Thursday, January 27, 2011

Remembering... John Updike


One of the most prolific and sensitive chroniclers of 20th Century suburban angst died, of lung cancer, on this day in 2009 at the age of 76; through the course of his series of books (Rabbit, Run, Rabbit Redux, Rabbit Is Rich, Rabbit At Rest, and Rabbit Remembered) John Updike followed the rise and fall of one such suburbanite, Harry 'Rabbit' Angstrom. The third and fourth of these earned him the Pulitzer Prize.

Yet for all that his repute was based on those five, Updike was very prolific author indeed, responsible for as many as a hundred books; excelling at the art of the short story, he'd contributed hundreds of them to The New Yorker since 1954, in addition to reviews and poems. Among his other famous works is The Witches of Eastwick, which was made into a film directed by George Miller in 1987, a 2000 stage musical by John Dempsey and Dana P. Rowe, and twice over a television series - first in 2002 and again in 2009*.

For all his obsession with the motivations of adultery, Updike didn't describe the mechanics it well at all; in November 2008 he was given a lifetime achievement award by the UK's Literary Review, which annually sponsors the Bad Sex in Fiction Award - the only one this author truly covets (aside from the Nobel, of course).

*The shows, both entitled Eastwick, were ill-fated; the former - starring Jason O'Mara, Marcia Cross, Kelly Rutherford, and Lori Loughlin - exists only as a pilot, and the latter - with Paul Gross, Lindsay Price, Jaime Ray Newman and Rebecca Romijn - aired 11 episodes before being cancelled (leaving 2 unaired in its initial US run).
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"Misguided Angel" by Cowboy Junkies

Birthday wishes go out today to Margo Timmins, for more than twenty years now the ethereal voice of her brother Michael's band, Canadian roots music pioneers Cowboy Junkies.

The song Misguided Angel (which Timmins herself believes is the best one she ever wrote) originally appeared on the 1988 album The Trinity Session - the band's second album, which was recorded live at Toronto's Church of the Holy Trinity, and which provided them with their breakthrough; the version released as a single in 1988 was recorded in one take, a testament to the artistry of all the musicians involved.
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Happy Birthday Ethan Mordden

To paraphrase the site near the top of my blogroll, 'why oh why' are most of the people I like best also the worst served by the Internet Photo Gods? But more importantly: 'why oh why' have those same deities forsaken me yet again, so soon after the last time*? Obviously, it's time to ritually sacrifice another issue of Life magazine in order to appease them.

PhotobucketEver since I was introduced to his 'Buddies' cycle of novels shortly after the release of 1985's I've a Feeling We're Not in Kansas Anymore - thus rendering me incapable of complete loathing for twinks** - I have eagerly followed the fictional exploits of Carlo, Dennis Savage, J. (formerly Little Kiwi), Cosgrove, and Bud with the same fascination I've followed the semi-fictional real-life archetypes upon whom they were based.

Mordden is more than a deft writer of fiction, though; his nonfiction works include histories of Broadway musical theatre and an adept perspective on classic film and the artists who made them, as well as a recent biography of Florenz Ziegfeld which somehow found its way into the collection of the Pop Culture Institute***.

Born on this day in 1949, Mordden lives in Manhattan, the city he has so eloquently described and inhabited lo these many years...

*I'm still reeling over the numerous House of Grimaldi bloodbaths of the past four weeks.
**Thanks a lot!
***In the interest of full disclosure: the book nearly caught fire like a comet entering the atmosphere, so quickly did I snatch it off the shelf in the store when I first saw it.

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POPnews - January 27th

[Although the ignition source of the fire which killed Grissom, White, and Chaffee on this day in 1967 was never conclusively identified, the astronauts' deaths were attributed to a wide range of lethal design hazards in the early Apollo command module - the kind of clusterfuck which that normally comes from accepting the lowest bid.]

661 CE - The Rashidun Caliphate ended with death of Ali.

1142 - General Yue Fei of the Southern Song Dynasty was executed on orders of Chancellor Qin Hui which may or may not have come directly from Emperor Gaozong; nevertheless, for his groundless act Qin Hui is today remembered as a traitor to the Han race whereas Yue Fei is still considered a paragon of loyalty.

1186 - King of Germany, King of Italy, and Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI (the son and heir of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I and Beatrix of Burgundy) married Constance of Sicily, who was herself the sole legitimate heir of Sicily's King William II - thus adding that crown to his already impressive collection.

1595 - Following a failed attack on San Juan, Puerto Rico, English privateer Sir Francis Drake died of dysentery off the Panamanian coast near Portobelo; he was 55.  Drake was later buried at sea in a lead coffin wearing his full armour - a treasure which continues to elude discovery to this day...

1606 - Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators went on trial in London's Westminster Hall for their role in the Gunpowder Plot.

1785 - The University of Georgia was founded, making it the first public university in the United States.

1870 - The Kappa Alpha Theta fraternity was founded at DePauw University.

1880 - Thomas Edison filed a patent for the electric-incandescent lamp, more commonly known today as a light-bulb.

1888 - The National Geographic Society was incorporated in Washington, DC, by Gardiner Greene Hubbard - having been founded two weeks earlier at the Cosmos Club.

1909 - The Young Left was founded in Norway.

1918 - The first hostilities occurred in the Finnish Civil War - pitting the White Guards and the German Empire against the Red Guards and the Russian SFSR.

1939 - The Lockheed P-38 Lightning made its first flight.

1944 - The 900-day Siege of Leningrad was lifted after the 13-day Leningrad-Novgorod Strategic Offensive saw Soviet forces rout the city's Nazi occupiers.

1945 - The Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz was liberated.

1951 - Nuclear testing at the Nevada Test Site began with a one-kiloton bomb dropped on Frenchman Flats.

1967 - Gus Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chaffee were killed when a fire broke out during a training exercise on the Apollo I spacecraft.

1973 - Colonel William Nolde was killed in action at An Loc eleven hours before the signing of the Paris Peace Accords officially ended the Vietnam War, making him the conflict's last recorded American combat casualty.

1996 - International Holocaust Remembrance Day was first celebrated in Germany.

2003 - The first selections for the National Recording Registry were announced by the Library of Congress; they included 50 diverse offerings such as those made by Thomas Edison when first exhibiting his phonograph in 1888, the Metropolitan Opera's Mapleson Cylinders, Ragtime piano rolls by Scott Joplin, Booker T. Washington's 1895 Atlanta Exposition speech, and a recording of Casey at the Bat as performed by vaudevillian DeWolf Hopper among others.

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