Robert Ludlum

imageThe late great American spy thriller writer Robert Ludlum was Born May 25th 1927 in New York City. He was educated at The Rectory School then Cheshire Academy and Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. While at Wesleyan, Ludlum joined the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity. After becoming an author later in life, Ludlum would set his mystery novel Matlock Paper at the fictitious Carlyle University in Connecticut, a thinly-disguised Wesleyan. He Also wrote The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy and the Bourne Ultimatum, And was very prolific writing 23 thriller novels which reman hugely popular. The number in print is estimated between 290–500 million copies. They have been published in 33 languages and 40 countries. Ludlum also published books under the pseudonyms Jonathan Ryder and Michael Shepherd.

Prior to becoming an author, he had been a United States Marine, theatrical actor and producer. His theatrical experience may have contributed to his understanding of the energy, escapism and action that the public wanted in a novel. Ludlum’s novels typically feature one heroic man, or a small group of crusading individuals, in a struggle against powerful adversaries whose intentions and motivations are evil and who are capable of using political and economic mechanisms in frightening ways. The world in his writings is one where global corporations, shadowy military forces and government organizations all conspire to preserve (if it is evil) or undermine (if it is good) the status quo. They were often inspired by conspiracy theories, both historical and contemporary. Some novels also reflected the theory that terrorists, rather than being merely isolated bands of ideologically motivated extremists, are actually pawns of governments or private organizations who are using them to facilitate the establishment of authoritarian rule.

Among hs best known novels are The Osterman Weekend, The Chancellor Manuscript, The Bourne Identity, The Holcroft Covenant, The Bourne Supremacy, The Icarus Agenda, The Bourne Ultimatum, The Scorpio Illusion, The Apocolypse watch and The Prometheus Deception.Some of his novels have also been made into films – The Osterman Weekend was turned into a 1983 film starring Rutger Hauer, John Hurt and Dennis Hopper, and The Bourne trilogy was made into a highly successful series of movies, starring Matt Damon in the title role, which were commercially and critically successful (The Bourne Ultimatum won three Academy Awards in 2008), although the story lines depart significantly from the source material. Robert Ludlum Sadly passed away on March 12, 2001, at his home in Naples, Florida, while recovering from injuries he sustained in a fire

Klaus Meine (Scorpions)

imageKlaus Meine, The lead singer of German Rock group “Scorpions”, celebrates his birthday 25th May. The Scorpions were formed in 1965 by guitarist Rudolf Schenker, and are known for their 1980s rock anthem “Rock You Like a Hurricane” and many singles, such as “No One Like You”, “Send Me an Angel”, “Still Loving You”, and “Wind of Change”. On January 24, 2010, after 46 years of performing, the band announced they were retiring after touring in support of their album Sting in the Tail and performed a concert Live from Morocco.

During their long career The band have been phenomenally successful and have so far sold over 100 million albums worldwide. At first, the band had beat influences and Schenker himself did the vocals. Things began to come together in 1970 when Schenker’s younger brother Michael and vocalist Klaus Meine joined the band. In 1972, the group recorded and released their debut album Lonesome Crow. Sadly The departure of Michael Schenker led to the breakup of the band In 1973, however In 1974 a new line-up of Scorpions released Fly to the Rainbow. This album proved to be more successful than Lonesome Crow and established the band’s sound. In 1975 the band released In Trance, The album was a huge step forward for Scorpions and established their heavy metal formula. It garnered a fan base at home and abroad with songs such as “Dark Lady”, “Robot Man”. In 1976, Scorpions releaed Virgin Killer, which featured rather ontroversial artwork, that brought the band considerable media exposure but resulted in the album being “pulled” in some countries. The music itself garnered praise from critics and fans alike.

