Oblivion

I have recently watched the film Oblivion again on DVD. Starring Tom Cruise and Olga Kurylenko the film features a supposedly uninhabitable Earth which has been laid waste after having been Invaded by aliens sixty years previously. Now the few remaining inhabitants of Earth live in a tower thousands of feet above Earths surface. One such individual is Jack Harper Tech 49 (Tom Cruise) who works to extract the planets remaining resources and lives with a Communications Officer Victoria (Andrea Risborough) . Assisting Jack and Victoria are weaponised drones who clobber aliens and Jack and Victoria’s superior Commander Sally( Melissa Leo).

While going about his business Jack discovers and rescues a hibernating astronaut named Julia from a crashed spaceship (OLga Kurylenko). After nearly both being killed by drones they are captured on the Earth’s supposedly uninhabitable surface and  meet a chap named Malcolm Beech (MOrgan Freeman) who is involved in aplot to destroy Commander Sally and the space station. Beech asks for Jack’s help but jack refuses and Jack and Julia are left wondering the uninhabitable wasteland where they are attacked by drones and Julia makes a startling revalation regarding herself and the crash. After a narrow escape they return to Beech who makes another startling revalation concerning Commander Sally and her weaponised drones and Jack finds himself questioning who his superiors are and what they are actually doing on Earth and finds himself embarking on a dangerous mission to rescue the Earth and it’s remaining inhabitants

Five star Billionaire by Tash Aw

Readers of the Telegraph newspaper can obtain- the novel Five Star Billionaire by Tash Aw, for £2.99 from WHSmith.  recently released in paperback and Longlisted for the Man Booker prize, Five Star Billionaire charts the overlapping lives of migrant Malaysian workers, forging lives for themselves in sprawling Shanghai.

Justin is from a family of successful property developers. Phoebe has come to China buoyed with hope, but her dreams are shattered within hours as the job she has come for seems to be non existent. Gary is a successful pop artist, but his fans and marketing machine disappear after a bar-room brawl. Yinghui has businesses that are going well but must make decisions about her life. And then there is Walter, the shadowy billionaire, ruthless and manipulative, ultimately alone in the world.

In ‘Five Star Billionaire’, Tash Aw charts the weave of their journeys in the new China, counterpointing their adventures with the old life they have left behind in Malaysia. The result is a brilliant examination of the migrations that are shaping this dazzling new city, and their effect on these individual lives.

Tribute to Dame Agatha Christie DBE

British crime novelist Dame Agatha Christie, DBE sadly passed away on 12th January 1976. Born 15th September 1890  to a wealthy upper middle-class family in Torquay, Devon, Christie served in a hospital during the First World War before settling into married life with her first child in London. Although initially unsuccessful at getting her work published, in 1920, The Bodley Head press published her novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles, featuring the character of Poirot. This launched her literary career.

She also wrote short stories, and plays and romances under the name Mary Westmacott, but she is best remembered for her 66 detective novels and more than 15 short story collections, most of which revolve around the investigations of such characters as Hercule Poirot, Miss Jane Marple and Tommy and Tuppence. Among her best known novels are: And then there were none, Final Cases, Poirot and the Regatta, Mystery, The Thirteen Problems, Crooked House, The Murder at the Vicarage/Body in the Library/The Moving Finger, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Five Little pigs, Murder on the Orient Express, Towards Zero, Death on the Nile, A Murder is Announced, Problem at Pollensa Bay, Sleeping Murder, 4.50 From Paddington, Pocket Full of Rye, Endless Night, The Clocks, The ABC Murders.Ordeal By Innocence, Appointment with Death, Cat Among the Pigeons, Endless Night, Evil Under the Sun, Why Didn’t they ask Evans, Towards Zero and Passenger to Frankfurt.

In 1971, she was made a Dame by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace and  In 1955, Christie was the first recipient of the Mystery Writers of America’s highest honour, the Grand Master Award, and in the same year Witness for the Prosecution was given an Edgar Award by the MWA for Best Play.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Christie is the best-selling novelist of all time. Her novels have sold roughly four billion copies, and her estate claims that her works rank third, after those of William Shakespeare and the Bible, as the world’s most widely published books.   And Then There Were None is Christie’s best-selling novel with 100 million sales to date, making it the world’s best-selling mystery ever, and one of the best-selling books of all time, she is also the most translated individual author, and her books have been translated into at least 103 languages. Due to their enduring popularity Many of Christie’s books and short stories have also been filmed, and many have been adapted for television, radio, video games and comics and  Christie’s stage play The Mousetrap also holds the record for the longest initial run: having opened at the Ambassadors Theatre in London on 25 November 1952 and is (as of 2012) still running after more than 24,600 performances.

Tribute to Maurice Gibb (Bee Gees)

BGsBest remembered for being one third of the phenomenally successful Bee Gees, Maurice Gibb sadly passed away on 12th January 2003. Born 1949  He and his two brothers, Barry and Robin,  made their earliest performances at local movie theatres in Manchester in 1955, singing between shows. The Gibb brothers seemed to have a natural talent that allowed them to write hit songs with ease. In the 1950′s they emigrated to Australia with their parents.

