Happy New Year!

Stan Lee

Stanley Martin Lieber, born December 28, 1922 in New York, in a family of of Romanian-born Jewish immigrants, co-created Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Iron Man, the Hulk, Thor, Daredevil, Doctor Strange, and many other characters, introducing complex, naturalistic characters and a thoroughly shared universe into superhero comic books. He subsequently led the expansion of Marvel Comics from a small division of a publishing house to a large multimedia corporation.

Stan Lee entered the comic book scene at seventeen, as assistant editor for the Timely comics group. In 1942, he was promoted to editor. He also became one of the major scriptwriters, after Jack Kirby and Joe Simon had left the company. Lee wrote most of the scripts for 'Captain America', 'Sub-Mariner', 'Young Allies' and 'The Human Torch'.

The Timely group was renamed Atlas and entered a rough period in the fifties, during which sales were very low. Stan Lee wrote numerous stories, mostly for the superhero comics: 'The Witness', 'The Destroyer', 'Jack Frost', 'Whizzer' and 'Black Marvel' are but a few of the series he created. The quality of his stories wasn't very high at first, but improved considerably from 1961 on, when the group was renamed Marvel Comics. By then, Stan Lee called for a new era of superhero comics. Working mostly with Jack Kirby, he created a great many popular titles, such as 'The Fantastic Four', 'Spider-Man', 'Doctor Strange', 'Thor', 'The Hulk', 'The X-Men', 'The Silver Surfer', 'Sgt Fury and His Howling Commandos', 'Daredevil' and 'Iron Man'.

The strength of Lee's scripts was that he depicted his characters, endowed with super-human abilities, yet with human failings and emotions the reader could identify with. Thanks to Stan Lee's productivity, Marvel became very popular during the sixties. In 1972, Lee became publisher and editorial director of the group. In 1974, he wrote a book titled 'Origins of Marvel Comics'. Stan Lee and his Marvel studios came into the limelight when the first Spider-Man movie was released in 2002, at the delight of his fans. The Hulk, X-Men, Iron Man and Fantastic Four have also made it to the silver screen.

Lee has received several awards for his work, including: Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1995, Hollywood Walk of Fame (2008), National Medal of Arts (2008).

30 December

After more than 60 years, the events on 30 December 1947 remains still controversial.

King Michael I was the last monarch behind the Iron Curtain to lose his throne. In March 1945, political pressures forced King Michael to appoint a pro-Soviet government dominated by the Romanian Communist Party. Under the communist régime King Michael functioned again as little more than a figurehead. Between August 1945 and January 1946, during what was later known as the "royal strike", King Michael tried unsuccessfully to oppose the first communist government led by the communist Prime Minister Petru Groza, by refusing to sign its decrees. In response to Soviet, British, and American pressures, King Michael eventually gave up his opposition to the communist government and stopped demanding its resignation.

King Michael I of Romania

In November, 1947 King Michael I travelled to London for the wedding of the future Queen Elizabeth II, an occasion during which he met Princess Anne of Bourbon-Parma, who was to become his wife. According to unconfirmed claims by Romanian royalists, King Michael did not want to return home, but certain Americans and Britons present at the wedding encouraged him to do so; Winston Churchill is said to have counseled Michael to return because "above all things, a King must be courageous". According to his own account, King Michael rejected any offers of asylum and decided to return to Romania, contrary to the confidential, strong advice of the British Ambassador to Romania.

However, on December 30th 1947, King Michael I was forced at gun point (by either Petru Groza or Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, depending on the source) to abdicate Romania's throne in his own Royal Palace which was surrounded by the Tudor Vladimirescu army units loyal to the communists. Later the same day, the communist-dominated government announced the 'permanent' abolition of the monarchy and its replacement by a People's Republic, broadcasting the King's pre-recorded radio proclamation of his own abdication. On January 3, 1948, Michael was forced to leave the country, followed over a week later by Princesses Elisabeth and Ileana, who collaborated so closely with the Russians that they became known as the 'King's Red Aunts'.

Dr. Petru Groza

There are several accounts as to why King Michael I abdicated. As recounted by Michael himself, the communist prime-minister Petru Groza had threatened him at gun point and blackmailed him that the government was to shoot 1,000 arrested students if King Michael didn't abdicate. In an interview with The New York Times from 2007, Michael recalls the events: “It was blackmail. They said, ‘If you don’t sign this immediately we are obliged’ — why obliged I don’t know — 'to kill more than 1,000 students' that they had in prison”. According to Time magazine, the communist government threatened Michael that it would arrest thousands and steep the country in blood if he did not abdicate.

Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej

But according to the book Special Tasks: The Memoirs of an Unwanted Witness - A Soviet Spymaster, the autobiography of the former leader of the Soviet intelligence agency NKVD, major general Pavel Sudoplatov, the deputy Soviet foreign minister Andrey Vyshinsky personally conducted negotiations with King Michael for his abdication, guaranteeing part of a pension to be paid to Michael in Mexico. According to a few articles in Jurnalul Naţional, Michael's abdication was the result of his negotiations with the Communist government, not of a blackmail, which allowed him to leave the country accompanied by the goods he requested and by some of the royal retinue. However, considering the unreliability of this source, as well as several other sources that contradict such allegations, one is inclined to discount such a possibility as highly improbable.

According to the Albanian communist leader Enver Hoxha, who recounts his conversations with the Romanian communist leaders on the king's abdication, King Michael was threatened with a pistol by the Romanian Communist Party leader Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej rather than Petru Groza so as to abdicate - recount which lacks any factual evidence. He was allowed to leave the country accompanied by some of his entourage and, as confirmed also by the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev recounting Dej's confessions, with whatever properties he desired, including gold and rubies. Hoxha does say in his book that the Romanian communist leaders had threatened King Michael with their loyal army troops, which had encircled the royal palace and its troops loyal to King Michael.

At 30 December 1947 was proclaimed the People's Republic of Romania and the day is celebrated as Republic's Day.

Justin Capră

Justin Virgilius Capră (born February 22, 1933 in Măgureni, Prahova County, Romania) - aviation mechanical engineer, Romanian inventor.