imageThe follow-up album was Taken by Force, They also recorded material during the band’s Japanese tour, and the resultant double live album was called Tokyo Tapes. In 1979 The Scorpions released the album “Love Drive” which some critics consider to be the pinnacle of their career. Containing the songs “Loving You Sunday Morning”, “Always Somewhere”, “Holiday” and the instrumental “Coast to Coast”, it firmly cemented the ‘Scorpions formula’ of hard rock songs mixed with melodic ballads. The album’s provocative artwork was also named “Best album sleeve of 1979″ by Playboy magazine but was changed for American release. In 1980 the band released Animal Magnetism, with another provocative cover, containing the songs “The Zoo” and “Make It Real”. In 1981 the band began working on their next album, Blackout, which was released in 1982 and quickly became the band’s best selling to date eventually going platinum, the album spawned three singles “Dynamite”, “Blackout”, and “No One Like You”, but It was not until 1984 and the release of Love at First Sting that the band finally cemented their status as metal musicians.

Propelled by the single “Rock You Like a Hurricane”, Love at First Sting climbed the charts and went double platinum in the USA a few months after its release.The band toured extensively supporting the album and decided to record and release their second live album, World Wide Live in 1985. Recorded over a year-long world tour and released at the height of their popularity, the album was another success for the band. the band’s next album Savage Amusement was Released in 1988 and represented a more polished and mature sound. During the Savage Amusement tour, Scorpions became only the second Western group (not American) to play in the Soviet Union. Uriah Heep had performed in December, 1987 in Leningrad. The following year the band returned to perform at the Moscow Music Peace Festival. As a result, Scorpions developed an extended Russian fan base and still return to perform.In 1990.

Crazy World was released and displayed a less polished sound. The album was propelled in large part by the massive success of the ballad “Wind of Change”. The song muses on the socio-political changes that were occurring in Eastern Europe and in other parts of the world at the end of the Cold War. On July 21, 1990 they joined many other guests for Roger Waters’ massive performance of The Wall in Berlin. Scorpions performed both versions of “In the Flesh” from The Wall. In 1993, Scorpions released Face the Heat but this did not come close to matching the success of “Wind of Change” and was only a moderate success. In 1995, a new album, Live Bites, was produced. The disc documented retro live performances from their Savage Amusement Tour in 1988, all the way through to the Face the Heat Tour in 1994.Their 13th studio album, 1996s Pure Instinct, had many ballads, and the album’s singles “Wild Child” and the soothing ballad “You and I” both enjoyed moderate success.

1999 saw the release of Eye II Eye and a significant change in the band’s style, mixing in elements of pop and techno sadly fans were unsure what to make of the band, responding negatively to almost everything from pop-soul backup singers to the electronic drums present on several songs. The following year, Scorpions had an artistic collaboration with the Berlin Philharmonic that resulted in a 10-song album named Moment of Glory. The album went a long way toward rebuilding the band’s reputation after the harsh criticism of Eye II Eye. In 2001, Scorpions released Acoustica, a live unplugged album featuring acoustic reworkings of the band’s biggest hits, plus new tracks.In 2004, the band released Unbreakable, an album that was hailed by critics as a long-awaited return to form. The album was the heaviest the band had released since Face the Heat, and fans responded well to tracks such as “New Generation”, “Love ‘em or Leave ‘em” and “Deep and Dark”. Scorpions released their 17th studio album, Sting in the Tail, on March 23, 2010 and announced that it would be their last album and that the tour supporting it will be their final tour. On 6 April 2010, Scorpions were enshrined in Hollywood’s Rock Walk in a handprint ceremony, with the band members placing their hands in a long slab of wet cement. The slab will be placed in the ground next to other musical artists on the Rock Walk. Scorpions released Comeblack on 7 November 2011 and headlined the Wacken Open Air Festival on 4 August 2012 Alongside Saxon, Sepultura, Napalm Death and Dio Disciples.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

American essayist, lecturer, and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson was born May 25, 1802. He led the transcendentalist movement in the 19th century and was a champion of individualism and critic of the pressures of society. He published dozens of essays and gave more than 1,500 public lectures across the United States.Emerson also formulated the philosophy of Transcendentalism in his 1836 essay Nature. His first two collections of essays – Essays: First Series and Essays: Second Series include Self-Reliance, The Over-Soul, Circles, The Poet andExperience.Emerson wrote on a number of subjects, such as individuality, freedom, the ability for humankind to realize almost anything, and the relationship between the soul and the surrounding world. His essays greatly influenced the thinkers, writers and poets and He was also well known as a mentor and friend of fellow Transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau.

