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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Interesting arts and entertainment news…

I am not a huge fan of twitter but sometimes it is a good place to get a sober heads up on breaking show biz stories


Elfwick is a genius.

Samizdata quote of the day

I don’t generally seek political analysis from trained monkeys responding to the commands of talented directors and screenwriters.

– Samizdata commenter ‘the other rob

Samizdata quote of the day

“We live at a time when we’re offered a choice between the good, liberal Pajama Boy without an ounce of masculinity, and the Potemkin Alpha Male who mistakes cartoonish bluster for manliness, one of whom happens to be running for president. “The Magnificent Seven” presents a much better alternative, wrapped up in an exciting, action-packed plot and—oh, yes, I almost forgot—the greatest Western theme music ever written. So skip the multiplex this weekend and revisit this classic, instead.”

Robert Tracinski

Samizdata quote of the day

John Oliver seems to do extremely well out of telling sophisticated, educated Europeans and Democrat-voting Americans how thick Americans are. But he’s preaching to the converted: they’re not laughing because he’s funny, they’re laughing because he is telling them what they want to hear and allows them to feel smugly superior. A decent joke shouldn’t depend on who you want to win an election.

Tim Newman

A television show about what happens to ex-Muslims

I just spotted, in the Radio Times, this:


I seem to recall reading not that long ago about this TV show, at Mick Hartley’s blog. Yes, in this posting. The show goes out on ITV, this coming Thursday, at 10.40pm. I love my Gogglebox (see above right) and will be watching this show, and recording it. I may even, although I promise nothing, have more to say about the show here, after I have actually seen it.

Judging by the blurb about this programme that I just read here, it deals with a quite wide range of nastinesses that ex-Muslims get subjected to by Muslims, nastinesses both legal and illegal, from merely nasty to downright evil.

Although this show will describe and criticise the merely nasty things that ex-Muslims are subjected to (being ostracised by their families, for instance), I doubt if it will go as far as saying that nastiness of that sort should be illegal, any more than I would. On the other hand, the programme will also be noting that many Muslims favour doing things which in Britain are illegal and which elsewhere ought to be illegal if they now aren’t. I refer to things like murder, incitement to murder, assault and the forcible denial of the right of ex-Muslims to express ex-Muslim opinions in public. For that I applaud this programme, and its maker, Deeyah Khan.

I focus on the illegal and thoroughly wicked things that are done by Muslims to ex-Muslims because this particular issue strikes me as one that ought particularly to be focussed on, by all who dislike either the general influence of Islam (as I do – I believe in being nasty to Islam), or by those who merely wish Muslims to stop doing uncontroversially terrible and terror-inducing things to ex-Muslims, and to infidels generally. Me, I think that the content of Islamic doctrine leads pretty directly to Muslims doing terrible things, but that is a different argument, and one that divides those who merely want “Islamic extremism” to abate.

The matter of what is divisive, and for whom, is important. When engaged in an ideological war, it can help to focus particularly on issues which will unite the people on your side, while dividing your opponents. Whatever your opinions about the nastiness of Islam in general (I think it very nasty), you will surely agree with me (even as you perhaps denounce me for telling all Muslims that their religion is nasty and thereby uniting them all against all infidels) that murdering ex-Muslims merely for being ex-Muslims is wrong and should be cracked down on with the full force of the law. So, the illegally evil things that happen to ex-Muslims are an issue that should be focussed on with particular enthusiasm. Hence my particular enthusiasm about this televlsion show.

I recently heard about how a quite prominent British Muslim, of the sort who argues that Western Civilisation, and Islam in approximately its present large and very influential form (just somewhat nicer), are capable of getting along amicably, and even in a state of mutual creativity. I think something like this may one day happen also, but only after Islam has at least been put on the ideological defensive (hence my belief in criticising Islam in general), in other words not for a longish while.

So anyway, this “good Muslim” was asked whether he condemned the murdering of ex-Muslims. He equivocated. I say that people like this should be faced again and again with this question, and made to pick their team. Is he so terrified of offending the many Muslims who, although not themselves murderers, nevertheless side with those who do murder ex-Muslims, that he is instead willing to offend all of the rest of us, including those Muslims who vehemently oppose such murders? Make up your damn mind, mate. In the not inconceivable event that he reads this, he may recognise himself. Good.

