Posted in music

Florence + The Machine – Ceremonials

Ceremonials by Florence & The Machine is the follow-up to her first album Lungs, and The mood of Florence Welch’s second album is set by the cover, on which she appears to be posing for a pre-Raphaelite artist.The mood of the disc inside, too, is also decidedly pre-Raphaelite: a gothic fever dream of romance, striving for intensity. Ceremonials always sounds wonderful – producer Paul Epworth has created a warm, sumptuous sound which is complimented by Welch’s powerful and emotive voice.

 This contrasts with Florence Welch’s previous album Lungs, which was written in the wake of a failed relationship, and reached number 1 in the album chart helped by some great singles like “Dog Days Are Over”, the lovesick anthem “Drumming Song” and the Candi Staton cover, “You’ve Got the Love”.  The album also helped Welch gain a diverse roster of fans including fashion designer Karl Lagerfield.

Florence herself is an exuberant person Lively, engaged, and good-humoured, too, and was signed up by Island Records  in November 2008. By the beginning of 2009, she’d won a Brit award,  for being the new year’s most promising artist.  Her first album Lungs, was subsequently released in July, and went on to sell more than 3 million copies. ( and I’ve got one of them)

But Whereas The last album sounded heady, wounded, raw and almost desperate at times. the second album is definitely more settled. Florence recently said of her second album That “It feels more joyous, but I wouldn’t say happily-ever-after. It’s not completely a case of ‘Everything’s fine, now!’ because everything’s still… Even if you’re in a relationship things are complicated. There’s probably lots of things to deal with.” this more settled sound is due in part to her being back with her chap. the villain of Lungs, with whom ahe patched things up not long after that album was released.

Florence said of her sound that she had experimented with many different types of music such as country and had also written and recorded some folky songs, but it wasn’t until she went into the studio that she knew she’d hit on a distinctive sound she loved which she describes as “big, tribal goth pop”.Welch she also says I’m more satisfied with this album than the last, “But I’m still nervous about it. You’re never completely happy, otherwise you wouldn’t ever make the next one.  This almost sounds like she’s anticipating retiring, Embracing the growing-up plan and settling down.  But Florence loves singing and  wouldn’t want to give it up and  hopes she  would be able to fit the rest of her life in at some point.” 

She also said Recently that she would love to appear on family science-fiction drama “Doctor Who”, after having really got into the programme  and become a “total geek” for the show since Matt Smith took over the role of The Doctor.  I reckon that  given the gothic feel to some of her promo videos  she could add a really gothic, spooky and creepy  atmosphere to the program which would be perfect and would soon have people hiding behind the sofa.

Having heard bits from the album, I think that  the best tracks  on the album are an introspective ballad called “Lover to Lover”, The single “What the Water Gave me”, an upbeat track called “Shake it out”, Only if for a night, No Light No Light, Heartlines, Spectrum and Never let Me Go. Here is the full track-listing

  • If only for a night
  •  Shake it out
  • What the Water Gave Me
  • Never let me go
  • Breaking down
  • Lover to lover
  • No Light, no light
  • Seven Devils
  • Heartlines
  • Spectrum
  • All this and heaven too
  • Leave my body
Posted in Events


Halloween (or Hallowe’en), is a contraction of All-Hallows-Even (“evening”), and is an annual holiday observed on October 31, which commonly includes activities such as trick-or-treating, attending costume parties, carving jack-o’-lanterns, bonfires, apple bobbing, visiting haunted attractions, playing pranks, telling scary stories, and watching horror films.

It is thought that Halloween, has it’s origins in the Roman feast of Pomona, the goddess of fruits and seeds, or in the festival of the dead called Parentalia, but is more typically linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-an or sow-in)”, derived from the Old Irish Samuin meaning “summer’s end”. Samhain was the first and by far the most important of the four quarter days in the medieval Irish calendar and, usually  fell on the last day of Autumn.

It was a time for stock-taking and preparation for the cold winter months ahead. There was also a sense that this was the time of year when the physical and supernatural worlds were closest and magical things could happen. So To ward off these spirits, the Irish built huge, symbolically regenerative bonfires and invoked the help of the gods through animal and perhaps even human sacrifice.


