Wednesday, June 20, 2018


Last Friday, this blogger was invited out to lunch by his brother and sister-in-law for a very nice meal at a nearby Italian eatery, during the course of which the subject of Doctor Who came up in conversation. This blogger was delighted to be able to inform Our Colin and Our Maureen that the next series will - almost certainly - begin on the BBC in October. 'And, what do you think of the new Doctor?' Our Colin asked. 'Jodie? She's gonna be great,' this blogger replied. 'I thought Doctor Who fans were all up-in-arms about The Doctor being a lady,' he said. No, Keith Telly Topping was able to inform him. 'Only the morons.' As, indeed, these one-star reviews of a DVD set that hasn't been released yet, containing episodes of a TV show that has not been broadcast yet, kind of prove.
England's World Cup victory over Tunisia on Monday attracted a peak overnight television audience of 18.3 million on BBC1, with a record three million requests to stream it on BBC iPlayer and the BBC Sport website. Monday's game in Volgograd, which had a sixty nine per cent audience share at its peak, was the most-watched television programme of 2018, beating May's Royal Wedding. It also attracted the highest-ever live audience for an online BBC programme. And, England actually won. So, you know, double-bonus.
And, dear blog reader, you can alsowatch how the BBC's World Cup studio analysts in Moscow - Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard, Alan Shearer and Gary Lineker - reacted to Harry Kane's last-minute winner. It's very funny!
Of course, in addition to all the sochaball, there's also some tasty cricket going on. It's odd to think that England were pretty much the laughing stock of international one-day cricket ten years ago. Now, on their day they are the most singularly destructive side ever seen in ODI. England made the highest ODI total in history as they crushed Australia by two hundred and forty two runs to seal the five-match series at a rocking Trent Bridge on Tuesday. The hosts scored four hundred and eighty one for six in fifty overs - eclipsing their own previous record of four hundred and forty three for three, set against Pakistan at the same ground in 2016. Alex Hales hit one hundred and forty seven, Jonny Bairstow one hundred and thirty nine and Jason Roy eighty two as England briefly threatened to post a score in excess of five hundred in the third ODI of the series, having already won the previous two games at The Oval and Sophia Gardens. Australia were subsequently bowled out for two hundred and thirty nine in thirty seven overs as Adil Rashid took four for forty seven and Moeen Ali three for twenty eight. England's win gave them an unassailable lead in the series with two games to play, at Chetser-Le-Street and Old Trafford. Whilst the innings of Hales and Bairstow - which both lasted ninety two balls - laid the platform, skipper Eoin Morgan provided late impetus with an impish, rapid-fire sixty seven. The left-hander hit a twenty one-ball half-century - the fastest by an England player, beating Jos Buttler's previous record of twenty two balls - in the process also going past Ian Bell to become his country's all-time top ODI run-scorer. Australian skipper Tim Paine had won the toss and chose to field first in the hope that they could restrict England to a manageable total and chase it down. It was not to be. Australia dragged themselves off the field after fifty overs of pure carnage looking for all the world like men who have been stuck in the outback for three weeks. It could, actually, have been even worse for the Aussies. After losing both Hales and Morgan in successive deliveries to Jhye Richardson, England didn't score a boundary off the bat during the last four overs. 'This is a poor Australian side who have been utterly dismantled,' said BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew on Test Match Special. 'It was ruthless from England. The wheels fell off for Australia.' The result was England's largest ODI win and Australia's heaviest defeat in terms of runs. Australia, to be fair, are without their first-choice bowling attack in this series - Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins are all sidelined with injury - but England have done this before at Trent Bridge. Their four hundred and forty four against Pakistan - last year's Champions Trophy winners - came just twelve months after they had also chased down three hundred and forty nine to beat New Zealand in 2015. And, coming less than twelve months before they host the 2019 World Cup - when they will play Pakistan at Trent Bridge in the group stages - this was another indicator that they deserve their tag of pre-tournament favourites. Australia, who are currently ranked sixth in the world, are second favourites but on the evidence of this performance they have much work to do. Their bowling was flogged all round the park and, for the third time in the series, their batting faltered against England spinners Rashid and Moeen. England appeared on course for something special when openers Roy and Bairstow added one hundred and fifty nine for the first wicket inside twenty overs. Bairstow was happy to play second fiddle to Roy at first, the Surrey opener hitting four sixes in his sixty one-ball knock, including an incredible pull into the crowd at deep square leg off Billy Stanlake. Once Roy was dismissed, Bairstow took control, mixing his more traditional shots along the ground with some brutal six-hitting. Part-time bowler D'Arcy Short was pummelled for two sixes either side of the wicket as desperately sought a solution. Australia ended up using eight different bowlers as they tried - and failed - to stem the flow of runs. Hales smote sixteen fours and five sixes in his devastating knock and when he partnered with Morgan, the pair put on one hundred and twenty four in only sixty one balls. Hales, on his home ground, admitted that talk in the middle had turned to the possibility of reaching five hundred, but that particular milestone was missed as wickets began to tumble.
It has been confirmed that Star Trek: Discovery is making yet another change in the writers' room, replacing showrunners Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts with executive producer Alex Kurtzman, who is already played a vital role in the CBS All Access franchise. This is the second big change at the top; Berg and Harberts took over for Bryan Fuller before the first series began on the streaming service in 2017. 'We've made some producer changes at Star Trek: Discovery. The series continues under the creative vision and leadership of executive producer and co-creator Alex Kurtzman. Discovery remains on course for season two in 2019 with new and continuing stories that build on its successful premiere season,' according to a statement from CBS Television Studios, which produces the show. The Hollywood Reporter was the first media outlet to report the news. Alleged - though suspiciously anonymous - 'sources' allegedly told THR that Berg and Harberts were replaced because of 'leadership and operational issues,' not the creative direction of the drama. Production is almost complete on the first five episodes of series two; Kurtzman will showrun episode six and beyond.
Chris Hardwick has seen what The Wrap website describes as 'swift blowback' after the actress and former Nerdist host Chloe Dykstra posted a damning online article late on Thursday accusing her ex-boyfriend of 'sexual assault,' 'controlling behavior' [sic] and career sabotage. Though Hardwick on Friday vehemently denied the sexual assault accusation, he 'mostly sidestepped her other claims' beyond saying, 'I'm devastated to read that she is now accusing me of conduct that did not occur,' The Wrap notes. But, major companies which worked with Hardwick were quick to respond and publicly hit the pause button on their professional relationships. Nerdist Industries, the podcast-based digital media empire launched by Hardwick and sold to Legendary Entertainment in 2012, speedily distanced itself from its creator. 'Chris Hardwick had no operational involvement with Nerdist for the two years preceding the expiration of his contract in December 2017,' a Legendary Entertainment spokeswoman told The Wrap on Friday. 'He no longer has any affiliation with Legendary Digital Networks. The company has removed all reference to Mister Hardwick even as the original Founder of Nerdist pending further investigation.' On Saturday, AMC pulled Talking With Chris Hardwick, from its schedules one day before the second series premiere was set to broadcast, with guest Donald Glover. It is unclear when, or if, the new series episodes may surface. 'We have had a positive working relationship with Chris Hardwick for many years. We take the troubling allegations that surfaced yesterday very seriously,' AMC said in a statement. Hardwick has been a mainstay at AMC since 2011, when he began hosting the talk show The Talking Dead after the second series premiere episode of The Walking Dead. Hardwick has also hosted similar shows Talking Bad, Talking Saul and Talking Preacher. Hardwick, who has been a mainstay at San Diego Comic-Con and other fan events for more than a decade, 'has decided to step aside from moderating planned AMC and BBC America panels at Comic-Con International in San Diego next month,' AMC announced Saturday. For which read, 'has been extremely pushed aside,' one suspects. This comes just one day after BBC America had announced - with some fanfare - that Hardwick would be moderating the Doctor Who panel at San Diego featuring Jodie Whittaker's convention debut and other members of the cast of the new series. It is currently unclear if Hardwick will still moderate any other scheduled panels at the annual fan convention, including one for Warner Bros DC Films. On Saturday, NBC also announced that it would 'assess' its ties to Hardwick, who was expected to begin shooting the third series of the primetime game show The Wall in September. 'These allegations about Chris Hardwick took us by surprise as we have had a positive working relationship with him,' the network said in a statement, adding, 'we are continuing to assess the situation and will take appropriate action based on the outcome.' The network did not indicate if it would conduct its own investigation of Hardwick's alleged behaviour, or discuss the fate of Hardwick's The Awesome Show, a round-up of science and tech innovations announced last year that has not yet been scheduled. KAABOO, the three-day music and comedy festival at the Del Mar racetrack and fairgrounds outside San Diego announced on Saturday that it had decided 'to pull Chris Hardwick from the KAABOO Del Mar 2018 comedy line-up following detailed accusations of substantial abuse.' Organisers of the event, which runs 14 to 18 September, said they were 'dedicated to providing a safe community and fostering an inclusive environment for all of our guests, performing artists and comedians, chefs, visual artists and team members. KAABOO does not condone, and will not tolerate, any type of abusive behavior [sic] or harassment.' While Hardwick's wife Lydia Hearst has remained silent about the allegations, his mother-in-law Patty Hearst, the kidnapping victim, convicted (and then pardoned) bank robber and heiress, has released some cryptic posts on her social media accounts. Dykstra published the essay on Medium which details a harrowing account of a 'campaign of abuse' by an - unnamed - former boyfriend. Dykstra describes how the man quickly established certain rules which restricted her social life, having male friends, or speaking in public. She also claimed that her ex-partner 'emotionally and sexually assaulted' her during the relationship. She alleges that when she broke up with him, he and a female colleague successfully worked to 'blacklist' her from the film and TV industry, claiming that they called companies she had been employed by 'to get me fired by threatening to never work with them.' Whilst never naming Hardwick directly, the cast member of Syfy's Heroes Of Cosplay included several details in her post about the 'mildly successful podcaster' who became 'a powerhouse CEO of his own company' along with their age difference: details which match up to Hardwick, who announced his break-up with Dykstra in 2014. Hardwick denied the allegations and said he was 'heartbroken' by them in a statement issued to Deadline. 'These are very serious allegations and not to be taken lightly which is why I've taken the day to consider how to respond,' he said.
