Saturday, May 05, 2012

I Feel Disgrace Because You're All In My Face

It's all looking a bit like a right shite state of affairs for the lack of culture secretary, the vile and odious rascal Hunt, if this story contains any shred of truth. Which it may, or may not, this blogger couldn't possibly dare to speculate or venture an opinion on that one. Blimey, though, it must be bad for the vile and odious rascal Hunt his very self, he's even lost the Daily Scum Mail. They're using the dreaded 'S' word. Meanwhile, one to file in the 'where de culcha gone?' column, on 23 April, the vile and odious rascal Hunt was happily enthusing on Twitter about Shakespeare's birthday. Since then, we've had nothing but an uncharacteristic online silence for a fortnight and counting. Which may be connected to the fact that the next day saw Frédéric Michel's e-mail exchange with the vile and odious rascal Hunt's 'special' single 'rogue' adviser, released as James Murdoch appeared at the Leveson inquiry. Tweet-less for even longer, since the 20 April, is the vile and odious rascal Hunt's amiable ministerial colleague Ed Vaizey, who was caught up in the row over unregistered donations. Let's hope the dumbstruck duo regain the will to tweet soon – there's thought to be quite a busy summer of lack of culture ahead.

A couple of days ago yer actual Mark Gatiss announced on Twitter that BBC4 have commissioned a second series of his excellent A History of Horror, this one seemingly focusing on European movies. Terrific news.

Anyway, as usual Friday night was comedy night on the BBC. Now, was it just yer actual Keith Telly Topping or did anybody else think Des O'Connor looked even more curiously orange than yer actual Christine Bleakley on this week's episode of Would I Like To You? Sunbed, nice winter break in Majorca or did it all come out of a bottle? Whatever the truth of things, it was - again - a very fine episode. One particularly enjoyed the 'this is my...' round and Lee Mack's flawlessly logical deconstruction of Davey Mitchell's tall tale about being sent to sleep by his babysitter with wartime intelligence stories.
Immediately afterwards was one of the best Have I Got News For You episodes of the current series (Nancy Dell'Olio's virtually unintelligible contributions notwithstanding). Guest host Jezza Clarkson was on proper decent self-deprecating form with a highly useful 'top tip' for anyone thinking of taking out an injunction ('super' or otherwise): 'An injunction,' he noted, 'is a very expensive way of making sure that a very boring story reaches the maximum number of people.' Expect some Communist louse-twat of absolutely no importance at the Gruniad Morning Star, or some jackbooted thug bullyboy at the Daily Scum Mail (or, possibly both) to try and stir up some trouble-making shite over some aspect of Jezza's appearance. Because, dear blog reader, we live in a predictable world. Full of scum.
And, yer man Jezza was back half-an-hour later in the - long delayed ... by rank BBC cowardice - Idleness episode of Qi. He was terrific on that as well.
Now, somebody in authority at the BBC, please take note. The next time Jeremy Clarkson - or anybody else for that matter - says something (whether in jest or otherwise) which a few mouthy malcontents don't agree with, do everybody a favour. Don't hide away excellent - and wholly uncontroversial - episodes of your best comedy quiz show for six months just because you're scared of what the Daily Scum Mail will have to say.

According to the BBC's Sam Hodges, who is usually pretty reliable when it comes to overnight ratings figures, on Friday evening both Have I Got News For You (5.1m) and Not Going Out (4.3m) 'won their slot.' Which suggests that there is unlikely to be a repeat of last week's crass - and, as it turned out, entirely inaccurate - crowing and chest-beating from odious, oily bell-end Piers Morgan. Oh, it's all gone quiet over there ...

Divine telly Goddess and Sherlock star Lara Pulver has confirmed that she is 'open' to appearing in the third series of the BBC's popular detective drama. The actress, who plays Irene Adler, told Collider that reprising the role would be 'a great challenge. If there's more to say and more to do than absolutely,' she said. Pulver also addressed the (wholly created by the Daily Scum Mail) controversy which had surrounded the broadcast of her Sherlock appearance in January. Discussing the reaction to her character's nude scene, the thirty one-year-old said: 'It was literally one newspaper in the UK, and a few viewers. With nine-and-a-half million viewers, a few people were upset. I think there's something to embrace about flesh. It's human.' Unlike the Daily Scum Mail which is distinctly android. Pulver went on to describe her co-stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as 'naughty little boys. Martin is very naughty,' she admitted. 'They're both very playful and responsive. Martin, especially, will throw you completely different interpretations of scenes, all the time. It brings so many different colours to the scene, which makes it really interesting to go to work.' Sherlock co-creator Mark Gatiss recently revealed that the first episode of the third series will be an adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Adventure of the Empty House. New episodes of the drama are expected to begin filming in early 2013.

