Clive Cussler

After having read many of his novels whilst in Hospital I have become a big fan of the novels of American adventure novelist and marine archaeologist Clive Eric Cussler, who was born July 15, 1931 in Aurora, Illinois so I thought I would post something. His thriller novels, many featuring the character Dirk Pitt, have reached The New York Times fiction best-seller list more than seventeen times. Cussler is the founder and chairman of the real-life National Underwater and Marine Agency (NUMA), which has discovered more than sixty shipwreck sites and numerous other notable sunken underwater wreckages. He is the sole author or lead author of more than 50 books.

Born in Aurora, Illinois, Cussler grew up in Alhambra, California and was awarded the rank of Eagle Scout when he was 14. He attended Pasadena City College for two years and then enlisted in the United States Air Force during the Korean War. During his service in the Air Force, he was promoted to Sergeant and worked as an aircraft mechanic and flight engineer for the Military Air Transport Service (MATS).

After his discharge from the military, Cussler went to work in the advertising industry, first as a copywriter and later as a creative director for two of the nation’s most successful advertising agencies. As part of his duties Cussler produced radio and television commercials, many of which won international awards including an award at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival.

Clive Cussler began writing in 1965 when his wife took a job working nights for the local police department where they lived in California. After making dinner for the kids and putting them to bed he had no one to talk to and nothing to do so he decided to start writing. His most famous creation is marine engineer, government agent and adventurer Dirk Pitt. The Dirk Pitt novels frequently take on an alternative history perspective, such as

“what if Atlantis was real?” or “what if Abraham Lincoln wasn’t assassinated, but was kidnapped?”

The first two Pitt novels, The Mediterranean Caper and Iceberg, were relatively conventional maritime thrillers. The third, Raise the Titanic!, made Cussler’s reputation and established the pattern that subsequent Pitt novels would follow: a blend of high adventure and high technology, generally involving megalomaniacal villains, lost ships, beautiful women, and sunken treasure.
Cussler’s novels, like those of Michael Crichton, are examples of techno-thrillers that do not use military plots and settings. Where Crichton strove for scrupulous realism, however, Cussler prefers fantastic spectacles and outlandish plot devices. The Pitt novels, in particular, have the anything-goes quality of the James Bond or Indiana Jones movies, while also sometimes borrowing from Alistair MacLean’s novels. Pitt himself is a larger-than-life hero reminiscent of Doc Savage and other characters from pulp magazines. Clive Cussler has had more than seventeen consecutive titles reach The New York Times fiction best-seller list.

Following the publication in 1996 of Cussler’s first nonfiction work, The Sea Hunters, he was awarded a Doctor of Letters degree in 1997 by the Board of Governors of the State University of New York Maritime College who accepted the work in lieu of a Ph.D. thesis. This was the first time in the college’s 123-year history that such a degree had been awarded.In 2002 Cussler was awarded the Naval Heritage Award from the U S Navy Memorial Foundation for his efforts in the area of marine exploration. Cussler is a fellow of the Explorers Club of New York, the Royal Geographic Society in London, and the American Society of Oceanographers

As an underwater explorer, Cussler has discovered more than sixty shipwreck sites and has written non-fiction books about his findings. He is also the founder of the National Underwater and Marine Agency (NUMA), a non-profit organization with the same name as the fictional government agency that employs Dirk Pitt. Cussler owns a large collection of classic cars, several of which appear in his novels. Cussler’s web site claims that NUMA discovered, among other shipwrecks,

  • the Confederate submarine Hunley.
  • The Carpathia. The ship famed for being the first to come to the aid of Titanic survivors.
  • The Mary Celeste. The famed ghost ship that was found abandoned with cargo intact.
  • The Manassas. The first ironclad of the civil war, formerly the icebreaker Enoch Train.

