Django Unchained

django-unchainedDirected by Quentin Tarantino – Django Unchained is out on DVD on Monday 20th May 2013 and being a big fan of Spagetti Westerns as well as films like Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill I would like to watch this exciting revenge western.  It takes place in the old south during 1858 and is based on Sergio Corbucci’s spaghetti-western Django from 1966, which starred Franco Nero, who returns in a brief cameo here. The film is also inspired by Richard Fleischer’s film Mandingo. It is superbly acted by Christoph Waltz, Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington, Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L Jackson,

Jamie Foxx plays Django, a slave who is being led across Texas in a chain gang, when his master meets Dr King Schultz, a German played with dapper and dainty eccentricity by Christopher Waltz. Claiming to be a travelling dentist, Schultz is driving a bizarre wagon with a huge model of a molar on the top. He buys Django and promises him his freedom in return for a favour: he needs Django to help him track three white slave-overseers with whom he has business. Django proves himself an able assistant and a brilliant gunfighter and Schultz is electrified to learn that Django is married to a woman (Kerry Washington) whose German owners taught her the German language and named her Brünnhilde, which her subsequent ignorant purchasers mishear as “Broomhilda”. She was spitefully sold off separately because she, like Django, was always defiantly running away. Now she has been branded on the face as a punishment and forced to work as a “comfort” girl.

Moved by her association with the Fatherland, Schultz vows to help Django find Broomhilda and wreak terrible vengeance on the people who mistreated her, a quest during which Schultz creates outrage in a small town, by riding in and permitting his black associate to ride a horse alongside him, a privilege which outrages the local racists and leads to a thrilling standoff. The quest also brings them into contact with a staggeringly incompetent KKK posse and then into the heart of darkness, the Candieland plantation, ruled by Candie and The film reaches an exciting climax on Candie’s plantation.

Sir John Betjeman

I am a great admirer of English poet, writer and broadcaster Sir John Betjeman, CBE., who sadly passed away  on 19 May 1984, aged 77  so I thought I woould pay tribute.  Born 28 August 1906, He was a founding member of the Victorian Society and a passionate defender of Victorian architecture. He Started his career as a journalist, and ended it as one of the most popular British Poets Laureates and a much-loved figure on British television. Betjeman’s early schooling was at the local Byron House and Highgate School, where he was taught by the poet T. S. Eliot. After this, he boarded at the Dragon School preparatory school in North Oxford and Marlborough College, a public school in Wiltshire. In his penultimate year, he joined the secret ‘Society of Amici’ in which he was a contemporary of both Louis MacNeice and Graham Shepard. While at school, his exposure to the works of Arthur Machen won him over to High Church Anglicanism, a conversion of importance to his later writing and conception of the arts.

Betjeman studied at the newly created School of English Language and Literature at Magdalen College ,  Oxford University ,where he dedicated most of his time to cultivating his social life, his interest in English ecclesiastical architecture, and to private literary pursuits.He also had a poem published in Isis, the university magazine and was editor of the Cherwell student newspaper during 1927. His first book of poems was privately printed with the help of fellow-student Edward James. Betjeman left Oxford without a degree but he had made the acquaintance of people who would influence his work. After university, Betjeman worked briefly as a private secretary, school teacher and film critic for the Evening Standard. He was employed by the Architectural Review between 1930 and 1935, as a full time assistant editor, following their publishing of some of his freelance work. At this time, while his prose style matured, he joined the MARS Group, an organisation of young modernist architects and architectural critics in Britain.The Shell Guides, were developed by Betjeman and Jack Beddington, a friend who was publicity manager with Shell-Mex Ltd. The series aimed to guide Britain’s growing number of motorists around the counties of Britain and their historical sites. They were published by the Architectural Press and financed by Shell. By the start of World War II 13 had been published, of which Cornwall (1934) and Devon (1936) had been written by Betjeman. A third, Shropshire, was written with and designed by his good friend John Piper in 1951.

