Posted in books, films & DVD, Television

Peter May

RunawayScottish television screenwriter, novelist, and crime writer Peter May was born 20 December 1951 in Glasgow. From an early age he was intent on becoming a novelist, but took up a career as a journalist as a way to start earning a living by writing. He made his first serious attempt at writing a novel at the age of 19, which he sent to Collins where it was read by Philip Ziegler, who wrote him a very encouraging rejection letter. In 1972 he won the Fraser Award and was named Scotland’s Young Journalist of the Year. He went on to write for The Scotsman and the Glasgow Evening Times. At the age of 26, May’s first novel, The Reporter, was published. May was asked to adapt the book as a television series for the British television network the BBC, and left journalism in 1978 to begin to write full-time for television.

May’s novel The Reporter became the prime-time 13-part television series entitled The Standard in 1978. May went on to create other major TV series Including, Squadron and, Machair. May alsowrote the novels Hidden Faces (1981) and The Noble Path (1992), and in 1996 May quit television to write novels. May’s “China Thrillers”, appeared between 1999 and 2004, To research the series, May made annual trips to China building up contacts including forensic pathologists and homicide detectives. He gained access to the homicide and forensic science sections of Beijing and Shanghai police forces and has made a study of the methodology of Chinese police and forensic pathology systems. As a mark of their respect for his work, the Chinese Crime Writers’ Association made him an honorary member of their Beijing Chapter. He is the only Westerner to receive this honour. He also contributed a monthly column to the Chinese Police Magazine Contemporary World Police.

Peter May lives in France and his China Thrillers have received several nominations for awards in that country. In 2007 he won the Prix Intramuros. This prize is awarded by juries of readers made up of prisoners in French penitentiaries. In 2007, May was the only non-French author in the shortlist. He received the prize at the annual Polar&Co literary festival in Cognac.

“The Enzo Files”, is set in France and is centred on the work of half-Italian, half-Scottish Enzo Macleod. A former forensic scientist, now working as a biology professor at a French university who applies the latest scientific methods to solve cold cases. May continues to ensure authenticity in the details of his books by researching in France just as he did in China. His novel “The Critic” involves the wine industry and is set in Gaillac, France – May was also inducted as a Chevalier de la Dive Bouteille de Gaillac in December 2007. In 2016, after 15 years of living full-time in France May was welcomed as a French citizen at a ceremony of naturalization by Catherine Ferrier, the Préfète of the Lot. For his standalone thriller ‘Virtually Dead’, May researched the book by creating an avatar in the online world of Second Life and opening the Flick Faulds private detective agency. The Blackhouse, the first book in ‘The Lewis Trilogy’ set in the Outer Hebrides’ was published in 2009 And Was hailed as “a masterpiece” by the French daily newspaper L’Humanité and was also nominated for several literary awards in France. It won the Prix des Lecteurs at Le Havre’s Ancres Noires Festival and the French national literature award, the Cezam Prix Littéraire Inter CE in 2011.

The second book in the trilogy, ‘The Lewis Man’ was published in 2012. It won two French literature awards, the Prix des Lecteurs at Le Havre’s Ancres Noires Festival, 2012, the Prix des Lecteurs du Télégramme, readers prize of France’s Le Télégramme newspaper and the 2012 Prix International at the Cognac Festival. The third book, ‘The Chessmen’ was shortlisted for the Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Book of the Year 2014. Entry Island, Peter May’s first book after the Lewis Trilogy was Entry Island this is partly set on a remote island in Canada. This won the Deanstons Scottish Crime Book of the Year 2014, the UK national prize, the Specsavers ITV Crime Thriller Book Club Best Read of the Year 2014 and the French Trophée 813 for the Best Foreign Crime Novel of the year 2015. Peter May’s next crime novel Runaway is based on real experiences of running away from home in Glasgow seeking fame and fortune in London with members of a musical group that he was part of in the 1960s. May’s next thriller Coffin Road is set on the Isle of Harris and has an ecological theme involving links between big pharmaceutical companies and colony collapse disorder in bees.

