April 17, 2014

RIP

Gabriel Garcia Marquez
1927-2014


Gabriel García Márquez, the influential, Nobel Prize-winning author of "One Hundred Years of Solitude" and "Love in the Time of Cholera," has died, his family and officials said.
He was 87.

The literary giant was treated in April for infections and dehydration at a Mexican hospital.

García Márquez, a native of Colombia, is widely credited with helping to popularize "magical realism," a genre "in which the fantastic and the realistic are combined in a richly composed world of imagination," as the Nobel committee described it upon awarding him the prize for literature in 1982.

He was sometimes called the most significant Spanish-language author since Miguel de Cervantes, the 16th-century author of "Don Quixote" and one of the great writers in Western literature. Indeed, Chilean poet Pablo Neruda told Time that "One Hundred Years of Solitude" was "the greatest revelation in the Spanish language since the Don Quixote of Cervantes."

The author's cousin, Margarita Marquez, and Colombia's ambassador to Mexico, José Gabriel Ortiz, confirmed the author's death to CNN on Thursday.

Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982.



"We're left with the memories and the admiration to all Colombians and also Mexicans because I think Gabo was half Mexican and half Colombian. He's just as admired in Mexico as he is in (his native) Colombia, all of Latin America and throughout the world," Ortiz told CNN en Español.

"I believe they were somehow emotionally ready for this regrettable outcome. They knew he was suffering from a complex, terminal disease and was an elderly man. I believe (Garcia Marquez's widow Mercedes Barcha) was getting ready for this moment, although nobody can really prepare themselves for a moment like this."

The author -- known by his nickname "Gabo" throughout Latin America -- was born in the northern Colombian town of Aracataca, which became the inspiration for Macondo, the town at the center of "Solitude," his 1967 masterpiece, and referenced in such works as his novella "Leaf Storm" and the novel "In Evil Hour."

"I feel Latin American from whatever country, but I have never renounced the nostalgia of my homeland: Aracataca, to which I returned one day and discovered that between reality and nostalgia was the raw material for my work," reads a mural quoting the author outside of town.

García Márquez was tickled that he had earned so much praise for his fertile imagination.

"The truth is that there's not a single line in all my work that does not have a basis in reality. The problem is that Caribbean reality resembles the wildest imagination," he told The Paris Review in 1981.


A storyteller's childhood

García Márquez's early life was shaped by both familial and political conflict. His grandfather, a widely respected figure known as the Colonel, was a liberal military man who strongly disagreed with the political views of García Márquez's father, a conservative telegraph operator who became a pharmacist. (His father's ardent pursuit of his mother later inspired "Love in the Time of Cholera.")

Their political disagreement came to reflect that of Colombia as a whole, a country that spent a postwar decade in the grip of what was called "La Violencia," a civil war that followed the assassination of a populist leader.

García Márquez spent his early childhood with his grandparents while his parents pursued a living in the coastal city of Barranquilla.

Both his grandparents were excellent storytellers, and García Márquez soaked in their tales. From his grandfather he learned of military men, Colombian history and the terrible burden of killing; from his grandmother came folk tales, superstitions and ghosts among the living.

His grandmother's stories were delivered "as if they were the irrefutable truth," according to the García Márquez site themodernword.com. The influence is obvious in García Márquez's works, particularly "One Hundred Years of Solitude."

In 1936 the Colonel, died and García Márquez returned to his parents and their growing family. He was eventually one of 11 children, not to mention several half-siblings from his father's affairs, a familial sprawl that also found its way into his books.

After finishing high school, García Márquez went off to college with dreams of becoming a writer. His parents, on the other hand, had plans for him to become a lawyer. Writing ended up taking precedence: When La Violencia broke out, García Márquez started contributing stories to a local newspaper and eventually became a columnist. He had also been exposed to writers such as James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Franz Kafka and especially William Faulkner, who had turned his own patch of land in Oxford, Mississippi, into the shape-shifting past and present of Yoknapatawpha County.

In the mid-1950s, García Márquez left Colombia for Europe, a move partly provoked by a story he'd written that was critical of the government. The distance, he later said, helped shape his perspective on Latin American politics.

For years, García Márquez had been writing and publishing fiction, including short stories in Latin American journals and a handful of longer works, including "Leaf Storm," which was published in 1955. But it wasn't until 1967 with the publication of "One Hundred Years of Solitude" that he broke through to a wide audience.

'100 Years' of literary renown

The novel is set in Macondo, a town founded by the patriarch of the Buendia family, José Arcadio Buendia. Over the generations, members of the family are set upon by ghosts and visions, fall in love, dream of riches and fight in wars. Natural events take on supernatural aspects -- rains that last years, plagues that create memory loss. It is a tapestry of almost biblical proportions in which reality and spirit swirl and merge, a world unto itself -- as well as a commentary on the politics and history of the world at large.

"The narrative is a magician's trick in which memory and prophecy, illusion and reality are mixed and often made to look the same. It is, in short, very much like Márquez's astonishing novel," wrote The New York Times in a 1970 review upon the release of the English translation by Gregory Rabassa.

García Márquez worked on "Solitude" tirelessly, selling off family items, living on credit, smoking up a nicotine frenzy. Upon its release, the book became an instant bestseller in Latin America and was equally successful in English. It has been estimated to have sold in excess of 20 million copies -- some sources say as many as 50 million -- in two dozen languages.

The book didn't ease all of García Márquez's problems, however. As a vocal leftist and defender of Castro's Cuba, he was regularly limited or denied visas by the United States until President Bill Clinton, a fan of "Solitude," revoked the ban.

Clinton commented on Garcia Marquez's death Thursday.

"I was saddened to learn of the passing of Gabriel García Márquez," he said in a statement. "From the time I read 'One Hundred Years of Solitude' more than 40 years ago, I was always amazed by his unique gifts of imagination, clarity of thought, and emotional honesty. He captured the pain and joy of our common humanity in settings both real and magical."

García Márquez was also involved in a feud with onetime friend writer Mario Vargas Llosa, a Peruvian and a Nobel laureate, who punched the Colombian in the face in 1976 -- believed to be over politics but later revealed to be over Vargas Llosa's wife.

García Márquez's ensuing works were generally praised. They included "The Autumn of the Patriarch" (1975), "Chronicle of a Death Foretold" (1981) and "The General in His Labyrinth" (1990). He is said to be the most popular Spanish-language author in the world.

"Love in the Time of Cholera," with an English translation published in 1988, was a particular bestseller. The love story, which was turned into a 2007 movie, was referenced in such works as the 2001 movie "Serendipity" and the finale of the TV series "How I Met Your Mother."

García Márquez's style and impact have been widespread.

He is credited with spearheading "el Boom," attracting attention to a generation of Latin American writers, including Vargas Llosa and Mexico's Carlos Fuentes. Magical realism is now an accepted genre, to the point that some critics believe it has been overused.

And he prompted a focus on Latin American politics -- protesting the 1973 CIA-aided coup in Chile, calling attention to corruption and free speech issues in South America and around the world.

He never gave up journalism.

"I've always been convinced that my true profession is that of a journalist. What I didn't like about journalism before were the working conditions," he told The Paris Review. "Now, after having worked as a novelist, and having achieved financial independence as a novelist, I can really choose the themes that interest me and correspond to my ideas."

