Good listening

September 1st, 2014

Good advice to listeners on how to get the most from their radio, from 1940's BBC Year Book:

Listen as carefully at home as you do in a theatre or concert hall. You can’t get the best out of a programme if your mind is wandering, or if you playing bridge or reading. Give it your full attention.

[Via Pocket Lint]

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Bing Crosby, Nazis and Silicon Valley

May 13th, 2013

Paul Ford on How Bing Crosby and the Nazis Helped to Create Silicon Valley:

The nineteen-forties Bing Crosby hit "White Christmas" is a key part of the national emotional regression that occurs every Christmas. Between Christmases, Crosby is most often remembered as a sometimes-brutal father, thanks to a memoir by his son Gary. Less remarked upon is Crosby's role as a popularizer of jazz, first with Paul Whiteman's orchestra, and later as a collaborator with, disciple to, and champion of Louis Armstrong. Hardly remarked upon at all is that Crosby, by accident, is a grandfather to the computer hard drive and an angel investor in one of the firms that created Silicon Valley. [...]

Ford mentions one other technical innovation in broadcasting that Crosby allegedly inspired, but you'll have to read the article to the end to find out about that one. It's worth it.

[Via kottke.org]

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Neverwhere on Radio 4

November 28th, 2012

It's possible I should have already known about this: BBC Radio 4 are adapting Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere. Not a bad cast:

Actor Role
James McAvoy Richard
Natalie Dormer Door
David Harewood Marquis
Sophie Okonedo Hunter
Benedict Cumberbatch Islington
Anthony Head Croup
David Schofield Vandemar
Bernard Cribbins Old Bailey
Romola Garai Jessica
Christopher Lee Earl of Earl's Court

It will be broadcast somewhere in the first 4 months of 2013. And you will be able to listen to it wherever you are in the world, using the BBC's iPlayer.

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Space, the tiny frontier

October 10th, 2012

CubeSats and Earth

For thousands of years the Borg cubes tore across the empty wastes of space and finally dived screaming on to the first planet they came across – which happened to be the Earth – where due to a terrible miscalculation of scale the entire Borg battle fleet was accidentally swallowed by a small dog.

Misquoted from Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

CubeSats and ISS solar panels

The real story is a tad less dramatic, and nobody needs to get assimilated. The cubes are actually amateur radio satellites deployed from the ISS:

NASA have released photographs of the amateur radio CubeSats TechEdSat, F-1 and FITSAT-1 taken by an Expedition 33 crew member on the International Space Station (ISS).

[...]

The small satellites were transported to the ISS in the HTV-3 (Kounotori 3) cargo vessel that blasted off on an H-IIB rocket from the Tanegashima Space Center on Saturday, July 21 at 0206 UT.

The cargo vessel arrived at the ISS on July 27 and the ISS Canadarm2 robotic arm was used to install the HTV-3 to its docking port on the Earth-facing side of the Harmony module at 1434 UT. The CubeSats were then unloaded by the Expedition 32 crew.

[Via Bad Astronomy]

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The Rights to Silence

October 9th, 2012

Former BBC Senior Broadcast Journalist Alan Connor, on making a radio programme about John Cage's 4'33" and encountering problems clearing the broadcast rights for the performances he wanted to include:

A lesser journalist might have bypassed some rights or recorded his or her own performance on a smartphone and used that to provide the wordless, note-less soundtrack for the slideshow. Nobody would know. Actually, that may not be true in the case of Frank Zappa's 4'33". I'm sure there are hardcore Zappa fans who would detect in a moment that the room tone was unlike that of any studio Zappa had ever used. But it wasn't the zappaphile's conscience that made me do the right thing. It was my own.

It wasn't even my training: there had been nothing on the Safeguarding Trust course that covered the appropriate attribution of recordings of nothing happening. But in order to demonstrate that each version of 4'33" is unique, the package had to be exactly what it said. So out went the version chosen by Radio 3 regular Ian McMillan for his Desert Island Discs in which Hungarian percussion instruments were not being played, sadly unclearable in the time available.

