Posted in books, Uncategorized

Books on my “To Read” list

Recently I have been offline for some time, which has given me a great chance to catch up with my reading, however during that time I have also acquired some fantastic books. The only thing now is that I am starting to have “storage issues, so if I suddenly disappear offline again for no apparent reason, there is a good chance I have started reading one or more of these:

  • Gray Mountain by John Grisham
  • What Remains by Tim Weaver
  • The Darkest Day by Tom Wood
  • I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes
  • Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz
  • Lamentation by C.J.Sansom
  • The Bodies Left Behnd by Jeffrey Deaver
  • The Appeal by John Grisham
  • Memory Man by David Baldacci
Posted in books

Gray Mountain by John Grisham

imageAfter I have read the Testament I would like to read Gray Mountain, also by John Grisham. It features a Lawyer named Samantha Kofer whose career at a huge Wall Street law firm is on the fast track—until the recession hits and she gets downsized, furloughed and escorted out of the building. Samantha, though, is one of the “lucky” associates. She’s offered an opportunity to work at a legal aid clinic for one year without pay, after which there would be a slim chance that she’d get her old job back.

So within a matter of days Samantha finds herself moving from Manhattan to Brady, Virginia, population 2,200, a small town in the heart of Appalachia, which she has only read about. Here she meets Mattie Wyatt, lifelong Brady resident and head of the town’s legal aid clinic, who teaches her how to help real people with real problems and she also encounters a ruthless and fearless lawyer named Donovan Gray.

Her new job takes Her into the murky and dangerous world of coal mining, where laws are often broken, rules are ignored, regulations are flouted, communities are divided, and the land itself is under attack from Big Coal and as, Samantha prepares a lawsuit for the first time in her career, she sees the inside of an actual courtroom, gets scolded by a judge, and receives threats from locals who aren’t so thrilled to have a big-city lawyer in town. Violence is always just around the corner, and within weeks Samantha finds herself engulfed in litigation that turns deadly and finds her own life in danger And she learns that Brady, like many small towns, harbours some big secrets.

Posted in music

Alex James (Blur)

Alex James, the bassist with seminal Bitpop band Blur was Born November 21st 1968. Blur were Formed in London in 1988 as Seymour, consisting of singer/keyboardist Damon Albarn, guitarist/singer Graham Coxon, bassist Alex James and drummer Dave Rowntree. Blur’s debut album Leisure (1991) incorporated the sounds of Madchester and shoegazing. Following a stylistic change influenced by English guitar pop groups such as The Kinks, The Beatles and XTC, Blur released Modern Life Is Rubbish (1993), Parklife (1994) and The Great Escape (1995). As a result, the band helped to popularise the Britpop genre and achieved mass popularity in the UK, aided by a chart battle with rival band Oasis in 1995 dubbed “The Battle of Britpop”.

In recording their follow-up, Blur (1997), the band underwent another reinvention, showing influence from the lo-fi style of American indie rock groups. “Song 2″, one of the album’s singles, brought Blur mainstream success in the United States. Their next album, 13 (1999) saw the band members experimenting with electronic and gospel music, and featured more personal lyrics from Albarn. In May 2002, Coxon left Blur during the recording of their seventh album Think Tank (2003). Containing electronic sounds and more minimal guitar work, the album was marked by Albarn’s growing interest in hip hop and African music. After a 2003 tour without Coxon, Blur did no studio work or touring as a band, as members engaged in other projects.

In 2008 Blur reunited, with Coxon back in the fold, for a series of concerts and have continued to release several singles and retrospective releases. In 2009 Blur reunited, with Graham Coxon back in the fold, for a series of concerts and during the following years they released several singles and retrospective compilations, and toured internationally. In 2012, the group received a Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music. Their first major release in twelve years, The Magic Whip (2015), became the sixth consecutive Blur studio album to top the British charts.