Emerson’s formal schooling began at the Boston Latin School in 1812 when he was nine. In October 1817, Emerson went to Harvard College and was appointed freshman messenger for the president.Midway through his junior year, Emerson began keeping a list of books he had read and started a journal in a series of notebooks that would be called “Wide World”. He took outside jobs to cover his school expenses. By his senior year, Emerson decided to go by his middle name, Waldo.Emerson served as Class Poet And graduated on August 29, 1821, when he was 18. In 1826, Emerson went to seek out warmer climates, travelling to Charleston, South Carolina and St. Augustine, Florida, where he met Prince Achille Murat. Murat, the nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, and they became extremely good friends and engaged in enlightening discussions on religion, society, philosophy, and government, and Emerson considered Murat an important figure in his intellectual education

Emerson met his first wife, Ellen Louisa Tucker, in Concord, New Hampshire on Christmas Day, 1827, sadly Ellen died at the age of 20 on February 8, 1831, After his wife’s death, he began to disagree with the church’s methods, His disagreements with church officials over the administration of the Communion service and misgivings about public prayer eventually led to his resignation in 1832. Emerson toured Europe in 1833 and later wrote of his travels in English Traits (1856). Leaving on Christmas Day, 1832, sailing first to Malta, spending time in Italy, visiting Rome, Florence and Venice, before sailing north to England, Emerson met William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Thomas Carlyle. He returned to the United States on October 9, 1833, and lived with his mother in Newton, Massachusetts, until October, 1834, when he moved to Concord, Massachusetts, to live with his step-grandfather Dr. Ezra Ripley. Seeing the budding Lyceum movement, Emerson saw a possible career as a lecturer. On November 5, 1833, he made the first of what would eventually be some 1,500 lectures, discussing The Uses of Natural History in Boston. This was an expanded account of his experience in Paris.

In May 1843 Emerson purchased a 90-acre (360,000 m2) farm in Harvard, Massachusetts, for what would become Fruitlands, a community based on Utopian ideals inspired in part by Transcendentalism. The farm would run based on a communal effort, using no animals for labor; its participants would eat no meat and use no wool or leather. In 1844, Emerson published his second collection of essays, entitled “Essays: Second Series.” This collection included “The Poet,” “Experience,” “Gifts,” and another essay entitled “Nature,” Emerson made a living as a popular lecturer And by the 1850s he was giving as many as 80 per year.Emerson was also introduced to Indian philosophy when reading the works of French philosopher Victor Cousin. He also read the Bhagavad Gita and Henry Thomas Colebrooke’s Essays on the Vedas, which influenced much of his writing. From 1847 to 1848, he toured England, Scotland, and Ireland.He also visited Paris between the February Revolution and the bloodyJune Days. On May 21 he stood on the Champ de Mars in the midst of mass celebrations for concord, peace and labor and this trip influenced Emerson’s later work. His 1856 book English Traits is based largely on observations recorded in his travel journals and notebooks. Emerson later came to see the American Civil War as a ‘revolution’ that shared common ground with the European revolutions of 1848. In February 1852 Emerson, James Freeman Clarke and William Henry Channing edited an edition of the works and letters of Margaret Fuller, and In 1855 he published an innovative poetry collection called Leaves of Grass.

