Follow the Yellow Brick Road

ozOn 15 August 1939, the musical fantasy the Wizard of Oz was released in cinemas, produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and based on the 1900 novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum.The film stars Judy Garland; Terry the dog, billed as Toto; Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Bert Lahr, Frank Morgan, Billie Burke, Margaret Hamilton, with Charley Grapewin and Clara Blandick, and the Singer Midgets as the Munchkins, with Pat Walshe as leader of the flying monkeys. Notable for its use of Technicolor, fantasy storytelling, musical score and unusual characters, over the years it has become one of the best known of all films and part of American popular culture. It also featured in cinema what may be for the time the most elaborate use of character make-ups and special effects.

Amazingly It was not a box office success on its initial release, earning only $3,017,000 on a $2,777,000 budget, despite receiving largely positive reviews. Kadoozies mahboozies The “Beg Pemp” was MGM’s most expensive production at that time, and did not recoup much of the studio’s investment until subsequent re-releases.It was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture to Gone with the Wind. It did win in two other categories including Best Original Song for “Over the Rainbow.” The song was ranked first in two list: the AFI’s 100 Years…100 Songs and the Recording Industry Association of America’s “365 Songs of the Century”.

The 1956 Television broadcasts of the film re-introduced the film to the public and subsequent broadcasts have made it an annual tradition staple and one of the most known films in cinema history. The film was named the most viewed motion picture on television syndication in history by the Library of Congress who also included the film in its National Film Registry in its inaugural year in 1989. Designation on the registry calls for efforts to preserve it for being “culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant”. It is often included in the Top 10 Best Movies of All Time by critics’ and public polls. It is the source of many quotes referenced in modern popular culture. It was directed primarily by Victor Fleming. Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson and Edgar Allan Woolf received credit for the screenplay, but there were uncredited contributions by others. The songs were by Edgar “Yip” Harburg (lyrics) and Harold Arlen (music). The incidental music, based largely on the songs, was composed by Herbert Stothart, with interspersed renderings from classical composers.

Stieg Larsson

gwtdtSwedish journalist and writer “Stieg” Larsson; was born 15 August 1954. He is best known for writing the “Millennium series” of crime novels, which were published posthumously. Larsson lived and worked much of his life in Stockholm, in the field of journalism and as an independent researcher of right-wing extremism. He was the second best-selling author in the world for 2008, behind Khaled Hosseini. By December 2011, his “Millennium series” had sold 65 million copies; its last part, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest, became the most sold book in the United States in 2010.Larsson’s first efforts at fiction writing were not in the genre of crime, but rather science fiction. An avid science fiction reader from an early age, he became active in Swedish science fiction fandom around 1971, co-edited with Rune Forsgren his first fanzine, Sfären, in 1972, and attended his first science fiction convention, SF•72, in Stockholm. Through the 1970s, Larsson published around 30 additional fanzine issues; after his move to Stockholm in 1977 he became active in the Scandinavian SF Society where he was a board member in 1978 and 1979, and chairman in 1980. In his first fanzines, 1972–1974, he published a handful of early short stories while submitting others to other semi-professional or amateur magazines. SwedenHe was co-editor or editor of several science fiction fanzines, including Sfären and FIJAGH!; in 1978–1979 he was president of the largest Swedish science fiction fan club, Skandinavisk Förening för Science Fiction (SFSF). An account of this period in Larsson’s life, along with detailed information on his fanzine writing and short stories, is included in the biographical essays written by Larsson’s friend John-Henri Holmberg in The Tattooed Girl, by Holmberg with Dan Burstein and Arne De Keijzer, 2011.In early June 2010, manuscripts for two such stories, as well as fanzines with one or two others, were noted in the Swedish National Library (to which this material had been donated a few years earlier, mainly by the Alvar Appeltofft Memorial Foundation, which works to further science fiction fandom in Sweden). This discovery of what was called “unknown” works by Larsson also caused considerable excitement.

