Saturday, May 26, 2012

About The United Kingdom (Wikipedia).

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (commonly known as the United Kingdom, the UK or Britain) is a sovereign state located off the north-western coast of continental Europe.

The country includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland and many smaller islands.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK that shares a land border with another sovereign state—the Republic of Ireland.

Apart from this land border the UK is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, the North Sea, the English Channel and the Irish Sea.

The United Kingdom is a unitary state governed under a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary system, with its seat of government in the capital city of London.

It is a country in its own right and consists of four countries: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

There are three devolved administrations, each with varying powers, based in Belfast, Edinburgh and Cardiff, the capitals of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales respectively.

England with London as its capital is governed directly by the UK government.

Associated with the UK, but not constitutionally part of it, are three Crown Dependencies of Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man.

The United Kingdom has 14 overseas territories.

These are remnants of the British Empire which, at its height in 1922, encompassed almost a quarter of the world's land surface and was the largest empire in history.

British influence can still be observed in the language, culture and legal systems of many of its former territories.

The UK is a developed country.

It was the world's first industrialised country and the world's foremost power during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The UK remains a great power with leading economic, cultural, military, scientific and political influence.

The UK has been a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council since its first session in 1946.

It has been a member of the European Union and its predecessor the European Economic Community since 1973.

It is also a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the Council of Europe, the G7, the G8, the G20, NATO, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the World Trade Organisation.

The UK was originally called the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland but after Southern Ireland became independent in 1931 the current official name was adopted.

England, Wales and Ireland were formerly ruled by the King of England and the King of Scotland was an independent ruler but the ascent of Scottish King James 1 to the throne of England on July 25, 1603 resulted in the formation of a union of equal partners comprising the four countries.

In the Olympics, the UK is titled Great Britain because Northern Ireland's sportspeople are entitled to dual citizenship of the UK and the Republic of Ireland and the option of representing either the UK or Ireland.

The total area of the United Kingdom is approximately 243,610 square kilometres.

The country occupies the major part of the British Isles and includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern one-sixth of the island of Ireland and some smaller surrounding islands.

It lies between the North Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea with the south-east coast coming within 35 kilometres of the coast of northern France, from which it is separated by the English Channel.

The United Kingdom lies between latitudes 49° to 61° N, and longitudes 9° W to 2° E.

Northern Ireland shares a 360-kilometre land boundary with the Republic of Ireland.

The coastline of Great Britain is 17,820 kilometres long.

It is connected to continental Europe by the Channel Tunnel, which at 50 kilometres (38 kilometres underwater) is the longest underwater tunnel in the world.

England accounts for just over half of the total area of the UK, covering 130,395 square kilometres.

Most of the country consists of lowland terrain, with mountainous terrain north-west of the Tees-Exe line including the Cumbrian Mountains of the Lake District, the Pennines and limestone hills of the Peak District, Exmoor and Dartmoor.

The main rivers and estuaries are the Thames, Severn and the Humber.

England's highest mountain is Scafell Pike (978 metres) in the Lake District.

Its principal rivers are the Severn, Thames, Humber, Tees, Tyne, Tweed, Avon, Exe and Mersey.

Scotland accounts for just under a third of the total area of the UK, covering 78,772 square kilometres and including nearly eight hundred islands, predominantly west and north of the mainland, notably the Hebrides, Orkney Islands and Shetland Islands.

The topography of Scotland is distinguished by the Highland Boundary Fault — a geological rock fracture — which traverses Scotland from Arran in the west to Stonehaven in the east.

The faultline separates two distinctively different regions namely the Highlands to the north and west and the lowlands to the south and east.

The more rugged Highland region contains the majority of Scotland's mountainous land, including Ben Nevis which at 1,343 metres is the highest point in the British Isles.

Lowland areas, especially the narrow waist of land between the Firth of Clyde and the Firth of Forth known as the Central Belt, are flatter and home to most of the population including Glasgow, Scotland's largest city and Edinburgh, its capital and political centre.

Wales accounts for less than a tenth of the total area of the UK, covering 20,779 square kilometres.

Wales is mostly mountainous, though South Wales is less mountainous than North and Mid Wales.

The main population and industrial areas are in South Wales, consisting of the coastal cities of Cardiff, Swansea and Newport and the South Wales Valleys to their north.

The highest mountains in Wales are in Snowdonia and include Snowdon which at 1,085 metres is the highest peak in Wales.

The 14, or possibly 15, Welsh mountains over 914 m high are known collectively as the Welsh 3000s.

Wales has over 1,200 km of coastline.

There are several islands off the Welsh mainland, the largest of which is Anglesey in the northwest.

Northern Ireland accounts for just 14,160 square kilometres and is mostly hilly.

