Sunday, December 12, 2010

"Well, Did You Evah" by Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra

In honour of the birth of Frank Sinatra (on this day in 1915), I can think of no greater tribute than allowing his talent to speak for itself... In this blogger's opinion, the accompanying clip - in which he's singing Well, Did You Evah! alongside 'no slouch in the vocalizing department himself' Bing Crosby, from the 1956 Cole Porter musical High Society - proves that, given even the slightest chance, Sinatra's talent fairly shouts! In fact it's still shouting, more than a decade after his death, in May 1998.

As for the song, it was written by Porter for his 1939 musical Du Barry Was a Lady, where it was introduced by Betty Grable and Charles Walters; it's since been sung by such luminary duos as Deborah Harry and Iggy Pop and Robbie Williams and Jon Lovitz. Alas, the world was deprived of the chance to hear it sung by Lucille Ball and either Red Skelton or Red Skelton in the 1943 film, which contains little of the show's popular score*.

*Despite yet another episode of egregious meddling by studio executives, the film itself is actually quite a charmer!
share on: facebook

Remembering... Brandon Teena


It's a sad state of affairs that it must be thus, but there are some people who just shouldn't let trouble happen to them; justice just isn't for them - is 'just ice' in the words of Joni Mitchell - and when the heavy shit finally does go down too often those responsible for administering the necessary justice to make it right are to be found on the wrong side.

Still, Brandon Teena might have had a long uneventful life, could have left Nebraska and found his way to a place where shades of grey can exist outside of the shadows... Instead he found and started dating Lana Tisdel, through whom he met a pair of ex-convicts named John Lotter and Marvin 'Tom' Nissen - two men whose own insecurities would prove Teena's downfall.

Born anatomically female on this day in 1972, Brandon Teena nevertheless knew all his life that he was a boy; he was still on his way to becoming a man when he was exposed as female and viciously raped by Lotter and Nissen at a Christmas party in 1993. Following a visit to the local emergency room, where a rape kit was applied - and later 'lost' - Teena was re-offended during questioning by Sheriff Charles B. Laux.

Laux finally got around to questioning Lotter and Nissen a couple of days later, but declined to arrest them; on New Year's Eve they found Brandon at the home of his friend Lisa Lambert, broke in, and murdered him (along with Lambert herself and her sister's boyfriend Philip Devine). Although both villains were eventually arrested and convicted, being the weasels they are they're currently working the system for all it's worth.

So the law has given Brandon Teena no justice - was even responsible for his death - but the media has done its part to right the wrongs. First there was a well-received documentary film, The Brandon Teena Story by Kate Bornstein and JoAnn Brandon; this was followed by Kimberly Peirce's 1999 film Boys Don't Cry, which starred Hilary Swank in an Academy Award-winning performance as Brandon and Chloë Sevigny as Lana Tisdel. While hailed by critics, the film generated some controversy amongst the people it depicts; not only does the script play fast and loose with the facts surrounding Brandon's murder, the real Lana Tisdel later sued the filmmakers for what she felt was an inaccurate and unfair portrayal of her.
share on: facebook

"Walk On By" by Dionne Warwick

I could hardly let today walk on by without marking the birthday of Dionne Warwick - let alone pass up an opportunity to use such a lame-ass pun! Still, it helps that I actually love the song Walk on By, which Miss Warwick brought to the top of pop charts around the world in 1964.

Fans of his brand of songwriting suave will already know that this pretty little ballad was composed by Burt Bacharach, with an elegant accompaniment of words by Hal David, and anyone with ears* knows they never had a better interpreter than the soigné songstress herself.

*Not to mention Anyone Who Had a Heart - a later hit recorded at the same session...

share on: facebook

POPnews (US) - December 12th

[The USS Cairo, first of the US Navy's City class ironclads, was designed by Samuel M. Pook and built by James B. Eads, representing a sea change - get it? - in marine warfare technology. After sinking in 1862 it remained undiscovered on the riverbed until 1959; more than a century's rest was disturbed when the ship was raised on this day in 1964. Currently preserved at Vicksburg National Military Park, it serves its country once more as a museum and tourist attraction.]

1787 - Pennsylvania became the second state to ratify the United States Constitution - just five days after Delaware became the first - making it the second US state.

