C. S. Lewis

Irish novelist, poet, academic, medievalist, literary critic, essayist, lay theologian, and Christian apologist C. S. Lewis was born on 29th November 1898 in Belfast, Ireland. He is known for both his fictional work, especially The Screwtape Letters, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Space Trilogy and his non-fiction, such as Mere Christianity, Miracles, and The Problem of Pain. Lewis and fellow novelist J. R. R. Tolkien were close friends. Both authors served on the English faculty at Oxford University, and were active in the informal Oxford literary group known as the “Inklings”. At the age of 32 Lewis returned to the Anglican Communion, becoming “a very ordinary layman of the Church of England”. His faith had a profound effect on his work, and his wartime radio broadcasts on the subject of Christianity brought him wide acclaim.

Lewis’s works have been translated into more than 30 languages and have sold millions of copiesAmong his best known novels is The Pilgrim’s Regress, which was written in 1933 shortly after he converted to Christianity, this depicted his experience with Christianity in the style of John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress. Lewis also wroteThe “Space Trilogy” (also called the “Cosmic Trilogy” or “Ransom Trilogy”) which dealt with what Lewis saw as the de-humanising trends in contemporary science fiction. The first book, Out of the Silent Planet, was apparently written following a conversation with his friend JRR Tolkien about these trends. Lewis agreed to write a “space travel” story and Tolkien a “time travel” one, but Tolkien never completed “The Lost Road”, linking his Middle-earth to the modern world. Lewis’s main character Elwin Ransom is based in part on Tolkien, a fact Tolkien alludes to in his letters. The second novel, Perelandra, depicts a new Garden of Eden on the planet Venus, a new Adam and Eve, and a new “serpent figure” to tempt them. The story can be seen as an account of what could have happened if the terrestrial Eve had resisted the serpent’s temptation and avoided the Fall of Man. The third novel, That Hideous Strength, develops the theme of nihilistic science threatening traditional human values, embodied in Arthurian legend.Many ideas in the trilogy, particularly opposition to de-humanization as portrayed in the third book, are presented more formally in The Abolition of Man, based on a series of lectures by Lewis at Durham University in 1943.

C.S.Lewis’s best known novels are The Chronicles of Narnia which are a series of seven fantasy novels and are considered classics of children’s literature. Set in the fictional realm of Narnia, a fantasy world of magic, mythical beasts, and talking animals, the series narrates the adventures of various children who play central roles in the unfolding history of that world. Except in The Horse and His Boy, the protagonists are all children from the real world, magically transported to Narnia, where they are called upon by the lion Aslan to protect Narnia from evil and restore the throne to its rightful line. The books span the entire history of Narnia, from its creation in The Magician’s Nephew to its eventual destruction in The Last Battle. The Chronicles of Narnia have also been adapted for stage, TV, radio, and cinema. Inspiration for the series is taken from multiple sources; in addition to adapting numerous traditional Christian themes, the books freely borrow characters and ideas from Greek, Turkish and Roman mythology as well as from traditional British and Irish fairy tales & have profoundly influenced adult and children’s fantasy literature since World War II.

Lewis sadly passed away on 22 November 1963, as the result of renal failure, one week before his 65th birthday. Media coverage of his death was minimal because it was the same day that U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and Aldous Huxley, died. Lewis continues to attract a wide readership. In 2008, The Times ranked him eleventh on their list of “the 50 greatest British writers since 1945″. Readers are often unaware of what Lewis considered the Christian themes of his works. His Christian apologetics are read and quoted by members of many Christian denominations. Lewis has been the subject of several biographies. In 1985 the screenplay Shadowlands by William Nicholson, dramatising Lewis’s life and relationship with Joy Davidman Gresham, was aired on British television, starring Joss Ackland and Claire Bloom. This was also staged as a theatre play starring Nigel Hawthorne and made into the 1993 feature film Shadowlands starring Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger. In 2005, a one-hour television movie entitled C. S. Lewis: Beyond Narnia, starring Anton Rodgers, provided a general synopsis of Lewis’s life. There is A bronze statue of Lewis’s character Digory, from The Magician’s Nephew, in front of Belfast’s Holywood Road Library.

