Posted in books, Humour, Science-tech

W.Heath Robinson

HeathRobinsonBest known for his wonderfully outlandish illustrations of all sorts of wierd & wonderful contraptions, the English cartoonist W. Heath Robinson, was born May 31st 1872 In the UK, the term “Heath Robinson” has entered the language as a description of any unnecessarily complex and implausible contraption, similar to “Rube Goldberg” in the U.S. “Heath Robinson” is perhaps more often used in relation to temporary fixes using ingenuity and whatever is to hand, often string and tape, or unlikely cannibalisations. Its popularity is undoubtedly linked to Second World War Britain’s shortages and the need to “make do and mend”.William Heath Robinson was born into a family of artists His father and brothers (Thomas Heath Robinson and Charles Robinson) all worked as illustrators. His early career involved illustrating books – among others: Hans Christian Andersen’s Danish Fairy Tales and Legends (1897); The Arabian Nights, (1899); Tales From Shakespeare (1902), and Twelfth Night (1908), Andersen’s Fairy Tales (1913), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1914), Charles Kingsley’s The Water-Babies (1915), and Walter de la Mare’s Peacock Pie (1916). In the course of his work Heath Robinson also wrote and illustrated three children’s books, The Adventures of Uncle Lubin (1902), Bill the Minder (1912) and Peter Quip in Search of a Friend (1922).

Uncle Lubin is regarded as the start of his career in the depiction of unlikely machines. During the First World War he drew large numbers of cartoons, collected as Some “Frightful” War Pictures (1915), Hunlikely! (1916), The Saintly Hun (1917) and Flypapers (1919), depicting ever-more-unlikely secret weapons being used by the combatants. He also produced a steady stream of humorous drawings for magazines and advertisements. In 1934 he published a collection of his favourites as Absurdities, such as: “The Wart Chair. A simple apparatus for removing a wart from the top of the head”, “Resuscitating stale railway scones for redistribution at the station buffets” and “The multimovement tabby silencer”, which automatically threw water at serenading cats.

Most of his cartoons have since been reprinted many times in multiple collections, and the machines he drew were frequently powered by steam boilers or kettles, heated by candles or a spirit lamp and usually kept running by balding, bespectacled men in overalls. There would be complex pulley arrangements, threaded by lengths of knotted string. Robinson’s cartoons were so popular that in Britain the term “Heath Robinson” is used to refer to an improbable, rickety machine barely kept going by incessant tinkering. (The corresponding term in the U.S. is Rube Goldberg, after an American cartoonist with an equal devotion to odd machinery. Similar “inventions” have been drawn by cartoonists in many countries, with the Danish Storm Petersen being on par with Robinson and Goldberg.) One of his most famous series of illustrations was that which accompanied the Professor Branestawm books by Norman Hunter. The stories told of the eponymous professor who was brilliant, eccentric and forgetful and provided a perfect backdrop for Robinson’s drawings.One of the automatic analysis machines built for Bletchley Park during the Second World War to assist in the decryption of German message traffic was named “Heath Robinson” in his honour. It was a direct predecessor to the Colossus, the world’s first programmable digital electronic computer.

Posted in music

Jon Bonham (Led Zeppelin)

images-1Best remembered as the drummer of Led Zeppelin, who are widely considered to be one of the most successful, innovative and influential rock groups in the history of music The late great Jon Bonham was born 31st May 1948. Led Zeppelin were formed in 1968 after former Yardbirds Guitarist Jimmy Page recruited vocalist Robert Plant, drummer John Bonham, and John Paul Jones. The name Led Zeppelin stemmed from an old joke by Keith Moon and John Entwistle, of “The Who”, and Page stuck with that name to use for his new band. The name was subsequently changed to “Led Zeppelin”, to avoid a mispronunciation of “eed Zeppelin.”Page had a very specific idea in mind as to what he wanted Led Zeppelin to be, and wanted to add acoustic textures. Zeppelin’s sound became a marriage of blues, hard rock and acoustic music topped with heavy choruses – a combination that had never been done back in the 1960′s. Led Zeppelin’s sound has since become a prototype for countless rock bands ever since, and was one of the major driving forces behind the rock sound of the 1970′s.Led Zeppelin released relatively few singles, preferring their albums to be viewed as indivisible, whole listening experiences, helping to promote the concept of album-orientated rock.