1862 - The USS Cairo sank on Mississippi's Yazoo River, making it the first armored ship to be sunk by an electrically detonated mine.

1870 - Joseph H. Rainey of South Carolina became the first African-American to take a seat in the US Congress.

1917 - Father Edward J. Flanagan founded Boys Town in Nebraska as a farm village for wayward boys.

1950 - Paula Ackerman became America's first female rabbi.

1985 - Arrow Air Flight 1285 crashed shortly after takeoff from Gander, Newfoundland, killing 256 - including 248 members of the US 101st Airborne Division.

2000 - The US Supreme Court released its decision in Bush v. Gore - not one of its finer moments...
share on: facebook

Gratuitous Brunette: Will Carling


Pop culture vultures like myself will remember Will Carling from 1995, as one of the rumoured lovers of Diana, Princess of Wales*, what seems like a lifetime ago now... Before his suspicious friendship with another man's wife made him prime paparazzi fodder, though, Carling was a successful Rugby Union player, captain of both the Harlequins and England's national team.

Currently a motivational speaker and sports pundit, Julia Carling's ex-husband today turns 45.

*A relationship he continues to deny.
share on: facebook

"Who's Sorry Now" by Connie Francis

Birthday wishes go out today to Connie Francis, one of the most durable singers of the rock era; I say durable because, given the life she's lived, the fact that she's still around to live it only serves to prove what a tough lady she really is.

Here she is singing her biggest hit, Who's Sorry Now?, but the reasoning behind the Pagliacci drag eludes me...
share on: facebook

Pop History Moment: The Delhi Durbar Was Held


On this day in 1911 King George V and Queen Mary were enthroned as Emperor and Empress of India, in commemoration of which 26,800 medals bearing their combined image (just like the one shown above) were struck...

Not only were Their Majesties the first British sovereigns to receive their titles in person, a film made of the Durbar itself was the first colour film ever made. Entitled With Our King and Queen Through India, the film was shot using the Kinemacolor process and was released theatrically in February 1912.
share on: facebook

POPnews (UK) - December 12th

[Despite their usual lack of subtlety, the Metropolitan Police are to be commended for their handling of the Balcombe Street Siege, which ended peacefully when the IRA members responsible surrendered to authorities live on television, an event witnessed in millions of homes across the UK. To read about how it all began, click on the above image...]

1939 - HMS Duchess sank after a collision with HMS Barham off the coast of Scotland with the loss of 124 men.

1940 - Approximately 70 people were killed when the Marples Hotel, off Sheffield's Fitzalan Square, was hit as a result of a German air raid called the Sheffield Blitz.

1967 - The Rolling Stones' guitarist Brian Jones avoided jail time on drugs charges when his nine-month sentence was overturned on appeal; he was instead fined £1,000 for the heinous crime of smoking marijuana.

1975 - The six-day Balcombe Street Siege - which pitted members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army against London police - ended when four kidnappers and their two hostages emerged alive from the house at 22b Balcombe Street in the city's posh Marylebone district.

1988 - The Clapham Junction rail crash killed thirty-five and injured hundreds more after two collisions of three commuter trains made for one of the worst train crashes in the history of the United Kingdom.

1992 - HRH The Princess Royal married Timothy Laurence at Crathie Kirk in the Scottish village of Crathie, near the Queen's estate at Balmoral Castle; previously, as Princess Anne, Her Royal Highness had married Captain Mark Phillips in November 1973.

2006 - Peugeot produced its last car at the Ryton Plant, signalling the end of mass car production in Coventry - formerly a major centre of the British motor industry.
share on: facebook

Marconi At Signal Hill: A Canadian History Minute

Okay, so the batting average for these Heritage Minute clips is about .750; meaning, I guess, three quarters of them are pretty good, which is not bad. The last one I posted - about the Halifax Explosion - contained some minor inaccuracies, but this one's more or less accurate.

Anyway, what can you get wrong about a guy (Guglielmo Marconi) going up a hill (Signal Hill), flying a kite, and getting a signal from Cornwall on the telegraph from it*? Although I must admit, the guy they got to play Marconi kinda gives me the creeps.

*Which he did on this day in 1901...
share on: facebook

Pop History Moment: Marconi At Signal Hill

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket3,500 kilometres of ocean separate Poldhu, in Cornwall, from St John's, Newfoundland; prior to this day in 1901 the only way to traverse it was by boat, subject to all the vagaries inherent in such a journey.