Upon the outbreak of World War II In 1939, Betjeman was rejected for active service but found work with the films division of the Ministry of Information. During his time he wrote a number of poems based on his experiences in “Emergency” World War II Ireland including “The Irish Unionist’s Farewell to Greta Hellstrom in 1922″ (actually written during the war) which contained the refrain “Dungarvan in the rain”.  After the war Betjaman published more work and By 1948 he had published more than a dozen books. Five of these were verse collections and The popularity of the book prompted Ken Russell to make a film about him, John Betjeman: A Poet in London which was first shown in England on BBC’s Monitor programme. He continued writing guidebooks and works on architecture during the 1960s and 1970s and started broadcasting. He was also a founder member of The Victorian Society (1958). In 1973 he made a widely acclaimed television documentary for the BBC called Metro-land, directed by Edward Mirzoeff. Betjeman was also fond of the ghost stories of M.R. James and supplied an introduction to Peter Haining’s book M.R. James – Book of the Supernatural.Betjeman also wrote a great many poems which are often humorous and in broadcasting he exploited his bumbling and fogeyish image. His wryly comic verse is accessible and has attracted a great following for its satirical and observant grace. Betjeman s religious beliefs come through in some of his poems .Betjeman became Poet Laureate in 1972, the first Knight Bachelor ever to be appointed (the only other, Sir William Davenant, had been knighted after his appointment). This role, combined with his popularity as a television performer, ensured that his poetry eventually reached an  enormous audience.

Betjeman also had a fondness for Victorian architecture and was a founding member of Victorian Society and also wrote on this subject in First and Last Loves (1952) and more extensively in London’s Historic Railway Stations in 1972, defending the beauty of the twelve of London’s railway stations. He led the campaign to save Holy Trinity, Sloane Street in London when it was threatened with demolition in the early 1970s. He fought a spirited but ultimately unsuccessful campaign to save the Propylaeum, known commonly as the Euston Arch, London. He is considered instrumental in helping to save the famous façade of St Pancras railway station, London and was commemorated when it re-opened as an international and domestic terminus in November 2007. He called the plan to demolish St Pancras a “criminal folly”. ” On the re-opening St Pancras in 2007, a statue of Betjeman was commissioned from curators Futurecity. A proposal by artist Martin Jennings was selected from a shortlist. The finished work was erected in the station at platform level, including a series of slate roundels depicting selections of Betjeman’s writings.Betjeman responded to architecture as the visible manifestation of society’s spiritual life as well as its political and economic structure. He attacked speculators and bureaucrats for what he saw as their rapacity and lack of imagination. He is buried in the churchyard at St Enodoc’s Church.

During his life  he recieved many honours including the Queen’s Medal for Poetry, CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire), Companion of Literature, the Royal Society of Literature, a Knight Bachelor he was also made an Honorary Member, the American Academy of Arts in 1973 and was made poet Laureate in 1972. To commemorate  Betjeman A memorial window, designed by John Piper, is set in All Saints’ Church, Farnborough, Berkshire, where Betjeman lived in the adjoining Rectory and there is also The Betjeman Millennium Park at Wantage in Oxfordshire as well as a statue of John Betjeman at St Pancras station by sculptor Martin Jennings which was unveiled in 2007. In addition The John Betjeman Young People’s Poetry Competition was inaugurated in 2006 to celebrate Betjeman’s centenary. The competition is open to 11–14 year olds living anywhere in the British Isles and the Republic of Ireland. The spirit behind the competition is to encourage young people to understand and appreciate the importance of place.

Hey ho! Let’s go! – Tribute to Joey Ramone

The late great American vocalist and songwriter Joey Ramone from The Ramones was born on this date 19th May in 1951. The Ramones were an American rock band that formed in the New York City neighborhood of Forest Hills, Queens, in 1974, and are often cited as the first punk rock group. Despite achieving only limited commercial success, the band was a major influence on the punk rock movement both in the United States and the United Kingdom.   All of the band members adopted pseudonyms ending with the surname “Ramone”, though none of them were related. They performed 2,263 concerts, touring virtually nonstop for 22 years.

