Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year is an important Chinese festival celebrated at the turn of the traditional lunisolar Chinese calendar. It is also known as the Spring Festival, the literal translation of the modern Chinese name. Celebrations traditionally run from the evening preceding the first day, to the Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the first calendar month. The first day of the New Year falls on the new moon between 21 January and 20 February.In 2016, the first day of Chinese New Year falls on Monday, February 8th.

The New Year festival is centuries old and gains significance because of several myths and traditions. Traditionally, the festival was a time to honour deities as well as ancestors.Chinese New Year is celebrated in countries and territories with significant Chinese populations, including Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mauritius, and the Philippines. Chinese New Year is considered a major holiday for the Chinese and has had influence on the lunar new year celebrations of its geographic neighbours.

Within China, regional customs and traditions concerning the celebration of the Chinese New Year vary widely. Often, the evening preceding Chinese New Year’s Day is an occasion for Chinese families to gather for the annual reunion dinner. It is also traditional for every family to thoroughly cleanse the house, in order to sweep away any ill-fortune and to make way for good incoming luck. Windows and doors will be decorated with red color paper-cuts and couplets with popular themes of “good fortune” or “happiness”, “wealth”, and “longevity”. Other activities include lighting firecrackers and giving money in red paper envelopes.

The lunisolar Chinese calendar determines the date of Chinese New Year. The calendar is also used in countries that have been influenced by, or have relations with, China – such as Korea, Japan and Vietnam. In the Gregorian calendar, Chinese Lunar New Year begins at the new moon that falls between 21 January and 20 February. In the Chinese calendar, winter solstice must occur in the 11th month, which means that Chinese New Year usually falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice (rarely the third if an intercalary month intervenes). In traditional Chinese Culture, lichun is a solar term marking the start of spring, which occurs about 4 or 5 February, which is the median date of Chinese New Year’s Day. To determine whether a year has an intercalary month, one only needs to check whether Chinese New Year is within the month of January.

The traditional Chinese calendar follows a Metonic cycle (like the modern Jewish Calendar), and returns to the same date in Gregorian calendar roughly. The names of the Earthly Branches have no English counterparts and are not the Chinese translations of the animals. Alongside the 12-year cycle of the animal zodiac there is a 10-year cycle of heavenly stems. Each of the ten heavenly stems is associated with one of the five elements of Chinese astrology, namely: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. The elements are rotated every two years while a yin and yang association alternates every year. The elements are thus distinguished: Yang Wood, Yin Wood, Yang Fire, Yin Fire, etc. These produce a combined cycle that repeats every 60 years. For example, the year of the Yang Fire Rat occurred in 1936 and in 1996, 60 years apart.

Many people inaccurately calculate their Chinese birth-year by converting it from their Gregorian birth-year. As the Chinese New Year starts in late January to mid-February, the previous Chinese year dates through 1 January until that day in the new Gregorian year, remaining unchanged from the previous Gregorian year. Many online Chinese Sign calculators do not account for the non-alignment of the two calendars, using Gregorian-calendar years rather than official Chinese New Year dates.

The Martian

imageThe exciting science-fiction film The Martian, is out on DVD. Based on the 2011 novel by Andy Wier, directed by Ridley Scott, IT stars Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Peña, Kate Mara, Sean Bean, Sebastian Stan, Aksel Hennie, and Chiwetel Ejiofor. It takes place during the 2030s, and features the crew of Ares III, a manned mission to Mars, who have established a temporary artificial habitat, called the Hab, on Mars, where they intend to stay for two months before departing back to Earth in their spacecraft The Hermes. However Eighteen days into the Mars mission, a massive Martian storm hits the base and the crew is forced to abandon the planet due to the danger that their escape vehicle will be destroyed and leave them permanently stranded on Mars. Unfortunately While evacuating, astronaut Mark Watney (Damon) is lost and presumed dead as his biomonitor is damaged. With the lives of her crew at stake, mission commander Melissa Lewis is forced to leave the planet, leaving Watney behind.

