Archive for the Television Category

R.I.P. Tim Brooke-Taylor (1940-2020)

Posted in Television with tags , , on April 13, 2020 by telescoper

More sad news arrived yesterday: comedy legend Tim Brooke-Taylor passed away with Covid-19 at the age of 79.

Together with Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie, Tim Brooke-Taylor starred an The Goodies, a TV programme I loved and watched religiously as a kid. I remember when my whole class at came down with Gibbon-Mania when the trio reached Number One in the Hit Parade with The Funky Gibbon.

Later on I discovered the radio series I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue and was immediately hooked. Chaired by the incomparable Humphrey Lyttelton (front left in the picture) , the original four panellists given silly things to do were Tim Brooke-Taylor (behind Humph) , Barry Cryer (centre), Willie Rushton (front right) and Graeme Garden (right) . I listened regularly to that show until Humph passed away in 2008. It never seemed the same after that. Now only two of the original team are still with us; Willie Rushton died in 1996.

It seems this cruel virus is targeting an entire generation, cutting short so many lives of so many people who meant so much to us.

Sad days.

Rest in peace, Tim Brooke-Taylor (1940-2020)

R. I. P. Honor Blackman (1925-2020)

Posted in Film, Television with tags , , on April 6, 2020 by telescoper

More sad news today: the wonderful actress Honor Blackman, best known as Cathy Gale, John Steed’s first sidekick in The Avengers, and as Pussy Galore in the Bond film Goldfinger, has passed away at the age of 94.

Rest in peace, Honor Blackman (1925-2020).

On Boredom

Posted in Biographical, Covid-19, Television with tags , , on April 1, 2020 by telescoper

During this time of isolation and social distancing I’ve noticed how many people are posting messages on social media about being bored.

Conscious that I am in danger once again of being excluded from a popular cultural phenomenon I have been trying recently to join in this craze. Unfortunately whenever I try to experience a bit of boredom I find there is far too much to distract me.

There’s working from home, of course: lecture recordings to make, notes to prepare, assignments to correct, virtual meetings to attend, papers to write, and so on

But outside of work it’s just as difficult. Whenever I try to interrupt my day with a bit of boredom I find that there’s so much music to listen to, so many books and newspapers to read, so many crossword puzzles to solve so many other things to do, that I always get distracted and fail dismally.

Perhaps it is the fact that I don’t have a television set that makes me such a failure? It seems that there may be a strong correlation between possession of a TV and being susceptible to boredom. Perhaps if I bought one I could be more like normal people?

Anyway, never let it be said that I don’t know when I’m beaten. That is why I am asking readers of this blog for help. Could anyone who is expert in being bored please send tips on how to achieve it? I’d be quite interested in your suggestions.

Your advice through the comments box would be greatly appreciated as I fear that without it I may always remain a social outcast.

P. S. Before anyone says it: if you are yourself struggling to get bored you could try reading through the back catalogue of posts on this blog!


Posted in Television with tags , on March 14, 2020 by telescoper

Who among you is old enough to remember the 1975 TV series Survivors?

I remember it well, as it scared me to bits. I never figured out, though, why if 99% of the human race had died, why were there no bodies anywhere?

R.I.P. Terry Jones (1942-2020)

Posted in Television with tags , on January 22, 2020 by telescoper

So Terry Jones has ceased to be, expired and gone to meet his maker, kicked the bucket, shuffled off his mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible. In fact I bet he’s playing the organ for them:

The loss of a life is no laughing matter, but I’m sure Terry Jones wouldn’t mind the references to the Parrot Sketch. We should try to remember him for the laughter he gave us before that cruel bastard dementia started to take him away.

May he rest in peace.

R.I.P. Terry Jones (1942-2020)

R.I.P. Jonathan Miller (1934-2019) – The Piano in Question

Posted in Music, Television with tags , , on November 27, 2019 by telescoper

I was very sad to read just now of the death of writer, humorist, director and polymath Dr Jonathan Miller who has passed away at the age of 85. The papers are already filled with tributes to Jonathan Miller to which I’ll add a personal recollection that made a big impression on me when I was young and which makes me remember Dr Miller with great fondness.

While I was at school I was captivated by the BBC TV series, directed and introduced by Jonathan Miller, called the Body in Question.

This episode, first broadcast in 1978, shows Dr Miller at the piano with Dudley Moore, his old friend from Beyond the Fringe. They’re exploring the mysterious process by which pianists manage to put their fingers on the right keys without apparently consciously thinking about the mechanical operations involved or even looking at the keyboard. Practice seems to program the hands so that the translation from sheet music to sound becomes second nature, but to those without the ability to effect the transformation (like myself), the process still seems almost miraculous.