To Hell, it went and from Hell, it came back. Lucifer has, reportedly, been picked up for a new - fourth - series by Netflix. The Hollywood Reporter announced the news in a tweet which was subsequently reposted by Lucifer's lead, Tom Ellis. The Warner Bros TV show will return following a high-profile fan campaign. According to showrunner Ildy Modrovich, the episode count for the Netflix series will be ten. (This blogger's thanks go to his dear Facebook fiend Deb Wallen for that information.) FOX cancelled the drama after three series prior to its upfront presentations at the end of May. The renewal reportedly came one day before the cast's options were about to expire.
Hollywood producers and directors have criticised Twenty First Century FOX and threatened to boycott the network over its coverage of the controversial US immigration practice of separating children from their parents. Among those weighing in were creators of hit shows produced by Twenty First Century FOX, which is owned by the same company as FOX News, with one threatening to take his show elsewhere due to the coverage. Steve Levitan, the co-creator of Modern Family, said he was 'disgusted' to work for FOX, calling their commentary on the immigration furore 'the opposite of what Modern Family stands for' and saying that he was 'looking forward' to 'setting up shop elsewhere' at the end of the current series. Conservative commentators on FOX News have spoken in support of the policy of separating children from their parents and detaining them. On Monday, FOX News host Laura Ingraham described the detention centres in which the children were housed 'as, essentially, summer camps' and on Sunday that vile Coulter woman alleged the children were 'child actors weeping and crying' and urged Donald Trump: 'Do not fall for it, Mister President.' Speaking to Ingraham on FOX News on Monday night, the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, drew criticism for his response to people comparing immigrant detention centres to Nazi Germany. 'In Nazi Germany they were keeping the Jews from leaving the country,' he claimed. On Tuesday, Trump's former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski caused controversy on the channel when he dismissed a story about a ten-year-old immigrant with Down's Syndrome with a sarcastic 'wah wah' sound. Levitan called Coulter's comments 'pure evil' and said that there were many 'amazing people' working at FOX who shared his concerns about FOX News but 'aren't in the position to speak out.' However, later on Tuesday Levitan appeared to backtrack on his threat to remove the show from the network, releasing a statement saying: 'I have great respect and admiration for Dana Walden, Gary Newman, Peter Rice and everyone at Twentieth Century FOX Studios who have all treated me so well for almost two decades. For now, I will take some time to see where those people land and at that point, make a decision about my future.' Bradley Whitford, the West Wing actor, who has been outspoken about his concern over the immigration policy, tweeted his support of Levitan. Levitan was joined by Seth MacFarlane, Bridesmaids director Paul Feig and Judd Apatow, the producer behind movies and TV shows such as Girls and Trainwreck, in condemning FOX's commentary of the issue. MacFarlane, creator of Family Guy, responded to comments by FOX News commentator Tucker Carlson that viewers should 'not believe anything' they learn from rivals, tweeting: 'It's business like this that makes me embarrassed to work for this company.' He has tweeted extensively in opposition to the immigration policy and on Tuesday donated two and half million dollars to the National Public Radio news organisation. The prolific filmmaker Judd Apatow was asked on Twitter whether he would also consider leaving the FOX Studio stable and replied: 'I would leave but I decided not [to] work for them sixteen years ago.' He added that 'the Murdoch family is part of this torturing of children. They own the propaganda machine.' He urged FOX stars, showrunners, journalists, athletes and executives to speak up. Paul Feig, the producer behind Bridesmaids and the Ghostbusters reboot, who has made two films for the FOX movie studio, wrote: 'I too cannot condone the support their news division promotes toward the immoral and abusive policies and actions taken by this current administration toward immigrant children.' FOX struck a deal in December to sell of most of the film and television businesses to Walt Disney Co, which would mean FOX News may soon be run by a separate company to the entertainment division. However, Comcast Corp has made a rival bid for the parts of FOX that Disney had planned to buy.
For From The North's - many - Twin Peaks fans, Keith Telly Topping urges you all to check out Indie Wire's remarkable interview with co-creator Mark Frost about the creative process behind the writing of Twin Peak: The Return. It's one Black Lodge of an eye-opener.
Laurence Fox says that he understands why some men take their own lives after going through a bitter custody battle of his ex-wife Billie The Piper. Fox, best known for his role in ITV's Lewis, said that he suffered from anxiety and insomnia as he fought to gain access to his children, Winston and Eugene. Talking to the Scum Mail on Sunday, Fox revealed how he was feeling at the time: 'I was certainly in a very dark place at one point - at my lowest ebb. I almost felt like I couldn't go on. It all felt so hopeless. I understand why some men feel so hopeless they commit suicide and find themselves lying on the train tracks.' Fox faced-off against his ex-wife in court last month after the pair separated in 2016 and began divorce proceedings, citing 'unreasonable behaviour.' The actor said that he found it 'hard to sleep' and suffered 'emotional and financial strain' after enormous legal fees meant he was forced to remortgage his home and sell his motorbike. He does not, however, blame Billie The Piper, claiming that it is down to a deeply 'flawed' legal system which attempts to 'find and place blame on one side of a divorcing couple.' He also addressed the importance for men to discuss their feelings and to not shut themselves off because it can lead to some taking their own lives. 'Men no longer feel comfortable talking about relationships and for the men who bottle it, it can be disastrous - they end up throwing themselves off buildings,' he said, hoping to draw attention to male depression and mental health issues, which are often overlooked.
