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Michael Crichton: A Background

The late author Michael Crichton was famous for his thought-provoking and sometimes controversial novels dealing with the possible affects of medicine and science.

He originally chose to study medicine at Harvard College, and graduate summa cum laude in 1964. His knowledge of medicine and science often became an important factor in his novels.

mcrichton2

His first bestselling novel, ‘The Andromeda Strain’ was written and published in 1969 while he was still at university, though he wrote it under the pen name John Lange.

He went on to have 25 bestselling novels from 1969 until 2006, with 13 of them being made into films: the most successful of which was the 1993 blockbuster ‘Jurassic Park’.

Strange Habits

Crichton was noted for the strange habits he picked up while writing. For his first six years as an author, he tended to write under a psydoneum: either John Lange or Jeffrey Hudson.

  • Both were a comment on his height of 6 feet 9 inches – Lange meaning tall in German and Sir Jeffrey Hudson being a famous dwarf.
  • It is rumoured that at times he could write up to 10,000 words per day – although Crichton himself said that doing so was excruciating and often left him with writers block.
  • During the process of writing, he tended to eat the same meal every day, and would start writing earlier each day towards the end of the book.

He believed that it was important to make sure the information in his books was accurate, and so throughout his life he has reseached in depth topics such as Nordic myths, genetic engineering, medieval European history and airline deregulation.

Books into Film

Many of Crichton’s bestselling books have been turned into movies, beginning with ‘The Andromeda Strain’  and including ‘The Terminal Man’ in 1974, ‘Rising Sun’ in 1993 and ‘Disclosure’ in 1994.

Jurassic Park in 1993 is the most noted adaption, and grossed $914 million: currently the 11th highest grossing feature film.

It was also thought to be a landmark film, with the use of computer generated imagery. Since the film’s release, there have been two sequels, and a third is currently being developed.

Writing Passion

Crichton has said on his website that he started writing when he was very young, after he saw his father, a journalist, typing. “I was the weird kid who wrote extra assignments the teacher didn’t ask for. i just did it because I liked writing so much”.

Although he had wanted to be a writer from an early age, he “didn’t think it was likely [he] could make a living at it, so [he] went to medical school”. He continued to write while studying however, and after graduation decided to pursue it as a career.

Michael’s family have said that he “challenged our preconcieved notions about the world around us – and entertained us all while doing so…he will be profoundly missed”.

For an article on Michael Crichton’s influence on sci-fi, Click Here

Kirstie Nicols

November 8, 2008 Posted by | Kirstie - Lifestyle | , , | 1 Comment

Sci-Fi Dies With Michael Crichton

The Jurassic Park author Michael Crichton passed away this week after a long battle with cancer, aged just 66.

He was famous for his futuristic novels, many of which have been made into films, as well as creating the hospital drama series ER.

Considered by some to be the leading authority in writing futuristic novels, his death is being seen as a severe loss to the sci-fi community.

His family have issued a statement saying that he “served as an inspiration to students of all ages, challenged scientists in many fields, and illuminated the mysteries of the world in a way we could all understand”.

Jurassic Park

One of his most famous achievements surrounds his bestselling novel ‘Jurassic Park’, published in 1990 and telling the story of genetically grown dinosoars on a secret island.

The book was made into a blockbuster hit in 1993, and was quickly followed by it’s sequel ‘The Lost World’ in 1995.

Director Stephen Spielburg said of his death “Michael’s talent outscaled even his own dinosoars…there is no one in the wings that will ever take his place”.

End Of An Era For Sci-Fi

Crichton has sold over 150 million books worldwide, many of which deal with the possible affects science and medicine could have on the world.

His agent, Lynn Nesbitt said “he had a ferocious, brilliant intellect and the ability to write entertaining narratives…I can’t think of many writers who can match that”.

