Monday, 31 July 2017


Sam Shepard
First time The Grandma watched Sam Shepard in a film was in 1987. The film was called Baby Boom and explained the adventures of an agressive executive woman, played by Diane Keaton, who has to take care of a little baby and decides to travel to a small town to start a new life.

After that film, Sam Shepard was an habitual actor for The Grandma who has always admired him: The Right Stuff, Crimes of the Heart, Steel Magnolias, The Pelican Brief, Swordfish, Fair Game or Ithaca are considered a must in the list of The Grandma's great movies.

More information: Britannica

Sam Shepard was an American actor, screenwriter, playwright, director, and author. The following is his screen filmography as an actor, screenwriter, and director. Shepard was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Chuck Yeager in the 1983 film The Right Stuff. The following year, he was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for co-writing Paris, Texas (1984). For his role in the 1999 television film Dash and Lilly, he was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie and the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor, Miniseries or Television Film. 

Sit tibi terra levis, Sam!

Democracy's a very fragile thing. You have to take care of democracy. 
As soon as you stop being responsible to it and allow it to turn into scare tactics, it's no longer democracy, is it? It's something else. 
It may be an inch away from totalitarianism. 

Sam Shepard

Sunday, 30 July 2017


Emily Brontë
Emily Jane Brontë (30 July 1818-19 December 1848) was an English novelist and poet who is best known for her only novel, Wuthering Heights, now considered a classic of English literature. Emily was the third-eldest of the four surviving Brontë siblings, between the youngest Anne and her brother Branwell. She wrote under the pen name Ellis Bell.

Emily Brontë was born on 30 July 1818 in the village of Thornton on the outskirts of Bradford, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, in Northern England, to Maria Branwell and an Irish father, Patrick Brontë. 

She was the younger sister of Charlotte Brontë and the fifth of six children. In 1820, shortly after the birth of Emily's younger sister Anne, the family moved eight miles away to Haworth, where Patrick was employed as perpetual curate; here the children developed their literary talents.

More information:

After the death of their mother on 15 September 1821 from cancer, when Emily was three years old, the older sisters Maria, Elizabeth and Charlotte were sent to the Clergy Daughters' School at Cowan Bridge, where they encountered abuse and privations later described by Charlotte in Jane Eyre

Emily Brontë
At the age of six on 25 November 1824, Emily joined her sisters at school for a brief period. When a typhoid epidemic swept the school, Maria and Elizabeth caught it. Maria, who may actually have had tuberculosis, was sent home, where she died. Emily was subsequently removed from the school, in June 1825, along with Charlotte and Elizabeth. Elizabeth died soon after their return home.

Emily's health probably was weakened by the harsh local climate and by unsanitary conditions at home, the source of water being contaminated by runoff from the church's graveyard. Branwell died suddenly, on Sunday, September 24, 1848. At his funeral service, a week later, Brontë caught a severe cold which quickly developed into inflammation of the lungs and led to tuberculosis. Though her condition worsened steadily, she rejected medical help and all offered remedies, saying that she would have no poisoning doctor near her. 

More information: On-line Literature

On the morning of 19 December 1848, Charlotte, fearing for her sister, wrote this:

She grows daily weaker. The physician's opinion was expressed too obscurely to be of use, he sent some medicine which she would not take. Moments so dark as these I have never known, I pray for God's support to us all.

If I could I would always work in silence and obscurity, 
and let my efforts be known by their results. 

Emily Brontë

Saturday, 29 July 2017


 Self Portrait by Vincent van Gogh
Tina Picotes, our expert in painting wants to talk to us about Vincent van Gogh in the 127th anniversary of his death in Auvers-sur-Oise.

Vincent Willem van Gogh (30 March 1853-29 July 1890) was a Dutch Post-Impressionist painter who is among the most famous and influential figures in the history of Western art. In just over a decade he created about 2,100 artworks, including around 860 oil paintings, most of them in the last two years of his life in France, where he died. They include landscapes, still lifes, portraits and self-portraits, and are characterised by bold colours and dramatic, impulsive and expressive brushwork that contributed to the foundations of modern art. His suicide at 37 followed years of mental illness and poverty.

Born into an upper-middle-class family, Van Gogh drew as a child and was serious, quiet and thoughtful. As a young man he worked as an art dealer, often travelling, but became depressed after he was transferred to London. He turned to religion, and spent time as a Protestant missionary in southern Belgium

More information:

He drifted in ill health and solitude before taking up painting in 1881, having moved back home with his parents. His younger brother Theo supported him financially, and the two kept up a long correspondence by letter. His early works, mostly still lifes and depictions of peasant labourers, contain few signs of the vivid colour that distinguished his later work. 

Sunflowers by Vincent van Gogh
In 1886, he moved to Paris, where he met members of the avant-garde, including Émile Bernard and Paul Gauguin, who were reacting against the Impressionist sensibility. As his work developed he created a new approach to still lifes and local landscapes. His paintings grew brighter in colour as he developed a style that became fully realised during his stay in Arles in the south of France in 1888. During this period he broadened his subject matter to include olive trees, cypresses, wheat fields and sunflowers.

Van Gogh suffered from psychotic episodes and delusions and though he worried about his mental stability, he often neglected his physical health, did not eat properly and drank heavily. 

More information: Van Gogh Museum

His friendship with Gauguin ended after a confrontation with a razor, when in a rage, he severed part of his own left ear. He spent time in psychiatric hospitals, including a period at Saint-Rémy. After he discharged himself and moved to the Auberge Ravoux in Auvers-sur-Oise near Paris, he came under the care of the homeopathic doctor Paul Gachet

Vessenots by Vincent van Gogh
His depression continued and on 27 July 1890, Van Gogh shot himself in the chest with a revolver. He died from his injuries two days later.

Van Gogh was unsuccessful during his lifetime, and was considered a madman and a failure. He became famous after his suicide, and exists in the public imagination as the quintessential misunderstood genius, the artist where discourses on madness and creativity converge

His reputation began to grow in the early 20th century as elements of his painting style came to be incorporated by the Fauves and German Expressionists

He attained widespread critical, commercial and popular success over the ensuing decades, and is remembered as an important but tragic painter, whose troubled personality typifies the romantic ideal of the tortured artist.

Paintings have a life of their own that derives from the painter's soul. 

Vincent Van Gogh

Friday, 28 July 2017


Claire Fontaine in Lleida
Claire Fontaine is in Lleida today. She is supporting a farmers manifestation which reclaims better economical conditions and updated prices for their products. A successed society is one that takes care of all its members, from the first sector to the last. The Grandma, who is now enjoying some days of holidays, wants to support this manifestation, too. Claire and The Grandma want to reivindicate the importance of farmers in our societies and their enormous respect over them.

Agriculture or farming is the cultivation and breeding of animals, plants and fungi for food, fiber, biofuel, medicinal plants and other products used to sustain and enhance human life. 

Agriculture was the key development in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the development of civilization. The study of agriculture is known as agricultural science. 

More information: The World Bank

The history of agriculture dates back thousands of years, and its development has been driven and defined by greatly different climates, cultures, and technologies. Industrial agriculture based on large-scale monoculture farming has become the dominant agricultural methodology.

Claire Fontaine in Lleida
The major agricultural products can be broadly grouped into foods, fibers, fuels, and raw materials. Specific foods include cereals, vegetables, fruits, oils, meats and spices. Fibers include cotton, wool, hemp, silk and flax. Raw materials include lumber and bamboo. Other useful materials are also produced by plants, such as resins, dyes, drugs, perfumes, biofuels and ornamental products such as cut flowers and nursery plants. Over one third of the world's workers are employed in agriculture, second only to the service sector, although the percentages of agricultural workers in developed countries has decreased significantly over the past several centuries.

The word agriculture is a late Middle English adaptation of Latin agricultūra, from ager, field, and cultūra, cultivation or growing. Agriculture usually refers to human activities, although it is also observed in certain species of ant, termite and ambrosia beetle. To practice agriculture means to use natural resources to produce commodities which maintain life, including food, fiber, forest products, horticultural crops, and their related services

More information: Successful Farming

This definition includes arable farming or agronomy, and horticulture, all terms for the growing of plants, animal husbandry and forestry. A distinction is sometimes made between forestry and agriculture, based on the former's longer management rotations, extensive versus intensive management practices and development mainly by nature, rather than by man. Even then, it is acknowledged that there is a large amount of knowledge transfer and overlap between silviculture, the management of forests, and agriculture. In traditional farming, the two are often combined even on small landholdings, leading to the term agroforestry.

Agriculture began independently in different parts of the globe, and included a diverse range of taxa. At least 11 separate regions of the Old and New World were involved as independent centers of origin. Wild grains were collected and eaten from at least 105,000 years ago. Pigs were domesticated in Mesopotamia around 15,000 years ago. Rice was domesticated in China between 13,500 and 8,200 years ago, followed by mung, soy and azuki beans. Sheep were domesticated in Mesopotamia between 13,000 and 11,000 years ago. From around 11,500 years ago, the eight Neolithic founder crops, emmer and einkorn wheat, hulled barley, peas, lentils, bitter vetch, chick peas and flax were cultivated in the Levant. Cattle were domesticated from the wild aurochs in the areas of modern Turkey and Pakistan some 10,500 years ago. In the Andes of South America, the potato was domesticated between 10,000 and 7,000 years ago, along with beans, coca, llamas, alpacas, and guinea pigs. Sugarcane and some root vegetables were domesticated in New Guinea around 9,000 years ago. Sorghum was domesticated in the Sahel region of Africa by 7,000 years ago. Cotton was domesticated in Peru by 5,600 years ago, and was independently domesticated in Eurasia at an unknown time. In Mesoamerica, wild teosinte was domesticated to maize by 6,000 years ago.

Claire Fontaine in Lleida
In the Middle Ages, both in the Islamic world and in Europe, agriculture was transformed with improved techniques and the diffusion of crop plants, including the introduction of sugar, rice, cotton and fruit trees such as the orange to Europe by way of Al-Andalus

After 1492, the Columbian exchange brought New World crops such as maize, potatoes, sweet potatoes and manioc to Europe, and Old World crops such as wheat, barley, rice and turnips, and livestock including horses, cattle, sheep and goats to the Americas. 

Irrigation, crop rotation, and fertilizers were introduced soon after the Neolithic Revolution and developed much further in the past 200 years, starting with the British Agricultural Revolution

Since 1900, agriculture in the developed nations, and to a lesser extent in the developing world, has seen large rises in productivity as human labor has been replaced by mechanization, and assisted by synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and selective breeding. 

Agriculture not only gives riches to a nation, 
but the only riches she can call her own. 

Samuel Johnson

Thursday, 27 July 2017


Tina Picotes in Bratislava, Slovakia
Tina Picotes is travelling across Central Europe. After spending some days in Slovensko, she wants to explains us some things about this wonderful and amazing country.

Slovensko or Slovakia, officially the Slovak Republic is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Austria to the west, Poland to the north, Ukraine to the east and Hungary to the south. Slovakia's territory spans about 49,000 square kilometres and is mostly mountainous. The population is over 5 million and comprises mostly ethnic Slovaks. The capital and largest city is Bratislava. The official language is Slovak.

The Slavs arrived in the territory of present-day Slovakia in the 5th and 6th centuries. In the 7th century, they played a significant role in the creation of Samo's Empire and in the 9th century established the Principality of Nitra

More information: Slovak Republic

In the 10th century, the territory was integrated into the Kingdom of Hungary. After World War I and the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Slovaks and Czechs established Czechoslovakia. A separate Slovak Republic (1939–1945) existed in World War II as a client state of Nazi Germany. In 1945, Czechoslovakia was re-established under Communist rule as a Soviet satellite

Tina Picotes in Bratislava, Slovakia
In 1989 the Velvet Revolution ended Communist rule in Czechoslovakia. Slovakia became an independent state on 1 January 1993 after the peaceful dissolution of Czechoslovakia, sometimes known as the Velvet Divorce.

The end of Communist rule in Czechoslovakia in 1989, during the peaceful Velvet Revolution, was followed once again by the country's dissolution, this time into two successor states. The word socialist was dropped in the names of the two republics. 

In July 17, 1992 Slovakia, led by Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar, declared itself a sovereign state, meaning that its laws took precedence over those of the federal government. Throughout the autumn of 1992, Mečiar and Czech Prime Minister Václav Klaus negotiated the details for disbanding the federation. In November the federal parliament voted to dissolve the country officially on December 31, 1992.

More information: Lonely Planet

Slovakia is a high-income advanced economy with a very high Human Development Index a very high standard of living and performs favourably in measurements of civil liberties, press freedom, internet freedom, democratic governance and peacefulness. The country maintains a combination of market economy with a comprehensive social security system. Citizens of Slovakia are provided with universal health care, free education and one of the longest paid maternity leave in the OECD.

Tina Picotes in Bratislava, Slovakia
The country joined the European Union in 2004 and the Eurozone on 1 January 2009. Slovakia is also a member of the Schengen Area, NATO, the United Nations, the OECD, the WTO, CERN, the OSCE, the Council of Europe and the Visegrád Group. The Slovak economy is one of the fastest growing economies in Europe and 3rd fastest in eurozone.

The first written mention of name Slovakia is in 1586: In Liptau, bei der Stadt Sankt Nikolaus in der Slovakia. It derives from the Czech word Slováky, previous German forms were Windischen landen, Windenland, the 15th century. The native name Slovensko (1791) derives from an older name of Slovaks Sloven what may indicate its origin before the 15th century. The original meaning was geographic, not political, since Slovakia was a part of multiethnic Kingdom of Hungary and did not form a separate administrative unit in this period.

 I'm a Slovak. And when I was growing up, I believed that 
I was Czechoslovakian because of what Russia did. 
They came in and took two separate countries - Slovakia and the Czech Republic - put them together as one.
Jesse Ventura

Wednesday, 26 July 2017


Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood in House of Cards
Kevin Spacey Fowler, (born July 26, 1959), better known as Kevin Spacey, is an American actor, film director, producer, and singer. He began his career as a stage actor during the 1980s before obtaining supporting roles in film and television. 

He gained critical acclaim in the early 1990s that culminated in his first Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for the neo-noir crime thriller The Usual Suspects (1995), and an Academy Award for Best Actor for midlife crisis-themed drama American Beauty (1999).

More information:  Kevin Spacey

His other starring roles have included the comedy-drama film Swimming with Sharks (1994), psychological thriller Seven (1995), the neo-noir crime film L.A. Confidential (1997), the drama Pay It Forward (2000), the science fiction-mystery film K-PAX (2001), and the role of Lex Luthor in the superhero film Superman Returns (2006).

Kevin Spacey
In Broadway theatre, Spacey won a Tony Award for his role in Lost in Yonkers. Spacey won universal praise and a Best Actor Oscar for his role as a depressed suburban father who re-evaluates his life in 1999's American Beauty; the same year, he was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

Spacey won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor and earned another Tony nomination in 1999 for The Iceman Cometh

On March 18, 2011, it was announced that Spacey was cast as Frank Underwood in the Netflix series House of Cards

More information: BBC

You have to always be ready, always be alive, 
and always be willing to move in a new direction. 

Kevin Spacey

Tuesday, 25 July 2017


Joaquin Murrieta
Joaquin Murrieta Carrillo (1829-July 25, 1853), also called the Mexican Robin Hood or the Robin Hood of El Dorado, was a famous figure in California during the California Gold Rush of the 1850s. Depending on the point of view, he was considered as either an infamous bandit or a Mexican patriot.

In 1919 Johnston McCulley supposedly received his inspiration for his fictional character Don Diego de la Vega better known as Zorro from the 1854 book entitled The Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murrieta, The Celebrated California Bandit by John Rollin Ridge

John heard about a Mexican miner who had turned to banditry and was intrigued by the story.

More information: Ancient Origins

John Rollin Ridge, grandson of the Cherokee leader Major Ridge, wrote a dime novel about Murrieta; the fictional biography contributed to his legend, especially as it was translated into various European languages. A portion of Ridge's novel was reprinted in 1858 in the California Police Gazette. This story was picked up and subsequently translated into French. The French version was translated into Spanish by Roberto Hyenne, who took Ridge's original story and changed every Mexican reference to Chilean for either nationalistic reasons or to better fit the Chilean market.

A banner about J. Murrieta
The historian Frank Latta, in his twentieth-century book, Joaquín Murrieta and His Horse Gangs (1980), wrote that Murrieta was from Hermosillo in the northern Mexican state of Sonora and that he had a paramilitary band made up of relatives and friends. Latta documented that they regularly engaged in illegal horse trade with Mexico, and had helped Murrieta kill at least six of the Americans who had attacked him and his wife.

He and his band attacked settlers and wagon trains in California. They also stole horses, driving them from Contra Costa County to the Central Valley via the remote La Vareda del Monte trail through the Diablo Range. The gang is believed to have killed up to 28 Chinese and 13 Anglo-Americans. 

By 1853, the California state legislature considered Murrieta enough of a criminal to list him as one of the so-called Five Joaquins on a bill passed in May 1853. The legislature authorized hiring for three months a company of 20 California Rangers, veterans of the Mexican-American War, to hunt down Joaquin Botellier, Joaquin Carrillo, Joaquin Muriata, Joaquin Ocomorenia, and Joaquin Valenzuela, and their banded associates. 

More information: Federico de California

On May 11, 1853, the governor John Bigler signed an act to create the California State Rangers, to be led by Captain Harry Love, a former Texas Ranger and Mexican War veteran.

The state paid the California Rangers $150 a month, and promised them a $1,000 governor's reward if they captured the wanted men. On July 25, 1853, a group of Rangers encountered a band of armed Mexican men near Arroyo de Cantua on the edge of the Diablo Range near Coalinga, California. In the confrontation, three of the Mexicans were killed. They claimed one was Murrieta, and another Manuel Garcia, also known as Three-Fingered Jack, one of his most notorious associates. Two others were captured. A plaque, California Historical Landmark #344, near Coalinga at the intersection of State Routes 33 and 198 now marks the approximate site of the incident.

Joaquín Murrieta
As proof of the outlaws' deaths, the Rangers cut off Three-Fingered Jack's hand and the alleged Murrieta's head and preserved them in a jar of alcohol to bring to the authorities for their reward. Officials displayed the jar in Mariposa County, Stockton, and San Francisco. The Rangers took the display throughout California; spectators could pay $1 to see the relics. Seventeen people, including a Catholic priest, signed affidavits identifying the head as Murrieta's, alias Carrillo.

But, 25 years later, the myths began to form. In 1879, O. P. Stidger was reported to have heard Murrieta's sister say that the displayed head was not her brother's. At around the same time, numerous sightings were reported of Murrieta as an old man. These were never confirmed. His preserved head was destroyed during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and subsequent fire. His head is displayed prominently in the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Old Town San Diego, so there are doubts to whether his preserved head, in fact, still exists.

Murrieta's nephew, known as Procopio, became one of California's most notorious bandits of the 1860s and 1870s; he purportedly wanted to exceed the reputation of his uncle. Murrieta was possibly partly the inspiration for the fictional character of Zorro, the lead character in the five-part serial story, The Curse of Capistrano, written by Johnston McCulley and published in 1919 in a pulp fiction magazine. 

More information:  Hollywood Jesus

For some activists, Murrieta had come to symbolize the resistance against Anglo-American economic and cultural domination in California. The Association of Descendants of Joaquin Murrieta says that Murrieta was not a gringo eater, but He wanted to retrieve the part of Mexico that was lost at that time in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.

Last studies talks about another theory about the real Zorro, another person with an Irish origin. The mystery continues...

Legend: A lie that has attained the dignity of age. 

H. L. Mencken

Monday, 24 July 2017


Robert Graves
Robert von Ranke Graves (24 July 1895-7 December 1985), also known as Robert Ranke Graves and most commonly Robert Graves, was an English poet, novelist, critic and classicist. In a way similar to Oscar Wilde, Robert Graves was a Celticist and student of Irish mythology, by the influence of his father Alfred Perceval Graves, a celebrated Irish poet, with William Wilde, these families were inheritors of the Gaelic revival. He produced more than 140 works.

Graves's poems, together with his translations and innovative analysis and interpretations of the Greek myths; his memoir of his early life, including his role in the First World War, Good-Bye to All That; and his speculative study of poetic inspiration, The White Goddess, have never been out of print. Irish literature deeply affected Graves' White Goddess theories, specifically the genre aisling.

He earned his living from writing, particularly popular historical novels such as I, Claudius, King Jesus, The Golden Fleece and Count Belisarius. He also was a prominent translator of Classical Latin and Ancient Greek texts; his versions of The Twelve Caesars and The Golden Ass remain popular, for their clarity and entertaining style. Graves was awarded the 1934 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for both I, Claudius and Claudius the God.

Graves was born into a middle-class family in Wimbledon, then part of Surrey, now part of London. He was the third of five children born to Alfred Perceval Graves (1846–1931), an Irish school inspector, Gaelic scholar and the author of the popular song Father O'Flynn, and his second wife, Amalie von Ranke (1857–1951).

Robert Graves in Deià, Majorca
At school, Graves was enrolled as Robert von Ranke Graves and in Germany his books are published under that name but before and during the First World War, the name caused him difficulties. In August 1916 an officer who disliked him spread the rumour that he was the brother of a captured German spy who had assumed the name Carl Graves. The problem resurfaced in a minor way in the Second World War, when a suspicious rural policeman blocked his appointment to the Special Constabulary.

In 1926, he took up a post at Cairo University, accompanied by his wife, their children and the poet Laura Riding. He returned to London briefly, where he split up with his wife under highly emotional circumstances, at one point Riding attempted suicide, before leaving to live with Riding in Deià, Majorca

There they continued to publish letterpress books under the rubric of the Seizin Press, founded and edited the literary journal, Epilogue and wrote two successful academic books together: A Survey of Modernist Poetry (1927) and A Pamphlet Against Anthologies (1928); both had great influence on modern literary criticism, particularly New Criticism. Graves and Riding left Majorca in 1936 at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War and in 1939, they moved to the United States, taking lodging in New Hope, Pennsylvania.

Robert Graves
On 11 November 1985, Graves was among sixteen Great War poets commemorated on a slate stone unveiled in Westminster Abbey's Poet's Corner

The inscription on the stone was written by friend and fellow Great War poet Wilfred Owen. It reads: My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity. Of the 16 poets, Graves was the only one still living at the time of the commemoration ceremony.

During the early 1970s Graves began to suffer from increasingly severe memory loss. By his 80th birthday in 1975, he had come to the end of his working life. He survived for ten more years, in an increasingly dependent condition, until he died from heart failure on 7 December 1985 at 90. He was buried the next morning in the small churchyard on a hill at Deià, at the site of a shrine that had once been sacred to The White Goddess of Pelion.

More information: Illes Balears

Genius not only diagnoses the situation but supplies the answers. 

Robert Graves

Sunday, 23 July 2017


Joseph de Ca'th Lon in Arizona Desert
I was astonished first time I saw it. It was like a big fired arrow crossing the starred sky. 

I felt very small in the middle of our unknown Universe.

My interest in Astronomy is old, since I was a teenager. I have always had an incredible feeling to look up into the sky.

The sky is a big map and we can find past answers, present mysteries and it will be a useful guide for the future generations. 

Joseph de Ca'th Lon, New Mexico, 1995

Comet Hale–Bopp, formally designated C/1995 O1, is a comet that was perhaps the most widely observed of the 20th century, and one of the brightest seen for many decades.

Joseph and Hale-Bopp in Cairo
Hale–Bopp was discovered on July 23, 1995 separately by Alan Hale and Thomas Bopp prior to it becoming naked-eye visible on Earth. 

Although predicting the maximum apparent brightness of new comets with any degree of certainty is difficult, Hale–Bopp met or exceeded most predictions when it passed perihelion on April 1, 1997. 

It was visible to the naked eye for a record 18 months, twice as long as the previous record holder, the Great Comet of 1811. 

Accordingly, Hale–Bopp was dubbed the Great Comet of 1997.

More information: NASA

Hale had spent many hundreds of hours searching for comets without success, and was tracking known comets from his driveway in New Mexico when he chanced upon Hale–Bopp just after midnight. The comet had an apparent magnitude of 10.5 and lay near the globular cluster M70 in the constellation of Sagittarius. 

Joseph and Hale-Bopp over Indian Cove, 2013
Hale first established that there was no other deep-sky object near M70, and then consulted a directory of known comets, finding that none were known to be in this area of the sky. 

Once he had established that the object was moving relative to the background stars, he emailed the Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams, the clearing house for astronomical discoveries.

Bopp did not own a telescope. He was out with friends near Stanfield, Arizona observing star clusters and galaxies when he chanced across the comet while at the eyepiece of his friend's telescope. He realized he might have spotted something new when, like Hale, he checked his star maps to determine if any other deep-sky objects were known to be near M70, and found that there were none. He alerted the Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams through a Western Union telegram. 

Brian G. Marsden, who had run the bureau since 1968, laughed, Nobody sends telegrams anymore. I mean, by the time that telegram got here, Alan Hale had already e-mailed us three times with updated coordinates.

More information: Space

The following morning, it was confirmed that this was a new comet, and it was given the designation C/1995 O1. The discovery was announced in International Astronomical Union circular 6187.

Hale–Bopp's orbital position was calculated as 7.2 astronomical units (AU) from the Sun, placing it between Jupiter and Saturn and by far the greatest distance from Earth at which a comet had been discovered by amateurs.Most comets at this distance are extremely faint, and show no discernible activity, but Hale–Bopp already had an observable coma. 

Joseph and Comet Hale-Bopp over Lake Mono
An image taken at the Anglo-Australian Telescope in 1993 was found to show the then-unnoticed comet some 13 AU from the Sun, a distance at which most comets are essentially unobservable. Analysis indicated later that its comet nucleus was 60±20 kilometres in diameter, approximately six times the size of Halley.

Its great distance and surprising activity indicated that comet Hale–Bopp might become very bright indeed when it reached perihelion in 1997. However, comet scientists were wary, comets can be extremely unpredictable, and many have large outbursts at great distance only to diminish in brightness later. Comet Kohoutek in 1973 had been touted as a 'comet of the century' and turned out to be unspectacular.

The comet likely made its previous perihelion 4,200 years ago, in July 2215 BCE. The estimated closest approach to Earth was 1.4 AU, and it may have been observed in ancient Egypt during the 6th dynasty reign of the Pharaoh Pepi II (Reign: 2247 - c.2216 BCE). 

Pepi's pyramid at Saqqara contains a text referring to an "nhh-star" as a companion of the pharaoh in the heavens, where "nhh" is the hieroglyph for long hair.

More information: Phys

 Reality is determined not by what scientists or anyone else says or believes but by what the evidence reveals to us.

Alan Hale

Saturday, 22 July 2017


Rufus Wainwright
Today is Rufus Wainwright's birthday. He's one of The Grandma's favourite composers and singers and she wants to talk you about him. Rufus McGarrigle Wainwright is an American-Canadian singer, songwriter and composer. 

He has recorded seven albums, numerous tracks on compilations and film soundtracks.

Wainwright was born in Rhinebeck, New York, to folk singers Kate McGarrigle and Loudon Wainwright III. His parents divorced when he was three, and he lived with his mother in Montreal for most of his youth. Wainwright has dual US and Canadian citizenship.

More information: Rufus Wainwright

At the age of 14, earned him a nomination for a 1989 Genie Award for Best Original Song. He was nominated for a 1990 Juno Award for Most Promising Male Vocalist of the Year.

Martha, Joan, Emmylou, Kate, Anna, Bruce & Rufus
Through weekly shows at Cafe Sarajevo, Wainwright was on the Montreal club circuit and eventually cut a series of demo tapes produced by Pierre Marchand, who later produced Wainwright's album Poses. 

The resulting tapes impressed his father Loudon, who passed them on to his friend Van Dyke Parks. Parks sent the recordings to Lenny Waronker, the DreamWorks executive who eventually signed Wainwright to his label. 

Martha Wainwright, and mother, Kate McGarrigle, as well as many more of his family at the Knitting Factory in downtown Manhattan. Joined by other artists such as Grammy Award-winner Emmylou Harris, Velvet Underground front man Lou Reed and famed performance artist Laurie Anderson, the eclectic cast performed original and traditional Christmas-themed songs.

More information:  Martha Wainwright

In June 2007, Wainwright was a part of the multi-artist True Colors Tour, which traveled through 15 cities in the United States and Canada. The tour, sponsored by the Logo channel, began on June 8, 2007. Hosted by comedian Margaret Cho and headlined by Cyndi Lauper, the tour included Debbie Harry, The Gossip, the Indigo Girls, The Dresden Dolls, The MisShapes, and Erasure. Profits went to the Human Rights Campaign

Carrie Fisher and Rufus Wainwright
Wainwright continued to tour during 2007 and embraced forms of expression not usually part of mainstream American music concerts. 

These included performances of Judy Garland songs, and expressing his concerns against the current U.S. political situation. His performances were critically acclaimed.

In addition to his tenor singing voice, he plays piano and guitar, often switching between the two instruments when performing live. While some songs feature just Wainwright and his piano, his later work is often accompanied by rock instrumentation or a symphony orchestra, displaying complex layering and harmonies with an operatic feel. 

More information: Queerty

Wainwright is an opera enthusiast and likes Franz Schubert's lieder and Victòria dels Àngels. Some of Wainwright's songs are described as popera or baroque pop. Many of his compositions are densely packed amalgams of strings, horns, operatic choruses, and ragtime rhythms, with a warm vocal timbre.

 In the present world, this technological, psychotic, politicised, nonsensical world, you have to believe that the good guys are going to win! That evil will be banished somehow! 

Rufus Wainwright

Friday, 21 July 2017


Apollo 11 Command Module
Apollo 11 was the spaceflight that landed the first two humans on the Moon. Mission commander Neil Armstrong and pilot Buzz Aldrin, both American, landed the lunar module Eagle on July 20, 1969, at 20:18 UTC.  

Armstrong became the first to step onto the lunar surface six hours later on July 21 at 02:56:15 UTC; Aldrin joined him about 20 minutes later. They spent about two and a quarter hours together outside the spacecraft, and collected 21.5 kg of lunar material to bring back to Earth. Michael Collins piloted the command module Columbia alone in lunar orbit while they were on the Moon's surface. Armstrong and Aldrin spent just under a day on the lunar surface before rendezvousing with Columbia in lunar orbit.

More information: NASA

Apollo 11 was launched by a Saturn V rocket from Kennedy Space Center in Merritt Island, Florida, on July 16, and was the fifth manned mission of NASA's Apollo program. The Apollo spacecraft had three parts: a command module with a cabin for the three astronauts, and the only part that landed back on Earth; a service module, which supported the command module with propulsion, electrical power, oxygen, and water; and a lunar module that had two stages, a lower stage for landing on the Moon, and an upper stage to place the astronauts back into lunar orbit. 

More information: NASA

Aldrin bootprint on the Moon
After being sent toward the Moon by the Saturn V's upper stage, the astronauts separated the spacecraft from it and traveled for three days until they entered into lunar orbit. Armstrong and Aldrin then moved into the lunar module Eagle and landed in the Sea of Tranquility

They stayed a total of about 21.5 hours on the lunar surface. The astronauts used Eagle's upper stage to lift off from the lunar surface and rejoin Collins in the command module. 

They jettisoned Eagle before they performed the maneuvers that blasted them out of lunar orbit on a trajectory back to Earth. They returned to Earth and landed in the Pacific Ocean on July 24.

More information: NASA

Broadcast on live TV to a worldwide audience, Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface and described the event as one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind. Apollo 11 effectively ended the Space Race and fulfilled a national goal proposed in 1961 by U.S. President John F. Kennedy: before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.

Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon. 
July 1969 AD. We came in peace for all mankind. 

Neil Armstrong