101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 64: The Second (and Third, and so on) Iraq Wars

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I was watching Sportsnight, or maybe Midweek Sports Special, when the first Iraq war really kicked off, it was the 17 January 1991 and the star attraction on the late night TV show was the Football League Cup fifth round tie between Chelsea and Spurs. Dennis Wise was scuttling around the midfield, about to swing a shin at a loose ball, when all of a sudden there was a flash of light.

The stadium appeared to go dark, lines and movement picked out in only a flickering glow. The floodlights were not white, but green — I would later find out when I watched again on a colour TV — and were picking out not the misplaced passes of Andy Townsend and John Bumstead but laser US Tomahawk Cruise Missiles.

I’d dozed off for a second and coverage of the game had been replaced with live action — of the start of ‘Stormin Norman’ Schwarzkopf’s bombardment of Baghdad. They never showed the end of the game. They haven’t shown much on telly since, apart from different versions of manly America and usually ‘us’ bombing the fuck out of some part of the Middle East. The first Iraq war begat the second, begat the third, and still it begets, much like the famous literature of that general region. And it begets because of oil, and of money, and of power and of war-mongering bastards like Tony Blair. But it also begets because it looks good on TV, and it looks good on TV because of Birmingham.

Back in 1918 Oliver Lucas’s company — Lucas’s to any Brummie — really got working on the military search light and the British forces were able to create “artificial moonlight” to enhance opportunities for night attacks. That practise continued, for many years, but it wasn’t until the days of rolling news that it became a form of infrared entertainment. An entertainment too good to resist sequel after sequel, whatever the quality.

I’ve just looked up the result of the game: it was 0-0. And that couldn’t be more apt if it was a metaphor.

It is a metaphor, guess where they were invented.

Photo, of the first Iraq war (Dennis Wise not pictured) CC By: John Martinez Pavliga

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101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 63: TV Box Sets

24 DVD

The TV box set is a thing. It’s so much a thing that it has now detached itself from its own material: a box set is no longer a TV series collected as a set and presented in a box, it is now simply the thing, collected, and placed in a set completely agnostic to the process of boxing. Here’s an example: Sky TV actively promotes watching “box sets” as part of its online services. So you can watch a box set on a computer without ever seeing a box, because the box doesn’t exist except as a metaphor within the marketing material. When I challenged them as to how a video on the Internet could be described as being in a box, Sky’s social media people seemed confused by the question as though through some Orwellian process a box set had always never been in a box.

But why should a company like Sky be so keen to sell us a TV box set in the first place? Well Sky are a very shrewd and successful media company and so they know about things like supply and demand. They also know about trend-spotting and how to make the most of changes in viewing practices. They’ve spotted that you like box sets of glossy telly – they probably knew you liked TV box sets before you did – and so they want to sell them to you. Read more ›

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101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 62: Nerds

Nerds explained

Pretty much anyone who ever invented or discovered anything of note was a nerd.

Just look around you: electronic devices; carpet; the shoes on your feet. All of those things, just like everything else man has created, from the world-changing discoveries to the mundane, everyday items, only exist in the first place because someone, somewhere had an idea and then worked obsessively to make it a reality.

In other words, someone was sufficiently nerdy about it to will it into being.

You’d think, then, that we’d celebrate the nerd. You’d think that the state of nerd-dom, the practice of nerdery, the act of nerding, would be highly prized. You’d think it would be something to aspire to, but it isn’t. It’s quite the opposite, in fact. Let’s look at the dictionary definition.

Nerd (noun: informal)

  1. a foolish or contemptible person who lacks social skills or is boringly studious.
  2. a single-minded expert in a particular technical field

Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein & Marie Curie were all nerds by that second definition, and all are quite rightly held in high esteem by our culture. Chances are, though, that when you read the word ‘Nerd’ at the top of this article the picture that formed in your head was based not on the invention of the lightbulb, or the theory or relativity, or the fight against cancer, but was instead based on that pejorative first definition.

Not only that, but it’s also likely that the mental image your mind effortlessly conjured up is one that is very similar to the image many others would have arrived at. This is because it is a mental image that is deeply informed by popular culture: The Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons; Moss from The IT Crowd; Egon Spengler from Ghostbusters – socially awkward weirdos who will never, ever get laid. The customers of Nostalgia and Comics. Nerds.

