Sunday, June 22, 2014

Honours: Much More Than Angelina! What does it mean to be a honourary Dame?

Huffington Post

The Pulpit Rock
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague and Angelina Jolie at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict at the Excel Centre in London. Photo by Andrew Parsons / i-Images / Crown Copyright.

Angelina Jolie has been made an honorary Dame (the female equivalent of a Knight) of the British Empire in the Queen's Birthday Honours this month. A lot of Americans may not know what that entails, so I thought I'd try and explain.

Her Majesty is one of the few people in the world with two birthdays. She was actually born on 21 April -- a day she typically spends privately with her family. Last Saturday, 14 June, was her Official Birthday. It's always a Saturday in June, because the notorious British weather is more likely to behave itself at that time of the year. The pageantry includes a parade called the Trooping of the Colour: this year's festivities came off in typically spectacular fashion.

It's also traditional for the Queen to announce a list of people to receive awards that we call honours. She does this twice a year: once in June and once at New Year. Some aspects of the honours system may seem a bit archaic -- for example, the largest group of honours is called the Order of the British Empire. There is also the Royal Victorian Order and the Order of St. Michael and St. George, amongst others.

Whatever the title, it's still a great way of honouring those who have served their fellow men and women, or the country, whether in their chosen field or in another walk of life. For example, Angelina Jolie's DCMG comes for her tireless humanitarian work on behalf of rape victims around the world, which was the inspiration for the recent London Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict.

Reflecting the wide diversity of talent Britain has to offer, other names on the list included Olympic medallists, novelists and fashion designers. But not all honorees are household names. This year's list includes many people who are not well-known or wealthy, but have nevertheless done extraordinary things -- like raising millions for charity, turning around failing schools, pushing back the frontiers of science or helping people rebuild their lives after natural disasters.

As Angelina Jolie's award shows, you do not need to be a Brit to be honoured. In fact, if you know somebody in your community who has done great things for the UK-US relationship, you can nominate them yourself. Find out more here.

Occasionally, I have the privilege of conferring awards on Her Majesty's behalf. Looking at this year's Birthday Honours I found myself reflecting on some of the distinguished Americans to whom I have presented awards in my time as Ambassador here. They have included Mark Piggot of Seattle, whose business interests span the Atlantic and whose philanthropy has enriched British institutions from the House of Lords to the Royal Shakespeare Company; Judy O'Rourke, who has been the driving force behind efforts to remember the victims of Pan Am 103 which was blown up over Lockerbie in Scotland in 1988; and Captain Brian Jordan, a US Marine whose story of battlefield heroism is simply incredible.

Each of these honorees serves in a very different field, but each deserves the gratitude of the British people. Honours are a perfect way of expressing that appreciation. The institution may be venerable, but it is also vital.

Follow Sir Peter Westmacott on Twitter:

Sting: My Children Won't Inherit My Wealth

Business Insider

Sting's children cannot expect to inherit his multimillion-pound wealth, the rock star has said, joining the ranks of the super-rich who have claimed that passing on their vast fortunes to their offspring could do more harm than good.

The 62-year-old musician, who is estimated to be worth £180m and has three sons and three daughters, said he did not want "to leave them trust funds that are albatrosses round their necks".

"They have to work," he told the Mail on Sunday's Event magazine . "All my kids know that and they rarely ask me for anything, which I appreciate. Obviously, if they were in trouble I would help them, but I've never really had to do that. They have this work ethic that makes them want to succeed on their own merit."

Sting insisted there would in fact not be a huge fortune left for his children, who are aged between 18 and 37.

"I told them there won't be much money left because we are spending it," he said. "We have a lot of commitments. What comes in we spend, and there isn't much left."

Sting, who grew up in working class family in Wallsend on Tyneside, said his hard slog to fame and fortune via playing pubs for £10 a night had built "a resilience and a toughness". Comparing his route to 'overnight stars' of modern pop such as Justin Bieber, he said: "If it had all been handed to me on a plate, I'm not sure I would appreciate it or have survived."

