Monday, June 21, 2010

In Memoriam: Al Hirschfeld

How wonderful it is to be able to remember such a consummate artist as this by watching him work...

Al Hirschfeld died at the age of 99, having completed many thousands of drawings, which in and of themselves comprise an unprecedented visual history of the Broadway theatre in the latter two-thirds of the 20th century; so vaunted was his contribution to the Great White Way that on what would have been his 100th birthday - on this day in 2003 - the Martin Beck Theatre was renamed the Al Hirschfeld Theatre in his honour*. The man himself never lived to see it though, having died only the previous January.

In this scene from the documentary made of his life by Susan Warms Dryfoos entitled The Line King, he completes another of his elegant drawings, of Paul Newman in a revival of Our Town.

*Take that, Martin Beck!
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Remembering... Benazir Bhutto


Today, on what would have been her 57th birthday, instead of celebrating the ongoing life of Benazir Bhutto supporters, friends, and family are once again mourning her; Bhutto's December 2007 assassination while campaigning for the presidency of Pakistan on behalf of the Pakistan Peoples Party - which was founded by her father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who also died for his country - only served to reaffirm the tenuous grip democracy has in that nation.
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Happy Birthday Your Royal Highness

When, at 21:03 BST on this day in 1982, Prince William of Wales was born - at St Mary's Hospital in London's tony Paddington district, 16 hours after Princess Diana had first been admitted there - he became the first heir to the throne ever to be born in a hospital. Predictably enough, that was also one of the first days* I begged to stay home from school so I could remain glued to the television and await the news that he'd been born; it was, after all, only a Monday. Yes folks, I was always like this, a future courtier even at the age of twelve...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketOriginally weighing in at a healthy 7 pounds one and one half ounces, from his first public appearance as a robust baby on a blanket in Australia, William has grown into a poised media darling whose charisma must be measured in megawatts; blending his mother's golden charm with his father's regal bearing, William is perfectly suited to the media age, and therefore a very modern royal indeed.

Currently poised to marry Kate Middleton, yet still the world's most eligible bachelor, Prince William is currently undergoing various courses of military training; having first graduated out of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in December 2006 and having been awarded his RAF wings from his own father's hand in April 2008, he then served at Britannia Royal Naval College, during which time he was deployed aboard the HMS Iron Duke in the Caribbean. It was during his tenure there that the vessel seized another which was engaged in smuggling cocaine, making a highly publicized drugs bust worth in excess of £40 million**.

He is currently in training as a helicopter pilot with the Search and Rescue Force at RAF Shawbury and RAF Valley while keeping the world on tenterhooks in regards to his marital intentions...

*The other was, predictably, the birth of Prince Harry in September 1984; when Princess Beatrice was born, in August 1988, I was already in university and it was summer besides, while Princess Eugenie was born in March 1990 when I just called in sick to work.
**In other words, enough to keep his step-brother Tom Parker-Bowles going for nearly a month!
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Pop History Moment: Halifax Was Founded

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On this day in 1749 the city of Halifax, Nova Scotia, was founded; the city has survived privation, explosion, and invasion - Hell it even survived the ten months I lived there, so you know the people living there are made of sterner stuff...

I can never resist a shout out to an old hometown of mine (unless it's Kelowna), and at the risk of diverting even one tourist from Vancouver, I must say, if you get a chance, see Halifax. Unlike Vancouver the people are friendly (even the gays! especially the gays!!) and if you're looking for a little taste of Europe without those European prices, Halifax is your destination.

As I said, I lived there for about ten months, from the end of January to the end of October 1992. It was time enough to see the city in all of its four seasons, but I was too broke to do much exploring around the region; I did get to see Peggys Cove, thanks to my boyfriend Nick (who had a car), and I spent a night in Antigonish with my buddy Vince, which remains to this day the farthest East I've ever been. While there it was also my privilege to get to travel to Charlottetown, and along the way experience the truly lovely Prince Edward Island at its utmost loveliness - and in the full blaze of Atlantic Canada's annual autumnal splendour besides. Alas, in those days I was still two years away from discovering the camera, so the only souvenirs I have of the place are my yellowed and tattering memories...

Probably my most poignant memory of life in Halifax, though, is of walking past the Old Burying Ground, founded the same year as the city, which has a cenotaph in it dedicated to veterans of the Crimean War! That experience gave me a sensation not possible in the newer parts of Canada such as the West, which was mot only thrilling for a history buff like me, but also gave me a sense of the Canadian panorama I never would have had otherwise.

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"Mr. Brightside" by The Killers

Today's birthday boy is Brandon Flowers, extremely cute lead singer of the Las Vegas-based rock duo The Killers; Mr. Brightside was the band's second single from their 2004 debut album Hot Fuss, following hot on the heels of Somebody Told Me.

