Sunday, August 15, 2010

The DuMont Television Network Is On The Air!

In the beginning there was NBC - Blue and Red on radio but black and white on television; they were the ones to broadcast FDR's historic speech from opening day at the 1939 World's Fair, the occasional sporting event, and the like... Then there was DuMont (pronounced DOO-mont) - an affiliate of DuMont Laboratories, which produced both television broadcasting and receiving equipment, including TV sets.

Beginning on this day in 1946, the Dumont Network managed to struggle through the first decade of broadcast television - airing such high profile and quality programming such as Cavalcade of Stars (the show on which Jackie Gleason first aired The Honeymooners) and Bishop Fulton J. Sheen's weekly devotional program Life Is Worth Living*, which routinely beat Milton Berle's ratings powerhouse Texaco Star Theater - only to fold just ten days before their tenth anniversary. Outdone in every way by stalwart NBC, upstart CBS, (and even the mongrel ABC, which was really just NBC's divested Blue), DuMont effectively ended production on June 1st, but limped along for ten weeks more before calling it quits, in August 1956, following its broadcast of a prize-fight at New York City's St. Nicholas Arena.

Much of DuMont's legacy was destroyed when the network went off the air; almost everything else - kinescopes mainly - had been lost by the 1970s**, and of the scraps which have survived, many are similar in nature to this clip. Most of the surviving DuMont stations are Fox affiliates now, and TV historians generally agree that DuMont and Fox are kindred spirits.

*As well as the show mentioned in the above clip - Captain Video and His Video Rangers - which is the first science fiction program to ever air on American television, and which was wildly popular in those sci-fi crazy days!
**When they were - according to early TV legend Edie Adams' testimony before a panel of the Library of Congress - trucked from the warehouse where they were stored over to Upper New York Bay and unceremoniously dumped therein!
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Pop History Moment: India Gained Its Independence


On this day in 1947 was born the world's largest democracy when India managed to shake off the colonial rule of its most recent occupiers. Nevertheless, the British Raj (effortlessly embodied by Lord Mountbatten) had the last laugh when it partitioned the country into a secular India and a Muslim Pakistan - the source of considerable tension in the region ever since, especially once Pakistan developed nuclear capabilities under Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. The two countries have been rattling increasingly dangerous sabres at each other over Kashmir ever since, providing the rest of the world with precisely the kind of invigorating stress it could do without.

Leading India into the brave new world of modern nationhood were Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and the country's spiritual father, Mahatma Gandhi; it would be 1950 before Rajendra Prasad was elected India's first President, despite the fact that Nehru favoured another candidate, Chakravarthi Rajagopalachari, who had previously replaced Lord Mountbatten to serve as the country's second and final post-independence Governor-General.

The events surrounding Indian independence and the country's early years are pithily recounted by Sir Salman Rushdie in his 1981 novel Midnight's Children, which in 2008 was again voted the best Booker Prize-winning novel of them all on the fortieth anniversary of the prize, as it was in 1993 on the lucrative award's twenty-fifth anniversary. No work of fiction has ever come more highly recommended by the Pop Culture Institute...

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POPnews (US) - August 15th

[In addition to one of the most accomplished inventors in history, the so-called 'Wizard of Menlo Park' was a master showman.]

1877 - Legend has it Thomas Edison made the first sound recording, of himself reading Mary Had A Little Lamb; then again, it may have been made on August 12th, or in December of that year. Despite keeping careful diaries, Edison was as notoriously cagey when it came to relating the facts surrounding his discoveries as he was ruthless in the elimination of his competitors.

1914 - Julian Carlton - the handyman of American architect Frank Lloyd Wright - set fire to the living quarters of Wright's Wisconsin home, Taliesin, then murdered seven people on the property with an axe - including Wright's lover Mamah Borthwick Cheney, her two children John and Martha, the foreman Thomas Brunker, a draftsman named Emil Brodelle, landscape gardener David Lindblom, and Ernest Weston, the son of Wright's carpenter William Weston. Two victims survived the spree - William Weston and another draftsman named Herb Fritz. While the elder Weston helped to put out the fire that almost completely consumed the residential wing of the house, Carlton hid in the unlit furnace. He would survive the fire but died in jail six weeks later; his wife Gertrude (hired as Wright's cook) also survived, having escaped the burning building through the basement. She later denied having any foreknowledge of her husband's murderous intent. Wright was spared because he was at work on the Midway Gardens project in Chicago (an innovative apartment building which was demolished in 1929).

