From the 1970s onward, Peter Usborne’s children’s factual publishing empire was the Oxford University Press for the pre-secondary set. Their colourful info-packed tomes, liberally sprinkled with friendly, big-nosed cartoon characters, were the darlings of the school library (when The Sorcerer’s Apprentice was on loan, at least). The Usborne Book of Things to do on a Rainy Day was a self-explanatory favourite. Two friendly, big-nosed cartoon clowns guided the indoor-bound reader through a plethora of homely activities: growing washing soda crystals, making paper hats, etc. The friendly, big-nosed, overcoated spies dotted throughout the Usborne Spy’s Guidebook inhabited an exciting world where unbreakable codes could be written on a belt wrapped round an old stick, and oppressive Eastern Bloc governments thwarted with the cunning deployment of lemon juice as writing medium. More heavyweight was the Usborne Book of World Geography, a comprehensive guide to the friendly, big-nosed peoples of the Earth, full of inoffensively rendered world facts. For instance, comparative gross national product was indicated by figures in national dress holding appropriately scaled money bags: while a sheikh from the United Arab Emirates rejoiced in his ten-foot sack, a peasant representing Bhutan put a bravely cheery face on his golf ball-sized pouch. Best of all, however, was 1979’s Usborne Book of The Future: A Trip in Time to the Year 2000 and Beyond: a mind boggling grab-bag of never-going-to-happen wonders like lunar Olympics, nuclear-powered artificial super-hearts, domed underwater cities, and Jupiter being taken apart and rebuilt as a big shell around the sun, for some unfathomable reason. Its timeline of inventions from 1980 to the twenty-second century has, twenty-five years in, so far proved to be something of a disappointment to the legion of thirtysomethings still awaiting that robot butler.
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Creamguide's Pick of the Day
Tuesday, 21.00, Sky Arts
This series began last week but, er, we didn’t notice it. It’s how advances in technology have changed music, as the producer’s role developed from just moving people closer and further away from the microphone to playing a major role in the composition of the song itself. And with Macca contributing and some intriguing Beatles footage promised, they don’t appear to be messing around.
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Points of View
- In 'PICK OF THE DAY', Richard16378 says: "I’ve been hoping the BBC4 repeats would get to 1982 even since the started. This is mainly because it’s when I started to watch TOTP..."
- In 'PICK OF THE DAY', Palitoy says: "Also worth noting – to reiterate a point made in one of the Cream Amigo’s recent (and great) commentary-casts – is that the..."
- In 'Sons and Daughters', Scott McPhee says: "Ally Fowler, who starred in Sons and Daughters, is still acting and performing. She sings in a pop group called The Chantoozies."
- In 'Monkey', Scott McPhee says: "“Steamroller schoolboy cult due to then-novelty kung-fu scenes, bonkers narrative, that theme song, and magic-summoning blowing-on-fingers..."
- In 'Bottle Boys', THX 1139 says: "I just watched that One Good Turn episode too, and the fact that it features both Robin Askwith doing a Bernie Winters impersonation and Bernie Winters..."