Thursday, March 03, 2011

"The Star-Spangled Banner" by Whitney Houston

On this day in 1931 the United States officially adopted The Star Spangled Banner as its national anthem; just shy of sixty years later, Whitney Houston had a huge hit with the song, when she sang it at Super Bowl XXV. They were different times: President Bush led his country into a war with Iraq, despite an uncertain economy... Hm. Come to think of it, they were exactly the same times. Except, of course, that war had an exit strategy.  Sort of.

A n y w a y...  Houston remains the only singer to make the national anthem a chart hit, and she did it twice. A decade later, in the aftermath of 9-11, it was re-released, this time charting higher than it had before. Everyone has their own favourite version of the song, based on the singer and their style, but by popular demand surely this is the official favourite version.

Which is why I'm posting it here. Enjoy!
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POPnews (US) - March 3rd: Star-Spangled Special Edition

[Given that today is the anniversary of the adoption of The Star-Spangled Banner as the official US National Anthem, and given that the song itself - set to the tune of The Anacreontic Song, which was composed by John Stafford Smith in 1780 for London's Anacreontic Society - was based on an 1814 poem by Francis Scott Key entitled The Defense of Fort McHenry, the subtitle of today's POPnews is as appropriate as the image of Fort McHenry itself above.]

1817 - The Alabama Territory was created by splitting the Mississippi Territory in two in preparation for the latter's impending statehood; the former was admitted to the union as the 22nd state just under three years later, in December 1819, two years after the latter became the 20th state, in December 1817. 

1845 - Florida became the 27th state. 

1849 - The United States Department of the Interior was established, on the eve of President Zachary Taylor's inauguration; it has been supervising the degradation and destruction of the country's wild beauty ever since, most notably under Republican appointees James G. Watt and Christine Todd Whitman.

1865 - Congress authorized the formation of the Freedmen's Bureau to assist in the grueling work of Reconstruction; meant to operate for one year under the stewardship of General Oliver O. Howard, it was finally disbanded in December 1868 by President Andrew Johnson.

1873 - Congress enacted the Comstock Law, making it illegal to send any 'obscene, lewd, or lascivious' books through the mail; the law was used to harass those people - such as Margaret Sanger - who were engaged in distributing important educational information about birth control, and was an effective weapon against the First Amendment for many years. Now a series of laws at the state and federal level, it is still in effect, although the Internet has effectively made a mockery of it.

1877 - Rutherford B. Hayes was privately inaugurated as the 19th President of the United States in the Red Room of the White House, the day before his public inauguration.

1879 - The United States Geological Survey was created.

1885 - The American Telephone and Telegraph Company was incorporated in New York State. 

1910 - Apparently, the noted robber baron J.D. Rockefeller Jr. announced his retirement from managing his businesses in order to devote himself full time to his philanthropic aims as head of the Rockefeller Foundation.

1915 - NACA, the predecessor of NASA, was founded.

1923 - TIME magazine, created by Briton Hadden and Henry Luce, was published for the first time. 

1931 - President Herbert Hoover signed a Congressional resolution which made The Star-Spangled Banner the official national anthem.

1933 - Gutzon Borglum's epic Mount Rushmore National Memorial was dedicated.

1969 - NASA launched Apollo 9 to test the lunar module.

1972 - The Pioneer 10 space probe was launched from Cape Canaveral with a mission to explore the outer planets; its final contact with Earth was a weak signal received in January 2003. It has since left our solar system and is headed for Aldebaran in the Taurus system. 

1991 - An amateur video captured the beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles police officers Stacey Koon, Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind, Theodore Briseno, and Rolando Solano.