However unbeknownst to the rest of the crew Watney survives the storm and makes it back to the Hab. Unable to contact NASA and with the odds against him, Watney Faces a fight for survival on Mars until he can be rescued. However Being a resourceful fellow, Watney uses his knowledge as a Botanist to construct a makeshift farm and Habitat for himself which will allow him to grow crops that will sustain him until he can be rescued by The next Mission to Mars “Ares IV”. Watney also locates the Pathfinder probe, defunct since 1997, and uses it to regain contact with Earth and also modifies the Mars Rover in order to send and receive text messages from NASA under guidance from NASA director Teddy Sanders. However just to make matters worse he faces many other problems in the Hab which threaten to blow him to smitherines at any given moment and he must be constantly vigilant.

Back at Mission Control Flight Director Mitch Henderson and JPL director Bruce Ng find out that Watney is still alive on Mars and face a tough decision whether to tell the other crew members who are en-route back to Earth that Watney is still alive. So Henderson comes up with an audacious plan to send a space probe to Mars and resupply Watney until Ares IV can reach him. Elsewhere The China National Space Administration (CNSA) also offers NASA a a classified booster that can carry a payload to Mars. Meanwhile Rich Purnell, a NASA astrodynamicist, tries to work out a way for the crew to return to Mars and rescue Watney…

Charles Dickens

Victorian novelist Charles Dickens was born 7 February 1812 in Landport, Portsea. He moved to Norfolk Street, Bloomsbury then to Chatham, Kent. He spent his early years outdoors and reading voraciously. He received a private education at William Giles’s School, in Chatham. In 1822 the Dickens family moved from Kent to Camden Town, in London. Unfortunately his His Father John Dickens continually lived beyond his means and the Dickens family, apart from Charles, were imprisoned in the Marshalsea debtor’s prison in Southwark, London in 1824.Charles himself was boarded with family friend Elizabeth Roylance in Camden Town. whom Dickens later immortalised, “with a few alterations and embellishments”, as “Mrs. Pipchin”, in Dombey and Son. Later, he also lived in the house of an insolvent-court agent who was a good-natured, kind old gentleman, with a quiet old wife”; who he had a very innocent grown-up son; these inspired the Garland family in The Old Curiosity Shop. Dickens left school and began working ten-hour days at Warren’s Blacking Warehouse, on Hungerford Stairs, near Charing Cross railway station, pasting labels on blacking. The terrible working conditions made a deep impression on Dickens and influenced his writing and kindled his interest in socio-economic reforms and improving labour conditions,

nicholas-nicklebyWhilst in Marshalsea, John Dickens’s paternal grandmother, Elizabeth Dickens, died and bequeathed him the sum of £450 and Dickens was released from prison. Under the Insolvent Debtors Act, After paying his creditors, he and his family left Marshalsea for the home of Mrs. Roylance and Charles attended the Wellington House Academy in North London, although his mother did not immediately remove him from the boot-blacking factory which soured their relationship. Righteous anger stemming from his own situation and the conditions under which working-class people lived, became major themes of his works. This unhappy period in his youth features in his favourite, and most autobiographical, novel, David Copperfield. From 1827 until 1828 Dickens worked at the law office of Ellis and Blackmore, attorneys, of Holborn Court, Gray’s Inn, as a junior clerk. He then became a freelance reporter. reporting legal proceedings. This experience informed works such as Nicholas Nickleby, Dombey and Son, and Bleak House. In 1833 Dickens’s first story, A Dinner at Poplar Walk was published in the London periodical, Monthly Magazine. In 1834 he becoming a political journalist, reporting on parliamentary debate covering election campaigns for the Morning Chronicle.

coveredwinHis journalism, in the form of sketches in periodicals, formed his first collection of pieces Sketches by Boz, published in 1836. his first novel, The Pickwick Papers, was also published in March 1836. Dickens became editor of Bentley’s Miscellany and also wrote Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, The Old Curiosity Shop and, Barnaby Rudge: A Tale of the Riots of ‘Eighty as part of the Master Humphrey’s Clock series. In 1836, he married Catherine Thomson Hogarth the daughter of George Hogarth, editor of the Evening Chronicle. Dickens and his family lived in London for two years. Dickens’s younger brother Frederick and Catherine’s 17-year-old sister Mary also moved in with them. Sadly Mary died in 1837 and her death is fictionalised as the death of Nell in The Old Curiosity Shop. In 1842, Dickens and his wife travelled to the United States and Canada and supported the abolition of slavery. In 1851 Dickens moved into Tavistock House where he wrote Bleak House, Hard Times and Little Dorrit.

