Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Week Thirty One: Fifty Seven Channels (And Nothing On)

There are alleged to be 'signs' that the new Doctor could be announced as early as next month according to anonymous 'sources' quoted by the Radio Times. They claim that 'serious consideration' is, allegedly, being given to unveiling the new Doctor on a one-off episode of Doctor Who Confidential as happened with Matt Smith’s unveiling in 2010, with some of these alleged 'sources' allegedly confirming that it will be in August. Allegedly. 'However timings are always a very relative thing when selecting Time Lords,' the magazine weasels just in case this all turns out to be a load of old dung. According to another of these alleged 'sources', one of either Colin Baker, Paul McGann, Tom Baker, Sylvester McCoy or Peter Davison will be in the feature length special episode alongside Tennant's Doctor and the current incumbent Matt Smith. Make of that what you will, dear blog reader.
'It's our basic human right to fuck up!' Yer actual Keith Telly Topping went to the flicks on Tuesday to see an early showing of Edgar Wright's latest collaboration with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, The World's End. Rather good it was too; not quite as good as the trio's previous two movies in the so-called Cornetto Trilogy, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, admittedly but, very good all the same. A sort of straight cross between Invasion of the Bodysnatchers and Trainspotting with a smidgen of Glengarry Glen Ross thrown in for good measure, it starts out as rather caustic (and quite touching) essay of the horrors of growing up and growing old. Then, it turns into something else entirely. For the second film running, they've got an ex-James Bond as the main baddie (Pierce Brosnan this time) and the cast - a split between Wright's usual rep company (Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman, David Bradley) and some terrific performances from the likes of Eddie Marsden and Rosamund Pike - are all on top form. Fantastic late-eighties indie/Madchester soundtrack, too (Primal Scream, Happy Mondays, Stone Roses, james, Soup Dragons, The Charlatans, Sisters of Mercy, The Housemartins, etc). So, all-in-all, not a bad way to spend a very hot morning and early afternoon in July, frankly! Yer actual Keith Telly Topping rates The World's End an eight out of ten.
Meanwhile, speaking of the British weather, it's been decidedly queer of late, you might have noticed dear blog reader.
Thunderbolt and lightning, very very frightening. Apparently.

The BBC journalist Simon McCoy, has become yer actual Keith Telly Topping's new complete and utter hero when he provided a totally honest on-air account of the hyperbolic - and, frankly, pointless - media coverage surrounding the birth of the royal baby. If you missed the fiasco - in which case, jolly well done - the press were all awaiting news of the birth of Willie and Kate's first sprog outside the St Mary's Hospital in London, after the Duchess of Cambridge was admitted at around 6am on Monday morning in the early stages of labour. Quite why they were waiting there when it had already been announced that, as per tradition, the first news of the birth would be made to the public via a notice being put up outside Buckingham Palace, is a question best left for another day. It's a bit like turning up at Stamford Bridge only to find the match you were expecting to watch was, actually, going on at White Hart Lane. Anyway, in one of numerous broadcasts on the BBC News Channel, yer man Simon admitted that while the BBC (and, indeed, all of the other assembled broadcasters, of whom there were lots) would continue reporting, 'none of it' would, actually, be 'news' per se. He said that there would be 'plenty more to come from here, of course. None of it news because that will come from Buckingham Palace. But that won't stop us.' In June, royal officials had confirmed that after the Duchess went into labour, no further information would be released until the news of the birth itself was announced at the gates of Buckingham Palace. Despite this, the world's media nevertheless assembled outside the hospital at the beginning of July and refused to move. BBC1 subsequently announced a change to the previously advertised evening schedule following the birth of the child, a boy. A special documentary, titled Born To Be King, was shown at 10.45pm. One imagines an alternative - Born To Be Queen - had been prepared just in case. It replaced Long Live Britain, which was to be shown at 9pm but will now be rescheduled. Says something about the priorities of Great Britain, that - a genuine piece of public service broadcasting about the nation's health getting pushed to one side by forty five minutes of genuflecting before royalty. Yes, it is the Twenty First Century, dear blog reader and, yes, we still do that. Why, again, is a question possibly best left for another day. Incidentally, if anyone's interested yer actual Keith Telly Topping was on BBC Newcastle on Tuesday morning talking about the more ridiculous aspects of the media coverage. If you want to have a listen dear blog reader (and, to be honest, I wouldn't blame you if you didn't), it's available here for the next seven days, approximately two hours and ten minutes into the show with hosts yer actual Alfie Joey and Charlie Charlton her very self.

