His Dark Materials

The Lavish 8 Part BBC adaptation of Philip Pullman’s epic fantasy trilogy, His Dark Materials is out on DVD and Blu-Ray. It stars James McAvoy, Ann Marie Duff, and Ruth Wilson. It features a twelve year old orphan named Lyra Belacqua, who lives a carefree existence at Jordan College, Oxford under the guardianship of the College’s Master with her friend Roger and her daemon Pantalaimon. Daemons are the physical manifestation of humans’ souls which naturally exist outside of their bodies in the form of sentient talking animals”.

Meanwhile her Uncle, Lord Asriel is off exploring the North Pole researching the controversial nature of an illusive substance called dust, however this could get him into serious trouble, as it is considered heresy by a mysterious, all powerful and rather sinister religious group called the “Magisterium”. Lyra then meets the seemingly pleasant and glamorous Mrs Coulter. Then when her Uncle Lord Asriel returns she witnesses the Master poison wine intended for Lord Asriel, Lyra’s rebellious and adventuring uncle. She warns Asriel not to drink the wine, then spies on his lecture about “Dust”, mysterious elementary particles attracted to adults more than to children. Asriel shows the college scholars images of a parallel universe seen through the Northern Lights amidst a concentration of Dust.

Lyra’s best friend Roger then goes missing, and is presumed kidnapped by mysterious child abductors called “Gobblers”. Mrs Coulter, a charming socialite, adopts Lyra. Before Lyra leaves Jordan, the Master secretly entrusts her with an alethiometer, a strange truth-telling device, which she quickly learns to use intuitively. After several weeks, Lyra discovers that Coulter is actually involved with the sinisterGobblers, or “General Oblation Board”, a secret Church-funded project. Horrified by this, Lyra flees to the Gyptians, canal-faring nomads, many of whose children have also been abducted including a Gyptian named Billy Costa who also reveal Alarming information concerning Asriel and Coulter.

The Gyptians led by Farder Coram then journey to the Arctic with Lyra, where they believe the Gobblers are holding their children. They stop in Trollesund, where Lyra meets Iorek Byrnison, the dispossessed royal heir of the panserbjørne (armoured bears). Lyra uses her alethiometer to locate Iorek’s missing armour; in return, he and his human aeronaut friend, Lee Scoresby, join her group. She also learns that Lord Asriel has been exiled on Svalbard. Trollesund’s witch consul tells the Gyptians of a prophecy about Lyra which she must not know, and that the witch clans are choosing sides for an upcoming war.

The search party continues towards the Gobbler research station at Bolvangar, along the way Lyra discovers an abandoned child and realises the Gobblers are performing sinister experiments on children by severing the bond between human and dæmon, in a soul-splitting process called intercision. Unfortunately Lyra is also captured and taken to Bolvangar, for intercision herself.

Luckily Lee Scoresby, Iorek, Roger, the Gyptians, and the witch clan of Serafina Pekkala, are in hot pursuit in Lee Scoresby’s hot air balloon. However This does not go very well and Lyra ends up at the mercy of the Usurper panserbjorne, Iofur Raknison. However Iorek Bernyson shows up and confronts Iofor Raknison to reclaim his rightful place as King of the Panserbjorne throne. Lyra, Iorek, and Roger then continue onwards to Svalbard, looking for Asriel. Upon reaching the Northern Lights Lyra learns that Dust could be connected to many wonderful things including Parallel Universes, however she also discovers that there are many others who believe it is evil and would stop at nothing to destroy it and stop people from discovering the truth….

Lewis Carroll

Author, mathematician, Logician, Anglican Deacon and Photographer Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson) was born 27 January 1832, his most famous writings are Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass, as well asthe poems “The Hunting of the Snark” and “Jabberwocky”, all examples of the genre of literary nonsense. He is noted for his facility at word play, logic, and fantasy, and there are societies in many parts of the world (including the United Kingdom, Japan, the United States, and New Zealand) dedicated to the enjoyment and promotion of his works and the investigation of his life. From a young age, Dodgson wrote poetry and short stories, both contributing heavily to the family magazine Mischmasch and later sending them to various magazines, enjoying moderate success. Between 1854 and 1856, his work appeared in he national publications, The Comic Times and The Train, as well as smaller magazines like the Whitby Gazette and the Oxford Critic. Most of this output was humorous, sometimes satirical, but his standards and ambitions were exacting. sometime after 1850, he did write puppet plays for his siblings’ entertainment, of which one has survived, La Guida di Bragia.