In 1856 he moved to Gad’s Hill Place in Higham, Kent. In 1857, Dickens hired professional actresses for the play The Frozen Deep, which he and his protégé Wilkie Collins had written. Dickens, was very philanthropic and in 1858 he was approached by his friend Charles West, who founded Great Ormond Street Hospital, to help during a major financial crisis.So In 1858, Dickens spoke at the hospital’s first annual festival dinner at Freemasons’ Hall and later gave a public reading of A Christmas Carol at St. Martin-in-the-Fields church hall. The events raised enough money to enable the hospital to purchase the neighbouring house, No. 48 Great Ormond Street, increasing the bed capacity from 20 to 75. In 1858 Dickens began a series of public readings in London followed by a tour of England, Scotland and Wales. He then wrote The novelsA Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations. He also worked as the the publisher, editor & major contributor to, the journals Household Words and All the Year Round. Dickens also became interested in the paranormal was one of the early members of The Ghost Club. Arctic Exploration also featured in Dickens’s writing The heroic friendship between explorers John Franklin and John Richardson gave Dickens the idea for A Tale of Two Cities, The Wreck of the Golden Mary and the play The Frozen Deep.

IN 1865, Dickens was involved in the Staplehurst rail crash. The first seven carriages of the train plunged off a cast iron bridge under repair. The only first-class carriage to remain on the track was the one in which Dickens was travelling. This inspired the short ghost story The Signal-Man in which the central character has a premonition of his own death in a rail crash and is based around several previous rail accidents, such as the Clayton Tunnel rail crash of 1861. The Staplehurst crash deeply traumatized Dickens, and his normally prolific writing shrank to completing Our Mutual Friend and starting the unfinished The Mystery of Edwin Drood. In 1867 Dickens sailed to America and met Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and his American publisher James Thomas Fields.

His final appearance was at a banquet the American Press held in his honour at Delmonico’s on 18 April and boarded his ship to return to Britain shortly after. Between 1868 and 1869, Dickens gave a series of “farewell readings” in England, Scotland, and Ireland, until he collapsed on 22 April 1869, at Preston in Lancashire showing symptoms of a stroke. Dickens began work on his final novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. After, he witnessed an elderly pusher known as “Opium Sal in an Opium Den in Shadwell, who subsequently featured in his mystery novel. On 2 May, he made his last public appearance at a Royal Academy Banquet in the presence of the Prince and Princess of Wales, paying a special tribute to his friend, illustrator Daniel Maclise. Sadly On 8 June 1870, Dickens suffered another stroke at his home, after a full day’s work on Edwin Drood. The next day, on 9 June, and five years to the day after the Staplehurst rail crash 9 June 1865, he died at Gad’s Hill Place, and Contrary to his wish to be buried at Rochester Cathedral “in an inexpensive, unostentatious, and strictly private manner,” he was laid to rest in the Poets’ Corner of Westminster Abbey. A printed epitaph circulated at the time of the funeral reads

“To the Memory of Charles Dickens (England’s most popular author) who died at his residence, Higham, near Rochester, Kent, 9 June 1870, aged 58 years. He was a sympathizer with the poor, the suffering, and the oppressed; and by his death, one of England’s greatest writers is lost to the world.”

Five days after Dickens’s interment in the Abbey, Dean Arthur Penrhyn Stanley also delivered a memorial eulegy. Dickens’s will stipulated that no memorial be erected to honour him. The only life-size bronze statue of Dickens, cast in 1891 by Francis Edwin Elwell, is located in Clark Park in the Spruce Hill neighbourhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the United States. The couch on which he died is preserved at the Dickens Birthplace Museum in Portsmouth.