Posted in Art, books, Science fiction

Anne McCaffrey (Dragonriders of Pern)

Rowena_Morrill_Dolphins_of_PernBest known for the Dragonriders of Pern science fiction series the American Born Irish Novellist Anne Inez McCaffrey sadly passed away 21 November 2011. Born 1 April 1926 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.She attended Stuart Hall (a girls’ boarding school in Staunton, Virginia), and graduated from Montclair High School in New Jersey. In 1947 she graduated cum laude from Radcliffe College with a degree in Slavonic Languages and Literature.In 1950 she married Horace Wright Johnson who shared her interests in music, opera and ballet. They had three children: Alec Anthony, born 1952; Todd, born 1956 and Georgeanne (“Gigi”, Georgeanne Kennedy), born 1959.Except for a short time in Düsseldorf, the family lived for most of a decade in Wilmington, Delaware. They moved to Sea Cliff, Long Island in 1965, and McCaffrey became a full-time writer.McCaffrey served a term as secretary-treasurer of the Science Fiction Writers of America from 1968 to 1970. In addition to handcrafting the Nebula Award trophies, her responsibilities included production of two monthly newsletters and their distriution by mail to the membership.McCaffrey emigrated to Ireland with her two younger children in 1970, weeks after filing for divorce. Ireland had recently exempted resident artists from income taxes, an opportunity that fellow science-fiction author Harry Harrison had promptly taken and helped to promote. McCaffrey’s mother soon joined the family in Dublin. the following spring, McCaffrey was guest of honor at her first British science-fiction convention. There she met British reproductive biologist Jack Cohen, who would be a consultant on the science of Pern.

Moreta-and-Orlith-the-dragonriders-of-pern-33409691-360-282During the 1950’s McCaffrey had had two short stories published, The first (“Freedom of the Race”, about women impregnated by aliens) was written in 1952 when she was pregnant with her son Alec. It earned a $100 prize in Science-Fiction Plus. Her second story, “The Lady in the Tower”, was published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction by editor Robert P. Mills and published again by editor Judith Merril for The Year’s Greatest Science Fiction.McCaffrey said “she thought of the story when wishing herself alone, like a lady in an ivory tower”.Judith Merril matched McCaffrey with her long-time literary agent Virginia Kidd (died 2003) and invited her to the Milford Writer’s Workshop (to which she returned many times), where participants each brought a story to be critiqued.After her first Milford workshop in 1959 she worked on “The Ship Who Sang”, the story which began the Brain & Brawn Ship series. At the story’s end, the spaceship Helva sings “Taps” for her human partner. she considered it her best story and her favorite.[“I put much of myself into it: myself and the troubles I had in accepting my father’s death and a troubled marriage.”McCaffrey then wrote two more “Ship” stories and began her first novel. Regarding her motivation for Restoree (1967), McCaffrey explained that it “served its purpose of an intelligent, survivor-type woman as the protagonist of an Science Fiction story”. The 1969 novel Decision at Doona opens on “an overcrowded planet where just talking too loud made you a social outcast”. As a settler on Doona, the boy talker has a priceless talent. McCaffrey made a fast start in Ireland, completing for 1971 publication Dragonquest and two Gothic novels for Dell, The Mark of Merlin and The Ring of Fear. After writing The White Dragon her writing stalled. During the next few years the family moved several times in the Dublin area and struggled to make ends meet.

However the young-adult book market provided a crucial opportunity for McCaffrey and Whilst brainstorming about dragons and their “bad press all these years”. she devised a “technologically regressed survival planet” whose people were united against a threat from space (in contrast to an America divided by the Vietnam War). “The dragons became the biologically renewable air force, and their riders ‘the few’ who, like the RAF pilots in World War Two, fought against incredible odds day in, day out—and won.”The first Pern story, “Weyr Search”, was published in 1967 by John W. Campbell in Analog Science Fiction and Fact. It won the 1968 Hugo Award for best novella. The second Pern story, “Dragonrider”, won the 1969 Nebula Award for best novella, voted annually by the Science Fiction Writers of America. Thus she was the first woman to win a Hugo for fiction and the first to win a Nebula.”Weyr Search” covers the recruitment of a young woman, Lessa, to establish a telepathic bond with a queen dragon at its hatching, thus becoming a dragonrider and the leader of a Weyr community. “Dragonrider” explores the growth of the queen dragon Ramoth, and the training of Lessa and Ramoth. The third story, “Crack Dust, Black Dust”. The first Pern novel (Dragonflight, was a combination of Weyr Search, Dragonrider and Crack dust,black dust. In 1974 the New England Science Fiction Association invited McCaffrey to its annual convention as guest of honor (which included publication of a novella for sale on-site). She wrote A Time When, which would become the first part of The White Dragon which was released with new editions of the first two Pern books, with cover art illustrated by Michael Whelan. Other McCaffrey novels include “The Smallest Dragonboy”, The Crystal Singer, Dragonsong, Dragonsinger: Harper of Pern, and Dragondrums.

