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.
Atlas Obscura (seen 'round here before) has organized its third annual Obscura Day for April 28. It's "an international celebration of unusual places," from the Fairy Doors of Ann Arbor, Michigan and the Particle Accelerator at John E. Edwards Accelerator Laboratory in Athens, Ohio, to a tour of the Secrets & Oddities of the National Museum in Edinburgh, Scotland and an Expedition to the 1,553 Stone-Carved Monks of Nihon-ji in the city of Kyonan, Chiba Prefecture, Japan.
A recent article in the Economist followed up on the British cover of this week's edition with a scathing attack on the economic case for Scottish independence. The Scottish National Party, currently in power and preparing for an independence referendum, are not amused but at least they have a powerful friend that can help out these days. [more inside]
Today is National Tartan Day, and in New York city it's Tartan Week! A celebration of Scottish heritage, Tartan Day is held on April 6 to commemorate the Declaration of Arbroath, a declaration of Scottish independence submitted to Pope John XXII in 1320. [more inside]
A potentially dangerous situation is developing off the coast of Scotland. An off-shore drilling platform is leaking substantial quantities of gas contaminated with hydrogen sulphide. Much as here, the comments thread is as interesting as the post at The Oil Drum itself.
The last man to remember St Kilda. Norman John Gillies was five years old when he, and all the other residents, left the remote Scottish island of St Kilda in 1930. Fortunately, we still have photos and films of island life, including 1928's 'St Kilda, Britain's Loneliest Island' (part 1, part 2). (St Kilda on MeFi, previously and previouslier.)
Friday dreams. Simon Raymonde, bassist of Cocteau Twins, writes: A rare nostalgia moment: i didnt think any footage from the Heaven or Las Vegas tour in 1990 existed and i remember how cool it was being able to have a lighting designer for the first time that tour but have never seen how our stage looked from the audience till tonight so this is a treat to me. The whole concert in on youtube now pretty much. And my god, what a voice Elizabeth had on this tour, absolutely perfect on every song. Some rare good memories. [more inside]
The true name of the man most famously known as Lord George Gordon Gordon will likely never be known. His name, though false, will nevertheless live in history for pulling one of the great advance-fee cons of all time, swindling in 1872 over a million dollars out of Jay Gould, most unscrupulous of all the robber barons and no stranger himself to a long con. Gould's quest for revenge would nearly lead to a military invasion of Manitoba by the Minnesota state militia. [more inside]
Hacker group Anonymous joined the FBI - Scotland Yard conference call coordinating their strategy against Anonymous. Call recording is now on YouTube with some suspect names bleeped.
Mapping out whiskey. Start here, swimming in Drunkards Channel: Map On Temperance, 1846. [more inside]
Tobar an Dualchais will keep you busy for awhile. It's a collection of over 26,000 oral recordings made in Scotland, from the 1930s onward. Folklore, songs, music, history, poetry, oh my. Includes some fascinating material from Belle Stewart, the McPake Sisters of Peebles and John the Bard.
Hanging With Frank - a 1997 short film portrait of a Glasgow prison's execution chamber and a man that worked there in the 50's.
Grierson believed strongly that the filmmaker had a social responsibility, and that film could help a society realize democratic ideals. His absolute faith in the value of capturing the drama of everyday life was to influence generations of filmmakers all over the world. In fact, he coined the term "documentary film." [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]
Voice recognition technology don't do Scottish accents. Really! Apple's new iPhone voice recognition technology, Siri, is having trouble with the Scottish accent. It has trouble with simple phrases like can you dance for me? and boot your bawz and how many miles are there in ten kilometers? and create a remainder.