The birth of Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge's baby brought in an audience of 4.9 million across various news channels last night, overnight data has revealed. However, the new arrival failed to dislodge Coronation Street as the most-watched broadcast of the evening. Which, is strangely comforting in a way and does, slightly, restore one's faith in the general public not being quite as gullible as some people seem to believe they are. The ITV soap pulled in 7.4 million overnight viewers for both its episodes at 7.30pm and 8.30pm. BBC1's special Royal Baby News Update brought in 2.9 million at 8.30pm, while 3.9 million tuned in for the Ten O'Clock News. ITV's News At Ten also pulled in over two million viewers. BBC2 had 2.05 million at 8pm for University Challenge. Presumably, they were desperate to get away from wall-to-wall coverage of the birth elsewhere. However, the strong lead-in didn't help sitcom Count Arthur Strong, which only managed six hundred and ninety two thousand punters at 8.30pm. Channel Four struggled again to pull in any sizable audiences, only managing 1.44 million at 9pm for Undercover Boss. The latest series of Big Brother remains steady rather than spectacular for Channel Five, grabbing 1.41 million at 10pm. BBC4's Burton & Taylor biopic was what yer actual Keith Telly Topping was watching. The channel's final investment in original British drama pulled in an impressive 1.13m at 9pm.

Meanwhile, it has been announced that Channel Five beat Channel Four in the overnight ratings last week for the first time in the broadcaster's history. Boosted by the latest series of Big Brother and its coverage of England's Ashes success, Channel Five picked up a five per cent viewing share, according to overnight data. Channel Four's share for the week was 4.9 per cent. This is the first time on record that Channel Five has beaten Channel Four in viewing share across a weekly period. Channel Five was up nine per cent year-on-year from the same week in 2012. Meanwhile, Channel Four was down twenty two per cent year-on-year. Ben Frow, Channel Five's director of programmes, said: 'We've been working really hard to give viewers what they want and we are really glad that they have been enjoying our progress.' Channel Four's poor ratings have put the broadcaster in the spotlight over recent weeks, and the channel's chief executive Jay Hunt's position has come under extra scrutiny as a result.

Former Holby City star Amanda Mealing - whom yer actual Keith Telly Topping always found jolly appealing - is joining Casualty. The actress - who played the bitchy Connie Beauchamp on the BBC medical drama between 2004 and 2010 - will reprise the role in Casualty, the Sun reports. Viewers last saw Connie three years ago when she resigned from her position at Holby General. As part of a new storyline, Connie will join the hospital's Casualty department as a 'demanding but fair consultant.' Mealing admitted that she was 'surprised' when she was first informed of the plan to bring Connie back. She said: 'When the idea was first proposed I was surprised to say the least. Then when I heard some of the ideas for the character, I thought it was genius. I hope this will be as exciting for fans as it is for me. I can't wait to get those heels back on and get to work.'

And so to your next batch of Top Telly Tips, dear blog reader. And be warned in advance, in places it's a pretty meagre week for decent TV:-

Saturday 27 July
On what appears to be a truly dreadful night's telly, with hardly a single thing to get the viewers excited, there's one ray of hope in the darkness. Tui Mitcham is still missing in Top Of The Lake - 9:10 BBC2 - and the community is beginning to buckle under the weight of suspicion, but Robin makes a breakthrough in the investigation - though Al warns her that her dark past is affecting her judgement. She also rekindles her relationship with old flame Johnno Mitcham, but the reopening of old wounds leads to violence. Thriller set in New Zealand, starring Elisabeth Moss, Holly Hunter and Thomas M Wright.

