Friday, January 07, 2011

"Six String Orchestra" by Scooter and the Electric Mayhem

On this day in 1992 Richard Hunt died of complications related to AIDS; he was 40...

Among Hunt's more memorable creations as a Muppeteer was Scooter, who performed this charming song - Six String Orchestra - in episode 417 of The Muppet Show, accompanied by Floyd Pepper, Janice, Animal and Zoot of the Electric Mayhem.  In interviews 'Scooter' indicated that this was his favourite among the numbers he'd performed, which is why it's posted here.

In addition to Scooter Hunt performed Beaker, Janice, Statler, Sweetums, Junior Gorg, Don Music and Forgetful Jones, as well as Sesame Street's Sully, Wisss on Saturday Night Live, and Charlie Beaver in Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas; episode 3136 of Sesame Street and the movie The Muppet Christmas Carol were dedicated to his memory.

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Remembering... Zora Neale Hurston

A woman considered among the brightest lights of the Harlem Renaissance had almost been entirely extinguished by the time of her death in 1960; in fact, the life and great works of Zora Neale Hurston might never have been revived at all had it not been for an even greater renaissance throughout the 1960s and 1970s - the twin awakenings of Women's and Black Studies which have since added much-needed melanin and estrogen to the all-too pale, male-dominated world of letters.

PhotobucketIt is apt that a woman whose work involved folklore engulfed her own life in so many myths of her own; today, we can only be reasonably certain that Hurston was born on this day in 1891, in Notasulga, Alabama, and as a child moved to the first all-black town in the United States, at Eatonville, Florida. Orphaned by the age of 13, Hurston graduated from Morgan Academy in 1918, which may have been about the time she started playing fast and loose with her own chronology...

Though acclaimed early on as a novelist, Hurston was trained as an anthropologist, receiving her degree from Barnard College and later working with Ruth Benedict and Margaret Mead; as moving as her 1937 novel Their Eyes Were Watching God is, her study of voodoo from the same year, Tell My Horse, is just as revealing, although unlike its fictional counterpart, it isn't likely to be made into a Halle Berry movie by Oprah Winfrey with a screenplay by Suzan-Lori Parks. Is all I'm sayin'...*

It is to Alice Walker that credit for the Hurston Renaissance must go, as much as to the timeless vividity of Hurston's own writing; Walker's 1975 article for Ms. Magazine entitled In Search of Zora Neale Hurston had epic repercussions. Hurston had been buried in an unmarked grave; now her home in Fort Pierce, Florida, is a National Historic Landmark.

*Both of these books, plus the 1934 novel Jonah's Gourd Vine are to be found in the collection of the Pop Culture Institute.

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"Our Lips Are Sealed" by The Go-Go's

Birthday wishes go out today to Kathy Valentine, bassist for the pioneering all-female band The Go-Go's, whose contribution to Our Lips Are Sealed (from the 1981 album Beauty and the Beat) is a low-down and funky throb beneath what is an otherwise sunny, breezy song.

The video (which was proudly shown here until it was made impossible by the usual suspects - the embedding disablement Nazis over at YouTube) was a mainstay in the early days of MTV, and for more than 25 years has been a part of the soundtrack of summer for me, even in the dampest depths of a Vancouver winter... This replacement features a live lip-synced performance of the song by the band in 1982 on the Australian program Countdown.

So profound is this censorship that the official video posted by the band's record label isn't even available to me in Canada... Boycott EMI!
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In Memoriam: Princess Charlotte

Amongst counterfactual historians (within whose number I would include myself) one of the greatest of all 'what-ifs' involves Princess Charlotte, the only daughter of the Prince Regent (later George IV) and his despised (by him, at least) wife, Caroline of Brunswick.

PhotobucketDespite the fecundity of George III and his wife Queen Charlotte - they had twelve children survive to adulthood - when Princess Charlotte was born on this day in 1796 the succession was in deep trouble; while his sons had no trouble begetting bastards, finding and impregnating suitable wives was seemingly anathema to them. In order to remedy this dire situation, the King and Parliament offered to underwrite the debts of any Royal Duke willing to do his duty - a considerable expenditure given the profligate ways of 19th Century royalty.

All told, three of them arose to the task: George (then the Prince of Wales) and his younger brothers William, Duke of Clarence, and Edward, Duke of Kent. Clarence's two daughters - Charlotte and Elizabeth - died as infants, while Kent's daughter we will meet later...