A Visual & interactive depiction of Dr. Cussler’s NUMA Foundation Expeditions is also available as an extension of NUMA’s original website which has an  informative and educational overview from a global perspective of Dr. Cussler’s expeditions and discoveries. Some of his novels have also been made into films, most notably Raise The Titanic!, starring Richard Jordan as Dirk Pitt, Jason Robards as Admiral James Sandecker, David Selby as Dr. Gene Seagram, Anne Archer as Dana Seagram, and Sahara, starring Matthew McConaughey as Dirk Pitt, Steve Zahn as Al Giordino, William H. Macy as Admiral Sandecker, and Penélope Cruz as Eva Rojas.

Happy birthday Peter Banks

Peter Banks, British guitarist with Progressive Rock Bands Yes was born 15th July 1947.  The band achieved worldwide success with their progressive music, mystical lyrics, elaborate album art, live stage sets and symphonic style of rock music and are regarded as one of the pioneers of the progressive genre. They were Formed in 1968 and released two albums together but began to enjoy success after the release of The Yes Album and Fragile, which featured new arrivals Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman. They achieved further success with the albums Close to the Edge and Tales from Topographic Oceans and, Fragile.

Formed in 1968 by Squire and singer Jon Anderson, the first line-up also included guitarist Peter Banks, keyboardist Tony Kaye and drummer Bill Bruford, who released two albums together to lukewarm reception and sales. Yes began to enjoy success after the release of The Yes Album(1971) and Fragile (1971), which featured new arrivals Howe and Rick Wakeman. They achieved further success with Close to the Edge (1972) andTales from Topographic Oceans (1973), the latter of which featured White on drums. Wakeman was replaced by Patrick Moraz, who played onRelayer (1974). Wakeman returned on Going for the One (1977) and Tormato (1978). Anderson and Wakeman left the group due to musical differences amongst the band in 1980. Their replacements, Trevor Horn and Downes, featured on Drama (1980) and its supporting tour.

Yes reformed in 1982 after Squire and White were joined by the returning Anderson and Kaye, with the addition of guitarist Trevor Rabin. They adopted a pop rock sound and released the number one single “Owner of a Lonely Heart” and 90125 (1983), their best-selling album to date, followed by Big Generator (1987). Anderson left and co-formed the side project Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe with the named members in 1989. Following a legal battle amongst both Yes groups, they formed an eight-man band to perform on Union (1991) and its supporting tour. Rabin and Kaye featured on Talk (1994) before leaving, while Wakeman and Howe returned with Keys to Ascension (1996) and Keys to Ascension 2(1997). Wakeman was replaced by Igor Khoroshev, who featured on Open Your Eyes (1997) and The Ladder (1999) along with guitarist Billy Sherwood. The release of Magnification (2001) marked the first album since 1970 to feature an orchestra.

In 2002, Wakeman returned for the band’s 35th anniversary tour. The band ceased to tour in 2004, partly due to health concerns regarding Anderson and Wakeman. Following a hiatus, Yes re-started in 2008 with keyboardist Oliver Wakeman and singer  After of the release of Fly from Here (2011) the band recruited Jon Davison, lead singer of Glass Hammer, a progressive rock band from Chattanooga, Tennessee, to replace David. Yes continue to perform to this day, more than 40 years since their formation.

Tribute to Rembrandt

generally considered one of the greatest painters and printmakers in European art history, the Dutch painter and etcher Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn , was born 15 July 1606. His contributions to art came in a period of great wealth and cultural achievement that historians call the Dutch Golden Age when Dutch Golden Age painting, although in many ways antithetical to the Baroque style that dominated Europe, he was extremely prolific and innovative.

