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Documentary Commissioners: Searching for Gems in the Schedule

Go to one of the major international documentary festivals and you’ll come away feeling that the genre is alive, kicking and having a party. ITV’s Jo Clinton-Davis said at Sheffield Doc/Fest 2015 that the audience was searching for “gems in the schedule”, but of all the commissioner panels, the documentary session seemed to be the one where the commissioners had the most trouble articulating/least enthusiasm describing what it was that they wanted or needed in their schedules; they seemed to be suffering a strange collective ennui.

Asif Kapadia Explains Why Senna Isn’t a Documentary

When you pitch a TV show you have to be able to describe it so that potential funders know what you are talking about. One way of doing that is to use short-hand words, such as format, reality competition show, or more recently occu-reality (shows based in the work place) and comedy-reality (real characters in real situations, cut for humour). One of the most contested genres is documentary with purists insisting that it is one thing (pure observation with no intervention from the director, perhaps) to others playing more fast and loose with the term, happy to include biopics, essay-films and character-driven narratives. Here, Asif Kapadia, director of Senna, one of 2011’s best documentaries, explains why he doesn’t consider it to be a documentary (and why I think it might be a super-hybrid-documentary).

Hot Chocolate for Bedouins

Filmmaker Sebastian Lindstrom aims to raise awareness about issues around the world using documentary, but appears to do so with a rare wit and sense of the absurd. His documentary Hot Chocolate for Bedouins promotes camel milk as a healthy alternative to cow’s milk.  The documentary is part of his work his nonprofit foundation What […]

India Outsources Call Centres to the USA

The Washington Post reports that rising wages in India have led Indian outsourcing companies to staff their call centres with workers in America. The workers, largely uneducated African Americans earn around $12-14 an hour plus bonuses, which is four times the wage for a similar worker in India. They get dress-down privileges and free lunch […]

Is Your Library Under Threat? Here’s a Solution

James Econs is a phone box vandal with a ‘Big Society’ conscience. Spotting a disused phone box in Horsely, Surrey he had an idea. A few hours later he’d installed shelves and books and turned it over to the community as a free book exchange. He’s now known as the ‘Banksy of carpentry’. Read more […]

How the Earth Got its Shape

Measure of the Earth by Larrie Ferreiro tells how an early eighteenth century band of European explorer set out to measure a degree of latitude at the equator in South America using the very latest astronomical and surveying equipment in order to settle a scientific dispute. Descartes said that the Earth was egg-shaped, whilst Isaac […]

Borrow a Dog From the Library

Yale Law Library‘s handsome terrier Monty has new responsibilities. He is being loaned out to law students for periods of 30mins to help reduce their stress levels. Read more in the Yale Daily News.    

Butterflies by Post

Spanish firm Mariposeando supplies live Monarch butterflies for celebrations and events. (They are sustainably raised by mentally and physically handicapped workers.) All you have to do is open the special shipment box and the butterflies will flutter free, up into the sky. It costs from 20 Euros for two butterflies to 935 Euros for a […]

The Most Debt Ridden US Cities

CNN have revealed the US cities that have the greatest credit card debt. Columbus, Ohio tops the list with an average credit card debt of $4,631, with Spokane, Washington and Shreveport, Louisiana not far behind. Read more on CNN.

Open Stories – iReporters

CNN has launched an online new reporting platform, Open Stories that crowdsources reporting from both professional and citizen reporters. The project aims to tell important stories from a range of viewpoints, using video, photos and comments. Public contributions are vetted and displayed on a timeline alongside reports from professional journalists. Read more on Springwise.

Bootleg Toys Gone Wrong

You’ve got to admire the cheek of some bootleggers, but not all are as clever as they think they are. Cracked has found some corkers, such as: RobertCop SpaderMan Polystation See more here.

Cat Cafes and Dog Yoga

Japanese pets are some of the most pampered on earth (second only to the USA), with yoga, tap-dancing and aromatherapy for dogs and acupuncture and cafes for cats. The Japanese pet industry rakes in more than a trillion yen a year. Read more on PSFK

Bereavement Holidays

German travel company TUI has launched a series of holidays for the bereaved aimed at helping them overcome their loss and “journey back into life”, with the aid of a special routine of reflection, sight seeing and good food and music. Holiday makers are accompanied by a grief counselor and are encouraged to travel without […]

Can’t Afford That Helicopter for Aerial Views? Try a Kite.

French photographer Nicolas Chorier specializes in aerial photography using a camera attached to a kite, which allows him to get a unique perspective on the world. An adapted camera beams photos down to a handset fashioned from a game boy. See his work on his website or watch the video:

Tourette’s Karaoke

Erasure’s A Little Respect as you’ve never heard it before – by a tourette’s sufferer who felt an attack coming on and decided to put it to good use:

Grandma Takes Over

According to a Pew Research Center study as many as one in ten US children live with their grandparents, a trend sparked by the recession. Children of white parents are most likely to be shipped off to the grandparents in these straitened times. Read more.