1965 - The Beatles played to nearly 60,000 fans at New York City's Shea Stadium, marking the birth of stadium rock.

1977 - The Big Ear - a radio telescope operated by The Ohio State University as part of the SETI project - received a radio signal from deep space; the event was named the 'Wow! signal' for a notation made by a volunteer on the project.

1995 - Shannon Faulkner became the first female cadet matriculated at The Citadel military academy in South Carolina, but dropped out in less than a week due to the savagery of the misogyny she encountered there. Many pundits at the time had the nerve to be shocked that the US military seemed to be harbouring violent men with dangerous attitudes about women which were then hastily covered by the claim that their opposition to Faulkner's attendance was based on 'tradition'.
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Now Showing: Will Rogers and Wiley Post

In conducting a routine search for a video to include alongside the previous post - about the deaths of Will Rogers and Wiley Post, on this day in 1935 - I ran across this snippet of documentary about the pair, culminating in their fatal flight between Fairbanks and Point Barrow in Alaska.

Despite the cumulative effect of ancient technology, less than perfect archival techniques, and YouTube's puny bandwidth, I think this goes a long way towards putting the careers of both Rogers and Post into their proper perspective. Both men were giants of their day, and had they not died when they did I am certain they'd have been even more famous than they are today.
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Pop History Moment: The Final Flight of Wiley Post and Will Rogers

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At the time of their deaths on this day in 1935, Wiley Post was as beloved for his aeronautical derring-do as his friend Will Rogers was for his insights into world affairs. As seen here, that's Rogers in the hat and tie, standing on the wing.

They died just outside Barrow, Alaska in an entirely preventable disaster, at the outset of a flight around the world. There are three monuments to the friends there; the airport in Barrow is named for them, and there are a pair of markers closer to the crash site, one of which they share with Alaska's victims of World War II.
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Happy Birthday Your Royal Highness

The hardest working royal in the business, The Princess Royal today turns 60; often criticized for her brusque manner - which the more diplomatic amongst us* might refer to as 'no-nonsense' - Her Royal Highness has spent her entire life in the service of the Nation, the Commonwealth, and indeed the world through various charitable patronages, most notably Save The Children.

PhotobucketShe even represented the United Kingdom at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, where she competed in an equestrian event riding the Queen's horse Goodwill. Her attendance of the Games sparked a minor controversy, however, when it was announced that she would be the only competitor who didn't have to submit to a sex test; then again, as the first royal to ever compete in an Olympic Games, and seeing as she'd spent every single day of her life in the public eye, she was in a unique position of scrutiny none of her fellow athletes could claim for themselves.

The Princess Royal was also the first member of the Royal Family to have been the subject of a kidnapping attempt, in March 1974; Her Royal Highness was instrumental in thwarting Ian Ball, her would-be captor, an event which drew headlines around the world.

Seemingly combining the slavish attention to duty of her mother with the facility for controversy of her father, the Princess Royal was first married (at Westminster Abbey, to Captain Mark Phillips) in November 1973 with all the pomp befitting the only daughter of the Queen. The marriage produced two children, son Peter and daughter Zara (herself an accomplished equestrian), and ended semi-amicably in 1992, following which Her Royal Highness quietly married Timothy Laurence. They reside at Gatcombe Park, which under her stewardship has developed into a centre for equestrian excellence.

The Princess Royal has had several notable brushes with the tabloid press... Her heavy-footededness behind the wheel has resulted in fines and the loss of points on her driving license. In 2002 she was convicted under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 for the anti-social behaviour of her bull terrier Dotty, who attacked two boys while the Princess and her husband were walking through Windsor Great Park; Dotty also killed one of the Queen's prized corgis, possibly Pharos, during the Royal Family's annual Christmas holiday at Sandringham.

Recent years, however, have seen several far more positive events; in December 2006 her daughter Zara was named BBC Sports Personality of the Year, the same title The Princess Royal herself earned in 1971, and in May 2008 she was the beaming mother of the groom when her son, Peter Phillips, married Candian-born Autumn Kelly at St George's Chapel, within the historic walls of Windsor Castle.

*In other words, brown-nosers.