Emerson—earned the nicknamed the Concord Sage— and became the leading voice of intellectual culture in the United States because of his ability to influence and inspire others, his work not only influenced his contemporaries, such as Walt Whitman and Henry David Thoreau, but would continue to influence thinkers and writers worldwide to the present. Notable thinkers who recognize Emerson’s influence include Nietzsche and William James. Walt Whitman, and Henry David Thoreau. Several of Emerson’s poems were included in Bloom’s The Best Poems of the English Language and Self-Reliance, Circles, Experience, and Conduct of Life” are considered his best essays. Emerson was staunchly anti-slavery and from 1837 give a number of lectures during the pre-Civil War years and in 1844. He gave a number of speeches and lectures, and notably welcomed John Brown to his home during Brown’s visits to Concord. Once the American Civil War broke out, Emerson made it clear that he believed in immediate emancipation of the slaves. Around this time, in 1860, Emerson published The Conduct of Life, his seventh collection of essays. In this book, Emerson “grappled with some of the thorniest issues of the moment,” and “his experience in the abolition ranks is a telling influence in his conclusions.

Emerson also embraced the idea of war as a means of national rebirth and in 1862 he visited Washington, D.C, and gave a public lecture at the Smithsonian and also met Lincoln at the White House. Lincoln was familiar with Emerson’s work, having previously seen him lecture.Emerson’s misgivings about Lincoln began to soften after this meeting. In 1865, he spoke at a memorial service held for Lincoln in Concord. Emerson also met a number of high-ranking government officials, including Salmon P. Chase, the secretary of the treasury, Edward Bates, the attorney general, Edwin M. Stanton, the secretary of war, Gideon Welles, the secretary of the navy, and William Seward, the secretary of state. On May 6, 1862, Emerson’s protégé Henry David Thoreau died of tuberculosis at the age of 44 and Emerson delivered his eulogy. Another friend, Nathaniel Hawthorne, died in 1864. Emerson served as one of the pallbearers as Hawthorne was buried in Concord. That same year Emerson was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

From 1867, Emerson’s health began declining; he wrote much less in his journals and also started having memory problems then in 1872 Emerson’s Concord home caught fire And theEmersons ended up staying with family at the Old Manse, The fire marked an end to Emerson’s serious lecturing career; from then on, he would lecture only on special occasions and only in front of familiar audiences. While the house was being rebuilt, Emerson took a trip to England, continental Europe, and Egypt with his daughter Ellen, and returned in 1873 on the ship Olympus along with friend Charles Eliot Norton. In late 1874 Emerson published an anthology of poetry called Parnassus. Sadly Emerson ceased his public appearances by 1879 and on April 21, 1882, Emerson was diagnosed with pneumonia and died on April 27, 1882. He is buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord, Massachusetts.

In a galaxy far away…

Star WarsStar Wars The first film in the original Star Wars Trilogy was originally released 25 May 1977. (Technically it is the fourth film, and chronologically the prequels take place before Star Wars, however they were released sixteen years after this date). Star Wars, Created by George Lucas, is described as taking place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away and sees a young farm boy named Luke Skywalker thrust unwittingly into a Rebellion to rid the galaxy of an evil empire after acquiring two droids C3PO and R2D2, who have escaped from a spaceship which has come under attack from the Empire and landed on the desolate planet Tattooine. Along the way He meets an old Jedi Knight named Obi Wan Kenobi and discovers that one of the droids is carrying the technical data for the Empire’s terrifying new weapon ‘The Death Star’ which is capable of destroying whole planets. Luke also learns that he has a special power and asks Obi Wan to teach him to master them. On Tattoine he also meets charismatic smuggler Han Solo and his wookiee first mate Chewbacca, who are asked to take them to the planet Alderaan, home of Princess Leia to help mount an attack on the Death Star. However Princess Leia has been captured by the evil Empire, led by The Evil Sith Lord Emperor Palpatine and his sinister apprentice Darth Vader and taken to the Death Star and Alderaan has been destroyed. so the rebels mount a daring rescue attempt to free Princess Leia and Luke gets swept up in the battle to destroy the Death Star

