Near empty trains rattle around the countryside at odd hours of the day and night... Why Britain has secret ghost trains [more inside]
BBC: George Osborne has launched his spending review with a call for £20bn cuts to Whitehall budgets. Each unprotected department has been asked to come up with savings plans of 25% and 40% of their budget. The chancellor said departments had also been asked to help meet a target of 150,000 new homes on public sector land by 2020. The NHS and per-pupil schools budgets will be protected in the review, which will be published on 25 November. Mr Osborne, who is currently giving evidence to MPs, said that "with careful management of public money, we can get more for less".
After the recent rout of the Labour Party by the Scottish National Party (SNP), at the age of 20, Mhairi Black became the UK's youngest MP since the Reform Act of 1832. Her maiden speech to the House of Commons is a witty, sharp, unsparing account of how Labour failed Scotland and the UK, generally.
In 2004 Ashley Mote stood as a European Parliament candidate for the anti-EU right-wing UK Independence Party on a platform of opposing corruption. Elected, his standing with UKIP was withdrawn when the party discovered he was being prosecuted for benefit fraud, for which he was later convicted despite attempting to invoke immunity from prosecution. But that offence was dwarfed by the expenses fraud he committed as an MEP. In May this year, Mote was convicted of embezzling nearly half a million pounds, and today he was sentenced to five years in prison. Mr Justice Stuart-Smith did not exactly mince his words when handing down sentence.
Dr. Dave Southall is an engineer who makes things, like monowheels, mini-monowheels, water bottle jetpacks, racing mowers, racing bars stools, uniboards, and other fun things.
Armed police in England and Wales only fired their weapons twice over the course of 14,864 operations that took place from 2013-2014.
How British Gay Men Used To Talk: A short film featuring Polari, the cult language of UK homosexuals derived from theatre and circus slang, popularized in the 1960s by the camp radio characters Julian and Sandy. Need a dictionary? Or a translated Polari scene from Velvet Goldmine?
The editor of the 63-year old weekly music magazine announces a new direction for Britain's flagship music publication. Following the trend of shrinking sales across all printed media (from a peak of over 300'000 issues sold weekly to barely staying above 15'000 last year), the NME will continue as a free "music and lifestyle" magazine and a new, revamped web presence. [more inside]
BBC: "A clampdown on "taxpayer-funded subsidies" for "higher earners" living in social housing is to be announced by the chancellor in Wednesday's Budget. Local authority and housing association tenants in England who earn more than £30,000 - or £40,000 in London - will have to pay up to the market rent, George Osborne will say. The move is expected to raise up to £250m a year by 2018-19. It is thought that this could affect 340,000 households." George Osborne said: "the Budget would "reward work over welfare" and allow people to keep more of the money they earned."
Krugman battles the Austerians. A little light infotainment for those becoming increasingly frustrated at the counterproductive policies pushed by partisan economists and more disturbingly by whole governments. [more inside]
Action Man: Battlefield Casualties is a disturbing spoof toy commercial in a campaign by Veterans for Peace UK to raise the military recruitment age from 16 to 18. Warning: autoplaying video with graphic violence.
Bizarre. Floral. Witty. Futuristic. Avian. Not just for women, either. The hats of Royal Ascot 2015 are stunning works of millinery art. Just the Ladies Day pictures (cute). [more inside]
The wetsuitman. Last winter two bodies were found in Norway and the Netherlands. They were wearing identical wetsuits. The police in three countries were involved in the case, but never managed to identify them. This is the story of who they were.
Elite firms are sidelining the UK's bright working-class applicants in favour of privileged, "polished" candidates, a report says. The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission says these firms draw from a small pool of graduates, who probably went to private or selective schools. This version of talent can be "mapped to middle-class status", it adds.
RIP Sir Christopher Lee, actor most famous for playing Dracula in numerous horror films but also notable roles as Lord Summerisle in The Wicker Man, Scaramanga in the James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun and Saruman in The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit film trilogies [more inside]
A video from Rainbow Health Ontario interviews three bisexual people and their partners about support and identity within relationships. Part of a series including friends and parents. (Bi defined broadly in video.) Other links below the cut... [more inside]
Something about this country – the divisions, the class system, the general sense of distrust and dissatisfaction – seems to breed youth subcultures like no other place on Earth. The strange, stylish clans that this island incubates have been exported across the world, influencing everything from high street fashion to high art. From teddy boys to 2 Tone rudeboys, soulboys to Slipknot fans, grunge bands to grime crews, mods to mod revivalists, the history of these groups shows us a version of modern Britain that goes way beyond Diana and Blair.[more inside]
Phillip Larkin was one of Britain's most famous twentieth century poets. He's probably most well known for 'This Be The Verse' (nsfw) but another notable poem was 'The Whitsun Weddings' based on a railway journey or journeys he undertook from Hull to London fifty years ago. Fellow poet Ian McMillan revisits that journey.
