Posted in Uncategorized

Events and Holidays happening on 16 December

  • Boston Tea Party
  • Barbie and Barney Backlash Day
  • National Chocolate Covered Anything Day
  • Stupid Toy Day

The Boston Tea Party was a political and mercantile protest by the Sons of Liberty in Boston, Massachusetts, on December 16, 1773. The target was the Tea Act of May 10, 1773, which allowed the British East India company to sell tea from China in American colonies without paying taxes apart from those imposed by the Townshend Acts. American Patriots strongly opposed the taxes in the Townshend Act as a violation of their rights. Demonstrators, some disguised as Native Americans, destroyed an entire shipment of tea sent by the East India Company.

They boarded the ships and threw the chests of tea into the Boston Harbor. The British government responded harshly and the episode escalated into the American Revolution. The Tea Party became an iconic event of American history, and since then other political protests such as the Tea Party movement have referred to themselves as historical successors to the Boston protest of 1773.

The Tea Party was the culmination of a resistance movement throughout British America against the Tea Act, which had been passed by the British Parliament in 1773. Colonists objected to the Tea Act because they believed that it violated their rights as Englishmen to “no taxation without representation”, that is, to be taxed only by their own elected representatives and not by a British parliament in which they were not represented. In addition, the well-connected East India Company had been granted competitive advantages over colonial tea importers, who resented the move and feared additional infringement on their business. Protesters had successfully prevented the unloading of tea in three other colonies, but in Boston, embattled Royal Governor Thomas Hutchinson refused to allow the tea to be returned to Britain.

The Boston Tea Party was a significant event in the growth of the American Revolution. Parliament responded in 1774 with the Intolerable Acts, or Coercive Acts, which, among other provisions, ended local self-government in Massachusetts and closed Boston’s commerce. Colonists up and down the Thirteen Colonies in turn responded to the Intolerable Acts with additional acts of protest, and by convening the First Continental Congress, which petitioned the British monarch for repeal of the acts and coordinated colonial resistance to them. The crisis escalated, and the American Revolutionary War began near Boston in 1775.


STUPID TOY DAY

Stupid Toy Day, takes place annually on December 16th. Stupid Toy Day is a day dedicated to looking back on the stupid toys of our childhood and remembering the fun they inspired. The origins of Stupid Toy Day are unknown. However it seems appropriate that Stupid Toy Day takes place during the Christmas holiday season, which is rampant with gag gifts, “white elephant” gift exchanges, and a whole lot of letters to Santa pleading for stupid toys such as the Magic 8 Ball, Betsy Wetsy, Slinky, Mr. Potato Head, Weeble, Shrinky Dinks, Pet Rock, Teddy Ruxpin, Beanie Babies, Tickle Me Elmo, Tamagotchis and Giga Pets, Furby or ZhuZhu Pets

Posted in films & DVD, Science fiction, Television

The Time Warrior

The first episode of the classic Doctor Who story The Time Warrior was Broadcast 16 December 1973 featuring Jon Pertwee and Elizabeth Sladen. It begins In the Middle Ages, where the evil and Cruel Warlord Irongron and his Master-at-Arms Bloodaxe, discover the crashed spaceship of an alien Sontaran warrior named Commander Linx. Linx strikes a bargain with Irongron and offers him high tech weapons in exchange for materials and help in repairing his ship.

Meanwhile back in the present day scientists are mysteriously vanishing from a top secret research complex and The Doctor and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney) of U.N.I.T. are called in to investigate. The Doctor discovers that a Sontaren Commander is at large and has kidnapped the scientists by means of an Osmic Projector which has allowed him to project himself 800 years into the future, from the Middle Ages to the present day and kidnap and brain wash them into helping him rebuild his damaged spaceship. The Doctor also meets an eccentric scientist called Rubeish and a inquisitive young journalist called Sarah Jane Smith, (Elizabeth Sladen), who has infiltrated the complex by masquerading as a Scientist. Then Rubeish also disappears. The Doctor Journeys to thr Middle Ages, unaware that Sarah-Jane has stowed aboard the Tardis

Lord Edward of Wessex Castle sends his archer Hal on an unsuccessful mission to kill Irongron. Meanwhile Sarah Jane is also captured and brought before Irongron. Linx then constructs a Robot Knight which almost clobbers Hal until a timely intervention by The Doctor stops it and in The ensuing confusion both Hal and Sarah flee, and head for Wessex Castle.The next morning irongron and his troops attack the castle using high-tech weapons supplied by Linx. Meanwhile Doctor and Sarah-Jane infiltrate the Castle disguised as monks to try to foil Linx’ sinister plan, rescue the scientists and defeat Irongron.

