Saturday, 21 September 2013

Or There and Back Again

The Hobbit, or There and Back Again, better known by its abbreviated title The Hobbit, is a fantasy novel and children's book by English author J. R. R. Tolkien. It was published on 21 September 1937 to wide critical acclaim, being nominated for the Carnegie Medal and awarded a prize from the New York Herald Tribune for best juvenile fiction. The book remains popular and is recognized as a classic in children's literature.

Set in a time "Between the Dawn of Færie and the Dominion of Men", The Hobbit follows the quest of home-loving hobbit Bilbo Baggins to win a share of the treasure guarded by the dragon, Smaug. Bilbo's journey takes him from light-hearted, rural surroundings into more sinister territory.The story is told in the form of an episodic quest, and most chapters introduce a specific creature, or type of creature, of Tolkien's Wilderland. By accepting the disreputable, romantic, fey and adventurous side of his nature and applying his wits and common sense, Bilbo gains a new level of maturity, competence and wisdom. The story reaches its climax in the Battle of Five Armies, where many of the characters and creatures from earlier chapters re-emerge to engage in conflict.

Personal growth and forms of heroism are central themes of the story. Along with motifs of warfare, these themes have led critics to view Tolkien's own experiences during World War I as instrumental in shaping the story. The author's scholarly knowledge of Germanic philology and interest in fairy tales are often noted as influences.

Encouraged by the book's critical and financial success, the publisher requested a sequel. As Tolkien's work on the successor The Lord of the Rings progressed, he made retrospective accommodations for it in The Hobbit. These few but significant changes were integrated into the second edition. Further editions followed with minor emendations, including those reflecting Tolkien's changing concept of the world into which Bilbo stumbled. The work has never been out of print. Its ongoing legacy encompasses many adaptations for stage, screen, radio, board games and video games. Several of these adaptations have received critical recognition on their own merits.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Alma Road?

The Battle of the Alma (20 September 1854), which is usually considered the first battle of the Crimean War (1853–1856), took place just south of the River Alma in the Crimea. An Anglo-French force under General St. Arnaud and Lord Raglan defeated General Menshikov's Russian army, which lost around 6,000 troops.

The Anglo-French forces landed on the western coast of the Crimean peninsula some 35 miles (56 km) north of Sevastopol, on 13 September 1854. Prince Alexander Menshikov, Commader-in Chief of the Russians forces in the Crimea, decided to make his stand on the heights above the south banks of the River Alma. Although the Russian Army was numerically inferior to the combined Anglo-French army (35,000 Russian troops as opposed to 60,000 British and French troops), the heights they occupied were a natural defensive position—indeed the last natural barrier to the allied armies on their approach to Sevastopol. Furthermore, the Russians had more than 100 artillery field guns on the heights.

The Crimean War was the first war in which the Minié ball was employed. Most British regiments in the Crimea had been fitted with the new type of shot that took advantage of the rifling inside the barrel of the new British guns. Thus, a spin was placed on the Minié ball in flight on its way to the target. This produced much more accuracy, over a much greater range,than the old style smooth bore muskets with which the Russian Army was supplied. Here at the Battle of the Alma, the Minié ball was to have a devastating impact on the Russians. The Russians had to be within 300 paces of the British to attain any kind of accuracy with their smooth bore muskets while the British began firing their rifled Minié balls accurately on the Russians at a distance of 1200 paces.

 In the United Kingdom "Alma", as a girls' name, became popular as a result of the victory. Also numerous public houses and streets bear the name. In Paris, Pont de l'Alma is a bridge over the River Seine and other French streets are named after the battle. After the battle the Manx survivors made a pact that each man would name their first-born son Alma as a permanent reminder down the ages. Each son named Alma was to pass on the tradition to their own first-born son and name him Alma, and so on. A popular folk ballad of the time, The Heights of Alma, celebrates the battle.


Thursday, 19 September 2013

"To sell films on the basis of their artistic quality"

The Cannes International Film Festival (French: Le Festival International du Film de Cannes or just Festival de Cannes), is an annual film festival held in Cannes, France, which previews new films of all genres, including documentaries, from around the world. Founded in 1946, it is one of the most prestigious and publicised film festivals in the world. The invitation-only festival is held annually (usually in May) at the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès.

The Cannes Film Festival has its origins in the late 1930s when Jean Zay, the French Minister of National Education, on the proposal of Philippe Erlanger and with the support of the British and Americans, set up an international cinematographic festival. In 1947, the festival was held as the "Festival du film de Cannes", where films from sixteen countries were presented. At that time the principle of equality was introduced, with a jury made up of only one representative per country. The festival is now held at the Palais des Festivals, expressly constructed for the occasion, although for its 1949 inaugural the roof was unfinished and blew off during a storm. The festival was not held in 1948 and 1950 on account of budgetary problems. Although its origins may be attributed in part to the French desire to compete with Autumn's Venice Film Festival, in 1951 Cannes was moved to Spring to avoid a Fall clash.

In 1955, the Palme d'Or was created, replacing the Grand Prix du Festival which had been given until that year. In 1957, Dolores del Rio was the first female member of the jury as a Sélection officielle – Member. In 1959, the Marché du Film (Film Market) was founded, giving the festival a commercial character and facilitating exchanges between sellers and buyers in the film industry. Today it has become the first international platform for film commerce.

The festival has become an important showcase for European films. Jill Forbes and Sarah Street argue in European Cinema: An Introduction, that Cannes "became...extremely important for critical and commercial interests and for European attempts to sell films on the basis of their artistic quality" (page 20). Forbes and Street also point out that, along with other festivals such as Venice and Berlin, Cannes offers an opportunity to determine a particular country's image of its cinema and generally foster the notion that European cinema is "art" cinema.

Additionally, given massive media exposure, the non-public festival is attended by many movie stars and is a popular venue for film producers to launch their new films and attempt to sell their works to the distributors who come from all over the globe.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

To sedately go.