Their first two albums, with their heavy, guitar-driven blues rock sound, led to Led Zeppelin being regularly cited as one of the progenitors of heavy metal and hard rock, even though the band’s individualistic style drew from varied sources and transcends any single music genre. Their next two albums incorporated wider musical influences, particularly from folk music; the tracks “Stairway to Heaven“, and “Kashmir” are among the most popular and influential works in rock music, and cemented the status of the group as “superstars”.Led Zeppelin broke up in 1980 following the death of drummer John Bonham,

images-4Throughout their career, Led Zeppelin collected many honours and awards. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, and the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2006. Among the band’s awards are an American Music Award in 2005, and the Polar Music Prize in 2006. Led Zeppelin were the recipient of a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005, and four of their recordings have been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. They have been awarded five Diamond albums, as well as fourteen Multi-Platinum albums, four Platinum albums and one Gold album in the United States, while in the UK they have five Multi-Platinum albums, six Platinum albums, one Gold album and four Silver albums.Jimmy Page was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in recognition of his charity work in 2005 and Robert Plant was honoured as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his services to popular music in 2009. The band are ranked number one on VH1′s 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock and Classic Rock’s “50 Best Live Acts of All Time”. They were awarded an Ivor Novello Award for “Outstanding Contribution to British Music” in 1977, as well as a “Lifetime Achievement Award” at the 42nd Annual Ivor Novello awards ceremony in 1997. The band were honoured with the “Best Live Act” prize for their one-off reunion at MOJO Awards 2008, where they were described as the “greatest rock and roll band of all time”.

Posted in books

Boris Pasternak

Russian poet and novelist Boris Leonidovich Pasternak sadly passed away 30 May 1960 due to the effects of lung cancer. Born 10 February 1890. Pasternak aspired to be a musician. Inspired by Scriabin, Pasternak studied at the Moscow Conservatory. In 1910 he abruptly left for the German University of Marburg, where he studied under Neo-Kantian philosophers Hermann Cohen and Nicolai Hartmann. Although Professor Cohen encouraged him to remain in Germany and to pursue a Philosophy doctorate, Pasternak decided against it. and returned to Moscow upon the outbreak of World War I. His first poetry anthology was published later that year.

During World War I, Pasternak taught and worked at a chemical factory in Vsevolodovo-Vilve near Perm, which undoubtedly provided him with material for Dr. Zhivago. Unlike the rest of his family and many of his closest friends, Pasternak chose not to leave Russia after the October Revolution of 1917. remained in Moscow throughout the Civil War (1918–1920), making no attempt to escape abroad or to the White-occupied south, as a number of other Russian writers did at the time. No doubt, like Yuri Zhivago, he was momentarily impressed by the “splendid surgery” of the Bolshevik seizure of power in October 1917. However he soon began to harbor profound doubts about the claims and credentials of the regime, not to mention its style of rule. The terrible shortages of food and fuel, and the depredations of the Red Terror, made life very precarious in those years, particularly for the “bourgeois” intelligentsia. Published in 1921, Pasternak’s My Sister, Life revolutionised Russian poetry and made Pasternak the model for younger poets, and decisively changed the poetry of Osip Mandelshtam, Marina Tsvetayeva and others. By 1927, Pasternak’s close friends Vladimir Mayakovsky and Nikolai Aseyev were advocating the complete subordination of the Arts to the needs of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.So he broke off relations, with both of them. By 1932, Pasternak had altered his style to make it acceptable to the Soviet public and printed the new collection of poems aptly titled The Second Birth, He simplified his style and language even further for his next collection of verse, Early Trains (1943). This prompted his former admirer, Vladimir Nabokov, to mock Pasternak as a “weeping Bolshevik”. After Joseph Stalin was acclaimed as leader of the CPSU in 1929, Pasternak became further disillusioned with the Party’s tightening censorship of literature.

Still unwilling to conform, Pasternak remained a close friend of Anna Akhmatova and Osip Mandelstam, who recited his searing indictment of Stalin, the Stalin Epigram, to Pasternak soon after its composition in late April 1934. After listening, Pasternak told Mandelstam, “I didn’t hear this, you didn’t recite it to me, because, you know, very strange and terrible things are happening now: they’ve begun to pick people up. Mandelstam was arrested shortly afterwards. Pasternak was deeply upset by this, apart from being concerned for his friend he was also worried that he might be blamed for fingering Mandelstam to the secret police. Pasternak became frantic, pacing around his apartment repeating over and over that he must write to Stalin to explain that injustices were being committed in the name of the Leader. Pasternak later did write and send just such a letter. Although Pasternak was never arrested by the Soviet secret police during the Great Purge, which took place in the Soviet Union in the late 1930s, he lost many friends, among them were peasants, Red Army leadership, Old Bolsheviks and unaffiliated persons. Appalled by the events taking place in the Soviet Union during the Great Purge, Pasternak appealed directly to Stalin. He wrote about his family’s strong Tolstoyan convictions. Pasternak was certain that he would be instantly arrested, but he was not. Stalin is said to have crossed Pasternak’s name off an execution list during the Great Purge.