Alan Lancaster (Status Quo)

StatusquoAlan Lancaster, The ex-bass player and founding member of rock band Status quo was born 7 February 1949 in Peckham, London, England. As well as contributing to songwriting, he was also one of the lead vocalists on albums and live concerts taking the lead on tracks such as “Backwater”, “Bye Bye Johnny”, “High Flyer” and “Roadhouse Blues”, etc. Alan Lancaster formed the group in 1962 with his then schoolmate Francis Rossi under the name “The Scorpions at Sedgehill Comprehensive School, Catford, along with classmates Alan Key (drums) and Jess Jaworski (keyboards).  Rossi and Lancaster played their first gig at the Samuel Jones Sports Club in Dulwich, London. In 1963, Key was replaced by John Coghlan and the band changed name to “The Spectres” And in 1964 they met Rick Parfitt who was playing with a cabaret band called The Highlights. By the end of 1965, Rossi and Parfitt, decided to work together. On 18 July 1966, The Spectres released two singlesq, “I (Who Have Nothing)” and “Hurdy Gurdy Man” (written by Alan Lancaster), and one the next year called “(We Ain’t Got) Nothin’ Yet” (a song originally recorded by New York psychedelic band The Blues Magoos) and Parfitt joined the band in 1967 Bwhich time the group had discovered psychedelia and changed their name to Traffic, and Appeared on BBC Radio’s Saturday Club. They released another single “Almost But Not Quite There” in 1967, the band became The Status Quo and in January 1968 released the psychedelic-flavoured “Pictures of Matchstick Men”. This was followed by, “Black Veils of Melancholy” and,  “Ice in the Sun”. Following Their second album Spare Parts the band abandoned pop psychedelia and Carnaby Street fashions in favour of a hard rock/boogie sound, faded denims and T-shirts, an image which was to become their trademark throughout the 1970s. Lynes left the band in 1970 and was replaced by guests including keyboard player Jimmy Horowitz and Tom Parker. By 1976, ex-The Herd, Judas Jump and Peter Frampton Band member Andy Bown played keyboards but he was not credited as a full-time member until 1982.

After two relatively poor selling albums, Ma Kelly’s Greasy Spoon and Dog of Two Head in 1970 and 1971, their major breakthrough came when they signed with the heavy rock Label Vertigo And released the album Piledriver, in 1972. Some of their most popular songs include“Paper Plane”, “Caroline”,”Down Down”, “Rain”, “Rockin’ All Over the World”, “Whatever You Want”. From 1977, the band’s sound became more polished as they began to employ outside producers including Pip Williams, Roger Glover, and John Eden. Glover was the first outside producer to work with Quo since Pye’s John Schroeder in the early 1970s, and produced “Wild Side of Life” and its B-side “All Through The Night” in 1976.1977’s Rockin’ All Over the World’s title track, a minor hit for its writer John Fogerty (formerly of Creedence Clearwater Revival) became one of Status Quo’s most enduring anthems. sadly tensions within the band saw founding member John Coghlan leaving the band late in 1981.[6] His replacement was Pete Kircher from the 1960s pop band Honeybus.This line-up played its last full-length gig in 1984 at the Milton Keynes Bowl, and Status Quo’s final appearance with the Kircher line-up opened the Live Aid charity event at Wembley in July 1985. In 1985 Rossi recorded and released two solo singles with long-time writing partner Bernie Frost. Parfitt also recorded a solo album, Recorded Delivery, with bass player John “Rhino” Edwards and drummer Jeff Rich. The album remains unreleased, In 1985, Rossi, Parfitt and Bown, along with Edwards and Rich, started work on a new Status Quo album. However Lancaster. took out a legal injunction to stop the band from using the Status Quo name on any records, including the 1983 album Back to Back citing increasing musical differences, specifically the songs “Ol’ Rag Blues”, and “Naughty Girl”. An out-of-court settlement was made in January 1986, enabling the new Status Quo to continue recording the In The Army Now album, and “Naughty Girl” was reworked as “Dreamin'”.

