Thursday, October 14, 2010

Pop History Moment: The Publication of "Winnie-the-Pooh"

On this day in 1926 the English humourist and poet A. A. Milne published a book of stories for children concerning the antics of a honey-mad bear and his woodland friends; illustrated by E. H. Shepard (with whom Milne worked at the satirical publication Punch) the stories of Winnie-the-Pooh have been amusing and enlightening children and adults alike ever since...

Beginning with Winnie-the-Pooh (1926) and continuing in The House at Pooh Corner (1928), there is also a poem about the character in When We Were Very Young (1924) and many more in Now We Are Six (1927). David Benedictus has recently published another collection of Pooh stories, Return to the Hundred Acre Wood, with illustrations by Mark Burgess in the style of E. H. Shepard. In the intervening years, of course, Pooh has hit the big screen courtesy of Disney and the vocal talents of Sterling Holloway.

Thrillingly (for me, at least) there is a Canadian connection to these charming characters... Winnie, a Canadian black bear rescued as a cub by Lieutenant Harry Colebourn, was a resident at the London Zoo and one of Winnie's frequent visitors was none other than Christopher Robin Milne. Among the minor changes the elder Milne made in adapting Winnie was a change in colour; also, the real Winnie was female!
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Rufus Wainwright Talks With Isaac Mizrahi

The scene is taken from The Isaac Mizrahi Show, which appeared on Oxygen from 2001-2003. Isaac Mizrahi is here because it's his birthday; Rufus Wainwright is here because...  Well, because he's Rufus Wainwright. This is what's known in the business as 'win-win-win'.
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POPnews (UK) - October 14th

[It is two seconds of footage and a revolution all in one... Captured on celluloid strip film at 12 frames per second on location at Oakwood Grange - the Yorkshire home of Joseph and Sarah Whitley (themselves the parents of the photographer's wife Elizabeth) and featuring not only the Whitleys and their other daughter Harriet but young Adolphe Le Prince as well - surely no one at the time could have predicted the modern-day marvels to which the so-called Roundhay Garden Scene would one day lead. Down the garden path indeed...]

1066 - The opening engagement in the Norman Conquest, the Battle of Hastings was fought on Senlac Hill (actually seven miles from Hastings) where the forces of William the Conqueror defeated the English army and killed King Harold II.

1586 - Mary, Queen of Scots, went on trial for conspiring against England's Queen Elizabeth I.

1812 - Work began on London's Regent's Canal.

1888 - Louis Le Prince filmed the first motion picture, Roundhay Garden Scene.

1913 - An explosion at a colliery in Senghenydd, Wales, killed 439; in terms of loss of life, it's the worst such disaster in history.

Photobucket1926 - The children's book Winnie-the-Pooh, by A.A. Milne, was first published... Featuring charming illustrations by E. H. Shepard, the stories concern the adventures of a bear and his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood (itself based on Ashdown Forest in East Sussex) and quickly lodged themselves into the consciousness of children around the world - in the process seemingly engendering a great deal of resentment in the boy for whom they were written, Christopher Robin Milne. It was the younger Milne's Alpha Farnell teddy bear Edward who partially served as the model for the hapless hero, although a Canadian black bear called Winnie (short for Winnipeg) at the London Zoo provided his nickname.

- The Nazi U-Boat U-47 sank the British battleship HMS Royal Oak: of the ship's complement of 1,234 men and boys, 833 were killed that night or died later of their wounds.

- The Balham tube disaster killed at least 65 (and as many as 68) besides injuring a further 70 during the Blitz when a 1400kg semi-armour piercing fragmentation bomb exploded above what was, in fact, a makeshift air raid shelter - filling the tunnel with debris and water from broken mains. The site of the tragedy is today marked by a plaque, while the flooding is briefly portrayed in Ian McEwan's novel Atonement, as well as in the film based on the book.

1954 - Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie made an historic visit to the United Kingdom, wherein he was hosted by The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.

Photobucket1969 - The new 7-sided 50p piece - intended to replace the 10-shilling note in advance of the impending decimalisation of British currency - was introduced amidst confusion and controversy. Although it was the third decimal coin to be introduced (the 5p and 10p had previously entered circulation, with the 2p, 1p, and half-pence coin to soon follow) it was thought to be too easily confused with the 10p, despite its heptagonal shape; at the time of its release, Britain's 50p was the only seven-sided coin in the world. Some 120 million were minted during this introductory period, making for the largest ever issue of a coin in history. So prevalent is it that there are even several of them in the collection of the Pop Culture Institute.

