Saturday, July 31, 2010

POPnews - July 31st

[Leave it to a bunch of men to find some way to get a car on the Moon!]

30 BCE - At the Battle of Alexandria Roman general Mark Antony achieved a minor victory over the forces of Octavian near the end of the Final War of the Roman Republic; although most of Antony's army subsequently deserted - which later led to his suicide - Octavian successfully invaded Egypt and became the first Roman Emperor.

1009 - Sergius IV succeeded John XVIII to become the 142nd pope.

1423 - During the Hundred Years' War a combined Scottish, Breton, and French army under John Stewart, 2nd Earl of Buchan was defeated at the Battle of Cravant, on the banks of the river Yonne; following the victory the English and Burgundian forces of Thomas Montacute, 4th Earl of Salisbury took more than 2,000 prisoners.

1451 - Jacques Cœur was arrested on the orders of France's King Charles VII, accused of poisoning in the February 1450 death of the King's mistress, Agnès Sorel.

1498 - On his third voyage to the Western Hemisphere, Christopher Columbus became the first European to visit the island of Trinidad.

1667 - The Treaty of Breda ended the Second Anglo-Dutch War.

1777 - The Second Continental Congress passed a resolution that the services of Marquis de Lafayette 'be accepted, and that, in consideration of his zeal, illustrious family and connexions, he have the rank and commission of major-general of the United States.'

1856 - The city of Christchurch was granted a Royal Charter, a first for New Zealand.

1865 - The first narrow gauge mainline railway in the world opened at the Australian town of Grandchester.

1930 - The radio mystery program The Shadow was aired for the first time as part of the Detective Story Hour.

1945 - John K. Giles attempted to escape from Alcatraz aboard the Army launch General Frank M. Coxe; very nearly successful, he was apprehended at Fort McDowell on Angel Island and returned to prison.

1948 - New York City's Idlewild Field was rededicated New York International Airport (only to be later renamed John F. Kennedy International Airport).

1961 - The first All-Star Game tie in major league baseball history occurred when the game was stopped in the 9th inning because of rain at Biston's Fenway Park.

1964 - Ranger 7 sent back the first close-up photographs of the moon, including images 1,000 times clearer than anything ever seen from earth-bound telescopes.

1971 - Apollo 15 astronauts David Scott and James Irwin became the first to ride in a Lunar Rover on the moon while Alfred Worden orbited overhead with a camera, comprehensively mapping the lunar surface.

1981 - General Omar Torrijos - commander of the Panamanian National Guard and de facto leader of Panama - died in a plane crash; it is now thought that the crash was an assassination masterminded by the CIA, although the best source of information on that matter is Manuel Noriega. Best known for negotiating 1977's Torrijos-Carter Treaties, which returned sovereignty of the Panama Canal to Panama, in May 2004 his son, Martín Torrijos, won the presidential election, taking office the following September.

1998 - The British Government announced a total ban on the use of landmines, less than a year following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, whose last campaign before she died called for the elimination of the devices.

2006 - Fidel Castro handed over power temporarily to his brother Raúl Castro, which was a cause for celebration in Miami's La Pequeña Habana.

2007 - Operation Banner - the presence of the British Army in Northern Ireland, and the longest-running British Army operation ever - came to an end.
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Friday, July 30, 2010

"Running Up That Hill" by Kate Bush

Today's birthday gal is Kate Bush, the darling of fan and critic and pundit alike, whose artistic music even today gets played on the radio, in amongst the caterwauling of twinks and premeditated pap the music industry insists on pushing so it can blame poor sales figures on illegal file-sharing.

Running Up That Hill was the first single from her 1985 album Hounds of Love; oddly enough* this video was rarely shown in the United States at the time of its release, with channels such as MTV preferring to show a live clip from British chat show Wogan instead. Theories about why range from the simple 'it's too arty' to 'there's no lip-synch' to 'it's too sexy', so the Pop Culture Institute invites you to watch it now, maybe for the first time.

Bush's fellow dancer in the video is Michael Hervieu; the piece they're dancing was choreographed by Dyanne Gray.

*Or not, depending on your level of cynicism.
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Now Showing: Disney's "Flowers and Trees"

On this day in 1932 Walt Disney's Flowers and Trees - remembered by history as both the first cartoon short to use Technicolor and the first winner of the Academy Award in the cartoon short category - made its debut on movie screens across the United States. This memorable addition to Disney's Silly Symphonies franchise was directed by Burt Gillett and released by United Artists.

The cartoon short had already been in production in black and white when Disney saw tests of three-strip Technicolor being conducted by Herbert Kalmus; not only was Flowers and Trees converted into colour but so were subsequent Silly Symphonies, although those cartoons featuring Mickey Mouse would remain black and white until 1935's The Band Concert.

Savvy businessman that he was, Disney held a monopoly on three-strip Technicolor until September 1935, forcing his chief competitiors Ub Iwerks* and Max Fleischer to use the inferior two-strip Cinecolor process.

