The 1976 BBC drama I, Claudius, an adaptation of Robert Graves's novels I, Claudius and Claudius the God, which came out in 1934 and 1935, respectively, is on YouTube in its entirety. [more inside]
Finding a Way: The Future of Navigation (BBC Radio 4 program audio, 30 minutes) examines problems with our dependence on GPS and what can be done about it. [more inside]
Create a high-powered microscope from a cheap webcam by following Mark's simple step-by-step instructions. Because your microscope is connected to your computer, you can save and share your images easily.
Selfish traits not favoured by evolution, study shows "Evolution does not favour selfish people, according to new research. This challenges a previous theory which suggested it was preferable to put yourself first. Instead, it pays to be co-operative, shown in a model of "the prisoner's dilemma", a scenario of game theory - the study of strategic decision-making. Published in Nature Communications, the team says their work shows that exhibiting only selfish traits would have made us become extinct. "
After much speculation and teasing, at midnight on Sunday, August 4th, in a live broadcast hosted by Zoe Ball, the BBC will reveal the actor who will play the Twelfth Doctor on Doctor Who. (Mysteriously, in the past week Peter Capaldi has suddenly surged in the bookmakers' odds as a favourite.) Meanwhile, rumours persist that some of the programme's fabled "lost" episodes have been recovered. (previously)
"Echo Point" is a chilling, sound-rich supernatural radio drama written by Australian author Louis Nowra. Originally aired on BBC Radio 4, it is now available on SoundCloud via producer/director Judith Kampfner. [more inside]
Between 1959 to 1970, late English film director Ken Russell (The Who's Tommy and Women in Love) created art documentaries for the BBC, many of them unusual adaptations of artists' lives. The documentaries included The Debussy Film, Dante's Inferno, Isadora, Song of Summer, and Always on Sunday. Bonus: Ken Russell in Conversation and Ken Russell at Work. Previously.
A month after its release, Naughty Dog's sweeping interactive epic The Last of Us is being hailed as one of the best games of all time, with perfect scores even from notoriously demanding critics. Inspired by an eerily beautiful segment from the BBC's Planet Earth, the game portrays an America twenty years after a pandemic of the zombiefying Cordyceps fungus (previously), leaving behind lush wastelands of elegant decay teeming with monsters and beset by vicious bandits, a brutal military, and the revolutionary Fireflies. Into this bleak vision of desperate violence journey Joel, a gruffly stoic Texan with a painful past, and his ward Ellie, a precocious teenager who may hold the key to mankind's future. Boasting tense, immersive gameplay, compelling performances from a diverse cast, a movingly minimalist score from Oscar-winning Gustavo Santaolalla, and an array of influences from Alfonso Cuarón's Children of Men to Cormac McCarthy's The Road, it's already being slotted alongside BioShock Infinite and Half-Life 2 as one of modern gaming's crowning achievements. And while it's hard to disentangle plot from action, you don't have to buy a PS3 to experience it -- YouTube offers many filmic edits of the game, including this three-hour version of all relevant passages. And don't miss the 84-minute documentary exploring every facet of its production. [more inside]
RIP Alan Whicker globe trotting reporter and 'television natural'. In a career that spanned 60 years he presented the BBC/ITV documentary series Whicker's World for nearly 30. He was the inspiration for the Monty Python Whicker Island sketch. (previously) [more inside]
Tomorrow, the 2013 Ashes series (England verses Australia) begins with the start of the first match at Trent Bridge (Nottingham). Though England and Australia have battled since 1861, the Ashes were first contested in 1882. Australia lead England 31-30 in series victories. England start as strong favorites with the bookmakers. Glenn McGrath cautiously predicts a 2-1 Australia series win, whilst Ian Botham predicts a 10-0 wipeout for England over the two series. The 2013 Ashes will be streamed live to 53 countries over YouTube. With Britain in the grip of unusual summer weather (sun), much play is likely. [more inside]
British comedian Josie Long explores All the Planet's Wonders in a very short series on BBC radio: Collecting. Animals. Astronomy. Plants.
