Sunday, April 25, 2010

What's The Occasion? ANZAC Day

Although Anzac Day originally commemorated the heavy loss of life sustained by the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (or ANZAC) while fighting the Gallipoli Campaign of World War I in Turkey on this day in 1915, since the end of World War II it has come to be a more general day of remembrance for all those whose lives have been lost in the service of their countries.  In addition to Australia and New Zealand, the day is observed in the Cook Islands, Niue, Samoa and Tonga.

PhotobucketThe holiday gained in popularity very quickly...  Its first observation could be said to have taken place on April 30th of that year, when word of the fighting (and its terrible casualties*) first reached Australia; a half-day holiday was then declared, which was again observed the following year on April 5th.  New Zealand was the first country to make the day an official holiday when it passed the Anzac Day Act in 1920.  Throughout the 1920s the holiday was observed in Australia to varying degrees (depending on the state) but by 1927 was uniformly marked, with its date set on April 25th.

The 1930s saw the various rituals that are now associated with Anzac Day - dawn vigils, marches, memorial services, reunions, sly two-up games - become part of Australian culture.  The first dawn vigil took place at the Sydney Cenotaph in 1927, and like the Remembrance Day service familiar in Canada and the UK is marked by the playing of The Last Post**.  The dawn vigil was first introduced to New Zealand in 1939, and remains a feature of Anzac Day there; it stems from the battle itself, which commenced in the hours surrounding the dawn.

Despite the creation of the Australian Federation in January 1901 and a similar move towards  independence for New Zealand in September 1907, Anzac Day is considered the day both countries were born, having been forged in the horrors of war and christened in the blood of its finest young men...

*Allied casualties amounted to 21,255 from the UK, an estimated 10,000 from France, 8,709 from Australia, 2,721 from New Zealand, and 1,358 from British India.
**In the US, of course, the Memorial Day service every May is similarly serenaded by the playing of Taps.

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"Ev'rytime We Say Goodbye" by Annie Lennox

I last published this video some four months ago - Christmas Day, to be precise - on the occasion of Annie Lennox's birthday; I'm republishing it here now because a) I love it so much, and b) it was used as the love theme in Derek Jarman's 1992 film Edward II.

Originally recorded for 1990's AIDS charity album Red, Hot + Blue, which featured modern (if not always modernist) takes on the songs of Cole Porter, it's Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye, performed by Annie Lennox, in a video directed by Ed Lachman.
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In Memoriam: Edward II

Even the most rabid of monarchists would have to admit that not everyone who's ever been born to (or indeed called upon) to fill a throne has been universally good at all aspects of reigning all the time; even in days of yore, when Kings were seen as living gods, it was accepted that some kings made war better than peace, for instance, or that most of them preferred the company of wenches to their queen.

PhotobucketThe point is, allowances were made for these quirks in their personality, benefits of the doubt offered; no such allowances were made for the man who became Edward II, though. Even as a child, his interests were more yeomanly than royal. Fond of animals, possessed of the common touch, Edward would have just as soon shod a horse or thatched a roof as entered into a joust.

That the son of Edward I (whose nickname was Longshanks) had no interest in the arts of war was the scandal of the age; to remedy the situation, the King procured for his son a young Gascon named Piers Gaveston, whose reputation for prowess with weaponry of all kinds was then still unburdened by the bevy of allegations that would later be attached to him. In lieu of a royal bride, it was Gaveston who was by his side when Edward was invested as the first Prince of Wales in February 1301.

Gaveston likewise took pride of place at the January 1308 marriage of Edward (then King) to Isabella of France, the beautiful and conniving daughter of Philip IV; during Edward's coronation in February 1308 - which Gaveston was called upon to organize - he barely made it out of Westminster Abbey alive, owing as much to the fiasco of his own organization as it was to the royal status the King had seemingly bestowed upon him - allowing him to wear purple in defiance of sumptuary laws, for one. Yet Edward II did fulfil his principle duty as King - to secure the succession with the birth of an heir; the boy who would become Edward III is universally recognized as one of England's greater kings, in sharp contrast to the negative opinion earned by his father and passed down as received wisdom over the next seven centuries.

Edward II's twenty year reign ended with his forced abdication, imprisonment, and eventual murder*; even the means of death - by legend a red-hot poker was inserted into his anus - points to the savage bigotry of the times. Whether Edward and Gaveston were lovers will never be proven, at least not directly; indirectly, though, the evidence is incontrovertible. Henry VIII and Charles Brandon were as close friends as King and noble could be, yet no ignominy clung to either of them for it. Somehow, though, nothing Edward II ever did earned so much as a molecule of praise during his lifetime, surely a text book example of homophobia in action if ever there was one.

In the centuries since he's gone from a reviled monster to a fascinating anomaly to a gay icon thanks almost entirely to pop culture; Christopher Marlowe's play Edward II was not only the first portrayal of the unfortunate King but is one of the earliest plays in English as well, having been performed since at least 1592. The most sensational recent work about Edward II is Derek Jarman's fanciful 1992 film Edward II, in which the King was portrayed by Steven Waddington and Gaveston by Andrew Tiernan; Isabella, better known to us now as the She-Wolf of France, was played to stunning effect by Tilda Swinton.

