mcgillianaire: (South Park Me)

"On this day in 1905, some 450 people attend the opening day of the world’s first nickelodeon, located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and developed by the showman Harry Davis. The storefront theater boasted 96 seats and charged each patron five cents. Nickelodeons (named for a combination of the admission cost and the Greek word for “theater”) soon spread across the country. Their usual offerings included live vaudeville acts as well as short films. By 1907, some 2 million Americans had visited a nickelodeon, and the storefront theaters remained the main outlet for films until they were replaced around 1910 by large modern theaters.

Inventors in Europe and the United States, including Thomas Edison, had been developing movie cameras since the late 1880s. Early films could only be viewed as peep shows, but by the late 1890s movies could be projected onto a screen. Audiences were beginning to attend public demonstrations, and several movie “factories” (as the earliest production studios were called) were formed. In 1896, the Edison Company inaugurated the era of commercial movies, showing a collection of moving images as a minor act in a vaudeville show that also included live performers, among whom were a Russian clown, an “eccentric dancer” and a “gymnastic comedian.” The film, shown at Koster and Bial’s Music Hall in New York City, featured images of dancers, ocean waves and gondolas.

Short films, usually less than a minute long, became a regular part of vaudeville shows at the turn of the century as “chasers” to clear out the audience after a show. A vaudeville performers’ strike in 1901, however, left theaters scrambling for acts, and movies became the main event. In the earliest years, vaudeville theater owners had to purchase films from factories via mail order, rather than renting them, which made it expensive to change shows frequently. Starting in 1902, Henry Miles of San Francisco began renting films to theaters, forming the basis of today’s distribution system. The first theater devoted solely to films, The Electric Theater in Los Angeles, opened in 1902. Housed in a tent, the theater’s first screening included a short called New York in a Blizzard. Admission cost about 10 cents for a one-hour show. Nickelodeons developed soon after, offering both movies and live acts."
mcgillianaire: (India Flag)

It's not often an English pop song is a copy of a Tamil film song, but one example is American hip-hop artist's "It's My Birthday", a UK number one hit single last year. It's surprising how this song escaped my notice, but it's always a pleasure to make such discoveries. Wikipedia confirms the connection between the two songs. Indeed there is a reference to the Tamil original in the opening lines of the English song. To come across this while listening to piano renditions of English pop songs on Spotify was especially gratifying, because I had just wondered whether Spotify also stored piano renditions of Tamil and Bollywood numbers. I still don't know the answer to that question, but you could be fooled into thinking there was at least one in the database.
mcgillianaire: (Union Jack)

Keen listeners of this delightful programme would not have been surprised to hear the contents of the recorded conversation between Thatcher and Reagan from 1983 that has just been released. The Radio 4 programme was broadcast in August last year, and we learnt from it via the Downing Street note of the conversation, that Reagan initially tried to defuse the situation, by suggesting he would first throw his hat into the room if he was in London, before walking in. We also learn that Reagan used the phrase 'zero hour' before he could do anything about it. Exactly as it is in the recording. If you've got 8 minutes, it's worth listening from about 3:40 to the whole section on Grenada from the UK Confidential episode. It includes a brief interview about the declassified documents with Lord Owen (former British Foreign Secretary) and an American diplomat who was working in the US Embassy (in London) at the time. It is rather instructive that the American diplomat had dinner with Geoffrey Howe (the then British Foreign Secretary), the night before the invasion, and yet neither knew anything about it! It is also worth noting that the American diplomat refers to the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing, that killed nearly 300 American and French servicemen just a couple days before the invasion, as a tragedy so severe that it may have resulted in the invasion as a diversion.

