This true crime podcast is actually a cool modern adaptation of Lovecraft

Last January, the BBC released the first episode of a true-crime style podcast called The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. Created by Julian Simpson, this story took a Serial-esque approach to a locked room mystery involving an American man who disappeared from an asylum in England. But as the story progresses, it quickly becomes apparent that there's something darker going on.

That "something darker" would be the fact that it's a loose adaptation of The Curious Case of Charles Dexter Ward by HP Lovecraft. Simpson's podcast version takes the initial Lovecraftian premise — a person of privilege uncovers some hidden knowledge that inevitably connects back to ancient evil Elder Gods — and spins an updated modern tale that spans the Atlantic Ocean. Simpson cleverly weaves in English folklore and the occultism of Aleister Crowley as the journalist narrators travel back-and-forth between England and Rhode Island.

One of those narrators, it should be noted, is a woman. And there are people of color, and class issues, too — a clear response to Lovecraft's notorious bigotry (the dude was so terrified of black people and vaginas that he literally crafted an entire universe of creepy-ass tentacled fish monsters just to try and justify it). It's an organic way to breathe new life into a story that doesn't have to be so bogged down in Lovecraft's more unfortunate qualities.

I recently binged all 10 episodes of the podcast while working on some home renovations, and I found it utterly delightful. The Investigative Reporting approach gives it an almost Blair Witch-like vibe — it's certainly presented as if it is a genuine true crime podcast, and you wouldn't be faulted for falling for it (In my humble opinion, that also makes for a more gripping narrative device than the usual Lovecraft method of Random Trustfund Baby Takes A Bus Into a Random Creepy Town and Randomly Gets Involved In This Dark Mystery About Cthulhu). Read the rest

Nearly 1000 Peel Sessions now available online

Blogger Dave Strickson has been keeping an up-to-date list of all of the BBC 1 Peel Sessions that are currently available online.

There is nearly a thousand sessions of music to date. Some of the artists include David Bowie and The Spiders from Mars, Roxy Music, Joy Division, New Order, The Cure, Siouxsie & The Banshees, The Smiths, The Fall, Echo & The Bunnymen, Nirvana, Hole, Jack White, Elvis Costello, Cocteau Twins, The Jesus & Mary Chain, Sonic Youth, The Wedding Present, The Raincoats, Nick Drake, T-Rex, Buzzcocks, Can, Billy Bragg, Fairport Convention, Pulp, The Breeders, The Fugees, The Kinks, The Specials, The Slits, and Thin Lizzy.

[Via Brooklyn Vegan]

Image: YouTube Read the rest

British people proudly held a virtual knob-eating contest

I only stumbled upon this because I got married in Dorset, Vermont, and did a double-take when I saw the headline. Apparently "knob" is a British word for "biscuit" but it's funnier to think about Ye Olde Dorset Dick-eating Contest. As the BBC explains:

The biscuits have been made by Moores of Morecombelake for more than 150 years Originally, they were made from leftover bread dough with added butter and sugar, hand-rolled and left to dry in the dying heat of the oven It is thought their name comes from the hand-sewn Dorset knob buttons that were also made locally They can be eaten with Blue Vinny cheese, dipped in tea or cider, or taken with honey and cream - known locally as thunder and lightning

As far as the exciting events of this riveting contest:

But this year 100 competitive eaters live-streamed their attempts to swallow the savoury spheres.

Kate Scott, from Shaftesbury, necked eight and a half of the thrice-baked treats to claim the crown.

Sure, okay.

The knob-eaters raised more than £1,200 for the local Weldmar Hospicecare. Unfortunately, the knob-throwing festival has been postponed until 2021, as it's more difficult to judge online.

Coronavirus: Dorset knob-eating contest held online amid lockdown [BBC] Read the rest

UK officials blame asthmatics for the carbon footprints of 180,000 cars

Because we live on a divergent Hellworld timeline where everything is too comically absurd to be real except for the fact that it is, the BBC published an article about the need for asthmatics like me to step up our roles in fighting climate change. This is just the very beginning of it:

Many people with asthma could cut their carbon footprint and help save the environment by switching to "greener" medications, UK researchers say.

