Monday, January 31, 2011

"Stone Cold Sober" by Paloma Faith

Although it's not yet Paloma Faith's birthday - that would be on July 21st - I've posted the video for her debut single Stone Cold Sober (coincidentally from her 2009 debut album Do You Want the Truth or Something Beautiful?) today in honour of Sophie Muller, who not only directed the clip but celebrates another milestone by blowing out candles*.

Muller, of course, is most famous around the Pop Culture Institute (and, possibly, even the world) for the stylish, innovative work she's done with Annie Lennox - both in and out of Eurythmics - as well as some of our favourite bold-faced names including Sade, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Rufus Wainwright, Nelly Furtado, and Gwen Stefani; to date her resume includes over a hundred such films, making Sophie Muller a true master of this most modern form of cinematic art.

*Candles which have no doubt been exquisitely photographed!
share on: facebook

Gratuitous Brunette: Minnie Driver


Ah, what is there to say about Minnie Driver... After subjecting the sizable portion of my readership who are straight men to a steady parade of hot guys, every so often one feels the need to give them something in return; she seemed like the right woman at the right time, and it is her birthday. I suppose it helps that I've always liked her, so at least I don't feel like a total sell-out...

From the first big notices she got in 1995's Circle of Friends to the antic romp of Grosse Pointe Blank to the Academy Award nomination she received for 1997's Good Will Hunting, from her early appearances on Lovejoy to her portrayal of Lorraine Finster on the classic sitcom Will & Grace to her bravura turn opposite Eddie Izzard in The Riches, Driver has leant her exotic looks and contrasting posh air to everything she's done. She's even played the hilariously over-the-top Carlotta Giudicelli in Joel Schumacher's film of The Phantom of the Opera, making herself a one-woman highlight of that bombastic mess in the process.

Romantically linked over the years to any number of fellow thespians - including John Cusack, Josh Brolin, and Matt Damon, most of them former co-stars - as of September 2008 the most important male in her life is her son, Henry Story Driver.
share on: facebook

Happy Birthday Your Majesty


Born on this day in 1938 at Soestdijk Palace - to Dutch Crown Princess Juliana and Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld - the early life of Princess Beatrix was an uncertain one to say the least, born as she was under the threat of war; joined in the nursery a year later by Princess Irene, as infants the two princesses had to be spirited away out of the Netherlands ahead of an advancing Nazi horde...

They went first to London, where her grandmother Queen Wilhelmina stayed to manage the government-in-exile, and then to Ottawa, where the royal family lived in Stornoway, the official residence of that country's Leader of the Opposition. While in Canada the two sisters were joined by a third, Princess Margriet. Nowadays, each spring the Canadian capital still comes alive owing to millions of tulip bulbs donated by a grateful Dutch people.

The Royal Family returned to Holland in August 1945, and were shortly thereafter joined by yet another sister, Princess Christina, in 1947. Having reigned since November 1890, Queen Wilhelmina abdicated in September 1948, making Juliana the Queen and ten-year-old Beatrix the heiress presumptive.

Beatrix was installed in the Council of State on this date in 1956, her 18th birthday, at which time she began to take on royal duties while pursuing her education at Leiden University, studying the usual mix of history and constitutional law. The education of Princess Beatrix coincided with the move towards independence of many of the Netherlands' overseas possessions, such as Indonesia and Suriname.

About the only controversial thing Beatrix has ever done was to fall in love with Claus von Amsberg, a German diplomat; their wedding day in March 1966 was marred by protests across the Netherlands, where memories of the recent war were still very much fresh. Their procession was picketed by the Provo, who were not content to chant 'Claus, raus!*' at them but also threw smoke bombs at their carriage. Not only was Beatrix given a test of her resolve that day, the country's well-known reputation for tolerance was tested as well; in both instances they passed with flying colours... Over time Prince Claus came to be a well-respected member of both the Royal Family and Dutch society.

Beatrix has seemed at times like a one-woman bulwark against republican sentiment in the tiny European kingdom, with only her personal popularity managing to preserve both the dignity and the reality of the crown. Following the abdication of her mother in April 1980 protests by squatters against the new queen's investiture turned violent, and led to an overhaul of the country's already massive social programs.

The mother of three princes - Crown Prince Willem-Alexander, Johan-Friso, and Constantijn - at the age of 73 Her Majesty shows no signs of slowing down, although given the precedent set by her mother and grandmother she may yet abdicate as a form of retirement. Widowed since the death of Prince Claus in October 2002, in addition to the affairs of state Queen Beatrix manages one of the largest personal fortunes in Europe, much of which takes the form of property and works of art held in trust for the nation.

*Meaning 'Claus, out!' in German; all things considered, rather a witty slogan.

share on: facebook

"My Love" by Justin Timberlake

Just to give you some idea of how much I love this song, it was my ringtone for several months running; which, for someone both preternaturally set in his ways and yet with the attention span of a magpie surely constitutes a major commitment*. To be honest, though, I resisted the charms of birthday boy Justin Timberlake for a long time. Partly it was the boy band thing, although of that ilk 'N Sync was one of the better ones; mainly though it was because I wanted to see if there was more to him than single-digit body fat and the ability to score A-list tail.

Well, dammnit... There was! The first time I heard SexyBack I knew I was in trouble, and by the time My Love came out I was a committed... What? Timberlaker? Good enough!