220px-Alice_in_Wonderlandin 1856 he published his first piece of work under the name that would make him famous. A romantic poem called “Solitude” appeared in The Train under the authorship of “Lewis Carroll”. This pseudonym was a play on his real name; Lewis was the anglicised form of Ludovicus, which was the Latin for Lutwidge, and Carroll an Irish surname similar to the Latin name Carolus, from which comes the name Charles. The transition went as follows: “Charles Lutwidge” translated into Latin as “Carolus Ludovicus”. This was then translated back into English as “Carroll Lewis” and then reversed to make “Lewis Carroll”. In, 1856, a new dean, Henry Liddell, arrived at Christ Church, bringing with him his young family, all of whom would figure largely in Dodgson’s life and, over the following years, greatly influence his writing career. Dodgson became close friends with Liddell’s wife, Lorina, and their children, particularly the three sisters: Lorina, Edith and Alice Liddell. He was for many years widely assumed to have derived his own “Alice” from Alice Liddell. This was given some apparent substance by the fact the acrostic poem at the end of Through the Looking Glass spells out her name and also that there are many superficial references to her hidden in the text of both books. It has been noted that Dodgson himself repeatedly denied in later life that his “little heroine” was based on any real child, and frequently dedicated his works to girls of his acquaintance, adding their names in acrostic poems at the beginning of the text. Gertrude Chataway’s name appears in this form at the beginning of The Hunting of the Snark and it is not suggested that this means any of the characters in the narrative are based on her.

Carroll’s friendship with the Liddell family was an important part of his life in the late 1850s and he took the children on rowing trips accompanied by an adult friend.to nearby Nuneham Courtenay or Godstow.it was on one such expedition, on 4 July 1862, that Dodgson invented the outline for Alice in Wonderland after Alice Liddell persuaded him to write it down, Dodgson presented her with a handwritten, illustrated manuscript entitled Alice’s Adventures Under Ground in November 1864 Before this, the family of friend and mentor George MacDonald read Dodgson’s incomplete manuscript, and the enthusiasm of the MacDonald children encouraged Dodgson to seek publication. In 1863, he had taken the unfinished manuscript to Macmillan the publisher, who liked it immediately. After the possible alternative titles Alice Among the Fairies and Alice’s Golden Hour were rejected, the work was finally published as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 1865 under the Lewis Carroll pen-name, which Dodgson had first used some nine years earlier. The illustrations this time were by Sir John Tenniel; Dodgson evidently thought that a published book would need the skills of a professional artist.

The overwhelming commercial success of the first Alice book changed Dodgson’s life in many ways. The fame of his alter ego “Lewis Carroll” soon spread around the world. He was inundated with fan mail and with sometimes unwanted attention. Indeed, according to one popular story, Queen Victoria herself enjoyed Alice In Wonderland so much that she suggested he dedicate his next book to her, and was accordingly presented with his next work, a scholarly mathematical volume entitled An Elementary Treatise on Determinants. Dodgson himself vehemently denied this story, commenting “…It is utterly false in every particular: nothing even resembling it has occurred”; and it is unlikely for other reasons: as T.B. Strong comments in aTimes article, “It would have been clean contrary to all his practice to identify [the] author of Alice with the author of his mathematical works”. He also began earning quite substantial sums of money but continued with his seemingly disliked post at Christ Church.Late in 1871, a sequel – Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There – was published. It is somewhat darker and the mood possibly reflects the changes in Dodgson’s life. His father had recently died (1868), plunging him into a depression that lasted some years. In 1876, Dodgson produced his last great work, The Hunting of the Snark, a fantastical “nonsense” poem, exploring the adventures of a bizarre crew of tradesmen, and one beaver, who set off to find the eponymous creature. The painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti reputedly became convinced the poem was about him. In 1895, 30 years after publication of his masterpieces, Carroll attempted a comeback, producing a two-volume tale of the eponymous fairy siblings. Carroll entwines two plots, set in two alternate worlds, one the fairytale kingdom of Elfland, the other a realm called Outland, which satirizes English society, and more specifically, the world of academia. It came out in two volumes, and is considered a lesser work, although it has remained in print for over a century.

In 1856, Dodgson took up the new art form of photography, first under the influence of his uncleSkeffington Lutwidge, and later his Oxford friend Reginald Southey.He soon excelled at the art and became a well-known gentleman-photographer, and he seems even to have toyed with the idea of making a living out of it in his very early years. Dodgson also made many studies of men, women, male children and landscapes; his subjects also include skeletons, dolls, dogs, statues and paintings, and trees.His pictures of children were taken with a parent in attendance and many of the pictures were taken in the Liddell garden, because natural sunlight was required for good exposures.He also found photography to be a useful entrée into higher social circles. During the most productive part of his career, he made portraits of notable sitters such as John Everett Millais, Ellen Terry, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Julia Margaret Cameron, Michael Faraday, Lord Salisbury, andAlfred, Lord Tennyson. Dodgson abruptly ceased photography in 1880. Over 24 years, he had completely mastered the medium, set up his own studio on the roof of Tom Quad, and created around 3,000 images. Fewer than 1,000 have survived time and deliberate destruction. He reported that he stopped taking photographs because keeping his studio working was difficult (he used the wet collodion process) and commercial photographers (who started using the dry-plate process in the 1870s) took pictures more quickly.