Harry Beck's original London Underground Tube Map was a design classic. The latest Transport For London version... Not so much.
It's Election Day here in the UK and it's looking likely that neither party is going to win an outright majority of the seats in the house of commons: are the conservatives and the right wing media machine in the UK already looking to manipulate the system to stay in power? [more inside]
Many American, Canadian, and British military veterans opposed to the actions of ISIS in Iraq have been, individually, going over to fight with the Kurdish Peshmerga for some time now, bringing thousands of dollars of military gear and irreplaceable training. There have been so many of them fighting that the Peshmerga are now actively recruiting military veterans online. Not to be internet-outdone, military veterans have begun investigating forming units of their own to fight ISIS -including notable and controversial science-fiction author John Ringo, who suggested trying to crowdfund for 'a brigade of soldiers'. [more inside]
"What does it mean to be British? Read five outspoken collectives' views on identity in UK culture in this roundtable." - text by Zing Tsjeng for Dazed magazine (part of a series of articles on the state of the nation as the May 7 election approaches in the UK).
"Almost all media coverage depends on a rehash of several myths about this election. Let’s look at them – in no particular order – one by one. -- Eight media myths about the 2015 election and why they're wrong by Alex Grant.
In just 12 days, the 2015 general election for the UK (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) takes place. On the surface, the math is simple: there are 650 seats, so winning 326 gives you a simple majority. In the previous parliament, governance was through a coalition of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties. But this time, predicting who will be Prime Minister, or have the most seats, or what form the government will take, is ... complicated. [more inside]
In Grimsby, the former fishing capital of England, sandpipers scurry across the tarmac of derelict streets. The sandpiper isn’t a creature of asphalt and paving. It’s a small white-breasted bird usually to be found foraging on British foreshores in groups of twenty or so, scuttling up and down sandy beaches as the foaming forward edge of the sea roars in and hisses back. I’d come to Grimsby to see why, after seventy years of voting Labour, the town was flirting with the United Kingdom Independence Party. After a while I began wondering what had happened to make Grimsby a wild and lonely enough place for the sandpiper to feel at home. It turns out the reason is the same. Someone, or something, abdicated power in Grimsby, leaving swathes of it to rot. But who, or what? And what will the succession be?James Meek in the LRB provides an indepth look at the problems of one northern town, featuring the decline of the fisheries, the hopes resting on new offshore wind energy parks revitalising the town, the difference between Victorian local capitalism and contemporary pension fund driven global capitalism, the leftwing grassroots Ukip campaigners trying to end the dominance of Labour and their parachuted in candidate with a campaign manager engaged to the local candidate for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, heardheaded Greens, the withdrawal of the State and the hollowing out of local control of everyday necessities needed for any town to flourish.
How to Pronounce UK Place Names (SLYT) "Anglophenia's Siobhan Thompson teaches Science Friction's Rusty Ward—and the rest of America—how to pronounce difficult British place names."
YoutTube: The story of Bitter Sweet Symphony | Andrew Oldham Orchestra - The Last Time (1965) | Original video | 2010 studio performance for Radio 1 Presents | 2008 concert performance | Live at Glastonbury 2008 | Glastonbury 2011 | potted history of The Verve at BBC News
What's that you say? You want a 20 year old video of a nearly nude Jason Statham dancing on a rock pyramid in a music video embodying the worst excesses of the early 90s British Dance Scene? Of course you do! (Hat tip Mathowie, Possibly NSFW due to oiled speedo gyrations)
Girls' Comics of Yesterday From the 1950s to the turn of the 21st century, generations of British girls enjoyed weekly comics full of text and picture stories, about an astonishing range of topics: ballerinas, aliens, ghosts, Victorian serving-girls, magic mirrors, wicked stepparents, boarding schools, horse riding, sci-fi dystopias, boys, plucky heroines solving mysteries, and really anything you could imagine ... although to be honest, there were a lot of ballerinas. [more inside]
The biting cold of a March morning did little to dissuade fans of Amelia Edwards, founder of the Egypt Exploration Society, from turning out in force to watch the unveiling of her blue plaque at 19 Wharton Street in London this week. Edwards joins a small list of women writers including Elizabeth Gaskell, Mary Shelley and Agatha Christie, chosen to be celebrated by the scheme as its first female Egyptologist.As one dives deeper into Amelia Edwards' contributions to Egyptology, one begins to wonder*, was it she who was the real Amelia Peabody, so well known to us through the words of Elizabeth Peters? [more inside]
The two sides in the Cold War, finding each other irresistible, ended up in a contrapuntal relationship where, as George Urban put it, ‘they marched in negative step, but in step all the same.’ They had their spies, we had ours. They had their files, we had ours. True, we didn’t have gulags. But what kind of democracy is it that congratulates itself on not having gulags? Never mind the dragnet surveillance, the burglaries, the smearing of reputations, the bugging of public telephone boxes, cafés, hotels, banks, trade unions, private homes, all this legitimised by the thesis that everyone is a potential subversive until proven otherwise – the problem is that the defenders of the realm took on the symptoms of the disease they were meant to cure.– In the essay Stuck on the Flypaper historian and journalist Frances Stonor Saunders goes through the recently released MI5 file on Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm [previously] to explain how the British secret service surveilled and interfered with the lives of British citizens during World War II and the early part of the Cold War.