firecovWhile working as a photographer, Larsson became engaged in far-left political activism. He became a member of Kommunistiska Arbetareförbundet (Communist Workers’ League), edited the Swedish Trotskyist journal Fjärde internationalen, journal of the Swedish section of the Fourth International. He also wrote regularly for the weekly Internationalen. Larsson spent parts of 1977 in Eritrea, training a squad of female Eritrean People’s Liberation Front guerrillas in the use of grenade launchers, but became ill and was forced to return to Sweden, Upon his return to Sweden, he worked as a graphic designer at the largest Swedish news agency, Tidningarnas Telegrambyrå. Larsson’s political convictions, as well as his journalistic experiences, led him to found the Swedish Expo Foundation, similar to the British Searchlight Foundation, established to “counteract the growth of the extreme right and the white power-culture in schools and among young people.” He also became the editor of the foundation’s magazine, Expo, in 1995.When he was not at his day job, he worked on independent research of right-wing extremism in Sweden. In 1991, his research resulted in his first book Extremhögern (Extreme Right). Larsson quickly became instrumental in documenting and exposing Swedish extreme right and racist organizations; he was an influential debater and lecturer on the subject, reportedly living for years under death threats from his political enemies. The political party Sweden Democrats (Sverigedemokraterna) was a major subject of his research.

6a00d8341c93ee53ef0120a5f07b90970c-Soon after Larsson’s death, the manuscripts of three completed, but unpublished, novels – written as a series – were discovered. He had written them for his own pleasure after returning home from his job in the evening, and had made no attempt to get them published until shortly before his death. The first was published in Sweden in 2005 as Swedish: Män som hatar kvinnor – literally – Men who hate women. It was titled for the English-language market as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and published in the United Kingdom in February 2008. It was awarded the Glass Key award as the best Nordic crime novel in 2005. His second novel, Flickan som lekte med elden (The Girl Who Played with Fire), received the Best Swedish Crime Novel Award in 2006, and was published in the United Kingdom in January 2009. The third novel in the Millennium series, Luftslottet som sprängdes (“The air castle that was blown up”), published in English as The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest, was published in the United Kingdom in October 2009, and the United States in May 2010. Larsson left about three quarters of a fourth novel on a notebook computer, now possessed by his partner, Eva Gabrielsson: synopses or manuscripts of the fifth and sixth in the series, which he intended to contain an eventual total of ten books, may also exist. Gabrielsson has stated in her book, “There Are Things I Want You to Know” About Stieg Larsson and Me (2011) that finishing the book is a task that she is capable of doing.

The Swedish film production company Yellow Bird has produced film versions of the Millennium series, co-produced with the Danish film production company Nordisk Film, which were released in Scandinavia in 2009.Larsson Sadly passed away on 9 November 2004 in Stockholm at the age of 50 of a heart attack after climbing seven flights of stairs to his office because the lift was not working. There were rumours that his death was in some way induced, because of death threats received as editor of Expo, but these have been denied by Eva Gedin, his Swedish publisher. Stieg Larsson is interred at the Högalid church cemetery in the district of Södermalm in Stockholm.

Leon Theramin

Pioneering Russian inventor Léon Theremin was born Lev Sergeyevich Termen in Saint Petersburg, Russian Empire in 15 August 1896 into a family of French and German ancestry.He had a sister named Helena.He started to be interested in electricity at the age of 7, and by 13 he was experimenting with high frequency circuits. In the seventh class of his high school before an audience of students and parents he demonstrated various optical effects using electricity.By the age of 17 he was in his last year of high school and at home he had his own laboratory for experimenting with high frequencircuits, optics and magnetic fields.

His cousin, Kirill Fedorovich Nesturkh, then a young physicist, and a singer named Wagz invited him to attend the defense of the dissertation of professor Abram Fedorovich Ioffe. Physics lecturer Vladimir Konstantinovich Lebedinskiy had explained to Theremin the then interesting dispute over Ioffe’s work on the electron.On 9 May 1913 Theremin and his cousin attended Ioffe’s dissertation defense. Ioffe’s subject was on the elementary photoelectric effect, the magnetic field of cathode rays and related investigations. In 1917 Theremin wrote that Ioffe talked of electrons, the photoelectric effect and magnetic fields as parts of an objective reality that surrounds us everyday, unlike others that talked more of somewhat abstract formula and symbols. Theremin wrote that he found this explanation revelatory and that it fit a scientific – not abstract – view of the world, different scales of magnitude, and matter. From then on Theremin endeavoured to study the Microcosm, in the same way he had studied the Macrocosm with his hand-built telescope. Later, Kyrill introduced Theremin to Ioffe as a young experimenter and physicist, and future student of the university.