Dodgson also worked in mathematics, in the fields of geometry, linear and matrix algebra,mathematical logic and recreational mathematics, producing nearly a dozen books under his real name. Dodgson also developed new ideas in linear algebra (e.g. the first printed proof of the Kronecker-Capelli theorem),probability, and the study of elections (e.g.,Dodgson’s method) and committees; some of this work was not published until well after his death. He worked as the Mathematical Lecturer at Christ Church, an occupation that gave him some financial security. His mathematical work attracted renewed interest in the late 20th century. Martin Gardner’s book on logic machines and diagrams, and William Warren Bartley’s posthumous publication of the second part of Carroll’s symbolic logic book have sparked a reevaluation of Carroll’s contributions to symbolic logic. Robbins’ and Rumsey’s investigation of Dodgson condensation, a method of evaluating determinants, led them to the Alternating Sign Matrix conjecture, now a theorem. The discovery in the 1990s of additional ciphers that Carroll had constructed, in addition to his “Memoria Technica”, showed that he had employed sophisticated mathematical ideas to their creation

Dodgson invented many things including the Wonderland Postage-Stamp Case in 1889. This was a cloth-backed folder with twelve slots, two marked for inserting the then most commonly used penny stamp, and one each for the other current denominations to one shilling. The folder was then put into a slip case decorated with a picture of Alice on the front and the Cheshire Cat on the back. All could be conveniently carried in a pocket or purse. When issued it also included a copy of Carroll’s pamphletted lecture, Eight or Nine Wise Words About Letter-Writing. Another invention is a writing tablet called the nyctograph for use at night that allowed for note-taking in the dark; thus eliminating the trouble of getting out of bed and striking a light when one wakes with an idea. The device consisted of a gridded card with sixteen squares and system of symbols representing an alphabet of Dodgson’s design, using letter shapes similar to the Graffiti writing system on a Palm device.

He also devised a number of word games, including an early version of what today is known as Scrabble. He also appears to have invented, or at least certainly popularised, the “doublet” a form of brain-teaser that is still popular today: the game of changing one word into another by altering one letter at a time, each successive change always resulting in a genuine word. For instance, CAT is transformed into DOG by the following steps: CAT, COT, DOT, DOG Other items include a rule for finding the day of the week for any date; a means for justifying right margins on a typewriter; a steering device for a velociam (a type of tricycle); new systems of parliamentary representation;more nearly fair elimination rules for tennis tournaments; a new sort of postal money order; rules for reckoning postage; rules for a win in betting; rules for dividing a number by various divisors; a cardboard scale for the college common room he worked in later in life, which, held next to a glass, ensured the right amount of liqueur for the price paid; a double-sided adhesive strip for things like the fastening of envelopes or mounting things in books; a device for helping a bedridden person to read from a book placed sideways; and at least two ciphers for cryptography.

During the remaining twenty years of his life He continued to teach at Christ Church until 1881, and remained in residence there until his death. The two volumes of his last novel, Sylvie and Bruno, were published in 1889 and 1893, but the intricacy of this work was apparently not appreciated by contemporary readers; it achieved nothing like the success of the Alice books, with disappointing reviews and sales of only 13,000 copies. The only known occasion on which he travelled abroad was a trip to Russia in 1867 as an ecclesiastical together with the Reverend Henry Liddon. He recounts the travel in his “Russian Journal”, which was first commercially published in 1935. On his way to Russia and back he also saw different cities in Belgium, Germany, the partitioned Poland, and France. He sadly died on 14 January 1898 at his sisters’ home, “The Chestnuts” in Guildford, of pneumonia following influenza. He was two weeks away from turning 66 years old. He is buried in Guildford at the Mount Cemetery.

And now for something completely different (and rather tragic)

Best remembered for the the surreal and boundary-breaking zany humour of Monty Python and As co-director of Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), with Terry Gilliam, and sole director of Life of Brian and The Meaning of Life (1983). British comedian, screenwriter, actor, film director and author Terry Jones, passed away on, 21 January 2020 at the age of 77 after being diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia (a form of Alzheimer’s) in 2016.

Terry Jones was born 1 February 1942 in the seaside town of Colwyn Bay, on the north coast of Wales. The family home was named Bodchwil. His father was stationed with the RAF in India. When Jones was 4½, the family moved to Surrey in England. Terry Jones was educated at the Royal Grammar School Guildford, Surrey, and was head boy during the 1960-61 academic year. Later He read English at St Edmund Hall, Oxford, but “strayed into history”. He graduated with a 2:1. While there, he also performed comedy with future Monty Python castmate Michael Palin in The Oxford Revue.

Jones appeared in Twice a Fortnight with Michael Palin, Graeme Garden, Bill Oddie and Jonathan Lynn, as well as the television series The Complete and Utter History of Britain. He also appeared in Do Not Adjust Your Set with Palin, Eric Idle and David Jason. He wrote for The Frost Report and several other David Frost programmes on British television. Along with Palin, he wrote lyrics for the 1968 Barry Booth album “Diversions”. Early on, Jones was interested in devising a fresh format for the Python TV shows, and it was largely he who developed the stream-of-consciousness style which abandoned punchlines and encouraged the fluid movement of one sketch into another, allowing the troupe’s conceptual humour the space to “breathe”. Jones took a keen interest in the direction of the show. As demonstrated in many of his sketches with Palin, Jones was interested in making comedy that was visually impressive, feeling that interesting settings augmented, rather than detracted from, the humour. His methods encouraged many future television comedians to break away from conventional studio-bound shooting styles, as demonstrated by shows such as Green Wing, Little Britain and The League of Gentlemen. Of Jones’ contributions as a performer, his depictions of middle-aged women are among the most memorable and his humour, in collaboration with Palin, tends to be conceptual in nature. A typical Palin/Jones sketch draws its humour from the absurdity of the scenario. For example, in the “Summarise Proust Competition”, Jones plays a cheesy game show host who gives contestants 15 seconds to condense Marcel Proust’s lengthy work À la recherche du temps perdu. Jones was also noted for his gifts as a Chaplinesque physical comedian. His performance in the “Undressing in Public” sketch, for instance, is done in total silence.

