Monday, March 22, 2010

Happy Birthday Reese Witherspoon


Turns out I gotta give mad props to our girl Reese here, for landing - in succession - two of the hottest Y chromosomes in history... If anyone else - and, to be fair, I include myself in this rather large group - had snagged Ryan Phillippe and Jake Gyllenhaal in short order I'd have been the first villager with the largest torch at the head of the angriest mob baying for the blood of the witch.

The secret to her success, however, is right there onscreen, and if anyone is entitled to the moniker of 'America's Sweetheart' right now it's Reese Witherspoon; her role in Pleasantville gave her the chance to display 1950s wholseomeness with 1990s whatever-ness in equal measure, but it was her appearance in Election which proved to be a star turn par excellence. Anyone who could make the ruthlessness of Tracey Flick likable could surely do the same for the airheaded sweetness of Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, let alone that of the much-played bundle of contradictions that is Becky Sharp in Vanity Fair.

Which she did...
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"Litany" by Billy Collins

Here then to tap the capper of today's Billy Collins hat-trick oh-so gingerly through the 5-hole is the man himself, reading his poem Litany with the kind of dry wit his ever-growing legion of fans have come to expect from him.
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"Forgetfulness" by Billy Collins

Forgetfulness informs much of what I do...

It takes from me my sacred past, replaces it with movie versions of actual events - as less and less of fewer and fewer of those movies play over and over in my head in their loops, like in a store that sells televisions, until the same few minutes of the same movie is showing on all screens, and the point of my memories isn't to help me be sentimental but to demonstrate relative picture quality. In the present, it gives me my persona, which is less and less that of the desired hipster and more and more that of a befuddled professor, and one who has not only forgotten more than he currently knows at that, but is about to forget even more than that. Besides, it looms over my future, a threat greater than cancer or murder or any other heinous way to die; first helping me forget my life, then making me forget that I am living, then leaving it up to the ages whether anyone else will remember me or not because I've forgotten to ask them if they will...

But also in the present, forgetfulness impels me to write this blog, to scribble out and peck down everything I know - indeed, to learn things I may only know for a day - as if to show those heirs I will have begotten without birthing that I was here, that I did know, that it's as possible for them to know as it was for me, and that I haven't forgotten them even though we've never met because I died years before they were born...
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"The Dead" by Billy Collins

Birthday wishes go out today to two-time US Poet Laureate Billy Collins, the New York City native whose work is accessible and humourous and yet no discredit to the art and craft of poetry for being either.

Here he reads his poem The Dead accompanied by some truly lovely animation, which makes an ideal opening to today's poetry hat-trick...

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In Memoriam: Gabrielle Roy

Canada has a tradition of creating sensitive novelists whose works are innately political yet manage to transcend politics - Stephen Leacock, Lucy Maud Montgomery, Sinclair Ross, Ethel Wilson, and Morley Callaghan to name just a few... On this day in 1909 they welcomed another into their midst - Gabrielle Roy; born in Manitoba's French-speaking enclave at Saint Boniface, Roy originally trained as a teacher, and was an accomplished visual artist as well as an uncommonly gifted writer.

Photobucket It's no surprise, then, that the picture painted in words of Montreal's hardscrabble Saint-Henri neighbourhood should prove so educational as to be one of the catalysts of Quebec's Quiet Revolution. Bonheur d'occasion (1945) showed Quebec to Quebeckers as few novels written in that province had before, and blazed a trail for social realism that would later be heavily trod by Mordechai Richler; when it was published in 1947 as The Tin Flute it did the same for English Canada, bridging the Two Solitudes as handily as Ottawa's Pont Alexandra Bridge. The novel is half despair, half d'espoir* as it follows its young heroine Florentine through her crucial transition from girl to woman, using adolescence as an allegory for the struggles of Quebec in the post-war era. Never published in an unabridged form in Canada - not to mention sorely in need of a new translation - for all its faults it remains one of the finest novels ever published in this country; the three-quarters of a million copies it sold in the United States are a testament to its universal appeal.

She would publish 15 more before her death in 1983, plus an autobiography that was more candid than the standard hagiography writers typically give themselves at the point where their living career ends and their legend begins. While none of her subsequent works achieved the fame of that first one, each one exceeds the last in compassion and eloquence.


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Pop History Moment: The Conviction of Dr. King

PhotobucketOn this day in 1956 civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was convicted of organizing an illegal boycott - the famous Montgomery Bus Boycott - which began with the arrest of Rosa Parks for refusing to give up her seat to a white man the previous December 1st; King was fined $500 and a similar amount to cover court costs, although his lawyers immediately gave notice to Judge Eugene Carter of their attention to appeal, at which time the fine became a 386-day jail stay, suspended until the appeal hearing.