Empire Strikes Back takes place Three years later, and sees the Rebels attacked by the Empire on the ice world of Hoth. Meanwhile Luke Skywalker travels to find Jedi Master Yoda, who is living in exile on the swamp-infested world Dagobah, to begin his Jedi training. The Rebels manage to escape Hoth hotly pursued by the Empire. However, Luke is interrupted from his training when Vader lures him into a trap by capturing Han and the others who have journeyed to Cloud City on Bespin seeking help from Han’s old acquaintance Lando Calrissian. During a fierce lightsaber duel, Vader reveals that he is in fact Luke’s father and used to be Anakin Skywalker, and unsuccessfully attempts to turn Luke to the dark side.

Return of the Jedi sees, Luke journey to Tattooiene to save Han from the clutches of the vile gangster Jabba the Hutt and then return to Yoda to complete his training. However, now over 900 years old, Yoda is on his deathbed. Before he passes away, Yoda confirms that Vader is Luke’s father; moments later, Obi-Wan’s spirit tells Luke that he must face his father before he can become a true Jedi, and that Leia is his twin sister. The Rebels then attempt to destroy a second Death Star which is being built near the forest moon of Endor and manage to pursuade the local inhabitants to help them. Meanwhile Luke confronts Vader as Palpatine watches; both Sith Lords intend to turn Luke to the dark side and take him as their apprentice. During the subsequent lightsaber duel, Luke succumbs to his anger and brutally overpowers Vader, but controls himself at the last minute; realizing that he is about to suffer his father’s fate, and he spares Vader’s life and declares his allegiance to the Jedi. An enraged Palpatine then attempts to kill Luke with Force lightning. However Darth Vader Redeems himself at the last moment, switching loyalties from the Empire to his Son, but pays the ultimate price. Subsequently Luke becomes a full-fledged Jedi, and the Rebels destroy the second Death Star.

The film series has become a worldwide pop culture phenomenon and has remained popular to this day, spawning an Expanded Universe including books, television series, computer and video games, and comic books, which have resulted in significant development of the series’ fictional universe. These media kept the franchise active in the interim between the film trilogies. In October 2012, The Walt Disney Company acquired Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion and announced that it would produce three new films, with the first film, Star Wars Episode VII, being released in 2015. 20th Century Fox still retains the distribution rights to the first two Star Wars trilogies, owning permanent rights for the original film Episode IV: A New Hope, while holding the rights to Episodes I–III, V and VI until May 2020.

The seventh film in the series Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens was directed by J.J. Abrahams and takes place thirty years after Return of the Jedi. It sees Princess Leia being reunited with Han Solo and leading the galaxy against a new threat from the evil First Order, led by the shadowy Supreme Leader Snoke, and his Lieutenant Kylo Ren who have built a new superweapon called Starkiller Base which threatens the whole galaxy. They are also trying to find Luke Skywalker who disappeared after a former pupil turned to the Dark Side. She is joined by former Stormtrooper named Finn, who deserted the First Order, a Force sensitive orphan woman named Rey and a robot BB-8 who holds a vital piece of information concerning Luke, all of whom could play a crucial role in future events.

Towel Day

imageTowel Day is an annual celebration held on 25 May to celebrate the life and works of English author Douglas Adams, who is most famous for writing the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Dirk Gently’s Hollistic Detective Agency and a couple of Doctor Who episodes starring Tom Baker. On this day, fans carry a towel with them, to demonstrate their appreciation of the books and the Author. The importance of Towels is described in chapter three of Adams’ The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy thus:

A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

MarvinParanoidAndroid2-rich_7444More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have “lost.” What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with. Hence a phrase that has passed into hitchhiking slang, as in “Hey, you sass that hoopy Ford Prefect? There’s a frood who really knows where his towel is.” (Sass: know, be aware of, meet, have sex with; hoopy: really together guy; frood: really amazingly together guy. The emphasis on towels is a reference to Hitch-hiker’s Guide to Europe by Ken Welsh, which inspired Adams’ fictional guidebook and also stresses the importance of towels.