David Dimbleby is to leave Question Time after twenty five years on the BBC's flagship political debate programme. The presenter, who will leave the show at the end of the year, said it was 'the right moment to leave.' The seventy nine-year-old, who has chaired the show since 1994, insisted he was 'not giving up broadcasting' but planned 'to return to my first love: reporting.' BBC director general Tony Hall called Dimbles 'a titan in British broadcasting' and a 'champion of the public.' Dimbleby, who began his broadcasting career more than fifty seven years ago, is the longest-serving presenter of Question Time. In addition, he has been the BBC's anchorman for all general erections since 1979, as well as the chief commentator for many state occasions including the funeral of the Princess of Wales in September 1997. In 1975 he presented the BBC's coverage of the first referendum in Europe, a role he repeated in 2016 for the BBC's coverage of the EU Referendum. Speaking about his quarter of a century at the helm of Question Time, he said it had been 'exhilarating following the twists and turns of British politics. It has been a privilege to work for a programme which brings voters face to face with those in power,' he said. Last year saw Dimbles throw out one member of the audience after they repeatedly interrupted panel members during a Question Time edition filmed in Plymouth. He also revealed a less serious side, when it was reported that at the age of seventy five he had got his first tattoo, of a scorpion, to represent his star sign. Paying tribute, Lord Hall said: 'David has been at the helm of Question Time for over twenty five years: a brilliant champion of the public and the audience's friend - getting the answers they want on the big and difficult issues of the day. Always a commanding figure, David has ensured Question Time has not only stayed relevant through the years, but a must watch for those interested in politics and current affairs. The BBC and the public are extraordinarily lucky to have him in what are - to say the least - interesting times politically and socially. We look forward to working with him on other projects in the future.' Dimbleby's final broadcast on Question Time will be on 13 December 2018 - but there is no word yet on a successor. Question Time has been on air for nearly forty years. It was initially chaired by Robin Day (1979 to 1989) and, later, by Peter Sissons (1989 to 1993).
Motherland is to return for a new series, the BBC has announced, as it unveiled its most diverse line-up of new comedies to date. Other shows include There She Goes, a comedy drama about a nine-year-old girl with learning disabilities, starring David Tennant and Jessica Hynes and Diary Of A Hounslow Girl, about three Muslim girls. The BBC's controller of comedy commissioning, Shane Allen, said that he aimed to 'grow the stars of tomorrow' and promote 'more and more diversity.' Alongside new outings for favourites such as Alan Partridge - who returns in a new guise this winter – and Sir Lenny Henry (last, briefly, funny for about five minutes in 11983) in a 'special' programme hosted by Sir Trevor McDonald to mark Henry's sixtieth birthday, the BBC will broadcast a comedy about mental health issues, BBC3's In My Skin and a new female sketch show called Tash & Ellie. Allen said the 'female comedy story' had been transformed. 'When you look at the top writers you want to work with, it's Sharon Horgan, it's Phoebe Waller-Bridge, it's Holly Walsh.' Walsh and Horgan are among the writers of Motherland. Personally, this blogger thinks its about as funny as a big nasty red wart on the scrotum although, he fully accepts that he is not part of the intended audience. Also returning is Inside Number Nine, for a live Halloween special, alongside new BBC1 comedies Ghosts - a sitcom created by and starring some of the lead cast of Horrible Histories - and Mister Winner, a 'physical sitcom' starring Spencer Jones. Reflecting on the approaching fiftieth anniversary of Monty Python's Flying Circus, a product largely of graduates of Cambridge and Oxford Universities, Allen commented: 'If you're going to assemble a team now it's not going to be six Oxbridge white blokes. It's going to be a diverse range of people who reflect the modern world.' He mentioned the critically-acclaimed sketch show Famalam, with a predominantly black cast and writers, as an example of what he had in mind. Challenged on whether his policy meant there would be no new Pythons or Fry & Laurie-type talent coming through, Allen said that he was part of 'an industry-wide impetus' for people to be 'telling stories that haven't been told,' as with This Country and Young Offenders, which had strong roots in the Cotswolds and Northern Ireland respectively. Allen contrasted those with the 'metropolitan educated experience' that had been too well represented: 'If it's three guys move to London and it's a flat share then it feels like there's no new ground and that's not interesting. It's about how original a voice not what school you went to.' Allen also defended Tracey Ullman's comedy sketches about Jeremy Corbyn because 'attacking the left, right and centre is part of the whole point of satire.' He complained that making mainstream comedy shows for before the watershed is 'more difficult because people are not allowed to swear.' He believes that comedians and writers should not be afraid of Twitter controversy because 'Twitter is a playground for bullies, arseholes and cowards.'

Rock and/or roll star Lenny Kravitz -d'ya wanna go his way? - claims that he lost a role on the TV drama Big Little Lies because producers allegedly 'felt uneasy' about casting a black actor as a villain. The rocker was 'considered to play one of the husbands' in the drama, which revolves around three emotionally troubled women in suburban California. Big Little Lies was one of the most critically-lauded dramas of 2017, with an all-star cast including Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and Laura Dern. Had he won the role, Kravitz would have been 'the only black man on the show,' he told the BBC. 'And the word that came back to me was that, if I was the only black man on the show, they didn't want me doing what it was that I would be doing. So that ended up not happening,' Kravitz added. 'The director [Jean-Marc Vallée] was like, "I so want you for this but we'll work together another time."' Kravitz declined to specify which role he was up for but it seems likely that he was referring to Perry Wright, who is seen subjecting his wife Celeste to vicious beatings and psychological torture throughout the HBO series. The part eventually went to Alexander Skarsgård, who won both an EMMY and a Golden Globe for his performance. The BBC contacted HBO for a response to Kravitz's story, but was told that 'producers are deep into production on the second season for Big Little Lies and are unavailable for comment.' Or, in other words, mind your own business. Adapted from the Liane Moriarty novel of the same name, the series touched a nerve with viewers in dealing with divorce, domestic violence, the troubles of raising children, school bullying and ageing. Kravitz, who previously starred in films like Precious and The Hunger Games, was philosophical about being passed over - especially as his daughter, Zoë Kravitz, was later cast as bohemian yoga teacher Bonnie Carlson. 'I'm much more happy that she got the role,' he said. 'It worked out wonderfully.'
Good Morning Britain presenter Susanna Reid has revealed that she feels she wages 'a constant battle for airtime' with her co-host, that odious oily twat Piers Morgan. 'Sometimes I open my mouth to ask a question and hear Piers's voice come out,' she told the Radio Times. 'You can't help but go into battle with him every morning,' continued Reid, who got her greed right on and quit the BBC for ITV in 2014. Morgan and Reid have proved a moderately popular partnership for ITV, though its morning show still trails behind BBC Breakfast. The BBC breakfast programme has an average daily audience of one-and-a-half million, around twice the average audience that watch its commercial rival. Former tabloid editor and full-of-his-own-importance berk Morgan joined Good Morning Britain in 2015 with the stated aim of making the show 'unpredictable, provocative [and] lively.' 'I just took a view that the way to make us truly competitive was to shake things up a bit,' he told the BBC last year. Speaking to the Radio Times, Reid admitted that her first reaction to his hiring was 'Arghhh!' and that sharing the sofa with Morgan was 'akin to sitting next to a hedgehog.' Reid said she struggled with their relationship up until last year and admits to frequently coming off-air on more than one occasion 'in tears.' What brought things to a head were the Women's Marches of 2017, over which Morgan was highly critical. Reid says what upset her most were the attacks that she received from men who accused her of 'enabling [Morgan's] anti-feminist views.' 'The man sitting next to me was spouting off whatever he believes, which I don't agree with but I had men telling me it was my fault he was saying this. And I was just like, I've had enough of men telling me how I should be a feminist.' Reid told the magazine it was then that she realised it wasn't her responsibility to 'pick up the pieces' after Morgan provoked controversy. She also claims that she is 'very happy' with her current salary and that she does not know how it compares with her co-host's, said to be around a million knicker a year.
The former Blue Peter presenter John Leslie has gone on trial charged with sexually assaulting a woman during her hen night at an Edinburgh club. The woman told Edinburgh Sheriff Court that she was dancing with Leslie at the Attik club in Tollcross, when he pulled her closer and put his hand down the back of her trousers. Leslie, appearing under his real name John Stott, denies the charge. The woman told the court that she had recognised Leslie when she entered the nightclub in June last year and had spoken to him during the night. She said that while she had been dancing with friends and a stag party later in the evening, Leslie had approached her and said 'be careful, you're getting married.' She thought he was 'being protective' and suggested they dance together. 'We'd been going in circles then he pulled me closer,' she said. 'I did feel uncomfortable but thought I was maybe reading too much into it.' She said that she gave her friend 'a look' to make her aware she was uncomfortable. 'After that I felt his hand go down my trousers at the back,' she said. 'I didn't know how to react. I made even more of a look to my friend because I knew I needed to be out of that situation.' The woman said a friend had pulled her away. She then danced briefly with her hen party to 'pretend it hadn't happened,' but got 'really upset' so moved to a booth. They told a female bouncer and then a police officer what had happened, and she was taken to a police station to make a statement. The woman claimed that it had impacted on her relationship with her husband, friends and work. 'It's been one of the toughest years of my life when it should have been the happiest,' she added. Defence lawyer Derek Ogg QC reviewed the CCTV footage with the woman. He said: 'We don't see a hand going under a tutu or trousers or coming out of trousers.' The trial continues.