I can see it being illegal to incite a riot, but to organize a boycott? That's some hardcore racism, yo... Even worse than Arizona refusing to commemorate his birthday.
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"A Summer Song" by Chad and Jeremy

Birthday wishes go out to Jeremy Clyde, one half of the Sixties folk music duo Chad and Jeremy, whose first foray into public life was as a pageboy at the coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953*. While not particularly successful in the UK - which spent the Sixties in the thrall of such British Invasion stalwarts as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Kinks - Chad and Jeremy's sound appealed greatly to folk-inclined Americans of the hippie persuasion.

Parallel to their recording and performing career, Chad and Jeremy also made a number of notable television appearances on such shows as the Dick Van Dyke Show and the Patty Duke Show; surely the pinnacle of their joint acting career, at least in pop culture terms, was their appearance on Batman as themselves opposite Julie Newmar as Catwoman. Chad and Jeremy have also been immortalized in Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman's comic strip Zits as the names of the teenage and college age sons.

Clyde has also appeared solo in the ITV sitcom Is it Legal? as well as in the BBC's The Alan Clark Diaries as Conservative politician Jonathan Aitken and the police procedural drama Ashes To Ashes.

In the above clip we see Chad and Jeremy reunited; first they are interviewed by Ty Ray on KVOS-TV's Northwest Notebook out of Bellingham, following which they perform one of their classic hits, A Summer Song.

*Clyde is the son of Lady Elizabeth Wellesley.
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POPnews - March 22nd

[Located on the grounds of Bangkok's Grand Palace, the temple of Wat Phra Kaew contains the most precious treasure in Thai Buddhism - namely the Emerald Buddha - which only the King is allowed near.]

238 CE - Gordian I and his son Gordian II were jointly proclaimed Roman Emperor.

1622 - Algonquian Indians massacred 347 English settlers at Jamestown - a full third of that colony's population.

1765 - Britain passed the Stamp Act, which introduced a tax to be levied directly on its American colonies without offering them representation at Westminster; reaction to the legislation was mixed - some colonists were outraged, while others were merely furious - and a new nation was born...

1784 - Thailand's Emerald Buddha was moved with great ceremony to its current place in Wat Phra Kaew.

1849 - Austrian forces commanded by Joseph Radetzky von Radetz defeated the Piedmontese of the Kingdom of Sardinia under Wojciech Chrzanowski at the Battle of Novara.

Photobucket1871 - Although North Carolina Republican William Woods Holden (shown, at left) was the second governor of a US state to be impeached* he was the first to be removed from office because of that impeachment - which he was for attempting to limit the activities of the Ku Klux Klan who, during Reconstruction, had been denying blacks their right to vote by the various heinous methods they've been known to employ. Despite being defended by well-known attorneys such as Nathaniel Boyden and William Nathan Harrell Smith, the governor's involvement in the Kirk-Holden War left him on the wrong side of victory but on the right side of history**. There's a moral to the story somewhere in there I'm sure...

*Charles L. Robinson of Kansas of course being the first, in February 1862, for opposing the extension of slavery into his state during the tragic series of events known today as Bleeding Kansas.
**How different things were in the olden days, when Republicans were removed from office for fighting the good fight in support of minority rights. Maybe if a modern-day Republican wanted to wrest control of the Grand Old Party back from the Great Big Windbag (uh, Rush Limbaugh!) they could follow the example of these two men rather than the tar-hearted Cheneys and ethically-challenged Roves of the world.

1894 - The first Stanley Cup playoff series was won when Montreal Hockey Club beat the Ottawa Generals, 3–1.

1895 - Auguste and Louis Lumière held a private screening of motion pictures, a prelude to their first public showing in December of that year.

1916 - The last Emperor of China, Yuan Shikai, abdicated the throne and the Republic of China was restored.

1923 - Canada's legendary Foster Hewitt gave the first radio play-by-play in his esteemed career as a hockey announcer, or at least according to his memoirs; nevertheless, there was no scheduled game that day. The actual date of his broadcast debut was likely on February 16th, during a game between the Toronto Argonaut Rowing Club and the Kitchener Greenshirts.

1942 - In the Mediterranean Sea, Britain's Royal Navy confronted Italy's Regia Marina at the Second Battle of Sirte.

1943 - The entire population of Khatyn in Belarus was burnt alive by Nazi occupation forces.

1945 - The Arab League was founded when its charter was adopted in Cairo.

1975 - A fire at the Browns Ferry Nuclear Power Plant in Decatur, Alabama, caused a dangerous lowering of cooling water levels.

1978 - Karl Wallenda of the The Flying Wallendas died after falling off a tight-rope strung between two hotels in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

1979 - Opposition Leader Margaret Thatcher put down an early day motion censuring the government, which led to the defeat of the Labour government of British Prime Minister James Callaghan.

1989 - Goalie Clint Malarchuk of the Buffalo Sabres suffered a near-fatal injury when another player accidentally slit his throat with a skate blade in one of the most gruesome sports injuries of all time.

1997 - The Comet Hale-Bopp made its closest approach to Earth.

2006 - BC Ferries' M/V Queen of the North ran aground near British Columbia's Gil Island and sank with 101 on board; two passengers remain unaccounted for and are presumed dead. It took two years to determine that human error was to blame.

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