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Star Wars

May 25 celebrates the anniversary of the release of epic science fiction film Star Wars, which was originally released 25 May 1977. Star Wars was the first film to be released in the series. (Although Technically it is the fourth film chronologically as the events in the prequels take place before Star Wars, even though they were released sixteen years afterwards). Star Wars is also the sixth film if you count Rogue One and Solo.

Star Wars sees a young farm boy named Luke Skywalker who lives on the barren planet of Tattoooine thrust unwittingly into a Rebellion to rid the galaxy of an evil empire led by the sinister Emperor Palpatine and his apprentice Darth Vader after he acquires two droids named C3PO andR2D2. They have escaped from a spaceship which has come under attack from Darth Vader and the evil Empire and Luke then learns that the Droids were travelling with Princess Leia who is part of a rebellion against the evil empire and discovers that one of the droids is carrying a very important message and some crucial technical information concerning the Empire’s deadly new Superweapon ‘The Death Star’ which is capable of destroying whole planets.

So he sets off to locate an old Jedi Knight named Obi Wan Kenobi who is hiding out in the wastelands for help. Luke then learns from obi wan Kenobi that he has inherited a special power from his father so he asks Obi Wan to teach him to master it. Luke and Obi Wan then journey to Mos Easley to On Tattoine to find a pilot to take them to the planet Aldaraan. In Mos Easley they meet a charismatic smuggler named Han Solo and his wookiee first mate Chewbacca who agree to help.

However Upon reaching Aldaraarn they encounter the Empires deadly new super weapon theDeath Star and learn that Alderaan has been completely destroyed by the Death Star and that Princess Leia is being held prisoner aboard the Death Star, so Luke, Ob-Wan, Han and Chewbacca mount a daring rescue attempt to free Princess Leia from the Death Star and escape from the Empire’s clutches. Luke then finds himself swept up in an desperate epic battle against overwhelming odds as the rebels attempt to destroy the Death Star before more planets share the same fate as Alderaan.

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Africa Day

Africa day (formerly African Freedom Day and African Liberation Day) is the annual commemoration of the foundation of the Organisation of African Unity on 25 May 1963. It is celebrated in various countries on the African continent, as well as around the world. The organisation was transformed into the African Union on 9 July 2002 in Durban, South Africa, but the holiday continues to be celebrated on 25 May. The First Congress of Independent African States was held in Accra, Ghana on 15 April 1958. It was convened by Prime Minister of Ghana Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, and comprised representatives from Egypt (then a constituent part of the United Arab Republic), Ethiopia, Liberia, Libya, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia, the Union of the Peoples of Cameroon and of the host country Ghana. The Union of South Africa was not invited. The conference showcased progress of liberation movements on the African continent in addition to symbolising the determination of the people of Africa to free themselves from foreign domination and exploitation. Although the Pan-African Congress had been working towards similar goals since its foundation in 1900, this was the first time such a meeting had taken place on African soil.

The Conference called for the founding of an African Freedom Day, a day to “…mark each year the onward progress of the liberation movement, and to symbolise the determination of the people of Africa to free themselves from foreign domination and exploitation.” The conference was notable in that it laid the basis for the subsequent meetings of African heads of state and government during the Casablanca Group and the Monrovia Group era, until the formation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 1963.

on 25 May 1963, representatives of thirty African nations met in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, hosted by Emperor Haile Selassie. By then more than two-thirds of the continent had achieved independence, mostly from imperial European states. At this meeting, the Organisation of African Unity was founded, with the initial aim to encourage the decolonisation of Angola, Mozambique, South Africa and Southern Rhodesia. The organisation pledged to support the work conducted by freedom fighters, and remove military access to colonial nations. A charter was set out which sought to improve the living standards across member states. Selassie exclaimed, “May this convention of union last 1,000 years.” The charter was signed by all attendees on 26 May, with the exception of Morocco. At that meeting, Africa Freedom Day was renamed Africa Liberation Day. In 2002, the OAU was replaced by the African Union. However, the renamed celebration of Africa Day continued to be celebrated on 25 May in respect to the formation of the OAU.

Africa Day continues to be celebrated both in Africa and around the world, mostly on 25 May (although in some cases these periods of celebrations can be stretched out over a period of days or weeks). Themes are set for each year’s Africa Day, with 2015’s being the “Year of Women’s Empowerment and Development towards Africa’s Agenda 2063”. At an event in New York City in 2015, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Jan Eliasson, delivered a message from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in which he said, “Let us… intensify our efforts to provide Africa’s women with better access to education, work and healthcare and, by doing so, accelerate Africa’s transformation”.

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Memorial Day

Memorial Day (Decoration Day) is a federal holiday in the United States for honoring and mourning the military personnel who have died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. The holiday is now observed on the last Monday of May, having been observed on May 30 from 1868 to 1970.

In April 1865, following Lincoln’s assassination, commemorations were widespread. The more than 600,000 soldiers of both sides who died in the Civil War meant that burial and memorialization took on new cultural significance. Under the leadership of women during the war, an increasingly formal practice of decorating graves had taken shape. In 1865, the federal government also began creating the United States National Cemetery System for the Union war dead. By the 1880s, ceremonies were becoming more consistent across geography as the GAR provided handbooks that presented specific procedures, poems, and Bible verses for local post commanders to utilize in planning the local event. Historian Stuart McConnell reports:

Many people visit cemeteries and memorials on Memorial Day to honor and mourn those who died while serving in the U.S. Military. Many volunteers place an American flag on graves of military personnel in national cemeteries. Memorial Day is also considered the unofficial start of summer in the United States, while Labor Day, the first Monday of September, marks the unofficial start of autumn. Two other days celebrate those who have served or are serving in the U.S. military: Veterans Day, which honors those who have served in the United States Armed Forces; and Armed Forces Day, an unofficial U.S. holiday (earlier in May) for honoring those currently serving in the armed forces. The history of Memorial Day in the United States is complex. The U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs recognizes that approximately 25 places claim to have originated the holiday. At Columbus [Georgia] State University there is a Center for Memorial Day Research, and the University of Mississippi incorporates a Center for Civil War Research that has also led research into Memorial Day’s origins. The practice of decorating soldiers’ graves with flowers is an ancient custom. Soldiers’ graves were decorated in the U.S. before and during the American Civil War. Many of the origination claims are myths, unsupported by evidence, while others are one-time cemetery dedications or funeral tributes. In 2014, one scholarly effort attempted to separate the myths and one-time events from the activities that actually led to the establishment of the federal holiday.

