Friday, September 10, 2010

Surreal. Shocking. Schiaparelli!

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On a bookshelf at the Pop Culture Institute is a bright pink book.

The bright pink book is entitled Shocking Life, and it is the memoirs of Elsa Schiaparelli, one of the foremost fashion designers of the 20th Century - indeed, of all time, since it's unlikely her kind will ever occur again, though she has spawned imitators (all of whom I'm far too discreet to name).

Inasmuch as Chanel shocked the world by dressing women unfettered by corsetry and draped suggestively in jersey, Schiaparelli would shock the world by dressing women in trompe-l'oeil bows and animal prints and hats designed to look like shoes. The products of her fertile mind still have the power to shock today.

Born on this day in 1890, Elsa Schiaparelli died in November 1973, having deeply unsettled the fashion establishment of Paris. Good for her, I say!
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"Cruel Summer" by Bananarama

Birthday wishes go out today to Siobhan Fahey, founding member - along with lifelong friends Keren Woodward and Sara Dallin - of the highly successful trio Bananarama; Fahey later went on to even more fame as part of Shakespears Sister alongside uber-cool Marcella Detroit, and even hit the tabloids when she married (and then later divorced) Dave Stewart of Eurythmics fame in the years between 1987 and 1996.

Cruel Summer was originally released as part of their self-titled second album in 1983, but failed to ignite until it was included on the soundtrack of the 1984 film The Karate Kid. Apparently, the video is a parody of both The Dukes of Hazzard and Knight Rider.

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"Orchard" by Hilda Doolittle

Saw the first pear
as it fell --
the honey-seeking, golden-banded,
the yellow swarm
was not more fleet than I,
(spare us from loveliness)
and I fell prostrate
you have flayed us
with your blossoms,
spare us the beauty
of fruit-trees.

The honey-seeking
paused not,
the air thundered their song,
and I alone was prostrate.

O rough hewn
god of the orchard,
I bring you an offering --
do you, alone unbeautiful,
son of the god,
spare us from loveliness:

these fallen hazel-nuts,
stripped late of their green sheaths,
grapes, red-purple,
their berries
dripping with wine,
pomegranates already broken,
and shrunken figs
and quinces untouched,
I bring you as offering.

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In Memoriam: Hilda Doolittle

To anyone who's ever been made to sit through endless recitations of lyric poetry and thought they might die from it, Hilda Doolittle - who was born on this day in 1886 - will seem like nothing less than a saviour...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketDoolittle was one of the first Imagist poets, dispensing with complicated metre and unnecessary verbiage in her work, favouring instead vividly wrought, passionately expressed, but most importantly short poems. Which is not to say she disdained the classics; indeed, much of her work was derived from ancient Greek writing, including Sappho, whose work is entirely lyric.

A notable bohemian, Doolittle (who published extensively as H.D.), had romantic entanglements with both men and women. The most notable of these are Ezra Pound and Richard Aldington, two notable Imagist poets, as well as the novelist Bryher.

While such behaviour may have marginalized her among her contemporaries, in the more enlightened times that followed her September 1961 death H.D.'s work was rediscovered and her reputation has now been entirely rehabilitated.
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"China In Your Hand" by T'Pau

Happy Birthday to Carol Decker - whose name I only learned when I first posted this - despite the fact that I've loved the song China In Your Hand ever since it was released in October 1987.

First appearing on T'Pau's album Bridge of Spies, the song is actually about the novel Frankenstein and its author Mary Shelley, something else I learned from posting this. I did know, however, that the band was named after a character on Star Trek, so I'm not a total moron - just a geek. At the rate I'm going I'll be the least moronic geek in history!
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Pop History Moment: An Empress Is Slain

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If Luigi Lucheni expected to further the cause of anarchism by killing the much-loved Empress of Austria on this day in 1898 he did not do so. He did, however, succeed in doing pretty much the exact opposite. Killing the 60-year-old Empress exponentially increased her legend; ninety years after the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the woman known as Sisi lives on in film, music, and novels and is as popular today as she ever was. Even now she is often compared to Princess Diana for her sparkling personality, fashion sense, and for her compassion toward the downtrodden...

