It’s not all Doom & Gloom

The Rolling Stones will be joined by two figures from the past when the play the O2 Arena later this month. The Stones have confirmed that original bass player Bill Wyman and guitarist Mick Taylor, who played with the band from 1969 to 1974, will perform with them as special guests on Sunday 25 and Thursday 29 November. The four remaining Stones – Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood – have been drawing the pair back into the fold in recent years. Both were interviewed in the recent official 50th anniversary documentary Crossfire Hurricane, in which Taylor revealed that one of the reasons he had left the band had been his heroin addiction.

Taylor also recorded new guitar parts for bonus tracks on the 2010 reissue of the band’s 1972 album Exile on Main Street. He is regarded by many Stones aficionados as the best musician ever to play with the band, and appeared on some of their classic albums including Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers and Goat’s Head Soup. He has linked up with individual members of the group at live shows in recent years – playing with Ronnie Wood at a benefit gig to save the 100 Club in London in December 2010, and with Wood, Wyman and Watts at a launch event for an album in honour of the Stones’ pianist and co-founder Ian Stewart in March 2011.

Wyman left the band in December 1992, since when he has concentrated on his career with Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings. He also has experience of one-off events with dissolute rock legends from the 70s, having filled in for Ronnie Lane at Faces reunion shows in 1986, 1993 and 2009.As well as looking to the past, the Stones have also been embracing the future, unveiling an iPhone app that will allow fans to watch interviews and videos, win concert tickets and buy merchandise and music. On Wednesday they also released a new video for the song Doom and Gloom, which appears on their greatest hits album GRRR!. The clip stars Noomi Rapace, zombies and an enormous number of banknotes. It was directed by Jonas Åkerlund, who has previously directed videos for Madonna, Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Primal Scream, the Prodigy and U2 among many others.

Star Wars VIII & IX

Lawrence Kasdan and Simon Kinberg are tipped to write, Star Wars: Episodes VIII and IX, the second and third films of Disney trio, with Michael Arndt confirmed for first film. The new Star Wars trilogy may await the appointment of director and cast, but the writers who are set to return us to the world of Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi are now reportedly in place.

Following on last week’s official announcement that Toy Story 3’s Michael Arndt is to oversee the screenplay for 2015’s Star Wars: Episode VII, the Hollywood Reporter says Lawrence Kasdan and Simon Kinberg have been appointed to write the two subsequent movies in Disney’s planned triptych. It is not yet known which screenwriter will take on which film, and the studio has not yet confirmed the reports.

Kasdan’s appointment should prove a relief for fans of the original Star Wars trilogy, as he co-wrote the screenplay for 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back, widely seen as the best film in the long-running space opera, as well as 1983’s Return of the Jedi (not to mention debut Indiana Jones instalment Raiders of the Lost Ark).

Meanwhile Joe Johnston, director of Captain America, hopes to make a feature film featuring bounty hunter Boba Fett. The man behind the rumoured project also directed the Captain America film and was designer and visual effects art director on the first three Star Wars films.Johnston was also reportedly responsible for designing Fetts armoured outfit, so (perhaps reasonably) feels some sense of ownership over the character’s success. He told screenrant.com he was “trying to get George to make a feature film based on Boba Fett” and would like to direct.

Any spin-off featuring the bounty hunter would presumably indicate a darker turn for the franchise: a move away from epic storytelling towards something more linear and amoral. Fett, who was played by Jeremy Bulloch in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, is generally a fairly unsympathetic character, though he has been portrayed more positively in some Star Wars spin-off novels and comics.

Monocle magazine’s Global ‘soft power’ list

Britain has topped ranking of world nations in Monocle magazine’s Global ‘soft power’ list for the first time. The list shows how our cultural achievements are influencing the world & takes into account everything from diplomatic strength to Olympic gold medals. A successful hosting of the Olympics and Paralympics, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and continuing success in the arts.

  1. Great Britain: The Olympic opening ceremony reminded the world of Britain’s influence around the globe and achievements such as the National Health Service and the internet. It ‘united the nation’, ‘restored pride in the Union Jack’ and was ‘a brilliant advert’, the magazine said. There have also been continuing sporting and cultural successes this year, whether it be Andy Murray winning the US Open or the new James Bond film
  2. United States of America: Continues to lead the world in investment in world food and health initiatives, plus tackling climate change. But overseas occupations and unmanned drone strikes, plus an insular outlook during the recent election, lost the US its top spot.
  3. Germany: Enormous business strength and economic leadership in Europe, academic prowess through institutions such as the Goethe Institute and the popularity of the Bundesliga, the football top flight, make Germany the ‘undisputed leader’ of the EU. However, with this comes a reliance from other, ailing countries to prop up the Eurozone.
  4. France: Remains the world leader in arts galleries, museums and cuisine but plagued by economic uncertainty and a new President struggling to make an impression on the world stage.
  5. Sweden: Viewed in a positive light around the world as a friendly and functional country, plus reaping the benefits of a growing base of entrepreneurs. Still struggles to get past stereotypes like ABBA and IKEA, however, in international perceptions.
  6. Japan: Is becoming less insular and gradually opening up to the world in fashion, retail and food markets. Japanese pop music is also a big export and its craftsmen are more in demand than ever.
  7. Denmark: Massive popularity of television series such as Bergen has added to existing strengths in music, art, architecture and design.
  8. Switzerland: Continues to be reliable and capable of doing the dull stuff well. The world leader in investments and banking, and a producer of professional people.
  9. Australia: Increasingly influential in Pacific affairs but need to hone its diplomatic skills to appear friendlier to the outside world. Also needs to tone down attitudes to migrants.
  10. Canada: A resilient economy that has weathered the worst of the global crisis. Also flexing its military muscles more.
  11. South Korea: Now known for more than just good technology, the emergence of K-Pop, as exemplified by Psy’s Gangnam Style, is a ready-made export.
  12. Norway: Won worldwide respect for its dignified reaction to the murders of Anders Behring Breivik and also for its responsible re-investment of oil wealth.
  13. Finland: With Helsinki named as the world design capital, Finnish architects have been shouting from the rooftops. Great reputation as a nation of problem solvers and an increasingly important air hub for Europe
  14. Italy: Home to the best fashion designers in the world and excellent cuisine, but handicapped by continuing economic jitters.
  15. Holland: Dutch embassies are finally starting to project the country as a place of attractive contemporary culture.
  16. Spain Spain’s sunshine, cinema and food remain popular with people the world over, but the Eurozone crisis has struck hard.
  17. Brazil Greatest strength is its ‘welcoming’ and ‘fun-loving’ people who are driving an economic surge. Still troubles with corruption, however.
  18. Austria: Record breaking jumper Felix Baumgartner has helped shed Austria’s old-fashioned image this year.
  19. Belgium Does politics and diplomacy well – but may not exist in ten years given the momentum of Flemish independence movements.
  20. Turkey Businesses have been attracted by Istanbul, while its airlines continue to expand. In a difficult geographical position with the ongoing conflict in Syria though.