Lancaster remained in Australia, and in 1986 joined an Australian super group, The Party Boys, which featured Angry Anderson of Rose Tattoo, John Brewster of The Angels and Kevin Borich, but achieved little success outside Australia. Lancaster left Status Quo formally in 1987. His final performance as a full-time member of Status Quo was at Wembley Stadium on 13 July 1985 for the opening of Live Aid. In March 2013 he collaborated with his old bandmates for a series of “Frantic Four” concerts in the UK. They all sold out except for the last date at Wembley Arena. Following “Live Aid”, Lancaster’s relationship with Francis Rossi became increasingly strained, when Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt covertly began recording a new album under the name of “Status Quo”. Lancaster was then substituted with session musician John ‘Rhino’ Edwards, who  remains Quo’s bassist to this day. Prompting both Lancaster and Phonogram Records Limited to  apply for an injunction to protect their interests in the Status Quo name.

STATUS QUO -LIVE AID http://youtu.be/6Q8bMVz4ZVU

Lancaster continues to live in Sydney, Australia. He joined a new line up of Australian band The Party Boys in 1987 and then co produced a hit album, achieving platinum sales. Also achieving ‘gold’ and reaching the number one spot with hit single “He’s Gonna Step On You Again”. In 1988, he formed the Bombers, which signed to A & M Records in the USA. It was paid the largest advance ever paid to an Australian based band, but unfortunately after the band had completed a five-star reviewed album, A & M was sold to Phonogram; leaving the band high and dry. The Bombers’ original drummer was Lancaster’s ex-Status Quo band mate John Coghlan. Ironically, Lancaster had been complicit in Coghlan’s departure from Status Quo in 1981. The Bombers supported Cheap Trick (1988),Alice Cooper (1990) and Skid Row (1990) on their tours of Australia. When the Bombers disbanded, Lancaster continued with his then partner John Brewster (“The Angels”) with “The Lancaster Brewster Band”, in which Angry Anderson performed as a guest artist for some time. Lancaster then formed his own band: Alan Lancaster’s Bombers which released an E.P. and toured Scandinavia before disbanding in 1995. As well as writing the theme song for the film “Indecent Obsession”, he also produced an album for classical pianist Roger Woodward, which achieved platinum sales in Australia.

In March 2010 Lancaster and Rossi met in Sydney leading to speculation of the original line-up reuniting.This was later denied by current bassist, Rhino, who, speaking of him with the greatest respect, explained in an interview that Lancaster was in poor health and unable to participate in any such reunion.However his health improved and it was announced that the classic “Frantic Four” line-up of Francis Rossi, Rick Parfitt, Alan Lancaster and John Coghlan would perform a series of concerts together in March 2013. The concerts sold out instantly, and it is rumoured that there will be a new album from this line-up in the coming months. He is also included in a brief cameo role as a ‘Hotel Porter’ in the Quo’s comedy caper ‘Bula Quo!’. as well as appearing in the documentary on Status Quo, titled Hello Quo.

Mark St.John (Kiss)

Mark St. John, the former musician with rock band Kiss was born 7th February 1956. Kiss were Formed in New York City in January 1973 and rose to prominence in the mid to late 1970s on the basis of the members’ white and black face paint and flamboyant stage outfits and elaborate live performances, which featured fire breathing, blood spitting, smoking guitars, shooting rockets, The 1973–’80 original lineup of Paul Stanley (vocals and rhythm guitar), Gene Simmons (vocals and bass guitar), Ace Frehley (lead guitar) and Peter Criss (drums) is the most successful. With their makeup and costumes, they took on the personas of comic book-style characters: Starchild (Stanley), The Demon (Simmons), Spaceman or Space Ace (Frehley) and Catman (Criss) and the performances included levitating drum kits and pyrotechnics.

The band explains that the fans were the ones who ultimately chose their makeup designs. Stanley became the “Starchild” because of his tendency to be referred to as the “starry-eyed lover” and “hopeless romantic”. The “Demon” makeup reflected Simmons’ cynicism and dark sense of humor, as well as his affection for comic books. Frehley’s “Spaceman” makeup was a reflection of his fondness for science fiction and supposedly being from another planet. Criss’ “Catman” makeup was in accordance with the belief that he had nine lives because of his rough childhood in Brooklyn. Because of creative differences, both Criss and Frehley were out of the group by 1982. The band’s commercial fortunes had waned considerably by that point.

