Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Death of Kirsty MacColl

Kirsty MacColl was riding high on this day in 2000; her album Tropical Brainstorm was being critically acclaimed and selling well, in an industry where the two are often mutually exclusive, while its single, In These Shoes, was turning into her biggest hit in fifteen years...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket Taking a well-earned break in the Mexican resort of Cozumel with her partner James Knight and two sons, she decided to go scuba diving in an area which was restricted to watercraft. Emerging from a dive, MacColl saw a powerboat speed into the restricted area toward her son Jamie; she managed to push him out of its way, and he suffered only minor physical injuries. Kirsty, however, was struck and killed instantly.

The boat in question was owned by Mexican supermarket mogul Guillermo González Nova, who was aboard with his own family at the time, but not at the helm - or so he claims. An employee of his named José Cenyam readily confessed that he was piloting the boat at the time of the accident, but eyewitnesses disagree; they also disagree that he was, as he claimed, travelling at a speed of one knot when he collided with MacColl.

Cenyam was sentenced to a prison term of 2 years 10 months on a charge of culpable homicide, but paid a fine of $90 (and $2150 in damages to MacColl's family, an amount based on his wages) rather than serving time; there is every indication that Senor Nova paid his employee to take the fall. Ever since the accident the Mexican government has been 'unable' to find him for questioning.

Today marks the first day of the eleventh year her family has been trying to get Justice for Kirsty; the BBC released a documentary by Olivia Lichtenstein entitled Who Killed Kirsty MacColl? in 2005, which featured new evidence and interviews with Kirsty's family, including her partner James, son Louis, and 80-year-old mother Jean. Like this blog post, it's all part of a concerted effort to keep this case in front of the public until there is, at last, some justice for Kirsty.
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Remembering... Chris Farley

It was on this day in 1997 that day the world lost one of its brightest comedic talents, when obesity, drugs, and alcohol finally got the better of Chris Farley...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketNot that he didn't try to battle his demons; in the last four years of his life he is said to have entered 31 programs to combat his alcoholism and help him get a handle on his weight. None of them worked, of course; an autopsy revealed that when Chris Farley died his system contained quantities of cocaine and heroin. He was found in his Chicago apartment, already dead, by his brother John.

Farley joined the cast of Saturday Night Live in the fall of 1990, and was almost immediately lauded for his fearlessness; his were neither quiet nor subtle characterizations - my personal favourite is ersatz motivational speaker Matt Foley - and quickly his larger-than-life appeal was translated onto the silver screen. Following his departure from SNL Farley (along with fellow castmember David Spade) made Tommy Boy (1995) and Black Sheep (1996), which remain cult classics to this day.

For my money, though, it's those old SNL classics that take me back to those halcyon days of my early 20s when I'd spend my Saturday nights... At home, watching television.

Now you know why there isn't more sex on this blog; all those nights when I shoulda been out getting some play I was home watching this guy. Oh well, at least I wasn't living in a van down by the river!
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In Memoriam: Robert Moses

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As an admirer of Manhattan I cannot help but hold Robert Moses in awe; more than any other individual, he created the city as it exists today. The infrastructure of roads, tunnels, and bridges whose construction he oversaw is a truly awesome feat, yet I cannot celebrate it (or him) unreservedly. As opposed as I am to the automobile - which it was built to accommodate - his is ultimately a legacy of that ugliest of urban blights: sprawl.

There are other troubling aspects of his legacy as well, namely blatant racism; in the 1930s, when the rest of Manhattan (and Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and The Bronx) were being remade with parks, playgrounds, and public pools there was one part of the city being sorely underserved by these amenities - namely Harlem.

Born on this day in 1888, Robert Moses spent the first nine years of his life in New Haven, after which his family moved to New York City. He returned to New Haven for university, graduating from Yale University before continuing his studies at Wadham College, Oxford; he completed his education with a Ph.D from Columbia University, and timed it all perfectly so that following the election of President Franklin D. Roosevelt he was in line to grab massive cash infusions from the Works Progress Administration.

