Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Bonus Video: "Long, Long Day" by Paul Simon

Today is Paul Simon's birthday, and Paul Simon once appeared on The Muppet Show, which is all the flimsy pretext I need to post this... Plus, it's been a long, long day.

The performance of Long, Long Day features a spot of banter with Pops, and originally appeared in Episode 511; the original version of the song, a duet with Patti Austin, can also be found on the One-Trick Pony soundtrack album.
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Lenny Bruce on "The Steve Allen Show"

Lenny Bruce was no stranger to controversy, whether as a petty criminal or a stand-up comedian... Born on this day in 1925, Bruce made this early television appearance in 1950; at the time it was notorious for the first line of the routine - an ad-lib - in which he queried: 'Will Elizabeth Taylor become bar mitzvahed?' The Hollywood beauty had recently converted to Judaism to marry singer Eddie Fisher.

Eleven years later Lenny Bruce was charged with obscenity by police - for using the word 'cocksucker' in a comedy routine in a country renowned as the first to enshrine the freedom of speech in its constitution. Although he was acquitted in that instance, law enforcement began using obscenity legislation to torment Bruce; five years later, in August 1966, he was found dead at his home in the Hollywood Hills of an accidental heroin overdose.
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In Memoriam: Burr Tillstrom

Burr Tillstrom was present at the dawn of television, as the creator and creative force behind Kukla, Fran & Ollie; originally a show for the kiddies, it was soon being watched by more and more adults (among them the boldface names Orson Welles, John Steinbeck, Tallulah Bankhead, Ben Grauer, Milton Caniff, and Adlai Stevenson). For a solid decade the show was a genuine media phenomenon - it was, for instance, the first network television show to be broadcast in colour - and proved that with a quick wit, a pretty lady, and a couple of puppets, it's possible to conquer the world.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketWhich means all I need to do is develop a quick wit and find a pretty girl...

[Cue maniacal laughter.]

Wait a minute, what was I talking about? Oh yeah...

Originally appearing as Junior Jamboree on this day in 1947 (Tillstrom's 30th birthday) on WBKB in Chicago, the show was renamed Kukla, Fran & Ollie when it was transferred to WNBQ in November 1948. In January 1949 the show went national over NBC airwaves, and aside from a brief period in 1951 when it was reduced by half, the show ran 30 minutes a day, five days a week, until 1957.
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Happy Birthday Marie Osmond

The 1970s was the last great age of the television variety show, and Donny & Marie stood tallest of them all; The Osmonds were a handsome, wholesome bunch of boys (of whom Donny was the heart-throbbiest) surrounding a perfect rose named Marie. Of course, Marie was never part of the Osmonds herself, but nonetheless has had a successful singing career anyway thanks to songs like Paper Roses.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketFrom the first, Marie made much hay of teen idol brother Donny, taking him down a peg in best baby sister fashion. Their banter was piquant - rather than sharp or harsh, unlike that of The Sonny and Cher Show - but still funny.

Over the years Marie Osmond has occasionally left the public eye - she has eight children, which accounts for much of that - but to the delight of her many fans she has always returned to us, even if, as in the case of her book Behind the Smile, it's been to discuss the severe postpartum depression she experienced.

In recent years divorce and a tragic fire which destroyed her home have occasionally brought Marie back into the news, but it's with her recent appearances on Dancing with the Stars* in which the newly-trim, vivacious Marie of old continues to wow us. In 2009 it was revealed that her daughter Jessica is a lesbian, and despite the homophobia of her Mormon faith Marie has been steadfast in support of her daughter; likewise, the February 2010 suicide of her gay son Michael Blosil set the blogosphere to buzzing, putting Marie once again into the difficult position of unconditionally loving her children in contradiction to the edicts of her church**.

Happy Birthday Marie, and may you have many, many more.

*In which she placed third.
**One theory, which may be mine alone, is that Marie had an easier time accepting her gay children because they were both adopted.
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Pop History Moment: The October Crisis Deepens

In general Canadian Prime Ministers have not been possessed of overmuch in the swagger department. They're generally a 'hot mug of cocoa, in bed by ten' kind of group, which suits the country just fine. What a shock it was, then, to find that Pierre Trudeau more than made up for the alternating parade of milquetoasts and blowhards who have typically inhabited 24 Sussex Drive.

