Sunday 20 January 2019

Radio: Is there life on Mars? We might soon find out

Entertaining segment: Cormac O hEadhra
Entertaining segment: Cormac O hEadhra
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

'No, I don't agree at all." The first thing said by Tory MP John Redwood to stand-in Cormac Ó hEadhra on Today with Sean O'Rourke (Radio 1, Mon-Fri 10am) - and it set the tone for a thoroughly entertaining segment.

In short, we had Ó hEadhra "asking the hard questions" as the UK's Brexit negotiations with the EU got under way. In response, Redwood was firm, argumentative, tenacious, even truculent… which, from a radio listener's perspective, are all very good indeed.

This guy seems cut from that classic Tory cloth, but without the usual politician thing of shiftiness, evasiveness, waffle, misdirection and the frequent use of the term, "I'm glad you brought that up - but if I could first just say…"

Redwood just came straight out with it: I don't agree with all of that. Of course not, and I've just explained why not. Why do you people in the media go on and on with this nonsensical idea?

Was Redwood right in any or all of what he said, you may ask. Who am I, David Davin-Power? I have no idea. But it was good radio. More of this, please.

Another good interview - with another stand-in presenter - came on The Pat Kenny Show (Newstalk, Mon-Fri 9am). Jonathan Healy spoke to Adeo Ressi, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who was opening an Irish chapter of The Founder Institute, a start-up launch programme and "facilitator".

The worst, even "deadly", mistakes any start-up can make, Ressi joked, include "almost everything". More specifically, if you hope to make your bones in tech, don't under any circumstances do the following: pick a bad name for the business, pick a bad partner or get wrong legal advice.

More interestingly, Ressi also thinks that governments should consider taxing robots in the future - not the ones that can kill you with their embedded laser-eyeballs, presumably - and reckons that people will be living on Mars "within seven to 10 years… I assure you, I know the plans, it's going to happen."

Outstanding. Bagsy me a window seat on the first cheap flight out there.

Ed's Songs of Praise (Today FM, Sun 8pm) is one of the better music shows knocking around at the moment, and this week cleared its normal fairly-high bar with an edition dedicated to cover songs. This demonstrated what can be done with music radio, simply by using a little imagination: take a familiar format, give it a little twist… and you've got music fans in the palm of your hand for the next two hours.

Some of these covers worked really well, such as Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's lovely, childlike Somewhere Over the Rainbow and Jimi's immense take on All Along The Watchtower. Some others, eh, not so well (Radiohead made the classic Bond theme, Nobody Does It Better, sound exactly like the dreariest examples of their - to borrow from Clueless - "complaint rock").

But with Nirvana, Lemonheads, Johnny Cash doing Nine Inch Nails, Faith No More and Jeff Buckley all following hot on each other's heels, this old Generation Xer was basically in hog heaven.

Finally, Talking History (Newstalk, Sun 7pm) also did a sort of "themed" programme, this one devoted to history books. So we had authors talking about their work on magic and witchcraft, American race laws and the Nazis, the Romans, 1916, and male heartthrobs.

Best for me was the opener, NY scientist Bill Schutt discussing Eat Me, a cheekily titled and rather brillo history of cannibalism. Whether animal or human (yeah, I shuddered involuntarily, too), it's a great read, full of - ahem - tasty titbits to get your teeth into.

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