Jones co-directed Monty Python and the Holy Grail with Terry Gilliam, and was sole director on two further Monty Python movies, Life of Brian and Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life. As a film director, Jones finally gained fuller control of the projects and devised a visual style that complemented the humour. His later films include Erik the Viking (1989) and The Wind in the Willows (1996). In 2008, Jones wrote and directed an opera titled Evil Machines. in 2011, he was commissioned to direct and write the libretto for another opera, entitled The Doctor’s Tale. On the commentary track of the 2004 “2 Disc Special Edition” DVD for the film Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, Terry Jones stated that to his knowledge Ireland had banned only four movies, three of which he had directed: The Meaning of Life, Monty Python’s Life of Brian and Personal Services. He was also the creator and co-producer of the animated television program Blazing Dragons, which ran for two seasons. set in a fantasy medieval setting, the series’ protagonists are dragons who are beset by evil humans, reversing a common story convention. When the series was broadcast on US television, several episodes were censored due to minor cursing and the implied sexuality of an overtly effeminate character named “Sir Blaze”. The series was turned into a game for the Sega Saturn in 1994, featuring Jones’s voice. He co-wrote Ripping Yarns with Palin, and wrote the screenplay for Labyrinth (1986), although his draft went through several rewrites and several other writers before being filmed; much of the finished film wasn’t written by Jones at all. He has also written numerous works for children, including Fantastic Stories, The Beast with a Thousand Teeth, and a collection of Comic Verse called The Curse of the Vampire’s Socks.

He has written books and presented many award nominated television documentaries on medieval and ancient history and the history of numeral systems. such ad Terry Jones’ Medieval Lives (2004) (for which he received a 2004 Emmy nomination for “Outstanding Writing for Nonfiction Programming”) and Terry Jones’ Barbarians (2006) which presents the cultural achievements of peoples conquered by the Roman Empire in a more positive light than Roman historians typically have, while criticising the Romans as the true “barbarians” who exploited and destroyed higher civilizations (Romanes eunt Domus!)

He has written numerous editorials for The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph and The Observer condemning the Iraq war. Many of these editorials were published in a paperback collection titled Terry Jones’s War on the War on Terror. Chaucer’s Knight: The Portrait of a Medieval Mercenary (1980) offers an alternative take on the historical view of Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Knight’s Tale as being a paragon of Christian virtue. His most recent book, Evil Machines, was launched by the online publishing house Unbound at the Adam Street Club in London on 4 November 2011. Evil Machines is the first book to be published by a crowd funding website dedicated solely to books. Jones provided significant support to Unbound and also a member of the UK Poetry Society, his poems have also appeared in Poetry Review.

Jones has performed with The Carnival Band and appears on their 2007 CD Ringing the changes. In January 2008, the Teatro São Luiz, in Lisbon, Portugal, premiered Evil Machines – a musical play, written by Jones (based on his book) and with original music by Luis Tinoco. Jones was invited by the Teatro São Luiz to write and direct the play, after a very successful run of Contos Fantásticos, a short play based on Jones’ Fantastic Stories, also with music by Luis Tinoco. In January 2012, it was announced that Jones is working with songwriter/producer Jim Steinman on a heavy metal version of “The Nutcracker.” Apart from a cameo in Terry Gilliam’s Jabberwocky and a memorable minor role as a drunken vicar in BBC sitcom The Young Ones, Jones has rarely appeared in work outside of his own projects. Since January 2009, however, he has provided narration for The Legend of Dick and Dom, a CBBC fantasy series set in the Middle Ages. He also appears in two French films by Albert Dupontel : Le Créateur (1999) and Enfermés dehors (2006). In 2009 Jones took part in the BBC Wales programme Coming Home which featured his Welsh family history.

John Hurt

English actor and voice actor Sir John Vincent Hurt, CBE was born 22 January 1940 in Chesterfield, Derbyshire. In 1937, his family moved and his Father became Perpetual Curate of Holy Trinity Church. When Hurt was five, his father became the vicar of St Stephen’s Church in Woodville, south Derbyshire, until 1952. When he was eight, Hurt was sent to the Anglican St Michael’s Preparatory School in Otford, Kent, where he developed his passion for acting and decided he wanted to become an actor. His first role was that of a girl in a school production of The Bluebird (L’Oiseau Bleu) by Maurice Maeterlinck. In 1952 Hurt’s father moved to Old Clee Church in Grimsby, Lincolnshire, and Hurt became a boarder at Lincoln School in Lincoln. He often went with his mother to Cleethorpes Repertory Theatre, but his parents disliked his acting ambitions and encouraged him to become an art teacher instead. His headmaster, Mr Franklin, also derided his ambitions. Aged 17, Hurt enrolled in Grimsby Art School (now the East Coast School of Art & Design), where he studied art. In 1959, he won a scholarship allowing him to study for an Art Teacher’s Diploma (ATD) at Saint Martin’s School of Art in London and In 1960, he won a scholarship to RADA, where he trained for two years.

