Emperor-The Gates of Rome by Conn Igguldon

I enjoy reading a good exciting historical epic so I thought I would read The Gates Of Rome, the first novel in the Emperor series, written by Conn Iggulden. It introduces two young Romans: Gaius (Gaius Julius Caesar), son of a senator and born of noble-blood, and blood-friend Marcus (Marcus Junius Brutus), son of a high-class courtesan (Servilia) who grow up as close as brothers, and form a deep and long-lasting friendship. as they face the harsh realities of life in Ancient Rome.

The novel follows their progress As they begin their careers (Gaius as a senator and Brutus as a legionary). Marcus is trained alongside Gaius by a famous, retired and unbeaten gladiator named Renius. In preparation for a life in the legions serving the Republic, Renius teaches them not only swordsmanship, but also how to become weapons themselves. However At the end of their training, Renius seriously wounds Gaius in a training accident; in retaliation Marcus proves his skill with a sword, severely injuring Renius’s arm.

Elsewhere a turbulant political war is being played out in the senate between two powerful Generals: Cornelius Sulla and Gaius’s uncle, Gaius Marius. In order to survive in the complex and ever-shifting world of Roman politics, Gaius casts his lot in with his uncle Marius, who agrees to take both Gaius and Marcus under his wing. Marius is a Consul and one of the two most powerful men in Rome, the other being his great rival Sulla. After Marius secures a Triumph for his legion Primigenia (“the First-Born”)

Marcus gains a position in a legion guarding the Roman province of Macedon. After leaving with Renius ( Marcus begins to make a name for himself in the Fourth Macedonia Legion’s centuria:”gaining the nickname “Bronze Fist”. Meanwhile, in Rome, Gaius accompanies Marius on his Triumph before being confirmed as a Senator in his own right. Marius confronts Sulla in a Senate vote by sending him and his legion, Second Alaudae off to Greece to put down a rebellion led by the Greek king: Mithridates (known as the Second Mithridatic War). Gaius also makes a reputation for himself as a serious party-goer, and takes his father’s name as his own: Gaius Julius Caesar. In Greece Sulla confronts Mithridates. Meanwhile Julius falls in love with Cornelia, daughter of the wealthy and influential Senator Cinna, and marries her on the morning of Sulla’s return.

Trouble erupts when Sulla tries to take Rome but Marius refuses to give up Rome and surrender his legion to Sulla, ordering his men to burn Rome. Meanwhile The remnants of Primigenia under Orso Ferito and Bar Gallenius, fights a losing battle against Sulla’s army and Julius is captured in the chaos. Marius’ wife frees Alexandria. Sulla is declared Dictator of Rome by the Senate and the Assembly of the People, and is given total control of the city and republic of Rome, except for Hispania (which Marius’s general Quintus Sertorius had established as an independent state).

Sulla immediately begins taking vengeance on all of Marius’ allies, including Marius’s beloved Primigenia legion who are branded traitors by order of Sulla. Marius and his supporter’s holdings are seized and Rome burns. Julius is brought before the victorious dictator, and Sulla gives him an ultimatum, Julius refuses and is exiled from the city. Julius signs on with a naval legion where he finds his childhood nemesis Suetonius and swears to return once he is able to avenge his uncle. Marcus meanwhile impresses with his abilities on the battlefield And is promoted to the rank of Centurion taking the name Marcus Brutus.

Dave Grohl

  1. nirvana-nevermind-album-coverAmerican rock musician, multi-instrumentalist, and singer-songwriter Dave Grohl was born 14 January, 1969. Currently the lead vocalist, guitarist, and primary songwriter for Foo Fighters, He was also the former drummer for Nirvana and Scream, and is also the current drummer for Them Crooked Vultures. His musical career started At the age of seventeen, when he auditioned with local DC band Scream & was asked to join. Grohl dropped out of high school & Over the next four years, Grohl toured extensively with the band, and they recording a couple of live albums. Grohl also penned and sang vocals on the song “Gods Look Down”. Grohl became a fan of Melvins and eventually befriended the band. During a 1990 tour The Melvins’ Buzz Osborne took a couple of his friends, Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic, to see the band. A few months later, Scream disbanded. Grohl called Osborne for advice, and the latter gave Grohl’s phone number to Krist Novoselic, who invited Grohl to Seattle.

