As a flag-waving Britain prepares for the Jubilee/Olympics (or in the words of the comedy Twenty Twelve, 'Jubilympics'), the nation seems divided between the wildly enthusiastic and those suffering from Patriotism Fatigue(link may be NSFW). James Ward (of Boring fame) does a round-up of spurious Jubilympic themed products, after consumption of which you may require a sick bag.
Some British bus shelters are, implausibly, powered by the light of the sun, and some can see what you’re up to & tell you to stop doing it. Others smell like baked potatoes, or dispense free pieces of cake. Others still can get you high if you set them on fire. More often though, these are dreary, malodorous locales where one is increasingly less likely to see a bus, let alone three coming along at once. Photographer Steve Ellaway has embarked on a project to photograph the bus shelters of South Wales: an unpromising subject on the surface of it, but one that has yielded surprisingly rich and varied results.
The British Council Film Collection "is an archive of over 120 short documentary films made by the British Council during the 1940s designed to show the world how Britain lived, worked and played. Preserved by the BFI National Film Archive and digitised by means of a generous donation by Google, the films are now yours to view, to download and to play with for the first time." A couple of essays and case studies also already up, with more to come.
The Foreign Office’s “guilty secret” revealed Thousands of documents detailing some of the most shameful acts and crimes committed during the final years of the British empire were systematically destroyed to prevent them falling into the hands of post-independence governments. Those papers that survived were flown back to Britain and hidden for 50 years in a secret Foreign Office archive in breach of legal obligations for them to be transferred into the public domain. The Guardian details some of those papers released earlier this week. [more inside]
Railway termini are our gates to the glorious and the unknown. Through them we pass out into adventure and sunshine, to them, alas! we return.
Network Rail virtual archive Original drawings and plans of Britain's railway infrastructure from Network Rail, including the Forth Bridge, Bristol Temple Meads station, the Tay Bridge and lots more.
"Everyone knows there’s a catastrophe unfolding, that few can afford to live in their own city. It was not always so." - China Miéville on Apocalyptic London
If Britain were Greece... (audio slideshow)
MI6 intends to use the 1994 Intelligence Services Act to deny all application of UK law to extraordinary rendition. The case in question revolves around the forcible extradition of several Libyan dissidents back to Gaddafi's Libya and entirely predictable torture, including a pregnant woman. s.7 of the Act states that any intelligence agency action authorised on foreign soil by a Secretary of State is automatically exempt from legal action in any UK court. This could be said to conflict in some ways with the Human Rights Act 1998 and international law, especially since the HRA may be held to have implicitly repealed s.7 of the 1994 Act. [more inside]
Five senior journalists and editors at the News International tabloid the Sun were arrested on Saturday along with three public officials as Operation Elveden, the British investigation into bribery of police by News International papers, broadened to include corruption of officials in the armed forces and Ministry of Defence as well. The Guardian reports that the new arrests escalate the stakes of the ongoing US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act investigation of News Corporation, which carries potential penalties of millions of dollars of fines and prison sentences for senior executives. [more inside]
India tells Britain: We don't want your aid According to a leaked memo, the foreign minister, Nirupama Rao, proposed “not to avail [of] any further DFID [British] assistance with effect from 1st April 2011,” because of the “negative publicity of Indian poverty promoted by DFID”. But officials at DFID, Britain’s Department for International Development, told the Indians that cancelling the programme would cause “grave political embarrassment” to Britain, according to sources in Delhi. Further embarressment ensues. Emma Boon, campaign director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “It is incredible that ministers have defended the aid we send to India, insisting it is vital, when now we learn that even the Indian government doesn’t want it.”
The Reel History of Britain, a BFI/BBC co-production, brings archive film into the nation’s living rooms. The footage shown in the series has been selected from the hundreds of thousands of films and programmes preserved in Britain’s film and television archives. We are complementing the series by making many of the films featured in The Reel History of Britain available online in their entirety, alongside expert commentary from the nation’s archive curators.
RIP David Croft, writer / producer of some of Britain's most well known and loved sitcoms including Dad's Army, Are You Being Served?, It Ain't Half Hot Mum, Hi-de-Hi! and 'Allo 'Allo!