Hurt’s first film was The Wild and the Willing, but his first major role was as Richard Rich in A Man for All Seasons. He also played Timothy Evans, who was hanged for murders committed by his landlord John Christie, in 10 Rillington Place earning him his first BAFTA nomination for Best Supporting Actor. His portrayal of Quentin Crisp in the TV play The Naked Civil Servant earned him the British Academy Television Award for Best Actor. Hurt also portrayed Roman emperor Caligula in the BBC drama serial, I, Claudius. In 1978 Hurt appeared in Midnight Express and won a Golden Globe and a BAFTA and was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor He also voiced Aragorn in Ralph Bakshi’s animated film adaptation of Lord of the Rings. Hurt then voiced Hazel, the heroic rabbit leader of his warren in the film adaptation of Watership Down and later voiced the villainous, General Woundwort, in the animated television adaptation. In 1980 he portrayed John Merrick in The Elephant Man for which he won another BAFTA and was nominated for a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Actor. In 1979 he memorably portrayed Kane in the film Alien.

He also portrayed art school radical Scrawdyke in Little Malcolm and had a starring role in Sam Peckinpah’s film The Osterman Weekend. He also starred opposite Laurence Olivier’s King in King Lear and appeared as Raskolnikov in a BBC television adaptation of Crime and Punishment. Hurt also portrayed Winston Smith in the film adaptation of George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four and starred in Disney’s The Black Cauldron voicing the Horned King. Hurt provided the voiceover for the AIDS: Iceberg / Tombstone, public information film warning of the dangers of AIDS and also portrayed the on-screen narrator, in Jim Henson’s television series The StoryTeller. Hurt had a supporting role as “Bird” O’Donnell in Jim Sheridan’s film The Field , getting another BAFTA nomination and In 1997 He portrayed reclusive tycoon S.R. Hadden in the film Contact. Hurt also provided narration on the Art of Noise’s concept album The Seduction of Claude Debussy and narrated a four-part TV series The Universe (1999).

In 2001 Hurt portrayed Olivander, the Wand Maker In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and returned for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 and Part 2. he also played the role of Adam Sutler, leader of the Norsefire fascist dictatorship in the film V for Vendetta and appeared as Harold Oxley in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. He voiced the Great Dragon Kilgharrah, in the TV series Merlin, who aids the young warlock Merlin as he protects the future king Arthur. In 2009, Hurt reprised the role of Quentin Crisp in An Englishman in New York and also returned to Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, playing the on-screen Big Brother for a stage adaptation. Hurt won the award for Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema At the 65th British Academy Film Awards. In 2013, Hurt appeared in Doctor Who as a ‘forgotten’ incarnation of the Doctor, known as the War Doctor. In 2015, Hurt provided the voice of the main antagonist Sailor John in the Thomas & Friends film Sodor’s Legend of the Lost Treasure along with Eddie Redmayne and Jamie Campbell Bower. His last movies are That Good Night, in which he plays a terminally ill writer, and Darkest Hour, portraying Neville Chamberlain, opposite Gary Oldman. John Hurt sadly died 25 January 2017 however he leaves behind some great films.

George Orwell

English novelist and journalist George Orwell, sadly passed away on 21 January 1950. Born Eric Arthur Blair on 25 June 1903, in Motihari, Bihar, in India, His work is marked by clarity, intelligence and wit, awareness of social injustice, opposition to totalitarianism, and belief in democratic socialism. Although Orwell wrote literary criticism, poetry, fiction and polemical journalism. He is best known for the dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) and the allegorical novella Animal Farm (1945), which together have sold more copies than any two books by any other 20th-century author. His book Homage to Catalonia (1938), an account of his experiences in the Spanish Civil War, is widely acclaimed, as are his numerous essays on politics, literature, language and culture. In 2008, The Times ranked him second on a list of “The 50 greatest British writers since 1945″. Orwell’s work continues to influence popular and political culture, and the term Orwellian — descriptive of totalitarian or authoritarian social practices — has entered the vernacular with several of his neologisms, such as doublethink, thoughtcrime, Big Brother and thought police.

Nineteen Eighty-Four

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

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

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

Animal Farm

Animal Farm is an allegorical novella which addresses corruption, wickedness, ignorance, greed, myopia and indifference. It was published in England in 1945 and reflects events leading up to the Russian Revolution of 1917, and then on into the Stalin era in the Soviet Union. Orwell, a democratic socialist, was a critic of Joseph Stalin and hostile to Moscow-directed Stalinism, especially after his

experiences with the NKVD and the Spanish Civil War. The Soviet Union he believed, had become a brutal dictatorship, built upon a cult of personality and enforced by a reign of terror. In a letter to Yvonne Davet, Orwell described Animal Farm as his novel “contre Stalin” and in his essay of 1946, Why I Write, he wrote that Animal Farm was the first book in which he had tried, with full consciousness of what he was doing, “to fuse political and artistic purpose into one whole”.

