Posted in films & DVD

The Grand Budapest Hotel

I would like to go and see The Grand Budapest Hotel, the latest film by Director Wes Anderson (Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, Fantastic Mr. Fox and Moonrise ), which is a comedy/drama which opened to rave reviews at the Berlin Film Festival and has been described as a filigreed toy box of a movie, so delicious-looking you may want to lick the screen. The film is a rollicking caper which mixes theft, a prison break, a murder and pastry recipes and also contains humor, heartbreak and a bruised romantic’s view of the past. the story starts in the present, where a teenage girl approaches a monument to a writer in a cemetery, whilst holding a memoir penned by a character only known as “The Author”. She begins reading a chapter about a trip he made to the Grand Budapest Hotel in the late 1960s. Located in the fictional Republic of Zubrowka, a European alpine state ravaged by war and poverty, he discovers that the remote, mountainside hotel has fallen on hard times. Many of its lustrous facilities are now in a poor state of repair, and its guests are few. The Author encounters the hotel’s old owner, Zero Moustafa, one afternoon, and they agree to meet later that evening. Over dinner in the hotel’s enormous dining room, Zero tells him the tale of how he took ownership of the hotel and why he is unwilling to close it down.

Zero continues his tale from 1932 during the hotel’s opulent glory days between the world wars, with Nazis on the march and an elegant way of life under siege, His tale pivots around the character of Monsieur Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes), the devoted hotel concierge who believes that etiquette helps define civilization. But his morals are no match for his manners as he enjoys sexual congress with guests of both sexes. Gustave finds himself surrounded by glorious liars, lovers keen to enjoy the hotel’s “exceptional services” and decides to take the lobby boy Zero Moustafa,(tony Revolori) under his wing. The vain concierge flirts with Agatha (Saoirse Ronan), Zero’s true love, who carries a facial birthmark shaped like Mexico. Agatha works at Mendl’s bakery, where her famed pastry, Courtesan au chocolat, helps thicken the plot.

One such patron who is keen to enjoy the hotel’s “exceptional services” is An 84 year old dowager named Madame Céline Villeneuve Desgoffe und Taxis, (Tilda Swinton) who shows up at the Grand Budapest Hotel and takes a liking to Gustave. And spends the night with him before departing the next day. However she is found dead in mysterious circumstances soon afterwards and a valuable Renaissance painting named Boy with Apple, belonging to Mrs Desgoffe und Taxis goes missing, and Gustave and Zero are framed for the crime, so they go on the run from the police led by Inspector (Edward Norton) and Dmitri (Adrien Brody), Madame D’s ruthless son, and his henchman J.G.Jopling, a cold blooded killer (Willem Dafoe). Gustave and Zero find themselves going from one scrape to another and narrowly escape prison with the help of a tattooed Harvey Keitel as they try to prove their innocence along the way they arrive at a mountaintop monestry where they meet with Serge X, the only person who can provide an alibi.

Back at the Grand Budapest, the military have commandeered the hotel and are in the process of converting it into a barracks. The outbreak of war is now imminent. A heartbroken Gustave vows to never again pass the threshold. They are joined by Agatha, Zero’s love interest. She agrees to go inside to retrieve the painting but is discovered by Dmitri. Gustave innocence rests on discovering a confessional letter, penned by Serge, hidden in the painting’s frame, which also contains the latest version of Madame D’s will, and reveals the identity of the mysterious owner of the Grand Budapest Hotel and who stands to inherit her fortune, the hotel and the painting. The film also stars Bill Murray, Own Wilson and Jason Schwartzman as a trio of wacky concierges.

Posted in books, films & DVD, Television

Tribute to Jules Verne

jv-j2coeBest known for writing the novels Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870), Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864), and Around the World in Eighty Days (1873),and sometimes referred to as the “Father of Science Fiction”,  French Science Fiction Author Jules Gabriel Verne sadly passed away on 24th March. Born February 8, 1828 in Nantes France, he attended the lycée and after completing his studies he went to Paris to study law. Around 1848, in conjunction with Michel Carré, he began writing libretti for operettas, five of them for his friend the composer Aristide Hignard, who also set Verne’s poems as chansons. For some years, he divided his attentions between the theater and work. However, some travelers’ stories he wrote for the Musée des familles revealed his true talent: describing delightfully extravagant voyages and adventures with cleverly prepared scientific and geographical details that lent an air of credibility.