Sunday 28 July
Sunday night, thankfully, is a wee bit better. For a start, Jezza Clarkson and James May take a look at increasingly popular tall hatchbacks known as crossovers in the latest Top Gear - 8:00 BBC2. Having concluded their primary appeal is to caravanners, the duo spend a couple of days in models by Mazda and Volkswagen and try to get a feel for what life is like for the people they believe would buy one. Meanwhile, yer actual Richard Hammond his very self drives a pair of exciting Lamborghinis in Italy - the ferocious Aventador Roadster and the limited-edition Sesto Elemento, which carries an eye-watering price tag of around two million smackers. Two cars are also put through their paces on the test track, with Mister Slowly in a modern re-creation of the classic Porsche 911 and Aerosmith front man Steven Tyler (and his massive lips) in the rather less exotic Reasonably Priced Car.

A mass grave containing more than two thousand skeletons was found in one of Rome's catacombs following a roof collapse in an area marked with an 'X' in The Vatican's underground mapping system. In The Mystery of Rome's X Tomb - 9:00 BBC2 - historian Michael Scott joins experts called in by to identify who the dead were and what killed them.

In the final episode of The Returned - 9:00 Channel Four - the living are now deeply in fear of the dead, especially as a new and more sinister wave of them arrives in town, and it seems that everyone is going to have to choose sides. Meanwhile, Victor discovers who killed his brother and in turn caused his mother's death, and Simon breaks free from the jail cell.

Monday 29 July
It's just about all repeats at the moment but at least Death In Paradise - 9:00 BBC1 - is a rather good one, and one that yer actual Keith Telly Topping rather admires. In this opening episode of the second series, Ben Miller’s amiable, emotionally repressed Graham Greene-meets-Mr Bean style English detective, Richard Poole, returns to the Caribbean island of Saint-Marie for a new series of cheery whodunnits. Nobody should expect The Wire or Waking The Dead-type grim and gritty malarkey from Death In Paradise; it is what it is – a sunny, frothy slice of escapism which should be welcomed in a TV detective world that's gone heavily noir. As the episode opens, a plantation owner is found dead, with a huge knife sticking out of his back, just before he was due to make a big announcement to his feuding family. So, we can probably discount suicide. The story follows a classic Agatha Christie or Dorothy L Sayers pattern, with lots of suspects all of whom are gathered together at the end as Poole – who, bizarrely, is still wearing a suit and tie and clutching a briefcase – reveals the culprit.

Roman emperor Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus - better known as Caligula (translation, 'Little Boots') - was said to have made his horse a consul, proclaimed himself a living God and indulged in scandalous orgies. At least, that's the story painted in I, Claudius where John Hurt played him so far over the top he was down the other side. But, was that the whole story, or even part of it? In Caligula With Mary Beard - 9:00 BBC2 - the classical scholar Mary Beard, whose various documentaries on Ancient Rome this blogger has always very much enjoyed - attempts to peel away some of the myths surrounding him, sifting through surviving evidence to paint a portrait of the real Caligula.

Victoria Coren-Mitchell presents the second semi-final of the lateral thinking quiz show Only Connect - 8:30 BBC4 - in which a trio of map lovers compete with three people with a shared passion for all things French to fathom the links between subjects that at first do not appear to be connected.

Tuesday 30 July
At last, some new drama - well, if you class New Tricks as 'new', per se. Rather old fashioned it may be - and deliberately so, in many ways - but it's still got some class to it even after nine series. The popular crime drama returns - 9:00 BBC1 - with a two-part story in which Brian (Alun Armstrong) is suspended after assaulting a high-ranking officer in the Met, suspecting him of covering up a death in custody some years before. Meanwhile, an Argentinian pistol recovered from the Thames is linked to two unsolved murders which took place sixteen years apart - and with one of them having occurred in Gibraltar, Sandra takes the team - minus Brian, obviously - on an Iberian adventure to uncover the truth. Amanda Redman, Dennis Waterman and Denis Lawson star, with a guest appearance from Vincent Regan. Waterman sings the theme tune. As usual.