Theremin recalled that while still in his last year of school, he had built a million-volt Tesla coil and noticed a strong glow associated with his attempts to ionise the air. He then wished to further investigate the effects using university resources. A chance meeting with Abram Fedorovich Ioffe led to a recommendation to see Karl Karlovich Baumgart, who was in charge of the physics laboratory equipment. Karl then reserved a room and equipment for Theremin’s experiments. Abram Fedorovich suggested Theremin also look at methods of creating gas fluorescence under different conditions and of examining the resulting light’s spectra. However, during these investigations Theremin was called up for World War I military service.Despite Theremin being only in his second academic year, the deanery of the Faculty of Physics and Astronomy recommended him to go to the Nikolayevska Military Engineering School in Petrograd (renamed from Saint Petersburg), which usually only accepted students in their fourth year. Theremin recalled Ioffe reassured him that the war would not last long and that military experience would be useful for scientific applications.

Beginning his military service in 1916, Theremin finished the Military Engineering School in six months, progressed through the Graduate Electronic School for Officers, and attained the military radio-engineer diploma in the same year. In the course of the next three and a half years he oversaw the construction of a radio station in Saratov to connect the Volga area with Moscow, graduated from Petrograd University, became deputy leader of the new Military Radiotechnical Laboratory in Moscow, and finished as the broadcast supervisor of the radio transmitter at Tsarskoye Selo near Petrograd (then renamed Detskoye Selo).

During the Russian civil war, in October 1919 White Army commander Nikolai Nikolayevich Yudenich advanced on Petrograd from the side of Detskoye Selo, apparently intending to capture the radio station to announce a victory over the Bolsheviks. Theremin and others evacuated the station, sending equipment east on rail cars. Theremin then detonated explosives to destroy the 120 meter-high antennae mast before traveling to Petrograd to set up an international listening station. There he also trained radio specialists but reported difficulties obtaining food and working with foreign experts who he described as narrow-minded pessimists. Theremin recalled that on an evening when his hopes of overcoming these obstructing experts reached a low ebb, Abram Fedorovich Ioffe telephoned him.[Ioffe asked Theremin to come to his newly founded Physical Technical Institute in Petrograd, and the next day he invited him to start work at developing measuring methods for high frequency electrical oscillations.

The day after Ioffe’s invitation, Theremin started at the institute. He worked in diverse fields: applying the Laue effect to the new field ofX-ray analysis of crystals; using hypnosis to improve measurement-reading accuracy; working with Ivan Pavlov’s laboratory; and using gas-filled lamps as measuring devices. He built a high frequency oscillator to measure the dielectric constant of gases with high precision; Ioffe then urged him to look for other applications using this method, and shortly made the first motion detector for use as a”radio watchman”.while adapting the dielectric device by adding circuitry to generate an audio tone, Theremin noticed the pitch changed when his hand moved around.

In October 1920 he first demonstrated this to Ioffe who called in other professors and students to hear. Theremin recalled trying to find the notes for tunes he remembered from when he played the cello, such as the Swan by Saint-Saëns. By November 1920 Theremin had given his first public concert with the instrument, now modified with a horizontal volume antenna replacing the earlier foot-operated volume control. He named it the “etherphone” to be known as the Терменвокс (Termenvox) in the Soviet Union, as the Thereminvox in Germany,and later as the “theremin” in the United States. Theremin went to Germany in 1925 to sell both the radio watchman and Termenvox patents to the German firm Goldberg and Sons. According to Glinsky this was the Soviet’s “decoy for capitalists” to obtain both Western profits from sales and technical knowledge.