On the 25th March 2011, Mark Coop of 'Keep Calm and Carry On LTD' registered a trademark of the words Keep Calm and Carry On in an attempt to take control of the very British and now very famous, nostalgia invoking, wartime poster. The trademark has angered Barter Books (who discovered the poster), wartimeposters.co.uk (owners of an original poster) and Kerry Cade from Simply Printing 4U whose business was greatly affected by the trademark. Now, in true British Spirit, a group of wartime enthusiasts has come together in an attempt to overturn the trademark. [more inside]
Hot on the heels of the stunning revelation that Twining's had changed the 180-year-old recipe for Earl Grey tea, the Telegraph continues its reporting on the decline of British civilization with word that HP Sauce -- condiment of choice in millions of bacon butties around the United Kingdom -- has been brought "in line with changes in consumer tastes."
London Metropolitan Police formulated policy of refusing bail to all arrested in London riots which might have influenced high remand in custody rate.
Cameron said: “Free flow of information can be used for good. But it can also be used for ill. And when people are using social media for violence, we need to stop them.”
The British Film Institute has a youtube channel with rare footage going back over 100 years, covering many aspects of British life. Highlights include: 'Solarflares Burn For You' (1973) (featuring a soundtrack by Robert Wyatt); Rush Hour, Waterloo Station (1970); London Bridge (1926); Productivity Primer (1964); Today in Britain (1964); Snow (1963); Holiday (1957).
"Using pejorative terms like "handouts" and "doling out", some parts of the media are mounting a campaign to suggest Britain should be embarrassed by our level of aid giving. But the idea that aid is generous is absurd. Some families, inspired by religious tradition, think it is appropriate to give 10% of what they have to charity, £10 in every £100 of earnings. In 2010, the UK gave not £10, not £1, but 56p ($0.91) in overseas aid for every £100 ($163) we earned as a country. On average, since 1990 we have given even less, 35p ($0.57)." [Giving aid to poor countries is hardly a great act of generosity] [more inside]
"From Papua New Guinea to Stoke-on-Trent, Prince Philip has left his mark around the world. As his 90th birthday looms, Hannah Ewan recalls the soundbites that could only have come from one man"
In the UK, "super-injunctions" can prohibit the press from reporting a story on privacy grounds and from reporting that any such injunction has been issued. Newspapers are occasionally quite playful in getting around these increasingly unpopular injunctions. The Telegraph famously pointed its readers to the then-trending twitter campaign against Trafgura and, today, the Daily Mail appears to be playing a similar game. More prosaically, The Independent has simply reported a Tory MP's comments in Parliament that a currently sitting MP has taken out a super-injunction. [more inside]
It's an odd thing that libraries – by tradition temples to the unfleshly – can sometimes seem such sexy places. The Secret life of libraries.
Australian comedy troupe The Chaser (best known for breaking into the APEC summit in 2007) have been banned from reporting on the Royal Wedding by the Royal Family. The Chaser respond. [more inside]
How Britain's largest corporations helped engineer the release of Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber.
Indian prison authorities in Hyderabad have opened up a call centre inside the jail with hopes of servicing customers from the UK.
Robert F. Gallagher served in the United States Army's 815th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion (Third Army) in the European Theater during WWII. He has posted his memoir online: "Scratch One Messerschmitt," told from numerous photos he took during the war and the detailed notes he made shortly afterwards. [more inside]
The Martians And Us a BBC documentary series on the history of British science fiction. Part 1 - 'From Apes To Aliens' (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) Part 2 - 'Trouble In Paradise' (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) Part 3 - The End Of The World As We Know It (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) [more inside]
It's been estimated that the average UK adult is now registered on more than 700 databases and is caught many times each day by nearly five million CCTV cameras. So how hard would it be for an average citizen to disappear completely? That’s the subject of a new documentary film: Erasing David, (Trailer: YouTube, Vimeo) which premieres this evening in the UK on More4. It's also now available worldwide online at the iTunes store and through several Video On Demand services, as well as through Good Screenings. [more inside]
Most people assumed the Tories would walk the coming election. But with their poll lead evaporating, what would a Conservative defeat mean for Britain – and David Cameron? What happens if David Cameron loses? [more inside]
In 1937, the London News Chronicle published a photograph of five boys at the gates of Lord's cricket ground; two stood aloof in top hats and tails, with their backs to a group of three working-class lads. The resulting photograph became famous as a metaphor for the class divide in Britain, appearing in newspaper stories about school reform, inequality and bourgeois guilt and on the covers of books. The photograph appeared in the Getty Images archive as "Toffs and Toughs", and even was printed on a jigsaw puzzle in 2004. The identities of the three working-class boys were unknown until a journalist tracked them down in 1998; here is an article on the history of the photograph and the lives of the five boys in it.