Voyager 1 is a 722-kilogram (1,590 lb) space probe launched by NASA on September 5, 1977 to study the outer Solar System. Operating for 36 years and 13 days as of September 18, the spacecraft communicates with the Deep Space Network to receive routine commands and return data. At a distance of about 125 AU from the Sun as of August 2013, it is the farthest manmade object from Earth.

Each Voyager space probe carries a gold-plated audio-visual disc in the event that either spacecraft is ever found by intelligent life forms from other planetary systems. The discs carry photos of the Earth and its lifeforms, a range of scientific information, spoken greetings from people such as the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the President of the United States and a medley, "Sounds of Earth," that includes the sounds of whales, a baby crying, waves breaking on a shore, and a collection of music, including works by Mozart, Blind Willie Johnson, Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode", Valya Balkanska and other Eastern and Western classics and ethnic performers.

While Voyager 1 is commonly spoken of as having left the Solar System simultaneously with having crossed the heliopause, it remains well within the sphere of the Sun's gravitational dominion. It is presently less than one seventh the distance to the aphelion of Sedna, and it will take about 30,000 years to pass through the Oort cloud, the source region of long-period comets.

Voyager 1 is not heading towards any particular star, but in about 40,000 years it will pass within 1.6 light years of the star Gliese 445, which is at present in the constellation Camelopardalis. That star is generally moving towards the Solar System at about 119 km/s (430,000 km/h; 270,000 mph).


Tuesday, 17 September 2013

The "oldest soldier of Europe"

Jean Thurel (or Jean Theurel; 6 September 1698 – 10 March 1807) was a fusilier of the French Army with an extraordinarily long career that spanned over 90 years of service in the Touraine Regiment. Having been born during the reign of Louis XIV and died during that of Napoleon I, Thurel lived in three different centuries and served three different monarchs.

Thurel was born in Orain, Burgundy. He enlisted on 17 September 1716 in the Régiment de Touraine, at the age of 18. He served there for over 90 years without interruption, under Louis XV, Louis XVI, the Republic and the Empire.

Thurel was severely wounded in battle on two occasions. In 1733, during the siege of Kehl, he was shot in the chest with a musket. At the battle of Minden in 1759, he received seven sword slashes, including six to the head. Three of his brothers were killed in the battle of Fontenoy in 1745. One of Thurel's sons was a corporal and a veteran in the same company; he died at the Battle of the Saintes, a naval battle that occurred on 12 April 1782 off the coast of Dominica, West Indies during the American campaign.

A well-disciplined soldier of the line infantry, Thurel was only admonished once during his entire career, during the 1747 Siege of Bergen as the French troops occupied the citadel. He was admonished because, the doors of the fortress being shut, he scaled its walls to gain entry so that he would not miss muster. Another example of Thurel's discipline and physical fitness occurred in 1787. When his regiment was ordered to march to the coast to embark on ships of the French Navy, he was given the opportunity to travel in a carriage due to his advanced age. The 88-year-old Thurel refused the offer and marched the entire distance on foot, stating that he had never before traveled by carriage and had no intention of doing so at that time.

On 26 October 1804, at the age of 106, Thurel became one of the first recipients of the newly established Ordre National de la Légion d'Honneur (National Order of the Legion of Honor), the highest decoration in France. Napoleon I also rewarded him with a pension of 1,200 francs. He was later appointed as the "oldest soldier of Europe". He remained healthy in body and spirit throughout his remarkably long life. He died in Tours on 10 March 1807, at the age of 108, after a brief illness.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Zulu!

The Soviet Navy's Project 611 (NATO reporting name: Zulu class) were one of the first Soviet post-war attack submarines. They were roughly as capable as the American GUPPY fleet-boat conversions.

They were a contemporary of the Whiskey class submarines and shared a similar sonar arrangement. Their design was influenced by the German Type XXI U-boat of the World War II era.

Six were converted in 1956 to become the world's first ballistic missile submarines, one armed with a single R-11FM Scud missile and five others with two Scuds each. They were designated as Project AV 611 and received the NATO reporting name of Zulu V. The missiles were too long to be contained in the boat's hull, and extended into the enlarged sail. To be fired, the submarine had to surface and raise the missile out of the sail. Soviet submarine B-67 successfully launched a missile on 16 September 1955.

The Zulus were the basis for the very successful Foxtrot class submarine, which lent their hull to the Golf class of ballistic missile submarine.

Twenty-six boats were built overall, entering service from 1952 to 1957, 8 of them in Leningrad and 18 in Severodvinsk. Most were converted to non-combat uses and eventually scrapped.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

"A mere petty purpose..."

From late 1914 a small number of middle-ranking British Army officers tried to persuade the War Office and the Government to consider the creation of armoured vehicles. Amongst their suggestions was the use of caterpillar tractors, but although the Army used many such vehicles for towing heavy guns, it could not be persuaded that they could be adapted as armoured vehicles. The consequence was that early tank development in Great Britain was carried out by the Royal Navy.

As the result of an approach by Royal Naval Air Service officers who had been operating armoured cars on the Western Front, the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill formed the Landships Committee, on 20 February 1915. The Director of Naval Construction for the Royal Navy, Eustace Tennyson d'Eyncourt, was appointed to head the Committee in view of his experience with the engineering methods it was felt might be required; the two other members were naval officers, and a number of industrialists were engaged as consultants. So many played a part in its long and complicated development that it is not possible to name any individual as the sole inventor of the tank, though the British Government later made proportionate cash awards to those it considered to have contributed. 

Their first design, Little Willie, ran for the first time in September 1915 and served to develop the form of the track but an improved design, better able to cross trenches, swiftly followed and in January 1916 the prototype, nicknamed "Mother", was adopted as the design for future tanks. Production models of "Male" tanks (armed with naval cannon and machine guns) and "Females" (carrying only machine-guns) would go on to fight in history's first tank action at the Somme in September 1916.