During this time Theremin was also working on a wireless television with 16 scan lines in 1925, improving to 32 scan lines and then 64 using interlacing in 1926, and he demonstrated moving, if blurry, images on 7 June 1927.After being sent on a lengthy tour of Europe starting 1927 – including London, Paris and towns in Germany– during which he demonstrated his invention to full audiences, Theremin found his way to the United States, arriving on 30 December 1927 with his first wife Katia.He performed the theremin with the New York Philharmonic in 1928. He patented his invention in the United States in 1928 and subsequently granted commercial production rights to RCA.Theremin set up a laboratory in New York in the 1930s, where he developed the theremin and experimented with other electronic musical instruments and other inventions. These included the Rhythmicon, commissioned by the American composer and theoristHenry Cowell.In 1930, ten thereminists performed on stage at Carnegie Hall. Two years later, Theremin conducted the first-ever electronic orchestra, featuring the theremin and other electronic instruments including a “fingerboard” theremin which resembled a cello in use.Theremin’s mentors during this time were some of society’s foremost scientists, composers, and musical theorists, including composerJoseph Schillinger and physicist (and amateur violinist) Albert Einstein. At this time, Theremin worked closely with fellow Russian émigré and theremin virtuoso Clara Rockmore.

Theremin was interested in a role for the theremin in dance music. He developed performance locations that could automatically react to dancers’ movements with varied patterns of sound and light.Theremin abruptly returned to the Soviet Union in 1938. At the time, the reasons for his return were unclear; some claimed that he was simply homesick, while others believed that he had been kidnapped by Soviet officials. Beryl Campbell, one of Theremin’s dancers, said his wife Lavinia “called to say that he had been kidnapped from his studio” and that “some Russians had come in” and that she felt that he was going to be spirited out of the country. Many years later, it was revealed that Theremin had returned to his native land due to tax and financial difficulties in the United States.However, Theremin himself once told Bulat Galeyev that he decided to leave himself because he was anxious about the approaching war.Shortly after he returned he was imprisoned in the Butyrka prison and later sent to work in the Kolyma gold mines. Although rumors of his execution were widely circulated and published, Theremin was, in fact, put to work in a sharashka (a secret laboratory in the Gulag camp system), together with Andrei Tupolev, Sergei Korolev, and other well-known scientists and engineers.]The Soviet Union rehabilitated him in 1956.

During his work at the sharashka, where he was put in charge of other workers, Theremin created the Buran eavesdropping system. A precursor to the modern laser microphone, it worked by using a low power infrared beam from a distance to detect the sound vibrations in the glass windows. Lavrentiy Beria, the head of the secret police organization NKVD(the predecessor of the KGB), used the Buran device to spy on the British, French and US embassies in Moscow.According to Galeyev, Beria also spied on Stalin; Theremin kept some of the tapes in his flat. In 1947, Theremin was awarded the Stalin prize for inventing this advance in Soviet espionage technology.Theremin invented another listening device called The Thing. Disguised in a replica of theGreat Seal of the United States carved in wood, in 1945 Soviet school children presented the concealed bug to U.S. Ambassador as a “gesture of friendship” to the USSR’s World War II ally. It hung in the ambassador’s residential office in Moscow, and intercepted confidential conversations there during the first seven years of the Cold War, until it was accidentally discovered in 1952. After his “release” from the sharashka in 1947, Theremin volunteered to remain working with the KGB until 1966.

By 1947 Theremin had remarried, to Maria Guschina, his third wife, and they had two children: Lena and Natalia. After working for the KGB, Theremin worked at the Moscow Conservatory of Music for 10 years where he taught, and built theremins,electronic cellos and some terpsitones (another invention of Theremin).There he was discovered by Harold Schonberg, the chief music critic of The New York Times, who was visiting the Conservatory. But when an article by his hand appeared, the Conservatory’s Managing Director declared that “electricity is not good for music; electricity is to be used for electrocution” and had his instruments removed from the Conservatory. Further electronic music projects were banned, and Theremin was summarily dismissed. In the 1970s, Léon Theremin was a Professor of Physics at Moscow State University (Department of Acoustics) developing his inventions and supervising graduate students. After 51 years in the Soviet Union Theremin started travelling, first visiting France in June 1989 and then the United States in 1991, each time accompanied by his daughter Natalia. Theremin was brought to New York by filmmaker Steven M. Martin where he was reunited with Clara Rockmore. He also made a demonstration concert at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague in early 1993 before dying in Moscow, Russia in 1993.

