Tuesday, May 25, 2010

POPnews (US) - May 25th


['...I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.' With these words, President John F. Kennedy extended the space race begun with the October 1957 launch of Sputnik 1 by the Soviet Union.]

- A treaty between Pennsylvania and Maryland ended the Conojocular War with the settlement of a boundary dispute and an exchange of prisoners.

1787 - Delegates convened a Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia to write a new Constitution for the United States, with George Washington presiding.

1865 - 300 people were killed when an ordnance depot exploded in Mobile.

1925 - John T. Scopes was indicted for teaching Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection in violation of Tennessee's Butler Act, precipitating the Scopes Trial.

Photobucket1935 - Within a 45 minute period Jesse Owens of Ohio State University set three world records and tied a fourth at the Big Ten Conference Track and Field Championships in Ann Arbor - completing the 100 yard dash in ­ 9.6 seconds, the 220 yard dash in ­ 21.0 seconds and making a long jump of ­ 24 feet 10 inches - an event rightly commemorated by the US Postal Service. Not allowed to live on campus with his team mates and unable to eat or stay with them while on the road, Owens worked part time to put himself through school because he was also ineligible for scholarships. Despite this, his was a work ethic and competitive nature which enabled him to rise above such a disgusting level of racism.

1936 - The Remington Rand strike, led by the American Federation of Labor, began.

1953 - At the Nevada Test Site, the US government conducted its first and only test of nuclear artillery.

1955 - A night time F5 tornado struck the small city of Udall, Kansas, killing 80 and injuring 273, making it the deadliest tornado to ever occur in the state and the 23rd deadliest in US history.

1961 - President John F. Kennedy announced before a special joint session of Congress his goal to initiate a project to put a 'man on the moon' before the end of the decade.

1966 - NASA launched Explorer 32 from Cape Canaveral; its purpose was to study the Earth's upper atmosphere.

1979 - At Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, American Airlines Flight 191 crashed during takeoff, killing 271 on board and two people on the ground.

1999 - The US House of Representatives released the Cox Report which detailed China's nuclear espionage against the US over the prior two decades.

2001 - Boulder's Erik Weihenmayer became the first blind person to reach the summit of Mount Everest.

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"Heart" by Pet Shop Boys

It may not feature at the top of his resume, but birthday boy Sir Ian McKellen appeared in this Pet Shop Boys video, released in 1988 and based on the 1922 film Nosferatu; the song is called Heart, and was the fourth and final single from the pop duo's second album Actually.

The video - directed by Jack Bond, who also helmed their 1987 film It Couldn't Happen Here - features Neil Tennant as the groom, Danijela Čolić as the bride, Chris Lowe as the super-hot chauffeur*, and the birthday boy himself as the surprisingly camp vampire (a camp-ire?) desperately in need of a dental plan - not to mention a manicure; it was shot in the Slovenian castle of Grad Mokrice, which is a resort where you yourself could stay, were you in the mood for the ultimate pop culture vacation.

*He could drive me anywhere! Badump-tish!

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Happy Birthday Sir Ian MacKellen

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Sir Ian is well-known to Vancouverites; all of the X-Men movies have been shot here, and while here shooting them he has also performed his one-man show A Knight Out for the city's rapt audiences. Though never closeted in his personal life, when he finally decided to come out in 1988 following the passage of Clause 28 it was scarcely the de rigeur thing it is today, and there were those who said it would kill his career...

Not only has it not done that, if anything, coming out professionally has improved both his career and his life. When he was knighted by the Queen in 1991 he was the first openly gay person to be so honoured - plus, he's been made a member of the Companion of Honour - and thanks to Peter Jackson's obscure Lord of the Rings trilogy he's become the eminence grise of the movie world for playing Gandalf.
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Gratuitous Brunette: Demetri Martin


Demetri Martin's deadpan delivery often features the glimmer of a cheeky grin he is unable conceal; this is a combination I've always found very endearing, probably because the contrast is so delicious. It's not unlike watching Jerry Seinfeld anticipating the next funny line on his own show, and Jimmy Fallon is also guilty of it - usually right before he totally loses it and breaks the scene by cracking himself and his costars up.

Maybe it's no coincidence, then, that all three of them have been Gratuitous Brunettes; in addition to the fact that their looks thrill me beyond all comprehension, they also all seem... Playful. I like Demetri Martin so much, in fact, that even the fact he looks good in orange doesn't make me want to hate him.

Given that people in show business are often jaded - usually because they're compelled to be totally cool and above it all the time - I've always found it refreshing when someone seems to be enjoying the act of performance, or finds the act of amusing others so amusing in and of itself. Show business, of course, is a heart-breaking circus of cruelty and masochism brought on by the desire and even need to perform, for which those with that desire and need must be subjected to untold heartbreak, rejection, and savagery in order to pay for the privilege; anyone who manages to ignore, overcome, or otherwise transcend this emotional siege is pretty special in my opinion.