Grohl subsequently auditioned for Nirvana, and soon joined them full-time. At the time that Grohl joined Nirvana, the band had already recorded several demos for the follow-up to their debut album Bleach, They signed with DGC Records and entered the studio to record the album. Upon its release, NEVERMIND exceeded all expectations & , catapulted the band to worldwide stardom with songs like “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. Grohl had been writing songs for several years, but declined to introduce them to the band for fear of damaging the band’s chemistry. Instead, Grohl compiled his songs and recorded them himself, releasing a cassette called Pocketwatch in 1992 on indie label Simple Machines. Grohl released the cassette under the pseudonym “Late!”. In the later years of Nirvana, Grohl’s songwriting contributions increased, Cobain overheard him working on a song called “Color Pictures of a Marigold”, and the two ended up working on it, the band released this version as a b-side on the “Heart-Shaped Box” single, titled simply “Marigold”. Grohl contributed the main guitar riff for “Scentless Apprentice”and the band recorded a demo of a song later named “You Know You’re Right” which was the band’s final studio recording.

Following Cobain’s untimely death in April 1994, Grohl retreated, unsure of where to go and what to do with himself. He recorded a fifteen-track demo. He briefly considered drumming for other bands andl took a brief turn with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Petty asked him to join permanently, but Grohl realized that his future lay elsewhere, and declined the invitation. Grohl’s name was also rumored as a possible replacement for Pearl Jam drummer Dave Abbruzzese, and Grohl even performed with the band for a song or two at three shows during Pearl Jam’s March 1995 Australian tour. However, by then, Pearl Jam had already settled on ex- Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer, Jack Irons, and Grohl had other solo plans in the works. Grohl then made a Demo tape which created considerable major label interest. However he did not want the effort to be considered the start of a solo career so he recruited other band members: former Germs and touring Nirvana guitarist Pat Smear, and two members of the band Sunny Day Real Estate, William Goldsmith (drums) and Nate Mendel (bass). Rather than re-record the album, Grohl’s demo was given a professional mix and was released in July 1995 as Foo Fighters’ debut album. After touring for more than a year, Grohl returned home and began work on the soundtrack to the 1997 movie Touch. Grohl performed all of the instruments and vocals himself, save for vocals from Veruca Salt singer Louise Post on the title track, and vocals and guitar by X’s John Doe on “This Loving Thing (Lynn’s Song)”. In the midst of the initial sessions for Foo Fighters’ second album, tension emerged between Grohl and Goldsmith. After which Goldsmith officially announced his departure from the band. The band’s second album, The Colour and the Shape, was released in 1997 containing “Everlong“, “My Hero“, and “Monkey Wrench“.

Former Alanis Morissette drummer Taylor Hawkins joined the band on drums together with former Scream bandmate Franz Stahl. In 2000, the band recruited Queen guitarist Brian May to add some guitar flourish to a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Have a Cigar”. The friendship between the two bands resulted in Grohl and Taylor Hawkins being asked to induct Queen into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001. Grohl and Hawkins joined May and Queen drummer Roger Taylor to perform “Tie Your Mother Down”, with Grohl standing in on vocals for Freddie Mercury. (May later contributed guitar work for the song “Tired of You” on the ensuing Foo Fighters album, as well as on an unreleased Foo Fighters song called “Knucklehead”. Foo Fighters fourth album “One by One” was released in 2001. After which, Grohl accepted an invitation to join Queens of the Stone Age and helped them to record their 2002 album Songs for the Deaf. On November 23, 2002, Grohl achieved a historical milestone by replacing himself on the top of the Billboard Modern Rock chart, when “You Know You’re Right” by Nirvana was replaced by “All My Life” by Foo Fighters which was then replaced by, “No One Knows” by Queens of the Stone Age And Grohl achieved chart toppers as a member of three different groups. In 2005 Foo Fighters released their fifth album In Your Honor Featuring collaborations with John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin, Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age and Norah Jones. the album was a departure from previous efforts, and included one rock and one acoustic disc

