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Dire Straits star Mark Knopfler is preparing to auction over 120 of his guitars and amps, with a notable 25% of the proceeds earmarked for charitable causes. Among the instruments up for sale is the iconic 1983 Les Paul that Knopfler used to record hits like “Money For Nothing” and played on stage at Live Aid in 1985. The auction, scheduled for January at Christie’s in London, spans the entirety of Knopfler’s illustrious 50-year career, offering fans a chance to own a piece of music history.

The collection boasts a range of guitars, including the revered 1959 Gibson Les Paul with a sunburst finish, often referred to as the “Holy Grail of electric guitars.” This particular instrument carries an estimated value between £300,000 to £500,000. In keeping with Knopfler’s diverse musical influences, the auction also includes more accessible items, such as a mandolin once owned by blues legend Yank Rachell, with an estimated value of £300 to £500. Knopfler expressed his appreciation for both the expensive and more affordable instruments, stating, “I like the cheap ones as much as the expensive ones.”

Mark Knopfler, considered one of the greatest guitar virtuosos of all time, shared his sentiment about parting with his beloved instruments, citing his age as a primary factor. The 74-year-old musician emphasized his desire for the guitars to find new owners who will play and appreciate them, rather than being confined to cases. Knopfler’s guitars have been companions throughout his career, contributing to the distinctive sound of Dire Straits and his solo work.

Reflecting on his lifelong connection with the guitar, Knopfler reminisced about his childhood fascination with the instrument, inspired by the likes of Elvis Presley and Hank Marvin of The Shadows. His journey began with a Spanish guitar plucked off the wall of a shop in Newcastle, England, where he spent hours dreaming of owning his own instrument. Despite initially yearning for a Fiesta Red Fender Stratocaster, he received a twin-pickup Höfner Super Solid, sparking a lifelong love affair with the instrument.

The decision to part with his cherished guitars, including the first lot—a twin-pickup Höfner Super Solid—is rooted in practicality. Knopfler acknowledged owning around 20 guitars for recording purposes, leaving approximately 100 others that won’t see much play. Despite the bittersweet farewell, he emphasized having enough guitars left to continue playing and creating music. The guitars will be on display in New York and London before the auction, allowing fans to witness these iconic instruments up close.

Mark Knopfler’s illustrious career began with the formation of Dire Straits in 1977, and the band achieved widespread success with albums like “Brothers in Arms.” Beyond his role in Dire Straits, Knopfler engaged in session work for notable artists, contributed to film soundtracks, and forged a successful solo career. Known for his fluid and cinematic guitar solos, he downplayed his technical prowess, attributing his success to songwriting and storytelling. The auction proceeds will benefit charities such as the Red Cross, Tusk, and Brave Hearts of the North East, showcasing Knopfler’s commitment to philanthropy even as he bids farewell to some of his most cherished possessions.

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Taylor Swift expressed deep sorrow and devastation after a fan tragically passed away before her concert in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The pop star shared the heartbreaking news on Instagram, describing the fan as incredibly beautiful and lamenting that she was far too young.

Despite the soaring temperatures in the city, Swift was actively involved in trying to keep fans hydrated during the concert. She was seen handing out water bottles to the audience, showing a genuine concern for their well-being.

Swift confessed on Instagram that she felt overwhelmed by grief and, as a result, couldn’t bring herself to discuss the incident on stage. She expressed her condolences, stating that her broken heart goes out to the fan’s family and friends, emphasizing that this was the last thing she expected to happen during her tour in Brazil.

Details surrounding the fan’s death emerged from Brazilian newspaper Fohla De Sao Paolo, indicating that the fan had fainted at the stadium and later succumbed to cardiorespiratory arrest. Swift’s Instagram story addressing the tragedy was posted after the show, where videos circulated on social media showing her actively involved in urging staff to provide water to fans during the concert.

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The first four episodes of Netflix’s The Crown, marking the final season, have faced criticism from a majority of critics. This season delves into the events of the late 1990s, with a particular focus on Princess Diana’s relationship with Dodi Fayed and her tragic death. The portrayal of Diana’s character, including the use of her “ghost,” has garnered negative feedback from reviewers, with some describing it as a departure from the show’s earlier strengths.