The enduring appeal of an act with such a relatively small oeuvre is understandable based on their 2013 Glastonbury set. Fantastic live act cinematography. [SLYT]
Recently, at the BBC Proms, the National Youth Orchestra performed a piece by the composer and electronic musician Anna Meredith. The name of the piece is HandsFree. It's not your typical Proms fare. The musicians put down their instruments and commence twelve-odd minutes of clapping, stomping, shuffling, shouts and even singing. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
The People's Songs: The Story of Modern Britain in 50 Records is a radio series on BBC written and narrated by Stuart Maconie. Each episode focuses on one particular pop song and tells the story of the song as well as what social trends it mirrored, for instance the episode on Telstar by The Tornadoes focuses on the technological progress, especially in space travel and music, and the story of songwriter and record producer Joe Meek. 25 episodes have been broadcast, including ones on Dizzee Rascal's Bonkers and 21st Century Britain, Cornershop's Brimful of Asha and the British-Asian experience , and Serge Gainsbourg's Je T'aime and sex. There are 25 more to come. There is also a blog and profiles of the songs already discussed. [Previously on MeFi]
Jake Yapp presents the whole of Radio 4 in 4 minutes. (SYLT)
The BBC put cameras, GPS and mics on 50 domestic cats to find out what they get up to. The link shows the movements of ten within their village in Surrey with a highlight video for each.
There was no wink and they never sold it out for these half-hour, densely, beautifully produced pieces, which is, for all possibilities, obscuring that this doesn’t at all sound like a comedy show. It is all the production elements you would use in a full-scale news production. All the gravitas, but just inflated to a point that it has no gravitas whatsoever. And I think that is where it became this excitingly subversive thing because it just showed that BBC Radio 4 and everything it stood for was just a big bag of shit.John Oliver on why he's a fan of On the Hour. On the Hour, of course, is the legendary BBC news radio program created by, among other people, Armando Iannucci (The Thick of It, In The Loop, Veep), Christopher Morris (Jam, Brass Eye, Four Lions, Why Bother?), Stewart Lee (41st best stand-up comic ever), and Steve Coogan (Knowing Me Knowing You With Alan Partridge, I'm Alan Partridge). Short-lived but influential, On the Hour mimicked the tone and production of other radio news shows but replaced the content with what Oliver describes as "unremitting bullshit". On the Hour was aired in two six-episode series (S1E1 S1E2 S1E3 S1E4 S1E5 S1E6; S2E1 S2E2 S2E3 S2E4 S2E5 S2E6), and begat a television series called The Day Today. That show in turn added Graham Linehan (Black Books, Father Ted, The IT Crowd) to On the Hour's already all-star lineup, upped the already-insane levels of overproduction, and ran for six short-but-glorious episodes (one two three four five (WAR!) six), as well as a special 9/11 radio report. [more inside]
Mechanical Marvels: Clockwork Dreams Detailed and thoughtful exploration of clockwork and automata as a phenomenon in the 17th Century and their development into machines that could imitate human activity - eventually leading to the famous Mechanical Turk (eventually exposed as fake) and the truly astounding "Silver Swan" built by John Joseph Merlin. (Definitely not a fake) [more inside]
After four years as the Doctor, Matt Smith will be leaving Doctor Who at the end of the year. [more inside]
Voodoo, also titled Mini-Me, is a stop animation short created by Wonky Films featuring two knitted characters named Knit and Purl. Wonky Films has also produced two more films featuring the same knitted characters: Stuffing Up and Tickle. These knitted little guys have won the Bablegum film festival's Jury Runner Up Award and appeared on BBC Big Screens across the U.K. to help promote Children in Need.
The Royal Horticultural Society has temporarily lifted a ban on garden gnomes - normally deemed too "tacky" - at the Chelsea Flower Show. Garden historian Twigs Way charts the public's long love-hate relationship with these figurines.