Halloween is also thought to have been heavily influenced by the Christian holy days of All Saints’ Day (also known as Hallowmas, All Hallows, Hallowtide) and All Souls’ Day. Falling on November 1st and 2nd respectively, collectively these days were a time for honoring the Saints and praying for the recently departed who had yet to reach heaven.  By the end of the 12th century they had become days of holy obligation across Europe and involved such traditions as ringing bells for the souls in purgatory and “souling”, the custom of baking bread or soul cakes for “all christened souls”.
In Britain the rituals of Hallowtide and Halloween came under attack during the Reformation as protestants denounced purgatory as a “popish” doctrine incompatible with the notion of predestination. In addition the increasing popularity of Guy Fawkes Night from 1605 on saw Halloween become eclipsed in Britain with the notable exception of Scotland. Here, and in Ireland, they had been celebrating Samhain and Halloween since the early Middle Ages and it is believed the church took a more pragmatic approach towards Halloween, viewing it as important to the life cycle and rites of passage of local communities and thus ensuring its survival in the country.
North American almanacs of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century give no indication that Halloween was recognized as a holiday. The Puritans of New England, for example, maintained strong opposition to the holiday[8] and it was not until the mass Irish and Scottish immigration during the 19th century that the holiday was introduced to the continent in earnest. Initially confined to the immigrant communities during the mid-nineteenth century, it was gradually assimilated into mainstream society and by the first decade of the twentieth century it was being celebrated coast to coast by people of all social, racial and religious backgrounds.

The word Halloween first appears in the 16th century and represents a Scottish variant of the fuller All-Hallows-Even (“evening”), that is, the night before All Hallows Day. Although the phrase All Hallows is found in Old English (ealra halgena mæssedæg, mass-day of all saints),  however All-Hallows-Even is itself is not used until 1556.

Posted in music


EMI, the record label that signed such well known acts as the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Kylie Minogue, Kate Bush, Coldplay and Tinie Tempah, is likely to be sold to a Russian-born billionaire and businessman named Len Blavatnik. The sale will mark the end of an era for UK music. EMI is the last major domestic music label and its record of signing homegrown talent has made it the unofficial home of British pop.

EMI’s recording arm and its music publishing division was due to be sold to Universal, however they pulled out of the bidding process. This left the wealthy  in pole position to buy the bulk of the business.

Blavatnik is the New York-based founder and owner of Access Industries, the international chemicals conglomerate which also bought EMI’s rival Warner Music for £2bn in May this year. He is expected to pay around $1.5bn for EMI’s recorded music division, according to industry sources.

Its publishing arm, which owns the rights to a catalogue of more than a million songs by artists including Kanye West, Arctic Monkeys and Jay-Z, is likely to be sold to the German media group Bertelsmann and KKR, an American private equity company.

The deal will create a third major global music label to rival Universal and Sony, and is also likely to mean the end of the EMI brand in America, where the label is expected to be phased out, although the name will be retained in European markets.

The final details of the sale are still being sorted, but music industry sources say official confirmation is likely to come at the end of the week. As a result It will be a stronger record company after the sale, but it may also make a lot of people unemployed – The new owner is expected to trim the combined group’s workforce after the sale is complete, and hundreds of jobs are expected to go as a result.

since the arrival of Napster, iTunes, the digital revolution and readily acccessible online content, Pressure has been increasing on record labels and This  has transformed the economics of the music industry and has forced major labels to seek merger deals in order to survive. Having said that there are Plenty of companies have benefited from overseas expansion and have done well as a result.

Some Senior industry figures are bemoaning the fact that another national industry  is set to fall into foreign hands. Jazz Summers, a rock music veteran who was manager of British indie band the Verve, said: “It’s a tradition that I’ll be sad to see end….

Posted in Events, Science-tech

Kielder Forest Star Camp

Astronomy has always fascinated me and I have seen many Solar & Lunar Eclipses as well as Halley’s and the Hale Bopp comet as they passed Earth a few years ago. Living in the country means that there are very few street lights and you can get a really good view of what is going on in the sky

Recently I found out about Kielder Forest Star Camp, where this week More than 200 amateur Astronomers have gatherered  to gaze at the stars. This location being chosen because it is a great place to stargaze . This twice-yearly gathering is organised by the Kielder Observatory Astronomical Society, in the hope of seeing some of the wonders of our galaxy in the darkest skies in England.

Armed with fleeces and flasks, and with an assortment of cameras, telescopes and tripods at the ready, people are spending five damp, chilly nights in the forest gazing at the night skies. Viewing conditions at the event are described as OK, but not brilliant and So far there have been a couple of hours of clear skies and the Orion Nebula has been captured  on camera.”

According to the Campaign to Protect Rural England, Kielder Water and Forest Park has the darkest skies in England, and on a moonless week like this the stargazers can also expect to see the Milky Way, shooting stars and nebulae, clouds of dust created by exploding stars. Jupiter is also high in the sky this week.