In 1996, after a tour with the Lollapalooza music festival, the band played a farewell concert and disbanded. Little more than eight years after the breakup, the band’s three founding members—lead singer Joey Ramone, guitarist Johnny Ramone, and bassist Dee Dee Ramone—had died.Their only record with enough U.S. sales to be certified gold was the compilation album Ramones Mania. However, recognition of the band’s importance built over the years, and they are now cited in many assessments of all-time great rock music, such as the Rolling Stone list of the 50 Greatest Artists of All Time and VH1′s 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock. In 2002, the Ramones were ranked the second-greatest band of all time by Spin magazine, trailing only The Beatles. On March 18, 2002, the Ramones—including the three founders and drummers Tommy and Marky Ramone—were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2011, the group was awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Tribute to Malcolm X

African-American Muslim minister and human Civil rights activist Malcolm X was Born on this date 19th May in 1925. To his admirers, he was a courageous advocate for the rights of African Americans, a man who indicted white America in the harshest terms for its crimes against black Americans. Detractors accused him of preaching racism, black supremacy, antisemitism, and violence.   Malcolm X’s father died—killed by white supremacists, it was rumored—when he was young, and at least one of his uncles was lynched.

When he was thirteen, his mother was placed in a mental hospital, and he was placed in a series of foster homes. In 1946, at age 20, he went to prison for breaking and entering.   In prison, Malcolm X became a member of the Nation of Islam and after his parole in 1952 he quickly rose to become one of its leaders.For a dozen years Malcolm X was the public face of the controversial group, but disillusionment with Nation of Islam head Elijah Muhammad led him to leave the Nation in March 1964. After a period of travel in Africa and the Middle East, he returned to the United States, where he founded Muslim Mosque, Inc. and the Organization of Afro-American Unity. In February 1965, less than a year after leaving the Nation of Islam, he was assassinated by three members of the group.   Malcolm X’s expressed beliefs changed substantially over time. As a spokesman for the Nation of Islam he taught black supremacy and advocated separation of black and white Americans—in contrast to the civil rights movement’s emphasis on integration. After breaking with the Nation of Islam in 1964—saying of his association with it, “I was a zombie then … pointed in a certain direction and told to march”—and becoming a Sunni Muslim, he disavowed racism and expressed willingness to work with civil rights leaders, though still emphasizing black self-determination and self defense.

Sadly On February 21, 1965, Malcolm X was assassinated, as he prepared to address the Organization of Afro-American Unity in Manhattan’s Audubon Ballroom, after a disturbance broke out in the 400-person audience. As Malcolm X and his bodyguards moved to quiet the disturbance, a man seated in the front row rushed forward and shot him once in the chest with a double-barreled sawed-off shotgun. Two other men charged the stage and fired semi-automatic handguns, hitting Malcolm X several times.The funeral was held on February 27 at the Faith Temple Church of God in Christ in Harlem and Malcolm X was buried at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York.Malcolm X has been described as one of the greatest and most influential African Americans in history and is credited with raising the self-esteem of black Americans and reconnecting them with their African heritage. He is largely responsible for the spread of Islam in the black community in the United States. Many African Americans, especially those who lived in cities in the Northern and Western United States, felt that Malcolm X articulated their complaints concerning inequality better than the mainstream civil rights movement did.

Tribute to Colin Chapman

Influential English design engineer, inventor, and builder in the automotive industry, and founder of Lotus Cars Anthony Colin Bruce Chapman CBE, was born 19 May 1928. Chapman studied structural engineering at University College London, joined the University Air Squadron and learned to fly. Chapman left UCL without a degree in 1948, resitting his final Mathematics paper in 1949 and obtaining his degree a year late. He briefly joined the Royal Air Force in 1948, being offered a permanent commission but turning this down in favour of a swift return to civilian life. After a couple of false starts Chapman joined the British Aluminium company, using his civil engineering skills to attempt to sell aluminium as a viable structural material for buildings.

