Oceans Apart: Art and the Pacific with James Fox review – an engaging exploration of Māori culture

The historian examines artworks that capture the spirit of encounters between the indigenous people of New Zealand and Captain Cook, and how they adapted to outside influences Here is a sculpture of the Virgin Mary, cradling her baby, naked and standing on a severed head. It is fabulous, one of the best versions of the Madonna and Child you will ever see. She also has tattoos all over her face. “What could be more inappropriate than a tattooed Virgin Mary?” asks the art historian James Fox, presenter of Oceans Apart: Art and the Pacific (BBC Four). The 19th-century Anglican missionaries won’t have been too keen, but its Māori creator wouldn’t have cared. The Māori were, points out Fox, attached to their culture and resistant to invaders. “The Māori didn’t see it as a choice between one thing and the other. They simply took the Christian ideas they liked and incorporated them into their cultural traditions.” The theme of this documentary was not domination or colonisation, but “encounter” between the indigenous population and the incomers, and Fox is fascinated with the art and objects that came out of this. A patu – a club-type weapon – was recreated in brass back in England by natural scientist Joseph Banks, who was aboard Captain Cook’s voyage to New Zealand; he hoped to take them back to England to trade or offer as gifts to powerful people. A double-barrelled shotgun was sold to a Māori warrior, who had its walnut stock adorned with intricate carvings. “A fascinating example of hybrid culture,” says Fox, going on to briefly mention the ensuing arms race between tribes, in which 40,000 Māori would lose their lives. Continue reading… [hmp_player]

Oh, brother: why siblings make the most savage political opponents

The attack ad on Paul Gosar, the Republican governor of Arizona, by six of his own siblings could be a career-ending betrayal. But even measured brotherly or sisterly criticism can cast your character into doubt I can describe it to you, but you have to watch it: there’s an attack ad out on the Republican governor of Arizona, Paul Gosar. His record on everything, from healthcare to jobs to the environment, is poor. He is “absolutely not working for his district”. Voters should “hold him to account”. The visuals are unremarkable: non-celebrity middle-aged people endorsing his opponent, David Brill. When these talking heads reveal their identities – Joan, Jennifer, Tim, David, Grace and Gaston Gosar, siblings of Paul – the impact is devastating. It sends a thrill up your spine of such raw emotion that you can’t tell for a moment whether your heart has been warmed or frozen. It’s the latter: Gosar’s character has been obliterated. One sibling would be a flesh wound, even three could be managed; six full siblings – unless he has another 10 on call who would challenge them to a mud wrestle – is a career-ending betrayal. Continue reading… [hmp_player]

Expecting the Queen for dinner? Make her favourite soup

A tried-and-tested recipe for callaloo soup, from a lifelong fan Callaloo soup is a lovely homemade meal that you would typically enjoy on a weekend. It is very different from a traditional English soup and has the consistency of stew. Callaloo, a vegetable that tastes like spinach and has a kale-like consistency, is hardy and grown in many allotments around Britain by the Caribbean community. I remember first eating it as a little girl growing up in England when my mum cooked with it on Saturdays. My mum learned a lot of her cooking skills from my granny. My grandma, who lived to 106, did eat meat a couple of times a year (curry goat), but lived mainly on a vegetarian diet. She had a huge vegetable garden and always the freshest produce. Continue reading… [hmp_player]

Why are we so desperate to believe men in rape cases? | Chitra Ramaswamy

The vast majority of men accused of rape walk free. Our criminal justice system is in crisis Young men are, quite literally, getting away with rape. For those still at the stage of debating the limits of “believe all women”, or whether now is the right time to run a New York Review of Books special titled The Fall of Men, consider this stark fact. According to figures released to the Guardian by the Crown Prosecution Servicefollowing an FOI submitted by Labour MP Ann Coffey, less than a third of young men prosecuted for rape in England and Wales are convicted. And remember how few rapes are reported in the first place, how few lead to arrests, and how few make it to trial. This conviction rate has not increased in the past five years. Continue reading… [hmp_player]

Has the English National Ballet become too predictable?

Leading dancer Laurretta Summerscales has said the endless repeats of crowd-pleasing classics is one reason she left the ENB. So why is it so keen on Swan Lake and The Nutcracker? How many swans or sugar plums can a ballerina endure before she jetées for the exit? Laurretta Summerscales, a leading dancer with the English National Ballet, left last season for the Bavarian State Ballet in Munich, telling Dancing Times magazine that she yearned for a broader repertoire than the smaller British company could provide. “At ENB, we always had the Christmas Coliseum season of The Nutcracker and I knew we’d continue to perform Akram Khan’s Giselle a lot,” she said. “I wanted to do Don Quixote and La Bayadère as I’d always dreamed of dancing those ballets.” It seems unfair to pummel the ENB, which, under director Tamara Rojo, punches above its weight with a livelier repertoire than most. She has programmed fighty modern landmarks by Pina Bausch and William Forsythe, and new work by Akram Khan. But the company’s bread and butter are long seasons of Swan Lake and the annual Nutcracker, and for dancers the shine may have long rubbed off the gleaming Tchaikovsky scores. Continue reading… [hmp_player]

How we made the Doors’ Hello, I Love You

‘Jim thought the studio was on fire and sprayed everything with an extinguisher. But it wasn’t on fire. He’d just taken acid’ Jim Morrison wrote the words for Hello, I Love You when we were still in a band called Rick & the Ravens. “Sidewalk crouches at her feet / Like a dog that begs for something sweet.” That’s a crazy great lyric! He couldn’t play an instrument but he’d come up with melodies in order to remember his incredible words. We’d been walking around the boardwalk of Venice, one of the few diverse areas in LA in the 60s, when Jim saw an African American girl. She was the “dusky jewel” who inspired the song. I was never satisfied with it. I told my dad how much I hated it Continue reading… [hmp_player]

Why does my cat prefer to drink water from the bathroom floor rather than a clean bowl?

The long-running series in which readers answer other readers’ questions on subjects ranging from trivial flights of fancy to profound scientific concepts Why does my cat prefer to drink water from the bathroom floor rather than from his clean and frequently replenished bowl? He’ll run from the other side of the house to get in if he hears the door open. The other cats all drink happily from the bowl so that can’t be it. Alison Cartland, Drummoyne, New South Wales, Australia Continue reading… [hmp_player]

How can I tell if I’m a bad driver who only thinks he is good?

The long-running series in which readers answer other readers’ questions on subjects ranging from trivial flights of fancy to profound scientific concepts As any motorist will tell you, the roads are full of very bad drivers. However, most believe that they are perfectly good. This draws me to the conclusion that many bad drivers think they are good. How can I tell if I am one of them? Pete Lloyd Continue reading… [hmp_player]