Churchill's First World War - 9:00 BBC4 - is a rather good-looking documentary charting Winston Churchill's road to redemption after his disgrace following the Dardanelles disaster during the First World War (when the poor old Aussies got an even bigger hiding than they're currently getting in the Ashes) through intimate letters that he wrote to his wife, Clementine. It reveals how he was instrumental in the creation of the tank as a military weapon and notes his contribution to the Allied victory in 1918 as Minister of Munitions, demonstrating how the future Prime Minister was shaped by his experiences of the Great War.

Wednesday 31 July
Sixteen famous faces (for which read a handful of properly famous faces and a bunch of z-listers) from the fields of sport, music, TV and showbusiness battle it out in Celebrity MasterChef - 8:00 BBc1 - the culinary contest, competing in groups in a bid to take the crown of last year's winner, Emma Kennedy. The first four to feel the heat of the kitchen are broadcaster Janet Street-Porter, comedienne Katy Brand, Rockin' Ronnie's former missus, Jo Wood and a singer called Heidi Range, apparently. see what I mean about z-listers? 'famouns faces' my arse. Anyway, their initial challenge is 'the mystery box', which sees them presented with a range of ingredients and simply told to cook something - will any of them feel adventurous enough to use the spider crab lurking in their container? Especially if it's alive, one imagines. Next they have to recreate John Torode's Chinese duck noodle soup and wontons without seeing the recipe (whilst yer actual Gregg Wallace makes various sarky comments), before finally being given a catering task - providing lunch for the hungry acrobats of Cirque du Soleil.

The actor Nigel Havers comes from a very famous family, of course. His dad, Sir Michael, as a famous barrister and, later, judge for a kick off. Nigel delves into his family history in Who Do You Think You Are? - 9:00 BBC1 - and soon discovers his ancestors are very different to the upper-class characters for which he is known. He begins by following his mother's line, an investigation that takes him to rural Cornwall, where he uncovers a story of illegitimacy worthy of a period drama like something out of Poldark. Moving to his father's side, Nigel finds himself in Colchester for the tale of the Victorian equivalent of an Essex cab driver made good, but which has an unhappy ending.

The Beard of Despair Noel Edmonds his very self presents an edition of Top Of The Pops from 17 August 1978, with music by The Stranglers, Justin Hayward, Child, yer actual Darts, 10CC and The New Seekers. Plus, a performance by dance group Legs & Co.

Thursday 1 August
Dara and the team investigate the concept of time and look at ways it can be manipulated and extended in Dara O Briain's Science Club - 8:00 BBC2. Doctor Helen Czerski witnesses the re-creation of a beating human heart which has been grown in a laboratory and Alok Jha examines the multi-million pound technology behind the British bobsleigh team's efforts to go faster. And finish third last instead of last at the next Winter Olympics. In the studio, Mark Miodownik slows down time to reveal the secrets of explosions, solve a centuries-old puzzle and see light itself.

How To Get A Council House - 9:00 Channel Four - is a documentary looking at how Tower Hamlets and Manchester councils are dealing with a lack of properties and a large number of people in need of homes at affordable rents. The team at Tower Hamlets has the challenge of working out which individuals are in the most need of accommodation within their priority band. Mike Kemp, a former investment banker, is currently living with his family in a one-bedroom flat and has bid four hundred times for social housing in two years - but faces a potential six years on the waiting list.