These types of nerd, rather than the cancer-curing, electric light-giving nerd, have a particular function in our society: They are there to make you feel better about your own obsessions. Nerds are effectively a barometer of cool and sit firmly on the bottom rung in the social caste system. No-one wants to be a nerd.

But, and here’s the thing, we’re ALL nerds.

We’re all nerds because we’re all barking mad in one way or another and to varying degrees – we all have something (or more than one thing) that is our ‘thing’. Running, cooking, shopping, DIY, gardening – you name it and I’ll show you someone who is a little bit more into it than most.

My particular ‘thing’ is Pop Music and, as luck would have it, society deems that to be ‘quite cool’. My mate Robson’s ‘thing’ is poetry, and society deems that to be ‘quite interesting’. I’m sure your ‘thing’ is also an equally interesting and sexy ‘thing’. Well done, you.

If, however, your ‘thing’ happens to be science fiction, or computer games, or comics, or – heaven forbid – all three, well, you’re fucked. You are a first definition nerd, you sad sack.

Guess what? This brutal social and cultural apartheid in which all of Western culture blithely takes part would not be possible without the city of Birmingham!

It was here, in 1971, that the first meeting of the Birmingham Science Fiction Group took place. Initially the BSFG met informally in pubs and acted as a space where Science Fiction fans could discuss their ‘thing’ with like-minded individuals, but it soon evolved into a proper organisation with members all over the world and laid the groundwork for a network of other organisations that grew throughout the 1980s and beyond, all of which ultimately cemented the idea of the nerd-as-saddo in the collective consciousness.

Photo CC wheatfields


Posted in 101 Things Brum Gave The World

Great Brummie Chat Up Lines, No. 3: Stephen Bill’s Erection

The 70s. When men were real men and real men were Brummies.

As Finger, Birmingham’s Stephen Bill stole several scenes in Mike Leigh’s 1975 Play for Today film, ‘Nuts in May’. This five-minute clip of his loud, brash, and gloriously Brummie entrance into the idyllic campsite atmosphere previously enjoyed by Keeeeeeth, Candice Marie, and a compliant Ray, is notable not only for the staggering amount of innuendo it contains, but also for the precience with which it draws a picture of a modern-day Brum: For Keith and Candice Marie, see the nu-hipsters colonising many of Brum’s suburbs with their folksy bullshit, and for Finger and his bird, Honk, see the indigenous Brummies who have to put up with having their local boozers host Streetfood nights, or screenings of ironically hip 80s movies.

Keep an eye out for the line at 1m53s: “Look at all them bleedin’ bluebells. There’s millions on ‘em”, which serves as Finger’s heroically bucolic opening salvo in his attempt to take Honk up the Ackers in a poorly erected tent.

Use your own bleeding helmet. Eh. Eh. Just hold it. If I peg this out here. Hold it hold it hold it hold it. If I peg it out it it’ll hold it up

Posted in Romance


In this new story by Alex Wyatt, a man and woman get more than they bargained for on a night out in the second city.

Victoria Square at Night



Darkshining outside and everywhere.


Dark through windows, alleyways and doors. Arm-in-arm, couples stroll steambreathed down Bennett’s Hill’s rainsmoothed cobbles. On Saturday, the day when the word is given. Some head home into light, into electric arms. Away from the grip of the dark.




Some hold firm in the clench.


The Lost and Found.


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101 Things Brum Gave The World. No. 61: Indie Coffee Shops and their Fucking Lovely Cupcakes


Bone-idle Brummies have been loitering in coffee shops since way before the likes of Starbucks came over here with their 87,000 different drink combinations; getting our names wrong and shirking their corporation tax.

