In 1964, The Beatles put together a one-off variety show, with musical numbers specially pre-recorded for the show, presented in the style of theater-in-the-round. Around the Beatles was aired in the UK and later that same year in the US, but never commercially released. The show includes The Beatles performing a scene from A Midsummer's Night Dream, with Paul McCartney as Pyramus, John Lennon as his lover Thisbe, George Harrison as Moonshine, Starr as Lion, and Trevor Peacock (the only actual actor in the lot) in the role of Quince. A color clip of that was posted previously, but you can watch the entire (almost) hour-long show with The Beatles' segments accompanied by seven other musical acts, on Dailymotion or YouTube, though it's in black and white. [more inside]
The Englishman and the eel is a photo essay of 93 images (thumbnails here; 2 pages) and article by London photographer Stuart Freedman that "attempts to look at (amongst other things) the significance and the decline of the eel and its fading from the changing London consciousness" with snapshots of "those palaces of Cockney culture, the Pie and Mash shops." [more inside]
On Thursday, February 21st, influential British animator Bob Godfrey passed away at the age of 91. (Guardian, BBC,Cartoon Brew, Mirror, Rueters, Telegraph, and yes, even the Daily Mail. [more inside]
Noisey's feature British Masters features interviews by John Doran with Bryan Ferry, Luke Haines, Gary Newman, and Johnny Marr, thus far.
Behold, terrible drawings of British actors. (Note: the blog was originally called Terrible Drawings of John Finnemore, but there weren't enough pictures of John Finnemore on the internet, and, so, yes.)
Richard Seymour has a new book out: Unhitched: The Trial of Christopher Hitchens. It is reviewed in In These Times: Christopher Hitchens Stands Trial
That said, Hitchens’ later years and the enormous celebrity he enjoyed during that period are a case study of just how handsome the rewards are for those willing and able to serve as attack dogs for the dominant powers of their place and time. Hitchens’ main service to the American elite was to employ a combination of innuendo and character assassination to cast aspersion on virtually every high-profile figure critical of American foreign policy after 9/11—a roster that includes Julian Assange, Noam Chomsky, George Galloway, Michael Moore, Harold Pinter, Edward Said, Cindy Sheehan, Oliver Stone and Gore Vidal.[more inside]
And it's my plan if some great man, Dies with a broken head, Sirs, With much bewail I does detail, His death before he's dead, Sirs!
You wouldn't think so from its trendy shops and restaurants today, but Seven Dials was once one of the worst slums in London. Intended as a smart residential area when its construction was completed in 1710, this cartwheel of streets between Charing Cross Road and Covent Garden quickly declined to become an over-crowded refuge for the city's thieves. It was here that London's thriving trade in gallows ballads made its home.A collaboration across more than 100 years, from the jobbing hacks writing ballads and selling them at the foot of the gallows to the historical investigation of the British Library's broadsheet collection by MeFi's own Paul Slade, to modern rock, folk, and blues musicians, and then to your ears. [via mefi projects] [more inside]
ShortList has been reviewing British high-end (gourmet) burgers for the last few months. [more inside]
This unassuming, feel-good spice "has been one of the saddest stories of history," from the gruesome, grisly tale of how the Dutch tortured and massacred the people of the Banda Islands in Indonesia in an attempt to monopolize the nutmeg trade. [more inside]
I'm British (SLYT)
Here's a sitcom with an unusually high pedigree: Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi to play an old married couple in a new british sitcom from Itv, airing in april 2013!
What ho, dearest cousins in the Western Colonies. You appear to be increasingly using the vernacular of the mother country. Splendid! [more inside]
BFI set to open its catalogue of 10,000 archive films to stream online Yesterday, the BFI released its five year plan 'film forever' . One of the key points is the development and launch of a BFIPlayer in 2013 which will stream the 10,000 films they aim to digitise by 2017. Other objectives are also outlined in the full plan, such as the money available for British film production rising to £24 milllion p/a.
On October 4 you will have the cinematic opportunity of a lifetime to see David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia on the big screen in a new 4K digital restoration.
The Art of Vogue Covers details the illustrated covers of British Vogue from 1909 through 1940, including the entire collection of covers between 1920-1930. Most of the work showcased is by seasoned Vogue illustrators Helen Dryden, Georges Lepap, Harriett Maserol, George Plank and Eduardo Benito amongst others. Look for continuing additions at the Flickr set. This is literally just the tip of the iceberg.