On the recording, Reagan says he wanted to inform Thatcher of the invasion before some rogue informant did, but in an interview with the US President's authorised biographer on the wireless last night, this was quickly dismissed. The biographer was convinced Reagan was fibbing and had intentionally delayed informing her before it was too late (about 8 hours). However, the biographer also added that on two counts, Thatcher was somewhat embarrassed. One, was not responding to the situation in Grenada, having been requested (along with the French) to do so by their government, and two, she found herself in a similar situation to that of Reagan after Britain's own invasion of the Falklands, a year earlier. Yet despite these two foreign policy setbacks, they still seemed to share a politically intimate relationship. A point driven home by the biographer's final anecdote about a poster* Reagan kept in his stable, recreating the famous Rhett Butler-Vivien Leigh pose from Gone With The Wind, with the two of them on it instead. The biographer asked if he had shown it to Thatcher, to which Reagan said no-way, she'd get upset. The biographer apparently told him, on the contrary, I think she'd rather like it, mischievously adding that it was probably her ultimate fantasy... 

I also found it interesting that the biographer seemed to suggest that the Americans were justified in their actions on the pretext of protecting the 500 or so American students on the island. In contrast, Lord Owen suggests that the students didn't seem worried at all, lending credence to alternative theories. Either way, the release of the recording has thrown further light onto an important episode in the history of Anglo-American relations. One just wonders what else will be released to us in days, weeks, months, years...even decades to come, 

(* I don't think the picture above is the exact poster. This seems to be some anti-war poster from the 1980s, but I suspect it looked something like this.)

mcgillianaire: (Ari G)

There's a good chance this is going to be the next Number 1 single on the Official UK Asian Charts and although it was only officially released a few weeks ago, it made its way to the airwaves at the beginning of the summer. Composed by an Indian musical director as part of the soundtrack for the Bollywood movie Ra One, the singer is Senegalese-American pop star Akon. And it's got English, Hindi and even Tamil lyrics. With a catchy beat it's win-win-win as far as I'm concerned!
mcgillianaire: (Changing Guard London)

That of course is Bill Nighy, eating dinner with his wife(?) at Charuwan, a Thai restaurant near Archway in North London. I was at a friend's birthday dinner and although we didn't bother him while he was eating, one of us did manage to secure a photo of him with our birthday buddy just before he left. I've read somewhere that he lives in the area and this photo sort-of confirms it. He's one of my favourite actors and he seemed a fairly decent chap in the four words that I heard him speak!
mcgillianaire: (Lock Stock Still-frame)

My goodness, doesn't Meryl Streep sound like the devil herself! Speaking of which, did Thatcher ever wear Prada? Any ways, great to see Roger Allam is in the film as well. Good actor, crackin' voice.
mcgillianaire: (Lock Stock Still-frame)
The Social Network [2010] - 3.5/5
I really enjoyed it. Jesse Eisenberg acts well, though I suspect Colin Firth's performance in The King's Speech will top it off. Next on my list.

Wild Target [2010] // Bill Nighy, Emily Blunt, Rupert Grint - 1/5
A Britcom directed by Jonathan Lynn, one-half of the duo that brought Yes Minister to our screens, but this was a bloody disaster.

Cherrybomb [2009] // Rupert Grint, James Nesbitt - 1/5
A film set in Belfast but the location was immaterial. Yet another flick involving kids, drugs, booze and sex. I've had 'nuff Grint for the year.

Ken Park [2002] - 0.5/5
Worse than Wild Target. Only worth watching if you don't have access to porn. Can't believe this was recommended to me! Avoid, avoid.

Chad Oman

Oct. 22nd, 2010 11:15 pm
mcgillianaire: (Muscat (Sultan's Palace))
He's the president of production for Jerry Bruckheimer Films which produced Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. Is his a unique name?
mcgillianaire: (Default)
A major study by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce) has found that black students are more than 3-times less likely to be awarded a 1st-class university degree than white students. Can somebody please hide its contents from Nick Griffin and his ilk!

Britain's oldest cinema, the 100-year-old Phoenix in North London is getting a £1 million makeover and will reopen in September.

