Monday, September 06, 2010

"Finally" by CeCe Peniston

CeCe Peniston burst onto the music scene in 1992 with Finally, which was a huge hit in gay dance clubs. The fact that the word 'penis' appears in the middle of her name is just a coincidence; surely she would have been just as popular with the gays without it. Her debut album - which was called Finally as well - also spawned the lesser hits We Got A Love Thang and Keep On Walkin', although since neither of them was featured in the 1993 film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert no one much remembers them today but her and me.

Apropo of nothing and entirely unrelated to either CeCe Peniston or her birthday*, I happen to be Facebook friends with a lovely fellow named Marc Smolowitz who was the programmer of the San Francisco's Frameline Film Festival the year Priscilla was released; according to him, his was the first to feature the film, following which its popularity skyrocketed thanks to all the chatty homos who took to the film like gay men to a campy movie**, the career of Guy Pearce and his cheekbones was launched, and the world became a slightly better place, all because of my Facebook friend and, to a certain extent, CeCe Peniston.

*Which is today, like I even need to say it.
**Some venues even showed the
Finally number accompanied by a disco ball and coloured lights, prompting the marketing tagline "Shown in Dragarama at select theatres."

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Happy Birthday Jane Curtin

PhotobucketShe was the only member of the Not Ready For Prime Time Players who showed up for work at 30 Rockefeller Plaza every week, did her job, and didn't fall into the trap of parties and debauchery baited with shallow praise and sudden fame that ultimately claimed one of her fellow cast-members and threatened to swallow the rest at one time or another; conversely, Jane Curtin is one of the only alumni of Saturday Night Live who refuses to be involved in the industry of nostalgia that's sprung up around the show. (Aside, of course, from her involvement in The Coneheads movie; then again, we all make mistakes.) She was notable in her absence from the entirely superlative 25th Anniversary special of SNL, released in 2000 - although she appeared fleetingly in clips from the show's first five season's her name was never mentioned.

For her follow-up Curtin was rewarded with a fine hit instead of a sophomore slump; Kate & Allie was a landmark sitcom for its portrayal of Baby Boomers nursing their wounds together following their Eighties divorces from feckless men inured in their respective mid-life crises. Some years later she finally got the chance to let her hair down, more or less playing against type (to hilarious end) in 3rd Rock from the Sun. So esteemed is Jane Curtin around the Pop Culture Institute that the mere rumour she was set to appear in a pilot - which alas, came to naught - sent us into a tizzy in March 2007; try as we might, if another such rumour was to circulate I promise our reaction would be identical.

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If You're Jeff Foxworthy... You Might Be A Redneck!

However, you don't have to be a redneck to appreciate his gentle brand of red-state humour; which is fortunate since, despite the fact that I'm redneck on my father's side, I generally can't abide people who revel in their redneckitude. I mean, it's not exactly an accomplishment, is it?

PhotobucketBirthday good ol' boy Jeff Foxworthy seems to have turned his avuncular nature to distilling all the funny aspects of living in flyover country (the refreshing lack of sophistication) without succumbing to the more prevalent aspects of the culture (namely the violent bigotry) and in the process has made himself a fat mess of moolah - thanks in large part to years of touring, a series of popular comedy albums, a sitcom, and the Blue Collar Comedy Tour*, which was originally scheduled to last for 20 performances and was eventually held over for three solid (not to mention hugely profitable) years.

Consequently, Jeff Foxworthy has become a major unifying figure in increasingly divisive times; unlike many rednecks, not only has Foxworthy read books, he's also written several of the things - including a children's book entitled Dirt on My Shirt - further distilling his brand into yet another form of media and buying himself extra credibility in the process, not least of all by promoting literacy in children.

*Also featuring the execrable Larry the Cable Guy, outstanding Ron White, and Bill Engvall, my personal fave - after Foxworthy himself, of course!

