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Radio review: Infamous and CrowdScience

25 August 2023


Gwyneth Paltrow in court in Park City, Utah, in March. The story of her trial is told on the podcast Infamous

Gwyneth Paltrow in court in Park City, Utah, in March. The story of her trial is told on the podcast Infamous

OVER the summer break, when In Our Time is in recess, and you’ve read all those weighty political biographies recommended by the critics, what are you going to take to the beach for entertainment? Something like Infamous (available on all podcast platforms; released each Thursday), the podcast equivalent of Hello magazine or a Jackie Collins bonk-buster, which, in its two-part retelling of the Gwyneth Paltrow ski trial, perfectly melds the celebrity fetishism of the former with the lurid storytelling of the latter.

It is about so much more than who bumped into whom on a Utah ski-slope. Before we get on to the details of the case itself, there is the whole phenomenon that is Ms Paltrow: her filmography, which extends from the sublime Shakespeare in Love to the ridiculous (and thoroughly nasty) Shallow Hal; and her wellness/lifestyle brand, Goop, whose ambition is “the optimisation of self”. Of all the pretentious piffle that emanates from a Hollywood A-lister, Ms Paltrow’s surely ranks as the most egregious.

The expected narrative in this case was that she would be laid low by her own arrogance and self-obsession. She showed no apparent concern for Terry Sanderson, the 70-year-old who was left as a result of the collision with four broken ribs and concussion. She swiftly departed the scene to have a massage. Then again, Mr Sanderson hardly convinced as the guiltless victim, and was represented by an attorney who — as we heard from recordings of the trial — collapsed into giggling sycophancy in the presence of Ms Paltrow.

But who cares about the old dude? Certainly not the presenters of Infamous, who don’t even feign interest in the retired optometrist, or what happened to him when he lost his case. If they can be accused of one glimmer of psychological insight, it is the suggestion that Ms Paltrow’s obsession with well-being makes her unsympathetic to people who suffer aches and pains. It’s up to them to look after themselves. Just light a Spiritus Candle ($80 from Goop), tuck into some goji berries, and stop whining.

In a memorable episode of The IT Crowd, our geeky heroes present their credulous supervisor with a box in which is contained, in its entirety, “The Internet”. CrowdScience (World Service, last Friday) appeared to make the same kind of category error when it attempted to answer the question “What is the weight of the internet?” — although, in the attempt, it discovered much about the infrastructure that supports it.

We travelled from Cornwall to Mumbai by oceanic cable, and thence to northern Canada and a community blessed only recently by coverage, thanks to a new satellite. As for the answer, well, it all depends on the question. If you are including all the clobber, then at least 92 million tonnes. But, if the internet is merely the aggregation of the information-bearing zetabytes, then the electrons required weigh in the region of 0.36g — rather less than the 21g that, it has been claimed, is the weight of the soul.

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