He was one of the most honored -- and highly respected -- authors on Earth, particularly in parts of the world where literature is taken as seriously as politics.

"On behalf of Mexico, I would like to express my sorrow for the passing of one of the greatest writers of our time, Gabriel Garcia Marquez," tweeted Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos summed up the author's presence on Twitter.

"Giants never die," Santos tweeted.

For all of his immortality, however, Garcia Marquez preferred the here and now. Asked about the impact of dreams on his dreamlike writing, he said he'd rather focus on reality.

"Life itself is the greatest source of inspiration," he said. "I see dreams as part of life in general, but reality is much richer.

"But maybe," he added, "I just have very poor dreams."

-CNN

April 7, 2014

RIP

Mickey Rooney
September 23, 1920
April 6, 2014 (aged 93)





















Mickey Rooney was born Joe Yule Jr. on September 23, 1920 in Brooklyn, New York. He first took the stage as a toddler in his parents' vaudeville act at 17 months old. He made his first film appearance in 1926. The following year, he played the lead character in the first Mickey McGuire short film. It was in this popular film series that he took the stage name Mickey Rooney. Rooney reached new heights in 1937 with A Family Affair, the film that introduced the country to Andy Hardy, the popular all-American teenager. This beloved character appeared in nearly 20 films and helped make Rooney the top star at the box office in 1939, 1940 and 1941. Rooney also proved himself an excellent dramatic actor as a delinquent in Boys Town starring Spencer Tracy. In 1938, he was awarded a juvenile Academy Award.
Teaming up with Judy Garland, Rooney also appeared in a string of musicals, including Babes in Arms (1939) the first teenager to be nominated for an Oscar in a leading role, Strike up the Band (1940), Babes on Broadway (1941), and Girl Crazy (1943). He and Garland immediately became best of friends. "We weren't just a team, we were magic," Rooney once said. During that time he also appeared with Elizabeth Taylor in the now classic National Velvet (1944). Rooney joined the service that same year, where he helped to entertain the troops and worked on the American Armed Forces Network. He returned to Hollywood after 21 months in Love Laughs at Andy Hardy (1946), did a remake of a Robert Taylor film, The Crowd Roars called Killer McCoy (1947) and portrayed composer Lorenz Hart in Words and Music (1948). He also appeared in Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961), starring Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard. Rooney played Hepburn's Japanese neighbor, Mr. Yunioshi. A sign of the times, Rooney played the part for comic relief which he later regretted feeling the role was offensive. He once again showed his incredible range in the dramatic role of a boxing trainer with Anthony Quinn and Jackie Gleason in Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962). In the late 1960s and 1970s Rooney showed audiences and critics alike why he was one of Hollywood's most enduring stars. He gave an impressive performance in Francis Ford Coppola's 1979 film The Black Stallion, which brought him an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor. He also turned to the stage in 1979 in Sugar Babies with Ann Miller, and was nominated for a Tony Award. During that time he also portrayed the Wizard in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz with Eartha Kitt at New York's Madison Square Garden, which also had a successful run nationally.
Rooney appeared in four television series': The Mickey Rooney Show (1954-1955), a comedy sit-com in 1964 with Sanunee Tong called Mickey, One of the Boys in 1982 with Dana Carvey and Nathan Lane, and the Adventures of the Black Stallion from 1990-1993. In 1981, Rooney won an Emmy Award for his portrayal of a mentally challenged man in Bill. The critical acclaim continued to now for the veteran performer, with Rooney receiving an honorary Academy Award "in recognition of his 60 years of versatility in a variety of memorable film performances". More recently he has appeared in such films as Night at the Museum (2006) with Ben Stiller, and The Muppets (2011) with Amy Adams and Jason Segel.
Rooney's personal life, including his frequent trips to the altar, has proven to be just as epic as his on-screen performances. His first wife was one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood, actress Ava Gardner. Mickey permanently and legally separated from his eighth wife Jan in June of 2012. In 2011 Rooney filed elder abuse and fraud charges against stepson Christopher Aber and Aber's wife. At Rooney's request, the Superior Court issued a restraining order against the Aber's demanding they stay 100 yards from Rooney, Mickey's stepson Mark Rooney and Mark's wife Charlene. Just prior, Rooney mustered the strength to break his silence and appeared before the Senate in Washington D.C. telling of his own heartbreaking story of abuse in an effort to live a peaceful, full life and help others who may also be suffering in silence.
Rooney requested through the Superior Court to permanently reside with his son Mark (a musician) and Charlene Rooney (an artist) in the Hollywood Hills. Ironically, after eight failed marriages he has never looked or felt better and has finally found happiness in the single life. Once again Mickey Rooney has proven that he is a survivor and shows no signs of slowing down or retiring.

-Mickey Rooney Website

April 5, 2014

Film Quote of the Day

“What can you say about a twenty-five-year-old girl who died? That she was beautiful. And brilliant. That she loved Mozart and Bach. And the Beatles. And me.”  
Oliver Barrett from Love Story

March 7, 2014

Literary Pick(***)

My Beloved World
-Sonia Sotomayor





















Being a proud Puerto Rican myself I felt it was my moral obligation to read this book, although I'm not really politically or judicially inclined. I have to say, I found Sonia's spirit and determination admirable. There's something so warming about her character, and I found myself often wishing she was my aunt. There's something about her that reminds me of the Puerto Rican sisterhood that is so special in the hearts of all Boricuas. I bet when you hug her she feels all soft, and has the aroma of those old fashioned powdery compacts. She has the sweetest smile and the kindest eyes. You can tell she has a good heart, and she's true blue through and through. With that being said, I felt the story of her childhood was a bit too detailed for my taste, although I do find the value in it as a piece of inspirational literature, not just for fellow Puerto Ricans, but for all minorities as well. I believe it's important for them to see that no matter who you are, where you come from, or how you grew up, you can become whoever you want to be, provided you work hard for it. It would be a true honor for me to someday be able to shake her hand.

This book is more of a 3.50 rating for me.

March 1, 2014

Quote of the Day

"If somebody called me a spic, it told me a lot about them, but nothing about myself". 
-Sonia Sotomayor

February 28, 2014

Sound of the Day

Aguas de Marco 
-Antonio Carlos Jobim & Elis Regina 

February 27, 2014

Good "News"

Spike Lee's 7-Minute Rant About The 'Motherf*cking Hipsters' Gentrifying Brooklyn











At an event at Pratt last night, Spike Lee was asked about something he's been consistently passionate about: Gentrification. Specifically the gentrification of Brooklyn, where he was raised. In 2010 we asked him about this, and here's how that went:
Were you still living there when the neighborhood began transitioning into what it is now?When did you start noticing it changing? You know, you have to do your homework. You do your homework and you find out the specific year when gentrification took place.

I'm asking if you witnessed that gentrification. I can't give you an exact date.

