Monday, February 28, 2011

Gratuitous Brunette: Robert Sean Leonard

Although he rose to prominence in such 20th Century period pics as Dead Poets Society, Mr. & Mrs. Bridge, and Swing Kids, in our arrogant opinion birthday boy Robert Sean Leonard (and particularly his bottom lip) attained their peak of succulence under a Tuscan sun during the Italian Renaissance; as Claudio in Kenneth Branagh's 1993 film adaptation of William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing he only had to pout to steal the whole show from such deli hams as Emma Thompson, Michael Keaton, and Branagh himself. Following the success of that film, he returned to the American costumer idiom, playing Ted Archer in The Age of Innocence, Martin Scorsese's curious adaptation of Edith Wharton's 1920 novel of the same name.

Of course, in the 21st Century he's been better known for wearing modern clothes in his role as Dr. James Wilson on Fox-TV's hit medical drama House - not least of all because of the homoerotic subtext between his character and the title character, Gregory House, played by Hugh Laurie. Personally I don't see it - can't straight guys be close friends without it leading to anything so fun* - but then I have no gaydar either, so what do I know?

*Even though there's a whole sub-genre of gay porno detailing with such relationships, which just happens to be one of my favourite gay porno subgenres, I don't think all straight guys who are friends have to have sex with each other. Like the ugly ones, for instance...

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In Memoriam: Blondin


As tightrope walkers go, few if any have attained the level of fame which accrued to Blondin, who was born on this day in 1824... Gymnastically precocious, his first public performance came before he was six years old - following just six months of training at the École de Gymnase in the southern French city of Lyon - at which he was billed 'The Little Wonder'.

The act for which he is most famous came when, as part of his tour of America in the 1850s, he crossed Niagara Falls on a tightrope - during which he was extensively photographed* with his manager Harry Colcord riding on his back**. It was for his numerous feats of derring-do in the UK that he owed his enduring reputation, though, among them a series of performances at London's Crystal Palace and Dublin's Royal Portobello Gardens, plus a crossing of Birmingham's Edgbaston Reservoir.

Having retired in in the mid-1870s, Blondin came out of retirement in 1880, and continued performing until 1896, when he gave his final performance in Belfast; he died in Ealing in February 1897, and was buried in Kensal Green Cemetery.

*Well, for the time anyway; it was, after all, June 1859.
**During that performance he also cooked and ate an omelette at the midpoint of the rope, 50 m (160 feet) above the swirling maelstrom below.
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"Drops Of Jupiter (Tell Me)" by Train

Birthday wishes go out today to the talented singer and multi-instrumentalist Patrick Monahan who, as lead singer of Train, had a monster hit in 2001 with Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me), which originally appeared on the band's second album of the same name. Monahan has said he was inspired to write the song by the death of his mother.

He's also released a solo album, 2007's Last of Seven.
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Pop History Moment: The Killing of Olof Palme

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On this day in 1986 Sweden's two-time Prime Minister Olof Palme - head of the Social Democratic Party and a well-respected (if low-key) diplomat on the world stage - was assassinated on a street in Stockholm, in front of his wife Lisbet, who was also injured in the attack.

Shortly thereafter the well-known right-wing extremist Victor Gunnarsson was arrested, and questioned by police, only to be released. It was more than two years later that a petty criminal named Christer Pettersson was arrested, tried, and convicted of the crime; he was released on appeal a year later, and died in 2004.

No one else has ever been charged, although several suspects have been discussed in the more than twenty years since Palme's murder, including South African superspy Craig Williamson, Anthony White, and Bertil Wedin; Germany's Red Army Faction (also known as the Bader-Meinhof) have actually claimed responsibility. As many motives as killers have also been suggested, from Palme's opposition to apartheid, his role in 1975's West German embassy siege, and a Swedish weapons deal with India.

To date the investigation into the killing of Olof Palme has cost the government of Sweden € 38 million and produced 700,000 pages of documentation, yet no answers...
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POPnews - February 28th

[Waco's shoddily built Mount Carmel Center met its fiery end on April 19th after a fifty-one day standoff (begun on this day in 1993) along with 79 pseudo-Christian fanatics obsessed with Armageddon who more than got their wish; the worst of it was that 21 of those who died were children, whose brief lives had already been tainted by hateful rhetoric, religious brainwashing and, it was reported, sexual abuse.]

202 BCE - The coronation ceremony of Liu Bang as Emperor Gaozu of Han took place, initiating four centuries of the Han Dynasty's rule over China.

870 CE - The Fourth Council of Constantinople closed.

1827 - The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad was incorporated, becoming the first railroad in America to offer the commercial transportation of both people and freight.

1838 - Robert Nelson, leader of the Patriotes, proclaimed the independence of Lower Canada - better known today as Québec.

1844 - A gun on the USS Princeton exploded while on a cruise of the Potomac River, killing 8 US Cabinet members - Secretary of State Abel P. Upshur and Secretary of the Navy Thomas Gilmer among them - and several others besides, including Colonel David Gardiner, the father of President John Tyler's fiance Julia Gardiner (both of whom had been lucky enough to escape injury).

1850 - The University of Utah opened in Salt Lake City.

1870 - The Bulgarian Exarchate was established by decree of Sultan Abd-ul-Aziz of the Ottoman Empire.

1897 - Queen Ranavalona III, Madagascar's last reigning monarch, was deposed by a French military force.

1935 - Nylon was discovered by Wallace Carothers.

1947 - In Taiwan, civil disorder was put down at a loss of 30,000 civilian lives; the event later became known as the 228 Incident.

1953 - James D. Watson and Francis Crick announced to friends that they'd determined the chemical structure of DNA, which would be formally announced the following April.

1975 - A major crash at London's Moorgate Tube station killed 43 people.

1983 - The final episode of the long-running TV sitcom M*A*S*H was domestically broadcast, becoming the most watched television episode in history to date, with 106 million viewers in the US; these figures have since been surpassed, by Super Bowl XLIV, which attracted 106.5 million viewers in February 2010.

1985 - The Provisional IRA carried out a mortar attack on the Royal Ulster Constabulary police station at Newry, killing nine officers; it was the the highest loss of life for a single day in the history of the RUC.

1993 - Who could have guessed that when Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents raided the Branch Davidian church with a warrant to arrest the group's leader David Koresh that it would all end so thrillingly? While four ATF agents and five Davidians died in this initial raid, a further 82 Davidians (including their leader) died in the brimstone-less fire shown above.

1997 - The North Hollywood shootout took place, in which bank robbers Larry Phillips, Jr. and Emil Matasareanu were killed in a shootout with police.

2001 - The Nisqually Earthquake - measuring 6.8 on the Richter Scale - affected the Nisqually Valley, Seattle, Tacoma, and Olympia in Washington state.

2004 - Over 1 million Taiwanese took part in the 228 Hand-in-Hand Rally, forming a 500-kilometre (300-mile) long human chain to commemorate that country's 228 Incident in 1947.

2007 - The New Horizons spacecraft - on its way to Pluto - flew past Jupiter.

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