Dylan Thomas at the Gotham Book Shop in New York in 1952. Photo: Getty
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His master's vowels: on listening to Dylan Thomas's voice

Thirty years after his death, Richard Burton remains one of the very few actors, along with Ralph Fiennes, Viggo Mortensen and Stephen Dil­lane, able to deliver poetry in a high-impact way that also makes them seem like they somehow own it themselves.

The numerous Dylan Thomas centenary programmes on BBC Radio 3 included a special edition of The Verb (5 May, 10pm) for a live audience at Laugharne on the estuary of the River Tâf, where the poet used to live, and a series of The Essay (5-9 May, 10.45pm) in which the New Jersey-born activist Kevin Powell spoke about Thomas’s far-reaching influence on black American poets. An archive recording of Richard Burton reading “Fern Hill” was superb:

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green . . .

Thirty years after his death, Burton remains one of the very few actors, along with Ralph Fiennes, Viggo Mortensen and Stephen Dil­lane, able to deliver poetry in a high-impact way that also makes them seem like they somehow own it themselves.

I recently spoke with Tom Hollander, who plays Thomas in a forthcoming BBC TV movie about the poet’s last excessive days in New York in 1953. The actor has a recording of Thomas at the house of a NYC socialite who increasingly plies the poet with drink while capturing him on tape reading from John Donne. Hollander said it was Thomas’s (“pretty pissed”) lines of in-between chat that gripped him most. Never particularly Welsh-sounding, Thomas had the kind of voice that does not exist any more: Home Service grand. It is worth noting how deep that voice went culturally, all through the British middle class as much as the upper classes and right into the 1970s. An arch, musical timbre that over the past 30 years has been brutally culled. “Every so often you do still hear it,” noted Hollander. “I was speaking to a friend the other day who went to a book launch in Nepal and said that literally everybody there sounded like that . . .”

The empire voice. When, on Bank Holiday Monday afternoon, we eventually heard Thomas reading “There Was a Saviour”, that august, over-freighted fruitiness was there; also, the great poet’s ability to disappear entirely into his lines, as Yeats or Tennyson could. A voice with tremendous reserves of patience. A voice that abolished everything but the ear.

Antonia Quirke is an author and journalist. She is a presenter on The Film Programme and Pick of the Week (Radio 4) and Film 2015 and The One Show (BBC 1). She writes a column on radio for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 08 May 2014 issue of the New Statesman, India's worst nightmare?

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Doing a Radiohead: how to disappear online

The band has performed an online Houdini in advance of its ninth album – but it’s harder than it looks. 

At the beginning of May, the band Radiohead’s web presence – well, its Twitter, Facebook, and website, at least – went offline.

Lead singer Thom Yorke has repeatedly criticised streaming, and the future of online music in general, and it's clear that his opinion fed into this month's decision to reject social media in favour of sending individual cards to the band's fans in the post. 

However, it’s also a clever publicity stunt in the run up to the rumoured release of the band's ninth album, since it plays into a growing paranoia around the lives we live online, and quite how permanent they are. In reality, though, Radiohead has done a pretty terrible job of disappearing from the internet. Its Facebook and Twitter accounts still exist, and widely available caching services actually mean you can still see Radiohead.com if you so wish. 

These are the steps you’d need to take to really disappear from the internet (and never be found).

Delete your acccounts

Radiohead may have deleted its posts on Facebook and Twitter, but its accounts – and, therefore user data – still exist on the sites. If this was a serious move away from an online presence, as opposed to a stunt, you’d want to delete your account entirely.

The site justdelete.me rates sites according to how easy they make it to delete your data. If you only hold accounts with “easy” rated sites, like Airbnb, Goodreads and Google, you’ll be able to delete your account through what justdelete.me calls a “simple process”. JustDelete.me also links you directly to the (sometimes difficult-to-find) account deletion pages.

Failing that, delete what you can

If, however, you’re a member of sites that don’t allow you to delete your account like Blogger, Couchsurfing or Wordpress, you may be stuck with your account for good. However, you should at least be able to delete posts and any biographical information on your profile.

If this bothers you, but you want to create an account with these sites, Justdelete.me also offers a “fake identity generator” which spits out fake names and other details to use in the signup process.

Go to Google

Search results are the hardest thing to erase, especially if they’re on sites which published your details without your permission. However, thanks to the European Commission “Right to be forgotten” ruling in 2014, you can now ask that certain search results be deleted using this online form.  

Ditch your smartphone

Smartphones tend to track your location and communicate with app and web servers constantly. For true privacy, you’d want to either disconnect your phone from all accounts (including iCloud or Google) or else get a basic phone which does not connect to the internet.

Give out your passwords

The artist Mark Farid decided in October 2015 to live without a digital footprint until April 2016, but was aghast when he realised quite how often our data is collected by our devices. As a result, he decided to live without bank accounts, use a phone without internet connectivity, and use an unregistered Oyster.

When I saw him speak at an event just before his off-grid experiment was due to begin, he announced that he would also be handing out the passwords to all his online accounts to the public. The kind of “bad data” which randomly hacked accounts would show would actually make him less traceable than a radio silence – a bit like how words written over other words mask them more than simply erasing them or scribbling on them would.

Accept that it probably won’t work

Even if you managed all this, the likelihood is that some of your daily activities would still leave a trace online. Most jobs require internet activity, if not an internet presence. Bank accounts are, let's face it, fairly necessary. And even Radiohead will, I’m willing to bet, reappear on the internet soon after their album arrives.

Barbara Speed is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman and a staff writer at CityMetric.