Okay, but what was your own experience of it? [No response.]
This time around he had more to say, about seven minutes worth according to NY Mag—they transcribed the entire thing. They report back that he railed against the hipsters taking over Brooklyn—sorry, that's "motherfucking hipsters"—when asked about the "other side" of the gentrification debate ("there was some bullshit article in the New York Times saying ‘the good of gentrification'"). Here are some bullet points from his talk, as well as the audio, captured by NY Mag:


  • "Why does it take an influx of white New Yorkers in the South Bronx, in Harlem, in Bed Stuy, in Crown Heights for the facilities to get better? Why did it take this great influx of white people to get the schools better? The garbage wasn’t picked up every motherfuckin’ day when I was living in 165 Washington Park... The police weren’t around... When you see white mothers pushing their babies in strollers, three o’clock in the morning on 125th Street, that must tell you something."
  • "Then comes the motherfuckin’ Christopher Columbus Syndrome. You can’t discover this! We been here. You just can’t come and bogart. You can’t just come in the neighborhood and start bogarting and say, like you’re motherfuckin’ Columbus and kill off the Native Americans. Or what they do in Brazil, what they did to the indigenous people. You have to come with respect. There’s a code. There’s people. I’m for democracy and letting everybody live but you gotta have some respect. You can’t just come in when people have a culture that’s been laid down for generations and you come in and now shit gotta change because you’re here?"
  • "When Michael Jackson died they wanted to have a party for him in motherfuckin’ Fort Greene Park and all of a sudden the white people in Fort Greene said, 'Wait a minute! We can’t have black people having a party for Michael Jackson to celebrate his life. Who’s coming to the neighborhood? They’re gonna leave lots of garbage.' Garbage? Have you seen Fort Greene Park in the morning? It’s like the motherfuckin’ Westminster Dog Show. There’s 20,000 dogs running around."
  • [After discussing people not being able to afford Williamsburg anymore...] "These real estate motherfuckers are changing names! Stuyvestant Heights? [SpaHa] What the fuck is that? What do they call Bushwick now? How you changin’ names?"
Well, as Native New Yorker Jake Dobkin once penned, "If it's any consolation, like Autumn following Summer, degentrification ('urban decay') is the inevitable second stroke of the urban cycle. Some neighborhoods, like Fort Greene, have been gentrified, degentrified, and regentrified, and will be again at some point in the future. It may take 25 or 50 years, but wait long enough and you too may get to experience falling rents and street crime!"

-The Gothamist

February 26, 2014

Puerto Rican National Anthem

Lyrics: Manuel Fernández Juncos (1846-1928)

La Borinqueña
La tierra de Borinquén
donde he nacido yo,
es un jardín florido
de mágico fulgor.

Un cielo siempre nítido
le sirve de dosel
y dan arrullos plácidos
las olas a sus pies.

Cuando a sus playas llegó Colón;
Exclamó lleno de admiración;
"Oh!, oh!, oh!, esta es la linda
tierra que busco yo".

Es Borinquén la hija,
la hija del mar y el sol,
del mar y el sol,
del mar y el sol,
del mar y el sol,
del mar y el sol.

February 25, 2014

R.I.P

 Harold Ramis
Nov. 21, 1944- Feb. 24, 2014

















Comedy legend Harold Ramis died early Monday (Feb. 24), the Chicago Tribune reported. He was 69.
The Chicago Sun-Times confirmed the news.
Ramis was surrounded by family when he died at 12:53 a.m. from complications of autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis, a rare disease that involves swelling of the blood vessels, his wife Erica Mann Ramis told the Chicago Tribune. Mann Ramis added that his health struggles began in May 2010, with an infection that led to complications related to the autoimmune disease. According to Laurel Ward, Vice President of Development at Ramis’ Ocean Pictures production company, Ramis suffered a relapse of the vasculitis in late 2011.
Ramis was best known for directing and writing "Caddyshack," "Groundhog Day" and "Analyze That." He also played the role of Egon Spengler in "Ghostbusters," which he co-wrote with Dan Aykroyd.
He was born and raised in Chicago, but moved to Los Angeles once his career took off.
AP story continues below:
Perhaps his greatest legacy is his influence on generations of comedians, actors and directors due to his ability to infuse comedy with a broader, sometimes spiritual message, said Andrew Alexander, president and CEO of The Second City. Ramis got his start with the Chicago-based improvisational comedy theater, along with future co-stars Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi and Murray.
"There was always a nuanced meaning to his pictures," Alexander said, including an "almost Buddhist philosophy to 'Groundhog Day'" — a movie Ramis co-wrote and directed that tells the story of a man who re-lives the same day over and over as he examines his life.
"He was a generous, nurturing, humble guy," Alexander added.
Aykroyd issued a statement Monday, saying he was "deeply saddened to hear of the passing of my brilliant, gifted, funny friend ... May he now get the answers he was always seeking."
Ramis joined The Second City in 1969, and in 1976 became head writer for the Canadian-based comedy show Second City Television, or SCTV.
He soon moved on to bigger projects — the legendary 1978 blockbuster film "National Lampoon's Animal House," which starred fellow Second City alum John Belushi.
With Murray as the comic lead, the Second City alums paired up for numerous projects: Ramis co-wrote 1979's "Meatballs" and co-wrote and directed 1980's "Caddyshack."
But the most well-known of their collaborations was "Ghostbusters," which also features Aykroyd. Ramis helped write the 1984 movie, in which he stars as Egon Spengler, the brainy, commonsense member of a group of parapsychologists who try to catch ghosts.
"The best comedy touches something that's timeless and universal in people," Ramis told The Associated Press in a 2009 story about the 50th anniversary of Second City. "When you hit it right, those things last."
More recently, he directed "Analyze This," starring Billy Crystal and Robert DeNiro.
Ramis was born Nov. 21, 1944 in Chicago. He is survived by his wife, Erica Ramis; sons Julian and Daniel; daughter Violet; and two grandchildren.


-Huff Post

Literary Pick (**)

The Insufferable Gaucho
-Roberto Bolaño

February 22, 2014

Literary Pick (****)

Women
-Charles Bukowski





















All I've ever heard or read about Charles Bukowski is what a massive misogynist he is, which is why it's taken me this long to read any of his work, but judging from this novel alone I simply don't see any of it. He's a repulsive alcoholic who wants to fuck women, and what repulsive alcoholic doesn't? And so he does, but the women he wants to bed are women who want to be screwed, literally or figuratively, so how does that a misogynist make?

I think it's the ideas of these idiot 20-something pseudo feminist sluts who think riding the NYC subway on No Pants Day, or being an attention whore is empowerment. 


Great book. Great writer.

Literary Pick (*)

House of Leaves
-Mark Z. Danielewski 

February 16, 2014

Quote of the Day

"The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts while the stupid ones are full of confidence".

-Charles Bukowski

February 15, 2014

Honor Spotlight

The town that hanged an elephant: A chilling photo and a macabre story of murder and revenge










 

Trooping into the tatty Big Top to the accompaniment of a drunken four-piece band, the elephants in Charlie Sparks’s travelling circus did their best to entertain the audience on that cold afternoon in February 1916. 