Benedict Cumberbatch, meanwhile, has insisted that he does not object to CBS pilot Elementary. Unlike his producers and the BBC who, very much, do. The US project will follow a modern day Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) as he solves crimes in contemporary New York, in a format which appears on the surface at least to be rather similar to the Cumberbatch BBC drama. 'As we already know with the Robert Downey Jr movie franchise that there's room enough for two, so why not three?' the actor said at a Q&A session in New York to promote Sherlock series two being broadcast on PBS. Benny added that he considers Trainspotting star Miller - with whom he starred in the play Frankenstein at the National Theatre - as a friend. '[Elementary will] be different and I don't think it'll take away the love for ours, and there's no reason to be churlish or bitter about them or what they're trying to do,' he said. In March, Sherlock co-creator Steven Moffat revealed that CBS had been denied permission to remake the show, before embarking on its own Conan Doyle adaptation.

The BBC says it is facing 'a sitcom drought' – as all the best ideas are being pitched to ITV, Channel Four and Sky. And BBC1 is most affected because creators are thought to fear the high risk of exposure on the flagship network. The corporation's controller of comedy commissioning, Cheryl Taylor, says she is feeling the pressure as Sky and ITV have become more active in making new sitcoms. 'Comedy is the genre du jour,' she told trade magazine Broadcast. 'ITV, Sky, everyone is coming to the party. But because it's a small gene pool for talent, on and off screen, that puts pressure on the biggest, brightest, shiniest shows. It's a sellers' market in comedy at the moment, which has impacted the number of scripts we are getting.' BBC1 controller Danny Cohen has repeatedly complained about the lack of mainstream comedies being pitched to his station, because writing to make five million viewers laugh is 'one of the hardest things in all of entertainment.' Only last month he told staff: 'Comedy, of all genres on BBC1, is the one we are most under supplied with. I can't fill the slots almost because we don't get enough high quality scripts or comedy.' BBC1 has only one new mainstream sitcom planned for this year, Citizen Khan, about a self-appointed Muslim community leader in Birmingham. However Taylor said she was committed to finding 'sassy, witty, pre-watershed shows' to fill the void.

The BBC is to broadcast a documentary series looking back over Sir David Attenborough's remarkable sixty-year broadcasting career, including a return to the Borneo jungle, where he first encountered an orangutan in the wild in the 1950s. In the three-part BBC2 documentary, Attenborough will review advances in programme-making technology, science, and the study of natural history and the environment over the past sixty years, and revisit award-winning shows including Life on Earth, The Blue Planet and and his most recent masterpiece Frozen Planet. Along the way Attenborough, who celebrates his eighty sixth birthday on 8 May, will recount anecdotes – including being rejected early in his career by BBC Radio because his teeth were judged to be 'too big' – an alleged defect fortunately overlooked by the BBC's nascent television service. 'It is in the can, all done. It really covers the three areas which fascinate me, the technology, the development of science during my lifetime, and the environment,' he said. He is also presenting Kingdom of Plants 3D on Sky Atlantic later this month and at a launch for the show last week he paid tribute to the scientists who have been willing to share years of research with him during his career, making his TV documentaries possible. 'My job could not be done without the scientists. Provided the scientists believe you are playing fair, they are not in any way possessive of the difficult things they have discovered.' Attenborough's career is perhaps unique in UK broadcasting in its breadth and longevity. After establishing himself as a BBC natural history presenter in the 1950s, he studied for a postgraduate degree, returning to broadcasting as BBC2 controller in 1965. During his tenure the channel was the first in the UK to switch to colour, in 1967, and commissioned shows including Monty Python's Flying Circus and landmark documentaries such as Sir Kenneth Clark's Civilisation. Attenborough was promoted to director of programmes in 1969, overseeing all BBC TV output, but returned to programme-making four years later. He developed and presented Life on Earth, broadcast in 1979, which in its scope and ambition set the benchmark for the landmark BBC natural history documentary series his name has been synonymous with ever since. Attenborough, Sixty Years in the Wild will be broadcast in October, spanning a broadcasting career that began when he joined the BBC in 1952. He returned to the Borneo jungle for the documentary, to shoot new footage where he was filmed with an orangutan for the 1956 BBC documentary Zoo Quest. Later in the same series Attenborough came face to face with a giant lizard, the Komodo dragon. The new series covers the developments in programme-making Attenborough has lived through and exploited, from the early TV cameras used for Zoo Quest, which only recorded noisily for two minutes at a time, to the latest high-definition, 3D and micro-camera technology. It also charts the rapid advances in science he has witnessed – ranging from discoveries about the structure of DNA to a better understanding of continental drift – since he was a zoology student at Cambridge university, and the often grim environmental consequences of rapid economic and population growth. Attenborough is working on the new series with Alastair Fothergill, a longtime collaborator and BBC Natural History Unit executive producer, who told the Gruniad that in Borneo, Attenborough was filmed standing in the exact spot in the river bed where more than fifty years previously there was pristine jungle, but which is now planted with oil palms. The series also features archive footage from Attenborough's many documentaries and interviews recorded in his study at his home in Richmond. Fothergill said: 'David is unique. Think about it, he has seen more of the natural world than anyone ever before him. He was able to make use of the start of commercial international air travel. He started just after world war two, when much of the natural world was still pristine, there was such a different feel. In his life time he has seen all that change.' On the perennial question of when Attenborough will retire, Fothergill, who has worked with him since The Trials of Life series in 1990, admitted he thought last year's Frozen Planet would be his last major BBC series. However, Attenborough, who will be travelling to the Galápagos Islands for his next Sky 3D documentary, was sounding as sprightly as ever. 'Retire? The world is infinitely complex. Major things have happened in the last fifty years year. Extraordinary.'