A Tesla car driven by British TV director Michael Morris burst into flames in Los Angeles, his US actress wife has said. Mary McCormack tweeted a dramatic video of the incident earlier this week. 'No accident, out of the blue, in traffic on Santa Monica Blvd. Thank you to the kind couple who flagged him down and told him to pull over,' she wrote. Thankfully, no-one was injured during the incident. Tesla said that it was investigating 'an extraordinarily unusual occurrence.' Tesla claims that its electric vehicles are 'less likely to catch fire than fuel-powered cars.' Except for this one, obviously. In her tweet, the former West Wing actress McCormack also wrote: 'And thank God my three little girls weren't in the car with [her husband].' Firefighters were called in and the fire was soon extinguished. McCormack later tweeted that the car 'wasn't a Tesla with auto pilot or whatever. It was a normal Tesla.' A Tesla spokesperson told ABC News: 'We offer our support to local authorities and are glad our customer is safe. This is an extraordinarily unusual occurrence, and we are investigating the incident to find out what happened.' McCormack and Morris, a former director of London's Old Vic theatre and of the recent TV series Thirteen Reasons Why, have been married since 2003.
Blimey, dear blog reader, BBC2 appears to be getting a bit homophobic these days, does it not?
How genuinely nice it was to see this blogger's old BBC Newcastle colleague Vicki Sparks making history with her World Cup commentary debut for the BBC at the Portugal versus Morocco game on Wednesday. Jolly well done, Vicki, we're all really proud of you. Especially as it meant you had to spend ninety minutes locked in a commentary box with Martin Keown. That's above and beyond the call of duty as far as this blogger is concerned.
Things we learned from watching the World Cup this week. Number one: It appears as though The Master has got himself a new gig with the Saudi Football Association. That's a rather surprising vocational choice after his failure (several times over) to rule The Universe.
A Mexican lingerie company has launched a bid to get more women into the World Cup by inventing a pair of underwear which vibrate when footballers score. Underwear retailer Vicky Form unveiled the product ahead of the World Cup kickoff with a racy advert for Mexican TV. The clip begins with a couple talking to the camera separately, with the woman moaning: 'Honestly he is sick. He turns on the TV and nobody else exists. What's wrong with him? Because of football?' Then a female narrator adds: 'Vicky Form have found the solution so that both of them get equally excited. We have created the first pair of knickers that let you feel the passion of the match. The undies are linked to a robot which interprets the action' and transforms it into vibrations in real time.' The video then shows the couple sitting and watching a match with the girlfriend, seemingly, wearing the vibrating underwear. As the match becomes more exciting, she becomes more and more stimulated until the referee fails to award an obvious penalty. The man shouts: 'No, no, no, that's a foul!' The woman, angry at the stopping of the vibrations in her underwear jumps up and shouts: 'Penalty! Blind referee, that's a penalty!' The man looks at his girlfriend and moves closer to her, linking arms. The spot has sparked a torrent of outrage on Mexican social media, with hundreds of users lambasting it as sexist.
Beer-swilling sochaball fans 'risk drinking parts of Moscow dry,' according to reports with some bars and restaurants in the Russian capital saying that they are running low and having to wait longer than usual for fresh supplies. Moscow has been transformed by the World Cup, with the singing and the chanting and the beer-drinking fans allegedly 'overwhelming' some of the packed bars and restaurants around the Kremlin and Red Square. 'We just didn't think they would only want beer,' whinged one waiter at what is described as 'a [sic] upscale eatery in Central Moscow' who 'asked not to be identified for fear of scaring off future customers.' No shit? Well, that's Capitalism for you, mate, you should be used to it by now. The waiter claimed that his restaurant ran out of draft lager on Monday and deliveries are 'taking longer than usual,' at least twenty four hours, because suppliers' stocks are also running low. 'There are really a lot of people in Moscow ... and they are all drinking,' he said. 'It's hot and it's football.' A deadly combination at the best of times. Beer sales in Russia have fallen by around a third over the past few years as duties have risen and rules been tightened on sales and advertising. Brewers had 'not been expecting a major reversal of the trend' this year, despite the World Cup. Baltika, the Russian unit of Carlsberg, said that although there was 'an increased risk of supply disruption' during the World Cup, its business 'had not been affected.' Heineken said that sales were 'so far going well' and it did not yet see any challenges supplying its beer. Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world's biggest brewer and an official FIFA sponsor, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Dmitry, a barman at 'trendy courtyard bar Gogol,' said visiting sochaball fans had drunk 'eight hundred litres of beer in three days,' downing the cheap lager before moving on to more expensive bottled beers. Then, with their minds poisoned by alcohol, going out and indulging in mindless violence with the wailing and the kicking of teeth. Probably. Gogol was 'taking three deliveries on Tuesday to replenish supplies,' Dmitry said, as workers busily unpacked boxes of beer, vodka and whiskey from a nearby van. 'The sun makes them thirsty,' he said of his customers. 'In Russian we say "to the bottom!" I like that these guys are embracing our culture.' Ivan, a Croatian in Russia to see his team take on Argentina on Thursday, said that he had yet to encounter any shortages. 'There is beer everywhere,' he claimed, swigging from a can of Russian Zhiguli lager whilst sitting on a bench near the Bolshoi Theatre. 'Some places yes, some places no. You just have to know where to find it!'
Police have condemned the 'appalling' violence which allegedly broke out at a cycling festival in Greater Manchester, saw nine people hurt and eight men arrested. Thirty protesters stormed the Eritrean event at Curzon Ashton's Tameside Stadium on Saturday, throwing bottles, food and beer kegs. Organisers said that 'frightened young children' were 'put in danger by the violence.' It is thought that the men were 'protesting against the Eritrean government.' Or something. The Eritrean Cycle Festival was attended by hundreds of people, with singing, dancing and appearances from cyclists who appeared at the 1960 and 1964 Olympic Games. Organiser Goitom Seyoum said: 'This had nothing to do with politics - this was purely a celebration of Eritrean cycling. We had African champions here and people who appeared at the Olympics. It was a peaceful protest at first and then they barged in throwing bottles, food and beer kegs. It was outrageous - there were children in buggies and people cut and bleeding. This was supposed to be a festival but now we leave with a sad feeling. Young children were put in danger by these cowards.' Riot officers were deployed by Greater Manchester Police at the stadium in Ashton-under-Lyne. Those arrested were held on suspicion of public order offences. Chief Inspector Andy Harty said: 'The vast majority of people attending the event today were innocent people, including children, who sadly got caught in the middle of this appalling act of violence. This type of behaviour is completely unacceptable and I want to assure the residents of Tameside that we are doing everything we can to bring any offenders to justice.' A spokesperson for Curzon Ashton, who play in the National League North, said: 'Police inquiries are currently ongoing and no further comment will be made at this time.'
Police say that a sixty seven-year-old Colorado man attempting to shoot a raccoon on a utility pole accidentally shot himself in the leg instead. The shooting was reported just after midnight on Tuesday. Colorado Springs police say that the man was taken to a local hospital with 'non-life threatening injuries.' Police say the man told them he was using a handgun to shoot at the raccoon. Besides the leg wound, police say the man likely faced a citation for prohibited use of a weapon. The raccoon's reaction has not been reported.
Things that it is probably a good idea not to do at a music festival (or anywhere else, for that matter). Number one: Put your head in a large truck's exhaust pipe, regardless of how many drinks you've had and how funny you think that would be. Unfortunately, one nineteen-year-old woman from Minnesota found this out the hard way, after having got her head stuck in the truck's exhaust pipe for forty five minutes before firefighters were able to free her. She has become 'a viral star' because of her daft drunken antics. Kaitlyn Strom was attending the Winstock Music Festival in Winsted, near Minneapolis and was having fun with friends when she seemingly decided to stick her head in a large truck's exhaust pipe. Seconds later, Kaitlyn realised that she couldn't pull her head out and was stuck there for almost an hour, until firefighters came and power-sawed her free. 'We were just all having fun and I saw this big exhaust pipe and I was like, "Hey, my head could probably fit in that." So I tried it,' Kaitlyn told the Litchfield Independent Review after the incident. And, that's where it all went pear-shaped.
