Archive | March, 2012

Top 5 Facts You Didn’t Know About St. Patrick’s Day

17 Mar

It’s that time of year again, the Chicago river is running green, drunken Americans are dyeing their insides green with artificially coloured beer and everyone is ‘Oirish’. Yes, it’s St. Patrick’s Day, (or St. Patty’s Day, although we’re not sure where the hamburgers come into it), the most celebrated saint day in the world – so let’s have some St. Patrick themed Top 5 facts!

5. Why it Couldn’t be Snakes!

The myth that St. Patrick chased the snakes from Ireland during his time on Earth is just that. A myth. There is strong evidence suggesting that post-glacial Ireland never had snakes in the first place.

4. St. Patrick’s Day Blues!

Blue was the colour originally associated with the feast day of St. Patrick. In fact, the colour green was long considered to be unlucky in Ireland as it was believed to be the favoured colour of the Good People i.e. fairies, with legend telling that those who wore too much green, especially children, would be spirited away. As an aside, the tradition of pinching someone who is not wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day is, you guessed it, an American invention.

3. Pubs in Ireland Closed for St. Paddy’s!

In Ireland, the feast of St. Patrick is a holy day of obligation, meaning that the faithful are obliged to go to mass. Until the 1970’s, all pubs in Ireland were closed by law on St. Patricks Day, which dispels the myth that the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day is so the Irish can get steaming drunk. Especially since St. Patrick’s Day falls during the holy month of Lent.

2. First St. Patrick’s Day Festival in Ireland was in 1996!

The tradition of St. Patrick’s Day parades began, not in Ireland, but in the good old US of A. The St. Patrick’s Day festival in Dublin, Ireland was started by the  Irish government in 1995 as part of a campaign to use St. Patrick’s Day to highlight Ireland and Irish culture woldwide in a bid to attract tourists. Maybe they were just cashing in on the success of Riverdance at the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest? Although secular celebrations now exist in Ireland, the holiday remains a religious observance for both the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of Ireland.

1. He wasn’t Irish – he was British!

Maewyn Succat was born in southwestern Roman Britain to a relatively wealthy family – other details are sketchy but this much is known. At 16, he was captured and taken to Ireland as a slave where he served for 6 years. During this time, he converted from Paganism to Christianity, taking the baptismal name Patricius. His faith grew during the time he was enslaved, until finally he escaped after hearing a voice telling him he would go home soon. Once he got home, the voice purportedly told him to go back to Ireland, thus he returned as a missionary, converting the Pagans to the newer Christian religion.

Sláinte!

Top 5 Unusual Buildings

8 Mar

We’ve all got to live and work somewhere, so why not somewhere a little bit fantastical? At least, until the novelty wears off anyway…  Perhaps some of these should be filed under ‘great to visit but don’t want to stay’… or do you?

5. Dynamic Tower

The future has arrived Mr. Deckard, and it’s no Nexus 6.

Okay, it’s not quite here yet, but the Dynamic Tower is a proposed 80 floor moving skyscraper, designed by David Fisher, and cited to be built soon in Dubai (where else?!).  Each floor can rotate independently and as such, the exterior shape of the building will be constantly changing. Using the voice-controlled rotation, you could choose to wake up with the sunshine streaming into your bedroom, and eat dinner watching the sunset. Each floor will take 90 minutes to make a full rotation

It is unique in other ways too, such as the method of its construction. Aside from the concrete core, the entire building will be constructed from prefabricated factory-built modules (including flooring, water pipes and air-con) with each floor comprising 40 of these units.

Good news! The Dynamic Tower will also be green, powered by turbines and solar panels which will produce more than enough energy to power 5 buildings of similar size. The bad news: aside from having to wait for the Dynamic Tower to be built, it is rumoured that the units will cost around $3 million each.

Dynamic Architecture is the place you want to go to find out more.

4. Upside-down House

Daniel Czapiewski, a Polish businessman and philanthropist,  thought up this crazy project as a statement about Poland’s communist past and the state of the world. It is built in a small Polish village called Szymbark.

The topsy-turvy building often leaves visitors with dizziness. In fact, it took 114 days to build (as opposed to the construction company’s usual 3 weeks) because the workers were constantly disoriented. Seasickness symptoms are often caused by the jaunty angles within the rooms.  Nonetheless, it is a very successful tourist attraction with thousands visiting it every year.