During McCaffrey’s 46-year career as a writer, she became the first woman to win a Hugo Award for fiction and the first to win a Nebula Award. Her 1978 novel The White Dragon became one of the first science-fiction books to appear on the New York Times Best Seller list.In 2005 the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America named McCaffrey its 22nd Grand Master, an annual award to living writers of fantasy and science fiction. She was inducted by the Science Fiction Hall of Fame on 17 June 2006. McCaffrey sadly passed away at age 85 on 21 November 2011 at her home in Ireland, following a stroke.


Posted in Events

World Hello Day

World Hello Day is celebrated annually on November 21. The objective is to say hello to at least ten people on the day. The message is for world leaders to use communication rather than force to settle conflicts. World Hello Day was founded in 1973 by Brian McCormack, a Ph.D. graduate of Arizona State University, and Michael McCormack, a graduate of Harvard University, in response to the Yom Kippur War. World Hello Day has been observed by people in 180 countries.

Any person can participate in World Hello Day simply by greeting ten people or more. This demonstrates the importance of personal communication for preserving peace. World Hello Day was begun in response to the conflict between Egypt and Israel in the fall of 1973. People around the world use the occasion of World Hello Day as an opportunity to express their concern for world peace. Beginning with a simple greeting on World Hello Day, their activities send a message to leaders, encouraging them to use communication rather than force to settle conflicts. In its first year, World Hello Day gained the support of 15 countries. As a global event World Hello Day joins local participation in a global expression of peace.

World Hello Day can be used as an instrument for preserving peace and as an occasion that makes it possible for anyone in the world to contribute to the process of creating peace. Among the supporters of World Hello Day are almost 100 authors, entertainers, and world leaders including Michael McCormack . McCormack has enjoyed writing and acting since a young age. He graduated Harvard University in 1974 and, during the fall of his senior year in 1973, he and his brother, Brian McCormack, started World Hello Day. Throughout his college years, McCormack was editor of the first-year literary magazine and a writer for the Lampoon, a semi-secret organization that publishes a humor magazine. Since the creation of World Hello Day, Michael J. McCormack has written several novels including, Gandhi’s Last Book and “The Quotations of Chairman Meow”, as well as plays like “Farewell Fillmore High”. After graduating from Harvard, McCormack moved to New York City. In 1999, Michael McCormack was accepted to the University of California at Los Angeles film school for directing and subsequently moved to LA from Nebraska to follow his directing aspirations.

Posted in books

The Testament by John Grisham

I am currently reading The Testament by John Grisham. It features an eccentric elderly billionaire namedTroy Phelan, who leaves one final will before leaping to his death. His six greedy and obnoxious relatives, who are all hoping to make millions from the settlement are all horrified when they find out that he has left his vast fortune to an illegitimate daughter, Rachel Lane instead. His lawyers are now tasked with protecting Troy’s wishes as well as finding the heiress. Nate O’Riley, a high-powered litigation lawyer and now recovering alcoholic, is sent to a remote area of the Pantanal in Brazil, where Rachel is believed to be living as a missionary.

While Nate is trying to find Rachel, Troy’s family does everything in their power to contest the new will. They argue that although Troy was examined by three of the top psychiatrists in the nation, he was insane when he made the new will. The journey into the Pantanal of South America by way of Corumbá nearly kills Nate, but finally he and his guide locate the tribe with which Rachel Lane is living. She refuses the legacy or anything connected with it. So Nate returns to the United States after contracting dengue fever from a mosquito.

Meanwhile, the ex-wives, children and respective lawyers continue attempting to destroy and disprove all evidence of Troy Phelan’s sanity and even the will itself. However they stop contesting the will in court, when they realize that their testimony will further hurt their case and discover that two witnesses for the plaintiff are lying anyway. To settle the matter, Nate agrees that the relatives of Troy Phelan will be paid $50 million each (minus lawyers’ fees) to stop turning the will contest into a legal quagmire. Nate then returns to the jungle in order to get Rachel to sign off on the settlement, however Rachel tragically dies from Malaria but makes financial provisions for the benefit of the Indigenous people and puts Nate in charge of the money.