Friday 2 August
Yer actual Keith Telly Topping really rather likes bees, dear blog reader. They make honey - for that, alone, they're in the plus column. Bees are estimated to be worth around four hundred and thirty million smackers to Britain's agriculture sector and a third of UK food is entirely reliant on the pollination which they provide. But, as we've been made aware over the last few years, their numbers have been falling dramatically and no one seems sure of exactly why. In the Horzion film What's Killing Our Bees? - 9:00 BBC2 - the presenter, journalist and (as a not insignificant sideline) celebrity bee-keeper Bill Turnbull examines the array of conflicting evidence in a bid to determine what is responsible for the decline and meets scientists who are fitting radar transponders to the insects to establish why numbers are falling. And, I've now got an image of Bill Turnbull, in Eddie Izzard's words 'covered in beeeeees' stuck in my head which, frankly dear blog reader, is really rather disturbing.

Will stands little chance of defending himself against his colleagues if he does not even believe himself to be innocent in Hannibal - 10:00 Sky Living. Their doubts are formed after he returns from Minnesota without Abigail - and with evidence suggesting he killed her. Hannibal uses this information as a weapon to turn his `friend' over to the BAU, before manipulating Will into believing himself to be the infamous mass murderer he has been hunting. Last in the current series. And, it's a good one, trust me on this dear blog reader.

And, so to the news: Sports presenter Gabby Logan has 'slammed' (that's tabloidese for 'criticised' only with less syllables) her old employer Sky Sports for failing to take women as seriously as their male counterparts. and treating them as 'window dressing.' Speaking to this week's Radio Times Logan claimed that the broadcaster – whose roster of female presenters include Charlotte Jackson, Natalie Sawyer, Sarah-Jane Mee, Georgie Thompson and Kirsty Gallacher (all of whom, were, very obviously, hired for their world-class journalistic brilliance and not because they're pretty) – treat women 'differently' from men. 'The girls are basically wearing a leotard while the bloke's in a suit and a tie,' she claimed. 'It's fine if they're given a career path, but there have never been any big breakthrough women on Sky. We all have to go to other places.' She suggested that whilst at Sky she was told by a boss that if she wasn't presenting football by the time she was twenty seven, she never would be. Jackson (whom you can see on the left, during a 'serious journalistic moment', no doubt), a former colleague of Logan, was the subject of lewd sexist comments from former Sky pundit Andy Gray, the release of which were deemed instrumental in his departure from the broadcaster - after they were leaked to the press by someone at Sky several months after Gray made them. However Logan, who is married to former Scotland rugby union player Kenny Logan, also takes a pot shot at the BBC where she says a boss once told her she was 'too glamorous.' Not something this viewer had ever noticed about Gabby Logan, it has to be said. She claims: 'A boss at the BBC once told me that I was too glamorous and pointed to my high-heeled boots. I said: "I've just come from a radio show, it's what I wear." He said: "You don't wear them when you do the dishes, do you?" Does he want me to look like I'm doing the dishes? I'm not here to look like a housewife. If I'm at home in my pyjamas I want to see something a bit more aspirational on TV. It's right that people on primetime look after their appearance.' So, Sky objectify women too much and the BBC not enough appears to be the gist of Gabby's argument here. Last year during London 2012 Logan was the face of the BBC's Olympics Tonight and presented a daily round-up of the day's events. In January she presented ITV's crass, odious, risible, nasty 'celebrity diving' fiasco Splash! (for which, frankly, she ought to be effing well ashamed of herself) and, she will be returning to Saturday primetime as the host of BBC1's new 'patriotic panel show' I Love My Country. A Sky spokesman said: 'While we respect Gabby's opinion and her work, we're surprised by the comments as there are many talented women who have developed successful presenting or reporting careers at Sky Sports. They include trained journalists, passionate and knowledgeable about sport, who work on our most high profile sports including football, golf, cricket and Formula 1. And, there are a huge number of female colleagues working behind the scenes, including thirty per cent of the production team at Sky Sports News. It would be disrespectful to those women if we didn't challenge the idea that they are there for any reason other than merit.'