Justin Capră has made more than 72 prototypes of cars with little consumption, 7 non-conventional aircrafts which it has tested himself and 15 non-conventional engines.

Justin Capră created in 1956, at 25 years, the first flying backpack, in fact an individual flying machine (patented in 1958). After 7 years, the idea was taken over by three Americans, who manufactured it. In 1958, he invented the first version of 'rachetonaut', another individual flying machine, tested at the U.S. Embassy in Bucharest. The result: the invention and was taken over by Americans, and the engineer was arrested by the Secret Service who accused him that he planned to leave the country. He had the flying pack idea during his military service: "I was thinking that I can escape the barracks in flight, without my boss see me. I worked with a mechanic, Munteanu, and I presented the project at the Romanian Academy in 1956. Their response was that "we need tractors, not the people who fly". In 1958 I managed to fly, after many unsuccessful experiences".

The 'Portable device for individual flight' was patented in 1958. "I patented it four years before Wendell Moore, Cecil Martin and Robert Cunnings of Bell Corporation. The Americans have obtained the patent on 22 February 1962 and I, on July 27, 1958.
Justin Capră's priority has been recognized by the Americans in 2002. Meanwhile, 'backpack flying' was used by the astronauts on their Extra Vehicular Activities (EVA), or by Michael Jackson in his shows.

During his inventor career, Justin invented other amazing vehicles: the aerodina with vertical takeoff and landing, an aerodynamic vehicle with adaptable, fluid form (!), and a series of economic cars, Soleta, with little fuel consumption (0.5 liters / 100 km at 70 km/h). Unfortunately, none of his cars have been produced commercially. His latest vehicles are a lightweight electric tricycle (37 kg), presented at Bucharest Inventions Fair and a hybrid car, presented at 'Future Energy' Inventions Fair in Timişoara. The vehicle, named "Justin 1000" after the power developed, is a hybrid of fiber and aluminum, which weighs no more than 140 kilograms and can cater to both the pump, as a normal vehicle, and from any outlet. Outside the city the car consumes unleaded gas, 0.4 liters / 100 km. In town it uses an electric engine and has an autonomy of 250 kilometers, if it works with more than 30 km/h.

Justin Capră never wanted to leave his country. He was invited to work in Canada, USA, Germany, Italy, but he refused. "It seems more interesting to do something in a country where everyone says you can not do anything". After years in which he was treated with indifference (even hostility) from the authorities, he was decorated by the President of Romania and awarded by the Romanian Academy.


The world's biggest bear sanctuary was funded at Zărneşti, near Braşov, by Christina Lapiş, Director of the Romanian Society 'Millions of Friends', and the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA).

The construction began in 2006 and ended in 2007; the sanctuary is a natural heaven for the rescued bears and has 70 ha of forest close to the Carpathian Mountains, with a temporary quarantine facility, fresh water pools, two main large bear enclosures, a large main building with veterinary area and an electric fence.

Romania has the largest population of wild European brown bears – over 4,000 live in the forests (approx. 50% of the Europe's population of bears). Some of them are taken from the wild and kept in tiny cages often as an attraction to lure diners into restaurants or customers into hotels, others end up in primitive private zoos or as circus performers. Many of the captive bears are underfed by their owners, who rely on the generosity of customers to provide food, and as a result the bears have a poor diet, consisting of mainly bread and corn. Often they do not even get enough water to drink. They are kept in squalid conditions or in cramped cages where they have little protection from the bitter cold of the Romanian winters.

In Romania, Christina Lapiş is now one of the most well-established and recognisable figures working on animal welfare issues. Known by the media, government and public alike, whenever there is an animal welfare issue in the Romanian news, she is the authority that the media go to for answers. The campaigner Christina Lapiş has vowed to free every captive bear in the country. For now, the sanctuary hosts near 40 bears and can handle 100. The sanctuary is open for the public in the weekends and can be visited in organized groups.

Nadia, The One

Nadia Elena Comăneci (born November 12, 1961) is probably the best-known gymnasts in the world and is credited with popularizing the sport around the world.

Nadia Comăneci was born in Oneşti, Romania. Her pregnant mother was watching a Russian film in which the heroine of the story's name was Nadya, the diminutive version of the Russian name Nadyezhda (which means, literally, "Hope"). She decided that her daughter would be named Nadia, too. Comăneci began gymnastics in kindergarten with a local team called "Flame", with coaches Duncan and Munteanu. At age 6 she was chosen to attend Béla Károlyi's experimental gymnastics school after he spotted her and a friend turning cartwheels in a schoolyard. Comăneci was training with the Károlyis by the time she was 7 years old, in 1969. She was one of the first students at the gymnastics school established in Oneşti by Béla and his wife, Marta, who would later defect to the United States and become coaches of many prominent American gymnasts. Unlike many of the other students at the Károlyi school, Comăneci was able to commute from home for many years because she lived in the area.

In 1970, she began competing as a member of her hometown team and became the youngest gymnast ever to win the Romanian Nationals. In 1971, she participated in her first international competition, a dual junior meet between Romania and Yugoslavia, winning her first all-around title and contributing to the team gold. For the next few years, she competed as a junior in numerous national contests in Romania and additional dual meets with nearby countries such as Hungary, Italy and Poland. At the age of 11, in 1973, she won the all-around gold, as well as the vault and uneven bars titles, at the Junior Friendship Tournament (Druzhba), an important meet for junior gymnasts.

Comăneci's first major international success came at the age of 13, when she nearly swept the 1975 European Championships in Skien, Norway, winning the all-around and gold medals on every event but the floor exercise, in which she placed second. She continued to enjoy success in other meets in 1975, winning the all-around at the "Champions All" competition and placing first in the all-around, vault, beam, and bars at the Romanian National Championships. In the Pre-Olympic test event in Montreal, Comăneci won the all-around and the balance beam golds, as well as silvers in the vault, floor, and bars behind accomplished Soviet gymnast Nellie Kim, who would prove to be one of her greatest rivals over the next five years. In March 1976, Comaneci competed in the inaugural edition of the American Cup at Madison Square Garden in New York. She received unprecedented scores of 10.0, which signified a perfect routine without any deductions, on vault in both the preliminary and final rounds of competition and won the all-around. The scoring board has shown 1.00, because it wasn't capable to display a perfect 10! Comăneci also received 10s in other meets in 1976, including the prestigious Chunichi Cup competition in Japan, where she posted perfect marks on the vault and uneven bars.