Guglielmo Marconi, however, had another idea; to bridge what seemed to many in those days as an insurmountable distance with a deceptively simple looking invention known as a telegraph.

Atop Signal Hill he raised a kite 122 metres in the air and waited... For a message that finally came. Dot-dot-dot... The Morse Code for the letter 's'; 's' as in 'success'.

In later years Marconi's reputation justifiably suffered after he made his sympathies for Italian Fascism - and support for Benito Mussolini's imperialist designs on the Ethiopian Empire - known. None of that, though, ought to lessen the accomplishment he made on that windy hilltop overlooking the North Atlantic on this day in 1901...
share on: facebook

POPnews - December 12th

[Belo Horizonte - known as Beagá or BH by the locals - is the third largest urban area in Brazil, after São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro; since as many as 30% of residents have some Italian heritage, the city is renowned by tourists for its Italianate feel. It's no coincidence I've selected a Brazilian city for special recognition today, as it's currently colder than Karl Rove's heart in Vancouver.]

627 CE - At the Battle of Nineveh a Byzantine army under Emperor Heraclius defeated Persian Emperor Khosrau II's forces, commanded by General Rhahzadh.

1408 - The Order of the Dragon was created by future Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund - then King of Hungary - and his wife Queen Barbara of Celje following their battle for the possession of Bosnia; among the more famous members of the order are Poland's King Ladislaus II, and England's Henry V.

1812 - The abortive invasion of Russia by Napoleon Bonaparte came to a humiliating end.

1897 - Belo Horizonte, once a small village founded by bandeirante João Leite da Silva Ortiz, became Brazil's first planned city when ambitious plans by Aarão Reis and Francisco Bicalho to rebuild it along the lines of Washington, DC, came to fruition. Currently capital of the state of Minas Gerais - replacing the old colonial capital of Ouro Preto - this lively centre of commerce and the arts is home to some 5.5 million people.

1901 - Guglielmo Marconi received the first transatlantic radio signal at Signal Hill in St John's, Newfoundland.

1915 - Chinese president Yuan Shikai declared himself Emperor; within weeks his support crumbled, and he abandoned his claim in March 1916, dying less than three months later.

1925 - The Majlis of Iran declared Reza Khan as Shah of Persia.

1936 - Chiang Kai-shek was kidnapped by Zhang Xueliang during the Xi'an Incident.

1941 - Adolf Hitler announced his intention to exterminate Germany's Jews at a meeting in the Reich Chancellery attended by every prominent National Socialist in the country; a meeting - not unlike January 1942's Wannsee Conference (at which a similar intent was even more blatantly stated) - which neo-Nazis are fond of conveniently forgetting.

1942 - 100 people were killed during a suspicious fire at a Knights of Columbus hostel on Harvey Road in St. John's, Newfoundland.

1948 - In the midst of the Malayan Emergency 14 members of the UK's Scots Guards allegedly massacred 24 unarmed civilians and set fire to their village during the Batang Kali Massacre.

1963 - Kenya gained its independence from the United Kingdom.

1964 - Prime Minister Jomo Kenyatta became the first President of the Republic of Kenya.

1969 - Milan's Piazza Fontana was bombed by right-wing terrorists hoping to blame the panic and fear they'd caused on Communists; this time in Italian history is known as strategia della tensione.

1979 - South Korean Army Major General Chun Doo-hwan staged a coup d'état when he ordered the arrest of Army Chief of Staff General Jeong Seung-hwa without authorization from President Choi Kyu-ha, alleging his involvement in the assassination of ex-President Park Chung Hee.

1984 - Maaouiya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya became the third president of Mauritania after a coup d'etat against Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidalla while the latter was attending a summit outside the country; Taya was himself ousted in a coup by Ely Ould Mohamed Vall in March 2005.

1991 - The Russian Federation gained its independence from the USSR.

2005 - Gebran Tueni, Lebanese journalist and politician and son of acclaimed Druze poet Nadia Hamadeh Tueni, was assassinated for his anti-Syrian views.

2007 - Francois Hajj, the Lebanese army's chief of operations, was assassinated along with three others in a bomb attack on the outskirts of Baabda.
share on: facebook