MonthJune 2018

The Misadventures of Romesh Ranganathan review – high alert in Haiti

Celebrity travelogues are not my favourite TV genre, but if I have to go somewhere, I don’t mind going with Romesh During a clearout the other day, I came across a couple of carved wooden figures I had forgotten about. I got them a long time ago at the Iron Market in Port-au-Prince. I cannot remember whether they had anything to do with voodoo, but when I got home I did not like them as much as I thought I did when I was (probably) having a pathetic and (almost certainly) unsuccessful attempt to haggle for them in a hot market a long way from home. They went into a box. It is probably why my life has been cursed ever since. I went to Haiti because I was young and stupid and thought it would be an interesting place for a holiday. It was interesting, to be fair, but it did not feel much like a holiday. Mostly, I remember wondering what to do and pretending not to be scared. Related: Dogs, dives, voodoo and guns: Romesh Ranganathan’s Haiti holiday Continue reading… [hmp_player]

I’m terrified of flying insects – could a twerking bee cure me?

The campaign to save our bees is something we can all get behind, so I decided to face my fears at an urban apiary You know what really makes a summer? Being besieged by flying insectoid life forms with venomous stingers. As a child, I discovered a wasps’ nest in the shed while trying to retrieve a lawnmower and it didn’t end well. Now a grown man, I’m terrified of anything airborne. The list of things that have triggered freak-outs includes flies, butterflies, poplar fluff and falling leaves, as well as the hair on my own neck. So, I am uncomfortable to be at Black Bee Honey, an apiary in Woodford, east London. I’m here to face my fears by putting my face next to things I’m afraid of: insects with wings and stings. The company’s co-founder, Chris Barnes, is swinging a smoker around like a Russian Orthodox priest, attempting to pacify the bees, or me. He explains that bees sting only to defend their hive, that stinging a human will kill them, that these bees have been bred to be docile. The thing is, he is wearing a full protective suit, as is everyone else around. “That sounds great,” I say. “But can I wear what you’re wearing? And you mentioned gloves. Where are they?” Continue reading… [hmp_player]

The mega mural movement: how India’s rundown railway stations have been transformed

Many Indian stations are a microcosm of the squalor that afflicts the urban landscape. But all that is changing, in an explosion of birds, tigers and Buddhist statues In India, 23 million people travel on the railways every day, and the stations are full of life. The poorer passengers don’t just pass through the stations – they sleep in them, cook meals on kerosene stoves, eat and wash on the platforms as they wait for unconscionably delayed trains. As a result, many Indian stations have become a microcosm of the squalor that afflicts much of the urban landscape. But all that is changing. There are now 80 stations (and some metro stations) across India where every throbs with colour and imagery. Indians who would normally never enter an art gallery now encounter new art by local artists or traditional art forms that had been threatened with extinction on a daily basis. Continue reading… [hmp_player]

Ear Hustle: unlocking the truth about San Quentin

Made in the notorious California jail, the Ear Hustle podcast reveals the inside stories of American prison life, from trans inmates to unexpected tenderness. No wonder it has 10m fans The transgender section had yet to be added to the prison shopping catalogue when Lady Jae arrived in San Quentin in 2013. Unable to order makeup, what did she do? “We had to become prison chemists,” says the inmate, in a voice oozing sass. “You take a plastic razor. You burn the razor. Then you hold up a piece of paper and let all that black vapour get on the paper. Take white toothpaste, mix it all up with a dab of grease, then apply it to your eyes.” Lady Jae, AKA Jarvis Jovan Clark, is one of the many startling characters who populate Ear Hustle, a podcast made by and about the inmates of the infamous San Quentin prison in San Francisco. While she’s the star turn of The Workaround, an early episode devoted to the importance of looking and feeling good while incarcerated, that instalment also introduced us to Big Zo, a barber who can do a high-top fade so perfect “you’ll be getting saluted for a week”, and Bucci, a creator of luxury soaps ranging from orange zest to dried mango, raisin and oatmeal. We get hundreds, if not thousands, of emails. Maybe five said these people shouldn’t have a voice’ Continue reading… [hmp_player]

Pelléas et Mélisande review – crashing symbols overpower doomed lovers

Glyndebourne Opera House, Lewes The many layers of Stefan Herheim’s staging prove detaching distractions from the twisted mystery of the Debussy tragedy Anyone visiting Glyndebourne for its new production of Pelléas et Mélisande would be advised to take a quick tour around the organ room there before curtain-up, to remind themselves of its layout and the paintings on the walls. For Stefan Herheim’s staging, handsomely designed by Philipp Fürhofer, faithfully re-creates that space, which once housed the largest British organ not in a cathedral, and which is still dominated by the case and surviving pipes of that huge instrument. Herheim’s production is set in the period between the world wars when John Christie took over Glyndebourne, had the organ built, and started hosting opera performances there. But that self-referential mise-en-scène proves to just one of the multiple layers of allusion presented here, only striking a false note at the woefully banal final curtain. By then, though, the plethora of symbolism loaded on to what is already the archetypal symbolist opera has become a real distraction from the central tragedy of this emotionally bereft and isolated royal family. Continue reading… [hmp_player]