And Muslims who do pick their team, by unequivocally and publicly supporting such murders, should be confronted even more severely, in ways that perhaps include them being prosecuted for incitement to murder:

The programme finds that a number of senior British Bangladeshi imams, mainstream figures in society, have called for the execution of atheist bloggers in Bangladesh, claiming they have insulted Islam, and making a number of anti-atheist statements.

Making “anti-atheist statements” is fine, from the strictly legal point of view, provided no incitement to murder or to violence is involved. Just calling atheists wicked and mistaken shouldn’t be illegal. But nor should “insulting Islam”. However, calling for the murder of ex-Muslims is utterly vile, and it is a very good idea to make such Imams either squirm and equivocate in front of television cameras, or else show their true and vile colours, whichever they choose to go with, and for the rest of us to sneer at them for the morally and intellectually vacuous individuals that they are.

More importantly, we should be supplying moral and practical support to all those ex-Muslims who speak out about their beliefs. We should all try to make this an easier path to follow than it is now. This most definitely includes making, and watching and blogging about, television shows about ex-Muslims, full of admiration for them and for their courage and their wisdom, and full of contempt and denunciation of those who want them to shut up.

A traditional lament

Willie Penrose, a Labour member of the Irish Dáil, is singing an old song from a tradition known all over the world:

Musicians hold sing-song outside Leinster House in bid to get more radio play

LABOUR’S WILLIE PENROSE wants to get more Irish music played on the radio – and says that a proposed bill of his could save thousands of jobs in the process.

So he gathered up a group of Irish musicians and brought them for a sing-song outside the gates of Leinster House this morning, while a host of Labour TDs looked on.


Longford-Westmeath TD Penrose, who is presenting the bill to the Dáil today, said that it seeks a quota of 40% airtime for Irish music – and that this means “of all genres once it’s Irish music”.

Asked if it specifies in the bill how a song is determined to be Irish, Penrose “we’re working through that, yeah we are”.
“We are not asking for much – this has been in France for the last 20 or 30 years, 40% quota, it’s in Canada – there’s a 90% quota after being introduced in South Africa in recent weeks,” he said.

The 90% quota was brought in by national broadcaster SABC in South Africa.

Penrose said there are “8 – 10,000 jobs depending upon [the bill]“, but didn’t detail where these jobs are located within the Irish music industry.

Following the link about South Africa took me to this BBC story:

SABC radio introduces 90% South African music quota

The BBC describes the quota in lyrical terms:

South Africa’s national broadcaster SABC has brought in a new quota system, requiring 90% of the music played on its 18 radio stations to be homegrown.

SABC says the move, which has been hailed by local musicians after years of campaigning, will promote South African culture and heritage.


“We believe that is important for the people of South Africa to listen to the music that is produced for them by the musicians in South Africa,” SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago told the BBC, explaining the decision.

Jazz musician Don Laka, one of the leaders of the quota campaign, celebrated on his Facebook page, thanking SABC boss Hlaudi Motsoeneng.

“Today I am proud to be South African. This man Hlaudi made me share a tear for the first time in many years… Freedom at last!”
Local hip-hop star Slikour described it as the music industry’s version of “Nelson Mandela coming out of jail”.

The governing African National Congress also welcomed the decision, saying it will empower local artists and help spread African culture at home and throughout the world.

Many South Africans have taken to social media to celebrate the announcement, saying it will help to showcase the country’s musical diversity.

It almost seems a pity to tear oneself away from sharing these glad hosannas to look at a couple of ominous lines some grinch has inserted into the same report:

…this is just for the next three months – subject to whether the listeners want it to be a permanent move, industry insiders are hoping that it will help boost the profiles of local artists.


There is no limit to the amount of foreign music commercial stations play.

Going back to the report about Mr Penrose’s Irish Music Quota Bill in TheJournal.ie, some of the comments strike a discordant and ominous note:

“You want to kill off Irish radio entirely? Force stations to play at least 40% of Irish music.” – Peter McHugh

“And Number 1 this week is Ariana Grande’s ‘Into You’ and to comply with the Irish Music Act here it is as sung by Brush Shiels” – Daniel Patrick Carry

Unlike Mr Penrose, I am not musical, and I don’t keep up with these internet thingies the young folk use … but isn’t there a thing called “music streaming” now?