Lewis star Kevin Whately is to guest in BBC1's Inspector George Gently. The sixty one-year-old actor will play Don MgHee, former Deputy Commissioner of the Met. The character will appear in the detective drama's fifth series finale, Gently In The Cathedral, written by Peter Flannery. MgHee is a close friend and mentor of Gently (played by Martin Shaw) from their days working together in London. Diana Quick will also appear in the episode as barrister Gitta Bronson, while Shrek: The Musical star Nigel Lindsay will play DI Reese Statham, a police officer with a vendetta against Gently. Morgan Watkins will play DS Kieran Lawson, with Ralph Brown - still best known, despite a massive CV, for his role as Danny the drug dealer in 1987 film Withnail & I - cast as Gently's nemesis, career criminal Melvyn Rattigan. Melanie Clark Pullen will also return for the finale as the estranged wife of Gently's partner John Bacchus (Lee Ingleby). Ingleby, one of this blogger's favourite actors, has most recently been seen in BBC2's Our Friends in the North knock-off White Heat. Aside from Gently, dear blog readers will probably know him best for a truly chilling performance as a serial killer in Luther or, as Sam Tyler's very naughty dad, Vic, in Life on Mars. Inspector George Gently is currently filming on location in Durham and the North East and will be shown on BBC1 later in the year.

Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Saunders reportedly became the first people to race at London's new Olympic Stadium when they shot an episode of Absolutely Fabulous while the venue was still under construction. Lumley told ITV's breakfast flop Daybreak: 'It was before anybody else had even been there - before the running track was really even put down. We had to put down our own running track for Patsy and Edina.'
David Cameron and seven other cabinet ministers will be given advance sight of witness statements to the Leveson inquiry, including those submitted by the former Downing Street spin doctor Andy Coulson and ex-News International chief executive and well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks. James Eadie, QC, counsel to the inquiry for the government, argued successfully at an emergency hearing of the inquiry called by Lord Justice Leveson on Friday afternoon that ministers should be granted core participant status, allowing them advance sight of witness statements, and be prepared to respond to potential criticism. Leveson conceded that the vile and odious rascal Hunt, the lack of culture secretary, was 'disadvantaged' by not having prior notice of the one hundred and sixty three pages of e-mails between his office and News Corporation, which were submitted to the inquiry last month as part of Rupert Murdoch's evidence. The resulting political row has left the vile and odious rascal Hunt facing calls from the Labour party for his resignation. Eadie applied for the status on behalf of Cameron, deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, the vile and odious rascal Hunt, justice secretary Ken Clarke, home secretary Theresa May, business secretary Vince Cable, chancellor George Osborne and education secretary Michael Gove. All are expected to give evidence in person to the inquiry apart from Osborne, who will be submitting a written witness statement. Coulson and Brooks are due to give evidence next week, with the inquiry beginning to take evidence from politicians later in May. The government's application for core participant status was made just ahead of what is expected to be a difficult week at the Leveson inquiry for the Conservatives. Coulson, Cameron's former director of communications and ex-editor of the Scum of the World, gives evidence on Thursday and well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Brooks on Friday. Leveson described the application as 'somewhat unusual' but said that it would be granted. 'A witness who is likely to be the subject of potentially damaging evidence, which will generate what may well be legitimate public commentary, ought also to be aware of the broad nature of that evidence in advance,' he added. Eadie told Leveson the government was only interested in exercising its right to get advance sight of witness statements and was not applying because core participant status also came with the right to make opening statements. The government's application is designed to ensure it does not find itself in the middle of another political row if any more damaging allegations emerge at the Leveson inquiry in the coming weeks, when former prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown are also due to give evidence. Cameron was on the back foot last week after evidence submitted to the Leveson inquiry revealed that the vile and odious rascal Hunt's special single 'rouge' adviser, Adam Smith, had been in close contact with News Corp lobbyist Frédéric Michel over a period of months while Rupert Murdoch's media company was making an eight billion smackers bid to take over BSkyB. Smith resigned, while the vile and odious rascal Hunt remains swinging in the wind and under pressure to 'clarify' his role. Leveson said that the lack of forewarning to both Cameron and the vile and odious rascal Hunt meant they had little chance to respond and no chance to correct errors in the e-mails, including claims by Michel that he had spoken to or e-mailed the vile and odious rascal Hunt directly, when in fact his contact was single 'rogue' adviser Smith. The inquiry heard on Friday that written statements have already been submitted by seven of the eight government witnesses, with the remaining statement, from Osborne, due in later that day. Leveson warned Eadie that all ministers and their special advisers and anyone else in government departments who wanted advance sight of witness statements would have to sign strict confidentiality clauses to prevent leaks. It's hard not to enjoy the Independent's headline over this: Downing Street panics as Brooks and Coulson prepare to face Leveson. 'Downing Street has reacted to increasing panic that the Conservative leadership is being damaged by revelations at the Leveson Inquiry about its dealings with the Murdoch empire. Yesterday it demanded that senior ministers be allowed to see potentially incendiary evidence from Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson.' My italics. But, they might as well have been theirs, to be honest!

Big cuddly Lorraine Kelly and Aled Jones have been unveiled as the new presenters of ITV breakfast flop Daybreak. Kelly already hosts a weekday morning show on the channel, while former choirboy Jones has presented a number of programmes on TV and radio. The pair will team up on the sofa 'later this year', ITV said. Kelly, fifty two, added: 'I'm really looking forward to this challenge and to working with Aled who is a warm, funny and a thoroughly decent bloke.' The new hosts will be the permanent replacements grumpy Adrian Chiles and the curiously orange Christine Bleakley, who joined breakfast flop Daybreak when it was launched as the replacement for GMTV in September 2010. There tenure was such a disaster that they became a by-word for on-screen toxicity and after fourteen months of hugely disappointing (albeit, hilariously bad) ratings for the programme, the pair were sacked in a blaze of publicity in December last year, with Dan Lobb and Horrible Kate Garraway presenting on an interim basis. Jones, forty one, who has hosted BBC1's Songs of Praise and BBC Radio 2's The Early Breakfast Show, said: 'I am thoroughly looking forward to sharing the sofa every morning with such a consummate professional as Lorraine Kelly. We've known each other for a very long time and have always had a lot of fun together. We hope that the viewers enjoy being part of our breakfast family.' Fiona Keenaghan, ITV's Controller of Daytime and Lifestyle, added: 'I'm incredibly excited to be taking ITV's breakfast show forward with Lorraine and Aled at the helm. They are two of the country's most loved and talented presenters and having seen them together, I know viewers are in for a real treat.' Errr ... is that pretty much exactly what you said when signing the previous greed bucket pair in 2010?