However Buoyed by a wave of Kiss nostalgia in the 1990s, the band announced a reunion of the original lineup in 1996. The resulting Kiss Alive/Worldwide/Reunion Tour was the top-grossing act of 1996 and 1997. Criss and Frehley have since left Kiss again, but the band continues with Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer. Sadly though St.John passed away in 2007, leaving Stanley and Simmons as the only two constant members remaining. Kiss have also been named in many “Top” lists. They include Number 10 on VH1′s ’100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock’,9th on ‘The Greatest Metal Bands’ list by MTV, number one on Hit Paraders’s “Top 100 Live Bands”, 56th on VH1′s “100 Greatest Artists Of All Time”, and 26th on Gibson’s “50 Greatest American Rock Bands” and Counting the 1978 solo albums, Kiss has been awarded 28 gold albums to date, and have sold more than 40 million albums in the United States, of which 20 million have been certified by the RIAA and their worldwide sales exceeds 100 million albums.

David Bryan (Bon Jovi)

David Bryan, the keyboard player with rock band Bon Jovi was born 7th February 1962 Originally from Sayreville, New Jersey, Bon Jovi Formed in 1983 and consist of lead singer and namesake Jon Bon Jovi (John Francis Bongiovi, Jr.), guitarist Richie Sambora, keyboardist David Bryan and drummer Tico Torres. The band’s lineup has remained mostly static during their history, the only exception being the departure of bass player Alec John Such in 1994, who was unofficially replaced by Hugh McDonald.

The band achieved widespread recognition with their third album, Slippery When Wet, released in 1986. Their fourth album New Jersey, which was released in 1988, became just as successful as its predecessor. Bon Jovi went onto achieve thirteen U.S. Top 40 hits between 1986-1995, including four number-ones including You Give love a Bad Name“”, “Livin on a Prayer“, “Bad Medicine“, and “I’ll Be There for You”. Other hits include Keep the Faith ”Wanted Dead or Alive” ”Bed of Roses” Have a Nice Day and “Always”. Their 2000 single “, It’s My Life“, successfully introduced the band to a younger audience. Bon Jovi has been known to use different styles in their music, which has included country for their 2007 album Lost Highway which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200. Their latest album, The Circle was released in 2009, reaching number one as well.

Throughout their career, the band have released eleven studio albums, three compilation albums and one live album, and have sold 130 million records worldwide. They have performed more than 2,700 concerts in over 50 countries for more than 35 million fans. Bon Jovi was inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2006. The band was also honored with the Award of Merit at the American Music Awards in 2004, and as songwriters and collaborators, Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora inducted into Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2009.

Pinocchio

PinocchioWalt Disney’s animated motion picture Pinocchio was released on 7 February 1940 by RKO Pictures.The plot of the film involves an old Tuscan wood-carver named Geppetto who carves a wooden puppet named Pinocchio. The puppet is brought to life by a blue fairy, who informs him that he can become a real boy if he proves himself to be “brave, truthful, and unselfish” and assigns Jiminy to be his conscience.

However Pinocchio’s path to becoming a real boy is fraught with danger and he encounters many unsavoury characters who try to tempt him astray, including Honest John the Fox and his companion, Gideon the Cat, who despite Jiminy’s objections, convince him to join Stromboli’s puppet show instead of going to school, and he becomes Stromboli’s star attraction performing alongside marionettes of Dutch girls, French can-can girls, and Russian Cossacks.

Then Honest John and Gideon meet a coachman who promises to pay them big money if they can find foolish little boys for him to take to Pleasure Island. So they convince Pinocchio that he needs a holiday on Pleasure Island where he befriends Lampwick, and other juvenile Delinquents. With no rules or authority to stop them, Pinocchio and the other boys start gambling, smoking, getting drunk, and generally running amok, much to Jiminy’s dismay, who then discovers that any boy making a jackass of themselves faces a terrible fate.

After escaping Pinocchio and Jiminy’s return to Gepetto’s workshop but find it deserted. They then learn that Gepetto is looking for Pinnocchio but was swallowed by a huge whale named Monstro and is now living inside him. So Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket set off on a hazardous mission to rescue him from the jaws of Monstro…

Pinocchio http://youtu.be/kE4qKoh80nU