The Shape of Water

The critically acclaimed dark fantasy drama The Shape of Water is out on DVD. It was directed by Guillermo del Toro and written by del Toro and Vanessa Taylor. It stars Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Octavia Spencer.

Set in Baltimore in 1962 It concerns a mute woman named Elisa Esposito, who is found abandoned as a child by the side of a river with wounds on her neck. Elisa communicates through sign language. She lives alone in an apartment above a cinema, and works as a cleaning woman at a secret government laboratory in Baltimore at the height of the Cold War. Her friends are her closeted next-door neighbor Giles, a struggling advertising illustrator who shares a strong bond with her, and her African-American co-worker Zelda, a woman who also serves as her interpreter at work.

The facility receives a mysterious creature known as the Amphibian Man captured from the Amazon River by Colonel Richard Strickland, who is in charge of the project to study it. Curious about the creature, Elisa discovers it is a humanoid amphibian. She begins visiting him in secret, and the two form a close bond.

Meanwhile General Frank Hoyt is Seeking to exploit the Amphibian Man to American advantage in the Space Race, and orders Strickland to vivisect it. One scientist, Robert Hoffstetler—who is in truth a Soviet spy named Dimitri Mosenkov—pleads unsuccessfully to keep the Amphibian Man alive for further study. When Elisa learns of the Americans’ plans for the Amphibian Man, she persuades Giles to help her free him. Mosenkov discovers Elisa’s plot and chooses to help her. Though initially reluctant, Zelda also becomes involved in the escape, and it is successful.

Elisa keeps the Amphibian Man in her bathtub, adding salt to the water to keep him alive, planning to release the creature into a nearby canal when it will be opened to the ocean in several days’ time. As part of his efforts to recover the Amphibian Man, Strickland interrogates Elisa and Zelda. Back at the apartment, Giles discovers the Amphibian Man devouring one of his cats. Startled, the Amphibian Man slashes Giles’s arm and rushes out of the apartment. The Amphibian Man gets as far as the cinema downstairs before Elisa finds him and returns him to her apartment. The Amphibian Man touches Giles on his balding head and his wounded arm; the next morning, Giles discovers his hair has begun growing back and the wounds on his arm have healed. Elisa and the Amphibian Man soon become romantically involved,

Hoyt tells Strickland to recover the Amphibian Man within 36 hours. Meanwhile, Mosenkov learns that he will be extracted in two days. As the planned release date approaches, the Amphibian Man’s health starts deteriorating. Unfortunately when Mosenkov leaves Strickland follows him. At the rendezvous, Mosenkov is apprehended by Strickland and learns about Elisa and Zelda. Strickland then discovers that Elisa had been keeping the Amphibian Man. Meanwhile Elisa, Amphibian Man and Giles Travel to the canal hotly pursued by Strickland who is intent on stopping them….

In many ways reminiscent of “The Creature from the Black Lagoon”, The Shape of Water received critical acclaim for its performances, screenplay, direction, visuals, production design, and musical score, with many critics calling it del Toro’s best work since Pan’s Labyrinth; the American Film Institute selected it as one of the top 10 films of the yea. The film received a number of awards and nominations, including thirteen nominations at the 90th Academy Awards, where it won for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Production Design and Best Original Score. It was nominated for seven awards at the 75th Golden Globe Awards, winning for Best Director and Best Original Score, and 12 at the 71st British Academy Film Awards, winning three awards, including Best Director

World Vitiligo Day

The United Nations designated June 25 as the World Vitiligo Day, in order to build global awareness about vitiligo, a frequent and often disfiguring skin disease that can have a significantly negative social and/or psychological impact on patients, in part because of numerous misconceptions still present in large parts of the world.

Vitiligo is  characterized by patches of the skin losing their pigment. The patches of skin affected become white and usually have sharp margins. The hair from the skin may also become white. The inside of the mouth and nose plus both sides of the body may be affected. Often the patches begin on areas of skin that are exposed to the sun. It is more noticeable in people with dark skin. Vitiligo may result in psychological stress and those affected may be stigmatized.

The exact cause of vitiligo is unknown.  It is believed to be due to genetic susceptibility that is triggered by an environmental factor such that an autoimmune disease occurs. This results in the destruction of skin pigment cells. Risk factors include a family history of the condition or other autoimmune diseases, such as hyperthyroidism, alopecia areata, and pernicious anemia. It is not contagious.

Vitiligo is classified into two main types: segmental and non-segmental. Most cases are non-segmental, meaning they affect both sides and the area of the skin affected increases with time.  About 10% of cases are segmental, meaning they mostly involve one side of the body; and in these cases, the affected area of the skin typically does not expand with time. Diagnosis can be confirmed by tissue biopsy.

There is no known cure for vitiligo.For those with light skin, sunscreen and makeup are all that is typically recommended. Other treatment options may include steroid creams or phototherapy to darken the light patches. Alternatively, efforts to lighten the unaffected skin, such as with hydroquinone, may be tried. A number of surgical options are available for those who do not improve with other measures. A combination of treatments is available and Counselling to provide emotional support may be useful. Globally about 1% of people are affected by vitiligo. Some populations have rates as high as 2–3%. Males and females are equally affected. About half show the disorder before age 20 and most develop it before age 40. Vitiligo has been described since ancient history.