The first tank to engage in battle was designated D1, a British Mark I Male, during the Battle of Flers-Courcelette (part of the wider Somme offensive) on 15 September 1916. The performance of the tanks was patchy. Of the 49 ordered only 32 were able to reach their assigned start positions on the battlefield and of them, seven failed to start - leaving 25 moving forward at the commencement of the attack. In the end, the tanks proved to be largely a psychological asset, emboldening the attackers and intimidating the defenders where they moved forward. Tactically however, they provided little advantage or support to the attackers with most breaking down or becoming immobilized in the terrain of the battlefield and only nine actually reaching and penetrating the German lines. Even where they were successful they were hard pressed to advance across the cratered battlefield faster than a soldier's walking pace.

When Winston Churchill, formerly head of the Landships Committee but now a backbench MP, heard of the tanks use and performance at Flers-Courcelette he responded: "This priceless conception, containing if used in its integrity and on a sufficient scale, the certainty of a great and brilliant victory, was revealed to the Germans for the mere petty purpose of taking a few ruined villages". The flaws that were exposed in the designs of the Mark I at Flers–Courcelette led to design improvements and the development of better tactics, which made the tank a formidable weapon by the war's end.
The Flight of the Earls  took place on 14 September 1607, when Hugh Ó Neill of Tír Eóghain, Rory Ó Donnell of Tír Chonaill and about ninety followers left Ireland for mainland Europe.

After their defeat at the Battle of Kinsale in 1601, and the suppression of the Nine Years' War in Ulster in 1603, Tyrone and the Prince of Tyrconnell, Lord Tyrconnell's elder brother and predecessor, had been forced into exile in January 1602 by the victorious English government of Ireland under the leadership of the Lord Mountjoy. They retained their lands and titles, although with much diminished extent and authority. However, the countryside was laid bare in a campaign of destruction in 1602, and induced famine in 1603, in the same way that O'Neill had devastated Munster in 1600. O'Neill was pardoned under the terms of the Treaty of Mellifont in March 1603 and submitted to the crown.

When King James I took the throne in 1603 he quickly proceeded to issue pardons for the Irish lords and their rebel forces. As king of Scotland he had a better understanding of the advantages of working with local chiefs in the Scottish Highlands. However, as in other Irish lordships, the 1603 peace involved O'Neill losing substantial areas of land to his cousins and neighbours, who would be granted freeholds under the English system, instead of the looser arrangements under the former Brehon law system. This was not a new policy but was a well-understood and longstanding practice in the Tudor conquest of Ireland.

By 1607 O'Neill's allies The Maguire and the Earl of Tyrconnell were finding it hard to maintain their prestige on lower incomes. The earls left from the town of Rathmullan on Lough Swilly on a French ship with some of the leading Gaelic families in Ulster. This town was said to have witnessed the end of the old Gaelic order, in the sense that the earls were descended from Gaelic clan dynasties that had ruled their parts of Ulster for centuries. The Flight of the Earls was a watershed in Irish history, as the ancient Gaelic aristocracy of Ulster went into permanent exile. Despite their attachment to and importance in the Gaelic system, the Earls' ancestors had also accepted their Earldoms from the English-run Kingdom of Ireland in the 1540s, under the policy of surrender and regrant. Some historians argue that their flight was forced upon them by the fallout from the Tudor conquest of Ireland, others that it was a strategic mistake that cleared the way for the Plantation of Ulster.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Hannibal Williston Goodwin (April 21, 1822 - December 31, 1900), was an Episcopal priest at the House of Prayer Episcopal Church and Rectory in Newark, New Jersey, patented a method for making transparent, flexible roll film out of nitrocellulose film base, which was used in Thomas Edison's Kinetoscope, an early machine for viewing animation.

He was motivated to search for a non-breakable, and clear substance on which he could place the images he utilized in his Biblical teachings. On May 2, 1887, the year Reverend Goodwin retired from the church he had served for twenty years, he filed a patent for "a photographic pellicle and process of producing same ... especially in connection with roller cameras", but the patent was not granted until 13 September 1898. In the meantime, George Eastman had already started production of roll-film using his own process.

In 1900, Goodwin set up the Goodwin Film and Camera Company, but before film production had started he was involved in a street accident near a construction site and died on December 31, 1900 from his injuries.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

"Venimus, Vidimus, Deus vincit"

The Battle of Vienna took place on 11 and 12 September 1683 after Vienna had been besieged by the Ottoman Empire for two months. It was a battle of the Holy Roman Empire in league with the Polish- Lithuanian Commonwealth (Holy League) versus the Ottoman Empire and chiefdoms of the Ottoman Empire, and took place at the Kahlenberg mountain near Vienna. The battle marked the beginning of the political hegemony of the Habsburg dynasty in the Holy Roman Empire and Central Europe.

The battle was won by the combined forces of the Holy Roman Empire and the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, the latter being only represented by the forces of the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland (the march of the Lithuanian army was delayed, as a result of which they arrived in Vienna after it was relieved). The Viennese garrison was led by Ernst Rüdiger Graf von Starhemberg, subordinate of Leopold I Habsburg, Holy Roman Emperor. The overall command was held by the commander of the Polish Crown's forces, the King of Poland, Jan III Sobieski.

The alliance fought the army of the Ottoman Empire and those of Ottoman fiefdoms commanded by Grand Vizier Merzifonlu Kara Mustafa Pasha. The siege itself began on 14 July 1683, by the Ottoman Empire army of approximately 90,000–300,000 men. The besieging force was composed of 60 ortas of Janissaries (12,000 men paper strength) with an observation army of c.70,000 men watching the countryside. The decisive battle took place on 12 September, after the united relief army of approximately 84,000 men had arrived.

