Saturday, April 17, 2010

"Never Said" by Liz Phair

Birthday wishes go out today to Liz Phair, whose 1993 debut album* Exile in Guyville gave the double-Y chromosome sound of grunge an X or two to contend with - 18 songs' worth in fact - and none too soon...

Universally hailed by critics as one of that year's best, Exile in Guyville boasted sales of 200,000 that year (and some 450,000 to date) despite little radio play and no evident singles. Rather, the album plays best as a cohesive whole, taking the listener on a journey not unlike its cultural predecessor, the Rolling Stones' classic 1972 album Exile on Main Street.

*Previously Phair had released such offerings as 1991's Girly Sound on cassette only, in the tried-and-true lo-fi format best known to artists just starting out.
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Pop History Moment: English Literature Is Born

On this day in 1397 Geoffrey Chaucer first read The Canterbury Tales at the court of Richard II. The book is actually an unfinished frame narrative, built around 24 individual stories, but was intended to contain 120; it is modeled after The Decameron. Scholars and historians agree that the pilgrimage in the book - from Southwark to the tomb of Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral - was begun on the same day a decade earlier.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketThe Canterbury Tales' signal achievement is in its use of English (in fact, Middle English), then an emerging language and much looked down upon by the French-speaking nobility. Many have referred to Chaucer as the father of English literature; many others (mostly jocks) have referred to him in far less charitable terms. Invariably, I would have to tutor many of those in the latter group, which was still better than getting shoved into lockers - especially since te lockers in question were usually closed at the time of said shoving.

A n y w a y... I liked it, but wasn't 'in like' with it, if I may continue to use the high school vernacular. As with Shakespeare, I admired Chaucer's use of language, and the cobbling together of high art and low (some of the tales are quite raunchy). As much as I admire rococo diction, though, I also like things that get to the point.

Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote
And bathed every veyne in swich licour,
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;

Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halfe cours yronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,

That slepen al the nyght with open eye-
(So priketh hem Nature in hir corages);
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages
And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes
To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;

And specially from every shires ende
Of Engelond, to Caunterbury they wende,
The hooly blisful martir for to seke
That hem hath holpen, whan that they were seeke.

It is pretty, though; I'll have to give it that.
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POPnews - April 17th

[Her Majesty pointedly wore blue - the colour of Quebec - to the otherwise red-and-white ceremony at which she and her Prime Minister signed the Constitution of Canada into law; despite her unpopularity in La belle province she's said to be quite fond of them, and was apparently reluctant to put her name to anything so important that didn't include them, even if their exclusion was almost entirely due to the intransigence of Parti Québécois Premier René Lévesque. In the end, she saved her megawatt smiles for the crowd and her mile-wide scowls for Pierre, as together they gave Canadians a document - most especially via the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms - that would codify theirs as the highest of modern ideals, and their country as an exemplar in the family of nations.]

69 CE - After the First Battle of Bedriacum, Vitellius became Roman Emperor - the third during the so-called Year of the Four Emperors - following the death of his predecessor Otho.

1080 - Denmark's King Harald III - the illegitimate son of King Sweyn II Estridsson and a concubine whose name has been lost to history - died; although married to Margareta Hasbjörnsdatter Harald III died without an heir, and so was succeeded by his brother, Canute IV the Saint. In fact, three more of his brothers would also occupy the throne of Denmark in time...

1397 - Geoffrey Chaucer told his Canterbury Tales for the first time at the court of England's King Richard II; scholars of his work have also identified this date (albeit ten years earlier, in 1387) as when the book's pilgrimage to Canterbury is said to have commenced.

1521 - Having arrived the previous day, Martin Luther spoke to the assembly at the Diet of Worms, at which point he refused to recant his teachings - teachings which the Roman church considered heresy.

1861 - At the outset of the American Civil War, Virginia seceded from the Union.

1865 - Mary Surratt was arrested as a co-conspirator in the assassination of US President Abraham Lincoln, who'd died the previous day.

1895 - China and Japan signed the Treaty of Shimonoseki, marking the end of the First Sino-Japanese War; under the terms of the treaty the defeated Qing Empire was forced to renounce its claims on Korea and to concede the southern portion of the Fengtien province, Taiwan and the Pescadores Islands to Japan.

1907 - Immigration officials at Ellis Island processed 11,747 people on this, the single busiest day in its history.

1942 - POW French General Henri Giraud escaped from his castle prison in Festung Königstein.

1961 - A group of Cuban refugees financed and trained by the CIA landed at Cuba's Bay of Pigs with the aim of ousting Fidel Castro; the subsequent Bay of Pigs Invasion, uh, did not go well.

1964 - The Ford Motor Company unveiled the Ford Mustang at the New York World's Fair.

1969 - Sirhan Sirhan was convicted of assassinating US Presidential candidate Senator Robert F. Kennedy in June 1968.

1970 - The ill-fated Apollo 13 spacecraft returned to Earth safely.

1973 - Federal Express delivered its first package.

1982 - At a ceremony on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, the Canadian Constitution was signed by the Queen of Canada and Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.

1984 - PC Yvonne Fletcher was killed by gunfire outside the Libyan People's Bureau in London during a small demonstration outside the embassy; ten others were wounded. The events led to an 11-day siege of the building.

1986 - The Three Hundred and Thirty Five Years' War - first declared in March 1651 between the Netherlands and Britain's Isles of Scilly - ended.

1999 - Shortly after 5:30 PM a nail bomb planted by neo-Nazi David Copeland outside the Iceland Supermarket at the junction of Electric Avenue and Brixton Road exploded, injuring fifty people, some seriously; in addition to this attack, aimed at London's black community, Copeland would be responsible for similar hate crimes against the Bengali and gay communities over the next two weeks.

2004 - Indian actress Soundarya - who starred in more than 90 films in her 12-year career - died in a plane crash near Bangalore; she was 31.
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