According to the United States Library of Congress website, “Southern women decorated the graves of soldiers even before the Civil War’s end. Records show that by 1865, Mississippi, Virginia, and South Carolina all had precedents for Memorial Day.” The earliest Southern Memorial Day celebrations were simple, somber occasions for veterans and their families to honor the dead and tend to local cemeteries. During the following years, the Ladies’ Memorial Association and other groups increasingly focused rituals on preserving Confederate Culture and the Lost Cause of the Confederacy narrative. On June 3, 1861, Warrenton, Virginia, was the location of the first Civil War soldier’s grave ever to be decorated, according to a Richmond Times-Dispatch newspaper article in 1906 This decoration was for the funeral of the first soldier killed in action during the Civil War, John Quincy Marr, who died on June 1, 1861 during a skirmish at Battle of Fairfax Courthouse in Virginia. Then In July 1862, women in Savannah, Georgia decorated the graves at Laurel Grove Cemetery of Colonel Francis S. Bartow and his comrades who died at Battle of Manassas (First Battle of Bull Run) the year before. Meanwhile On April 26, 1865, in Jackson, Mississippi, Sue Landon Vaughan supposedly decorated the graves of Confederate and Union soldiers. However, the earliest recorded reference to this event did not appear until many years after the fact and is considered a myth.Regardless, mention of the observance is inscribed on southeast panel of the Confederate Monument in Jackson, erected in 1891.

On May 1, 1865, in Charleston, South Carolina, recently freed African-Americans held a parade of 10,000 people to honor 257 dead Union soldiers, whose remains they had reburied from a mass grave in a Confederate prison camp. Historian David W. Blight cites contemporary news reports of this incident in the Charleston Daily Courier and the New-York Tribune. Although Blight claimed that “African Americans invented Memorial Day in Charleston, South Carolina”, in 2012, he stated that he “has no evidence” that the event in Charleston inspired the establishment of Memorial Day across the country. Accordingly, investigators for Time Magazine, LiveScience, RealClearLife and Snopes have called this conclusion into question.

The United States National Park Servic and numerous scholars attribute the beginning of a Memorial Day practice in the South to a group of women of Columbus, Georgia. The women were the Ladies Memorial Association of Columbus. They were represented by Mary Ann Williams (Mrs. Charles J. Williams) who, as Secretary, wrote a letter to press in March 1866 asking their assistance in establishing annual holiday to decorate the graves of soldiers throughout the south.[31] The letter was reprinted in several southern states and the plans were noted in newspapers in the north. The date of April 26 was chosen. The holiday was observed in Atlanta, Augusta, Macon, Columbus and elsewhere in Georgia as well as Montgomery, AL; Memphis, TN; Louisville, KY; New Orleans, LA; Jackson, MS and across the south. In some cities, mostly in Virginia, other dates in May and June were observed. General John A. Logan commented on the observances in a speech to veterans on July 4, 1866 in Salem, IL. After General Logan’s General Order No. 11 to the Grand Army of the Republic to observe May 30, 1868, the earlier version of the holiday began to be referred to as Confederate Memorial Day. In Columbus, Mississippi in 1866 A year after the war’s end, four women of Columbus gathered together to decorate the graves of the Confederate soldiers. They also felt moved to honor the Union soldiers buried there, and to note the grief of their families, by decorating their graves as well. The story of their gesture of humanity and reconciliation is held by some writers as the inspiration of the original Memorial Day despite its occurring last among the claimed inspirations.

In 1863 a cemetery dedication Took place at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania which included a ceremony of commemoration at the graves of dead soldiers. Some have therefore claimed that President Abraham Lincoln was the founder of Memorial Day. However, Chicago journalist Lloyd Lewis tried to make the case that it was Lincoln’s funeral that spurred the soldiers’ grave decorating that followed. On July 4, 1864, ladies decorated soldiers’ graves according to local historians in Boalsburg, Pennsylvania. Boalsburg promotes itself as the birthplace of Memorial Day. However, no reference to this event existed until the printing of the History of the 148th Pennsylvania Volunteers in 1904. In a footnote to a story about her brother, Mrs. Sophie (Keller) Hall described how she and Emma Hunter decorated the grave of Emma’s father, Reuben Hunter. The original story did not account for Reuben Hunter’s death occurring two months later on September 19, 1864. It also did not mention Mrs. Elizabeth Myers as one of the original participants. However, a bronze statue of all three women gazing upon Reuben Hunter’s grave now stands near the entrance to the Boalsburg Cemetery. Although July 4, 1864 was a Monday, the town now claims that the original decoration was on one of the Sundays in October 1864.

On May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan issued a proclamation calling for “Decoration Day” to be observed annually and nationwide; he was commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), an organization of and for Union Civil War veterans founded in Decatur, Illinois With his proclamation, Logan adopted the Memorial Day practice that had begun in the Southern states three years earlier. The northern states quickly adopted the holiday. In 1868, memorial events were held in 183 cemeteries in 27 states, and 336 in 1869.[49] One author claims that the date was chosen because it was not the anniversary of any particular battle. According to a White House address in 2010, the date was chosen as the optimal date for flowers to be in bloom in the North.


