Sunday, March 21, 2010

"Fool's Overture" by Supertramp

Most of those people whether intimately or tangentially connected to the Pop Culture Institute are an amiable enough lot, more than willing to let mention of their names slip into the occasional post here and there - even if they do occasionally look askance or roll their eyes at the editorial liberties taken therein, and/or at the outrages committed by me against those blameless names... There is one member of the Brain Trust, though, who is a shadowy figure known only to the world as The Broker.

I cannot stress his importance strongly enough; without him this publication simply could not function. His connections are those which best enable us to function intellectually, materially, and even spiritually. I wouldn't dream of crossing him, either, for behind his perennial smirk glint the eyes of a... Well, not a killer as such (nice Broker, ha ha, just kidding...) but someone who in a second could stop selling me obscure comic books from the 1960s like Millie the Model and bound collections of Walt Kelly's Pogo - which might as well be death! And so it is as much through the intervention of this important personage as it is owing to the supreme talent of Roger Hodgson - who was born on this day in 1950 - that Fool's Overture appears here today...

First appearing on Supertramp's 1977 album Even in the Quietest Moments, the longer than 10 minute track offered that portion of the population enamoured of symphonic-style progressive rock ample opportunity to lie back and enjoy at the end of what was likewise a thoroughly enjoyable musical journey. Although the song never charted - in contrast to the more popular Give a Little Bit, which went all the way to #15 in North America - its melody has nevertheless insinuated its way into the public consciousness; in Canada, for instance, a snippet of became the theme for the respected television newsmagazine W5, while in the Netherlands it was for many years used during that country's weekly hit parade on the offshore station Radio Veronica as the theme music for the gig guide. Supertramp's hardcore fans, meanwhile, will recognize it as the finale for their monster 1977, 1979 and 1983 tours.
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Pop History Moment: The Overthrow Of Haile Selassie

On this day in 1974 Ethiopia's Emperor Haile Selassie was deposed, ending nearly 3000 years of monarchy in that country...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketSelassie had previously been in exile between 1936 and 1941, of course, during the occupation of his country by Italy following the invasion of Emilio De Bono which precipitated the Second Italo-Abyssinian War; then he and his family had settled at Fairfield House, in the English resort town of Bath. He later donated it to the city for use as a residence for the aged, for which it is still being used today.

Although he was returned to Ethiopia a hero, by the early 1970s a famine in Ethiopia's Wollo region and a shortage of oil worldwide had destabilized Ethiopia enough to allow for the rise of a madman named Mengistu Haile Mariam, whose Derg would succeed in systematically dismantling the longstanding tradition of democracy in the country.

Haile Selassie died in exile in August 1975 in mysterious circumstances; bones said to be His Majesty's were discovered beneath a plain concrete slab on the grounds of the Imperial Palace in 1992, in the year after the fall of the Soviet-backed Derg. He was succeeded as de jure Emperor of Ethiopia by his son, Amha Selassie I, who had briefly served as Emperor previously during a brief period of unrest in 1960.
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"PopoZão" by Kevin Federline

For all that he has been considered a human punchline* it was Britney Spears' extended nightmare of a nervous breakdown that, partially at least, rehabilitated the whack wigga known as Kevin Federline, born on this day in 1978. For the definitive record of their train wreck of a relationship - which many of us have gone out of our way to expunge from our memories - illegally download Britney & Kevin: Chaotic. Even as his ex-wife was struggling to find herself in the conflicting personae her mother and the Disney Corporation attempted to bury her under, Federline assumed responsibility for his sons Sean Preston and Jayden James even to the detriment of his own career as a rapper, which was anyway DOA despite being as legit as any.

Which brings us, inevitably, to PopoZão, the actually not bad Brazilian-esque number (produced by Disco D) which was the high point of Kevin Federline's career as a rapper; having earned a reported $5,000 a week as a nanny to care for his own sons as they traveled the world on The Circus Starring: Britney Spears in 2009, his most recent television appearance was on Celebrity Fit Club, where he appeared alongside (and competed against) his ex-babymama Shar Jackson.

