Friday, March 04, 2011

"Striptease" by Hawksley Workman

Birthday boy Hawksley Workman is one of Canada's best-kept secrets...

Well, I believe the secret can now be safely told; we cunning Canadians have a way of foisting our middle-of-the-road dreck (Celine Dion, Bryan Adams, Nickelback*) on an unsuspecting world while keeping the real quality stuff to ourselves. The same goes for our other high-quality exports - namely television, comedians, and marijuana.

This particular example - Striptease - is from his 2001 album (Last Night We Were) The Delicious Wolves.

*OMG! I almost hurled just from typing their name! I shudder to think what a feat of endurance listening to a whole album of theirs might represent...

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"Pata Pata" by Miriam Makeba

Today's crop of politically outspoken performers - especially those who feel persecuted for their convictions - would do well to consider the life and career of Miriam Makeba; for her stance against the apartheid regime in South Africa in 1963 she had her passport revoked, was stripped of her citizenship, and exiled. Since her records were also banned, they became powerful anthems of resistance in black communities both within South Africa and abroad during the 1970s and 80s*.

Born on this day in 1932 in Johannesburg's Prospect Township, the woman rightly known as Mama Afrika has even been dogged by controversy in her private life; her 1968 second marriage** to Stokely Carmichael, the leader of the Black Panthers, cost her lost record sales and canceled concerts in the United States as well. Already a seasoned world citizen, she and her husband simply moved to Guinea, in West Africa, as the guests of President Ahmed Sékou Touré and his wife. Makeba later served her adopted nation as a delegate to the United Nations.

By the mid-1980s the winds of history had begun to shift, for once in Makeba's favour; Paul Simon's embrace of world music at that time - as demonstrated in his stellar 1986 album Graceland, recorded in part in collaboration with Ladysmith Black Mambazo and featuring the distinctive sound of Township Jive - coincided with a growing chorus of opposition throughout the world to Pretoria's racist policies. By 1990 another well-known rebel by the name of Nelson Mandela was in the position to invite her to return, which she did. Only a couple of years later she expanded her range as an artist, appearing in the 1992 film Sarafina!, which chronicled the Soweto youth uprisings of 1976.

Makeba's farewell tour took her through all the countries where she'd performed during her career; after 14 months of bidding the world adieu she gave what was supposed to be her final bow in the UK in October 2007. Her actual final bow, though, came when Makeba died of a heart attack in November 2008 while performing her song Pata Pata*** during a concert at Castel Volturno in support of writer Roberto Saviano in his stand against the Mafia-like Camorra in Italy's Campania region.

*Not only did this achieve the opposite effect the South African government intended, it's pretty much the textbook example of why censorship doesn't ever work...
**Her first was to jazz musician
Hugh Masekela.

***By no coincidence whatsoever, the song you can see her performing above!
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POPnews (US) - March 4th: Yankee Doodle Dandy Special Edition

[Since March 4th was the Inauguration Day of every US President from Washington's second term in 1793 to FDR's first in 1933 - which point I've made about twelve times today by now - and since this is also the day that the fledgling Republic first began operating under its new Constitution in 1789, I felt smug enough to award this edition of POPnews (US) with a special subtitle. Despite having done this now two days in a row, the POPnews subtitle is actually a rare and prestigious thing; not like being named a Gratuitous Brunette or People's Sexiest Man Alive at all, but rather like earning a similar title from The New Yorker.]

1681 - England's King Charles II granted a land charter to William Penn for the area that would later become Pennsylvania.

1776 - During the American Revolution a force of 1200 under General George Washington 'fortified' Dorchester Heights - wresting control over the port of Boston from Great Britain's General William Howe.

1789 - The first US Congress met in New York City and declared the new US Constitution to be in effect, making this the first day the US government was in operation under the Constitution.

1791 - The Republic of Vermont became the 14th US state.

1794 - The 11th Amendment to the US Constitution - limiting judicial powers over foreign nationals as well as the rights of individuals to sue states - was passed by Congress.

1797 - In the first ever peaceful transfer of power between elected leaders in modern times, John Adams was inaugurated, succeeding George Washington.