At the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, Canada, the 14-year-old Romanian dynamo captured the hearts and minds of the world with her daring and perfection. We came to know her simply as “Nadia.” By the time the 1976 Olympics ended, Comăneci had earned seven perfect tens, three gold medals, one bronze, one silver and countless fans. She appeared on the covers of Time, Newsweek and Sports Illustrated, all in the same week, and returned home to Romania to a heroines welcome. Four years later, at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, Nadia earned two more gold medals and two silver to bring her Olympic total to 9 medals (5 gold, 3 silver, 1 bronze).

Here are the results at the major competitions in hers career:

  • 1975 European Championships: 1st all-around; 1st vault; 1st bars; 1st beam; 2nd floor

  • 1976 Chunichi Cup: 1st all-around

  • 1976 American Cup: 1st all-around

  • 1976 Olympic Games: 2nd team; 1st all-around; 1st bars; 1st beam; 3rd floor

  • 1977 European Championships: 1st all-around; 3rd vault; 1st bars

  • 1978 World Championships: 2nd team; 2nd vault; 1st beam

  • 1979 European Championships: 1st all-around; 1st vault; 3rd beam; 1st floor

  • 1979 World Championships: 1st team

  • 1980 Olympic Games: 2nd team; 2nd all-around; 1st beam; 1st floor

  • 1981 University Games: 1st team; 1st all-around; 1st vault; 1st bars; 1st beam

Nadia Comăneci received the Olympic Order, the highest award given by the International Olympic Committee, in 1984 and 2004. She is the only person to receive this honor twice, and was also the youngest recipient. She has also been inducted in 1996 into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame. Nadia retired from competition in 1981. Her official retirement ceremony took place in Bucharest in 1984 and was attended by the International Olympic Committee Chairman. Between 1984 and 1989, she was a member of the Romanian Gymnastics Federation and helped coach the Romanian junior gymnasts. In November 1989, a few weeks before the Revolution, she defected with a group of other young Romanians. Her overland journey took her through Hungary, Austria, and finally, to the United States. In April 1996, Nadia married American Olympic Champion, Bart Conner, in a Romanian state wedding. In 1999, she became the first athlete to be invited to speak at the United Nations to launch the Year 2000 International Year of Volunteers. She is currently the Vice-Chair of the Board Of Directors of the International Special Olympics and Vice President of the Board of Directors of the Muscular Dystrophy Association. She has also personally funded the construction and operation of the Nadia Comaneci Children's Clinic, a clinic in Bucharest that provides low-cost and free medical and social support to Romanian children.

In 2003, the Romanian government appointed her as an Honorary Consul General of Romania to the United States to deal with bilateral relations between the two nations. She performs this function based out of her Norman, Oklahoma, office. In the world of gymnastics, Comăneci is the Honorary President of the Romanian Gymnastics Federation, the Honorary President of Romanian Olympic Committee, Ambassador of Sports of Romania and a member of the International Gymnastics Federation Foundation. She and her husband own the Bart Conner Gymnastics Academy, the Perfect 10 Production Company and several sports equipment shops. They are also the editors of International Gymnast magazine. Additionally, Comaneci and Conner have provided television commentary for many gymnastics meets, most recently the 2005 World Championships in Melbourne and the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. In December of 2003, Nadia wrote a book called Letters to a Young Gymnast detailing her inspirational story.

Unknown inventors

Many worldwide-used inventions were created in Romania by anonymous people.

The cradle of European civilization
In 1965 were discoveded at Schela-Cladovei, Mehedinţi County, near the Danube Iron Gates, the remains of a civilization totally unknown to the historians, a complex phenomenon unique in Europe. Radioactive carbon analysis indicates the age of about 8750 years for the 30 archaeological sites discovered. Here was discovered the oldest workshop for copper smelting in the world.

The Dacian year
The Dacians were calculating the astronomical year at 365,242197 days, in comparison with 365,242198 days (modern measuring).

The high oven for iron ore
Was discovered in 1895 at Houses Valley, near Ghelari, Hunedoara County, has been reconstituted from the original materials and it is exposed at "The Science Museum", London. The oven was cut off, cleverly, in rock, having tronconical form, with the top diameter of about 0.65 m, was covered at the interior with refractory material and provided with a cap and a loading platform. Some swell introduced air at the bottom, and circulation was provided with a channel of smoke, slanted at the top. After some authors, it dates from the Ist century and after others, based on a more rigorous research, from IXth century.

The washing machine
Şteaza is a mere technical accomplishment, but incredibly efficient. It was formed from a trellis over which water falls through a sewer, washing the fabrics.
Şteaza - as a simple village equipment - is recorded in an act of 1473, in which Prince Stefan the Great (1457 - 1504), gives to one of his vassals the "village Berchişeşti in Suceava County..., Vadul Făguleţului from Moldova river to Vlaşin's şteaza and from Vlaşin's şteaza to Gura Bălcoaii".

The ancestor of Yale lock
The wood locks were used by peasants in the Middle-Age (the XIVth century) and had a wood key who pushed 3-4 cilinders, same as the modern Yale locks.

The use of explosives in mining
The first use of explosives in mining (XIIIth - XIVth century), is attested in a latin-written manuscript from 1395 - 1396, accompanied by a drawing (the manuscript is kept at the National Library of Paris). This writing presents the using of explosives in mines, realized for the first time in "the counties between Hungary and the Danube", so in the regions inhabited by Romanians.

An ancient turbine
'Roata cu făcaie' (XIIIth - XIVth century) is a top achievement of a popular Romanian hidrotehnics, "the queen of hidrotehnic instalations". The wheel has a vertical axis and the blades have an effective superior shape, very efficient. This romanian popular invention appeared before the hydraulic turbine, invented in 1884 by the American engineer Lester Allen Pelton (1829 - 1908). Original copies are exhibited in Vienna at "The Museum of Masterpieces of Science and Technology", the "Technical Museum Professor engineer Dimitrie Leonida", and the Museum of Popular Technics in Sibiu, Sibiu County.