It was Moses who had the idea to put tolls on the bridges and tunnels, with which he amassed a vast capital building fund to pay for his projects; because this money didn't come from taxpayers, Moses wasn't answerable to either the state or federal governments over how it was spent. Well into the 1960s he was the single most powerful person in New York City, although fortunately not powerful enough to build his dream project, shown above, the Brooklyn Battery Bridge; he was forced instead to build a tunnel, and so was spared the wide open space of New York Harbor.

By the 1960s Moses was approaching 80, and the new byword of government - not his favourite - was accountability. His unpopular razing of the elegant old Penn Station, the costly 1964 New York World's Fair, and The Power Broker, Robert Caro's 1974 biography of him (among many other controversies) finally managed to chase him from office.

Robert Moses died in July 1981; he was 92.
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POPnews - December 18th

[The fact that ignorant pagan savages could be capable of such an engineering marvel as Mesa Verde without knowing anything about Jesus might give certain people cause to think, and maybe even to see beyond their hateful mythology, but somehow I doubt it.]

218 BCE - During the Second Punic War - at the Battle of the Trebia, in fact - Hannibal's Carthaginian forces defeated those of the Roman Republic, commanded by Tiberius Sempronius Longus.

1620 - The 120 passengers on board the Mayflower, having discovered the placid waters of Plymouth Harbor, prepared to establish their Plymouth Colony in present-day Plymouth, Massachusetts; although the exact date for their landing on Plymouth Rock has been lost to history - if, that is, history ever had it, since the event isn't mentioned in either William Bradford's Of Plymouth Plantation or that other contemporary account of the Pilgrim voyage, Mourt's Relation, and in fact wasn't mentioned at all until 1741 - we do know this was their first full day in their new home.

1642 - Abel Tasman became the first European to visit New Zealand when he came ashore at Golden Bay.

1787 - New Jersey became the third state to ratify the US Constitution, making it the third US state.

1793 - French royalists surrendered the frigate La Lutine to the Royal Navy's Admiral Sir Samuel Hood, on the final day of an occupation known as the Fall of Toulon; renamed HMS Lutine, in October 1799 she was sunk in a storm, and became a famous treasure wreck.

1865 - The 13th Amendment to the US Constitution was declared ratified in a proclamation by Secretary of State William Henry Seward.

1888 - Richard Wetherill and his brother in-law discovered the ancient Anasazi Indian ruins of Mesa Verde in Colorado; now both a national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the 13th Century cave city features a treasure trove of pre-Colombian architecture, including the Cliff Palace.

1892 - Tchaikovsky's ballet The Nutcracker premiered at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg.

1898 - Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat set the first land speed record by going as fast as 39.245 mph (63.159 km/h), in a Jeantaud electric car; not only was this the first recognized land speed record but many modern-day commuters would give their right arm to match it.

1912 -The Piltdown Man (later discovered to be a hoax) was found by Charles Dawson in the Piltdown Gravel Pit.

1915 - US President Woodrow Wilson married Edith Bolling Galt.

1935 - The Lanka Sama Samaja Party was formed in Sri Lanka, then called Ceylon.

1961 - The government of India undertook Operation Vijay with the intention of retaking the Portugese colonies of Goa, Daman and Diu, and the Andjiv Islands; it took one day to accomplish.

1966 - Richard L. Walker discovered Epimetheus, one of the more than 60 moons of Saturn.

1971 - Capitol Reef National Park was established in Utah.

1988 - The Liberal government of Quebec Premier Robert Bourassa passed Bill 178.

1996 - The school board of Oakland, California, declared Ebonics a language.

1999 - NASA launched into orbit the Terra platform, carrying five Earth Observation instruments, including ASTER, CERES, MISR, MODIS and MOPITT.

2006 - Donald Rumsfeld resigned as US Secretary of Defense.
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