[Via currybet dot net]

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Learning to Talk

September 23rd, 2012

Learning to Talk by Lauren Daisley:

When a voiceover artist temporarily loses the use of her primary asset, the struggle back to speaking unearths what's gone unsaid for too long.

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Act Two

July 30th, 2012

An especially inspired segment from this week's podcast of This American Life:

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"I was about to get freaky in the most liberal sense of the word."

October 10th, 2011

The Ira Glass Sex Tape:

"Well, from WBEZ Chicago, it's This American Life, I'm Ira Glass. Each week, of course, we pick a theme and bring you a variety of stories on that theme. This week's theme…my sex tape."

F***ing hilarious, and an absolutely spot-on parody to boot!1

[Via The A.V. Club]

  1. It tells you a lot about my podcast-listening habits that I got about 80% of the references to other NPR personalities.

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Un-retiring again

April 10th, 2011

Barring any last-minute interventions by his doctors, Britain's Greatest Living Radio Broadcaster1 is coming back:

With some trepidation I opened my old trunk of showbiz memorabilia that dates my career from my very first TV appearance as the toddler on the Dickie Henderson Show right up to the Good Attendance rosette I received last year from the Gillard Radio Award People for showing up every year at their big night for no apparent reason. Fighting back a tear I was suddenly overwhelmed at just how good this business had been to an old hoofer like me. I saw new perspective on the reviews of my work that I had previously seen as negative: terms like "washed up" "leper of the airwaves" and "over Radio Two's dead body" began to have a new meaning for me. A challenge if you will. Surely at just 61, I had something more to offer than another busted flush like the Cat & Dog Super Bowl and endless days watching "What A Carve Up"?

Therefore I intend to un-retire again. I shall return to BBC London on Monday April 18th at 3pm to give it another go. I realize this will reduce Steve Wright's overall audience figures by more than 300 but it's a tough game we're in Steve. It's just a few vowels from Radio To Rodeo you know.

Fantastic news. Let's hope he's soon back on BBC Radio Five Live too, adding to the gaiety of nations every Saturday morning.

[Via No Rock and Roll Fun]

  1. Previously.

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In praise of the Beeb

March 13th, 2011

Matthew Engel starts a series of articles on British institutions by tackling the most paradoxical of them all, the BBC:

But the BBC is not a commercial broadcaster. Of all the institutions we will be examining here in the months ahead, it is the most improbable; indeed its existence almost beggars belief. Here is a publicly owned corporation that does not always do the government's bidding, indeed often irritates the hell out of it; and a nationalised industry that regularly beats its commercial opposition – outsmarting, out-innovating and even out-popularising them. Its endurance is a triumph for British culture and common sense. It is usual to say that Britain has the least worst television in the world; watching the [BBC News at Ten], that seems like faint praise. This at least is the best.

Are we proud? Are we uplifted? Are we hell! The BBC is in crisis. It is always in crisis. "Nation shall speak peace unto nation," says its motto. "Morale has never been lower," seems a more eternal truth. [...]

It was a death that set the benchmark for the modern BBC – not David Kelly's, a fictional one. On the night of September 22, 1955, ITV first went on the air. It was also the night Grace Archer, young wife of Phil in the eponymous and enduring radio drama, met a spectacular and headline-catching end in a blazing barn. It was a message: although the BBC would for many years find it tough holding its own against its vibrant, new and ad-rich rivals, it was not going away; it was not going to retire into minority obscurity as a purveyor of concerts and improving talks – it intended to remain a player. It has never backed away from that.

And it never should.

[Via MetaFilter]

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Goodbye iPlayer Radio, Hello ?

January 26th, 2011

James Cridland highlights an element of the BBC's announcement about Reshaping BBC Online that makes me nervous:

In a long blog entry with a few slides with the swirls and blobs beloved of management, Erik Huggers announces a slew of cuts and changes to the BBC website: including…

"Radio and music will come out of BBC iPlayer, and we'll develop a new stand-alone product."