Many books have been inspired by Lewis, including Daniel Handler’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl, Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, and J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. Authors of adult fantasy literature such as Tim Powers have also been influenced by Lewis’s work. Lewis was strongly opposed to the creation of live-action versions of his works. His major concern was that the anthropomorphic animal characters “when taken out of narrative into actual visibility, always turn into buffoonery or nightmare”.Several C. S. Lewis Societies exist around the world and His name is also used by a variety of Christian organisations. Film adaptations have been made of three of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005), Prince Caspian (2008) and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010).Lewis is also featured as a main character in The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica series by James A. Owen. He is one of two characters in Mark St. Germain’s 2009 play Freud’s Last Session, which imagines a meeting between Lewis, aged 41, and Sigmund Freud, aged 83, at Freud’s house in Hampstead, London, in 1939, as the Second World War is about to break out.

Karen Gillan

Best known for her portrayal of Amy Pond in Doctor Who, Nebula and Ruby Roundhouse, the Scottish actress and, former model, Karen Sheila Gillan was born 28 November 1987. She learned to play the piano when she was seven & developed a love for acting, joining several local youth theatre groups and taking part in a wide range of productions at her school,Charleston Academy. When she turned 16, Gillan moved to Edinburgh and completed an HNC Acting and Performance course at Telford College She then moved to London at 18 to study at the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts drama school in the BA (Hons) Acting degree course. While studying at Italia Conti Gillan was scouted by a modelling agency. Gillan worked as a model in 2007’s London Fashion Week for designer Allegra Hicks’ autumn/winter catwalk show and the launch party of Nicola Roberts’ Dainty Doll Make-Up Range. Gillan has said she would not give up her acting career to return to modelling. She stated that she enjoyed modelling but acting was always her main interest and goal.

Gillan’s early television acting career included guest appearances on several drama series, she also appeared on The Kevin Bishop Show portraying multiple characters, as well as celebrities such as Katy Perry and Angelina Jolie. She appeared in Channel 4’s Stacked and the BBC2 Horror series The Well, which was later broadcast as a web series on BBC.co.uk. She was then cast for the role of the Eleventh Doctor’s first companion, Amy Pond, on the British sci-fi series Doctor Who in May 2009. She made her first on-screen appearance as Amy Pond in “The Eleventh Hour” with her cousin Caitlin Blackwood portraying a young Amelia (Amy) Pond. Gillan also appeared in the “The Fires of Pompeii” in the role of a Soothsayer.

Gillan also made her first theatre appearance playing the role of Shirley in John Osborne’s play Inadmissible Evidence along with Douglas Hodge The play debuted at the Donmar Warehouse on 16 October 2011. She appeared in the seventh series of Doctor Who until leaving in 2012 .On 26 January 2012, Karen Gillan played the part of supermodel Jean Shrimpton in the BBC Four film We’ll Take Manhattan, which told the story of Shrimpton’s relationship with the photographer David Bailey. Gillan also starred in a Scottish rom-com called Not Another Happy Ending alongside Emun Elliott. Which was directed by John McKay and a supernatural horror pic called Oculus cast in the lead role and filmed in Alabama. She revealed that she has been cast in comedian Charlie Brooker’s TV series A Touch of Cloth. Gillan has also been cast in a film titled ‘ The List ‘ which began filming in Los Angeles in May 2013. Gillan also appears as Ruby Roundhouse in the latest Jumanji film.