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

Arthur C.Clarke CBE, FRAS, Sri Lankabhimanya

Prolific British science fiction author, inventor Sir Arthur Charles Clarke, CBE, FRAS, Sri Lankabhimanya, was born 16 December 1917. He was famous for his short stories and novels, among them 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Profiles of the Future, Rendezvous with Rama and The Fountains of Paradise. He was also a host and commentator in the British television series Mysterious World. For many years, Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and Clarke were known as the “Big Three” of science fiction.Clarke served in the Royal Air Force as a radar instructor and technician from 1941 to 1946. In 1945, he proposed a satellite communication system—an idea that, in 1963, won him the Franklin Institute Stuart Ballantine Gold Medal. He was the chairman of the British Interplanetary Society from 1947–1950 and again in 1953.Between 1937 and 1945, Clarke had a few stories published in fanzines, his first professional sale appeared in Astounding Science Fiction in 1946: “Loophole” was published in April, while “Rescue Party”, his first sale, was published in May. Along with his writing Clarke briefly worked as Assistant Editor of Science Abstracts (1949) before devoting himself to writing full-time from 1951 onward. Clarke also contributed to the Dan Dare series published in Eagle, and his first three published novels were written for children.

Clarke corresponded with C. S. Lewis in the 1940s and 1950s and they once met in an Oxford pub, The Eastgate, to discuss science fiction and space travel. Following Lewis’s death, Clarke voiced great praise for him, saying the Ransom Trilogy was one of the few works of science fiction that could be considered literature. In 1948 he wrote “The Sentinel” for a BBC competition. Though the story was rejected, it changed the course of Clarke’s career. Not only was it the basis for 2001: A Space Odyssey, but “The Sentinel” also introduced a more cosmic element to Clarke’s work. Many of Clarke’s later works feature a technologically advanced but still-prejudiced mankind being confronted by a superior alien intelligence. In the cases of The City and the Stars (and its original version, Against the Fall of Night), Childhood’s End, and the 2001 series, this encounter produces a conceptual breakthrough that accelerates humanity into the next stage of its evolution.

Clarke lived in Sri Lanka from 1956 until his death, having emigrated there when it was still called Ceylon, first in Unawatuna on the south coast, and then in Colombo. The Sri Lankan government offered Clarke resident guest status in 1975. He was an avid scuba diver and a member of the Underwater Explorers Club. In addition to writing, Clarke set up several diving-related ventures with his business partner Mike Wilson. In 1956, while scuba diving in Trincomalee, Wilson and Clarke uncovered ruined masonry, architecture and idol images of the sunken original Koneswaram temple — including carved columns with flower insignias, and stones in the form of elephant heads — spread on the shallow surrounding seabed. Other discoveries included Chola bronzes from the original shrine, and these discoveries were described in Clarke’s 1957 book The Reefs of Taprobane.

 

In 1961, while filming off Great Basses Reef, Wilson found a wreck and retrieved silver coins. However Plans to dive on the wreck the following year were stopped when Clarke developed paralysis, ultimately diagnosed as polio. A year later, Clarke observed the salvage from the shore and the surface. The ship, ultimately identified as belonging to the Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb, yielded fused bags of silver rupees, cannons, and other artefacts, carefully documented, became the basis for The Treasure of the Great Reef. Living in Sri Lanka and learning its history also inspired the backdrop for his novel The Fountains of Paradise in which he described a space elevator. This, he believed, would make rocket based access to space obsolete and, more than geostationary satellites, would ultimately be his scientific legacy.His many predictions culminated in 1958 when he began a series of magazine essays that eventually became Profiles of the Future, published in book form in 1962. A timetable up to the year 2100 describes inventions and ideas including such things as a “global library” for 2005. The same work also contained “Clarke’s First Law” and text that became Clarke’s three laws in later editions. Clarke Sadly passed away on 19th March 2008 in Sri Lanka. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1998 & was awarded Sri Lanka’s highest civil honour, Sri Lankabhimanya, in 2005.

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

Philip K.Dick

American science fiction novelist, short story writer and essayist Philip K Dick was born December 16, 1928. Most, but not all, of his published work is in the science fiction genre. In his novels Dick explored sociological, political and metaphysical themes his books were dominated by monopolistic corporations, authoritarian governments, and altered states. In his later works Dick’s thematic focus strongly reflected his personal interest in metaphysics and theology. He often drew upon his own life experiences in addressing the nature of drug abuse, paranoia, schizophrenia, and transcendental experiences in novels such as A Scanner Darkly and VALIS.

His novel The Man in the High Castle postulates what the world would have been like had Nazi Germany and Japan won World War II and features two gentlemen named Frank Frink and Robert Childan who learn of a banned book and decide to seek out it’s mysterious author. This novel bridged the genres of alternate history and science fiction, earning Dick a Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1963 . His next novel Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said, is about a celebrity who awakens in a parallel universe where he is unknown. This won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best novel in 1975.