Students and parents want an urgent review after errors in an A-level paper left candidates 'guessing' answers. Which is what this blogger did in every exam he ever seat, let it be noted. Candidates took to Twitter to whinge that sound files provided in a French listening exam were 'jumbled up' and 'did not coincide with the questions.' One student said she was waving 'au revoir' to her university chances after the exam. Ah well never mind, love, I'm sure McDonald's are still hiring. The board, Eduqas, has admitted mistakes on the paper, taken by more than eight hundred students. In a statement, Eduqas said: 'We can confirm that there was an issue with the recording on yesterday's French examination and how it related to the rubric on one question, which may have impacted some students. A similar issue was noted on the Spanish examination taken by students on Monday 11 June. We have contacted centres to inform them that a special consideration application can be made on behalf of those candidates. Our examiners and the awarding committee members will be made aware of the situation. Candidate responses will be considered carefully during the marking and awarding processes to ensure that no candidate is disadvantaged.'
A primary school is considering providing a washing machine for parents who cannot afford to keep their children's clothes clean. The head teacher of St Paul's Church of England Primary School in Stoke-on-Trent said she has spent her own money buying items for pupils. Nicola Finney said it was due to a rise in children attending school with 'washing and hygiene issues.' A study found more than forty per cent of parents cannot afford basic hygiene products. Finney said staff at her school were considering installing a washing machine. The charity which carried out the survey, In Kind Direct, provides her school with essentials such as toothpaste, soap, sanitary products and toilet roll. 'We now make allowances in our very tight school budget to make sure we can buy personal hygiene and washing items, such as toiletries, washing powder and toothpaste, as well as spare uniforms, shoes and deodorant, because we know increasing numbers of families simply can't afford to buy them,' Finney said. 'We have seen significantly more children coming into school with washing and hygiene issues over the last few years. It used to be just a couple of children across the school, but now there are two or three in every classroom dealing with these issues. We want all of our pupils to get the best outcomes, not just those that can afford the basic essentials to keep themselves and their clothes clean and presentable.'
A business selling sex dolls has been very fined over its novel 'try-before-you-buy' scheme. It follows a complaint that LD Europe Ltd, which trades as Lovedoll UK, was allowing potential customers 'a first hand experience' of their product using a bedroom on its premises. This would require a sex establishment licence, which the firm did not have. The company's owner, Graeme Tulip, was extremely fined ten grand at Gateshead Magistrates' Court. Neither Tulip nor his legal representative were at the hearing and, as a result, the company was tried in its absence. The dolls cost up to two thousand knicker - so, frankly, hiring an actual (willing) woman would probably be a lot cheaper - and the 'try before you buy' option come at an additional fifty notes. Inspectors visited the company's premises in Felling in January following complaints that it was running 'a sex doll brothel' and were taken to a showroom and 'a try-before-you-buy' bedroom. Tulip was informed that such a use would require a sex establishment licence, which had neither been sought nor granted. He was later invited for formal interview under caution. A sex establishment licence covers premises selling sex toys, mucky books or naughty videos, venues where explicit films are shown to members of the public and those where sexual entertainment - such as pole dancing and strip shows - take place.
A Texas woman is behind bars after reportedly 'causing chaos at an ice cream parlour.' According to the Texarkana Police Department, Tkeshon Trotter was very arrested for 'criminal mischief' after she 'caused a disturbance' at Cold Stone Creamery on Sunday afternoon. Police say Trotter 'got upset' when employees wouldn't give her a refund which, she believed, she was entitled to. 'Instead of handling it like an adult, she started breaking things inside the store and threw several of the pre-made cakes that were in the freezer,' police said in a statement. 'In all, she caused over four hundred dollars in damages.' An officer stopped her as she was trying to leave the area, arrested her and confiscated her cone.
A 'popular young man' fatally stabbed himself in the chest mistakenly believing the vest he wore was stab-proof, his inquest has heard. Jordan Easton was in the kitchen at one of his friends' parents on 23 August last year - just five days after his twenty second birthday - when he turned a knife on himself to demonstrate the 'stab-proof' nature of the abdominal protection he was wearing. And, that was the end of his shit. He suffered a fatal chest wound and was taken to the University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton. Teesside assistant coroner Karin Welsh said: 'Despite the best efforts of the medical professionals, they were unable to save him.' Although his injuries were 'self-inflicted,' there was 'no evidence' that Jordan intended to harm himself, she added. A police investigation was launched, but no further action was taken.
A woman has accused Jamie Foxx of slapping her in the face with his penis, an allegation which the actor and musician describes as 'an absurd lie.' The alleged incident took place in 2002, but the woman making the claim only went to Las Vegas police last week, according to the TMZ website. The woman that claims she and a friend were partying at the Oscar winner's home when he allegedly asked her for oral sex. She claims that when she refused, Foxx slapped her face with his penis. Presumably, either she was sitting down at the time or he was standing on a chair. The woman claims she went to the hospital in Los Angeles the next day to seek treatment for 'a severe panic attack.' The case is open, but the statute of limitations reportedly expired after three years. 'Jamie emphatically denies that this incident ever occurred and he will be filing a report with the Las Vegas Police Department against the woman for filing a false police report against him,' Foxx's attorney, Allison Hart of Lavely & Singer, told Page Six. 'The first time [Jamie] became aware of this woman's absurd claims about an incident that supposedly occurred sixteen years ago was when TMZ contacted his representatives [Tuesday] about this story.' Hart added, 'The alleged incident was not reported to law enforcement in 2002, or at any other time in the last sixteen years until last Friday because the incident never happened.'
A California doctor has reportedly been suspended from the hospital where she worked following an incident in which she was caught on video berating a patient in her care. The confrontation between the patient and the doctor occurred at El Camino Hospital in Los Gatos. 'I'm sorry sir, you are the least sick of all the people who are here who are dying,' Doctor Beth Keegstra is heard telling the patient. Samuel Bardwell, a twenty-year-old college athlete, had collapsed at basketball practice with an apparent anxiety attack. He told the doctor that he was having difficulty breathing. '[You] can't inhale,' she replied, mocking him. 'Wow! You must be dead. Are you dead, sir? I don't understand. You are breathing just fine.' It has been reported that the doctor no longer works at the ER after she had her ass extremely fired and the hospital has grovellingly apologised to Bardwell for the incident.
A Georgia woman suffered bites and scratches after a rabid bobcat attacked her outside her house and she killed it with her bare hands. So, it won't be doing that again in a hurry. Dede Phillips says the reason she is still alive is that she simply refused to die after being attacked by a bobcat, WXIA reported. Phillips said that she walked outside her Hart County, Georgia home and saw a bobcat under her SUV. 'I snapped a picture and about that time the bobcat took two steps. Maybe two maybe three and he leaps,' said Phillips. It obviously didn't like being photographed. The animal jumped five feet and landed on her chest and started attacking her face. It obviously really didn't like being photographed. 'And his face gets mean. Before he got a good bite I grabbed him,' said Phillips. 'My five-year-old granddaughter was in the house and I didn't want her coming out. If she would have came out it would have killed her.' Phillips fought to get a good grip around the bobcat's neck while it bit her arms, legs, fingers and face. 'He's biting the daylights out of me and I'm thinking I can't let him go,' Phillips said. Once the bobcat stopped moving, she yelled for someone to call nine-one-one. When police arrived, she said her arms and legs were numb, but her hands were still gripped around the bobcat's neck. She added that her son stabbed the bobcat just as deputies arrived. Phillips is currently recovering from her ordeal and being treated for a rabies infection. The bobcat died.
A former police officer has been charged with kidnapping a woman he met online after she flew from Miami to Oklahoma to be with him. James Otterbine was very arrested on Tuesday after the woman escaped from his car and called nine-one-one, according to a news release from Canadian County Sheriff Chris West. She has not been identified by authorities. Otterbine has been charged with kidnapping and domestic abuse in the presence of a child, jail records indicate. Otterbine and the woman met online about two months ago, according to West and struck up a relationship from fifteen hundred miles away. It was only after he paid for her flight to Oklahoma that she noticed a more violent side to Otterbine, she told police. 'Over the past several weeks, Otterebine became increasingly physically violent,' West wrote in the release. During one argument, the woman accused the former police officer in the towns of El Reno and Geary of duct taping and handcuffing her to a chair. Otterbine told investigators that the 'torture' which he allegedly subjected the woman to was 'consensual,' West wrote, because the woman 'liked rough sex.' He also told investigators that his ten-year-old son was present during another of the 'brutal' episodes. The woman also accused Otterbine of locking her in his basement with the lights turned off and making repeated threats to kill her and then himself, the release states.
