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July 04 2014


March 15 2014


February 01 2014


January 29 2014

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Pete Seeger was a good man. There aren’t many musicians you can say that about without seeming simplistic. Music is often progressed by flawed, volatile, glamorous egotists, and thank God for them. But Seeger carved out his place in history with a quieter, rarer set of qualities: nobility, generosity, humility and, when things got rough, breathtaking courage. Perhaps uniquely, he became one of the most important singers in America without ever being a star, because he believed in the song rather than the singer.

Seeger was born into privilege but not convention. His father Charles, an Ivy League professor and composer, was a pacifist and founding member of the leftwing Composers’ Collective, and he came to embrace the radical potential of folk music. Pete was an intense, idealistic Harvard dropout when, in 1940, the folklorist Alan Lomax introduced him to Woody Guthrie. Said Lomax: “You can date the renaissance of American folk song from that night.” …

An inspiring comment:


28 January 2014 3:58pm

More than sixty years ago my dad was a young man on a solo backpacking trip to New York, and after various adventures he ended up in a house party in Greenwich Village. The house belonged to a guy called Pete, who had an open door policy, and there was always a party going on. All sorts of people sang and played guitar, and others just hung around. My dad became one of them, buying groceries, cooking and pitching in as he could. He ended up staying a few days, and when he left to go back to Victoria, Pete told him that if he was ever in the Village again to drop by any time.

It wasn’t until years later that dad figured out who it was.

Via Pete Seeger: the man who brought politics to music

May 16 2013

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Portrait of the late, great Astra the Whatpup as a young woman.
She was a Greyhound X Airedale and was 15 years old. May she have great and fortunate rebirths.

March 31 2013


Richard Griffiths: 'I've always hated the way I look' | Stage | The Observer

… ‘That’s not girth,’ he says. ‘That’s a para-umbilical hernia. I don’t like it. Here are two pretty boys [he points to Stott and Hurt]. He’s pretty, and he’s pretty. I’m not. I’m ugly.’

‘But this is how you are,’ I say. ‘It’s great.’

‘It’s a vanity thing. I’m vain enough not to want to appear in stills.’ He quotes an old Jewish proverb: everybody hates the way they look, but no one complains about their brains. ‘And that’s true. I’ve always hated the way I looked, and I’ve never complained about my brains.’

At 58, Griffiths’ brain appears to contain more synapses than most. A question will seldom elicit a simple answer, but spark a vast amount of detours and studious explanations. I asked about his childhood and his straight answer was accompanied by detailed descriptions of the double-shifts a neighbour had to work to pay for his planned emigration to Australia. And it was a delight to hear it, because his love of language and accents and the bigness of life is such that almost every sentence is a performance. It was a constant battle to rein this in, but it made it easy to ask him about the one part in which his loquacity secured his reputation as one of Britain’s great character actors.

Despite his contributions to many fine pieces of work, including, most recently, Alan Bennett’s The History Boys, it is still very difficult for those who have seen Withnail & I to see Richard Griffiths as anyone but Uncle Monty, the lascivious homosexual aesthete who desires to have his way in an isolated farmhouse with a young actor played by Paul McGann. ‘That was almost 20 years ago,’ he says, delighted and distressed. The photographer, Richard Saker, had asked him to preface an autograph with the line ‘As a youth I used to weep in butchers’ shops’, one of the many absurd phrases in Bruce Robinson’s screenplay that have become as familiar to fans of the film as their own address….

March 30 2013

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Oh, my boys. My boys, we’re at the end of an age.

We live in a land of weather forecasts and breakfasts that ‘set in,’ shat on by Tories, shoveled up by Labour.

And here we are, we three, perhaps the last island of beauty in the world.

Now, which of you is going to be a splendid fellow and go down to the Rolls for the rest of the wine?

  Via Richard Griffiths – a life in pictures

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… Richard E Grant, who played the title role in Withnail & I, paid tribute to his late co-star on Twitter. He wrote: “My beloved ‘Uncle Monty’ Richard Griffiths died last night. Chin-Chin my dear friend.”

