Posted in books, films & DVD

The Book Thief

The Book Thief is a poignant World War II film which is based on the 2005 novel The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and adapted by Michael Petroni. It stars Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, and Sophie Nélisse. The Book Thief received Academy Award, Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations for its score. For her performance in the film, Sophie Nélisse won the Hollywood Film Festival Spotlight Award, the Satellite Newcomer Award, and the Phoenix Film Critics Society Award for Best Performance by a Youth in a Lead or Supporting Role – Female.

It begins In February 1938, and concerns a young girl named Liesel Meminger who is traveling with her mother and younger brother on a train during Nazi era Molching. On the way, her brother tragically dies and is buried next to the tracks. Liesel steals her first book, titled The Grave Digger’s Handbook, when it falls out of the gravedigger’s pocket. When Liesel arrives at her new home in Munich, she meets her new foster parents Rosa Hubermann and Hans Hubermann. At first she is distraught and withdrawn. Then she meets Rudy Steiner, who accompanies her on her first day of school. When the teacher asks Liesel to write her name on the chalkboard, she is only able to write three Xs, revealing to her classmates that she is unable to write. She is taunted by her schoolmates who chant “dummkopf” (“dunce”) at her. One of the boys, Franz Deutscher, challenges her to read just one word to which Liesel responds by beating him up earning the respect of her classmates

When Hans, her kind hearted foster father, realizes that Liesel cannot read, he begins to teach her, using the book that she took from the graveside, and a giant chalkboard. Soon Liesel becomes captivated with reading anything she can. Then During Kristallnacht, Max Vandenburg and his mother, who are Jewish, are told by a friend that only one of them can escape, and Max’s mother forces him to go. Max’s father had saved Hans’ life in World War I, and hence he goes to the Hubermanns’ house where Rosa and Hans give him shelter. Soon Liesel begins “borrowing” more books and sharing them with Max and they become friends over their mutual hatred of Hitler. World War II begins, initially making most of the children in Liesel’s neighborhood very happy. Max is moved to the basement so that he can move around more, but it is cold and Max becomes dangerously ill. Liesel helps Max recover by reading to him books “borrowed” from the mayor’s library with every spare moment. Recognizing the power of writing and sharing the written word, Liesel not only begins to steal books that the Nazi party is looking to destroy, but also writes her own story, and shares the power of language with Max.

Gradually the situation in Germany deteriorates and Liesel and Rudy become members of the Hitler Youth movement. Soon Liesel finds herself caught between the innocence of childhood and the horrors of the Nazi regime, including a Nazi book burning ceremony where She rescues a book. However She is seen by Ilsa Hermann, wife of the burgermeister (mayor) who takes her into their library and tells Liesel she can come by anytime and read as much as she’d like. One day while “borrowing” a book from the mayor’s home, Liesel is followed by Rudy. He discovers the secret of Max, whose name he reads on a journal Max gave to Liesel for Christmas. Rudy guesses that her family is hiding someone, and he swears to never tell anyone. Unfortunately Liesel is found reading by the mayor who not only puts a stop to her visits but dismisses Rosa as their laundress. Then Franz overhears Rudy’s last words of keeping it a secret and violently pushes Rudy to reveal the secret. Rudy throws the journal into the river to keep it away from Franz. After Franz leaves, Rudy plunges into the icy river to rescue the journal, and Liesel realizes that she can truly trust him. Soon, a local party member comes by to check the Hubermanns’ basement, and they have to hide Max.

While working, Hans sees a neighbor and friend named Lehman being taken away by the police because he is a Jew. Hans tries to intervene, telling the officer that Lehman is a good man but then his backfires. He tells the family, and Max realises he must leave in order to protect them. Hans then receives a telegram that he has been conscripted into the army and must leave immediately, Liesel then sees Max in a line of Jews being forcibly marched through town, and tries to save him but is prevented by German soldiers. Then Hans returns home after being injured, and the family are briefly reunited. However their happiness is short lived when the city is bombed and this ends in tragedy…

Posted in books, Fantasy, films & DVD, Science fiction, Television

Sean Bean

English actor Sean Bean was born 17 April 1959 in Handsworth, Sheffield, Yorkshire. He has a younger sister, Lorraine. His paternal grandfather, Harold Bean Jr. was a stud mill labourer and His father owned a fabrication shop that employed 50 people, including Bean’s mother, who worked as a secretary. Despite becoming relatively wealthy, the family never moved away from the council estate as they preferred to remain close to friends and family. As a child, Bean smashed a glass door during an argument, which left a piece of glass embedded in his leg that briefly impeded his walking, and left a large scar This prevented him from pursuing his ambition of playing football professionally.