The first of five books in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy comedy science fiction series by Douglas Adams was published 12th October 1979. Originally a radio comedy broadcast, it was later adapted to other formats, and over several years it gradually became an international multi-media phenomenon. Adaptations have included stage shows, a “trilogy” of five books, a sixth novel penned by Eoin Colfer, a 1981 TV series, a computer game, and three series of three-part comic book adaptations of the first three novels published by DC Comics between 1993 and 1996. A film version, produced and filmed in the UK, was released in April 2005, and radio adaptations of the third, fourth, and fifth novels were broadcast from 2004 to 2005. All versions, the series follows the adventures of Arthur Dent, a hapless Englishman, Ford Prefect, who named himself after the Ford Prefect car to blend in with what was assumed to be the dominant life form, automobiles, and is an alien from a small planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse and a researcher for the eponymous guidebook; Zaphod Beeblebrox, Ford’s semi-cousin and the Galactic President; the depressed robot Marvin the Paranoid Android; and Trillian, formerly known as Tricia McMillan, a woman Arthur once met at a party in Islington and the only other human survivor of Earth’s destruction.

In the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the characters visit the legendary planet Magrathea, home to the now-collapsed planet-building industry, and meet Slartibartfast, a planetary coastline designer who was responsible for the fjords of Norway. Through archival recordings, he relates the story of a race of hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional beings who built a computer named Deep Thought to calculate the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything. When the answer was revealed to be 42, Deep Thought explained that the answer was incomprehensible because the beings didn’t know what they were asking. It went on to predict that another computer, more powerful than itself would be made to calculate the question for the answer. (Later on, referencing this, Adams would create the 42 Puzzle, a puzzle which could be approached in multiple ways, all yielding the answer 42.) The computer, was the Earth, and was destroyed by Vogons to make way for a hyperspatial express route, five minutes before the conclusion of its 10-million-year program. Two of a race of hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional beings who commissioned the Earth in the first place, disguised themselves as Trillian’s mice, and want to dissect Arthur’s brain to help reconstruct the question, since he was part of the Earth’s matrix moments before it was destroyed, and so he is likely to have part of the question buried in his brain.

In The Restaurant at the End of the Universe , Zaphod gets separated from the others and finds he is part of a conspiracy to uncover who really runs the Universe. He then meets Zarniwoop, editor for The Guide, who knows where to find the secret ruler and is briefly reunited with the others for a trip to Milliways, the titular restaurant. Zaphod and Ford decide to steal a ship from there, however this turns out to be a stunt ship pre-programmed to plunge into a star as a special effect in a stage show and they are unable to change it’s course. Meanwhile Ford and Arthur, end up on a spacecraft full of the outcasts of the Golgafrinchan civilisation, which crashes on prehistoric Earth; leaving Ford and Arthur stranded, and it becomes clear that the inept Golgafrinchans are the ancestors of modern humans, having displaced the Earth’s indigenous hominids. Adams himself considered Restaurant to be his best novel of the five.

In Life, the Universe and Everything , Slartibartfast, enlists the aid of Ford, Arthur, Marvin, Zaphod and Trillian to prevent the people of the planet Krikkit from escaping their home planet, on which they have been imprisoned for trying to start a Galactic War and prevent them starting another Galactic War which will wipe out all life in the Universe. In So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish, Arthur returns home to Earth, where He meets and falls in love with a girl named Fenchurch, and discovers this Earth is a replacement provided by the dolphins in their Save the Humans campaign. Eventually he rejoins Ford, who claims to have saved the Universe in order to hitch-hike one last time and see God’s Final Message to His Creation. Along the way, they are also joined by Marvin, the Paranoid Android, who, although 37 times older than the universe itself (what with time travel and all), has just enough power left in his failing body to read the message and feel better about it all before expiring.