The original title was Animal Farm: A Fairy Story, but the subtitle was dropped by U.S. publishers for its 1946 publication. Other variations in the title include: A Satire and A Contemporary Satire. Orwell suggested the title Union des républiques socialistes animales for the French translation, which recalled the French name of the Soviet Union, Union des républiques socialistes soviétiques, and which abbreviates to URSA, the Latin for “bear”, a symbol of Russia. It was written Between November 1943-February 1944, when the wartime alliance with the Soviet Union was at its height and Stalin was held in highest esteem in Britain both among the people and intelligentsia, a fact that Orwell hatt

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

Georges Méliès

French film Pioneer and innovator Georges Méliès sadly passed away 21 January 1938. born December 8th 1861. After completing his education, Méliès joined the family shoe business. He also visited the Egyptian Hall, run by the famous London illusionist John Nevil Maskelyne, and developed a passion for magic. Méliès returned to Paris in 1885 and studied painting at the École des Beaux-Arts, he also attended performances at the Théâtre Robert-Houdin, founded by Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin, and began taking magic lessons from Emile Voisin. In 1888 Georges Méliès purchased the Théâtre Robert-Houdin. Although the theatre was equipped with lights, levers, trapdoors, and several automata, Over the next nine years, Méliès personally created over 30 new illusions that brought more comedy and melodramatic pageantry to performances, much like those Méliès had seen in London. One of his best known illusions was the Recalcitrant Decapitated Man, in which a professor’s head is cut off in the middle of a speech and continues talking until it is returned to his body. While running the theatre, Méliès also worked as a political cartoonist for the liberal newspaper La Griffe.

As owner of the Théâtre Robert-Houdin, Méliès became more of a director, producer, writer, set and costume designer also inventing many magic tricks. As the theatre’s popularity grew, he brought many famous magicians to the theatre. Along with magic tricks, performances included fairy pantomimes, an automaton performance during intermissions, magic lantern shows, and special effects such as snowfall and lightning. In 1895, Méliès was elected president of the Chambre Syndicale des Artistes Illusionistes. Between 1896 and 1913, Méliès directed 531 films, these were similar to the magic theatre shows that Méliès had been doing, containing “tricks” and impossible events, such as objects disappearing or changing size. By experimenting with multiple exposures he was also able to play seven different characters simultaneously in film .After seeing the Lumière brothers’ films he bought several films and an Animatograph film projector & By April 1896 the Théâtre Robert-Houdin was showing films. Méliès built a film camera using parts from automata and special effect equipment. Méliès also learnt film processing through trial and error. ln 1896 he patented the Kinètographe Robert-Houdin, camera-projector, which he referred to as his “coffee grinder” and “machine gun” because of the noise that it made. Méliès began shooting his first films in May 1896, and screening them at the Théâtre Robert-Houdin and founded the Star-Film Company. Many of his earliest films were copies and remakes of the Lumière brothers films, including his first film Playing Cards. However, many of his other early films reflected Méliès’s knack for theatricality and spectacle, such as A Terrible Night, in which a hotel guest is attacked by a giant bedbug.

CONQUEST OF THE POLE http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=CtrELhltAwo

VOYAGES DANS LE LUNE http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Eeqfxe4WSqk

Whereas The Lumière brothers intended their invention to be used for scientific and historical purposes and dispatched camera operators across the world to film serious documentaries Méliès’s Star-Film Company, was geared more towards the “fairground clientele” who wanted entertainment. In these earliest films, Méliès began to experiment with special effects that were unique to filmmaking. Méliès’s film effects and unique style of film magic were first used in The Vanishing Lady, in which the by then cliche magic trick of a person vanishing from the stage by means of a trap door is enhanced by the person turning into a skeleton until finally reappearing on the stage. In 1896, Méliès built a film studio on his property in Montreuil, just outside of Paris. which had glass walls and ceilings to allow sunlight in for film exposure. The property also included a shed for dressing rooms and a hangar for set construction. Because colors would often photograph in unexpected ways on black and white film, all sets, costumes and actors’ makeup were colored in different tones of gray. Actors performed in front of a painted set as inspired by the conventions of magic and musical theatre.