May’s novels include:
The Blackhouse, The Lewis Man, The Chessmen, The Enzo Files, Extraordinary People, The Critic, Blacklight Blue, Freeze Frame, Blowback, Cast Iron, The China Thrillers: The Firemaker, The Fourth Sacrifice The Killing Room, Snakehead, The Runner, Chinese Whispers, The Reporter, Fallen Hero, Hidden Faces, The Man With No Face, The Noble Path, Virtually Dead, Entry Island, Runaway, Coffin Road, Hebrides,

Television: The Standard, Squadron, Take The High Road, The Ardlamont Mystery, Machair, The Killing Room (Les Disparues)

Posted in music

Alan Parsons

English audio engineer, songwriter, musician, and record producer Alan Parsons was born 20 December 1948 in London. He was involved with the production of several significant albums, including the Beatles’ Abbey Road and Let It Be, and the art rock band Ambrosia’s debut album Ambrosia as well as Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon for which Pink Floyd credit him as an important contributor. Parsons’ own group, the Alan Parsons Project, as well as his subsequent solo recordings, have also been successful commercially.

In October 1967, at the age of 18, Parsons went to work as an assistant engineer at Abbey Road Studios, where he earned his first credit on the LP Abbey Road. He became a regular there, engineering such projects as Paul McCartney’s Wild Life and Red Rose Speedway, five albums by the Hollies, and Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon, for which he received his first Grammy Award nomination. He also worked on Al Stewart’s “Year of the Cat”, the Hollies’ “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” and “The Air That I Breathe”, “Stay”, “Just One Look”, “Stop! Stop! Stop!” or “Bus Stop and produced three albums by Pilot, including “January” and “Magic”. He also mixed the debut album by the American band Ambrosia and produced their second album Somewhere I’ve Never Travelled. Parsons was nominated for a Grammy Award for both of these albums. In 1975, he declined Pink Floyd’s invitation to come back and work on the follow-up for “Dark Side,” Wish You Were Here, and instead initiated the Alan Parsons Project with producer and songwriter (and occasional singer) Eric Woolfson, and a group of studio musicians and vocalists, Including members of Pilot and Ambrosia. the Alan Parsons Project never performed live although they did release several music videos. After releasing ten albums, the last in 1987, the Project terminated in 1990 after Parsons and Woolfson split, with the Project’s intended 11th album released that year as a Woolfson solo album. Parsons continued to release work in his own name and in collaboration with other musicians. Parsons and his band now regularly tour many parts of the world.

Although an accomplished vocalist, keyboardist, bassist, guitarist and flautist, Parsons only sang infrequent and incidental parts on his albums. While his keyboard playing was very audible on the Alan Parsons Project albums, very few recordings feature his flute. During the late 1990s, Parsons’ career travelled an interesting full circle. Having started out in the music industry at the Abbey Road Studios in London as an assistant engineer in the late 1960s, he briefly returned to run the studio in its entirety. He reportedly managed to combine this role with the demands of a hectic performing and recording schedule. Parsons also continued with his selective production work for other bands, guitarist Ian Bairnson worked with Parsons the longest, including Parsons’ post-Woolfson albums, Try Anything Once, On Air, and The Time Machine.

In 1998, Parsons became Vice-President of EMI Studios Group including the Abbey Road Studios. He soon left the post.As well as receiving gold and platinum awards from many nations, Parsons has received ten Grammy Award nominations for engineering and production. In 2007 he received a nomination for Best Surround Sound Album for A Valid Path. In 2001 Parsons conceived and led a Beatles tribute show called A Walk Down Abbey Road featuring a group of headlining performers such as Todd Rundgren, Ann Wilson of Heart, John Entwistle of the Who, and Jack Bruce of Cream. Since 1999 he has toured under a revised name, the Alan Parsons Live Project (with Woolfson’s permission). The band currently features lead singer P.J. Olsson, guitarist Alastair Greene, drummer Danny Thompson, keyboardist Manny Focarazzo, keyboardist Tom Brooks, bass guitarist Guy Erez, vocalist and saxophonist Todd Cooper, and guitarist and vocalist Dan Tracey.[citation needed] This band performed live in Colombia in 2013 as Alan Parsons Symphonic Project in a performance recorded for Colombian television and also released on CD (live 2-CD) and DVD (May 2016).

