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Archive for January, 2014

Today I thought I would share this song by Phil Collins – “In the Air Tonight”. This striking song was a big hit for Phil Collins in 1981, and comes from his album Face Value. It was Collin’s first solo single; previously just the drummer, he had taken over as the lead singer of Genesis when Peter Gabriel left in 1975. I blogged about one of Peter Gabriel’s songs, “In Your Eyes” here. Unlike Gabriel, Collins did not leave Genesis, rather he and the other band members pursued solo recording projects in addition to continuing to record as a group.



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“In the Air Tonight”, written by Collins, is striking for its sparse sound. The song reached number 2 in the Disunited Kingdom, and number 19 in the USA. The lyrics of the song are:


I can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh Lord
And I’ve been waiting for this moment for all my life, oh Lord
Can you feel it coming in the air tonight, oh Lord, oh Lord

Well if you told me you were drowning, I would not lend a hand
I’ve seen your face before my friend, but I don’t know if you know who I am
Well I was there and I saw what you did, I saw it with my own two eyes
So you can wipe off that grin, I know where you’ve been
It’s all been a pack of lies

And I can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh Lord
Well I’ve been waiting for this moment for all my life, oh Lord
I can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh Lord
Well I’ve been waiting for this moment for all my life, oh Lord, oh Lord

Well I remember, I remember, don’t worry, how could I ever forget
It’s the first time, the last time we ever met
But I know the reason why you keep your silence UP, oh no you don’t fool me
Well the hurt doesn’t show, but the pain still grows
It’s no stranger to you and me

I can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh Lord
Well been waiting for this moment for all my life, oh Lord
I can feel it in the air tonight, oh Lord, oh lord
Well I’ve been waiting for this moment for all my life, oh Lord
I can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh Lord
And I’ve been waiting for this moment for all my life, oh Lord
I can feel it in the air tonight, oh lord, oh lord, oh lord
Well I’ve been waiting for this moment for all my life, oh lord, oh lord

I can feel it in the air tonight, oh lord, oh lord, oh lord, oh lord
Well I’ve been waiting for this moment for all my life, oh lord, oh lord, oh lord




In 2007 the song gained a new generation of fans (including my children!) in the DUK when it was used by Cadbury chocolate in their advertisement for Dairy Milk.





Which is your favourite solo Phil Collins’ song?

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The annual 6 Nations rugby tournament starts this Saturday, and Wales are in a position to make rugby history. They could become the first country in over 100 years to win 3 championships in a row, having won in 2012 and 2013. Not even the celebrated Welsh side of the 1970s achieved this feat, despite their many accomplishments.

Wales start their campaign with a home game against Italy, who since joining the Championships in 2000 have consistently been the weakest team. Having Italy first is not a bad thing for Wales, as we notoriously start the Championships slowly. The Wales fixture list for the 2014 6 Nations is as follows

  • Wales v Italy (in Cardiff) – Saturday 1st of February at 14:30
  • Ireland v Wales (in Dublin) – Saturday 8th of February at 14:30
  • Wales v France (in Cardiff) – Friday 21st of February at 20:00
  • England v Wales (in London) – Sunday 9th of March at 15:00
  • Wales v Scotland (in Cardiff) – Saturday 15th of March at 14:45

So, as can be seen from the fixture list, Wales have 3 home games and 2 away games. Although I very much hope Wales can make it 3 Championships in a row, I have a fear that it will be England’s year, and I am not just saying that to agree with 1970s rugby legend Barry John.



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England looked very good in their Autumn tests, even in their defeat to New Zealand. Wales, on the other hand, had a mixed Autumn series with two wins, a narrow defeat to Australia and a 9-point defeat to South Africa. Warren Gatland has named a squad which includes 8 players who are still injured. However, one of those injured players, Jamie Roberts, it named for Saturday’s game so is hopefully over his injury. Apart from changes forced by injury, Gatland’s team against Italy is what everyone expected, and shows how settled a team the Wales side has become.

As always, expectation is high in Wales. BBC Wales runs advertisements for the 6 Nations in the lead up to the competition, and currently the advertisement they are running is below. It features their campaign to get Welsh fans to know the words to one of the hymns sung at the Wales games – the hymn Calon lân, which means “A pure heart”.