Comments on The Times website following the news suggested that his works were considered both thought-provoking and entertaining. John Gibbs from Manchester said “he was the only sci fi writer for me. I wonder how many others will lose their love of sci fi with his death”.

ER Drama

The author also drew on his own history as a medical student to write stories that were set in the present. In 1994 he created the medical drama ‘ER‘ , and it is now one of NBC’s longest running dramas.

Over the years it has won five Emmy awards, one Golden Globe and three Screen Actor Guild awards. It has recently been announced that it will end its run after 15 seasons in February 2009.

The executive producer of the show John Wells, has called him “an extrordinary man. Brilliant, funny, erodite, gracious, exceptionally inquisitive and always thoughtful”.

Climate Change Scandal

In 2004, Crichton’s book ‘State of Fear’ was released. It soon recieved severe critisism for its denial of the effects the human race may have on global warming.

In an interview with the BBC he defended his suggestions, saying that “they do computer simulations and conclude that this is of human origin. The difficulty that I have with that is that I simply don’t believe computer simulations”.

The book reignited the debate between human driven global warming followers, and natural global warming followers showing the influence that Crichton had by this time.

It was awarded the American Association of Petroleum Geologists Journalism Award in 2006, and Communication Director Larry Nation told the New York Times “it is fiction, but it has the absolute ring of truth”.

The author’s newest novel, which was due for release next month and published by Harper Collins, has been postponed indefinitely.

For background information on Michael Crichton, Click Here

Kirstie Nicols

November 8, 2008 Posted by | Kirstie - Lifestyle | , , , | 1 Comment

Banksy: A Background

Street artist Banksy is known for being unknown, and is often called ‘the most wanted artist in the world’.

Although he has exhibited paintings and displayed drawings, he is infamous for his graffiti art around the streets of Britain and the world.

Journalists have often sought to uncover his identity, and some have claimed to have caught him in the act. However, as of yet none of the rumours have been either confirmed or denied.

The general consenus says that Banksy is from Bristol and he is a 30-something male. It was claimed by The Mail on Sunday that his name is Robert Gunningham, he went to a private school and that his parents think he is a painter and decorator.

However, Banksy said on his website that he is “unable to comment on who may or may not be Banksy, but anyone described as being ‘good at drawing’ doesn’t sound like Banksy to me”.

Subversive Work

He is known for his anti establishment, anti capitalism and anti war messages, such as his portrayal of a man about to throw a grenade, holding a bunch of flowers instead; and the image of a cash machine reaching out and capturing a young girl.

Banksy

Banksy

Images of rats also play an important role in his work. In an interview with The Culture Show he is thought to have said it’s because “the idea that everything you paint on the street, it should be something that could actually be on the street”

Previous Art

One of the artist’s most prominent pieces can be seen on the cover for Blur’s 2003 album, Think Tank. It pictures a man and a woman  holding each other, while wearing diving helmets.

In 2006, he copied the works of famous paintings and added his own twist to them. Monet’s ‘Garden’, for example, was shown with shopping trollies and a cone floating in the water, while Andy Warhol’s painting of Marylin Munroe become a picture of Kate Moss.

One of his stunts in 2006 included replacing copies of Paris Hilton’s album across nearly 50 different music stores with ones showing his own cover art. The song title’s were changed to things such as ‘What Am I For?’ and ‘Why Am I Famous?’

Currently, Banksy has opened an exhibition in New York showing animals pursuing haman pasttimes, and food animated to look like animals. It ‘aims to question the relationship between human beings and animals’.

For an article on the street artist, Click Here

Kirstie Nicols

November 7, 2008 Posted by | Kirstie - Lifestyle | , , | 1 Comment

Is Banksy’s Work Art or Vandalism?

The graffiti artist known only as Banksy has recently painted a new mural on the side of a pub in Liverpool.

According to BBC News, the pub that was on sale for around £495,000 could now double in cost to around £1 million.