*The rivalry between Ub Iwerks and Walt Disney is a long and storied one... Iwerks was one of the first Disney animators, but Disney's perfectionism led to his resignation; Iwerks went on to found his own company, which failed, and then found great success with Warner Bros. and Leon Schlesinger Productions before returning to Disney in the 1940s - where he perfected the process whereby animation and live-action could co-exist on the screen.
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"If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next" by Manic Street Preachers

Birthday wishes go out today to Sean Moore - drummer, songwriter, and occasional trumpeter for the Welsh band Manic Street Preachers. Although described by his mates as 'the quiet one' he is nevertheless the driving force behind the oft-charted hit-makers; the band's biography goes even further, stating unequivocally that Moore is 'quite possibly the only person in rock who doesn't take the Manics seriously'.

If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next first appeared as the first single from Manic Street Preachers' 1998 fifth album This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours; in keeping with an unwritten tradition, I'd been intending to post the actual video, but when it wasn't available I was driven to find an acoustic version because I love it so much, and amazingly I found this one, which is awfully good as well.

The song is one of two chart toppers for the Preachers, and like many modern rock songs* drew its inspiration from the Spanish Civil War - in particular by George Orwell's first-hand account of that conflict, Homage to Catalonia; the title of the song, in fact, comes from a Republican poster of the time. The song also holds the Guinness Book's record for the longest Number One song title without brackets; it's been covered by David Usher on his 2003 album, Hallucinations, and is said to be a favourite of Radiohead's laugh-a-decade front man Thom Yorke.

*Pretty much just The Clash's Spanish Bombs, but who can resist the chance at a bit of sarky? Not I!
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Pop History Moment: Jimmy Hoffa Went Missing

On this day in 1975 disgraced Teamsters president Jimmy Hoffa went missing from the parking lot of the Machus Red Fox restaurant in suburban Detroit, where he'd been due to meet fellow labour leaders Anthony 'Tony Jack' Giacalone from Detroit and Anthony 'Tony Pro' Provenzano of Union City, New Jersey; from this simple event has come one of the greatest mysteries of modern times...

PhotobucketThe question of who killed the once-powerful labour leader - as much as where his body might be - has electrified the popular media practically from the moment it occurred.

Since theories are like assholes*, Hoffa's disappearance practically became a cottage industry over the ensuing thirty years. Naturally enough, the FBI had its own theory - the infamous Hoffex Memo - which led the pack of wanton speculation and outright lies; the first break in the case - leading many to consider the mystery solved - came with the deathbed confession of Frank Sheeran, which appeared in Charles Brandt's 2004 book I Heard You Paint Houses. The simple answer derived from the book is that Hoffa was abducted from the parking lot, shot at a home in a suburb northeast of Detroit, then cremated within an hour and scattered the same day at the nearby Grand Lawn Cemetery.

Hoffa was the subject of the 1992 movie, aptly entitled Hoffa, in which the man himself was played by the man himself, Jack Nicholson.

*E'rybody gots one.
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POPnews - July 30th

[England captain Bobby Moore accepted the coveted (and only recently recovered) Jules Rimet Trophy from his Queen on this day in 1966 and fortunately neither from World Cup Willie nor a dog called Pickles.]

762 CE - The city of Baghdad was founded by Abu Ja'far Al-Mansur.

1419 - The First Defenestration of Prague occurred when seven members of that city's council were thrown from a window at Charles Square's Novoměstská radnice (Town Hall) by a crowd of radical Hussites under the command of Jan Želivský; those who didn't die from the fall were handily dispatched by the angry mob waiting in the street below. Upon hearing the news, King Václav IV reportedly suffered such a shock that he died shortly after.

1619 - The first representative assembly in the Americas, the House of Burgesses, convened for the first time, in Jamestown; it was presided over by the Governor, George Yeardley, who appointed the journalist John Pory as speaker - although Pory was, in fact, little more than a recording secretary.

1729 - The city of Baltimore was founded, named after Cecilius Calvert, 2nd Baron Baltimore; it then took the city more than 200 years to spawn John Waters, who would go on to immortalize it so memorably on film. Well worth the wait, I'd say...

1756 - Bartolomeo Rastrelli presented the newly-built Catherine Palace in Tsarskoye Selo to Russia's Empress Elizabeth and her courtiers.

1811 - For having uttered the Grito de Dolores in September 1810 - thereby setting off the Mexican War of Independence - Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, leader of the insurgency, was executed by the Spanish outside the Government Palace of Chihuahua.

1825 - Malden Island was discovered by Captain George Anson, Lord Byron, of the HMS Blonde, who'd been charged with the solemn duty of repatriating the remains of the King and Queen of Hawai'i - Kamehameha II and Kamāmalu - after they died of measles during a state visit to Britain; the island was named for Lieutenant Charles Robert Malden, the ship's navigator, who first sighted it.