FHM magazine ranked Gillan #42 in FHM’s 100 Sexiest Women 2011 In 2012 they also ranked her #36. Gillan has also voiced advertisements for eHarmony and The Royal Bank of Scotland. Gillan portrayed Nebula in the superhero science fiction film Guardians of the Galaxy. She also joined the regular cast of Adult Swim’s NTSF:SD:SUV:: for the show’s third season in 2013 and in 2011, She helped promote Fashion Targets Breast Cancer (FTBC) and the opening of Squirrel Ward in Great Ormond Street Hospital

P. D. James OBE FRSA FRSL

Prolific English Crime Novelist P.D.James OBE, FRSA, FRSL (Baroness James of Holland Park), sadly died at her home in Oxford on 27 November 2014, aged 94. She was Born 3 August 1920 in Oxford and was educated at the British School in Ludlow and Cambridge High School for Girls. She had to leave school at the age of sixteen to work because her family did not have much money and her father did not believe in higher education for girls. After leaving school She worked in a tax office for three years and later found a job as an assistant stage manager for a theatre group. In 1941, she married Ernest Connor Bantry White, an army doctor. They had two daughters, Clare and Jane. When White returned from World War II, he was badly affected by Post traumatic stress disorder, and James was forced to provide for the whole family until her husband’s death in 1964. James studied hospital administration and from 1949 to 1968 worked for a hospital board in London.

She began writing in the mid-1950s. Her first novel, Cover Her Face, featuring investigator and poet Adam Dalgliesh of New Scotland Yard, (named after a teacher at Cambridge High School), was published in 1962.Many of James’s mystery novels take place against the backdrop of UK bureaucracies, such as the criminal justice system and the National Health Service, in which she worked for decades starting in the 1940s. Two years after the publication of Cover Her Face, James’s husband died, and she took a position as a civil servant within the criminal section of the Home Office. She worked in government service until her retirement in 1979. The final Dalgleish novel was The Private Patient.
In 1991, James was made a life peer as Baroness James of Holland Park and sat in the House of Lords as a Conservative. She was an Anglican and a lay patron of the Prayer Book Society. Her 2001 work, Death in Holy Orders, displays her familiarity with the inner workings of church hierarchy. Her later novels were often set in a community closed in some way, such as a publishing house or barristers’ chambers, a theological college, an island or a private clinic.

She was also guest editor of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme in December 2009 and conducted an interview with the Director General of the BBC, Mark Thompson, in which she seemed critical of some of his decisions. Regular Today presenter Evan Davis commented that “She shouldn’t be guest editing; she should be permanently presenting the programme. In 2008, she was inducted into the International Crime Writing Hall of Fame at the inaugural ITV3 Crime Thriller Awards. James was also one of 200 public figures who were signatories to a letter opposing Scottish independence during the run up to the referendum. She is survived by her two daughters, Clare and Jane, five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

Many of James’s mystery novels have also been adapted for television Featuring Roy Marsden as Adam Dalgliesh including Death in Holy Orders in 2003, and The Murder Room in 2004, both as one-off dramas starring Martin Shaw as Dalgliesh. Her novel The Children of Men (1992) was the basis for the feature film Children of Men (2006), directed by Alfonso Cuarón which starred Clive Owen, Julianne Moore and Michael Caine.

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

I am currently reading Jonathan Strange and Mister Norrell by Susanna Clarke. A supernatural fantasy novel which starts in 1806 around the time of the Napoleonic Wars. it begins when a Magician named John Segundus pays a visits the Learned Society of Magicians in High Petergate York (whose members include Doctor Foxcastle, Childermass and Doctor Honeyfoot) to discuss the practical rather than theoretical application of Magic and why magic has fallen out of favour. They learn of a reclusive Scholar named Mr Gilbert Norrell who has collected a vast library of Magic texts, spell books, grimoires and occult literature. So they visit him and After much persuasion Mr Norrell agrees to give them a demonstration at York Minster.

Impressed with Mr Norrellls demonstration John Childermass, Mr Norrell’s servant, convinces John Segundus, to write about the event for the London newspapers. Segundus’s article generates considerable interest in Mr Norrell, who moves to London and enters society with the help of two gentlemen about town and meets a Cabinet Minister, Sir Walter Pole. To ingratiate himself, Mr Norrell attempts to revive Sir Walter’s fiancée, Emma Wintertowne, from the dead by Using ancient arcane Faerie Magic and summoning up a powerful magic Faerie with Thistle-down hair, who strikes a bargain with Mr Norrell to restore Emma, however it comes at a heavy price and Mr Norrell vows never to do it again. In London Mr Norrell encounters Vinculus, a street-magician, who relates a prophecy about a nameless slave and two magicians in England. Vinculus later meets Jonathan Strange, a young gentleman of property from Shropshire, and recites the same prophecy, prompting Strange to become a Magician and he then travels to London to find Gilbert Norrell. The gentleman with thistle-down hair then promises to make Sir Walter’s butler, Stephen Black, a King.