1814 - American and British troops clashed in Ontario at the Battle of Longwoods, between London and Thamesville; the battle is considered an American victory, even though American Captain Andrew Holmes withdrew his forces to Detroit following the battle.

1837 - The city of Chicago was incorporated.

1845 - James Knox Polk was inaugurated as the 11th President.

1861 - The first national flag of the Confederate States of America (the Stars and Bars) was adopted - on the same day Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated as the 16th President.

1863 - The Idaho Territory was created by an Act of Congress and signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln, with its first capital at Lewiston.

1865 - The third (and last) national flag of the Confederate States of America was adopted, shortly before its surrender to the Union.

1925 - Calvin Coolidge became the first President to have his inauguration broadcast on radio.

1929 - Charles Curtis became the first Native-American Vice President on the occasion of Herbert Hoover's inauguration; despite this, Curtis' Indian name was not 'Executive Branch'.

1933 - Frances Perkins was appointed Secretary of Labor, first female member of the Cabinet.

1959 - Pioneer 4, launched to detect lunar radiation, missed the Moon and thus detected no such thing, although as far as anyone knows it's still orbiting the sun.

1994 - Space Shuttle mission STS-62 (the 16th for NASA's ill-fated Columbia) launched into orbit; an otherwise routine mission, it was filmed for the Discovery Channel, rendered all the more poignant after Columbia's February 2003 disintegration.

1998 - The Supreme Court ruled unanimously in the case of Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services (with Justice Clarence Thomas concurring) that federal laws banning on-the-job sexual harassment also apply when both parties are the same sex.

2006 - A final contact attempt was made with Pioneer 10 by the Deep Space Network, 34 years and a day after its March 1972 launch; no response was received.

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Pop History Moment: FDR's First Inauguration

On this day in 1933 Franklin Delano Roosevelt was first sworn in as US President*, in the midst of the most unprecedented economic and social catastrophe since the previous one; despite reports too numerous to Google to the contrary, though, his was a much worse catastrophe than any faced by his successors, since it took place almost entirely in black and white. At least these days we can still afford to pay our colour bills...

Words cannot express how much I enjoyed this newsreel clip as it rattled off a list of the rather quaint innovations in mass media attendant upon the day; as I sit here blogging I can try to imagine a world whose media was comprised of movies, radio, records, newspapers, magazines, and books - and nothing else! - but then again, why would I want to?

*In fact, the 32nd to be inaugurated on March 4th; his second, third, and fourth inaugurations, as well as all of those since, were held on January 20th under the terms of the Twentieth Amendment to the US Constitution.
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What's The Occasion? Inauguration Day

Except for the first inauguration of George Washington - which was held on the final day of April 1789 - every President of the United States from 1793 (Washington's second term) to Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1933 was sworn in on March 4th. That of John Adams in 1797 was as historic as either of its predecessors, since it was the first ever peaceful transfer of power between elected leaders in modern times. Beginning with Roosevelt's second term in 1937, the Inauguration was moved to January 20th under the terms of the Twentieth Amendment to the US Constitution.

PhotobucketBeing the most hallowed day in the life of the republic Inauguration Day has seen its fair share of evolution through the years including, as has been said, the change of date. It was Thomas Jefferson who instigated the parade down Pennsylvania Avenue during his second inaugural in 1805. Since then the only President to forego the parade was Ronald Reagan, whose second term began (in January) with freezing cold temperatures. Jimmy Carter tried to start a new tradition of walking the route, rather than riding in an open car, but security concerns soon curtailed that pointed nod towards gasoline conservation.

From Martin Van Buren (1837) to Carter (1977) the President was sworn in at the East Portico of the Capitol Building; since Reagan (1981) the ceremony has been held against the epic backdrop of the West Front of that awe-inspiring edifice.

The most recent Inauguration Day - in case you'd forgotten - was one of the most eagerly anticipated events in modern history, when in the tried-and-true American tradition one tyrant was forced to respect the Constitution at long last, and turn his half-unearned Presidency over after eight years to someone who actually respects it while his co-tyrant was relegated to the least sympathy-inducing wheelchair in human history.