1859 - The first ascent of Grand Combin, one of the highest summits in the Alps, was made by Charles Sainte-Claire Deville with Basile Dorsaz and brothers Daniel, Emmanuel and Gaspard Balleys.

1871 - The Staten Island Ferry Westfield's boiler exploded, killing more than 85 people.

Photobucket1916 - A series of small deliberately-set fires triggered an explosion at a munitions depot on New Jersey's Black Tom Island, in New York Harbor near Jersey City, killing 7 and injuring hundreds... Despite the low death count (which can be attributed to the fact that it occurred just after 2 AM) the explosion caused massive damage (valued at some $20 million*) lodging shrapnel in the Statue of Liberty** and the clock tower of the Jersey Journal building in Journal Square a mile away, as well as breaking windows all over Lower Manhattan (as far north as Times Square) and elsewhere in a radius estimated at 40 kilometres (25 miles). The initial blast - equivalent to an earthquake of between 5 and 5.5 on the Richter Scale - could be felt as far away as Philadelphia and Maryland, and as the fire continued to rage throughout the day there were dozens of smaller explosions at the site. While the crime remains officially unsolved, German saboteurs (such as Lothar Witzke and Franz von Papen) have been blamed for what is still one of the worst acts of terrorism to have ever been committed on US soil. The story has been thrillingly retold in The Detonators: The Secret Plot to Destroy America and an Epic Hunt for Justice by Chad Millman.

*Akin to $390 million in today's money! Imperial Germany was later sued for damages; a $50 million settlement (like, $976 million today) was ordered paid to the Lehigh Valley Railroad Company in 1953, and the last payment was finally made in 1979.
**The arm and torch of the Statue of Liberty closed as a result of the explosion, and have yet to reopen!

1932 - The Games of the X Olympiad (or the 10th Olympic Summer Games) opened in Los Angeles; plagued by the worsening Great Depression, the games had just half as many participants as the 1928 Games held in Amsterdam, and weren't even attended by US President Herbert Hoover.

1945 - The Japanese submarine I-58 sank the USS Indianapolis (CA-35), killing 883 seamen.

1954 - Elvis Presley made his first public performance at the Overton Park Shell in Memphis, Tennessee, performing as part of the Blue Moon Boys, who opened for Slim Whitman.

1956 - In God We Trust was made the official motto of the United States, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a Joint Resolution passed by Congress.

1966 - At Wembley Stadium, host England won the World Cup, defeating what was then West Germany 4-2.

1971 - David Scott and James Irwin - on board the Apollo Lunar Module module Falcon - landed on the moon with first Lunar Rover as part of the Apollo Program's Apollo 15 mission.

1980 - Vanuatu gained its independence from France and the UK.

2002 - The accounting law referred to as 'The Sarbanes Oxley Act' was signed into law by US President George W. Bush.

2006 - BBC Two aired the final broadcast of Top of the Pops after 42 years, during which time every notable (as well as many not) act in the music business appeared.
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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Now Showing: The Wedding of the Prince and Princess of Wales (1981)

It was intended to be the wedding to end all weddings - not merely a family event but, in the best royal way, the expression of Britain's joy; in all, it would be one of those well-planned spectacles for which London has become justifiably famous over the last nine centuries. Alas, the planning fell short by failing to plan for a happy ending, the marriage fell flat despite producing two handsome and hearty sons, and for awhile the spectacle trotted out daily by the tabloids threatened not only the royal couple's peace of mind but the public's as well...

The press had always followed the women in whom The Prince of Wales had expressed an interest, but none quite so fervently as the shy nineteen-year-old preschool teacher named Lady Diana Spencer. In the months leading up to their nuptials her every facet was scrutinized and from every angle as well; her hairstyle was copied, the dresses she appeared in were run up seemingly overnight and available for sale in the nation's High Street boutiques almost faster than she could wear them. Even her gaffes - such as the famous photo of her in a sheer skirt, backlit by brilliant sunshine - only served to endear her to the public.

For a recession-weary Britain at risk of being permanently rent asunder by the most divisive Prime Minister in the island's history*, the impending royal wedding united old and young, brown and black and white, and even attracted support in the more unusual corners of society**. Despite a few glitches in protocol - since Constantine II, the ex-King of Greece, was in attendance as a relative of the Royal Family, the President of Greece Constantine Karamanlis declined to attend, for instance - and a change in venue from the more usual Westminster Abbey to the baroque splendour of St. Paul's Cathedral, the pomp and the hype worked together.

Or at least they did on that brilliantly sunny day in 1981...

*To be fair to Margaret Thatcher, though, the country became far more united in its dislike of her and her callous policies than it might have been otherwise...
**Along the wedding root punks could be spotted holding up signs bearing such cheeky slogans as 'Up Chuck and Di'!
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Pop History Moment: The Marriage of the Prince and Princess of Wales

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On this day in 1981 the greatest fairy tale of modern times was enacted when Lady Diana Spencer - youngest daughter of Earl Spencer and Mrs. Frances Shand Kydd - married The Prince of Wales at St Paul's Cathedral in London. Everything was planned down to the last detail - from the star-studded seating arrangement to the elaborate bridal gown - and everything would have gone perfectly, except...

