Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Now Showing: Georges Méliès' "A Trip To The Moon"

Believe it or not, this is the very first science fiction movie; Le Voyage dans la lune by Georges Méliès made its debut on this day in 1902.

No doubt contemporary critics felt that the filmmaker relied a little too heavily on special effects, and that, since the film was silent, the dialogue also sucked. Damn critics...

Anyway, it's shown here with a simple narration, some sound effects, and music.
share on: facebook

Pop History Moment: Terry Fox Ended His Marathon of Hope

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Few people in history have been as universally loved and admired as Terry Fox; even now, more than a quarter century after his death, I defy you to find anyone who met him who has anything bad to say about him. A 1983 HBO movie about Fox, which depicted him as ill-tempered, was savaged by all those close to him, and even as unrepentant a cynic as yours truly still cannot help but be affected by his vigourous dignity.

Diagnosed with osteosarcoma in 1977 (which may have been triggered by an earlier car crash) Fox later had his right leg amputated above the knee. Rather than the end of his life, he seemed to treat it as just the beginning...

In April 1981 Terry Fox dipped his foot into the Atlantic Ocean near St. John's, Newfoundland. He then proceeded to run 42 km - or 26 miles, the length of a marathon - every day, to raise funds for cancer research. Over the next 143 days he ran 5,373 kilometres.

Even though it was his intention to run across the country, as he passed through northern Ontario his energy began to flag; x-rays revealed sizable tumours in each of his lungs, and on this day in 1980 he was forced to quit. He had just made it to Thunder Bay, about halfway home.

When he died the following June, just shy of his 23rd birthday, it was like everyone in Canada died a little too. For his sake, though, the country and the Marathon of Hope have persisted. To date more than $400 million has been raised in his name on the annual Terry Fox Run, and unlike with his initial effort, there's no end in sight to this one.
share on: facebook

In Memoriam: Ann Richards

While she was still governor of Texas, Ann Richards became one of the first people to warn the world about George W. Bush; unfortunately, nobody believed her, or anyway, too few.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketBush defeated Richards* in the 1994 Texas gubernatorial race, a victory which seemed to surprise even him; in the aftermath she praised his ability to stay on message, which was even then very much the trademark of Bush's favoured toady strategist, Karl Rove. Apparently she was too classy to comment on that other Rove standby, the smear campaign, which gave Bush the narrow margin he got.

Having lost a governor in Texas, the Democratic Party gained a charismatic and popular speaker. Throughout the mid- to late-90s Ann Richards could always be counted on to stump for progressive candidates. Her interest in and advocacy on behalf of education reform, substance abuse, and the arts earned her kudos across the board, as did her work on behalf of social issues like gay rights.

Born on this day in 1933 Ann Richards died in September 2006, following a brief battle with esophageal cancer; she was 73.

*Actually the second female governor in the history of Texas, after Miriam 'Ma' Ferguson.

share on: facebook

"Dis-moi, Dis-moi" par Mitsou

In 1991, during the year-and-a-bit between the release of Justify My Love and Erotica, Mitsou - the Madonna of Quebec, born on this day in 1970 - made this wholesome little video which positively scandalized executives at music channels around the globe. It was more heavily banned than played, Mitsou lost out on an American recording contract, and poof!... No more Mitsou.

The next time she tried her hand at scandal was in 1993, with a song written by RuPaul, but helas trying to force a scandal only works if you're the actual Madonna. Even though she's been acting more lately, Mitsou (currently the host of Au Courant on Quebec television) still releases albums. None of them, though, have succeeded in returning her to the pinnacle of stardom she attained in 1988-9.
share on: facebook

Pop History Moment: Robert Mitchum Arrested

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketIt was in the wee hours of this day in 1948 that one of the original Hollywood tough guys, actor Robert Mitchum, and starlet Lila Leeds were arrested during a drug raid at a house party in Los Angeles' Laurel Canyon; they were each found to be in possession of a small amount of marijuana.

Both went on to serve time in jail: in Mitchum's case, 43 days (out of a possible 60) at a prison farm in Castaic, California (well-documented by a photographer from Life magazine); Mitchum's conviction would eventually be overturned by the District Attorney's office when, in 1951, it was revealed that the sting had been a set-up. Lila Leeds received the same jail time as Mitchum plus five years' probation; while in jail she became a heroin addict.

Mitchum's career flourished in the wake of the scandal - thanks to the intervention of RKO studio head Howard Hughes - as it seemed to reinforce the image he'd been cultivating. Leeds' career, on the other hand, foundered - although she did later star in the exploitation B-movie She Shoulda Said No! (1949). Mitchum's death in July 1997 was mourned by le tout Hollywood, while Leeds' died, forgotten, in September 1999.
share on: facebook

Happy Birthday Lily Tomlin

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Her television debut - in 1965 - was on The Merv Griffin Show; four years later, Lily Tomlin was one of the stars of Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, a genuine pop culture phenomenon which made her a star overnight. She's never looked back.