R.I.P. Jonathan Miller (1934-2019)

Searching for Synge

Posted in History, mathematics, Television with tags , , on November 14, 2019 by telescoper

John Lighton Synge (above; 1897-1995), who was an expert on geometrical approaches to general relativity, was regarded by many as the most eminent Irish mathematician and physicist since Sir William Rowan Hamilton. Synge (whose uncle was the famous playwright John Millington Synge) was born in Dublin and had spells at Trinity College Dublin, the University of Toronto and various universities in the USA before taking up a position as Senior Professor at Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS) in 1948 from which he retired in 1972.

I have been asked by a friend to find out if there are any video recordings of Synge talking or lecturing. A quick google search turns up nothing, so I thought I would put this request out into the blogosphere to see if anyone is aware of anything.

Given the dates it seems likely that any recordings of him would be originally on film (or perhaps television) which would have to be transferred to digital format. Perhaps there is archive material at Trinity College or DIAS that could be suitable?

Irish Regional Accents – Niall Tóibín

Posted in Maynooth, Television with tags , , on November 14, 2019 by telescoper

I heard yesterday that renowned actor and comedian Niall Tóibín passed away yesterday at the age of 89. I knew him best from his role as the priest Frank MacAnally in Ballykissangel which I watched occasionally in the 1990s. This morning I heard a tribute to him on the radio and discovered that he was a bit of an expert on Irish regional accents, so I thought I’d share a clip here.

Living and working in Maynooth, which is not far from Dublin, the accents I hear most frequently are those of the Greater Dublin area. I say “accents” rather than “accent” because, as the clip demonstrates, there is quite a wide variety even in this region. At Maynooth we do have students from as far afield as the North of County Donegal and the South of County Cork (where Niall Tóibín came from). I’m better at identifying accents from the North than the South, and can at least tell the difference between Belfast and elsewhere in Ulster, but other than that although I can spot different accents I’m hopeless at identifying where they come from.

One final thing. Niall Tóibín mentions in this clip that the Cork accent sounds a bit like a Welsh accent. This is not the first time I’ve heard someone say that but I have to admit I can’t hear any resemblance myself!

Memories of the First Moon Landing

Posted in Biographical, Television, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , on July 20, 2019 by telescoper

Today is the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, and I’m feeling very nostalgic as I recall my childhood memories of that historic event:

As a matter of fact I was six years old at the time which is easily old enough to have been aware of what was going on, but I don’t remember seeing anything to do with Apollo 11 and the Moon landings on 20th July 1969. I do recall bits and pieces of later Apollo missions but, unlike many colleagues of roughly my age who went into astronomy astrophysics or space science, I can’t really say that it was these events that inspired me to become a scientist. What did was something quite different!

But just because I wasn’t very aware of the significance of Apollo 11 at the time, doesn’t mean that I don’t think it was a spectacular achievement that is well worth commemorating fifty years on. Happy memories to all those who remember it, and enjoy the celebrations!

P. S. Interesting actuarial factoid: of all the people who were alive on 20th July 1969, only about 20% have not died yet.

The Astronomer and The Hat

Posted in Television with tags , , , , on May 4, 2019 by telescoper

There’s been a lot of activity recently on social media, and perhaps even between real people, relating to Game of Thrones (which is, apparently, a television fantasy drama series of some sort). I don’t have a television at home so I haven’t seen any of this series at all. I do have a laptop with a DVD player so I suppose I could watch it that way but I suspect I’d find it rather childish. Being more interested in serious programmes I have instead in recent evenings been watching a selection of episodes from my complete boxed set of Ivor the Engine, a gritty documentary series about life on and around the Merioneth and Llantisilly Railway Traction Company Limited, which operates in the `top left-hand corner of Wales’.

Not many people seem to know that there is an astronomical connection with Ivor the Engine, seen above in the form of Professor D. Longfellow. He lives in Observatory Villa, Llaniog, has his own personal telescope and is sometimes consulted for answers to various problems. He thus provides an excellent illustration of the wider impact of astronomy in everyday life. In the screen grab above he is being interrupted by Dai Station who needs to know the location of the nearest volcano as he has found some dragon eggs that need to be kept warm.

Professor Longfellow makes an extended appearance in the following Episode, entitled The Hat, the central character of which is Mrs Porty, who is rich – so rich, in fact, that she has new hats sent to her all the way from London. At the risk of upsetting people with a plot spoiler, Mrs Porty goes around with a telescope cover on her head because she collected the wrong box from the railway station thinking it was a new hat.

P.S. If anyone knows where I can buy an outfit like Professor Longfellow’s please let me know. I feel I could
advance my career in astronomy even further if I wore more appropriate clothing.