And now, dear blog reader, local news headline of the week ...
Never? Next ...
As if the structural damage caused by a rare Pennsylvania tornado wasn't enough, a Wilkes-Barre business is still searching for its missing portaloo. The destructive storm struck the North Pennsylvania town on 13 June, ripping off roofs, blowing down power lines and crushing cars. Most of the larger items that disappeared in the intense winds have been located nearby - with the exception of a portable lavatory. 'I was just talking to the people down at the Flower Tent, they had a porta-potty. We have no clue where it's at,' Police Chief Ron Smith told reporters.
A woman has been jailed for kicking over a shop display and assaulting police after being caught stealing. Lyn Stirling pleaded very guilty to stealing groceries from Poundland in Aberdeen, to shouting, swearing and kicking over items on display and to kicking, attempting to spit at and making racist remarks to police officers. Fiscal depute Anne MacDonald said that the groceries, worth eleven smackers, were recovered after staff stopped Stirling at the door and contacted the police. Defence agent Lynn Bentley claimed her client had 'a number of addiction problems' and was 'drunk when she went into the store.' Sheriff Sukhwinder Gill sentenced Stirling to eight months in the pokey.
A former police officer kicked out of the force after attacking a woman and biting her on the nose - really hard - has now been jailed. Former Thames Valley Police PC Rebecca Barnett from Banbury, admitted one count of grievous bodily harm without intent at Oxford Crown Court in February. She was jailed for twenty two months on Monday. The incident occurred in June 2017, when Barnett was off duty. She got into a row with a twenty nine-year-old woman in Addison Road, Banbury. The two became involved in a scuffle, which ended up with Barnett grabbing the woman and biting her nose, causing injuries which needed surgery. Barnett was subsequently kicked out of Thames Valley Police after she admitted the charges at a misconduct hearing in April. Detective Chief Superintendent Chris Ward, head of Thames Valley Police's professional standards department, said: 'This was an incident that left the victim with permanent scarring. I would like to thank her for supporting our investigation of this case and trusting us to investigate and put it before the courts. I hope this case shows that Thames Valley Police[s Professional Standards Department will always fully investigate cases of this nature. Barnett's actions were completely inappropriate, even more so as at the time she was a serving officer.'
A man has been jailed for three months for assaulting an Easyjet pilot. Paul Burgoyne reportedly made 'a Nazi salute' when asked by a member of staff to put up a window blind as the plane was waiting to take off from Belfast International Airport for Birmingham. After 'continuous aggressive behaviour,' Burgoyne was deemed unfit to fly by the captain and was forcibly removed from the aircraft. As he was being escorted off the plane, Burgoyne grabbed the pilot by the collar and damaged his watch. He was then arrested for trying to gain access to a tug that was connected to the aircraft. Burgoyne had been involved in 'a lengthy period of drinking' prior to the incident on 11 February, his lawyer told Antrim Magistrates Court. 'There must be an element of deterrence in relation to these offences,' said District Judge Nigel Broderick. He added that incidents of alcohol abuse and a lack of respect for airline staff and customers were 'becoming more common.' Burgoyne received a three-month sentence for common assault, disorderly behaviour and endangering an aircraft. He was also ordered to pay six hundred quid in compensation for damaging the captain's watch.
A homeless man who repeatedly stole toothbrushes from a Dublin pharmacy despite being arrested several times has been sentenced to eighteen months in prison. Mareks Treinovskis reportedly went into the Grafton Street branch of Boots pharmacy eight times last year to steal electric toothbrushes and razors worth a total of over four thousand Euros a court heard. None of the toothbrushes were ever recovered. However after one theft, gardaí­ apprehended Treinovskis outside the store and seized almost four hundred Euros worth of stolen razors from him. Passing sentence at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, Judge Melanie Greally asked the investigating garda if anything in particular had drawn the accused to the Grafton Street branch. The garda replied that Treinovskis 'kind of figured out' that the security guard at the Grafton Street store did not start work until 11am and that all of the thefts had taken place between 8.30 and 9am.
A Germantown psychiatrist was forced to close her practice for at least two months and could lose her license permanently after reports showed she spanked patients with whips and compared some to mules. According to documents from the Tennessee disciplinary medical board, Doctor Valerie Augustus - a psychiatrist who has led the Christian Psychiatrist Services for the past seventeen years - allegedly used a 'riding crop' to spank at least ten patients in 2015. All of whom had, obviously, paid for the privileged. The state concluded, following the investigation, that Augustus had used the riding crop and other objects to make 'contact with other patients' on their buttocks. Documents also stated Augustus displayed the whip in her office and compared her patients to mules. One of her patients, according to the documents, was suffering from depression and suicidal thoughts. After a hearing, Augustus had her license suspended for sixty. The state Board of Medical Examiners cited 'a lack of evidence' for using such devices as treatment for patients.
We all know how clumsy toddlers can be, but what would you do if your child broke an extremely expensive sculpture in a gallery and you were asked to foot the bill? That is exactly what happened to one mother in Kansas, when her hyperactive five-year-old knocked over a ninety nine thousand quid sculpture at the Tomahawk Ridge Community Centre. The family had been at the centre for a wedding reception that afternoon and were getting ready to leave. CCTV footage showed the boy touching the sculpture at the centre which then wobbled forward. He tried to push it back up, but the sculpture fell on the floor, causing the boy to fall over, too. The boy's mother, Sarah Goodman, received a letter from the insurance company representing the centre a month later, explaining the sculpture was 'damaged beyond repair.' The letter said: 'This loss occurred when your son was in a closed area of the property and toppled a glass sculpture. Under common law in Kansas, you are responsible for the supervision of a minor child and your failure to monitor them during this loss could be considered negligent.' Goodman said that she was 'offended' by the letter and explained that the sculpture itself should have been protected if it was that valuable. She said it was not behind glass or protected. 'It needed to be cemented,' she told the Kansas City Star. 'They obviously didn't secure it safely. It's clear accidents happen and this was an accident. I don't want to diminish the value of their art. But I can't pay for that.' A spokesman for the centre, Sean Reilly, told Sky News, that the piece of artwork had been loaned to the centre and there had been 'no problem with kids touching artwork' there before. The family are now trying to settle the bill using their homeowners' insurance.
A deliveryman was shot reportedly on Tuesday night while trying to deliver Chinese food to an Arkansas residence, police said. An officer responded to a home in Jonesboro in reference to shots fired, according to a report from the city's Police Department. The twenty five-year-old homeowner told police that when he heard a knock on his door, he opened it to find a man, identified by authorities as fifty seven-year-old James Loyd, delivering food for Dragon City Chinese Restaurant. Police said that after being told by the homeowner that he didn't submit an order, Loyd walked to his car to leave. Two people reportedly approached from behind a neighbouring house a short time later, prompting the deliveryman to get inside his vehicle, lock the doors and start the engine. The homeowner said he then heard gunshots but did not look outside. Loyd was shot in his right arm below the elbow and drove himself to hospital, the officer noted. No suspects were named and no arrests had been made at the time of the report.
Ronda Rousey appears to be quickly finding her niche in pro wrestling. The former UFC women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey had quite a weekend in a WWE ring. She had her first singles match on Sunday at Money In The Bank, challenging Nia Jax. She lost that one, but she got her revenge the next night. At the PPV, Rousey competed in a realistic-looking match against a woman almost twice her size in Jax, using her MMA experience to attempt submissions and fight her way out of the grasp of the Raw women's champion. At a point where it looked like she had an advantage, Alexa Bliss entered the fray. Using the Money In The Bank briefcase she won just a couple of hours before previously, Bliss clubbed Rousey to knock her out of the ring and finished off the champ, taking the belt home in the process. Of course, it's important to note at his point that wrestling definitely isn't fixed. Oh no, very hot water. In the opening segment of Raw the next night, Bliss berated Rousey and the crowd, playing up the fact that she 'outsmarted' everyone. Rousey came out, but was held back by Kurt Angle. Rousey then attacked with the MITB briefcase and, according to MSN, 'beat the holy hell out of Angle with it too.' Four referees jumped in the ring 'and they got dusted as well.' Due to her actions, Angle had no choice but to 'suspend' Rousey for thirty days. Which probably means she is going to film a movie or something.