The railway transport
The mining coach from Brad is the first rail-driven vehicle in the history (the XIVth century) and was used at a gold mine in Brad, Hunedoara County, where it was used for the transport of the gold ore. It was made of wood and the rails were made from wood too, presenting also a kind of switch path mechanism. The original was exposed in 1930, at the "Transport Museum", Berlin; replicas of the truck can be found at the "Museum of Railways" and the "Technical Museum Professor engineer Dimitrie Leonida", in Bucharest.

Nicolae Teclu

Nicolae Teclu (11 October 1839, Braşov, Romania – 13 July 1916, Vienna, Austria) was a Romanian chemist, who gave his name to the worldwide-used "Teclu burner". He studied engineering and architecture, and then chemistry, continuing his career by becoming professor for general and analytical chemistry in Vienna. He also contributed substantially to the worldwide development of chemistry.

He studied chemistry at the Vienna Polytechnic Institute and later changed to architecture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. After a short time in Romania he went back to Vienna becoming a professor for general and analytical chemistry. His domains of study included: the resistance of paper and wood fibers, mineral pigments, oils utilized in paintings, combustion of gases (alkanes).

In 1892 he published his invention of the gas burner with a mechanism to control the respective amounts of methane gas and air. His burner produces a hotter flame than the Bunsen burner, thus making it superior. The usage of Teclu burners is very common worldwide. He was also the inventor of several other laboratory items, kept now at the University of Bucharest. Among these items is a tool for the detection of methane gas, and another one for the preparation of ozone.

He was elected to the Romanian Academy.

Merry Christmas!

The first color daily gazette

'Adevărul' (The Truth) was and is one of the most important daily gazette of Romania. Released in 1904, 'Dimineaţa' (The Morning), the early edition of 'Adevărul', was named first 'The Morning Truth'. After the connection with 'The Truth' entered the popular consciousness, Constantin Mille decided that is the case that the gazette to emancipate and to appoint, simple, 'The Morning' (December 1904).

Eight years later, Mille decided: 'The Morning' will appear in color, so he purchased an expensive printing machine and announces that the first page and last page of the 'The Morning' will be colored. Mille's idea is put into practice, only that "on 29 April 1912 (Sunday), all readers in Bucharest were grime red, green and blue", as recalled in a retrospective article published in 'The Morning' in 1933. Trying great turn into a failure: the printing machinery did not work well, had not been adjusted sufficiently, the newspaper appearance was delayed, were lost the trains for province...

"After a quarter-hour, hands, clothes, faces all the editors and retailers were multi colored, that the ink not had time to dry". The next day, the newspaper is printed on the old rotary, are attempts to color a month, which ruined cars full of paper and 'The Morning' is colorful again on 6 June 1912, this time without problems.

To show the importance of this reform, in terms of technical printing, it must be said that 'The Morning' was the first daily newspaper to appear in color - and this worldwide. Many newspapers have colored supplements once or twice a week. Till this time there was no daily paper in color.

Johnny Răducanu

Born in Romania the 1st of December 1931 in Brăila, Johnny Răducanu is descending from a long line of Gypsy musicians. At the age of 8, he starts playing the piano with one of his brothers. A year later, he knows the first Czerny notebook by heart, and gets a grant for the academy of music of his native town.

During his young years, he discovers on his older brothers’ gramophone 'Caravan' and 'Prelude to a Kiss' by Duke Ellington. Jazz is a revelation, even if at that time Johnny believes that «Jazz» is the name of an artist, and not that of a musical trend. A premonition perhaps, given that 20 years later, the so-called Duke Ellington nicknamed him "Mister Jazz of Romania", during a performance in Bucharest.

The war begins, his father and brothers leave for the front. At 10, he lights up officers’ dance with an accordion to help his family. At the same time, he carries on his piano studies and gets his first two working contracts: the first one in a Jazz Club (where he plays music from Rogers, Gershwin, Col Porter or Charles Trenet), the second, as test pianist in a music shop. The repertoire of the young wonder is wide: sonatina from Mozart and Beethoven to trendy ragtime. Step by step, Johnny builds his reputation among the city’s music-loving and is invited in private parties of the local bourgeoisie. The pleasure to play live often is a better reward than that of a fee.

At 19, in 1950, he joins the Music Academy of Bucharest, where he piles up subjects: chamber music, harmony and above all bass, the instrument of a long family tradition. He is fired three years after, for refusing to have his exam of military strategy. At that time, advanced studies, whatever the subject, included a military training sanctioned by an exam. Summoned by the dean, he hears him say 'You can play like Paganini with your bass, if you don’t take the exam, you will be dismissed', he answers: 'I applied to the music academy to study music, not to become a soldier. If this exam is compulsory, I’ll be a musician, without a degree'. He then drops his studies and become studio musician for Electrecord (the only music publishing house of the communist Romania). In 1957, he take his revenge over the music academy. The Culture Ministry asks him to represent the country for the Youth Festival of Moscow, but Johnny needs to be a student. Whatever, the minister enrolls him immediately to secure his appearance. He plays in Moscow with I. Körössy at the piano and P. Osadici at the battery. The trio is noticed by the accordionist Marcel Azola (Michel Legrand’s father), chairman of the panel of judges, who awards them the gold medal. He asks Johnny where in the States he learned Jazz, Johnny answers: 'I have never been there'.

From the 50’s, Johnny will keep a total devoutness for his art, described by the composer Pascal Bentoiu: 'In Johnny lives Jazz, Johnny is jazz'. Johnny plays with passion in the different jazz bands and clubs before their closure by the communist power. The government imposes his censorship and exclude words music: a godsend for our musician, who can introduce without barriers instrumental jazz in the intellectual groups of the country. Thanks to this, he records in 1966 one of the first Romanian jazz discs: "Jazz in Trio".