In 1948 Chapman started building the Mk1, a modified Austin 7, which he entered privately into local racing events. He named the car “Lotus”. With prize money he developed the Lotus Mk2. With continuing success on through the Lotus 6, he began to sell kits of these cars. Over 100 were sold through 1956. It was with the Lotus 7 in 1957 that things really took off. In the 1950s, Chapman progressed through the motor racing formulae, designing and building a series of racing cars, sometimes to the point of maintaining limited production as they were so successful and highly sought after, until he arrived in Formula One. Besides his engineering work, he also piloted a Vanwall F1-car in 1956 but crashed into his teammate Mike Hawthorn during practice for the French Grand Prix at Reims, ending his career as a race driver and focusing him on the technical side. Along with John Cooper, he revolutionised the premier motor sport. Their small, lightweight mid-engined vehicles gave away much in terms of power, but superior handling meant their competing cars often beat the all-conquering front engined Ferraris and Maseratis. Eventually, with legendary driver Jim Clark at the wheel of his race cars, Team Lotus appeared as though they could win whenever they pleased. With Clark driving the legendary Lotus 25, Team Lotus won its first F1 World Championship in 1963. It was Clark, driving a Lotus 38 at the Indianapolis 500 in 1965, who drove the first ever mid-engined car to victory at the fabled “Brickyard.” Clark and Chapman had become particularly close and Clark’s death devastated Chapman, who publicly stated that he had lost his best friend. A

Among a number of legendary automotive figures who have been Lotus employees over the years were Mike Costin and Keith Duckworth, founders of Cosworth. Graham Hill worked at Lotus as a mechanic as a means of earning drivesIn 1952 he founded the sports car company Lotus Cars. Chapman initially ran Lotus in his spare time, assisted by a group of enthusiasts. His knowledge of the latest aeronautical engineering techniques would prove vital towards achieving the major automotive technical advances he is remembered for. He was famous for saying “Adding power makes you faster on the straights. Subtracting weight makes you faster everywhere”, as his design philosophy focused on cars with light weight and fine handling instead of bulking up on horsepower and spring rates. Under his direction, Team Lotus won seven Formula One Constructors’ titles, six Drivers’ Championships, and the Indianapolis 500 in the United States, between 1962 and 1978. The production side of Lotus Cars has built tens of thousands of relatively affordable, cutting edge sports cars. Lotus is one of but a handful of English performance car builders still in business after the industrial decline of the 1970s. Although these days Lotus is owned by the Malaysian Automotive Company “Proton”, Caterham Cars still manufacture the Caterham 7 based on the Lotus 7, and there have been over 90 different Lotus 7 clones, replicas and derivatives offered to the public by a variety of makers.H

Chapman sadly passed away on 16th December 1982, aged 54 after suffering a fatal heart attack, and on The day he died, Team Lotus was testing the first Formula One car with active suspension, which eventually made its début with the Lotus 99T in 1987, however he pioneered many innovations and Many of Chapman’s ideas can still be seen in Formula One and other top-level motor sport (such as IndyCars) today. Such as struts as a rear suspension device. Even today, struts used in the rear of a vehicle are known as Chapman struts, while virtually identical suspension struts for the front are known as MacPherson struts, monocoque chassis construction, the tube-frame chassis, positive aerodynamic downforce, through the addition of wings, moving radiators away from the front of the car to the sides, to decrease frontal area (lowering aerodynamic drag). He also designed a car that generated all of its downforce through ground effect, eliminating the need for wings, active suspension and a dual-chassis Formula One car.

Happy Birthday Dusty Hill

Dusty Hill the splendidly hirsute bass player with ZZ Top was born 19th May 1949. Formed in 1969 in Houston, Texas , the group consists of Billy Gibbons (guitar and vocals), Dusty Hill (bass and vocals), and Frank Beard (drums and percussion). ZZ Top’s early sound was rooted in blues but eventually grew to exhibit contemporary influences. Throughout their career they have maintained a sound based on Hill’s and Beard’s rhythm section support, accentuated by Gibbons’ guitar and vocal style. Their lyrics often gave evidence of band’s humor and thematically focus on personal experiences and sexual innuendos.ZZ Top formed its initial lineup in 1969, consisting of Anthony Barajas (bass and keyboards) and Peter Perez (drums and percussion). After several incarnations, Hill and Beard joined within the following year.