Despite the animosity that spawned her - her parents hated each other on sight, and her father had to get so drunk in order to do his constitutional duty it's a wonder he could perform it at all - Princess Charlotte was high-spirited and vivacious, much beloved by the English public at a time when republican sympathies were engulfing Europe (especially France); as a young girl she more or less chose the man she wanted to marry, Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, and then insisted that he be allowed to court her, despite the fact that he was essentially landless and thus of no strategic or diplomatic value to the Crown. Even if they hadn't been royal, though, Charlotte's father would have still undoubtedly called her princess, so beloved was she by him; a grateful Nation and loving father granted the couple permission to marry, bestowing upon the newlyweds Claremont House as a wedding present.

In an all-too-common tragedy of the times, both Princess Charlotte and her son died in childbirth in November 1817; she was only 21. To put her death into modern context, the death of Diana was a sob compared to the paroxysm of grief that seized Britain as the late Heiress Presumptive's body was conveyed to St. George's Chapel, Windsor, where she would lie with so many of her colourful ancestors past and future.

Her husband would later remarry, to Louise-Marie of Orléans, and in 1831 became the first King of the Belgians; among his illustrious offspring was Empress Carlota of Mexico, named for his first wife. Following the death of George IV in 1830, his brother the Duke of Clarence became William IV, and following his death in 1837 he would be succeeded by their niece, daughter of the late Duke of Kent, a serious young woman whose long reign would impose itself in every corner of the globe and who would give her name to the age - Victoria.

But what if all those Victorians had been Charlottians instead? 'What if' indeed...
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POPnews - January 7th

[Is Bill Clinton a liar? It doesn't even matter what your definition of 'is' is - yes, he is. Is lying about adultery grounds for impeachment? Certainly the Pop Culture Institute doesn't think so - at least not compared to lying about weapons of mass destruction in order to provoke a costly foreign war to make your buddies in Big Oil richer than even their greediest imaginations. Just as a strictly hypothetical for instance...]

1325 - Alfonso IV became King of Portugal following the death of his father Denis.

1558 - Calais - a seaport on the English Channel/La Manche which was the final British holding on the Continent - was seized by Francis, duc de Guise, as England's Queen Mary I lay dying in London.

1598 - Boris Godunov seized the throne of Russia.

1608 - Fire destroyed Jamestown, Virginia.

1610 - Galileo Galilei observed the four largest moons of Jupiter for the first time; they were named after the lovers of Zeus (aka Jupiter) - Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto - by Simon Marius, but are referred to as the Galilean moons.

1782 - The first American commercial bank - the Bank of North America - opened, at the prodding of Superintendent of Finance Robert Morris, having received its charter from the Congress of the Confederation on the last day of December 1781.

1785 - Frenchman Jean-Pierre Blanchard and American John Jeffries crossed the English Channel from Dover Castle to Guînes (near Calais) in a gas balloon, taking about 2½ hours in which to do it; following their feat of derring-do Blanchard was granted a substantial pension by King Louis XVI.

1835 - The HMS Beagle - with Charles Darwin aboard - anchored off the Chonos Archipelago.

1904 - The distress signal CQD was established - only to be replaced two years later by SOS.

1920 - Republican Speaker of the New York State Assembly Thaddeus C. Sweet refused to seat five duly elected Socialist Party assemblymen - Samuel A. DeWitt, Samuel Orr, Louis Waldman, Charles Solomon, and August Claessens - in direct contravention of the democratic principles he'd only just been sworn to uphold.

1922 - Ireland's Dáil Éireann ratified the Anglo-Irish Treaty by a 64-57 vote.

1924 - George Gershwin completed his famed composition Rhapsody in Blue, which combined elements of classical music and jazz.

1927 - The Savoy Big Five, created by Abe Saperstein of Chicago, played their first game; later that year he changed their name to the Harlem Globetrotters, and a legend was born...

1931 - Guy Menzies made the first solo non-stop flight across the Tasman Sea (from Australia to New Zealand) in 11 hours and 45 minutes, crash-landing near Hari Hari, on New Zealand's west coast - shaving 2½ hours off the time taken by Charles Kingsford Smith and Charles Ulm during their historic first-ever trans-Tasman flight on board the Southern Cross in September 1928.

1935 - Italian dictator Benito Mussolini and French Foreign Minister Pierre Laval signed the Franco–Italian Agreement.

1959 - The United States recognized the government of Fidel Castro.

1973 - Twenty-three year-old Mark Essex fatally shot 9 people and wounded 13 others at the Howard Johnson's hotel on Loyola Avenue in New Orleans before himself being shot to death by police officers; he did forego killing blacks, though, and allowed several to escape during the rampage. At one time a gentle soul who aspired to the ministry, a two-year hitch in the US Navy exposed him to such graphic racism that he snapped... Yet further proof that racism hurts us all.

1993 - The Fourth Republic of Ghana was inaugurated with Jerry Rawlings as President.

1999 - The impeachment trial of US President Bill Clinton began.

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