The idea of a World Vitiligo Day was suggested by Steve Haragadon, the founder of the Vitiligo Friends network, and then developed and finalized by Ogo Maduewesi, a Nigerian vitiligo patient who is the founder and Executive Director of the Vitiligo Support and Awareness Foundation (VITSAF). In her words, “World Vitiligo Day is a day to create extensive awareness on vitiligo and a day dedicated to all living with vitiligo globally”. The first World Vitiligo Day (also defined as “Vitiligo Awareness Day” or “Vitiligo Purple Fun day”, from the color chosen as Vitiligo Awareness Colour was observed on June 25, 2011. The choice of June 25 as World Vitiligo Day is a memorial to musical artist Michael Jackson, who suffered from vitiligo from 1986 until his death, which occurred on June 25, 2009. The main event of the first World Vitiligo Day occurred at Silverbird Galleria’s Artrum in Lagos, Nigeria, with the participation of several volunteers with different experiences (dermatologists, motivational speakers, dancers, artists, comedians, patients), united by the common will of spreading knowledge and awareness about vitiligo. Simultaneously, other events took place in other parts of the world, organized by local associations.

In 2012, Vitiligo Research Foundation (VRF), a non-profit organization aiming to fund and fast-track medical research, as well as connect investigators, care providers, patients and philanthropists, to accelerate vitiligo research and relieve suffering of patients, joined VITSAF and other organizations to increase the efficacy of their efforts in favor of global vitiligo awareness.

Jacques Cousteau

The late great pioneering French naval oficer, explorer conservationist, filmmaker, innovator, scientist, photographer, author and researcher Jacques-Yves Cousteau sadly passed away 25 June 1997 in Paris, aged 87, following a heart attack. He was born 11 June 1910. He studied the sea and aquatic life And co-developed the Aqua-Lung. He was also a member of the Académie Français and studied at the Collège Stanislas in Paris. In 1930, he entered the École Navale and graduated as a gunnery officer. After a car accident cut short his career in naval aviation, Cousteau indulged his interest in the sea.In Toulon, where he was serving on the Condorcet, Cousteau carried out his first underwater experiments, thanks to his friend Philippe Tailliez who in 1936 lent him some Fernez underwater goggles. Cousteau also worked for the information service of the French Navy, and was sent on missions to Shanghai and Japan (1935–1938) and in the USSR in 1939.

After the armistice of 1940, his family took refuge in Megève, where he became a friend of the Ichac family who also lived there. Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Marcel Ichac shared the same desire to reveal to the general public unknown and inaccessible places — for Cousteau the underwater world and for Ichac the high mountains. The to neighbors took the first ex-aequo prize of the Congress of Documentary Film in 1943, for the first French underwater film: Par dix-huit mètres de fond (18 meters deep), made without breathing apparatus the previous year in the Embiez islands with Philippe Tailliez and Frédéric Dumas, using a depth-pressure-proof camera case developed by mechanical engineer Léon Vèche (engineer of Arts and Métiers and the Naval College). In 1943, they made the film Épaves (Shipwrecks), in which they used two of the very first Aqua-Lung prototypes. These prototypes were made in Boulogne-Billancourt by the Air Liquide company, following instructions from Cousteau and Émile. Having kept bonds with the English speakers (he spent part of his childhood in the United States and usually spoke English) and with French soldiers in North Africa ( Jacques-Yves Cousteau , helped the French Navy to join again with the Allies and assembled a commando operation against the Italian espionage services in France, for which he received several military decorations for his deeds. At that time, he kept his distance from his brother Pierre-Antoine Cousteau, a “pen anti-semite” who wrote the collaborationist newspaper Je suis partout (I am everywhere) and who received the death sentence in 1946. However, this was later commuted to a life sentence, and Pierre-Antoine was released in 1954.

During the 1940s, Cousteau worked on the aqua-lung design the forerunner of open-circuit scuba technology used today. Cousteau started diving with Fernez goggles in 1936, and in 1939 used the self-contained underwater breathing apparatus invented in 1926 by Commander Yves le Prieur but dissatisfied with its performance so he improved it to extend underwater duration by adding a demand regulator, invented in 1942 by Émile Gagnan. In 1943 Cousteau tried out the first prototype aqua-lung which made extended underwater exploration possible. In 1946, Cousteau and Tailliez showed the film “Épaves”and set up the Groupement de Recherches Sous-marines (GRS) (Underwater Research Group) of the French Navy in Toulon. A little later it became the GERS (Groupe d’Études et de Recherches Sous-Marines, = Underwater Studies and Research Group), then the COMISMER (“COMmandement des Interventions Sous la MER”, = “Undersea Interventions Command”), and finally more recently the CEPHISMER. In 1947, Chief Petty Officer Maurice Fargues became the first diver to die using an aqualung while attempting a new depth record with the GERS near Toulon.