*As with most high-profile murders, conspiracy theories abound.

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Pop History Moment: Pioneer 10 Left Our Solar System

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The Pioneer 10 spacecraft passed the orbit of Pluto on this day in 1983, effectively making it the first ever man-made object to leave the solar system, although it has yet to pass the heliopause or the Oort cloud.

The craft was launched in March 1972 and was last heard from in January 2003; it's currently headed for the star Aldebaran in the constellation Taurus.
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POPnews - April 25th

[In the years since its composition on this day in 1792, La Marseillaise has fallen in and out of favour almost as dramatically as its own notes rise and fall while being sung...  The rallying cry of the French Revolution, it was adopted as the new Republic's national anthem by the National Convention in July 1795; naturally it was banned outright by those noted monarchists Napoleon, Louis XVIII, and Napoleon III.  Reinstated briefly after the July Revolution of 1830, it wouldn't be until 1879 that it would be permanently enshrined.  It's shown sung here by noted French operatic tenor, Roberto Alagna, in an arrangement by Hector Berlioz, conducted by Semyon Bychkov.]

1185 - Japan's Emperor Antoku drowned, at the age of six, when he was purposely dropped into the Kanmon Straits which separate Kyūshū and Honshū during a sea battle between warring clans and the Imperial Family; he was succeeded by Emperor Go-Toba, who was the fourth son of Emperor Takakura and therefore his predecessor's younger brother.

1605 - Naresuan, King of Siam, died; he was succeeded by his brother Ekathotsarot.

1644 - China's Chongzhen Emperor committed suicide on Jingshan Hill after his capital, Beijing, fell to forces loyal to Li Zicheng; the 16th and last ruler of the Ming Dynasty, his death brought about not only the fall of the Ming Dynasty but led to a period of civil war in which the Southern Ming Dynasty, increasingly harried by Manchus from the north, eventually capitulated as well.  Chongzen was succeeded by Hongguang Emperor and thence the Longwu Emperor, whose own Shun Dynasty lasted less than a year.  Following the Shun Dynasty's defeat after the Battle of Shanhai Pass in May of the following year power passed to the Shunzhi Emperor and the Qing Dynasty - which would rule the country until its monarchy was abolished in 1912 - was established.

1792 - La Marseillaise - the song that would become France's national anthem - was composed by Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle.

1829 - Charles Fremantle arrived in the HMS Challenger off the coast of modern-day Western Australia prior to declaring the Swan River Colony for the United Kingdom.

1846 - The Thornton Affair - an open skirmish over the disputed border of Texas - triggered the declaration of the Mexican-American War by US President James K. Polk.

- Canada's Governor-General Lord Elgin signed the Rebellion Losses Bill, which outraged the English population of Montreal and triggered rioting in that city.

1915 - The Battle of Gallipoli began with the invasion of Turkey's Gallipoli Peninsula by Australian, British, French and New Zealand troops, who landed at Cape Helles and what is now known as Anzac Cove.

1916 - Anzac Day was commemorated for the first time, on the first anniversary of the landing of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) at what is now known as Anzac Cove near Gallipoli in Turkey - events dramatized in Peter Weir's 1981 film Gallipoli, starring a young Mel Gibson.

1938 - The US Supreme Court delivered its opinion in Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins and in doing so overturned a century of federal common law regarding diversity jurisdiction.

1944 - The United Negro College Fund was incorporated by Frederick D. Patterson (then president of Tuskegee University), Mary McLeod Bethune (then president of Bethune-Cookman University), and others.

1953 - Francis Crick and James D. Watson published their article Molecular structure of nucleic acids: a structure for deoxyribose nucleic acid in the magazine Nature, making them the first to describing the double helix structure of DNA.

1959 - The St. Lawrence Seaway - linking the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean via the St. Lawrence River and a series of locks and canals - officially opened to shipping; its formal opening on June 26th, though, would attract such VIPs as Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, and US President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

1974 - The so-called Carnation Revolution - a leftist military coup in Portugal - restored democracy after more than forty years as a corporate fascist state under the Estado Novo, most famously led by António de Oliveira Salazar. The revolution is notable in that the revolutionaries produced no casualties, although government forces did kill four people.

1982 - Having landed a contingent of Royal Marines on South Georgia as part of Operation Paraquet the Royal Navy's destroyer Antrim intercepted and disabled the Argentinian submarine Santa Fe, with the able assistance of her Westland Wessex HAS.Mk3 helicopter; the helicopter's crew had already demonstrated distinction in rescuing 16 SAS commandos from the Fortuna Glacier on April 21st.  Today this very craft resides in the Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton in Somerset.  VISIT

1986 - Mswati III was crowned King of Swaziland, succeeding his father Sobhuza II.

1988 - A court in Israel sentenced John Demjanuk to die for his having committed war crimes while serving as an SS guard at Treblinka during World War II.

2005 - The final piece of the Obelisk of Axum was returned to Ethiopia after being stolen by the invading Italian army in 1937.

2007 - Boris Yeltsin's funeral was the first to be sanctioned by the Russian Orthodox Church for a Russian head of state since the funeral of Tsar Alexander III in 1894.
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