Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Pop History Moment: The Birth of Penny Currie

PhotobucketOn this day in 1948 one of the most important figures in modern pop culture - my mum! - was born. Now, I can already hear you asking: what role exactly does your mother (whom I've never even heard of until just now) play in pop culture? Well, she gave birth to me, your Blogmaster of Ceremonies, for one...

Also, she early on instilled in me a deep sense of kitsch, for which I am eternally grateful. Had she been a tasteful minimalist there's very little chance this blog would have come about, as I'd be far too busy now standing around and smugly admiring my surfaces to write it. As it is, she (like me) is an exuberant maximalist, and therefore as seemingly invigorated by clutter as I must be.

I have no doubt that my acute interest in everything arose from our early trips to the library; while she was signing out Harlequins by the dozen she always knew where to find me - busily memorizing the encyclopedia. When she struggled as a single mother to keep body and soul together (even while occasionally on welfare) I never once felt that myself; usually I was too busy preparing my nightly skit based on the 6 O'Clock News, which would be enacted for her enlightertainment every evening promptly at 6:31.

Still, the greatest gift anyone can give is unconditional love, which is the one thing I have never lacked, no matter how little money was around; as cluttered as our lives are there's always been room for me in both her heart and her home, which remains to this day the only thing I know for certain.

Which is not to say we haven't tested each other over the years... I know it may be hard for some of you to believe, but I'm actually a monster in person, and she's been living in Kelowna so long she can occasionally make Phyllis Schlafly sound like a liberal which, to someone who makes Nancy Pelosi sound like Phyllis Schlafly, can be a trial for each of us to deal with at times.

Yet our unconditional love for each other (not to mention the occasional brisk bit of shopping) soon makes everything alright.
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"The Look of Love" by ABC

Birthday wishes go out today to Martin Fry, the noted clotheshorse and vocalist who was lead singer of the 80s pop band ABC; the band scored a major hit in 1982 with The Look of Love (Part One), from their debut album The Lexicon of Love. All told there were four different versions of the song on the album, including an instrumental one, thus the subtitle.

Previously, ABC had released Poison Arrow; their subsequent singles would include All of My Heart, (How to Be a) Millionaire, and Be Near Me. Still active, Martin Fry is the only remaining original member of ABC.
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"Barbie Girl" by Aqua

One of the catchiest (and therefore most annoying) earworms of the 1990s is this spritely little ditty by Danish pop combo Aqua; as popular as the song probably would have been on its own, Mattel decided to give its sales a boost by suing them, despite the fact that this is a clear example of fair use and therefore protected as a parody. Duh... 

Barbie Girl was originally released as part of the band's 1997 album Aquarium, and features the squeaky vocals of Lene Nystrøm Rasted in marked contrast to the growling hotness of René Dif, providing something for everyone, which is the sign of quality pop music.
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Happy Birthday Barbie

What's a hard eleven inches, has a wardrobe to die for, and is sought after by women and gay men alike? No silly - it's not David Beckham... It's Barbie! Born on this day in 1959, the brainchild of Ruth Handler (and adapted from an earlier German fashion doll called Bild Lilli), Barbie's name was derived from that of Handler's daughter, Barbara Millicent Roberts.

PhotobucketBarbie has been controversial from the start, which probably accounts for her enduring popularity; parents in the Fifties were uncomfortable with her distinctly adult figure which, it hardly needs to be said, has always been pretty unrealistic. One of the first toys to be marketed aggressively on television, Barbie is Mattel, Inc.'s main revenue generator; controversial or not, 350,000 units were moved in the first year of production alone, making Barbie as potent a totem of consumerism as she is a symbol of Western decadence - only with cuter shoes!

After fifty years as a pop culture icon, Barbie faces her toughest challenges in the years ahead; already her market share has become as narrow as her waist thanks to the inroads made by Bratz, not to mention Gen-X parents uncomfortable with her tyrannical proportions and the possible effects they may have on the psyche of their offspring. In the meantime there are still new careers to conquer and new outfits to wear for the world's undisputed Queen of Fashion!
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POPnews - March 9th

[The Murder of David Rizzio, painted by William Allen in 1833, had previously been painted by John Opie in 1787.]