No one thought to plan the happy ending!

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"Make Your Own Kind Of Music" by "Mama" Cass Elliot

Make Your Own Kind of Music first appeared on Cass Elliot's 1969 solo album Bubblegum, Lemonade and Something for Mama (which appears not to be on CD - boo! hiss!!); inasmuch as every song posted on the Pop Culture Institute can in some way be taken as an anthem of ours, so is this one, only more so. In a world where most creative children have their sparks doused* Elliot's message is not only sympathetic to that plight but defiant in the face of it as well. What a wonderful world this would be if those adults whose dreams had been thwarted as children would not only leave their succeeding generation alone to create and dream in peace but make it their responsibility to see that it never happened again...

Elliot's death (on this day in 1974, at the age of only 32) has often been erroneously attributed to a ham sandwich - a misogynist as well as fattist attribution; the truth is that she died in her sleep of a heart attack, and was found with a partially eaten sandwich in her room, which gave rise to the inaccurate speculation.

Her death came at the height of a career high, following the second of two triumphant shows at the London Palladium; she was survived by her seven year old daughter Owen Vanessa Elliot, who went to live with Cass' sister Leah Kunkel, and later became a singer in her own right. Despite the utter dearth of information about the younger Elliot online, interest in her is obviously high; when I published her name in a post on this blog to mark the occasion of Cass Elliot's birthday in 2008 I recorded several hundred hits over the next three months as a result.

*More prevalent then than now, but still an all-too persistent trend in the culture, sadly.
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POPnews - July 29th

[Although Mary Queen of Scots was one of the beauties of her age - and thanks to the tutelage of her mother Marie de Guise was intellectually capable of good governance - her terrible taste in men (both romantically and in her choice of advisors) as much as her warped distrust of her cousin Elizabeth I proved to be her undoing.]
1014 - During the Byzantine-Bulgarian Wars, at the Battle of Kleidion, Byzantine Emperor Basil II inflicted a decisive defeat on the Bulgarian army; news of his subsequent savage treatment of 15,000 prisoners reportedly caused Bulgaria's Tsar Samuil to die of shock.

1030 - During the Ladejarl-Fairhair succession wars, at the Battle of Stiklestad, Norway's King Olaf II fought and died trying to regain his throne from the Danes; His Majesty was later canonized, and is commemorated from Norway to Minnesota as Saint Olaf, although he may be best remembered today as the namesake of Rose Nylund's hometown...

1567 - 13-month-old James VI was crowned King of Scotland at The Church of the Holy Rude in Stirling following the deposition of his mother, Mary Queen of Scots; the sermon at his coronation was preached by John Knox.

1693 - During the War of the Grand Alliance, at the Battle of Landen, French commander Marshal Luxembourg won a Pyrrhic victory over Allied English-Dutch forces under the Dutch Republic's stadtholder William III.

1830 - France's King Charles X abdicated following the July Revolution; he was succeeded by Louis-Philippe I, who reigned as King of the French from the period of instability known as the July Monarchy until February 1848.

1848 - In the midst of the Irish Potato Famine the Tipperary Revolt - an unsuccessful nationalist uprising in that Irish city against British rule - was put down by police.

1851 - Annibale de Gasparis discovered the asteroid 15 Eunomia in the inner main asteroid belt.

1858 - The United States and Japan signed the Harris Treaty at the Ryōsen-ji temple in Shimoda.

1864 - Confederate spy Belle Boyd was arrested by Union troops and detained at the Old Capitol Prison in Washington, DC.

Photobucket1900 - Italy's King Umberto I (shown, at right) was assassinated by Italian-born anarchist Gaetano Bresci while on a visit to Monza; His Majesty had previously survived an assassination attempt at the hands of Giovanni Passanante in November 1978, and another in April 1897 following an attack by Pietro Acciarito. Bresci later claimed he was avenging those killed in the Bava-Beccaris massacre, of which the King had approved - going so far as to specifically commend its architect, General Fiorenzo Bava Beccaris; Bresci's actions also inspired a similar killing, that of US President William McKinley in September 1901 by Leon Czolgosz.

1920 - Construction of Oregon's Link River Dam began as part of the Klamath Reclamation Project.

1948 - After a hiatus of 12 years caused by World War II, the first Summer Olympics to be held since the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin - The Games of the XIV Olympiad - opened in London.

1957 - The International Atomic Energy Agency is established.

1958 - US President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act into law, creating the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
1966 - Bob Dylan was injured in a motorcycle accident near Woodstock, New York.

1967 - Off the coast of North Vietnam the USS Forrestal caught fire, causing the worst US naval disaster since World War II, killing 134.