Liverpool Pub

Courtesy of BBC - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news

The new painting depicts a rat toting a gun, and has appeared on the side of the derelict Whitehouse pub in Liverpool.

However, while the painter is heralded as an artistic mastermind by some, others see him as no more than an anarchic vandal.

Works Of Art

Banksy is most famous for his satirical graffiti murals that cover topics such as ethics, politics and culture.

His paintings have sold for thousands of pounds, with the piece ‘Space Girl and Bird’ reaching 20 times its estimated value at £288,000 in 2007.

His admirers are strong in their praise, with BT’s press office describing his work on one of their phoneboxes as “a stunning visual comment on BT’s transformation from an old fashioned telecommunications company into a modern communications services provider”.

Celebrities such as Jude Law, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are admirers of his work, and artist Damien Hirst owns several of his paintings. Speaking to The Guardian he said “I’ve always thought he was great. The streets are boring. So I think anyone like Banksy who makes it entertaining and treats people like people instead of consumers is brilliant”.

In May 2007 he won the award for ‘Art’s Greatest Living Briton’ in celebration of his work: although he did not attend in order to keep his anonimity intact.

Crime and Vandalism

There are many that see Banksy as no more than a vandal, defacing buildings and causing controversy wherever he goes.

Throughout the years, councils around the country have been faced with the debate over whether to keep or cover his work.

Westminster City Council has become the latest to make the decision to remove one of his artworks, ‘One Nation Under CCTV’.

Deputy leader Robert Davis has said “I take the view that this is graffiti and if you condone this then what is the difference between this and all the other graffiti you see sprawled across the city”.

banksy-kissing-policemen

He is echoing the view of many of the artists critics, who see his work as audacious stunts. The Times Visual Arts reporter, Mathew Collings has said that Banksy’s work is “a status symbol – the work has no value as art”.

The works themselves have always sparked controversy, with one of his more famous works in Soho depicting two Policemen kissing, and many of his works using rats as the focal point.

The artist himself is elusive, with many theories surrounding his identity but nothing confirmed for certain. Any interviews that have been given cannot be verified, however he is quoted as saying “people say graffiti is ugly, irresponsible and childish…but that’s only if it’s done properly”.

For a background on Banksy, Click Here

Kirstie Nicols

November 7, 2008 Posted by | Kirstie - Lifestyle | , , , | 1 Comment

Oasis and the Electric Proms: A Background

The Electric Proms is into it’s third consecutive year, and with performances like Oasis’, it looks like it’s here to stay.

In 2006, the BBC put together a new 5 day music event celebrating current music artists of the time, along with well known legends such as James Brown and The Who.

BBC Electric Proms

BBC Electric Proms

The name was taken from ‘The Proms’, a classic music festival that has been running since 1895. The Electric Proms has maintained some of this class festival’s traditions, such as ending the festival with an interpretation of ‘Land of Hope and Glory’.

Previously the Electric Proms has been held only in London, but for the first time this year it became a two city event, including Liverpool to celebrate its status as the European Capital of Culture.

The festival’s main performances each night have usually been held in Camden’s The Roundhouse, with more intimate gigs held in smaller venues around the Camden area. This year in Liverpool, the majority of the performances were held at BBC Merseyside.

Previous years

The person who brought the Electric Proms into being was Lorna Clarke, who was in charge of organising the whole of the 2006 festival. Speaking to The Guardian at the time, she said

“The idea of having an event on a par with the classical Proms has been kicking around for a couple of years but there was never an appointment of anyone to do it. Live music has never been healthier, – guitars are back, now seemed like a good time”.

Bands and artists that graced the stage included the then newly emerging Amy Winehouse, The Zutons, Kasabian and The Young Knives.

In the second year the festival grew “organically” as Lorna Clarke hoped it would, and included the Kaiser Chiefs, Bloc Party, Jamie Cullum and Paul McCartney.

Oasis

The mission of the Electric Prom is to give the audience a chance to see the artists perform in a way that would be unlikely to be repeated. Oasis was no different.

