Friday, February 11, 2011

"Numb" by Linkin Park

Birthday wishes go out today to Mike Shinoda, founding member and front man for Nu metal pioneers Linkin Park...

The song Numb - taken from the band's 2003 album Meteora - spent twelve weeks at the top of Billboard's Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, and because of when it was released (namely October) it became the only song in rock history to top the charts in two consecutive years; it was later combined with the Jay-Z song Encore to create Numb/Encore, a massive hit for both artists which was featured on the album Collision Course.

The real reason I've posted this video, though, is because Linkin Park is one of Mr Eaton's favourite bands, and he just has that effect on me.
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"Lady Lazarus" by Sylvia Plath

Arguably Sylvia Plath's most famous poem, Lady Lazarus was first published posthumously in 1965, in a collection entitled Ariel. Ariel also contains what is arguably Plath's second most famous poem, Daddy, as well as Tulips.

Rather than merely reprinting the text of one of these poems, I was fortunate enough to find a version of Lady Lazarus being read by Plath herself, accompanied by some suitable images; despite the grimness of some of its sentiments, Lady Lazarus also contains many images of light, possibly indicating that following her death - which occurred on this day in 1963 - she would be reborn, as a Phoenix might... In terms of publication, of course, that is just what happened.

In 1982 Sylvia Plath became the first poet to be posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize for her Collected Poems.
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Pop History Moment: Sylvia Plath Committed Suicide

While to many casual observers of Sylvia Plath and her work, her suicide on this day in 1963 may have seemed inevitable from the outset, the legion of fans she's been growing ever since seem to prefer blaming Plath's actions on her husband, Ted Hughes; for his part Hughes' behaviour as her widower and executor hasn't often been in his own best defense, especially following the 1969 suicide of his mistress Assia Wevill, but to be fair her mental state after their marriage wasn't much better than it had been before they'd met. The central tension still faced by Plath scholars today is whose perspective - Plath's or Hughes' - one favours.

PhotobucketYet Plath's novel The Bell Jar - published under the pseudonym 'Victoria Lucas' just a month before she made her first successful suicide attempt - itself reads like an extended suicide note, a roman à clef containing thinly veiled references to her own life and its travails, including previous suicide attempts. In fact, it's more or less a 'How-To' guide to the Sylvia Plath Effect.

Since the majority of the work Plath published before her death was poetry (as well as that single novel) her reputation today rests as much on the drastic actions of her last day as it does on the posthumous publication of her diaries and the poetry collection Ariel (1965) by her literary executor, Ted Hughes. In fact, Plath went so far as to become the first dead poet to win a Pulitzer Prize, which she did for her volume The Collected Poems, published in 1982. Not bad for a Holocaust-obsessed hysteric who gassed herself to death in her oven while her children were still at home...

Plath was, of course, played by Gwyneth Paltrow in the 2003 film Sylvia, in which Ted Hughes was played by Daniel Craig; the couple's daughter Frieda Hughes has publicly expressed her distaste for the film and its makers.
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Now Showing: Nelson Mandela's First Interview

On this day in 1990, after years of pressure on South Africa's apartheid governments by the West, Nelson Mandela was released from prison; he is interviewed here by James Robbins of the BBC upon his release. No one quite knew what to expect of a man who'd been in prison for 27 years - many of them either at hard labour or in isolation - but from the first he appeared poised and spoke like a diplomat and statesman.

Through the years ahead he would continue to serve as a model for African leadership, steering his country through a rocky transition to majority rule, jettisoning the wife who stood by him throughout his incarceration when the full extent of her criminal activities became known, and keeping the potential for rancour in a body such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu) at bay.
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Pop History Moment: Nelson Mandela Released From Prison


On this day in 1990, leading human rights campaigner Nelson Mandela was freed from Victor Verster Prison in South Africa after a 27-year-long incarceration conducted most famously at Robben Island and also later at Pollsmoor Prison. Mandela had been imprisoned since 1964 as an outspoken opponent of apartheid.

Nine days earlier President F. W. de Klerk - who'd replaced hard-line pro-apartheid president P. W. Botha after he suffered a stroke in September 1989 - lifted a ban on the African National Congress; in an instant de Klerk went from being a life-long conservative to a hero of South Africa's new enlightenment. The negotiation process which eventually took the country from official bigotry to the modern age would eventually earn de Klerk and Mandela the Nobel Peace Prize and, of course, lead to the inauguration of Mandela as South Africa's first black president in May 1994.
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POPnews - February 11th

[One of the few moments of humour in the otherwise incessant downer of the Bush Administration was the shooting of Harry Whittington in the face by his friend Dick Cheney; admittedly, it was dark humour - darker even than the heart of its perpetrator - but by that point we were getting pretty desperate...]

660 BCE - Japan's Meiji Government declared this to be the date for the country's foundation by Emperor Jimmu; from 1872 to 1948 the day was celebrated in Japan as Kigensetsu, whereas today's National Foundation Day is a far more sombre affair.

55 CE - Tiberius Claudius Caesar Britannicus, heir to the throne of the Roman Empire, died in Rome under mysterious circumstances, clearing the way for Nero to become Emperor.

731 CE - Pope Gregory II died; he was succeeded by Gregory III on March 18th.

1659 - During the Northern Wars an assault on Copenhagen by the Swedish forces of King Karl X Gustav (commanded by Otto Stenbock) was beaten back by Hans Schack and the Defenders of Copenhagen with heavy losses on the Swedish side.

1840 - Gaetano Donizetti's opera La Fille du Régiment premiered at the Opéra-Comique in Paris.

1843 - Giuseppe Verdi's opera I Lombardi premiered at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan.

1855 - Kassa Hailu was crowned Tewodros II, Emperor of Ethiopia, by Abuna Salama III in a ceremony at the church of Derasge Maryam.

1858 - The Blessed Virgin Mary reputedly appeared to Saint Bernadette Soubirous near the French village of Lourdes.

1873 - Spain's King Amadeus I abdicated, having held the throne for less than three years.

1889 - Japan adopted its so-called Meiji Constitution which, among other things, called for the first meeting of the Imperial Diet in November 1890; since 1948 that august body has been known as the National Diet.

1895 - The UK's lowest ever temperature of -27.2°C (-17 F) was recorded at Braemar in Aberdeenshire; this record was equalled in January 1982 and again in December 1995.

1916 - Emma Goldman was arrested for speaking out in favour of birth control.

1938 - BBC Television produced the world's first ever science fiction television program - an adaptation of a section of the Karel Capek play R.U.R., which coined the term 'robot'.

1942 - The Battle of Bukit Timah was fought in Singapore during World War II, following which Japan's Masanobu Tsuji had defeated Ian Stewart's Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders; British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called the subsequent fall of Singapore four days later 'the worst disaster and largest capitulation in British history'.

1953 - US President Dwight D. Eisenhower refused an appeal for clemency by Ethel and Julius Rosenberg; they would both be executed the following June 19th.

1963 - Julia Child's show The French Chef premiered.

1964 - The Beatles held their first concert in the United States at the Washington Coliseum in Washington, D.C.

1975 - Margaret Thatcher was chosen leader of the UK's Conservative Party.

2006 - US Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot his friend Harry Whittington in the face while the two were hunting quail together near Dallas; Whittington later apologized to Cheney, which for the professionally snarky was a punchline and a money shot in one.

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