After the outbreak of war between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, Pasternak was elated. With the end of the war in 1945, there was a great expectation that the Soviet people would not only see the end of the devastation of Nazism, but also the end of Stalin’s Purges. However, sealed trains began carrying large numbers of prisoners to the Soviet Gulags. Some were Nazi collaborators but most were ordinary Soviet officers and men. Pasternak watched as ex-POWs were directly transferred from Nazi to Soviet concentration camps. White emigres who had returned due to pledges of amnesty were also sent directly to the Gulag, as were Jews from the Anti-Fascist Committee and other organizations. Many thousands of innocents were incarcerated as part the Leningrad Affair and the Doctor’s Plot, while whole ethnic groups were deported to Siberia. :O

Pasternak’s translation of the first part of Faust caused contorversy and he was accused of distorting Goethe’s “progressive,” meanings to support “the reactionary theory of ‘pure art’”, as well as introducing aesthetic and individualist values. When Stalin died of a stroke on 5 March 1953, there were waves of panic, confusion, and public displays of grief Across the nation. Pasternak wrote, “Men who are not free… always idealize their bondage. For so long we were ruled over by a madman and a murderer, and now by a fool and a pig. The madman had his occasional flights of fancy, he had an intuitive feeling for certain things, despite his wild obscurantism. Now we are ruled over by mediocrities.” During this period, Pasternak delighted in reading a clandestine copy of George Orwell’s Animal Farm in English. In conversation with Ivinskaya, Pasternak explained that the swine dictator Napoleon, “vividly reminded,” him of Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. Doctor Zhivago was completed in 1956 and imediately caused controvery – The author, like his protagonist Yuri Zhivago, showed more concern for the welfare of individual characters than for the “progress” of society. Censors also regarded some passages as anti-Soviet, especially the novel’s criticisms of Stalinism, Collectivisation, the Great Purge, and the Gulag. As a result Russian people were unwilling to publish it, however Thanks to the efforts of a Communist Italian Journalist and Helped considerably by the Soviet campaign against the novel, Doctor Zhivago became an instant sensation throughout the non-Communist world upon its release in November 1957. Pasternak also received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1958, an event which both humiliated and enraged the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. By the time of his death from lung cancer on 30th May 1960, the campaign against Pasternak had severely damaged the international credibility of the U.S.S.R. He remains a major figure in Russian literature to this day. Furthermore, tactics pioneered by Pasternak were later continued, expanded, and refined by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and other Soviet dissidents.

Posted in aviation, Science-tech

Wilbur Wright

American Aviation Pioneer and eldest of The Wright brothers, Wilbur Wright sadly passed away 30 May 1948. Born April 16, in 1867. Wilbur, together with his younger brother Orville. is credited with inventing and building the world’s first successful airplane and making the first controlled, powered and sustained heavier-than-air human flight, on December 17, 1903 at Kitty Hawk in North Carolina. The Wright Brothers spent a great deal of time observing birds in flight. They noticed that birds soared into the wind and that the air flowing over the curved surface of their wings created lift. Birds change the shape of their wings to turn and manoeuvre. They believed that they could use this technique to obtain roll control by warping, or changing the shape, of a portion of the wing. as a resultThe Wright Brothers designed their first aircraft: a small, biplane glider flown as a kite to test their solution for controlling the craft by wing warping. Wing warping is a method of arching the wingtips slightly to control the aircraft’s rolling motion and balance. Over the next three years, Wilbur and his brother Orville would design a series of gliders which would be flown in both unmanned (as kites) and piloted flights.

They read about the works of Cayley, and Langley, and the hang-gliding flights of Otto Lilienthal. They corresponded with Octave Chanute concerning some of their ideas. They recognized that control of the flying aircraft would be the most crucial and hardest problem to solve. Following a successful glider test, the Wrights built and tested a full-size glider. They selected Kitty Hawk, North Carolina as their test site because of its wind, sand, hilly terrain and remote location. In 1900, the Wrights successfully tested their new 50-pound biplane glider with its 17-foot wingspan and wing-warping mechanism at Kitty Hawk, in both unmanned and piloted flights. In fact, it was the first piloted glider. Based upon the results, the Wright Brothers planned to refine the controls and landing gear, and build a bigger glider. So in 1901, at Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, the Wright Brothers flew the largest glider ever flown, with a 22-foot wingspan, a weight of nearly 100 pounds and skids for landing.

