The Flaming Lips are scheduled to wrap up the Clockenflap festival tonight in West Kowloon. Fans will doubtlessly be expecting some of the psychedelic rock group’s trademark stage antics, which often involve elaborate costumes and copious amounts of confetti. The Oklahoma natives formed the band in 1983 but didn’t hit the mainstream until their 2002 album Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. They recently released a cover of the John Lennon yuletide classic Happy Xmas ( War is Over), teaming up with Yoko Ono …

The late Beatle’s widow is now 81 years old but she still makes an annual pilgrimage to Iceland, to light the Imagine Peace Tower, which is dedicated to her husband. The memorial projects light 4,000 metres into the sky using geothermal energy. Ono grew up in Tokyo, Japan, but fled the city during the United States’ fire-bombing campaign in the second world war. Finding herself in the countryside, the 12-year-old had to beg for food. Ono eventually emigrated to the New York suburb of Scarsdale, home to gangster Joseph DiNapoli …

Details of the life of “Joey Dee” are hard to come by: not surprising for a captain of the Lucchese clan, one of New York’s so-called Five Families and the inspiration for HBO’s mafia drama The Sopranos. DiNapoli provided the template for lead character Anthony, played by James Gandolfini. In one eulogy, the recently deceased actor was said to have been made for the role, being “great, hulking, utterly invulnerable-looking”. The writer was Clive James …

The Australian polymath is a distinguished author, broadcaster, poet, literary critic and translator. He is also a Member of the Order of Australia and a Commander of the Order of the British Empire and was once a heavy drinker and smoker, having confessed to an 80-cigarette-per-day habit. For his book Cultural Amnesia, James wrote biographical essays on people who fascinate him. The list of diverse subjects includes Nazi Joseph Goebbels and comedian and filmmaker Terry Gilliam …

American-born Gilliam left the US for Britain during the Los Angeles riots of the 1960s, claiming he was terrified of becoming “a full-time, bomb-throwing terrorist”. He became a naturalised British citizen aged 28 but did not renounce his American passport until 40 years later. Gilliam is a founding member of Monty Python’s Flying Circus and the only one of the comedy troupe to have been born outside Britain. Gilliam has lent his fame to several causes. In 2012, he voiced support for Russian punk band Pussy Riot …

The group’s anti-Vladimir Putin protest rock hit a nerve in the Kremlin. In March 2012, three of the 11 band members were arrested, held in custody for almost three months while awaiting trial and convicted of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred”, a charge decried by the international rights community. While one member got a suspended sentence, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina were each ordered to serve two years in prison. However, the pair were released last December thanks to a new amnesty bill marking the 20th anniversary of the Russian constitution. Just over a month later, at an Amnesty International concert in New York, they shared the stage with The Flaming Lips.


This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post Sunday Magazine on 26 November, 2014