Sunday links

22nd November 2020

John Wyver writes: another selection of things that have caught my eye and engaged my attention over the past week – with my thanks, as ever, to all those in my Twitter feed and on FaceBook who make such interesting recommendations. As for the above, see ‘The shape of a story… or so I’ve been told’ below.

When ‘creatives’ turn destructive – image-makers and the climate crisis: a major new essay by Bill McKibben for The New Yorker focussing on

the advertising, lobbying, and public-relations firms that help provide the rationalizations and the justifications that slow the pace of change. Although these agencies are less significant monetarily than the banks, they are more so intellectually; if money is the oxygen on which the fire of global warming burns, then P.R. campaigns and snappy catchphrases are the kindling.

At the Pace Gallery [£ but limited free access]: Daniel Soar for LRB on artist Trevor Paglen, survelliance, AI and more, explored in his show Bloom, about which you can find out more at the Pace Gallery website.

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Sunday links

15th November 2020

John Wyver writes: back to standard-issue links this week, and I’m determined not to lead with gloomy analyses of the world, but rather with a clutch of recommendations both for and about The Queen’s Gambit (Netflix, above – a framegrab from ep 5), which is one of the most joyful television series I’ve seen in a long time. Search it out if you’re able, and meanwhile…

The Queen’s Gambit is honestly one of the best new series of 2020, and here are 19 reasons why: Nora Dominick for Buzzfeed.

The Queen’s Gambit is the most satisfying show on television: Rachel Syme is very smart about the series for The New Yorker.

The Queen’s Gambit: the hidden depths of Netflix’s word-of-mouth smash:  Cassie da Costa for Vanity Fair is very good also:

The Queen’s Gambit is so thrilling because it offers a kind of fantasy to Americans engaged in a daily hustle designed to reward the most mediocre offerings with praise and capital. Beth and her friends show us a different kind of endgame: one in which victory is never achieved alone.

Check her out: how Netflix hit The Queen’s Gambit thrills with fashion: Morwenna Ferrier for Guardian is great on the fashion in the series – and now I want to read comparable analyses of the interior design, the cars, the music…

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Sunday links at 100, part 2

4th November 2020

John Wyver writes: on Sunday I posted the first part of a compendious list of 50 links to celebrate a century of Sunday links since we revamped the website; this is the second part with another 50 links. If nothing else, something here might distract you from what’s going on across the pond.

OK, America, so what the hell happens now?: each week I resist including at least two columns by the Guardian’s genius who goes by the name of Marina Hyde, but at least I can lead off here with her just-posted thoughts (it’s 9.40am):

Of course, the 2020 US presidential election situation is still very much developing, and by the time you read this, there could be a lot of hostages to fortune. Or even just hostages. Rule nothing out. Nothing, perhaps, except moral optimism. 

No matter who wins the election, artists will be called upon to repair a broken nation: for the LA Times on 30 October, Charles McNulty asks, ‘What role can artists play in the healing of a nation wounded by a viral pandemic and the chronic diseases of racism, inequality and rabid partisanship?’

It’s the end of an era for the media, no matter who wins the election: another forward-looking piece, here from the well-informed Ben Smith for The New York Times.

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Sunday links at 100, part 1

1st November 2020

John Wyver writes: this is the one hundredth set of Sunday links since we over-hauled our website back in 2014. The feature took a number of forms before that, including ‘Links for the weekend’, and there was a long period when I stopped posting each week. Lockdown, however, sent me back to format and I’ve really enjoyed compiling them recently. I collect the links during each week – many come from Twitter recommendations, while others suggest themselves from my own reading and watching and listening (and I know I have pretty limited musical tastes).

For this modestly celebratory set I have responded to the suggestion, or rather challenge, from my friend Luke McKernan, whose posts I often feature here, and I am compiling a set of 100 links, with a host of new ones and a sprinkling of favourites drawn from recent posts, indicated with an [R]. But – and here’s the rub – only the first 50 are featured here – I’m aiming to post the second part on Wednesday (when we’ll all need something to distract ourselves). And I have included some headings to help manage such an unwieldy list, plus a handful of musical interludes.

Enjoy – and if you’re eligible on Tuesday, VOTE!

The Cure at Troy by Seamus Heaney | Joe Biden for President 2020: there’s only one way to start this week — probably the most beautiful political campaign ad ever:

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A tale of ‘Comedy’ times two

26th October 2020

John Wyver writes: Although Play for Today events are continuing, with showings on BBC Four and at BFI Southbank, our documentary Drama Out of a Crisis is happily installed on BBC iPlayer and I have started to think about other things. I am beginning to explore a clutch of research strands, for publication at present and not television, each of which has a connection with television between the mid-1950s and the early 1960s, and if you’ll indulge me I’m going to feature occasional stories for this period over the coming weeks.