However, many problems occurred: the wings did not have enough lifting power; forward elevator was not effective in controlling the pitch; and the wing-warping mechanism occasionally caused the airplane to spin out of control. In their disappointment, they predicted that man will probably not fly in their lifetime. In spite of the problems with their last attempts at flight, the Wrights reviewed their test results and determined that the calculations they had used were not reliable. They decided to build a wind tunnel to test a variety of wing shapes and their effect on lift. Based upon these tests, the inventors had a greater understanding of how an airfoil (wing) works and could calculate with greater accuracy how well a particular wing design would fly. They planned to design a new glider with a 32-foot wingspan and a tail to help stabilize it. During 1902, the brothers flew numerous test glides using their new glider. Their studies showed that a movable tail would help balance the craft and the Wright Brothers connected a movable tail to the wing-warping wires to coordinate turns. With successful glides to verify their wind tunnel tests, the inventors planned to build a powered aircraft. After months of studying how propellers work the Wright Brothers designed a motor and a new aircraft sturdy enough to accommodate the motor’s weight and vibrations. The craft weighed 700 pounds and came to be known as the Flyer. The brothers built a movable track to help launch the Flyer. This downhill track would help the aircraft gain enough airspeed to fly. After two attempts to fly this machine, one of which resulted in a minor crash, Orville Wright took the Flyer for a 12-second, sustained flight on December 17, 1903. This was the first successful, powered, piloted flight in history.

Posted in Art

Peter Paul Rubens

766px-Peter_Paul_Rubens_083German born Flemish Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens sadly passed away 30 May 1640. Born 28th June 1577 he was a proponent of extravagant Baroque style that emphasised movement, colour, and sensuality, who was known for his Counter Reformation altarpieces, portraits, landscapes, and history paintingso mythological and allegorial sujects.In addition to running a lare studio in Antwerp that produced paintings popular with nobility and art collectors throughout Europe, Rubens was a classically educatdhumanist scholar and diplomat who was knighted by both Philip IV, King of Spain, andChares I, King of England was raised as a Catholic. Religion figured prominently in much of his work and Rubens later became one of the leading voices of the Catholic Counter-Reformation style of painting (he had said “My passion omes from the heavens, no from earthly musings”).In Antwerp, Rubens received ahumanist education, studying Latin and classical literature. By fourteen he began his artistic apprenticeship with Tobias Verhaeght. Subsequently, he studied under two of the city’s leading painters of the time the late Mannerist artists Adam van Noort and Otto van een.Much of his earliest training involved copying earlier artists’ wrks, such aswoodcuts by Hans Holbein the Younger and Marcantonio Raimondi’s engravings after Raphael. Rubens completed his education in 1598, at which time he entered the Guild of S. Luke as an independent masterIn 1600, Rubens travelled to Italy. He stopped first in Venice, where he saw paintings by Titian, Veronese, and Tintoretto, before settling in Mantua at the court of Duke Vincenzo I Gonzaga. The coloring and compositions of Veronese and Tintoretto had an immediate effect on Rubens’s painting, and his later, mature style was profoundly influenced by Titian.

With financial support from the Duke, Rubens travelled to Rome by way of Florence in 1601. There, he studied classical Greek and Roman art and copied works of the Italian masters, the Hellenistic sculpture Laocoön and his Sons was especially influential on him, as was the art of Michelangelo, Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci and Caravaggio. He later made a copy of that artist’s Entombment of Christ, recommended that his patron, the Duke of Mantua, purchase The Death of the Virgin(Louvre), and was instrumental in the acquisition of The Madonna of the Rosary (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna) for the Dominican church in Antwerp. During this first stay in Rome, Rubens completed his first altarpiece commission, St. Helena with the True Cross for the Roman church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme.Rubens travelled to Spain on a diplomatic mission in 1603, delivering gifts from the Gonzagas to the court of Philip III. While there, he studied the extensive collections of Raphael and Titian that had been collected by Philip II. He also painted an equestrian portrait of the Duke of Lerma during his stay (Prado, Madrid) that demonstrates the influence of works like Titian’s Charles V at Mühlberg (1548; Prado, Madrid). This journey marked the first of many during his career that combined art and diplomacy.He returned to Italy in 1604, where he remained for the next four years, first in Mantua and then in Genoa and Rome. In Genoa, Rubens painted numerous portraits, such as the Marchesa Brigida Spinola-Doria (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.), and the portrait of Maria di Antonio Serra Pallavicini, in a style that influenced later paintings by Anthony van Dyck, Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Gainsborough. He also began a book illustrating the palaces in the city, which was published in 1622 as Palazzi di Genova. From 1606 to 1608, he was mostly in Rome.

