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11 DECEMBER 2013

The Big Bang Theory - Howard's kissing machine

Fig.1 The Big Bang Theory: "The Infestation Hypothesis", Season 5, Episode 2: Howard invents a kissing machine for Leonard's long distance relationship with Prya.

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CONTRIBUTOR

Liam Birtles
06 OCTOBER 2013

The enduring legacy of The World At War

"The World at War had many strengths but the key to its success as compelling history television was the formidable array of interviewees. Top military leaders, including German naval commander Karl Doenitz and the head of RAF Bomber Command, Arthur Harris, had their say alongside humble soldiers, sailors and airmen. Key politicians like wartime foreign secretary Sir Anthony Eden shed light on the war's wider arc, while ordinary citizens told of events from their perspective. Several members of Hitler's inner circle were also tracked down and interviewed, including his valet, secretary and adjutant. Death camp survivors told their terrible tales, as did a few of their shamefaced captors. More years have now passed since the making of The World at War than elapsed between 1945 and the programme's first showing in 1973. So, sadly, a programme like this can never be made again: the number of living witnesses to World War II is dwindling every day. We are fortunate that Isaacs and his team had the vision and talent to make The World at War when they did."

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TAGS

19451973Adolf Hitler • Anthony Eden • archive footage • Arthur Harris • British television • Carl Davis • Charles de Gaulle • Charles Douglas-Home • David Elstein • death camp • definitive account • documentary evidence • foreign secretary • Franklin D. RooseveltHarry Truman • Hideki Tojo • historical chronicleshistory • history television • inner circle • interviews • Jeremy Isaacs • Joseph Stalin • Karl Doenitz • Laurence Olivier • military campaign • military historymilitary leader • naval commander • Nazi • Neville Chamberlain • Noble Frankland • politician • RAF Bomber Command • sailor • social historysoldiersurvivor • Ted Childs • television documentarytelevision programmetelevision seriesThames Television • The World at War • UKTV • warwartimeWinston ChurchillwitnessWorld War II

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
31 JULY 2013

Was Ways of Seeing the first pre-digital book?

"Everyone is talking about the way in which digital media is destabilizing print. I thought it was interesting to choose the reverse scenario: something that started digital but found its real audience in print. Ways of Seeing started as a four–part television series on the BBC in England conceived of and written by art critic John Berger. Berger was reacting specifically to the traditional connoisseurship of Kenneth Clark in the Civilisation series, another famous television program, which inscribed the canonical march of Western culture in heroic terms. As a critique of Clark, Berger created a popular reading of the icons of western art not as aesthetic objects, but deeply cultural artifacts that reveal, upon close 'reading', the limitation, prejudice, bias, and obsession of the culture from which they sprang.

This form of cultural criticism was established in the Universities, especially Marxist leaning polytechnics, but had never before had such a popular airing. The idea that classic paintings could be decoded to reveal social facts–and in fact Berger compared them to modern advertising–was heretical and his work was met with incredulity and anger in the hallowed halls of University Art History departments around the country, But Berger's position, especially his proto–feminist critique of female nudes, would grow to become the dominant form of art criticism in the years ahead.

The television program had moderate success but shortly after it aired Berger joined with producer Mike Dibb and graphic designer Richard Hollis to produce a printed version of the televised series. Clark had also produced a book to accompany Civilisation: a huge, lavish, full–color coffee table monster that must have weighted 10 kilos. In contrast Berger, Dibb and Hollis produced a slim paperback, 127 x 203mm, of only 166 pages. Even more radical, the book was produced in black + white, reducing the famous art to mere notations on standard, uncoated paper of a trade book. It was published by the BBC Books under the Pelican Books imprint, a division of the venerable Penguin Press organized to publish books to educate rather than entertain the reading public.

Even more striking was the book's design. Hollis starts the text of the first essay on the cover: 'Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak.' This simple typographic trick gives the book both a certain modesty (saves on pages) and an urgency (no time to waste). Starting on the outside also suggests a digital quality, the content is broadcast to the reader even as they pass the shelf.

The interior is equally unusual. Hollis set the entire book in a bold sans serif font, a very unlikely choice and aggressively un–civilized. There is no nod to classicism, the book is an entirely modern form. The text is broken down into short bursts, usually no more than a paragraph coupled with a visual example. Again reflecting its origin as a televisual experience the text and images work simultaneously, one form leveraging the other. There are five such text–and–image essays on everything from renaissance nudes to modern advertising. But Berger also adds for entirely visual essays. He assembles a series of examples that by the power of his selection and through their aggressive juxtaposition, he makes his thesis without any words at all. In so doing he presages the development of the curated playlist as a predominant contemporary form and creates the first pre–digital book."