1976 - In New York City David Berkowitz - the soon-to-be so-called Son of Sam - killed Donna Lauria and seriously wounded Jody Valenti in the first of a series of attacks which had women in that city on edge for the next year. The story of the killings was the subject of Spike Lee's 1999 film Summer of Sam, in which Berkowitz was played by Michael Badalucco.

1993 - The Israeli Supreme Court acquitted accused Nazi death camp guard John Demjanjuk of all charges and he was set free.
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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

POPnews - July 28th

[As this contemporary newspaper photo shows, it's possible for a fully fueled aircraft to strike a skyscraper without knocking the whole thing down!]

1364 - At the Battle of Cascina the Republic of Florence's troops under Galeotto Malatesta scored a victory over those of the Republic of Pisa, whose army - led by the English mercenary John Hawkwood - had only recently pillaged the treasures of Florence.

1493 - Fire ravaged Moscow, clearing the way for the construction of Red Square.

1540 - England's King Henry VIII had Thomas Cromwell executed in the morning then married Catherine Howard in the afternoon.

1609 - When the first settlers arrived in Bermuda after their ship, the Sea Venture, foundered there during a storm while en route to the Jamestown Colony in Virginia, the event was immortalized by William Shakespeare in his play The Tempest.

1794 - In a stunning example of 'what comes around goes around', Maximilien Robespierre was taken to the Place de la Revolution in Paris and executed on the guillotine without trial, just like one of the estimated 17,000+ people he condemned to die in a similar way while in power.

1809 - During the Peninsular War, at the Battle of Talavera, Sir Arthur Wellesley's combined British, Portuguese and Spanish army defeated a French force under Joseph Bonaparte.

1821 - José de San Martín declared the independence of Peru from Spain.

1896 - The city of Miami, Florida, was incorporated.

1932 - President Herbert Hoover ordered US troops to forcibly remove the Bonus Army from Washington, DC; it was Hoover's callous disregard for these military veterans, as well as his cavalier attitude toward the suffering of ordinary Americans due to the worsening Great Depression, which would ultimately cost him re-election in November.

1945 - At 9:49 AM on a foggy Saturday morning pilot Lieutenant Colonel William F. Smith, Jr. accidentally flew a B-25 bomber into the the north side of the Empire State Building between the 79th and 80th floors (actually the offices of the National Catholic Welfare Council) killing 14 and injuring 26. One survivor, Betty Lou Oliver, made a record-breaking 75 story free fall in a disabled elevator.

1958 - Lord Jellicoe made his maiden speech in the House of Lords.

1972 - Dockworkers in Britain went on strike.

1973 - 600,000 people attend a rock festival at the Watkins Glen International Raceway; Summer Jam at Watkins Glen attracted such headliners as The Allman Brothers Band, The Band, and the Grateful Dead.

1976 - The Tangshan earthquake - with a moment magnitude measuring between 7.8 and 8.2 - struck the Chinese city of Tangshan, killing 242,769 and injuring 164,851.

1988 - Paddy Ashdown defeated Alan Beith to be elected leader Britain's perennial third party, the newly formed SDP-Liberal alliance - which had only recently been formed by the merger of the Liberal Party with the Social Democrats.

1996 - The prehistoric remains of Kennewick Man were discovered on the banks of the Columbia River near Kennewick, Washington.

2002 - Nine coal miners trapped in the flooded Quecreek Mine in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, were rescued after 77 hours underground.

2005 - The Provisional Irish Republican Army declared an end to its thirty year long armed campaign in Northern Ireland.

2008 - The historic Grand Pier in Weston-super-Mare burnt down for the second time in 80 years; it is currently being rebuilt, and is scheduled to open in June 2010.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Remembering... Bob Hope

Bob Hope is someone with whom I have always had something of a love-hate relationship... On the one hand, from an early age I've enjoyed his shtick, whether on one of his many TV specials, talk show appearances, on radio or in films; whether being sardonic, self-deprecating, or wry, he only ever was so in the most assured manner, without having to go over the top to get the laugh, and to observe him at work was to witness a master at the top of his game. On the other hand, Hope had a very antediluvian sensibility, whose act (at least when the cameras weren't running) could be homophobic in the extreme; so much so, in fact, that late in life Hope was required by court order to record a series of public service announcements against homophobia.

PhotobucketHe said afterward in an interview that he learned from the experience; even if all he learned was to watch what he said in case any professional homosexuals were listening, it would prove that at least he'd learned something. Then again, everything he'd ever achieved had been because of his ability to read an audience and give them what they wanted, so his aplomb in this instance was very much to be expected.

For all that, no one could ever deny Bob Hope's immense humanitarianism; beginning in May 1941 Hope had a long and fruitful relationship with the USO, and in that capacity visited military bases in wartime and peace around the world. He was one of the few who did what he could to provide comfort to soldiers fighting the Vietnam War; for fifty years of service to that organization - which included sixty tours, often to war zones - President Bill Clinton awarded Hope the title of 'honorary veteran', which he later said was the greatest honour he'd ever been given when, to be quite honest, it was the greatest honour he'd ever earned.

