I missed this first time around but BBC Radio 4 is repeating a series on the way the English language and they way people use it changes; it’s typically Fry being clever, informative and highly amusing all at the same time.
Photojournalist David White set out to mark the 150th anniversary of the death of Robert Howlett. You may not recognise his name, but you will have seen at least one of his photographs, of the legendary engineer isambard Kingdom Bruenel, in dusty coat and top hat, cigar between his lips, posed in front of massive chains, ever inch the great Victorian pioneer and engineer.
Howlett was dead within a couple of years of taking that photograph at the age of only 27 (the toxic chemicals in the photography process most likely killed him), but he created one of the iconic images of the 19th century. All the more remarkable, as White points out, because photography, itself a 19th century creation of that great age of innovation and exploration, was barely twenty years old when he fashioned this image, not content to do a simple portrait but to frame, pose and light a scene which capture the essence of the man so well. White had a re-created camera similar to the one Howlett would have had in the 1850s and took it around Britain to photograph some of Brunel’s surviving structures in as close a manner as would have been available to Howlett (although wisely he used non toxic chemicals); the BBC has an audio visual slideshow of the result which is both asethetically pleasing and historically fascinating, drawing on the early days of photography and that period when there seemed a great romance about the new world engineers and inventors were shaping in our little islands.
I’m not going to go into the Russell Brand/Jonathan Ross thing much – they acted like a pair of drunk teen tubes (made to look worse by the fact Andrew Sachs has acted like a gentleman); joking on the air is one thing, regardless of taste, but phoning up an old man and leaving lewd messages on his answering machine on air is pretty poor (and obscene phone calls are illegal as far as I know so they are lucky he never asked for charges to be pressed). I think they should be punished but with style – hold Brand down and tell him his rat’s nest hair is going to be forcibly combed. That will scare the hell out of him. And tell Woss he is welcome back on the air but must attend elocution lessons to lose the speech impediment and also learn enough manners to be passed off as a Duchess. Meantime here’s a great take on it from B3TA made by Beau Bo D’or which nicely catches the ridiculous tabloid frenzy that unscrupulous editors have been stoking (come on, there are far more important news stories going on, why is this taking so many columns and so much airspace?):
I heard at work from the BBC this week – comedian and sometime cartoonist Phill Jupitus had a very good programme on cartoonists and cartooning a few moths back, which was very well received so Radio 4 have come up with four more. They are in fifteen minute segments, with the first one in which Jupitus meets the legendary Gary Trudeau, creator of Doonesbury (which has been a satirical thorn in the side of many a politician, bless ‘im) was last week – it can still be heard via Listen Again and there is also a permanent link for this one. I’m told that hopefully the other three in the series will also get perma links and not just the usual 7-days only Listen Again. This coming Tuesday sees a chat with some up and coming New York cartoonists, the next week Charles Peattie and Russell Taylor, creators of Alex (which has become very topical at the moment with the financial meltdown) and then finally Bill Griffiths, creator of (among others) Zippy the Pinhead. Full details are over on the FPI blog.
Seems to be something of an American media theme this last few days, no doubt prompted by the presidential circus, but as it means we get the national treasure that is Stephen Fry with a new show, “Stephen Fry in America“, as he crosses the United States in a London taxi cab (not his own one which he so famously drives around here in Blighty though). I had no idea he was almost born in the US when his father was offered a job at Princeton but he turned it down. Hard to think of Fry as American, he seems to quintessentially British – I mean Twinnings got him to advertise their tea, he cooks on an Aga and gives a wedding present to Prince Charles. All of which might have made him annoying except he seems such a lovely bloke, fiercely intelligent and very funny and self depreacting with it. America’s loss was our gain.
The BBC asked if they could borrow one of my photographs from my Flickr stream recently, to use as part of their Bitesize revision guides, in this case to be part of a audio-visual slideshow to accompany a reading of “The Field Mouse” by Gillian Clarke – my pic of a harvest-time field, taken just outside North Berwick near Tantallon Castle is the first one in the presentation. No money, sadly, but the feel-good factor is quite rewarding, especially since I’m so fond of poetry.
BBC on YouTube
The Beeb has been posting material to YouTube, higher quality than usual, although it isn’t that great a mix so far to be honest – a lot of it is very short clips that were trailers for programmes shown on TV or the BBC websites before and I’m damned annoyed they blocked the embedding function which rather undermines the notion of YouTube and people sharing videos by embedding them on their sites and blogs. Still, they did have this clip from Mock The Week which is worth a look where the comedians compete to come up with unlikely lines for given situations.