Thursday, April 22, 2010

Comedy by Sean Lock

Birthday boy Sean Lock's comedy pedigree is among the most distinguished in Britain; he originally got his start in 1993, as a supporting artist in Rob Newman and David Baddiel's TV show Newman and Baddiel in Pieces, and even toured with the duo when the show went on the road as a stage act. He was a script editor on Bill Bailey's 1998 BBC2 series, Is It Bill Bailey? before getting his first solo break, hosting the radio show 15 Minutes of Misery, which also featured Kevin Eldon and Hattie Hayridge. That show would later be adapted into the sitcom 15 Storeys High, in which Lock starred, first on radio then on television.

Nowadays, of course, he's best known for the sharp wit he demonstrates on such panel shows as the 2008 version of The Big Fat Quiz of the Year (in which he was teamed with Gavin & Stacey's lovable chubbo James Corden), 8 Out of 10 Cats, Have I Got News for You, QI, They Think It's All Over, as well as on his own chat show TV Heaven, Telly Hell. Plus, of course, for his insightful stand-up comedy - as witnessed above.
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Happy Birthday John Waters

John Waters was born on this day in 1946, meaning he turns 64 today. Really? Is that all? I guess there's some merit to starting one's career so young after all; his first film was made in 1962, when he was 16, making it seem like he's been around forever... Which, in pop culture terms at least, he has.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketAnyway, that first movie of his was entitled Hag in a Black Leather Jacket, and Waters claims it was shown only once. Gawd! Now, of course, I'm dying to see it. It was followed by Roman Candles (1966) and Eat Your Makeup (1968), about which Waters has spoken but which has never been shown commercially. Divine appears in the latter film as Jacqueline Kennedy, in a replica of the pink Chanel suit and hat the First Lady was wearing the day the President was shot. How come, in the age of DVD, these aren't available?

Waters' work in the 70s was a barrage of trash, much of it fabulously funny; the trashiness had eased off by 1981, when he made Polyester. Moving into the 80s and 90s his films have become more mainstream (as he, in his own words, 'became a better filmmaker') they are still a smack in the chops to society; Cecil B. Demented (2000) is especially subversive, and its commentary track (released six months before 9-11) features Waters' take on a then-unknown terrorist named Osama bin Laden.

Once, in 1992, when I'd just bought it on VHS, I watched Hairspray every night for a month; when I bought it on DVD I watched it five times that first week. Even more so than Woody Allen, John Cassavettes, or Robert Altman (with their European influences) I think John Waters is the quintessential American auteur. He has loyally set all of his films in Baltimore, and despite the fact that he consistently portrays it as a shithole, I'd go there in a second given half a chance - just for the opportunity to visit the locales made famous by his movies.

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Pop History Moment: The New York World's Fair Opened


On this day in 1964 the World's Fair opened at New York City's Flushing Meadows Corona Park; the fair ran for two six months seasons, concluding in October 1965. Unlike previous events it ran without the sanction of the Bureau of International Expositions, and despite the fact that the Fair's theme was 'Peace Through Understanding', most of the pavilions on the vast property represented companies, rather than countries.

The symbol of the fair is the Unisphere (shown above), which symbolized 'Man's Achievement on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe'. While in real life it lay in disrepair for many years (during which time its empty pool was mainly used by skateboarders), since 1989 the site has been extensively rehabilitated and its fountains are back on again.

MSM NOTE: Some of you may remember, in the 1997 film Men in Black the Unisphere was mowed down by a giant cockroach wearing the skin of an upstate New York farmer. Good times...

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"Show Me The Way" by Peter Frampton

Birthday wishes go out today to Peter Frampton, guitar god and stalwart of 1970s arena rock who is probably best known for this song; Show Me the Way originally appeared on his 1975 album Frampton but gained the pinnacle of its popularity with its inclusion on his monster hit Frampton Comes Alive! from the following year. He's seen here performing it on BBC2's iconic programme, Old Grey Whistle Test.
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POPnews - April 22nd

[What more can I say? We've only got one world... Meaning you can do your part to make it better or you can be like evangelicals and try and bring about the end times you crave so dearly. I know whose side I'm on.]