In 1896 Méliès made 78 films and 53 in 1897 covering every film genre including documentaries, comedies, historical reconstructions, dramas, magic tricks and féeries (fairy stories), .Méliès also made advertisements for whiskey, chocolate, and baby cereal. In 1898 Méliès made only 30 films but his work was becoming more ambitious and elaborate. His films included the historical reconstruction of the sinking of the USS Maine Divers at Work on the Wreck of the “Maine”, the magic trick film The Famous Box Trick, and the féerie The Astronomer’s Dream. He also made one of his first of many religious satires with The Temptation of Saint Anthony. He continued to experiment with special effects such as a reverse shot in A Dinner Under Difficulties and also experimented with superimposition where he would film actors in a black background, then rewind the film through the camera and expose the footage again to create a double exposure. These films included The Cave of the Demons, in which transparent ghosts haunt a cave, and The Four Troublesome Heads, in which Méliès removes his own head three times and creates a musical chorus. He continued to experiment with special effects, the early horror film Cleopatra depicts her mummy being resurrected in modern times. Méliès also made two of his most ambitious and well-known films. The Dreyfus Affair, and Cinderella. Méliès’s films were particularly popular across Europe and in the United States however US filmmakers as Thomas Edison were resentful of the competition from foreign companies & attempted to block Méliès from screening films in the US so film makers including Méliès established the trade union Chambre Syndicale des Editeurs Cinématographiques as a way to defend themselves in foreign markets and the Théâtre Robert-Houdin was the group’s headquarters

In 1900 Méliès made 33 films, including Joan of Arc, The One-Man Band and The Christmas Dream, In 1901 Méliès made The Brahmin and the Butterfly, Little Red Riding Hood and Bluebeard, both based on stories from Charles Perrault. In 1902 Méliès began to experiment with camera movement to create the illusion of a character changing size.This effect began with The Devil and the Statue and was used again in The Man with the Rubber Head. In May 1902 Méliès made his most famous film, A Trip to the Moon. The film includes the celebrated scene in which a spaceship hits the man in the moon in the eye; it was loosely based on Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon and H. G. Wells’ The First Men in the Moon. In the film Méliès stars as Professor Barbenfouillis, who is president of the Astronomer’s Club and oversees an expedition to the Moon. The six men explore the moon’s surface and are attacked by a group of moon men. The film was an enormous success in France and around the world, and made Méliès famous in the United States, Méliès’s enormous success continued with his three other major productions of that year. The Coronation of Edward VII, which used actual footage of the carriage procession in the film, and King Edward VII himself was said to have enjoyed it.

Next Méliès made Gulliver’s Travels, based on the novel by Jonathan Swift, and Robinson Crusoe, based on the novel by Daniel Defoe. In 1903 Méliès made Fairyland: A Kingdom of Fairies, Ten Ladies in one Umbrella, The Melomaniac and Faust in Hell, which is based on an opera by Hector Berlioz, In 1904 he made a sequel, Faust and Marguerite. based on an opera by Charles Gounod. in 1904 he made The Barber of Seville. His major production of 1904 was The Impossible Voyage, a film similar to A Trip to the Moon about an expedition around the world, into the oceans and even to the sun. In 1904, Méliès was invited to create a special effects film to be included in a theatre revue. The result was The Adventurous Automobile Trip. In 1905 Méliès contributed two short films to The Merry Deeds of Satan : The Space Trip and The Cyclone, and made 22 other films, including the adventure The Palace of Arabian Knights and the féerie Rip’s Dream.

For the 100th birthday of Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin, the Théâtre Robert-Houdin created a special celebration performance, including Méliès’s first new stage trick in several years, Les Phénomènes du spiritisme. He made eighteen films in 1906, including The Merry Deeds of Satan and The Witch. In 1907 Méliès created three new illusions for the stage and performed them at the Théâtre Robert-Houdin. He also made nineteen films, including a parody of Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and a short version of Hamlet. in 1908 Méliès made one of his most ambitious films: Humanity Through the Ages, which retells the history of humans from Cain and Abel to the Hague Peace Conference of 1907. Méliès resumed filmmaking in the autumn of 1909 and produced three films that year. In 1910 his brother Gaston set up a studio called the Star Films Ranch in Texas, where he began to produce Westerns. By 1911 Gaston had renamed his branch of Star Films American Wildwest Productions & produced over 130 films between 1910 and 1912. Between 1910 and 1912, Georges Méliès produced 20 films including Whimsical Illusions, in which he performs a magic trick on stage & also created a new theatrical revue, Spiritualist Phenomena.

Sadly, Méliès made a questionable deal with Charles Pathé which eventually destroyed his film career. Méliès accepted a large amount of money to produce films and in exchange Pathé Frères would distribute and reserve the right to edit these films. Pathé also held the deed to both Méliès’s home and his Montreuil studio as part of the deal. From 1911 Méliès began production on more ambitious & elaborate films including The Adventures of Baron Munchausen and The Haunted Window & In 1912, Méliès made Conquest of the Pole. which was inspired by Robert Peary’s expedition to the North Pole in 1909 and Roald Amundsen’s expedition to the South Pole in 1911,The film included giant monsters and also has elements of Jules Verne’s The Adventures of Captain Hatteras which is often said to be the third film of Méliès’s fantastic voyage trilogy after A Trip to the Moon and The Impossible Voyage.Méliès also made The Snow Knight and Le Voyage de la famille Bourrichon.

