Monday, October 25, 2010

In Memoriam: Pablo Picasso

Born on this day in 1881 in Málaga, Spain, from an early age Pablo Picasso would show the copious talent that would make him among the most famous and recognizable visual artists of the 20th Century... The son of an art teacher, Picasso was drawing almost before he could speak; in fact, his first word was 'pencil'.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketAlthough he was born in Spain, Picasso is more often associated with Paris, where he moved in 1900. Thereafter he divided his time (when not globe-trotting) between that city and Barcelona, where today the Museu Picasso contains the best collection of his works, including some from as early as 1889.

Desperately poor upon moving to France (sometimes even having to burn his own work to keep himself and his roommate Max Jacob warm), within a decade he had found himself a place in the salon of Gertrude Stein, who early on gave him encouragement (buying up and therefore rescuing many of those early, flammable works for her home at 27 rue de Fleurus). She also introduced him to people who could help his career, which they did.

There were times, though, when it seemed his scandalously bohemian life would overtake his reputation as an artist; with a deft sense of his own persona, he managed to intersperse the outrages of his private love life with very public awe at his prodigious output, continually reinventing himself in the process. Whichever direction he took, the art world inevitably followed him, from realism to symbolism, then from cubism (of which he is the co-founder, alongside his friend Georges Braque) to neoclassicism and finally surrealism.

His masterwork remains Guernica (1937), which brilliantly depicts the devastation of that town wrought by Luftwaffe bombers on April 26th of that year, at the height of the Spanish Civil War.
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Gratuitous Brunette: Adam Goldberg

I first saw Adam Goldberg - who was born this day in 1970 - in 1996, playing Eddie, who for three episodes was briefly Chandler Bing's wacko new roommate on Friends; being the quintessential 'Jew queen' I was instantly smitten, and being loyal I am smitten still.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketHe was also memorable in Saving Private Ryan, mainly because he was a welcome respite from the almost ceaseless onslaught of pornographic violence that was that movie. A cute guy'll do that.

He certainly hasn't lacked for work since then, appearing in EDtv (1999), A Beautiful Mind (2001), and The Hebrew Hammer (2003); equally effective in movies and on television, he's made memorable appearances on My Name Is Earl, Joey (not that anyone saw it), and Entourage.

His on-again off-again relationship with Christina Ricci appears to be off again, which is too bad... Not only do they make a cute couple, but if a guy this hot must insist on being straight, I prefer it if he is with a girl (or girls) I like. Because I'm selfish that way.
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"I Am Woman" by Helen Reddy

Birthday wishes go out today to Helen Reddy, whose 1972 feminist anthem I Am Woman remains one of the most culturally significant songs of the Seventies - and indeed of all time!

Co-written by fellow Australians Reddy and Ray Burton, the song was one of the first to encapsulate the aims of the feminist movement in a non-threatening* way... Nevertheless, radio stations were reluctant to play it, and Reddy's manager (her husband, Jeff Wald) booked extensive television appearances in order to build buzz for the song; many local radio stations eventually capitulated after they were inundated with calls by female listeners.

Wald's own persistence also paid off**... Having spent as much as 18 hours a day for weeks on the phone cajoling radio stations to play the track, I Am Woman hit #1 in the US on December 9th - some three months after its release; it's shown here on the TV series The Midnight Special, which performance was first broadcast on NBC in 1975, at a time when Helen Reddy was the show's permanent host.

*Pro-woman, as opposed to anti-man, I guess...
**In more ways than one... Reddy and Wald made an estimated $40 million from the song, which thanks to their lavish lifestyle they'd burned through by the time of their acrimonious divorce in 1982.
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Happy Birthday Ed Robertson

Born on this day in Scarborough, Ed Robertson (along with Steven Page) founded the hugely popular Canadian band Barenaked Ladies in 1988; their first hit, a cover of Bruce Cockburn's Lovers in a Dangerous Time, brought them their first public recognition - not to mention their first hit single - in 1991. It was their 1992 'debut' album Gordon (actually their fifth) that made them instant legends.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketAlthough he has always contributed lyrically to the band (writing or co-writing many of the band's trademark catchy, clever songs) as well as harmoniously (his and Page's distinct voices blending together like caramel and cream) since 1998's smash-hit album Stunt Robertson has done more solo writing and singing.

Married and the father of three, when not performing with Barenaked Ladies Robertson keeps busy working for ecology, with the charity 30-Hour Famine, and starring in his own show on Canada's Outdoor Life Network, called Ed's Up. In August 2008 he survived unscathed after crashing his Cessna 206, which may have been caused by wind gusts stalling the aircraft's engine; following an official investigation both Robertson and his plane were cleared of negligence, and investigators praised both Robertson's handling of the crisis (he was carrying three passengers, all of whom were unharmed) as well as his cooperation with the subsequent investigation.
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"The Charge of the Light Brigade" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

[In addition to the poem below - The Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred, Lord Tennyson - the Crimean War's Charge of the Light Brigade inspired the painter Richard Caton Woodville to create the above image in 1854, the year before his death at the age of 30; so strong was Woodville's aptitude his son would also become a military painter.]