Bean attended Brook Comprehensive school and graduated In 1975 with O levels in Art and English. After a job at a supermarket and another for the local council, he started work at his father’s firm. Once a week, on day release, he attended Rotherham College of Arts and Technology to study welding. While at college, he came upon an art class, and decided to pursue his interest in art. After attending courses at two other colleges, one for half a day and the other for less than a week, he returned to Rotherham College, where he enrolled in a drama course. After some college plays and one at Rotherham Civic Theatre, he won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), starting a seven-term course in January 1981.

After graduating from RADA Bean made his professional acting debut in 1983 as Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet at the Watermill Theatre in Newbury. His early career involved a mixture of stage and screen work and he appeared in an advert for non-alcoholic lager. In 1984 he starred in David and Jonathan by William Douglas-Home at the Redgrave Theatre in Farnham. Between 1986 and 1988, he was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, appearing in productions of Romeo and Juliet, The Fair Maid of the West, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 1986 He appeared in his first film, Derek Jarman’s Caravaggio opposite Tilda Swinton, playing Ranuccio Tomassoni, followed in the same director’s War Requiem (1988). In 1989, he starred as the evil Dominic O’Brien in The Fifteen Streets, where he gained a dedicated following.

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, Bean became an established actor on British television. He appeared in the BBC productions Clarissa and Lady Chatterley (1993) with Joely Richardson. In 1990, Bean starred in Jim Sheridan’s adaption of the John B. Keane play The Field. Also in 1990, his role as the journalist Anton in Windprints examined the difficult problems of apartheid in South Africa. In 1996, he combined his love of football with his career to finally achieve his childhood dream of playing for Sheffield United, as Jimmy Muir in the film When Saturday Comes. His football related work continued in 1998 when he narrated La Coupe de la Gloire, the official film of the 1998 FIFA World Cup held in France.

Bean’s critical successes in Caravaggio and Lady Chatterley contributed to his emerging image as a sex symbol, but he became most closely associated with the character of Richard Sharpe, the maverick Napoleonic Wars rifleman in the ITV television series Sharpe. The series was based on Bernard Cornwell’s novels about the Peninsular War, and the fictional experiences of a band of soldiers in the famed 95th Rifles. Starting with Sharpe’s Rifles, the series followed the fortunes and misfortunes of Richard Sharpe as he rose from the ranks as a Sergeant, promoted to Lieutenant in Portugal, to Lieutenant Colonel by the time of the Battle of Waterloo.

Bean was not the first actor to be chosen to play Sharpe. As Paul McGann was injured while playing football two days into filming, the producers initially tried to work around his injury, but it proved impossible and Bean replaced him. The series ran continuously from 1993 to 1997, with three episodes produced each year. It was filmed under challenging conditions, first in Ukraine and later in Portugal. After several years of rumours, more episodes were produced: Sharpe’s Challenge, which aired in April 2006, and Sharpe’s Peril, which aired in autumn 2008 and was later released on DVD Both of these were released as two cinema-length 90 minute episodes per series. Bean portrayed the enigmatic Lord Richard Fenton in the TV miniseries Scarlett.

Bean made the transition to Hollywood feature films. His first notable Hollywood appearance was that of an Irish republican terrorist in the 1992 film adaptation of Patriot Games. While filming his death scene, Harrison Ford hit him with a boat hook, giving him a permanent scar. Bean’s rough-cut looks made him a patent choice for a villain, and his role in Patriot Games was the first of several villains that he would portray, all of whom die in gruesome ways. In the 1995 film GoldenEye, Bean portrayed James Bond’s nemesis and former colleague Alec Trevelyan (MI6’s 006). He played the weak-stomached Spence in Ronin (1998), a wife-beating ex-con in Essex Boys (2000), and a malevolent kidnapper/jewel thief in Don’t Say a Word (2001). He was also widely recognised as villainous treasure hunter Ian Howe in National Treasure, and played a villainous scientist in The Island (2005).

Bean’s most prominent role was as Boromir in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. His major screen time occurs in the first installment, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. He appears briefly in flashbacks in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, as well as in a scene from the extended edition of The Two Towers.

In the independent film Far North, he plays a Russian mercenary who gets lost in the tundra and is rescued by an Inuit woman and her daughter, whom he later pits against one another. Other roles gave more scope for his acting abilities. In 1999’s Extremely Dangerous, he portrayed a repentant, poetry-reading Grammaton cleric who succumbs to his emotions in 2003 he portrayed a quirky alien cowboy in The Big Empty, and a sympathetic and cunning Odysseus in the 2004 film Troy. He also appeared with other Hollywood stars in Moby’s music video “We Are All Made of Stars” In 2002, he returned to the stage in London performing in Macbeth. He has also appeared in Patriot Games (1992), Ronin (1998), National Treasure (2004), North Country (2005), The Island (2005), Silent Hill (2006), Black Death (2010), Jupiter Ascending (2015) and The Martian (2015).