Critics express dissatisfaction with the writing, with The Guardian giving the series a one-star review, stating that the “Diana-obsessed series is the very definition of bad writing.” The challenges of portraying events within living memory are noted, with some suggesting that the show has lost its balance and is now plummeting in quality.

Despite the negative feedback, there are acknowledgments of strong performances from the cast. Elizabeth Debicki’s portrayal of Diana receives praise, with one review calling it “outstanding.” However, the use of Diana’s ghost and the handling of certain events, such as the car crash scene, have been criticized as desperate or self-defeating.

While The Times offers a four-star review, praising the emotional depth of the season, other critics point out what they perceive as historical inaccuracies and a reliance on speculative elements. The Financial Times suggests that the series takes emotive shortcuts, externalizing the complexity of the royals’ shock and grief, indicating a lack of inspiration.

The Crown has also faced criticism for its depiction of other characters, including Dodi Fayed and his father Mohamed Al-Fayed. Some critics argue that certain portrayals amount to a brutal hatchet job on these characters, deviating from the more nuanced versions presented in earlier seasons.

Despite the mixed reviews, Variety’s Aramide Tinubu believes that the new season has helped the show “reclaim its glittering throne.” The second half of the final season, set to be released in December, will cover additional significant events in the royal family, including the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, Prince Charles and Camilla’s wedding, and the courtship of William and Kate.

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A 1932 masterpiece by Pablo Picasso recently sold for $139 million, making it the second most expensive piece by the artist ever sold. Titled “Femme a la Montre” (Woman with a Watch), it portrays Marie-Therese Walter, Picasso’s French muse and lover, and was previously owned by the late art collector Emily Fisher Landau.

Picasso’s relationship with Walter, which began when she was 17 and he was 45, was clandestine as he was still married to Ukrainian ballerina Olga Khokhlova. The painting depicts Walter seated in a chair against a blue backdrop.

Picasso’s artistic contributions, which spanned eight decades, were diverse, with his experimentation with various styles and themes making him one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. His notable contributions include inspiring the “Cubism” movement, known for depicting objects and people from multiple perspectives simultaneously.

Despite his artistic legacy, questions have arisen in recent years regarding his behavior, with allegations of cruelty, womanizing, and coercive conduct. Picasso, born in Malaga in 1881 and raised in Barcelona, relocated to Paris in 1904. He had four children and passed away in 1973 at the age of 92.

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A Dutch art detective, Arthur Brand, successfully recovered a stolen Van Gogh painting from a Dutch museum in March 2020, ending a quest spanning three and a half years.

Brand mentioned that the 139-year-old artwork was delivered to him in an unconventional manner: a man showed up at his doorstep with the painting concealed within a pillow and an Ikea bag. He emphasized that this operation was carried out in close coordination with Dutch law enforcement, and they were confident that the person returning the painting was not connected to the theft.

The original theft occurred when an individual used a sledgehammer to break into the Singer museum in Laren, located southeast of Amsterdam, at the onset of the COVID-19 lockdown. The stolen artwork, titled “The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring,” had been on loan from a museum in Groningen and is valued at several million euros.

In 2021, a career criminal named Nils M, who lived near Laren, was sentenced to eight years in prison for the theft, but by that time, the painting had already changed hands. DNA evidence linked Nils M to both the theft of the Van Gogh painting and another theft of a Frans Hals painting in Leerdam, near Utrecht.

Intercepted communications revealed that a criminal group had acquired the stolen Van Gogh painting with the intention of using it as leverage to secure reduced prison sentences. Arthur Brand, collaborating closely with Dutch law enforcement, had received images confirming the painting’s existence as early as June 2020.

Eventually, a man in Amsterdam approached Brand and offered to return the painting under the condition of strict confidentiality, as it had become a cumbersome burden for those in possession of it. The exchange occurred at Brand’s residence, with the director of the Groninger museum verifying the artwork’s authenticity at a nearby bar’s street corner.