Particle physicists Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw were also on hand to promote their new book – The Quantum Universe: Everything That Can Happen Does Happen – in an attempt to explain scientific concepts most of us struggle to get our heads round.  Mind you the stunning photographs taken during the event are a reminder that you don’t necessarily have to understand the secrets of the universe to marvel at its beauty.

Posted in books, nature, Television

Frozen Planet

I have always been fascinated by nature and have been a big fan of David Attenborough ever since I saw Life on Earth, back in the 1970’s. So I couldn’t wait to see This stunning wildlife series, which is  Co produced by the BBC and the Discovery Channel, and narrated by  David Attenborugh. It takes a look  at life in the frozen and inhospitable lands of the Arctic and Antarctic regions of Earth as well as Greenland Alaska and Canada. The series also  contains some stunning aeriel photography which conveys the vastness of the areas featured.

The program looks at the wildlife which live in these areas such as herds of migrating Caribou, and how animals like Polar Bears survive in these hostile environments and the extraordinary lengths which they go to in order to secure a mate.

It also looks at Migrating Southern Humpback Whales, who make the long journey to Antarctica in order to take advantage of the feeding bonanza provided by the proliferation of Krill in the sea, and how how wolves work as a team in order to hunt much larger bison, and how Southern Sea Lions hunt penguins as well as rarely seen footage of Killer Whales hunting seals by creating huge waves to break up the ice flows and dislodge the seals so they fall into the water.

The program also looks at some of the bizarre and rarely seen life which thrives under the ice and shows that the area is positively bursting with life. Also featured in this fascinating program are The previously unexplored caves of the volcanic Mount Erebus which contain rarely seen and rather bizarre ice formations.

Posted in books

World Book Night 2012

On 23rd April 2012 One million books will be distributed for free as part of the second World Book Night. A committee headed by the author Tracy Chevalier recently unveiled a lineup of 25 specially printed titles which will be distributed by thousands of volunteers across the UK as part of an international celebration of reading. The eclectic collection ranges from classic literature by Jane Austen and Charles Dickens to chick lit by Sophie Kinsella and science fiction by Iain M Banks and Cormac McCarthy, by way of non-fiction by Bill Bryson and Joe Simpson. It is hoped that the novels chosen for world Book Night would inspire “many hundreds of thousands of people to read”.

Chevalier said “We wanted to have as wide a variety of books as possible, from crime and thriller to science fiction, historical and chick lit,” There is a reason so many types of books are written, and that’s because everyone has different tastes. We wanted to cater to that.” The books were chosen by a committee led by Chevalier, following a public vote. This year the poll was topped by Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, however the 85-year-old author declined to participate. She’s very old and I don’t think this was the top of things to tend to, which is understandable,There are times when an author says no and you have to move on, so in this case we went for Pride and Prejudice.”

King said he was “delighted” that his horror novel Misery had been chosen, and that he hoped “it helps to propel a great cause forward”. Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, whose co-authored fantasy novel Good Omens also made the list, said in a joint statement that “a Night during which people give each other books is the best kind of Night there could be”. “Hurrah! World Book Night! Give each other books. Especially ours. Every word lovingly inserted by craftsmen. We thank you,” said the duo.

Members of the public are now able to apply to be one of the 20,000 World Book Night givers, who will receive 24 copies of their chosen title to give away to anyone they choose. Further copies will be distributed through prisons, libraries and hospitals. The US is also set to host its first World Book Night the same day, replicating the UK format with one million yet-to-be-selected books given away.

Last year the scope of World Book Night – which is backed by patrons including JK Rowling, Carol Ann Duffy, Colin Firth and Richard Branson – drew criticism from some independent booksellers and authors, fearing it would be damaging to the book trade. But Chevalier said that last year’s “naysayers” were “starting to get behind” this year’s event. “I think people are realising that the risk taken by giving away a specific book is more than made up for by the publicity and by encouraging people to read,” she said. “That can only be a good thing.”

Some say that while they support anything which would get more people reading, they are concerned that the project preaches to the converted and that it relies on people who will already love this idea, telling their mates at dinner parties that they are doing it. which is great, but may not tackle the issue it is meant to be tackling.