Anti-Ukip protesters in fancy dress forced Nigel Farage to flee his local pub where he was dining with his family on Sunday afternoon. 'The Ukip leader called the demonstrators “scum”, claiming they had caused his children distress. The group, however, said they were holding a “cabaret of diversity” in support of those Ukip was seeking to marginalise.' Journalist Stuart Jeffries signs up for the 'Farage fracas.' Suzanne Moore has something to say about Ukip's progress as we near the UK general election. Al Murray's Pub Landlord joins in the fun (from last January.) Farage and the breastfeeding conundrum (from last December.) All links from The Guardian.
When British daytime TV and geek heroes collide... a collection of youtube interviews with various sf, horror, fantasy people such as Terry Pratchett, several Dr Whos and William Shatner on various lightweight UK tv chatshows from years past
It was at this moment that the East India Company (EIC) ceased to be a conventional corporation, trading and silks and spices, and became something much more unusual. Within a few years, 250 company clerks backed by the military force of 20,000 locally recruited Indian soldiers had become the effective rulers of Bengal.
Why I have resigned from the Telegraph; an open letter by Peter Oborne, until now the chief political commentator of the Daily Telegraph, alleging that the conservative-leaning British broadsheet has allowed advertisers to veto its editorial policy, a process which culminated in the suppression of stories about the recent tax avoidance scandal involving the HSBC bank, itself a major Telegraph advertiser.
Comics artist Brett Ewins, co-creator of Deadline, artist for Skreemer and Johnny Nemo, and frequent 2000AD contributor (cover gallery), has passed away passed away age 59.
Charlie Brooker and Chris Morris’s 2005 TV series was a comedy about a ludicrous ‘self-facilitating media node’ in east London. But 10 years on, it looks more like a documentary about the future How the Nathan Barley nightmare came true
Since 1979 the main hall in London's Natural History Museum has been dominated by a plaster cast of a fossil of a Diplodocus (apparently called 'Dippy'). It has been announced that is to be replaced by the skeleton of a Blue Whale. There has been somewhat of a reaction.
Alexander Litvinenko died on 23 November 2006 (previously). The inquiry into his death is currently underway in London following a detailed investigation by the Metropolitan Police into his poisoning with polonium. The Guardian summarises six key things we have learned so far. These include some pretty casual applications of proper handling procedures for nuclear material, news of a previous assassination attempt and some forthright words from Marina Litvinenko's barrister concerning Vladimir Putin's character that may have led to two unauthorised Russian military planes flying up the English Channel two days ago. [more inside]
Let Us Face the Future - "All parties pay lip service to the idea of jobs for all. All parties are ready to promise to achieve that end by keeping up the national purchasing power and controlling changes in the national expenditure through Government action. Where agreement ceases is in the degree of control of private industry that is necessary to achieve the desired end. In hard fact, the success of a full employment programme will certainly turn upon the firmness and success with which the Government fits into that programme the investment and development policies of private as well as public industry." [more inside]
Along the western coast of England, under a half-moon hidden by clouds, a dark Audi sports car with fabricated plates followed an empty road toward a Barclays bank. Inside were five men, dressed all in black, and their gear: crowbars, power tools, coils of flexible tubing, and two large tanks of explosive gas. It was 1:51 a.m. The job would take just under seven minutes.
RIP Page 3. There has been no formal announcement but it seems the long tradition of having a photograph of a topless woman on Page 3 of Rupert Murdoch's flagship British newspaper, The Sun, is no more. [more inside]
The annual James Dyson Award is open to current and recent design engineering students. The winner this year is James Roberts with his inflatable incubator MOM. The device costs around £250 compared to £30,000 for modern incubators and could prevent up to 75% of fatalities in premature birth cases in the developing world.
Labour's Shadow Culture Minister Chris Bryant has said the art world must address lack of diversity “I am delighted that Eddie Redmayne won [a Golden Globe for best actor], but we can’t just have a culture dominated by Eddie Redmayne and James Blunt and their ilk,” James Blunt has replied. Bryant has replied in turn. The dog from Downtown barks up.
The Prodigy have a new album, The Day Is My Enemy, out soon. Interview in the Guardian. Nasty [more inside]