Philip K.Dick also wrote the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep which was adapted into the film Blade Runner. This takes place in a post apocalyptic dystopian Future San Francisco where Earth’s life has been greatly damaged by nuclear global war. Most animal species are endangered or extinct from extreme radiation poisoning. So the United Nations encourages mass emigrations to off-world colonies to preserve humanity’s genetic integrity. This comes with the incentive of free personal androids: robot servants identical to humans. On Earth, owning real live animals has become a fashionable status symbol, because of mass extinctions and the accompanying cultural push for greater empathy, which has coincidentally motivated a new technology-based religion called Mercerism. Mercerism uses “empathy boxes” to link users simultaneously to a virtual reality of collective suffering, centered on a martyr-like character, Wilbur Mercer, who eternally climbs up a hill while being hit with crashing stones.

The novel features a Detective named Rick Deckard who finds himself drawn into a dangerous world when he is tasked with “retiring” (i.e. killing) six escaped Nexus-6 model androids, that went rogue after their creation by the Rosen Association and fled Mars for Earth. So Deckard visits the Rosen headquarters in Seattle for more answers and meets Rachael Rosen. Then he encounters a Soviet police contact who turns out to be one of the Nexus-6 renegades in disguise, then flies off to retire his next target: an opera singer android. However, he is suddenly arrested and detained by a police officer and Deckard himself is accused of being an android. He then meets Phil Resch, the station’s resident bounty hunter and they find the opera singer replicant.  Meanwhile One of the Nexus-6 android fugitives  Pris Stratton, moves into an apartment building whose only other inhabitant is John R. Isidore, a lonely radioactively damaged, intellectually below-average human Who attempts to befriend her. Pris meets up with Roy and Irmgard Batty, the final two rogue androids, and they then plan thier escape.

In addition to forty four published novels, Dick wrote around one hundred and twenty one short stories, most of which appeared in science fiction magazines during his lifetime. In 2005, Time magazine named Ubik one of the one hundred greatest English-language novels published since 1923. In 2007, Dick became the first science fiction writer to be included in The Library of America series. Sadly he passed away on March 2, 1982, but he has left a rich legacy of Science Fiction novels, Many of which have been adapted into a number of popular films including Blade Runner, Total Recall, A Scanner Darkly, Minority Report, Paycheck, Next, Screamers, and The Adjustment Bureau. A television series called Electric Dreams has also been made featuring many of his science fiction short stories. His science fiction novel The Man in the the High Castle has also been adapted for television by Amazon Prime.

Posted in books, films & DVD, Television

Jane Austen

English novelist Jane Austen was born 16th December 1775. Austen’s works of romantic fiction, set among the landed gentry, earned her a place as one of the most widely read writers in English literature. Her realism and biting social commentary have gained her historical importance among scholars and critics. Austen lived her entire life as part of a close-knit family located on the lower fringes of the English landed gentry. She was educated primarily by her father and older brothers as well as through her own reading. The steadfast support of her family was critical to her development as a professional writer. Her artistic apprenticeship lasted from her teenage years into her thirties. During this period, she experimented with various literary forms, including the epistolary novel which she then abandoned, and wrote and extensively revised three major novels and began a fourth. From 1811 until 1816, with the release of Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814) and Emma (1816), she achieved success as a published writer. She wrote two additional novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, both published posthumously in 1818, and began a third, which was eventually titled Sanditon, but tragically died in 18th July 1817 before completing it.

Sense and Sensibility begins upon the death of the elderly Mr Henry Dashwood and his grandson, inherits his house, Norland Park. His second wife, Mrs Dashwood, and their daughters, Elinor, Marianne and Margaret, inherit only a small income. On his deathbed, Mr Henry Dashwood extracts a promise from his son John to take care of his half-sisters. However John’s greedy wife, Fanny, soon persuades him to renege on the promise claiming that providing the promised help for Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters will unfairly impoverish their son. John and Fanny immediately move in as the new owners of Norland, while the Dashwood women are treated as unwelcome guests by a spiteful Fanny. Mrs Dashwood seeks somewhere else to live. In the meantime, Fanny’s brother, Edward Ferrars visits Norland. Mrs Dashwood moves her family to Barton Cottage in Devonshire, near the home of her cousin, Sir John Middleton. Where they are welcomed into local society, and meet his wife, Lady Middleton, his mother-in-law, the garrulous but well-meaning Mrs Jennings, and his friend, Colonel Brandon. Colonel Brandon is attracted to Marianne, and Mrs Jennings teases them about it displeasing Marianne

Then when Marianne injures herself John Willoughby helps her and Marianne soon succumbs to his charms leading Elinor and Mrs Dashwood to suspect that the couple are secretly engaged. However Mr Willoughby Leaves for London on business upsetting Marianne. Then Edward Ferrars visits Barton Cottage but he seems unhappy. After Edward departs, Anne and Lucy Steele, the vulgar cousins of Lady Middleton, come to stay at Barton Park. Lucy informs Elinor in confidence of her secret four-year engagement to Edward Ferrars. Elinor realises the truth behind Lucy’s visit and revelations. Elinor and Marianne accompany Mrs Jennings to London. Willoughby and Marianne attempt to contact one another before eventually meeting at a dance, however this does not go well.