Foo Fighters’s sixth studio album Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace was released on September 25, 2007. and spawned three singles “The Pretender”, “Long Road to Ruin” and “Let It Die”. In 2009 Foo Fighters released their first Greatest Hits collection, consisting of 16 tracks plus a previously unreleased acoustic version of “Everlong” and two new tracks “Wheels” and “Word Forward” . The Foo Fighters’ latest studio album, Wasting Light, was released in 2011, containing the single “Walk”. Grohl has also written all the music for his short-lived side projects Late! and Probot as well as being involved with Queens of the Stone Age. Furthermore, he has performed session work for a variety of musicians, including Garbage, Killing Joke, Nine Inch Nails, The Prodigy, Slash, Juliette Lewis, Tenacious D and Lemmy Kilmister (Motorhead). Foo Fighters latest album Sonic Highways was released in 2015.

Alan Rickman

English actor and Director Alan Sidney Patrick Rickman sadly died of cancer on 14 January 2016 at the age of 69. Born 21 February 1946 in Acton, London. Rickman attended Derwentwater Primary School, in Acton, a school that followed the Montessori method of education. He excelled at calligraphy and watercolour painting. From Derwentwater Junior School he won a scholarship to Latymer Upper School in London, where he became involved in drama. After leaving Latymer, he attended Chelsea College of Art and Design and then the Royal College of Art. This education allowed him to work as a graphic designer for the radical newspaper the Notting Hill Herald.

After graduation, Rickman and several friends opened a graphic design studio called Graphiti, but after three years of successful business, he decided that if he was going to pursue acting professionally, it was now or never. He wrote to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) requesting an audition and was awarded a place at RADA, which he attended from 1972-74. While there, he studied Shakespeare and supported himself by working as a dresser for Nigel Hawthorne and Sir Ralph Richardson. He left after winning several prizes, including the Emile Littler Prize, the Forbes Robertson Prize and the Bancroft Gold Medal.

After graduating from RADA, Rickman worked extensively with British repertory and experimental theatre groups in productions including Chekhov’s The Seagull and Snoo Wilson’s The Grass Widow at the Royal Court Theatre, and appeared three times at the Edinburgh International Festival. In 1978, he performed with the Court Drama Group, gaining parts in Romeo and Juliet and A View from the Bridge, among other plays. While working with the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) he was cast in As You Like It. He appeared in the BBC’s adaptation of Trollope’s first two Barchester novels known as The Barchester Chronicles (1982), as the Reverend Obadiah Slope. He portrayed the Vicomte de Valmont, in the 1985 Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Christopher Hampton’s adaptation of Les Liaisons Dangereuses, and received both a Tony Award nomination and a Drama Desk Award nomination for his performance.

He also played romantic leads like Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility (1995), and Jamie in Truly, Madly, Deeply (1991); numerous villains in Hollywood big budget films, like German terrorist Hans Gruber in Die Hard (1988) and the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991); the very occasional television role such as the “mad monk” Rasputin in an HBO biopic Rasputin: Dark Servant of Destiny (1996), for which he won a Golden Globe and an Emmy.[16] He was the “master of ceremonies” on Mike Oldfield’s album Tubular Bells II, released in 1992, on which he read off a list of instruments on the album. His role in Die Hard earned him a spot on the AFI’s 100 Years…100 Heroes & Villains as the 46th best villain in film history, His performance as the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves also garnered praise. He also portrayed Severus Snape, the potions master in the Harry Potter series (2001–11).