However Méliès subsequently lost $50,000 and was forced to sell the American branch of Star Films to Vitagraph Studios. As a result Méliès broke his contract with Pathé in 1913, but was too broke to repay the money that he owed Pathe. He was declared bankrupt and did not continue making films-He attributes his own inability to adapt to Pathé and other companies, his brother Gaston’s poor financial decisions and the horrors of World War I as the main reasons that he stopped making films. Due to the war, the Théâtre Robert-Houdin was shut down for a year and Méliès left Paris for several years. In 1917 the French army turned the main studio building at his Montreuil studio into a hospital for wounded soldiers. He and his family then turned the second studio set into a theatrical stage and performed over 24 variety show revues there until 1923. Also during the war, the French army confiscated over 400 of the original prints of Star-Films’s catalog of films in order to melt them down and retrieve their celluloid and silver content. In 1923, the Théâtre Robert-Houdin was torn down in order to rebuild the Boulevard Haussmann. That same year Pathé was finally able to take over Star-Films and the Montreuil studio. In a rage, Méliès personally burned all of the negatives of his films that he had stored at the Montreuil studio, as well as most of the sets and costumes.

As a result many of his films do not exist today. Nonetheless, just over 200 Méliès films have been preserved and are available on DVD. After being driven out of business, Méliès disappeared from public life. By the mid-1920s he was making a meager living as a candy and toy salesman at the Montparnasse station in Paris. In the 1920s several journalists began to research Méliès and his life’s work, creating new interest in him. As his prestige began to grow in the film world, he was given more recognition and in December 1929 a gala retrospective of his work was held at the Salle Pleyel. Georges Méliès was awarded the Légion d’honneur in 1931 by Louis Lumière, who said that Méliès was the “creator of the cinematic spectacle.

In 1932, the Cinema Society arranged a place for Méliès, his granddaughter Madeleine and Jeanne d’Alcy at La Maison du Retrait du Cinéma, the film industry’s retirement home in Orly, where Méliès worked with several younger directors on scripts for films including a new version of Baron Münchhausen with Hans Richter and a film called Le Fantôme du métro (Phantom of the Metro) . In 1936 he rented an abandoned building on the property of the Orly retirement home to store the collection of film prints. They then entrusted the key to the building to Méliès and he became the first conservator of what would eventually become the Cinémathèque Française. Although he was never able to make another film after 1913 or stage another theatrical performance after 1923, he continued to draw, write and advise yoUnger film and theatrical admirers until the end of his life. By late 1937 Méliès had become very ill and he was admitted to the Léopold Bellan Hospital in Paris. one of Méliès last drawings was of a champagne bottle with the cork popped and bubbling over. Méliès died of cancer on 21 January 1938 just hours after the passing of Émile Cohl, another great French film pioneer, and was buried in the Père Lachaise Cemetery.

Tom Baker

Prolific British TV and Film actor Tom Baker was born 20 January in 1934. He is best known for playing the fourth incarnation of the Doctor in the science fiction television series Doctor Who, a role he played from 1974 to 1981. In the late 1960s and early 1970s Baker was part of Laurence Olivier’s National Theatre company, and had his first big film break in 1971 with the role of Rasputin in the film Nicholas and Alexandra after Olivier recommended him for the part. He also appeared in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s version of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, released in 1972, as a younger husband of the Wife of Bath. In 1974. Tom Baker then took on his most famous role of the Doctor from Jon Pertwee. He was recommended to producer Barry Letts by the BBC’s Head of Serials, Bill Slater, who had directed Baker in Play of the Month. Impressed by Baker on meeting him, Letts was convinced he was right for the part after seeing his performance in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad.

He quickly made the part his own. As the Doctor, his eccentric style of dress and speech, particularly his trademark long scarf and fondness for jelly babies, made him an immediately recognisable figure, and he quickly caught the viewing public’s imagination. Baker played the Doctor for seven consecutive seasons over a seven-year period, making him the longest-serving actor in the part on-screen. Baker himself suggested many aspects of the Fourth Doctor’s personality. The distinctive scarf came about by accident. James Acheson, the costume designer, had provided far more wool than was necessary to the knitter, Begonia Pope, and Ms. Pope knitted all the wool she was given. It was Baker who suggested that he wear the resulting ridiculously over-long scarf. The manifestation played by Tom Baker (1974–1981) is regarded by many as the most popular of the Doctors.

From 2001 Baker Was the narrator of Little Britain on BBC Radio 4, and remained in the role when it transferred to television. Baker has suggested that he was chosen for the part in Little Britain due to his popularity with Walliams and Lucas, part of the generation to whom he is the favourite Doctor. “I am now being employed by the children who grew up watching me”, he stated in a recent DVD commentary. Another trademark of Little Britain’s narration is the deadpan quotation of old rap lyrics, usually in the opening credit sequence. Baker is a prolific and highly recognisable voiceover artist, he narrated an animated adventure of Doctor Who as the Fourth Doctor, and also played Puddleglum, a “marsh-wiggle”, in the BBC adaptation of C.S. Lewis’ The Silver Chair. Baker also portrayed Sherlock Holmes in a four part BBC miniseries version of The Hound of the Baskervilles in 1982 and made an appearance as the sea captain Redbeard Rum in Blackadder II. He has also appeared as a guest on the quiz show Have I Got News For You and was subsequently described by presenter Angus Deayton as the funniest guest in the show’s history…