At the end of the 60’s, sunnier climes give him the opportunity to meet his idols: Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, during a tour in Eastern Europe organised by the US State Department. After playing bass standards for years, he introduces this instrument as solo in Romanian jazz. He then turns towards composition and naturally comes back to piano. He gives his last bass concert in 1977 and sells his instrument to buy a ticket to Paris, where he wanted to get drunk with the beauty of the city of lights, as described by his father.

Johnny comes back in his country and develops his art, by creating his own style. The talent of Johnny Raducanu spreads abroad. The pianist takes part in numerous festivals, concerts and tours in Europe and in the United States. His fame build in the Jazz world, the American Library of Bucharest finds in him a wonderful cultural ambassador, and takes him under his wing. It finances his trips to the US in the 80’s. These trips allow him to play in mythical Jazz locations such as Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, New York or New Orleans, where he is awarded in 1987 an honorary membership of the Louis Armstrong Academy. His collaborations in the world of Jazz (he recorded with Art Farmer, Frederich Gulda, Slide Hampton or Barney Kessel) and his unquestionable talent makes him the musical reference of Romania.

During his musical career, Johnny Raducanu not only tried to promote his art, but also passed on his passion for music to the young generation. He creates the Romanian Jazz school by training a great part of his elite.: Ion Baciu Jr, Ionut Dorobanţu or Theodora Enache. He chairs the Romanian Jazz Federation. Generous and passionate, his philosophy can be summarized by: 'The signification of art, for the musician I am, is to give all the music I have in my heart to the public'.

Aura Urziceanu

Aura has one of the most brilliant, expressive and improvisational voices of our time. Her interpretations of the masterful writings of the Jazz classics and original material reflect a new freshness in vocal artistry. As a singing phenomenon, her career encompasses every possible direction, from Pop to Folklore and from Classical to Jazz, which includes concerts, television shows promotional jingles and recordings.

Aura Urziceanu (aka Aura Rully, Aura Borealis) was born in 1946 in Bucharest in a family of musicians. She started studying the violin with her father when she was 5 and singing when she was 16 years old. In 1969, after being awarded the second prize at the National Festival in Mamaia, she left for a long tour in Canada and USA, where she appeared on stage together with Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald. She met here the canadian jazz drummer Ron Rully and married him.

Back in the old Continent for a short time, she represented Romania at the International Festival of Knokke, Belgium, in 1971. She won the "European Cup" with the Romanian team and, together with the European team, the long wished-for "World Cup", in a strong contest with the USA team. She was also awarded the Press prize for the best interpreter of the Festival and, as unprecedented event in the 13 years of existence of this competition, she received mark 10 from all the members of the jury.

In 1972 she made her first appearance at the famous New York (Newport) Festival, together with Duke Ellington. She has toured in the USSR, France, Germany, Italy, the UK, Poland, Bulgaria, Brazil, Portugal, Japan and Australia. She has still toured with Quincy Jones, Thad Jones, Mel Lewis, Dizzy Gillespie, Ahmad Djamal, Bill Evans, Paul Desmond, Hank Jones, Art Hampton, Joe Pass. Aura still performs and is at ease as well with jazz as with classical music and folklore.

Romanians at Hollywood (part 4)

Today we'll talk about other great actors with romanian origins.

Lauren Bacall
Lauren Bacall (born September 16, 1924) is an American film and stage actress and model. Known for her husky voice and sultry looks, she became a fashion icon in the 1940s and has continued acting to the present day.

Bacall was born Betty Joan Perske in New York City, the only child of Natalie (née Bacal or Weinstein), and William Perske. Her parents were Jewish immigrants, their families having come from France, Poland, Romania and Germany. She was married with Humprey Bogart and Jason RoBards.

Her acting career began in 194 with To Have and Have Not, continuing with other cult movies as Confidential Agent, The Big Sleep, Key Largo, How to Marry a Millionaire, Murder on the Orient Express, The Shootist, Misery, Prêt-à-Porter, Dogville. Bacall was ranked as one of the 25 greatest female stars of all time by the American Film Institute and chosen by Empire magazine as one of the 100 Sexiest Stars in film history (#6).

Fran Drescher
Francine Joy Drescher was born on September 30th, 1957 in Flushing, Queens, New York, in a family of Jewishs with romanian origins.

Fran's first break was in the unforgettable movie, Saturday Night Fever (1977) with John Travolta. She continued to play small roles in movies, until she came up with the idea for The Nanny (1993). She was visiting a friend in England and came up with the plot line. "The Nanny" (1993) became an instant success, and so did Fran. Since then, she has been in films such as The Beautician and the Beast (1997) (which she also produced) and Picking Up the Pieces (2000) co-starring Woody Allen. Fran has since divorced her husband Jacobson. She is a cancer survivor and an inspiration to women everywhere. She was chosen by People magazine as one of the 50 most beautiful people in the world (1996).

Bela Lugosi
Not really a romanian (he was hungarian ethnic), but born in today Romania, at Lugoj, Timiş County, Béla Ferenc Dezsõ Blaskó was shooting to fame when he played Count Dracula in the legendary 1927 Broadway stage adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel. It ran for three years, and was subsequently, and memorably, filmed by Tod Browning in 1931, establishing Lugosi as one of the screen's greatest personifications of pure evil.

Sadly, his reputation rapidly declined, mainly because he was only too happy to accept any part (and script) handed to him, and ended up playing pathetic parodies of his greatest role, in low-grade poverty row shockers. He ended his career working for the legendary Worst Director of All Time, Edward D. Wood Jr. He was buried in his Dracula cape.

The Queens of Poetry (part 3)

She was not only a queen of poetry, but also a queen of many arts, journalism, charity and... Romania!
Pauline Elisabeth Ottilie Luise zu Wied (December 29 1843 - March 3 1916) was the Queen Consort of King Carol I of Romania, widely known by her literary name of Carmen Sylva.