In all there were three videos made for this song; this is the second of them. Starring Eric Roberts and Izabella Miko in an homage to Moulin Rouge!, it was directed by Sophie Muller, who we will remember has long had considerable artistic success collaborating with Annie Lennox - in both her solo work and with Eurythmics - and here strikes gold again with her evocation of a Belle Epoque bordello.
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POPnews - June 21st

[The Winnipeg General Strike began on May 1st, and not only persisted but grew, even after the city fired its striking workers on May 4th; despite ongoing negotiations, by May 24th as many as 6,800 strikers from 13 separate trades were walking picket lines. Ten strike leaders (including J.S. Woodsworth and Abraham Albert Heaps) were arrested on June 17th as the city's media outlets the Winnipeg Free Press and Winnipeg Tribune (aided by their cronies in other major North American cities) continued to spew bigoted anti-strike propaganda, raising the spectre of Bolshevism mainly by using anti-Semitic language and imagery. At a peaceful demonstration held in the city's Market Square on this day in 1919 Mayor Charles Frederick Gray read the Riot Act, following which he ordered the RCMP to disperse the crowd, to predictable results; the day is still remembered there as 'Bloody Saturday'... The strike eventually ended on June 26th, and of course could have been entirely prevented save for the epic greed of a load of old war-profiteering plutocrats.]

1582 - The Incident at Honnō-ji - namely the forced suicide of daimyo Oda Nobunaga at the hands of samurai general Akechi Mitsuhide - took place in Kyoto. 

1734 - A black slave known by the name of Marie-Joseph Angélique - having been convicted for an act of arson which eventually destroyed much of the city of Old Montreal largely on circumstantial evidence and the testimony of a five-year-old girl named Amable Monière - was tortured and hanged by French authorities in a public ceremony that involved, among other atrocities, the amputation of one of her hands. 

1788 - New Hampshire became the 9th US state. 

1798 - During the Irish Rebellion of 1798 the British Army defeated a rebel force from County Wexford at the Battle of Vinegar Hill. 

1826 - Greek Maniots defeated Egyptian invaders under Ibrahim Pasha at the Battle of Vergas. 

1854 - The first Victoria Cross - created by Queen Victoria to reward acts of valour during the Crimean War - was unwittingly won by Charles Davis Lucas of the Royal Navy's HMS Hecla during the bombardment of Bomarsund in the Aland Islands; I say unwittingly because the VC wasn't even created until January 1856, and wouldn't be awarded until June 1857, but had been backdated to include all worthy recipients of that conflict, including Lucas - a ship's mate who would eventually rise through the ranks to become a rear-admiral. 

1864 - The Tauranga Campaign - part of the larger New Zealand Land Wars - ended. 

1877 - Ten members of the Molly Maguires, a terrorist group of Irish immigrants targeting coal fields, were hanged in Pennsylvania - six (Hugh McGeehan, Thomas Munley, James Carroll, James Roarity, James Boyle, Thomas Duffy) at the jail in Schuylkill County and four (Alexander Campbell, John 'Yellow Jack' Donohue, Michael Doyle and Edward Kelly) at its counterpart in Carbon County. 

1915 - The US Supreme Court handed down its decision in Guinn v. United States, striking down an Oklahoma law denying the right to vote to some citizens; three guesses what colour of voter they'd been trying to disenfranchise*... 

*Sorry to disappoint you, FOX News viewers, but 'white' is always going to be the wrong answer.

1919 - Members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, on horseback, stormed into a crowd of unemployed war veterans swinging batons during the Winnipeg General Strike; they then opened fire on the crowd, in all killing one protester and injuring 30.

1948 - The 'Manchester Baby' (SSEM) ran the first ever computer program stored in electronic memory.

Photobucket1957 - Ellen Louks Fairclough was sworn in as Canada's first woman Cabinet Minister, serving as Secretary of State for Canada, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, and Postmaster General for Prime Minister John Diefenbaker. In all Fairclough served as MP for Hamilton West as a Progressive Conservative between 1950 and 1963; despite her sterling progressive credentials - she was an early outspoken proponent of pay equity, for instance - maybe fittingly she had her conservative side as well, opposing the hiring and promotion of homosexuals. In fact, her firing of the eminently qualified Alan Jarvis as director of the National Gallery in September 1959 (which may have been, at least in part, bias motivated) was later fictionalized in the novel What's Bred in the Bone by Robertson Davies. Fairclough died in November 2004, and on this day in 2005 her career and achievements were commemorated by Canada Post - the very agency she'd once been the first woman to oversee.

1964 - Three civil rights workers - Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Mickey Schwerner - were murdered in Mississippi's Neshoba County by members of the Ku Klux Klan; all three of the slain men were portrayed (albeit anonymously) in Alan Parker's historically spurious 1988 film Mississippi Burning.

1973 - In handing down their decision in Miller v. California, the US Supreme Court established the Miller Test, which now governs obscenity in American law.

1982 - John Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity for the March 1981 attempted assassination of US President Ronald Reagan - which he had done in an effort to impress actress Jodie Foster.

2000 - Section 28 - which had outlawed the 'promotion' of homosexuality in the United Kingdom since May 1988 - was repealed in Scotland by a 99 to 17 vote; the law would remain on the books in England and Northern Ireland, though, until November 2003.

2001 - A US federal grand jury indicted 13 Saudis and a Lebanese national for the June 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 American servicemen.

2004 - SpaceShipOne - developed by Scaled Composites - became the first privately funded spaceplane to achieve spaceflight; the following October it went on to win the Ansari X PRIZE by reaching 100 kilometers in altitude twice in a two-week period with the equivalent of three people on board, with no more than ten percent of the non-fuel weight of the spacecraft replaced between flights.

2006 - Pluto's newly discovered moons were officially named Nix and Hydra.
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