The second single from his 2006 second album FutureSex/LoveSounds, My Love still lives on my iPod, where it's been since that first day. As for me, I await with bated breath what he might do next...

*I mean, first I had to take my existing ringtone off; then I had to stick with the new one for months. Since I only change the wallpaper on my laptop three times a year, that's epic!

share on: facebook

In Memoriam: Tallulah Bankhead

In an age of enforced propriety, Tallulah Bankhead was a committed vulgarian; that many of her most notorious comments couldn't be repeated in mixed company for decades after she uttered them has ensured her reputation as a cult figure in perpetuity. Today, in an age when minding your tongue is as old-fashioned as hoop skirts and seemingly as irrelevant as Republicans, the husky-voiced actress from Alabama is long overdue for rediscovery...

PhotobucketBorn on this day in 1902, the daughter of future US House Speaker William Brockman Bankhead, her mother Adelaide Eugenia Bankhead died of blood poisoning shortly after Tallulah's birth; an overweight child, frequently described as 'homely', Tallulah was virtually destined to become an entertainer.

She overcame her homeliness early enough that by 15 she had won a movie magazine beauty contest, at which time she moved to New York City. Almost instantly she became famous for being famous, dwelling as she did on the fringes of the Algonquin Round Table. In 1923 she made her debut on the London stage and fortunately was possessed of immense talent, after which she would be as famous for her talents onstage for the rest of her life as she was for her talents in the bedroom, on the back seat, or sprawled across a restaurant banquette.

Bankhead's movie career was skimpy, but her influence over American cinema was immense nonetheless... Frequently the roles she played on Broadway would make their way to Hollywood played by Bette Davis, most notably when she originated the role of Regina Giddens in Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes. She did, however, manage to commit the full range of her talents to celluloid while she was at her loveliest in Alfred Hitchcock's 1944 film Lifeboat.

She died in December 1968 of complications arising from emphysema, which was the official cause; her fellow sybarites know, however, that having always lived her life to the hilt she'd simply lived herself to death.  What a way to go!
share on: facebook

POPnews - January 31st

[As seen from the air the island nation of Nauru doesn't look like much - and it isn't; still, the once-rich island, famed for its phosphate, remains a tropical paradise, and despite rudimentary health care and reticent locals it's still a better bet to visit than a lot of places I could name, but won't.]

314 CE - The papal reign of Sylvester I began; he succeeded Pope Miltiades, who'd died on January 10th.

1606 - Guy Fawkes was executed for his role in the Gunpowder Plot.

1746 - The first clinic specializing in the treatment of venereal disease was opened at London Lock Hospital.

1814 - Gervasio Antonio de Posadas became Supreme Director of Argentina.

1846 - Following the Milwaukee Bridge War, Juneautown on the east bank of the Milwaukee River and Kilbourntown on the west were united as Milwaukee.

1919 - The Battle of George Square occurred in Glasgow between the Scottish TUC and Clyde Workers' Committee and City of Glasgow Police over the forty-hour work week; despite many injuries (some to women and children) no fatalities were reported, and afterwards workers were granted a 47-hour work week.

1929 - The Soviet Union exiled Leon Trotsky to Alma Ata (now in Kazakhstan); he would be expelled to Turkey in February 1929, accompanied by his wife Natalia Sedova and his son Lev Sedov.

1930 - 3M began marketing Scotch tape.

1936 - The Green Hornet debuted on the NBC Blue radio network.

1958 - The first successful launch of an American satellite into orbit made the first space age discovery when Explorer 1 was used by James Van Allen to discover the Van Allen radiation belt.

1961 - Ham the Chimp traveled into outer space on board the Mercury-Redstone 2 rocket as part of NASA's Project Mercury.

1966 - The Soviet Union launched its unmanned Luna 9 spacecraft as part of the Luna program.

1968 - Nauru declared its independence from Australia.

1969 - The body of nursing student Gail Miller was discovered by Larry Fisher; she had been raped then brutally murdered before being dumped in a Saskatoon alley. Arrested for the crime was a lodger of Fisher's, 17-year-old David Milgaard, who was convicted one year later to the day. Milgaard served 23 years in jail before his release in 1992; in 1997 he was exonerated by DNA evidence, and Fisher himself was convicted of the crime after more than 30 years.

1971 - Astronauts Alan Shepard, Stuart Roosa, and Edgar Mitchell lifted off aboard a Saturn V rocket as part of the Apollo 14 Mission to the Fra Mauro Highlands on the Moon.

2001 - In the Netherlands a Scottish court convicted one Libyan and acquitted another for their part in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 which caused a December 1988 crash at Lockerbie, Scotland.

2003 - The Waterfall rail accident occurred near the Australian town of Waterfall, New South Wales.

2007 - Under the aegis of Operation Gamble, eight suspects (including mastermind Parviz Khan) were arrested in Birmingham, accused of plotting the kidnap, holding, and eventual beheading of a serving Muslim British soldier in Iraq. Khan would eventually be sentenced to life in prison for his role in the plot.

2009 - At least 113 people were killed and over 200 injured in Kenya following an oil spillage ignition in Molo, days after a massive fire at a Nakumatt supermarket in Nairobi killed at least 25 people.
share on: facebook