They sat on their haunches, stood on their heads, and formed an elephantine train as they placed their forelegs on each other’s backs and trumpeted around the ring. In short, they performed every trick they had been tortured into learning, but they could not make up for the absence of the real star of the show, a five-ton Asian elephant named Mary. 
Mary’s talents included picking out 25 tunes on musical horns, which she tooted with her trunk. She was also the champion pitcher on the circus’s baseball team. But on that tragic day, she had been stripped of her red-and-gold saddle and head-dress of artificial blue feathers and stood tethered in disgrace outside the tent. 
Waiting there in the drizzling rain, it was said that she trembled fearfully, as if aware of the awful fate about to befall her. And well she might have done, for ‘Murderous Mary’, as she became known, had not only killed a man but had made the mistake of doing so near Erwin, Tennessee. 
This newly booming American railroad town had pretensions to civilisation, boasting its own post office, theatre and courthouse. It also had a jail, but the sheriff’s authority counted for little in a part of the world where mob rule still prevailed. Between 1882 and 1930, there were 214 victims of lynchings in Tennessee. 
Most were black men, summarily found guilty of such crimes as ‘fighting a white man’ and having ‘bad character’. 
But soon their tragic ranks would be joined by Mary, surely the only elephant in history ever to have been hanged. And it seems particularly pertinent to remember her in the week that Prince Charles hosted a much-heralded international conference to address the illegal trade in wildlife parts. 
 Elephants were among the species highlighted as most at risk, but the supposedly enlightened Western world has not always been so concerned about the welfare of these majestic creatures, as we are reminded by the barbarity of Mary’s death. Her fate was sealed the day before the hanging, when Charlie Sparks’s circus train arrived in the small town of Kingsport, about 40 miles from Erwin. As always, it advertised its presence with a parade along the main street, during which Mary was ridden by 38-year-old Walter Eldridge, nicknamed Red because of his rusty-coloured hair. 

A drifter who had been with the circus only a day, he had no experience of handling elephants, but the only qualification required was the ability to wield an ‘elephant stick’ — a rod with a sharp spear at one end. A clue as to why this held such fear for the animals comes from an account of how a baby elephant named Mademoiselle Djek was tamed for a short stint on the London stage in 1829. While critics marvelled at her docility, Charles Reade, a novelist of the time, described how her keeper first gained mastery over her by stabbing her in the trunk with a pitchfork, at which she ‘wheeled round, ran her head into a corner, stuck out her great buttocks and trembled all over like a leaf’. 
He then jabbed her with all his force for half an hour until ‘the blood poured out of every square foot of her huge body’ and he had ‘filled her as full of holes as a cloved orange’. Similar techniques would have been used to break Mary. But although the elephant-stick usually kept her in line, she was suffering from a painfully abscessed tooth that day. When she stopped during the parade to nibble on a piece of discarded watermelon rind, Red Eldridge jabbed her to keep her moving and inadvertently hit the tender spot. Her reaction was swift and deadly. Reaching up with her trunk, she dashed him to the ground then stamped on his head. ‘Blood and brains and stuff just squirted all over the street,’ recalled one witness. As the terrified spectators screamed and fled, a local blacksmith shot Mary with a pistol, unloading five rounds of ammunition into her thick hide to little effect. She stood still, suddenly calm again and seemingly oblivious both to the bullets and the commotion as the townsfolk encircled her with chants of ‘Kill the elephant, kill the elephant.’ Fearing that his dates in other towns would be cancelled if they heard that his circus was home to a homicidal pachyderm, Charlie Sparks had no choice but to give in to these demands for vengeance. 

The only question was how Mary should meet her end. Bullets had already proved ineffective and neither was poison likely to work, since elephants have some half a million sense receptors in their trunks and can easily detect noxious substances. Some people advocated crushing Mary slowly between two opposing railway engines. Others called for her head to be tied to one locomotive and her legs to another so that she would be dismembered alive as they set off in opposite directions. Another option was electrocution — there was a horrific precedent for this thanks to Thomas Edison, inventor of the first commercially viable electric light bulb. At a time when America was choosing which of the two main forms of electricity to adopt, direct current (DC) or alternating current (AC), he had patents for many devices using the former and stood to profit hugely if it was chosen over its rival. Claiming that DC was the safer of the two, he spread false stories about fatal accidents supposedly involving AC. 
  He also staged various demonstrations in which animals were publicly electrocuted with AC, the most spectacular of which came about in 1903 when a new amusement park opened on New York’s Coney Island. One of the attractions was an elephant named Topsy, but it was claimed that she had become violent and uncooperative and the owners sought publicity for their new venture by executing her with Edison’s help. A huge crowd saw Topsy place her feet obediently into specially designed wooden sandals, lined with copper wiring and linked to an AC power supply. When the switch was thrown, smoke billowed up from her feet and within a minute or two it was all over. One newspaper reported the public’s morbid delight in watching her demise, even though it caused ‘an unpleasant smell to mingle with the scent of roasted peanuts, sold at two cents a bag’. 
  Later it was said that Topsy’s ‘riding the lightning’ had briefly caused bulbs to dull all over the region, as if in commemoration of her, but her death proved in vain, because Edison’s plot failed and America eventually went with AC as its standard electricity current. This had reached rural Tennessee by 1916, but not with sufficient power to dispatch an elephant, so Charlie Sparks came up with the equally sensational idea of hanging Mary. 

The next day the circus visited Erwin, which had a 100-ton crane used to lift railway carriages on and off the tracks. This was strong enough to support an elephant, and the matinee-goers disappointed by not seeing Mary in the ring that afternoon were mollified by the news that they could see her being hanged shortly afterwards, at no additional charge. As she was led to the railway yard, Mary was followed by the circus’s other four elephants, each entwining their trunk in the tail of the animal in front just as they had done on countless parades. Charlie Sparks hoped that their presence would keep her compliant but, as a chain was placed around her neck at the ‘gallows’, they trumpeted mournfully to her and he feared that she might try to run away. To stop this happening, one of her legs was tethered to a rail. 
No one thought to release it as the crane whirred into action and, as she was hoisted into the air, there was an awful cracking noise, the sound of her bones and ligaments snapping under the strain. She had been raised no more than five feet when the chain around her neck broke, dropping her to the ground and breaking her hip. ‘It made a right smart little racket,’ recalled one of the crowd which was some 3,000-strong and included most of the town’s children. The onlookers panicked and ran for cover, but Mary simply sat there dazed and in terrible pain. Meanwhile, one of the circus hands ran up her back — as if climbing a small hill rather than a living creature — and attached a stronger chain. The winch was powered up again and this time Mary was raised high in the air, her thick legs thrashing and her agonised shrieks and grunts audible even over the laughter and cheers of those watching below. Finally she fell silent and hung there for half an hour before a local vet declared her dead. 

 Her gruesome end is recorded in a photograph so horrifically surreal that some have suggested it must be a fake — but, all too sadly, its authenticity has been confirmed by other photographs taken at the time. That night the circus went ahead as usual, but after the show one of the remaining elephants broke away from the herd and began running towards the railway yard. Since wild elephants are thought to return to the bones of fallen family members for many years, he perhaps went in search of Mary. But he was quickly recaptured and returned to the life of captive misery from which he had escaped. Knowing that Mary no longer had to endure this cruel and unnatural existence is perhaps the only consolation to be drawn from this awful tale. 

Today she still lies interred in a huge grave which was dug for her using a steam shovel. Some said the hole was ‘as big as a barn’, but no one knows exactly where it is, or seems much inclined to find it. Tellingly, there remains no monument to her in Erwin, the town which hanged an elephant and apparently remains ashamed of having done so to this very day.