A Guide to Writing Sherlockian-Tea Habits. In which EnigmaticPenguin (of death) schools fanfiction authors in correct English tea theory and practice. Follow up: Biscuits.
Given how little thought India’s contribution to the World Wars gets in our collective historical memory, it is almost strange to think that in the First World War India made the largest contribution to the war effort out of all of Britain’s colonies and dominions. Close to 1,700,000 Indians – combatants and non-combatants – participated in WWI. My own area of interest is India’s role in the Mesopotamian theatre. [more inside]
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]
"The British Library holds one of the world's most important collections of Hebrew manuscripts, of which about 300 have some decoration. All of the illuminated manuscripts and those with significant decoration are now in our Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts." [more inside]
Five years ago, I flew to England to see the grand opening of something improbable: an attraction called Dickens World. It promised to be an “authentic” re-creation of the London of Charles Dickens’s novels, complete with soot, pickpockets, cobblestones, gas lamps, animatronic Dickens characters and strategically placed chemical “smell pots” that would, when heated, emit odors of offal and rotting cabbage. ... Today Dickens World survives largely as a landlord, collecting rent from the Odeon movie theater next door and the restaurants (Pizza Hut, Subway, Chimichanga) that surround it. (previously)
... it’s no exaggeration to say that LIFEFORCE tosses everything in but the kitchen in an attempt to entertain you. Actually, scratch that, it tosses everything including the kitchen sink. By the time the movie is complete, you may have to watch it again just to verify that you actually saw what you just saw. The movie is a mess of enormous proportions which I absolutely loved.
* (previously) [more inside]
British scientists have discovered a “treasure trove” of Charles Darwin fossils that have been lost for more than 150-years. | 'I spotted some drawers marked "unregistered fossil plants",' he recalls. 'I can't resist a mystery, so I pulled one open. What I found inside made my jaw drop!' Inside were hundreds of fossil plants, polished into thin translucent sheets known as 'thin sections' and captured in glass slides so they could be studied under a microscope. | The British Geologic Survey has images 33 of the "Lost Fossils" online. [more inside]
Victorian Farm | Edwardian Farm -- 18 hours of BBC experimental archeology/historical documentaries, online. Archaeologists Alex Langlands and Peter Ginn and historian Ruth Goodman spend two years living the life of rural country farmers.
When it comes to railways, the British are famous for their colonial legacy of one of the world's most extensive railway networks built across then British India but their lesser known and far grander vision was the Cape to Cairo railway network intended to stretch across the sea of colonial pink on the African continent. Left incomplete due to politics and geography, most of it is still almost as it was built in its day. [more inside]
[Absolute Beginners] has a glossy immediacy, and you can feel the flash and determination that went into it. What you don't feel is the tormented romanticism that made English adolescents in the 70s swear by the novel the way American kids had earlier sworn by The Catcher in the Rye. - Pauline Kael [more inside]
Here is, um, something. Something silly, from the Goons. Here it is again. And here it is from the Muppets. And here it is in a bookstore at a signing by one of the Goons. More nonsense. And more. (← my favorite) And yet more. Okay, just one more. [more inside]
Peter Greenaway's "Prospero's Books" (NSFW) is not a movie in the sense that we usually employ the word. It's an experiment in form and content. ... The books, their typography, calligraphy and illustrations, are photographed in voluptuous detail. ... "Prospero's Books" really exists outside criticism. ... It is simply a work of original art, which Greenaway asks us to accept or reject on his own terms. - Roger Ebert
Before the Second World War, Rose Robertson did secretarial work. During the war, as part of her work for the Special Operations Executive (SOE) in the UK, Robertson parachuted into occupied France to spy on German troop deployments and act as a courier. Her acquaintance there with a gay couple in the French Resistance, and, after the war, friendship with gay lodgers, led her to found Parents Enquiry, Britain's first helpline to support parents and their lesbian, gay and bisexual children, an organization which she operated for many years. [more inside]
There is no questioning Syd Dale's [mid-60s UK NSFW] place amongst the legends of library music. ... his lavish big band inspired compositions were quickly brought to the public's attention through their use in countless t.v. shows and advertisements. Much of his work could be as classed as easy listening however Dale was also adept at incorporating elements of funk and spy jazz.