Colonel Brandon visits the sisters and reveals to Elinor that Willoughby’s aunt disinherited him after she learned that he, seduced, impregnated, then abandoned Brandon’s fifteen-year-old ward, Miss Williams. This is why he chose to marry for money rather than love. Brandon was in love with Miss Williams’ mother as a young man, when she was his father’s ward, but she was forced into an unhappy marriage to Brandon’s elder brother that ended in scandal and divorce; Marianne strongly reminds him of her. The Steele sisters come to London as guests of Mrs Jennings and stay at John and Fanny Dashwood’s London house. Sadly Anne Steele betrays Lucy’s secret and the Steele sisters are evicted and Edward is ordered to break off the engagement on pain of disinheritance. Edward refuses to comply and is immediately disinherited in favour of his brother, however he gains respect and sympathy from Elinor, Marianne and Colonel Brandon. Mrs Jennings takes Elinor and Marianne to visit her second daughter, Mrs. Palmer. Marianne still destraught, becomes dangerously ill. Meanwhile a repentant Willoughby returns regretting his actions. However Marianne realises that she could never have been happy with Willoughby’s immoral, erratic, and inconsiderate nature anyway and marries Colonel Brandon instead

Austen’s works critique the second half of the 18th century and are part of the transition to 19th-century realism. Her plots, though comic, highlight the dependence of women on marriage to secure social standing and economic security. Her work brought her little personal fame and only a few positive reviews during her lifetime, but the publication in 1869 of her nephew’s A Memoir of Jane Austen introduced her to a wider public, and by the 1940s she had become widely accepted in academia as a great English writer. The second half of the 20th century saw a proliferation of Austen scholarship and the emergence of a Janeite fan culture. Biographical information concerning Jane Austen is “famously scarce”, according to one biographer. Only some personal and family letters remain (by one estimate only 160 out of Austen’s 3,000 letters are extant), and her sister Cassandra (to whom most of the letters were originally addressed) burned “the greater part” of the ones she kept and censored those she did not destroy. Other letters were destroyed by the heirs of Admiral Francis Austen, Jane’s brother. Most of the biographical material produced for fifty years after Austen’s death was written by her relatives and reflects the family’s biases in favour of “good quiet Aunt Jane”. Scholars have unearthed little information since. Since her death Jane Austen’s novels such as Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Northanger Abbey and Emma, have all remained popular and have given rise to numerous television and film adaptations.

Posted in Art

Wassily Kandinsky

Influential Russian painter and art theorist Wassily Wassilyevich Kandinsky was born 16 December 1866 in Moscow. Kandinsky spent his childhood in Odessa and later enrolled at the University of Moscow, studying law and economics. Successful in his profession—he was offered a professorship (chair of Roman Law) at the University of Dorpat—Kandinsky began painting studies (life-drawing, sketching and anatomy) at the age of 30 and In 1896 Kandinsky settled in Munich, studying first at Anton Ažbe’s private school and then at the Academy of Fine Arts. One of the most well known of his paintings from this period was The Blue Rider (1903), which shows a small cloaked figure on a speeding horse rushing through a rocky meadow

He returned to Moscow in 1914, after the outbreak of World War I and From 1918 to 1921, Kandinsky dealt with the cultural politics of Russia and collaborated in art education and museum reform, devoting his time to artistic teaching, and also helped organize the Institute of Artistic Culture in Moscow. In 1916 he met Nina Andreievskaya, whom he married the following year. His spiritual, expressionistic view of art was ultimately rejected by the radical members of the Institute as too individualistic and bourgeois.

In 1921, he returned to Germany after being invited to attend the Bauhaus of Weimar by its founder, architect Walter Gropius, where he taught the basic design class for beginners and the course on advanced theory at the Bauhaus; he also conducted painting classes and a workshop in which he augmented his colour theory with new elements of form psychology. He also published his second theoretical book (Point and Line to Plane) in 1926.Geometrical elements took on increasing importance in both his teaching and painting—particularly the circle, half-circle, the angle, straight lines and curves. This period was intensely productive, painting Yellow – red – blue (1925) among many others. Kandinsky was one of Die Blaue Vier (Blue Four), formed in 1923 with Klee, Feininger Yellow – red – blue (1925 von Jawlensky, which lectured and exhibited in the United States in 1924. Due to right-wing hostility, the Bauhaus left Weimar and settled in Dessau in 1925. Following a Nazi smear campaign the Bauhaus left Dessau in 1932 for Berlin, until its dissolution in July 1933. Sadly the Nazis confiscated much of Kandinsky’s work describing it as Degenerate Art and destroying much of it.So he left Germany, settling in Paris.