February 13, 2014

Literary Pick (***)

Mercury and Me
-Jim Hutton

February 11, 2014

RIP

Shirley Temple Black 
-April 23, 1928- February 10, 2014 






















Shirley Temple Black, who lifted America's spirits as a bright-eyed, dimpled child movie star during the Great Depression and later became a U.S. diplomat, died late on Monday evening at the age of 85, her family said in a statement. Temple Black, who lured millions to the movies in the 1930s, "peacefully passed away" at her Woodside, Calif., home from natural causes at 10:57 p.m. local time (0157 ET), surrounded by her family and caregivers, the statement said on Tuesday. "We salute her for a life of remarkable achievements as an actor, as a diplomat, and most importantly as our beloved mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and adored wife of fifty-five years," the statement said. As actress Shirley Temple, she was precocious, bouncy and adorable with a head of curly hair, tap-dancing through songs like "On The Good Ship Lollipop." As Ambassador Shirley Temple Black, she was soft-spoken and earnest in postings in Czechoslovakia and Ghana, out to disprove concerns that her previous career made her a diplomatic lightweight. "I have no trouble being taken seriously as a woman and a diplomat here," Black said after her appointment as U.S. ambassador to Ghana in 1974. "My only problems have been with Americans who, in the beginning, refused to believe I had grown up since my movies." Black, born April 23, 1928, started her entertainment career in the early 1930s and was famous by age 6. She became a national institution and her raging popularity spawned look-alike dolls, dresses and dozens of other Shirley Temple novelties as she became one of the first stars to enjoy the fruits of the growing marketing mentality. Shirley was 3 when her mother put her in dance school, where a talent scout spotted her and got her in "Baby Burlesk," a series of short movies with child actors spoofing adult movies. Movie studio executives took notice. In 1934 she appeared in the film "Stand Up and Cheer!", and her song and dance number in "Baby Take a Bow" stole the show. Other movies in that year included "Little Miss Marker" and "Bright Eyes" - which featured her signature song "On the Good Ship Lollipop" - and in 1935 she received a special Oscar for her "outstanding contribution to screen entertainment." She made some 40 feature movies, including "The Little Colonel," "Poor Little Rich Girl," "Heidi" and "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm," in 10 years, starring with big-name actors like Randolph Scott, Lionel Barrymore and Jimmy Durante. Shirley was a superstar before the term was invented. She said she was about 8 when adoring crowds shouting their love for her made her realize she was famous. "I wondered why," she recalled. "I asked my mother and she said, 'Because your films make them happy.'" She was such a money-maker that her mother - who would always tell her "Sparkle, Shirley!" before she appeared before an audience - and studio officials shaved a year off her age to maintain her child image. Her child career came to an end at age 12. She tried a few roles as a teenager - including opposite future president Ronald Reagan in "That Hagen Girl" - but retired from the screen in 1949 at age 21. The Screen Actors Guild gave her its 2005 Life Achievement Award, and in her acceptance speech posted on the group's website, she said: "I have one piece of advice for those of you who want to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award: start early!" POLITICS AND DIPLOMACY Temple was only 17 in 1945 when she married for the first time to John Agar, who would eventually appear with her in two movies. Their five-year marriage produced a daughter. In 1950 she wed Charles Black in a marriage that lasted until his death in 2005. She and Black had two children. Black's interest in politics was sparked in the early '50s when her husband was called back into the Navy to work in Washington. She did volunteer work for the Republican Party while attempting to make a comeback with two short-lived TV series, "Shirley Temple's Storybook" in 1959 and "The Shirley Temple Theater" a year later. Seven years after that she ran unsuccessfully for Congress in California but stayed in politics, helping raise more than $2 million for Richard Nixon's re-election campaign. She was later named to the United States' team to the United Nations and found that the her childhood popularity was an asset in her new career. "Having been a film star can be very helpful on an international basis," Black once said. "Many people consider me an old friend." Sometimes the public found it hard to accept her in diplomatic roles. But in 1989 she pointed out her 20 years in public service were more than the 19 she spent in Hollywood. In 1974, Ford appointed Black ambassador to Ghana and two years later made her chief of protocol. For the next decade she trained newly appointment ambassadors at the request of the State Department. In 1989, President George H.W. Bush made Black ambassador to Prague - a sensitive Eastern European post normally reserved for career diplomats. Black had been in Prague in 1968, representing a group fighting multiple sclerosis at a conference, when Soviet-bloc tanks entered to crush an era of liberalization known as the "Prague Spring." President Gustav Husak did not seem daunted by the prospect of a U.S. ambassador who had witnessed the invasion. He told her that he had been a fan of "Shirleyka." In 1972, Black was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy. She publicly discussed her surgery to educate women about the disease. Black is survived by her children, Susan, Charlie Jr., and Lori, her granddaughter Teresa and her great-granddaughters Lily and Emma, the family statement said. It said private funeral arrangements were pending. (Reporting by Eric M. Johnson; Editing by Bill Trott and Sonya Hepinstall) -Reuters

February 2, 2014

RIP

Philip Seymour Hoffman 
Born July 23, 1967
Died February 2, 2014 (aged 46)






















The Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead on Sunday afternoon in his New York apartment, after a suspected drug overdose. He was 46.
A law enforcement source told the Guardian Hoffman was discovered by a friend in the bathroom of his apartment on Bethune Street, in the West Village neighbourhood of Manhattan, around 11.15am ET.
He was confirmed dead at the scene.
The source confirmed that the New York Police Department had opened a “DOA” (“Dead on arrival”) investigation and was investigating a possible drug overdose. The inquiry will take place alongside Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, which is determining the precise cause of death.
In media interviews, Hoffman had admitted to suffering from drug and alcohol addiction problems after graduating from theatre school in 1989. He once said that he checked himself into a rehabilitation clinic and had been clean for 23 years.
However, more recently there have been reports that Hoffman suffered a relapse. In May last year, he reportedly admitted to having checked into a detox facility on the east coast, after taking prescription pills and consuming heroin.
In a 2011 interview with the Guardian, Hoffman said his alcohol and drug problem had been "pretty bad".
"And I know, deep down, I still look at the idea of drinking with the same ferocity that I did back then. It's still pretty tangible," he said.

Referring to his younger days, he added: "I had no interest in drinking in moderation. And I still don't. Just because all that time's passed doesn't mean maybe it was just a phase."

Around 1.30pm ET on Sunday, an NYPD car was photographed on the road outside the apartment – an officer was stood by the apartment-block door. By 2pm, satellite TV trucks had arrived outside the property.
Hoffman, who was from Fairport, New York, was one of America’s most loved actors. In 2005, he won the Academy Award for best actor for his leading role in Capote, based on the life of the novelist Truman Capote.
Renowned for his work as a supporting actor, Hoffman, had three children with Mimi O’Donnell, a costume designer with whom he had been in a long-term relationship. He came to prominence as an actor working on television series in the early 1990s. He received his third Academy Award nomination in the best supporting actor category in 2012, in recognition of his performance in The Master.
His death was first reported in the Wall Street Journal, shortly after 1pm ET.