Griffiths was feted for his roles as Withnail’s eccentric Uncle Monty in the cult classic and Hector, the unconventional teacher in Alan Bennett’s play The History Boys, for which he won the Laurence Olivier Award for best actor, the Drama Desk Award for outstanding actor in a play, the Outer Critics Circle Award for best featured actor in a play, and a Tony Award for best performance by a leading actor in a play.

He gained widespread fame as grumpy Uncle Vernon in the Harry Potter films and was much loved as disillusioned police officer and pie chef, Inspector Henry Crabbe, in the successful TV detective drama series Pie In The Sky.

Sir Nicholas Hytner, director of the National Theatre, said Griffiths’ “army of friends” would be devastated by his unexpected death. “Richard Griffiths wasn’t only one of the most loved and recognisable British actors – he was also one of the very greatest,” he said.

“His performance in The History Boys was quite overwhelming: a masterpiece of wit, delicacy, mischief and desolation, often simultaneously. But that was just one small part of a career that spanned Shakespeare, cutting-edge new plays and major work in film and television.” …

Richard Griffiths, uncle to Withnail and Harry Potter, dies aged 65

Reposted bysiriusminerva siriusminerva

August 15 2012

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Cover of The Stainless Steel Rat Gets Drafted, artwork by Jim Burns

If Harry Harrison had only created “Slippery” Jim DiGriz, the roguish hero of the Stainless Steel Rat books, he would deserve a high place in science fiction history. But he also wrote dozens of other novels, including the hilarious Bill the Galactic Hero saga, the proto-Steampunk classic A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah!, and the novel that became the movie Soylent Green, Make Room! Make Room!.

Amazingly, Harrison kept writing great novels, with the last Stainless Steel Rat book coming out just two years ago. He died today, aged 87, according to his official website. No details are yet known.

There are few really great comic space opera novels, aside from Douglas Adams. And Harrison’s Stainless Steel Rat books qualify — Jim DiGriz is a really inspired creation, a rogue smuggler created years before Han Solo existed. Even as “Slippery” Jim sort of goes straight in the later books, he never stops being a source of ridiculous fun, and his romance with the equally criminal and devious Angelina is a really sweet, heartfelt relationship. I read the Stainless Steel Rat books at a very impressionable age, and a lot of clever bits stick in my mind — like the bit where “Slippery” Jim explains that intergalactic empires are impossible due to the problems with travel at relativistic speeds. This series was always smarter than a lot of other space operas, even alongside its gratifying levels of silliness. …

(via R.I.P. Harry Harrison, creator of the Stainless Steel Rat, Bill the Galactic Hero, and Soylent Green)


Harry Harrison obituary | Books | The Guardian

Harry Harrison, who has died aged 87, was a writer from the world of American comics and science-fiction magazines of the 1950s. An amazingly prolific author, who gradually took on more serious themes as he matured, Harrison is probably best known for the book that inspired the Hollywood film Soylent Green (1973). Directed by Richard Fleischer and starring Charlton Heston and Edward G Robinson, Soylent Green was an uncompromising view of a world a quarter of a century into the future, in which massive overpopulation has created a critical food shortage. The solution is an alleged soya/lentil substitute – the plot concerns the discovery of the true nature of the stuff.

The original novel was called Make Room! Make Room! (1966). Harrison said wryly that the film “at times bore a faint resemblance to the book”. It was a serious, thoroughly researched novel, written at a time when there was little discussion of the population time-bomb. Although overpopulation was a common theme in far-future science fiction, Harrison’s idea was to depict a near-future society (year 2000) that many of us, or our children, would live to see. It marked a change of direction for Harrison, although it was an early sign of a trend in his work that was not to emerge in full until some years later.