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"Linger" by The Cranberries

One of the signature tunes of 1993 was a little ditty by the Irish band The Cranberries entitled Linger; as voiced by Sinead O'Connor sound-alike Dolores O'Riordan - who was born on this day in 1971 - the song initiated an amazing string of eight singles over the course of their five album career.

Linger first appeared on the band's debut album Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We?, and was co-written by bandmate Noel Hogan.
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Happy Birthday Your Excellency

Not only wasn't the Queen's current representative in Canada born in Canada, she wasn't even born in the Commonwealth, but rather in Haiti on this day in 1957; all of which makes her, if anything, the ideal viceroy for an increasingly cosmopolitan country.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketA popular and respected journalist, Her Excellency's appointment was not without controversy. Since contempt for Canada and Canadian institutions is de rigeur in Quebec, few public officials there did more than sniff at the appointment, even though she's lived there for nearly 40 years. In the rest of the country the usual rumbles were heard, and more than one pundit cited that then-Prime Minister Paul Martin's dwindling mandate didn't really qualify him to replace outgoing Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson, whose term had already been extended once.

Not even this blog has been spared; in a previous post published April 23rd, 2007 - concerning the Governor-General's widely reported battle with fatigue - commenter David Wozney said, among other things: 'It is a fiction that a corporation is a person.' Okay...

Her Excellency's term, as these things will, is soon scheduled to come to an end; it remains to be seen if the white man appointed to replace her* will adhere to the academic credentials he earned at the helms of the Universities of Waterloo and McGill or simply devolve into yet another neoconservative lackey...

*David Lloyd Johnston, a Mulroney-era hack appointed by the utterly horrific Prime Minister Stephen Harper...
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Jane Addams: The Great Lady of Halsted Street

When Jane Addams co-founded Chicago's Hull House in 1889 with her life's companion Ellen Gates Starr, it would have been a rarity. Indeed, it was one of the first settlement houses in the United States, which facilities were slightly more common in England.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketFirstly, for any charitable outreach to not be tied to some church or other must have seemed strange, not least of all to its recipients. Secondly, the array of services offered there would have easily outshone the 'soup and sermon' approach favoured by churches in their treatment of poverty. Hull House attended to the social, artistic, and educational needs of its clients, as well as their economic woes.

It is highly unlikely that Jane Addams imagined poverty was either a result of sin or fore-ordained by some hierarchical deity. Approaching the problem sociologically, she seems to have realized that a lack of education, first and foremost, was to blame for much suffering, be it poverty, substance abuse, or crime.

A certain committee in Sweden must have concurred, because in 1935 they awarded Jane Addams the Nobel Peace Prize for her work with America's settlement houses, which by 1920 numbered more than 500 in the US alone.

Born on this day in 1860, Jane Addams died in May 1935.
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In Memoriam: The Marquis de Lafayette

One of only six people to ever earn honorary US citizenship, Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, served with distinction on the winning side of two of the 18th Century's notable revolutions. In neither - American or French - did he receive any pay.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketBorn in the Auvergne region of France on this day in 1757, Lafayette was 19 when he first arrived in the United States, having already served five years in the French army.

Lafayette presented himself to the Continental Congress to offer his services, and before his 20th birthday received a commission as a Major-General. He was injured at Brandywine in 1777 (his first engagement in the war) but fought on until the siege of Yorktown in 1781, which signaled both the end of the Revolution and thus his American military career.

A lifelong friend of George Washington (who actually adopted him), Lafayette renounced his title in June 1790, during the French Revolution. By the time he died, in 1834, there were memorials to him throughout France and the United States, many of the ones in the US being the names of towns.

Although he was not the only French national to serve the United States during its revolution (General Rochambeau also served with distinction), Lafayette may be the most-remembered. The stamp shown was issued on the occasion of Lafayette's bicentennial in 1957. The story of his remarkable friendship with George Washington is told in David A. Clary's illuminating book Adopted Son: Washington, Lafayette, and the Friendship that Saved the Revolution.