St. Peter's was a seminary built near Cardross, on the outskirts of Glasgow. It is remarkable for its modernist design, the architects having drawn significant inspiration from Le Corbusier's brutalist monastery at La Tourette, and has been A-listed by Historic Scotland. During its construction, the Second Vatican Council recommended that priests should be trained and educated in the communities they were to serve; the quasi-monastic setting of St. Peter's thus meant it was obsolescent before its completion. Although it was briefly adapted to serve as a rehabilitation centre for drug abusers, it was abandoned in the 80s and, by 2008, found itself on the World Monument Foundation's list of most endangered sites (PDF, see p.58). There has been recent talk of the Scottish Government funding a £10m restoration project, but it is not entirely clear if the restoration is intended to turn the building into an arts centre, a museum or an 'intentional modernist ruin'. [more inside]
John Cunningham Climbing Ben Nevis, 1976 (slyt, 8:09)
“Before me as I write lies an inch-square bit of brown leather --- not, you would think, an inspiring subject for a tale. But perpend. This fragment of human skin, for such it is, has been since 1829 in the possession of three persons only: The original owner, my grandfather, and myself. Inconsiderable in size and unimpressive of aspect, it was nevertheless potent to influence the direction of my future studies… While yet a small boy, my grandfather would often show me by request this singular relic and I never wearied of hearing how he came by it. As a matter of history, its first proprietor, the late Mr. William Burke of Edinburgh, in the circumstances hereafter to be related, was publicly anatomized, his carcass thereafter flayed, his hide tanned, and his skeleton by order of Court preserved in the Anatomical Museum of Edinburgh University, where it remains as a memorial of his infamy even unto this day. Mr. Burke’s integument being cut up into sortable parcels to suit buyer’s tastes and exposed for sale by private bargain, my grandfather, who was then but a young man, invested a modest shilling’s worth. Wealthier purchasers bought larger lots --- I have heard that the late Professor Chiene had a tobacco pouch made of this unique material. Personally, despite my predilection for crime, I prefer India-rubber.” --- "The Wolves of the West Port" [more inside]
A year after spending some time in Edinburgh, and subsequently finding his way home across Scotland, Danny MacAskill unexpectedly finds himself in an abandoned ironworks. A zen-like state of bicycling ensues. [via kottke]
One August morning in 1826, two men went for a walk in the Scottish countryside. Only one of them came back alive. Timewatch tells the story of two men who fought to the death with pistols: one a respected merchant, reluctantly provoked into an unwanted duel; the other a professional soldier, steeped in military tradition. The soldier also happened to be the merchant’s bank manager. It would end with the death of one man and mark the demise of a 600-year-old ritual. [more inside]
Someone has been leaving mysterious miniature paper sculptures in various locations in Scotland. They seem to all be tied to Scottish author Ian Rankin, twitter, and the magic of the written word. [more inside]
Dog and Deco. My name is Pickles McConchie. I’m a 15 year old Art Deco and camera loving Terrier from Scotland. I like to travel the country with my bitch and pose in front of art deco factories and industrial buildings from the 1920s, 30s and 40s, as well as other twentieth century architectural gems.
Philosopher Crispin Wright walks the Pennine Way, answering questions, to raise funds for philosophy students
Philosophy fundraiser mountain walk-a-thon. Prominent philosophy professor Crispin Wright will walk the length of the Pennine Way, a 250+ mile mountaintop trail in the UK, to raise funds to support his philosophy students. (The link on the Pennine Way is worth reading.) Along the way he'll stop each day to answer a philosophical question voted on by the people who contribute to the fund.
It was bound to happen eventually. After a quarter-century, 26 Academy Awards, and an unparalleled streak of eleven artistic and commercial triumphs, Pixar's latest project, Cars 2, is Certified Rotten. Critics have assailed the film as a slick but hollow vehicle for Disney's $10 billion-dollar Cars
merchandising industry "lifestyle brand," replacing the original's serviceable tale of small-town redemption with zany spy games, hyperactive chase sequences, and even more lowbrow aww-shucks potty humor from Larry the Cable Guy. But it's not all bad news! Along with a fun new Toy Story 3 short, preceding today's (3-D) premiere showings is a first look at next year's Brave -- a darkly magical original story set in ancient Scotland featuring the studio's first female lead (and director). Evocative high-res concept art [mirror] is available at the official website, and character sketches have leaked to the web, with the apparently striking teaser trailer sure to follow. Also, be sure not to miss the sneak peak of Brave's associated short, "La Luna"!
How Britain's largest corporations helped engineer the release of Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber.
The Unst Bus Shelter website has been updated, and remains as charming as ever, 10 years on. It has been occasionally mentioned on the Blue, but the new version of the site shows that it just keeps on getting better. The shelter has even been praised by UK film critic, Mark Kermode who visited it when it doubled as a two person cinema. It has also hosted the crown jewels, beer drinking hamsters and music festivals.
"When you say to a child 'Bedtime, it's bedtime now' that's not what the child hears. What the child hears is 'Go and lie down in the dark. For hours. And don't move. I'm locking the door now."
Scottish teenagers to receive sleep training in schools. [BBC] Resources to teach teenagers how to get enough sleep are to be offered to schools across Scotland.
Can you speak Scots? As part of this year's census people in Scotland will be asked to say if they can understand speak, read and / or write Scots. [more inside]
Mr Mowatt said he had always wondered what lay under an 8ft stone in the garden and eventually curiosity got the better of him, "On the screen... I could clearly see what I thought was a white skull, with two eye sockets, looking back at me." [more inside]
A Short Film about Pringle of Scotland by David Shrigley (SLYT).