His most popular and best-known work is contained in fast-moving parodies, homages or even straight reconstructions of traditional space-opera adventures. He wrote several named series of these: notably the Deathworld series (three titles, starting in 1960), the Stainless Steel Rat books (12 titles, from 1961), and the sequence of books about Bill, the Galactic Hero (seven titles, from 1965). These books all present interesting contradictions. While being exactly what they might superficially seem to be, unpretentious action novels with a strong streak of humour, they are also satirical, knowing, subversive, unapologetically anti-military, anti-authority and anti-violence. Harrison wrote such novels in the idiom of the politically conservative hack writer, but in reality he had a liberal conscience and a sharp awareness of the lack of literary values in so much of the SF he was parodying. …

August 07 2012

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Australian writer whose TV series The Shock of the New took modern art to a mass audience

… I  described him in the Guardian once as writing the English of Shakespeare, Milton, Macaulay and Dame Edna Everage, and Hughes enjoyed the description. His prose was lithe, muscular and fast as a bunch of fives. He was incapable of writing the jargon of the art world, and consequently was treated by its mandarins with fear and loathing. Much he cared.

When he reached a mass audience for the first time in 1980 with his book and television series The Shock of the New, a history of modern art starting with the Eiffel Tower and graced with a title that still resounds in 100 later punning imitations, some of the BBC hierarchy greeted the proposal that Hughes should do the series with ill-favoured disdain. “Why a journalist?” they asked, remembering the urbanity of Lord Clark of Civilisation.

He gave them their answer with the best series of programmes about modern art yet made for television, low on theory, high on the the kind of epigrammatic judgment that condenses deep truths. Van Gogh, he said, “was the hinge on which 19th-century romanticism finally swung into 20th-century expressionism”. Jackson Pollock “evoked that peculiarly American landscape experience, Whitman’s ‘vast Something’, which was part of his natural heritage as a boy in Cody, Wyoming”. And his description of the cubism of Picasso and Braque still stands as the most coherent 10-page summary in the literature. …

(via Robert Hughes obituary | Books |

August 03 2012

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He loved the Kennedys, hated Truman Capote and claimed he slept with 1,000 men and women before he was 25. We celebrate the life of Gore Vidal

(via The A-Z of Gore Vidal | Books | The Guardian)

August 02 2012

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… Vidal’s politics were always on the left side of the spectrum, and he derided the two-party system in his native land, arguing in the 1970s: “There is only one party in the United States, the Property party … and it has two right wings: Republican and Democrat. Republicans are a bit stupider, more rigid, more doctrinaire in their laissez-faire capitalism than the Democrats, who are cuter, prettier, a bit more corrupt – until recently … and more willing than the Republicans to make small adjustments when the poor, the black, the anti-imperialists get out of hand. But, essentially, there is no difference between the two parties.” …

(via Gore Vidal obituary | Books | The Guardian)

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“The United States was founded by the brightest people in the country — and we haven’t seen them since.”

“Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.”

(via Gore Vidal quotations: 26 of the best | Books |

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… His quick wit and acid tongue made him a sought-after commentator; he himself once quipped: “I never miss a chance to have sex or appear on television.” A stint on ABC opposite William Buckley, covering the 1968 Republican and Democratic conventions, degenerated into abuse, with Vidal calling Buckley a “crypto-Nazi”, Buckley suggesting that the “queer … [should] go back to his pornography”, further attacks in the magazine Esquire, and suits for libel on both sides. The same refusal to back down characterised his dispute with Norman Mailer, whose attitudes towards women had brought rebukes from Gloria Steinem and Kate Millett. Vidal entered the fray with an article suggesting there was “a logical progression” from Henry Miller to Mailer to Charles Manson. Mailer responded at a Manhattan dinner party in 1977 by throwing a glass of whiskey in Vidal’s face, head-butting him and then throwing a punch. Vidal is said to have replied: “Lost for words again, Norman?” …

(via Gore Vidal, US writer and contrarian, dies aged 86 | Books |

Reposted byzEveR zEveR
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