Bob Hope died on this day in 2003, one of the few Hollywood entertainers to have achieved his hundredth birthday. He faced his death with the same comedic sense he used to face life; when his daughter asked him where he'd like to be buried, he said 'Surprise me.'
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Happy Birthday Norman Lear

To someone like me, who adores the sitcom format beyond all reasonable measure, Norman Lear is something of a demi-god; Lear is personally responsible for a string of socially conscious, ground-breaking shows throughout the 1970s, which themselves were responsible for bringing a plethora of social issues into American living rooms which otherwise might not have been discussed there...

PhotobucketBeginning with the January 1971 premiere of All in the Family - which itself was based on the Britcom Til Death Us Do Part - Lear spent most of the next decade on a roll, spinning shows out of shows out of shows: All in the Family begat both Maude and The Jeffersons, while Maude later begat Good Times.

Sanford and Son was another Americanization, this time of the Britcom Steptoe and Son; another original idea was One Day at a Time, which dealt with the daily travails of a single mother - a first for American prime time.

By the time he guest-hosted Saturday Night Live in 1976, though, some of the bloom had come off his rose; in a filmed montage of Lear interacting with his stars which formed the centrepiece of his monologue, those of Good Times are conspicuously absent. For a producer who'd built his name on shows with a redeeming social message, he was by then being accused by John Amos and Esther Rolle of not dealing with the issues faced by a black family living in the projects - in this case Chicago's Cabrini-Green - choosing instead to pander to a younger demographic by focusing on the teenage antics of break-out star Jimmie Walker.

By the 1980s people's tastes had changed - or so we are supposed to believe - and none of Lear's subsequent shows achieved the success of his earlier work, although all* drew otherwise critical raves for their sharp insights on topical issues.

*Especially The Powers That Be.
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Now Showing: "A Wild Hare" starring Bugs Bunny

On this day in 1940 Bugs Bunny made his cartoon debut, starring alongside Elmer Fudd in A Wild Hare; the prototype Bugs who appeared in Porky's Hare Hunt in April 1938 was never named and therefore, to purists like me, can't really be considered the genuine article any more than the little black duck in Porky's Duck Hunt can be considered Daffy Duck.

A Wild Hare
was directed by Tex Avery, and features many of the usual suspects one comes to associate with the Merrie Melodies: Bugs is voiced by Mel Blanc and Elmer by Arthur Q. Bryan, with animation by Virgil Ross (supervising Robert McKimson, Rod Scribner, and Charles McKimson) and music by Carl Stalling.
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POPnews - July 27th

[First authorized in October 1986 under the auspices of the American Battle Monuments Commission, ground was broken at the site of the Korean War Veterans Memorial by President George H. W. Bush on Flag Day in June 1992; it was finally dedicated by US President Bill Clinton and Korean President Kim Young Sam on the 42nd anniversary of the armistice that ended the war.]

- At the Battle of Bouvines King Philip II of France made the most of his home court advantage by defeating England's King John; it was as much his lack of military prowess (on abundant display here) as his dictatorial style that would lead to King John's being forced to sign Magna Carta within a year.

1549 - A ship bearing Jesuit priest and missionary Francis Xavier reached Japan.

1689 - The Battle of Killiecrankie - itself part of England's so-called Glorious Revolution, which sought to replace England's Catholic King James II with the husband-and-wife Protestants William of Orange and James II's daughter Mary II - ended; despite being a Jacobite victory over the forces of Hugh Mackay, the Jacobite commander Viscount Dundee died in battle, which basically ensured the triumph of the Orangemen the following year.

- A Royal Charter was granted to the Bank of England.

1789 - The first US federal government agency, the Department of Foreign Affairs, was established; it would later be renamed the Department of State.

- Maximilien Robespierre - the pre-eminent villain of the French Revolution - was arrested as part of the so-called Thermidorian Reaction to the Reign of Terror.

1914 - Felix Manalo registered the Iglesia ni Cristo with the Filipino government.

1921 - A team of researchers at the University of Toronto led by Dr. Frederick Banting announced its discovery of insulin, a hormone whose practical application greatly improved both the quality and span of diabetics' lives.

1940 - Bugs Bunny's debut cartoon - A Wild Hare - was released by Warner Brothers.

1949 - The first jet-powered airliner, the deHavilland Comet, made its initial flight.

1953 - The Korean War ended when representatives of the United States, the People's Republic of China, and North Korea signed an armistice agreement; Syngman Rhee, president of South Korea, refused to sign but pledged to observe the armistice.

1965 - Edward Heath was chosen to lead Britain's Conservative Party, thwarting Reginald Maudling and Enoch Powell in their efforts to replace Alec Douglas-Home.