Now it could be that the new Radio offering will be perfectly fine, providing all the features of the current iPlayer setup but with an interface better suited to an audio-only player. I'd love to think that would turn out to be the case.

But then you read that "All radio station sites, music events, podcasts and programme pages will be integrated to focus on highly interactive live radio, quick and seamless access to programming, support for new music and personalisation – on whatever internet-connected device you happen to have." and that "Selected archive content will be featured in TV & iPlayer and Radio & Music"1 you have to start worrying that perhaps this new service is going to be somewhat more concerned with acting as an online interface to live radio streams, and somewhat less with providing the sort of Listen Again service that preceded the iPlayer. That would be a shame.

[Via 853, via currybetdotnet]

  1. Emphasis added, in each case.

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Audible juggling

December 30th, 2010

Andrew Collins demonstrates why 6 Music had to be saved: juggling on the radio. When would you see that sort of visual spectacle on a commercial radio station, eh?

For what it's worth, it really is worth following the link Collins provides to a YouTube clip of juggler Mat Ricardo in action. He shows not just how to remove a tablecloth without disturbing the pots/plates/cutlery, but how to put it back on again. A very neat trick.

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Get well soon, Candyman

November 7th, 2010

Danny Baker is going to be off the air for a while:

"Hello cats and kittens,

Apologies for the cloak and d. over recent weeks. However as it appears this is going to continue for the forseeable I really ought to offer up some sort of breadcrumbs trail as to what's going on. (As you know I am queasy about introducing vulgar real life onto the vaudeville stage so let's keep this crisp.)

After a pretty mouldy diagnosis about a month back I finally begin chemotherapy on Monday with further radiotherapy from January. Yes radiotherapy; can you beat it? This being so, the old treehouse baggy pants will be donned but sparingly. Once the quacks have soundly thrashed this thing I shall return like a rare gas and as if out of a trap. In the meantime I am watching Tommy Steele box sets (and has there ever been a more lying title to a film than TS's "It's All Happening"?) and urge you all to keep yakking up a storm and laugh extra loud at the incumbents.

Thank you for all the best wishes and concern from those who suspected as much about my "condition" and by all means keep ringing up Baylen and Amy to demand more and more Atomic Rooster and Spooky Tooth records.

So. Manly handshake. Walk right on. In the words of King George, "What what and there it is…" "

DB

Here's hoping Britain's Greatest Living Radio Broadcaster will be back sooner rather than later.

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Parting Shots

September 30th, 2010

BBC Radio 4 has just started broadcasting a second season of Parting Shots, in which Matthew Parris delves into the archives of the Foreign Office to reveal the confidential valedictory despatches submitted by senior British diplomats upon leaving their postings.

The first ten minutes or so of the first episode spent a little too much time quoting ambassadors being unimpressed with foreign cuisine and manners and even architecture, but it did include one absolute gem of an anecdote:

Sir Julian Bullard: Bonn, 1998

There are the regional differences, which become more evident as one learns to recognise the surnames, accents and facial characteristics which go with certain attitudes of mind, but I think it is still possible to talk of German national characteristics. One of these is the seriousness, thoroughness, humourlessness, perfectionism and pedantry which have made the German the butt of so many anecdotes.

To quote a true one: the artist Philip Ernst painted the view from his window, leaving out a tree which spoiled the design. That night he was attacked by remorse, got up from bed and cut down the tree.1

The latter part of the episode was considerably better, focusing on the way that until very recently the Foreign Office simply expected diplomats' wives to act as a sort of unpaid hotel manager/hostess/event organiser/auxiliary diplomat2 and the way that modern spouses – having their own careers, and being less willing to pack their children off to boarding school for the duration of a tour of duty overseas – had organised a campaign to at least be paid for doing all that work, or to have a professional event manager paid to take on that side of the embassy's functions instead of everything falling to the ambassador's partner.