Living in Paris for the rest of his life Kandinsky became a French citizen in 1939 and produced some of his most prominent art in his living-room studio, where he produced Biomorphic forms with supple, non-geometric outlines which suggested microscopic organisms but were in fact expressions of the artist’s inner life, In 1936 and 1939 he painted his two last major compositions, Composition IX and Composition X. Kandinsky sadly passed away at Neuilly-sur-Seine on 13 December 1944.

Posted in books, films & DVD, Television

Noël Coward

Prolific English playwright, composer, director, actor and singer, Sir Noël Coward was born in Teddington, on 16th December 1899. He attended a dance academy in London as a child, making his professional stage début at the age of eleven. As a teenager he was introduced into the high society in which most of his plays would be set. Coward became known for his wit, flamboyance and achieved enduring success as a playwright, publishing more than 50 plays from his teens onwards. Many of his works, such as Hay Fever, Private Lives, Design for Living, Present Laughter and Blithe Spirit, have remained in the regular theatre repertoire. He composed hundreds of songs, in addition to well over a dozen musical theatre works (including the operetta Bitter Sweet and numerous comic revues), poetry, several volumes of short stories, the novel Pomp and Circumstance, and a three-volume autobiography. Coward’s stage and film acting and directing career spanned six decades, during which he starred in many of his own works. Upon the outbreak of World War II, Coward volunteered for war work, running the British propaganda office in Paris. He also worked with the Secret Service, seeking to use his influence to persuade the American public and government to help Britain.

Coward won an Academy Honorary Award in 1943 for his naval film drama, In Which We Serve, and was knighted in 1969. In the 1950s he achieved fresh success as a cabaret performer, performing his own songs, such as “Mad Dogs and Englishmen”, “London Pride” and “I Went to a Marvellous Party”. His plays and songs achieved new popularity in the 1960s and 1970s, and his work and style continue to influence popular culture. Coward did not publicly acknowledge his homosexuality, but it was discussed candidly after his death by biographers including Graham Payn, his long-time partner, and in Coward’s diaries and letters, published posthumously. By the end of the 1960s, Coward suffered from arteriosclerosis and, during the run of Suite in Three Keys, he struggled with bouts of memory loss. He appeared in the Crime caper film the Italian Job However his memory also affected his work, and he subsequently retired from acting immediately afterwards. Coward was knighted in 1969 and was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and received a Tony Award for lifetime achievement.

Coward Sadly died at his home, Firefly Estate, in Jamaica on 26 March 1973 of heart failure and was buried three days later on the brow of Firefly Hill, overlooking the north coast of the island. A memorial service was held in St Martin-in-the-Fields in London on 29 May 1973, for which the Poet Laureate, John Betjeman, wrote and delivered a poem in Coward’s honour, John Gielgud and Laurence Olivier read verse and Yehudi Menuhin played Bach. On 28 March 1984 a memorial stone was unveiled by the Queen Mother in Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey. Thanked by Coward’s partner, Graham Payn, for attending, the Queen Mother replied, “I came because he was my friend.”The Noël Coward Theatre in St Martin’s Lane, originally opened in 1903 as the New Theatre and later called the Albery, was renamed in his honour after extensive refurbishment, re-opening on 1 June 2006. A statue of Coward by Angela Conner was unveiled by the Queen Mother in the foyer of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in 1998.There are also sculptures of Coward displayed in New York and Jamaica. In 2008 an exhibition devoted to Coward was mounted at the National Theatre in London. The exhibition was later hosted by the Museum of Performance & Design in San Francisco and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, California.

Posted in music

Billy Gibbon (ZZ Top)

Billy Gibbons, the splendidly hirsute guitarist with ZZ Top was born 16th December 1949 in Tanglewood, Houston, Texas. His father was an entertainer, orchestra conductor, and concert pianist who worked alongside his second cousin, art director Cedric Gibbons, for Samuel Goldwyn at MGM Studios. A percussionist as a youth, Gibbons was sent by his father to New York City to study with Tito Puente. In 1963, Gibbons received his first electric guitar following his 13th birthday, a sunburst Gibson Melody Maker, accompanied by a Large Cat amplifier, and was influenced by guitarists such as Jimmy Reed.

While attending Warner Brothers’ art school in Hollywood, California, Gibbons played in his first bands including The Saints, Billy G & the Blueflames, and The Coachmen. Gibbons formed a psychedelic concept band inspired by friend and fellow musician, Roky Erickson and The 13th Floor Elevators, naming the group the Moving Sidewalks, becoming friends with Jimi Hendrix, who went on to say on The Tonight Show and The Dick Cavett Show that Gibbons would be the next hottest guitarist. The The Moving Sidewalks, recorded several singles and one full-length album, Flash. Gibbons and The Moving Sidewalks came to prominence opening for The Jimi Hendrix Experience during Hendrix’s first American tour as a headliner. Also notable was the Gibbons-penned song, “99th Floor,” its title a nod to the influence on Gibbons of fellow Texans and pioneering psychedelic band The 13th Floor Elevators. He has also commented during live performances while playing the string-bending intro to “Foxy Lady” that Hendrix taught him how to play the song when Gibbons was “about 17” in Dallas. Hendrix gave Gibbons the pink Stratocaster he had been playing as token of his appreciation for Gibbons’ level of talent, and that Hendrix subsequently stated that Gibbons was one of the best guitarists in the US.