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"Woodstock" by Joni Mitchell

In honour of Woodstock - the three day rock festival which opened at Max Yasgur's farm on this day in 1969 - here's Joni Mitchell, performing a latter-day version of her song Woodstock, which is widely considered the festival's theme; the festival itself, of course, is considered one of the defining moments of the Baby Boom generation.

The song first appeared on her 1970 album Ladies of the Canyon, and was later a big hit for Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young after it was included on their 1970 album Déjà Vu*. Mitchell had been dating Graham Nash at the time, and heard about Woodstock from him; she didn't attend it herself - a decision she later regretted - having been told by her manager that an appearance on The Dick Cavett Show would be better for her career.

Joni Mitchell first performed Woodstock at the Big Sur Folk Festival in September 1969, a performance captured in the film Celebration at Big Sur; this performance is taken from the 2003 documentary Joni Mitchell: Woman of Heart and Mind.

 *In fact, that whole sentence was a kind of deja vu...

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POPnews - August 15th

[Queen of Georgia in her own right from 1184 to 1213, Tamar
was later made a saint of the
Georgian Orthodox Church.]

778 CE - The Battle of Roncevaux Pass occurred, during which the heroic Roland - foremost among the paladins of Charlemagne - was killed; the story of his demise was later chronicled in the epic poem Song of Roland, which became the favoured chanson de geste of medieval troubadours.

- Scotland's King Duncan I was killed in battle by his cousin and closest rival Macbeth; in an interesting coincidence Macbeth also died on the same day in 1057, when he was himself killed at the Battle of Lumphanan by Malcolm III, one of Duncan's sons. As interesting as the actual story is, though, it wasn't interesting enough to stop that noted bullshit artist William Shakespeare from distorting the facts beyond all recognition for his play Macbeth.

1185 - Queen Tamar of Georgia consecrated the cave city of Vardzia.

1248 - The foundation stone of Cologne Cathedral - reputed to contain sacred relics of the Three Wise Men - was laid by Archbishop Konrad von Hochstaden; the impressive edifice was finished in August 1880, 632 years less one week later.

1261 - Michael VIII Palaeologus was crowned Byzantine Emperor in Constantinople alongside his infant son Andronikos II Palaiologos, having recovered the city from the Latin Empire earlier that day.

1461 - The Empire of Trebizond surrendered to the forces of Sultan Mehmet II, marking the real end of the Byzantine Empire; Emperor David, who had effected the handover, was exiled forthwith and later murdered.

1517 - Eight armed Portuguese vessels led by Fernão Pires de Andrade met officials of the Ming Dynasty at the Pearl River estuary, marking the first direct contact between Europeans and Chinese.

1519 - Panama City was founded by Pedro Arias de Ávila.

1534 - Saint Ignatius of Loyola and six classmates took their initial vows - in the crypt of Paris' Chapel of St. Denis - that would lead to the creation of the Society of Jesus in September 1540.

1537 - The city of Asunción, in Paraguay, was founded by Juan de Salazar de Epinosa.

1540 - Arequipa, today the second city of Peru, was founded by Garcí Manuel de Carbajal, an emissary of Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro.

1843 - Tivoli Gardens - one of the world's oldest extant (and still-intact) amusement parks - opened in Copenhagen; founded by Georg Carstensen, it had been granted a charter by King Christian VIII, who had the good sense to realize that a contented populace doesn't engage in rebellion.

1914 - The Panama Canal was officially opened - nearly two years ahead of schedule - with the passage through its locks of the ship Ancon.

1945 - The Empire of Japan - in the person of Emperor Hirohito - formally surrendered in accordance with the terms of the Potsdam Declaration, bringing the War in the Pacific to a close, and an end to World War II; the event was celebrated for years in Allied countries as V-J Day.

1948 - The Republic of Korea was established, south of the 38th Parallel north.

1961 - Cheered on by spectators from the West, Conrad Schumann successfully fled from East Germany while on duty at the corner of Ruppinerstraße and Bernauerstraße where he'd been guarding the construction of the Berlin Wall (which was then just a low fence topped with barbed wire).

1962 - James Joseph Dresnok defected to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, running across the Korean DMZ to do it; Dresnok still resides in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang.

1974 - Yuk Young-soo, the First Lady of Korea, was assassinated by Mun Se-gwang with a bullet intended for the President, Park Chung-hee.

1975 - During a military coup in Bangladesh Sheikh Mujibur Rehman was killed along with all of his family members, except Haseena Wajid, who later served as the country's Prime Minister.
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