Tag Archives: entertainment

Almanac – June 17

1631 – Mumtaz Mahal died during childbirth. Her husband, Mughal emperor Shah Jahan I, spent the next 17 years building her mausoleum, the Taj Mahal.

 

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1939 – Last public guillotining in France: Eugen Weidmann, a convicted murderer, was guillotined in Versailles, outside the Saint-Pierre prison.

The “hysterical behaviour” of spectators was so scandalous that French president Albert Lebrun immediately banned all future public executions.

 

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1958 – Jello Biafra born. Former lead singer and songwriter for San Francisco punk rock band Dead Kennedys, now focused primarily on spoken word.
He is a staunch believer in a free society, who utilizes shock value and advocates direct action and pranksterism in the name of political causes,  known to use absurdist media tactics in the leftist tradition of the Yippies, to highlight issues of civil rights and social justice.

 

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Almanac – June 05

1898 – Federico García Lorca born. Spanish poet, dramatist and theatre director.
 He achieved international recognition as an emblematic member of the Generation of ’27.  He was killed by Nationalist forces during the Spanish Civil War.

 

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Almanac – June 03

1924 – Franz Kafka died. German-language writer of novels and short stories, regarded by critics as one of the most influential authors of the 20th century.

 Kafka strongly influenced genres such as existentialism. His works, such as Die Verwandlung (The Metamorphosis), Der Process (The Trial), and Das Schloss (The Castle), are filled with the themes and archetypes of alienation, physical and psychological brutality, parent–child conflict, characters on a terrifying quest, and mystical transformations.

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1926 – Allen Ginsberg born. American poet and one of the leading figures of the Beat Generation in the 1950s.

He vigorously opposed militarism, economic materialism and sexual repression. Ginsberg is best known for his epic poem “Howl“, in which he denounced what he saw as the destructive forces of capitalism and conformity in the United States.

Ginsberg took part in decades of non-violent political protest against everything from the Vietnam War to the War on Drugs. His poem “September on Jessore Road“, calling attention to the plight of Bangladeshi refugees, exemplifies what the literary critic Helen Vendler described as Ginsberg’s tireless persistence in protesting against “imperial politics, and persecution of the powerless.”

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1942 – Curtis Mayfield born.  American soul, R&B, and funk singer, songwriter, and record producer.

He is best known for his anthemic music with The Impressions during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and for composing the soundtrack to the blaxploitation film Super Fly, Mayfield is highly regarded as a pioneer of funk and of politically conscious African-American music.

He was also a multi-instrumentalist who played the guitar, bass, piano, saxophone, and drums.

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Almanac – May 31

1837 – Joseph Grimaldi died.  English actor, comedian and dancer, who became the most popular English entertainer of the Regency era.

In the early 1800s, he expanded the role of Clown in the harlequinade that formed part of British pantomimes, notably at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane and the Sadler’s Wells and Covent Garden theatres, and  became so dominant on the London comic stage that harlequinade Clowns became known as “Joey”, and both the nickname and Grimaldi’s whiteface make-up design were, and still are, used by other types of clowns. He also originated catchphrases such as “Here we are again!”, which continues to feature in modern pantomimes.
In his last years, Grimaldi lived in relative obscurity and became a depressed, impoverished alcoholic, dying at home in Islington in 1837, aged 59.

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1872 – W. Heath Robinson born.  English cartoonist and illustrator, best known for drawings of eccentric machines.

In the UK, the term “Heath Robinson” has entered the language as a description of any unnecessarily complex and implausible contraption, although it  is perhaps more often used in relation to temporary fixes using ingenuity and whatever is to hand, often string and tape, or unlikely cannibalisations.

Its popularity is undoubtedly linked to Second World War Britain’s shortages and the need to “make do and mend“.

 

 

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1996 – Timothy Leary died. American psychologist and writer, known for his advocacy of psychedelic drugs.

During a time when drugs such as LSD and psilocybin were legal, Leary conducted experiments at Harvard University under the Harvard Psilocybin Project, resulting in the Concord Prison Experiment and the Marsh Chapel Experiment.

Both studies produced useful data, but Leary and his associate Richard Alpert were fired from the university nonetheless because of the public controversy surrounding their research.

