Monday, March 07, 2011

What's The Occasion? Commonwealth Day


Commonwealth Day is a little-known observation even within the Commonwealth of Nations, and virtually unknown outside of it; celebrated on the second Monday in March, the day is aimed at uniting the disparate family of nations which owe something of their character to their participation in the former British Empire.

Although not officially observed anywhere in the Commonwealth, in the UK there is a multi-faith service held each year at Westminster Abbey, attended by HM The Queen and the various High Commissioners serving the Court of St. James's; in the years when there is a Commonwealth Games scheduled, the Queen also begins the Queen's Baton Relay in the gardens of Buckingham Palace on this day. The 2010 Commonwealth Games are scheduled to take place from October 3-14 in Delhi, India.

Currently there are 53 voluntary Commonwealth realms, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, Pakistan, South Africa, and of course the UK - the Queen is officially recognized as Head of State in 16 of them.
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"Lights Out" by Peter Wolf

Although birthday boy Peter Wolf's greatest musical success came as lead singer of the J. Geils Band, he had a solo hit in 1984 with this song, which was the title track of his first album.

Yet one of the joys of researching is what one discovers that one didn't know - in my case, a vast amount indeed. I had no idea, for instance, that Wolf was once married to Faye Dunaway (from 1974 to 1979) and I'm not sure which amazes me more - that he studied art under Norman Rockwell or is friends with Bruce Springsteen.

Anyway, I always liked this song, which is the main reason I'm posting it today. Enjoy!
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Pop History Moment: The Election of Golda Meir

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On this day in 1969 Golda Meir was elected Israel's first female prime minister following the death of Levi Eshkol, having previously served that country as Foreign Minister, Labour Minister, and ambassador to Moscow. Known as the Iron Lady a full decade before Margaret Thatcher, David Ben-Gurion referred to Meir as 'the only man in the Cabinet'.

Meir spent nearly five years in office despite suffering from lymphoma, during which time she ended the War of Attrition; she also ordered the Mossad to assassinate those responsible for the Munich massacre at the 1972 Summer Olympics (known as Operation Wrath of God), and steered Israel through the Yom Kippur War.

She was succeeded by Yitzhak Rabin in June 1974 and died in December 1978. Meir was famously portrayed by Ingrid Bergman in the TV movie A Woman Called Golda (1982), and more recently by Lynn Cohen in Steven Spielberg's film Munich.

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POPnews - March 7th

[Thankfully, my inborn skepticism of Abrahamic religion allows me unlimited covetousness - which is now directed, in part, at an iPod Nano; but only because my iPod Shuffle (his name is L'il Freeek - ironic, since he's actually a big freak) is lonely and wants a friend. Oh, if only the Pop Culture Institute had a generous benefactor willing to buy me one. A black one. If only... Plus, think of how good it would be for the economy!]

161 CE - Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius died and was succeeded by co-Emperors Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus, making for an unprecedented political arrangement in the history of the Roman Empire.

321 CE - The first Christian Roman Emperor, Constantine I, decreed that the dies Solis Invicti (sun-day) would be a day of rest in the Empire.

1724 - Pope Innocent XIII died, only to be succeeded by Benedict XIII on May 29th.

1814 - Napoleon and Michel Ney defeated Prussia's Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher at the Battle of Craonne.

1827 - Ellen Turner - a wealthy heiress in Cheshire, England - was abducted by Edward Gibbon Wakefield, a future politician in colonial New Zealand, in the so-called Shrigley Abduction.

1850 - US Senator Daniel Webster gave his Seventh of March speech in which he endorsed the Compromise of 1850 in order to prevent a possible civil war.

1876 - Alexander Graham Bell was granted patent US 174,465 for an invention he called the telephone, beating Antonio Meucci - who couldn't afford the $10 fee - by just four hours; a similar controversy, involving Elisha Gray, has long dogged Bell's 'discovery' of the telephone.

1912 - Roald Amundsen announced that his expedition had reached the South Pole the previous December 14th, having arrived at Hobart.

1914 - Prince William of Wied arrived in Tirana to begin his long reign as Prince of Albania; 180 days later he went into exile, although his reign didn't officially end until the last day of January 1925, when the country was declared a republic.

1951 - United Nations troops led by American General Matthew Ridgeway launched Operation Ripper against Chinese troops during the Korean War.

1965 - In Selma, Alabama, state troopers and local law enforcement forcefully broke up a group of 600 civil rights marchers; the event was televised and was dubbed Bloody Sunday.

1971 - Sheikh Mujibur Rahman called for the independence of Bangladesh at a speech given at the Ramna Race Course in the capital, Dhaka.

1972 - Norah Willis Michener - wife of Canada's 20th Governor-General Roland Michener - gave 13 sq km to the Northwest Territories for the establishment of a park, which was later named the Norah Willis Michener Game Preserve in her honour.

1975 - 17-year-old Lesley Whittle was found, dead, hung by her neck from a wire at the bottom of a drainage shaft; the young heiress* had been abducted by Donald Neilson on January 14th, whereupon she was held for £50,000 ransom. Owing to a series of mix-ups the ransom wasn't delivered, and so Whittle was murdered.

*Her father George died in 1967, leaving her £82,000 - almost half a million pounds in today's money; prior to his death he'd owned one of England's most successful coach companies.

1985 - The charity single We Are the World - recorded on January 28th - was released internationally.

1986 - Six weeks after the Challenger Disaster, on January 28th, the USS Preserver located (via sonar) what they hoped was the crew cabin of Space Shuttle Challenger on the ocean floor; divers confirmed the find the following day, and then arranged for the remains of fallen astronauts Michael J. Smith, Dick Scobee, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, Judith Resnik and Christa McAuliffe to be brought to the surface. NASA announced the discovery the day after that, March 9th.

1994 - The US Supreme Court ruled in Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc. that parodies of an original work are generally covered by the doctrine of fair use.

2004 - The centre-right New Democracy party, led by Kostas Karamanlis, won that year's national elections in Greece.

2006 - Apple Inc. was granted a patent - D516, 576 - for its latest incarnation of the greatest device of the 21st Century so far, the iPod; bless their hearts, and all hail the Dear Leader... The first iPods went on sale in October 2001, and have since saved untold lives by effectively drowning out who knows how many insipid cell phone conversations on public transit, for which its inventors deserve the Nobel Peace Prize.

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