In the mid-1960′s  the Gibb brothers returned to England to further their singing careers. Their early recordings, including dramatic hits such as Massachusetts (1967), drew comparisons with the Beatles. The trio reached the Top Ten with I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You and I Started a Joke (both 1968) but split briefly after the relative failure of their concept album Odessa (1969), but reunited in 1970 and had hits with Lonely Days (1970) and How Can You Mend a Broken Heart (1971). They returned to the charts with Main Course in 1975 – in which they produced a new sound – the emphasis being on dance rhythms, high harmonies, and a funk beat,  and their trademark falsetto harmonies propelled the Bee Gees right to the forefront of the disco movement and turned it into a global phenomenon,   with hits including Stayin’ Alive  Jive Talkin’,  You Should Be Dancing and Night Fever, which featured on the soundtrack of the 1977 film Saturday Night Fever, starring John Travolta

Their success was not limited to recordings issued under their own name either. Individually and together they’ve also written and produced major hits for artists including Barbra Streisand, Diana Ross, Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers, as well as Frankie Valli. During a lengthy career, they have  sold more than 200 million records and become the first and only songwriters to place five songs in the Top Ten at the same time.  In 1997 the band was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and are  among the most successful vocal groups in rock and roll history, Sadly though both Maurice and Robin Gibb have passed away, but they have left the world some fantastic music.

Zack de la Rocha (Rage Against the Machine)

Best known as the vocalist and lyricist of Rage Against the Machine, the American musician, poet, rapper and activist Zacarías Manuel “Zack” de la Rocha was born born January 12, 1970. While attending junior high school, de la Rocha became involved in the punk scene and played guitar for a band called Juvenile Expression with Tim Commerford. His interest in bands like The Clash, Sex Pistols, and Bad Religion turned into an appreciation for other bands like Minor Threat, Bad Brains, and The Teen Idles. Soon after entering high school, Zack joined the straight edge band Hardstance. De la Rocha and Hardstance bassist Mark Hayworth eventually formed the hardcore band Inside Out, which gained a large national underground following. They released a single record, No Spiritual Surrender, on Revelation Records in 1990 before breaking up. In de la Rocha’s words, Inside Out was “about completely detaching ourselves from society to see ourselves as spirits, and not bowing down to a system that sees you as just another pebble on a beach. I channeled all my anger out through that band.” After Inside Out broke up, he embraced hip hop and began freestyling at local clubs, where he met Tom Morello and Brad Wilk. Eventually, de la Rocha’s Juvenile Expression bandmate Commerford joined them and Rage Against the Machine was formed.

After playing Lollapallooza Rage Against the Machine became one of the most politically charged bands ever to receive extensive airplay from radio and MTV. De la Rocha became one of the most visible champions of left-wing political causes around the world while advocating in favour of Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal, and supporting the Zapatista movement in Mexico. He spoke on the floor of the UN, testifying against the United States and its treatment of Abu-Jamal. Rage’s second and third albums peaked at number one in the United States, but did not result in the political action de la Rocha had hoped for. He became increasingly restless and undertook collaborations with artists such as KRS-One, Chuck D, and Public Enemy.

In October 2000, de la Rocha left Rage Against the Machine, due to “creative differences.” Upon leaving the band, de la Rocha issued a statement saying: “it was necessary to leave Rage because our decision-making process has completely failed”,[6] in reference to the disagreement over the release of Renegades. The other members of the band sought out separate management and secured the immediate release of Renegades. After searching for a replacement for de la Rocha, the other members of Rage joined Chris Cornell of Soundgarden to form Audioslave.

After RATM’s breakup, de la Rocha worked on a solo album he had been recording since before the band’s dissolution, working with DJ Shadow, El-P, Muggs, Dan The Automator, Roni Size, DJ Premier, and The Roots’ Questlove with production partner James Poyser. The album never came to fruition, and de la Rocha started a new collaboration with Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, in which around 20 tracks were produced. Reznor thought the work was “excellent”. In 2000, de la Rocha appeared on the song “Centre of the Storm”, from the Roni Size/Reprazent album In The Mode, while in 2002, he appeared in a minor role in the first part of the Blackalicious song “Release” on the album Blazing Arrow. A new collaboration between de la Rocha and DJ Shadow, the song “March of Death” was released for free online in 2003 in protest against the imminent invasion of Iraq. The 2004 soundtrack Songs and Artists that Inspired Fahrenheit 9/11 included one of the collaborations with Reznor, “We Want It All”. This album also contained “No One Left”, the debut recording by former Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello as The Nightwatchman. On October 7, 2005, de la Rocha returned to the stage with new material, performing with Son Jarocho band Son de Madera. He later spoke as MC and again performed with Son de Madera at the November 22 Concert at the Farm, a benefit concert for the South Central Farmers. In 2007 Rage Against the Machine reunited & headlined the final day of Coachella 2007. Morello and de la Rocha reunited on-stage early to perform a brief acoustic set at House of Blues in Chicago at the rally for fair food with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW). Rage Against the Machine, as a full band, headlined the final day of the 2007 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival on April 29. The band played in front of an EZLN backdrop to the largest crowds of the festival. The performance was initially thought to be a one-off, this turned out not to be the case. The band played 7 more shows in the United States in 2007, and in January 2008, they played their first shows outside the US as part of the Big Day Out Festival in Australia and New Zealand. The band has since continued to tour around the world, headlining many large festivals in Europe and the United States, including Lollapalooza in Chicago.