Yearly Archives: 2009

Rocketman Hal Graham RIP

hal grahamHal Graham, the first man to officially fly a rocketbelt, has died. The following is an edited extract from The Rocketbelt Caper:

Harold ‘Hal’ Graham was a 27-year-old science graduate from Buffalo who had been working for the Bell Aircraft Company as a test engineer for just over a year when he was selected to be the first man to pilot the rocketbelt – the iconic flying jetpack created by engineer Wendell Moore.

It would be Graham’s first taste of flying. He was not a registered pilot, and the only machine he had previous experience of driving was a car. He was, however, a rocketbelt fan, having grown up with Buck Rogers comics and Commando Cody serials. When Bell began to ask around for a volunteer to fly the rocketbelt he had no hesitation in applying for the job.

Graham’s first tethered flight took place in March 1961. These flights took place in a large aircraft hangar. The rocketbelt was suspended from the ceiling, and small amounts of thrust were used to generate moderate lift. 36 tethered flights later, it was time for the safety ropes to come off. Continue reading

Taken the piss

Taken: DVD Review

takenLiam Neeson is a former Government “preventer”, which basically means he can do karate and shoot some guns. But he has given that up to be closer to his estranged daughter, who is meant to be 17 but inexplicably acts like she’s 12, skipping around in pigtails, yelling “Daddy!” and cuddling ponies. Then she does what all 17-year-old girls dream of – she heads off with an equally gormless friend to Europe to follow hip young rock cobblers U2 on tour.

Unluckily, within minutes of arriving in an apparently lawless backwater known as Paris, France, the two girls are kidnapped by a people trafficking gang, chained to a mucky bed and shot full of heroin. Luckily, Liam knows a man who can work computers, and soon he has the name of the gang boss, and a private flight to Paris. Continue reading

RIP Sir Bobby

This morning we lost one of the good ones. Sir Bobby Robson died at around 6.30am, peacefully, at home, and surrounded by his family. Tributes from the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho and Alan Shearer say a lot more about the man than I can.

He has had a great innings, enjoying a remarkable 50-year career in football – as a player at Fulham and West Brom, and a manager at Vancouver Royals, Fulham, Ipswich Town, PSV Eindhoven, Sporting Lisbon, Porto, Barcelona, Newcastle United, and as national manager with England, and consultant with the Republic of Ireland. Continue reading

Brian Wilson raises another Smile

Brian Wilson
The Sage, Gateshead

In a world of rock and pop where the words “genius” and “legend” are thrown around with carefree abandon, here is a man who truly deserves to be called both.

Having survived drugs, mental illness and a rock dad who made Joe Jackson look like father-of-the-year material, for 67-year-old Brian Wilson to be on any stage, anywhere in the world, is something of a triumph.

Tonight he shuffles on at the Sage in a baggy beach shirt and white running shoes, perches slightly precariously on a stool behind his electric piano, and yells, “Hello Newcastle upon Tyne! I hope you enjoy the concert!” Continue reading