Saturday 18 November 2017

Radio: Putin some shape on our knowledge of Russia's leader

Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo: Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP
Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo: Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

Given this week's Americo-centric theme with Donald Trump's inauguration, it's time for a quick return to one of my favourite things to get irrationally infuriated by: stupid, put-on American accents. Currently, our fine radio stations are running adverts (various stations, any bloody time) for two colleges - WIT and UL - and a shopping centre in Galway, and all feature people talking in that annoying twang.

The college ones are bad enough - loads of Irish kids nowadays try to sound like they've just stepped off the plane from California - but the Galway SC one is incomprehensible. Who exactly is this commercial aimed at? What sort of local person is more likely to shop there because the woman in their advert is putting on that daft accent?

God damn, radio, just stop it. It all makes me want to phone up The Donald and ask for the keys to the nukes cabinet, so I can thermonuclearly obliterate both campuses and that shopping centre. (Surprised they don't call it "the mall" in that ad, actually.)

If he's not taking calls, I could always try Vladimir Putin, subject of Talking Point (Newstalk, Sat 9am). Sarah Carey opened by saying, "2016 wasn't a great year - unless you're Vladimir Putin".

Her expert guests were Ivor Crotty, social-media manager with Moscow-based news channel RT.com; journalist Seamus Martin; and political science academics Dr John O'Brennan of Maynooth and American Dr Erin Baumann, currently at UCD.

We heard how Putin had a background that was fairly average for a Russian of his age. But since becoming President in 2000, he has ruled that giant nation with the definitive iron fist. As Crotty phrased it, the "hugely popular" Putin's philosophy is - to echo Louis the Sun-King of France - "l'état, c'est moi".

O'Brennan argued that, while the strongman "is not psychologically nostalgic for Soviet Russia", he is concerned with "Russian loss of power and status… he thinks like a 19th-century ruler in a sense".

Politics normally makes me want to stick my head in the microwave, but this was interesting, informative and nicely (as well as refreshingly) high-brow. Carey's a good host, she allows contributors and subject matter some space to breathe and time to unfold.

And she doesn't do that thick-headed, annoying thing you find on many current affairs shows, where it's all about argument and opposition and goading people into taking sides. This nonsense reduces complex matters to a notch slightly above cockfighting. Talking Point is better than that.

Arena (Radio 1, Mon-Fri 7pm) was trading in a bit of nostalgia itself with a look at T2, the sequel to the cult movie Trainspotting. Sean Rocks and Mary McGill looked back on Danny Boyle's 1996 drama about junkies, losers and one rather terrifying psychopath in Edinburgh.

It was, she said, the time of Cool Britannia. Mid-90s UK where the culture was shaking off US influences and finding new confidence in their own music, fashion, art and movies.

Tracy Emin, Alexander McQueen, Britpop: remember them? It was a fun and exciting time in British culture, although the whole Cool Britannia thing - and, to be honest, Trainspotting itself - was entertaining but weirdly forgettable. None of it has lasted too well (except for Suede, obviously).

Still, I enjoyed Trainspotting, but I'm sort of dreading this sequel. Come on, Danny Boyle, you're too talented a director to be rehashing an old dish.

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