When Verne’s father discovered that his son was writing rather than studying law, he promptly withdrew his financial support. Verne was forced to support himself as a stockbroker, which he hated despite being somewhat successful at it. During this period, he also met Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas, who offered him writing advice. Verne’s situation improved when he met Pierre-Jules Hetzel, one of the more important French publishers of the 19th century, who also published Victor Hugo, George Sand, and Erckmann-Chatrian, among others. They formed an excellent writer-publisher team until Hetzel’s death. Hetzel helped improve Verne’s writings, which until then had been repeatedly rejected by other publishers. Hetzel read a draft of a Verne story about balloon exploration of Africa; the story had been rejected by other publishers for being “too scientific”. With Hetzel’s help, Verne rewrote the story, which was published in 1863 in book form as Cinq semaines en ballon (Five Weeks in a Balloon). Acting on Hetzel’s advice, Verne added comical accents to his novels, changed sad endings into happy ones, and toned down various political messages and was able to make the science fiction genre successful in Europe

From that point, Verne published two or more volumes a year. The most successful of these are: Voyage au centre de la Terre (Journey to the Center of the Earth, 1864); De la Terre à la Lune (From the Earth to the Moon, 1865); Vingt mille lieues sous les mers (Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, 1869); and Le tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours (Around the World in Eighty Days), which first appeared in Le Temps in 1872. The series is collectively known as the Voyages Extraordinaires (“extraordinary voyages”). Verne could now live on his writings. But most of his wealth came from the stage adaptations of Le tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours (1874) and Michel Strogoff (1876), Many of his novels involve elements of technology that were fantastic for the day but later became commonplace. He is the second most translated author in the world (after Agatha Christie). Many of his novels have also been adapted into many films, animations and television shows. Verne is often referred to as the “Father of Science Fiction”, a title he sometimes shares with Hugo Gernsback and H. G. Wells.

Posted in Health, nature, Science-tech

World Tuberculosis Day

World Tuberculosis Day occurs yearly on March24 to commemorate the day in 1882 when Dr Robert Koch astounded the scientific community by announcing to a small group of scientists at the University of Berlin’s Institute of Hygiene that he had discovered the cause of tuberculosis, the TB bacillus.According to Koch’s colleague, Paul Ehrlich, “At this memorable session, Koch appeared before the public with an announcement which marked a turning-point in the story of a virulent human infectious disease. In clear, simple words Koch explained the aetiology of tuberculosis with convincing force, presenting many of his microscope slides and other pieces of evidence.”At the time of Koch’s announcement in Berlin, TB was raging through Europe and the Americas, causing the death of one out of every seven people. Koch’s discovery opened the way toward diagnosing and curing tuberculosis

World Tuberculosis Day is designed to build public awareness about the global epidemic of tuberculosis and efforts to eliminate the disease. Today tuberculosis causes the deaths of about 1.7 million people each year, mostly in the Third World. in 1982, on the one-hundredth anniversary of Robert Koch’s presentation, the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (IUATLD) proposed that March 24 be proclaimed an official World TB Day. This was part of a year-long centennial effort by the IUATLD and the World Health Organization (WHO) under the theme “Defeat TB: Now and Forever.”World TB Day was not officially recognized as an annual occurrence by WHO’s World Health Assembly and the United Nations until over a decade later. In the fall of 1995, WHO and the Royal Netherlands Tuberculosis Foundation (KNCV) hosted the first World TB Day advocacy planning meeting in Den Haag, Netherlands; an event they would continue co-sponsor over the next few years.

in 1996, WHO, KNCV, the IUATLD and other concerned organizations joined to conduct a wide range of World TB Day activities. For World TB Day 1997, WHO held a news conference in Berlin during which WHO Director-General Hiroshi Nakajima declared that “DOTS is the biggest health breakthrough of this decade, according to lives we will be able to save.”WHO’s Global TB Programme Director, Dr. Arata Kochi, promised that, “Today the situation of the global TB epidemic is about to change, because we have made a breakthrough. It is the breakthrough of health management systems that makes it possible to control TB not only in wealthy countries, but in all parts of the developing world, where 95 percent of all TB cases now exist.”By 1998, nearly 200 organizations conducted public outreach activities on World TB Day.

During the World TB Day 1998 news conference in London, WHO for the first time identified the top twenty-two countries with the world’s highest TB rates. The next year, over 60 key TB advocates from 18 countries attended the three-day WHO/KNCV planning meeting for World TB Day 1999. U.S. President Bill Clinton marked World TB Day 2000 by administering the WHO-recommended DOTS treatment to patients at the Mahavir Hospital in Hyderabad, India.Today the Stop TB Partnership, a network of organizations and countries fighting TB (the IUATLD is a member and WHO houses the Stop TB Partnership secretariat in Geneva), organizes the Day to highlight the scope of the disease and how to prevent and cure it.