Rubens returned to Antwerp in 1608 and His return coincided with a period of renewed prosperity in the city, he was appointed as court painter by Albert VII, Archduke of Austria and Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia of Spain, sovereigns of the Low Countries. In 1610, Rubens moved into a new house and studio that he designed. Now the Rubenshuis Museum, in the centre of Antwerp, it accommodated his workshop and made the most of his extensive collection of paintings, and his personal art collection and library,. During this time he created.Altarpieces such as The Raising of the Cross (1610) and The Descent from the Cross (1611–1614) for the Cathedral of Our Lady which were particularly important in establishing Rubens as Flanders’ leading painter . The Raising of the Cross also demonstrates the artist’s synthesis of Tintoretto’s Crucifixion for the Scuola Grande di San Rocco in Venice, Michelangelo’s dynamic figures, and Rubens’s own personal style. The Spanish Habsburg rulers also entrusted Rubens with a number of diplomatic missions, Between 1627 and 1630, Rubens’s diplomatic career was particularly active, and he moved between the courts of Spain and England in an attempt to bring peace between the Spanish Netherlands and the United Provinces. He also made several trips to the northern Netherlands as both an artist and a diplomat. It was during this period that Rubens was twice knighted, first by Philip IV of Spain in 1624, and then by Charles I of England in 1630. He was awarded an honorary Master of Arts degree fromCambridge University in 1629.

In 1621, the Queen Mother of France, Marie de’ Medici, commissioned Rubens to paint two large allegorical cycles celebrating her life and the life of her late husband, Henry IV, for theLuxembourg Palace in Paris. The Marie de’ Medici cycle (now in the Louvre) was installed in 1625, While Rubens’s international reputation with collectors and nobility abroad continued to grow during this decade, he and his workshop also continued to paint monumental paintings for local patrons in Antwerp. The Assumption of the Virgin Mary (1625–6) for the Cathedral of Antwerp is one prominent example. Rubens’s last decade was spent in and around Antwerp. Major works for foreign patrons still occupied him, such as the ceiling paintings for the Banqueting House at Inigo Jones’s Palace of Whitehall. In 1630, the 53-year-old painter married 16-year-old Hélène Fourment who inspired the voluptuous figures in many of his paintings from the 1630s, including The Feast of Venus (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna), The Three Graces and The Judgment of Paris (both Prado, Madrid). In the latter painting, which was made for the Spanish court, the artist’s young wife was recognized by viewers in the figure of Venus. In an intimate portrait of her, Hélène Fourment in a Fur Wrap, also known as Het Pelsken Rubens’s wife is even partially modelled after classical sculptures of the Venus Pudica, such as theMedici Venus. In 1635, Rubens bought an estate outside of Antwerp, the Steen, where he spent much of his time. Landscapes, such as his Château de Steen with Hunter (National Gallery, London) and Farmers Returning from the Fields (Pitti Gallery, Florence), reflect the more personal nature of many of his later works. He also drew upon the Netherlandish traditions of Pieter Bruegel the Elder for inspiration in later works like Flemish Kermis (c. 1630; Louvre, Paris)

Sadly.Rubens died from heart failure, which was a result of his chronic gout on 30 May 1640. He was interred in Saint Jacob’s church, Antwerp. The artist had eight children, three with Isabella and five with Hélène; his youngest child was born eight months after his death.Rubens was a prolific artist. His commissioned works were mostly religious subjects, “history” paintings, which included mythological subjects, and hunt scenes. He painted portraits, especially of friends, and self-portraits, and in later life painted several landscapes. Rubens designed tapestries and prints, as well as his own house. He also oversaw theephemeral decorations of the Joyous Entry into Antwerp by the Cardinal-Infante Ferdinand in 1635.His drawings are mostly extremely forceful but not detailed; he also made great use of oil sketches as preparatory studies. He was one of the last major artists to make consistent use of wooden panels as a support medium, even for very large works, but he used canvas as well, especially when the work needed to be sent a long distance. For altarpieces he sometimes painted on slate to reduce reflection problems.His fondness of painting full-figured women gave rise to the terms ‘Rubensian’ or ‘Rubenesque’ for plus-sized women.Rubens was a great admirer of Leonardo da Vinci’s work. Using an engraving done 50 years after Leonardo started his project on the Battle of Anghiari, Rubens did a masterly drawing of the Battle which is now in the Louvre in Paris.