-The Guardian

RIP

Pete Seeger
May, 1919-Jan. 28, 2014

















Peter Seeger was born in May, 1919, in New York City, into one of the most influential folk music families of the 20th Century. His father, Charles Seeger, was a musicologist, and both of his siblings, Mike and Peggy Seeger, also became musicians. (Mike Seeger was a founding member of the traditionalist folk music revival combo New Lost City Ramblers.) He was also heavily influenced by his stepmother Ruth Crawford Seeger, who was a champion of folk music for children and an innovative composer in her own right.
After high school, Seeger spent two years studying Journalism at Harvard University before dropping out to perform music and explore the arts. He briefly explored painting, dabbling in water colors, before shifting his focus entirely to the banjo and folk music. During a trip to lower Appalachia with his father, Seeger was handed a five-string banjo, frequently considered the "lesser" banjo. Nonetheless, the instrument's high drone string captured Seeger's imagination and became his signature tool.
During the late 1930s, at a migrant union benefit in New York City, he met Woody Guthrie. Seeger immediately recognized Guthrie's incredible talent, and Woody quickly realized Seeger was able to follow along as an accompanist very simply. The two found they had plenty in common both musically and ideologically, and they soon formed a group that came to be known famously as the Almanac Singers.
The Almanacs had a few good years' run before the US entered World War II and several of them were drafted into the war effort. Seeger spent much of his enlistment time down South and out West, entertaining his fellow enlistees on the banjo.
After the War ended, Seeger rejoined his young wife Toshi in New York and started a new group featuring fellow Almanac Lee Hays, called the Weavers. This traditional folk revivalist quartet enjoyed extensive success until being blacklisted for suspected Communist activity during the McCarthy Era. Seeger himself refused to testify in the McCarthy hearings, citing that it would violate his first amendment rights.
Fresh from the stress and frustration of blacklisting, Seeger was not swayed away from music. In fact, he came out of the debacle even more convinced that music was one of the surest ways toward a better world. So, in the late 1950s, Pete Seeger began his solo career. He became well-known as a topical songwriter and activist folksinger. He began performing "We Shall Overcome" - a song he'd learned in the mid-1940s from Zilphia Horton at the Highlander Folk School. It was one of Zilphia's favorite songs and she had been teaching it to labor activists for some time. Seeger adapted her version of the song - which had a looser rhythm structure and repeated the phrase "We Will Overcome". He moved the rhythm to a marching triplet and changed the "will" to "shall", saying the latter allowed your mouth to open up a little wider, to sing more strongly.
Together with his friend Lee Hays, he wrote "If I Had a Hammer" and also penned "Turn, Turn, Turn" based on a Bible verse at a time when he was being accused of being a godless Communist. All these songs have long since become anthems for peace movements and civil rights.
Seeger has released dozens of records during the course of his extensive and inspiring career, and has received the Kennedy Center Honor Award, National Medal of Arts, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. He continued to perform with his grandson Tao Rodriguez-Seeger and children's groups across the country until he was 94 years old. In early 2014, it was announced that Seeger would be awarded the first ever Woody Guthrie Prize for his contributions to the world of citizenship and music. Seeger died in New York City at the age of 94 on Jan. 28, 2014.

Quote of the Day

"Don't talk unless you can improve the silence". 
-Jorge Luis Borges

January 26, 2014

Art of the Day

 The Skating Minister [c.1795] 
 -Sir Henry Raeburn
 

January 25, 2014

Art of the Day

Dahlias
-Claude Monet 

January 14, 2014

Photo of the Day

The Doors





















Photo: Joel Brodsky. New York, 1967.

January 10, 2014

Literary Pick (***)

Gone Girl
-Gillian Flynn

January 5, 2014

Literary Pick (****)

Behind the Candelabra 
 -Scott Thorson

January 2, 2014

Literary Pick (***)

The Shadow of the Wind
-Carlos Ruiz Zafón 





















I hate finding fault in a novel that is so obviously well-loved by so many readers. It took me a long while to get into it because there seemed to be too much of a build-up that went on for well over 250 pages. I did eventually begin to find interest in the story nearing the part of "Nuria Monfort's Remembrance Lost" chapter, but by then I was already a bit skeptical, and not buying a lot of what author intended to project, which was to re-create a classic old-fashioned novel with a modern flair, pretty much like what Barcelona represents. I can't say I loved any of the characters except for Fermín. I don't understand why Daniel fell in love with Bea. I understood his love for Clara, the blind girl, but Bea's character, and their relationship/courtship was so under-developed that it left me wondering why he was so in love with her, and how everyone compared her to Penelope, when I think Clara resembled Penelope more than Bea did.
The entire novel to me felt a bit predictable, like the kind of novel you would enjoy when you first begin reading in your life. I think it's because I'm a avid fan of Latin-American literature, and I've read many great works, by quite a few amazing writers. I'm not trying to take anything away from
Zafón , because I can see why many readers enjoy The Shadow of the Wind, and towards the end I rather enjoyed it myself too, but it didn't live up to my expectations.

December 15, 2013

RIP

Peter O'Toole
1932-2013 

















The actor Peter O'Toole who found stardom in David Lean's masterpiece Lawrence of Arabia, has died aged 81, his family has annouced.
The acclaimed leading man who overcame stomach cancer in the 1970s passed away at the Wellington hospital in London following a long illness.
His daughter Kate O'Toole said: "His family are very appreciative and completely overwhelmed by the outpouring of real love and affection being expressed towards him, and to us, during this unhappy time. Thank you all, from the bottom of our hearts."
O'Toole announced last year he was stopping acting saying: "I bid the profession a dry-eyed and profoundly grateful farewell."
He said his career on stage and screen fulfilled him emotionally and financially, bringing him together "with fine people, good companions with whom I've shared the inevitable lot of all actors: flops and hits."
The president of Ireland, Michael Higgins, was among the first to pay tribute: "Ireland, and the world, has lost one of the giants of film and theatre."
"In a long list of leading roles on stage and in film, Peter brought an extraordinary standard to bear as an actor," Higgins said. "He had a deep interest in literature and a love of Shakespearean sonnets in particular. While he was nominated as best actor for an Oscar eight times, and received a special Oscar from his peers for his contribution to film, he was deeply committed to the stage. Those who saw him play leading roles on the screen from Lawrence in 1962, or through the role of Henry II in Becket, and The Lion in Winter, or through the dozens of films, will recognise a lifetime devoted to the artform of the camera.
Higgins, who knew O'Toole as a friend since 1969, said "all of us who knew him in the west will miss his warm humour and generous friendship.
"He was unsurpassed for the grace he brought to every performance on and off the stage," he said.
The O'Toole family announced there will be "a memorial filled with song and good cheer, as he would have wished", but until then they would like to be allowed to grieve privately.
Early in his career O'Toole became emblematic of a new breed of hard-drinking Hollywood hellraiser.
"We heralded the '60s," he once said. "Me, [Richard] Burton, Richard Harris; we did in public what everyone else did in private then, and does for show now. We drank in public, we knew about pot."
In the 1990s he found stage fame starring in Keith Waterhouse's play, Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell, about a hard-drinking journalist who propped up bars in Soho. O'Toole's version sold out the Old Vic theatre in 1999.
Last month it was reported he had been coaxed out of retirement to act in a film about ancient Rome called Katherine of Alexandria in which he would play Cornelius Gallus, a palace orator. It is believed he completed filming on the project alongside Joss Ackland, Steven Berkoff and Edward Fox and the movie is due to be released next year.
O'Toole is believed to have been born in Connemara in County Galway in Ireland, and lived in London. He shot to stardom in the 1962 film of TE Lawrence's life story and went on to take leading roles in Goodbye Mr Chips, The Ruling Class, The Stunt Man and My Favourite Year. He received an honorary Oscar in 2003 after receiving eight nominations and no wins – an unassailed record. He considered turning it down and asking the Academy to hold off until he was 80, on the basis that "I am still in the game and might win the bugger outright."
He finally accepted, saying: "Always a bridesmaid, never a bride, my foot".
He is survived by his two daughters, Pat and Kate O'Toole, from his marriage to actress Siân Phillips, and his son, Lorcan O'Toole, by Karen Brown.