Assuming that they don't spend a third of every episode quoting British diplomats being undiplomatic about their hosts – the first season wasn't like that, so I hope this one won't go down that road – Parting Shots is going to be well worth a listen over the next few weeks. The first episode is available on BBC iPlayer3 for another six days.

  1. For what it's worth, I can completely see where Ernst was coming from.
  2. One diplomat's wife observed that traditionally one of the jobs of the ambassador's spouse when attending a function was to engage the dullest VIP in conversation, presumably so as to prevent their boring the pants off anyone important.
  3. For UK residents – or, more accurately, for those whose connection to iPlayer is coming from an IP address located in the UK. Correction: it turns out that you can listen to most iPlayer radio content regardless of whether you're in the UK. Thanks to Martin Wisse for the correction.

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Resistance is futile

April 7th, 2010

7 ways the UK media scene resembles Doctor Who monsters:

The Sontarans are a cloned race of warriors, constantly engaged in war. A running joke during their recent appearance in the TV series was the question of how they tell each other apart. They remind me of the legions of local and hyperlocal sites from the large regional press groups, all carefully stamped out of the same cloned templates, preventing any real local variation in tone, flavour or innovation to come through.

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Solid gold casting

March 31st, 2010

This weekend's Radio 4 adaptation of Ian Fleming's Goldfinger has a pretty solid cast:

  • Goldfinger … Ian McKellen
  • James Bond … Toby Stephens.
  • 'M' … John Standing.
  • Col. Smithers … Ian Ogilvy
  • Pussy Galore … Rosamund Pike
  • Du Pont … Henry Goodman
  • Hawker … Alistair McGowan
  • Helmut Springer … Hector Elizondo
  • Johnny Solo … Tim Pigott-Smith
  • Mr Strap … Tom Hollander
  • Fleming … Martin Jarvis

I know I shouldn't prejudge it, but on the face of it that's this week's portion of my license fee justified.1

[Via Ben Hammersley's return to old-fashioned blogging]

  1. Oh yes, and I hear there's some science fiction show returning to our screens this weekend. Might be worth a look.

2 Comments »

This American Infographic

March 17th, 2010

This American Infographic:

My new years resolution is to make an infographic on every This American Life ever made. The idea is to expand and add context to the stories and information contained in the shows. Basically, anything I am curious about while listening to the pieces.

As a big fan of This American Life, I can't get enough of these.

[Via MetaFilter]

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The BBC-O-Gram

March 1st, 2010

The BBC-O-Gram is pretty and quite informative, but would be much improved if it didn't mix income and expenditure indiscriminately.

If the same chart must be used to show both, it would be better to organise the data around an1 axis, with income stacked up on one side of the axis and expenditure on the other. As it stands, including income and expenditure in the same chart with only colour coding the separate the two categories serves only to inflate the size of the chart to the tune of rather more that a billion pounds, making it that much harder to grasp the proportion of overall expenditure devoted to any single major area.

  1. Vertical? Horizontal? It doesn't matter, so long as you pick one and stick with it.

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The Sound of a Breaking String

January 30th, 2010

Something to catch up with on the BBC iPlayer.1 Between the Ears: The Chekhov Challenge – The Sound of a Breaking String:

One of the most enigmatic stage directions in all drama appears in Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard: 'A distant sound is heard. It appears to come from the sky and is the sound of a breaking string. It dies away sadly.' Between the Ears focuses on the many attempts to produce this sound, ranging from musical saws to gun-shots. Guests include Paul Arditti, who mixed industrial, musical and bird sounds for the production by Sam Mendes, and musician Leafcutter John, who accepts Radio 3's own Chekhov Challenge, recording his experiments to find a resonant breaking string sound for the 21st century.

[Via TV Today]

  1. With apologies to non-UK readers.

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Shelved

December 13th, 2009

Something to listen to on iPlayer1: Shelved:

Shaun Ley recounts how the political circumstances of the late 1970s resulted in three of the most popular TV series' of the time – Dr Who, Secret Army and The Professionals – each having at least one episode scrapped after filming.

[Via TV Today]

  1. For those of us in the UK.

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