1976 - Former Japanese prime minister Kakuei Tanaka was arrested on suspicion of violating foreign exchange and foreign trade laws in connection with the Lockheed bribery scandals.

1977 - Boris Yeltsin - party boss in the Sverdlovsk region and acting on orders from Moscow he later claimed to have disagreed with - had Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg bulldozed; regular readers of the Pop Culture Institute will remember Ipatiev House as the place where Tsar Nicholas II, his family and servants were executed. After the fall of communism the Church of All Saints was built on the site to honour the martyred Romanov royals.

1981 - Ken Barlow married Deirdre Langton on Coronation Street, which sparked a nationwide mania and had 24 million viewers rapt in front of telly, like.

1990 - The Jamaat al Muslimeen staged a coup d'état attempt in Trinidad and Tobago, occupying the country's Parliament and the studios of Trinidad and Tobago Television - besides holding Prime Minister A. N. R. Robinson and most of his cabinet, as well as the staff at the television station - hostage for 6 days.

1995 - Washington DC's Korean War Veterans Memorial was dedicated.

1996 - A pipe bomb exploded at Centennial Olympic Park during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, killing Alice Hawthorne and injuring 111 in addition to causing a Turkish cameraman named Melih Uzunyol to suffer a fatal heart attack while fleeing the scene; initially the hero of the Centennial Olympic Park bombing, security guard Richard Jewell later became the prime suspect, before former US Army munitions expert Eric Robert Rudolph was captured and confessed to the bombing (in addition to three others).

2007 - News helicopters from television stations KNXV and KTVK collided in mid-air above Steele Indian School Park in central Phoenix while covering a police chase; there were no survivors among the four men in the air - KTVK pilot Scott Bowerbank and photographer Jim Cox and pilot Craig Smith and photographer Rick Krolak of KNXV - but thankfully no one on the ground was hurt. Not only was this was the first known such incident, it remains the worst civil aviation incident in the history of that Arizona city.

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Monday, July 26, 2010

"Angie" by The Rolling Stones

Rock icon Mick Jagger today turns 67, making him eligible for his pension - if he'd only sit still long enough to claim it! It's easy to forget, if one had only seen him recently, that once upon a time - prior to all the debauchery and before he became a grotesque parody of himself, albeit an entertaining one - Sir Mick was a major sex symbol; that's partly why I chose this vintage bit of fun to post today.

Mainly, though, I chose Angie because of the story behind it...

Originally included on The Rolling Stones' 1973 album Goats Head Soup, the song was primarily written by Keith Richards, whose daughter Angela had just been born; from that simple explanation has sprung 35 years' worth of gossip and whispering and generally speaking all the stuff that makes the Internet so fun*. Some people seem to think the song is about an affair Jagger is alleged to have had with David Bowie's wife Angela; still others think of the song as a ruse or a smokescreen or a bluff or an apology, possibly even intended to cover up an affair Jagger might have had with Bowie himself.

Either way, the song has become a part of pop music lore, precisely because of the uncertainty surrounding its provenance; that it was used without permission as a campaign song by German Chancellor Angela Merkel is meaningless next to the possibility that it might signify a little intra-celebrity adultery that may or may not have happened more than three decades ago.

*Aside from porn, of course.

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The Life And Crimes Of Ed Gein


As a serial killer Ed Gein* was never going to win any awards. While he's known to have killed two people, and is suspected in the deaths of ten more, those numbers aren't even going to get a mention on the Six O'Clock News these days unless there's some kind of weird kink involved, which is where Gein's story starts to get newsworthy...

Naturally, his childhood was a disaster, destroyed in part by a violent, alcoholic father; whatever joy his father didn't manage to wring from the life of his young son the boy's devoutly Christian mother (and her fondness for the Book of Revelations) did. Gein - born in August 1906 - was also a slight child with an effeminate manner, which meant that he couldn't even find solace in his peer group at school, which he left anyway after the seventh grade. In other words, being raised by monsters turned him into a monster, and so he never had much of a chance to be anything else.

Following the death of his father from a heart attack in 1940 and the mysterious death of his brother Henry in May 1944**, Gein lived alone on a remote farm outside Plainfield, Wisconsin, with only his mother for company. His mother's own death from a series of strokes just months later in 1945 left him all alone in the world; thanks to his mother's teachings he was unable to form friendships, let alone with women. It was during these years that Gein began visiting area graveyards and exhuming the bodies of recently deceased middle-aged women to harvest their body parts as macabre trophies.

For some reason known only to Gein - he may, in fact, have been looking to replace his mother - he killed local hardware store owner Bernice Worden in November 1957. During their investigation of that crime, police not only discovered Worden's body in a shed on his property, they also discovered the evidence of Gein's other nocturnal activities, including definitive evidence that linked him to the murder, three years earlier, of another local woman named Mary Hogan - he'd kept her face and scalp and fashioned it into a mask.

