Saturday, September 11, 2010

Parting Shot: World Trade Center, The Tribute In Light


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"It Had To Be You" by Harry Connick, Jr.

Years before the neo-swing craze temporarily distracted hipsters from their love of grunge, there was Harry Connick, Jr.; now that bands like the Cherry Poppin' Daddies and their ilk have been consigned to the 99-cent bin, Harry Connick, Jr. is still a force with which to be reckoned. Funny, isn't it, how fads come and go but the classics never seem to go out of style?

In keeping with today's unofficial theme - which seems to encompass all things New York - and seeing as it's Connick's birthday, I figured I'd take my readers all the way back to 1989; that's the year the then 22-year-old crooner's rendition of It Had to Be You knocked the socks off of everyone who went to see When Harry Met Sally...

Written by Nora Ephron and directed by Rob Reiner, When Harry Met Sally... of course starred Billy Crystal as Harry and Meg Ryan as Sally; they also co-star in the video, emoting up their respective storms alongside their unofficial third costar (namely New York City) while Connick himself pours his honeyed tenor over it all like autumn sunlight glancing off the Hudson River. The film's soundtrack album was produced by Marc Shaiman, and functions pretty neatly as Harry Connick, Jr.'s third collection; not only that, it pretty much launched him into the stratosphere of American performing artists*.

*Where he was destined to end up anyway, but still...
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Gratuitous Brunette: Harry Connick, Jr.

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The day that gay rumours about birthday boy Harry Connick Jr. emerged started out very well; alas, I woke up just as he was about to propose to me, so I may never know how things turned out...

In the meantime, I guess I'll have to make do with the fruits of his ever-fertile career: at last count at least 26 CDs, 19 movie roles, and television appearances galore, during which he can always be counted on to be charming and humourous.

Once, on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, I saw him sing a single song like a dozen of his favourite performers, from Mel Torme to Judy Garland, effortlessly morphing between them, which was merely a glimpse into the breadth of his talent. And yet for all the inane videos of guys getting kicked in the nads and Perez Hilton talking and what-not do you think I can find that clip anywhere on YouTube? No!

(Not that I'm bitter...  Much.)
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Happy Birthday Your Imperial Highness

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketPrincess Akishino (popularly known as Princess Kiko) is only the second commoner to marry into the Japanese Royal Family - the first being her mother-in-law the current Empress - which she did in June 1990. Princess Kiko is seen here holding her newborn son, Prince Hisahito - her third child (after Princesses Mako and Kako) and first son by Prince Akishino.

Hisahito, who turned 4 on September 6th, may one day become Emperor.

Far from solving a constitutional crisis over whether or not his older cousin Aiko could one day be Empress regnant, his birth seems to have bogged down the process required to clarify the issue.
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"Honey" by Moby

I don't know what Moby's on, but I'll take a kilo, and don't bother wrapping it. I'll do it here. Thanks.

Honey first appeared on his 1999 album Play, which was released during my now-infamous tenure at the record store; for six months my sole job was restocking the rack we kept it on, and I must have had to fill it twice a day throughout that whole time.

Today he's blowing out 45 fairly-traded artisanal candles on a cruelty-free carob and organic mulch cake.
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Who Killed Salvador Allende?

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The junta headed by Augusto Pinochet was as disingenuous about how Salvador Allende died - 'no, honestly, he killed himself with the AK-47 given to him by Castro' - as it was about any of the millions of Chileans it killed... That's the funny thing about fascist regimes; even when they might be telling the truth it's like they're lying.

Nowadays it's generally accepted that Salvador Allende committed suicide rather than be captured by troops loyal to Pinochet during a coup on this day in 1973; during the days of tyranny that followed, though, the propaganda that he'd died fighting gave much aid and comfort to his supporters.
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Happy Birthday Your Majesty

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketOne thing you could never say about Queen Paola of The Belgians is that she hogs the spotlight.

This, for instance, is the best current picture of her available, shown full sized; it's a few years old. Her website is the the nadir of Belgian abysmalism, and despite seven decades in Europe's exalted class, little is known of her, save her good works and still-extraordinary beauty. Good enough for me!
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"United We Stand" by Lola Falana and The Muppets

It's a curiously appropriate sentiment for this of all days; whatever political or religious tyranny we might face - now or in the future - we'd do best to face it together. Birthday wishes go out today to Lola Falana, who provided The Muppet Show's Episode 411 with this stirring moment, first aired in November 1979.