3. Stone House

This house broke into the news in 2009 when it was ‘discovered’ in the Nas montanhas de Fafe in Portugal. The house grabbed the attention of the media due to the fact it looks like Fred and Wilma’s home from the Hanna-Barbera cartoon ‘The Flintstones’. Yabadabadoo!

Seth McFarlane (writer of Family Guy) is currently in talks with FOX to revive the series for 2013.

The house was built in 1974 as a family holiday home in the wilderness. The current owner’s father chose to build between 4 huge boulders and created a unique home beautifully integrated into its environment. Inside, the house is cozy, with a fireplace and a log staircase. Sadly, even amongst all this media attention, the stone house has fallen victim to disrepair and vandalism in recent years.

2. Krywy Domek (The Crooked House)

Yes, this is the second Polish entry in our Top 5, they seem to have a knack for it! The Crooked House was built in 2004 and designed by Szotyńscy & Zaleski who were inspired by the fairytale illustrations and drawings of Jan Marcin Szancer and Per Dahlberg.

Jan Szancer has illustrated over 150 books and has also created costumes for movies in Poland, some of which he wrote himself, including ‘A Lady from the Window’ (English translation) from 1964.

On the ground floor, The Crooked House is part of a shopping mall, but bizarrely, the first floor is occupied by various services including dentists, opticians and beauty salons.

For more info and events check out: The Crooked House

1. Conch Shell House

#1 come from Isla Mujeres, Mexico. This private house is owned by artist Octavio Ocampo, who also designed it.It boasts all the mod-cons including swimming pool, air-conditioning, and internet access, and is also near the ocean, . The centre-piece is the main room which has no corners. It’s literally like being in a giant seashell. If the rest of the top 5 seemed a little inaccessible, rest assured that the Conch Shell house is available as a holiday let here.

Ocampo is one of Mexico’s most prolific artists. He paints in a ‘metamorphic’ style which can be described by using a technique of superimposing and juxtaposing realistic and figurative elements within a piece of work. The feature-length documentary, ‘Octavio’ by Jose Antonio Torres goes into his methods and how he approaches his art – in case you get curious!

If you’re excited to find out more about other strange and beautiful architecture take a look at Unusual Architecture

Top 5 Cover Versions

7 Mar

It’s a given that taste in music varies. With that in mind, the original is often the definitive version. Here’s a list of covers that we feel need mentioning for being simply awesome recordings in their own right.

5.Come Together – Ike and Tina Turner

A Head-Turner of a vocal line. Good game.

Okay, so we’re going to start strong. A Beatles song. Arguably, Lennon is one of the best songwriters of all time. Tina Turner’s vocals on this recording shows John Lennon how he wanted it done! Extra points are awarded for the fact Tina Turner was born in a place called Nutbush, TN (1939).

On the original Beatles recording, Paul McCartney didn’t record his backing vocals because John said he would overdub them himself.

4. All Along the Watchtower – Jimi Hendrix

Hendrix didn’t die – God just needed guitar lessons.

Bob Dylan’s songwriting and Jimi Hendrix’s guitar playing. Do I need to say anymore?

Jimi’s version was released 6 months after Bob’s. Dylan himself said ‘I liked Jimi Hendrix’s record of this and ever since he died I’ve been doing it that way…strange how when I sing it I always feel it’s a tribute to him in some kind of way’ in the booklet accompanying his Biograph album.

3. Hurt – Johnny Cash

RIP Mr. Cash

Originally by Nine Inch Nails, this song was one of  the last things legend Johnny Cash recorded before his death. Johnny Cash changed some of the words to fit in with his Christian beliefs – e.g. ‘crown of shit’ was changed to ‘crown of thorns’. This lyric change was also present on the radio edit of the NIN version.

Trent Reznor (lead singer of NIN) said of Cash’s version ‘I pop the video in and wow… Tears welling silence goosebumps… wow. [I felt like] I just lost my girlfriend because that song isn’t mine anymore…’ in Alternative Press Issue 194 (Sept. 2004).

2. Hallelujah – Jeff Buckley

Hallelujah – it’s Jeff Buckley

This song had very little success when Leonard Cohen first released it in 1984. John Cale had more success with his version but then came Jeff Buckley. His version is seen as the go-to version of this classic song.

The chord progression follows the lyrics in the first verse ‘it goes like this, the fourth, the fifth, the minor fall, and the major lift’ following C, F, G, Am, F.