As a voice actor, Bean has done voice-over work, mostly in the British advertising industry. He has featured in television adverts for O2, Morrisons and Barnardos as well as for Acuvue and the Sci-Fi Channel in the United States. He also does the voice over for the National Blood Service. Bean’s distinctive voice has also been used in the intro and outro segments of the BBC Formula 1 racing coverage for the 2011 and 2012 seasons. He has also been featured in the video games The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Sid Meier’s Civilization VI, and the drama The Canterbury Tales. He has received many awards during his career and won an International Emmy for Best Actor. He has also been nominated for a BAFTA and Saturn Award.

Bean completed a one-hour pilot, Faceless, for US television. He has also appeared in Outlaw, and the 2007 remake of the horror film, The Hitcher. In 2009, he appeared in the Red Riding trilogy as the malevolent John Dawson. He also appeared in Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010), playing the role of Zeus, the king of Mount Olympus. In 2010 Bean starred in Cash, playing the lead role of Pyke Kubic, a dangerous man determined to recover his wealth during hard economic times. Bean also played the villain’s twin brother, Reese

Bean starred in the first season of Game of Thrones, HBO’s adaptation of the A Song of Ice and Fire novels by George R. R. Martin, playing the part of Lord Eddard Stark who is invited to the realm of King’s Landing by King Robert Baratheon with his family. However Eddard runs afoul of the sinister machinations of the devious Petr “Littlefinger” Baelish and Cersei Lannister, who both have a very different idea about who should rule, and this sets a tumultuous chain of events in motion.

In August 2012, Bean appeared as cross-dressing teacher Simon in the opening episode of the UK television series Accused, which earned him a Royal Television Society best actor award. He starred in Soldiers of Fortune and the 2012 film Cleanskin, in which he plays a secret service agent faced with the task of pursuing and eliminating a suicide bomber and his terrorist cell. He also appeared in Tarsem Singh’s Snow White film, Mirror Mirror, which was released in the U.S. in March 2012. Bean reprised his role as Christopher Da Silva in the Silent Hill film sequel Silent Hill: Revelation. He co-starred in the ABC drama series Missing, which premiered in early 2012. Bean starred in the espionage television series Legends as Martin Odum, an FBI agent who takes on various fabricated identities to go undercover. The show was cancelled after its second season.

Bean is Renowned for frequently portraying characters who die, and his many fictional deaths have earned him status as an Internet meme and An intensive viral marketing campaign was centred on the hashtag #DontKillSeanBean, focusing on the various deaths of his past characters and promising his character in Legends would not suffer the same fate. The campaign culminated with a Funny or Die exclusive video featuring Bean filming a scene for the show where he’s become so accustomed to dying on screen that he expects his character to die a bizarrely gruesome death despite the simplicity of the scene. He currently stars in the ITV Encore drama series The Frankenstein Chronicles.

Posted in Events, Health, Science-tech

World Haemophilia Day

World Hemophilia Day is an international observance held annually on April 17 by the WFH. It is an awareness day for hemophilia and other bleeding disorders, which also serves to raise funds and attract volunteers for the WFH. It was started in 1989; April 17 was chosen in honor of Frank Schnabel’s birthday.

The word Haemophilia, (hemophilia) is derived from the Greek haima αἷμα meaning blood and philia φιλία meaning love. Haemophilia is a mostly inherited genetic disorder that impairs the body’s ability to make blood clots, a process needed to stop bleeding. This results in people bleeding longer after an injury, easy bruising, and an increased risk of bleeding inside joints or the brain. Those with a mild case of the disease may have symptoms only after an accident or during surgery. Bleeding into a joint can result in permanent damage while bleeding in the brain can result in long term headaches, seizures, or a decreased level of consciousness.

There are two main types of haemophilia: haemophilia A, which occurs due to not enough clotting factor VIII, and haemophilia B, which occurs due to not enough clotting factor IX. The differences between haemophilia A and B were discovered in 1952. They are typically inherited from one’s parents through an X chromosome with a nonfunctional gene. A new mutation may occur during early development or haemophilia may develop later in life due to antibodies forming against a clotting factor. Other types include haemophilia C, which occurs due to not enough factor XI, and parahaemophilia, which occurs due to not enough factor V. Acquired haemophilia is associated with cancers, autoimmune disorders, and pregnancy. Diagnosis is by testing the blood for its ability to clot and its levels of clotting factors.