- Steve Fossett became the first person to fly an airplane non-stop around the world solo without refueling or landing, which he did in 67 hours, 1 minute, 10 seconds at an average speed of 550.7 km/h (342.2 mph) aboard the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer.
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Pop History Moment: The Queen Opened London's Barbican

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

As long ago as 1952, discussions were underway as to what to do with Cripplegate, an area north of the City of London badly damaged in The Blitz during World War II. It was first proposed in 1956 that an arts center should occupy part of it; by 1971 it was suggested that it would take six years to build and cost £17 million. Eleven years and £161 million later, the Barbican Arts Centre - the City of London Corporation's 'gift to the Nation*' - was ready to receive its royal assent. More than 3,500 people were on hand on this day in 1982 when the Queen arrived, unveiled a plaque, and then settled in to enjoy a concert by the London Symphony Orchestra and a performance by the Royal Shakespeare Company.

The site is also occupied by the Barbican Estate and is adjacent to the Golden Lane Estate; controversial for its Brutalist architecture (by Chamberlin, Powell and Bon), several schemes have been implemented over the years to make the site at least more aesthetically amenable to humans. In 2001 the Arts Minister Tessa Blackstone announced that the Barbican would be a Grade II listed building as a whole, for its scale, ambition, and cohesion.

Still the largest arts center in Western Europe, the Barbican also boasts a branch of the British Library (in the shape of a red-brick ziggurat!) and the Museum of London, as well as Guildhall School of Music and Drama, the City of London School for Girls, a YMCA, fire hall, shops, restaurants, and access to several Tube and rail stations. Residential towers are grouped around a park and artificial lake, and all amenities on site are connected below ground.

*In other words a gift the Nation bought for itself...
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"Funky Cold Medina" by Tone Lōc

Birthday wishes go out today to pioneering proto-rapper Tone Lōc, whose gravelly voice was ubiquitous in 1989 - whether performing Wild Thing or this classic track, Funky Cold Medina - both of which appeared on his debut album, Lōc-ed After Dark.

As an innovator of hip hop, Lōc's music combines all of those elements which have come to be associated with urban music - including the glorification of decadence, lack of respect for women, and homophobia; on the bright side, the songs have a great beat and you can dance to them - which I most certainly did in those halcyon days before my planned obsolescence as a gay man took effect.
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In Memoriam: Jean Harlow


Although the period 1929-1959 has often been called the Golden Age of Hollywood, I prefer to think of the 1930s themselves as the Platinum Age, not least of all because it was a time populated by the likes of the legendary Jean Harlow, who was known as 'the platinum blonde' for her then-unique hair - so blonde it was white - and which looked almost silver onscreen.

Born on this day in 1911 into middle-class affluence in Kansas City, Harlow had the great misfortune to have a mother who was both ambitious and unhappily married; sent to Barstow's Finishing School for Girls at the age of five (where she first learned her name was not Baby, a lifelong nickname), Jean's parents divorced in 1922 and the scandal of it sent her and her mother West, after which Jean only saw her father once more.

Settled in Hollywood, Mother Jean (as she was known) more or less threw Baby into the whirl of the movies, and aside from the summer of 1925 (when she contracted scarlet fever) it seemed that Harlow's future had been decided for her. An early, ill-considered marriage seemed to offer Jean an escape from both the grind of making movies and an even greater ordeal, that of being under Mother Jean's thumb; despite it, Jean continued to act in bit parts.

She'd already appeared in dozens of films, but when she was cast in the 1930 film Hell's Angels by Howard Hughes her career really took flight; although her performance was (rightly, I think) savaged by the critics, she was a huge hit with audiences. In those days the stiff, mannered acting style of silent films was gradually giving way to a more natural - albeit highly stylized - way. Forced into the former, Jean was horrendous; once she was allowed the latter the much beloved verve and personality of Jean Harlow could shine through, and did.

Over the next six years Jean became more than a star; she was nothing short of a supernova. Minor but pivotal roles in The Public Enemy, The Secret Six, and Platinum Blonde (all 1931) offered her the chance to grow as an actress, and she leapt at it; producer Paul Bern (who was to become her second husband) procured her contract for MGM on this day in 1932 - her 21st birthday - and there she set about becoming a star with characteristic zeal.