In 1948, between missions of mine clearance, underwater exploration and technological and physiological tests, Cousteau undertook a first campaign in the Mediterranean on board the sloop Élie Monnier, with Philippe Tailliez, Frédéric Dumas, Jean Alinat and the scenario writer Marcel Ichac. The small team also undertook the exploration of the Roman wreck of Mahdia (Tunisia). It was the first underwater archaeology operation using autonomous diving, opening the way for scientific underwater archaeology. Cousteau and Marcel Ichac brought back from there the Carnets diving film (presented and preceded with the Cannes Film Festival 1951).Cousteau and the Élie Monnier then took part in the rescue of Professor Jacques Piccard’s bathyscaphe, the FNRS-2, during the 1949 expedition to Dakar. Thanks to this rescue, the French Navy was able to reuse the sphere of the bathyscaphe to construct the FNRS-3.The adventures of this period are told in the two books The Silent World (1953, by Cousteau and Dumas) and Plongées sans câble(1954, by Philippe Tailliez)

.In 1949, Cousteau left the French Navy.In 1950, he founded the French Oceanographic Campaigns (FOC), and leased a ship called Calypso from Thomas Loel Guinness for a symbolic one franc a year. Cousteau refitted the Calypso as a mobile laboratory for field research and as his principal vessel for diving and filming. He also carried out underwater archaeological excavations in the Mediterranean, in particular at Grand-Congloué (1952).With the publication of his first book in 1953, The Silent World, he correctly predicted the existence of the echolocation abilities ofporpoises. He reported that his research vessel, the Élie Monier, was heading to the Straits of Gibraltar and noticed a group of porpoises following them. Cousteau changed course a few degrees off the optimal course to the center of the strait, and the porpoises followed for a few minutes, then diverged toward mid-channel again. It was evident that they knew where the optimal course lay, even if the humans did not. Cousteau concluded that the cetaceans had something like sonar, which was a relatively new feature on submarines.

Cousteau won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1956 for The Silent World co-produced with Louis Malle. With the assistance of Jean Mollard, he made a “diving saucer” SP-350, an experimental underwater vehicle which could reach a depth of 350 meters. The successful experiment was quickly repeated in 1965 with two vehicles which reached 500 meters.In 1957, he was elected as director of the Oceanographical Museum of Monaco. He directed Précontinent, about the experiments of diving in saturation (long-duration immersion, houses under the sea), and was admitted to the United States National Academy of Sciences.He was involved in the creation of Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques and served as its inaugural president from 1959 to 1973. In October 1960, a large amount of radioactive waste was going to be discarded in the Mediterranean Sea by the Commissariat à l’énergie atomique (CEA). The CEA argued that the dumps were experimental in nature, and that French oceanographers such asVsevelod Romanovsky had recommended it. Romanovsky and other French scientists, including Louis Fage and Jacques Cousteau, repudiated the claim, saying that Romanovsky had in mind a much smaller amount. The CEA claimed that there was little circulation (and hence little need for concern) at the dump site between Nice and Corsica, but French public opinion sided with the oceanographers rather than with the CEA atomic energy scientists. The CEA chief, Francis Perrin, decided to postpone the dump. Cousteau organized a publicity campaign which in less than two weeks gained wide popular support. The train carrying the waste was stopped by women and children sitting on the railway tracks, and it was sent back to its origin.

A meeting with American television companies (ABC, Métromédia, NBC) created the series The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau, with the character of the commander in the red bonnet inherited from standard diving dress) intended to give the films a “personalized adventure” style. This documentary television series ran for ten years from 1966 to 1976. A second documentary series, The Cousteau Odyssey, ran from 1977 to 1982, among others.In 1970, he wrote the book The Shark: Splendid Savage of the Sea with Philippe, his son. In this book, Costeau described the oceanic whitetip shark as “the most dangerous of all sharks”.In 1973, along with his two sons and Frederick Hyman, he created the Cousteau Society for the Protection of Ocean Life, Frederick Hyman being its first President; it now has more than 300,000 members.On December 1975, two years after the volcano’s last eruption, The Cousteau Society was filming Voyage au bout du monde on Deception Island, Antarctica, when Michel Laval, Calypso’s second in command, was struck and killed by a propeller of the helicopter that was ferrying between Calypso and the island.

In1976, Cousteau uncovered the wreck of HMHS Britannic. He also found the wreck of the French 17th-century ship-of-the-line La Therese in coastal waters of Crete.In 1977, together with Peter Scott, he received the UN International Environment prize.On 28 June 1979, while the Calypso was on an expedition to Portugal, his second son, Philippe, his preferred and designated successor and with whom he had co-produced all his films since 1969, died in a PBY Catalina flying boat crash in the Tagus river near Lisbon. Cousteau was deeply affected. He called his then eldest son, the architect Jean-Michel Cousteau, to his side. This collaboration lasted 14 years.In 1975 John Denver released the tribute song “Calypso” on his album “Windsong”, and on the B-side of his hit song “I’m Sorry”. “Calypso” became a hit on its own and was later considered the new A-side, reaching #2 on the charts.

From 1980 to 1981, he was a regular on the animal reality show Those Amazing Animals, along with Burgess Meredith, Priscilla Presley, and Jim Stafford. In 1980, Cousteau traveled to Canada to make two films on the Saint Lawrence River and the Great Lakes, Cries from the Deep and St. Lawrence: Stairway to the Sea. In 1985, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Ronald Reagan.On 24 November 1988, he was elected to the Académie française, chair 17, succeeding Jean Delay. His official reception under the Cupola took place on 22 June 1989, the response to his speech of reception being given by Bertrand Poirot-Delpech. After his death, he was replaced under the Cupola by Érik Orsenna on 28 May 1998.In June 1990, the composer Jean Michel Jarre paid homage to the commander by entitling his new album Waiting for Cousteau. He also composed the music for Cousteau’s documentary “Palawan, the last refuge” .