It has been suggested by some historians that the battle marked the turning point in the Ottoman–Habsburg wars, the 300-year struggle between the Holy Roman Empire and the Ottoman Empire. However, an opposing view sees the battle as only confirming the already-decaying power of the Ottoman Empire. Over the sixteen years following the battle, the Habsburgs of Austria gradually occupied and dominated southern Hungary and Transylvania, which had been largely cleared of the Ottoman forces. The battle is also notable for including the largest cavalry charge in history.

The battle started before all units were fully deployed. Early in the morning, at 4am, the Ottomans attacked, seeking to interfere with the deployment of the Holy League troops. Charles of Lorraine moved forward with the Imperial army on the left and the other Holy Roman Empire forces in the center.

Mustafa Pasha launched a counter-attack with most of his force, but held back some of the elite Janissary and Sipahi units for a simultaneous assault on the city. The Ottoman commanders had intended to take Vienna before Sobieski arrived, but time ran out. Their sappers had prepared another large and final detonation under the Löbelbastei, to breach the walls. While the Ottomans hastily finished their work and sealed the tunnel to make the explosion more effective, the Viennese "moles" detected the tunnel in the afternoon. One of them entered and defused the load just in time.

At that time, above the "subterranean battlefield", a large battle was going on, as the Polish infantry launched a massive assault upon the Ottoman right flank. Instead of focusing on the battle with the relief army, the Ottomans continued their efforts to force their way into the city.

There was a moment during the battle where Kara Mustafa personally ordered the execution of 30,000 Christian hostages.

After twelve hours of fighting, the Poles held the high ground on the right. On the flanks, it is recorded that out of the forest the Polish cavalry slowly emerged and received a cheer from the onlooking infantry who had been anticipating their arrival. The Holy League cavalry waited on the hills, and watched the infantry battle for the whole day. At about 5pm, the Polish King ordered the cavalry attack in four groups, one of the Holy Roman Empire and three Polish. Twenty thousand horsemen charged down the hills (the largest cavalry charge in history). Jan III Sobieski led the charge at the head of 3,000 Polish heavy lancers, the famed "Winged Hussars". The Lipka Tatars who fought on the Polish side wore a sprig of straw in their helmets to distinguish themselves from the Tatars fighting on the Ottoman side. The charge broke the lines of the Ottomans, who were tired from the long fight on two sides. In the confusion, the cavalry headed straight for the Ottoman camps, while the remaining Vienna garrison sallied out of its defenses and joined in the assault.

The Ottoman troops were tired and dispirited following the failure of both the sapping attempt and the brute force assault on the city. The arrival of the cavalry turned the tide of battle against them, sending them into retreat to the south and east. In less than three hours after the cavalry attack, the Christian forces had won the battle and saved Vienna.

After the battle, Sobieski paraphrased Julius Caesar's famous quote (Veni, vidi, vici) by saying "Venimus, Vidimus, Deus vincit" – "We came, We saw, God conquered"

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

David Herbert Lawrence (11 September 1885 – 2 March 1930) was an English novelist, poet, playwright, essayist, literary critic and painter who published as D. H. Lawrence. His collected works represent an extended reflection upon the dehumanising effects of modernity and industrialisation. In them, Lawrence confronts issues relating to emotional health and vitality, spontaneity, and instinct.

The fourth child of Arthur John Lawrence, a barely literate miner, and Lydia (née Beardsall), a former pupil teacher who, owing to her family's financial difficulties, had to do manual work in a lace factory. Lawrence spent his formative years in the coal mining town of Eastwood, Nottinghamshire. The house in which he was born, in Eastwood, 8a Victoria Street, is now the D.H. Lawrence Birthplace Museum. His working-class background and the tensions between his parents provided the raw material for a number of his early works. Lawrence would return to this locality and often wrote about nearby Underwood, calling it; "the country of my heart," as a setting for much of his fiction.

Lawrence's opinions earned him many enemies and he endured official persecution, censorship, and misrepresentation of his creative work throughout the second half of his life, much of which he spent in a voluntary exile which he called his "savage pilgrimage." At the time of his death, his public reputation was that of a pornographer who had wasted his considerable talents. E. M. Forster, in an obituary notice, challenged this widely held view, describing him as, "The greatest imaginative novelist of our generation." Later, the influential Cambridge critic F. R. Leavis championed both his artistic integrity and his moral seriousness, placing much of Lawrence's fiction within the canonical "great tradition" of the English novel. Lawrence is now valued by many as a visionary thinker and significant representative of modernism in English literature.

Lawrence continued to write despite his failing health. In his last months he wrote numerous poems, reviews and essays, as well as a robust defence of his last novel against those who sought to suppress it. His last significant work was a reflection on the Book of Revelation, Apocalypse. After being discharged from a sanatorium, he died at the Villa Robermond in Vence, France, from complications of tuberculosis. Frieda Weekley commissioned an elaborate headstone for his grave bearing a mosaic of his adopted emblem of the phoenix. After Lawrence's death, Frieda married Angelo Ravagli. She returned to live on the ranch in Taos and later her third husband brought Lawrence's ashes to be interred there in a small chapel set amid the mountains of New Mexico. The headstone has recently been donated to D. H. Lawrence Heritage and is now on display in the D.H. Lawrence Birthplace Museum in his home town of Eastwood, Nottinghamshire.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Henry Purcell (10 September 1659 (?)[2]– 21 November 1695), was an English composer. Although incorporating Italian and French stylistic elements into his compositions, Purcell's legacy was a uniquely English form of Baroque music. He is generally considered to be one of the greatest English composers; no other native-born English composer approached his fame until Edward Elgar.

Purcell was born in St Ann's Lane Old Pye Street, Westminster. Henry Purcell Senior, whose older brother Thomas Purcell (d. 1682) was also a musician, was a gentleman of the Chapel Royal and sang at the coronation of King Charles II of England. Henry the elder had three sons: Edward, Henry and Daniel. Daniel Purcell (d. 1717), the youngest of the brothers, was also a prolific composer who wrote the music for much of the final act of The Indian Queen after Henry Purcell's death. Henry Purcell's family lived just a few hundred yards west of Westminster Abbey from the year 1659 onwards.