In 1871, Michigan made “Decoration Day” an official state holiday and by 1890, every northern state had followed suit. There was no standard program for the ceremonies, but they were typically sponsored by the Women’s Relief Corps, the women’s auxiliary of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), which had 100,000 members. By 1870, the remains of nearly 300,000 Union dead had been reinterred in 73 national cemeteries, located near major battlefields and thus mainly in the South. The most famous are Gettysburg National Cemetery in Pennsylvania and Arlington National Cemetery, near Washington, D.C Waterloo, New York proclamation. On May 26, 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson designated an “official” birthplace of the holiday by signing the presidential proclamation naming Waterloo, New York, as the holder of the title. This action followed House Concurrent Resolution 587, in which the 89th Congress had officially recognized that the patriotic tradition of observing Memorial Day had begun one hundred years prior in Waterloo, New York.[53] The village credits druggist Henry C. Welles and county clerk John B. Murray as the founders of the holiday. Scholars have determined that the Waterloo account is a myth. Snopes and Live Science also discredit the Waterloo account.

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Klaus Meine (Scorpions)🦂

Klaus Meine, The lead singer of German Rock group “Scorpions”, was born 25th May 1948. The Scorpions were formed in 1965 by guitarist Rudolf Schenker, and are known for their 1980s rock anthem “Rock You Like a Hurricane” and many singles, such as “No One Like You”, “Send Me an Angel”, “Still Loving You”, and “Wind of Change”. On January 24, 2010, after 46 years of performing, the band announced they were retiring after touring in support of their album Sting in the Tail and performed a concert Live from Morocco.

During their long career The band have been phenomenally successful and have so far sold over 100 million albums worldwide. At first, the band had beat influences and Schenker himself did the vocals. Things began to come together in 1970 when Schenker’s younger brother Michael and vocalist Klaus Meine joined the band. In 1972, the group recorded and released their debut album Lonesome Crow. Sadly The departure of Michael Schenker led to the breakup of the band In 1973, however In 1974 a new line-up of Scorpions released Fly to the Rainbow. This album proved to be more successful than Lonesome Crow and established the band’s sound. In 1975 the band released In Trance, The album was a huge step forward for Scorpions and established their heavy metal formula. It garnered a fan base at home and abroad with songs such as “Dark Lady”, “Robot Man”. In 1976, Scorpions releaed Virgin Killer, which featured rather ontroversial artwork, that brought the band considerable media exposure but resulted in the album being “pulled” in some countries. The music itself garnered praise from critics and fans alike.

The follow-up to Virgin Killer was the album Taken by Force, They also recorded material during the band’s Japanese tour, and the resultant double live album was called Tokyo Tapes. In 1979 The Scorpions released the album “Love Drive” which some critics consider to be the pinnacle of their career. Containing the songs “Loving You Sunday Morning”, “Always Somewhere”, “Holiday” and the instrumental “Coast to Coast”, it firmly cemented the ‘Scorpions formula’ of hard rock songs mixed with melodic ballads. The album’s provocative artwork was also named “Best album sleeve of 1979″ by Playboy magazine but was changed for American release. In 1980 the band released Animal Magnetism, with another provocative cover, containing the songs “The Zoo” and “Make It Real”. In 1981 the band began working on their next album, Blackout, which was released in 1982 and quickly became the band’s best selling to date eventually going platinum, the album spawned three singles “Dynamite”, “Blackout”, and “No One Like You”, but It was not until 1984 and the release of Love at First Sting that the band finally cemented their status as metal musicians.

Propelled by the single “Rock You Like a Hurricane”, Love at First Sting climbed the charts and went double platinum in the USA a few months after its release.The band toured extensively supporting the album and decided to record and release their second live album, World Wide Live in 1985. Recorded over a year-long world tour and released at the height of their popularity, the album was another success for the band. the band’s next album Savage Amusement was Released in 1988 and represented a more polished and mature sound. During the Savage Amusement tour, Scorpions became only the second Western group (not American) to play in the Soviet Union. Uriah Heep had performed in December, 1987 in Leningrad. The following year the band returned to perform at the Moscow Music Peace Festival. As a result, Scorpions developed an extended Russian fan base and still return to perform.In 1990.

Crazy World was released and displayed a less polished sound. The album was propelled in large part by the massive success of the ballad “Wind of Change”. The song muses on the socio-political changes that were occurring in Eastern Europe and in other parts of the world at the end of the Cold War. On July 21, 1990 they joined many other guests for Roger Waters’ massive performance of The Wall in Berlin. Scorpions performed both versions of “In the Flesh” from The Wall. In 1993, Scorpions released Face the Heat but this did not come close to matching the success of “Wind of Change” and was only a moderate success. In 1995, a new album, Live Bites, was produced. The disc documented retro live performances from their Savage Amusement Tour in 1988, all the way through to the Face the Heat Tour in 1994.Their 13th studio album, 1996s Pure Instinct, had many ballads, and the album’s singles “Wild Child” and the soothing ballad “You and I” both enjoyed moderate success.

1999 saw the release of Eye II Eye and a significant change in the band’s style, mixing in elements of pop and techno sadly fans were unsure what to make of the band, responding negatively to almost everything from pop-soul backup singers to the electronic drums present on several songs. The following year, Scorpions had an artistic collaboration with the Berlin Philharmonic that resulted in a 10-song album named Moment of Glory. The album went a long way toward rebuilding the band’s reputation after the harsh criticism of Eye II Eye. In 2001, Scorpions released Acoustica, a live unplugged album featuring acoustic reworkings of the band’s biggest hits, plus new tracks.In 2004, the band released Unbreakable, an album that was hailed by critics as a long-awaited return to form. The album was the heaviest the band had released since Face the Heat, and fans responded well to tracks such as “New Generation”, “Love ‘em or Leave ‘em” and “Deep and Dark”. Scorpions released their 17th studio album, Sting in the Tail, on March 23, 2010 and announced that it would be their last album and that the tour supporting it will be their final tour. On 6 April 2010, Scorpions were enshrined in Hollywood’s Rock Walk in a handprint ceremony, with the band members placing their hands in a long slab of wet cement. The slab will be placed in the ground next to other musical artists on the Rock Walk. Scorpions released Comeblack on 7 November 2011 and headlined the Wacken Open Air Festival on 4 August 2012 Alongside Saxon, Sepultura, Napalm Death and Dio Disciples.

