Thursday, September 25, 2008

Empire and Silence

I had the good fortune of seeing collection of short films that captured the magic of the 1938 Glasgow Empire Exhibition. They were shown collectively at the Glasgow Film Theatre (GFT), and the cinema was packed. The films had no dialogue with the exception of the last which was a contemporary film that explained a little about a project completed by the Glasgow School of Art to recreate the Exhibition in 3D using virtual reality software. The accompanying score to the films was suitaby jolly, and as a fan of that type of modernist architecture the experience was wonderful. The vision and ambition of the scheme demonstrated a confidence and purpose that seems so lacking today - rememerb the Millenium Dome. The results of this self confidence n 1938 was dazzling. It was also gratifying to watch an event that used the word Empire without the necessity to caveat it with some politically correct apology. Perhaps it had something to do with the average age of the audience, ensuring that some could remember the benevolent aspect of the commonwealth not having been subjected to the sort of revisionist education that seems very prevalent now. Not everything emanating from that era of empire was necessarily bad and we would do well to remember that. Some of the aspiration, confidence and values would be of use today it seems to me.

The concluding discussion where two architects debated the merits and ambition of the Exhibition with contributions from the audience, some of whom had attended the event, was again insightful and balanced.

The evening cost £1 and the quality of the films, mostly amateur, reminded me how a mix of ambition, quality and the willing enthusiasm of contributors generated a fabulous event in 1938 and 2008. It also reminded me that the GFT alone is one good reason for living in Glasgow.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


There has been a good deal of debate about the theory of evolution and the ideas of intelligent design and the literal interpretations of creationism. It has led to people stepping down from roles, and a good deal of fiery exchange but, to be honest, it is not something that really exercises me.

However, I have discovered something that comes from Darwin that really does. I seems that on the excellent Darwin Online site there is available for download a spoken word version of Darwin's Beagle Diary. It is five episodes as heard on BBC Radio 4's Book 0f the week back in 2006. Already started to listen and it is great. This just the sort of material that TESCAPE will be bringing to you, so in the interests of letting you know about the best why not visit the Darwin Online site and take advantage of this great offer.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Poets and Mystery

Much excitement in the last couple of days with the discovery and release of recordings of Agatha Christie discussing some of her work, and an announcement that recordings of a selection of the United States most important 20th Century poets are to be released.

The sound quality of the recordings, from what I have heard, is not of the highest standard, but there is such magic in hearing their voices that it makes any quality issues entirely secondary. Hearing how the poet felt their work should be performed, and understanding a little better the thinking of one of the most succesful writers are just two examples of how spoken word can add to the enjoyment of the written word. There is a richness in that transaction, yet at the same time the spoken word has an intimacy that video fails to capture. At the risk of using a tired cliche from the arena of knowledge management, I can say more than I write, and I know more than I can say.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

It still matters - in cricket anyway

I am one of those lucky people who take it for granted that it is entirely possible to listen to a radio commentary of a five day game of cricket and never be bored. Its because I have had the immense privilege of being able to listen to Test Match Special (TMS) on BBC radio. I almost envy those who have not discovered the wonders of TMS because what a wondrous awakening they have available to them. For me there is little to compare to the joy of waking up at, say, 3am, on a cold winters morn getting a pot of tea and snuggling back down beneath the warm bed covers listening very quietly to a commentary of an England winter tour delivered by the masterful TMS team.

Now TMS is an institution, and it is not a trifling matter to amend or meddle with an institution and woe betide anyone that does. Now it seems that TMS has a new producer or some such and as is often the way of things, he has decided to make changes - notably bringing in some new commentators, and losing some others. Some of these have not been well received, and to be fair the excuses for these changes offered in the blog, have been fairly roundly exposed as little more than vacuous management speak. But the thing I find gratifying is the way people are not resisting change of itself, they are saying that the change must be for the better and that some of the new voices are simply not up to the job. Now its interesting that it is not the voice itself, although that does clearly matter, but it is the quality and depth of insight an analysis that the contributors can bring that is important and what concerns the listeners most (along with some issues about conflict of interest and ethics - also important values).

To me it is once again a reminder that, in a world of multimedia, wide screen freeze and replay TV, there are people out there that truly value spoken word and the quality of the material they are listening to, and still take the time to fight to preserve it.

It is things like this that reassure me that TESCAPE does have a ready audience, I only hope that when TESCAPE has been operating as long as TMS has been, that we can still retain such passionate and discerning followers.