Saturday, July 10, 2010

In Memoriam: Therese Casgrain

The first female leader of a political party in Quebec, Madame Casgrain (born Marie Therese Forget on this day in 1896) was a child not merely of privilege but of title - the daughter of Lady Blanche MacDonald and Sir Rodolphe Forget - and the wife of prominent member of the Liberal Party, Pierre-François Casgrain, yet a staunch and thorough-going social democrat from a very young age. Over the course of her life and career she attached herself to such issues as female suffrage and nuclear disarmament, and was even the host of a popular radio show in the 1930s called Fémina.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketAlthough never elected (she was defeated 7 times between 1942 and 1963), it was as head of the Parti social democratique du Quebec (an offshoot of the CCF, itself a forerunner of the NDP) that Casgrain lead the charge against the monstrous tyrannies of Maurice Duplessis.

Throughout the Sixties she also campaigned for an end to nuclear proliferation, and was awarded the Order of Canada in 1967 (upgraded in 1974). In 1970 she was named to the Senate by Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, but served only 277 days, at which point she was forced to retire owing to her age.

Casgrain died in November 1981 and in 1985 was honoured by Canada Post with the stamp you see here; in 2004 her image was included on the reverse of the Canadian $50 bill, along with her fellow members of the Famous Five.
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"West End Girls" by Pet Shop Boys

I wanted to include the video for Dreaming of the Queen here, since it would have made such a brilliant tie-in to the last post, but no! I never get to do what I want. Either there's no video for it (which I strongly suspect) or it just hasn't hit YouTube yet. So instead of a very lovely song from their 1993 album Very* with which to mark the birthday of Neil Tennant let's go all the way back to the beginning...

West End Girls was the first single from Pet Shop Boys' 1986 debut album Please; it would go on to win the Ivor Novello Award for song of the decade 1985-1994 against some pretty stiff competition. Back in the day I always equated it's moody tone and instrumental variety with the spirit of London itself, and I fully expect to find myself wandering through that city some day only to have this song shuffle itself out of my iPod...

At which point I just know I'll start to cry like a slapped bitch!

*Which was itself very beautifully packaged in an orange Lego jewel case, at least originally.

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Happy Birthday Neil Tennant

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketI realize this is a rubbish picture of him (since it's more than twenty years old now) but this is how he looked the first time I saw him - in the video for West End Girls - so in a way this is how he will always look to me... That was when, once upon a time in a high school fantasy, I decided I wanted to move to London and marry Neil Tennant.

Of course, having seen Neil Tennant, I immediately thereafter saw Chris Lowe and totally changed my mind; it was only a couple of years later, when I heard them both talking bollocks about the Queen, though, that I moved on. Ah youth... Nowadays, of course, I still harbour fantasies of moving to London, even though I'm not about to let some schoolboy crush keep me from my OBE.

Politics or not, Pet Shop Boys still rock my world, and a great deal of their charm is due to the droll vocal stylings of... Yes, you guessed it! Neil Tennant!
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POPnews - July 10th

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[The dashing Howard Hughes, preparing to make history by flying around the world...]

1212 - The most severe of several early fires of London began south of the River Thames in the borough of Southwark; before it was done it had burnt most of the city to the ground including the church of St. Mary Overie, which was later rebuilt by Henry Cardinal Beaufort as Southwark Cathedral. 

1460 - Yorkist general Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, defeated the Lancastrian forces of England's King Henry VI at the Battle of Northampton before taking him prisoner - one of the pivotal moments in England's so-called Wars of the Roses. 

1553 - Lady Jane Grey ascended to the throne of England in the chaotic few days following the death of Edward VI; although pursuant to the will of her predecessor - and to the powers-that-be eminently preferable to the Catholic succession of Mary I - the ill-fated Nine Days' Queen was so through no machinations of her own, yet paid the ultimate price for having been so grievously manipulated...

1584 - Dutch King William of Orange - better known as William the Silent - was assassinated by Balthasar Gérard at home in Delft's Prinsenhof, where today the most popular exhibit at the museum there are the three bullet holes Gérard's pistol made on that fateful day.

1789 - Scotsman Alexander Mackenzie became a Canadian hero when reached the Mackenzie River delta.

1806 - The first instance of a mutiny by Indian sepoys against the British East India Company, the Vellore Mutiny resulted in the deaths of 200 British troops; reprisals by the British 19th Light Dragoons under Sir Rollo Gillespie killed between 350 and 800 Indians.

1890 - Wyoming became the 44th US state.

1913 - The highest temperature ever recorded in North America - 56.7 °C (134 °F) - was taken at the Greenland Ranch in California's Death Valley.

1925 - The famous Scopes Monkey Trial began in Dayton, Tennessee; although it was John T. Scopes who was on trial for teaching evolution in contradiction to Tennessee's Butler Act, the whole event was really a showdown between legal powerhouses Willam Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow. The trial was later made into a play and several movies under the title Inherit The Wind, the most famous of which starred Spencer Tracy as Darrow.

1938 - Howard Hughes set a new world record by flying around the world in 91 hours in a Lockheed Super-Electra loaded with state of the art instruments and a crew of four (Harry Connor, copilot and navigator; Tom Thurlow, navigator; Richard Stoddart, radio operator; and Ed Lund, flight engineer). The flight took off from Floyd Bennett Field in New York City, visiting Paris, Moscow, Omsk, Yakutsk, Fairbanks, and Minneapolis. Total distance flown: 23,612 km (14,672 miles).

1941 - The Jedwabne Pogrom - a massacre of Jews living in and near the Polish village of Jedwabne - was undertaken by the country's Nazi occupiers.

1962 - Telstar, the world's first communications satellite, was launched into orbit.

1966 - The Chicago Freedom Movement, led by Martin Luther King, held a rally at Chicago's Soldier Field, where as many as 60,000 people came to hear Dr. King speak as well as to witness performances by Mahalia Jackson, Stevie Wonder, and Peter Paul and Mary.

1968 - Maurice Couve de Murville became Prime Minister of France.

- The Bahamas gained full independence from the United Kingdom within the Commonwealth of Nations.

- Following the Luanda Trial, four foreign mercenaries - one American (Daniel Gearhart) and three Britons (Costas Georgiou, Andy MacKenzie, and John Decker Barker) - were executed in the Angolan capital by the victorious Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) for their activities on behalf of the defeated National Liberation Front of Angola (FNLA) during the Angolan War of Independence.

- The Greenpeace vessel Rainbow Warrior was bombed and sunk by agents of France's DGSE while moored in the harbour of Auckland, New Zealand.

- Partido Popular member Miguel Ángel Blanco was kidnapped in the Basque city of Ermua by ETA members, sparking widespread protests.

2002 - At a Sotheby's auction in London, Peter Paul Rubens' painting The Massacre of the Innocents was sold for £49.5 million (US$76.2 million) to Canadian newspaper mogul Kenneth, Lord Thomson. The work was temporarily put on display in that city's National Gallery until its permanent home at Toronto's Art Gallery of Ontario was completed in 2008. Although it remains the most expensive Old Master painting ever sold at auction, its cost pales in comparison to the US$140 million David Martinez allegedly paid David Geffen for Jackson Pollock's No. 5, 1948 in 2006.

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