Her schedule at MGM, though - then the most prestigious studio in town - was no less punishing; she completed Red-Headed Woman and Red Dust (plus two others) in 1932, despite the scandalous suicide of Paul Bern, which her bosses Louis B. Mayer and Irving Thalberg covered up so thoroughly that the truth of what actually happened might never be known. A subsequent relationship with the married boxer Max Baer didn't hurt her popularity one bit - nor did a hasty marriage to cinematographer Harold Rosson. By the mid-30s, having made such films as Dinner at Eight and Bombshell (both 1933) and Wife vs. Secretary (1936), it seemed as though Jean Harlow was scandal-proof.

Which made her sudden illness and death from uremic poisoning at the age of 26 in June 1937 all the more poignant... Harlow fell ill on the set of Saratoga (1937), and within days was gone; as the studio moved to contain any incipient scandal their tactics also bred many rumours. It wasn't until sixty years later that many of the myths surrounding the death of Jean Harlow were put to rest along with her; it turns out she simply got sick and died, an all-too-ordinary bout of misfortune which happens all the time, even to the most extraordinary people.
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POPnews - March 3rd

[Located on the corner of Victoria and Federal Streets in the Auckland CBD, the Sky Tower looms 328 metres (1,076 ft) over the largest city in New Zealand, making it the 15th tallest member of the World Federation of Great Towers.]

1284 - The Statute of Rhuddlan incorporated the Principality of Wales into England.

1575 - India's Mughal Emperor Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar defeated a Bengali army at the Battle of Tukaroi.

1585 - The Olympic Theatre, designed by Andrea Palladio, was inaugurated in Vicenza.

1776 - The first amphibious landing of the US Marine Corps began the Battle of Nassau.

1845 - Florida became the 27th US state.

1855 - Alexander II became Tsar of Russia following the death of his father Nicholas I.

1861 - Russia's Tsar Alexander II signed the Emancipation Manifesto into law, thereby abolishing Russian serfdom. 

1865 - The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, founding member of the HSBC Group, was opened by Thomas Sutherland at Wardley House in Hong Kong.

1875 - The first ever organized indoor game of ice hockey was played at Montreal's Victoria Skating Rink, as recorded by the Montreal Gazette.

1878 - Bulgaria regained its independence from the Ottoman Empire according to the Treaty of San Stefano, a day still celebrated there as Liberation Day; shortly thereafter the Congress of Berlin stripped the newly liberated nation of its status, making it once again an autonomous state of the Ottoman Empire.

1918 - Germany, Austria and Russia signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, ending Russia's involvement in World War I and leading to the independence of Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland.

1924 - A 1400-year-old Islamic caliphate was abolished when Abdul Mejid II of the Ottoman Empire was deposed; this last remnant of the old regime gave way to the reformed Turkey of Kemal Atatürk.

1942 - Ten Japanese warplanes raided the town of Broome in Western Australia, killing more than 100 people.

1943 - 173 people (including 62 children) were killed in a crush while trying to enter an air-raid shelter at London's Bethnal Green tube station.

1944 - The Order of Nakhimov and Order of Ushakov were instituted in USSR as the highest naval awards. 

1961 - Hassan II became King of Morocco following the death of his father Mohammed V.

1997 - The tallest free-standing structure in the Southern Hemisphere, Sky Tower opened in downtown Auckland after two-and-a-half years of construction.

2005 - James Roszko killed four Royal Canadian Mounted Police constables - Peter Schiemann, Anthony Gordon, Lionide Johnston, and Brock Myrol - during a drug bust at his property in Rochfort Bridge, Alberta, then committed suicide; the so-called Mayerthorpe Incident was the deadliest peace-time incident for the RCMP since 1885's North-West Rebellion.

2009 - The Sri Lankan Cricket Team was attacked by terrorists while on their way to the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore for the third day of a second Test Match against Pakistan; six members of the team were injured by the 12 gunmen, while two civilians and two police officers were killed.
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