Samizdata quote of the day

“Imagine is probably John Lennon’s worst lyric. Against a sparse, effective musical backdrop (influenced by McCartney’s quasi-spiritual triptych Hey Jude, Let it Be and Maybe I’m Amazed), the rich Beatle John bleated on in 1971 about imagining a world in which there are no possessions. Somewhat at odds with the anti-market proselytising of Lennon’s most famous post-Beatles song is the awkward reality that the track was recorded in the studio built at Lennon and Yoko Ono’s then very grand house, Tittenhurst Park near Ascot. The Grade II listed building is set in 70 acres of grounds and was purchased with the proceeds of Lennon’s fortune made from the record industry, one of the most thoroughly capitalist businesses on earth.”

Iain Martin

As an aside, my father, a serious classical music fan (he is also a jazz and blues nut) once said, in one of those comments that a slightly weary Dad tells you when seeing something on the TV about pop music, that in decades to come, very little of the Beatles’ music will be played or recalled, while the works of J.S. Bach are likely to endure until the heat death of the universe.

The Power of the Daleks – a correction

In a previous blog posting I may have given the impression that the rediscovery of the missing episodes of the Power of the Daleks Doctor Who serial would be about as welcome to the BBC as a new series of Jim’ll Fix It.

Of course, the impression that I meant to convey was that the BBC would in fact be delighted to be once again be in possession of the telerecordings and failing that would be quite prepared to go to the effort of animating the entire thing and making it available online from 5 November onwards.

An unhappy tune in Venezuela

Do dooo doo-doo. Right! Do you remember David Cameron’s happy little hum after announcing his resignation? A Venezuelan composer and pianist, Gabriela Montero, improvised upon that theme in the Baroque style. ‘Then, adding humour to creativity,’ reports the Times, ‘she closes the keyboard-lid with a crisp “right!” — exactly as the former prime minister did as he closed his front door.’

Sadly the rest of the article is not so jolly.

Montero has expressed her views in music as well as on social media. Five years ago she poured her vitriol into an astonishingly explosive 13-minute composition for piano and orchestra, significantly called Ex Patria. Described by her as an “unapologetic vision of Venezuela’s accelerating civic collapse and moral decay”, it comes across as a vivid musical portrait of a traumatised country. The BBC should have had the courage to ask her to play it at the Proms rather than Grieg’s anodyne Piano Concerto.

Last year there were nearly 28,000 murder victims and those are just the reported ones
“You know, it’s even worse now,” she says. “I wrote Ex Patria in 2011 and dedicated it to the 19,336 people who were murdered in Venezuela that year. Last year there were close to 28,000 victims, and those are just the reported ones. Imagine how many deaths are unrecorded. Then you will understand that, unfortunately, Ex Patria will have a long life. I always hoped that one day I could put it away and never play it again because I wrote it as a cry of anguish during the darkest times for Venezuela, but that day seems far away.”


Since composing Ex Patria, Montero’s website and live performances have become rallying-points for Venezuela’s expatriate dissidents. “Yes, the concerts are far more than musical events now,” she affirms. “So many Venezuelans come and speak to me afterwards about their children who have been murdered, or their parents who have been kidnapped, or their homes that have been taken away, or their lives fractured by forced exile. Even my Facebook page has become a pharmacy directory for people in Venezuela who are desperate to get medicine.”

Montero will not be the only Venezuelan musician at the Proms. A separate Times article says,

He is simply The Dude, arguably the best-known conductor in the world. The superstar product of the famed Venezuelan music project El Sistema, his appeal crosses continents, generations and even genres: a close friend of Chris Martin, he appeared with Coldplay at the Super Bowl half-time concert.

Gustavo Dudamel, the artistic director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, can seemingly do no wrong.

However, the 35-year-old star, who once conducted what was described as “the greatest Prom of all time”, has come under blistering attack from a fellow Venezuelan musician, the pianist Gabriela Montero.

She has denounced him in the strongest possible terms in an interview with The Times for failing to speak out about the economic collapse facing their home country, where inflation is running at 200 per cent and people cross the border into Colombia just to buy household necessities.

“I don’t care how well he conducts,” Montero said of Dudamel, who has failed to dissociate himself from what is happening in Venezuela. “What he has and hasn’t done as a human being invalidates everything else.”