World War II was a time that called for many things from many different people. However, one Polish soldier stepped above and beyond the call of his nature. He carried ammunition, he helped his squad members get better at wrestling, and he drank and smoked with the rest of them - Wojtek, the soldier bear. [more inside]
Scottish trade unionist, journalist and broadcaster Jimmy Reid has died aged 78. Often described as the best MP Scotland never had, Reid was the instigator of the 1971 Upper Clyde Shipbuilders famous work-in, where rather than striking, workers demonstrated the viability of the shipyards by working to fill the orders on the books, drawing national and international support (including a fat cheque from John Lennon). The year after, he was elected as rector of the University of Glasgow, where he delivered a speech (behind a paywall, sadly) that the New York Times (which saw fit to print it in full) called one of the finest since the Gettysburg Address [more inside]
The Lewis Chessmen are to tour Scotland. As part of the tour they will spend five months the islands where they were discovered. Digging the Dirt's review of the exhibition gives an idea of what you're missing, and the chess pieces are part of the BBC's History of the World in 100 objects. They're beautiful pieces from a beautiful place, but underneath this the chess pieces are at the centre of some political wrangling over object repatriation. In a more low-key version of the arguments over the Elgin marbles some are demanding that the British Museum should return the 82 pieces they own to Scotland. [more inside]
UK adoption agencies are reporting "huge numbers of calls from 'deeply distressed' adoptive parents whose children have been contacted" through Facebook and other social networking sites, in violation of the traditional, confidential reunion process between birth parents and their offspring who have been placed with other families. Full report from Channel 4. [more inside]
New Order's 1990 official World Cup song, World In Motion, promised a new, actually listenable era in football songs. So what has England seen since then? The endearing Three Lions for the hopes of Euro '96. Fat Les' Vindaloo celebrated the marriage of matches and curries. Meat Pie Sausage Roll celebrated the meal options of your average footie ground. On The Ball celebrated the meteoric rise of Ant and Dec. In 2006, we had a novelty cover of a novelty song, the unspeakable, the unelectable, and the so bad it loops round to genius. [more inside]
Your dreams of rapping superstardom are stymied by your Scottish sound, so what do you do? Simple: reinvent yourself as a West Coast wild boy, with American accent and history to match. Keeping it real might be murder, but even when it all falls apart, at least you got to tour with Eminem and D12 – and you can salvage something by writing a book about it all.
Information-age math finds code in ancient Scottish symbols. "The ancestors of modern Scottish people left behind mysterious, carved stones that new research has just determined contain the written language of the Picts, an Iron Age society that existed in Scotland from 300 to 843. The highly stylized rock engravings, found on what are known as the Pictish Stones, had once been thought to be rock art or tied to heraldry. The new study, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A, instead concludes that the engravings represent the long lost language of the Picts, a confederation of Celtic tribes that lived in modern-day eastern and northern Scotland."
In 1954 the UK Atomic Energy Authority established a research campus at a distant, disused airfield in Caithness, Scotland. The mission: develop fast breeder reactor technology. In 1988, they chose to conclude the research and in 2000 to decommission the site. This 32-year cleanup now underway is chronicled at a most snazzy website... [more inside]
Originally developed for military tasks, amphibious buses have found a niche running tourist services in various cities around the world. But now, Scotland is about to get the first timetabled amphibious bus passenger service, replacing a ferry route in Glasgow and extending it inland to a nearby town and a shopping centre. [more inside]
One person’s helpful mood improver, though, is another’s worryingly effective stimulant. "The drink is 15 percent alcohol by volume, a bit stronger than most wines. Also, each 750 milliliter bottle contains as much caffeine as eight cans of Coke." Scottish authorities are trying to reduce alcoholism in the country, but consumers still love their Buckfast, which has been linked to violent behavior by some, and dismissed as merely a scapegoat by others. [more inside]
to be held for the first time in 30 years, the 'Grand Match' has been canceled due to safety fears. [more inside]
Last month, extreme weather conditions in the Pacific brought us The Eddie. Right now in Scotland, a serious cold snap means there's an even rarer sporting event on the verge of occurring: The Grand Match. [more inside]
Scotland's National Collection of Aerial Photography includes a plethora of pictures of Scotland, notably Edinburgh and Glasgow, seen from above, many dating back to WWII. But there are also photographs of wartime European cities and images of elsewhere from the Aerial Reconnaissance Archives.
Utopia Britannica is a collection of stories and a gazetter about utopian communes in the British Isles from the 14th Century up until the end of World War II. There are some incredible tales in here, such as 'Free Love' in 19th Century Somerset, St. Kilda, Death of an Island Republic, Percy Bysshe Shelley's attempted communes, Augustus John, the King of Bohemia and many more.