Haemophilia can be prevented by removing an egg, fertilizing it, and testing the embryo before transferring it to the uterus. Treatment is by replacing the missing blood clotting factors. This may be done on a regular basis or during bleeding episodes. Replacement may take place at home or in hospital. The clotting factors are made either from human blood or by recombinant methods. Up to 20% of people develop antibodies to the clotting factors which makes treatment more difficult. The medication desmopressin may be used in those with mild haemophilia A.

Haemophilia A affects about 1 in 5,000–10,000, while haemophilia B affects about 1 in 40,000, males at birth. As haemophilia A and B are both X-linked recessive disorders, females are rarely severely affected. Some females with a nonfunctional gene on one of the X chromosomes may be mildly symptomatic. Haemophilia C occurs equally in both sexes and is mostly found in Ashkenazi Jews. During the 1800s haemophilia was common within the royal families of Europe.

Posted in books, Fantasy

The Children of Húrin

The Children of Húrin by J.R.R. & Christopher Tolkien was published 16th April 2006. It was first Conceived in the 1910s as one of the great tales of the First Age – alongside The Fall of Gondolin and Beren and Lúthien. The story tells of the lord Húrin who has three children, Túrin, Lalaith and Nienor, with his wife Morwen during the First Age of Middle Earth. Turin lived in Dor-lómin with Hurin, Morwen, and his sister Urwen. Sadly Urwen died as a child from a plague then Hurin is taken prisoner by Morgoth after the Battle of Unnumbered Tears who places a evil curse upon Húrin and all his family

During Húrin’s imprisonment Túrin is sent by his mother to live in the Elf-realm Doriath for protection. In his absence Morwen gave birth to her third child, Niënor, a girl. The Elf King Thingol of Doriath takes Túrin as a foster-son. During his time in Doriath Túrin befriends an Elf named Beleg. After accidentally causing the death of the Elf Saeros Túrin flees Doriath and refuses to face judgement and becomes an outlaw. Thingol tries Túrin in absentia and ultimately pardons him and dispatches Beleg to bring him back to Doriath. Túrin meanwhile joins a band of outlaws in the wild, he renames himself Neithan, “the wronged” and eventually becomes their captain. Beleg locates the band while Túrin is absent, and the outlaws tie him to a tree until he agrees to give them information. Túrin returns in time to cut Beleg free and Beleg delivers the message of the king’s pardon but Túrin refuses to return to Doriath so Beleg returns alone to Doriath.

Túrin and his men capture Mîm, a Petty-dwarf, who leads them to the caves at Amon Rûdh. Beleg decides to return to Túrin, who welcomes him at Amon Rûdh. Both The outlaws and Mim resent the elf’s presence. Mîm betrays the outlaws to orcs, leading the orcs to the caves to Túrin’s company who are all killed, apart for Beleg and Túrin. The Orcs take Túrin towards Angband, leaving Beleg chained to a rock. Mîm is about to kill Beleg after the orcs depart however one of the mortally wounded outlaws manages to drive Mîm away and release Beleg before dying. Beleg follows the orcs and finds a mutilated elf, Gwindor of Nargothrond, sleeping in the forest of Taur-nu-Fuin. They enter the orc camp at night and carry Túrin, asleep, from the camp. Beleg begins to cut Túrin’s bonds with his sword Anglachel, but the sword slips in his hand and cuts Túrin. Túrin, mistaking Beleg for an orc, kills Beleg with his own sword. Overcome with grief He refuses to leave Beleg’s body until morning, when Gwindor is able to bury the elf. Túrin takes the sword Anglachel.

Túrin and Gwindor proceed to Nargothrond. There Túrin gains the favour of Elf King Orodreth, and leads the Elves to many victories, until he becomes Orodreth’s chief counsellor and commander of his forces. Against all advice Túrin refuses to hide Nargothrond from Morgoth or to retract his plans for full-scale battle. Morgoth sends an orc-army under the command of the dragon, Glaurung, and The orcs sack Nargothrond and capture its citizens. Túrin returns as the prisoners are to be led away by the orcs, and encounters Glaurung who tricks him into returning to Dor-lómin to seek out Morwen and Niënor instead of rescuing the prisoners, including Finduilas, Orodreth’s daughter, who loved him.