BBC America has shipped the ‘Doctor Who’ Season 7B Blu-Ray/DVD set early to those who pre-ordered it. Only one problem: it includes the season finale, which airs next week. The BBC confirms on Facebook (where people are having fun in the comments,) and Steven Moffat has promised that if fans keep spoilers off the net, they'll release a special video featuring the 10th and 11th Doctors after the finale airs. [more inside]
BBC Radio 4 has begun to transmit Tweet of the Day, a 90 second 5:58 A.M. weekday broadcast (also podcast!), featuring the songs of UK birds. The program is set to last for 265 episodes, and will feature a revolving door of presenters, beginning with Sir David Attenborough.
How to play chess properly, as explained by the BBC. Written and performed by John Luke Roberts. Directed by Steve Dawson.
"Starting on Monday 29 April, 5,000 Britons will be challenging themselves to live on just £1 a day for five days, as part of a campaign by the Global Poverty Project. But is it possible not just to survive, but also to eat a balanced and healthy diet on that sort of budget?" [more inside]
Celebrate the 60th anniversary of the discovery of DNA's structure with a pictorial story behind DNA's double helix and the Rosalind Franklin papers, including correspondences and lab notes that detail some of her crystallography research, findings that laid the groundwork for Watson and Crick's later publication.
Stewart Lee asks "Where are all the right-wing stand-ups?" after BBC Radio 4's commisioning editor Caroline Raphael recently admitted they struggle to "find comedians from the right" on shows such as The News Quiz.
The BBC documentary The Fishing Party captures the mood of the Thatcher era with devastating accuracy. First broadcast in 1986, it follows a group of four City businessmen on a fishing trip to Scotland as they air their opinions on politics, money, education, discipline, women and dogs. Hilarious and appalling by turns, the whole documentary can now be viewed on YouTube: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. (Bonus link: the director Paul Watson describes the making of 'Mrs Thatcher's least favourite film ever'.)
To celebrate Doctor Who's 50 year(!) run, our friends at Nerdist bring you a new animated web series featuring a stop-motion 11th Doctor investigating a mystery involving his previous selves. It's Doctor Puppet! (I wouldn't have though it was possible for Matt Smith to look even more like a Rankin/Bass stop-motion puppet, but these folks proved me wrong...)
The Rolling Stones are playing at Glastonbury this summer. (Here's the full line up of the acts). Sold out. Followed by another open-air show in Hyde Park, London. On July 6. Also sold out. "So Charlie, the Stones are playing Glastonbury! Excited?" [more inside]
Something is coming. Not Winter (well, yes, that), but the new half-series of Doctor Who. Here's the prequel to this weekend's episode: The Bells of St Johns. And here's what you really want: Madame Vastra, Jenny 'n' Strax The Sontaran in: A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To London, Boy. [more inside]
The latest Dwayne Johnson vehicle, Snitch, has used an activist approach for its marketing campaign in a bid to expose the human damage caused by police activity in the War on Drugs. Meanwhile, the BBC notes that some law enforcement agencies in the US use informants in as many as 90% of their drug cases, with little oversight or consistency. Snitching is now an end in itself: at least 48,895 federal convicts — one of every eight — had their prison sentences reduced in exchange for informing, with much higher rates in certain states. Since the murder of informant Rachel Hoffman in 2008, there has been a growing focus on reforming the business of snitching, what the ACLU calls the "unnecessary evil." [more inside]
London mayor (and oft talked-up potential future PM) Boris Johnson is demolished in a slow motion bicycle crash of an interview. (The whole thing)
Memories of BBC Television Centre. The British Broadcasting Corporation's central production hub for the past fifty years closes this week (though parts of it will reopen soon as a post-production facility). There have been many hagiographies, but this is perhaps the most poignant. It's a building full of the memories of millions, good and bad (SLYT).