In May 2005, Parsons appeared at the Canyon Club in Agoura Hills, California, to mix front-of-house sound for Southern California-based Pink Floyd tribute band Which One’s Pink and In 2010, Parsons released his single “All Our Yesterdays”. Parsons also launched a DVD educational series in 2010 titled The Art and Science of Sound Recording including The single “All Our Yesterdays” was written and recorded during the making of ASSR. The series, narrated by Billy Bob Thornton, is available to stream or download at www. In 2012 Parsons produced Jake Shimabukuro’s album, Grand Ukulele, and contributed lead vocals and performed keyboards and guitar on the track “Precious Life” by German electronic music duo Lichtmond, and appeared on the The Prog Collective album by Billy Sherwood, singing “The Technical Divide.” In 2013 Parsons engineered the third solo album by Steven Wilson, The Raven that Refused to Sing (And Other Stories), and a live album with the title Live Span featuring the single “Fragile”.

Posted in books, films & DVD

John Steinbeck

American author John Ernst Steinbeck, Jr. sadly passed away on December 20th, 1968. Born February 27, 1902 in Salinas California, He is widely known for the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Grapes of Wrath (1939) and East of Eden (1952) and the novella Of Mice and Men (1937). As the author of twenty-seven books, including sixteen novels, six non-fiction books and five collections of short stories, Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962

The Grapes of Wrath was published in 1939 and won the annual National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize and was cited prominently when he won the Nobel Prize in 1962. Set during the Great Depression, the novel focuses on the Joads, a poor family of tenant farmers driven from their Oklahoma home by drought, economic hardship, and changes in financial and agricultural industries. Due to their nearly hopeless situation, and in part because they were trapped in the Dust Bowl, the Joads set out for California. Along with thousands of other “Okies”, they sought jobs, land, dignity, and a future.The Grapes of Wrath is frequently read in American high school and college literature classes due to its historical context and enduring legacy. A celebrated Hollywood film version, starring Henry Fonda and directed by John Ford, was made in 1940.

East of Eden is Often described as Steinbeck’s most ambitious novel East of Eden is set primarily between the beginning of the 20th century and the end of World War I, It is the story of warmhearted inventor and farmer Samuel Hamilton his wife Liza, and their nine children who live on a rough, infertile piece of land in the Salinas Valley, California,. As the Hamilton children begin to grow up and leave the nest, a wealthy stranger, Adam Trask, purchases the best ranch in the Valley, Adam joined the military and then wandered the country until He was caught for vagrancy, escaped from a chain gang and burgled a store for clothing to use as a disguise. Then he learns that his father has died and left him an inheritance of $50,000.A parallel story introduces a girl named Cathy Ames, who grows up in a town not far from the brothers’ family farm who is cold, cruel, and utterly incapable of feeling for anyone but herself. She leaves home after killing both of her parents. Finally, she is viciously beaten by a pimp and is left close to death on the brothers’ doorstep. Although Charles Hamilton is repulsed by her, Adam, unaware of her past, falls in love with and marries her and goes to California where he settles with the pregnant Cathy in the Salinas Valley, near the Hamilton family ranch. Cathy does not want to be a mother or to stay in California, but Adam is so ecstatically happy with his new life that he does not realize there is any problem.

Shortly after Cathy gives birth to twin boys, she shoots Adam in the shoulder and flees. Adam recovers, but remains in a deep and terrible depression until he becomes good friends with Cantonese Cook Lee and Samuel Hamilton and learns the story of Cain & Abel and the Hebrew word “Timshel” which means “thou mayest” suggesting that mankind is neither compelled to pursue sainthood nor doomed to sin, but rather has the power to choose.Meanwhile, Cathy has become a prostitute and embarks on a devious plan to ingratiate herself with the owner, murder her and inherit the business. She makes her new brothel infamous and is not concerned that Adam might look for her, and has no feelings her children Caleb and Aron – echoing Cain and Abel – who grow up oblivious of their mother’s situation. Aron then meets a girl named Abra and the two fall in love. Soon after Samuel Hamilton passes away but Adam is inspired by the memory of his inventiveness. As the boys reach the end of their school days, Caleb decides to pursue a career in farming and Aron goes to college to become an Episcopalian priest. Soon Caleb discovers that his mother is alive and the head of a brothel. Caleb then goes into business with Will Hamilton, as an automobile dealer and also makes a fortune selling beans grown in the Salinas Valley. A successful Aron returns from Stanford for the holiday. intending to drop out of college and Caleb takes Aron to see their mother, who Wracked with self-hatred, signs her estate over to Aron, who then enlists in the army to fight in World War I, but is killed in battle and Adam is overcome with grief. A now bedridden Adam is asked to forgive his only remaining son, responds by saying Timshel.

