Monday, May 10, 2010

"Catch The Wind" by Donovan

Birthday wishes go out today to Scotland's own Donovan, whose hippified folk sounds - in songs like Mellow Yellow, Sunshine Superman, and the superlative Catch the Wind - virtually defined the Sixties for millions of people...

Catch the Wind was Donovan's first single, and appeared on his debut album What's Bin Did and What's Bin Hid - which was released in the UK in May 1965 but not in the US until the following month; the song eventually reached #4 in the United Kingdom and #23 in the United States.  It was followed by Colours, which was equally as popular at home but didn't fare as well overseas.

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"Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own" by U2

I have a theory that every time this song is played a conservative cries, which could account for why I play it so often. I know that Bono actually wrote Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own - from U2's 2004 album How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb - for his father, but the sign of a good pop song is that the listener can bring a different meaning to it should they so choose - in this case, that the 'ownership society' trumpeted by neoconservatives is actually so much bullshit, and really only means that if any hardship should befall you, you're on your own*. I have been fortunate throughout my life at times of crisis to have had help - emotional, intellectual, even financial - to make it through, and will gladly devote my life to repaying and paying forward that generosity.

And so, to all of those who've dedicated their lives to shredding the social safety net, reversing decades of progressive reform, or generally trampling on the dreams and aspirations of those less fortunate, I dedicate this compassionate little ditty to you, in the hopes that some tiny particle of its message penetrates your greedy, empty hearts. Either that, or you die of compassion poisoning, which would technically be an act of mercy for all concerned...

Oh, and have a nice day. ; )

*Unless, of course, you're a huge multi-national company - in which case it's okay to go whining like a little bitch to the government for a bail out. Just as long as you're not a single mother trying to feed her kids. But I digress...
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Happy Birthday Bono

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Like when a beautiful person writes a dating book, or a fatso campaigns to eliminate hunger*, whenever a jillionaire starts preaching about eliminating poverty, my finely-tuned bullshit detector starts to twitch. I mean, it's all well and good to blather on to governments about foreign aid when you're sitting on a pile of lucre yourself, especially when even a tiny portion of it could go towards starting thousands of micro-banks in the developing world.

Or maybe I'm just an old cynic.

Celebrities are great catalysts, and Bono in particular seems to have nonpartisan appeal, as comfortable talking to President Bush and the Pope as he is talking with regular humans. The thing about humanitarian efforts, unfortunately, is that they often don't show results for years. At least in this way, Bono seems to be in it for the long haul.

Plus, he's had the same mates his whole life and been married to the same woman (Ali Hewson) for nearly a quarter of a century. He's never had a tabloid scandal that my long memory can recall, nor does he splash out on bling. In this case, his actions more than his words point to his sincerity. I suspect he's not a dilettante, then, but an actual caring person. (Even if he refuses to pay tax in Ireland and can't count in Spanish...)

There you have it: what amounts to a ringing endorsement from the Pop Culture Institute.

*Yes I mean you, Sally Struthers...

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Pop History Moment: The Inauguration of Nelson Mandela

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In a world where the all-too-normal progression is from politics to jail, on this day in 1994 Nelson Mandela (shown here with his predecessor and Vice-President, F. W. de Klerk) was sworn in as President of South Africa*, after spending 27 years in jail for the heinous crime of being black and unwilling to accept the strictures of apartheid in that country. Having been first held in the Fort on Johannesburg's Constitution Hill following his arrest in August 1962, he was then transferred to Robben Island, and later still at Pollsmoor Prison, Mandela was eventually released from Victor Verster Prison in February 1990 after de Klerk reversed a decades-long ban on the African National Congress (ANC), of which Mandela was the leader.

Mandela and de Klerk had previously shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 for ending apartheid, but the real vindication for Mandela must have come when the ANC claimed 252 of the 400 seats in the country's National Assembly, forming what was known as the Government of National Unity, which was in force until February 1997. Their innovative approach taken to ensure a smooth transition to majority rule included the Truth and Reconciliation Commission - chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu - which sought neither to expunge the grievous injuries of apartheid from history or bathe the country in vengeful blood for them, but to help South Africans come to terms with what had transpired, and so move forward.