Posted in music

Tim Burgess (The Charlatans)

Tim Burgess, English singer with English alternative rock band The Charlatans was Born 30th May 1967. The band’s line-up currently comprises Tim Burgess (vocals), Mark Collins (guitar), Martin Blunt (bass), Tony Rogers (keyboards) and Jon Brookes (drums and percussion). In the UK, all of the band’s eleven studio albums have charted in the Top 40 in the UK Albums Chart, three of them being number ones. They have also achieved seventeen Top 30 singles, and four Top 10 hits in the UK Singles Chart.The original members of the Charlatans were located in the West Midlands, however many sources state that they formed in Northwich, Cheshire. This is because the band relocated to the home town of new lead singer Tim Burgess (who lived in Northwich) before the 1990 release of The Charlatans’ debut single “Indian Rope”, on the band’s own Dead Dead Good Records label. This means that, based on the definition of the hometown used by Guinness World Records, the band formed in Northwich and consequently, Northwich is recorded as their home town in such publications as British Hit Singles & Albums.The debut single, “Indian Rope” proved an indie hit and the group soon found a major label, Beggars Banquet off-shoot Situation Two, in time for the release of “The Only One I Know” which reached the Top 10 in the UK Singles Chart. A further single, “Then”, and debut album Some Friendly, were released later that year.

Around this time The Charlatans were forced to add UK to their name for an American tour due to competing claims by a 1960s rock band also known as The Charlatans.Baker left the band after 1991′s “Over Rising” single to be replaced by Mark Collins (no relation to Rob), and the band brought in producer Flood for their second album Between 10th and 11th (named after the address of the New York Marque, site of the group’s first US concert). Released in early 1992, the album failed to reach the Top 20 in the UK Albums Chart. However, the Top 20 success of the lead single “Weirdo” and a double weekend of gigs (‘Daytripper’) in Blackpool and Brighton with Ride kept them in the public eye.The follow-up album, Up To Our Hips (1994) reached number 8 in the UK Albums Chart. In 1995 the band’s self-titled fourth album saw them become major UK stars again, topping the UK albums chart and spawning the Top 20 single “Just When You’re Thinkin’ Things Over”.The fifth album Tellin’ Stories was released in 1997 and contained the singles “One to Another”, “North Country Boy” and “How High”. In 1998 they released the career-spanning compilation Melting Pot. The band also helped put “The B-sides collection Songs From The Other Side” and DVD “Just Lookin’ 1990 – 1997″ togetherFollowing the album Us And Us Only,The band released their ninth full-length album on 10 April 2006. Titled Simpatico, it was a reggae and dub tinged album and featured tracks like the fan favourite “NYC (There’s No Need to Stop)” and “Blackened Blue Eyes”.

Their follow-up to Simpatico was another career-spanning singles compilation entitled Forever: The Singles which was released on CD and DVD on 13 November 2006. In an October 2007 issue of the NME, the band contributed the song “Blank Heart, Blank Mind” to the magazine’s free Love Music, Hate Racism compilation CD. Later the same month, the new single “You Cross My Path” was released as a free download exclusively through the XFM website. On the 3 March 2008, The Charlatans teamed up with Xfm again to become the first UK band to release an album completely free to download via a radio station. This was preceded a week earlier by the second single from the album, “Oh! Vanity”. The album, titled You Cross My Path, is The Charlatans’ tenth studio album and received a physical CD/LP release on 19 May 2008. Their eleventh studio album, Who We Touch, was released on 6 September 2010 and The first single release was “Love Is Ending”.On March 28th 2011 Universal Music re-released a deluxe edition of the band’s Us & Us Only album, originally released in 1999, featuring a collection of bonus tracks including B-sides, live recordings, radio sessions and rare remixes. In March/April 2011 Tim Burgess and Mark Collins played an acoustic tour of the UK. To coincide with the acoustic tour the band released Warm Sounds EP. Featuring six stripped-down and reworked versions of Charlatans tracks including “North Country Boy”, “The Only One I Know” and “Smash The System”. It was available to download from iTunes and The Charlatans website.

Posted in books

A tap on the Window by Linwood Barclay

imageThis week The Telegraph in association with WHSmith is offering readers the dark, disturbing thriller A Tap on the Window by Linwood Barclay, newly released in paperback,for just £2.99 instead of the RRP £7.99, between Thursday, May 29 and Wednesday, June 4, or by bringing in one of the printed vouchers published in the paper on Thursday, May 29 or Saturday, May 31, and which is valid until Wednesday 4 June at WHSmiths high Street, Travel and Hospital stores

A Tap on the Window features a chap named Cal Weaver, who while driving home one rainy night, stops at red light, in the town of Griffon, near Buffalo, New York. He notices a bedraggled-looking teenage girl trying to hitch a lift and at first he tries to ignore her, Even when she starts tapping on his window. But when she says, ‘Hey, aren’t you Scott’s dad?’ and he realizes she’s one of his son’s classmates, he can’t really ignore her and offers her a lift. He then discovers that the girl, Claire is the Daughter of the Mayor, Burt Sanders, and has been drinking at Patchett ‘s Bar the local watering hole.

