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some ways with the Human Rights Act 1998 and international law, especially since the HRA may be held to have implicitly repealed s.7 of the 1994 Act.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]
"It is of such stiff stuff that the upper lip of the British phonetician should be fashioned, giving short shrift to chauvinism."
Howjsay.com is a unique online speaking dictionary that offers clear pronunciations of English words, phrases, slang terms, technical terms, brand names, proper names, profanity, and many foreign words, including common variations and alternatives. Astoundingly, the sound files are not computer-generated -- every single one of the site's 138,152 entries are enunciated in the dignified tones of British academic and polyglot Tim Bowyer, who has steadily expanded its glossary over the years using logs of unsuccessful searches and direct user suggestions. The site is part of Bowyer's Fonetiks.org family of language sites, and is also available as a browser extension and as a mobile app for iPhone/iPod and Blackberry.
Friday Frivolity: A highlight reel of clips from the BBC show Walk on the Wild Side, featuring voiceovers for animals so you finally get to know what's really going on in all those nature documentaries. This BBC playlist has previews for a lot of the individual episodes. (I got region-blocked on a few of those videos, but most seem to work fine.) [more inside]
More, perhaps, than any other rock star of his generation, Jagger has made it his business to understand and control the mechanics of his own stardom.
James Hadley Chase's No Orchids for Miss Blandish (1939) did for the gangster novel what Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep did in the same year for the private-eye novel. Both works were clarifiers, intensifiers, transformers. ... But, as so often happens, Orwell raises the important questions, and it is his essay that has kept No Orchids for Miss Blandish alive for serious consideration. (links may contain mildly NSFW cover art) [more inside]
Tabloid Watch and Daily Mail Watch (previously) keep a beady eye on what Nick Davies' Flat Earth News calls "churnalism" in British media. So, you can find out if PC Officials Tone Down Punch and Judy, if Councils Install Muslim-only Toilets or if Muslim Bus Drivers Turf Guide Dogs off the Bus.
TV idents provide a bridge between programmes, remind the viewer of the channel they're watching and give the announcer something to talk over about what's on next and later. YouTube is a veritable treasure trove of idents, especially British ones, including
Classic BBC2 idents of the 90's, [more inside]
Classic BBC2 idents of the 90's, [more inside]
Chai Why? The Triumph of Tea in India : "But whereas I initially supposed tea-drinking to be as Indian, and perhaps as old, as the Vedas, I have come to know that it is, in the longue durée of Indian history, a very recent development; one that (in many parts of the country) did not much precede my first visit, or that even followed it."
Shedworking is a daily updated guide for people who work in garden offices and other shedlike atmospheres. There is also a book on the subject. [more inside]
UK Space Agency launched with a logo that "looks uncannily like the logo for the British Rocket Group, a scientific body from Doctor Who." It's mission is to develop British space technology, "[b]ut this will have to be done through unmanned space activities, because for the foreseeable future the UKSA will not have enough resources to reverse the decision, taken by the Thatcher government in the 1980s, that Britain will not pay for manned space flights... planned expeditions to the International Space Station will be funded by the country's partners in the European Space Agency."
Odd pronunciations of proper names (in the UK and Ireland). See also this Wikipedia list, assuming Wikipedia recovers sometime in the near future. Sadly, neither list helps with the pronunciation of Raymond Luxury Yacht. (Inspired by the poll and a recent episode of QI).
Timelines: Sources from History is a decade-by-decade visual index to the holdings of the British Library from the 1210s to the present.
Space: 1999 (1975-77) is a British sci-fi series, the last production of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson who were first recognized for their work in "Supermarionation." This series saw the end of the couple, with Sylvia Anderson leaving the show at the end of the first season. She was replaced by Fred Freiberger, who brought in some Star Trek sensibilities and attempted to cater the show more to the American action-adventure audience. A third season was planned but not produced, and left the series unfinished, ending on an episode that was "like bad Shakespeare, or worse, bad Star Trek." Fans still support the show in many forms, even creating a semi-official fan-produced mini-episode entitled Message from Moonbase Alpha to bring some completion to the series, which was shown on September 13, 1999 at the Breakaway: 1999 convention. Another group of fans has recently taken to updating the whole series, to bring Space:1999 into the future. [more inside]
(NSFW) So Much For the Stiff Upper Lip. Slate writer gets jiggy wit the history of Georgian Britain's aristocratic sex clubs.
"It is the business of educated people to speak so that no-one may be able to tell in what county their childhood was passed." Despite efforts by Victorians to eradicate them, dialects of English in Great Britain continue to vary greatly, much to the consternation of many traditionalists. But a recently acquired archive is giving new insight into old dialects--some of which no longer exist. Recorded in a WWI prisoner of war camp on shellac disks, the archive was part of an effort by German linguists to study regional variation in the English language. A report by PRI's The World includes a brief synopsis--and a powerful rendition of a beloved Scottish ballad by a homesick soldier.
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]
Conquerors 2009 “There are many underhanded ways of making your conker harder. The best is to pass it through a pig." World Conker Champion – Charlie Bray. The World Conker Championships are on this weekend. All the action from last year. previously   In other news, a cure for bleeding canker has been found, with a welcome side effect, leaf miners don't like having garlic breath.