* [The music of the 1967 Spider-Man animated TV series - to which he so memorably contributed - has been discussed previously.] [more inside]
"Even if you ignore the embarrassing ceremony and clichéd platitudes, few of these awards actually reflected genuine quality or what is happening in mainstream genre publishing today."
British Fantasy Award winner returns prize; Sam Stone hands back award after criticism of judging process. [The Guardian] "Controversy has riven the 40-year-old British Fantasy Awards, with the winner of the best novel prize handing her award back just three days after it was bestowed. But the organisation and presentation of the awards has been drawing criticism since then, culminating in Sam Stone, the winner of the best novel award – named after American writer and editor August Derleth – announcing yesterday that she is giving it back. The biggest attack on the awards was delivered by editor and anthologist Stephen Jones, who on Tuesday posted a lengthy blog decrying the organisation of the BFAs and making several allegations against awards co-ordinator and British Fantasy Society chairman David Howe."
Thanks to his work in television, especially The Benny Hill Show, Benny Hill is the most universally recognised of British comedians. [more inside]
She won the World Championship less than a year after turning professional. She is undefeated in her event. She has repeatedly broken her own world record. Sports Illustrated calls her the world's greatest female athlete. [more inside]
Lawrence of Arabia is a 1962 British film based on the life of T. E. Lawrence. It was directed by David Lean... with the screenplay by Robert Bolt and Michael Wilson. The film stars Peter O'Toole in the title role. It is widely considered one of the greatest and most influential films in the history of cinema. The dramatic score by Maurice Jarre and the Super Panavision 70 cinematography by Freddie Young are also highly acclaimed.
Hidden away in vaults and out of distribution for over forty years, Herostratus was in its own time largely misunderstood. After only a handful of initial screenings it virtually disappeared from public view altogether, remaining all but forgotten to this day. Yet while admittedly flawed, the film does offer a compelling critique of the failure of 1960s postwar idealism in Britain, an ideal portrayed as having degenerated into neurotic self-gratification. It is also of note as Dame Commander Helen Mirren's first credited screen role. (not safe for those sexually aroused by Helen Mirren) [more inside]
Though it is by far Peter Greenaway’s most well known film and, for all of the visceral and intellectual challenges it proposes, probably his most approachable, The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover remains a difficult film to apprehend. (the beginning and the end, both NSFW)
"Today is our independence day from Britain. They recognised our independence 92 years ago; today's attack was marking that day" - 12 dead confirmed thus far as a result of suicide attack on British Council building in Kabul.
"Little slices of glamour beamed directly into your home in half-hour chunks; a perky theme, flashy titles, charismatic host, inventive format, gags, quiz, games, raucous outro – the works! Incredibly plain people given a quick glimpse of the good life, to which the tanned, funny man in the nice suit held the door." The joys of the 1980s game show. [more inside]
100 Firefights, Three Weeks: Inside Afghanistan's Most Insane Fight
"In its first three weeks in Afghanistan’s Sangin district, the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines got into more than 100 firefights and sustained 62 casualties. The insurgents managed to negate the Marines’ night-vision gear, and rendered their traditional close-combat tactics useless. Things got so bad, the 3/5’s superior officers even suggested pulling their troops back. That didn’t happen. Instead, the 3/5 went after the militants, hard. When the 3/5 came home, they told counterinsurgency historian Mark Moyar all about their deeply unconventional approach to what was already an unconventional war."This is an excerpt in Wired of Moyar’s 74-page after action report. (pdf) [more inside]
It wasn't like we were playing any kind of conventional music, it was outrageous, nasty, bad trip music... If ever there was a missing link in the history and development of British psychedelic music it is Rustic Hinge. [more inside]
British "super-injunctions" goes one step further: "A High Court judge has issued an injunction which bans publication of information on Twitter and Facebook." [more inside]
Nearly twenty years before the debut of the Academy award-winning clay-mation film Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Steve Box, Terry Brain, and Charlie Mills created one of the most widely-recognized British kids' shows of the 1980's... The Trap Door. [more inside]
Epidemiology: Study of a lifetime. "In 1946, scientists started tracking thousands of British children born during one cold March week. On their 65th birthday, the study members find themselves more scientifically valuable than ever before." [more inside]