In contrast to the other writers in this Top 5, Leonard Cohen is dumbfounded by the sheer number of covers this song has spawned. The record company he was with at the time of writing it didn’t want to put it out. He’s been known to say ‘I think too many people sing it’. We agree – you only need one version and this is it (sorry Leonard!).

1. Unchained Melody – The Righteous Brothers

Someone unchained The Righteous Brothers in 1965.

Yes. I know what you’re thinking. Wasn’t that the original? No, unbelievable as it seems, the definitive version of Unchained Melody is a cover version.

The song was originally written by Alex North for the 1955 prison film Unchained (hence the title). Hy Zaret put words to the melody and a classic was born. The original was sung by Todd Duncan and was nominated for a 1955 Oscar (Best Song) but it was given to Love is a Many-Splendoured Thing. The Righteous Brothers have taken this original version and created a song that never needs to be recorded again…

Unfortunately it’s been recorded more than enough… and none of them come close to this version.

Okay… So some of these were a little predictable but we’re out to find the Top 5 of everything – it’s likely you’ve heard some of these before.

Top 5 Novelty Bands You and Your Kids Can Enjoy!

1 Mar

If you’ve got children and sick of watching Glee – hearing Bieber (which shouldn’t happen) or can’t watch Grease again… then here’s some bands that will entertain the whole family! Even if you don’t have kids, I personally guarantee you’ll find something on this list to entertain you!

5. The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain

Is there?

The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain is a group of all-singing, all-strumming Ukulele players, using instruments bought with loose change, which believes that all genres of music are available for reinterpretation, as long as they are played on the Ukulele.

Taken from their website found here

4. The Wiyos

Why? O Why? O Why does everybody love my baby?

The Wiyos take their sound from the early 20’s and 30’s. Admittedly a lot of the lyrics are not for the younger ear. However – with all the washboards, bells, and whistles, they’ll be too busy jumping around to notice what it all means. If they do work out the lyrics – it’s likely it’ll just go right over their heads. Ultimately. The Wiyos just represent good, old-fashioned fun.

Go here to find out more.

3. The Spaghetti Western Orchestra

Ai-ai-ai-ai-aiiiii…. Wah-nah-nah…

The magnificent five are riding into town!

Armed with over 100 instruments, these brilliant musicians perform a fistful of Ennio Morricone classics from the movies that made Clint Eastwood a star.

The stunning soundtracks include The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, For A Few Dollars More and Once Upon a Time in The West.

This ingenious gang of comic maestros underscore these iconic compositions with hilarious sound effects… blowing on bottles, crushing cornflakes, ‘playing’ coathangers, apples, squeaky toys, rubber gloves, bicycle pumps, nailclippers and many more – recreating every punch up, gunshot, and jangling spur that define the gun slinging west.

Taken from their wonderful website here

What kid never wanted to be in the Wild West?!

2. Milkshake

Milkshake brings all the kids to the yard…

Milkshake were originally a punk band called ‘LOVE RiOT’, but after taking a hiatus to have children, they took to recording child-friendly rock music for kids instead. They plan on recording music that will grow with them. We look forward to what they have in store as their own kids grow up!

Need to know more? Check them out here

Milkshake comes in at #2 because they are aimed predominantly at children. What can possibly be at #1? Please let me introduce a fine gentleman of exquisite taste… for tea….

1. Professor Elemental

Geoffrey – get off the drums…

Hello there! Welcome to the world of Professor Elemental. Sit down and I’ll brew you a nice hip-hop number, stir in some comedy, then serve it with scones and a nice warm cuddle.

Who am I, you ask? I’m Professor Elemental, a unique and splendid hip-hop artist (though I say so myself). I host and perform at all kinds of shows, from children’s parties to burlesque, festivals to wedding parties. I also teach, as an experienced workshop leader with five years’ of experience. Yes, I’m a versatile chap who fits into a lot of places.

This year, a new Professor Elemental kids’ show has been premiered at the Big Chill festival. In the first kids-only rap show of its kind, Professor Elemental takes children on a fun journey through silly songs, daft dancing, and insane inventions live on stage.

Other than that, thanks for dropping by. You look marvellous, by the way, and I love what you’ve done with your hair.

Taken from his website here

Helpful? Possibly not – but I bet you had a little boogie to at least one!