Scientists have seen the vast blast thrown out by a black hole eating a star for the first ever time. Researchers have finally watched the formation and expansion of the fast-moving jet of material that is thrown out when a supermassive black hole's gravity grabs a star and tears it apart. Scientists watched the dramatic event using highly specialised telescopes, which are trained on a pair of colliding galaxies called Arp 299, nearly one hundred and fifty million light-years from Earth. At the centre of one of those galaxies, a star twice the size of the Sun came too close to a black hole that is more than twenty million times big as our Sun – and was shredded apart, throwing a blast across the universe. It was that blast that scientists were able to see happen for the first time ever. Theorists have long thought such events were common, speculating that material torn from the star makes a rotating disk around the black hole, emitting intense X-rays and visible light and also pushes jets of material outward from the poles of the disk at nearly the speed of light. But they had yet to see it actually happen. 'Never before have we been able to directly observe the formation and evolution of a jet from one of these events,' said Miguel Perez-Torres, of the Astrophysical Institute of Andalusia in Granada. Most galaxies have supermassive black holes, which can pull matter into them and form a huge disc around their outsides as they do. But, for the most part, those black holes stay quiet not devouring anything. That means the violent events which scientists have finally seen can be a unparalleled insight into what actually happens around a black hole. 'Much of the time, however, supermassive black holes are not actively devouring anything, so they are in a quiet state,' Perez-Torres said. 'Tidal disruption events can provide us with a unique opportunity to advance our understanding of the formation and evolution of jets in the vicinities of these powerful objects,' he added. 'Because of the dust that absorbed any visible light, this particular tidal disruption event may be just the tip of the iceberg of what until now has been a hidden population,' Seppo Mattila, of the University of Turku said. 'By looking for these events with infrared and radio telescopes, we may be able to discover many more, and learn from them.' Researchers had initially turned their sights towards the doomed star as part of a search for supernova explosions in such colliding pairs of galaxies. They had initially thought that they were seeing was one such a supernova explosion – but it kept expanding, confirming that it was in fact a jet being spewed out as the star was torn apart. Supermassive black holes, with a gravitation pull so strong that light can't escape, are present in most galaxies, the researchers said. But the recent discovery will help scientists comprehend what exactly happens in black holes and the type of environment present when galaxies first came into being.
July is set to be a good month for stargazers, as Mars will get closer to Earth than it has been in fifteen years, making it appear larger and brighter than usual. The event, known as Mars Close Approach, is thanks to Mars' and Earth's orbits around the Sun, which on 31 July will line up so that the Red Planet is thirty five million miles away, according to NASA. For much of that night it will be visible to the naked eye. It will appear low in the sky, reaching its highest point of thirty five degrees above the Southern horizon around midnight. In the days before Mars Close Approach, between 27 and 30 July, the planet will be in opposition with the Sun and will look around three times brighter in our sky than it normally does.
A Bakewell pudding which was launched to the very edge of space, with tracking devices attached, has gone missing. Pupils at Saint Anselm's Preparatory School in Derbyshire launched the dessert, attached to a high altitude balloon, on Monday. Tracking devices showed it was at fifty two thousand feet over Saxilby, near Lincoln, when 'contact was lost.' The school said that 'a search was ongoing,' while From The North favourite Stephen Fry tweeted about it, commenting: 'My country, my country ...' Whatever that means! Of course, there is the possibility that the pudding has re-entered, plunged to Earth at some velocity and some fekker has found it - in a slightly charred condition - and thought 'ooh, a red-hot Bakewell pudding, I'm havin' that!' Stephen's tweet, which already has more than four thousand likes, attracted comments like: 'I bet a Clanger ate it,' 'Discovered: Extra Cholesterol Life' and 'But doesn't it just make you feel so pastriotic?' And, some other ones that actually were funny. The school said it had been hoping to reach heights of about one hundred and fourteen thousand feet. Liz Scott, director of studies, said: 'Last year, we launched a high-altitude balloon in preparation for this experiment and it was found by a couple on a beach near Skegness, who used the contact details on the balloon to let us know where it ended up. We're hoping the same thing will happen again and we'll find out where the pudding ends up.' She said that the pupils have raised about sixteen hundred knicker for the Guide Dogs for the Blind charity - a jolly worthy cause, let it be noted - as part of the experiment by asking local firms to sponsor them. The trackers on the altitude balloon records its position, along with temperatures and photographs.
Illegal treasure hunters have damaged a part of Hadrian's Wall, experts claim. So-called nighthawk metal detectorists are blamed for more than fifty holes found around the nineteen hundred-year-old Brunton Turret section, near Hexham. Historic England said those responsible were 'searching for loot' such as Roman coins and military regalia. Other areas of the ancient wall, a World Heritage site, have also been targeted. The Brunton Turret section of the wall was built by the Twentieth Legion of the Roman Army. Historic England said it was working with police to try and find those responsible. But, it added that it was 'not practical' to install security measures like CCTV. The seventy three-mile wall stretches from Waalsend - and passes through Eastern Newcastle (remarkably close to Stately Telly Topping Manor as it happens) - all the way across the country to Bowness-on-Solway in Cumbria and has about one hundred and sixty scheduled monuments, which include Roman camps, forts and signal stations. Many of which yer actual Keith Telly Topping has visited over the years. It's really cool, check it out next time you're in the area. Anyone using a metal detector without authorisation on these sites is committing a criminal offence and being a damned bad bugger into the process. Historic England wants visitors to Hadrian's Wall and Tyne Valley residents to report any illegal metal detecting which is 'causing loss and damage to our shared cultural heritage.' Mike Collins, the organisation's inspector of ancient monuments, said: 'We know that the majority of the metal detecting community complies with the laws and regulations regarding discovery and recovery of objects from the land. But the small number of people who steal artefacts and damage ancient sites are breaking the law and robbing us all of the knowledge and understanding that objects from the past can give us.' He said the majority of items taken were sold on, some via online auction sites, with others being bought by individual collectors. Mark Harrison, head of heritage crime and policing advice for Historic England, added: 'We may never see or fully understand the objects taken or damaged because they have been removed from their original sites with no care or record as to their history or context. Historic England will continue to work with Northumbria Police, the Crown Prosecution Service and the metal detecting community to identify the small criminal minority who are intent on causing loss and damage to our shared cultural heritage and to bring them to justice.' And, it is to be hoped that said justice will involve doing unto them what the Romans did onto the eunuchs.
The French government is allowing the wolf population to grow, but farmers and some local officials aren't happy. Though, they're French so that's pretty much a default state-of-being. Wolves are protected under the Bern Convention, which France has signed up to.