1983 - Conservative Cabinet Minister Cecil Parkinson resigned following the revelation of his affair with his secretary Sara Keays, which had resulted in the birth of a child; despite all the blather over 'family values' made by the Thatcher government, Parkinson has never met his daughter...
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"She Blinded Me With Science" by Thomas Dolby

Birthday wishes go out today to Thomas Dolby who, as far as I know, never blinded anyone with science; he did, however, get us dancing to science, as a pioneer of electronic music during the British New Wave in the early 1980s. She Blinded Me with Science originally appeared on his 1982 album The Golden Age of Wireless; not only does the song's video star Dolby himself in a Tintin-esque get-up, it also showcases television presenter Magnus Pyke as the mad scientist.

If you ask me, the real science involved here is how this song just never gets old...
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"why must itself up every of a park" by e e cummings

why must itself up every of a park
anus stick some quote statue unquote to
prove that a hero equals any jerk
who was afraid to dare to answer "no"?
quote citizens unquote might otherwise
forget(to err is human;to forgive
divine)that if the quote state unquote says
"kill" killing is an act of christian love.
"Nothing" in 1944 AD
"can stand against the argument of mil
itary necessity"(generalissimo e)
and echo answers "there is no appeal
from reason"(freud)--you pays your money and
you doesn't take your choice.Ain't freedom grand
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e e cummings: a capital poet

Two things that will always serve a poet well are a surreal outlook on life and a willingness to put words into orders they've never been in before. It also doesn't hurt if, when looking at society, its foibles and injustices alike strike you as ridiculous...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketBy these parameters alone, E. E. Cummings - born on this day in 1894 - more than qualifies as a poet. Even now, his garbled syntax conveys so much more even in its muddled condition than it ever could conforming to some old rules in a dusty old book somewhere. Sarcastic - but seldom cynical - Cummings viewed the world as a work-in-progress.

Rare among 20th Century poets, Cummings was wildly popular in his lifetime; whenever he gave readings they were to packed houses and rapturous applause. He also wrote plays and novels; his first book was a memoir, written in 1922 when he was just 28. The Enormous Room details the time during World War I he spent in a French prisoner of war camp, suspected of espionage.

Despite this, Cummings remained an avowed Francophile, and would return there often over the rest of his life.
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In Memoriam: Lillian Gish

Of all the great Hollywood careers, no doubt the one with the greatest lifespan belongs to Lillian Gish; from her first movie, An Unseen Enemy (1912), to her last, The Whales of August (1987), her physical delicacy contrasted with a steely resolve made her one of the world's best loved actors.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketEarly in her career, Gish appeared in many of the films of D. W. Griffith, including his notorious The Birth of a Nation (1915) in which she plays Elsie, the flower of white womanhood the heroic Ku Klux Klan are trying to protect from... I just threw up in my mouth a little bit, so I'd better not finish that sentence; but you get the point.

During the transition from silent to talking pictures, many of Gish's roles were on the stage. She was quite proud of having played a lewd Ophelia; not only did her portrayal stray from the typical way the role was acted, but it was a departure for Gish as well, always having played helpless virgins before this. Among her most memorable film roles from this era is The Night of the Hunter (1955) in which she portrays a heroic woman saving two children from a menacing Robert Mitchum.

Gish maintained close friendships throughout her life to her sister Dorothy (also an actress), Mary Pickford, and Helen Hayes. For her final film role she was nominated for an Academy Award, but lost to Cher, whose politics were more in line with the Academy's; Gish was a lifelong Republican.

Born on this day in 1893, Lillian Gish died in February 1993, approaching her 100th birthday; she is buried in New York City, in St. Bartholomew's Episcopal.
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POPnews (US) - October 14th

[Here we see a special message from the President and the First Lady, who on this day in 1982 declared a War on Drugs - another one of those nutty wars Republican presidents like to declare on concepts or other nebulous foes. Just Say Yes!]

1863 - At the Battle of Bristoe Station Confederate General Robert E. Lee's forces failed to drive the Union Army out of Virginia.

1910 - English aviator Claude Grahame-White landed his Farman biplane on Executive Avenue near the White House.

1912 - President Theodore Roosevelt was shot by John Schrank at a campaign stop in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. With the bullet embedded in his chest, the Progressive Party candidate proceeded to give a vigourous 90-minute speech before seeing a doctor about his wound. Unable to remove the bullet safely, it was decided to leave it there, where it stayed for the remaining seven years of his life.

1947 - Chuck Yeager flew a Bell X-1 faster than the speed of sound, making him the first man to do so in level flight.

1960 - Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kennedy suggested formation of a Peace Corps during a talk at the University of Michigan - three years after Hubert H. Humphrey, Jr. (D-Minnesota) suggested something similar.

