Monday, January 24, 2011

Standup by Jimeoin

Birthday wishes go out to Ulster-style comedian, Jimeoin, whose low-key delivery has been yielding big laughs since the early 90s, shortly after he moved to Australia. Originally working as a landscape gardener, his absurdist take on life naturally leant itself more to comedy clubs than hydrangeas, and he was off. He still enjoys the great outdoors, however, and combines extensive touring with opportunities to golf and fish - expeditions he now often films for TV specials.

Already a well-known fixture in the Australian domestic film and television market, with appearances in the films The Craic (1999) and The Extra (2005) - which he co-wrote and starred in with longtime collaborator Bob Franklin - Jimeoin has also become a legend for his eponymous television program, which ran for three seasons (1994-95). He's also become well-known for the sets he's performed at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, as well as appearing on television in America, Canada, and the UK.
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Happy Birthday Maria Tallchief

Maria Tallchief was the first American woman to achieve the vaunted status of prima ballerina; this was all the more amazing since she was also the first Native American to be acclaimed in ballet. Gaining her start in 1942 with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, she later moved to the New York City Ballet, during which time she had a six-year childless marriage with famed choreographer George Balanchine, and where she danced until she was 40.

PhotobucketBorn on this day in 1925, Tallchief trained in California under Bronislava Nijinska, who encouraged her to live every part of her life as though she were a ballerina. This early form of creative visualization would prove wildly successful...

During her marriage to Balanchine Tallchief acted as his muse, dancing the lead in his ballets The Firebird and his own distinctive staging of The Nutcracker, which has become the standard; following their divorce she married the aviator Elmourza Natirboff and subsequently builder Henry 'Buzz' Paschen, with whom she had a daughter, poet and educator Elise Paschen.

Maria Tallchief has been honoured by the name Wa-Xthe-Thomba ('Woman of Two Worlds'), which was granted to her by the Governor of Oklahoma, her birth state. She was awarded the Kennedy Center Honors in 1996, at the same time as Johnny Cash, Jack Lemmon, Edward Albee, and Benny Carter and received the National Medal of Arts from the National Endowment of the Arts in 1999. She is also honoured in the statue The Five Moons - alongside Yvonne Chouteau, Rosella Hightower, Moscelyne Larkin and Marjorie Tallchief - located in the garden of the Tulsa Historical Society.
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In Memoriam: Farinelli

While the famed castrato Farinelli may be the first man ever featured on the Pop Culture Institute with no balls*, one should never mistake the lack of testes for a lack of manhood**; not only was Farinelli an acclaimed operatic singer, he was also a kind of a human bed warmer, taken to more aristocratic bosoms than perfume and/or diamonds, specifically because he practiced the ultimate form of contraception...

PhotobucketBorn on this day in 1705, as a boy he moved with his family moved to Naples where he attended the Conservatory of Santa Maria di Loreto; there, under the tutelage of Nicola Porpora, it was intended that the boy would study to be a composer. However, his father's early death seems to have prompted his castration, whereby he could become a singer to support his family. In that era, as many as 4,000 boys a year underwent the procedure in hopes that they would become famed singers, which puts the whole boy band mania of our times into perspective.

Farinelli's career trajectory was steep; he moved from Rome to Vienna to München, and all around Italy in the process, during which tours he was hailed by fans and composers alike, and even received by royalty. In very real terms, Farinelli was the first rock star; everyone wanted to work with him for his virtuosity, which is the same reason so many others seemed to want to sleep with him.

One person who perhaps fit into both categories was the composer and noted whoopsie George Frideric Handel, whose attempts to lure Farinelli to London were intermittently successful; still, the divo seems to have preferred Paris and Madrid, where he settled in the court of Philip V in order to try and cure the King's serious depression. In August 1737 Farinelli was named a criado familiar (an honorary member of the Royal Family) and thereafter never sang in public. Nine years later, Farinelli's influence at court increased upon the accession of Ferdinand VI; following the subsequent accession of Charles III in 1759, music fell from favour at the Spanish court, and suddenly Farinelli was out of a job. He retired to Bologna with a generous pension and, while he received many famous visitors there, grew lonely - having outlived most of his contemporaries.

