Tuesday, 1 January 2019


Happy New Year! I was a guest on the estimable World Service Weekend programme Sunday (30 December), talking about the usual smorgasbord of news and feature items with the great Julian Worricker as host and the Chinese artist and commentator Aowen Jin. It was a fast-moving and very interesting two hours, as it always seems to be; one of the programmes it is really a pleasure to do.

Being the BBC, the programme is almost impossible to listen to easily on the BBC IPlayer, whose radio section has been re-branded 'BBC Sounds', and programmes broken up into nuggets for the archive. For the moment, you can hear our two hours in three slightly-bigger-than-nuggest slices.

The first may be found here although we guests appear after the 0630 bulletin, 27 minutes into the show. At which point I talk about Steve Ditko, Richard Wilbur, and my trip to the bridge from which John Berryman jumped in St. Paul. We then move on to tariffs, to the age of consent in France, my own choice of story--1968 as a bumper year for 50th anniversaries, and that day's upcoming election in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The second is here, and covers the hour between 0700 and 0800. The highlight is probably the story of Syrian refugee Hassan al-Kontar, who lived for months in Kuala Lumpur airport, rather than be deported back to Syria. Strangely enough, it was the feel good story the end of the year show really needed.

I talk a bit about sport at the beginning; Colin Kaepernick and a protest different to 1968's (but I should have mentioned very much in synch with Tommie Smith, John Carlos and Peter Norman in Mexico City in 1968) and much more, including the building of massive cultural centres in Taiwan.

I also get to read my poem 'January Then, February Now', which I discussed in the first segment. I have always enjoyed reading my poems publicly, but I haven't done that very often --the last time was a London Magazine benefit reading ten years ago or so--but this was my first radio broadcast. I've listened back and it sounds good; more importantly, my own evaluation of it makes sense. Many thanks to Julian and to producer Junaid Ahmed for making room for it.

The final half hour, 0800 to 0830, you can link to here.  The major story is the Bangladeshi elections, but sadly no one offered predictions (mine would have been fairly close, both in terms of result and of alleged manipulation of the vote--a topic which would have dragged me back to the American situation, where election fraud is a hugely underreported story, while virtually non-existent voter fraud remains an issue promoted by Republicans and parroted by the major media. I get to switch from sport to a quick analysis of China's growing influence in both 21st and 19th century terms. I was pleased to get that point in.

And finally, there is a piece of humour in church, which allowed me to do my Jesus as standup shtick:
'I'm Jesus, I'm here all the milennium, don't forget to tip your waitress'.

It's a fine show; give it a listen.

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