Demetri Martin - born on this day in 1973 - broke out of the stand-up scene when he scored a sweet gig as 'Senior Youth Correspondent' on The Daily Show; he made further progress in his career with an appearance as a keytar player named Demetri on Flight of the Conchords and with a starring gig in Comedy Central's Important Things with Demetri Martin. Only time will tell where we'll see that charming insouciance of his in the years to come...
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"Rock You Like A Hurricane" by Scorpions

Birthday wishes go out to Klaus Meine, founding member and lead singer of German stadium rockers Scorpions, whose anthemic classic Rock You Like a Hurricane (which first appeared on their 1984 album Love at First Sting) is here given the full bombast with the assistance of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in 2000.

Yet it almost never happened... In 1981 Meine lost his voice so thoroughly while touring and recording the band's album Blackout that even his speaking was compromised; doctors even suggested he try a different line of work. Following speech therapy and surgery on his vocal chords, not only did he regain his distinctive wail, Meine and the band's former drummer Herman Rarebell went on to write what would later become their biggest hit.

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Pop History Moment: "Star Wars" Was Released

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On this day in 1977 a certain low budget movie entitled Star Wars was released; it went on to be somewhat successful. (In fact, if you ever want to know what a zillion dollars looks like, go to George Lucas' house and rummage around in the cushions of his couch. That's where he keeps paltry sums like that.)

Though the film only opened in 32 theatres, it broke box office records wherever it was shown, going on to make US$6.8 million in its first week of wide release, and over US$300 million in its initial domestic release. This is in 1977, mind you...

As for my 7-year-old self, I don't think I was ever the same after seeing it. I went into the theatre that summer quite a contented little Earthling and walked out unspeakably bored by this dull little planet we live on.

The real kicker: its sequel, The Empire Strikes Back, was even better.
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POPnews - May 25th

[The private behaviour which brought Oscar Wilde to a very public disgrace in the dock of London's Bow Street Magistrates' Court seemed to give the chattering classes an inordinate amount from pleasure, as witnessed by the cover of this edition of The Illustrated Police News; the tabloid made its name sensationalizing the Jack the Ripper murders, somehow without managing to demonize him for his heterosexuality - despite the fact that his were not only unmistakably sex crimes but definitely nonconsensual as well, unlike anything Wilde ever did with his beloved Bosie.]

1085 - Alfonso VI of Castile took the Spanish city of Toledo back from the Moors, depriving them of the Kingdom of Toledo and providing an important victory during the Reconquista.

1420 - Portugal's Prince Henry the Navigator was appointed governor of the Order of Christ.

1521 - The Diet of Worms ended when the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V issued the Edict of Worms, declaring Martin Luther an outlaw.

1659 - Richard Cromwell resigned as Lord Protector of England following the restoration of the Long Parliament, beginning a second brief period of the republican government called the Commonwealth.

1810 - During the May Revolution - specifically during the Semana de Mayo - the citizens of Buenos Aires expelled their viceroy, Baltasar Hidalgo de Cisneros.

1895 - Playwright, poet and novelist Oscar Wilde was convicted of 'committing acts of gross indecency with other male persons' and sentenced by Justice Sir Alfred Wills to serve two years in prison.

1926 - Sholom Schwartzbard assassinated Symon Petliura, head of the Paris-based government-in-exile of the Ukrainian People's Republic.

1938 - During the Spanish Civil War the town of Alicante was bombed by Italy's Aviazione Legionaria, causing 313 deaths.

1940 - At the outset of World War II the Battle of Dunkirk was undertaken to evacuate British forces who had been unsuccessful in preventing the Nazi invasion of the Low Countries and France.

1946 - The parliament of Transjordan made Abdullah I their king.

1961 - King Hussein of Jordan married the English-born Antoinette Gardiner, who became known as Princess Muna al-Hussein; they met on the set of Lawrence of Arabia.

1963 - The Organisation of African Unity was established in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa.

1966 - The first prominent DaZiBao during China's Cultural Revolution was posted at Peking University.

1981 - The Gulf Cooperation Council was created in Riyadh between member nations Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

1982 - HMS Coventry was sunk during the Falklands War, with a loss of 19 crew and 30 injuries.

1995 - The Bosnian Serb Army killed 72 youngsters in the Bosnian city of Tuzla.

2000 - Israel withdrew its army from most of the territory it had held for 22 years after its first invasion in 1978, a day now known in Lebanon as Liberation Day.

2003 - Néstor Kirchner became President of Argentina after defeating Carlos Menem, making him the first elected President since the economic crisis of 2001.

2007 - Moscow's Ostankino Tower caught fire... For the second time!
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