It includes Lough Neagh which, at 388 square kilometres is the largest lake in the British Isles.

The highest peak in Northern Ireland is Slieve Donard in the Mourne Mountains at 852 metres.

The United Kingdom has a temperate climate, with plentiful rainfall all year round.

The temperature varies with the seasons seldom dropping below −11 °C or rising above 35 °C.

The prevailing wind is from the south-west and bears frequent spells of mild and wet weather from the Atlantic Ocean, although the eastern parts are mostly sheltered from this wind — as the majority of the rain falls over the western regions the eastern parts are therefore the driest.

Atlantic currents, warmed by the Gulf Stream, bring mild winters especially in the west where winters are wet and even more so over high ground.

Summers are warmest in the south-east of England, being closest to the European mainland and coolest in the north.

Heavy snowfall can occur in winter and early spring on high ground and occasionally settles to great depth away from the hills.

The United Kingdom is a unitary state under a constitutional monarchy.

Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state of the UK as well as of 15 other independent Commonwealth countries.

The monarch has "the right to be consulted, the right to encourage, and the right to warn".

The United Kingdom has an uncodified constitution, as do only three other countries in the world.

The Constitution of the United Kingdom thus consists mostly of a collection of disparate written sources, including statutes, judge-made case law and international treaties, together with constitutional conventions.

As there is no technical difference between ordinary statutes and "constitutional law" the UK Parliament can perform "constitutional reform" simply by passing Acts of Parliament and thus has the political power to change or abolish almost any written or unwritten element of the constitution.

However, no Parliament can pass laws that future Parliaments cannot change.

The position of prime minister, the UK's head of government, belongs to the member of parliament who can obtain the confidence of a majority in the House of Commons, usually the current leader of the largest political party in that chamber.

The prime minister and cabinet are formally appointed by the monarch to form Her Majesty's Government, though the prime minister chooses the cabinet and, by convention, the Queen respects the prime minister's choices.

England and Scotland were leading centres of the Scientific Revolution from the 17th century and the United Kingdom led the Industrial Revolution from the 18th century, and has continued to produce scientists and engineers credited with important advances.

Major theorists from the 17th and 18th centuries include Isaac Newton, whose laws of motion and illumination of gravity have been seen as a keystone of modern science, from the 19th century Charles Darwin, whose theory of evolution by natural selection was fundamental to the development of modern biology, and James Clerk Maxwell, who formulated classical electromagnetic theory, and more recently Stephen Hawking, who has advanced major theories in the fields of cosmology, quantum gravity and the investigation of black holes. Wikipedia.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Robin Gibb - One Of Three Lords Of Man

Robin Hugh Gibb, CBE (22 December, 1949 – 20 May, 2012) was a British singer and songwriter.

He is best known as a member of the Bee Gees, co-founded with his younger twin brother Maurice and older brother Barry.

He had another younger brother, Andy Gibb, who was also a very popular singer.

Born in the Isle Of Man, the family later moved to Manchester. Gibb began his career as part of the family trio.

In 2004, the Bee Gees received their CBEs from the Prince Of Wales at Buckingham Palace for their "contribution to music".

With record sales estimated in excess of 200 million units, the Bee Gees became one of the most successful pop groups of all time.

Gibb died of cancer on May 20, 2012.

Traditionally, Robin Gibb's role in the Bee Gees was lead singer, for which he vied with Barry during the group's first period of British success in the late 1960s.

In his solo career, Gibb was initially successful with a number 2 UK hit, Saved By The Bell (which sold over one million copies and received a gold disc).

In 1971, the Bee Gees had their first US No. 1 hit How Can You Mend A Broken Heart.

In 1974, the Bee Gees came up with the song Blue-Eyed Soul.

The group now entered the disco-era.

In 1978, Gibb performed on the Sesame Street Fever album for the Sesame Street children's TV programme.

During the 1980s, Gibb released three solo albums (How Old Are You?, Secret Agent and Walls Have Eyes).

On 27 January, 2003, fifteen days after Maurice died of a heart attack, Robin released a new solo album, Magnet.

On 18 May, 2008, Gibb released the song Alan Freeman Days in tribute to the Australian DJ Alan Freeman.

In 2010, Gibb was a guest mentor on the Australian version of The X Factor, alongside Australian TV host Kyle Sandilands, Australian actor/singer Natalie Imbruglia, Irish singer Ronan Keating and Australian singer Guy Sebastian.

In 2005, Robin joined his brother Barry and several other artists under the name One World Project to record a charity single in aid of Asian tsunami relief, titled Grief Never Grows Old.

Other artists who performed on the single included Boy George, Steve Winwood, Jon Anderson, Rick Wakeman, Sir Cliff Richard, Bill Wyman, America, Kenny Jones, Chicago, Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys, Russell Watson and Davy Spillane.