On the 29th September it was announced that Oasis would be closing the Electric Proms on the Sunday night, and would be joined on stage by a 50 piece choir siging backing vocals for some of their tracks.

The band have been performing in various states since 1991, originally under the name of ‘The Rain’. They were signed in 1993 and released the debut album Definitely Maybe in 1994.

Brothers Liam and Noel Gallagher are the only members of Oasis to have been there since the beginning, and are renowned for their sibling rivalry. The Brit rock band have recently released their seventh album, Dig Out Your Soul.

For an article on Oasis at The Electric Proms, Click Here

Kirstie Nicols

November 2, 2008 Posted by | Kirstie - Lifestyle | , , | 1 Comment

Electric Evening as Oasis Play Last Night of the Proms

Brit Rock band Oasis headlined at BBC’s Electric Proms this weekend, making the last night of the Electric Proms a must-see event.

 

The band were on top form with their 20-piece set, playing classics such as Lyla and Wonderwall, as well as their cover of I am The Walrus.

 

Part of the charm of the Electric Proms is seeing the artists try different methods of performing their set, and Oasis was no different.

On stage with them was the 50 piece Crouch End Festival Chorus choir, providing backing for songs such as I’m Outta Time and Don’t Look Back in Anger.

Oasis

Oasis

 

 

The choir appeared to be a big hit with the audience, and gave the performance a different feel to the band’s normal gigging style.

 

Celebrity Draw

 

The gig was a draw for celebrities as well as fans, with Noel Gallagher pointing Daniel Craig out to the crowd and saying:

 

“James Bond is here. I might try and blag it to do the next Bond theme, instead of them getting a load of Americans to do it. If I get it Daniel I’ll let you play me in a biopic of my life”.

 

Noel also pointed out the infamously outspoken Radio 2 DJ Russell Brand, dedicating their rendition of Don’t Look Back in Anger to him.

 

The gig was held in the famous Roundhouse in Camden, which seats 1,800 people and allows all present a good view of the stage. BBC 6 Music’s Chi Chi Izundu later commented that:

 

“No matter where you were in the Roundhouse, you got a fantastic view and were virtually on top of Noel and Liam. You could even see Noel smiling as beer, which had been thrown into the crowd, came dangerously close to him during Slide Away”.

 

Third Year

 

This was the third year of the BBC’s Electric Proms, which challenges the artists “to come up with new and original material or arrangements of their music to reflect the central theme of the festival, creating new moments in music”.

 

The first year saw performances from legends such as James Brown and Jamiroquai, while 2007 played host to Chemical Brothers and Mark Ronson.

 

With this year being opened by Burt Bacharach and then closed by Oasis, the question is what the BBC will do to top it for 2009.

 

For a background on Oasis and The Electric Proms, Click Here

 

Kirstie Nicols

November 2, 2008 Posted by | Kirstie - Lifestyle | Leave a comment

TH.2058: A Background

The Turbine Hall, which is currently playing host to Dominique Gonzalez-Foester’s futuristic ‘TH.2058’ installation, is housed inside London’s famous Tate Modern.

 

The Tate Modern was once a Powerstation, and was converted into its present state starting in 1995, opening to the public in 2000. Since then, it has become a renowned art centre and an important destination for tourists.

 

The Turbine Hall is the centrepiece of the building, stretching the full 5 floors, and has been the home of many controversial installations since it’s opening in 2000. As it is this entrance hall to the building, any artwork that is displayed in the space can’t fail to be noticed.

 

The Unilever Series

 

When the Tate Modern was opened in 2000, an agreement was reached between themselves and the company, Unilever. It meant that each year between the months of October and March, a specially commissioned installation would be displayed in the great hall, sponsored by Unilever.

