Bbc world service

Don’t tell them but the French didn’t in fact invent etiquette

When dining in France, it is considered rude to finish the bread before the main course has been served, and ruder still to slice the bread with a knife, lest the crumbs land in a lady’s décolletage. In China, you should never place your chopsticks upright in a bowl of rice, and in Bangladesh you may eat with your fingers, but should avoid getting sauce above the knuckles. If you are guilty of any of the above, may I direct you, politely, to a new documentary on the World Service. The programme takes aim at many outdated traditions (including those that resign women to the kitchen), but the conversation is

Why we drink

‘I like to have a martini,/ Two at the very most./ After three I’m under the table,/ After four I’m under my host.’ I never fully appreciated the brilliance of that spurious quote of Dorothy Parker until I visited Dukes Bar in Mayfair. It used to be the case – it probably still is – that you may order no more than two martinis there owing to their potency. Had she not preferred whisky to gin, Parker might well have banged her fists on that table for a third. After one-and-a-half before dinner, however, this critic would be more inclined to dance on it. Humans may respond to drink in

How the good intentions of Title IX ended up punishing the innocent

How do we have difficult conversations? Especially in an age of polarisation, where everything is immediately politicised? But also where calls for ‘nuance’ and ‘complication’ are sometimes used to justify what is really just bigotry. Is it possible to be both protective of the vulnerable and to allow for a larger pursuit of justice and compassion? These are the questions I was left with after listening to the podcast series The Inbox (part of the larger anthology The 11th), a tricky but sensitive look at the questions that surround the adjudication of sexual violence accusations on college campuses through the Title IX system. Sarah Viren wrote an essay for the

Insane and fascinating: BBC World Service’s Lazarus Heist reviewed

The narrative podcast remains a form in search of a genre. The template set by the hit show Serial — enterprising American journalists with janky piano theme tune shed new light on tantalising murder — still predominates seven years on. To this we can add the format pioneered by S-Town (initial murder investigation subsides into rich human detail) and, more recently, the excellent Wind of Change (intriguing what-if maps cultural and macropolitical shifts, with bonus CIA window-dressing). I remain sceptical about the form’s usefulness as a way of breaking hard news. Caliphate, the New York Times jaw-dropper on the Islamic State, is less gripping now its key source has been

From Hogarth to Mardi Gras: the best art podcasts

If you study History of Art, people generally assume you’re a nice, conscientious, plummy-voiced girl. Sometimes, people are right. It is the only subject I can think of that requires a student to describe what is already printed on the exam sheet. ‘In the foreground of the picture is a tree — in full leaf! — and on the horizon, a tower.’ It feels a little basic. But with art history podcasts description is everything. And to do it well is a real art in itself. The presenters of the Art Newspaper’s The Week in Art podcast were superb last week in their exploration of a portrait by William Hogarth.

Oracles, perverts and the Dirtbag Left

For 500 years the State Oracle of Tibet has worked as a kind of angry immortal advisor to the Dalai Lama, a Tibetan hybrid of Dominic Cummings and John Dee. The current incumbent, like all previous ones, alternates between his human incarnation and his spirit version. ‘In Tibetan Buddhism, the unseen parallel world of spirits is not to be taken lightly,’ explains anthropologist David Sneath on Heart and Soul (BBC World Service). ‘There are so many other living species,’ the Minister of Religion and Culture tells Sneath, ‘many of which we don’t even see.’ Sneath interviews the cheerful sixty-something State Oracle (living in exile in Dharamsala), various government ministers, sincere