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POPnews: September 6th

[The Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo had many memorable sights - including its vast array of electric lighting - but is best remembered today for the shooting of US President William McKinley by Leon Czolgosz, which occurred there on this day in 1901.]

394 CE - The Christian Roman Emperor Theodosius I defeated and killed the pagan usurper Eugenius and his Frankish magister militum Arbogast at the Battle of the Frigidus.

1628 - Puritans settled Salem, which would later become part of Massachusetts Bay Colony and acquire something of an enduring reputation for its treatment of supposed witches during the Salem Witch Trials.

1781 - The Battle of Groton Heights took place near New London and Groton, Connecticut, resulting a British victory for the famed turncoat Benedict Arnold and Lieutenant-Colonel Edmund Eyre, who nevertheless died in battle; also dead as a result of these particular hostilities was the American William Ledyard, whom history records was killed by his own sword at the hands of the commanding officer of the battalion which had stormed and taken command of Fort Griswold from him.

1847 - Henry David Thoreau left Walden Pond and moved in with Ralph Waldo Emerson and his family in Concord, Massachusetts.

1870 - Louisa Ann Swain of Laramie, Wyoming, became the first woman in the United States to cast a vote legally after 1807.

1885 - Eastern Rumelia declared its union with Bulgaria, thus accomplishing the Unification of Bulgaria.

1901 - Anarchist Leon Czolgosz shot and fatally wounded US President William McKinley outside the Temple of Music at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. McKinley's death, a week later, has since been attributed to blood poisoning from a bullet lodged in his abdomen which doctors were unable to locate.

1930 - The democratically elected President of Argentina, Hipólito Yrigoyen, was deposed in a military coup by José Félix Uriburu - an act which instigated a period in that country's history known as the Infamous Decade.

1937 - The Battle of El Mazuco - itself a part of the War in the North campaign of the Spanish Civil War - commenced; lasting until September 22nd, it would give the Nationalist forces of José Solchaga Zala a victory, although it would allow the Republican resistance an opportunity to regroup. The battle became notorious for witnessing the first use of carpet bombing (courtesy of Nazi Germany's Condor Legion) against a military target.

1939 - The Battle of Barking Creek - one of the earliest World War II battles in Britain - also resulted in the first pilot fatality of the war when the Hurricane flown by Montague Hulton-Harrop of 56 Squadron was shot down by a Spitfire piloted by John Freeborn of 74 Squadron in a friendly fire incident. It turns out the air raid siren that had scrambled the Hurricanes out of Essex's North Weald Airfield was a false alarm and preparedness, just three days into the war, had been lax.

1940 - Romania's King Carol II abdicated, and was succeeded by his son Michael.

1944 - The Belgian city of Ypres was liberated by Allied forces.

1948 - Juliana became Queen of the Netherlands following the abdication of her mother Wilhelmina.

1949 - Howard Unruh, a former World War II sharpshooter from Camden, New Jersey, killed 13 of his neighbors with a souvenir Luger, making him the first single-episode mass murderer in US history.

1952 - Canada's first television station, CBFT-TV, opened in Montreal.

1966 - The architect of apartheid, South African Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd, was stabbed to death by Dimitri Tsafendas during a parliamentary meeting in Cape Town. Good times...

1968 - Swaziland gained its independence from the United Kingdom.

1991 - The name Saint Petersburg was restored to Russia's second largest city - which had been renamed Petrograd in 1914 and then Leningrad in January 1924, three days after the death of Vladimir Lenin.

1997 - Diana, Princess of Wales, was laid to rest in front of a television audience of more than 2.5 billion - including nearly 33 million in the UK alone, a record viewing audience for that country - while as many as a million people lined the 6.4 km (4 mile) processional route from her former home at Kensington Palace to her funeral at Westminster Abbey.
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