Tuesday, March 01, 2011

World City-Zen: Rio de Janeiro


Although the picturesque coastal setting of Guanabara Bay - where today South America's third largest conurbation resides - was first explored by Gaspar de Lemos in January 1502 (thus its name) the city itself wouldn't appear there for more than six decades; and while it was a French explorer named Nicolas Durand de Villegaignon who founded the area's first European settlement at Fort Coligny on the bay's Serigipe Island in 1555 (during the France Antarctique period) it was actually on this day in 1565 that Estácio de Sá established Rio de Janeiro following a successful military action against the French.

De Sa's contribution is now commemorated in the naming of thousands of schools and roadways throughout Brazil, including Rio's Estácio neighbourhood.

The city was made capital of Brazil when the Portugese royal family found itself exiled from Europe in 1808. It would remain the capital following the establishment of the Brazilian monarchy under Pedro I in 1822, would continue in that role after the country became a republic in 1889, and was only relieved of the duty when administrative authority decamped to Brasília in April 1960.

As so often happens, the tropical paradise of Rio de Janeiro has also earned a reputation for crime; amidst its Carnival celebrations, famous beaches such as Copacabana and Ipanema, and major tourist attractions like Christ the Redeemer atop Corcovado, gangs of heavily armed thugs roam the city's favelas and posh neighbourhoods alike wreaking mayhem. The city's residents, known as cariocas, seem to take it all in their stride as they strive to provide visitors with the warm welcome generations of tourists have come to expect from them. It only remains to be seen if the city's problems can be successfully curtailed by the time it welcomes the world as the host of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.
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"It's Not The End Of The World" by Super Furry Animals

Birthday wishes go out today to Dafydd Ieuan, drummer with Welsh pop outfit Super Furry Animals, whose 2002 single It's Not the End of the World? is seen here animated by Numero 6 (David Nicolas); the single originally appeared on the band's album Rings Around the World.

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Gratuitous Brunette: Tim Daly


When I added the First Season of Wings to the collection of the Pop Culture Institute, I did so quietly, fully aware that certain snobs I work with* would turn up their turned up noses even further, possible causing themselves some kind of chiropractic trauma... Honestly, I don't know why I bother. For its unique setting, strong ensemble, and not one but two hot guys in the leads - Tim Daly and Steven Weber as the brothers Hackett - Wings is just about all I look for in a sitcom. Oh, and Daly's shirtless scenes didn't hurt either...

Lately, of course, I haven't been as into what Tim Daly's up to, since hour-long medical dramas are pretty much the opposite of what I'm down with (with the obvious exception of House) but apparently Daly is still burning up TV screens on Private Practice - the Grey's Anatomy spin-off that gave pop culture McDreamy and McSteamy (my personal favourite of the two). Anyway, today McHumpy turns an age-defying 55, one of a generation who are stretching the boundaries of hotness to unprecedented dimensions.

Photobucket*Chumley sez: All I said was that I preferred the show after
Tony Shalhoub joined the cast in Season Three but before Thomas Haden Church left in Season Six, you overly touchy fusspot...

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The Death of Gruffydd ap Llewelyn Fawr

Although very little is known about Gruffydd ap Llewelyn Fawr, it's clear that he wasn't the sort of man to let a namby-pamby little thing like incarceration in the Tower of London keep him down; having been a prisoner for much of his life, on this day in 1244 he'd clearly had enough.

PhotobucketThe first-born - albeit illegitimate - son of Llywelyn the Great came into this world at the outset of the 13th Century, at a time when the Kings of England (especially Henry III and his son Edward I) were trying mightily to subdue the rugged land and equally rugged populace to their immediate west, in Wales. Offered as a prisoner to King John while still a boy, upon his father's death Gruffydd was released, only to be taken prisoner thereafter by his legitimate half-brother Dafydd (by King John's daughter Joan), who for a time was recognized as Prince of Wales.

Following his internment in 1240 Gruffydd's own wife Senena petitioned Henry III for her husband's release, going so far as to pay 600 marks, which was a very princely ransom indeed; the King considered the petition, pocketed the money, then reneged on the deal - and to think it's the Welsh who have the reputation of welshing (in other words, not keeping their end of the bargain)!

And so it was that on this day in 1244 - the feast day of St. David, patron saint of Wales - that Gruffydd ap Llewelyn Fawr fashioned himself a rope out of whatever fabric he could find and attempted to lower himself out of the window of his cell in the White Tower; a sturdily built man, a hastily improvised method of escape... The outcome is pretty obvious.

He was found - dead - the following morning by the Yeoman of the Guard, and his body was transported to Aberconwy and the behest of the abbott, where he was buried beside his father; in the years following his death Gruffydd's sons - Owain, Llywelyn, Dafydd and Rhodri - would scrap over Wales in between their tussles with the English, and in the end it would be Llewelyn who emerged the victor.

