Tag Archives: Surrealism

Oi, Milliband – Where’s My Free Owl ?

UNEMPLOYED IN TYNE & WEAR

Seems a Surrealist managed to hack into Labour’s  press team’s Twitter account yesterday, giving the impression that  Ed Miliband had come up with his most revolutionary policy so far.

Everybody should have his own owl,’ said the tweet that quickly took flight on social media.

One tweeter said: ‘We had  hoped our compulsory owl  guarantee would be a head  turning policy, but sadly it’s no longer going to take flight. #tweettwoo’.

Another, Lucy Vine, said: ‘You know… I think a free owl would actually genuinely make me vote Labour.’

More serious-minded observers pointed out that it would be a  policy unlikely to find support at the Treasury, as baby barn owls cost around £80 each.

To provide one for all 63million people in the country would  cost £5billion a year, or around 5 per cent of the entire budget for the NHS.

But if you think…

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Almanac – April 23

1564 – William Shakespeare born. English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist.

 His extant works, including some collaborations, consist of about 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, two epitaphs on a man named John Combe, one epitaph on Elias James, and several other poems. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.

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1907 – Lee Miller born. American photographer. She was a successful fashion model in New York City in the 1920s before going to Paris, with the intention of apprenticing herself to the surrealist artist and photographer Man Ray. Although, at first, he insisted that he did not take students, Miller soon became his photographic assistant, as well as his lover and muse.

While she was in Paris, she began her own photographic studio, often taking over Man Ray’s fashion assignments to enable him to concentrate on his painting.In fact, many of the photographs taken during this period and credited to Man Ray were actually taken by Miller.

Together with Man Ray, she rediscovered the photographic technique of solarisation. She was an active participant in the surrealist movement, with her witty and humorous images.

 During the Second World War, she became an acclaimed war correspondent for Vogue, covering events such as the London Blitz, the liberation of Paris, and the concentration camps at Buchenwald and Dachau.

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1965 – George Adamski died.  Polish-born American citizen who became widely known in ufology circles, and to some degree in popular culture, after he claimed to have photographed ships from other planets, met with friendly Nordic alien Space Brothers, and to have taken flights with them.

The first of the so-called contactees of the 1950s, he was called a “philosopher, teacher, student and saucer researcher“, though his claims were met with skepticism.

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1991 – Johnny Thunders died. American  guitarist, singer and songwriter. He came to prominence in the early 1970s as a member of the New York Dolls,  later played with The Heartbreakers and as a solo artist.

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Almanac – April 02

742 – Charlemagne born. King of the Franks from 768, the King of Italy from 774, the first Holy Roman Emperor,  called the “Father of Europe” (pater Europae),  his empire united most of Western Europe for the first time since the Roman Empire.

His rule spurred the Carolingian Renaissance, a revival of art, religion, and culture through the medium of the Catholic Church. Through his foreign conquests and internal reforms, Charlemagne encouraged the formation of a common European identity.  Both the French and German monarchies considered their kingdoms to be descendants of Charlemagne’s empire.

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1725 – Giacomo Casanova born.  Italian adventurer and author from the Republic of Venice.

He was, by vocation and avocation, a lawyer, clergyman, military officer, violinist, con man, pimp, gourmand, dancer, businessman, diplomat, spy, politician, medic, mathematician, social philosopher, cabalist, playwright, and writer. He wrote over twenty works, including plays and essays, and many letters. His novel Icosameron is an early work of science fiction.

He has become so famous for his often complicated and elaborate affairs with women that his name is now synonymous with “womanizer“.

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1891 – Max Ernst born. German painter, sculptor, graphic artist, and poet. A prolific artist, Ernst was a primary pioneer of the Dada movement and Surrealism.

Ernst developed a fascination with birds that was prevalent in his work. His alter ego in paintings, which he called Loplop, was a bird. He suggested that this alter-ego was an extension of himself stemming from an early confusion of birds and humans.

 He said that one night when he was young he woke up and found that his beloved bird had died, and a few minutes later his father announced that his sister was born. Loplop often appeared in collages of other artists’ work, such as Loplop presents André Breton.

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1928 – Serge Gainsbourg born. French singer, songwriter, poet, composer, artist, actor and director. Regarded as one of the most important figures in French popular music, he was renowned for his often provocative and scandalous releases, as well as his diverse artistic output, which embodied genres ranging from jazz, chanson, pop and yé-yé, to reggae, funk, rock, electronic and disco music.

Gainsbourg’s extremely varied musical style and individuality make him difficult to categorize. His legacy has been firmly established, and he is often regarded as one of the world’s most influential popular musicians.

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1941 – Dr. Demento born. American radio broadcaster and record collector specializing in novelty songs, comedy, and strange or unusual recordings dating from the early days of phonograph records to the present.