Gibbons formed ZZ Top in 1969, and invited on bassist/vocalist Dusty Hill and drummer Frank “Rube” Beard, both being members of the band American Blues. After honing their trademark blues-rock style, they released the aptly titled ZZ Top’s First Album on London Records in 1971. The band toured/ recorded and released albums until 1977. They reunited two-and-a-half years later in order to start recording under a new Warner Bros. contract. Independently, both Dusty Hill and Billy Gibbons had grown the chest-length beards that quickly became a part of their image. The band hit international prominence and their commercial peak with the release of 1983’s diamond-selling disc Eliminator. Eliminator was named after Gibbons’ customized 1933 Ford Coupe, which was featured in three of the band’s music videos. This vehicle is on exhibition at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. The album featured the hits “Gimme All Your Lovin’”, “Sharp Dressed Man”, and “Legs”.In 1994, the band signed a multimillion-dollar, five-disc deal with RCA Records. This was followed by the album Afterburner featuring the songs Rough Boy and Sleeping Bag.

In 2003, a comprehensive collection of recordings from the London and Warner Bros. years entitled Chrome, Smoke & BBQ was released. In 2004, ZZ Top was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They have the distinction of being among a very small group of bands with a 40-year-plus history that still has all of its original members. Gibbons played the first slide guitar lead on the song “Dead End Streets” on Al Jourgensen of Ministry’s side project Revolting Cocks album Cocked and Loaded. He also wrote, played guitar on and sang the song “Willin’ For Satisfaction” from Def Leppard guitarist Vivian Campbell’s 2005 solo album Two Sides Of If. Gibbons collaborated with the Queens of the Stone Age on the song “Burn the Witch” from the album Lullabies to Paralyze. ZZ Top’s “Precious and Grace” was also recorded with lead vocals provided by Mark Lanegan as a bonus track for the album. Gibbons has also claimed this was one of his favorite collaborations and “Precious and Grace” was later added back into ZZ Top’s set lists. Gibbons was also selected to guest the follow-up album Era Vulgaris but was unable due to scheduling conflicts. Gibbons performed at the 2006 MTV Video Music Awards. With the Racontuers alongside Lou Reed and Jim Jarmusch.

Gibbons was one of several artists to participate together with B.B. King on the song “Tired Of Your Jive,” from the B.B. King & Friends album. Gibbons also appeared on Nickelback’s album All the Right Reasons on the songs “Follow You Home,” “Fight for All the Wrong Reasons” and “Rockstar.” Gibbons performed with Hank Williams III on the song “Trashville,” from his album Lovesick, Broke and Driftin’. Gibbons collaborated with Les Paul with his Les Paul & Friends American Made, World Played track “Bad Case of Loving You.” Gibbons also performed guitar with John Mayall & Friends’ track “Put It Right Back” from the album Along for the Ride. He was the first artist to appear on stage at Cleveland’s State theater in November 2008 at the American Music Master Tribute to Les Paul, honoring the guitar and recording innovator, who died a few months later. Gibbons was also a guest vocalist on Kid Rock’s “Hillbilly Stomp” from the album Kid Rock.

He was also the guitarist during singer Luis Fonsi’s presentation at the 7th Latin Grammy awards held in Madison Square Garden, New York, on November 2, 2006. Lately Gibbons also sang background vocals on former Van Halen frontman Sammy Hagar’s 2008 CD Cosmic Universal Fashion during the song “Switch on the Light.” Gibbons collaborated with Ronnie Dunn, of Brooks & Dunn fame, for Ronnie’s first solo work, playing guitar and singing along on the song, “Honky Tonk Stomp”. Gibbons played guitar on “Broke Down On the Brazos”, the opening track of Gov’t Mule’s 2009 album By a Thread. Gibbons played guitar on “Run Rudolph Run”, the third track of We Wish you a Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year compilation. Gibbons joined Jeff Beck onstage at the 2009 25th Anniversary Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Concert with a version of Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady”. Gibbons made a special guest appearance behind Roky Erickson on Austin City Limits taped on November 12, 2007 and originally aired January 12, 2008. (ACL Season 33, Episode 12). Gibbons plays lead guitar on two songs from the 2008 Everlast album Love, War and the Ghost of Whitey Ford: “Stone in My Hand” and “Anyone”.

