Saturday, May 29, 2010

"Everything My Heart Desires" by Adam Rickitt

At first it was just a song I liked. Then, one day, curiosity got the better of me*, and I went looking for a picture of its singer - just to help me put a face to a name, you understand; goodness knows, I liked what I saw well enough - but then, that's no surprise, since British pop music has recently developed a disdain for uggos which is practically American. So I suppose it was only a matter of time before I saw that it was his birthday and went looking for the video of the song I liked sung by the guy I thought was cute so I could post it here. And that's when it started to get weird...

That's when I read the bio of Adam Rickitt - expecting the usual scant detail and dull sameness one gleans from the bumf of most pop tarts - and stumbled upon a story worthy of the greatest writer, or even me. The discovery of a middle class upbringing didn't surprise me, but the revelations that he went through a bout of bulimia did. Even the appearance on Coronation Street (in which he was the second actor to play Nick Tilsley) made sense, as the soap once famous for its old boots and crochety coots inexorably drifts into a showcase for any pretty face capable of sounding even vaguely Mancunian**.

So given the face and the visible abs and the eating disorder and the performance of pop music - plus the fact that as Nick Tilsley he was responsible for Corrie's first all-male liplock (with Todd Grimshaw, played by Bruno Langley) - that he had once upon a time courted the gay community to establish his fan base sort of made sense. His involvement with the Conservative Party, though, only fits because Rickitt himself seems to be a raging closet case; then again, he may just be a typical actor, which means he's definitely a raging closet case.

Rickitt's flirtation with politics***, though, seems to have been even shorter than his pop career, which spawned a six record deal with Polydor, one actual album (2000's ironically titled Good Times) and three singles - each with less impact than the previous one, this being the second of them - following which he was unceremoniously dropped by his label. A whirl through the shallow morass of reality television seems to have encouraged him to decamp to New Zealand, where he's currently appearing on television as Kieran Mitchell in the drama Shortland Street. Since his emigration he's been accused of shoplifting from an Auckland grocery store.

All of which leads me to think a) we haven't heard the last of Adam Rickitt, and b) what batshit crazy thing is he going to do next? Only time - and the Pop Culture Institute - will tell...

*Either that or I was high.
**Although, to be fair, Christopher Quinten - who played Brian Tilsley in the 1970s and 80s - was pretty hot. Not Michael Le Vell (Kevin Webster) hot; then again I never was that fond of blondes. But I digress...
**He was a prospective parliamentary candidate for the Tories in the Cheshire riding of Macclesfield near where he was raised; an outcry by the riding's longtime MP Sir Nicholas Winterton put a swift end to that.
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"You Can Sleep While I Drive" by Melissa Etheridge

From her second album, Brave and Crazy - released all the way back in 1989 - comes You Can Sleep While I Drive, which remains one of my all-time favourite love songs (even despite the automobile imagery). It's a sign of Melissa Etheridge's virtuosity that the song - even though obviously female-centered - speaks that universal urge, the urge to be needed and loved, so eloquently.
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Happy Birthday Melissa Etheridge


Melissa Etheridge is right to give thanks; thanks to medical science, good fortune, and a legion of well-wishers, the cancer she was diagnosed with in October 2004 is gone. Two years later her partner Tammy Lynn Michaels gave birth to Etheridge's third and fourth children, a boy and a girl; Etheridge, of course, already had two children with her longtime partner Julie Cypher.  Etheridge and Cypher separated in September 2000 while Etheridge and Michaels parted ways in April 2010.

Etheridge's eleven studio albums run a fairly narrow gamut - bluesy rockers, heartfelt ballads - but do so in a way that is so uniquely her own, so sincere (without the overarching earnestness of, say, the Indigo Girls) that each new one feels like an old friend even before it's out of the plastic. With a smoky voice that is all her own, Melissa Etheridge gets her fans the old-fashioned way: she earns them.
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In Memoriam: John Fitzgerald Kennedy

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More words have been written about John F. Kennedy - born on this day in 1917 - than any of us could read in a lifetime; the thirty-fifth President of the United States has been praised, vilified, and everything in between. There have been those who criticized his private peccadilloes to deflect attention from their own personal malfeasance, and those who like to claim that because he liked to chase skirt he was something less than he was: a dreamer.

From the Peace Corps to the Space Program, Kennedy had big dreams, forceful dreams, the kind that got into people's heads and helped them to dream as well. History has been gradually rewriting the role he played in the escalation of the Vietnam War and his role in the Bay of Pigs Invasion; but even history has a hard time getting past whether or not (or even how often) he had sex with Marilyn Monroe. History, after all, is just the stories we tell each other about our shared past - and that is a pretty good story.

Either way, the life that officially ended with Lee Harvey Oswald's bullet gave birth to the legend of JFK, a larger than life figure who, because of his early death, now gets to be all things to all people. To the Right he's a demon, specifically because he was handsome and populist and gave people hope (which is in direct contravention of Republican ideology), to the Left he's nothing short of a secular saint to be evoked rhetorically at will, and to us here in the Centre he may just be the last person to embody what made the United States of America great - not America, not States, but United...
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"Centipede" by Rebbie Jackson

Few people seem to remember Rebbie Jackson, and even fewer her 1984 hit Centipede - but I sure do! In fact, it's on my iPod as we speak. The song was produced by her younger brother Michael Jackson, and features a wild video, in which the eldest Jackson sibling works her red dress for all it's worth.