-The Guardian

December 14, 2013

Art of the Day

La Nuit de Noel
-Gustave Doré

December 12, 2013

Quote of the Day

"The tragedy of old age is not that one is old, but that one is young."

-Oscar Wilde

December 11, 2013

Lyrics

Do You Realize?
Do You Realize - that you have the most beautiful face
Do You Realize - we're floating in space -
Do You Realize - that happiness makes you cry
Do You Realize - that everyone you know someday will die

And instead of saying all of your goodbyes - let them know
You realize that life goes fast
It's hard to make the good things last
You realize the sun doesn't go down
It's just an illusion caused by the world spinning round

Do You Realize - Oh - Oh - Oh
Do You Realize - that everyone you know
Someday will die -

And instead of saying all of your goodbyes - let them know
You realize that life goes fast
It's hard to make the good things last
You realize the sun doesn't go down
It's just an illusion caused by the world spinning round

Do You Realize - that you have the most beautiful face
Do You Realize 



-The Flaming Lips

December 10, 2013

Honor Spotlight

Freddie Mercury
Born: September 5, 1946
Died: November 24, 1991






















Singer-songwriter Freddie Mercury was born Farookh Bulsara on September 5, 1946, in Zanzibar, Tanzania. He studied piano in boarding school in India and befriended numerous musicians at London's Ealing College of Art. The music of Mercury's band, Queen, reached the top of U.S. and British charts. Mercury died of AIDS-related bronchial pneumonia on November 24, 1991, at age 45.

Musical Education

Singer-songwriter and musician Freddie Mercury was born Farookh Bulsara on September 5, 1946, in Zanzibar, Tanzania. As the frontman of Queen, Freddie Mercury was one of the most talented and innovative singers of the rock era. He spent time in a boarding school in Bombay (now Mumbai), India, where he studied piano. It was not long before this charismatic young man joined his first band, the Hectics.
Moving to London with his family in the 1960s, Mercury attended the Ealing College of Art. He befriended a number of musicians around this time, including future bandmates, drummer Roger Taylor and guitarist Brian May. In 1969, Mercury joined up with a group called Ibex as their lead singer. He played with a few other bands before joining forces with Taylor and May. They met up with bassist John Deacon in 1971, and the quartet—who Mercury dubbed Queen—played their first gig together that June.

Queen

In 1973, the band released their first self-titled album, but it took two more recordings for Queen's music to really catch on. Their third record, Sheer Heart Attack (1974), featured their first hit, "Killer Queen," a song about a high-class call girl. The single hit No. 2 on the U.K. charts, and peaked at No. 12 in the U.S.
With a sound that has been described as a fusion of hard rock and glam rock, Queen had an even bigger hit the following year with their album, A Night at the Opera (1975). Mercury wrote the song "Bohemian Rhapsody," a seven-minute rock operetta, for the album. Overdubbing his voice, Mercury showed off his impressive four-octave vocal range on this innovative track. The song hit the top of the charts in Britain and became a Top 10 hit in the United States.
In addition to his talents as a singer and songwriter, Mercury was also a skilled showman. He knew how to entertain audiences and how to connect with them. He liked to wear costumes—often featuring skintight spandex—and strutted around the stage, encouraging fans to join in the fun. Artistic in nature, Mercury was also actively involved in designing the art for many of the group's albums.
Queen's popularity continued to soar through the late 70s and early 80s. "We Are the Champions," off of News of the World (1978), became a Top 10 hit in the United States and in Britain. It was featured on a single with "We Will Rock You"—both songs have taken on a life of their own as popular anthems played at sporting events. Always exploring new and different sounds, Queen also tried their hand at the big music trend of the time, with the disco-flavored "Another Bites the Dust" in 1980. Off that same album, The Game (1980), Mercury and the rest of the band showed their range as performers with the rockabilly-influenced hit "Crazy Little Thing Called Love," which Mercury penned.

Memorable Performances

The following year, the members of Queen collaborated with David Bowie to create "Under Pressure." A No. 1 hit in Britain, the song's distinctive bass line was later reportedly used by Vanilla Ice for his 1990 rap hit "Ice, Ice Baby." Their abilities to sell albums began to wane by the mid-1980s after The Works (1984), which featured the minor hit "Radio Ga Ga."
As a live act,
Queen continued to draw huge crowds around the world. One of their most notable performances was in 1985 at the Live Aid charity concert. Simply dressed in a tank top and jeans, Mercury led the crowd through some of the band's greatest hits with great energy and style. He got the thousands of music fans at London's Wembley Stadium to chant along to "We Will Rock You." For many who watched the event live or on television, Queen gave one of the top performances of the day-long event, which was organized by singer and activist Bob Geldof and songwriter Midge Ure to raise money for victims of famine in Africa. Inspired by the event, the band wrote the hit "One Vision."
In addition to his work with Queen, Mercury released several solo albums, including 1985's Mr. Bad Guy. He also collaborated with opera singer Montserrat Caralle for 1988's Barcelona.

AIDS

Offstage, Mercury was open about his bisexuality, but he kept his relationships private. He also lived a lavish lifestyle. He loved champagne and liked to collect art, once spending more than $400,000 on a set of hand-painted china. Always one for a party, Mercury threw himself elaborate celebrations; for one particular birthday he flew a group of friends to the island of Ibiza. The occasion was marked by fireworks and flamenco dancing.
By 1989, Mercury largely retreated from public life. He did not promote or tour for Queen's next album, Innuendo (1991), and rumors about possible health problems began to circulate. On November 23, 1991, Mercury released a statement: "I wish to confirm that I have been tested HIV-positive and have AIDS. I felt it correct to keep this information private to date to protect the privacy of those around me. However, the time has come now for my friends and fans around the world to know the truth and I hope that everyone will join with my doctors and all those worldwide in the fight against this terrible disease." The next day, he died from AIDS-related bronchial pneumonia at his London mansion. Mercury was only 45 years old.
Longtime friend and bandmate Roger Taylor provided some insight to Mercury's decision to keep his battle with AIDS private. "He didn't want to be looked at as an object of pity and curiosity, and he didn't want circling vultures over his head," Taylor said, according to a report in Entertainment Weekly. The rock world mourned the loss of one of its most versatile and engaging performers.
To honor his memory, the Freddie Mercury Tribute: Concert for AIDS Awareness was held in April 1992 at Wembly Stadium. A diverse range of rock acts—from Def Leppard to Elton John—performed to celebrate Mercury and advance the fight against the disease that took his life. 