Purcell is said to have been composing at nine years old, but the earliest work that can be certainly identified as his is an ode for the King's birthday, written in 1670.

Between 1680 and 1688 Purcell wrote music for seven plays. The composition of his chamber opera Dido and Aeneas, which forms a very important landmark in the history of English dramatic music, has been attributed to this period, and its earliest production may well have predated the documented one of 1689.  It is occasionally considered the first genuine English opera, though that title is usually given to Blow's Venus and Adonis: as in Blow's work, the action does not progress in spoken dialogue but in Italian-style recitative. Both works run to less than one hour. At the time Dido and Aeneas never found its way to the theatre, though it appears to have been very popular in private circles. 

His first printed composition, Twelve Sonatas, was published in 1683. For some years after this, he was busy in the production of sacred music, odes addressed to the king and royal family, and other similar works. In 1685, he wrote two of his finest anthems, I was glad and My heart is inditing, for the coronation of King James II. One of Purcell's most elaborate, most important and most magnificent works was a birthday ode for Queen Mary. It is titled Come Ye Sons of Art, and was written by Nahum Tate and set by Purcell.

Purcell's Te Deum and Jubilate Deo were written for Saint Cecilia's Day, 1694, the first English Te Deum ever composed with orchestral accompaniment. This work was annually performed at St Paul's Cathedral until 1712, after which it was performed alternately with Handel's Utrecht Te Deum and Jubilate until 1743, when both works were replaced by Handel's Dettingen Te Deum.

He composed an anthem and two elegies for Queen Mary II's funeral. Besides the operas and semi-operas already mentioned, Purcell wrote the music and songs for Thomas d'Urfey's The Comical History of Don Quixote, Bonduca, The Indian Queen and others, a vast quantity of sacred music, and numerous odes, cantatas, and other miscellaneous pieces.

Purcell died in 1695 at his home in Dean's Yard, Westminster, at the height of his career. He is believed to have been 35 or 36 years old at the time. The cause of his death is unclear: one theory is that he caught a chill after returning home late from the theatre one night to find that his wife had locked him out. Another is that he succumbed to tuberculosis. Purcell is buried adjacent to the organ in Westminster Abbey. The music that he had earlier composed for Queen Mary's funeral was performed during his as well.




Monday, 9 September 2013

Overstimulating the physical impulses of the teenagers was 'a gross national disservice.'

On September 9, 1956, Presley made his first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, an American TV variety show, (after earlier appearances on shows hosted by the Dorsey Brothers, Milton Berle, and Steve Allen) even though Sullivan had previously vowed never to allow Presley on the show. According to biographer Michael David Harris, "Sullivan signed Presley when the host was having an intense Sunday-night rivalry with Steve Allen. Allen had the singer on July 1 and trounced Sullivan in the ratings. When asked to comment, the CBS star said that he wouldn't consider presenting Presley before a family audience. Less than two weeks later he changed his mind and signed a contract. The newspapers asked him to explain his reversal. 'What I said then was off the reports I'd heard. I hadn't even seen the guy. Seeing the kinescopes, I don't know what the fuss was all about. For instance, the business about rubbing the thighs. He rubbed one hand on his hip to dry off the perspiration from playing his guitar.' "

Sullivan's reaction to Presley's performance on the Milton Berle Show was, "I don't know why everybody picked on Presley, I thought the whole show was dirty and vulgar."

Elvis mythology states that Sullivan censored Presley by only shooting him from the waist up. Sullivan may have helped create the myth when he told TV Guide, "as for his gyrations, the whole thing can be controlled with camera shots." In truth Presley's whole body was shown in the first and second shows.

At the time, Presley was filming Love Me Tender, so Sullivan's producer, Marlo Lewis, flew to Los Angeles to supervise the two segments telecast that night from CBS Television City in Hollywood. Sullivan, however, was not able to host his show in New York City because he was recovering from a near fatal automobile accident. Charles Laughton guest-hosted in Sullivan's place. 

Host Laughton wrongly introduced the singer as "Elvin Presley".Once on camera, Elvis cleared his throat and said, "Thank you, Mr Laughton, ladies and gentlemen. Wow", and wiped his brow. "This is probably the greatest honor I’ve ever had in my life. Ah. There's not much I can say except, it really makes you feel good. We want to thank you from the bottom of our heart. And now..." "Don't Be Cruel", which was, after a short introduction by Elvis, followed by "Love Me Tender".

Elvis's second set in the show consisted of "Ready Teddy" and a short on-air comment to Sullivan, "Ah, Mr Sullivan. We know that somewhere out there you are looking in, and, ah, all the boys and myself, and everybody out here, are looking forward to seeing you back on television." Next, Elvis declared, "Friends, as a great philosopher once said, ‘You ain’t nothin’ but a Hound Dog...,' " as he launched into a short (1:07) version of the song.

Although Laughton was the main star and there were seven other acts on the show, Elvis was on camera for more than a quarter of the time allotted to all acts. The show was viewed by a record 60 million people which at the time was 82.6 percent of the television audience, and the largest single audience in television history. "In the New York Times", however, "Jack Gould began his review indignantly: Elvis Presley had 'injected movements of his tongue and indulged in wordless singing that were singularly distasteful.' Overstimulating the physical impulses of the teenagers was 'a gross national disservice.'"

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Sellotape can produce X-Rays!

Although it is a trademarked brand name, Scotch tape is commonly used in the United States, Canada, Italy, Russia, Ukraine and elsewhere as a generic term for transparent adhesive tape. (The Irish, New Zealand, and UK equivalent of Scotch tape is Sellotape. The Australian term is sticky tape) The Scotch brand includes many different constructions (backings, adhesives, etc.) and colors of tape.

The precursor to the current tapes was developed in the 1930s in Minneapolis, Minnesota by Richard Drew to seal a then-new transparent material known as cellophane.