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Paul Weller (The Jam)

English singer-songwriter and musician John William “Paul” Weller, Jr. was born 25 May 1958 in Woking, Surrey, England. Weller attended Maybury County First School in 1963. His love of music began with The Beatles, then The Who and Small Faces. By the time Weller was eleven and moving up to Sheerwater County Secondary school, music was the biggest part of his life, and he had started playing the guitar.

After seeing Status Quo in concert in 1972 Weller formed the first incarnation of The punk rock/new wave/mod revival band The Jam playing bass guitar with his best friends Steve Brookes (lead guitar) and Dave Waller (rhythm guitar). Weller’s father, acting as their manager, began booking the band into local working men’s clubs. Joined by Rick Buckler on drums, and with Bruce Foxton soon replacing Waller on rhythm guitar, the four-piece band began to forge a local reputation, playing a mixture of Beatles covers and a number of compositions written by Weller and Brookes. Brookes left the band in 1976, and Weller and Foxton decided they would swap guitar roles, with Weller now the guitarist. Although The Jam emerged at the same time as punk rock bands such as The Clash, The Damned, and The Sex Pistols, The Jam better fit the mould of the new wave bands who came later, and being from just outside London rather than the city itself, they were never really part of the tightly-knit punk clique. Nonetheless, it was The Clash who emerged as one of the leading early advocates of the band, and were sufficiently impressed by The Jam to take them along as the support act on their White Riot tour of 1977.

The Jam’s first single, “In the City” took them into the UK Top 40 in May 1977. Although every subsequent single had a placing within the Top 40, it was not until the band released the political “The Eton Rifles” that they would break into the Top 10, hitting the No. 3 spot in November 1979. The increasing popularity of their blend of Weller’s barbed lyrics with pop melodies eventually led to their first number one single, “Going Underground”, in March 1980. This was followed by t”Town Called Malice”,”Precious” “That’s Entertainment” and “Just Who Is the 5 O’Clock Hero?”. Despite the band’s popularity Weller became restless and wanted to explore a more soulful, melodic style of music with a broader instrumentation, and in consequence in 1982 he announced that The Jam would disband at the end of that year. The action came as a surprise to Foxton and Buckler who both felt that the band was still a creative formation with scope to develop further professionally, but Weller was determined to end the band and move on. Their final single, “Beat Surrender”, became their fourth UK chart topper, going straight to No. 1 in its first week. Their farewell concerts at Wembley Arena were multiple sell-outs; their final concert took place at the Brighton Centre on 11 December 1982. After which The Jam split.

Weller had further success with the blue-eyed soul music of The Style Council (1983–89), At the beginning of 1983, Weller teamed up with keyboard player Mick Talbot to form a new group called The Style Council. Weller brought in Steve White to play drums, as well as singer Dee C. Lee, who had previously been a backing singer with Wham! Free of the limited musical styles he felt imposed by The Jam, under the collective of The Style Council, Weller was able to experiment with a wide range of music, from pop and jazz to Soul/R&B, house and folk-styled ballads. The band was at the vanguard of a jazz/pop revival that would continue with the emergence of bands like Matt Bianco, Sade, and Everything but the Girl, whose members Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt contributed vocals and guitar to the 1984 The Style Council song “Paris Match”.

Many of The Style Council’s early singles such as My Ever Changing Moods” “You’re The Best Thing”. And “Shout to the Top” were very popular Weller appeared on 1984’s Band Aid record “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” and was called upon to mime the absent Bono’s lyrics on Top of the Pops. The Style Council were the second act to appear in the British half of Live Aid at Wembley Stadium in 1985. In December 1984, Weller put together his own charity ensemble called The Council Collective to make a record, “Soul Deep”, to raise money for striking miners, and the family of David Wilkie. The record featured The Style Council plus a number of other performers, notably Jimmy Ruffin and Junior Giscombe and included lyrics
such as “We can’t afford to let the government win / It means death to the trade unions”. Unfortunately The Style Council’s popularity in the UK waned, an The Style Council’s death knell was sounded in 1989 when their record company refused to release their fifth and final studio album, the house-influenced Modernism: A New Decade so Weller announced that The Style Council had split, although the final album did have a limited vinyl run, it was not until the 1998 retrospective CD box set The Complete Adventures of The Style Council that the album would be widely available.

In 1989, Weller found himself without a band and without a recording deal for the first time since he was 17. After taking time off throughout 1990, he returned to the road in 1991, touring as ‘The Paul Weller Movement’ with long-term drummer and friend Steve White, and Paul Francis (session bassist from The James Taylor Quartet) . After a slow start playing small clubs with a mixture of Jam/Style Council classics as well as showcasing new material such as “Into Tomorrow”, by the time of the release of his 1992 LP, Paul Weller, he had begun to re-establish himself as a leading British singer-songwriter and Solo artist. This self-titled album saw a return to a more jazz-guitar-focused sound, featuring samples and a funk influence with shades of the Style Council sound. The album also featured a new producer, Brendan Lynch. Tracks such as “Here’s a New Thing” and “That Spiritual Feeling” were marketed among the emerging acid jazz scene.

Buoyed by the positive commercial and critical success of his first solo album, Weller returned to the studio in 1993 with a renewed confidence. Accompanied by Steve White, guitarist Steve Cradock and bassist Damon Minchella, the result of these sessions was the triumphant Mercury Music Prize-nominated Wild Wood, which included ‘Sunflower’ His 1995 album Stanley Road took him back to the top of the British charts for the first time in a decade, and went on to become the best-selling album of his career. The album, named after the street in Woking where he had grown up, marked a return to the more guitar-based style of his earlier days. The album’s major single, “The Changingman”, was also a big hit, taking Weller to No. 7 in the UK singles charts. Another single, the ballad “You Do Something To Me”, was his second consecutive Top 10 single and reached No. 9 in the UK.