In London Jonathan Strange meets Gilbert Norrell and after a rocky start Strange becomes Norrell’s pupil. Lady Pole and Strange’s wife, Arabella, become friends. Meanwhile The Cabinet ministers ask Strange to assist the Duke of Wellington on his Peninsular Campaign. After he returns, he Tries to cure George III’s madness, However this almost ends in tragedy. Strange also uses magic to defeat Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. Eventually though Jonathan Strange, gets frustrated by Norrell’s narrow point of view on Magic. So Norrell and Strange part company. Strange then decides to publish a book The History and Practice of English Magic. Meanwhile A mysterious tragedy befalls Arabella while Lady Pole’s secret becomes too much for her, so John Segundus agrees to help. In London Stephen also encounters Vinculus, who recites his prophecy: “the nameless slave shall be a king in a strange country …

Strange travels to Venice to continue his work, and resorts to desperate measures to gain access to Faerie, and discovers that Arabella is actually alive and being held captive by the Gentleman with thistle-down hair in the Kingdom of Lost-Hope. So Jonathan strange decides to rescue her. Meanwhile Drawlight, Lascelles and Norrell go to Venice to find out more about Strange’s activities. Strange then attempts to re-invoke the old alliances that exist between the forces of nature and John Uskglass and also asks Norrell for help undoing Arabella’s enchantment While Childermass attempts to break the enchantment surrounding Lady Pole. This angers the Gentleman with thistle-down hair who curses them with eternal night. So Strange, returns to Hurtfew and asks Norrell to help rid him of the Eternal Night by summoning John Uskglass. Meanwhile Vinculus also encounters Stephen and the man With thistledown hair with tragic results, then CHildermass makes an important discovery before a mysterious man in black appears and Stephen confronts The gentleman with thistle-down hair….

Good Grief Day

Good grief day takes place annually on 26 November. Good Grief is one of the main catchphrases of the cartoon character Charlie Brown and Good Grief day celebrates the anniversary of the birth of Cartoonist Charles M. Schultz who created the comic strip Peanuts and the character of Charlie Brown. Charles M.Schultz was Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota 26 November 1922 and grew up in Saint Paul. His uncle called him “Sparky” after the horse Spark Plug in Billy DeBeck’s comic strip, Barney Google. Schulz loved drawing and sometimes drew his family dog, Spike, who ate unusual things, such as pins and tacks. In 1937, Schulz drew a picture of Spike and sent it to Ripley’s Believe It or Not!; his drawing appeared in Robert Ripley’s syndicated panel, captioned, “A hunting dog that eats pins, tacks, and razor blades is owned by C. F. Schulz, St. Paul, Minn.” and “Drawn by ‘Sparky’” (C.F. was his father, Carl Fred Schulz).

Schulz attended Richards Gordon Elementary School in Saint Paul, where he skipped two half-grades. He became a shy, timid teenager, perhaps as a result of being the youngest in his class at Central High School. One well-known episode in his high school life was the rejection of his drawings by his high school yearbook, which he referred to in Peanuts years later, when he had Lucy ask Charlie Brown to sign a picture he drew of a horse, only to then say it was a prank. A five-foot-tall statue of Snoopy was placed in the school’s main office 60 years later.