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At number 423 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s 500 greatest albums of all time is “Anthology” by Diana Ross and The Supremes. The list from 430 to 421 is as follows:


  • 430 – “Vampire Weekend” by Vampire Weekend (2009)
  • 429 – “Another Green World” by Brian Eno (1975)
  • 428 – “Outlandos D’Amour” by The Police (1978)
  • 427 – “Sleepless” by Peter Wolf (2002)
  • 426 – “At Budokan” by Cheap Trick (1979)
  • 425 – “Grievous Angel” by Gram Parsons (1974)
  • 424 – “The Rising” by Bruce Springsteen (2002)
  • 423 – “Anthology” by Diana Ross and The Supremes (1973)
  • 422 – “Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes” by The Ronettes (1964)
  • 421 – “The Best of Girl Groups Volumes 1 and 2” by Various Artists (1990)


I don’t own any of the albums in this list, although I do own albums by The Police and Bruce Springsteen. I am familiar with The Police’s “Outlandos D’Amour, and I nearly chose that album to blog about. But, instead I chose to blog about the “Anthology” album by Diana Ross and The Supremes, as I blogged about The Police a few weeks ago (here).



At number 432 in Rolling Stone Magazine's 500 greatest albums is "Anthology" by Diana Ross and The Supremes.

At number 432 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s 500 greatest albums is “Anthology” by Diana Ross and The Supremes.



The Supremes are the most commercially successful of all the Motown recording artists. This collection has 48 tracks, including all of their best known songs like “Where Did Our Love Go?”, “Stop! In The Name of Love”, “You Can’t Hurry Love” and “Reflections”. The song I have decided to include here is “You Can’t Hurry Love”. This is a live performance on The Ed Sullivan Show from September 1966 (unfortunately it is only part of the song). Enjoy!






Which is your favourite Diana Ross and The Supremes song?

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Leonardo DiCaprio is one of the nominees for best actor in this year’s Academy Awards. His nomination is for his lead role in The Wolf of Wall Street, a film I haven’t seen yet. DiCaprio was in two of my favourite films of 2013, Django in Chains and The Great Gatsby.

The first film I saw Leonardo DiCaprio in was What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?, where he played a young teenager with learning difficulties. I’m guessing he was only 14 or 15 at the time, but it was a very good performance which deservedly gained him an Oscar nomination. He has since gone on to act in dozens of films, including the blockbusting Titanic in the mid-1990s, also Catch me if you Can, Romeo and Juliet, The Aviator, Gangs of New York and Revolutionary Road.

I was trying to think of which I would consider his best performance, and I’ve decided that for me it was in the 2006 film Blood Diamond. If you haven’t seen this film then I highly recommend it. The story is set in Sierra Leone in 1999 during that country’s civil war which raged from 1996 to 2001. Although the characters are fictional, the story is based on real events going on at that time in Sierra Leone and in the diamond trade.



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DiCaprio plays Danny Archer, a diamond smuggler and gunrunner, originally from Zimbabwe (which he keeps referring to by its pre-independence name Rhodesia). Archer smuggles diamonds from Sierra Leone into neighbouring Liberia so that they can be sold in London’s diamond trade. On one occasion he gets caught, and is put in jail in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone. Meanwhile, Solomon Vandy (played by Djimon Hounsou), a fisherman from Shenge, a small village to the south of Freetown, is captured by the Revolutionary United Front, who are fighting a guerrilla war to overthrow the Sierra Leone Government. Vandy and the other captured men are forced to mine for diamonds, which are used by the rebels to fund their war against the Government.



Sierra Leone is a west African country bordered by Guinea to the North and East, Liberia to the South and the Atlantic Ocean to the West.

Sierra Leone is a west African country bordered by Guinea to the North and East, Liberia to the South and the Atlantic Ocean to the West.



The warlord overseeing Vandy’s mining gang is Captain Poison (played by David Harewood), a particularly harsh and brutal man. One day Vandy discovers a large diamond, but rather than hand it over to Captain Poison he buries it. Captain Poison suspects he has done this, and they get into a brutal fight. But they are both caught by Government forces and put into the same prison cell in Freetown as Danny Archer. This is where Archer and Vandy meet, and it is where Archer learns of the diamond’s existence.

Archer promises Vandy to help him find his family which has been torn apart by the civil war, in return for Vandy giving him the diamond. The other remaining main character in the film is Maddy Bowen (played by Jennifer Connelly), a reporter who is writing about this illegal diamond trade and is willing to help both men if she can write their story and expose this trade to the wider World.

Not only is Blood Diamond an excellent film with a compelling and powerful story; but, for me, this film has DiCaprio’s most accomplished performance. To my inexpert ear, even his Southern African accent seems pretty convincing. He won an Oscar nomination for his performance, but did not win. Here is the trailer for the film.





Which is your favourite Leonardo DiCaprio film?

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After a lacklustre 1-0 win over Stoke City at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea have drawn Manchester City at The Etihad Stadium in the 5th round of the FA Cup. Man City have not lost a single home game in all competitions this season, so this is a daunting tie for Mourinho and his team.