(Michael Rock, 2011, 2x4)

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TAGS

2011 • 2x4 • aesthetic objectsart criticismart history • BBC Books • BBC Twoblack and white • canonical march • Civilisation (series) • contemporary form • cultural artefactscultural criticism • curated playlist • destabilising force • digital media • digital quality • educate rather than entertain • end of print • famous art • female nudes • heroic terms • John Bergerjuxtaposition • Kenneth Clark • Michael Rock • Mike Dibb • modern advertising • modern form • modestypaperback • Pelican Books • Penguin Random Housepolytechnic • pre-digital book • print and digitalprinted version • proto-feminist critique • renaissance nudes • Richard Hollis • sans-serif typeface • seeing comes before words • short formsocial factstelevision programmetelevision seriestelevisual experiencetext and image • trade book • typographic trick • uncoated paper • urgency • visual culturevisual essayWays of Seeingwestern artWestern culture

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
15 JULY 2012

The New Zealand Film Archive

"Established in 1981, the Film Archive is an independent charitable trust overseen by a Board of Trustees representing film, archival, Maori and community interests. The Film Archive's constitution and kaupapa express a commitment to collect, protect and connect New Zealand's film and television history.

When an item is in the care of the Archive, it is considered the property of the depositor. Subsequently the copyright for the material remains with the legal rights holders.

The collections of predominantly New Zealand film, video and television date from 1895 to the present day. Every genre of filmmaking – feature films, documentaries, short films, home movies, newsreels, television programmes and film and television advertisements – is represented. There is also a significant documentation collection which includes publicity materials, stills, posters, production records, props, costumes and equipment housed in Wellington.

As there is no statutory deposit legislation for film in New Zealand, material is deposited voluntarily – and without cost to the depositor. Maintaining a kaitiaki role over the collections the Film Archive's guardianship ensures ownership of the original item remains with the depositor and copyright is maintained by the appropriate parties. In the case of material with Maori content, the Film Archive actively maintains relationships with whanau/hapu/iwi to ensure appropriate long term care and access."

(New Zealand Film Archive)

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TAGS

18951981advertisementAotearoa New ZealandarchivalarchiveAustralasia • care and access • collectioncostumecultural heritagedocumentarydocumentationfeature film • film advertisement • film and television history • film archivefilm historyfilmmaking • guardianship • hapu • home movie • independent charitable trust • iwilegal rights holders • long term access • long term care • long term care and access • moving imageNew Zealand cinemaNew Zealand cultureNew Zealand Film ArchivenewsreelNZ Film Archive • production records • publicity materials • publicity posters • publicity stills • short filmtelevision advertisement • television history • television programmeWellington • whana

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
23 APRIL 2012

An American Family: the genesis of reality television

"Unlike most documentaries of its day, An American Family had no host, no interviews, and almost no voice–over narration. Producer Craig Gilbert presented the family's daily life – as captured by filmmakers Alan Raymond behind the camera, and Susan Raymond covering sound – in the style of cinéma vérité. It was the most controversial and talked–about television program of its era.

PBS was then a fledgling 'fourth network' joining CBS, NBC and ABC, and despite its non–commercial profile was looking for blockbuster hits, according to Bill Kobin, Vice President for programming at NET at the time. In the course of its 12 week run, An American Family riveted the country and drew in a record 10 million viewers a week. In the years since it was first broadcast, the series has become the subject of lengthy articles and reviews, including panel discussions with anthropologist Margaret Mead, who speculated that An American Family could be the beginning of a new way to explore the complexities of contemporary reality, 'maybe as important for our time as were the invention of drama and the novel for earlier generations.'

Now, 40 years since filming, the original filmmakers have edited a new 2–hour feature–length special capturing the most memorable and compelling moments of the landmark series. See for yourself why An American Family is one of the 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time (TV Guide, 2002)."

Public Broadcasting Service (PBS)

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TAGS

197119721973 • Alan Raymond • American family lifeAn American Family • Bill Kobin • Bill Loud • cinema verite • contemporary reality • Craig Gilbert • cultural anthropologydaily life • Delilah Loud • direct cinemadocumentaryethnographic filmfamilyfamily lifefly-on-the-wall • Grant Loud • Kevin Loud • Lance Loud • landmark series • Loud family • Margaret Mead • Michele Loud • non-commercialnon-fiction televisionNorth Americaobservational seriesobservational style • Pat Loud • PBSportrait of a familyportrait of family lifereal behaviourrealityreality televisionsocial reality • Susan Raymond • televisiontelevision documentarytelevision programmetelevision series • The Louds • The Raymonds • TV • video verite • visual anthropology • WNET

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
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