Half a league half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred:
'Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns' he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

'Forward, the Light Brigade!'
Was there a man dismay'd ?
Not tho' the soldier knew
Some one had blunder'd:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do & die,
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley'd & thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.

Flash'd all their sabres bare,
Flash'd as they turn'd in air
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army while
All the world wonder'd:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro' the line they broke;
Cossack & Russian
Reel'd from the sabre-stroke,
Shatter'd & sunder'd.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
While horse & hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro' the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wonder'd.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred!
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"Rock You Like A Hurricane" by Scorpions

As classical music goes, this if far more to my liking than anything performed by the Drab Longhairs Quartet...

Here German metal gods Scorpions turn out a positively Wagnerian symphonic version of their monster hit Rock You Like a Hurricane - which first appeared on their 1984 album Love at First Sting, and is posted here in honour of the birthday of guitarist and songwriter Matthias Jabs - with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra from the 2000 DVD Moment of Glory.
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POPnews - October 25th

[22-year-old George III came to the throne with the usual excitement that ought to betoken the birth of a new era; alas, while it was long, his reign would bring the loss of the American colonies and is best remembered today for His Majesty's eventual descent into madness.]

1147 - The Seljuk Turks under Mesud I of the Sultanate of Rum completely annihilated the German crusaders of Conrad III at the Battle of Dorylaeum; from a force of some 20,000 Conrad III was only able to add 2,000 to a force commanded by France's Louis VII before attempting (and failing) to lay siege to Damascus in July 1148 as part of the Second Crusade.

1315 - Adam Banastre, Henry de Lea, and William Bradshaw led a putative attack on Liverpool Castle.

1415 - England's Henry V defeated the army of France's Charles VI commanded by Charles d'Albret and various Armagnac nobles at the Battle of Agincourt; the battle is one of the most celebrated in English history, and forms the core of William Shakespeare's play Henry V.

1616 - Dutch sea-captain Dirk Hartog made the second recorded landfall by a European on Australian soil, at the later-named Dirk Hartog Island off the coast of Western Australia.

1747 - The British fleet under Admiral Sir Edward Hawke defeated a French force commanded by Admiral Desherbiers de l'Etenduère at the second battle of Cape Finisterre.

1760 - George III ascended to the throne of England following the death of his grandfather, George II - his father Frederick, Prince of Wales, having died in March 1751.

1813 - Canadian forces (aided by Mohawks) defeated a much larger American army commanded by Major-General Wade Hampton at the Battle of Chateauguay, near Ormstown, Quebec, during the War of 1812.

1828 - London's St Katharine Docks opened; it would be the engineer Thomas Telford's only major project in the capital. Named for the former hospital of St Katharine's by the Tower and formerly an integral part of the Port of London, they are currently enjoying a second life after being converted into a popular housing and entertainment district known as Docklands.

1854 - The disastrous Charge of the Light Brigade - at the Battle of Balaklava - occurred during the Crimean War, under the command of Britain's Lord Cardigan.

1861 - The Toronto Stock Exchange was created.

1875 - The first performance of the Piano Concerto No. 1 by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was given in Boston, with Hans von Bülow as soloist.

1912 - Richard Strauss' opera Ariadne auf Naxos received its world debut performance at the Vienna State Opera.

1924 - The forged Zinoviev Letter was published by London's Daily Mail, wrecking any chance Ramsay MacDonald's Labour Party might have had of re-election.

1944 - Heinrich Himmler ordered a crackdown on the Edelweiss Pirates, a loosely knit offshoot of the German Youth Movement in Nazi Germany which had been assisting those in hiding from the Hitler Youth, the Reich Labour Service, and/or compulsory military service; in all 13 members of the Ehrenfelder Gruppe were publicly hanged in Köln the following November 10th, including Bartholomäus Schink.

1976 - Her Majesty The Queen officially opened Britain's National Theatre on London's South Bank.

1983 - During Operation Urgent Fury the United States and its Caribbean allies invaded Grenada, six days after Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and several of his supporters were executed in a coup d'état.

1993 - Jean Chrétien was elected Prime Minister of Canada, winning a massive plurality for the Liberal Party, and reducing the former governing Progressive Conservative Party to 2 seats. Good times...

1995 - A commuter train collided with a school bus in Fox River Grove, Illinois, killing seven students.

2007 - The first Airbus A380 passenger flight - operating for Singapore Airlines, with flight number SQ 380 - flew its scheduled service between Singapore and Sydney.
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