E.Nesbit

railway-childrenEnglish author and poet Edith Nesbit was born 15th August 1858. She wrote or collaborated on over 60 books of fiction for children, several of which have been adapted for film and television. She was also a political activist and co founoded the Fabian Society, a precursor to the modern Labour Party.Nesbit published approximately 40 books for children, including novels, collections of stories and picture books. Collaborating with others, she published almost as many more.According to her biographer Julia Briggs, Nesbit was “the first modern writer for children”: “(Nesbit) helped to reverse the great tradition of children’s literature inaugurated by Lewis Carroll, George MacDonald and Kenneth Grahame, in turning away from their secondary worlds to the tough truths to be won from encounters with things-as-they-are, previously the province of adult novels.” Briggs also credits Nesbit with having invented the children’s adventure story. Noël Coward was a great admirer of hers and, in a letter to an early biographer Noel Streatfeild, wrote “she had an economy of phrase, and an unparalleled talent for evoking hot summer days in the English countryside.”

Among Nesbit’s best-known books are The Story of the Treasure Seekers (1898) and The Railway Children. This concerns a family who move to “Three Chimneys”, a house near the railway, after the father, who works at the Foreign office, is imprisoned after being falsely accused of spying. The children befriend an Old Gentleman who regularly takes the 9:15 train near their home; he is eventually able to help prove their father’s innocence, and the family is reunited. The family take care of a Russian exile, Mr Szczepansky, who came to England looking for his family (later located) and Jim, the grandson of the Old Gentleman, who suffers a broken leg in a tunnel.The theme of an innocent man being falsely imprisoned for espionage and finally vindicated might have been influenced by the Dreyfus Affair, which was a prominent worldwide news item a few years before the book was written. And the Russian exile, persecuted by the Tsars for writing “a beautiful book about poor people and how to help them” and subsequently helped by the children, was most likely an amalgam of the real-life dissidents Sergius Stepniak and Peter Kropotkin who were both friends of the author.

The Railway Children was also adapted into 1970 British drama film based on the novel byE. Nesbit. The film was directed by Lionel Jeffries, and stars Dinah Sheridan, Jenny Agutter (who had earlier featured in the successful BBC’s 1968 dramatisation of the novel), Sally Thomsett and Bernard Cribbins in leading roles. The film was released to cinemas in the United Kingdom on 21 December 1970.The film rights were bought by Lionel Jeffries. It was his directorial debut, and he was also responsible for writing the screenplay for the film. The Railway Children turned out to be a critical success, both at the time of its release and in later years. It has gone on to gain a place in several surveys of the greatest films ever made, including surveys conducted by the British Film Institute and Total Film magazine.

Nesbitt also wrote The Wouldbegoods (1899), which recount stories about the Bastables, a middle class family that has fallen on relatively hard times. The Railway Children is also extremely well known. Her children’s writing also included numerous plays and collections of verse.She created an innovative body of work that combined realistic, contemporary children in real-world settings with magical objects – what would now be classed as contemporary fantasy – and adventures and sometimes travel to fantastic worlds. In doing so, she was a direct or indirect influence on many subsequent writers, including P. L. Travers (author of Mary Poppins), Edward Eager, Diana Wynne Jones and J. K. Rowling.

C. S. Lewis wrote of her influence on his Narnia series and mentions the Bastable children in The Magician’s Nephew. Michael Moorcock would go on to write a series of steampunk novels with an adult Oswald Bastable (of The Treasure Seekers) as the lead character.Nesbit also wrote for adults, including eleven novels, short stories and four collections of horror stories. Nesbit sadly passed away on 4 May 1924, but has left a long lasting legacy in the form of some great novels and Poems