In Dor-lómin Túrin learns that Morwen and Niënor are in Doriath, and that Glaurung deceived him into letting Finduilas go to her death. He tracks Finduilas’ captors to the forest of Brethil, only to learn that she was murdered by the orcs. Grief-stricken, Túrin seeks sanctuary among the folk of Haleth. In Brethil Túrin renames himself Turambar, “Master of Doom” in Quenya, and gradually supplants Brandir, Brethil’s lame Chieftain. Meanwhile In Doriath Morwen and Niënor hear rumours of Túrin’s deeds, and Morwen decides to find Túrin. Against the counsel of Thingol she rides out of Doriath alone, and Niënor conceals herself among the riders whom Thingol sends under Mablung to follow and protect Morwen. At Nargothrond, Mablung encounters Glaurung, who slaughters the elf Riders. Finding Niënor alone, Glaurung learns her identity and hypnotizes her into forgetting who she is and everything else.

Mablung attempts to return to Doriath with Niënor. The two are attacked by orcs, Niënor runs into the woods eventually collapsing near Brethil on the grave of Finduilas, where Turambar finds her. He and brings her back to the town, and she gradually recovers the use of speech, although she has no memory of her past life. Niënor and Turumbar develop a strong attraction. They marry, not realising their kinship, and Niënor becomes pregnant. Sadly Glaurung returns to exterminate the men of Brethil. So Turambar leads an expedition to kill Glaurung who has one more nasty surprise left and when Niënor finds Turin, Glaurung informs her that she and Turambar are in fact brother and sister which has tragic results..

Posted in books

The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

Geoffrey Chaucer narrated The Canterbury Tales for the first time at the court of Richard II on 17 April 1397 which is also the start of the book’s pilgrimage to Canterbury. The Canterbury Tales is a collection of 24 stories by Geoffrey Chaucer who wrote them Between 1386 and 1400 when he became Controller of Customs and Justice of Peace and, then Clerk of the King’s work in 1389. The tales are presented as part of a story-telling contest by a group of pilgrims as they travel together on a journey from London to Canterbury to visit the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. The prize for this contest is a free meal at the Tabard Inn at Southwark on their return.

Chaucer uses the Canterbury tales and descriptions of its characters to paint an ironic and critical portrait of English society and the Church. Although the characters are fictional, they still offer a variety of insights into customs and practices of the time. It was written during a turbulent time in English history.

The Catholic Church was in the midst of the Western Schism and, though it was still the only Christian authority in Europe, was the subject of heavy controversy. Lollardy an early English religious movement led by John Wycliffe, is mentioned in the Tales, which mentions a specific incident involving pardoners (sellers of indulgences, which were believed to relieve the temporal punishment due for sins that were already forgiven in the Sacrament of Confession) who nefariously claimed to be collecting for St. Mary Rouncesval hospital in England. The Canterbury Tales is among the first English literary works to mention paper, a relatively new invention that allowed dissemination of the written word never before seen in England. Political clashes, such as the 1381 Peasants’ Revolt and clashes ending in the deposing of King Richard II. Many of Chaucer’s close friends were executed and he himself moved to Kent to get away from events in London.

Some readers have interpreted the characters of The Canterbury Tales as real historical figures while others maintain it is a mildly satirical critique of society during his lifetime. The Tales reflect diverse views of the Church in Chaucer’s England. After the Black Death, many Europeans began to question the authority of the established Church. Some started new monastic orders or smaller movements exposing church corruption in the behaviour of the clergy, false church relics or abuse of indulgences. Two characters, the Pardoner and the Summoner, are both portrayed as deeply corrupt, greedy, and abusive. Other Churchmen of various kinds are represented by the Monk, the Prioress, the Nun’s Priest, and the Second Nun.

The upper class or nobility, is also represented chiefly by the Knight and his Squire in the Canterbury Tales. In Chaucer’s time they were steeped in a culture of chivalry and courtliness as illustrated in the Knights Tale. This shows how the brotherly love of two fellow knights can turn into a deadly feud at the sight of a woman whom both idealise. Many other characters are included such as the Reeve, the Miller, The Cook, the Wife of Bath, the Franklin, the Shipman, the Manciple, the Merchant, Clerk at Oxford, the Sergeant at Law, Physician, the Parson

At the time Canterbury Tales was written Pilgrimage was a very prominent feature of medieval society. The ultimate pilgrimage destination was Jerusalem, but within England Canterbury was a popular destination. Pilgrims would journey to cathedrals that preserved relics of saints, believing that such relics held miraculous powers. Saint Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, had been murdered in Canterbury Cathedral by knights of Henry II during a disagreement between Church and Crown. The concept of liminality also figures prominently within The Canterbury Tales. A liminal space, which can be both geographical as well as metaphorical or spiritual, is the transitional or transformational space between a “real” (secure, known, limited) world and an unknown or imaginary space of both risk and possibility. The Canterbury Tales remains popular and is regularly read in schools.