However, and you'll like this dear blog reader, 'fans' of ITV breakfast flop Daybreak (for there are some such sad crushed victims of society, apparently) have taken to the official Facebook page to air their views on the coming of big cuddly Lorraine and Aled. 'Nooooo [sic] way! You took our Kate off before and tried to replace her with Adrian and Christina [sic] and it didn't work! Why don't you ask your viewers what WE want. Bring on the BBC, I quit with Daybreak!' said one Julie Taundry. 'Kate and Dan all the way not gonna [sic] watch it anymore' added one Nicola Hopkins. 'Dan Lobb was the best. Sorry but Lorraine & Aled Jones? Time to change channel – well done Daybreak!' concluded one Karen Foster. Ladies, it's taken you this long to work out Daybreak is shite? Seriously?

Sir Martin Sorrell has condemned one of his own advertising agencies for creating a TV commercial featuring an Argentinian Olympic athlete training on a war memorial on the Falkland Islands and called for it to be taken off-air. Sorrell, the chief executive of the world's largest marketing group WPP, said that he was 'appalled' by the campaign and that his subsidiary had called for the Argentinian government to ban the commercial. The TV advert was secretly filmed on the Falkand Islands by WPP-owned Y&R Buenos Aires and features hockey player Fernando Zylberberg training at British landmarks with the strapline, 'To compete on English soil, we train on Argentinian soil.' Snappy. In the advert, Zylberberg is shown frowning at a Union flag, before running past Falkland Island landmarks, such as the Globe Tavern pub, the offices of newspaper Penguin News and a red telephone box, before doing step-ups on a memorial to those who fell in the first world war. The advert is entitled: Olympic Games 2012: Homage to the Fallen and the Veterans of the Malvinas. Sorrell said that the advert, screened in primetime in Argentina, was 'totally unacceptable' and that an investigation into how the campaign was authorised internally is now taking place. I'm guessing, probably, a great deal of money changing hands may have been a factor. 'I'm appalled by the ad and Y&R have issued an apology,' said Sorrell. 'We are conducting an investigation and will decide what action to take.' Difficult to see what action they can take, though. Once the thing's made, it's up to the Argentines as to whether they show it or not. The US headquarters of Y&R has issued a statement condemning the actions of its subsidiary and called on the Argentinian government to ban the commercial. Which, obviously, they're not going to. 'We strongly condemn this work and have asked the Argentine government to pull the spot,' said a spokeswoman for Y&R headquarters in New York. 'While we don't believe it was ever the intention of the ad's creators to desecrate a war memorial, they have behaved in a manner that is unacceptable to our company. Furthermore it is against our policy to be involved in anything that is politically motivated.' The spokeswoman added that the campaign was 'offensive to the Olympic spirit' and the was 'contrary to everything we as a company stand for. We are deeply regretful for the pain this ad has caused and apologise to the many who have been rightly disturbed by it, as we have,' she said. The Foreign Office condemned what it interpreted as an attempt to 'exploit the Games.' A spokeswoman said: 'The Olympics is about sport and not politics. We are also dismayed at the insensitivity and disrespect demonstrated by the film-makers in their use of a war memorial in the Falklands as a prop. The people of the Falklands are British and have chosen to be so. They remain free to choose their own futures both politically and economically and have a right to self-determination.' Speaking on Sky News, foreign secretary William Hague said the advert followed a failed attempt by the Argentinian government to make other countries at the Sixth Summit of the Americas issue a declaration supporting Buenos Aires's claim of sovereignty. 'I think what is happening is they are looking for one or two stunts to try and make up for that, or save a bit of pride somehow. But I don't think trying to misuse the Olympics in some way for political purposes will go down very well with other countries,' Hague added. He said the advert did not change the UK's position: 'We will always support the right to self-determination of the people of the Falkland Islands.' Anger at the advert was also expressed by Falkland Islands residents. Ian Hansen, a local legislator, told the BBC the commercial was 'cheap and disrespectful propaganda', which had been made without the knowledge or permission of local authorities. 'It is deeply sad to see Mr Zylberberg clambering over a war memorial. Sadly this illustrates the disrespect the Argentine authorities have for our home and our people,' he said. 'At no stage does the video feature any Falkland Islanders – a clear reflection of Argentina's policy, which is to pretend that the people of the Falkland Islands do not exist.' Last month the Argentinian sports secretary, Claudio Morresi, told Reuters that his nation's athletes would not be using the Olympics for political ends. 'The Argentinian delegation will travel to London with the conviction in their minds and hearts that the Malvinas are Argentinian, but all they will be going to London to do is take part in the sporting event,' he said. But the advert clearly uses the Games to exacerbate growing tensions over the islands, for which Britain and Argentina went to war thirty years ago. The government of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has pushed for talks with London over the islands, but David Cameron has made clear his belief in the residents' right to self-determination.