Trudeau's invocation of the War Measures Act to deal with the deepening October Crisis of 1970 isn't something I of all people should be proud of; yet alone among politicians, I would trust Trudeau to know the limits of his power and not abuse them, which anyway is how it all played out.

Watching him now, 40 years later, is an exercise in conflicting emotions: he's maddeningly smug, defiant, and courageous in the execution of a potentially unpopular act - which anyway was requested of him by the mayor of Montreal and the Premier of Quebec. At least he wasn't acting unilaterally - like some Presidents I could name.

It shows, too, the power of an idea called Canada, that it could attract such a fierce intellectual, who in his college days had been a pretty radical leftie separatist, to come to its aid in a time of crisis, deftly display just enough power to subdue a dangerous situation (possibly even forestalling a civil war) and then back off once it was under control, rather than becoming drunk on the power.

I'd like to see Brian Mulroney do that...
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Happy Feast Day of St. Edward the Confessor

Is it possible to be cursed by a saint?

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketEver since he was canonized by Alexander III in 1161, St. Edward the Confessor has been the patron saint of Britain's Royal Family. However, in light of his own unhappy coupling to Edith of Wessex - which may, in fact, never have been consummated (thus the unhappiness) - he is also the patron saint of separated spouses and difficult marriages.

Which means, I may have inadvertantly stumbled upon the connection that has eluded courtier and Queen alike, lo these past twenty years.

Also, the ultra-English Edward used to be the patron saint of England; until 1348, that is, when he was usurped in that role by St. George - who was Palestinian!

Something to think about... Well, something for me to think about anyway; I understand the rest of you have lives and that.
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POPnews - October 13th

[Construction on the Executive Mansion would last until the first day of November 1800, and involve the labour of paid employees and slaves, immigrants and citizens alike - making it a uniquely American enterprise; the first President to live in the house at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue was John Adams. It was set afire and gutted during the Burning of Washington in August 1814, following which it was rebuilt, and has since been added to many times.]

54 CE - Nero became Roman emperor following the death of his great uncle Claudius, who'd adopted him.

1307 - Hundreds of Knights Templar were simultaneously arrested by agents of France's King Phillip the Fair and later tortured into confessing heresy.

1332 - Rinchinbal Khan, Emperor Ningzong of Yuan became the Khagan of the Mongols and Emperor of the Yuan Dynasty - although his reign would last for only 53 days.

1773 - The Whirlpool Galaxy was discovered by Charles Messier.

1775 - The US Continental Congress ordered the establishment of the Continental Navy (which would later be renamed the United States Navy).

1792 - The cornerstone of the original White House - then known as the Executive Mansion - was laid without ceremony.

1812 - During the War of 1812, at the Battle of Queenston Heights, as part of the Niagara Campaign in Ontario, US forces under General Stephen Van Rensselaer were repulsed from invading Canada by British and native troops led by Sir Isaac Brock, who died in battle.

1843 - B'nai B'rith was founded.

1845 - A majority of voters in the Republic of Texas approve a proposed constitution that, if accepted by the US Congress, would make Texas a state.

1885 - Georgia Institute of Technology - better known as Georgia Tech - was founded.

1892 - Edward Emerson Barnard discovered D/1892 T1, the first comet discovered by photographic means.

1903 - The Boston Americans (later known as the Red Sox) beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 3-0 to win the first World Series at the Huntington Avenue Baseball Grounds five games to three.

1915 - The Battle for the Hohenzollern Redoubt marked the end of the Battle of Loos in northern France.

1917 - The 'Miracle of the Sun' was witnessed by an estimated 70,000 people in the Cova da Iria near the Portugese town of Fátima.

1923 - Ankara replaced Istanbul as the capital of Turkey.

1943 - Italy declared war on Nazi Germany, apparently...

1946 - The constitution of France's Fourth Republic was ratified.

1958 - Michael Bond published the first Paddington Bear story, featuring illustrations by Peggy Fortnum.

1972 - Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 crashed in the Andes, on the border of Argentina and Chile; by December 23rd only 16 out of 45 people lived long enough to be rescued and/or remain uneaten. Twenty years later Ethan Hawke starred in the film Alive: The Miracle of the Andes, based on the book Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors by Piers Paul Read.
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