Alas, he is remembered to history as Llewelyn Ein Llyw Olaf, or Llewelyn Our Last Leader, the last Welsh-born Prince of Wales before the conquests of Edward I rendered Wales unto the control and fealty of the British Crown, which took his august title and bestowed it henceforth upon the eldest son of its wearer.
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What's The Occasion? St. David's Day

In honour of St. David's Day, the Welsh national day - the day that proud Celtic country's patron saint died - here's a catchy little earworm courtesy of Gethin Jones, whose channel on YouTube features many such informative and humourous animations, as does his website.
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Pop History Moment: The Taking Of The Lindbergh Baby


When nanny Betty Gow put her infant charge to bed at 8 PM on this day in 1932 it had been a day like any other; little did she know that when she checked in on him just past 9 PM it would be the last time she would ever see him alive. At 10PM, she looked in on him again, only this time he was gone. Rushing to find the baby's parents, she strove to stay calm in case either of them had taken him - his mother understandably doted on him and his father, despite a stoic countenance, could be a bit of a practical joker; when it was clear neither of them had taken the child the couple's butler, Ollie Whately, called the police in the nearest town, Hopewell, New Jersey, at around 10:25 PM. Chief Harry Wolf arrived promptly on the scene.

It's every parent's nightmare - in this case it would soon become the entire country's nightmare as well; for this was no ordinary baby, but the only son of famed aviator Charles Lindbergh and his wife Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Armed with a rifle, Lindbergh senior searched the grounds of their home. Beneath a second-storey window he found a makeshift ladder, it's top rung broken*; above it, inside the nursery, the baby's bedding was found untouched, but there were muddy footprints on the rug and a note on the window sill, handwritten by someone obviously semi-literate, demanding a $50,000 ransom for the baby's safe return.

Overnight the private tragedy of the Lindberghs became what has been called the first media circus, and which America's leading journalist of the day H.L. Mencken called 'the biggest story since the Resurrection'; the next morning President Herbert Hoover vowed to 'move Heaven and Earth' to find the child, going so far as to pass the Lindbergh Law, which would make kidnapping a federal offense. The Lindberghs offered a $50,000 reward, to which the state of New Jersey added $25,000; this is a substantial sum even now, but in the early days of the Great Depression it represented a fortune - more than a million dollars in today's money.

The baby's body, or anyway the body of a baby, was found by the side of the road near the Lindbergh's estate in May 1932 by a delivery man named William Allen who happened to stop along a stretch of road to relieve himself, but it would be more than 30 months before a German immigrant itinerant carpenter and petty criminal named Bruno Hauptmann would be collared for the crime. He was arrested in September 1934, put on trial in January 1935, found guilty the following month after an laughably inept trial, and executed in April 1936 despite constant protestations of his own innocence.

*One theory states that the child may have been killed during the abduction - thus the relevance of the broken ladder rung.
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POPnews - March 1st

[Although thought to be in use since Roman times, and on record as a symbol of Wales since 830 CE, the red dragon is at risk from the Welsh Christian Party - whose leader George Hargreaves vowed during the 2007 Welsh Assembly elections to have it removed if elected as it was clearly the sign of the Devil. The Party took not one of the 60 seats on offer, and polled less than 9,000 votes; by contrast, the Green Party also failed to win any seats, but still got more than 33,000 votes.]

589 CE - By tradition Saint David, the patron saint of Wales, died.

1562 - Over 1,000 Huguenots were massacred by Catholics loyal to Francis, Duc de Guise in Wassy; this atrocity marked the start of the French Wars of Religion, which would only be quelled by the Edict of Nantes, issued by King Henri IV in 1598.

1565 - The city of Rio de Janeiro was founded by Estácio de Sá.

1692 - Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne and Tituba (an Arawak slave) were brought before local magistrates in Salem Village, Massachusetts, beginning what would become known as the Salem witch trials.

1781 - The Continental Congress adopted the Articles of Confederation.

1815 - Napoleon returned to the French mainland, having escaped from Elba, where he'd been banished under the terms of the Treaty of Fontainebleau.

1845 - US President John Tyler signed a bill authorizing the annexation of the Republic of Texas.

1872 - Yellowstone National Park was established as the world's first national park.

1912 - Albert Berry made the first parachute jump from a moving airplane.

1936 - Construction on Hoover Dam was completed.

1953 - Joseph Stalin collapsed, having suffered a stroke; he died four days later.

1954 - Four Puerto Rican nationalists - Lolita Lebrón, Rafael Cancel Miranda, Andres Figueroa Cordero, and Irving Flores Rodríguez - attacked the United States Capitol building, injuring five Representatives, including Alvin M. Bentley (R-Michigan), who took a bullet to the chest, Clifford Davis (D-Tennessee), who was shot in the leg, Ben F. Jensen (R-Iowa), who was shot in the back, as well as George Hyde Fallon (D-Maryland) and Kenneth A. Roberts (D-Alabama).

1961 - The Peace Corps was established when President John F. Kennedy signed Executive Order 10924; the Peace Corps Act was passed by Congress in September of that year. Since it was formed more than 187,000 people have served in 139 countries.

1966 - The Soviet Union's Venera 3 space probe crashed on Venus, making it the first human spacecraft to land on another planet's surface.

1971 - A bomb exploded in a men's room in the US Capitol; a far-left proto-revolutionary group calling itself the Weather Underground claimed responsibility.

1973 - Palestinian Black September terrorists stormed the Saudi embassy in the capital of Sudan, resulting in the Khartoum diplomatic assassinations.

1980 - NASA's Voyager 1 probe confirmed that Janus (one of the more elusive moons of Saturn) existed.

2004 - Terry Nichols was convicted of state murder charges and of being an accomplice to Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

2006 - Queen Elizabeth II officially opened the new debating chamber - called the Senedd - at the National Assembly for Wales in Cardiff, marking a milestone in Welsh devolution.
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