Wednesday, October 20, 2010

"Real Cool (Cool Love)" by Wanda Jackson

When I was researching this post I was thrilled to discover there are so many great clips of birthday gal Wanda Jackson on YouTube, only then I didn't know what to do. Given my proclivity for the obscure, I'm not used to the Internet yielding such an embarrasses des riches. In the end, I chose this one mainly because it's got the best image quality. Plus I love the song...

Cool Love was released as a single in 1957, and appears on Wanda Jackson's 1960 album Rockin' with Wanda.

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Wanda Jackson: The Queen of Rockabilly

My pulse quickens when I hear the open strum, the bouncy beat, the distinctive twang that are all the hallmarks of a Wanda Jackson song... Today the Amazonian brunette with the uniquest twang turns 73.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketDiscovered while still in high school, Jackson's unique blend of gospel, country, and blues made for a potent new form of music called rockabilly; often called the first female rock star, the one-time girlfriend of Elvis Presley occupies an unparalleled place in pop culture.

I must admit, I was a little leery about posting this, seeing as Ms. Jackson is a born-again Christian; I wouldn't like my enthusiasm for her music and 1950s-era persona to be tainted by anything as boring as homophobia, since Jesus wouldn't have done it either. In the end I decided - as is my wont - to throw caution to the wind, and honour her anyway. Even if, for whatever reason, she can't or won't return the favour...
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In Memoriam: Sir Christopher Wren

Christopher Wren (born in Wiltshire on this day in 1632) was a gifted mathematician and scientist with a relentless curiosity and a polymathic mind, whose work was said to be admired by such contemporaries as Sir Isaac Newton and Blaise Pascal.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketAlready noted for his architectural abilities (having built Cambridge's Pembroke Hall and Oxford's Sheldonian Theatre) - not to mention co-founding the Royal Society - when the City of London went up in flames in September 1666, Wren was the first to submit cogent plans for the rebuilding of the City; in 1669 he was named Surveyor-General of the King's Works, with the responsibility of making a modern capital out of the smoking ruins of a medieval maze.

That year he married Faith Coghill; they had two children, Gilbert (who died young) and Christopher Jr., whom Wren began training as an architect from a young age. Wren was knighted in November 1673 by King Charles II.

The first Lady Wren died of smallpox in September 1675; he was remarried less than 18 months later, this time to Jane Fitzwilliam. Again, two children were produced - a girl named Jane who died in 1702 and a son named named William, who was born retarded. The second Lady Wren died of tuberculosis in September 1680.

Although a sickly child, Wren lived to be 90 in an age when it was an achievement to turn 50. He died in London in February 1723, having lived to see it mostly reborn from the ashes of 1666. His tomb within St. Paul's Cathedral is suitably opulent; still, there are those (myself among them) who feel the entire place ought to be considered his tomb. The greatest of the 54 London churches he built, and universally recognized as his masterpiece since its completion on this day in 1708 - Wren's 76th birthday- bears a suitably confident epitaph:

Lector, Si Monumentum Requiris Circumspice*

*Reader, if you seek his monument, look around you.

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"Runnin' Down A Dream" by Tom Petty

Taken from birthday boy Tom Petty's 1989 solo album, Full Moon Fever - the same album that yielded such instant classics as Free Fallin' and I Won't Back Down - it's Runnin' Down A Dream, whose video was directed by Jim Lenahan, and features animation by Winsor McCay based on the classic comic strip Little Nemo in Slumberland.
* *

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"The Tortured Heart" by Arthur Rimbaud

My sad heart slobbers at the poop,
My heart covered with tobacco-spit:
They spew streams of soup at it,
My sad heart drools at the poop:
Under the jeering of the soldiers
Who break out laughing
My sad heart drools at the poop,
My heart covered with tobacco-spit!

Ithyphallic and soldierish,
Their jeerings have depraved it!
On the rudder you see frescos
Ithyphallic and soldierish.
O abracadabra waves,
Take my heart, let it be washed!
Ithyphallic and soldierish,
Their jeerings have depraved it.

When they have used up their quid,
How will I act, O stolen heart?
There will be Bacchic hiccups,
I will have stomach retchings,
If my heart is degraded:
When they have used up their quid
How will I act, O stolen heart?

Translated by Wallace Fowlie

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Arthur Rimbaud: The Original Angertwink

It takes considerable verve to scandalize the French; that Arthur Rimbaud did it so young and so thoroughly is as much a testament to his dedication as it is to his anarchist spirit...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket The writer - most famously of Une Saison en Enfer (A Season in Hell) and born on this day in 1854 - was a prolific poet as a young man, although by the time he was 20 he seems to have lost interest in poetry. He may in fact have burned out; he was soon better known as a prolific hellraiser, the quintessential enfant terrible. Even the French found him obnoxious, so you get some idea how fabulous he must have been.

Rimbaud's work defied the poetic conventions of the day (giving rise to both Symbolist and Surrealist movements) which outraged the intelligentsia, his unkempt appearance and penchant for opium and hashish chased with absinthe similarly shocked the bourgeoisie, and his brief, tempestuous love affair with the better-known married poet Paul Verlaine offended just about everyone else.

Their relationship lasted less than three years, taking them finally to London, and ended with Verlaine's arrest in Brussels. While imprisoned at Mons, Verlaine converted to Catholicism; they last met in Stuttgart in 1875 following Verlaine's release.