The painting, upon recovery, was wrapped in a pillow with bloodstains, as the person returning it had injured their finger during retrieval.

The Dutch police’s arts crime unit authenticated the recovered painting, and Andreas Blühm, the head of the Groninger museum, expressed his delight at its safe return. While slightly damaged, the artwork can be restored. Currently, the Van Gogh painting is in the custody of the Van Gogh museum, and it may take several weeks or months before it is ready for public display.

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In the ever-evolving realm of global cinema, ‘August 27’ has emerged as a remarkable triumph, enchanting audiences with its riveting storyline and impeccable performances. The film is directed by the illustrious Dr. Ajit Ravi Pegasus, a celebrated name in the fashion industry, who has seamlessly transitioned into the world of cinema. Produced under the banner of Pegasus Global Private Limited, ‘August 27’ has recently concluded a triumphant 20-day theatrical run, making an indelible mark on the global film landscape.

Director Dr Ajit Ravi Pegasus

What truly sets ‘August 27’ apart is its exceptional ensemble cast, comprising gifted individuals who breathe life into their characters with extraordinary finesse. The harmonious narrative, borne out of the creative synergy between screenwriter Kumbalathu Padmakumar and director Dr. Ajit Ravi, exemplifies cinematic brilliance. As the film continues to gain momentum, it is poised to captivate an even wider international audience with upcoming releases in multiple languages, in addition to its availability on the OTT platform.

Top Left to Right – Rishad N K, Jaseela Parveen ; Bottom Left to Right – Director Dr Ajit Ravi Pegasus, Shiju Rasheed

As the festive season approaches, ‘August 27’ stands as a must-watch for European cinephiles, emphasizing the potent blend of storytelling and artistic innovation on the silver screen. Its meteoric success underscores the universal resonance of captivating narratives, transcending geographical boundaries and striking a chord with global audiences, firmly establishing ‘August 27’ as a cinematic masterpiece that has taken the industry by storm.

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Russian opera singer Anna Netrebko is taking legal action against the Metropolitan Opera in New York City after they dropped her from future performances following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The renowned soprano is seeking $360,000 in damages, alleging defamation, breach of contract, and other violations. The Met has responded, stating that the lawsuit is without merit.

Despite having previously expressed support for President Vladimir Putin and making donations to a theater in the rebel-held city of Donetsk, Netrebko faced pressure to condemn the invasion of Ukraine. While she eventually did criticize the conflict, she stopped short of denouncing Putin, leading to her dismissal from future performances with the Met.

Netrebko’s lawsuit claims that the Met’s actions caused her emotional distress and negatively impacted her professional relationships, leading to lost contracts with Russian theater companies. The Met, however, insists that the lawsuit is baseless.

Earlier, Netrebko had filed a separate complaint through the American Guild of Musical Artists, which ruled in her favor and awarded her over $200,000 in compensation for the canceled performances.

Despite the fallout with the Met, Netrebko has continued performing in other venues around the world, including in Italy, and has upcoming performances scheduled in Buenos Aires, Berlin, Vienna, Milan, and Paris. However, her planned concert in Prague faced scrutiny, with a city official urging the event’s cancellation due to her appearance on Ukraine’s sanctions list. Nonetheless, the producer organizing the concert defended Netrebko, stating that she had condemned the war, and the event was nearly sold out.

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Jane Birkin, a renowned singer, actress, and fashion icon, has passed away at the age of 76. Born in London, Birkin gained fame singing in French and eventually relocated to France in the 1970s. She was widely known for her personal and artistic relationship with songwriter Serge Gainsbourg, particularly for their iconic duet “Je T’aime…moi non plus.” The song, recorded in 1968, faced controversy and bans in various countries due to its explicit lyrics but also garnered international attention.

Birkin and Gainsbourg were together for 12 years, during which they had a daughter named Charlotte Gainsbourg, who also became an acclaimed actress and singer. Despite their tumultuous relationship, they remained friends after their split, and Gainsbourg continued to write songs for Birkin. Birkin wrote about the challenges of their relationship, including violence and Gainsbourg’s alcoholism, in her 2020 diaries.

