Switching to the iPlayer app on the telly I was delighted to find Jonathan Meades’ face glooming out at me, and even more astonished to find it at the top of the recommended list. It’s been a while, it seems, and it’s good to have him back.
The new series is about France and plays a fragmented game, appearing to be an assortment of observations picked at random from his “arbitrary encyclopedia” but actually weaving a sly narrative about national identity. It’s both loving – Meades reflects on his personal lifelong relationship with France as his “second country” – and bitingly critical, admiring and pitying France in equal measures.
It is, in short, a delight. And there are two more to come.
Here’s a nice review in The Independent which, I confess, informed this post a fair bit.
Tonight I watched two excellent science documentaries on the BBC. This demands noting as the standard of factual television documentaries has declined immeasurably over the last couple of decades.
The first was The Secret Life of Chaos which for the first time since I came across the concept in the early 1990s, explained to me in clear and comprehendible terms, what Chaos Theory actually is and what it means. I realised that I know it was important and amazing and that a butterfly can cause a storm but I’d never really appreciated it fully. I now have a better handle on it.
The second was The Big Bang Machine a Brian Cox piece about the LHC which, again for the first time, properly explained to me why the LHC exists and what it’s looking for.
In both of these cases I could probably have found it out for myself by reading books, but for whatever reasons I never did. These programs filled that gap. I frequently deride broadcast television for infantalizing our culture so it’s only right I give credit where it’s due.
That said, these two come under the BBC4 budget which is threatened with reduction, so maybe they’re aberrations, not representations of the system at work.
Adam Curtis posts a great little film made by the BBC in 1973, following a UK chapter of the Hells Angels motorcycle club.
They’re obviously not very nice people (especially as they tend to go on about Nazis). And the film has a disapproving commentary that talks about their “psychotic tendencies” and their “empty daily existence”. But as you watch the film you begin to realise that the director (or possibly the editor) was making a completely different film. It uses the Hells Angels as a comic and exaggerated parody of the emptiness of the daily life for everyone in Britain.
I’m tempted to draw parallels with the rioting youth of last week, although that might be too simplistic. The drudgery and no-future of non-working class men and their romanticism of Californian outlaw biker lifestyles is potent though.
via Mindless Ones