MarvinParanoidAndroid-rich_7652During his career Rickman has also played comedic roles, sending up classically trained British actors who take on “lesser roles” as the character Sir Alexander Dane/Dr. Lazarus in the science fiction parody Galaxy Quest (1999), portraying the angel Metatron, the voice of God, in Dogma (also 1999), appearing as Emma Thompson’s foolish husband Harry in Love Actually (2003), providing the voice of Marvin the Paranoid Android in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005), and the egotistical, Nobel Prize-winning father in Nobel Son (2007). He was nominated for an Emmy for his work as Dr. Alfred Blalock in HBO’s Something the Lord Made (2004) and also starred in the films Snow Cake (2006), with Sigourney Weaver and Carrie-Anne Moss, and Perfume: The Story of a Murderer. He also appeared as the evil Judge Turpin in the critically acclaimed Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007) directed by Tim Burton, alongside Harry Potter co-stars Helena Bonham Carter and Timothy Spall. Rickman also appeared as Absolem the Caterpillar in Burton’s film Alice in Wonderland (2010).

He performed onstage in Noël Coward’s romantic comedy Private Lives, and In 1998 He appeared in Antony and Cleopatra as Mark Antony with Dame Helen Mirren as Cleopatra, in the Royal National Theatre’s production at the Olivier Theatre in London. Rickman also appeared in Victoria Wood with All The Trimmings (2000), a Christmas special with Victoria Wood, playing an aged colonel in the battle of Waterloo who is forced to break off his engagement to Honeysuckle Weeks’ character. Alongside Harry Potter co-star Imelda Staunton.

Rickman also directed The Winter Guest at London’s Almeida Theatre in 1995 and the film version of the same play, released in 1997, starring Emma Thompson and Phyllida Law. He compiled the play My Name Is Rachel Corrie, and directed the premiere at the Royal Court Theatre, London in 2005 for which he won the Theatre Goers’ Choice Awards for Best Director. In 2009, Rickman was awarded the James Joyce Award by University College Dublin’s Literary and Historical Society. In October and November 2010, Rickman starred in the eponymous role in Henrik Ibsen’s John Gabriel Borkman at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin alongside Lindsay Duncan and Fiona Shaw.

In 2011, Rickman again appeared as Severus Snape in the final installment in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 and earned his first award nominations for his role as Snape at the 2011 Alliance of Women Film Journalists Awards, 2011 Saturn Awards, 2011 Scream Awards and 2011 St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association Awards in the Best Supporting Actor category. On 21 November 2011, Rickman opened in Seminar, by Theresa Rebeck, at the John Golden Theatre on Broadway. Rickman, won the Broadway.com Audience Choice Award for Favorite Actor in a Play and was nominated for a Drama League Award.Rickman starred with Colin Firth and Cameron Diaz in a remake of 1966’s Gambit by Michael Hoffman. In 2013, he played Hilly Kristal, the founder of the famous East Village punk-rock club CBGB, in the CBGB film with Rupert Grint. He leaves behind a large number of great films and will be sadly missed.

Lewis Carroll

Author, mathematician, Logician, Anglican Deacon and Photographer Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson) sadly died 14 January 1897. Born 27 January 1832, he is best remembered for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Alice Through the Looking-Glass, “The Hunting of the Snark” and “Jabberwocky”. From a young age, Dodgson wrote poetry and short stories, which he contributed to the family magazine Mischmasch and also sent them to various magazines. Between 1854 and 1856, his work appeared in The Comic Times and The Train, the Whitby Gazette and the Oxford Critic. Most of this output was humorous, sometimes satirical, he also wrote puppet plays Such as La Guida di Bragia.