Anyway The titles available for World Book Night 2012 are:

  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (Vintage)
  • The Player of Games by Iain M Banks (Little, Brown)
  • Sleepyhead by Mark Billingham (Little, Brown)
  • Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson (Transworld)
  • The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (Harper Collins)
  • The Take by Martina Cole (Headline)
  • Harlequin by Bernard Cornwall (Harper Collins)
  • Someone Like You by Roald Dahl (Penguin)
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (Penguin)
  • Room by Emma Donoghue (Pan Macmillan)
  • Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier (Little, Brown)
  • The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (Faber)
  • Misery by Stephen King (Hodder)
  • The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella (Transworld)
  • Small Island by Andrea Levy (Headline)
  • Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist (Quercus)
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy (Pan Macmillan)
  • The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (Vintage)
  • The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell (Headline)
  • The Damned Utd by David Peace (Faber)
  • Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman (Transworld)
  • How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff (Penguin)
  • Touching the Void by Joe Simpson (Vintage)
  • I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (Vintage)
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zuzak (Transworld
Posted in Science-tech, Uncategorized

Interesting (and quite disturbing) stuff I’ve learnt recently

  • The average kitchen chopping board has 200% more faecal bacteria on it than the average toilet seat
  • More than one in four commuters have faecal matter on their hands
  • The salad drawer of your fridge may contain more than 750 times the level of bacteria deemed safe
  • How clean is your wash? Bacteria linked to skin and urine infections can only be killed at 40C and above
  • 43% of mothers don’t wash their hands after changing their baby’s nappy
  • One US study found that TV remote controls were the leading carriers of bacteria in hospital rooms
  • Flushing the toilet without putting the lid down can send germs as far as 6ft away
  • Handbags may carry up to 10,000 bacteria per square inch. 30% have faecal bacteria
Posted in books

The Art of the Hobbit

As part of next year celebrations to mark the 75th anniversary of the publication of The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien, a book containing  a set of wonderful illustrations, drawings, watercolours and sketches by JRR Tolkien himself, is being published. containing many drawings which have never been seen before because they have only recently been digitised.

originally The Hobbit included around 20 illustrations by the author, as well as the well-known dust jacket painting of the mountains which Bilbo Baggins and the Company of Dwarves pass through on thier adventures. However Tolkien had actually created more than 100 illustrations, which until recently had been buried in his archive at the Bodleian Library in Oxford. and have only recently come to light. These illustrations show that Tolkien was an accomplished amateur artist.

Ranging from line drawings in ink to watercolours and sketches, The book also includes conceptual sketches for the cover design, a couple of early versions of the maps and pages where he’s experimenting with the runic forms, as well as a couple of manuscript pages, these show that Tolkien’s creativity went beyond the writing, and that Middle Earth was a fully thought out concept,  which all makes his descriptions more vivid.

Although The Hobbit was first published in September 1937, Tolkien delivered the manuscript to his publishers in October 1936, so HarperCollins feels justified in kicking off its anniversary celebrations early. New editions of the novel itself are also lined up for publication this month. The publisher hopes to bring attention back to The Hobbit in advance of the much-anticipated release of Peter Jackson’s film next year.

The collected drawings will be published on 27th October as The Art of the Hobbit, and HarperCollins hopes the collection and the anniversary will shed new light on the fantasy author and his first novel.

Posted in Science-tech

Facebook Disconnect

Facebook’s reassurances about its privacy policies don’t seem to have calmed people’s fears of the internet giant – as users flock to shield their browsing histories from its all-seeing eye.

Facebook openly admits to tracking your use of other websites while you are logged in to the site. But the site’s attempts to reassure people that its use of their web browsing information is innocent don’t seem to have had the desired effect.
Facebook Disconnect – a browser extension which prevents Facebook ‘seeing’ which other sites you visit online – has been downloaded 152,000 times.
The software works in Google’s Chrome browser and automatically blocks web traffic between other sites and Facebook, so the social network can no longer ‘look at’ your browsing history.

‘Facebook is notified whenever you visit one of the more than one million sites on the web that use Facebook Connect and has a history of leaking personally identifiable information to third parties,’ says the official Facebook Disconnect page. ‘Turn off the flow of your data to them!’
Privacy advocates have voiced concerns that the information could be used for ‘targeted advertising’ in worrying ways.

Unless you take steps yourself, the social network watches most websites you visit while logged in. Facebook’s own ‘privacy’ pages are largely targeted towards protecting your data from other people – not from the social network itself.

Users seem delighted with Facebook Disconnect, even though it blocks some functions of Facebook such as photo links.One user commented, ‘Keep your data private folks! The tools are there to keep your browser safe, use them.’

The extension has been such a hit that its creators have unveiled an upgraded version, entitled Disconnect, which also protects users against tracking from Google and Twitter. Disconnect also works in Apple’s Safari browser and Mozilla’s Firefox.

Google in particular has access to a huge amount of information from its users, from the contents of Gmail emails to web browsing history to the videos they watch and upload on YouTube.

‘If you’re a typical web user, you’re unintentionally sending your browsing history with your name and other personal information to third parties whenever you’re online,’ the company says