Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Joan Rivers on Parkinson

As jaded as Sir Michael Parkinson must be, having spent many decades herding celebrity cattle across a series of increasingly better looking sofas, it's nice to see him reduced to helpless laughter on purpose (as opposed to unintentionally) by a guest whom he's frequently cited as one of his favourites, Joan Rivers.
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Happy Birthday Joan Rivers

Joan Rivers' 1986 memoir Enter Talking, written in collaboration with Richard Meryman, was the first such book to find its way onto one of my shelves; in the same way I couldn't wait to get my hands on her album What Becomes A Semi-Legend Most some years before, I'm sure I haunted my neighbourhood bookseller until they were convinced I was a shoplifter*.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketSo while I have been a fan of hers since at least 1982, I almost didn't post this; it took me so long to find a picture of her I liked, I almost gave up in the name of efficiency. I mean, I always used to think she was pretty - at least, I did until she started reverting to her alien form. Thanks to Google Image Search I have been subjected to a slide show of her descent into self-loathing, and the only thing it wasn't was pretty.

Fortunately, her comedy also retains its power to shock me; in a show business which has grown increasingly anodyne, there are very few of the old serial offenders left - Don Rickles, really, and of course Joan herself. These days, only Lisa Lampanelli comes close to achieving the visceral reaction from audiences that Rivers once had (and, in fact, still has); yet Lampanelli's humour is entirely external, whereas Rivers has always made herself the primary recipient of her own vitriol, although I'm sure Elizabeth Taylor would disagree with me.

Seriously, babe - can we talk? - ease up on the scalpel. Whew!

*The fact that I was is only incidental to the story.

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Pop History Moment: Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four" Published

On this day in 1949 George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four was published, by London's Secker and Warburg...

PhotobucketReception to the novel was originally cool, but once it started being banned, interest understandably picked up; today it is considered a classic not only of dystopian science fiction but of world literature, having been translated into sixty-two languages. Over the past six decades, many of its terms have entered the public lexicon as well, as has its author's name been adjectivized. So while the world today looks nothing like the world described in the novel, its depiction of media-enforced Fascism as predicted by its author cannot be discounted.

The book follows an ordinary man, Winston Smith, as he attempts to find a glimmer of enjoyment in his highly regimented life; he undertakes a forbidden love affair with a young woman named Julia, but his real crime turns out to be a combination of critical thinking and keeping a diary to record it. Later arrested for thoughtcrime, the Thought Police incarcerate him in the ironically named Ministry of Love, where he is tortured in Room 101.

Given the novel's accurate depiction of the role the media would play in controlling the populace of the future - viewscreens in every room, both visible and audible and entirely unavoidable wherever one goes - the real media has sought to dull some of the book's harsher concepts by turning them into easily mocked television programs, shows whose ubiquity only serves to prove my point. The genuine fear of an overarching dictator such as Big Brother has become a reality show in which yobs and yobettes struggle mightily to reduce the already vile opinion of humans in each others eyes to an even lower ebb; similarly, Room 101 has been reduced from the epitome of horror to a chat show in which celebrities get to indulge in public hating, presided over by the genial (if slightly sinister) Paul Merton.
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"Julia" by Eurythmics

A Eurythmics video is one of those things I need very little provocation to post; to whit, today is the anniversary of the publication of George Orwell's spooky (not to mention eerily prescient) novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. Eurythmics contributed music to Michael Radford's movie version of the novel - music which he disliked, and later refused to incorporate into the finished film; undismayed, the duo released the album anyway, since it was 1984 and the book was experiencing something of a resurgence in popular culture. Today, among Eurythmics fans at least, it's considered one of their best.

1984 (For the Love of Big Brother) contains many haunting and ethereal tracks drawn from the original text, including this one; named for the woman with whom Winston Smith carries on an illicit affair which provides his downfall, Julia is a pop song rendered most elegant by Dave Stewart's low-key arrangement and Annie Lennox's ethereal voice.
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POPnews - June 8th

[162 people still live on the rocky outcrop of Lindisfarne, which is now a Nature Reserve and major tourist attraction in Northumbria; in its heyday, though, the Holy Island was a bustling religious community capable of producing something as beautiful as the Lindisfarne Gospels - which are dedicated to St. Cuthbert and thought to be largely the work of Eadfrith, who became Bishop of Lindisfarne in 698 and died in 721. During the raid on Lindisfarne on this day in 793 CE the book's cover was destroyed, but a replacement was made in 1852; the well-preserved tome (a priceless example of Insular art) currently resides at the British Library in London.]

68 CE - The Roman Senate accepted Galba as Emperor, making him the first to serve in the so-called Year of the Four Emperors.

536 CE - St. Silverius became Pope following the death of his predecessor Agapetus I.

793 CE - Vikings raided the abbey at Lindisfarne, a date commonly accepted as the beginning of the Viking Age - a period of Scandinavian invasions against England which wouldn't end until the Battle of Stamford Bridge in September 1066.

1191 - England's King Richard I arrived at the city of Acre during the Third Crusade.

1405 - Richard le Scrope, Archbishop of York and Thomas Mowbray, Earl of Norfolk, were executed in York on the orders of England's King Henry IV.

1690 - Siddi general Yadi Sakat razed the Mazagon Fort in Mumbai.

1776 - At the Battle of Trois-Rivières, American attackers led by William Thompson of the United Colonies were driven back by Sir Guy Carleton and Simon Fraser at Trois-Rivières, Quebec.

1783 - Iceland's Laki volcano began an eight-month eruption which killed over 9,000 people and started a seven-year famine.

1789 - James Madison introduced 12 proposed amendments to the United States Constitution in the US House of Representatives; 10 of them were later ratified by the state legislatures and became the Bill of Rights.

1856 - The community of Pitcairn Islands and descendants of the mutineers of HMS Bounty consisting of 194 people arrived on the Morayshire at Norfolk Island commencing the Third Settlement of the Island.

1906 - US President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act into law, authorizing the President to restrict the use of certain parcels of public land with historical or conservation value.

1912 - Carl Laemmle incorporated Universal Pictures.

1948 - Milton Berle hosted the debut of TV's Texaco Star Theater.

1950 - Sir Thomas Blamey was created the only Australian-born Field Marshal in that country's history.

1953 - During the Flint-Worcester tornado outbreak sequence a tornado hit Flint, Michigan, killing 115; it was the last tornado in US history to claim more than 100 lives.

Photobucket1959 - The USS Barbero and United States Postal Service attempted the delivery of 3000 commemorative postal covers (like the one shown, at right) via Regulus cruise missile... All things considered, and given the US military's luck with missiles, bombs, and the like, we should be grateful that a) the Missile Mail arrived safely, b) it didn't wipe out a neighbouring town or the base itself, and c) it was never attempted again.

1968 - James Earl Ray was arrested for the murder of Martin Luther King Jr. at London's Heathrow Airport, having been captured while traveling on a Canadian passport under the name Ramon George Sneyd.

1986 - Former United Nations Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim was elected president of Austria.

1992 - The first World Ocean Day was celebrated, to coincide with the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro.
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