In February 1943, Schulz’s mother Dena died after a long illness. At the time of her death, he had only recently been made aware that she suffered from cancer. Schulz had by all accounts been very close to his mother and her death had a big effect on him, Schulz was drafted into the United States Army And served as a staff sergeant with the 20th Armored Division in Europe during World War II, as a squad leader on a .50 caliber machine gun team. His unit saw combat only at the very end of the war. Schulz said he had one opportunity to fire his machine gun but forgot to load it. He said that the German soldier he could have fired at willingly surrendered. Years later, Schulz proudly spoke of his wartime service. In 1945, Schulz returned to Minneapolis. He did lettering for a Roman Catholic comic magazine, Timeless Topix, and took a job at Art Instruction, Inc., reviewing and grading lessons submitted by students. Schulz took a correspondence course from the school before he was drafted. He worked at the school for several years while developing his career as a comic creator until he was making enough money to do that full-time.

Schulz’s first group of regular cartoons, a weekly series of one-panel jokes called Li’l Folks, was published from June 1947 to January 1950 in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, with Schulz usually doing four one-panel drawings per issue. It was in Li’l Folks that Schulz first used the name Charlie Brown for a character, although he applied the name in four gags to three different boys as well as one buried in sand. The series also had a dog that looked much like Snoopy. In 1948, Schulz sold his first one-panel drawing to The Saturday Evening Post; within the next two years, a total of 17 untitled drawings by Schulz were published in the Post, simultaneously with his work for the Pioneer Press. Around the same time, he tried to have Li’l Folks syndicated through the Newspaper Enterprise Association, however Li’l Folks was dropped from the Pioneer Press in January 1950. So Schulz approached United Feature Syndicate with the one-panel series Li’l Folks, and the syndicate became interested. By that time Schulz had also developed a comic strip, usually using four panels rather than one, and to Schulz’s delight, the syndicate preferred that version.

Peanuts made its first appearance on October 2, 1950, in seven newspapers. The weekly Sunday page debuted on January 6, 1952. After a slow start, Peanuts eventually became one of the most popular comic strips of all time, as well as one of the most influential. Schulz also had a short-lived sports-oriented comic strip, It’s Only a Game (1957–59), but he abandoned it after the success of Peanuts. From 1956 to 1965 he contributed a single-panel strip, “Young Pillars”, featuring teenagers, to Youth, a publication associated with the Church of God. Between 1957 and 1961 he illustrated two volumes of Art Linkletter’s Kids Say the Darndest Things, and in 1964 a collection of letters, Dear President Johnson, by Bill Adler. At its height, Peanuts was published daily in 2,600 papers in 75 countries, in 21 languages. Over the nearly 50 years that Peanuts was published, Schulz drew nearly 18,000 strips. The strips, plus merchandise and product endorsements, produced revenues of more than $1 billion per year, with Schulz earning an estimated $30 million to $40 million annually. The first collection of Peanuts strips was published in July 1952 by Rinehart & Company. Many more books followed, greatly contributing to the strip’s increasing popularity. In 2004, Fantagraphics began their Complete Peanuts series. Peanuts also proved popular in other media; the first animated TV special, A Charlie Brown Christmas, aired in December 1965 and won an Emmy award. Numerous TV specials followed, the latest being Happiness is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown in 2011. Until his death, Schulz wrote or co-wrote the TV specials and carefully oversaw their production.

Schulz tragically died in his sleep at home on February 12, 2000, at around 9:45 pm, from colon cancer. The last original Peanuts strip was published the next day, Sunday, February 13. Schulz had predicted that the strip would outlive him because the strips were usually drawn weeks before their publication. Schulz was buried at Pleasant Hills Cemetery in Sebastopol, California. As part of his contract with the syndicate, Schulz requested that no other artist be allowed to draw Peanuts. United Features had legal ownership of the strip, but honored his wishes, instead syndicating reruns to newspapers. New television specials have also been produced since Schulz’s death, with the stories based on previous strips; Schulz always said the TV shows were entirely separate from the strip.chulz was honored on May 27, 2000, by cartoonists of more than 100 comic strips, who paid homage to him and Peanuts by incorporating his characters into their strips that day.

