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Six degrees

Mark Peters

 

Ian Anderson (right), flautist and member of British prog rock band Jethro Tull, returns to Hong Kong after nearly 20 years with a show tomorrow night at AsiaWorld-Expo, proving he's Never Too Old to Rock 'n' Roll. In 2011, Anderson, who is less well known for his online guide to Indian food, performed the first ever space-Earth flute duet, with American astronaut Catherine Coleman. This unique "concert", in which Anderson performed on stage in Russia while Coleman floated 400 kilometres away in the International Space Station, was to mark the 50th anniversary of the first manned space flight, piloted by Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin …

 

On April 12, 1961, Gagarin orbited the Earth, but conspiracy theorists claim he was not the first man in space: it is alleged test pilot Vladimir Ilyushin entered space five days earlier but crash-landed in China and was imprisoned by Beijing for a year. An international celebration, "Yuri's night", is held annually on April 12 to commemorate Gagarin's historic flight. The 2004 party, held in Los Angeles, was attended by enthusiasts including multimillionaire space tourist Dennis Tito and fantasy-fiction writer Ray Bradbury …

 

Terrified of flying and even driving in a car, Bradbury nevertheless possessed strong opinions on gender roles, saying, "There are two races of people - men and women - no matter what women's libbers would have you pretend. Men are born with no purpose in the universe except to procreate. There is lots of time to kill beyond that." Following his death last year, aged 91, fans paid tribute. "The landscape of the world we live in would have been diminished if we had not had him in our world," eulogised graphic novelist Neil Gaiman …

 

Beginning his career in journalism, Gaiman wrote his first book - a biography of new-romantic pop wild boys Duran Duran - in 1984, before refusing an offer to work for soft-porn magazine Penthouse. He was one of a group of writers behind AARGH (Artists Against Rampant Government Homophobia), a 76-page comic book published in 1988 to aid the fight against Section 28, an amendment to the Local Government Act in Britain that outlawed the promotion of homosexuality by school and local authorities. The amendment was supported by then prime minister Margaret Thatcher …

 

Since her death in April, there have been calls for Thatcher, the only Oxford University-educated prime minister not to have received an honorary degree, to be awarded a posthumous doctorate. The last governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten - who served under Thatcher and has been chancellor of the university since 2003 - declared he would not name a college at Oxford after her. "[It may be] pushing it to persuade Jesus [college] to change its name," he said. The "Iron Lady", United States president Ronald Reagan and South African prime minister P.W. Botha all appeared on the cover of Beasts of No Nation, an anti-apartheid album by Fela Kuti …

 

In the early 1970s, the Nigerian musician and political and human rights activist formed the Kalakuta Republic, a recording studio and commune for the vast entourage attached to his band, The Africa '70. After Kuti declared his independence from Nigeria and infuriated its government with his provocative album Zombie, the commune was attacked by soldiers and burnt to the ground. Kuti was severely beaten and his elderly mother died after being thrown from a window. In 1983, Kuti took his Afrobeat rhythms to the stage in Munich, Germany, jamming an endless groove with Cream singer Jack Bruce and a slightly bewildered flautist, Ian Anderson.

 

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