Finally, in Mostly Harmless, Vogons take over The Hitchhiker’s Guide (under the name of InfiniDim Enterprises), to finish the task of obliterating the Earth. Arthur loses Fenchurch and travels around the galaxy despondently, before crashing his spaceship on the planet Lamuella, where he settles in happily as the official sandwich-maker for a small village of simple, peaceful people. Meanwhile, Ford Prefect breaks into The Guide’s offices, gets himself an infinite expense account from the computer system, and then meets The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Mark II, an artificially intelligent, multi-dimensional guide with vast power and a hidden purpose. Trillian leaves her daughter, Random Frequent Flyer Dent with Arthur, but she then steals The Guide Mark II and uses it to get to Earth. Arthur, Ford, Trillian, and Tricia McMillan (Trillian in this alternate universe) give chase & follow her to a crowded club, where an anguished Random becomes startled by a noise and inadvertently fires her gun at Arthur. The shot misses Arthur and kills Agrajag. Soon afterwards, The Guide Mark II removes all possible Earths from probability, which is bad news for all the main characters, apart from Zaphod, who were all on Earth at the time.

Author Eoin Colfer (Artemis Fowl) wrote a sixth instalment entitled And Another Thing, which sees the characters awoken from virtual reality as death rays bear down on Earth before being picked up by Zaphod and joined by Bowerick Wowbagger, the Infinitely Prolonged. Zaphod then travels to Asgard to get Thor’s help, to deal with the Vogons, who are heading to the planet Nano in order to destroy a colony of people who also escaped Earth’s destruction. Meanwhile Arthur, Wowbagger, Trillian and Random head to Nano to try to stop the Vogons. During the journey Wowbagger and Trillian fall in love, then Zaphod arrives with Thor, who becomes the planet’s God. Wowbagger then marries Trillian and Thor manages to stop the first Vogon attack. Meanwhile, Constant Mown, son of Prostetnic Jeltz, convinces his father that the people on the planet are not citizens of Earth, but are citizens of Nano, which means that it would be illegal to kill them. Arthur then finds himself flung across alternate universes during a hyperspace jump but ends up exactly where he’d want to be And then the Vogons turn up again….

The popularity of the radio series gave rise to a six-episode television series, which first aired on BBC 2 in 1981. It employed many of the actors from the radio series and was based mainly on the radio versions of Fits the First through Sixth. A second series was also planned, although it was never made. On 21 June 2004, BBC Radio announced that a new series of Hitchhiker’s based on the third novel would be broadcast followed by a further series based on the fourth and fifth novels. A movie adaptation of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was also released in 2005 starring Martin Freeman as Arthur, Mos Def as Ford, Sam Rockwell as Zaphod Beeblebrox and Zooey Deschanel as Trillian, with Alan Rickman providing the voice of Marvin the Paranoid Android (and Warwick Davis acting in Marvin’s costume), and Stephen Fry as the voice of the Guide/Narrator. The plot of the film adaptation of Hitchhiker’s Guide differs widely from that of the radio show, book and television series and visits to Vogsphere, the homeworld of the Vogons (which, in the books, was already abandoned), and Viltvodle VI are inserted. The film covers events in the first four radio episodes, and ends with the characters en route to Milliways, the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, leaving the opportunity for a sequel open.

Burt Kwouk OBE

British actor W. “Burt” Kwouk, OBE Sadly died 24 May 2016. Kwouk was born 18 July 1930 in Warrington, Cheshire but was brought up in Shanghai until he was 17 years old, when his Chinese parents returned to England. He went to the United States to study and in 1953 graduated from Bowdoin College. The Kwouk family fortune had been lost in the 1949 revolution and in 1954 he came back to Britain, where a girlfriend “nagged me into acting”.