1962 - The Cuban Missile Crisis began when a U-2 flight over Cuba took photos of Soviet nuclear weapons being installed.

1964 - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr became the youngest person ever awarded a Nobel Peace Prize.

1968 - American Jim Hines became the first man ever to break the ten second barrier in the 100 metres Olympic final at the Summer Olympics in Mexico City with a time of 9.95 seconds; he would be the only man to do so until 1977.

1979 - The first Gay & Lesbian March on Washington drew between 100,000 and 200,000 participants.

1982 - President Ronald Reagan declared a War on Drugs, apparently.

1987 - Baby Jessica McClure fell down a well; her 58-hour plight, and the challenges presented by her rescue, captivated the American news media.

1998 - Eric Robert Rudolph was charged with the Centennial Olympic Park bombing in 1996.

2003 - John Allen Muhammad pleaded innocent to murder in the Washington-area sniper case. (He was later convicted and sentenced to death, which duly took place in November 2009.)
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Happy Birthday Your Imperial Majesty

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketFarah Diba originally set out to be an architect; even after she married Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran, in December 1959, she continued in her chosen profession, eventually designing Iran's elegant and innovative Carpet Museum, which opened in 1976.

In exile since January 1979, the Shahbanou currently divides her time between Cairo, Paris, New York City, and Washington, DC, where her oldest son leads a movement to restore the Iranian monarchy and overthrow the illegal occupation of the mullahs.

Perennially one of the world's most glamourous women, Empress Farah Pahlavi published her memoirs in 2003. Entitled An Enduring Love: My Life with the Shah - A Memoir, it was a bestseller around the world.
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Remembering... Katherine Mansfield

Out of a lonely childhood springs many a writer, and Katherine Mansfield was no exception...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketBorn into a well-to-do family in Wellington, New Zealand, on this day in 1888, Mansfield's first short stories - the form at which she excelled - appeared in a school magazine when she was only 10. At 14 she went to London for school; then her passions were more musical than literary. In any event, she returned to New Zealand when she was 18.

Two years later she returned to London, where she threw herself into the Imperial capital's bohemian lifestyle. She married a man named George Bowden almost on a whim, but became pregnant by another man named Garnet Trowell, later suffering a miscarriage at a sanitorium in Bavaria where she'd been sent by her mother.  It was during this time that Mansfield also cultivated a friendship with D.H. Lawrence.

In 1911 she published her first collection of short stories, entitled In a German Pension, whose lack of success dismayed her. She also contracted gonorrhea which, in addition to being a terrible stigma in those days, caused her painful bouts of arthritis for the rest of her short life.

The relatively happy event of falling in love and marrying John Middleton Murry was marred by her brother's death on the battlefields of World War I, and so it went; each happiness seemingly marred by a successive tragedy. Although her ill-health and private income gave her plenty of time to write - she wrote her most famous works while recovering from a bout with tuberculosis in 1918-19 - she was also plagued by depression.

Katherine Mansfield died in France in January 1923; she was 35. In the years following her death, much of her work was published by her widower, and in the years since it has accrued much acclaim for the delicacy of its prose and the sensitivity of its insights into the timeless struggles of its characters.
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The Death of Errol Flynn

He was a handsome and charming actor, who had won the hearts of millions with his portrayals of pirates and derring-doers; Errol Flynn was also a hard drinker who enjoyed life and fame and all that both had afforded him.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketA few days before his death the 50 year-old matinee idol flew into Vancouver, with the intent of selling his yacht Zaca to millionaire George Caldough; he was accompanied by his 16 year-old girlfriend Beverly Aadland.

The deal having been sealed, Flynn was all set to leave the city when he said he didn't feel well. Rather than taking him to the airport, Caldough took him to the apartment of a friend, Dr. Grant Gould, at 1310 Burnaby (near the corner of Jervis) in Vancouver's West End neighbourhood. As often happened in his midst a party sprang up around Flynn, who seemed to rally, at least for a time.

Once more feeling ill, Flynn retired to a bedroom for a nap; when Aadland went to wake him a half an hour later he was dead of a massive heart attack. The rumour is that after his death he was taken to the Hotel Georgia in downtown Vancouver and propped up in a chair in the lobby, so that well-wishers could file past and pay their respects.

He is buried at Forest Lawn in Los Angeles.

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Pop History Moment: The Battle of Hastings

Late in September, 1066, William the Bastard, Duke of Normandy, decided it was time to act in support of his claim to the throne of England*. To his mind, the current King, Harold Godwinson, was a usurper, despite having the support of the Witenagemot.

