Edinburgh author Iain M. Banks, creator of the post capitalist space faring society The Culture and it's oddly named ships, has long been the UKs top science fiction writer, but has never had more than a toehold in the US (in part through lack of availability, in part due to lack of promotion and in part due to some pretty awful covers. That could change: Matter, his latest, has been heavily promoted in the US and sports a cover nearly identical to the UK edition. This week Orbit are releasing US editions of the two earliest Culture novels, with the third following in July, which could mean a complete release of all the novels in the US in order. [more inside]
"I'm not a politician, I'm an artist. Depravity is part of the job description," says self-styled dandy, former drug addict, and controversial British author Sebastian Horsely, who was denied entrance to the US by customs officials at Newark Airport on the grounds of "moral turpitude," a wide net that encompasses everything from fornication to being a "nuisance." Shades of Oscar Wilde.
Say you do a job and retire in or before 1996. Your coworker retires after 1997. Coworker gets six times more pension and you're asked to leave the country. Sounds unfair? Not to the British Government. [more inside]
Great Poets Of The 20th Century. From The Guardian so Brit bias... Introduction, William Boyd on Siegfried Sassoon, John Banville on Seamus Heaney, Jeanette Winterson on Ted Hughes, Andrew Motion on Philip Larkin, Margaret Drabble on Sylvia Plath, Rowan Williams on WH Auden, Craig Raine on T.S. Eliot.
1,000 Albums to hear before you die compiled from The Guardian's assorted music reviewers (assisted by readers who then told them which ones they missed). You won't want to be planning to expire any time too soon with these to get through.
One rather strange minor cultural phenomena you experienced as a kid growing up in 60s and 70s Britain was a number of television programs that originated from beyond the Iron Curtain. Most infamous was the downright scary The Singing Ringing Tree from East Germany (Radio4 doc), later spoofed by the Fast Show but there were several others... [more inside]
Kids on Aciiiiid! In order to protect her pupils from internet pervs a British headmistress has censored photos on the school's website by slapping smileys all over them. The result is like some combined fever dream of Chris Morris and Banksy.
Recently released documents from the British National Archives have unearthed the role of an astrologist called Louis de Wohl. His claim was that, since Hitler consulted an astrologer to determine what to do, he could look at the same star signs and predict what Hitler's actions would be. The Intelligence services apparently did not believe this - but British Security Coordination, a secret propaganda organisation designed to influence Americans to join the war, did see a possibility in this and sent him on a US tour where he foretold Hitler's imminent downfall. He may also have been asked to leak some information which had previously been decrypted from Enigma messages. A BBC Radio 4 interview with historian Christopher Andrew and writer William Boyd (starting 18min 50 sec in) provides more details.
Paul Raymond, billionaire porn baron and property magnate, founder of Raymond's Review bar - the "World Centre of Erotic Entertainment", and publisher of such periodicals as Mayfair, Men Only and Razzle that added much to several generations of English gentlemen's education has gone to the great strip-club in the sky.
The 'bullet magnet' is back. I can't believe that the British press kept a secret for so long (10 weeks is a miniature eternity in journalist time). It was supposed to last six months... I also can't believe that the odious Drudge has broken yet another big story. Was it all just a PR stunt? [more inside]
British internet users face ban for illegal downloads. A draft copy of a Green Paper produced by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport was leaked to The Times newspaper which detailed how the government was considering introducing legislation that would require ISPs to take action against users who access pirated material. [more inside]
British Movietone News - Digital Archives :: Apparently complete archives of the UK Movietone Newsreels from 1929 - 1979. Free registration required. Uses Quicktime. Beware of many lost hours ahead. Via DaddyTypes
It's a year since the untimely death of Chris Lightfoot. He had a remarkable combination of political commitment and technical expertise that led him to develop sites such as WriteToThem and Pledgebank for the splendid political and social software group, MySociety. His political writing brings a sharp and sarcastic wit to bear on such subjects as the Iraq war, and ID cards. There are also some good rants. A sad loss to British society.
The Cabinet Office in the UK has published "Future Strategic Challenges for Britain" [full pdf, summary pdf, website], a 180-page document which summarises current futures thinking in the UK Government, with a horizon of about 20 years. It includes predictions on big issues such as democratic participation, foreign affairs, climate change, family life and public services.
A BBC Horizon documentary, asks "Is alcohol worse than ecstasy?" (iPlayer link valid for UK users until 11 Feb). Here comes the science... [more inside]
Whooosh! London to Sydney in 5 hours on the A2 Hypersonic from Reaction Engines. Green too. If they can pull it off.
Erstwhile British TV star Jeremy Beadle died yesterday from pneumonia, aged 59, having just recently fought off kidney cancer then leukaemia. While most famous for hidden camera pranks, stunts and general cruelty, and subject of undoubtedly the funniest joke in the world (due to a birth defect), his lesser known activities included knowing just about everything, euthanasia and raising millions for charity. Love him or hate him, RIP.