Sting also disclosed that the Queen Mother had been the unlikely inspiration behind his pursuit of fame and fortune. He said he had seen her when she visited the Swan Hunter shipyard near his childhood home and had vowed to himself: "I am going to be rich, famous, successful and drive a Rolls-Royce like her."

Sting is the latest in a long line of high-profile wealthy figures to declare they want their offspring to make their own way in the world.

Bill Gates, the world's richest man, has said that his children could not expect to inherit the vast majority of his estimated $76bn fortune.

“They won’t have anything like that. They need to have a sense that their own work is meaningful and important,” he has been quoted as saying.

“You’ve got to make sure they have a sense of their own ability and what they’re going to go and do.”

Simon Cowell, the music mogul whose son Eric was born earlier this year, has said he will most likely leave his estimated £225 million fortune for charity, explaining: ““I don’t believe in passing on from one generation to another.”

British celebrity chef Nigella Lawson has said she was "determined" that her children should have no financial security as "it ruins people not having to earn money".

Anita Roddick, the Body Shop founder, left her entire £51m fortune to charity after describing leaving money to one's own family as "obscene".

Beatles star Sir Paul McCartney was allegedly once described as “a tight b******” by his daughter Stella after sending her to a comprehensive school.

And John Roberts, the chief executive of white goods retailer, has said he will not pass his estimated £500m wealth to his children, in order that they could have normal lives and a sense of achievement.

Read more:

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Summer Reading

Litha 2014: Pagans, Non-Pagans Alike Welcome The Summer Solstice

Huffington Post

The summer solstice arrives in the northern hemisphere on June 21 at 6:51 a.m. EDT, bringing us the longest day in the year -- which means lots of extra sunlight for festivities. The day is also considered to be sacred by many pagans and Wiccans around the world who celebrate the solstice among their other yearly holidays.
summer solstice
Some refer to the summer solstice as "Litha," a term that may derive from 8th century monk
Bede's The Reckoning of Time. Bede names "Litha" as the Latin name for both June and July in ancient times.
summer solstice
The summer solstice is
one of four solar holidays, along with the autumnal equinox, the winter solstice and the vernal equinox. The other major pagan holidays are Samhain, Yule, Imbolc, Beltane and Lughnasadh.
summer solstice
celebrate the solstice in myriad ways, including festivals, parades, bonfires, feasts and more. As one member of the Amesbury and Stonehenge Druids explains, "What you're celebrating on a mystical level is that you're looking at light at its strongest. It represents things like the triumph of the king, the power of light over darkness, and just life – life at its fullest."
summer solstice
Celebrations for the summer solstice take place around the world, and not all are pagan-affiliated. One of the biggest pagan celebrations
occurs at Stonehenge in England, but others take place among indigenous Latin and South American communities, and in Russia, Spain and other countries.
summer solstice
As the
official first day of summer, the solstice is a time of celebration. Cities around the world will mark the day with spiritual and secular celebrations, like this yoga festival in New York's Times Square, expected to draw thousands for some mid-city, summer realignment.

Friday, June 20, 2014

'How to Train Your Dragon 2' - B-

Dear DreamWorks,
Great sequel, but why did you fall into the Disney stereotype?  You are better than that.  I won't spoil, but when you see it, you will know.
- Great Maturation of Hiccup - From his costumes to his actions, very believable.
- Not a cookie cutter sequel - A film fan always appreciates that.
- GGGGRRRRRRR!!!  You lost points for the use of the ultimate children's story stereotype...not just once, but TWICE!!!
Pagan Content:
Endless.  From the dragons to the use of 'Gods' in the dialogue, it is an Odinist's happy film.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Nerd Gift of the Week - Doctor Who Tardis Beach Blanket

Don't forget your sunscreen!!!