There were several coffee shops in Brum as far back as the ‘50s, with exotic-sounding names such as The Kardomah, El Torro, The Mexicana, The Gi-Gi, and The (um) Scorpion. The only decision to be made was “one lump or two”, and everyone’s name was bab.
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Picture Quiz No. 2: I don’t know if it’s a Banksy but I like it

Sutton Coldfield is abuzz today with people asking if this piece of graffiti is a genuine Banksy, and others saying “don’t be fucking stupid why would he do that on the back of the Bank of Cyprus?” and yet others saying “You what love? Graffiti? I don’t hold with that sort of thing” and then banging on about when Birmingham took over in the 1970s.

Banksy is a street artist known for producing politically provocative pieces in a distinctive style that can be easily reproduced. If this is a Banksy piece, just what does he mean by the image of a peace dove flying towards a small child playing volleyball? Is it a comment on Sutton’s struggles for independence, like when he did a bit in Palestine?

How well do you know your Banksy from your pranksy?

In our super picture quiz we ask how well you know street art by asking you: is it a Banksy?

Here are six pieces of street art from around Birmingham – some better known than others – the challenge is to guess which one is a Banksy. Click reveal for the answers.

How many of them did you get? Tell us with the hashtag #srslyitsnotabanksy

Custard Factory

Is it a Banksy?


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Posted in clickbait, Picture Quiz Tagged with: , , ,

The longest German Market planning email thread in Europe

Due to the unique way that Service Birmingham’s email security systems are funded, this correspondence about the Council’s festive plans has somehow been CC’d to us. It’s just nice to see that they actually plan things.

From: Albert.bore@bham.gov.uk

To: Jurgen.Beckenbauer@germanmarket.de

Re: Das Markt

1st October 2014 11:01

Dear Jurgen,

I hope this finds you well. I’m conscious that it’s October and that we will shortly need to begin the process of planning for this year’s German Market. So we can get the ball rolling at our end I’d like to hear some your ideas for new product lines for 2014 that reflect changes in local and national culture and events.

As you know, the council are facing a dire financial situation so I’d be particularly pleased to hear of ways you plan to boost revenue this year.

Kind regards,



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Posted in culture

Birmingham from below

In our super picture quiz we ask how well you know Birmingham’s landmarks and whether you can recognise them from an image taken from Google UnderEarth and at least six foot under.
Here are six famous Birmingham buildings and sites – some better known than others, the challenge is to see how many of these landmarks you recognise. Click reveal for the answers.

How many of them did you get? Tell us with the hashtag #brumfrombelow

1. His Lordly domain


The Lord Whitby Room at the new Library of Birmingham, with the Lord himself sitting in residence. Taken from three floors underneath, if you squint hard you can just recognise Mike himself with his trousers round his ankles.

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Posted in clickbait, Picture Quiz Tagged with: ,

Great Brummie Chat Up Lines, No. 2: Trevor Eve and the tattoo collection

The 70s. When men were real men and real men were Brummies. Trevor Eve, of Sutton Coldfield, may have been working on a shoestring but this is a class gambit. The video below will start just at our highlight (15mins in), but try to make time to watch it all so that you can enjoy Christopher Biggins, Toyah, Linda Bellingham, a young Pete Beale and Gary Holton (later of Auf Wiedersehen Pet) – and also so you can see if he takes him up the Ackers.

You’ve got a nice collection there, wife doesn’t object then?

Posted in Romance

101 Things Birmingham Gave the World

Birmingham was the crucible of the Industrial Revolution, but it gave the World so much more…

all of this.

Pre-order 101 Things Birmingham Gave the World: the Book now

The PC Satirical Cartoon

Described for you in text as we can't draw.

  • A group of people in suits, scabs on their faces, dishevelled, walk stiffly across Centenary Square with the new library in the background. They all look blank faced and stumble in the same direction towards the ICC.

    Sitting on the walls around the hall of memory are some young people, in tracksuits and with skateboards. On the floor near them are two newspapers (as the council have stopped clearing rubbish recently or something) – one paper has the headline ‘Tory Conference in Brum’, the other ‘Zombie Walk Today’.

    One of the young skateboarders in saying, “Which one’s Boris?”.

    Drawn by 

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Service Birmingham & Capita’s Auto Redacter

It's best for commercial confidentiality.

Code by Nick Moreton

Paradise Circus grew out of the famous, now mothballed, Birmingham: It's Not Shit that chronicled and championed the real Birmingham since 2002.