another gentile attempt to embarrass Truss over her Liberal Democat past. This time the item is mainly about an article she wrote for Free Radical - then the organ of the party's youth wing.

Maybe it will outrage Spectator readers and Conservative members, but this article (reposted here to annoy the Man) seems to me to make a perfectly arguable case.

Certainly, our current age of criminal responsibility (10) and voting age (18), both of which concern a young person's ability to navigate the adult world, are much too far apart.

Where you set the voting age is not just a reflection of what young people are like, but also of what you think they should be like. And I believe that, for the health of our democracy, young people should be interested in politics by the time they are 16 and that giving them the vote at that age will encourage this.

Meanwhile, we need to look at our age of criminal responsibility, which is how by international standards.

Remember, too, that if a child of 10 or more is charged with a serious crime then they will be tried before a jury in an adult court.

And, yes, at this point I am going to recommend again the BBC  Responsible Child, which looks at this issue. It won an International Emmy, as did its young lead Billy Barratt.

Believing a 10-year-old can understand such proceedings and meaningfully instruct counsel seems to me rather sillier than suggesting they should be given the vote.

Liz Truss's idea of a consistent age of majority at 16 was a creditable attempt to sort out the mess we have made of things and one to which we Lib Dems might return.

Paul Rodgers and Bruce Thomas were in the same band

Is it just because I'm older now that I think popular culture doesn't evolve as quickly as it used to?

I don't think it is entirely. Compare 1961 and 1971 and you might as well be comparing two different planets. Compare 2012 and 2022 and the differences are much more subtle, even if I'm not the best person to spot them.

The reason for this preamble is that I have found another conjunction of musicians from the Sixties and Seventies who feel like they come from different eras. Let's give it my Trivial Fact of the Day Award.

In the past I have blogged about Billy Fury singing David Bowie and about Helen Shapiro and Marc Bolan and Richard Thompson and Hugh Cornwell being in bands together at school.

So here goes with the new example. Paul Rodgers came to fame at the turn of the Seventies as the lead singer of Free. His first band, formed in his home town of Middlesbrough, was The Roadrunners, which also included Bruce Thomas, later the bass player in Elvis Costello's band The Attractions.

Which gives me an excuse to post this immaculate performance again.

Monday, August 01, 2022

Bernard Cribbins and T.H. White

There was an unexpected detail in the fine tribute to Bernard Cribbins that Russell T. Davies wrote:

He knew everyone! He'd talk about the Beatles and David Niven, and how he once sat on the stairs at a party impersonating bird calls with T H White. Then he'd add, "I said to Ashley Banjo last week…"

It's hard to imagine the reclusive White as a fixture at showbiz parties. This encounter must have taken place after the musical Camelot was made from his sequence of novels The Once and Future King and he was taken up by Julie Andrews.