On 2 December 1990, his wife Simone Cousteau died of cancer .In June 1991, Jacques-Yves Cousteau remarried, to Francine Triplet, with whom he had (before this marriage) two children, Diane and Pierre-Yves. Francine Cousteau currently continues her husband’s work as the head of the Cousteau Foundation and Cousteau Society. From that point, the relations between Jacques-Yves and his elder son worsened. In November 1991, Cousteau gave an interview to the UNESCO Courier, in which he stated that he was in favour of human population control and population decrease and in 1992, he was invited to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for the United Nations’ International Conference on Environment and Development, and then he became a regular consultant for the UN and the World Bank. In 1996, he sued his son who wished to open a holiday centre named “Cousteau” in the Fiji Islands. On 11 January 1996, Calypso was rammed and sunk in Singapore Harbour by a barge. The Calypso was refloated and towed home to France. Cousteau is buried in a Roman Catholic Christian funeral in the family vault at Saint-André-de-f in France. A street was renamed “rue du Commandant Cousteau”, in his honour and a commemorative plaque was affixed to his house.

George Michael

The late, great  singer, songwriter, producer, and actor George Michael, was born 25 June 1963. Michael first found success after forming the duo Wham! with Andrew Ridgeley in 1981. The band’s first album Fantastic reached No. 1 in the UK in 1983 and included the songs Young Guns”, “Wham Rap!” and “Club Tropicana”. Their second album, Make It Big included the songs Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” (No. 1 in the UK and US), “Freedom”, “Everything She Wants”, and “Careless Whisper”. Michael also sang on the original Band Aid recording of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” and donated the profits from “Last Christmas/Everything She Wants” to charity. He also contributed to David Cassidy’s 1985 hit “The Last Kiss”, and Elton John’s 1985 songs “Nikita” and “Wrap Her Up”. Wham!’ Also made a historic tour of China in April 1985, which had never been done before by a Western Pop Group and was documented by film director Lindsay Anderson and producer Martin Lewis in their film Foreign Skies: Wham! In China. Michael then released two solo singles, “Careless Whisper” (1984) and “A Different Corner” (1986). Wham! Officially separated during the summer of 1986, after releasing a farewell single, “The Edge of Heaven” and a singles compilation, The Final, plus a sell-out concert at Wembley Stadium.

He began his solo career, in 1987, he sang a highly successful duet with Aretha Franklin. “I Knew You Were Waiting”, for which Michael and Aretha Franklin won a Grammy Award in 1988 for Best R&B Performance – Duo or Group with Vocal for the song. Michael released his first solo album, Faith in 1987 which contained the controversial song “I Want Your Sex”,which was banned by many radio stations and The second single, “Faith”, was released in 1987 shortly before the album “Faith” and was accompanied by an iconic video. This was followed by the songs “Father Figure”, “One More Try”, and “Monkey”. In 1988, Michael embarked on a world tour, which included “Everything She Wants” and “I’m Your Man”, as well as covers of “Lady Marmalade” or “Play That Funky Music”. In Los Angeles, Michael was joined on stage by Aretha Franklin for “I Knew You Were Waiting”. In 1989, Faith won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year at the 31st Grammy Awards and also received the Video Vanguard Award At the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards.

In 1990 Michael released the album Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1, which was more serious in tone and contained the songs “Praying for Time”, which dealt with social ills and injustice, and the acoustic “Waiting for That Day”, this was followed by Freedom! ’90”, “Heal the Pain”, and “Cowboys and Angels”.The video for ‘Freedom ’90” was directed by David Fincher and featured the supermodels Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, Tatjana Patitz, and Cindy Crawford. The song “Mother’s Pride” also gained significant radio play in the US during the first Persian Gulf War during 1991. Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 also won the award for Best British Album at the 1991 Brit Awards. In 1991 Michael embarked on the “Cover to Cover tour” in Japan, England, the US, and Brazil, where he performed at Rock in Rio, singing his favourite cover songs, including Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me”, a 1974 song by Elton John which he and Michael had performed together at the Live Aid concert in 1985, and again at London’s Wembley Arena in 1991. Due to legal problems with Sony Michael ended the idea for a follow up album called Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 2 and donated three songs to the charity project Red Hot + Dance, for the Red Hot Organization which raised money for AIDS awareness, including “Crazyman Dance” and Too Funky”, whose video features Michael (sporadically) filming supermodels Linda Evangelista, Beverly Peele, Tyra Banks, Estelle Lefébure and Nadja Auermann at a fashion show.

