Posted in music

Happy Birthday Neil Young

Canadian singer and guitarist Neil Young OC, OM was born November 12, 1945. He began performing as a solo artist in Canada in 1960, before moving to California in 1966, where he co-founded the band Buffalo Springfield along with Stephen Stills and Richie Furay, and later joined Crosby, Stills & Nash as a fourth member in 1969. He forged a successful and acclaimed solo career, releasing his first album in 1968; his career has since spanned over 40 years and 35 studio albums, with a continual and uncompromising exploration of musical styles. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame describes Young as “one of rock and roll’s greatest songwriters and performers”. He has been inducted into the Hall of Fame twice: first as a solo artist in 1995, and second as a member of Buffalo Springfield in 1997.

Young’s work is characterized by his distinctive guitar work, deeply personal lyrics and signature alto or high tenor singing voice. Although he accompanies himself on several different instruments, including piano and harmonica, his idiosyncratic electric and clawhammer acoustic guitar playing are the defining characteristics of a varyingly ragged and melodic sound. While Young has experimented with differing music styles, including swing and electronic music throughout a varied career, his best known work usually falls into two primary styles: acoustic (folk and country rock) and electric (amplified hard rock, very often in collaboration with the band Crazy Horse). Young has also adopted elements from newer styles such as alternative rock and grunge. His influence on the latter caused some to dub him the “Godfather of Grunge”.

Young has directed (or co-directed) a number of films using the pseudonym Bernard Shakey, including Journey Through the Past (1973), Rust Never Sleeps (1979), Human Highway (1982), Greendale (2003), and CSNY/Déjà Vu (2008). He is currently working on a documentary about electric car technology, tentatively titled Linc/Volt. The project involves a 1959 Lincoln Continental converted to hybrid technology, which Young plans to drive to Washington, D.C. as an environmentalist example to lawmakers there.

Young is an outspoken advocate for environmental issues and the welfare of small farmers, having co-founded the benefit concert Farm Aid in 1985. The following year Young helped found The Bridge School, an educational organization for children with severe verbal and physical disabilities, and its annual supporting Bridge School Benefit concerts, together with his wife Pegi Young (née Morton). Young has three children: sons Zeke (born during his relationship with actress Carrie Snodgress) and Ben, who were diagnosed with cerebral palsy, and daughter Amber Jean who, like Young himself, has epilepsy. Young lives on his ranch in La Honda, California. Although he has lived in northern California since the 1970s and sings as frequently about U.S. themes and subjects as he does about his native country, he retains Canadian citizenship, having no desire to relinquish it. On July 14, 2006, Young was awarded the Order of Manitoba, and on December 30, 2009, was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.

Recently Neil Young, Together with his band Crazy Horse, also released a new album entitled Psychedelic Pill which is Young’s second album of 2012, and has the honesty and brutal exuberance of their best records put together. It contains eight new songs sprawled across a turbulent two-CD set  and For most of its near-90 minutes, it is an infuriated trip: From the cheerful country funk of “Born in Ontario,” to the the thumping 27-minute fuzz-box trance of “Driftin’ Back.” (which voices his contemporary disgust for tech-giant greed and the lousy sound of MP3s), by way of the Day-Glo-angel twist on “Cinnamon Girl”, the black clouds of distortion on “Walk Like a Giant,” and the barbed-guitar jamming, rough-country swagger and surrealistic ire, on “Ramada Inn,” and “Twisted Road.”

Posted in books

A World in One Cubic Foot: Portraits of Biodiversity by David Liittschwager

I would like to read this fascinating book, which is released 13th November 2012, and features Stunning Photographs by the Esteemed nature photographer David Liittschwager, who took a bright green metal cube – measuring precisely one cubic foot – and set it in various ecosystems around the world, from Costa Rica to Central Park, and measured what moved through it in a period of twenty-four hours. He then photographed the cube’s setting and the plant, animal, and insect life inside it – anything visible to the naked eye.

The results are breathtaking and present a stunning portrait of the amazing diversity of organisms that can be found in various ecosystems around the globe from coral reefs to cloud forests to tidal pools. Liittschwager’s awe-inspiring photographs reveal a staggering amount of both familiar and exotic life which abounds all around, some of which has rarely, if ever, been seen on camera.

