Internet: Back in 1983, when I was in the middle of doing my Physics degree - coincidentally, in a location that'll be very familiar to one of the men in this picture - I used to worship Richard Feynman. His three-volume Feynman Lectures were an inspiration to me, and the only books from my university career that I chose to hold onto after graduation. So how come I've never heard about the series he filmed for BBC2 in 1983? Fun To Imagine was a set of six ten-minute fillers, in which Feynman talked to camera about the pleasures of scientific thought. If you missed it like I did, here's some good news: as the new government hasn't quite got around to destroying all that is good and right about the BBC, you can watch the whole of Fun To Imagine online for free. Give Richard Feynman an hour of your time, you won't regret it.
Telly: We don't get much event television these days, do we? Apart from sporting fixtures and terrible reality shows, there's very little out there that demands to be viewed in real time. So hooray for the series finale of Lost, broadcast live across the globe in attempt to prevent evil spoilers from leaking out. (Which means that in the UK, we had to get up at 5am on a Monday morning to watch it.) There's no denying it was flawed: a series this long and insanely complex had to wrap itself up at both an intellectual and emotional level, and the Lost finale was much more interested in the emotional than the intellectual. But after six years following these characters, that was probably the right way to go. And yes, it was completely an event.
Theatre: Summer's returned to London, so once again I'm forced to do battle with the elements and stray pollen at the Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park. Most years, the season's rather predictable - a couple of the lighter Shakespeares, and a musical for balance. But new boss Timothy Sheader seems keen to ring the changes, and his production of Arthur Miller's The Crucible just might be the best thing I've ever seen at the venue. He uses the space brilliantly: as night draws in, the stage becomes more and more claustrophobic, mirroring the darkening atmosphere of the second act perfectly. It's only on till June 19th, so hurry hurry hurry.
In the meantime, your Simian Substitute Site for June 2010 is The Infinite Monkey Cage. Rather like the Richard Feynman broadcasts I mentioned above, this is another science-based BBC series that I found out about long after the fact. It's a convoluted story, but here goes. Later this month, I'll be seeing They Might Be Giants performing live in London. The show's part of See Further, a festival of science and arts to celebrate the 350th birthday of the Royal Society. (Why are TMBG playing there? Their second show may give you a clue.)
Anyway, another highlight of the festival (and one that was completely sold out by the time I became aware of it) is The Infinite Monkey Cage: a discussion hosted by TV science dreamboat Professor Brian Cox and smartypants comedian Robin Ince, with guests Alan Moore and Jonathan Ross. This is actually a spinoff from a radio show of the same name that Cox and Ince produced at the tail end of 2009 for Radio 4 (around the time that the two of them also collaborated on Ince's Christmas show, Nine Lessons And Carols For Godless People).
Sadly, it's a lot harder to hear a radio show from 2009 than see a TV show from 1983: neither the original programmes nor the podcast summaries are available on the BBC website any more. Which means we have to resort to underhand methods. So say hello to The Cassette Archive, a collection of stuff that one person has taped off the radio and is slowly converting into downloadable MP3s. They have all four episodes of The Infinite Monkey Cage available to download: it takes a little while to navigate your way through the various links to Megaupload, but once you've got the hang of it it's not too difficult. You'll be rewarded with four half-hour programmes in which Cox and Ince discuss matters of science with comedians, scientists and other interesting guests.
Now, how about those comments?