Next George Michael teamed up with Queen for the EP Five Live. Which they performed at The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert on 20 April 1992 at London’s Wembley Stadium, with proceeds going to AIDS research. Tracks for the event were performed by George Michael, Queen, and Lisa Stansfield and included “Somebody to Love”, “These Are the Days of Our Lives”,”Killer”, “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone”, “Calling You “’39″and “Somebody to Love”. Michael’s performance of “Somebody to Love” was hailed as “one of the best performances of the tribute concert”.The idea of having George Michael take over as full-time lead singer of Queen was even given serious consideration. In 1994, George Michael appeared at the first MTV Europe Music Awards show, performing his new song, “Jesus to a Child” this was followed by “Fastlove”, an energetic tune about wanting gratification and fulfilment without commitment, this was followed by the album’s title track Older, which was followed by “Star People ’97”. In 1996, Michael was voted Best British Male, at the MTV Europe Music Awards and the Brit Awards and at the British Academy’s Ivor Novello Awards, he was awarded the prestigious title of ‘Songwriter of The Year’ for the third time.

In 1998 George Michael released Ladies & Gentlemen: The Best of George Michael a Double CD containing 28 songs (29 songs are included on the European and Australian release). The first CD, titled “For the Heart”, predominantly contains Michael’s successful ballads, while the second CD, “For the Feet”, consists mainly of his popular dance tunes. It also contains a large number of compilation tracks and duets that had not previously appeared on his albums, including his duet with Aretha Franklin, “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)”; “Desafinado”, a duet in Portuguese with Brazilian legendary singer Astrud Gilberto; and the Elton John duet “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on me”. George Michael’s next album was “Outiside”, the titular track was a humorous song about his arrest for soliciting a policeman in a public restroom. He also sang a duet with Mary J.Blige called “As”. In 1999: George Michael released the album Songs from the Last Century, which contained mainly cover-versions including “Roxanne”, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”; and the Frank Sinatra classic “Where or When”. In 2000, Michael sang on “If I Told You That” with Whitney Houston. Michael’s next single was “Freeek!”, this was followed by the controversial single “Shoot the Dog” which was highly critical of George W. Bush and Tony Blair in protest against the 2003 Iraq War, this was followed by a cover version of Don McLean’s The Grave. Which was released as part of the War Child charity album Hope. Michael’s fifth hit album, Patience, was released in 2004 and included the songs “Amazing” and “Flawless” which sampled The Ones’ original dance hit “Flawless”, this was followed by “Round Here” and “John and Elvis Are Dead”.

In 2006 George Michael released his second greatest hits album TWENTY FIVE celebrating the 25th anniversary of his music career. Containing George’s solo songs and Wham! Songs Plus three new songs: “An Easier Affair”; “This Is Not Real Love” (a duet with Mutya Buena, formerly of Sugababes, and a new version of “Heal the Pain” recorded with Paul McCartney and “Understand”. The limited edition three-CD version also contains an additional 14 lesser known tracks, including one from Wham! It was released in North America as a 29-song, two-CD set featuring several new songs (including duets with Paul McCartney and Mary J. Blige and a song from the short-lived TV series Eli Stone) where George Michael portrayed a guardian Angel protecting Johnny Lee Miller’s character. He also toured North America for the first time in 17 years and also played the 2005 Live 8 concert at Hyde Park, London, And was joined by Paul McCartney on stage, harmonising on The Beatles classic “Drive my Car”.The DVD version of Twenty Five contains 40 videos on two discs.In 2008, he toured North America playing 21 dates in the United States and Canada. This was Michael’s first tour of North America in 17 years. Michael appeared on the 2008 finale show of American Idol singing “Praying for Time”. Michael performed in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, as part of the 37th National Day Celebrations and released the song “December Song” on his website for free. In 2010, Michael performed his first show in Perth, Australia since 1988 and was a guest performer at the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras After Party. In 2011, Michael covered New Order’s 1987 hit “True Faith” in aid of the charity Comic Relief and released a cover of Stevie Wonder’s 1972 song, “You and I” on 15 April 2011, as an MP3 gift to Prince William and Catherine Middleton on the occasion of their wedding on 29 April 2011. In 2011, George’s European Symphonica Tour was announced. He was also nominated for the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. Sadly though he became severely ill with Pneumonia. However two months after leaving hospital, Michael made a surprise appearance at the 2012 Brit Awards at London’s O2 Arena, where he received a standing ovation, and presented Adele the award for Best British Album. In 2012, George Michael released a single “White Light” to celebrate 30 years since the release of Wham Rap. Plus “Song to the Siren”, and two remixes and released and his latest album Symphonica was released in 2014.

As one of the world’s best-selling music artists, Michael has sold more than 100 million records worldwide as of 2010. His 1987 debut solo album, Faith, has on its own sold more than 20 million copies worldwide. Michael has garnered seven number one singles in the UK and eight number one hits on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US. In 2008, Billboard magazine ranked Michael the 40th most successful artist on the Billboard Hot 100 Top All-Time Artists list. Michael has won numerous music awards throughout his 30-year career, including three Brit Awards—winning Best British Male twice, four MTV Video Music Awards, four Ivor Novello Awards, three American Music Awards, and two Grammy Awards from eight nominations. In 2004, the Radio Academy named Michael as the most played artist on British radio between the period of 1984–2004. The documentary A Different Story was released in 2005; it covered his personal life and professional career. In 2006, George Michael announced his first tour in 15 years, the worldwide 25 Live tour, spanning three individual tours over the course of three years (2006, 2007 and 2008).