The BBC has announced plans for the first ONE Show Summer Festival. The ONE Show will host the two-day event in Weston-Super-Mare from 6 August, in conjunction with BBC Learning. The flagship show's presenters Alex Jones (with her really annoying voice) and Matt Baker are set to front a special episode live from the seafront on 7 August. The free family festival will be sectioned into zoned areas including personal finance, history, art, sport and science, and will hold activities such as wildlife shows and science demonstrations. Performances from The ONE Show choir and a Strictly Come Dancing-inspired dance class are also on the bill. Alex Jones said: 'The ONE Show Summer Festival will be two fantastic days at the seaside. I can't wait to get back to Weston-Super-Mare again; I've only been once before and it was a scorcher of a day, so I'm fully expecting the same weather this year!' Only, she said it with that ludicrously over-pronounced Welsh accent of hers so it's difficult to be sure if that's exactly what she said. The topical magazine show was recently commissioned for three more series, meaning it will remain on-air until at least 2016.

Channel Four has, apparently, dropped plans for a full series of Bad Sugar as the cast and writers are said to be 'too busy.' Six episodes of the spoof soap, written by Peep Show and Fresh Meat creators Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong, was commissioned on the back of a pilot that aired during the channel's Funny Fortnight last August. But the broadcaster's head of comedy, Phil Clarke, told the trade magazine Broadcast: 'In the end, it proved impossible to bring all the talent - writing and performing - together at the same time for a series.' The cast included Olivia Colman, who has been much in demand since the breakout success of ITV's Broadchurch, Sharon Horgan, who is busy in the US and Peter Serafinowicz, about to make his directorial debut, as well as Julia Davis and Reece Shearsmith.

It has been reported - in Metro, if not in, you know, a proper newspaper - that 'the International Cricket Council is investigating irregular betting patterns after the Lord’s Test. Somebody apparently put twenty pounds on Australia to win the Ashes.' Heh. Actually, that's quite good for the Metro. It's not - as the lad who wrote it freely acknowledges - the most original one-liner in the world but at least it has a punchline, 'unlike the Australian team who, after their chastening three hundred and forty seven-run hammering in the second test, are rapidly becoming a joke without one.' Sounds about right. The Australian's misery even inspired the German Cricket Association to tweet Cricket Australia: 'If you fancy a competitive game we are only an hour's flight from London.' That, ladies and gentlemen, was a German joke. And, a pretty funny one, at that; made even funnier by the fact that it's at Australia's expense. Yet the Australian team's current woes are clearly no laughing matter for their fans or for their coach, Darren Lehmann. Already two-nil down and with their quest to 'Return the Urn' looking - as the Metro notes - 'about as likely as England calling up Lord Lucan as cover for the injured Kevin Pietersen', Australia are not so much in crisis as in something approaching complete disarray. Australia have not lost six successive tests – as they have now following their four-nil whitewash in India earlier in the year and the defeats at Trent Bridge and Lord's – since 1984. Back then, their captain Kim Hughes resigned blubbing his eyes out at a press conference to announce his departure. Clarke, told that nobody would expect him to do something similar this time around, said after Lord's: 'I wouldn't rule anything out.' Lehmann, rightly, laid into his side's batsmen, claiming: 'All eighteen players have a chance to play [at Old Trafford]. I'm not ruling any of them out. That's what happens when you have two losses' He said that shortly before Australia's summer went from really bad to ... well, whatever's worse than 'really bad' after seamer James Pattinson was ruled out of the rest of the series with a stress fracture of the lower back. A pity, as  after his batting display at number eleven at Lord's, they'd marked him down as a potential opener for the next test. But off-field distractions, including sacked former coach Mickey Arthur branding Shane Watson 'a cancer' on the team and various abusive tweets from David Warner's brother, have not helped matters. Indeed, they have added to the general mirth of English fans - yer actual Keith Telly Topping very much included - now revelling in Australia's squirming discomfort after decades of being ritually flogged by the likes of Allan Border, Steve Waugh, Ricky Ponting, Michael Slater et al. For now, the wheel has turned full circle.