Many of the characters Tomlin introduced on Laugh-In - most notably Edith Ann, Ernestine, and my personal favourite Judith Beasley - she has continued to use in her ongoing career. The comedy albums she recorded in the 70s are much loved, and likewise her movie roles have been both varied and highly regarded; so beloved is she that when clips of her on-set battles with director David O. Russell surfaced on YouTube, he took the brunt of the criticism. Still, she was classy enough to brush it off when later questioned.

Although breathtakingly coy about her personal life (which was the biggest open secret since... Well, since Rock Hudson) Tomlin finally came out in 2000, although her narration of the 1995 documentary The Celluloid Closet, an adaptation of the landmark book by Vito Russo, is considered by many to be her actual coming out - if, in fact, she was ever in.

If you haven't had the chance to see it yet, rent the 1992 film version of her master work The Search For Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe - a show written by her partner Jane Wagner, which she performed extensively both on Broadway and in a lengthy national tour. Often referred to as a one-women show, to call it that is an affront to its author; it is in fact a two-woman show performed by one woman and features many memorable characters. One of the best lines in the show is: 'What is reality anyway? Nothing but a collective hunch.' That line seems to sum up Lily Tomlin's world view pretty neatly.
share on: facebook

"Rhythm Is Gonna Get You" by Miami Sound Machine

Birthday wishes go out today to Gloria Estefan who, as lead singer of Miami Sound Machine, burst out of the then-nascent Latin music industry into the mainstream in 1985 with a little ditty called Conga, from the band's second album, Primitive Love. Rhythm Is Gonna Get You was the band's fourth Top Ten, and first from their third album Let it Loose; it went all the way to #5 on the US pop chart in 1987.

While touring in support of her first solo album, Cuts Both Ways, in March 1990 Estefan and her band were involved in a collision when their tour bus was hit by a semi-truck on a highway outside of Scranton, Pennsylvania. Following surgery and physiotherapy to heal her fractured spine - including the implantation of two titanium rods - she made a triumphant appearance on the American Music Awards in January 1991, her first since the accident; entering the theatre to the lilting strains of her new single, Coming Out of the Dark, she received an ecstatic ovation.

Needless to say, if a collision with an eighteen-wheeler wasn't going to get her, rhythm didn't stand a chance...
share on: facebook

POPnews - September 1st

[It's too late to help Martha here, but as a helpful hint to any currently
endangered species - a) don't be tasty, and b) humans suck.

1715 - The death of France's King Louis XIV brought to a close one of the longest reigns of any sovereign in history - more than 72 years.

1752 - The Liberty Bell arrived in Philadelphia.

1763 - Russia's Catherine the Great endorsed Ivan Betskoy's plans for a Foundling Home in Moscow.

1772 - Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa was founded by Junípero Serra in San Luis Obispo, California.

1807 - Former US Vice President Aaron Burr was acquitted of treason for conspiring to establish his own nation.

1836 - Narcissa Whitman, one of the first white women to settle west of the Rocky Mountains, arrived at Walla Walla, Washington.

1894 - A forest fire in Hinckley, Minnesota, which came to be known as the Great Hinckley Fire killed more than 400 people.

1897 - The Green Line of Boston's subway opened, making it the first underground metro in the United States; today it remains one of the most heavily used subway lines in the country.

1905 - The provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan joined the Canadian confederation.

1914 - Martha, the last passenger pigeon (and named after Martha Washington), died at the Cincinnati Zoo; although today her taxidermied remains reside in the archives of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, she is not currently on display.

1923 - What came to be known as the Great Kantō Earthquake, centred on Tokyo and Yokohama in Japan, killed between 100,000 and 142,000 people and left a further 1.9 million homeless.

1928 - Ahmet Zogu declared Albania a monarchy, and named himself King Zog.

1939 - Nazi Germany invaded Poland, precipitating the deadliest armed conflict of modern times and indeed of all time; more than 70 million people, most of them civilians, died as a result of the hostilities of World War II.

1969 - A revolution in Libya brought Moammar Khadaffy to power, deposing King Idris I in the process; although he holds no official title in Libya he remains, to this day, owner of the least spellable name in the world.

1970 - Several attempted assassinations of King Hussein by members of the Palestine Liberation Organization were thwarted, at the start of what became known in Jordan as Black September.

1982 - Canada adopted a Charter of Rights and Freedoms as part of its Constitution; the inspiration of Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, the Tories have been trying to undermine it for years, to no avail.

1985 - A joint American-French team led by Jean-Louis Michel of IFREMER and Dr. Robert Ballard out of the Wood's Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts discovered the wreckage of the RMS Titanic.

1991 - Uzbekistan seceded from the Soviet Union.

2004 - Chechen separatists and Islamic fundamentalists took more than 1200 people - many of them schoolchildren - hostage in the town of Beslan, Russia; according to official counts, 344 civilians (including 186 children) were killed during two days of heavy fighting, and hundreds more were injured.

share on: facebook