*I personally couldn't wait for Britney and K-Fed to breakup so I could start calling him FedEx.
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Remembering... Pocahontas

It's not known when she was born or even when she died; the only date we have for certain concerning the life and death of Pocahontas is the day she was buried, which was this day in 1617. Even in this there are more questions than answers, for while we know at which church she was buried - Saint George's in Gravesend - it's not known which of the graves in the churchyard is hers.

PhotobucketStill, Pocahontas exerts a powerful pull on the white consciousness; subsequent generations have reinvented her according to their own culture and relative level of white guilt. The consensus of opinion is that she was a beautiful Indian princess who, for some unspecified reason, aided and abetted European settlement on the land of her fathers before converting to the white man's religion and dying of one of their diseases at a tragically young age.

Within that description is much of the bias upon which European culture (and especially its fairytales) is based. Certainly she wasn't a Princess in the typical manner, except that she was daughter of a powerful chief, Wahunsunacock (better known as Powhatan) of the Powhatan Confederacy. Even as a putative Princess, naturally, she had to be beautiful, otherwise why bother? Certainly any relationship with John Smith other than the platonic was fabricated, although her love for John Rolfe seems to have been sincere enough.

As for her conversion to Christianity, having seen and heard the thunderous brimstonery of white missionaries often enough, it's safe to say that any canny young girl such as her could see what lay ahead for those who didn't embrace the alleged God of love who seemed to do nothing but punish people - even (and often specifically) the best ones.

In the end it was the newly christened Rebecca's public relations junket to England, intended to drum up colonists and much-needed support from the Crown, which proved her end. As unaccustomed to Europe's pollution as she was to its bacteria, she fell ill and died even before the ship bringing her home was out of the Thames estuary. Not even the means of death has been recorded; some reports have it as tuberculosis, others as smallpox.

As is so often the case, since nothing could have saved her in life, some quality or other managed to save her in death, for she lives still in our collective memory; Disney's Pocahontas (1995) is pretty but inaccurate, and even Terrence Malick's 2005 film The New World (featuring Q'Orianka Kilcher as the woman herself) ends up derailing from the historical record into romantic bunkum fairly early on. Then again, if John Smith had looked anything like Colin Farrell, perhaps history would have turned out quite differently.
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Pop History Moment: Who Shot J.R.?

A remarkable example of the unifying potential of television occurred on this day in 1980; in the finale of the second season of Dallas - an episode ironically entitled A House Divided - J.R. Ewing, the oiliest oilman who ever fueled the lingering death of the planet (played brilliantly by Larry Hagman) was shot. Instantly, the phrase Who Shot JR? was on everybody's lips; a cultural phenomenon (and its attendant merchandising frenzy) was born. A House Divided had unwittingly spawned a world united, mainly with glee at the potentially fatal wounding of a greedy capitalist oligarch.

PhotobucketOwing to an actor's strike it would be nine months to the day before anyone would know who had actually shot the character everybody loved to hate, by which point the revelation was almost a let-down. The episode for which a record-breaking audience of some 83 million had waited and waited was entitled Who Done It?, but could just as easily have been called Who Gives A Crap?

After months of rampant speculation routinely fed by the publicity machine of CBS-Television, almost every fan of the show had their own pet theory, and my bet is that the dullest of them was better than the one cooked up by the show's writers. In the end it was revealed that, even though every character on the show (with the possible exception of Miss Ellie who was, after all, his own mother) would have gladly given him an enema with a rifle, it was J.R.'s humped and dumped sister-in-law Kristin Shepard (played by Mary Crosby) who had done the deed. In order to preserve the secret, many of the show's characters were filmed shooting him, with only the producers knowing for sure which one would be used.