In 1856 he published A romantic poem called “Solitude” in The Train as “Lewis Carroll”. This pseudonym was a play on his real name; Lewis was the anglicised form of Ludovicus, which was the Latin for Lutwidge, and Carroll an Irish surname similar to the Latin name Carolus, from which comes the name Charles. In 1856, a new dean, Henry Liddell, arrived at Christ Church, bringing with him his young family, all of whom would figure largely in Dodgson’s life and, over the following years, greatly influence his writing career. Dodgson became close friends with Liddell’s wife, Lorina, and their children, particularly the three sisters: Lorina, Edith and Alice Liddell. He was for many years widely assumed to have derived his own “Alice” from Alice Liddell. This was given some apparent substance by the fact the acrostic poem at the end of Through the Looking Glass spells out her name and also that there are many superficial references to her hidden in the text of both books. It has been noted that Dodgson himself repeatedly denied in later life that his “little heroine” was based on any real child, and frequently dedicated his works to girls of his acquaintance, adding their names in acrostic poems at the beginning of the text. Gertrude Chataway’s name appears in this form at the beginning of The Hunting of the Snark and it is not suggested that this means any of the characters in the narrative are based on her.

Carroll’s friendship with the Liddell family was an important part of his life in the late 1850s and he took the children on rowing trips accompanied by an adult friend.to nearby Nuneham Courtenay or Godstow.it was on one such expedition, on 4 July 1862, that Dodgson invented the outline for Alice in Wonderland after Alice Liddell persuaded him to write it down, Dodgson presented her with a handwritten, illustrated manuscript entitled Alice’s Adventures Under Ground in November 1864 Before this, the family of friend and mentor George MacDonald read Dodgson’s incomplete manuscript, and the enthusiasm of the MacDonald children encouraged Dodgson to seek publication. In 1863, he had taken the unfinished manuscript to Macmillan the publisher, who liked it immediately. After the possible alternative titles Alice Among the Fairies and Alice’s Golden Hour were rejected, the work was finally published as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 1865 under the Lewis Carroll pen-name, which Dodgson had first used some nine years earlier. The illustrations this time were by Sir John Tenniel; Dodgson evidently thought that a published book would need the skills of a professional artist.

The overwhelming commercial success of the first Alice book changed Dodgson’s life in many ways. The fame of his alter ego “Lewis Carroll” soon spread around the world. He was inundated with fan mail and with sometimes unwanted attention. Indeed, according to one popular story, Queen Victoria herself enjoyed Alice In Wonderland so much that she suggested he dedicate his next book to her, and was accordingly presented with his next work, a scholarly mathematical volume entitled An Elementary Treatise on Determinants. Dodgson himself vehemently denied this story, commenting “…It is utterly false in every particular: nothing even resembling it has occurred”; and it is unlikely for other reasons: as T.B. Strong comments in aTimes article, “It would have been clean contrary to all his practice to identify [the] author of Alice with the author of his mathematical works”. He also began earning quite substantial sums of money but continued with his seemingly disliked post at Christ Church. Late in 1871, a sequel – Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There – was published. It is somewhat darker and the mood possibly reflects the changes in Dodgson’s life. His father had recently died (1868), plunging him into a depression that lasted some years. In 1876, Dodgson produced his last great work, The Hunting of the Snark, a fantastical “nonsense” poem, exploring the adventures of a bizarre crew of tradesmen, and one beaver, who set off to find the eponymous creature. The painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti reputedly became convinced the poem was about him. In 1895, Carroll published a two-volume tale of the eponymous fairy siblings. Carroll entwines two plots, set in two alternate worlds, one the fairytale kingdom of Elfland, the other a realm called Outland, which satirizes English society, and more specifically, the world of academia.

In 1856, Dodgson took up photography, first under the influence of his uncle Skeffington Lutwidge, and later his Oxford friend Reginald Southey and soon became a well-known gentleman-photographer. Dodgson also made many studies of men, women, male children and landscapes; his subjects also include skeletons, dolls, dogs, statues and paintings, and trees. His pictures of children were taken with a parent in attendance and many of the pictures were taken in the Liddell garden, because natural sunlight was required for good exposures, Unfortunately this led to great controversy and unsavory rumors concerning his relationship with Alice and Lorina Liddell and he parted company with them under dubious circumstances. He found photography to be a useful entrée into higher social circles. During the most productive part of his career, he made portraits of notable sitters such as John Everett Millais, Ellen Terry, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Julia Margaret Cameron, Michael Faraday, Lord Salisbury, andAlfred, Lord Tennyson. Dodgson abruptly ceased photography in 1880. Over 24 years, he had completely mastered the medium, set up his own studio on the roof of Tom Quad, and created around 3,000 images. Fewer than 1,000 have survived time and deliberate destruction. He reported that he stopped taking photographs because keeping his studio working was difficult (he used the wet collodion process) and commercial photographers (who used the dry-plate process) took pictures more quickly.