Affordability for first-time home buyers in the UK has fallen by 351% over the last 10 years. Never fear; through a deal with the Hyde housing association, Paramount Homes and Scandinavian partner Skanska, Ikea has introduced the BoKlok into the British housing market. These prefab homes will start at just £70,000 (including a voucher for some free furniture) and will probably be built on the fringes of London, Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool. Previously
The Return of a Clockwork Orange - Writers, artists, directors, UK film censors and starring actor Malcolm McDowell discuss Stanley Kubrick's classic film A Clockwork Orange
For the past 50 years, The British have made some of the funniest Comedy TV Shows. Come inside for A Video Chronology of The History of British TV Comedy. [more inside]
Mark Kermode reviews Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. "Is that a nest of tables? No, it's Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley having some red hot passionate embrace that is positively teaky." [more inside]
The 50 greatest British writers since 1945. A few interesting choices here... the 'novelist's poet' at #1 seems fair enough, but this one, this one and this one?
It's an advert for chocolate. It's a man in a gorilla suit drumming to a track by Philip Collins Ltd. It's been very popular. It's won awards. It's been spoofed. And it's been mashed-up... some bad (Metalica (sic), ACDC, Guns and Roses), some good (Bonnie Tyler, Subsource, A Skillz, Bon Jovi, Deep Purple, Nirvana) and some utterly sublime ('Enders, Bodyrockers, Cameo). But great adverts don't always equal great sales. Bonus: Monkey Drummer. (Previously)
Fairytale of New York... censored! No, not now... Shane will make 50 this Christmas... Sadly not Kirsty.
Hammer films are back! ... The classic British horror film company has returned from the dead with the first new film in 20 years to be first broadcast in instalments via MySpace. This has allowed some news programs to camp it up just a little... See the trailer here. Behind the scenes. [more inside]
BBC launch Flash version of iPlayer The BBC have developed iPlayer as a vehicle for online distribution of its programs. Originally this involved downloading a stand-alone application for windows users only. This application has had a troubled beta launch and has drawn criticism from Linux and Mac users who were unsupported. The Flash version is an attempt to placate these users (though I believe you have to be in the UK)
"'It's been a magical evening,' Joel says as the Great Khali hits the Undertaker with a dustbin lid." Jon Ronson (and son) journey into the world of WWE to investigate the death of Chris Benoit.
Rhino Releases The Brit Box It's hard to explain in 2007 what it feels like for music to be both uniting and important. Having spent nearly three years of the '90s living in London, it's with honest nostalgia and wonder that we examine Rhino's The Brit Box. The set's mission is rather broad: it attempts to examine the whole of UK indie rock from 1985-1999 and devotes a disc each to '80s indie, shoegaze, Britpop, and the late '90s. [more inside]
The Government are clear that there should be no unnecessary restrictions on people's right to protest and it is right to review provisions which have generated such concern. Two years ago, the British government effectively removed the right to spontaneous peaceful protest around the UK Parliament. Now, that legislation is under review, with a public consultation open until mid-January. [more inside]
Mark Wallinger has won the Turner Prize for 'State Britain' his recreation of Brian Haw's Parliament Square peace protest. [more inside]
"My humble efforts to assist in the elucidation of the social condition of a distant and comparatively unknown race."
US has right to kidnap any defendant, anywhere, anytime, says it's UK lawyer. Until now it was commonly assumed that US law permitted kidnapping only in the “extraordinary rendition” of terrorist suspects. The American government has for the first time made it clear in a British court that the law applies to anyone, British or otherwise, suspected of a crime by Washington. [more inside]
Morrissey makes some controversial remarks to the NME. Defensive explanations by the interviewer, attempts at defusing the situation and threats of legal action ensue, as does satire.
"Hello, and welcome to Mainly For Men (part 1, part 2). And, as the title implies, this is a programme, fellas, just for you." Yes, everything the BBC thought the red-blooded male back in the late 1960s would be interested in (ie women, cars and shark fishing). The result was so hideous it was never broadcast until a TV Hell themed night many years later. Possibly NSFW... some brief nudity ('artistic', naturally) and mild swearing. And rampant mind-blowing sexism.
Norman Mailer has posthumously won this year's Literary Review Bad Sex Award for his novel on the early life of Hitler, The Castle in the Forest. He was up against some stiff competition but Norman managed to rise to the occasion (sorry). Safe for work, but you might feel a bit dirty in the morning.
Lucky Soul's 'Lips Are Unhappy' isn't the likliest of contenders for the UK's coveted Christmas number one, but this is the track (from a shortlist) selected by listeners of Last.fm to receive Last.fm's backing. Profits go to charity, as is the norm for Xmas No. 1 entries.
Oops: UK tax collection agency loses discs containing personal details of 25 million Britons in the mail.
You might have thought a six month hangover was bad enough but now in 'binge-drink Britain' there's a reported rise in 'exploding bladders'... safe for work but you might want to read it with your legs crossed. Or a least spend a penny first.
Walter Wolfgang, 82, was ejected from the Labour Party conference and stopped by police under the Anti-terrorism Act, for heckling Jack Straw. But when he spoke in Oxford... a Barbershop Quintet struck a blow for freedom of speech.
ukgraves.info has thousands of photographs of cemeteries and gravestones all over the UK, from City of London to the Kirk of Lammermuir, and random points in between.
TV-Links website shut down, site creator arrested. Says David Rock, who awaits charges, "It was just a hobby." [more inside]
Jon Ronson decides "I'm going to tell my son the worst swearword in the world". His follow up article is also interesting. Incidentally, his "Bad Science" colleague from The Guardian did uncover a list of the worst swearwords from the BBC no less (and previously)
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. In 2005, invasive MRSA infections were estimated to have killed 18,650 in the United States alone. This may be a conservative estimate. It is going global. It is changing politics. It may become pandemic. [more inside]