Making the swap would have as big an "eco" impact as turning vegetarian or becoming an avid recycler, they say.

As a lifelong asthmatic, I find it difficult to articulate the inherent bullshittery of this concept without smashing my laptop in a fit of hyperventilation. But that would require me to use my rescue inhaler to save my own life (and then I'd also be without a computer, which would make things even more difficult). But I'm going to try my best.

The initial premise here is based on the fact that some aerosol sprays contribute significantly to climate change. This apparently includes metered-dose inhalers—like the rescue one I use when my lungs stop working—which rely on hydrofluoroalkane in order to release that little misting burst of asthma medicine. In the UK, this is estimated to account for about 4 percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions produced by the National Health Service and the related medical industry.

On the surface, there's nothing inherently wrong with pointing this out—indeed, the medical industry should find greener ways to do things! Read the rest

Warrior nuns and body horror in the trailer for the BBC's "reinvention" of Dracula

The upcoming Dracula miniseries is written by Sherlock’s Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat and sounds like it'll have us rooting for the sexy villain:

They’ve made him the hero of the show, the protagonist – though still just as nasty. He has no moral dilemmas, he just wants to eat people. A creature who has seen empires rise and fall, who has seen it all before and who likes humanity – they are his food source after all. And by now he’s become quite a connoisseur of humanity.

Here's the first trailer:

Dracula will premiere on BBC One in the UK and on Netflix outside of the UK and Ireland. "Episodes will be directed by Jonny Campbell, Damon Thomas and Paul McGuigan, whose impressive list of credits include Westworld, Killing Eve and Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool, respectively." Read the rest

BBC launches a Tor hidden service mirror to help people evade their countries' censoring firewalls

If you're in China, Iran or some other country whose national firewall blocks BBC News, you can still access it over the Tor network at bbcnewsv2vjtpsuy.onion, which mirrors the main BBC News site as well as BBC Mundo and BBC Arabic. Read the rest

New Ways of Seeing: James Bridle's BBC radio show about networked digital tools in our "image-soaked culture"

James "New Aesthetic" Bridle (previously) is several kinds of provocateur and artist (who can forget his autonomous vehicle trap, to say nothing of his groundbreaking research on the violent Youtube Kids spammers who came to dominate the platform with hour+ long cartoons depicting cartoon characters barfing and murdering all over each other?). Read the rest

Catch a glimpse of the BBC's The City and the City

I take a lot of comfort from China Miéville's The City & the City. It's a book I return and read at least once a year. It's a novel that dances on the cusp of the fantastical, but never seems to teeter over in a way that makes my imagination work too hard: the world that Miéville presents, where multiple cities uneasily exist in the same space at the same time, is easy for me to hold in my mind.

Also, I frigging love a good murder mystery.

When I heard that there was to be a TV adaption of the novel, I was worried that it might not feel the same as the book that I've become so familiar with over the years. This brief clip makes me feel that maybe, just maybe, those fears have been misplaced. The series made its debut with the BBC this past spring. It's not currently available to stream, but I'm hoping it may pop up as a digital download sooner or later.

Has anyone watched it? Did you enjoy it? Read the rest

The first woman Doctor Who to be commemorated with a limited-edition Barbie

Tonight marks the world premiere of the first Doctor Who series in which the Doctor is portrayed by a woman. The limited-edition commemorative Barbie available for pre-order starting tomorrow, exclusively through Forbidden Planet. Read the rest

The BBC talks microdosing magic mushrooms and LSD in this fascinating video

This video churned out by the BBC in 2017, offers a number of frank, intelligent conversations about the microdosing of LSD and magic mushrooms. Those interviewed seem sincere in how the practice has improved their everyday lives in a manner that's medicinal, not recreational. As a guy who's traditionally limited his drug use to booze and coffee, I was fascinated by what they had to say. Read the rest