Weller found himself heavily associated with the emerging Britpop movement that gave rise to such bands as Oasis, Pulp and Blur. Noel Gallagher (of Oasis) is credited as guest guitarist on the Stanley Road album track “I Walk on Gilded Splinters”. Weller also returned the favour, appearing as a guest guitarist and backing vocalist on Oasis’ hit song “Champagne Supernova”. Despite widespread critical recognition as a singer, lyricist, and guitarist, Weller has remained a national, rather than international, star and much of his songwriting is rooted in British culture. He is also the principal figure of the 1970s and 1980s mod revival, and is often referred to as “The Modfather”. He also is one of a select few British solo artist who’s had as varied, long-lasting and determinedly forward-looking a career.” The BBC described Weller in 2007 as “one of the most revered music writers and performers of the past 30 years”. In 2012, he was among the British cultural icons selected by artist Sir Peter Blake to appear in a new version of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover – to celebrate the British cultural figures of his life. He has received four Brit Awards, winning the award for Best British Male twice, and the 2006 Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music.

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

Sir Ian McKellen CH CBE

English actor Sir Ian Murray McKellen, CH, CBE was born 25 May 1939 in Burnley, Lancashire. Shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, his family moved to Wigan. They lived there until Ian was twelve years old, before relocating to Bolton in 1951, after his father had been promoted. McKellen’s father was a civil engineer and lay preacher, and was of Protestant Irish and Scottish descent. Both of McKellen’s grandfathers were preachers, and his great-great-grandfather, James McKellen, was a “strict, evangelical Protestant minister” in Ballymena, County Antrim. His home environment was strongly Christian, but non-orthodox. When he was 12, his mother died of breast cancer; his father died when he was 24. His great-great-grandfather Robert J. Lowes was an activist and campaigner in the ultimately successful campaign for a Saturday half-holiday in Manchester, the forerunner to the modern five-day work week, thus making Lowes a “grandfather of the modern weekend. McKellen attended Bolton School (Boys’ Division), and his acting career started at Bolton Little Theatre, of which he is now the patron.

An early fascination with the theatre was encouraged by his parents, who took him on a family outing to Peter Pan at the Opera House in Manchester when he was three. When he was nine, his main Christmas present was a wood and bakelite, fold-away Victorian theatre from Pollocks Toy Theatres, with cardboard scenery and wires to push on the cut-outs of Cinderella and of Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet. His sister took him to his first Shakespeare play, Twelfth Night, by the amateurs of Wigan’s Little Theatre, shortly followed by their Macbeth and Wigan High School for Girls’ production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with music by Mendelssohn, with the role of Bottom played by Jean McKellen. In 1958, McKellen won a scholarship to St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, where he read English literature.While at Cambridge, McKellen was a member of the Marlowe Society, where he appeared in 23 plays over the course of 3 years. At that young age he was already giving performances that have since become legendary such as his Justice Shallow in Henry IV alongside Trevor Nunn and Derek Jacobi, Cymbeline (as Posthumus, opposite Margaret Drabble as Imogen) and Doctor Faustus.

McKellen made his first professional appearance in 1961 at the Belgrade Theatre, as Roper in A Man for All Seasons. After four years in regional repertory theatres he made his first West End appearance, in A Scent of Flowers. In 1965 he was a member of Laurence Olivier’s National Theatre Company at the Old Vic, which led to roles at the Chichester Festival. With the Prospect Theatre Company, McKellen made his breakthrough performances of Richard II and Marlowe’s Edward II at the Edinburgh festival in 1969. During the 1970s and 1980s McKellen performed frequently at the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal National Theatre, portraying several leading Shakespearean characters including Macbeth and Iago in Othello. In 2007 he appeared in the Royal Shakespeare Company, productions of King Lear and The Seagull. In 2009 he appeared in Waiting for Godot at London’s Haymarket Theatre, opposite Patrick Stewart. He is Patron of English Touring Theatre and also President and Patron of the Little Theatre Guild of Great Britain, an association of amateur theatre organisations throughout the UK. In late August 2012, he took part in the opening ceremony of the London Paralympics, portraying Prospero from The Tempest.

McKellen’s career spans genres ranging from Shakespearean and modern theatre to popular fantasy and science fiction and He started his professional career in 1961 at the Belgrade Theatre as a member of their highly regarded repertory company. In 1965 McKellen made his first West End appearance. In 1969 he was invited to join the Prospect Theatre Company to play the lead parts in Shakespeare’s Richard II and Marlowe’s Edward II, firmly establishing himself as one of the country’s foremost classical actors. In the 1970s McKellen became a stalwart of the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre of Great Britain.

Over the years he has gained fame for many notable film roles, which include Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies and Magneto in the X-Men films, both of which introduced McKellen to a new generation. He has been the recipient of six Laurence Olivier Awards, a Tony Award, a Golden Globe Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, a BIF Award, two Saturn Awards, four Drama Desk Awards, and two Critics’ Choice Awards. He has also received two Oscar nominations, four BAFTA nominations and five Emmy Award nomination. He was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 1979 Birthday Honours, was knighted in the 1991 New Year Honours for services to the performing arts, and made a Companion of Honour for services to drama and to equality in the 2008 New Year Honours. He has been openly gay since 1988, and continues to be a champion for LGBT social movements worldwide. He was made a Freeman of the City of London in October 2014.

Posted in books

Robert Ludlum

The late great American spy thriller writer Robert Ludlum was Born May 25th 1927 in New York City. He was educated at The Rectory School then Cheshire Academy and Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. While at Wesleyan, Ludlum joined the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity. After becoming an author later in life, Ludlum would set his mystery novel Matlock Paper at the fictitious Carlyle University in Connecticut, a thinly-disguised Wesleyan. He Also wrote The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy and the Bourne Ultimatum, And was very prolific writing 23 thriller novels which reman hugely popular. The number in print is estimated between 290–500 million copies. They have been published in 33 languages and 40 countries. Ludlum also published books under the pseudonyms Jonathan Ryder and Michael Shepherd.