Sticking with London, the UK-based chain Selfridges has been named the world's best department store, fighting off competition from NYC's Bloomingdales and Hong Kong's Lane Crawford, by the International Group of Department Stores and the International Association of Department Stores. Less known is that it was founded by a Wisconsin-born American-magnate unimpressed with British stores in 1909!

Sources close to Inayat Bunglawala, the founder and chair of Muslims4UK (a group to celebrate the UK's democratic traditions and promote active Muslim engagement), tell him that the Home Office is considering issuing two exclusion orders; one against Jamaican-born Muslim preacher Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips and the other against Mumbai-based Zakir Naik. Bunglawala argues that if we really care about freedom of speech, we should let these Muslim speakers in and let the law take its course. He includes a good quote from a spokesman for Nick Clegg from a couple years ago over the controversial proposed visit of Qatar-based Islamic scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi:
    "Many of Yusuf al-Qaradawi's views are repugnant; the job of a truly liberal society is to defeat such abhorrent ideas by arguing forcefully and persuasively against them. Giving al-Qaradawi the publicity that a ban would create would ultimately serve only to legitimise his views in the eyes of extremists. If he is allowed into this country he is of course subject to our laws; and if he were to break the law in any way including inciting or glorifying terrorism he should obviously be prosecuted."
I couldn't have put it better myself. I hope the Lib Dems put their foot down on this issue and ensure the two men are not excluded.

Meanwhile viewing figures from both sides of the Atlantic during last weekend's World Cup fixture between England and USA appear fairly similar. 17 million people watched the game in American homes, more than the number who watched the first four games of the NBA Finals! It's all the more impressive given that the NBA viewing figures itself were up on previous years. Game 5 of the NBA Finals drew in an audience of 18.2 million. And though we don't know what the total viewing figures were because of those who watched it in pubs and bars, it's worth pointing out that over 100 million Americans watched this year's Super Bowl. Closer to home, it appears a similar number of people watched it on the telly. There was a maximum of nearly 20 million as full-time approached, but the real talking point was felt by the 1.5 million watching it on HD, who missed Gerrard's goal as ITV broke into an ad-break. Plebs like myself who were watching it on Freeview were not affected. ITVs coverage of the World Cup has generally been poor and this major blunder has not won them any friends. And from what I gather about their coverage of Formula One events in the past, this isn't entirely surprising either! Thank goodness for the BBC!!

Finally, Jeffrey Archer has been approached by Bollywood producers intent on making blockbusters of his short stories. Not a rupee more...
mcgillianaire: (India Flag)
Dear Friend Hitler. That's the name of an upcoming Bollywood movie directed by Rakesh Ranjan Kumar. It's set in the last days of the Third Reich. But taking Herr Kumar to task over his assertion that the Führer had a "love for India", and his producer's statement that "if we should thank anybody for Indian freedom, it should be Hitler", is London-based historian Alex von Tunzelmann. In 2007 she authored her first book, Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Empire. She's right, most Indians are ignorant about the Holocaust.

Meawhile, India's "censuswallahs" (or census people) have begun their task to determine if the country's population is actually 1.18 billion as estimated. The British introduced the census to the Raj in 1872 and it has been performed every decade since then without fail. This will be its biggest exercise yet. In 2001 the official population was 1,028,610,328. That means in the past decade we've probably added the equivalent of 4 Australias, 1.5 United Kingdoms, a Phillipines or 0.3 US of As. The population count involves 2.3 million "enumerators" travelling to more than 630,000 villages and over 5,000 cities. But it hasn't escaped criticism by some for its inclusion of controversial questions about caste for the first time since 1931. And there are also issues about the way in which India measures levels of poverty.

