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WW1 shells Imperial War Museum

“An astonishing history lesson.” Marina Vaizey is overwhelmed by the Imperial War Museum’s new  galleries devoted to WW1.

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Cuba comes to Covent Garden

There was a time, now sadly long gone,  when Irakere’s visits to Ronnie Scott’s provided my annual dose of quality Cuban music. Those were the days when everything from a Dave Brubeck standard to a vintage danzón would be given the virtuoso big band treatment. We still have Buena Vista Social Club for a little while longer, of course – the band’s farewell tour is coming up in the autumn – and I enjoyed pianist Roberto Fonseca’s appearance at Jazz à Vienne earlier this month. But as far as prestige London performances are concerned, Cubanía, Carlos Acosta’s dance extravaganza at the Royal Opera House, will be the nearest thing to a trip to Havana this summer. Contemporary dance is pretty much a closed book to me, so I have to admit that most of the first half of the evening passed me by. Although the discreet arrangement on “Derrumbe” by that versatile guitarist Ahmed Dickinson provided  local colour,  the other pieces left me with the sense I was eavesdropping on a tortuous private conversation in a foreign language. (The curse of modernism?) After the interval the arrival of a band including violinist Omar Puente and singer Gerardo de Armas raised the temperature. The populist choreography on “Tocororo Suite”, provided by Acosta himself, reminded me of the ballet sequence in “Singin’ in the Rain”: wide-eyed country boy finds himself adrift in new surroundings but finds salvation with the the help of a good woman. A hokey storyline, all in all, but the energy and athleticism of the dancers was quite stunning. What a pity, I thought, as I made my way through the stalls at the end, that there seemed to be so few Cubans or people of colour in the audience. I scanned each tier in turn. No joy. And it was the same in the foyer. But then Covent Garden has always been another country.

The Independent’s review is here.

Posted in Music, Reviews | Tagged , , , , ,


Walther Funk, who was both Minister of Economics and president of the Reichsbank, told stories about the outlandish pranks that his vice-president, Brinkmann, had gone on performing for months, until it was finally realized that he was mentally ill. In telling such stories Funk not only wanted to amuse Hitler but to inform him in this casual way of events which would sooner or later reach his ears. Brinkmann, it seemed, had invited the cleaning women and messenger boys of the Reichsbank to a grand dinner in the ballroom of the Hotel Bristol, one of the best hotels in Berlin, where he played the violin for them. This sort of thing rather fitted in with the regime’s propaganda for all Germans forming one “folk” community. But as everyone at table laughed, Funk continued: “Recently he stood in front of the Ministry of Economics on Unter den Linden, took a large package of newly printed banknotes from his briefcase – as you know the notes bear my signature – and gave them out to passers-by, saying: ‘Who wants some of the new Funks?’” … Hitler’s eyes filled with tears of laughter. When he had recovered, he launched into a monologue on how hard it sometimes is to recognize a madman.

Albert Speer, “Inside the Third Reich”.

Posted in History, Notebook, Uncategorized, World War 2 | Tagged , ,

Marty Feldman’s finest moment(s)


He would have been 80 years old today. And it’s 40 years since the film was released. I can’t believe it.  Until a few minutes ago, in fact, I’d completely forgotten he was also in the original Four Yorkshiremen sketch, BP (Before Python). Thank God for YouTube.

Posted in Comedy, Film | Tagged , ,

Bad night out

“He spent half of the show wearing what looked like a chain-mail gimp mask. This novel piece of theatre quickly grew tiring.” A Kanye West concert that sounds so grim I almost wish I’d been there.

Posted in Music | Tagged

Penalty shoot-out

Brazil soccer fans react as they watch the penalty shoot out of their team's victory against Chile during a 2014 World Cup round of 16 game, at Guarulhos International Airport in Sao Paulo

Watching the Brazil-Chile game at Guarulhos International Airport, São Paulo. By Eddie Keogh.

Posted in Brazil, Photography, Sport | Tagged ,


He looked at the calendar, picked out a date for me to start recording, pointed to it and circled it, told me what time to come in and to think about  what I wanted to play. Then he called in Billy James, the head of publicity at the label, told Billy to write some promo stuff on me, personal stuff for a press release…. I strolled into his office, sat down opposite his desk, and he tried to get me to cough up some facts, like I was supposed to give them to him straight and square… He asked about my family, where they were. I told him I had no idea, that they were long gone.

“What was your home life like?”

I told him I’d been kicked out.

“What did your father do?”


“And your mother, what about her?”


“What kind of music do you play?”

“Folk music.”

“What kind of music is folk music?”

Bob Dylan, “Chronicles, Vol 1″.

Posted in Music, Notebook


The funk master from Salvador,  Carlinhos Brown, sings “Aganju”. From my Brazil playlist.

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“The nearest thing to prostitutes you can find in public life.”

As journalism lurches from one morale-sapping crisis to another, the PR industry thrives. Nick Cohen is mad as hell and can’t take it any more:

As with Nye Bevan and Conservatives so with me and PR departments: “No amount of cajolery, and no attempts at ethical or social seduction, can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred for press officers. So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin.” Or as the BBC’s economics editor Robert Peston put it in his recent Charles Wheeler lecture, “I have never been in any doubt that PRs are the enemy.”

[...] You might say that biased reporters look more like sex workers, as they try to satisfy their readers’ every whim. But there is a small difference. The biased journalist occasionally tells the truth. He might produce propaganda, but his bias or that of his editor will cause him to investigate stories conventional wisdom does not notice. Right-wing journalists uncover truths about corruption in the European Union. Left-wing journalists discover truths about the crimes of Nato armies. They look at scandals others ignore precisely because they do not think like level-headed and respectable members of the mainstream.

Press officers have no concern with truth. It is not that all of them lie — although many do — rather that truth and falsity are irrelevant to their work. Their sole concern is to defend their employers’ interests. That they can manipulate on behalf of central government, local authority and other public bodies is an under-acknowledged scandal. The party in power that wishes to stop public scrutiny, or the NHS trust whose executives wish to maintain their positions, use taxpayer funds to advance their personal or political interests. If anyone else did the same, we would call them thieves.

Roy Greenslade feels much the same way.

Posted in Journalism, Media, UK politics | Tagged , , ,

Football fever

world cup chicago OLSON single

Supporters in Chicago.  Photo by Scott Olson/Getty.  Go here to see more of his shots from “the most soccer-mad city in America”.

Posted in Photography, Sport | Tagged , ,