Review - 'Edge of Tomorrow' - A+

By Wendy, the NOT so Good Witch
I know this review is later than I normally post, however, I went to 'Edge of Tomorrow' based on word of mouth.  One of my favourite NPR podcasts, 'Pop Culture Happy Hour,' HIGHLY recommended it.  I love Sci-Fi, but for some reason, I just could not cross the 'Tom Cruise is a nutball' factor. 
Don't even sweat it.  He gets his cockiness knocked out of him in the first 10 minutes, by MAD EYE MOODY!!!  He is scared, confused, and human.  The film is well written, unpredictable, and very funny.  The cast is fantastic, particularly Emily Blunt as one of the best bad asses in a film since MAD EYE MOODY!!!  (Sorry, couldn't resist.)
I will give you no spoilers, but I will furnish a link to purchase the novella and I implore you, see this film in the theater.  A home system will not do it justice.


Namaste! Kelly Rowland Bares Baby Bump in Sweet Yoga Pic

People Magazine

Kelly Rowland Pregnant Yoga Photo Facebook
Courtesy Kelly Rowland
Although she’s staying mum on the subject of her pregnancy officially, Kelly Rowland seems to be saying a whole lot via social media.
Her latest offering? A bump-revealing photo of herself doing prenatal yoga, which the newly-married singer posted Thursday on Facebook.
Clearly, the mom-to-be is at peace with sharing her baby news directly with her fans.
Last week, Rowland, 33, posted an Instagram photo of two pairs of Air Jordans – one adult and one pint-sized – with the caption “I’ll be stuntin like my daddy…” to announce her good news.

The couple were also spotted buying baby gear at Bel Bambini in West Hollywood, Calif. not long after their intimate wedding ceremony.

One thing’s for sure, Rowland seems way too excited for the littlest Destiny’s Child‘s arrival to keep him or her completely under wraps!
–Sheila Cosgrove Baylis

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Jason Momoa May Play Aquaman In 'Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice'

Huffington Post

UPDATE 3:48 pm: Momoa's rep declined to comment, but based on the reports, there's still a good chance he'll be our new Aquaman.

EARLIER: Khal Drogo may soon be the ruler of the seas.

Jason Momoa, best known as the warrior and head of the Dothraki in "Game of Thrones," is set to play Aquaman in the "Man of Steel" sequel, according to HitFix. Rumors that the actor would play the DC Comics ruler of Atlantis had previously circulated, but much to Momoa's disliking. The Hawaiian-born actor apparently denied the rumors and got annoyed at reporters when asked about the casting back in May.

Now, HitFix has confirmed that Momoa will play Aquaman in the upcoming "Man of Steel" sequel, "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice." Althought Warner Bros. hasn't made the announcement official, Drew McWeeny of HitFix reports that director Zack Snyder has already finalized his design plans for the character. "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice" is slated to hit theaters May 6, 2016.
Momoa's reps did not immediately return HuffPost's request for comment, but check back for updates.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

'Star Wars' Actor Mark Hamill Imagines Conversation Between Luke Skywalker And The Joker

Huffington Post

Can we all agree that the only way to improve the iconic “I am your father” scene from “Star Wars” is to swap out Darth Vader with the Joker?

Great. You're going to love this: Mark Hamill recently voiced the amended version of that scene in front of a crowd at “Star Wars Weekends 2014" at Walt Disney World.

Hamill is perhaps best known for his role as Luke Skywalker in the original “Star Wars” trilogy; however, as IGN notes, few know that he since spent time as the voice of the Joker in “Batman: The Animated Series,” “Justice League,” the “Arkham” game series and many other animated incarnations. In the video above, listen to Hamill seemingly improvise a conversation between “The Clown Prince of Crime” and Luke Skywalker.

Hamill is set to reprise his role as Luke Skywalker in the upcoming “Star Wars: Episode VII," which is due for release on Dec. 18, 2015.