The actor Leslie Grantham has died at the age of seventy one. He will be best remembered for creating the role of Dirty Den Watts in the hugely successful soap opera EastEnders. Born in Camberwell, in his youth, he secretly longed to be an actor but it was not an ambition he found easy to admit. 'You couldn't tell people,' he said. 'I used to go to the theatre in Bromley and make out I'd been to the football.' After leaving school, Grantham joined the Royal Fusiliers becoming a lance corporal. He was eighteen when serving in Germany he bungled a robbery. During a struggle, he shot and killed a taxi driver, Felix Reese. Grantham insisted he did not know the gun was loaded and that it had gone off by accident. The jury didn't buy it and convicted him of murder. The next eleven years were spent in various British jails. It was while serving in Leyhill Prison in Gloucestershire that he met actress the Louise Jameson, who was working as a prison visitor. She encouraged him to take up acting. 'I knew I'd done wrong, so I had to make the best of it,' he told one interviewer. 'I had to come out the other side. My way was by getting involved in drama.' Prison, he said, was where he learned to play the hard man. The need to keep face in front of other inmates was paramount - any weakness was carefully hidden. 'You learn to play the tough guy, even if you're soft,' he insisted. 'To this day, I can keep up a front. I've been to prison, I did something terrible, but I'm not a genuine hard man.' In 1978, he was released. While living in a hostel, he was offered a place at drama school, working as a painter and decorator by night to make ends meet. Finally, he felt, he had a direction. 'What I did to end up in [prison] was a terrible thing,' he said. 'But then life is like that - what's that thing that you see on the side of a golden syrup tin - from adversity comes strength?' One day, James Cagney - his hero - was in London. The star-struck Grantham hung around the set until a limo drew up. The great Hollywood tough-guy was wheeled in surrounded by bouncers. 'I shouted at him that I wanted to be an actor,' he recalled. 'This voice came back at me, "Acting's about walking through the door, planting your feet and telling the truth. Good luck."' Grantham said that told him more about acting than any of his years at drama school. He met his first wife, Jane, at drama school and got parts in local theatre, some minor TV roles. Louise Jameson also used her contacts to get Grantham a small - but memorable - role in the 1984 Doctor Who story Resurrection Of The Daleks playing Kiston, a member of Lytton's mercenary company. Grantham's big break came later the same year when he was offered the role of the pub landlord in the BBC's new drama, EastEnders, set in the working class area of East London. The director of the show's first episode, Matthew Robinson, had also helmed his appearance in Doctor Who. Grantham had initially auditioned to play Pete Beale, Albert Square's fruit and vegetable man. But the producers wanted him for Dennis Watts. The landlord of the Queen Vic was not quite a gangster, but he was hard, selfish and morally unscrupulous. What Julia Smith, the show's creator and producer, saw in Grantham was a 'tensed up, internal emotion of some sort, that was being held in,' she said. 'There was something behind the eyes, too. Barely contained violence almost. Just before they offered him a contract, he told Smith about his past. The new BBC soap would be on national television, with his own murder conviction bound to hit the headlines. But, she refused to change her mind. In her opinion, Grantham had served his time and it was a 'Christian duty to forgive.' On screen, Den became EastEnders' unlovable but unmissable monster. He had affairs, drove his wife to attempt suicide and got his teenage daughter's best friend pregnant. His was the first voice heard in the show. The character was immoral, unscrupulous and cruel and it gripped the imagination of the British public. He was dubbed 'Dirty Den' by the tabloids. The Christmas 1986 episode, in which Den handed divorce papers to his wife, Angie, was watched by thirty million viewers, half the population of the UK. It was an acting masterclass in sneering, scowling, superbly-controlled spite. The pleasure taken in inflicting pain was both unforgettable and unbearable. The final scene still ranks as a landmark in British TV history. When Den served divorce papers to Angie (Anita Dobson) after finding out she had faked a terminal illness in order to persuade him to stay with her, he snarled the immortal words: 'Happy Christmas, Ange.' In the era of multi-channel television, the viewing figures are unlikely ever to equalled. Den was one of the most memorable soap opera characters - at times a rough diamond, at others a really nasty piece of work. He was complex, attractive and tough: a guy who got an innocent teenager pregnant, fell in with criminal gangs and served time inside for arson. Off-screen, Grantham was beginning to think of life after EastEnders. He had signed up for ten episodes and ended up doing four years. The producers did not want him to leave at the same time as Anita Dobson, reluctant to lose two of their biggest stars. So they banked up the equivalent of a year's filming with him in a few intense weeks. Grantham's character fell out with everybody, including The Firm, a shadowy criminal gang running an illegal gambling den. Viewers saw a mysterious assassin with a gun hidden in a bunch of daffodils. There was a shot and a splash, as a body fell into a canal. Maybe it was the end of Den Watts, maybe it wasn't. Nobody could quite be certain. They deliberately left it ambiguous in case, one day, Grantham could be persuaded to return. Grantham would complain that, when he was interviewed, he would always be asked two questions: 'What about the murder conviction' and 'What did you do after EastEnders?' About the first, he remained tight-lipped, insisting it was all in the past with the details between him and his God. About the second, he was more forthcoming, proud that he continued to act, including roles in the BBC's Paradise Club and Sky's The Stretch (which reunited him with Anita Dobson). Other roles followed but he never achieved the success enjoyed while in EastEnders. He co-hosted a game show, Fort Boyard, with Melinda Messenger, but even that required him to snarl at the contestants. He was never out of work, but it was proving hard to escape his typecasting and the shadow of Albert Square. Finally, he gave in to EastEnders, which had never given up on a comeback. In September 2003, Den turned up at the nightclub now owned by his adopted daughter, Sharon. It was the most keenly anticipated TV moment of the year and Grantham had lost none of his controlled menace. 'Hello Princess,' he rasped. But the brief return would go sour after Grantham was caught exposing himself on a webcam to a Sunday newspaper undercover reporter called 'Amanda'. Absurdly dressed as Captain Hook, he also insulted various fellow cast members, including Shane Richie and Wendy Richard. He released a statement apologising and insisted he had been set up. But a month later, it was confirmed that Grantham would be leaving show, his character killed off and, this time, the 'coffin lid nailed shut.' His new on-screen wife, Chrissie (Tracy Ann-Oberman), did the dirty deed with an iron doorstop and the body was buried in the cellar of the Queen Vic. Scriptwriter Tony Jordan said after the Internet scandal: 'Suddenly, I couldn't believe in the character any more. I was starting to love the character and buying into all of it, but after that I saw him as Leslie Grantham - not Den Watts. He was older and flawed in all the wrong ways. I think a lot of viewers felt the same.' The public humiliation pushed Grantham to the edge. There were several suicide attempts and he separated from his wife. They eventually divorced in 2013. Life after EastEnders was always busy,however. There were pantomimes and celebrity appearances; he wrote his autobiography and a children's book. There was even a starring role in a Bulgarian TV series, The English Neighbour. He recently returned to the UK for medical treatment. He will be remembered as a fine character actor, who only played one part but played it to perfection. In his autobiography, he admitted his personal weaknesses. 'I could have gone out and written how marvellous I am, like everyone else does, but I'm not a marvellous person,' he said. 'I've got a huge amount of frailties, a huge amount of complexes and a huge amount of problems.' In life, Grantham may have been as flawed a man as the part he played. But he was also capable of self-deprecating, self-critical analysis. These were redeeming qualities that, perhaps, proved there were limits to the comparison with his famous on-screen creation. He is survived by his three children, Michael, Jake and Danny.
DJ Fontana, the last surviving member of Elvis Presley's backing band, has died at the age of eighty seven. The drummer, whose full name was Dominic Joseph Fontana, played on more than four hundred Elvis songs, including 'Hound Dog' and 'Jailhouse Rock'. He also featured on Elvis's legendary 1968 TV show. Fontana died peacefully in his sleep on Wednesday night, his son said in a post on Facebook. 'He was very comfortable with no pain,' wrote Dave Fontana. 'We ask for privacy at this time. Thank you for your love and prayers.' As the backbone of Elvis's band, Fontana bridged the gap between the swing of America's big band sound and the more elemental rhythms emerging from Europe. He was an unshowy musician, steering clear of fancy fills and cymbal work - but the effectiveness of his approach can be heard on 'Hound Dog', where a simple snare roll ushers in each chorus with a sense of mounting excitement. He was initially a drummer for The Louisiana Hayride - an influential radio programme that launched the careers of some of country music's biggest names. When Elvis made his debut on the show in 1954, Fontana was asked to play with him, Bill Black and Scotty Moore and the singer later drafted DJ into his full-time band. He recorded his first studio session with Elvis in January 1956, backing Presley on five songs including breakthrough hit, 'Heartbreak Hotel'. DJ remained in Elvis's entourage for fourteen years. One of his last engagements was on the 1968 Comeback TV Special, which re-launched the star's career in the States. 'Elvis was hardly ever nervous - but he was then,' Fontana later told Rolling Stone magazine. 'We played a couple of songs and it got loose after a while and it turned out fine. He just had been out of the public eye for a long time.' Fontana eventually left the band in 1969 over a pay dispute with manager Colonel Tom Parker. He was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in 2009 and joined the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame later that year in the sideman category.
And finally, for all of those many dear blog readers who are wondering what yer actual Keith Telly Topping is currently making of that there sochaball World Cup malarkey, as usual every four years details can be thoroughly found over at Keith Telly Topping's World Cup Trivia Blog. The first three entries on this year's competition are check-out-able herehere and here.