Kon-Tiki: Thor Heyerdahl On The Big Screen

Kon-Tiki, a film based on Thor Heyerdahl’s legendary voyage across the Pacific, is released in UK cinemas TODAY! Nominated for an Academy Award, Kon-Tiki has been called ‘astounding’ by The Times and ‘a brilliantly shot epic’ by The Independent.

See the trailer here.

Heyerdahl Jr., Heyerdahl’s first son and chairman of the Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo, is in London this week for the opening of the film. In an interview with The Times, he confesses that he is a ‘big fan’ of the film, which portrays Heyerdahl’s 101-day journey from South America to Polynesia on a traditional balsa raft.

The aim of the expedition was to prove Heyerdahl’s theory that native South Americans could have crossed the Pacific to settle on pre-Columbian Polynesia with the basic materials available to them – a theory that was finally proved possible by DNA Testing.

After the success of the Kon-Tiki expedition, Heyerdahl travelled to Easter Island with a team of archaeologists to undertake the Island’s first stratigraphic excavations. Intent on proving that the Island was colonised by South Americans, he also studied the carving and transportation of the famous moai statues. Heyerdahl Jr. accompanied his father on this trip, where he says he ‘witnessed the extraordinary pigmentation of some inhabitants, whose distant South American origins have again been confirmed by DNA testing’.

Complete with full-colour photographs, Heyerdahl’s ground-breaking research is now recorded in ‘Easter Island: The Mystery Solved’. One of his greatest books, it expresses the sense of adventure that Heyerdahl brought to contemporary archaeology.

Easter Island: The Mystery Solved

In his words, “this book is a modest attempt to learn one more lesson about human equality through the ages.”

Critical Acclaim for ‘Easter Island: The Mystery Solved’:

“He opened up the world of anthropology to a new generation, and to new ideas.” – The Guardian

“Among the best travel books to be produced in recent years.” – The Scotsman

Get your copy here.

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Prayers For 2014’s Top Baby Names

So England and Wales’ top baby names for 2014 were revealed this week…

For the second year running, ‘Oliver’ has topped the boy’s chart, whilst ‘Emily’ has taken the number one spot from ‘Olivia’ (from BabyCentre.co.uk).

After reporting that ‘Muhammad’ was the number one boy’s name in the country on Monday, BabyCentre.co.uk confirmed that without its different variations, the name was actually 15th in the table. Sure enough, if the same was done for ‘Oliver’ (Ollie, Oli), or ‘Harry’ (Henry), then they would place above ‘Muhammad’.

As usual, cultural influences are playing a huge part in parents’ choices. ‘Eric’, the name of Simon Cowell’s son, is up by 284 points whilst ‘Elsa’, from the Disney movie ‘Frozen’ has entered the top 100 for the first time.

Naming and Blessing: A Book of Name Prayers by Reverend Andrew Tawn is a collection of personalised name prayers for more than 500 baby names, perfect for christening readings or for parents wanting to pray for their child at any stage in their life.

Naming And Blessing cover

In acknowledgement of 2014’s most popular baby names, we’ve posted the top two names in each category below, taken from Andrew Tawn’s Naming and Blessing: A Book of Name Prayers.

Emily (f) comes from the Latin for ‘eager’

Embrace Emily in your love and protection,

Maker, mender and miracle-worker God;

In all her learning, loving, living and giving

Let her be eager to know and do

Your will and your work.

Oliver is from the Scandinavian Olaf meaning ‘ancestor’

On all that Oliver is and does,

Lord, grant your love and blessing.

In all the challenges he undertakes

Various gifts bestow upon him.

Everyone he loves and all who love him,

Reach out, Lord, to bless them through him.

Buy a copy here.

Some reviews for Naming and Blessing: A Book of Name Prayers…

“A collection of prayers which can be used so very easily and readily by a much wider range of people than simply the committed Christian.”
Bishop David Hope, former Archbishop of York

“Throughout life we receive many gifts but our name is one of the first and most precious gifts we receive…The author uses the ancient device of the acrostic to create unique and thoughtful meditations on the names of the children he has baptised.”
Anthony Russell, former Bishop of Ely

“This is a gift with many layers, unpacking the meaning of individual names and weaving into each prayer a gentle yet profound affirmation of the connection of each unique individual to God.”
Angela Ashwin, author of ‘The Book of a Thousand Prayers’

World AIDS Day 2014: Let’s Get To Zero

It was World AIDS Day on Monday (December 1st), the annual global health day dedicated to raising awareness about the virus, supporting the people who live with it and remembering those who have died.

According to the World AIDS Day website, around 100,000 people are currently living with HIV in the UK. Across the world, an estimated 34 million people have HIV and, since it was first clinically observed in 1981 in California, 39 million have died from it.

Though we still have a long way to go, recent scientific research suggests that the virus is becoming less deadly. A study by the University of Oxford, published on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) journal, focused on more than 2,000 HIV+ women from South Africa and Botswana. It found that as the virus adapted to the human immune system, it weakened itself in the process, and thus, took longer to transition to AIDS.

Elsewhere in the world, campaigns are working to reduce the number of infections and deaths. San Francisco’s ‘get to zero’ programme aims to reach ‘zero new HIV infections, zero deaths from HIV/AIDS and zero stigma’. It’s a city that has worked tirelessly to confront the epidemic, as reported in TIME Magazine’s excellent article ‘The End of AIDS’ – “since 2010, the percentage of HIV-positive people in the city who are taking ARVs and have undetectable levels of HIV in their blood – which means they are unlikely to pass on the virus – has increased from 56% to 68% in 2012. Nationally, only 25% to 28% of patients fall in this category.”

Of course, San Francisco was home to Randy Shilts, author of Stonewall Book Award-winning And the Band Played On. This definitive history charts the spread of the AIDS epidemic from the very beginning in 1976 to 1985, with a briefer look at the events after 1985 that brought this disease to international attention. A masterpiece of investigative journalism, it weaves together over 1000 personal stories of those in the gay community and medical and political establishments. Together with his social and political reporting, Shilts also exposes how AIDS was ignored, or denied, by many national institutions.

Though he was tested for HIV whilst working on And the Band Played On, he refused to find out his diagnosis until after he’d finished writing. In 1987, Shilts learned that he was HIV+. The year before his death in 1994, he was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists’ Association.

And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts

And the Band Played On is part of Souvenir Press’ Independent Voices Series, dedicated to publishing writers who provide alternative viewpoints and challenge conventional wisdom, making available work that has been unavailable in the UK although it is as relevant today as on its original publication.

Buy a copy of And the Band Played On here.

For further reading, see UNAIDS, World AIDS Day and WHO.