Lucheni - known in anarchist circles as 'the stupid one' for his inability to grasp even simple concepts of anarchism - had set out to prove his support for the cause by killing a royal, in this case the Duc d'Orleans. When a change in the Duke's plans meant he couldn't be got, he went for the Empress, whom he knew to be poorly guarded, instead.

On a promenade beside Lake Geneva, as the Empress and her lady-in-waiting Countess Sztaray were boarding a boat for Montreux, Lucheni stabbed her in the heart with a needle file. She fell, but unaware that she was hurt, boarded the boat anyway; it was there that the extent of her injuries were ascertained. Though her corset stays slowed the bleeding, she was fatally injured, and died shortly thereafter. Her last words were said to be 'What happened to me?'

Her Imperial and Royal Majesty is buried alongside her illustrious Hapsburg ancestors in the Imperial Crypt in Vienna.

Lucheni, 25, admitted his crimes in court, and was sentenced to life in prison; while there he wrote his memoirs, which were later confiscated by guards and have since been lost. In October 1910 he was found hanging from his belt in his jail cell, and his death was ruled a suicide.
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POPnews: September 10th

[If this photo of Mike the Headless Chicken with his executioner-exploiter Lloyd Olsen doesn't turn you into a vegetarian, nothing will; the story behind the picture - literally, click on the picture, it's back there - is too crazy not to be true.]

506 CE - The bishops of Visigothic Gaul met at the Council of Agde under the stewardship of Caesarius of Arles to deal with 'ecclesiastical discipline' - which sounds way kinkier than it is.

1167 - Empress Matilda - daughter of England's King Henry I, widow of the Holy Roman Emperor Henry V, wife of Geoffrey V, Count of Anjou, mother of another English King (Henry II), and would-be Queen-regnant of England herself, whose abortive attempts to claim her father's throne from her cousin King Stephen led to a civil war in England called The Anarchy - died.

1419 - John the Fearless, Duke of Burgundy, was assassinated by adherents of the Dauphin, the future Charles VII of France; turns out being fearless isn't so great for your health after all.

1547 - The Battle of Pinkie Cleugh - the last full scale military confrontation between England and Scotland - resulted in a decisive victory for the forces of Edward VI, commanded by the Duke of Somerset, over those of Scotland's Earl of Arran.

1608 - John Smith was elected council president of Jamestown, Virginia.

1823 - Simón Bolívar was named President of Peru.

1846 - Elias Howe was granted a patent for the sewing machine.

1858 - George Mary Searle discovered the asteroid 55 Pandora; however, it's not the largest object in our galaxy named Pandora, not by a long shot. There's a moon of Saturn named Pandora, and then there's this...

1897 - During the so-called Lattimer Massacre a sheriff's posse killed twenty unarmed immigrant miners in Pennsylvania.

1919 - The Republic of Austria and the Allies of World War I signed the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, which recognized the independence of the former Austro-Hungarian possessions of Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs.

1945 - Mike the Headless Chicken was decapitated; he survived for another 18 months by being fed with an eyedropper via his neck before eventually choking to death at a motel in Phoenix.

1961 - At the Italian Grand Prix a crash caused the death of German driver Wolfgang von Trips and 15 spectators, who joined him when his Ferrari crashed into Jim Clark's Lotus.

1967 - Gibraltar voted to remain a British holding rather than join Spain.

1974 - Portugal recognized the independence of Guinea-Bissau, which had been declared in September 1973.

1977 - Hamida Djandoubi was the last person in France to be executed by the guillotine. [Insert tasteless Mike the Headless Chicken joke here.]

2000 - The musical Cats closed on Broadway; they've been trying to get that smell out of the Winter Garden Theatre ever since.

2001 - Ignorance was bliss.

2003 - Sweden's Foreign Minister Anna Lindh was fatally stabbed while shopping outside the Nordiska Kompaniet department store in Stockholm by a man later identified as Mijailo Mijailović; she died the following day.

2008 - The Large Hadron Collider at CERN, described as the biggest scientific experiment in the history of mankind, was powered up in Geneva, although it did not bring about the end of the universe as some nutjobs - the same ones who were to blame for all that Y2K mishegas, I'll bet - had feared.

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