Perhaps the earliest black star of popular entertainment was Ken ‘Snakehips’ Johnson whose career was ended prematurely in tragic circumstances.

He was born Kenrick Reginald Huymans Johnson in 1914 in Britsh Guiana, his father a prominent doctor in the community. He was educated locally until he was fifteen when he was sent to the Sir William Borlase Grammar School in England. Read more ›››

Spitting Image

I don't normally have much sympathy for the likes of Facebook, but I did think they were in a ‘damned if they do, damned if they don't’ position last week when there was that fuss about them banning The Terror of War.

Their algorithm for picking up on and prohibiting the publishing of photos containing child nudity couldn't tell the difference between the perverse and this iconic image of children running from a napalm attack in Vietnam because one of them happened to be naked. Read more ›››

Sunday Round-up

On a roll: An unopened roll of Eidelweiss toilet paper issued to German troops is expected to fetch £100 when it goes to auction in Dublin, along with other Nazi memorabilia.

Neo-Nazi vino: Meanwhile, an Italian winemaker has angered just about everyone except neo-Nazis by producing bottles that feature pictures of Hitler and Mussolini on the labels. Read more ›››

If you take even a passing interest in aircraft, the Ilyushin is instantly recognisable as a Russian brand, and the company that manufactures them owes it all to the son of a peasant family, Sergei Vladimirovitch Ilyushin.

Ilyushin was born in the village of Dilyalevo in south-central Russia in 1894, the youngest of eleven children. Read more ›››

Sunday Round-up

Best news of the week: Crystal Maze is to return to the tv screen after an absence of more than twenty years, alas without Richard O'Brien.

Mean what you say: It's no good praising your dog unless you're sincere because they can distinguish between positive and neutral words and when you mean it and when you don't. I'd like to know how they trained the dogs to lie still in an MRI scanner. Read more ›››

The Earthly Gods

I've written about the Agent of Rome series of novels before, but for some reason not since the second book which is rather remiss of me since I've just finished book six.

So, by way of a catch-up, Cassius Corbulo, the reluctant imperial agent has continued to make a name for himself in Rome's eastern provinces, solving some of the empire's trickier problems with intelligence, tenacity and a degree of luck. Read more ›››

Anyone who has read The Man Who Would Be King by Rudyard Kipling might think it typical of British Imperialism, but it seems that the inspiration for the story was, in fact, an American, Josiah Harlan.

Harlan was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania, in 1799, the son of a prosperous Quaker family. He was one of nine children of Joshua Harlan, a merchant broker in Philadelphia. Read more ›››

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