He appeared in numerous films and television programmes. One of Kwouk’s earliest film roles was in The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (1958) where he played the leader of a prison revolt who later aids the main character in heroically leading orphans to safety. In 1968 he appeared in The Shoes of the Fisherman opposite Laurence Olivier and Anthony Quinn. Kwouk was also a stalwart of several ITC television TV series, such as Danger Man, The Saint and Man of the World. He co-starred in 12/13 episodes of The Sentimental Agent (1963). Kwouk appeared in three James Bond films. In Goldfinger (1964) he played Mr. Ling, a Chinese expert in nuclear fission; in the spoof Casino Royale (1967) he played a general and in You Only Live Twice (1967) Kwouk played the part of a Japanese operative of Blofeld credited as Spectre 3.

However he was most famous for playing Cato Fong, Inspector Clouseau’s manservant in the Pink Panther films, who was ordered to attack Clouseau when he least expected it in order to keep him alert, this would end up totally hilarious and caused absolute chaos. A reference to his appearances in several films with Peter Sellers including the opening scene of The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu alongside Peter Sellers, who says to him “your face is familiar.”(referencing Pink Panther). He also portrayed the honorable but misguided Major Yamauchi in the 1980’s British World War II drama series Tenko.

In 2000, he appeared in an episode of the western TV series Queen of Swords as Master Kiyomasa, an aged Japanese warrior-priest. Sung-Hi Lee played his female pupil, Kami. The episode was filmed at Texas Hollywood, Almeria, Spain. From 2001 to 2004 he provided voice-overs on the spoof Japanese betting show Banzai and subsequently appeared in adverts for the betting company, Bet365. From 2002 until 2010, he so had a regular role in the Last of the Summer Wine, as Entwistle. In 2010, he provided the voice of the CGI character Shen, a Chinese water dragon, for the groundbreaking BBC TV fantasy drama series Spirit Warriors.

Duke Ellington

American composer, pianist, and big-band leader Duke Ellington sadly died 24 May 1974. Born 29th April 1899, he wrote over 1,000 compositions and was a major figure in the history of jazz, Ellington’s music stretched into various other genres, including blues, gospel, film scores, popular, and classical. His career spanned more than 50 years and included leading his orchestra, composing an inexhaustible songbook, scoring for movies, composing stage musicals, and world tours. Several of his instrumental works were adapted into songs that became standards.

Due to his inventive use of the orchestra, or big band, and thanks to his eloquence and extraordinary charisma, he is generally considered to have elevated the perception of jazz to an art form on a par with other traditional genres of music. His reputation increased after his death and the Pulitzer Prize Board bestowed on him a special posthumous honor in 1999. Ellington called his music “American Music” rather than jazz, and liked to describe those who impressed him as “beyond category.” These included many of the musicians who were members of his orchestra, some of whom are considered among the best in jazz in their own right, but it was Ellington who melded them into one of the most well-known jazz orchestral units in the history of jazz.

He often composed specifically for the style and skills of these individuals, such as “Jeep’s Blues” for Johnny Hodges, “Concerto for Cootie” for Cootie Williams, which later became “Do Nothing Till You Hear from Me” with Bob Russell’s lyrics, and “The Mooche” for Tricky Sam Nanton and Bubber Miley. He also recorded songs written by his bandsmen, such as Juan Tizol’s “Caravan” and “Perdido” which brought the “Spanish Tinge” to big-band jazz. Several members of the orchestra remained there for several decades. After 1941, he frequently collaborated with composer-arranger-pianist Billy Strayhorn, whom he called his “writing and arranging companion.” Ellington recorded for many American record companies, and appeared in several films. Ellington led his band from 1923 until his death in 1974. His son Mercer Ellington, who had already been handling all administrative aspects of his father’s business for several decades, led the band until his own death in 1996. At that point, the original band dissolved. Paul Ellington, Mercer’s youngest son and executor of the Duke Ellington estate, kept the Duke Ellington Orchestra going from Mercer’s death onwards