For all that, the episode changed television; suddenly every season ended with a cliffhanger, and by the end of the 1980s, almost every episode was ending with a cliffhanger as well. Which, while it undoubtedly made TV more interesting, also created a very blase audience out of it. In TV terms, Who Shot JR? was little more than a gateway drug, giving viewers the greatest high they'd had to date, and making them hungry for ever higher highs, which pushers - I mean producers - like Aaron Spelling dutifully sought to provide.
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"Pieces" by Sum 41

Birthday wishes go out today to Deryck Whibley, vocalist and front man for Canadian pop-punk phenoms Sum 41, who are part of a new generation of musicians whose mashups of various musical genres are defining a new sound by defying such limiting notions as genre.

Pieces was the second single from the band's 2004 album Chuck, and is said to bear a striking resemblance to the Coldplay song The Scientist... Why not watch and compare?
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POPnews - March 21st

[Scheduled to be held at Cleveland Arena on this day in 1952 the first Moondog Coronation Ball - organized by promoter Lew Platt and Alan Freed, the man who coined the term 'rock and roll' - was something of a fiasco. As many as 20,000 tickets (many of them counterfeit) were sold for an event whose venue had a capacity of 10,000; after one song by Paul 'Hucklebuck' Williams authorities shut it down. Now an annual event for the nostalgia minded, run in conjunction with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at the city's Quicken Loans Arena, things go a little more smoothly.]

717 CE - At the Battle of Vincy Austrasian forces led by Charles Martel were victorious over Frankish King Chilperic II and his mayor of the palace Ragenfrid.

1413 - Henry V became King of England following the death of his father Henry IV.

1556 - Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer was burned at the stake at St. Mary's Church in Oxford; Cranmer had played a pivotal role in the English Reformation under Henry VIII and Edward VI, but was found guilty of heresy for his troubles by their staunchly Catholic successor Mary I. He was succeeded by Reginald Cardinal Pole.

1788 - The Great New Orleans Fire destroyed 856 of the 1,100 buildings in that city.

1800 - With the church leadership driven out of Rome during an armed conflict with Napoleon, Pius VII was crowned Pope in Venice with a temporary papal tiara made of papier-mâché, the original - along with his papal predecessor Pius VI - having been pilfered by the French.

1801 - The Battle of Alexandria was fought between British and French forces near the ruins of Nicopolis in Egypt.

1804 - The Code Napoléon was adopted as the basis of French civil law.

1844 - This, the original date predicted by William Miller for the return of Christ, came and went without incident.

1871 - Otto von Bismarck was appointed Chancellor of the German Empire, the first ever to hold that post.

1913 - Over 360 were killed and 20,000 homes destroyed in the Great Dayton Flood in Dayton, Ohio.

1952 - Disc jockey Alan Freed presented the Moondog Coronation Ball - considered to be the first rock and roll concert - in Cleveland, Ohio.

1960 - During what came to be known as the Sharpeville Massacre, South African police opened fire on a group of unarmed black demonstrators, killing 69 and wounding 180. The day is now commemorated as Human Rights Day in that nation; the event was pivotal in South Africa's removal from the Commonwealth of Nations in May 1961.

1963 - Alcatraz - the famed Federal Penitentiary located on an island in San Francisco Bay - closed.

1965 - NASA launched Ranger 9, the last in a series of unmanned lunar space probes, at the close of its Ranger program.

1970 - The first Earth Day proclamation was issued by San Francisco Mayor Joseph Alioto.

1980 - President Jimmy Carter announced a US boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow to protest the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan, something a certain previous President didn't have the stones to do in regards to the 2008 Summer Olympics and its host country's ongoing theft of Tibet.

1985 - Canadian paraplegic athlete and humanitarian Rick Hansen began his circumnavigation of the globe in a wheelchair in the name of spinal cord injury medical research.

1989 - Sports Illustrated first reported allegations tying baseball player Pete Rose to gambling on the sport, which would eventually spoil his chances of ever entering the Hall of Fame.

1990 - Namibia became independent after 75 years of South African rule.
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