536 CE - Pope Agapetus I died; he was succeeded by Silverius on June 8th.

1500 - Portuguese navigator Pedro Álvares Cabral became the first European to sight Brazil.

1529 - The Treaty of Zaragoza was signed between the rulers of Spain and Portugal, specifying the anti-meridian to the line of demarcation specified in the Treaty of Tordesillas.

1809 - The second day of the Battle of Eckmühl saw the Austrian army under Archduke Charles defeated by Napoleon's First French Empire, then driven over the Danube at Regensburg.

1836 - A day after the Battle of San Jacinto during the Texas Revolution, forces under Texas General Sam Houston captured Mexican General Antonio López de Santa Anna.

1864 - The US Congress passed the Coinage Act, which mandated that the inscription In God We Trust be placed on all coins minted as United States currency.

1889 - At noon the Unassigned Lands were distributed, for which 50,000 people lined up; 160 acres were offered to anyone willing to settle on and improve them, at which time they would be given their deed free and clear. During the ensuing Oklahoma Land Rush, the towns of Oklahoma City and Guthrie sprang up within an afternoon. The events surrounding the opening of the future Oklahoma Territory to settlers were fictionalized by Edna Ferber in her novel Cimarron, which was later made into two films of the same name, the first of which won a Best Picture Academy Award for 1931.

1915 - 168 tons of chlorine gas were deployed along the 6.5 km front at the Second Battle of Ypres (more specifically, during the first phase of that campaign, the Battle of Gravenstafel) in the first gas attack in modern times. Within ten minutes, 6,000 French, Moroccan, and Algerian troops died of asphyxiation, and untold numbers of others died later as a result of damaged lung tissue.

1945 - Prisoners at the Jasenovac concentration camp in Croatia revolted; of the camp's 600 inmates, 520 were killed and 80 escaped. When the advancing Partisan army arrived they found the camp ruined and strewn with bodies, the Ustaše having attempted to disguise what had gone on there by dynamiting buildings and setting fire to the ruins.

1954 - At the height of the Red Scare, witnesses began appearing before the Army-McCarthy Hearings.

1959 - Prima ballerina Dame Margot Fonteyn was released from a Panamanian prison after an incarceration of twenty-four hours following an attempted coup by her husband, Dr. Roberto Arias (nephew of deposed ex-president Arnulfo Arias) against the government of Ernesto de la Guardia, Jr. - a coup attempt which had allegedly been funded by Fidel Castro.

1964 - The 1964 New York World's Fair opened at Flushing Meadow in Queens; its theme was 'Peace Through Understanding'.

1969 - British yachtsman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston completed the first solo non-stop circumnavigation of the world.

1970 - The first Earth Day was celebrated.

1983 - German newsmagazine Der Stern claimed to have discovered Hitler's Diaries, which experts had declared genuine without thoroughly examining them; less than two weeks after excerpts were published the diaries were exposed for the egregious fakes they were. They were the creation of notorious forger Konrad Kujau, who later spent 3 years in prison for fraud; following his release he frequently appeared on German television as a 'forgery expert'.

1991 - The Social Democratic Party of Albania was founded.

1993 - The Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, was dedicated; a target of far-right thugs practically from the moment it opened, in June 2009 the museum made news when 88-year-old anti-Semite James von Brunn shot Museum security guard Stephen Tyrone Johns. Johns died later that day and is permanently honoured within the facility, while von Brunn died in custody in January 2010.

1997 - 93 villagers were killed at the Haouch Khemisti Massacre in Algeria.

2000 - Elián González was seized from his uncle's home in Miami by a SWAT Team and returned to Cuba.
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