Steinbeck’s novel “Of Mice and Men”was written in 1937 and tells the tragic story of George Milton and Lennie Small, two displaced migrant ranch workers, who move from place to place in search of new job opportunities during the Great Depression in California, USA. It is Based on Steinbeck’s own experiences as a bindlestiff in the 1920s (before the arrival of the Okies he would vividly describe in The Grapes of Wrath), the title is taken from Robert Burns’ poem “To a Mouse”, which read: “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft agley.” (The best laid schemes of mice and men / Often go awry.) Required reading in many schools, Of Mice and Men has been a frequent target of censors for vulgarity and what some consider offensive and racist language; consequently, it appears on the American Library Association’s list of the Most Challenged Books of 21st Century.

Posted in films & DVD

It’s a Wonderful life

WonderfulThe popular Christmas film IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE was first released in New York City December 20th 1946. Produced and directed by Frank Capra, it is based on the short story “The Greatest Gift”, written by Philip Van Doren Stern in 1939, and privately published by the author in 1945. The film is considered one of the most loved films in American cinema, and has become traditional viewing during the Christmas season. The film stars James Stewart as George Bailey, a man who has given up his dreams in order to help others, and whose imminent suicide on Christmas Eve brings about the intervention of his guardian angel, Clarence Odbody (Henry Travers). Clarence shows George all the lives he has touched and how different life in his community would be had he never been born.

Despite initially being considered a box office flop due to high production costs and stiff competition at the time of its release. Theatrically, the film’s break-even point was actually $6.3 million, approximately twice the production cost, a figure it never came close to achieving in its initial release and was seen as a major disappointment which suggested that Capra was no longer capable of turning out the populist features that made his films the must-see, money-making events they once were.” However The film was nominated for five Oscars and has been recognized by the American Film Institute as one of the 100 best American films ever made. placing number 11 on its initial 1998 greatest movie list, and number one on its list of the most inspirational American films of all time which is shown annually at Christmas and has come to be regarded as a bona fide classic Christmas film the world over.

Posted in Events

International Solidarity Day

Solidarity refers to a union of interests, purposes or sympathies among members of a group and United Nations’ International Human Solidarity Day is annually held on December 20th to celebrate unity in diversity. It came about in 2005, after the UN General Assembly proclaimed that International Solidarity Day would take place on December 20 each year. This event is aimed to raise people’s awareness of the importance of advancing the international development agenda and promoting global understanding of the value of human solidarity. The assembly felt that the promotion of a culture of solidarity and the spirit of sharing was important in combating poverty.

The day also aims to remind people about the importance of solidarity in working towards eradicating poverty. On International Human Solidarity Day, governments are reminded of their commitments to international agreements on the need for human solidarity as an initiative to fight against poverty. People are also encouraged to debate on ways to promote solidarity and find innovative methods to help eradicate poverty. Activities may include promoting campaigns on issues such as:

Banning land mines.
Making health and medication accessible to those in need.
Organizing Relief efforts to help those who suffered the effects of natural or human-made disasters.
Achieving universal education.
Fighting against poverty, corruption and terrorism.
In the Millennium Declaration world leaders agreed that solidarity was a value that was important to international relations in the 21st century. In light of globalization and growing inequality, the UN realized that strong international solidarity and cooperation was needed. The UN was founded on the idea unity and harmony via the concept of collective security that relies on its members’ solidarity to unite for international peace and security.