How Things Fell Apart, By Chinua Achebe - 'In an excerpt from his long-awaited memoir, the inventor of the post-colonial African novel in English discusses his origins as a writer and the seeds of revolt against the British Empire.'
I can say that my whole artistic career was probably sparked by this tension between the Christian religion of my parents, which we followed in our home, and the retreating, older religion of my ancestors, which fortunately for me was still active outside my home. I still had access to a number of relatives who had not converted to Christianity and were called heathens by the new converts. When my parents were not watching I would often sneak off in the evenings to visit some of these relatives.[more inside]
The story of British art From the earliest evocative stone structures at Skara Brae and Stonehenge to the disturbing 20th-century portraits by Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud, the art inspired by the British isles tells a truly spectacular story. Through painting, sculpture, architecture and much more, immerse yourself in the best of critic Jonathan Jones's epic survey of the artworks that have made us who we are interactive, intro
Nick Clegg is so, so sorry. (YT) During the last British general election, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg was riding high on a wave of popularity (previously). [more inside]
Ever had one of those nights that made you think about giving up drinking? Lucy Spraggan says it leads her to Beer Fear. (DLYT) [more inside]
The Economist on the decline of British boy's comics as The Dandy ceases print publication. As it circles oblivion it risks joining the ranks of Whizzer and Chips, Buster, The Beezer and subversive late entry to the genre Oink. The days of the Great British girl's comic are sadly long passed.
As you turn eyes to London to watch this year's Olympics, you might be surprised to find out that the City of London has a population of about 11,000 and is only one square mile. [more inside]
The BBC's new Olympics 2012 ad (full 2m40s version; SLYT) is a CGI masterpiece for the video gamer era. (best viewed with YouTube HD resolution settings on) [more inside]
Rupert Murdoch, CEO of News Corp., repeatedly lobbied Tony Blair to invade Iraq. In the days leading up to the invasion, Tony Blair's Director of Communications wrote that "(Blair) took a call from Murdoch who was pressing on timings, saying how News International would support us, etc. Both TB and I felt it was prompted by Washington, and another example of their over-crude diplomacy. Murdoch was pushing all the Republican buttons, how the longer we waited the harder it got." The phone call in question took place just days before a crucial vote on Iraq, and was one of three personal calls from Murdoch that Blair received in that week alone. Blair recently testified, admitting an "unhealthy" level of closeness with Murdoch, oftentimes communicating more with him than with his own ministers. In the first 19 days following the invasion of Iraq, Rupert Murdoch's Fox News averaged 3.3 million viewers, a 236% increase from the weeks preceding the war. Huge increases in newspaper sales were seen throughout his global media empire, with advertising revenue soaring to record levels. That empire now faces serious calls for it to be broken up.
In the wake of their grunge-y breakout hit "Creep" and the success of sophomore record The Bends, Thom Yorke and the rest of Radiohead were under pressure to deliver once more. So they shut themselves away inside the echoing halls of a secluded 16th century manor and got to work. What emerged from that crumbling Elizabethan castle fifteen years ago today was a shockingly ambitious masterpiece of progressive rock, a visionary concept album that explored the "fridge buzz" of modernity -- alienation, social disconnection, existential dread, the impersonal hum of technology -- through a mosaic of challenging, innovative, eerily beautiful music unlike anything else at the time. Tentatively called Ones and Zeroes, then Your Home May Be at Risk If You Do Not Keep Up Payments, the band finally settled on OK Computer, an appropriately enigmatic title for this acclaimed harbinger of millennial angst. For more, you can watch the retrospective OK Computer: A Classic Album Under Review for a track-by-track rundown, or the unsettling documentary Meeting People is Easy for a look at how the album's whirlwind tour nearly gave Yorke a nervous breakdown. Or look inside for more details and cool interpretations of all the tracks -- including an upcoming MeFi Music Challenge! [more inside]
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]
Welcome to the world of Britain's working poor. The Rowleys belong to a section of society not much mentioned in ministerial and media dispatches. They are neither the very wealthy affected by the 50p tax nor the "squeezed middle" expressing anxiety about child benefit and this week's budget; nor are the Rowleys representative of the long-term unemployed or one of the 120,000 "troubled families" in which the government is investing £448m over the next three years. [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]
Argentina will take Falklands claim to the UN Cristina Kirchner warns of 'grave risks to international security' and states intention to prevent war over natural resources. (Argentina) has mobilised much of South America and the Caribbean in a diplomatic and commercial squeeze. Ships flying the Falklands flag are barred from the region's ports, depriving the islands of bananas and other fresh fruit. [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 ghost of George Walker, his family, and his business practices have continued to haunt Britain in all sorts of odd ways." Filmmaker Adam Curtis blogs about the Walker brothers (Billy and George) on the BBC website. A story of boxers, gangsters, the British film industry, Dodi Fayed, Guy Hands and... hardcore mutant prawn. [more inside]
Here is Coffee: The Greatest Addiction Ever and other neat videos by C.G.P. Grey who explains non-obvious aspects of science, history, geography, elections, and economics in entertaining and clear ways. [more inside]
"Asked if he thought he should have been paid, he said: 'I reckon they should have paid me … I was basically doing what a normal member of staff does for Tesco. I had the uniform and I was in the staff canteen. I obviously got access to the food and drinks in the staff canteen … that's what they let you do … but I got nothing else apart from that.'" -- The Guardian on Britain's "Work Experience Programme," which provides thousands of free man-hours to some of the country's largest and most profitable private companies
Do you like bivalves? Do you like Britain? Then Marine Bivalve Shells of the British Isles is the site for you! [more inside]
Welcome to the Birmingham Small Arms & Military Bicycle Museum. Always wanted to bicycle with your rifle? Observe the 1942 BSA military Mk. V Roadster. Also featuring the "Airborne", the Airborne folding Paratrooper, the Peugeot Captain Gerard folding bicycle, the Lady Back tandem model T64 with Watsonian sidecar and, many more. See the many vintage posters and learn the exciting history of the soldier-cyclist.
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.
Although the sculptor Hiram Powers (1805-73) enjoyed considerable success with his portraits and more allegorical works, he is now almost entirely remembered for one of nineteenth-century America's most hotly-debated sculptures: The Greek Slave. Powers was a little vague about the inspiration for the statue--longstanding dream, or response to the Greek War of Independence (see previously)? Understood at the time as a major leap forward in establishing America as a serious force in the art world, the statue was an international hit (appearing at the Great Exhibition of 1851), and was endlessly copied and daguerrotyped. (Some of the copies turn the statue into a much more ambiguous bust, or hark back to one of its major influences, the Venus de Milo.) However, some observers, including Elizabeth Barrett Browning and, much more pointedly, the illustrator and caricaturist John Tenniel, suggested that an American sculptor might wish to think about other slaves.
The Sexperience 1000 is a neat interactive journey / visualization through the sexual experiences and preferences of British individuals. [more inside]
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.”
British figurative painter Lucian Freud, whose uncompromising, fleshy portraits made him one of the world's most revered and coveted artists, has died aged 88. Tate Gallery Google image search. [NSFWish]
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).
Dr Beachcombing is curious about the strange and the unexpected in records of the past. This is his engaging blog.
"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]
""The GAA player who performs in front of 70,000 at the weekend will be teaching your kids on Monday..."
"It was a picture of the dissidents' worst nightmares. The GAA was defining the police in Northern Ireland as "us" and Ronan Kerr's killers as "them"." Fintan O'Toole muses on the role of the Gaelic Athletic Association in defining and redefining what it is to be Irish.
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.