As a boy he attended Latin school and was enrolled at the University of Leiden, although according to a contemporary he had a greater inclination towards painting and was soon apprenticed to a Leiden history painter, Jacob van Swanenburgh, with whom he spent three years. After a brief but important apprenticeship of six months with the famous painter Pieter Lastman in Amsterdam, Rembrandt opened a studio in Leiden in 1624 or 1625, which he shared with friend and colleague Jan Lievens. In 1627, Rembrandt began to accept students, among them Gerrit Dou. In 1629, Rembrandt was discovered by the statesman Constantijn Huygens, the father of Christiaan Huygens (a famous Dutch mathematician and physicist), who procured for Rembrandt important commissions from the court of The Hague. As a result of this connection, Prince Frederik Hendrik continued to purchase paintings from Rembrandt until 1646. At the end of 1631 Rembrandt moved to Amsterdam, then rapidly expanding as the new business capital of the Netherlands, and began to practice as a professional portraitist for the first time, with great success.

Throughout his career   the themes of portraiture, landscape and narrative painting were his primary subjects and he produced over 600 paintings, nearly 400 etchings and 2,000 drawings including a number of biblical works, including The Raising of the Cross, Joseph Telling His Dreams and The Stoning of Saint Stephen, he was especially praised by his contemporaries, who extolled him as a masterly interpreter of biblical stories for his skill in representing emotions and attention to detail.

During Rembrandt’s Leiden period (1625–1631) his Paintings were rather small, but rich in details (for example, in costumes and jewelry). Religious and allegorical themes were favored, as were tronies. In 1626 Rembrandt produced his first etchings, the wide dissemination of which would largely account for his international fame In 1629 he completed Judas Repentant, Returning the Pieces of Silver and The Artist in His Studio, works that evidence his interest in the handling of light and variety of paint application, and constitute the first major progress in his development as a painter.

During his early years in Amsterdam (1632–1636), Rembrandt began to paint dramatic biblical and mythological scenes in high contrast and of large format (The Blinding of Samson, 1636, Belshazzar’s Feast, c. 1635 Danaë, 1636), seeking to emulate the baroque style of Rubens. With the occasional help of assistants in his workshop, he painted numerous portrait commissions both small (Jacob de Gheyn III) and large (Portrait of the Shipbuilder Jan Rijcksen and his Wife, 1633, Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp, By the late 1630s Rembrandt had produced a few paintings and many etchings of landscapes. Often these landscapes highlighted natural drama, featuring uprooted trees and ominous skies (Cottages before a Stormy Sky, and The Three Trees. From 1640 his work became less exuberant and more sober in tone, possibly reflecting personal tragedy. Biblical scenes were now derived more often from the New Testament than the Old Testament, as had been the case before. In 1642 he painted The Night Watch and in the decade following the Night Watch, Rembrandt’s paintings varied greatly in size, subject, and style. The previous tendency to create dramatic effects primarily by strong contrasts of light and shadow gave way to the use of frontal lighting and larger and more saturated areas of color. However these graphic works of natural drama eventually made way for quiet Dutch rural scenes and by the 1650s, Rembrandt’s style changed again. Colors became richer and brush strokes more pronounced. With these changes, Rembrandt distanced himself from earlier work and current fashion, which increasingly inclined toward fine, detailed works. In later years biblical themes were still depicted often, but emphasis shifted from dramatic group scenes to intimate portrait-like figures (James the Apostle, 1661). In his last years, Rembrandt painted his most deeply reflective self-portraits, and several moving images of both men and women in love, in life, and before God.

Although he achieved youthful success as a portrait painter, Rembrandt’s later years were marked by personal tragedy and financial hardships. Yet his etchings and paintings were popular throughout his lifetime, his reputation as an artist remained high, and for twenty years he taught many important Dutch painters. Rembrandt’s greatest creative triumphs are exemplified especially in his portraits of his contemporaries, self-portraits and illustrations of scenes from the Bible. His self-portraits form a unique and intimate biography, in which the artist surveyed himself without vanity and with the utmost sincerity. In his paintings and prints he exhibited knowledge of classical iconography, which he molded to fit the requirements of his own experience; thus, the depiction of a biblical scene was informed by Rembrandt’s knowledge of the specific text, his assimilation of classical composition, and his observations of Amsterdam’s Jewish population. Rembrandt sadly passed away on 4th October 1669) but his legacy lives on in the form of many wonderful paintings and because of his empathy for the human condition, he is also sometimes referred to as “one of the great prophets of civilization.”