The images are accompanied by equally engaging essays that speak to both the landscapes and the worlds contained within them, from distinguished contributors such as Elizabeth Kolbert and Alan Huffman, and a foreword by E. O. Wilson. the unexpected variety of species found in an area so small is amazing and The singular beauty of these images evocatively conveys the richness of life around us and the essential need for its conservation.

Posted in books, films & DVD

Star Wars

I have been an enormous fan of the original Star wars films ever since the first one came out in June 1977, and Over the past few weeks I have watched all six Star Wars Movies again, which reminded me that recently (Not A long time ago & not in a galaxy far away) Director George Lucas sold LucasFilm to Disney for an impressive $4.05 billion. With the news that Disney was already beginning work on an Episode 7, due for release in 2015. Lucas has also mentioned that all $4 billion from the sale is going to be used to start a pro-education foundation.

According to Entertainment Weekly a source close to Harrison Ford, suggests that he is open to starring in the new Star Wars film playing the charismatic space smuggler Han Solo almost three decades after last playing the part in Return of the Jedi. Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) and Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), are also said to be considering the new film, which is due to arrive in cinemas for 2015. Ford’s swashbuckling character was supposed to have been killed off in the Return of the Jedi, but was spared by director George Lucas.

There are a number of directions the story could take, including Heir To The Empire, which is Set five years after the events of Return Of The Jedi, and finds Han and Leia expecting twins and Luke leading the rebuilt Jedi order. But Grand Admiral Thrawn, the Emperor’s last surviving Warlord, has gathered the remnants of the Imperial Fleet and wants to take back the galaxy by force.

Another suggetion is Legacy of the Force which is Set further on from the events of the original trilogy, and finds the Galactic Alliance starting to splinter and trouble within the Jedi order caused by, of all people, Jacen Solo, Han and Leia’s son, who causes a rift with his uncle by suggesting that force (and not necessarily the Force) might be the way to deal with unhappy systems wanting to leave the union. This story has plenty of opportunity to become a sprawling, Epic able to support not just a new trilogy but other movies as well.

The New Jedi Order which is set 21 years after the second Death Star fell, is yet another suggestion and finds the New Republic under threat from a powerful Alien race called the Yuuzhan Vong who are keen to capitalise on the chaos caused by the fall of the Empire, and The Jedi must defend the Republic from this new and powerful foe.

Dawn Of The Jedi: This story focuses on the difficult early days of the Jedi Order, full of disputes, strife and sacrifice even before the two sides of the Force had coalesced. We follow several Jedi warriors who must deal with their own troubles as well as those of the galaxy at large, in a period long before the rise of the Empire.

Another suggestion is The Force Unleashed, which is one of the more unusual suggestions, since this story has technically been brought to life in a variety of formats: computer games, books, comics and more. But it’s also set in a different era and could be an interesting area to explore, filling in as it does, some of the time between Revenge Of The Sith and Star Wars. Our main villain is Galen Marek, AKA Starkiller, Darth Vader’s secret apprentice who is dispatched to hunt down and destroy Jedi warriors.

Knights of the Old Republic is yet another suggestion, which is another historical adventures, this time set approximately 4,000 years before any of the Star Wars films (so long after Dawn but long before everything else). The task in the first game is to take on the threat of a powerful Sith Lord with big plans to take down the Jedi. This story could provide a chance to feature the earlier clashes between the Sith and the Jedi and the even deeper issue of corruption and slavery spreading throughout the galaxy. The sequel, The Sith Lords, offers even more story opportunity, as a rogue former Jedi has to rely on his wits to halt a Sith attack.

Dark Empire, is another idea and this story takes place immediately after the Battle Of Endor, and it transpires that Emperor Palpatine’s consciousness has been transferred to a cloned body and Luke (under duress)agrees to become his apprentice . Han, Chewie and the rest try to rescue him even as Palpatine creates massive new weapons and takes aim at various planets.

Another story idea is X-Wing: Rogue Squadron, which is set after Jedi and finds our hero leading up a new squad of pilots and commandos to fight off remaining Imperial troublemakers and other enemies. The idea of a top gun group of X-Wing pilots and troopers battling the remnants of the Empire is certainly entertaining.