Leary believed LSD showed therapeutic potential for use in psychiatry. He popularized catchphrases that promoted his philosophy such as “turn on, tune in, drop out” (a phrase given to Leary by Marshall McLuhan); “set and setting“; and “think for yourself and question authority“.

He also wrote and spoke frequently about transhumanist concepts involving space migration, intelligence increase and life extension (SMI²LE), and developed the eight-circuit model of consciousness in his book Exo-Psychology (1977).

During the 1960s and 1970s, he was arrested often enough to see the inside of 29 different prisons worldwide. President Richard Nixon once described Leary as “the most dangerous man in America“.
His death was videotaped for posterity at his request, capturing his final words. During his final moments, he said, “Why not?” to his son Zachary. He uttered the phrase repeatedly, in different intonations, and died soon after. His last word, according to Zach, was “beautiful.”
Seven grams of Leary’s ashes were arranged  to be buried in space aboard a rocket carrying the remains of 24 others including Gene Roddenberry (creator of Star Trek), Gerard O’Neill (space physicist), and Krafft Ehricke (rocket scientist). A Pegasus rocket containing their remains was launched on April 21, 1997, and remained in orbit for six years until it burned up in the atmosphere.

 

 

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Almanac – May 29

1913 – Igor Stravinsky‘s ballet score The Rite of Spring received its premiere performance at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées , Paris.

The avant-garde nature of the music and choreography caused a sensation and a near-riot in the audience. Stravinsky’s score contains many features that were novel for its time, including experiments in tonality, metre, rhythm, stress and dissonance.

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1979 – Mary Pickford died.  Canadian motion picture actress, co-founder of the film studio United Artists and one of the original 36 founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences,  she was one of the Canadian pioneers in early Hollywood and a significant figure in the development of film acting.

Because her international fame was triggered by moving images, she is a watershed figure in the history of modern celebrity and, as one of silent film’s most important performers and producers, her contract demands were central to shaping the Hollywood industry.

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Almanac – May 28

1938 – Prince Buster born. Jamaican singer-songwriter, producer and sound system operator.

He is regarded as one of the most important figures in the history of ska and rocksteady music. The records he released in the 1960s influenced and shaped the course of Jamaican contemporary music and created a legacy of work that later reggae and ska artists would draw upon.

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1944 – Gladys Knight born. American singer-songwriter, actress, businesswoman, humanitarian, and author, best known for the hits she recorded during the 1960s and 1970s, for both the Motown and Buddah Records labels, with her group Gladys Knight & the Pips.

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Almanac – May 25

1895 – Playwright, poet, and novelist Oscar Wilde was convicted of “committing acts of gross indecency with other male persons” and sentenced to serve two years in prison.

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1956 – Sugar Minott born. Jamaican reggae singer, producer and sound-system operator.

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1965 – Sonny Boy Williamson II died.  American blues harmonica player, singer and songwriter.

He is acknowledged as one of the most charismatic and influential blues musicians, with considerable prowess on the harmonica and highly creative songwriting skills.

He recorded successfully in the 1950s and 1960s, and had a direct influence on later blues and rock performers.

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1967 – Poppy Z. Brite born. American author,  best known for writing gothic and horror novels and short stories.

Brite’s trademarks have included using gay men as main characters, graphic sexual descriptions in the works, and an often wry treatment of gruesome events.

Some of Brite’s better known novels include Lost Souls (1992), Drawing Blood  (1993), and Exquisite Corpse (1996).

Brite is, in real life, Billy Martin, a transgender man – he self-identifies as a gay man; “Ever since I was old enough to know what gay men were, I’ve considered myself a gay man that happens to have been born in a female body, and that’s the perspective I’m coming from” –  and prefers that male pronouns and terms be used when referring to him.

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2006 – Desmond Dekker died. Jamaican ska, rocksteady and reggae singer-songwriter and musician.

In 1968 Dekker’s “Israelites” was released, eventually topping the UK Singles Chart in April 1969 and peaking in the Top Ten of the US Billboard Hot 100 in June 1969 – Dekker was the first Jamaican artist to have a hit record in the US with a form and style that was purely Jamaican.

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