I’m interested in all sorts of stuff from this period. What kinds of plays did ITV show before Armchair Theatre? And what was BBC drama like before The Wednesday Play? What was the involvement of the company Towers of London in ITV dramas in late 1955 and early 1956, when Harry Alan Towers‘ company is credited as a co-producer on a string of titles? Then there’s Mr Towers himself, who is a fascinating figure. How was the West End theatre behemoth H. M. Tennent involved in early television drama? And what links might be made between television drama of the late 1950s and British cinema at this time? Stick around – I’m going to explore these questions and more over the coming weeks.

This first post is an odd story which I’m not sure anyone has noticed before. It concerns two television productions of the same musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors. BBC Television first broadcast a studio production of this ‘light operetta’ version on 16 May 1954 (see the Radio Times heading above), with a live repeat on Thursday 20 May. Then, after the show had played in London’s West End, it was re-mounted, with some cast changes but mostly the same creative team, for the eight-month-old ITV service in May 1956. I can think of no other Shakespeare adaptation that has channel hopped in this way.

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Sunday links

25th October 2020

John Wyver writes: The world gets worse (and will, for at least another 9 sleeps), but hopefully Sunday links stays much the same. My thanks to those in my Twitter feed who continue to recommend so much great stuff for me to select and aggregate here.

Brexit – a conversation across the divide: a worthwhile initiative in which Ian Dunt and Robert Tombs exchange views in a civil manner; I confess to being far more convinced by Dunt’s opening missive than Tombs’s reply.

John Gray: the nationalist philosopher stoking ‘culture wars’ fires: an important piece by Jon Bloomfield for openDemocracy on ‘one of the intellectual leaders of the nationalist Right’.

What now for the BBC?: Peter York for the Guardian with productive analysis previewing that in his forthcoming eponymous book, co-written with Patrick Barwise.

How the press covered the last four years of Trump: a major retrospective by Jon Allsop and Pete Vernon for Columbia Journalism Review:

the act of bringing together our daily doses of media criticism paints a clear picture of an industry whose basic practices and rhythms have conspired, time and again, to downplay demagoguery, let Trump and his defenders off the hook, and drain resources and attention from crucial longer-term storylines. 

Against nostalgia: a post for zeynap’s new substack about the second presidential debate, William Fielding Ogburn’s notion of ‘cultural lag’, and the problems of nostalgia.

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Sunday links

18th October 2020

John Wyver writes: It’s been quite a week. As I said on Twitter, the response to Drama Out of a Crisis has been more extensive and enthusiastic than to almost anything I’ve made in nearly forty years as a producer. Which may explain why Sunday links is (a) a bit late, and (b) a bit shorter than usual. Thanks as ever to those in my Twitter feed for recommendations.

The UK government is trying to draw museums into a fake culture war: an important piece for the Guardian from Dan Hicks, professor of contemporary archaeology at the University of Oxford:

Museums are not neutral. The built environment is constantly changing. Community values must lead curatorial decision-making. People are more important than objects. These aren’t revolutionary critiques; they are long-established professional standards in the arts, heritage and culture sectors. How to fight the culture war? By stepping away from its divisive framing – and by resisting interference in democratic, locally accountable heritage management and curatorial practice.

The last thing the BBC needs is a civil war: Roger Mosey is very good for Prospect on the state-of-play at the Corporation.

Broken news for broken Britain: an urgent piece by Ian Dunt for Persuasion:

Where neutral sources of news vanish, truth fades into irrelevance. The government amasses more power than it could secure through propaganda alone: the power to escape scrutiny, to never be held to account, to no longer care about the veracity of its claims.

• And this is the most enlightening Twitter thread of the week, posted in response to a question from Armando Ianucci…

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Making ‘Drama…’, 5. The Style

13th October 2020

John Wyver writes: I’m cautious about writing this post, which I intend – for the moment at least – to be the last in a series that has reflected on the production process of Drama Out of a Crisis; A Celebration of Play for Today. The first transmission has come and gone now and the film is starting its year-long life on BBC iPlayer. My previous posts are as follows: Starting out, The interviews, The archive and The graphics.

I’m cautious because self-justification is almost always an inappropriate strategy for programme makers, so I started these notes with no such intent. At the same time I want to expose something of the thinking — for good or ill — that went into producing the documentary. I’m cautious too because I fear that committing these thoughts to a blog will make the process seem far more pre-planned than in fact it was. Editor Todd Macdonald and I had some initial thoughts about what we would do, but much of what resulted came from a process of trying stuff out during a fairly lengthy remote edit and simply playing around (always respectfully, I hope) with the interviews that we haa shot and with the moving image archive and stills.

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Watching ‘Drama…’: The Press [Updated 18/10]

11th October 2020

John Wyver writes: I’m keen to use this post to draw together the features, previews and reviews for our documentary Drama Out of a Crisis: A Celebration of Play for Today, first shown on BBC Four on Monday 12 October and now on BBC iPlayer. I’m not including anything that simply re-works the press release, but I want to highlight any substantial and/or judgemental discussions – and that means the good as well as the bad and even the ugly (of which there are now examples). I’ll extract some of the more pertinent comments from pieces, and where links are available I’ll feature these too. My thanks especially to Ian Greaves and Billy Smart for their help.

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