Reviewing Tom Watson and Martin Hickman's Dial M for Murdoch in the New Statesman, not at all biased party the former Scum of the World chief reporter and news editor Neville Thurlbeck finds their account of the phone-hacking saga 'littered with inaccuracies.' What most got Thurlbeck's goat, seemingly, is the authors' claim 'I was caught fornicating with a Dorset couple. I wasn't. A video of my exploits appeared on the Internet, they write, "to the amusement of colleagues." It didn't.' More importantly, however: 'It is alleged that I live in a semi-detached house. I don't.' Blimey. I can see why he's angry.

BBC2's The Culture Show - dem also gat culcha! - is on the move once more, just when over-optimistic regular viewers thought the nomadic, ever-changing arts magazine (which rarely has the same presenter line-up for two series running) might actually have found a fixed home and format. This instability suggests George Entwistle, now a director-general contender, didn't enjoy his finest hour as its launch editor in 2004, when it was at 7pm on Thursdays. His trio of presenters were ditched in the Lauren Laverne era, when it moved to Saturdays. Next came thirty minutes on Tuesdays at 10pm, then most recently (with Andrew Graham-Dixon as main host) an hour at 7pm on Fridays. It's now moving to 10pm on an undisclosed weekday, which at least ends the ridiculous clash with Radio 4's Front Row, but means – as Newsnight is fixed at 10.30pm – it will be slashed in half again.

Tim Weber, who helped launch the BBC News website, is to leave the corporation after more than twenty years. Weber will leave the BBC in June after most recently serving as business and technology editor for BBC News Interactive. News of his departure was met with surprise and plaudits from senior newsroom figures, including business editor Robert Peston and economics editor Stephanie Flanders. 'I am sure I speak for all of us when I say that Tim's departure is a great loss to the BBC and the unit. He has rare and valuable skills – and is a tremendously supportive colleague. I will miss him greatly,' said Pestinfestation in an e-mail to the newsroom. Steve Herrmann, editor of BBC News Online, added: 'Tim was one of the original News Online launch team and there can be few more experienced people in the online news business. He's done an amazing job with the business section over the years, and his more recent adoption of the technology index has allowed him to tap into his considerable tech expertise (and his geek credentials, which I know he is proud of!). Tim's been a great colleague and member of the online team, and we'll miss him.' Weber was one of the three remaining employees at the BBC to have helped launch the corporation's news website in 1997. He joined in 1991 as a producer with its German service before climbing the ranks to become output editor of Europe Today and Newshour on the World Service.

Disgraced former media mogul Conrad Black has been released from prison in Miami after serving just over three years for defrauding investors. Black, sixty seven, who controlled an empire including the Daily Torygraph in the UK, and US papers including the Chicago Sun-Times, left prison early on Friday. Earlier this week, government sources in Canada said that he would be allowed to live there upon his release. He would be granted a one-year temporary residence permit, they said. US immigration authorities confirmed Black was in their custody and could travel to Canada or Britain, where he is a citizen. Black was born in Canada but renounced his citizenship in 2001 to accept a peerage in Britain's House of Lords. In 2007 Black was charged with seven counts of fraud - later increased to eleven counts of fraud, one of obstruction of justice and one of racketeering - and convicted of defrauding Hollinger International shareholders of $6.1m. He had been forced out of the company by shareholders in 2003, who accused him of involvement in a five hundred million dollar 'corporate kleptocracy.' In 2004 he was charged with securities fraud in the US. Prosecutors said Black defrauded investors by paying himself a tax-free bonus from the sale of newspaper assets without the approval of the company's board. Black's convictions rested partly on the idea that he had deprived his former company, Hollinger, of his honest services as a corporate officer. After his fraud conviction in 2007, Black was sentenced to seventy eight months in prison. He was released two years later while he pursued a partially successful appeal, in which a judge cut his sentence down to forty two months, including the twenty nine months he had already served. Black reported back to prison in September to complete the remainder of his sentence but was released after eight months on good behaviour. Black, who became Lord Black of Crossharbour, was known for his extravagant lifestyle. It was reported that Black had two apartments on Park Avenue in New York - one for himself and his wife, the writer Barbara Amiel, and one for his domestic staff. Among accounts of the couple's excess were reports that his chauffeur had access to a corporate American Express card used when shopping for the Blacks, and they also used the services of chefs, butlers, maids and security guards.