 

The original agreement was to last for five years, ending in 2004, and soon became known as the Unilever Series. However, as the displays soon become popular with visitors and an important event in the art calendar, this agreement was soon extended. It is now confirmed until at least 2012. Unilever has said that:

“As one of the Tate’s neighbours on the Thames, Unilever was keen to support this enhancement to London’s urban environment. The gallery has made a vital contribution to economic and social renewal in Southwark, bringing annual economic benefits worth £50-£90m, and creating up to 2,400 jobs. Each sponsored commission has a community and educational programme associated with it.”

The first artist that was commissioned to display in The Turbine Hall was Louise Bourgeois, whose work was entitled ‘I Do, I Undo, I Redo’, and consisted of three tall towers that visitors to the gallery could climb, allowing them to become a part of the art themselves. Since then, eight other artists have been commissioned to display in The Turbine Hall, with Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster being the most recent.

 

Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster

 

Dominique is well known in France for her artwork, as she attempts to create extremeley atmospheric surroundings using a mixture of sound effects, video and lighting. However, she is relatively unknown in the UK, and as with all previous artists, this commission will give her an international platform from which to present her future work.

 

For an article on the recent installation, Click Here

 

Kirstie Nicols

October 27, 2008 Posted by | Kirstie - Lifestyle | 1 Comment

TH.2058: Simply Depressing or Utterly Heart-Warming?

Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster’s contemporary new artwork TH.2058, has just been unveiled in the Turbine Hall at London’s Tate Gallery, sending shockwaves through the art world.

The installation is supposed to be a look 50 years into the future when incessant rain has driven the population into ‘concentration camp’ style buildings. It is causing consternation among critics, who can’t agree if it is genius or ridiculous.

TH.2058

TH.2058

It consists of 200 blue and yellow bunk beds minus mattresses, giant copies of famous sculptures, the constant sound of rain, a screen showing clips of sci-fi films and a plethora of sci-fi books such as ‘Dead Cities’, ‘V for Vendetta’ and ‘The Drowned World’.

Dominique has suggested that the installation shows a post-apocalyptic world, and speaking to BBC News, she said “it’s not a happy work but I think it’s not a pessimistic work as well…even in the worst catastrophe moments there is a way to live with culture”.

Difference of Opinion

Not all agree with her however. Art critic Judith Bumpus told The Times; “It’s such a muddle, it’s difficult to take it in as art” while Georgina Adam of The Art Newspaper said “it’s an environment, not art”.

Her admirers have been just as fierce in their compliments, with The Guardian’s chief arts writer Charlotte Higgins saying in her blog “I suspect, with TH.2058…Tate has another Turbine Hall hit on its hands” and talking to Sky, curator Jessica Morgan said it represents “a storage space for the remnants of culture”

TH.2058 is an amalgamation of works; a copy Louise Bourgeouis’ giant spider Maman among other sculptures, H.G Wells ‘War of the Worlds’ and other futuristic novels, clips from haunting films such as Apocolypse Now and Planet of the Apes.

Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, born in 1965 and now living in Paris, is known for creating interactive environments using lighting and sound effects. Her previous work includes promenade, recreating the sound of a tropical rainstorm, and Cosmodrome. Her work often invites the audience to participate in some way and TH.2058, her first commission in the UK, is no different.

Previous Exhibitions

The Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall has been the centre of many other contemporary installations over the past eight years, each specially commissioned and sponsored by The Unilever Series. Artists such as Bruce Nauman, Olafur Eliasson and Rachel Whiteread have exhibited their work as part of the Series.

Last year’s artist, Doris Salcedo created a crack running the full length of the room known as ‘Shibboleth’, to symbolise the segregation of society, while Carsten Holler’s 2006 work ‘Test Site’ saw five giant slides put in place for the public to use, becoming part of the exhibit themselves.

For a background on TH2058 and the Tate Modern, Click Here

Kirstie Nicols

October 14, 2008 Posted by | Kirstie - Lifestyle | , , , , | 1 Comment