Gibb went back to the top of the UK charts in 2009 when he collaborated with singers Ruth Jones, Rob Brydon and Tom Jones on a new version of Islands In The Stream which he wrote with his brothers.

In 1968 Gibb married Molly Hullis, a secretary in Robert Stigwood's organisation.

They had 2 children and divorced in 1980.

He later married author and artist Dwina Murphy and had a son. Wikipedia.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Donna Summer - Eternal Queen Of Disco.

Donna Summer, who died of cancer on May 17, 2012 will always be remembered as an icon of African American music.

Born Donna Gaines on December 31, 1948, the singer and songwriter was known as the Queen Of Disco.

She had a mezzo-soprano vocal range, and was a five-time Grammy Award winner.

Summer was the first artiste to have three consecutive double albums reach number one on the US Billboard chart, and she also charted four number-one singles in the United States within a 13-month period.

Summer hailed from Boston, Massachusetts.

She was one of seven children raised by devout Christian parents and learnt to sing in church choirs.

She joined the psychedelic rock group The Crow as lead singer during her teens.

In 1968, Summer starred in the Broadway musical Hair.

The musical went to Germany and Summer spent some years in Munich.

She learnt to speak and sing in German there.

Summer sang with the Viennese Folk Opera and German pop group Family Tree in 1973.

In 1972, she married Austrian actor Helmuth Sommer.

They had a daughter, Mimi.

Summer released her first album Lady Of The Night in 1974.

It was produced by Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte and contained the hit single Love To Love You Baby.

In 1977, Summer released the album I Remember Yesterday.

This album included her second top 10 single I Feel Love.

In 1978, Summer released her version of the Richard Harris ballad MacArthur Park, which became her first US number one hit.

The song was featured on Summer's album Live And More, which also became her first album to hit number one on the US Billboard 200 chart.

In 1978, Summer acted in the film Thank God It's Friday, playing a singer determined to perform at a hot disco club.

The film met modest success, but a song from the film, titled Last Dance, resulted in Summer winning her first Grammy Award.

Its writer Paul Jabara won an Academy Award for the composition.

Despite her musical success, Summer struggled with anxiety and depression and became dependent on prescription drugs for several years.

In 1979, Summer performed at the world-televised Music For UNICEF Concert, joining contemporaries such as ABBA, Olivia Newton-John, the Bee Gees, Andy Gibb, Rod Stewart, John Denver, Earth, Wind And Fire, Rita Coolidge and Kris Kristofferson for an hour's TV special that raised funds and awareness for the world's children.

Quincy Jones produced Summer's 1982 album Donna Summer.

It contained the singles Love Is In Control and She Works Hard For The Money.

In 2008, Summer released the album Crayons.

It had the hit singles I'm A Fire, Stamp Your Feet and Fame.

On December 11, 2009, Summer performed at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo, Norway, in honor of US President Barack Obama.

She was backed by the Norwegian Radio Orchestra.

In 2011, Summer recorded Angel with her nephew, hip-hop singer, songwriter and composer Omega Red.

Summer was twice married and had 2 daughters.

She was the first African American to receive an MTV Video Music Awards nomination (Best Female Video and Best Choreography for She Works Hard For The Money).

Her Grammys were for Best R&B Vocal Performance (Female) - Last Dance in 1979, Best Rock Vocal Performance (Female) - Hot Stuff in 1980, Best Inspirational Performance - He's A Rebel in 1984, Best Inspirational Performance - Forgive Me in 1985 and Best Dance Recording - Carry On in 1988. Wikipedia.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Katharine Hepburn - First Lady Of Hollywood.

Katharine Houghton Hepburn (May 12, 1907 – June 29, 2003) was an American actress of film, stage and television.

Known for her headstrong independence and spirited personality, Hepburn's career as a Hollywood leading lady spanned more than 60 years.

Her work came in a range of genres, from screwball comedy to literary drama, and she received four Academy Awards for Best Actress—a record for any performer.

Hepburn's characters were often strong, sophisticated women with a hidden vulnerability.

Raised in Connecticut by wealthy, progressive parents, Hepburn began to act while studying at Bryn Mawr College.

After four years in the theatre, favorable reviews of her work on Broadway brought her to the attention of Hollywood.

Her early years in the film industry were marked with success, including an Academy Award for her third picture, Morning Glory (1933), but this was followed by a series of commercial failures.

Hepburn masterminded her own comeback, buying out her contract with RKO Radio Pictures and acquiring the film rights to The Philadelphia Story, which she sold on the condition that she be the star.

In the 1940s she was contracted to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, where her career focused on an alliance with Spencer Tracy.

The screen partnership spanned 25 years, and produced nine movies.