George Orwell

English novelist and journalist George Orwell,(Eric Arthur Blair) Was born on 25 June 1903, in Motihari, Bihar, in India, in 1904 his mother Ida Blair moved them to Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire England. Before the First World War, the family moved to Shiplake, Oxfordshire where Eric became friendly with the Buddicom family, especially their daughter Jacintha. Jacintha and Eric read and wrote poetry, and dreamed of becoming famous writers. He said that he might write a book in the style of H. G. Wells’s A Modern Utopia. During this period, he also enjoyed shooting, fishing and birdwatching with Jacintha’s brother and sister. In 1908 Eric and Marjorie ware sent as a day-boy to a Roman Catholic convent school run by French Ursuline nuns, in Henley-on-Thames, in September 1911 Eric arrived at St Cyprian’s. He boarded at the school for the next five years, returning home only for school holidays.

Blair wrote two poems While at St Cyprian’s, which were published in the Henley and South Oxfordshire Standard. He also wrote the essay “Such, Such Were the Joys”, based on his time At St. Cyprian’s. He also first met writer Cyril Connolly. Many years later, as the editor of Horizon, Connolly published several of Orwell’s essays. He came second to Connolly in the Harrow History Prize, had his work praised by the school’s external examiner, and earned scholarships to Wellington and Eton.He chose to stay at St Cyprian’s until December 1916, in case a place at Eton became available. In January, Blair arrived at Wellington, where he spent the Spring term. In May 1917 a place became available as a King’s Scholar at Eton. He remained at Eton until December 1921, when he left midway between his 18th and 19th birthday. His tutor A. S. F. Gow, Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, gave him advice later in his career. Blair was briefly taught French by Aldous Huxley. Whilst at Eton he worked with Roger Mynors to produce a College magazine, The Election Times, joined in the production of other publications – College Days and Bubble and Squeak – and participated in the Eton Wall Game.

He joined the Imperial Police, in India and chose a posting in Burma. In October 1922 he sailed on board SS Herefordshire via the Suez Canal and Ceylon to join the Indian Imperial Police in Burma. A month later, he arrived at Rangoon and travelled to the police training school in Mandalay. After a short posting at Maymyo, he was posted to Myaungmya in the Irrawaddy Delta in 1924. Working as an imperial policeman gave him considerable responsibility while most of his contemporaries were still at university in England. When he was posted farther east in the Delta to Twante as a sub-divisional officer, he was responsible for the security of some 200,000 people. He was then promoted to Assistant District Superintendent and posted to Syriam, closer to Rangoon. In 1925 he went to Insein, the home of Insein Prison, the second largest jail in Burma.

In 1926 he moved to Moulmein, Burma where his maternal grandmother lived and was assigned to Katha in Upper Burma, where he contracted dengue fever in 1927. He Returned to England in July due to his illness. While on leave in England and on holiday with his family in Cornwall in September 1927, he reappraised his life. Deciding against returning to Burma, he resigned from the Indian Imperial Police to become a writer. He drew on his experiences in the Burma police for the novel Burmese Days and the essays “A Hanging” and “Shooting an Elephant”. In Burma, he acquired a reputation as an outsider. He spent much of his time alone, reading or pursuing non-pukka activities, such as attending the churches of the Karen ethnic group.

Back In England, he settled back in the family home at Southwold, renewing acquaintance with local friends and attending an Old Etonian dinner. He visited his old tutor Gow at Cambridge for advice on becoming a writer. in 1927 he moved to Portabello Road London.he decided to write about the poorer parts of London and “ventured into the East End of London to discover for himself the world of poverty and the down-and-outers who inhabit it. He visited Limehouse Causeway, spending his first night in a common lodging house, possibly George Levy’s ‘kip’. For a while he “went native” in his own country, dressing like a tramp, adopting the name P. S. Burton and making no concessions to middle-class mores and expectations; he recorded his experiences of the low life for use in “The Spike”, his first published essay in English, and in the second half of his first book, Down and Out in Paris and London.

In 1928 he moved to Paris. He lived in the rue du Pot de Fer, a working class district in the 5th Arrondissement. His aunt Nellie Limouzin also lived in Paris and gave him social and, when necessary, financial support. He began to write novels, including an early version of Burmese Days, He became a journalist and published articles in Monde, a political/literary journal edited by Henri Barbusse (his first article as a professional writer, “La Censure en Angleterre”, appeared in that journal on 6 October 1928); G. K.’s Weekly, where his first article appeared in “A Farthing Newspaper”, and Le Progrès Civique (founded by the left-wing coalition Le Cartel des Gauches). Three pieces appeared in successive weeks in Le Progrès Civique: discussing unemployment, a day in the life of a tramp, and the beggars of London, respectively. He fell seriously ill in February 1929 and was taken to the Hôpital Cochin in the 14th arrondissement, a free hospital where medical students were trained. His experiences there were the basis of his essay “How the Poor Die”, published in 1946. Whether through necessity or to collect material, he undertook menial jobs such as dishwashing in a fashionable hotel on the rue de Rivoli, which he later described in Down and Out in Paris and London. In August 1929, he sent a copy of “The Spike” to John Middleton Murry’s New Adelphi magazine in London.