Farinelli died in September 1782, following which his remains moved around a bit due to the vagaries of war; he was last disinterred in 2006 so scientists could study his vocal mechanism via bone structure and DNA. A 1994 biopic, Farinelli directed by Gérard Corbiau and starring Stefano Dionisi (voiced by Derek Lee Ragin), was released to much art-house acclaim, just as a resurgence in the countertenor was occurring; the countertenor voice is the closest to the castrato, and the spontaneous appearance of numerous performers skilled in it in the 1990s allowed for a rebirth of interest in Baroque opera, although it meant that the women who had been playing these so-called 'trouser roles' had to go back to playing female characters.

*Even though, in saying so, I've passed up an awesome opportunity to slander Canadian Prim(e) Minister Stephen Harper who, it should be noted, must have a Hell of a pair to have even tried a tenth of the crap he has.
**Since we all know it's the cock that determines manhood - which is why it's called 'the manhood', duh!

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"Simple Man" by Klaus Nomi

Klaus Nomi's early death cut short a recording career which bordered on performance art. That his performance career was also out there is a given; by putting a New Wave twist on the Weimar-era's Brechtian theatrics (looking like a cross between the MC from Cabaret and Max Headroom) Nomi was something American audiences at that time were unused to seeing.

A fixture in the rich cultural life of Manhattan's East Village in the 1970s and early 1980s - alongside such towering figures as Charles Ludlam, Joey Arias, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, and Kenny Scharf - Nomi's greatest renown came when he was chosen by David Bowie to appear with him on a December 1979 episode of Saturday Night Live.

Nomi was one of the first celebrity casualties of AIDS; I stood over his panel when the Quilt came to Ottawa, and even though I'd never heard any of his work at that point, I was well aware of who he was. I have since enlightened my ignorance, and I can say his influence is both quite thorough and entirely deserving. His countertenor/falsetto lives on aurally in the work of Jimmy Somerville and his aesthetic (as well as his sound) can be detected in the work of Tiger Lillies.

He may have called his album Simple Man, but Klaus Nomi was anything but; born on this day in 1944, he died in August 1983.
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POPnews - January 24th

[Caligula, Rome's third Emperor, began his reign in March 37 CE promisingly enough; after a couple of years, however, something hastened his descent into depravity. Possibly the job went to his head, or he may have developed some kind of mental illness. Whatever the reason, he comes down to us through history as a right perv, as famously portrayed by Malcolm McDowell in the 1979 film Caligula - aka 'the most expensive porno ever made'.]

41 CE - Caligula was assassinated by his Praetorian Guards.

1742 - Prince-elector Charles VII Albert of Bavaria became Holy Roman Emperor.

1848 - Gold was discovered by James W. Marshall at Sutter's Mill, near Sacramento, California.

1857 - The University of Calcutta was formally established, making it the first full-fledged university in south Asia.

1859 - Following the political union of Moldavia and Wallachia, Alexandru Ioan Cuza was elected the first Domnitor or ruler of the aptly-named United Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia.

1887 - At the Battle of Dogali Abyssinian troops under Ras Alula Engida defeated an Italian force commanded by Colonel Tommaso De Cristofori.

1907 - The Boy Scout movement was founded by Robert Baden-Powell.

1916 - In Brushaber v. Union Pacific Railroad, the Supreme Court of the United States declared the federal income tax constitutional.

1924 - Petrograd, formerly St. Petersburg, was renamed Leningrad; Leningrad, formerly Petrograd, has since been renamed St. Petersburg.

1927 - The Pleasure Garden - the first film directed by Alfred Hitchcock - opened in London, following the success of The Lodger, which was made after but released before.

1936 - Albert Sarraut began his second term as Prime Minister of France.

1943 - At the height of World War II US President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill concluded a 10-day conference in Casablanca.

1961 - A B-52 Stratofortress bomber carrying two hydrogen bombs broke up and crashed over Goldsboro, North Carolina; one weapon nearly detonated, and its uranium core is still lost.

1966 - An Air India Boeing 707 jet named Kanchen-junga and piloted by J. T. D'Souza crashed into Mont Blanc, on the approach to Geneva airport, killing 117; among those killed was Dr. Homi J. Babha, who had recently been named chairman of India's Atomic Energy Commission.

1977 - At the Massacre of Atocha in Madrid - during the Spanish transition to democracy - 5 were killed and four injured by members of the far-right group Alianza Apostólica Anticomunista.

1984 - The first Apple Macintosh was sold.

1986 - NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft passed Uranus; the usual jokes were made that are inevitably made whenever anyone mentions Uranus, most of them by me.

1993 - Turkish journalist and writer Uğur Mumcu was assassinated by a jihadist car bomb in Ankara.

2003 - The US Department of Homeland Security began its first day of business.
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