Born in Neuwied, she was the daughter of German Prince Hermann of Wied and his wife Marie, daughter of Wilhelm, Duke of Nassau (and sister of Grand Duke Adolphe of Luxembourg). She was a prospective bride for Edward VII of the United Kingdom, then Prince of Wales. She first met the future king of Romania at Berlin in 1861, and was married to him on 15 November 1869 in Neuwied. Her only child, a daughter, Maria, died in 1874. In the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878 she devoted herself to the care of the wounded, and founded the Order of Elizabeth (a gold cross on a blue ribbon) to reward distinguished service in such work. She fostered the higher education of women in Romania, and established societies for various charitable objects. Because of this, the people called her 'The mother of the wounded'. She was the 835th Dame of the Royal Order of Queen Maria Luisa.

Early distinguished by her excellence as a pianist, organist and singer, she also showed considerable ability in painting and illuminating; but a lively poetic imagination led her to the path of literature, and more especially to poetry, folklore and ballads. In addition to numerous original works she put into literary form many of the legends current among the Romanian peasantry.

Literary activity
As "Carmen Sylva", she wrote with facility in German, Romanian, French and English. A few of her voluminous writings, which include poems, plays, novels, short stories, essays, collections of aphorisms, etc., may be singled out for special mention:
* Her earliest publications were 'Sappho' and 'Hammerstein', two poems which appeared at Leipzig in 1880.
* In 1888 she received the Prix Botta, a prize awarded triennially by the Académie française, for her volume of prose aphorisms 'Les Pensees d'une reine' (Paris, 1882), a German version of which is entitled Vom Amboss (Bonn, 1890).
* 'Cuvinte Sufletesci', religious meditations in Romanian (Bucharest, 1888), was also translated into German (Bonn, 1890), under the name of Seelen-Gespräche.

Several of the works of Carmen Sylva were written in collaboration with Mite Kremnitz, one of her maids of honor; these were published between 1881 and 1888, in some cases under the pseudonyms Dito et Idem. These include:
* Aus zwei Welten (Leipzig, 1884), a novel
* Anna Boleyn (Bonn, 1886), a tragedy,
* In der Irre (Bonn, 1888), a collection of short stories
* Edleen Vaughan, or Paths of Peril, a novel (London, 1894),
* Sweet Hours, poems (London, 1904), written in English.

The Queens of Poetry (part 2)

Anna, Marquise Mathieu de Noailles (born Anna Elisabeth Bibesco-Bassaraba, Princess de Brancovan; 1 November or 15 November 1876 – 30 April 1933 (56 years), Romanian-French writer.

Born in Paris and a descendant of the Bibescu and Craioveşti families of Romanian boyars, she was the daughter of Prince Grégoire Bibesco-Bassaraba, a son of Wallachian Prince Gheorghe Bibesco de Brancovan and Zoe Brâncoveanu. Her Greek mother was the former Ralouka (Rachel) Musuru, a well known musician, to whom the Polish composer Ignacy Paderewski dedicated several of compositions. In 1897 she married Marquis Mathieu Fernand Frédéric Pascal de Noailles (1873-1942), the fourth son of the 7th Duke de Noailles. The couple soon became the toast of Parisian high society. They had one child, a son, Count Anne Jules de Noailles (1900-1979).

Representing the 'parnasianism' and the literary Belle Époque, Anna de Noailles wrote novels, an autobiography, and a number of poems. She was elected as a member of the prestigious 'Académie Royale Belge de Langue et de Littérature Françaises' and awarded by the 'French Academy', who awarded her with the 'Grand Prix pour literature'. At the beginning of the 20th century, her salon on the Avenue Hoche attracted the intellectual, literary and artistic elite of the day including Francis Jammes, Paul Claudel, Colette, André Gide, Frédéric Mistral, Robert de Montesquiou-Fezensac, Paul Valéry, Jean Cocteau, Alphonse Daudet, Pierre Loti, Paul Hervieu, Maurice Barrès, and Max Jacob.

So popular was Anna de Noailles that various notable artists of the day painted her portrait, including Antonio de la Gandara, Kees van Dongen, Jacques Émile Blanche, and the British portrait painter Philip de Laszlo. In 1906 her image was sculpted by Auguste Rodin, and can be seen today in the Musée Rodin in Paris. She died in 1933 and was interred in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

Anna de Noailles was the first woman to become a 'Commander of the Legion of Honor', and the Académie Française named a prize in her honor.

The Queens of Poetry (part 1)

Elena Văcărescu or Hélène Vacaresco (September 21, 1864, Bucharest - February 17, 1947, Paris) - Romanian-French writer, twice a laureate of the Académie Française.

Through her father, Ioan Văcărescu, she descended from a long line of boyars of Wallachia (the Văcărescu family), including Ienăchiţă Văcărescu, the poet who wrote the first Romanian grammar. She was also a granddaughter of Romanian poet Iancu Văcărescu. Through her mother, Eufrosina Fălcoianu, she descended from the Fălcoianu family, a prominent group in the times of Prince Michael the Brave.

She spent most of her youth on the Văcărescu estate near Târgovişte. Elena first got acquainted with the English literature through her English governess. She also studied French literature at Sorbonne in Paris, where she met Victor Hugo, whom she later mentioned in her memoirs. She attended courses of philosophy, aesthetics and history, and also studied poetry under the guidance of Sully Prudhomme. Another influence on her early life was the Russo-Turkish War, 1877-1878 that also involved Romania - the country declared independence from the Ottoman Empire, and joined Imperial Russia's camp. Elena's father fought in the war, experience which influenced her first book (published in 1886).

The meeting that changed her life was that with Elisabeth of Wied, Queen of Romania, wife of King Carol I. The Queen invited her to the palace in 1888. Interested in Elena Văcărescu's literary achievements, she became much more interested in the person of the poet. Having not yet recovered from the death of her only daughter in 1874, Elizabeth transferred all her maternal love on Elena. In 1889, due to the lack of heirs to the Romanian throne, the King had adopted his nephew Ferdinand of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen who, due to his loneliness in a strange country, grew close to Elena, fell in love with her, and eventually expressed the desire to marry her. But, according to the 1866 Constitution of Romania, the heir to the throne was not allowed to marry a Romanian. The result of the affair was that the Queen (who had encouraged the romance) was exiled to Neuwied for two years, Elena was exiled to Paris for life, while Ferdinand was sent off in search for a new bride (which he eventually found in Marie of Edinburgh).