On January 22, 2010, Gibbons joined Ben Harper, Beck, Conan O’Brien, and others on the final episode of The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien playing a Will Ferrell-led rendition of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird” and in 2011, Gibbons appeared as a guest judge at the 5th Annual Misprint Beard and Moustache Contest at the Mohawk club in Austin, Texas. In 2012, Gibbons made a guest appearance at Social Distortion’s concert at the House of Blues on the Sunset Strip. Frontman Mike Ness brought him out for two songs, “Drug Train” and “Black Magic”. On November 19, 2014, Gibbons performed “Baby Please Don’t Go” at the Vaclav Havel Bust Dedication Ceremony in the US Capitol.

In 2015 Gibbons embarked on a solo project Billy Gibbons and the BFG’s featuring musicians Mike Flanigin, GG Maartine (née Martine GuiGui), Joe Hardy and Greg Morrow. Their debut album, Perfectamundo, was released on November 6, 2015. Gibbons also has a recurring role on the Fox network TV series Bones. He plays a fictionalized version of himself, as the father of Michaela Conlin’s character, Angela Pearly Gates Montenegro. He has appeared in several episodes of Bones, and also voiced a fictionalised version of himself in Fox’s animated show King of the Hill which is set in the fictional town of Arlen, Texas. ZZ Top’s appearance on the show was due to Dusty Hill being given the role as the cousin of the show’s main character Hank Hill. Frank Beard also voiced himself for the band’s appearances on the show. Gibbons also appeared as a dining room guest in the season-13 episode of Hell’s Kitchen.

In 2011, Gibbons joined with Texas-based Mojo Products, LLC, to launch a line of hot sauces, barbecue sauces, and other products with his own personal branding, “BFG Brand”. The sauces are sold as BFG No. 44 via his personal website. Gibbons also featured in a series of television commercials for Fiesta Mart, a Texas supermarket chain. Some of the BFG Brand sauces were seen in these commercials. ZZ Top has released 14 studio albums and are among the most popular rock groups, having sold more than 25 million albums in the United States. They have won three VMAs and in 2004, VH1 ranked ZZ Top at number 44 in its list of the “100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock”. They have performed at many charity events and raised $1 million for the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, Mississippi.

Posted in books, Fantasy, films & DVD, Television

Wilhelm Grimm

Best Known for writing Grimm’s Fairy Tales, German philologist and folklorist Wilhelm Grimm sadly died 16 December 1859. He was born 24th February 1786 and was the younger brother of Jakob. Grimm’s Fairy Tales (German: Grimms Märchen) was first published in 1812 and The first volume contained 86 stories; the second volume of 70 stories followed in 1814. For the second edition, two volumes were issued in 1819 and a third in 1822, totalling 170 tales. The third edition appeared in 1837; fourth edition, 1840; fifth edition, 1843; sixth edition, 1850; seventh edition, 1857. Stories were added, and also subtracted, from one edition to the next, until the seventh held 211 tales. All editions were extensively illustrated, first by Philipp Grot Johann and, after his death in 1892, by Robert Leinweber. The first volumes were much criticized because, although they were called “Children’s Tales”, they were not regarded as suitable for children, both for the scholarly information included and the subject matter. Many changes through the editions – such as turning the wicked mother of the first edition in Snow White and Hansel and Gretel (shown in original Grimm stories as Hansel and Grethel) to a stepmother, were probably made with an eye to such suitability. They removed sexual references—such as Rapunzel’s innocently asking why her dress was getting tight around her belly, and thus naïvely revealing her pregnancy and the prince’s visits to her stepmother—but, in many respects, violence, particularly when punishing villains, was increased.

The influence of these books was widespread. W. H. Auden praised the collection, during World War II, as one of the founding works of Western culture. The tales themselves have been put to many uses. The Nazis praised them as folkish tales showing children with sound racial instincts seeking racially pure marriage partners, and so strongly that the Allied forces warned against them; for instance, Cinderella with the heroine as racially pure, the stepmother as an alien, and the prince with an unspoiled instinct being able to distinguish. Writers who have written about the Holocaust have combined the tales with their memoirs, as Jane Yolen in her Briar Rose.

The work of the Brothers Grimm influenced other collectors, both inspiring them to collect tales and leading them to similarly believe, in a spirit of romantic nationalism, that the fairy tales of a country were particularly representative of it, to the neglect of cross-cultural influence. Among those influenced were the Russian Alexander Afanasyev, the Norwegians Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe, the English Joseph Jacobs, and Jeremiah Curtin, an American who collected Irish tales.There was not always a pleased reaction to their collection. Joseph Jacobs was in part inspired by his complaint that English children did not read English fairy tales; in his own words, “What Perrault began, the Grimms completed”. Three individual works of Wilhelm Grimm include Altdänische Heldenlieder, Balladen und Märchen (‘Old Danish Heroic Lays, Ballads, and Folktales’) in 1811, Über deutsche Runen (‘On German Runes’) in 1821, and Die deutsche Heldensage (‘The German Heroic Legend’) in 1829. Sadly Wilhelm Grimm, passed away on 16th December 1859.