When Drew joined 3M in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1920, it was a modest manufacturer of sandpaper. While testing their new Wetordry sandpaper at auto shops, Drew was intrigued to learn that the two-tone auto paintjobs so popular in the Roaring Twenties were difficult to manage at the border between the two colors. In response, after two years of work in 3M's labs, Drew invented the first masking tape (1922), a two-inch-wide tan paper strip backed with a light, pressure sensitive adhesive.

The first tape had adhesive along its edges but not in the middle. In its first trial run, it fell off the car and the frustrated auto painter growled at Drew, "Take this tape back to those Scotch bosses of yours and tell them to shove it!" (By "Scotch," he meant "parsimonious".) The nickname stuck, both to Drew's improved masking tape, and to his 1930 invention, Scotch Brand cellulose tape.

In 1925 he came up with the world's first transparent cellophane adhesive tape (called sellotape in the UK and Scotch tape in the United States). In the aftermath of the Wall Street Crash of 1929, people began using tape to repair items rather than replace them. This was the beginning of 3M’s diversification into all manner of marketplaces and helped them to flourish in spite of the Great Depression.
Drew died in 1980 in Santa Barbara, California.

Although it is a trademarked brand name, Scotch tape is commonly used in the United States, Canada, Italy, Russia, Ukraine and elsewhere as a generic term for transparent adhesive tape. (The Irish, New Zealand, and UK equivalent of Scotch tape is Sellotape. The Australian term is sticky tape) The Scotch brand includes many different constructions (backings, adhesives, etc.) and colors of tape.

Scotty McTape, a kilt-wearing cartoon boy, was the brand's mascot for two decades, first appearing in 1944. The familiar tartan design, a take on the well-known Wallace tartan, was introduced in 1945.

In 1953, Soviet scientists showed that triboluminescence caused by peeling a roll of an unidentified Scotch brand tape in a vacuum can produce X-rays. In 2008, American scientists performed an experiment that showed the rays can be strong enough to leave an X-ray image of a finger on photographic paper.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

The end of a species....or is it?

The thylacine ( binomial name: Thylacinus cynocephalus, Greek for "dog-headed pouched one") was the largest known carnivorous marsupial of modern times. It is commonly known as the Tasmanian tiger (because of its striped back) or the Tasmanian wolf. Native to continental Australia, Tasmania and New Guinea, it is thought to have become extinct in the 20th century. It was the last extant member of its family, Thylacinidae; specimens of other members of the family have been found in the fossil record dating back to the early Miocene.

The thylacine had become extremely rare or extinct on the Australian mainland before European settlement of the continent, but it survived on the island of Tasmania along with several other endemic species, including the Tasmanian devil. Intensive hunting encouraged by bounties is generally blamed for its extinction, but other contributing factors may have been disease, the introduction of dogs, and human encroachment into its habitat. 

Like the tigers and wolves of the Northern Hemisphere, from which it obtained two of its common names, the thylacine was an apex predator. As a marsupial, it was not closely related to these placental mammals, but because of convergent evolution it displayed the same general form and adaptations. Its closest living relative is thought to be either the Tasmanian devil or numbat. The thylacine was one of only two marsupials to have a pouch in both sexes (the other being the water opossum). The male thylacine had a pouch that acted as a protective sheath, covering the male's external reproductive organs while he ran through thick brush. It has been described as a formidable predator because of its ability to survive and hunt prey in extremely sparsely populated areas.

The last captive thylacine, later referred to as "Benjamin" (although its sex has never been confirmed) was captured in 1933 by Elias Churchill and sent to the Hobart Zoo where it lived for three years. This thylacine died on 7 September 1936. It is believed to have died as the result of neglect—locked out of its sheltered sleeping quarters, it was exposed to a rare occurrence of extreme Tasmanian weather: extreme heat during the day and freezing temperatures at night. This thylacine features in the last known motion picture footage of a living specimen: 62 seconds of black-and-white footage showing it pacing backwards and forwards in its enclosure in a clip taken in 1933 by naturalist David Fleay. 

National Threatened Species Day has been held annually since 1996 on 7 September in Australia, to commemorate the death of the last officially recorded thylacine.

Despite its official classification as extinct, sightings are still reported, though none have been conclusively proven.


"The first worldwide manhunt in recorded history."

The Ganj-i-Sawai or Gang-i-Sawai (meaning "Exceeding Treasure", and often Anglicized as Gunsway) was a heavily armed trading ship belonging to the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb which, along with its escort the Fateh Muhammed, was captured on 7 September 1695 by the English pirate Henry Every en route from present day Mocha, Yemen to Surat, India.

In August 1695, Every and the Fancy reached the Mandab Strait, where he teamed up with four other pirate ships, including Thomas Tew's sloop Amity. Although a 25-ship Mughal convoy bound for India had eluded the pirate fleet during the night, the following day they encountered the Ganj-i-Sawai, and its escort Fateh Muhammed, both stragglers passing the straits en route to Surat.

Every and his men attacked the Fateh Muhammed, which had earlier repulsed an attack by the Amity, killing Captain Tew. Perhaps intimidated by the Fancy's 46 guns or weakened by their earlier battle with Tew, the Fateh Muhammed's crew put up little resistance, and Every's pirates sacked the ship for £50,000 worth of treasure.

Every now sailed in pursuit of the Ganj-i-Sawai, overtaking her about eight days out of Surat. The Ganj-i-Sawai was a fearsome opponent, mounting 62 guns and a musket-armed guard of four to five hundred, as well as six hundred other passengers. But the opening volley evened the odds, as one of the Indian ship's cannons exploded, killing some of its gunners and causing great confusion and demoralization among the crew, while Every's broadside shot his enemy's mainmast by the board. The Fancy drew alongside the Ganj-i-Sawai and the pirates clambered aboard.