Music! - A 1968 documentary by the National Music Council of Great Britain, featuring folk singing, The Beatles, and even early electronic music produced by tape splicing. Part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5.
"Half a million dirty Britons wash their bed sheets only three times a year, a survey discloses laying bare the disgusting bedroom habits of the nation. One in six people also admitted waiting at least a month before washing their bed sheets." "Londoners have the dirtiest bed sheets in the country." [more inside]
Comedian and activist, Mark Thomas, has been touring the UK over the past year, compiling a set of policies that his audiences want to see implemented in Britain. As part of the publicity for the resulting book, The People's Manifesto, his publishers are offering to pay one lucky applicant's £500 deposit and campaign expenses to stand for public office at the upcoming general election, on the condition that they will base their campaign on the policies gathered in the book. [more inside]
(NSFW) So Much For the Stiff Upper Lip. Slate writer gets jiggy wit the history of Georgian Britain's aristocratic sex clubs.
The Works of Swede Mason: "Jeremy Clarkson," "Get in the Back of the Van," "Jungle All The Way," "Bill Wyman's Metal Detector," "Put the Lotion in the Basket, *" "Got The Sucka," "The Gobshite, *" "Squashed Thingy," "Spare Me The Madness," and the pair of tracks based on Neighbors deaths "Coffee And Croissants" and "Todd....Dead." [more inside]
The far-right, whites-only British National Party (BNP) has won two seats (Andrew Brons, Nick Griffin) in the European Parliament. [more inside]
"The BNP represents Britain's workers? They don't even represent basic British craftsmanship" - a response to the recent political broadcast by the UKs far right extremists the BNP, who are currently trying to exploit expenses scandals hiting the larger parties. Weirdly despite demanding British jobs for British workers their advertising uses American models.
The Obama administration has repeatedly threatened to conceal future information of terrorist threats from the British government, unless the British government disobeys the High Court ruling requiring them to release information about the US government's acknowledged torture program. This may be a breach of the Convention Against Torture. Glenn Greenwald has new evidence. Previously.
'Roy Of The Rovers' is back... The footballer* has returned to the newsagents in a one-off special. [more inside]
Leo Baxendale, Hunt Emerson Neil Gaiman, Melinda Gebbie, Brendan McCarthy, Pat Mills, Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Posy Simmonds, Bryan Talbot - Paul Gravett's Heroes of UK Comics
"Let them arrest me". Vehemently anti-Islamic Dutch MP Geert Wilders was scheduled to travel to London tomorrow to attend a screening of his controversial short film Fitna (wiki, mefi). Yesterday however, the UK's Home Secretary notified Wilders that his presence in the UK would pose a "serious threat to [...] public security" (PDF), presumably intending to refuse his entry into UK. Wilders plans to board the flight anyway, daring British authorities to arrest him. [more inside]
Colour on the Thames is a 7 minute film shot in 1935 using Gasparcolor, one of the many early forms of tinting black and white film. Beside Colour on the Thames, which provides a wonderful view of 1930's England, the only film made in Gasparcolor I could find online was Colour Flight by New Zealand artist Len Lye, an abstract cartoon set to instrumental 1930's pop music. The story of Gasparcolor is in itself interesting, for instance touching on Nazis, Hungary between the wars and early color animation.
The sections of britishbattles.com about The First Afghan War have apparently been quoted verbatim in Al-Qaeda propaganda. Site author, amateur historian John Mackenzie, told the press "It's exactly appropriate to use the account of the first Afghan war to point out the pointlessness of the current operations and the dangers that they run of a similar disaster," [more inside]
Christmas in the London Blitz, 1940; Making Christmas Crackers, 1910; Santa Claus, 1898; Christmas is coming, 1951: short films from the British Film Institute's wonderful Youtube Channel (including excellent playlists), which you can also explore through Google Earth using the kmz file found here.
The Russell T. Davis papers – As he prepares to leave the role of Doctor Who show runner (previously) he’s releasing a book of email exchanges with Doctor Who Magazine writer Benjamin Cook about his time on the longstanding British SF series, revealing the younger face of Who he’s like to see, and plans for a Doctor Who/Harry Potter crossover which never materialized.
Last Year I Killed A Man, by Vaughan Thomas. Published Saturday July 19, 2008 by The Guardian.
The Birmingham Central Library, one of the largest and most important public libraries in Europe, has often been vilified as one of the ugliest buildings in Britain. A prime example of Brutalism, English Heritage has (controversially) recommended that the structure should be listed. Others want it to go the way of Portsmouth's hated Tricorn Centre. [more inside]