It's her birthday today, and I'd wish her one, except she's a Jehovah's Witness, and as such doesn't celebrate birthdays; still, I couldn't resist the urge to post this video today.
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Pop History Moment: The Conquest Of Everest

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On this day in 1953 New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay became the first known people to reach the summit of Mount Everest, also known as Chomolungma; the mountain is frequently cited as the highest in the world, and indeed its summit is the highest land elevation above sea level. It was named for George Everest, at one time the surveyor-general of India*.

Hillary and Norgay attained the summit at 11:30 AM local time and, most importantly, they later made a safe descent. There has been debate in the mountaineering community whether George Mallory and Andrew Irvine had in fact beaten them to the summit 29 years earlier; if they did they certainly never lived to tell about it.

News of the conquest of Mount Everest reached London on the morning of Elizabeth II's coronation, whipping the already ecstatic crowds into an even greater frenzy.

*As his name was pronounced Eee-verest, that is more correctly how the mountain's adopted name should be pronounced; it just isn't.
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POPnews - May 29th

[For nearly 200 years after the fact the triumphant return of Charles II to London, on this day in 1660 - no less than his escape from Parliamentary forces on the same day in 1651 following the Battle of Worcester - was commemorated as Oak Apple Day in Britain; as depicted in this 1862 canvas by Reuben Bussey, the event was intended to be celebrated by raising a glass in toast to the King. Although the holiday was formally abolished in 1859 it is still observed by the famous red-coated Chelsea pensioners in the central court of the Royal Hospital Chelsea. Then again, it doesn't take an event half as exciting as the restoration of a monarchy to get the British to engage in a little chin-chin, does it?]

363 CE - Roman Emperor Julian the Apostate defeated the Sassanids under the walls of their capital during the Battle of Ctesiphon, although Persian Emperor Shapur II did manage to prevent Roman forces from taking the city; their hollow victory on this day would become even hollower when the Emperor was killed on June 26th at the Battle of Samarra.

- At the Battle of Monte Porzio near the city of Tusculum a Roman army supporting Pope Alexander III was defeated by Christian of Buch and Rainald of Dassel whose force represented Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa.

1176 - At the Battle of Legnano the Lombard League defeated Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I - the same dude whose army won the battle mentioned immediately above this one.

1660 - Charles II was restored to the throne of Great Britain, on his 30th birthday; the King (who managed to be crowned King of Scots in January 1651 before fleeing to the Continent) had spent the previous 11 years in exile during the Interregnum, while the English suffered under the Puritan dictatorship of Oliver Cromwell.

1677 - Following the bloodshed of Bacon's Rebellion, a treaty between the Virginia colonists of Middle Plantation and the local tribes - including the Weyanoke, the Pamunkey, the Nottoway, and the Nansemond - sought to establish a lasting peace. Try and guess how (or indeed, if) they did...

1780 - At the Battle of Waxhaws during the American Revolution Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton massacred 113 of Colonel Abraham Buford's continentals in Lancaster, South Carolina, allegedly after they had surrendered.

- Rhode Island became the last of the Thirteen Colonies to ratify the US Constitution and was admitted to the Union as the 13th US state.

1848 - Wisconsin became the 30th US state.

1867 - An agreement between Austria and Hungary called Ausgleich (or 'the Compromise') was born through Act 12, which established the Austro-Hungarian Empire with its capital at Vienna; the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph was later crowned King of Hungary to solidify what became known as the Dual Monarchy.

1913 - Igor Stravinsky's ballet score for The Rite of Spring was premiered in Paris at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, conducted by Pierre Monteux; almost from the first note of the opening movement the atonal music brought catcalls from the audience. When the dancers of Serge Diaghilev's Ballets Russes - as choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky - appeared, eschewing the grace of classical ballet for what we would recognize as modern dance, a riot broke out.

1914 - In a heavy fog the ocean liner RMS Empress of Ireland collided with the Norwegian collier Storstad in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, near the Quebec town of Rimouski; in just 14 minutes the liner sank, with a loss of 1,024 lives, leaving just 453 survivors among the passengers and crew.

1919 - The Republic of Prekmurje was founded.

1953 - Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay became the first known people to reach the summit of Mount Everest and return safely from the summit.

1954 - The first of the annual Bilderberg conferences was held in the Netherlands.

1964 - The Arab League met in East Jerusalem to discuss the Palestinian situation in Israel, which led to the formation of the Palestinian Liberation Organization.

1969 - A general strike in Córdoba, Argentina, led to a period of civil unrest known as Cordobazo.

1982 - Pope John Paul II became the first pontiff ever to visit Canterbury Cathedral.

1985 - Amputee Steve Fonyo completed his cross-Canada marathon at Victoria, British Columbia; the 14-month run was intended to complete the work left undone by Terry Fox on his earlier Marathon of Hope, as well as to honour him for having done it.

2004 - The World War II Memorial - located in the National Mall - was dedicated by President George W. Bush in Washington, DC; ironically, World War II was one war a member of the Bush family had actually fought in.
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