Among the best known of Grimm’s Fairy Tales are: Snow White, Rapunzel, Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella, Rumpelstiltskin, Little Red Riding Hood, The Riddle, Mother Hulda, The Frog King, or Iron Heinrich, Cat and Mouse in Partnership, Mary’s Child, The Wolf and the Seven Young Kids, Trusty John or Faithful John, The Good Bargain, The Wonderful Musician or The Strange Musician,The Twelve Brothers, The Pack of Ragamuffins, The Three Little Men in the Wood, The Three Snake-Leaves, The Fisherman and His Wife, The Seven Ravens, Clever Elsie, The White Snake, The Valiant Little Tailor, The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage, Town Musicians of Bremen, The Singing Bone, The Devil With the Three Golden Hairs, The Louse and the Flea, Thumbling (Tom Thumb), Thumbling’s Travels and The Elves and the Shoemaker. Many of these stories have also been turned into films too.

Posted in cars, sport

Colin Chapman (Lotus)

Influential English design engineer, inventor, and builder in the automotive industry, and founder of Lotus Cars Anthony Colin Bruce Chapman CBE, sadly passed away on 16th December 1982, aged 54 after suffering a fatal heart attack. Born 19 May 1928 Chapman studied structural engineering at University College London, joined the University Air Squadron and learned to fly. Chapman left UCL without a degree in 1948, resitting his final Mathematics paper in 1949 and obtaining his degree a year late. He briefly joined the Royal Air Force in 1948, being offered a permanent commission but turning this down in favour of a swift return to civilian life. After a couple of false starts Chapman joined the British Aluminium company, using his civil engineering skills to attempt to sell aluminium as a viable structural material for buildings.

In 1948 Chapman started building the Mk1, a modified Austin 7, which he entered privately into local racing events. He named the car “Lotus”. With prize money he developed the Lotus Mk2. With continuing success on through the Lotus 6, he began to sell kits of these cars. Over 100 were sold through 1956. It was with the Lotus 7 in 1957 that things really took off. In the 1950s, Chapman progressed through the motor racing formulae, designing and building a series of racing cars, sometimes to the point of maintaining limited production as they were so successful and highly sought after, until he arrived in Formula One. Besides his engineering work, he also piloted a Vanwall F1-car in 1956 but crashed into his teammate Mike Hawthorn during practice for the French Grand Prix at Reims, ending his career as a race driver and focusing him on the technical side. Along with John Cooper, he revolutionised the premier motor sport. Their small, lightweight mid-engined vehicles gave away much in terms of power, but superior handling meant their competing cars often beat the all-conquering front engined Ferraris and Maseratis. Eventually, with legendary driver Jim Clark at the wheel of his race cars, Team Lotus appeared as though they could win whenever they pleased. With Clark driving the legendary Lotus 25, Team Lotus won its first F1 World Championship in 1963. It was Clark, driving a Lotus 38 at the Indianapolis 500 in 1965, who drove the first ever mid-engined car to victory at the fabled “Brickyard.” Clark and Chapman had become particularly close and Clark’s death devastated Chapman, who publicly stated that he had lost his best friend. Among a number of legendary automotive figures who have been Lotus employees over the years were Mike Costin and Keith Duckworth, founders of Cosworth. Graham Hill worked at Lotus as a mechanic as a means of earning drives.

In 1952 he founded the sports car company Lotus Cars. Chapman initially ran Lotus in his spare time, assisted by a group of enthusiasts. His knowledge of the latest aeronautical engineering techniques would prove vital towards achieving the major automotive technical advances he is remembered for. He was famous for saying “Adding power makes you faster on the straights. Subtracting weight makes you faster everywhere”, as his design philosophy focused on cars with light weight and fine handling instead of bulking up on horsepower and spring rates. Under his direction, Team Lotus won seven Formula One Constructors’ titles, six Drivers’ Championships, and the Indianapolis 500 in the United States, between 1962 and 1978. The production side of Lotus Cars has built tens of thousands of relatively affordable, cutting edge sports cars. Lotus is one of but a handful of English performance car builders still in business after the industrial decline of the 1970s. Although these days Lotus is owned by the Malaysian Automotive Company “Proton”, Caterham Cars still manufacture the Caterham 7 based on the Lotus 7, and there have been over 90 different Lotus 7 clones, replicas and derivatives offered to the public by a variety of makers.

He pioneered many innovations and Many of Chapman’s ideas can still be seen in Formula One and other top-level motor sport (such as IndyCars) today. Such as struts as a rear suspension device. Even today, struts used in the rear of a vehicle are known as Chapman struts, while virtually identical suspension struts for the front are known as MacPherson struts, monocoque chassis construction, the tube-frame chassis, positive aerodynamic downforce, through the addition of wings, moving radiators away from the front of the car to the sides, to decrease frontal area (lowering aerodynamic drag). He also designed a Formula One car that generated all of its downforce through ground effect, eliminating the need for wings, which also had active suspension and a dual-chassis And eventually made its début with the Lotus 99T in 1987.