From 1875 until his death, Arthur Rimbaud seems to have cleaned up his act. Although he continued to explore much of Europe on foot, he also took regular jobs, and even managed to find time to join the Dutch Navy only to desert in Java. While working in Cyprus, Aden, and Ethiopia he seems to have kept only female lovers.

In May 1879 he contracted typhoid fever, but recovered. For Arthur Rimbaud the end of his rambles around Europe came in November 1891 following complications from the amputation of his right leg; he died in great agony at a hospital in Marseilles, attended by his sister Isabelle.

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Happy Birthday Your Imperial Majesty

Even more so than its events, it's the path a life takes that can provide the outside observer with the greatest insight into the person who lived it...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketIn another life Michiko Shoda - born this day in 1934 - could have married the Japanese writer Yukio Mishima, and thus been his widow on the day in November 1970 when he committed suppuku. Instead, she met and married a shy, bookish man who in his own other life would have surely become a scientist instead of Emperor of Japan.

Certainly almost any life would have been easier than that of the first commoner to marry into the Japanese Imperial Household (or Kunaicho, which she did in April 1959), and almost any other mother-in-law would have been preferable to the formidable Nagako, who since her death in 2000 is known as Empress Kōjun. Though it is largely unknown within Japan, the rest of the world knows well enough how Nagako's constant bullying brought the ebullient young Michiko to the point of nervous breakdown in the early 1960s, and again as late as 1993.

Determined not to be such a dragon lady herself, the Empress has been entirely supportive of Crown Princess Masako throughout her decade-long struggle to adapt to her new life within the entirely conservative Imperial Household.
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"Gin & Juice" by Snoop Dogg

Bizzle wizzle* go out to Snoop Dogg, the West Coast rapper and porntrepreneur who began his career as a humble drug dealer and pimp before figuring out there was ten times the money and a chance to live past forty by going legit. Word!

Gin and Juice was Snoop's second single, and first appeared on his 1993 debut album Doggystyle; both the song and the video are the work of Dr. Dre. The video features early appearances by Lil Bow Wow and Eddie Griffin and cameos by Dre himself, as well as Warren G, Nate Dogg and Daz Dillinger.

*Birthday wishes, fo shizzle!
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POPnews - October 20th

[When HM The Queen of Australia formally opened the Sydney Opera House on this day in 1973 the performance of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 she attended there was far from the venue's first show; previously Jørn Utzon's impressionistic architectural masterpiece - which dominates Sydney Harbour from Bennelong Point dwarfed only by Sydney Harbour Bridge - had been host to a performance of Sergei Prokofiev's opera War and Peace, in addition to a concert of Wagner favourites featuring soloist Birgit Nilsson, a recital of lieder songs by Nilsson and Geoffrey Parsons, a violin and piano recital by Parsons and Wanda Wiłkomirska, as well as a series of lunchtime performances for the workers, the first of which was given by Paul Robeson in 1960.]

1740 - Upon the accession of Maria Theresa to the Austrian throne, France, Prussia, Bavaria and Saxony refused to honour the Pragmatic Sanction, triggering the War of the Austrian Succession.

1803 - The US Senate ratified the Louisiana Purchase.

1818 - The Treaty of 1818 settled most of the border between Canada and the United States at the 49th Parallel.

1827 - At the Battle of Navarino a combined Turkish and Egyptian armada was destroyed by an allied British, French, and Russian naval force at a port now called Pylos on Navarino Bay; the victory marks the end of the Greek War of Independence and the affirmation of an independent, modern Greece.

1883 - Peru and Chile signed the Treaty of Ancón, by which the Tarapacá province of the former was ceded to the latter, bringing an end to Peru's involvement in the War of the Pacific.

1905 - The Turkish football club Galatasaray was founded.

1941 - Thousands of civilians in the Nazi-occupied Serbian town of Kragujevac were killed, in what came to be known as the Kragujevac Massacre.

1947 - The US and Pakistan established diplomatic relations.

1951 - The Johnny Bright Incident enflamed the Oklahoma town of Stillwater.

1952 - Kenya's Governor Evelyn Baring declared a state of emergency and began arresting hundreds of suspected leaders of the Mau Mau Uprising, including Jomo Kenyatta, the future first President of Kenya.

1955 - J. R. R. Tolkien novel The Return of the King - the last part of The Lord of the Rings - was published.

1967 - A purported bigfoot was filmed by Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin.

1968 - Former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy married Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis and became the emblematic mega-celebrity of the 1970s known as Jackie O.

1973 - During the so-called Saturday Night Massacre US President Richard M. Nixon fired his Attorney-General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney-General William Ruckelshaus after they refused to fire Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox, who was finally fired by Robert Bork.

1976 - The ferry George Prince was struck by a ship while crossing the Mississippi River between Destrehan and Luling, Louisiana; in all seventy-eight passengers and crew died, while only 18 people aboard the ferry survived.

1977 - An airplane carrying most of Lynyrd Skynyrd crashed in Mississippi; killed were lead singer Ronnie Van Zant and guitarist Steve Gaines along with backup singer Cassie Gaines, as well as the band's road manager, pilot, and co-pilot.

1979 - The JFK Library opened in Boston.

1984 - California's Monterey Bay Aquarium opened.

1991 - The Oakland Hills firestorm killed 25 and destroyed 3,469 homes and apartments, causing more than $2 billion in damage.
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