Dodgson also worked in mathematics, in the fields of geometry, linear and matrix algebra,mathematical logic and recreational mathematics, producing nearly a dozen books under his real name. Dodgson also developed new ideas in linear algebra (e.g. the first printed proof of the Kronecker-Capelli theorem),probability, and the study of elections (e.g.,Dodgson’s method) and committees; some of this work was not published until well after his death. He worked as the Mathematical Lecturer at Christ Church, an occupation that gave him some financial security. His mathematical work attracted renewed interest in the late 20th century. Martin Gardner’s book on logic machines and diagrams, and William Warren Bartley’s posthumous publication of the second part of Carroll’s symbolic logic book have sparked a reevaluation of Carroll’s contributions to symbolic logic. Robbins’ and Rumsey’s investigation of Dodgson condensation, a method of evaluating determinants, led them to the Alternating Sign Matrix conjecture, now a theorem. The discovery in the 1990s of additional ciphers that Carroll had constructed, in addition to his “Memoria Technica”, showed that he had employed sophisticated mathematical ideas to their creation

Dodgson invented many things including the Wonderland Postage-Stamp Case in 1889. This was a cloth-backed folder with twelve slots, two marked for inserting the then most commonly used penny stamp, and one each for the other current denominations to one shilling. The folder was then put into a slip case decorated with a picture of Alice on the front and the Cheshire Cat on the back. All could be conveniently carried in a pocket or purse. When issued it also included a copy of Carroll’s pamphletted lecture, Eight or Nine Wise Words About Letter-Writing. Another invention is a writing tablet called the nyctograph for use at night that allowed for note-taking in the dark; thus eliminating the trouble of getting out of bed and striking a light when one wakes with an idea. The device consisted of a gridded card with sixteen squares and system of symbols representing an alphabet of Dodgson’s design, using letter shapes similar to the Graffiti writing system on a Palm device.

Among the games he devised outside of logic there are a number of word games, including an early version of Scrabble, “doublet” a form of brain-teaser which involves changing one word into another by altering one letter at a time, each successive change always resulting in a genuine word. For instance, CAT is transformed into DOG by the following steps: CAT, COT, DOT, DOG. Other items he invented include a rule for finding the day of the week for any date; a means for justifying right margins on a typewriter; a steering device for a velociam (a type of tricycle); new systems of parliamentary representation; more nearly fair elimination rules for tennis tournaments; a new sort of postal money order; rules for reckoning postage; rules for a win in betting; rules for dividing a number by various divisors; a cardboard scale for the college common room he worked in later in life, which, held next to a glass, ensured the right amount of liqueur for the price paid; a double-sided adhesive strip for things like the fastening of envelopes or mounting things in books; a device for helping a bedridden invalid to read from a book placed sideways; and at least two ciphers for cryptography.

Dodgson continued to teach at Christ Church until 1881, and remained in residence there until his death. The two volumes of his last novel, Sylvie and Bruno, were published in 1889 and 1893. He also travelled to Russia in 1867 as an ecclesiastical together with the Reverend Henry Liddon. He recounts the travel in his “Russian Journal”, published in 1935. On his way to Russia and back he also saw different cities in Belgium, Germany, the partitioned Poland, and France. He died at his sisters’ home, “The Chestnuts” in Guildford, of pneumonia following influenza, two weeks before turning 66. He is buried in Guildford at the Mount Cemetery.