Moulded into a professional act by manager Bill Ham, they were subsequently signed to London Records and released their debut album. They were successful as live performers, becoming known to fans as “that little ol’ band from Texas”, and their 1973 album Tres Hombres, according to Allmusic, propelled the band to national attention and “made them stars”. In 1979, after returning from a one-and-a-half year break of touring, the group reinvented themselves with their 1983 hit album Eliminator and the accompanying tour. ZZ Top incorporated New Wave and punk influences into their sound and performances, and embraced a more iconic image, with Gibbons and Hill sporting chest-length beards and sunglasses. Similar experimentation continued for the remainder of the 1980s and 1990s with varying levels of success. On ZZ Top’s 2003 album Mescalero, they adopted a more contemporary sound while maintaining their influences from their earlier musical pursuits.Maintaining the same members for over forty years, ZZ Top has released 14 studio albums and are among the most popular rock groups, having sold more than 25 million albums in the United States. They have won three VMAs and in 2004, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. VH1 ranked ZZ Top at number 44 in its list of the “100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock”. They have performed at many charity events and raised $1 million for the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, Mississippi.

Happy birthday Pete Townshend

the-whoPete Townshend, guitarist, keyboard player and vocalist with The Who was born this date 19th May in 1945 (Which is a great excuse for me to post some fantastic songs). They were formed in 1964 by Roger Daltrey (lead vocals, harmonica and guitar), Pete Townshend, John Entwistle (bass guitar, brass and vocals) and Keith Moon (drums and percussion). They became known for energetic live performances which often included instrument destruction. The Who have sold about 100 million records, and have charted 27 top forty singles in the United Kingdom and United States, as well as 17 top ten albums, with 18 Gold, 12 Platinum and 5 Multi-Platinum album awards in the United States alone.   The Who rose to fame in the UK with a series of top ten hit singles, boosted in part by pirate radio stations such as Radio Caroline, beginning in January 1965 with “I Can’t Explain”. The albums My Generation, A Quick One  and The Who Sell Out followed, with the first two reaching the UK top five. They first hit the US Top 40 in 1967 with “Happy Jack” and hit the top ten later that year with “I Can See for Miles”.Their fame grew with memorable performances at the Monterey Pop, Woodstock and Isle of Wight music festivals. The 1969 release of Tommy was the first in a series of top ten albums in the US, followed by Live at Leeds, Who’s Next, Quadrophenia, The Who by Numbers, Who Are You, and The Kids Are Alright.

Moon died at the age of 32 in 1978, after which the band released two studio albums, the UK and US top five Face Dances and the US top ten It’s Hard, with drummer tKenney Jones, before disbanding in 1983. They re-formed at events such as Live Aid and for reunion tours such as their 25th anniversary tour and the Quadrophenia tours of 1996 and 1997. In 2000, the three surviving original members discussed recording an album of new material, but their plans temporarily stalled upon Entwistle’s death at the age of 57 in 2002. Townshend and Daltrey continue to perform as The Who, and in 2006 they released the studio album Endless Wire, which reached the top ten in the UK and US.The Who were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990, their first year of eligibility; the display describes them as “Prime contenders, in the minds of many, for the title of World’s Greatest Rock Band.” Time magazine wrote in 1979 that “No other group has ever pushed rock so far, or asked so much from it.” Rolling Stone magazine wrote: “Along with The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, The Who complete the holy trinity of British rock.” They received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the British Phonographic Industry in 1988, and from the Grammy Foundation in 2001, for creative contributions of outstanding artistic significance to the field of recording. In 2008 surviving members Townshend and Daltrey were honoured at the 31st Annual Kennedy Center Honours. That same year VH1 Rock Honours paid tribute to The Who and Jack Black of Tenacious D called them “the greatest band of all time.