Falana got her big break at famed nightspot Small's Paradise in Harlem, where she was mentored by jazz great Dinah Washington; she went on to become the Queen of Las Vegas - at one time she was the highest paid cabaret star in the world - after getting her big break on Broadway from Sammy Davis Jr., who cast her in the 1964 musical Golden Boy.

She was ubiquitous in the Seventies, but through the Eighties and Nineties kept a much lower profile during an ongoing battle with multiple sclerosis beginning in 1987; on September 10th, 2001, she claims to have heard a voice, which told her: 'Today is the last day things will be as they are. Tomorrow nothing will be the same again.'

The following day, of course, the 9-11 Attacks did indeed change everything - and on her 59th birthday*at that! Already a born-again Catholic, she claims the divine revelation motivated her to carry out her charitable works on behalf of the orphaned children of Sub-Saharan Africa via the Lambs of God Ministry she founded.

*Lola Falana was born on this day in 1942.
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Lest We Forget: Father Mychal Judge

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The most enduring story for me from that terrible day - September 11th, 2001 - is that of Father Mychal Judge, a Franciscan priest and chaplain of the Fire Department of New York, who again and again went into burning, collapsing buildings to deliver Last Rites to the men who were dying in them. On his final trip - into the lobby of the North Tower - he was struck by falling mortar and killed.

He is officially the first victim of the attacks, although many thousands had already died by the time he fell; the image of his body being recovered is already known as the 'American Pieta'. On that day a man may have died, but a legend was born...

Despite the harrowing events of that day, it was on September 12th that all Hell really broke loose. That's when it was revealed that Father Judge was gay. The very idea that a gay man could be heroic sent the usual suspects - the Catholic Church, the Republican Party, and the fascists of the allegedly liberal mainstream media - into their usual tizzy, and the 24-hour news cycle sent those tizzies into overdrive.

Earlier calls for Judge's canonization ceased upon that revelation, but whether the Church chooses to honour Saint Mychal Judge or not, both people who knew him and people who only knew of him continue to honour the memory of a man who died in the line of duty, a man whose Boss loves him, no matter what Vatican management says...
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Pop History Moment: The 9-11 Attacks

Over the years it seems like I've read every conceivable account of what happened on that day... I've slogged through the official account and seen news footage of a bewildering variety, watched Fahrenheit 9-11, Zeitgeist, the Movie, and others of its ilk, heard crackpots from both the left and the right expound on what they think really happened. All I can think is that I don't know what to think. Which, in the long term, may be the only thing to think - especially if it causes the mind to stay open...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket Inasmuch as they claim to hold them in contempt, conspiracy theorists of all kinds seem to ascribe virtually supernatural powers to those they feel are responsible for killing more than 3000 people in four attacks on a single, sunny morning on this day in 2001. Either someone planted enough bombs in both towers of the World Trade Center to bring them both down, despite the fact that not one of what must be hundreds of employees - engineers, security guards, cleaning staff - over many weeks witnessed any such thing being done; or else the planes were struck by rockets timed to hit them immediately prior to impact, yet no one seems to know who these sharpshooters are, or where their perch was. The Pentagon was damaged by a cruise missile, or by a plane that wasn't a commercial airliner, yet in neither instance can its loss be otherwise accounted for. Republicans perpetrated the attacks in order to support an already burgeoning military/industrial complex, yet in all these years not one of them got wasted on Scotch at lunch and started bragging about his part in it, in that blowhard way they have about them.

And on and on it goes, conspiracies so intricate, so involved, that it would take the collusion of literally thousands of super-intelligent, highly talented people to accomplish them. Yet every time I've ever tried to plan a surprise party with three friends, invariably one of them spills the beans beforehand. It seems unlikely that Port Authority security - not to mention that of Logan and Reagan airports - could be so thoroughly infiltrated by al-Qaeda that they were all willing to die to do it.

Whomever it was who unleashed Hell on that clear, bright morning, has likely gotten away with it. Anyway, the events of history cannot be undone; only their aftermath can be dealt with. That former Presidential candidate and then-mayor Rudolph Giuliani moved the offices of his anti-terrorism unit into the World Trade Center after it had been the victim of a previous attack may have cost him the nomination; the fact that he also made sure the Fire Department's radios didn't work definitely bit him on the ass during his campaign. His mayoralty worked double time to create a climate of fear and mistrust between minority communities both before and afterwards.