1202 - Norway's King Sverre died; he was succeeded by his illegitimate son Håkon, as chronicled in the Sverris saga and the Bagler sagas.

1230 - Bulgarian Tsar Ivan Asen II defeated Theodore of Epirus at the Battle of Klokotnitsa.

1566 - David Rizzio - the private secretary to Mary, Queen of Scots - was murdered in her presence in Edinburgh's Palace of Holyroodhouse; stabbed more than fifty times before being thrown down a flight of stairs, his body was then taken and hastily buried. The Queen's jealous husband Lord Darnley was said to be responsible, although the plot may have been funded by her rival Elizabeth I of England in an effort to weaken Mary both politically and emotionally; Darnley's equally ghastly murder in February 1567 is thought to have been in retribution.

1765 - After a public campaign by the writer Voltaire, judges in Paris posthumously exonerated Protestant merchant Jean Calas of murdering his own son Marc-Antoine three years to the day after Calas had been sentenced to die. The elder Calas had been tortured and executed in March 1762 on the charge, even though the younger Calas had actually committed suicide; the harsh and ultimately spurious judgement against him had been motivated by religious bigotry in what was still a very Catholic country.

1776 - Adam Smith's landmark book on economics, The Wealth of Nations, was published.

1796 - Napoléon Bonaparte married his first wife, Joséphine de Beauharnais.

1841 - The US Supreme Court delivered its decision in the Amistad case, concerning captive Africans who had seized control of the slave-trading ship carrying them in July 1839: the court ruled that they had been taken into slavery illegally, events recounted cinematically in Steven Spielberg's 1997 film Amistad.

1842 - Giuseppe Verdi's third opera Nabucco premiered at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan; concerning the anti-Semitism of Nebuchadnezzar, its success established Verdi as one of Italy's foremost opera writers.

1862 - During the American Civil War the USS Monitor and CSS Virginia fought to a draw at the Battle of Hampton Roads, the first fight between two ironclad warships.

1908 - The Italian football club Inter Milan was founded.

1910 - The Westmoreland County Coal Strike, involving 15,000 coal miners represented by the United Mine Workers trade union, began in Pennsylvania; the strike would last until July 1911.

1916 - Outraged at the US government's support for the regime of President Venustiano Carranza, revolutionary Pancho Villa led 1,500 Mexican raiders in an attack against Columbus, New Mexico, killing 17.

1933 - Congress began its first 100 days of enacting New Deal legislation - with the aim of alleviating an ever-worsening Great Depression - when President Franklin D. Roosevelt submitted the Emergency Banking Act.

1954 - CBS television broadcast an episode of its news program See It Now, entitled A Report on Senator Joseph McCarthy; produced by Fred W. Friendly and legendary newsman Edward R. Murrow, the program's attack on McCarthyism has since been called 'Television's Finest Hour'.

1957 - The magnitude 8.6 Andreanof Islands Earthquake and its resultant tsunami (which caused damage as far away as Hawai'i) struck Alaska's Aleutian Islands.

1977 - During the Hanafi Muslim Siege approximately a dozen armed Hanafi Muslims seized 3 buildings in Washington, DC (city hall, B'nai B'rith headquarters, and the Islamic Center) killing reporter Maurice Williams and security guard Mack Cantrell and taking 149 hostages; the situation ended 2 days later with only the two fatalities, due in part to the intervention of three Muslim ambassadors - Egypt's Ashraf Ghorbal, Pakistan's Sahabzada Yaqub-Khan and Iran's Ardeshir Zahedi.

1990 - Dr. Antonia Novello was sworn in as Surgeon General of the United States, becoming both the first female and Hispanic American to serve in that position.

1997 - Rapper The Notorious B.I.G. - aka Christopher Wallace - was murdered, following an after-party for that year's Soul Train Music Awards at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles; a 2009 biopic entitled Notorious starring Jamal 'Gravy' Woolard dramatized his life and death.

2006 - Liquid water was discovered on Enceladus, the sixth largest moon of Saturn.
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