Mara Jade is another direction they could take. Introduced in Heir To The Empire Mara married Luke during the Legacy Of The Force series, Mara Jade is tough, smart and interesting enough to deserve her own spin-off film. Hers is a compelling story, since she attempts to kill Luke in revenge for Palpatine and her conversion to the lighter side of the Force. Not only that, but she has a child with Luke and even gets a tragic end when she learns Jacen Solo has become a Sith apprentice and tries to kill him. Bad move…

Star Wars: Legacy. is yet another idea, This time set 125 years after the fall of the Empire and Features Luke’s descendent Cade Skywalker who has to deal with a newly resurgent Sith under the leadership of Darth Krayt. This could go far beyond the original Wars timeline and sprinkle new ideas in among the traditional battle between good and evil. It is also a storyline that has no members of the original cast (though we could see Mark Hamill popping up in a cameo as Ghost Luke).

The Long-Awaited TV Series
Since Revenge Of The Sith, Lucasfilm has been working on abortive attempts at a live action Star Wars TV show that would be set between Sith and A New Hope, and would focus on the more peripheral characters of the franchise like Boba Fett, and the underworld of the Star Wars universe, particularly Coruscant, which was intended to be “complex, dark and adult”, but otherwise to fit the tone of the movies.

Posted in Art

Tribute to Auguste Rodin

French sculptor-Auguste-René Rodin was born 12th November 1840. Although Rodin is generally considered the progenitor of modern sculpture, he did not set out to rebel against the past. He was schooled traditionally, took a craftsman-like approach to his work, and desired academic recognition, but was never accepted into Paris’s foremost school of art.

From the unexpected realism of his first major figure ( inspired by his 1875 trip to Italy) to his unconventional memorials,  Rodin possessed a unique ability to model a complex, turbulent, deeply pocketed surface in clay. However, at first many of his most notable sculptures and  original works were roundly criticized during his lifetime, because they  modeled the human body with realism, and celebrated individual character and physicality, rather than using  the traditional themes of mythology and allegory, where figure sculptures were decorative, formulaic, or highly thematic.

Rodin was sensitive to the controversy surrounding his work, but refused to change his style. Gradually though, successive works began to be appreciated by the government and the artistic community and his reputation grew until he became the pre-eminent French sculptor of his time. By 1900, he was a world-renowned artist. Wealthy private clients sought Rodin’s work after his World’s Fair exhibit, and he kept company with a variety of high-profile intellectuals and artists. He married his lifelong companion, Rose Beuret, in the last year of both their lives.

Rodin sadly passed away on 17th  November 1917. His sculptures suffered a decline in popularity after his death in 1917, but within a few decades, his legacy solidified and he remains one of the few sculptors widely known outside the visual arts community.

Posted in books

Tribute to Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky was born 11 November 1821 in the Mariinsky hospital in Moscow, Russia. He was introduced to literature at an early age – fairy tales and legends, as well as books by English, French, German and Russian authors. His mother’s sudden death in 1837 devastated him. At around the same time, he left school to enter the Nikolayev Military Engineering Institute. Once he graduated, he worked as an engineer and briefly enjoyed a liberal lifestyle.

He soon began to translate books to earn extra money. Around the mid-1840s he wrote his first novel, Poor Folk, allowing him to join St Petersburg’s literary circles. He also wrote short stories and essays which explore human psychology in the troubled political, social and spiritual context of 19th-century Russia. Although Dostoyevsky began writing books in the mid-1840s, his most remembered are from his last years, including Crime and Punishment, The Idiot and The Brothers Karamazov. He wrote eleven novels, three novellas, seventeen short novels and three essays, and has been acknowledged by many literary critics as one of the greatest and most prominent psychologists in universal literature.

In 1849 he was arrested for his involvement with the Petrashevsky Circle, a secret, however society of liberal utopians as well as a literary discussion group. He and other members were condemned to death, but the penalty proved to be a mock execution and the sentence was commuted to four years’ hard labour in Siberia. After his release, Dostoyevsky was forced to serve as a soldier, but was discharged from the military due to his ill health.

In the following years Dostoyevsky worked as a journalist, publishing and editing several magazines of his own and later a serial, A Writer’s Diary. When he began to travel around western Europe, his finances suffered because of his gambling addiction and he had to face the humiliation of begging for money. He suffered from epilepsy throughout his adult life. But through sheer energy and the volume of his work, he eventually became one of the most widely read and renowned Russian writers.

Sadly though Dostoyevsky passed away on 9th February 1881, however His books remain popular and have been translated into more than 170 languages and sold around 15 million copies. He has also influenced a vast range of writers, from Anton Chekhov and James Joyce to Ernest Hemingway, Jean-Paul Sartre and Ayn Rand, to name but a few.