The BBC warns that new EU copyright rule will break the internet

The BBC has weighed in on the debate over Article 13, a controversial last-minute addition to the EU's new Copyright Directive that will be voted on in 12 days; under Article 13, European sites will have to spy on every word, sound, picture, and video their users post and use a black-box copyright algorithm to decide whether or not to censor it. Read the rest

The BBC finally admits that MI5 secretly vetted its employees, an open secret for generations

My wife -- whose father is a TV director who'd worked for the BBC -- learned as a little girl that the British spy agency MI5 secretly vetted people who applied for work at the BBC and denoted possible subversives by putting a doodle of a Christmas tree on their personnel files; people who were thus blacklisted were discriminated against within the Beeb. Read the rest

A new podcast hopes to solve an infamous unsolved death in Norway's Isdalen Valley

In November, 1970, just outside the Norwegian town of Bergen, two kids found the partially burnt remains of a woman's body. Surrounding the woman's remains were a number of objects: some bottles of water, a rubber boot and a burnt newspaper. All of the labels had been removed from the woman's clothing. Why the woman – known in Norway as the Isdal Woman, named for the remote valley that she was found in – died or who she was has been a mystery for close to 50 years.

Norwegian journalist Marit Higraff and BBC documentary maker Neil McCarthy are working to shed light on the Isdal Woman's very, very cold case. Working together, they've produced a new podcast called Death in Ice Valley. The first episode is available to download or stream, right now.

During the course of the podcast, Higraff and McCarthy will talk to those that investigated the crime back in the day, as well as forensic experts and anyone else they feel might propel them towards the answer of who the Isdal Woman was and why she died. But they're not stopping there. Listeners of the podcast are invited to talk to one another and the podcast's producers about the case on social media, in the hope that a breakthrough for the case could be crowdsourced.

I listened to the first episode yesterday. It starts slow, as many BBC radio productions often do. But the questions that the pair of journalists raise surrounding the Isdal Woman's death and what they uncovered, even in the first episode, has compelled me to continue with the series to see how things turn out. Read the rest

BBC sound effect archive posted online

The BBC posted an online archive of many of its sound effects. The nature scenes and peculiar things of historical interests are wonderful, though the broad focus seems to be components for radio plays and the like: footsteps, actions, incidental moments.

The BBC license isn't free and has odd stipulations, but the point of the project and its accompanying rules is remarkable: "RemArc, or Reminiscence Archive, is designed to help trigger memories in people with dementia using BBC Archive material as stimulation. " Read the rest

Print of "lost" britcom discovered in Nigerian basement and restored with X-rays and laser-cutters

In the early days of TV, it was routine to tape over the recording medium after the initial air-date, which means that no video record exists of many of the pioneering moments in television. Read the rest

Doctor Who theme creator Delia Derbyshire awarded posthumous Ph.D.

Working from a traditional score by Ron Grainer, Delia Derbyshire created one of television and electronica's most distinctive works of music: the theme tune to Doctor Who. For her pioneering work with synthesizers, often in crudely sexist and exclusionary workspaces, she is being posthumously awarded a degree by Coventry University.

Due to BBC policies at the time, Grainer – unwillingly – is still officially credited as the sole writer.

Derbyshire stayed at the workshop for 10 years, recording sound for Inventions for Radio and Cyprian Queen – all in the days before modern synthesisers and machines. She was later approached by Paul McCartney to work on a backing track for the Beatles hit Yesterday.

But despite her talent and credit from her peers, Delia failed to gain widespread recognition during her lifetime, eventually becoming disillusioned with the industry and finding work as a radio operator in Cumbria.

Photo: BBC Read the rest

The BBC has a pidgin service

The BBC's pidgin service is aimed at West African audiences; it is a pure delight. Read the rest

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