Review: Crossing England in a Punt: River of Dreams

Tom Fort in his Trent Otter puntFrom the Staffordshire hills to the Humber estuary, spirited explorer Tom Fort embarks on a 170-mile journey down Britain’s third longest river, the Trent. Beginning on foot, he soon transfers to his own custom-built punt, the Trent Otter, and rows many miles downstream. Along the way he encounters the power stations that generate much of the nation’s electricity, veterans of the catastrophic floods of 1947, the 19th-century brewers of Burton and a Bronze Age boatman who once made a life along the river.

In typically British fashion, a restrained middle-aged white bloke in shorts and sand shoes paddles off along a non-descript English river doing that low-key, under-stated and quite reserved presenting of documentary that only restrained middle-aged white blokes in shorts and sand shoes can pull off. Continue reading

Review: The Thick of It – The Inquiry

Peter Capaldi as Malcom Tucker; The Thick of It, BBC2Madness in their method acting made this bravura episode of BBC2’s political satire one of the finest episodes of TV ever made.

The hour-long special (season4, episode 6) mounted a Leveson or Chilcot-style inquiry into the sucide of NHS campaigner Mr Tickell after his flat was sold off.

What ensued was one of the funniest, most painfully accurately observed assassinations of politics ever made.

Armand Ianucci’s too-clever-by-half comedy saw politicians Nicola Murray and Peter Mannion, with their spin-doctors Malcolm Tucker and Stuart Pearson, quizzed under oath at the Goolding inquiry. Continue reading

Review: The History of the Future BBC Radio4

Illustration from "Illustrerad verldshistoria utgifven av E. Wallis. volume I": Phytia giving an answerJuliet Gardiner looks at how cultures of the past viewed the possibilities of the future, and what these visions say about the pre-occupations of the time.

Or as I like to call it – Where’s My Jetpack?

Here’s a curious thing; a BBC Radio 4 documentary series that doesn’t appear to exist on iPlayer, Listen Again or as a podcast. I caught the tail end of this series which finished in September, just the last couple of episodes. I’d like to hear the rest, but I can’t find them. Even though the show’s homepage is still up on the BBC website. Continue reading

News: The Digital Human Series 2

Aleks Krotoski portrait by Kevin Meredith lomokev.comAleks Krotoski returns with a new series of explorations of our digital world.

Episode 1: Diaspora – In the first in the new series Aleks looks at how different cultures are preserving their identity in the face of the homogenising effects of technology.

This insightful series combines popular science and technology with some social anthropology in an easily digestable set of themed episodes. You don’t have to be a tech-junkie (but it helps) or a sociologist (just as well) in order to appreciate these gentle drop-in sessions on the wired world.

We liked series one, so, evidently, did Radio 4, since it’s back for another run of seven shows. Continue reading

Review: The Digital Human BBC Radio4

Aleks Krotoski portrait by Kevin Meredith lomokev.comAleks Krotoski explores the digital world, looking at the urge to capture every image, experience and feeling for on-line eternity and how technology touches everything people do, both on and off-line

I didn’t get time to post this over the Summer when it originally aired on BBC Radio 4 Monday afternoons, but this well thought out seven part series by the Guardian’s ‘digitial specialist’ bears seeking out on the BBC iPlayer where it is still available.

Krotoski asks “not just what technology can do for us but also what is it doing to us and the world we’re creating?” Continue reading

Review: BBC Review: Radio 4 Book of the Week – Tubes by Andrew Blum

Image credit: Book Photo by shutterhacks (Creative Commons)BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week Tubes: Behind the Scenes at the Internet
Written by Andrew Blum.

In April 2011, a seventy-five year old woman deprived Armenia of its Internet access when she sliced through a buried cable with her garden spade. That January, Egyptian authorities simply switched off 70% of the country’s Internet connections in an attempt to quell a revolution. In 2009, a squirrel chewed through a wire in Andrew Blum’s backyard, slowing his broadband to a trickle and catapulting him on a quest to find out what this so-called ‘Internet’ actually is.

This is the Internet as you’ve never seen it before. It’s not a concept. It’s not a culture. It’s most certainly not a cloud. It’s a mass of tubes. Continue reading