In case you missed it, the recently re-elected Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa concluded a recent visit to New Delhi by signing agreements on aid, infrastructure and loans. The deals are aimed at countering the growing influence and threat posed by China in the new "Great Game" with India for primacy in the Indian Ocean. A new Indian consulate will open in the southern city of Hambantota, where Chinese contractors are constructing a vast deep water port largely financed by their government's lending arm, the Export-Import bank. The Chinese are also financing and constructing ports in Burma and Pakistan, and have proposed to build one in Bangladesh, forming a chain of the so-called "string of pearls" encircling the Indian subcontinent. Beijing is also building a major road network north of Colombo and lending £140 million to build a second international airport in the south of the island. In March, the Sri Lankan government said China was "supplying more than half of all the construction and development loans it was receiving". And then there's the roads, oil and gas pipeline being built in Burma (to the aforementioned port), the multi-billion dollar infrastructural projects in Pakistan and recent infrastructural offers to Nepal. You can understand why India is worried and rattled, but to complicate matters further, Rajapaksa's visit triggered protests by a section of India's 60 million+ Tamil population. They blame Rajapaksa for the "high levels of civilian casualties" in the final days of the civil war against the Tamil Tiger separatists last year. The Indian government is stuck between a rock and a hard place in a game China will win.

And finally for the health conscious amongst us, a new Indian government body has been "tasked with protecting the country's rich heritage of medicinal and medical philosophy". It's a response to companies, organisations and people in the West claiming to invent "new" yoga practices from ones which the Indian government contend are in fact rehashed versions of centuries old practices. The campaign has already secured major victories that have forced European companies to reverse patents on the "use of extract of melon, ginger, cumin, turmeric and onions" for a range of health products. In each case Indian government officials were "able to comb the new digital library to submit carefully translated excerpts from texts ranging from 19th century medical text books to 5th century manuals of traditional ayurvedic medicine to support their claims". Only a matter of time then before we take matters to their logical conclusion and patent the number 0.
mcgillianaire: (Hollywood Sign)
mcgillianaire: (Old Bailey)
Barring the jarring American accents for this Agatha Cristie short story (and later play) set in London, it was a delightful courtroom drama.
mcgillianaire: (Lib Dems)

Gordon Brown enjoys Glee, Dave Cameron admits to watching Shameless but his favourite sitcom is Porridge. And Nick Clegg? Well his telly appetite is fed by Come Dine With Me. Gordon also likes The Beatles, Frank Sinatra and Motown, but denies he is a fan of the Arctic Monkeys. They just happen to make good alarm clock-like music. Meanwhile, Cameron prefers The Killers, Radiohead and has a soft spot for Lily Allen. So much so he included her album in a gift to Obama. And Nick Clegg? He's partial to a "rip-roaring piece of Rachmaninov or a 'soulful Johnny Cash' number", but admits to growing out of an 80s obsession with Prince. Gordon's favourite film is Hotel Rwanda and I must admit I didn't see that one coming. Cameron's into his classics like Lawrence of Arabia and Guns of Navarone. Good taste. And Nick Clegg? The Class, a 2006 Oscar-nominated French flick. Probably best to leave that out of the Daily Mail interview. Food-wise, Gordo likes rumbledethumps, a traditional Scottish dish made with "potatoes, cabbage, cheese, butter and herbs". Ah, bubble and squeak. Eurosceptic Cameron's recipe of choice is a rich Italian sausage meat pasta with half a pint of double-cream. Yum. And Nick Clegg? Deep-fried croquetas made from flour. Spanish croquettes. Another miss for the Daily Mail. And there's more. They're just like us, who knew? [READ MORE]
mcgillianaire: (Default)
That's right. Six films plus one documentary available to stream for free. They were uploaded last month. Enjoy! The six plus one are:

1) Ae Fond Kiss
2) Cathy Come Home
3) Hidden Agenda
4) Kes
5) Poor Cow
6) Riff-Raff
7) Carry on Ken
mcgillianaire: (Default)

It's a daily ritual. Annoyed Londoner telling-off and shoving ignorant tourists to stand on the right-side of the escalator as they hurry down the left-side on the way to work (or back from it). But why do we do it? Well a piece of restored video from a 1928 film aptly-titled Underground may have the answer. The video taken inside London's Waterloo Tube station shows passengers standing on the right-side because of the diagonal-shaped step at the end of the escalator, that made it easier to get-off with one's right foot first. The film is being shown at the 53rd London Film Festival and contains some of the earliest video footage of the world's oldest and most famous underground railway. And in case you weren't aware of it, make sure you never stand on the left-side on your next visit!
mcgillianaire: (Baasha in Japanese!)