The victorious pirates then subjected their captives to several days of horror, raping and murdering prisoners at will, and using torture to force them to reveal the location of the ships' treasure. The pirates raped women on the ship, and some of the women committed suicide by jumping into the sea.The other survivors were left aboard their ships, which the pirates set free.

The loot from the Ganj-i-Sawai totalled between £325,000 and £600,000, including 500,000 gold and silver pieces. Every and the surviving pirate captains set sail for Réunion, where they shared out £1,000 and some gemstones to every man in the crew.

The plunder of Ganj-i-sawai caused considerable damage to England's fragile relations with the Mughals. In response to Every's attack, a combined bounty of £1,000—an immense sum by the standards of the time—was offered for his capture by the Privy Council and the East India Company, leading to the first worldwide manhunt in recorded history. Every and  his crew fled to the Bahamas, briefly sheltering in New Providence, a known pirate haven. After adopting aliases, the crew broke company, most choosing to sail home to the British Isles and the rest remaining in the British West Indies or taking to the North American colonies. Twenty-four of the pirates were eventually captured, and six were tried, convicted, and hanged in London in November 1696. Yet Every eluded capture, vanishing from all records in 1696; his whereabouts and activities after this period are unknown. Unconfirmed accounts state he may have changed his name and retired, quietly living out the rest of his life in either Britain or an unidentified tropical island, dying sometime after 1696.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Wrecks!

Discovered by Peter Marsden on 6 September 1962, the first Blackfriars ship became the earliest known indigenous seagoing sailing ship to be found in northern Europe, dating back to the 2nd century AD. The wreck is dated to a period of great Roman expansion and construction. Found between Blackfriars Bridge and Blackfriars Railway Bridge during the construction of a new riverside wall, the Blackfriars I generated controversy since it appeared to match a native Brythonic shipbuilding style instead of a traditional Roman style.

The Blackfriars I was built frame-first, meaning that the frame of the ship was built before building the rest of the ship. This method was much faster and saved wood, and was advanced for the period. Marsden described the ship as having a carvel-built hull caulked with hazel twigs, mast-step and thick floors secured with nails. On the ship, a bronze votive coin of the Emperor Domitian was found in the mast of the ship. In addition, it was discovered that the ship was wrecked while carrying cargo that consisted of 26 long tons (26 t) of Kentish ragstone, a type of building stone. With further findings about the area of operation of the ship, Marsden suggested Blackfriars I was used for constructions purposes. The rest of the cargo included: two pottery sherds, a wooden mallet, and a piece of leather. Marsden was able to conclude, using the location and position of the wreck that it crashed into another vessel, a collision which was responsible for the ship sinking.

The Blackfriars II was discovered in June 1969 east of Blackfriars Bridge. The ship was carrying a cargo of brick when it was wrecked. Marsden and R. Inman excavated the wreck. Their findings showed that the cargo included new red bricks, pipes and pottery that dated back to 1660–80. With this information, Marsden was able to conclude that the ship was carrying materials meant for rebuilding London after the Great Fire of 1666. The techniques used to build this ship led Marsden to believe that the state of contemporary knowledge of shipbuilding was insufficient for dating small boats.




Thursday, 5 September 2013

"Leave all to....."

Peter the Great, Peter I or Pyotr Alexeyevich (9 June 1672 – 8 February 1725) ruled the Tsardom of Russia and later the Russian Empire from 7 May 1682 until his death, jointly ruling before 1696 with his half-brother. In numerous successful wars he expanded the Tsardom into a huge empire that became a major European power. He led a cultural revolution that replaced the traditionalist and medieval social and political system with a modern, scientific, Europe-oriented, and rationalist system.

In 1697 he traveled incognito to Europe on an 18-month journey with a large Russian delegation–the so-called "Grand Embassy"—to seek the aid of the European monarchs.

Peter's visits to the West impressed upon him the notion that European customs were in several respects superior to Russian traditions. Peter implemented sweeping reforms aimed at modernizing Russia. Heavily influenced by his advisors from Western Europe,

Peter reorganized the Russian army along modern lines and dreamed of making Russia a maritime power. He faced much opposition to these policies at home, but brutally suppressed any and all rebellions against his authority: Streltsy, Bashkirs, Astrakhan, and the greatest civil uprising of his reign, the Bulavin Rebellion.

He commanded all of his courtiers and officials to cut off their long beards—causing his Boyars, who were very fond of their beards, great upset—and wear European clothing. Boyars who sought to retain their beards were required to pay an annual beard tax of one hundred rubles. He also sought to end arranged marriages, which were the norm among the Russian nobility, because he thought such a practice was barbaric and led to domestic violence, since the partners usually resented each other.

Also, upon his return from his European tour, Peter sought to end his unhappy marriage. He divorced the Tsaritsa, Eudoxia Lopukhina. The Tsaritsa had borne Peter three children, although only one, the Tsarevich Alexei, had survived past his childhood.

In 1699 Peter changed the date of the celebration of the new year from 1 September to 1 January. Traditionally, the years were reckoned from the purported creation of the World, but after Peter's reforms, they were to be counted from the birth of Christ. Thus, in the year 7207 of the old Russian calendar, Peter proclaimed that the Julian Calendar was in effect and the year was 1700.

In early January 1725, Peter was struck once again with uremia. Legend has it that before lapsing into unconsciousness Peter asked for a paper and pen and scrawled an unfinished note that read: "Leave all to ... " and then, exhausted by the effort, asked for his daughter Anna to be summoned.

Peter died between four and five in the morning 8 February 1725. An autopsy revealed his bladder to be infected with gangrene. He was fifty-two years, seven months old when he died, having reigned forty-two years.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

"To my friends: my work is done. Why wait?"

George Eastman (July 12, 1854 – March 14, 1932) was an American innovator and entrepreneur who founded the Eastman Kodak Company and popularized the use of roll film, helping to bring photography to the mainstream. Roll film was also the basis for the invention of motion picture film in 1888 by the world's first film-makers Eadweard Muybridge and Louis Le Prince, and a few years later by their followers Léon Bouly, Thomas Edison, the Lumière Brothers, and Georges Méliès.