That same year, Mercury's mock operatic masterpiece, "Bohemian Rhapsody" made a return to the pop charts, illustrating its timeless appeal.
Before his death, Mercury had done some work in the studio with Queen. These efforts were released in 1995 on Made In Heaven, the group's last album with all the original members. Gone but clearly not forgotten, this collection of Mercury's final performances reached the top of the British charts. In 2001, Mercury and rest of the band received special recognition for their contributions to American music history when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

-Bio. True Story



December 9, 2013

RIP

Nelson Mandela, South Africa's first black president, dies aged 95
















Nelson Mandela, the towering figure of Africa's struggle for freedom and a hero to millions around the world, has died at the age of 95. South Africa's first black president died in the company of his family at home in Johannesburg after years of declining health that had caused him to withdraw from public life. The news was announced to the country by the current president, Jacob Zuma, who in a sombre televised address said Mandela had "departed" around 8.50pm local time and was at peace. "This is the moment of our deepest sorrow," Zuma said. "Our nation has lost its greatest son … What made Nelson Mandela great was precisely what made him human. We saw in him what we seek in ourselves. "Fellow South Africans, Nelson Mandela brought us together and it is together that we will bid him farewell." Zuma announced that Mandela would receive a state funeral and ordered that flags fly at half-mast. 

 Early on Friday morning Archbishop Desmond Tutu led a memorial service in Capetown where he called for South Africa to become as a nation what Mandela had been as a man. Mandela's two youngest daughters were at the premiere of the biopic Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom in London last night. 
 They received the news of their father's death during the screening in Leicester Square and immediately left the cinema. Barack Obama led tributes from world leaders, referring to Mandela by his clan name – Madiba. The US president said: "Through his fierce dignity and unbending will to sacrifice his own freedom for the freedom of others, Madiba transformed South Africa – and moved all of us. "His journey from a prisoner to a president embodied the promise that human beings – and countries – can change for the better. His commitment to transfer power and reconcile with those who jailed him set an example that all humanity should aspire to, whether in the lives of nations or our own personal lives." David Cameron said: "A great light has gone out in the world" and described Mandela as "a hero of our time". FW de Klerk – the South African president who freed Mandela, shared the Nobel peace prize with him and paved the way for him to become South Africa's first post-apartheid head of state – said the news was deeply saddening for South Africa and the world. "He lived reconciliation. He was a great unifier," De Klerk said. Throughout Thursday night and into Friday morning people gathered in the streets of South Africa to celebrate Mandela's life. In Soweto people gathered to sing and dance near the house where he once lived. They formed a circle in the middle of Vilakazi Street and sang songs from the anti-apartheid struggle. Some people were draped in South African flags and the green, yellow and black colours of Mandela's party, the African National Congress. "We have not seen Mandela in the place where he is, in the place where he is kept," they sang, a lyric anti-apartheid protesters had sung during Mandela's long incarceration. Several hundred people took part in lively commemorations outside Mandela's final home in the Houghton neighbourhood of Johannesburg. A man blew on a vuvuzela horn and people made impromptu shrines with national flags, candles, flowers and photographs. Mandela was taken to hospital in June with a recurring lung infection and slipped into a critical condition, but returned home in September where his bedroom was converted into an intensive care unit. 

His death sends South Africa deep into mourning and self-reflection, nearly 20 years after he led the country from racial apartheid to inclusive democracy. But his passing will also be keenly felt by people around the world who revered Mandela as one of history's last great statesmen, and a moral paragon comparable with Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and Martin Luther King. It was a transcendent act of forgiveness after spending 27 years in prison, 18 of them on Robben Island, that will assure his place in history. With South Africa facing possible civil war, Mandela sought reconciliation with the white minority to build a new democracy. He led the African National Congress to victory in the country's first multiracial election in 1994. Unlike other African liberation leaders who cling to power, such as Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, he then voluntarily stepped down after one term. Mandela was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 1993. At his inauguration a year later, the new president said: "Never, never, and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another … the sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement. Let freedom reign. God bless Africa!" Born Rolihlahla Dalibhunga in a small village in the Eastern Cape on 18 July 1918, Mandela was given his English name, Nelson, by a teacher at his school. He joined the ANC in 1943 and became a co-founder of its youth league. In 1952, he started South Africa's first black law firm with his partner, Oliver Tambo. Mandela was a charming, charismatic figure with a passion for boxing and an eye for women. He once said: "I can't help it if the ladies take note of me. I am not going to protest." He married his first wife, Evelyn Mase, in 1944. They were divorced in 1957 after having three children. In 1958, he married Winnie Madikizela, who later campaigned to free her husband from jail and became a key figure in the struggle. When the ANC was banned in 1960, Mandela went underground. After the Sharpeville massacre, in which 69 black protesters were shot dead by police, he took the difficult decision to launch an armed struggle. He was arrested and eventually charged with sabotage and attempting to overthrow the government. Conducting his own defence in the Rivonia trial in 1964, he said: "I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. "It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die." He escaped the death penalty but was sentenced to life in prison, a huge blow to the ANC that had to regroup to continue the struggle. But unrest grew in townships and international pressure on the apartheid regime slowly tightened. Finally, in 1990, FW de Klerk lifted the ban on the ANC and Mandela was released from prison amid scenes of jubilation witnessed around the world. In 1992, Mandela divorced Winnie after she was convicted on charges of kidnapping and accessory to assault. His presidency rode a wave of tremendous global goodwill but was not without its difficulties. After leaving frontline politics in 1999, he admitted he should have moved sooner against the spread of HIV/Aids in South Africa. His son died from an Aids-related illness. On his 80th birthday, Mandela married Graça Machel, the widow of the former president of Mozambique. It was his third marriage. In total, he had six children, of whom three daughters survive: Pumla Makaziwe (Maki), Zenani and Zindziswa (Zindzi). He has 17 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who headed the truth and reconciliation committee after the fall of apartheid, said: "He transcended race and class in his personal actions, through his warmth and through his willingness to listen and to emphasise with others. And he restored others' faith in Africa and Africans." Mandela was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2001 and retired from public life to be with his family and enjoy some "quiet reflection". But he remained a beloved and venerated figure, with countless buildings, streets and squares named after him. His every move was scrutinised and his health was a constant source of media speculation. Mandela continued to make occasional appearances at ANC events and attended the inauguration of the current president, Jacob Zuma. His 91st birthday was marked by the first annual "Mandela Day" in his honour. He was last seen in public at the final of the 2010 World Cup in Johannesburg, a tournament he had helped bring to South Africa for the first time. Early in 2011, he was taken to hospital in a health scare but he recovered and was visited by Michelle Obama and her daughters a few months later. In January 2012, he was notably missing from the ANC's centenary celebrations due to his frail condition. With other giants of the movement such as Tambo and Walter Sisulu having gone before Mandela, the defining chapter of Africa's oldest liberation movement is now closed.