Miriam Lord: How Mike Pence shat on the new carpet in Ireland’s spare room

Stoical smiles as US vice-president delivers strong endorsement of Johnson and Brexit

The hospitable hosts buttered up their important guest and made a big fuss of his family and hoped he would say nice things about them to the important people he would meet after his visit to Ireland.

And he told them they were wonderful and that he loved them. He even said a special prayer for everyone and then, just before he left, he turned around and kicked them where it hurts.

It came as a shock.

Like pulling out all the stops for a much-anticipated visitor to your home and thinking it has been a great success until somebody discovers he shat on the new carpet in the spare room, the one you bought specially for him.

US vice-president Mike Pence met President Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on Tuesday during an official visit. His Irish hosts, up to their oxters for the last three years in Brexit worry, hoped to impress upon him Ireland’s fears about the consequences of a no-deal Brexit for the country.

He could, maybe, stick in a supportive word for us in his talks with Boris Johnson in London – his next port of call.

Pence, after all, is Irish American and wastes no opportunity to go misty-eyed about his love for the “Old Country” as he lards on his Mother Machree schtick on both sides of the Atlantic. He couldn’t praise Ireland enough on Tuesday – “deeply humbled” and “honoured” to be going to the hometown of his mother’s grandmother and so on.

Strong endorsement

But, after he said all these nice things about the “Emerald Isle” and how much his boss Donald Trump – he sent his best wishes, by the way – appreciates us and all we do to help American security in Shannon, he delivered a very strong endorsement of Boris Johnson and Brexit.

No room left for doubt. As Pence read from the autocue and Irish eyes definitely stopped smiling, it was clear he was channeling His Master’s Voice. Trump is a fan of Brexit and of Boris. Continue reading

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Terry Gilliam says he disagrees with John Cleese’s worldview

Director says Brexit makes him ‘terminally depressed’ while fellow Python Cleese backs it

Terry Gilliam has said he disagrees with the way his friend and fellow Monty Python member John Cleese sees the world, following comments from the latter endorsing Brexit and criticising the makeup of London.

The Python animator and Hollywood director despairs of Donald Trump and Brexit, both of which make him “terminally depressed”. Cleese has previously faced a backlash for voicing support for the UK leaving the EU, and for saying London was no longer an English city.

Gilliam told Radio Times that the only public figure he could trust in the current political climate was Sir David Attenborough. He also criticised the political correctness of contemporary comedy, but stopped short of supporting his friend’s view of the world.

He said: “I’m the instinctive, monosyllabic American and he’s the tall, very suave one. I love John enormously but I just disagree with the way he perceives the world.” Continue reading

How Folk Songs Should Be Sung

Folk singer Martin Carthy examines the rise and fall of Ewan MacColl’s Critics Group.

Immediately after the success of the BBC Radio Ballads, Ewan MacColl set about the Herculean task of trying to drag British folk music into mainstream culture. Frustrated by the dreary amateurishness of folk song performance, he decided to establish his own centre of excellence to professionalise the art. He called it “The Critics Group”. MacColl tutored select artists “to sing folk songs the way they should be sung” and to think about the origins of what they were singing. He introduced Stanislavski technique and Laban theory into folk performance and explored style, content and delivery. BBC producer Charles Parker recorded these sessions to aid group analysis. 40 years on, the tapes have come to light. For the first time, a clear sound picture can be constructed of this influential group in action. Former group members Peggy Seeger, Sandra Kerr, Frankie Armstrong, Richard Snell, Brian Pearson and Phil Colclough recount six frantic years of rehearsing, performing and criticising each other. They recall the powerful hold that Ewan MacColl exerted which was eventually to lead to the collapse of the group in acrimony and blame. Presenter Martin Carthy MBE, now an elder statesman of the British folk music scene, shared many of McColl’s ambitions but didn’t join the group himself. He listens to the recordings and assesses the legacy of MacColl’s controversial experiment. Producers: Genevieve Tudor and Chris Eldon Lee A Culture Wise Production for BBC Radio 4

Listen at: How Folk Songs Should Be Sung – BBC Sounds

Berlin Review: ‘Bait’ is a Punky, Poignant, and Profound Allegory About Fishing

For his debut feature, writer-director-cinematographer Mark Jenkin takes a parable about a contemporary fishing community under threat from wealthy outsiders and presents it in a style reminiscent of documentaries of the early 20th century, namely Robert J. Flaherty’s 1934 film Man of Aran. The result is titled Bait, a punky, pastoral little movie that draws from the mysticism and iconography of documentaries like Flaherty’s but with a narrative and ironic wit that is inescapably of the here and now. Put it this way: the director may have had those films in mind when he chose to shoot Bait on 16mm and have it processed by hand–for purposes of wear and tear–but perhaps less so when he wrote the scene in which a man on a stag party boards a boat dressed in a large penis costume. Continue reading

Album Review: Martin Simpson “Rooted”

Martin Simpson is our Artist of the Month, read our album review of ‘Rooted’ and watch his new video for “Trouble Brought Me Here”.

You really do get your money and time’s worth from a Martin Simpson album; there is so much variety in instruments used, musical cultures, tunes and musicians on Rooted, that it constantly surprises across thirteen tracks and fifty minutes. That said, it is clear that Martin and producer Andy Bell understand one another very well, because this is a very considerately arranged and recorded set that never feels crowded or over-loaded. Much like 2017’s Trails and Tribulations, which followed on with a fuller sound from the stripped back solo Vagrant Stanzas from 2013, Rooted takes care not to over-stuff and what we get instead are songs that celebrate music, instruments and players. In fact, Rooted feels very much like a continuation of Trail‘s journey, with Nancy Kerr prominent on the fiddle and John Smith and Andy Cutting also present, among others, but perhaps with a slightly lighter approach in parts, even when hitting on big themes.

Take ‘Born Human’, for example, written by Alaska based fisherman and conservationist David L Grimes partly in response to the Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster. Continue reading