Having read this I was on fire with sympathy for Montero and anger at Dudamel. Yet Dudamel does have a defence. It is scarcely heroic yet I find it hard to condemn, given that I have never lived under anything but a liberal regime. It’s just the usual thing – the usual justification for collaboration with the powerful offered by artists in somewhat repressive regimes. That is, artists of around the average level of courage among humans living in regimes of around the average level of badness in history.

A product of El Sistema, the state-funded music project that mentors 300,000 children at a time, many of them from the country’s poorest slums, Dudamel is the most successful individual to have emerged from the programme.

In The Los Angeles Times last September he wrote: “To those who believe I have been silent too long, I say this: do not mistake my lack of political posturing for a lack of compassion or beliefs. If I aligned myself with one political philosophy or another then, by extension, I could also politicise El Sistema. That might turn a revered and successful program into a political punching bag and make it much more vulnerable to political whims.”

Brian Micklethwait has twice speculated on this blog that repression is good for music, citing the example of Shostakovich dodging the murderous caprice of Stalin. I have speculated that, while a morally dubious amount of familial pressure may be often be applied to children to create a classical musician, El Sistema seems no more coercive than most other musical education. Venezuela itself is a remarkably clear demonstration of how socialism turns an up-and-coming country into a dump, but comes far down the list of tyrannies of the world. If (piling impossibility upon impossibility) I were Venezuelan and a great, or at least very good, musician which would I be, a Montero or a Dudamel? Which ought I to be? Is the answer different if I were citizen of the democidal Soviet Union rather than Chavista Venezuela and/or an indisputably great composer, like Shostakovich?

4,367 Miles to Wall Drug

Free Ice Water. It brought us Husteads a long way and it taught me my greatest lesson, and that’s that there’s absolutely no place on God’s earth that’s Godforsaken. No matter where you live, you can succeed, because wherever you are, you can reach out to other people with something that they need!

So said Ted Hustead, founder of the Wall Drug store. He bought the store in 1931 in the “godforsaken” town of Wall, North Dakota. He and his wife decided to give it five years to make something of. There were not enough customers. In the final year his wife noticed the increasingly heavy traffic on the nearby highway and hit upon the idea of putting up signs enticing travellers with ice water. They started putting signs further and further along the highway. Now there are signs everywhere.

I imagine this story is well known to Americans. I first heard of Wall Drug from chapter 30 of the serialised web novel Unsong, a review of which I promise when it is finished.

After the sky cracked, the Wall Drug coordinate system started to impose itself more and more upon the ordinary coordinate system of longitude and latitude. Worse, the two didn’t exactly correspond. You could be driving from New York to New Jersey, and find a billboard promising Wall Drug in only thirty miles. Drive another ten, and sure enough, WALL DRUG, TWENTY MILES. Drive ten more, and you’d be promised a South Dakotan shopping center, only ten miles away. Drive another ten, and…who knows? No one has returned from Wall Drug in a generation. It’s become not only an omphalos, but a black hole in the center of the United States, a one-way attraction and attractor fed by an interstate highway system which never gives up its prey.

It is by Scott Alexander of the fascinating blog Slate Star Codex.


What have I done wrong, really, except make money; succeed? All these rules and regulations: arbitrary. Chalked up by politicians for their own ends. And these fines you’re always going after: where do they go? The poor? No. The treasury; the government. It’s taxation by other means. […] I make the system run. I have contributed hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes and philanthropy. I employ hundreds of people directly. Thousands indirectly. What do you do? Nothing besides suck from the municipality; feed off of it. And in exchange what? Keep order? You’re a traffic cop hiding in Federal robes.

So says hedge fund manager Bobby Axelrod to U.S attorney Chuck Rhodes in the finale of the TV series Billions. It is worth a look. The government officials end up looking more like the bad guys than the business people.

Rhodes’ response: “You’re sure to become president of the libertarian club of Danbury Federal prison, ’cause no matter what you say, that’s where you’re ending up.”

Act I, Scene II. A public place.

The Great Leader

Flourish. Enter CAESAR; ANTONY, for the course; CALPURNIA, PORTIA, DECIUS BRUTUS, CICERO, BRUTUS, CASSIUS, and CASCA; a great crowd following, among them a Soothsayer.