Islam Idol

4Shbab is Egypt’s answer to MTV, with music videos about Palestine, family and delivering a message of values and morals. But it doesn’t stop them having an American Idol-esque talent competition Your Voice is Heard. Read more in the New York Times. Watch the video report:

World’s Biggest Harry Potter Fan

Picture the scene: you’ve been corresponding with someone via an internet dating site and the guy says he’s a writer and an artist, and you both have a love of Harry Potter – in fact you amuse each other over several emails by trading trivia about the books and films. You’re intrigued, as this could […]

The Zimmers: My Generation

The Zimmers are a British rock group with a difference – it has 40+ members and a combined age of 3,000+. They were brought together for a documentary several years ago, but the band continues to tour. See them recording My Generation here.    

A Testimony of Serpent Handling

Photographer Hunter Barnes spent a month in West Virginia documenting a congregation of Serpent Handlers, an old-time religion that is dying out – only 15 members are left. They express their faith through a mixture of serpent handling, healing and drinking poison. Barnes is raising money via Kickstarter to turn his photos into a book. […]

Time Magazine’s Twitter feeds to watch

TIME Magazine has chose its top 140 Top Twitter feeds as rated by their readers. Top of the list: Comedian Andy Borowitz TV sitcom writer Kelly Oxford Satirist White Girl Problems Nabraska-based ad man Tim Siedell Satirical newspaper The Onion Read the full list on Time

Top of The Pops LPs

BBC4 has started showing vintage episodes of Top of the Pops, which used to be required viewing in TVMole’s house (along with Coronation Street, Multicoloured Swapshop, The Krypton Factor, It’s a Knockout and The Great Egg Race). However, a recent overheard twitter conversation evoked an erstwhile forgotten memory: getting on the bus from Grandma’s to […]

US Road Trip Fuelled by Social Networking

In March, 2011, Lloyd Davis, founder of the London-based social media networking group Tuttle Club is took a coast-to-coast road trip (although mostly by train) across the USA. His self-imposed challenge was to do it all fuelled by social media – via donations, places to stay, offers of food etc. He offered to wear a […]

Film Biz Recycling

Film Biz Recycling is a Brooklyn-based not-for-profit organization that aims to find temporary or permanent new home for movie set dressings and props. They’ve recently moved into a new 11,000 sq ft space so they can accommodate items large and small. To mark the move, the team put together a music video (which features rather […]

Medic Speak is C.T.D

In hospitals and doctors’ surgeries everywhere medics have always used a secret shorthand language to communicate important information quickly to their colleagues without alarming patients and relatives, such as H.I. (head injury) sustained in R.T.A (road traffic accident) no L.O.C (loss of consciousness). Or more seriously: D.O.A (dead on arrival). Or D.N.R (do not resuscitate). […]

Dirty Girls

Here’s an article from Christwire that analyzes the trend towards a hipster-offshoot: the dirty girl. Author Stephenson Billings has clearly thought a lot about the phenomenon of girls who: “…will mimic the deadbeat celebrities she sees on programs such as Entertainment Tonight and Entourage, mocking hardworking people behind her gold sunglasses as she high heels […]

Nose to Tail Tattooing

Here’s a night class I’d like to try… Will Smith went to a tattoo parlour in London’s East End to be taught how to tattoo by world-class tattoo artist Mo Coppoletta. Wisely banned  from trying his inept hand at tattooing a real person, he’s given a hunk of pig skin to practice on (much as […]

Parkour at the Olympics

Shouldn’t parkour be an Olympic sport by now? I’m thinking freestyle and synchronized… And I’m not the only one who thinks so. Watch the 3Run showreel: Hat tip: three billion

Kenny Lao’s New Bathroom Project

Kenny Lao, founder of Rickshaw Dumplings, star of an MTV special, one of Inc Magazine’s 30 under 30, and Crain’s 40 under 40, has a problem:  he doesn’t like the bathroom in his apartment. So Architizer, the social networking site for architects decided to help him out, by running  a design competition to make over […]

NY Slums

Village Voice reporter Elizabeth Dwoskin writes a moving and shocking account of how people in NYC are living in damaged, rotten and dangerous apartments where gangs move in and middle-aged women sometimes step up to fight for their building and its community, while rich landlords inhabit luxurious offices in Manhattan and the city department tasked […]

The Human Library

The global Human Library project allows ‘readers’ to borrow ‘human books‘, the idea being that they will be introduced to people whom they wouldn’t normally meet and are able to ask the kind of questions they might not feel comfortable asking a stranger. The aim of the project is to bring communities together and break […]

Need Some Space? Head to Niue

Niue, an ex-colony of New Zealand, has the world’s smallest population (if you discount Vatican City), at about 1,400. There are another 48,600 native Niueans scattered around the world, who left the Pacific island to escape the struggle against poor soil, lack of resources and a parliamentary system that has one MP for every thirty […]

Feel No Fear

A rare genetic genetic disorder called Urbach-Wiethe disease destroys the brain’s amydala, and produces people who feel no fear in dangerous situations. One woman studied by scientists had felt no fear in everyday situations, for instance when public speaking, nor in more dangerous ones such as being threatened with a gun.  Scientists did everything they […]