Ed Gein's crimes so riveted people that it was only a matter of time before his grisly influence crept into the culture; the characters of Norman Bates (Psycho), Leatherface (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), and Buffalo Bill (The Silence of the Lambs) and their stories were all based, in part, on the life and crimes of Ed Gein who, on this day in 1984, finally found peace when he died of respiratory failure while incarcerated at the Mendota Mental Health Institute in Madison, Wisconsin; he was 77. His place of burial - next to his mother, in Plainfield Cemetery - is currently unmarked, because ghoulish souvenir seekers first vandalized then stole his headstone***, for which he should consider himself lucky.

Thanks in part to the bad name people like him have given it, very few people rob graves anymore, for which he should consider himself grateful.

*Pronounced GEEN, with a hard G like 'ghoul'.
**Henry Gein allegedly died while fighting a wildfire near the family farm, even though the cause of death was several blunt traumas to the skull.

***The headstone was recovered near Seattle the year after it was stolen, and is currently kept at a museum in Wautoma, Wisconsin.

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"Fat Lip" by Sum 41

Birthday wishes go out today to Dave Baksh, founding member and former lead guitarist of Canadian pop-punk trio Sum 41; since leaving that group in 2006, Baksh has been affiliated with the metal-reggae quintet Brown Brigade.

Fat Lip was the first single from the band's second album, 2001's All Killer No Filler, and is arguably the band's biggest single to date; Rolling Stone magazine described the sound of the song as if Sum 41 went from blink-182 to Beastie Boys to Black Sabbath, all in one song - which seems an entirely apt description of the proceedings.
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POPnews - July 26th

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[Although it took the arrogance and douchebaggery of the Tories to win World War II, after that horror had ended the British electorate clearly felt it needed a different type of government when it came time to rebuild their shattered kingdom... It was under the new Prime Minister that the modern welfare state took hold in the UK - a hold that wouldn't be broken until another Tory, Margaret Thatcher, came to power in May 1979.]

811 CE - At the Battle of Pliska Byzantine emperor Nicephorus I was slain and his heir, Stauracius, was seriously wounded.

1139 - Following a decisive victory by Prince Afonso Henriques over the Almoravids (led by Ali ibn Yusuf) at the Battle of Ourique the previous day, Portugal declared its independence from the Kingdom of León; the prince then became Afonso I, King of Portugal, after calling the first assembly of the Estates-General of Portugal at Lamego, where he was given the crown by the Bishop of Bragança as confirmation.

1469 - During England's dynastic Wars of the Roses, the Battle of Edgecote Moor pitted the forces of Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick and the House of Lancaster against those of King Edward IV and the House of York, as commanded by William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke.

1533 - The climactic moment of the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire came when Incan emperor Atahualpa - who'd been captured by Francisco Pizarro in November 1532 at the Battle of Cajamarca - was forced to abdicate.

1581 - Following the establishment of the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands as per the terms of the Union of Utrecht (signed in January 1579) the Dutch issued the Plakkaat van Verlatinghe (or Act of Abjuration) - drafted by Andries Hessels, Jacques Tayaert, Jacob Valcke, and Pieter van Dieven - with which they declared their independence from the Spanish king, Philip II. This act of defiance wouldn't be formally recognized until the signing of the Twelve Years' Truce, which brought a temporary cessation to hostilities in the Eighty Years' War between 1609 and 1621.

1788 - New York became the 11th US state.

1803 - The Surrey Iron Railway, arguably the world's first public railway, opened in south London.

1847 - Liberia declared its independence from the United States; the country's first president was Joseph Jenkins Roberts.

1882 - Richard Wagner's opera Parsifal received its world premiere at the Festspielhaus in Bayreuth.

1887 - L. L. Zamenhof published Dr. Esperanto's International Language.

1945 - The Labour Party won a resounding victory in Great Britain's first postwar general election, sweeping Winston Churchill and his Conservatives from power and sending Clement Attlee to 10 Downing Street in Churchill's place. Although the election was held on July 5th, it took three weeks for officials to tabulate and announce the results.

1948 - The US military was desegregated when President Harry S Truman signed Executive Order 9981.

1952 - Egypt's King Farouk abdicated in favor of his son Fuad, three days after a coup staged by General Muhammad Naguib and Gamal Abdel Nasser of the Free Officers Movement.

1953 - Fidel Castro led an unsuccessful attack on the Moncada Barracks, thus beginning the Cuban Revolution.

1965 - The Maldives were granted full independence from the United Kingdom.

1990 - The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 was signed into law by President George H. W. Bush; the act would later benefit his son, who managed to become president despite being a total retard.

1991 - Paul 'Pee-wee Herman' Reubens was arrested in a Sarasota porno theater.

1999 - Combat in the so-called Kargil War between India and Pakistan ended - a day still celebrated as Kargil Vijay Diwas in India.

2005 - The Space Shuttle Discovery blasted off on flight mission STS-114 - the first to be scheduled following the Columbia Disaster in 2003.
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