The Hidden Life Of the Cell (57:24) There is a battle playing out inside your body right now. It started billions of years ago and it is still being fought in every one of us every minute of every day. It is the story of a viral infection - the battle for the cell. This film reveals the exquisite machinery of the human cell system from within the inner world of the cell itself - from the frenetic membrane surface that acts as a security system for everything passing in and out of the cell, the dynamic highways that transport cargo across the cell and the remarkable turbines that power the whole cellular world to the amazing nucleus housing DNA and the construction of thousands of different proteins all with unique tasks. The virus intends to commandeer this system to one selfish end: to make more viruses. And they will stop at nothing to achieve their goal. Exploring the very latest ideas about the evolution of life on earth and the bio-chemical processes at the heart of every one of us, and revealing a world smaller than it is possible to comprehend, in a story large enough to fill the biggest imaginations.
You may be familiar with molecular movies from my two previous megaposts collecting them, but this extended documentary uses original animation that is collected into a coherent educational narrative and is just so fucking gorgeous. Enjoy.[more inside]
Steve Howarth has made a lot of practical special effects miniatures, including work on the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie, Moon, Crystal Maze and many more projects. Perhaps the most interesting is his work on Red Dwarf. [more inside]
Does BBC Worldwide's sale of Lonely Planet at an £80 million loss (after writing down its value by £67 million over 6 years), on top of Google's purchase of Frommer's last year, herald the end of travel guidebooks? [more inside]
Amazing territorial behavior by a fish bearing the rather odd name of "Sarcastic Fringehead," from the David Attenborough's BBC Life series via WTF, Evolution?
In 1963, BBC production designer Raymond Cusick was asked to design the first monster for a new show, Doctor Who. Terry Nation's script required aliens called "Daleks" whose hobbies included world-domination and shouting "exterminate". In response, Cusick came up with the amazing and even iconic Dalek design which spawned Dalek-Mania across the world. [more inside]
Earthflight is a BBC nature documentary narrated by David Tennant that takes a breathtaking flight on the wings of birds across six continents and experiences some of the world's greatest natural spectacles from a bird's-eye view. There are some full episodes up on YouTube (including South America, Africa, and the Making Of), but in particular these two clips caught my eye: Feral Cat Hunting and Peregrine Falcon Hunting.
BBC DJs Mark and Lard show of some of their treasured vinyl recordings which are "particularly hard to find these days in this kind of condition": Mull of *Kintyre, Messing about on the River, Rocking around the Christmas Tree, Bright Eyes (more). NSFW - although somehow they got away with broadcasting it in the middle of the afternoon.
The Radio 4 on the BBC is presenting a month of readings from George Orwell's books. Some of them will only be available for one week from the date of broadcast, so be quick. [more inside]
Quantum Biology - Disappearing in one place and reappearing in another. Being in two places at once. Communicating information seemingly faster than the speed of light. This kind of weird behaviour is commonplace in dark, still laboratories studying the branch of physics called quantum mechanics, but what might it have to do with fresh flowers, migrating birds, and the smell of rotten eggs? More: Quantum smell' idea gains ground Both BBC.
In the English-speaking world, punning is viewed as more of a tic than a trick, a pathological condition whose sufferers are classed as "compulsive", "inveterate" and "unable to help themselves". The BBC on Punning.
Britain from Above was a 2008 BBC TV program that used aerial photography and data visualization to depict British transportation, land planning, police management of public order, ecology and much else. Of particular interest: the effect on the national electrical grid of millions of tea kettles being switched on simultaneously at the end of a popular soap opera airing. [more inside]
The Value of Culture is a five part BBC radio series by Melvyn Bragg (which can be downloaded as a podcast) which explores the modern concept of 'culture' from its roots in mid-19th Century Britain, specifically Matthew Arnold's Culture and Anarchy and Edward Burnett Tylor's Primitive Culture (vol. 2), and exploring the discourse and uses of the concept until the present day. There are five episodes, each a little over forty minutes long, focusing in turn on Arnold and the roots of the concept of culture, Tylor and the anthropological conception of culture, C. P. Snow and the 'Two Cultures' debate, mass culture and culture studies, and then ending with a debate on the value of culture today.