Twitter Yourself a Private Flight

When a group of Dutch party promoters and DJs wanted to get to the Ultra Music Festival in Miami on 21st March, 2011 they realized there was no direct flight. So DJ Sied van Rieland and filmaker Wilco Jung used Twitter to ask KLM why not. Instead of being fobbed of or treated to a […]

Teaching Kids Financial Literacy

Mint.com, an online personal finance software service, has teamed up with Scholastic to develop an interactive game and produced classroom materials to help children understand budgeting and financial planning. Students who use the material will learn how to set goals and budgets with real life examples, such as getting a babysitting job to save for […]


Philanthroper is a non-profit site that features a different charity every day and asks donors to give just $1. A running total at the bottom of the page shows how much has been donated, and how much time is left to donate.  At the moment they can only take donations from people with US bank […]

Keep an Indian Girl in School

Seven out of ten girls in India fail to make it all the way through the school system. The Girl Store has been set up to help people buy school supplies that will help keep the girls in education. A number of girls are featured, along with their school needs – pencils, backpacks or clothing. […]

Prison Reads

Flavorwire has compiled a list of ten books written about the prison system, either as inmates or staff. The list includes: Soul on Ice by Eldridge Cleaver Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian by Avi Steinberg Memoirs from a Women’s Prison by Nawal el Saadawi Read the full list on Flavorwire. […]

Black at Sundance

According to NPR, the 2011 Sundance festival was an outstanding one for black filmmakers, where there were more films by, or about, black people than at any time in the history of the festival, which started in 1978. Shari Frilot, senior programmer at Sundance, attributes it to filmmaking becoming less elitist and equipment more accessible, […]

Asda Dating

Walking down the the aisle with your beau takes on a new meaning when the aisles are stocked with potatoes and floor cleaner. Supermarket chain Asda has launched a new online dating website, claiming that “the supermarket has overtaken the pub and the internet as the nation’s number 1 spot to find love”, and that […]

No Right Brain Left Behind

No Right Brain Left Behind is an innovation challenge designed to give US children the creative tools they need to solve modern-day problems. Run in conjunction with Social Media Week 2011, creatives from ad agencies, design and innovation companies had five days to come up with ideas and submit them to the No Right Brain […]

The Secret History of Board Games

Ever wondered who came up with the world’s favourite board games and where they got their inspiration? For example,  Anthony Pratt, a WWII fire warden, thought up Clue/Cluedo during Nazi air raids, and originally called it Murder! And it turns out that Monopoly looks suspiciously like a board game patented by a Quaker woman 3o […]

How to Win a Scratchcard Lottery

Wired tells the story of Mohan Srivastava, a geological statistician living in Toronto who worked out how to spot which lottery scratch cards were winning cards. But when he reported his findings to lottery organizers he found it difficult to get them to take him seriously – until he sent them a batch of unscratched […]

Walking Proud in East London

The marvelous Vestry House Museum in Walthamstow has been marking the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transexual History month with a series of oral histories from people in the LBGBT community in East London. See what they think about whether the battle for equality has been won. Hat tip to the brilliant Walthamstow Scene

Move Over Top Gear, You Big Girls’ Blouses

RAF wing commander Andy Green is used to travelling at speed, but he’s planning to go where no-one has ever gone before. He’s hoping to set a land speed record of 1,000mph. There will be so much to concentrate on (not to mention the massive G-forces) that he will have to drive the Bloodhound supersonic […]

What Are the Seven Wonders of Your World?

We’re used the hearing about THE seven wonders of the world, but what you you choose to be the seven wonders of YOUR world? Travel writer Colin Thubron includes the Hagia Sophia, Istanbul; the Olympic State Park, Washington, USA; Samarkand, Uzbekistan and his back garden. Read more on More Intelligent Life.

Call Centre Inmates

Have you ever been driven to a murderous rage whilst on the phone to a customer ‘service’ call centre? (The time an Indian call centre told me that a train ticket that hadn’t been sent to my email address as it should have been, could only be retrieved by my calling the call centre again […]

Black Farmers

Last year’s Black Farmers and Urban Gardeners Conference in Brooklyn aimed to raise awareness of ecological and food related issues and career opportunities for the African American community. They quote some startling statistics, including: almost 50% of African Americans will suffer from diabetes heart disease and stroke in the African American community there are 30% […]

Love: Chinese Style

With growing prosperity, China is facing new challenges. Or rather young lovers are, as newly minted parents become increasingly reluctant to see their offspring marry someone from a poorer family and are demanding prenuptial agreements to safeguard their fortunes. The children of rich and powerful parents – known as fuerdai – are finding it hard […]

Donating a Goat is So Last Christmas: Give Poor People Your Fat

The Klaxon Institute, a plastic surgery clinic in London, has come up with a way to recycle all the fat they remove from people’s thighs: they fly it to Africa to inject it into skinny poor people so they might have some energy stores to keep them going until their next meal. Actually, that’s not […]