Australia awoke the day after their three hundred and forty seven run Ashes hammering at Lord’s to a wave vitriol and socwling from their media. The loss, Australia's worst in an away Ashes match and their fourth in succession against England, puts them two-nil down in the series and the general consensus Down Under is that if they avoid a five-nil whitewash, they'll be lucky to get nil. '[England are] all over Australia like a cheap suit' Shane Warne had already noted on Sky Sports but if the Aussie players were hoping for a more sympathetic analysis from their newspapers, they were in for a very nasty surprise. Hell hath no fury, dear blog reader, like the Australian press when their boys have just got whopped by the Poms. Just as Hell hath nothing worse that a gloating Australian. On 8 November 2002, for example, following the opening day of that year's Ashes series, the Sydney Daily Telegraph newspaper infamously featured a banner headline which, arrogantly, asked: Is there ANYBODY in England who can play cricket? A decade on and they're not, quite, so cocky: 'Right now there appear few solutions on how Australia can drag itself back into the series to prevent a five-nil whitewash,' they whinged. Under the headline A shabby and public humbling, esteemed cricket writer Gideon Haigh wrote in The Australian: 'Australia has clocked up some vintage defeats over the last few years. MCG 2010. Newlands 2011. WACA 2012. But Lord's 2013 has been as shabby and public a humbling as any of them. Victor Trumper! Donald Bradman! Shane Warne and by now probably Elizabeth Hurley! Your boys took one hell of a beating!' In the Herald Sun, Malcolm Conn said: 'This could well be the worst Australian side ever to embark on an Ashes tour. Australia must find a way of scoring runs or be consigned to the dust bowl of history.' Conn's player ratings gave just one player any credit – Ryan Harris getting seven out of then. First test hero Ashton Agar, Brad Haddin and Phil Hughes got one out of ten. The one, presumably, being for turning up. The Sydney Morning Herald asked: 'Is this our worst ever Ashes batting line-up?' before adding: 'Prior to this Ashes series, the Australian team was labelled the worst to ever leave its shores on an Ashes quest. Now, after a sixth straight test loss and the fourth successive capitulation to the English, highlighted by two more gormless batting implosions, critics are comparing the 2013 squad to the last Australian team to lose that often in a row, in 1984-85.' In the Melbourne Age, Chloe Saltau laments: 'History suggests England's two-nil series lead will prove unassailable. Only once has a team overcome a two-nil deficit to win a five-Test Ashes series. In 1936-7 Australia lost the first two tests and won the series three-two, but had the benefit of Donald Bradman plundering eight hundred and ten runs in the series.'

NASA has released photos of the Earth and Moon taken by a spacecraft orbiting Saturn - nearly a billion miles away. Our planet and its only satellite appear only as tiny dots in the picture, which was taken by the Cassini spacecraft on 19 July. Scientists wanted to pay homage to the 'Pale Blue Dot' image captured by the Voyager 1 probe in 1990. This was the first time people knew in advance that their long distance picture was being taken. As part of the event launched by NASA, people were asked to wave in what Carolyn Porco, who leads Cassini's camera team, described as an 'interplanetary cosmic photo session. It thrills me no end that people all over the world took a break from their normal activities to go outside and celebrate the interplanetary salute between robot and maker that these images represent,' said Porco, from the Space Science Institute in Boulder. The wide-angle image is part of a larger mosaic - or multi-image portrait - that imaging scientists are putting together of the entire Saturn system. Pictures of Earth from the outer Solar System are rare because, from that distance, Earth is very close to the bright Sun. Just as a person can damage their retina by looking directly at the Sun, a camera's sensitive detectors can be damaged by the bright rays. These images were taken when the sun had moved behind the planet Saturn from the spacecraft's point of view, blocking out most of the light.
And so we come to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. Which, today, features a twenty four carat pop classic from yer actual Motorcycle Boy.

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