During the journey Claire, asks to stop at a restroom on the way home, and Cal is happy to oblige. But the girl who gets back in the car seems strangely nervous, and it’s only when they get nearer their destination that Cal realizes she no longer has the nasty cut that he noticed on Claire’s hand. After he’s finally let her out of the car he remains puzzled and intrigued. But it’s only the next morning that he starts to really worry. That’s when the police cruiser turns up at his door and asks him if he gave a lift to a girl the previous night. A girl who has now been found brutally murdered. If Cal is going to clear his name and stay out of jail, he’s going to have to find Claire figure out what She was really up to and what part he played in her curious deception. But doing so will involve him in some of the small town of Griffon’s most carefully kept secrets – and a conspiracy as bizarre as it is deadly.

Posted in music

Noel Gallagher (Oasis, High Flying Birds)

English musician and singer-songwriter Noel Gallagher was born 29 May 1967. Formerly the lead guitarist, occasional lead singer and principal songwriter of the rock band Oasis. He is currently fronting his solo project, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. Raised in Burnage, Manchester with Liam, Noel began learning guitar at the age of thirteen. After a series of odd jobs in construction, he worked for local Manchester band Inspiral Carpets as a roadie and technician in 1988.Whilst touring with them, he learned that Liam had formed a band of his own, known as The Rain, which eventually took on the name Oasis. After Gallagher returned to England, he was invited by his brother to join Oasis as songwriter and guitarist.

Oasis’ debut album, Definitely Maybe (1994), marked the beginning of the band’s rise to fame as head of the Britpop movement. Oasis’ second album, (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?, reached the top of the album charts in many countries and their third studio album, Be Here Now, became the fastest-selling album in UK chart history. Britpop eventually declined in popularity and Oasis’ next two albums failed to revive it. However, the band’s final two albums, Don’t Believe the Truth (2005) and Dig Out Your Soul (2008), were hailed as its best efforts in over a decade and found renewed success.

However on 28 August 2009 Noël Gallagher announced that he was leaving Oasis, following an altercation with Liam prior to a gig in Paris and Since acrimoniously splitting from Oasis in August 2009, He has formed a new band called “Noel Gallaghers Flying Birds” The bands first album HIGH FLYING BIRDS was released on October 17th 2011 and the follow up to High Flying Birds, is yet to be released and will be a more adventurous 18-track collaboration with Amorphous Androgynous.

This was not the first altercation Noël has had with Liam, and Gallagher’s run with Oasis was marked by turbulence, especially during the peak of Britpop, during which he was involved in at least several disputes with Liam, and the brothers’ fights and wild lifestyles regularly made headlines in British tabloid newspapers. Gallagher (along with Oasis) also shared a personal rivalry with fellow Britpop band Blur. However, Gallagher was often regarded as the spear-head of the Britpop movement, and at one point of time, NME termed a number of Britpop bands (including Kula Shaker, Ocean Colour Scene and Cast) as “Noelrock”, citing Gallagher’s influence on their success. Many have praised Gallagher’s songwriting, with George Martin claiming Noel to be ‘the finest songwriter of his generation’.

 

Posted in books

G.K.Chesterton

English writer G.K Chesterton was born 29th May 1874, so I thought I would pay tribute to him. He published works on philosophy, ontology, poetry, plays, journalism, public lectures and debates, literary and art criticism, biography, Christian apologetics, and fiction, including fantasy and detective fiction. Chesterton has been called the “prince of paradox”. Time magazine, in a review of a biography of Chesterton, observed of his writing style: “Whenever possible Chesterton made his points with popular sayings, proverbs, allegories— first carefully turning them inside out.” For example, Chesterton wrote “Thieves respect property. They merely wish the property to become their property that they may more perfectly respect it.”Chesterton is well known for his reasoned apologetics and even some of those who disagree with him have recognized the universal appeal of such works as Orthodoxy and The Everlasting Man.

Chesterton, as a political thinker, cast aspersions on both progressivism and conservatism, saying, “The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected.” Chesterton routinely referred to himself as an “orthodox” Christian, and came to identify such a position more and more with Catholicism, eventually converting to Roman Catholicism from High Church Anglicanism. George Bernard Shaw, Chesterton’s “friendly enemy” according to Time, said of him, “He was a man of colossal genius”. Biographers have identified him as a successor to such Victorian authors as Matthew Arnold, Thomas Carlyle, John Henry Cardinal Newman, and John Ruskin.Among his best known works are The Napoleon of Notting Hill, Heretics, Charles Dickens: A Critical Study, The Man Who Was Thursday, Orthodoxy, Manalive, Father Brown short stories (detective fiction), Eugenics and Other Evils, Saint Francis of Assisi (1923), Doubleday, The Everlasting Man & Saint Thomas Aquinas. A lot of these can be found on the Project Gutenberg Website.