Tribute to Gustav Klimt

Austrian symbolist painter Gustav Klimt was born July 14, 1862, he was  one of the most prominent members of the Vienna Secession movement and is noted for his paintings, murals, sketches, and other art objects. Klimt’s primary subject was the female body

Born in Baumgarten, near Vienna in Austria-Hungary he displayed artistic talent early on but lived in poverty while attending the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts (Kunstgewerbeschule), where he studied architectural painting until 1883.He revered the foremost history painter of the time, Hans Makart and readily accepted the principles of a conservative training and  his early work may be classified as academic

In 1888, Klimt received the Golden order of Merit from Emperor Franz Josef I of Austria for his contributions to murals painted in the Burgtheater in Vienna. He also became an honorary member of the University of Munich and the University of Vienna. He also became one of the founding members and president of the Wiener Sezession (Vienna Secession) in 1897 where he remained until 1908. The group’s goals were to provide exhibitions for unconventional young artists, to bring the best foreign artists’ works to Vienna, and to publish its own magazine to showcase members’ work.The group declared no manifesto and did not set out to encourage any particular style—Naturalists, Realists, and Symbolists all coexisted. The government supported their efforts and gave them a lease on public land to erect an exhibition hall. The group’s symbol was Pallas Athena, the Greek goddess of just causes, wisdom, and the arts—and Klimt painted his radical version in 1898.

In 1894, Klimt was commissioned to create three paintings to decorate the ceiling of the Great Hall in the University of Vienna. Not completed until the turn of the century, his three paintings, Philosophy, Medicine and Jurisprudence, were criticized for their radical themes and material and caused a public outcry from all quarters—political, aesthetic, and religious. As a result, they were not displayed on the ceiling of the Great Hall. as a result This was the last public commission accepted by the artist for some time.

In 1902, Klimt finished the Beethoven Frieze for the 14th Vienna Secessionist exhibition, which was intended to be a celebration of the composer and featured a monumental, polychromed sculpture by Max Klinger. Meant for the exhibition only, the frieze was painted directly on the walls with light materials. After the exhibition the painting was preserved, although it did not go on display until 1986. The face on the Beethoven portrait resembled the composer and Vienna Court Opera director Gustav Mahler.

Klimt’s ‘Golden Phase’ was marked by positive critical reaction and success. Many of his paintings from this period used gold leaf; the prominent use of gold can first be traced back to Pallas Athene (1898) and Judith I (1901), although the works most popularly associated with this period are the Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I (1907) and The Kiss (1907–1908). Klimt travelled little but trips to Venice and Ravenna, both famous for their beautiful mosaics, most likely inspired his gold technique and his Byzantine imagery. In 1904, he collaborated with other artists on the lavish Palais Stoclet, the home of a wealthy Belgian industrialist, which was one of the grandest monuments of the Art Nouveau age. Klimt’s contributions to the dining room, including both Fulfillment and Expectation, were some of his finest decorative work, and as he publicly stated, “probably the ultimate stage of my development of ornament. Between 1907 and 1909, Klimt painted five canvases of society women wrapped in fur. His apparent love of costume is expressed in the many photographs of Flöge modeling clothing he designed.

In 1911 his painting Death and Life received first prize in the world exhibitions in Rome. In 1915 his mother Anna died. Klimt died three years later in Vienna on February 6, 1918, having suffered a stroke and pneumonia due to the influenza epidemic of that year and was buried at the Hietzinger Cemetery in Hietzing, Vienna. Numerous paintings were left unfinished.  However those he did finish before his untimely demise have brought some of the highest prices recorded for individual works of art. In November 2003, Klimt’s Landhaus am Attersee sold for $29,128,000, and plenty of  other examples of his work have also  fetched vast sums of money at auction.