In 1929, after nearly two years in Paris, Blair returned to England and went directly to his parents’ house in Southwold, Suffolk, He became acquainted with many local people, including Brenda Salkeld, the clergyman’s daughter who worked as a gym-teacher at St Felix Girls’ School in the town. Although Salkeld rejected his offer of marriage, she remained a friend and regular correspondent for many years. He also renewed friendships with older friends, such as Dennis Collings, and his girlfriend Eleanor Jacques. In early 1930 he stayed briefly in Bramley, Leeds, with his sister Marjorie and her husband Humphrey Dakin, Blair began writing reviews for Adelphi and acting as a private tutor to a disabled child at Southwold. He then became tutor to three young brothers, one of whom, Richard Peters, later became a distinguished academic.He went painting and bathing on the beach, and there he met Mabel and Francis Fierz, who later influenced his career. Over the next year he visited them in London, often meeting their friend Max Plowman. He also often stayed at the homes of Ruth Pitter and Richard Rees. Jonathan Cape rejected A Scullion’s Diary, the first version of Down and Out. On the advice of Richard Rees, he offered it to Faber and Faber, but their editorial director, T. S. Eliot, also rejected it. Blair ended the year by deliberately getting himself arrested so that he could experience Christmas in prison, but the authorities did not regard his “drunk and disorderly” behaviour as imprisonable, so he went home.

In 1932 Blair became a teacher at The Hawthorns High School for boys in Hayes, West London, offering private schooling for children of local tradesmen and shopkeepers which only had 14 or 16 boys aged between ten and sixteen, and one other master. he became friendly with the curate of the local parish church and became involved with theiractivities . Victor Gollancz published A Scullion’s Diary in 1932. in August 1932, Blair returned to Southwold,

His essay “Clink”, describing his failed attempt to get sent to prison, appeared in the August 1932 number of Adelphi. He returned to teaching at Hayes and set about publishing his book, Down and Out in Paris and London.. He finally adopted the nom de plume George Orwell because, as he told Eleanor Jacques, “It is a good round English name.” it was also inspired by the River Orwell in the English county of Suffolk. His novel Down and Out in Paris and London was published on 9 January 1933, as Orwell continued to work on Burmese Days. In 1933 Blair left Hawthorns to become a teacher at Frays College, in Uxbridge, Middlesex. This was a much larger establishment with 200 pupils and a full complement of staff. He acquired a motorcycle and took trips through the surrounding countryside. Sadly he contracted pneumonia and was taken to Uxbridge Cottage Hospital. he was discharged in January 1934, and returned to Southwold to convalesce and, supported by his parents, never returned to teaching. Blair started work on the novel A Clergyman’s Daughter, drawing upon his life as a teacher and on life in Southwold. He left Sothwold in October, after sending A Clergyman’s Daughter to Moore, And went to London to work as a part-time assistant in Booklovers’ Corner, a second-hand bookshop in Hampstead run by Francis and Myfanwy Westrope, who were friends of his Aunt Nellie Limouzin. These experiences provided background for the novel Keep the Aspidistra Flying, He was also writing for the Adelphi and preparing the novel Burmese Days. A Clergyman’s Daughter was published In 1935. In early 1935 Blair met his future wife Eileen O’Shaughnessy, through his landlady, Rosalind Obermeyer, and also started writing reviews for the New English Weekly.

His work is marked by clarity, intelligence and wit, awareness of social injustice, opposition to totalitarianism, and belief in democratic socialism. Although Orwell wrote literary criticism, poetry, fiction and polemical journalism. He is best known for the dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) and the allegorical novella Animal Farm (1945), which together have sold more copies than any two books by any other 20th-century author. His book Homage to Catalonia (1938), an account of his experiences in the Spanish Civil War, is widely acclaimed, as are his numerous essays on politics, literature, language and culture. In 2008, The Times ranked him second on a list of “The 50 greatest British writers since 1945″. Orwell’s work continues to influence popular and political culture, and the term Orwellian — descriptive of totalitarian or authoritarian social practices — has entered the vernacular with several of his neologisms, such as doublethink, thoughtcrime, Big Brother and thought police.

During most of his career, Orwell was best known for his journalism, in essays, reviews, columns in newspapers and magazines and in his books of reportage: Down and Out in Paris and London (describing a period of poverty in these cities), The Road to Wigan Pier (describing the living conditions of the poor in northern England, and class division generally) and Homage to Catalonia.

Coming Up for Air, his last novel before World War II is the most “English” of his novels; alarms of war mingle with images of idyllic Thames-side Edwardian childhood of protagonist George Bowling. The novel is pessimistic; industrialism and capitalism have killed the best of Old England, and there were great, new external threats. In homely terms, Bowling posits the totalitarian hypotheses of Borkenau, Orwell, Silone and Koestler: “Old Hitler’s something different. So’s Joe Stalin. They aren’t like these chaps in the old days who crucified people and chopped their heads off and so forth, just for the fun of it … They’re something quite new – something that’s never been heard of before”.