Văcărescu was the Substitute Delegate to the League of Nations from 1922 to 1924. She was a permanent delegate from 1925 to 1926. She was again a Substitute Delegate to the League of Nations from 1926 to 1938.

She was the only woman to serve with the rank of ambassador (permanent delegate) in the history of the League of Nations. She was co-founder of 'The International Institute for Intelectual Cooperation' (today UNESCO).

In 1925 she was welcomed as a member of the Romanian Academy. She translated into French, works of Romanian poets such as Mihai Eminescu, Lucian Blaga, Octavian Goga, George Topîrceanu, Ion Minulescu and Ion Vinea. Just before her death, Văcărescu was a member of the Gheorghe Tătărescu-headed Romanian delegation to the Paris Peace Conference at the end of World War II.

In 1946 she became the first woman officer of the French 'Légion d'honneur'. She initiated the 'Femina' Prize for Poetry, now one of the most important literary prizes.

She is interred in the Văcărescu family crypt in the Bellu cemetery in Bucharest.

Victor Babeş

Victor Babeş (July 4, 1854 – October 19, 1926) was a Romanian physician, biologist, and one of the earliest bacteriologists. He made early and significant contributions to the study of rabies, leprosy, diphtheria, tuberculosis, and other infectious diseases.

Born in Vienna (at the time, the capital of the Austrian Empire) to an ethnic Romanian family from the Banat, he studied in Budapest, then in Vienna, where he received his doctorate in Science. Attracted by the discoveries of Louis Pasteur, he left for Paris, and worked first in Pasteur's laboratory, and then with Victor André Cornil. Babeş was one of the founders of serum therapy, and was the first to introduce rabies vaccination to Romania. His work also had a strong influence upon veterinary medicine, especially concerning prophylaxis and serum medication.

In 1885 he discovered a parasitic sporozoan of the ticks, named 'Babesia' (of the genus Babesiidae), and which causes a rare and severe disease called 'babesiosis'.
In the same year, he published the first treatise of bacteriology in the world, 'Bacteria and their role in the histopathology of infectious diseases'.
Babeş' scientific endeavours were wide-ranging. He was the first to demonstrate the presence of tuberculous bacilli in the urine of infected patients.
He also discovered cellular inclusions in rabies-infected nerve cells. Of diagnostic value, they were to be named after him (Babeş-Negri bodies).

He became a professor of Pathology and Bacteriology at the Carol Davila University of Medicine and Pharmacy in Bucharest. He was also a member of the Romanian Academy (in 1893), of the Paris Académie Nationale de Médecine, and an officer of the French Légion d'honneur.

The Babeş-Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca and the University of Medicine and Pharmacy "Victor Babeş" Timişoara bears his name.

Romanian priorities

  • Bucharest was the first city in the world with oil lightning (1858)
  • The first oil refinery in the world was built at Ploieşti, Romania (1958)
  • Timişoara was the first European city who used electric lightning (1884)
  • The multiple telephony was invented by the romanian Augustin Maior (1905)
  • The first woman engineer was the romanian Eliza Leonida Zamfirescu (1912)
  • One of the first woman parachutist was the romanian Smaranda Brăescu, who had also several world records

The Island of Dwarf Dinosaurs

The Haţeg Country Dinosaurs Geopark
The Haţeg Country Dinosaurs Geopark is located in the central part of Romania, in a very fertile region, surrounded by mountains from all directions. The Geopark covers an area of 102.392 ha that include a town and 10 communes, the total population of the Geopark area is about 39000 people. Besides the very picturesque landscapes with numerous glacial lakes on the top of the mountains, at more than 2000 m high, deep gorges, caves, alpine forests, meadows, orchards and crops,the region hosts remains of the human history from Paleolithic to Roman Antiquity and from the Middle-Age to the Modern time.

The history of the Haţeg Country is spanning more than 300 million years of history when the Earth surface was completely different than today. The rocks and fossils found now were formed in places and environments like coral reefs, volcanic island in the Tethys Sea populated by dinosaurs and other reptiles, primitive mammals and birds, or continental areas covered by Ice Age glaciers. The geopark is guiding the visitors in geo-trails to discover the Retezat type granite, metamorphic rocks, bauxite quarries, reef limestone, areas of volcanic activity, fossil sites, karst and cave systems.

The Haţeg area contains one of the latest assemblages of dinosaurs in the world. The fossil remains are internationally unique and are commonly known as the 'dwarf dinosaurs of Transylvania'.

The list of dinosaur species from Haţeg includes: Magyarosaurus dacus, a titanosaurid sauropod, distantly related to the large herbivorous dinosaurs from the Late Jurassic and Lower Cretaceous of the world, two ornithopods (bird-like feets): Rhabdodon priscus, an iguanodontid, and Telmatosaurus transsylvanicus (a 'duck-billed' dinosaur), an ankylosaur or 'armored dinosaur' - Struthiosaurus transylvanicus. All these species were herbivorous, but the carnivorous dinosaurs theropods, even poorly represented were also recognized on the basees of isolated teeth. They include at least two groups of small theropods: the dromaeosaurids and troodontids, like as Velociraptorinae indet, Euronychodon and Paronychodon. Vlad Codrea, a professor of biology and geology at University Babes-Bolyai in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, and colleague Pascal Godefroit recently found several bones belonging to Zalmoxes shqiperorum, an herbivorous dinosaur with forelimbs that were much shorter than its hindlimbs.

Other reptile fossils are: turtles Kallokibotion bajazidi, crocodilians Allodaposuchus precedens, and remains of the largest pterosaurs or 'flying-reptiles' in the world, Hatzegopterix tambema with a wing span of 14m and a skull 3m long.

The beginnings
In 1900, the sister of an eccentric Austro-Hungarian aristocrat named Baron von Nopsca found a tiny bone on the baron's family estate in Transylvania. The baron, who was a dinosaur buff, identified the bone as belonging to a dwarf dino that likely once lived on an island in the region. The motorcycle-riding baron's outrageous theories were ridiculed and largely dismissed, but now new evidence suggests his proposed island of dwarf dinosaurs did indeed exist in the land of the mythical, blood-drinking Count Dracula.