He was a major philanthropist, establishing the Eastman School of Music, and schools of dentistry and medicine at the University of Rochester and in London; contributing to RIT and the construction of MIT's second campus on the Charles River; and donating to Tuskegee and Hampton universities. In addition, he provided funds for clinics in London and other European cities to serve low-income residents.

In the last few years of his life Eastman suffered with chronic pain and reduced functionality due to a spine illness. On March 14, 1932 Eastman shot himself in the heart, leaving a note which read, "To my friends: my work is done. Why wait?"

The letter k was a favorite of Eastman's; he is quoted as saying, "it seems a strong, incisive sort of letter."

He and his mother devised the name Kodak with an Anagrams set. Eastman said that there were three principal concepts he used in creating the name: it should be short, easy to pronounce, and not resemble any other name or be associated with anything else.






Tuesday, 3 September 2013

" I will call him to account for so much innocent blood."

The Battle of Ain Jalut (or Ayn Jalut, in Arabic, the "Spring of Goliath") took place on 3 September 1260 between Muslim Mamluks and the Mongols in the southeastern Galilee, in the Jezreel Valley, not far from Zir'in. The battle marked the high-water point of Mongol conquests, and was the first time a Mongol advance had ever been permanently beaten back in direct combat on the battlefield.

After previous battlefield defeats, the Mongols had always returned and avenged their loss, ultimately defeating their enemies. The Battle of Ain Jalut marked the first time they were unable to do so. The Mongol Ilkhanate leader Hulagu Khan was not able to advance into Egypt, and the Khanate he established in Persia was only able to defeat the Mamluks once in subsequent expeditions, briefly reoccupying Syria and parts of Galilee for a few months in 1300.

The Battle of Ain Jalut is also notable for being the earliest known battle where explosive hand cannons (midfa in Arabic) were used.[citation needed] These explosives were employed by the Mamluk Egyptians in order to frighten the Mongol horses and cavalry and cause disorder in their ranks. The explosive gunpowder compositions of these cannon were later described in Arabic chemical and military manuals in the early 14th century.

 The Mongols were again beaten at the First Battle of Homs less than a year later, and completely expelled from Syria.

Internecine conflict prevented the Mongols from bringing full power against the Mamluks to avenge the pivotal defeat at Ain Jalut. Berke Khan, the Khan of the Kipchak Khanate in Russia, had converted to Islam, and watched with horror as his cousin destroyed the Abbasid Caliph, the spiritual head of Islam. Muslim historian Rashid-al-Din Hamadani quoted Berke as sending the following message to Mongke Khan, protesting the attack on Baghdad (not knowing Mongke had died in China): "He (Hulagu) has sacked all the cities of the Muslims, and has brought about the death of the Caliph. With the help of God I will call him to account for so much innocent blood."The Mamluks, learning through spies that Berke was both a Muslim and not fond of his cousin, were careful to nourish their ties to him and his Khanate.

After the Mongol succession was finally settled, with Kublai as the last Great Khan, Hulagu returned to his lands by 1262, and massed his armies to attack the Mamluks and avenge Ain Jalut. However, Berke Khan initiated a series of raids in force which lured Hulagu north, away from the Levant to meet him. Hulagu suffered severe defeat in an attempted invasion north of the Caucasus in 1263. This was the first open war between Mongols, and signaled the end of the unified empire.

Monday, 2 September 2013

"Give us our eleven days!"


The Gregorian calendar, also called the Western calendar and the Christian calendar, is internationally the most widely accepted and used civil calendar.It has been the unofficial global standard for decades, recognized by international institutions such as the United Nations and the Universal Postal Union.
The calendar was a reform in 1582 to the Julian calendar.

 The motivation for the reform was to bring the date for the celebration of Easter to the time of the year in which the First Council of Nicaea had agreed upon in 325. Because the spring equinox was tied to the celebration of Easter, the Roman Catholic Church considered this steady drift in the date of Easter undesirable. The reform was adopted initially by the Catholic countries of Europe. Protestants and Eastern Orthodox countries continued to use the traditional Julian calendar and adopted the Gregorian reform after a time, for the sake of convenience in international trade. The last European country to adopt the reform was Greece, as late as 1923.

Britain and the British Empire (including the eastern part of what is now the United States) adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752, by which time it was necessary to correct by 11 days. Wednesday, 2 September 1752, was followed by Thursday, 14 September 1752. Claims that rioters demanded "Give us our eleven days" grew out of a misinterpretation of a painting by William Hogarth. After 1753, the British tax year in Britain continued to operate on the Julian calendar and began on 5 April, which was the "Old Style" new tax year of 25 March. A 12th skipped Julian leap day in 1800 changed its start to 6 April. It was not changed when a 13th Julian leap day was skipped in 1900, so the tax year in the United Kingdom still begins on 6 April.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

A Trip to the Moon (French: Voyage dans la Lune), released in the UK initially as Trip to the Moon, is a 1902 French silent film directed by Georges Méliès. Inspired by a wide variety of sources, it follows a group of astronomers who travel to the moon in a cannon-propelled spaceship, explore the moon's surface, escape from an underground group of Selenites (lunar inhabitants), and return in a splashdown to Earth with a captive Selenite in tow.

The film was released by Méliès's Star Film Company and is numbered 399–411 in its catalogues. Its total length is about 260 meters (roughly 845 feet) of film, which, at Méliès's preferred projection speed of 12 to 14 frames per second, is about 17 minutes.An internationally popular success at the time of its release, it is the best-known of the hundreds of films made by Méliès, and the moment in which the spaceship lands in the Moon's eye remains one of the most iconic images in the history of cinema. It was named one of the 100 greatest films of the 20th century by The Village Voice, ranking at #84,and in 2002 it became the first work designated as a UNESCO World Heritage film.