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35. World

Tapehead no 35

Readers of last week’s Tapehead will be heartened to know that after the cruelty and horrors of the first State Of The Ark, this week’s Playing God, opens with some exuberant scenes of sealions splashing joyously around in the water.
You can tell the Emmen zoo in Holland is one of the best in the world because the paying public can watch animals enjoying large open spaces, no bars on the cages and constant soppy music.
In contrast, zoologists, Gerald Durrell and John Aspinall, are more concerned with “creative conservation” – breeding endangered animals and returning them to the wild.
Someone once wrote, “Thank God for John Aspinall. And Thank God there’s only one of him.”
You can see why, as Aspinall plays with his tigers, and casually explains how one of them developed an obsession with his corduroy jacket.
“I think it reminded him of antelope skin.”
The gorillas’ diet of fresh and exotic fruit, hot sausages and Camembert is better than Tapehead’s. Tapehead’s favourite is the tiny (week old) gorilla that looks like a withered little old man, with baby’s eyes and an Indian cricket player’s toupee on his head. Ahhhh.
Last week’s Fred Wiseman film on Fine Cut left Tapehead longing for some guns ‘n’ drugs, the sort of playground action Wiseman studiously ignores.
But after an hour-and-a-half of the brilliant, Oscar winning True Stories: I Am A Promise, which spends a year at Stanton Elementary School, Tapehead was quickly missing the monotony of Wiseman’s teachers.
Most of the kids have mums on crack or dads in jail. One nine-year-old girl has been raised by the same foster parent who raised her own mother.
The school’s saintly principal, Deanna Burney, arrives at 7am, to work in peace. In the playground, a six-year-old sits waiting patiently. This happens all the time. Kids wake up, dress themselves alone, and come to school not knowing what time it is.
Mrs Burney begins the school day with a confidence-boosting chants of Talented, Intelligent and Gifted and spends much of her week making evangelical NYPD Blue-style speeches of hope and understanding.
“What I want you to do,” Mrs Burney tells the mother of a hyperactive eight-year-old, “is tell him that you and I are together on this… We can walk him home and you’ll be there waiting for him.”
“I’m gonna shell you,” his mum rages at him, picking him up. “Let’s go, I am gonna punch you in yo’ face, okay ?”
Luckily, the World Cup semi-finals come along on Wednesday to cheer Tapehead up again.
It’s been a thrilling World Cup. Perfect moments have to have included: “To be fair, the whole of the UA defence there was a total shambles,” (Denis Law) and, “at the end of the day, the result’s the thing that matters,” by John Aldridge.
Three things to look out for in the semi-finals. The first is Andy Townsend’s Tommy-like transformation into Roger Daltrey. How someone who look like Daltrey can be called Townsend is, well spooky.
The second is Don Howe illustrating a goal by the gorgeous Redondo of Argentina, explaining, “here’s the space,” and circling an empty space, and then saying, “and now, he attacks the space.” (What else can you do?)
And finally, Don Howe’s pronunciation of Florin Raducioiu.
If Romania make it, watch out for Don’s passion for “Raddachewy”- something most of us make with courgettes, aubergine and tomatoes.
A World Cup to savour (on tape).

State Of The Ark – Playing God ? Thurs, 9.30pm-10.20pm BBC2
True Stories – I Am A Promise: Thurs, 9.30pm-10.55pm C4
World Cup Semi– Final: Wed, 8.50pm-11.05pm BBC1/ 8.30pm-11pm ITV