The Island Effect
Although many scientists scoffed at the notion of tiny dinosaurs inhabiting Transylvania, imminent paleontologist David Weishampel, fresh out of graduate school, became intrigued by the baron's findings, which he investigated first-hand in Romania. Weishampel, who now works in the Center for Functional Anatomy and Evolution at Johns Hopkins University, came to the conclusion that Nopsca was right -- very small dinosaurs really did live in Romania during the Late Cretaceous (around 70 to 65 million years ago). He also agreed with the baron's theory that life in isolation on an island, which Weishampel has named Haţeg Island, led to the dino dwarfism.

The Hunyad Castle

The Hunyad Castle (Romanian: Castelul Huniazilor or Castelul Corvineştilor, Hungarian: Vajdahunyad vára) is a castle in present-day Hunedoara, Romania.

It is a relic of the Hunyadi dynasty. In the 14th century, the castle was given to a Vlach (Romanian) knyaz Serb, or Sorb by Sigismund king of Hungary as severance. The castle was restored between 1446 and 1453 by his grandson Iancu de Hunedoara (John Hunyadi). It was built in Gothic style, but has Baroque and Renaissance architectural elements. It features tall and strong defence towers, an interior yard and a drawbridge. Built in the 14th century, on the place of an old fortification, on a rock below which flows the small river Zlasti, the castle is a large building, with tall and diversely coloured roofs, towers, windows and balconies adorned with carvings in stone.

Being one of the most important properties of John Hunyadi, the castle was transformed during his ruling. It became a sumptuous home, not only a strategically enforced point. With the passing of the years, the masters of the castle had modified its look, adding towers, halls and guest rooms. The gallery and the keep - the last defence tower (called "Ne boisa" = Do not be afraid), which remained unchanged from Iancu de Hunedoara's time, and the Capistrano Tower (named after the francescan monk from the castle court) are some of the most significant parts of the construction. Other significant parts of the building are the Knights' Hall (a great reception hall), the Club Tower, the White bastion, which served as a food storage room, and the Diet Hall, on whose walls medallions are painted (among them there are the portraits of Matei Basarab, ruler from Wallachia, and Vasile Lupu, ruler of Moldavia). In the wing of the castle called the Mantle, a painting can be seen which portrays the legend of the raven from which the name of the descendants of John Hunyadi, Corvinus came.

In the castle yard, near the chapel built also during John Hunyadi's ruling, is a well 30 meters deep. The legend says that this fountain was dug by three Turkish prisoners to whom liberty was promised if they reached water. After 15 years they completed the well, but their captors did not keep their promise. It is said that the inscription on a wall of the well means "you have water, but not soul". Specialists, however, have translated the inscription as "he who wrote this inscription is Hasan, who lives as slave of the giaours, in the fortress near the church".

In February 2007, Hunyad Castle played host to the British paranormal television program Most Haunted Live! for a three-night live investigation into the spirits purported to be haunting the castle.

Berca Mud Volcanoes

The Berca Mud Volcanoes are a geological and botanical reservation located in the Berca commune in the Buzău County in Romania. Its most spectacular feature is the mud volcanoes, small volcano-shaped structures typically a few meters high caused by the eruption of mud and volcanic gases.

As the gasses erupt from 3000 meters-deep towards the surface, through the underground layers of clay and water, they push up underground salty water and mud, so that they overflow through the mouths of the volcanoes, while the gas emerges as bubbles. The mud dries off at the surface, creating a relatively solid conical structure, resembling a real volcano. The mud expelled by them is cold, as it comes from inside the Earth's continental crust layers, and not from the mantle. The mud volcanoes create a strange lunar landscape, due to the absence of vegetation around the cones. Vegetation is scarce because the soil is very salty, an environmental condition in which few plants can survive. However, this kind of environment is good for some rare species of plants, such as Nitraria schoberi and Obione verrucifera.

The phenomenon can be observed on two separate locations near the Berca commune, dubbed the Little Mud Volcanoes and The Big Mud Volcanoes. The reservation is unique in Romania. Elsewhere in Europe, similar phenomena can be observed in Italy (northern Apennines and Sicily), Ukraine (in the Kerch Peninsula), as well as Azerbaijan.

Alexandru Ciurcu

Alexandru N. Ciurcu (29 January 1854, Şercaia-Braşov - 22 January 1922, Bucharest, great romanian inventor and publisher.

After high school, Alexandru Ciurcu studied Law at the University of Vien (1873), but he also continued to study technical sciences. Back in Romania, as a journalist, he attacked the Government, and was forced to flee to Paris, France. There Alexandru Ciurcu met an old friend, Just Buisson, also a journalist with a passion for technical subjects. Together, they designed and built an engine based on the propulsive force due to the gases produced by combustion in a small chamber. The chamber was smaller than any other gas generator of its time. The engine consisted of a 2 liter volume recipient that had a hole of 3 mm diameter. The burning gases produced an internal pressure of 10-15 atmospheres.

On August 13, 1886, they successfully operated their engine on a boat that sailed for 15 minutes against the flow of river Sena. It was the first boat with an reactive engine.

The review "La Nature", no. 735 from 2 July 1887 published "Experience du propulseur a reaction du M.M. Just Buisson et Alexandru Ciurcu" with a preface by G. Tissandier and a picture of powered boat. At 12 October 1886 they received French patent no. 179001 on "Reactive-boat. Reactiv engine", and later patents from other countries: Germany (1886), England (1882), Belgium (1887) and Italy (1887).

In December 16, 1886, they built another engine, with a larger boiler in order to develope a higher pressure and increased velocity of exhausted gases. Unfortunately, the engine exploded, killing Just Buisson and a third young man who was steering the boat. Alexandru Ciurcu was put on trial for murder, but found not guilty.

At the request of a Mr. Gaston Tissandier, Ciurcu made other experiments on reactive engine, at the Scoran-Livry military base. This time he was helped by Emil Sarrau and Paul Vieille (white powder inventor). They succesfully mounted the engine on a small rail wagon.

In 1890 he returned to Romania, where he became the director of the most important newspaper of his time, "Timpul" (Time), but he never experimented on technics.