Hepburn challenged herself in the latter half of her life, as she regularly appeared in Shakespeare stage productions and tackled a range of literary roles.

She found a niche playing middle-aged spinsters, such as in The African Queen (1951), a persona the public embraced.

Three more Oscars came for her work in Guess Who's Coming To Dinner (1967), The Lion In Winter (1968) and On Golden Pond (1981).

In the 1970s she began appearing in television movies, which became the focus of her career in later life.

She remained active into old age, making her final screen appearance in 1994 at the age of 87.

After a period of inactivity and ill-health, Hepburn died in 2003 at 96.

Hepburn famously shunned the Hollywood publicity machine, and refused to conform to societal expectations of women.

She was outspoken, assertive, athletic and wore pants before it was fashionable.

She married once, as a young woman, but thereafter lived independently.

A 26-year affair with her co-star Spencer Tracy was hidden from the public.

With her unconventional lifestyle and the independent characters she brought to the screen, Hepburn came to epitomise the "modern woman" in 20th-century America and helped change perceptions of women.

In 1999, she was named by the American Film Institute as the top female Hollywood legend.

Hepburn was born in Hartford, Connecticut, the second of six children.

Her parents were Thomas Norval Hepburn (1879–1962), a urologist at Hartford Hospital and Katharine Martha Houghton (1878–1951), a feminist author.

Both individuals fought for social change in America: Thomas Hepburn helped establish the New England Social Hygiene Association, which educated the public about venereal disease, while Katharine Martha headed the Connecticut Women's Suffrage Association and fought for birth control with Margaret Sanger.

As a child, Hepburn joined her mother on several "Votes For Women" demonstrations.

The Hepburn children were raised to exercise freedom of speech and encouraged to think and debate on any topic they wished.

Her parents were criticised by the community for their progressive views, which stimulated Hepburn to fight against barriers she encountered.

Hepburn said she realised from a young age that she was the product of "two very remarkable parents" and credited her "enormously lucky" upbringing with providing the foundation for her success.

She remained close to her family throughout her life. Wikipedia.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Vidal Sassoon - Hairstylist Extraordinary

Vidal Sassoon, who died on May 9, 2012 will always be remembered as the man who revolutionised hairstyling.

Born on January 17, 1928 in Hammersmith, London, he is credited with creating the wedge bob hairstyle or Bauhaus hairstyle.

Due to the popularity of his styles, he was described as "a rock star, an artist and a craftsman who 'changed the world with a pair of scissors.'

His "wash and wear" philosophy liberated women from the "tyranny of the salon" and "revolutionised the art of hairstyling".

Sassoon's styles became "emblematic of freedom and good health" and their popularity allowed him to open the first chain of worldwide hair styling salons, complemented by his hair-treatment products.

He is also remembered for his television commercials in the 1980s.

Vidal Sassoon: The Movie, a documentary film about his life, was released in 2010.

Sassoon was of Israeli (paternally and maternally), Ukrainian (maternally) and Greek (paternally) descent.

He had a younger brother, Ivor, who died at the age of 46.

When he was 17, Sassoon joined the 43 Group, an anti-fascist organisation in East London comprising Israelis opposed to European racism in the UK.

He also became a member of Israel's armed forces during the Prime Ministership of David Ben Gurion and helped expel Palestinian Arabs from Palestine.

Sassoon trained under Raymond Bessone in his salon in Mayfair.

He opened his first salon in 1954 in London. Sassoon's works include the geometric perm and the "Nancy Kwan" hairstyles.

They were all modern and low-maintenance.

The hairstyles created by Sassoon relied on dark, straight, and shiny hair cut into geometric yet organic shapes.

In 1963, Sassoon created a short, angular hairstyle cut on a horizontal plane that was the recreation of the classic "bob cut".

His geometric haircuts seemed to be severely cut, but were entirely lacquer-free, relying on the natural shine of the hair for effect.

Sassoon was a key force in the commercial direction of hair styling.

His Vidal Sassoon brand was applied to shampoos and conditioners sold worldwide, with a commercial campaign featuring the iconic slogan "If you don't look good, we don't look good."

Sassoon was appointed Commander Of The British Empire (CBE) in 2009.

Sassoon married his first wife, Elaine Wood, in 1956, but the marriage ended in 1958.

In 1967, Sassoon married his second wife, actress Beverly Adams.

They had four children, the eldest of whom was Catya (1968-2002) who died of a drug overdose.

They divorced in 1980.

His third wife was Jeanette Hartford-Davis, who spent a year with him in 1983.

Sassoon was a lifelong fan of Premier League club Chelsea.

In 1982, Sassoon started the Vidal Sassoon International Centre for the Study of Anti-Semitism. Wikipedia.