I think it's the first Indian spoof movie I've seen. A decent knowledge of Tamil cinema is useful but not essential. Rating: 2.5/5. [LINK]
mcgillianaire: (Bedouin in Desert)
Despite a twenty-two year connection with the Sultanate of Oman, this might be the first Arabic movie I have seen from start to finish. It's supposedly the biggest budget Egyptian production ever and it's based on a novel of the same name by Alaa Al Aswany. BBC4 broadcast it a couple days ago so it's available on the iPlayer for the next week. It's long (2h40m) but thoroughly enjoyable.
mcgillianaire: (India Flag)

Not surprisingly, the Indian media is going ga-ga over Slumdog's success at the Academy Awards and the man at the centre of attention is A.R. Rahman, the Tamil music director. He became the first Indian to win two Oscars, and follows in the footsteps of legendary director, Satyajit Ray as one of a handful of Oscar-winning Indians. Eight Oscars out of nine nominations was not a bad effort and along with the Awards for Best Actress, Documentary & Short Documentary, t'was a great night for the UK & India.

But I am happiest for A.R. Rahman, a guy whose music I have been worshiping since I was eight years old. The fact that he is Tamil makes his victory all the more sweet. He even added a Tamil phrase at the end of his first victory speech which was a nice touch. But the joy in his success is shared by every Indian who has been touched by his musical greatness. In many ways his Oscar victory is not wholly surprising. His rise to the top has been gradual but consistent. In the 80s he studied Western classical music on a scholarship at London's world renowned Trinity College of Music and was a member of the legendary Tamil music director Ilaiyaraaja's music troupe. In 1992 he made his musical film debut in a Mani Ratnam blockbuster and followed it up with dozens of successes at the Tamil and Hindi box office over the next decade. In 2003 he switched gears and composed the music for Andrew Lloyd Webber's West End Production, Bombay Dreams and with the global recognition he received from that, went on to compose the music for the globally released Lord of the Rings theatre production. It only seems natural that the next step was to compose the music for an entire English movie, having only had bits and pieces used in various films like Inside Man, Lord of War, and The Accidental Husband. Along came Danny Boyle and his team of Slumdog Millionaires. The rest is history.

But my fondest memory of the music genius comes from the summer of 1997, a time when India was preparing itself for its 50th Independence Day celebrations. There was tension in the air as Hindu right-wingers stirred an old controversy. They were making an issue out of a supposed claim that Indian Muslims purposely did not sing India's national song (not to be confused with the national anthem) because they were offended by the depiction of the Mother Nation as a Hindu Goddess. In a country filled with centuries of history of communal violence between Hindus and Muslims it seemed but a matter of time until the tension boiled over. But it didn't. Barely weeks before the Independence Day celebrations, A.R. Rahman came out with a rare music compilation outside the film industry. It was titled Vande Mataram (Mother I bow to thee), the very name of the controversial song. Needless to say A.R. Rahman is a Muslim (though he was born a Hindu and converted only after the death of his father while still a child). Composed of songs in both Hindi and Tamil, the album went a long way to diffusing the tension. And in true neighbourly spirit, there was even a song in collaboration with the late Pakistani musician, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, who tragically died two days after the 50th celebrations.

So yeh, who cares if the Oscars are political? Congratulations to all the winners! Alla Rakkha Rahman Tujhe Salaam (I Salute You)!


mcgillianaire: (Default)

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