Shortlist for the Costa Book Awards 2012

Costa Book Awards 2012 Shortlists:

Novel

  • Hilary Mantel for Bring Up The Bodies
  • Stephen May for Life! Death! Prizes!
  • James Meek for The Heart Broke In
  • Joff Winterhart for Days Of The Bagnold Summer

First Novel

  • JW Ironmonger for The Notable Brain of Maximilian Ponder
  • Jess Richards for Snake Ropes
  • Francesca Segal for The Innocents
  • Benjamin Wood for The Bellwether Revivals

Biography

  • Artemis Cooper for Patrick Leigh-Fermor: An Adventure
  • Selina Guinness for The Crocodile By The Door: The Story Of A House, A Farm And A Family
  • Kate Hubbard for Serving Victoria: Life In The Royal Household
  • Mary Talbot and Bryan Talbot for Dotter Of Her Father’s Eyes

Poetry

  • Sean Borodale for Bee Journal
  • Julia Copus for The World’s Two Smallest Humans
  • Selima Hill for People Who Like Meatballs
  • Kathleen Jamie for The Overhaul

Children’s

  • Sally Gardner for Maggot Moon
  • Diana Hendry for The Seeing
  • Hayley Long for What’s Up With Jody Barton?
  • Dave Shelton for A Boy And A Bear In A Boat

The Life of Pi

I would like to see The Oscar-winning director of Brokeback Mountain Ang Lee’s latest film Life of Pi. This magnificent and moving film concerns an Indian boy named Pi, who is trapped for 227 days at sea in a lifeboat with a starving Bengal tiger. Based on Yann Martel’s bestselling 2001 book The Life of Pi is scripted by David Magee (Finding Neverland) and Claudio Miranda is the cinematographer

The film features the adult Pi (Irrfan Khan) telling his harrowing story to a Canadian writer (Rafe Spall). Khan (Slumdog Millionaire, The Namesake) about when his zookeeper parents (Adil Hussain and Tabu) decide to leave the serenity of their lives in Pondicherry, India, when he was younger,and board a ship to Canada to start a new life. Unfortunately the ship goes down drowning everyone but Pi (Suraj Sharma), a zebra, an orangutan, a shrieking hyena and the tiger named Richard Parker after the hunter who captured him, and Pi, who claims to be Hindu, Christian and Muslim, finds his faith severely tested as he is forced to Share one lifeboat with the animals, this reminds Pi of a lesson he learned on land about the mistake of treating a wild animal as human.

The code of survival of the fittest leaves Richard Parker alone on the lifeboat, forcing Pi to shift for himself on a raft he ties alongside. Needless to say Pi’s journey is perilous, and Sharma uses his expressive eyes to suggest a haunting and brutal alternative to what we are seeing, and to hint at the full extent of the torment of what he is going through.

Happy Birthday Alex James (Blur)

Alex James, the bassist with seminal Bitpop band Blur was Born November 21st 1968. Formed in London in 1988 as Seymour, the group consists of singer/keyboardist Damon Albarn, guitarist/singer Graham Coxon, bassist Alex James and drummer Dave Rowntree. Blur’s debut album Leisure (1991) incorporated the sounds of Madchester and shoegazing. Following a stylistic change influenced by English guitar pop groups such as The Kinks, The Beatles and XTC, Blur released Modern Life Is Rubbish (1993), Parklife (1994) and The Great Escape (1995). As a result, the band helped to popularise the Britpop genre and achieved mass popularity in the UK, aided by a chart battle with rival band Oasis in 1995 dubbed “The Battle of Britpop”.

In recording their follow-up, Blur (1997), the band underwent another reinvention, showing influence from the lo-fi style of American indie rock groups. “Song 2”, one of the album’s singles, brought Blur mainstream success in the United States. Their next album, 13 (1999) saw the band members experimenting with electronic and gospel music, and featured more personal lyrics from Albarn. In May 2002, Coxon left Blur during the recording of their seventh album Think Tank (2003). Containing electronic sounds and more minimal guitar work, the album was marked by Albarn’s growing interest in hip hop and African music. After a 2003 tour without Coxon, Blur did no studio work or touring as a band, as members engaged in other projects. In 2008 Blur reunited, with Coxon back in the fold, for a series of concerts and have continued to release several singles and retrospective releases. In 2012, Blur received a Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music.