The truth - actual facts - aren't subject to scrutiny as much as interpretation. Three planes flew into three buildings, a fourth crashed in a field; that is what happened. Why it happened, or who did it, or why they did it... Even if the whole truth came out most people wouldn't believe it anyway. In the end, we all believe what we need to believe, making the 9-11 Attacks the ideal event for our cynical, skeptical times.
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"Wind Beneath My Wings" by Bette Midler

Like many seemingly quintessential New Yorkers, Bette Midler was a transplant; shortly after her arrival there from Hawai'i in 1965 she said she felt like she was home - despite missing her family in Honolulu, of course. The city, she says, gave her everything; she was already heavily engaged in giving back, through her charity New York Restoration Project (which she founded in 1995), when the city was attacked on this day in 2001.

Wind Beneath My Wings already had poignance when it was released in 1989, on the soundtrack to the movie Beaches; 12 days after the attacks she gave it even more by performing it live from Yankee Stadium during a televised memorial.
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POPnews: September 11th

[The Hope Diamond, currently housed in the Smithsonian Institution's
Natural History Museum, has had a long and storied history; it's
so long, in fact, that some of the stories about it are even true!

9 CE - The Battle of the Teutoburg Forest ended (three days after it began, on September 9th) with a victory by the Germanic armies of Arminius over three Roman legions commanded by Publius Quinctilius Varus; as a result the northern border of the Roman Empire would be set at the Rhine river for the next four centuries.

1185 - Isaac II Angelus killed Stephanus Hagiochristophorites and then appealed to the people, resulting in the revolt that deposed Andronicus I Comnenus and placed Isaac on the throne of the Byzantine Empire.

1297 - William Wallace defeated English forces led by the Earl of Surrey and Hugh de Cressingham at the Battle of Stirling Bridge; work on a monument to Wallace would be completed on this day in 1869.

1541 - Michimalonco led a band of Mapuche warriors in the destruction of Santiago, Chile; defense of the village was left to the conquistadora Inés de Suárez, as her lover Pedro de Valdivia was away. The skirmish was an early engagement in the Arauco War, which was not settled until 1881 by a process known as the Pacification of the Araucania.

1609 - English sailor Henry Hudson entered the mouth of Upper New York Bay, landing on the island of Manhattan in order to take on provisions before sailing up the river that would one day be named after him - the Hudson River - on behalf of his employer, the Dutch East India Company.

1649 - The Siege of Drogheda ended when Oliver Cromwell's English Parliamentarian troops took the Irish town and executed its garrison.

1789 - Alexander Hamilton was appointed first US Secretary of the Treasury by President George Washington.

1792 - The Hope Diamond was stolen along with the other Crown Jewels of France when six men broke into the house where they were stored.

1921 -Silent film star Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle was arrested for raping Virginia Rappe on September 5th; she died three days later, some said as a result of injuries arising from that rape. Despite three subsequent acquittals for his involvement in the crime, the old maxim 'where there's smoke there's fire' killed Arbuckle's career as surely as someone had killed Rappe...

1940 - Buckingham Palace was damaged by Nazi bombs during the Blitz, the first of seven such attacks during World War II on the London home of King George VI, prompting the Queen* to famously state ' the palace has been bombed, I feel now that I can look at the people of the East End straight in the eye'.

*Subsequently the Queen Mother.

1941 - Construction began on the Pentagon with a groundbreaking ceremony attended by President Franklin D. Roosevelt; more ground would be broken there 60 years later to the day when, in 2001, 'American Airlines Flight 77' crashed into it.

1956 - People to People International was founded by US President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

1961 - The World Wildlife Fund was formed in Morges, Switzerland, a suburb of Lausanne; it was the brainchild of Julian Huxley and Max Nicholson.

1970 - The Ford Pinto was introduced.

1972 - Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) began regular service in San Francisco.

1973 - A coup in Chile orchestrated by General Augusto Pinochet toppled the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende.

1992 - Hurricane Iniki devastated Hawai'i, killing 6 people and causing $1.8 billion in damages.

1994 - Frank Eugene Corder stole a Cessna plane shortly before midnight, intending to crash it into the White House...

1997 - NASA's Mars Global Surveyor reached Mars - technically the landing was called an 'orbital insertion', which is dirty talk for sci-fi fans.
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