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Having spent the summer amassing an army (600 ships and 7000 men) at Saint-Valery-sur-Somme in Normandy and staring across the English Channel at a similarly powerful Saxon force, intelligence reached him that the English militia had begun to retreat so as to take in the harvest, and that Harald III of Norway had just landed in the North of England, drawing most of the remaining English troops out of the area.

William waited for the last of the summer's storms to pass, and then set out...

His force landed in England between Hastings and Bexhill, then marched a few miles east to the area near Pevensey Bay, where he built a wooden castle for a garrison. Harold, having been victorious in the North, rushed south to defend his realm yet again, arriving in the area on the evening of October 13th.

With Harold's troops poised on Senlac Hill, and William's opposite on Telham Hill, the fateful Saturday dawned... The battle lasted all day, and early on it looked like the tight ranks of the similarly-sized but weaker Saxon force might win the day. However, by the afternoon, some of Harold's men broke ranks to pursue retreating Normans (possibly a tactical ploy) and William charged his knights up into the remaining ranks.

Volley after volley of arrows followed; in one of these King Harold fell, and with it England's Anglo-Saxon age...

The events of the Battle of Hastings are most evocatively rendered on the Bayeux Tapestry, images of which are available here online.

*William insisted he'd been promised the throne by Edward the Confessor, although that promise might have been wrought with coercion; Edward had also taken as his queen Edith of Wessex, daughter of the powerful noble Godwin, Earl of Wessex, and sister of Harold Godwinson, which to many indicated his desire to keep the House of Wessex both alive and English. Alas, the one thing he never did do was specifically name his heir while actually on his deathbed...
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POPnews - October 14th

[For all its propitious beginnings - having been opened in person by The Queen herself! - Canada's 23rd Parliament was otherwise a wash... Consisting of a single session, and presided over by the minority government of John Diefenbaker, it would be the second shortest such gathering in Canadian history.]

1758 - Austria's Marshal Leopold Josef Graf Daun defeated the Prussian army of Frederick the Great at the Battle of Hochkirk during the Seven Years' War.

1773 - The first recorded Ministry of Education, the Komisja Edukacji Narodowej (Polish for Commission of National Education) was formed in Poland; the event is still commemorated there as Teachers' Day.

1805 - At the Battle of Elchingen, France's Marshal Michel Ney defeated the Austrian forces of Graf Johann von Riesch.

1806 - The Battle of Jena-Auerstädt pitted France's Emperor Napoleon and his commander Louis Nicolas Davout against Prussia's Frederick William III; the German loss to France was likely hard on Gebhard von Blücher and the Prince of Hohenlohe but a third Prussian commander, the Duke of Brunswick, got the worst of it - he died in battle.

1882 - The University of the Punjab was founded in present-day Pakistan.

1916 - Perm State University was founded in Russia.

1920 - Part of Petsamo province was ceded to Finland by the Soviet Union under the terms of the Treaty of Tartu.

1942 - A German U-boat sank the ferry SS Caribou in Newfoundland's Cabot Strait, killing 137.

1943 - Prisoners at the Sobibor death camp in Poland revolted, resulting in the death of 11 SS officers; about half of the camp's 600 prisoners escaped, of whom some 50 survived the war.

1944 - Nazi Field Marshal Erwin Rommel committed suicide rather than face Roland Freisler's People's Court and potential implication in the bomb attack of July 20th that nearly succeeded in assassinating Hitler.

1956 - Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, leader of India's Untouchable (or Dalit) caste, converted to Buddhism along with 385,000 followers, sparking the Neo-Buddhism movement.

1957 - Canada's 23rd Parliament was opened in Ottawa by Elizabeth II in her role as Queen of Canada, marking the first time a Canadian sovereign had delivered Her Government's Speech from the Throne in person.

1959 - Tasmanian-born action hero Errol Flynn died while on a business trip in Vancouver.

1964 - Leonid Brezhnev became General Secretary of the CPSU and de facto leader of the Soviet Union, ousting Nikita Khrushchev.

1966 - The Montreal Metro opened for business.

1968 - A 6.9 magnitude earthquake destroyed the Australian town of Meckering in under 40 seconds, rupturing all major roads (including the Great Eastern Highway) and railways nearby in the process.

1973 - During Thailand's Thammasat student uprising over 100,000 people protested against the Thanom military government; 77 are killed and 857 are injured by soldiers.

1981 - Vice President Hosni Mubarak was elected President of Egypt, one week after the assassination of his predecessor Anwar Sadat.

1994 - Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres shared the Nobel Peace Prize.
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