Beyond her music and acting career, Birkin had a significant influence on the fashion world. She inspired the creation of the Birkin handbag by Hermès in 1984. The bag became highly sought after and carried a hefty price tag, with waiting lists that extended for months or even years.

Throughout her life, Birkin was an advocate for various causes and campaigned for animal welfare, among others. She even requested Hermès to remove her name from the handbag line in 2015 due to animal welfare concerns. Birkin’s acting credits included notable films such as “Blow Up” (1966), “Death on the Nile” (1978), and “Evil Under the Sun” (1982). She also released albums, including “Arabesque” in 2002 and a live recording collection titled “Jane at the Palace” in 2009.

Menna Rawlings, the British ambassador to France, described Birkin as “the most French of British artists” in a tribute on Twitter. Birkin battled leukemia in the late 1990s and had reportedly suffered a stroke in September 2021, which led to the cancellation of a planned appearance at an American film festival.

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According to economists, the concert may have led to a price increase, but other reasons are also at work.

Sweden’s inflation in May surpassed estimates, likely due to a jump in accommodation rates caused by Beyonce’s concert at the Friends Arena in Stockholm.

Statistics Sweden figures released on Wednesday show an 8.2% year-on-year increase in a pricing gauge that excludes energy prices and interest rate impacts.

This gain exceeded both the median Bloomberg poll estimate of 7.8 percent and the Riksbank’s 8.1 percent forecast.

The sudden surge in hotel and recreation expenses may have been influenced by Beyonce’s global tour premiere in Stockholm, which drew over 80,000 people over two days.

“We believe that this unexpected increase will normalise in June as hotel and ticket prices return to normal levels,” said Michael Grahn, chief economist at Danske Bank.

Despite this, Danske expects the Riksbank to raise interest rates further since the Swedish currency’s weakening and persistent inflation remain worries.

Swedbank economist Glenn Nielsen agreed that Beyonce’s performances may have led to higher lodging expenses in May.

He went on to say that the unusually strong price increase was mostly due to high demand and increased cost pressures, which pushed hotels to hike their pricing.

This news on inflation comes at a time when global pricing pressures are lessening.

According to recent data, US inflation has dropped to its lowest level since March 2021.

Similarly, European consumer prices grew less than predicted in May.

Despite these tendencies, Swedish prices continue to grow faster than the central bank’s aim, which is exacerbated by the Swedish currency’s weakness.

This is similar to the situation in nearby Norway, where the cost of imported items has risen owing to currency weakening.

The recent performance of the Swedish krona, which is trading around all-time lows versus the euro, puts more pressure on the Riksbank to maintain a higher benchmark rate than the European Central Bank.

The ECB is anticipated to boost its deposit rate to 3.5% on Thursday, matching the Riksbank, which also forecasts a rate hike this month or in September.

With the most recent pricing data in hand, most analysts expect the Riksbank to announce a quarter-point rate rise on June 29, notwithstanding any brief Beyonce impact.

“May’s inflation figures were higher than expected, given the overall upturn,” Nordea’s Torbjorn Isaksson remarked. “This reinforces our prediction of a Riksbank rate hike in June.”

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Former X Factor contestant Katie Waissel has claimed that the show’s staff mocked her mental health during her time on the series.

She revealed that she was ridiculed and referred to as a “drama queen” in internal emails. Waissel read out other emails she obtained through a GDPR request, which showed the lack of support she received. She called on MPs to revive an inquiry into reality TV shows and questioned why ITV’s safeguarding policies were only being addressed now.

Fellow contestant Rebecca Ferguson also shared her experiences, alleging mental manipulation and abuse. ITV and Ofcom responded, emphasizing their commitment to contestant welfare. Fremantle Television, the show’s producer, stated that participants were provided with legal advisors and aftercare support. Both Waissel and Ferguson expressed the need for acknowledgment and apology for their experiences on the show.

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