Posted in music

Bittersweet Symphony

8fe49418aaf3e44c7165-1024Best known as being a member of The Verve and Theshining, the English Singer-Songwritet Simon Jones was born 29th May 1972. The Verve were an English alternative rock band formed in Wigan in 1989 by lead vocalist Richard Ashcroft, guitarist Nick McCabe, bass guitarist Simon Jones and drummer Peter Salisbury. The guitarist and keyboard player Simon Tong became a member at a later date. Beginning with a psychedelic sound, by the mid-1990s the band had released several EPs and three albums.The founding members of Verve met at Winstanley Sixth Form College, in Wigan, Greater Manchester. The band’s first gig was at the Honeysuckle Pub, in Wigan, on 15 August 1990.Most of the band’s early material was created through extensive jam sessions.Fronted by singer Richard Ashcroft, the band caused a buzz in early 1991 for its ability to captivate audiences with its musical textures and avant-garde sensibilities.The group was signed by Hut Records in 1991 and their first studio releases in 1992, “All in the Mind”, “She’s a Superstar”, and “Gravity Grave” (along with the December 1992 Verve) saw the band become a critical success, making an impression with freeform guitar work by McCabe and unpredictable vocals by Ashcroft. Those first 3 singles reached the first spot in the UK Indie charts, and “She’s a Superstar” did enter the UK Top 75 Singles Chart. The band saw some support from these early days in the United States in some music scenes in big cities like New York connected with psychedelic music.

1993′s A Storm in Heaven was the band’s full-length debut, produced by record producer John Leckie (of Radiohead, The Stone Roses,XTC and The Fall fame). “Blue” was released as the lead single and again managed to enter in the UK Top 75 at No. 69 and reached No. 2 in the Indie charts. The album was a critical success, but was only a moderate commercial success, reaching No. 27 in the UK album chart that summer. The second single from the album, “Slide Away”, topped the UK indie rock charts. During this period the band played a number of gigs with Oasis who, at the time, were relatively unknown.]In 1994, the band released the album No Come Down, a compilation of b-sides plus a live version of “Gravity Grave” performed atGlastonbury Festival in 1993. It was the band’s first release under the name The Verve, following legal difficulties with the jazz labelVerve Records. The band then played on the travelling U.S. alternative rock festival, Lollapalooza, in the summer of 1994. A new mix of “Blue” was released in the U.S. to promote the band.

For the band’s second album, 1995′s A Northern Soul, They departed from the experimental psychedelic sounds of A Storm in Heaven and focused more on conventional alternative rock, with Ashcroft’s vocals taking a more prominent role in the songs, although reminiscent of some of the early work. Around this period, Oasis guitarist and friend of Ashcroft, Noel Gallagher, dedicated the song “Cast No Shadow” on the album (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? to Ashcroft, and Ashcroft returned the gesture by dedicating the song “A Northern Soul” to Noel.The band released the album’s first single “This Is Music” in May, and it reached No. 35, their first single to reach the Top 40. It was followed by “On Your Own” in June which performed even better, reaching No. 28. This single was particularly new for The Verve as it was a soulful ballad. The album reached the UK Top 20 upon its release in July, but Ashcroft broke up the band three months later, just before the release of the third single “History”, which reached No. 24 in September. Ashcroft reunited with Jones and Salisbury just a few weeks after the break-up, but McCabe did not rejoin them. The new band hired former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler, but he spent only a couple of days with the band. The band then chose Simon Tong, a school friend credited with originally teaching Ashcroft and Jones to play guitar. The band made no live appearances for all of 1996, apart from a solo performance from Ashcroft supporting Oasis in New York. The rest of the year was spent playing and recording songs for a new album.

The band’s commercial breakthrough was the 1997 album Urban Hymns, one of the best-selling albums in UK Chart history, and the single “Bitter Sweet Symphony”, which became a worldwide hit. In 1998, the band won two Brit Awards—winning Best British Group, appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine in March, and in February 1999, “Bitter Sweet Symphony” was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Rock Song.Soon after this commercial peak, The Verve broke up in April 1999, citing internal conflicts.According to Billboard magazine, “the group’s rise was the culmination of a long, arduous journey that began at the dawn of the decade and went on to encompass a major breakup, multiple lawsuits, and an extensive diet of narcotics”. During an eight-year split, Ashcroft dismissed talk of a reunion, saying: “You’re more likely to get all four Beatles on stage.”The band’s original line-up reunited in June 2007, embarking on a tour later that year and releasing the album Forth in August 2008. In 2009, the band broke up for the third time.