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.

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

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

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.