The current four top teams of the English Premier League; namely Arsenal, Man City, Chelsea and Liverpool, were all in the hat for the 5th round draw, along with 12 other teams. Remarkably, Chelsea drew Man City and Liverpool drew Arsenal. The fixtures in full are



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It is great to see the two Welsh teams who play in the EPL still in the competition. Cardiff have drawn last year’s winners Wigan at home, whilst Swansea have a tough away fixture against Everton, coached by Swansea’s ex-coach Martinez.

Cardiff are currently bottom of the EPL, and it’s always difficult to know whether a successful run in the FA Cup benefits a team when they are struggling in the League. Last year’s winners Wigan ended up being demoted from the EPL, and Cardiff would certainly want to avoid that.

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Rafael Nadal stands on the verge of making tennis history should he win the men’s final of the Australian Open tomorrow (26th of January). Not only will victory give him his 14th Majors title, but also he will become the first player in the Open era to have won each one of the Majors at least twice. As of now, Nadal has won the French Open 8 times, Wimbledon 2 times, the US Open 2 times and the Australian Open once.



By beating Federer to reach the Australian Open final, Nadal could become the first man in the Open era to win at least 2 of each of the 4 tennis Majors.

By beating Federer to reach the Australian Open final, Nadal could become the first man in the Open era to win at least 2 of each of the 4 tennis Majors.



There are two other players who have won at least 2 of the 4 tennis Majors, namely Roy Emerson and Rod Laver. But neither of them achieved this during the open era. When Emerson won most of his titles in the 1960s the majority of his major rivals (including Laver) were not competing as they had turned professional and were therefore barred from playing in the 4 Majors. Rod Laver won the Grand Slam (all 4 Majors in the same year) in 1961 and 1969, as well as some Majors in other years. But many of these titles were won before tennis went open.

As a big Federer fan I have often been reluctant to admit what an exceptional player Nadal is. When Nadal and Federer play each other I always want Federer to win. But should Nadal win in Australia tomorrow it will make him one of the truly great tennis players of all time.

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A few night ago, on the 21st of January, at 19:20 Universal Time (UT), a supernova was discovered in the relatively nearby galaxy Messier 82. This is one of the closest supernovae to explode in the last few decades, and provides an opportunity for people to see it with binoculars and small telescopes.



A "before" and "after" image of Messier 82. The supernova is circled in the image on the right, just to the East (right) of the centre of the galaxy.

A “before” and “after” image of Messier 82. The supernova is circled in the image on the right, just to the East (right) of the centre of the galaxy.



From analysis of its spectrum, we have determined that this supernova is what we call a Type Ia supernova. This type of supernova happens when a white dwarf star, the remains of a relatively low-mass star like the Sun, accretes material from a companion. White dwarfs are prevented from collapsing by something called electron degeneracy pressure, but it was calculated in the 1930s by the Indian astrophysicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar that if a white dwarf exceeds a mass of 1.4 times the mass of the Sun it will collapse into a neutron star. This limit is now called the Chandrasekhar limit, and a Type Ia supernova happens when the white dwarf accretes enough mass to exceed this limit. The white dwarf explodes, brightening millions of times in the process.



Type Ia supernovae are produced when a white dwarf exceeds to Chandrasekhar limit and explodes.

Type Ia supernovae are produced when a white dwarf exceeds to Chandrasekhar limit and explodes.



If you get the chance over the next few nights, and you live in the Northern Hemisphere, Messier 82 is not difficult to find. You can use the bright stars of The Plough (Big Dipper) and the chart below to find it.



Messier 82 and its companion Messier 81 are to be found near the stars which form the right hand part of the bowl of the Plough (Big Dipper).

Messier 82 and its companion Messier 81 are to be found near the stars which form the right hand part of the bowl of the Plough (Big Dipper).



Because of the way Type Ia supernova are produced, they all reach a very similar maximum absolute (intrinsic) magnitude of M_{V} = -19.3. This has led to their being used as a way of determining the distance of galaxies, because using a relatively simple formula one can determine the galaxy’s distance by observing how bright the supernova’s maximum brightness appears to be, something called its apparent magnitude. The formula is


m-M = 5log_{10}(d) - 5


where M is the absolute magnitude, m is the apparent magnitude, and d is the distance expressed in parsecs. This equation is known as the distance modulus equation. The known distance of Messier 82 is d=3.5 \text{ Mpc}, so if we plug these numbers into the above equation we find that the predicted maximum apparent magnitude m of this supernova is


m = -19.3 + 5log(3.5) + 5log(10^{6}) - 5 = +8.4


This is sadly below the limiting magnitude that can be seen with the naked eye, which is about m=+6 in a dark place. But it is well within the capabilities of a small telescope or a pair of binoculars. So, good luck in seeing it, it is not very common to be able to see a supernova through such rudimentary equipment.

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