Prior to becoming an author, he had been a United States Marine, theatrical actor and producer. His theatrical experience may have contributed to his understanding of the energy, escapism and action that the public wanted in a novel. Ludlum’s novels typically feature one heroic man, or a small group of crusading individuals, in a struggle against powerful adversaries whose intentions and motivations are evil and who are capable of using political and economic mechanisms in frightening ways. The world in his writings is one where global corporations, shadowy military forces and government organizations all conspire to preserve (if it is evil) or undermine (if it is good) the status quo. They were often inspired by conspiracy theories, both historical and contemporary. Some novels also reflected the theory that terrorists, rather than being merely isolated bands of ideologically motivated extremists, are actually pawns of governments or private organizations who are using them to facilitate the establishment of authoritarian rule.

Among hs best known novels are The Osterman Weekend, The Chancellor Manuscript, The Bourne Identity, The Holcroft Covenant, The Bourne Supremacy, The Icarus Agenda, The Bourne Ultimatum, The Scorpio Illusion, The Apocolypse watch and The Prometheus Deception. Some of his novels have also been made into films – The Osterman Weekend was turned into a 1983 film starring Rutger Hauer, John Hurt and Dennis Hopper, and The Bourne trilogy was made into a highly successful series of movies, starring Matt Damon in the title role, (The Bourne Ultimatum won three Academy Awards in 2008), although the story lines depart significantly from the source material. Sadly, Robert Ludlum passed away on March 12, 2001, at his home in Naples, Florida, while recovering from injuries he sustained in a fire, however his high octane spy thrillers remain popular, rivalled only by Michael Connelly, John Grisham and Lee Child.

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Ralph Waldo Emerson

American essayist, lecturer, and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson was born May 25, 1802 and his formal schooling began at the Boston Latin School in 1812 when he was nine. In October 1817, Emerson went to Harvard College and was appointed freshman messenger for the president. Midway through his junior year, Emerson began keeping a list of books he had read and started a journal in a series of notebooks that would be called “Wide World”. He took outside jobs to cover his school expenses. By his senior year, Emerson decided to go by his middle name, Waldo. Emerson served as Class Poet And graduated on August 29, 1821, when he was 18. In 1826, Emerson went to seek out warmer climates, travelling to Charleston, South Carolina and St. Augustine, Florida, where he met Prince Achille Murat. Murat, the nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, and they became extremely good friends and engaged in enlightening discussions on religion, society, philosophy, and government, and Emerson considered Murat an important figure in his intellectual education.

Emerson met his first wife, Ellen Louisa Tucker, in Concord, New Hampshire on Christmas Day, 1827, sadly Ellen died at the age of 20 on February 8, 1831, After his wife’s death, he began to disagree with the church’s methods, His disagreements with church officials over the administration of the Communion service and misgivings about public prayer eventually led to his resignation in 1832. Emerson toured Europe in 1833 and later wrote of his travels in English Traits (1856). Leaving on Christmas Day, 1832, sailing first to Malta, spending time in Italy, visiting Rome, Florence and Venice, before sailing north to England, Emerson met William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Thomas Carlyle. He returned to the United States on October 9, 1833, and lived with his mother in Newton, Massachusetts, until October, 1834, when he moved to Concord, Massachusetts, to live with his step-grandfather Dr. Ezra Ripley. Seeing the budding Lyceum movement, Emerson saw a possible career as a lecturer. On November 5, 1833, he made the first of what would eventually be some 1,500 lectures, discussing The Uses of Natural History in Boston. This was an expanded account of his experience in Paris.

Emerson formulated the philosophy of Transcendentalism in his 1836 essay Nature. His first two collections of essays – Essays: First Series and Essays: Second Series include Self-Reliance, The Over-Soul, Circles, The Poet andExperience. In May 1843 Emerson purchased a 90-acre (360,000 m2) farm in Harvard, Massachusetts, for what would become Fruitlands, a community based on Utopian ideals inspired in part by Transcendentalism. The farm would run based on a communal effort, using no animals for labor; its participants would eat no meat and use no wool or leather. In 1844, Emerson published his second collection of essays, entitled “Essays: Second Series.” This collection included “The Poet,” “Experience,” “Gifts,” and another essay entitled “Nature,” Emerson made a living as a popular lecturer And by the 1850s he was giving as many as 80 per year.Emerson was also introduced to Indian philosophy when reading the works of French philosopher Victor Cousin. He also read the Bhagavad Gita and Henry Thomas Colebrooke’s Essays on the Vedas, which influenced much of his writing. From 1847 to 1848, he toured England, Scotland, and Ireland.He also visited Paris between the February Revolution and the bloodyJune Days. On May 21 he stood on the Champ de Mars in the midst of mass celebrations for concord, peace and labor and this trip influenced Emerson’s later work. His 1856 book English Traits is based largely on observations recorded in his travel journals and notebooks. Emerson later came to see the American Civil War as a ‘revolution’ that shared common ground with the European revolutions of 1848. In February 1852 Emerson, James Freeman Clarke and William Henry Channing edited an edition of the works and letters of Margaret Fuller, and In 1855 he published an innovative poetry collection called Leaves of Grass.

Emerson—earned the nicknamed the Concord Sage— and became the leading voice of intellectual culture in the United States because of his ability to influence and inspire others, his work not only influenced his contemporaries, such as Walt Whitman and Henry David Thoreau, but would continue to influence thinkers and writers worldwide to the present. Notable thinkers who recognize Emerson’s influence include Nietzsche and William James. Walt Whitman, and Henry David Thoreau. Several of Emerson’s poems were included in Bloom’s The Best Poems of the English Language and Self-Reliance, Circles, Experience, and Conduct of Life” are considered his best essays. Emerson was staunchly anti-slavery and from 1837 give a number of lectures during the pre-Civil War years and in 1844. He gave a number of speeches and lectures, and welcomed John Brown to his home during Brown’s visits to Concord. Emerson believed in immediate emancipation of the slaves. In 1860, Emerson published The Conduct of Life, his seventh collection of essays. In this book, Emerson “grappled with some of the thorniest issues of the moment,” and “his experience in the abolition ranks is a telling influence in his conclusions.

Emerson also embraced the idea of war as a means of national rebirth and in 1862 he visited Washington, D.C, and gave a public lecture at the Smithsonian and also met Lincoln at the White House. Lincoln was familiar with Emerson’s work, having previously seen him lecture.Emerson’s misgivings about Lincoln began to soften after this meeting. In 1865, he spoke at a memorial service held for Lincoln in Concord. Emerson also met a number of high-ranking government officials, including Salmon P. Chase, the secretary of the treasury, Edward Bates, the attorney general, Edwin M. Stanton, the secretary of war, Gideon Welles, the secretary of the navy, and William Seward, the secretary of state. On May 6, 1862, Emerson’s protégé Henry David Thoreau died of tuberculosis at the age of 44 and Emerson delivered his eulogy. Another friend, Nathaniel Hawthorne, died in 1864. Emerson served as one of the pallbearers as Hawthorne was buried in Concord. That same year Emerson was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Sadly From 1867, Emerson’s health began declining and he wrote much less in his journals and also started having memory problems then in 1872 Emerson’s Concord home caught fire And theEmersons ended up staying with family at the Old Manse, The fire marked an end to Emerson’s serious lecturing career; from then on, he would lecture only on special occasions and only in front of familiar audiences. While the house was being rebuilt, Emerson took a trip to England, continental Europe, and Egypt with his daughter Ellen, and returned in 1873 on the ship Olympus along with friend Charles Eliot Norton. In late 1874 Emerson published an anthology of poetry called Parnassus. Sadly Emerson ceased his public appearances by 1879 and sadly died on April 21, 1882, Emerson Is buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord, Massachusetts.

During his life he led the transcendentalist movement in the 19th century and was a champion of individualism and critic of the pressures of society. He published dozens of essays and gave more than 1,500 public lectures across the United States. Emerson wrote on a number of subjects, such as individuality, freedom, the ability for humankind to realize almost anything, and the relationship between the soul and the surrounding world. His essays greatly influenced many thinkers, writers and poets.

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Towel Day

Towel Day takes place annually on 25 May. The purpos of Towel Day is to celebrate the life and works of English author Douglas Adams, who is most famous for writing the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Dirk Gently’s Hollistic Detective Agency and a couple of Doctor Who episodes starring Tom Baker. On this day, fans carry a towel with them, to demonstrate their appreciation of the books and the Author. The importance of Towels is described in chapter three of Adams’ The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy thus:

A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (this mind-bogglingly stupid animal, assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have “lost.” What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with. Hence a phrase that has passed into hitchhiking slang, as in “Hey, you sass that hoopy Ford Prefect? There’s a frood who really knows where his towel is.” (Sass: know, be aware of, meet, have sex with; hoopy: really together guy; frood: really amazingly together guy. The emphasis on towels is a reference to Hitch-hiker’s Guide to Europe by Ken Welsh, which inspired Adams’ fictional guidebook and also stresses the importance of towels.

The first of five books in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy comedy science fiction series by Douglas Adams was published 12th October 1979. Originally a radio comedy broadcast, it was later adapted to other formats, and over several years it gradually became an international multi-media phenomenon. Adaptations have included stage shows, a “trilogy” of five books, a sixth novel penned by Eoin Colfer, a 1981 TV series, a computer game, and three series of three-part comic book adaptations of the first three novels published by DC Comics between 1993 and 1996. A film version, produced and filmed in the UK, was released in April 2005, and radio adaptations of the third, fourth, and fifth novels were broadcast from 2004 to 2005. All versions, the series follows the adventures of Arthur Dent, a hapless Englishman, Ford Prefect, who named himself after the Ford Prefect car to blend in with what was assumed to be the dominant life form, automobiles, and is an alien from a small planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse and a researcher for the eponymous guidebook; Zaphod Beeblebrox, Ford’s semi-cousin and the Galactic President; the depressed robot Marvin the Paranoid Android; and Trillian, formerly known as Tricia McMillan, a woman Arthur once met at a party in Islington and the only other human survivor of Earth’s destruction.

In the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the Earth is destroyed by a Vogon constructor fleet to make way for a Hyperspace bypass, so the characters visit the legendary planet Magrathea, home to the now-collapsed planet-building industry, and meet Slartibartfast, a planetary coastline designer who was responsible for the fjords of Norway. Through archival recordings, he relates the story of a race of hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional beings who built a computer named Deep Thought to calculate the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything. When the answer was revealed to be 42, Deep Thought explained that the answer was incomprehensible because the beings didn’t know what they were asking. It went on to predict that another computer, more powerful than itself would be made to calculate the question for the answer. (Later on, referencing this, Adams would create the 42 Puzzle, a puzzle which could be approached in multiple ways, all yielding the answer 42.) The computer, was the Earth, and was destroyed by Vogons five minutes before the conclusion of its 10-million-year program. Two of a race of hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional beings who commissioned the Earth in the first place, disguised themselves as Trillian’s mice, and want to dissect Arthur’s brain to help reconstruct the question, since he was part of the Earth’s matrix moments before it was destroyed, and so he is likely to have part of the question buried in his brain.

In The Restaurant at the End of the Universe , Zaphod gets separated from the others and finds he is part of a conspiracy to uncover who really runs the Universe. He then meets Zarniwoop, editor for The Guide, who knows where to find the secret ruler and is briefly reunited with the others for a trip to Milliways, the titular restaurant. Zaphod and Ford decide to steal a ship from there, however this turns out to be a stunt ship pre-programmed to plunge into a star as a special effect in a stage show and they are unable to change it’s course. Meanwhile Ford and Arthur, end up on a spacecraft full of the outcasts of the Golgafrinchan civilisation, which crashes on prehistoric Earth; leaving Ford and Arthur stranded, and it becomes clear that the inept Golgafrinchans are the ancestors of modern humans, having displaced the Earth’s indigenous hominids. Adams himself considered Restaurant to be his best novel of the five.

In Life, the Universe and Everything , Slartibartfast, enlists the aid of Ford, Arthur, Marvin, Zaphod and Trillian to prevent the people of the planet Krikkit from escaping their home planet, on which they have been imprisoned for trying to start a Galactic War and prevent them starting another Galactic War which will wipe out all life in the Universe. In So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish, Arthur returns home to Earth, where He meets and falls in love with a girl named Fenchurch, and discovers this Earth is a replacement provided by the dolphins in their Save the Humans campaign. Eventually he rejoins Ford, who claims to have saved the Universe in order to hitch-hike one last time and see God’s Final Message to His Creation. Along the way, they are also joined by Marvin, the Paranoid Android, who, although 37 times older than the universe itself (what with time travel and all), has just enough power left in his failing body to read the message and feel better about it all before expiring.

Finally, in Mostly Harmless, Vogons take over The Hitchhiker’s Guide (under the name of InfiniDim Enterprises), to finish the task of obliterating the Earth. Arthur loses Fenchurch and travels around the galaxy despondently, before crashing his spaceship on the planet Lamuella, where he settles in happily as the official sandwich-maker for a small village of simple, peaceful people. Meanwhile, Ford Prefect breaks into The Guide’s offices, gets himself an infinite expense account from the computer system, and then meets The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Mark II, an artificially intelligent, multi-dimensional guide with vast power and a hidden purpose. Trillian leaves her daughter, Random Frequent Flyer Dent with Arthur, but she then steals The Guide Mark II and uses it to get to Earth. Arthur, Ford, Trillian, and Tricia McMillan (Trillian in this alternate universe) give chase & follow her to a crowded club, where an anguished Random becomes startled by a noise and inadvertently fires her gun at Arthur. The shot misses Arthur and kills Agrajag. Soon afterwards, The Guide Mark II removes all possible Earths from probability, which is bad news for all the main characters, apart from Zaphod, who were all on Earth at the time.

Author Eoin Colfer (Artemis Fowl) wrote a sixth instalment entitled And Another Thing, which sees the characters awoken from virtual reality as death rays bear down on Earth before being picked up by Zaphod and joined by Bowerick Wowbagger, the Infinitely Prolonged. Zaphod then travels to Asgard to get Thor’s help, to deal with the Vogons, who are heading to the planet Nano in order to destroy a colony of people who also escaped Earth’s destruction. So Arthur, Wowbagger, Trillian and Random head to Nano during the journey Wowbagger and Trillian fall in love, then Zaphod arrives with Thor, who becomes the planet’s God. Wowbagger then marries Trillian and Thor manages to stop the first Vogon attack. Then Arthur get flung across alternate universes during a hyperspace jump but ends up exactly where he’d want to be, unfortunately the Vogons turn up again….

The popularity of the radio series gave rise to a six-episode television series, which first aired on BBC 2 in 1981. It employed many of the actors from the radio series and was based mainly on the radio versions of Fits the First through Sixth. A second series was also planned, although it was never made. On 21 June 2004, BBC Radio announced that a new series of Hitchhiker’s based on the third novel would be broadcast followed by a further series based on the fourth and fifth novels. A movie adaptation of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was also released in 2005 starring Martin Freeman as Arthur, Mos Def as Ford, Sam Rockwell as Zaphod Beeblebrox and Zooey Deschanel as Trillian, with Alan Rickman providing the voice of Marvin the Paranoid Android (and Warwick Davis acting in Marvin’s costume), and Stephen Fry as the voice of the Guide/Narrator. The plot of the film adaptation of Hitchhiker’s Guide differs widely from that of the radio show, book and television series and visits to Vogsphere, the homeworld of the Vogons (which, in the books, was already abandoned), and Viltvodle VI are inserted. The film covers events in the first four radio episodes, and ends with the characters en route to Milliways, the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, leaving the opportunity for a sequel open.

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Lilac Day


Lilac Day takes place annually on 25 May in remembrance of the Glorious Revolution of Treacle Mine Road which took place during the Discworld novel Night Watch and is analoguous to events in Les Miserables and the Paris June Revolution. It ended the increasingly tough reign of ex-patrician of Ankh-Morpork, Lord Winder. Tension had been rising, and while the nobility arranged a quiet succession by Lord Snapcase in the background, the people on the streets started a revolution and attacked Watch Houses all over the city of Ankh-Morpork. A few streets around Treacle Mine Road were barricaded at first. Soon more people started barricading streets, barricades were moved forward and merged together, covering at least a quarter of the city – including the food industry. The resulting area was called The People’s Republic of Treacle Mine Road. The watchmen of the Treacle Mine Road Watch House led the Republic together with some enthusiastic angry young men, among them the then-living Reg Shoe.

A change in history resulted in Sam Vimes under the name of John Keel saving the Republic until Lord Snapcase became Patrician. Unfortunately Many people died, after an attack planned by Carcer, which was prompted by Snapcase’s concerns about what “Keel” could get up to if left alone for a month in the city. In remembrance of these events Each year, on the 25th of May, a group of survivors of the uprising gathers at Small Gods’ Cemetery to honor the casualties with lilacs and, affectionately, one hard-boiled egg (from Madam Roberta Meserole). The seven killed were mostly Watchmen from Treacle Mine Road : John Keel, Cecil Clapman, Horace Nancyball, Billy Wiglet, Dai Dickins, Ned Coates, and, temporarily, Reg Shoe. The 25th of May is also memorialized, among those who survive, by the wearing of lilac on that date. Persons known to wear it include Sam Vimes, Fred Colon, Nobby Nobbs, Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler, and, improbably, Havelock Vetinari (he, at the time a young assassin, has kept his and his aristocratic aunt Lady Roberta Meserole’s, involvement secret.

Following Pratchett’s diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer’s in 2007, fans also started WearIng the Lilac in celebration of Terry Pratchett and to raise awareness and funding for Alzheimer’s research.