The Great Wall

I have recently watched the exciting monster film The Great Wall (长城) again. It was directed by Zhang Yimou and written by Tony Gilroy, Doug Miro and Carlo Bernard and stars Matt Damon, Jing Tian, Pedro Pascal, Willem Dafoe, and Andy Lau. The film takes place during the reign of the Renzong Emperor (AD 1010–63) and follows a group of mercenaries, including William (Matt Damon) and Tovar (Pedro Pascal), who are traveling east searching for a legendary weapon known as Black Powder (gunpowder). Unfortunately they are attacked by Khitan bandits, Upon escaping, they seek refuge in a cave but are attacked by an unknown monster, leaving only William and Tovar alive. The next day, they are taken prisoner by Chinese soldiers of a secretive military sect called the Nameless Order, led by General Shao and Strategist Wang and discover a colossal wall guarded by thousands. They learn that the Nameless Order is a Chinese military order commissioned by the Imperial Court of the Song Dynasty. The Nameless Order is divided into five special units: the melee-specialist Bear Troop, the acrobatic-specialist Crane Troop, the archer-specialist Eagle Troop, the siege engine-specialist Tiger Troop, and the horse-mounted Deer Troop. The Nameless Order are given the job of repelling a horde of monsters called TaoTei who rise every sixty years

William and Tovar find themselves in the middle of just such an attack
when a large wave of TaoTei attack the Great Wall. During the battle, William and Tovar are freed by Sir Ballard, a European who, like them had ventured east twenty-five years ago in search of black powder. William saves Peng Yong, a warrior in the Bear Troop and their battle skills earn the respect of General Shao and Commander Lin, leader of the Crane Troop.

Later, William and Tovar meet Sir Ballard who had also been taken prisoner and had been serving as an English and Latin teacher. Wang tells William about the Tao Tei, which originated from a green meteor that crashed in Gouwu Mountain two thousand years ago. The Chinese believe the Tao Tei were sent from the gods to punish the Emperor

During the night, the Tao Tei attack again And Lin takes command of the Nameless Order. They then discover An ancient scroll which details a way of dealing with the Tao Tei and a tunnel is discovered at the base of the Wall, which the Tao Tei queen could use to lead her hordes to the capital. Unfortunately Lin, Tovar, Ballard and William Double cross each other Meanwhile At the Renzong Emperor’s palace in the capital, Bianliang, the Song emperor, is warned of the approaching danger which The Tau Tei Queen and her horde pose. So Lin, William, Wang and Peng-yong must all unite in an exciting and explosive final battle to save Bianliang from the rampaging Tau Tei horde

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

The novel Black Beauty by Anna Sewell was published 24 November 1877. The story is narrated in the first person as an autobiographical memoir told by the titular horse named Black Beauty and describes conditions among London horse-drawn taxicab drivers, including the financial hardship caused to them by high licence fees and low, legally fixed fares. Sewell uses anthropomorphism in Black Beauty. The text advocates fairer treatment of horses in Victorian England.

The novel concerns a horse named Black Beauty and begins with Black Beauty’s carefree days as a colt on an English farm with his mother, through his difficult life pulling cabs in London, on to his happy retirement in the country. Along the way, he meets with many hardships and recounts many tales of cruelty and kindness. Each short chapter recounts an incident in Black Beauty’s life containing a lesson or moral typically related to the kindness, sympathy, and understanding treatment of horses, with Sewell’s detailed observations and extensive descriptions of horse behaviour lending the novel a good deal of verisimilitude

Because The story is narrated from Black Beauty’s perspective readers arguably gained insight into how horses suffered through their use by human beings with restrictive technical objects like the “bearing rein” and “blinkers” as well as procedures like cutting off the tails of the horses. The horses in the text have reactions as well as emotions and characteristics, like love and loyalty, which are similar to those of human beings. For instance, Ginger describes the physical effects of the “bearing rein” to Black Beauty, by stating, “… it is dreadful… your neck aching until you don’t know how to bear it… its hurt my tongue and my jaw and the blood from my tongue covered the froth that kept flying from my lips. A page footnote in some editions says that soon after the book was published, the difference between 6-day taxicab licences (not allowed to trade on Sundays) and 7-day taxicab licences (allowed to trade on Sundays) was abolished and the taxicab licence fee was much reduced. The novel Black Beauty has also been adapted for film and television numerous times.