The entire story of Mandela's early life, activism, and rise to power is told in his memoir Long Walk to Freedom, published in 1994; for a slightly meatier version of the story, try Mandela: The Authorised Biography, in which Mandela discussed issues relating to Winnie Mandela and de Klerk with his friend, the journalist Anthony Sampson.

*Having been elected on April 27th - now a national holiday called Freedom Day.

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POPnews - May 10th

[Extensively restored, Fort Ticonderoga today plays host to some 90,000 visitors a year in Upstate New York.]

1503 - Christopher Columbus visited the Cayman Islands during his fourth and final voyage to the New World, naming them Las Tortugas for the numerous sea turtles he found there.

1534 - Jacques Cartier arrived at Newfoundland during his first voyage, under the commission of the French King Fran├žois I.

1768 - British reformer John Wilkes was incarcerated at King's Bench Prison for writing an article in issue #45 of the radical newspaper The North Briton, which severely criticized England's King George III. Wilkes' arrest provoked rioting in London; as his unarmed supporters chanted 'No justice, no peace' troops opened fire on them, killing 7 and injuring 15.

1774 - Louis XVI became King of France following the death of his father Louis XV.

1775 - At the outset of the American Revolution the British garrison at Fort Ticonderoga was taken by a small force of Vermont's Green Mountain Boys, led by Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold; not a single shot was fired by either side during the raid.

1824 - London's National Gallery opened to the public at No. 100 Pall Mall; begun with just 36 paintings (purchased for the sum of £57,000) collected by John Julius Angerstein, the collection currently contains some 2,300 artworks.

1837 - Banks in New York City began to fail owing to a proliferation of paper money unsecured by gold and silver coinage, causing widespread unemployment and a five-year economic depression - an event which is now known as the Panic of 1837; although newly elected President Martin Van Buren took most of the blame for the disaster, he'd only been in office five weeks when the crisis hit, placing responsibility for the crisis firmly on the policies of his predecessor Andrew Jackson.

1865 - Confederate President Jefferson Davis was taken into custody by Union troops near Irwinville, Georgia, having evaded capture for 37 days; following his arrest he was held for two years in appalling conditions at Fort Monroe, Virginia, an incarceration which even many Northerners felt was intended to be fatal.

1869 - The First Transcontinental Railroad - linking the eastern and western United States - was ceremonially completed at Utah's Promontory Summit when Leland Stanford drove in the Golden Spike; since 1957 the area has been preserved as the Golden Spike National Historic Site.

1872 - Victoria Woodhull became the first woman nominated to run for President of the United States when she accepted the honour from the Equal Rights Party; former slave Frederick Douglass was nominated to serve as her running mate. Try and imagine a white woman and a black man on the same Presidential ticket... It almost boggles the mind, doesn't it?

1908 - Mother's Day was observed for the first time in the United States in Grafton, West Virginia.

1922 - The United States annexed the Kingman Reef - located midway between Hawai'i and American Samoa in the Pacific Ocean. Its purpose then was largely strategic; originally touted as a stopover point for Pan Am flying boats between the US and New Zealand, that honour eventually went to the more substantial Canton Island.

1924 - J. Edgar Hoover was appointed the Director of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation by President Calvin Coolidge - a post Hoover held until his death in May 1972.

1933 - Students staged massive public book burnings in 34 German cities as part of what was called the 'Action Against the Un-German Spirit'; the event was coordinated by Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels.

1940 - Nazi Germany invaded Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg on the same day Winston Churchill accepted the leadership of a wartime coalition government in the United Kingdom.

1960 - The nuclear submarine USS Triton completed the first underwater circumnavigation of the planet.

1978 - Italian politician Aldo Moro was buried; kidnapped in Rome in broad daylight by the Red Brigades 55 days earlier Moro was found dead on May 9th riddled with bullets in the trunk of a red Renault 5 midway between the headquarters of the Christian Democratic Party (of which he was the leader) and the Communist Party.

1994 - Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as South Africa's first black president.

2005 - A hand grenade allegedly thrown by Vladimir Arutinian landed about 65 feet (20 metres) from US President George W. Bush while he was giving a speech to a crowd in Tbilisi, Georgia. The device, like the man, was a dud; unlike the man, however, the grenade did no damage.

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