Some awful news now, Beastie Boys rapper Adam Yauch has died at the age of forty seven, his publicist has confirmed to the BBC. He was diagnosed with cancer in 2009. Yauch had surgery and radiation therapy but said last year 'reports of my being totally cancer free are exaggerated.' Under the alias MCA, he joined the group co-founded by Mike D and Ad Roc in 1981. They went on to sell more than forty million CDs worldwide. The band started out as a hardcore punk outfit called The Young Aborigines in 1979 but switched to hip-hop in 1984. Two years later they launched their critically-acclaimed debut LP Licensed To Ill, which spawned the hit singles '(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)' and 'No Sleep Till Brooklyn'. Fusing rock guitars with lo-fi hip-hop beats, Licensed To Ill was one of the first rap records to cross over to a mainstream audience - and the first to top the US charts. But the band became equally well-known for their bratty, bad-boy personas. They were lambasted in the British tabloid press for their stage show, which featured giant inflatable phalluses and cage dancers. And, when they began to wear the Volkswagen emblem on chains around their necks, it reportedly led to a rise in vandalised cars. Their behaviour undoubtedly started as an in-joke but became something of a self-fulfilling prophecy as their fame increased. Over the years, however, The Beastie Boys rehabilitated their image. Their second LP, Paul's Boutique, was retrospectively considered a masterpiece, its genre-bending sound collages paving the way for the likes of Beck and The Avalanches. Later records saw them play their own instruments and expand their horizons beyond hip-hop. In 1996, they released The In Sound From Way Out! - a collection of jazz and funk instrumentals, while the group collaborated with reggae legend Lee Scratch Perry on 1998's Hello Nasty. But they are best remembered for their hardcore rap songs - 'Sure Shot', the magnificent 'Sabotage', 'Live Wire' and the crossover hit 'Intergalactic'. Yauch was the band's filmographer, directing several of their videos under the pseudonym Nathaniel Hornblower. He also directed the band's concert movie Awesome... I Shot That, which stitched together footage from dozens of audience-members. The rapper grew up in Brooklyn, and was fascinated by electronics and explosives at a young age, building small home-made bombs from fireworks he had hoarded at home. Aged fourteen, he removed himself from a Quaker school to join a public high school in New York. 'I felt I was leading too much of a sheltered life,' he told Rolling Stone in 1998. There he taught himself bass guitar, after discovering punk through The Clash's debut LP. His new school friends also introduced him to his future band mates, Michael Diamond and Adam Horovitz. In addition to his rap career, Yauch was heavily involved in the Free Tibet movement, and co-organised several fundraising concerts in the 1990s. 'I think that movies and CDs they affect the way people think,' he told PBS in 1997. 'I know they've radically affected the way I think.' He revealed he had cancer in a salivary gland in his neck in July 2009, which led to the scrapping of a tour and an CD - Hot Sauce Committee, Pt 1. In an e-mail to fans later that year, he said the tumour had been removed and he was feeling 'healthy, strong and hopeful.' Yauch travelled to a Tibetan community in Dharamsala in India after surgery. He told fans: 'I'm taking Tibetan medicine and at the recommendation of the Tibetan doctors I've been eating a vegan/organic diet.' But in January 2010, he was forced to deny press reports that he was fully recovered. 'I'm continuing treatment, staying optimistic and hoping to be cancer free in the near future,' he said in a statement. The Beastie Boys were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last month, but Yauch was not able to attend. On the night, The Red Hot Chili Peppers dedicated their performance to Yauch. He is survived by his wife, Dechen Wangdu, and their daughter, Tenzin Losel, as well as his parents Frances and Noel Yauch.

And, for today's Keith Tellly Topping's 45 of the Day, here's Adam, Mike and Adam's finest three minutes.
Oh, and incidentally, remember - so long as the sodding snooker doesn't overrun - yer actual Keith Telly Topping can be seen in his occasional role as 'author, journalist, broadcaster and Professionals fan' (which, actually, he isn't, though he did write a book about them once!) on BBC2 this evening. In something from the year 2000 and wearing a particularly nasty lurid green shirt, dear blog reader. (And if you look closely, a pink T-shirt underneath! Hell, it was the tail-end of the last century, what can I say?) I did get paid two hundred notes for that appearance, though, which was quite a lot of money in those days.

No comments: