Gilmore Girls Actor Edward Herrmann Dies at 71

The Emmy-winning actor played Richard Gilmore on the show

http://time.com/3651350/edward-herrmann-dead-gilmore-girls/

Being something of a closet fan of The Gilmore Girls, I was very sorry to read of the passing of Edward Herrman. My wife and I were only talking about him the other day when he appeared as a lawyer in The Good Wife (we’re catching up a few years late via Netflix!).
He was one of those actors who popped up from time to time and was always watchable. RIP Richard Gilmore!

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TIME Remembers the Artists Who Died in 2014

I always feel a little melancholy at the changing of a year; perhaps this is why? The feeling of time marching relentlessly on does it to me every time!
Hey ho! That’s the way it goes.
Anyway, some good words written about interesting people by interesting people…
Happy New Year!

TIME

Since the very first issue of TIME, the Milestones section has marked important moments of the week and celebrated the lives of those who died recently. Staffers, critics and those who knew the late, great figures share what made those people special. Here are a few of 2014’s most notable Milestones obituaries for the people who made our culture what it is today.

Lev Grossman on Maya Angelou: “In her first book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Angelou, who died May 28 at 86, tells the story of her life up to the age of 17. She describes herself as “a too-big Negro girl, with nappy black hair, broad feet and a space between her teeth that would hold a number-two pencil.” Although the book has been assigned to countless high school students, its unsparing account of black life in the South during the Depression and of…

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Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Birthday Message to Sir Isaac Newton Makes Big Bang on Twitter

I really need to get up and start the day! But I keep finding interesting posts!
Why do people get so upset about this stuff? Seems perfectly reasonable to me to mention the birthday of Sir Isaac Newton (I didn’t realise his birthday was Dec 25th).
I’m a Christian and celebrate Christmas (obvs!) but in no way am I offended…

TIME

As Christians celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ on Thursday, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson noted the birth of another notable man: Sir Isaac Newton.

Tyson’s tweet was met with some praise and some ire—many felt the tweet was disrespectful to those observing Christmas on Dec. 25. But many cheered Tyson’s wit.

The anti-Christian furor was stoked by Tyson’s follow-up tweet, which read:

Late Friday, Tyson wrote a Facebook message explaining his tweet, which he says is his most retweeted ever.

“Everybody knows that Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus…

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Facebook Apologizes for Pain Caused by ‘Year in Review’ Posts

This is interesting. I’ve personally not taken up the ‘offer’ from my Facebook page to do the ‘Year in Review’ because I’m just not a fan of this type of FB app. However, to assume that ‘It’s been great year’ is clearly not applicable to everyone!

TIME

So far, Facebook has directly apologized to at least one person for whom the Year-in-Review post brought back painful memories from 2014.

Years can be full of ups and downs, but the algorithm Facebook used to highlight accounts’ most-liked photos didn’t allow users to choose which photos they want to highlight–eliminating the chance to leave out pictures people may not have wanted to be reminded were there.

Writer and web design consultant Eric Meyer wrote in a blog post that because he lost his six-year-old daughter to brain cancer in 2014, his year hadn’t been “great,” as the uniform Facebook post declared.

“For those of us who lived through the death of loved ones, or spent extended time in the hospital, or were hit by divorce or losing a job or any one of a hundred crises, we might not want another look at this past year,” Meyer wrote

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See Ewan McGregor as Jesus in Sundance Exclusive

Interesting. I’ll be interested to see how this looks. It’s a tricky area for film makers I always think, but I like Ewan McGregor and think he’s always a reliable actor…

TIME

When the trades announced last February that Albert Nobbs director Rodrigo García was making a small indie starring Ewan McGregor in dual roles, his characters were described as a “holy man and a demon.” But unveiled in yesterday’s announcement of Premieres for the 2015 Sundance Film Festival were the more specific details for Last Days in the Desert that said holy man and demon are actually Jesus and the Devil, “in an imagined chapter from his 40 days of fasting and praying in the desert.”

In the film, Yeshua—Hebrew for Jesus—is tempted by evil while alone in the wilderness. “You can see the demon as the Devil,” says McGregor. “Or you can see him as another side of Yeshua perhaps, an embodiment of his doubt. He’s there testing him into trying to suggest that his father doesn’t love him, that his father’s not interested in his struggle.”

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The Hobbit: Billy Boyd Sings His “Last Goodbye” to Middle Earth in New Music Video

I’m a fan of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, and this song is a lovely way to round off the series…

Geekritique

Billy Boyd, known best for portraying Peregrin “Pippin” Took in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, is also an accomplished musician. To pay his respects to the series, and say goodbye one last time to Middle Earth, he’s crafted a touching song titled “The Last Goodbye.” Watch the nostalgic music video below.

Speaking to EW, Boyd had this to say about his song:

“After seeing the film, I went to my room and I started to put down some ideas, and along with Fran and Philippa, we started to sculpt the song we thought the movie needed… A lot of ideas took us to dead ends or we found the tone wasn’t just right. I think we discovered very quickly this wasn’t just a song to end The Battle of the Five Armies—it was a song to say goodbye to Middle-earth.”

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When the stars align…

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There has been something of a hiatus I’m my blogging of late, due mainly to the fact that I have experienced some significant changes in my working life, which have more or less consumed me for the last 4 months!

For very nearly 30 years, I worked for BT Plc in the UK and on September 1st, for the first time in adult life, I started work with another firm! As you might imagine, this was a fairly big deal for me!

Back in June, BT Wholesale, where I’d worked for the last 11 years, carried out a structual re-organisation, and I found myself without a role, but not unemployed. This was not a disaster as BT seeks to re-deploy people into new roles within the organisation where possible – something which can work out well for some people, although it is very unsettling. Either way, it gives one space to collect ones thoughts and decide on a course of action.

This was the second time I’d been re-deployed, the first taking me from a role I really enjoyed and placing me into one I didn’t, a situation that lasted about 20 months (although I loved the people in the team). After a lot of effort on my part it was recognised that I was actually in the wrong role and so I was moved to something more suitable; technical pre-sales. It was generally a positive experience work wise, but organisationally I found it challenging – mainly due to management style.

June –  So for me (along with many others) re-deployment once again beckoned but this time it was a ‘re-org’ too many. I hated how powerless I felt in the wake of it and for the first time in many years I started to think about the world ‘outside’.

Someone told me that Virgin Media Business (VMB) were looking for people with my general skill set, and so without any real expectation of success, I sent off my CV – the worse that could happen was that it would be good interview experience, right?

I was therefore very pleased to be asked for a telephone interview, and then (with a jolt of nerves) invited to a face to face interview. I loathe interviews and always feel that I struggle with them. The day arrived, I felt sick, but knew that I’d done all I could to prepare. Girding myself with a Starbuck’s fruit toast and coffee I arrived at Virgin Media’s HQ in Hook one Friday afternoon for what was to be the first of two interviews.

I’d been interviewed by VMB previously, and although unsuccessful then, I’d found the process to be a positive experience and was hoping to find the same on this occasion; if anything it was even better than before. I’d prepared well, but the way the interview was conducted was such that I was put at ease from the moment I met my interviewer’s.

By the time I got home again, I’d receive an email asking me back for a second final interview, which was a good sign, and the following week was put through my paces in a more practical interview, with a scenario and role playing element. Never very comfortable these things, but it went OK. A week later (although it seemed much longer!), I was offered the job! I was over the moon!

Handing my notice in to BT was a slightly strange experience as I never really expected that I would do that, but sure enough, I finally left BT on 31st August after a career with BT lasting 29 years a couple of hundred days! A period which had seen me grow up, get married, have two kids (now young adults!).

I’ve now been in my new job for about 3 months, and I’m really enjoying it. There is a lot to learn about how they do business, about the capabilities, the networks, the processes etc., but I’m well supported and I feel like I’m settling in now and adding value to the business I joined. I like the people, the organisation and the general ethos. It’s interesting to see the differences from BT – some good, others not so good, but above all though, I like the fact that I once again enjoy going to work! That’s priceless!

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My BT citation for long service. Signed by Sir Michael Rake, Chairman of BT Group. This now resides in our downstairs loo – not out of disrespect to BT, but it’s as good place as any to keep it!

 

© Richard Debonnaire

 

Hanging with the Convention Crowd

DSC_0116 My daughter is a bit of a TV addict, at least with regard to certain types of shows. She has, over a period of 2 or 3 years, bought and/or watched via Netflix, all the CSI, X-Files, Battlestar Galactica, Firefly, Doctor Who, Sarah Connor Chronichles, Stargate SG1 and Atlantis…series. There doesn’t seem to be much she’s not shown an interest in! Add movies to this, in particular The Lord of the Rings trilogy (which she can almost recite!), and you get a picture of someone who likes a good yarn! A couple of years ago, she went to the London Film and Comic Con, in the hope of getting autographs and signed pictures of the stars of some of the shows she liked. This year, she persuaded me to go with her to this years London event (#LFCC2014), which was held at Earls Court.

I was a little reluctant, but decided to give it a whirl. The attraction of these events for many, is the chance to see the stars of these shows up close, and to buy merchandise from the hundreds of stalls to be found inside. For some, the opportunity to dress up also must not be missed – which works better for some people than for others! As we were riding the District Line tube towards Earls Court, it was obvious which passengers were going to be getting off the train with us! But that was nothing to what you can see when you actually arrive at the venue!

First of all, I was glad we’d bought tickets in advance; the queue was immense and was in effect being marshalled, not by a shaven headed chap in hi-vis vest, but rather by a Tuskan Raider…and much more impressive he was too! Guarding the entrance were various troops from Stargate, plus Bumble Bee, an Autobot from Transformers, and some others I didn’t recognise.

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Bumble Bee (Chevrolet Camaro)

Once inside, it becomes clear that this is a popular event; it was heaving. Even Darth Vader was struggling to get through the crowds with his Jedi powers, but considering the queues outside, it was going to get a lot busier. I was struck by just how many people were dressed in character, and frankly perplexed as to why they would do so. I am a fan of Sci-Fi and all sorts of other genres, but I actually felt a bit like a fish out of water; I couldn’t imagine dressing up as they did (although I did once pretend to be Col. Steve Austin when I was at primary school. I got picked on for that, so I stopped).

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A couple of ‘Jedi Knights’

I wondered what these people did when they weren’t dressing up. I saw a number of Khaleesi’s, several Cersei Lannister‘s (she’s just a bit misunderstood); some really good, others not so much. There were also some over-weight Jedi’s, a Spider Woman, a Black Widow, some Smurf’s, a couple of Doctor Who’s, an Edward Scissor Hands, a Predator (he was very good!) and many more I didn’t know. Some managed to achieve really convincing replicas of the costumes, others looked like they’d thrown it together the day before, although I suspect all were a labour of love for the wearer.

I mentioned the ‘stars’ who were in attendance to sign autographs (for a small fee); actually some of them were stars to be honest, although I didn’t actually see them. Initially, I wondered what would get these people to come along to such an event, but when I saw what they were charging, it’s a no brainer! The big hitters, were John Hurt, Ian Macdiamid (Star Wars and many others), Carrie Fisher (perhaps more icon than a star in the true sense), and Stan Lee co-creator of Spider-Man, the Hulk, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Thor, the X-Men, and many other fictional characters, i.e. a legend. These were justifiable draw’s but correspondingly expensive for squiggles and photos (c. £120 each for both)!

There were lots of others though, none of whom we paid to meet, but who could nevertheless be seen, and who doesn’t like a bit of celebrity spotting?! To meet them, you’d have to part with a minimum of £15, but more usually it was around £25 or £30, depending. Kind of a ‘star league’ based on price I suppose. In no particular order, these are those we saw in the flesh:

As you can see, quite a mishmash of genres covered and you might expect this to be unutterably boring for them, but from what I could see, the celebs really seemed to be making the effort to engage each person they met, which impressed me. I reckon there must have been about 100 ‘celebs’ there, some memorable, with queues a mile long, others sitting alone and waiting for someone to come along and get an autograph, and that looked a bit sad to be honest.

We stayed for a couple of hours, and on the whole, I rather enjoyed myself, watching the celebs, browsing the stalls and all that. I’m glad that I went although I’m not sure I’d go again; I think for now I’ll probably leave that for the future. There is something slightly alluring about the whole thing… ‘Whatever floats your starship’, as they say.

A Tuskan Raider marshalling the crowd

© Richard Debonnaire

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Looking across the airfield, with the passenger terminal and control tower beyond the runway, and London in the background

Anyone who has seen my This is me page, can’t have failed to notice that I have a thing about aviation, and living near Biggin Hill Airport, I quite often mosey over there to see what activity is going on. Some times, there’s lots, others it’s very quiet.

Biggin Hill is a busy little airport, with a number of private jet and general aviation companies operating from it. With it only being a few miles from London, it makes a good base for the average ‘bizjet’ user to fly into and out of, and with only a 6 minute helicopter transfer direct to the City of London, its well positioned for the business traveller market, and that, also makes it an interesting place for the average aviation enthusiast.

First Light

Biggin Hill, is of course famous for the role it played as a fighter base in the 2nd world war, on the front line of air defence during the Battle of Britain. Much has been published on that subject, so I won’t venture far down that path, except to say that one of the best books I ever read about the Battle of Britain, is First Light by Geoffrey Wellum, a pilot, one of the few’ , during the battle. I highly recommend it (the BBC also made a film of it).

It’s with that sense of history in mind that I always think about Biggin Hill Airport. Time has moved on and these days it’s a civilian airfield, although the old gates still have the gate guardians of a Spitfire and Hurricane to watch over them. The main entrance for passenger’s is now on the A233 to the west of the runway but there are the many other charter companies and flying schools (as well as Bernie Ecclestone’s Formula One Management HQ) on the south eastern edge.

The main road runs past the southern end of the runway and it makes for a good spot to photograph the aircraft as they go about their aviation business. There are all sorts of aircraft pottering around. I really like to see the sleek jets that frequent the place, although I’m only now really getting to know what these are, manufacturers, types, ranges etc., but there is always other stuff to see as well. Here’s a selection taken over the last couple of weeks (on only two visits!).

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L-R: Cessna Citation CJ2+ starting take off run, a Harvard trainer coming into land, the Supermarine Spitfire (adapted to take a passenger) and Cessna 650 Citation VII

One of the pictures I took recently was this of a Curtis-Wright Travelair, and I posted the picture on Instagram:

Curtis-Wright Travelair

In one of those strange occurances that only happens when using social media, one of the pilots of this particular aircraft, Carl, spotted it and asked if I would send him a copy to go on the website for Shipping and Airlines who own it, which of course I was happy to do. In return Carl invited me to visit their hanger at Biggin Hill to have a look around their collection of vintage aircraft, which have been lovingly and beautifully restored to airworthy condition by the engineers at Shipping and Airlines. It was a real treat for me to visit them and to get a close up look at the aircraft they have there, so thanks to Carl for taking the time to show me around.

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Miles Messenger

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Cockpit of the Miles Messenger. Timber framed and plywood skin.

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Cockpit of the Rearwin Sportster. Tandem seats, and pretty cosy!

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Rearwin Sportster

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Cessna 195

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Piper L4 Cub

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Dehavilland Hornet Moth

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Cockpit of the DH Hornet Moth. It’s like an old Rover!

The aircraft were spread out in the hanger, as they were readied for one of their regular outings, this time up Northampton way, so it was easy to wander around them and get up close to them. There is something wonderful to me, about the smell and feel of these aircraft; some made mainly out of plywood, others with a timber or metal frame with fabric stretched over it. The cockpit’s of them varied wildly from really basic, or open, to something more akin to an old 1940’s Rover, with a walnut dash and sprung leather seats. The smell was the same as well (my wife’s uncle owns a vintage Aston Martin DB5 – same smell!).

 

More information on these aircraft types can be found here, but I couldn’t visit without taking my own pictures to post on here..

 

© Richard Debonnaire

 

Biggin Hill Notes

Blog views

I’ve been blogging for about a month, and I really enjoy writing and the discipline it takes to sit down to start it. I have also really enjoyed the feedback I’ve received so far from those who have read my blogs. Some very nice things have been said about this blog, and articles reposted by friends with hundreds of Facebook or Twitter contacts, generating lots of activity.

The only problem now is, I’ve become a bit obsessed with the number of views I get! I liked what I saw when I watched the numbers climb, after one friend re-posted Trooping the Colour on an armed forces website!

I was a little bit like this with Facebook and Twitter when I first started using those. It’s not all about the numbers, I keep telling myself, as I wonder how it is that I have 400+ Twitter followers, and my daughter has a thousand! How? What’s different?

Ultimately of course, it doesn’t matter one way or the other. I write because I enjoy doing so, and find it stimulating to do. It doesn’t matter if it’s not tip top quality, although I’d like it to be. For me, if I write something, and someone else comes across it and gets something from it, I’m happy with that.

So whilst I try not to make it about the views or the number of followers my blog has (and I’m grateful to my 10 followers for doing so!), I can’t help but get a slight buzz when I hit ‘Publish‘ as I wait to see what happens next (or not). Here goes…

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I blame WordPress for the amazing analytics tools they provide!

 

© Richard Debonnaire