In an autobiographical piece that Orwell sent to the editors of Twentieth Century Authors in 1940, he wrote: “The writers I care about most and never grow tired of are: Shakespeare, Swift, Fielding, Dickens, Charles Reade, Flaubert and, among modern writers, James Joyce, T. S. Eliot and D. H. Lawrence. But I believe the modern writer who has influenced me most is W. Somerset Maugham, whom I admire immensely for his power of telling a story straightforwardly and without frills.” Elsewhere, Orwell strongly praised the works of Jack London, especially his book The Road. Orwell’s investigation of poverty in The Road to Wigan Pier strongly resembles that of Jack London’s The People of the Abyss, in which the American journalist disguises himself as an out-of-work sailor to investigate the lives of the poor in London. In his essay “Politics vs. Literature: An Examination of Gulliver’s Travels” Orwell wrote: “If I had to make a list of six books which were to be preserved when all others were destroyed, I would certainly put Gulliver’s Travels among them.”

Other writers admired by Orwell included: Ralph Waldo Emerson, George Gissing, Graham Greene, Herman Melville, Henry Miller, Tobias Smollett, Mark Twain, Joseph Conrad and Yevgeny Zamyatin. He was both an admirer and a critic of Rudyard Kipling, Calling him gifted writer and a “good bad poet” whose work is “spurious” and “morally insensitive and aesthetically disgusting,” but undeniably seductive and able to speak to certain aspects of reality.He also admired G. K. Chesterton, whom he regarded as a writer of considerable talent who had chosen to devote himself to “Roman Catholic propaganda”.

Nineteen Eighty-Four

Nineteen Eighty-Four was published in 1949. It is a dystopian and satirical novel set in Oceania, where society is tyrannized by The Party and its totalitarian ideology. The Oceanian province of Airstrip One is a world of perpetual war, omnipresent government surveillance, and public mind control, dictated by a political system euphemistically named English Socialism (Ingsoc) under the control of a privileged Inner Party elite that persecutes all individualism and independent thinking as thoughtcrimes.

Their tyranny is headed by Big Brother, the quasi-divine Party leader who enjoys an intense cult of personality, but who may not even exist. Big Brother and the Party justify their rule in the name of a supposed greater good. The novel’s protagonist Winston Smith, is a member of the Outer Party who works for the Ministry of Truth (Minitrue), which is responsible for propaganda and historical revisionism. As a sort of Spin Doctor. Smith is a diligent and skillful worker, but he secretly hates the Party and dreams of rebellion against Big Brother.

Nineteen Eighty-Four is often compared to Brave New World by Aldous Huxley; both are powerful dystopian novels warning of a future world where the state machine exerts complete control over social life. In 1984, Nineteen Eighty-Four and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 were honoured with the Prometheus Award for their contributions to dystopian literature. In 2011 he received it again for Animal Farm.

As literary political fiction and as dystopian science-fiction, Nineteen Eighty-Four is a classic novel in content, plot, and style. Many of its terms and concepts, such as Big Brother, doublethink, thoughtcrime, Newspeak, and memory hole, have entered everyday use since its publication in 1949. Nineteen Eighty-Four spawned the term Orwellian, to describe official deception, secret surveillance, and manipulation of the past by a totalitarian or authoritarian state. In 2005 the novel was chosen by TIME magazine as one of the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to 2005. It was awarded a place on both lists of Modern Library 100 Best Novels, reaching number 13 on the editor’s list, and 6 on the reader’s list. In 2003, the novel was listed at number 8 on the BBC’s survey The Big Read.

Animal Farm

Animal Farm is an allegorical novella possibly inspired by the degeneration in the Soviet Union after the Russian Revolution and the rise of Stalinism and life under totalitarian rule. The novel addresses corruption, wickedness, ignorance, greed, myopia and indifference. It was published in England in 1945 and reflects events leading up to the Russian Revolution of 1917, and then on into the Stalin era in the Soviet Union. Orwell, a democratic socialist, was a critic of Joseph Stalin and hostile to Moscow-directed Stalinism, especially after his experiences with the NKVD and the Spanish Civil War. The Soviet Union he believed, had become a brutal dictatorship, built upon a cult of personality and enforced by a reign of terror.

Orwell described Animal Farm as his novel “contre Stalin” and in his essay of 1946, Why I Write, he wrote that Animal Farm was the first book in which he had tried, with full consciousness of what he was doing, “to fuse political purpose and artistic purpose into one whole”. Orwell originally suggested the title Union des républiques socialistes animales for the French translation, which recalled the French name of the Soviet Union, Union des républiques socialistes soviétiques, and which abbreviates to URSA, the Latin for “bear”, a symbol of Russia. It was written Between November 1943-February 1944, when the wartime alliance with the Soviet Union was at its height and Stalin was held in highest esteem in Britain both among the people and intelligentsia, a fact that Orwell hated.

It was initially rejected by a number of British and American publishers, including one of Orwell’s own, Victor Gollancz. Although Its publication was delayed it became a great commercial success when it appeared— partly because the Cold War so quickly followed WW2. Time magazine chose the book as one of the 100 best English-language novels (1923 to 2005); it also places at number 31 on the Modern Library List of Best 20th-Century Novels. It won a Retrospective Hugo Award in 1996 and is also included in the Great Books of the Western World. Both 1984 and Animal Farm have also been adapted for film and television numerous times, notably starring John Hurt as Winston Smith. There is also an animated version of Animal Farm and I wouldn’t be surprised if someone was doing an anthropomorphic version of Animal Farm using digital effects.