I chose the puckish image shown above for many reasons, but mainly because it depicts the final March 4th inaugural; cartoonist Peter Arno perfectly captured the national mood with it for The New Yorker in 1933. The sombre countenance of one-term President Herbert Hoover - whose laissez-faire leadership and policies did nothing to prevent the Crash of 1929 or alleviate the suffering of the Great Depression - is in marked contrast to the hopeful grin employed by FDR.

It's an image which never fails to cheer my smug liberal heart...

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POPnews - March 4

[It never occurred to me until recently what a hard-on I seem to have for bridges; judging by the number of them which have had their pictures in POPnews - two so far in this week alone - you'd think this was some kind of a specialist blog instead of the scattered ramblings of an intellectual magpie. All this despite the fact that I have no particular fondness for either the science of engineering or the few practitioners of it I've met. Possibly the attraction is an aesthetic one; their tracery of girders aping the delicate filigree of a spider's web so as to belie the harsh industrial reality of their brick and steel and concrete invariably makes for a bloody brilliant photo. It's either that or it's because they're big and hard and long. As soon as I figure out which I'll let you know... Paging Dr. Freud!]

1152 - Frederick I Barbarossa was elected King of the Germans.

1215 - England's hapless King John - excommunicated for refusing to appoint Stephen Langton as Archbishop of Canterbury - swore an oath to Pope Innocent III, pledging to join a crusade as penance; the King's actions on this day sent his nobles into a right tizzy, and three months later they compelled him to sign the Magna Carta.

1238 - The Battle of the Sit River was fought in the northern part of the present-day Yaroslavl Oblast of Russia between the Batu Khan and Yuri II of Vladimir-Suzdal; the melee was an important victory for the invaders during the Mongol invasion of Russia.

1351 - Ramathibodi became King of Ayutthaya, which over the next four centuries metamorphosed into Siam, and thence Thailand.

1386 - Władysław II Jagiełło - also known as Jogaila - was crowned King of Poland.

1461 - During England's so-called Wars of the Roses the Lancastrian King Henry VI was deposed by his Yorkist cousin, who then became King Edward IV.

1493 - Explorer Christopher Columbus returned to Europe aboard his ship Niña from his first voyage of discovery to the Americas, putting into port at Lisbon; he returned to Spain ten days later.

1675 - John Flamsteed was appointed England's first Astronomer Royal.

1804 - The Castle Hill Rebellion - in the Australian colony of New South Wales - occurred when Irish convicts (some of whom had been exiled there for their involvement in Ireland’s Battle of Vinegar Hill in 1798) led that colony’s only significant convict uprising, which had been planned by Phillip Cunningham and William Johnston.

1824 - The UK's 'National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck' was founded; in 1858 it was renamed the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), and is still in operation under that name.

1877 - Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's ballet Swan Lake premiered at Moscow's Bolshoi Theatre.

1890 - Scotland's Forth Railway Bridge - at 1,710 feet in length, the longest bridge in the United Kingdom - was opened by the Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VII.

1933 - Hoping to quell anti-Nazi rioting, Austrian Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss suspended that country's Parliament on a matter of procedure, thereafter ruling as a dictator.

1941 - The United Kingdom launched Operation Claymore on Norway's Nazi-occupied Lofoten Islands, during World War II; initially intended merely as a raid on munitions, during the exercise a crucial component of the Enigma machine was captured, offering Allied code-breakers at Bletchley Park an important advantage.

1977 - An earthquake in southern and eastern Europe and centred on Bucharest killed more than 1,500.

1979 - The first encyclical written by Pope John Paul II - Redemptor Hominis (Latin for 'The Redeemer of Man') - was promulgated less than five months after his elevation to the papacy.

1980 - Zimbabwe African National Union leader Robert Mugabe won a sweeping election victory to become Zimbabwe's first black prime minister; initially a figure of some hope, his rule quickly declined into thuggery and corruption before getting progressively worse.

1982 - Bertha Wilson was the first woman appointed to sit on the Supreme Court of Canada.

2001 - A massive car bomb exploded in front of the BBC Television Centre in the Shepherd's Bush area of west London, seriously injuring 11 people; the attack was the responsibility of the Real IRA.

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