He is credited with introducing new generations of listeners to artists of the early and middle twentieth century whom they may not have otherwise discovered, such as Haywire Mac, Spike Jones, Benny Bell, Yogi Yorgesson, and Tom Lehrer, as well as with bringing parodist “Weird Al” Yankovic to national attention.

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2003 – Edwin Starr died.  American soul music singer. Starr is most famous for his Norman Whitfield produced Motown singles of the 1970s, most notably the number one hit “War”.

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Almanac – April 01

ALL FOOLS DAY

1917 – Scott Joplin died.  American composer and pianist. Joplin achieved fame for his ragtime compositions, and was later dubbed “The King of Ragtime”. During his brief career, he wrote 44 original ragtime pieces, one ragtime ballet, and two operas.

 One of his first pieces, the “Maple Leaf Rag“, became ragtime’s first and most influential hit, and has been recognized as the archetypal rag.

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1919 – The Staatliches Bauhaus school was founded by Walter Gropius in Weimar. 

Commonly known simply as Bauhaus, it  was a school in Germany that combined crafts and the fine arts, and was famous for the approach to design that it publicized and taught. It operated from 1919 to 1933.

The Bauhaus style became one of the most influential currents in Modernist architecture and modern design and had a profound influence upon subsequent developments in art, architecture, graphic design, interior design, industrial design, and typography.

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1948 – Jimmy Cliff born.  Jamaican musician, singer and actor, best known among mainstream audiences for songs such as “Wonderful World, Beautiful People”, “The Harder They Come,” “Sitting in Limbo”, “You Can Get It If You Really Want” and “Many Rivers to Cross” from the soundtrack of the 1972 film  The Harder They Come, which helped popularize reggae across the world;  Cliff starred as Ivanhoe “Ivan” Martin.  Arriving in Kingston from the country, he tries to make it in the recording business, but without success.

Eventually, he turns to a life of crime. The soundtrack album of the film was a huge success that sold well across the world, bringing reggae to an international audience for the first time. It remains one of the most internationally significant films to have come out of Jamaica since independence.

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1949 – Gil Scott-Heron born. American soul and jazz poet, musician, and author, known primarily for his work as a spoken word performer in the 1970s and ’80s.
His collaborative efforts with musician Brian Jackson featured a musical fusion of jazz, blues, and soul, as well as lyrical content concerning social and political issues of the time, delivered in both rapping and melismatic vocal styles.

 His own term for himself was “bluesologist“, which he defined as “a scientist who is concerned with the origin of the blues.” His music, most notably on Pieces of a Man and Winter in America in the early 1970s, influenced and helped engender later African-American music genres such as hip hop and neo soul.

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1976 – Max Ernst died. German painter, sculptor, graphic artist, and poet. A prolific artist, Ernst was a primary pioneer of the Dada movement and Surrealism.

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1984 – Marvin Gaye died. American singer-songwriter and musician. Gaye helped to shape the sound of Motown Records in the 1960s with a string of hits including “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)” and “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and duet recordings with Mary Wells and Tammi Terrell.

 

 

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Almanac – February 19

1896 – André Breton  born. French writer and poet, known best as the founder of Surrealism. His writings include the first Surrealist Manifesto (Manifeste du surréalisme) of 1924, in which he defined surrealism as “pure psychic automatism“.

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1940 – Smokey Robinson born. American R&B singer-songwriter, record producer, and former record executive. Robinson was the founder and front man of the popular Motown vocal group The Miracles, for which he also served as the group’s chief songwriter and producer.

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1994 – Derek Jarman died. English film director, stage designer, diarist, artist, gardener and author. Films include Sebastiane, Jubilee and The Last of England.

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2001 – Charles Trenet died. French singer and songwriter, most famous for his recordings from the late 1930s until the mid-1950s, though his career continued through the 1990s.

In an era in which it was exceptional for a singer to write their  own material, Trenet wrote prolifically and declined to record any but his own songs.

His best known songs include “Boum !”, “La Mer”, “Y’a d’la joie”, “Que reste-t-il de nos amours ?”, “Ménilmontant” and “Douce France”. His catalogue of songs is enormous, numbering close to a thousand.

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Almanac – February 03

1927 – Kenneth Anger born.  American underground experimental filmmaker, actor and author of two controversial Hollywood Babylon books. Working exclusively in short films, he has produced almost forty works since 1937, nine of which have been grouped together as the “Magick Lantern Cycle“, and form the basis of Anger’s reputation as one of the most influential independent filmmakers in cinema history.His films variously merge surrealism with homoeroticism and the occult, and have been described as containing “elements of erotica, documentary, psychodrama, and spectacle.”

 Anger himself has been described as “one of America’s first openly gay filmmakers, and certainly the first whose work addressed homosexuality in an undisguised, self-implicating manner“, and his “role in rendering gay culture visible within American cinema, commercial or otherwise, is impossible to overestimate“.  He has also focused upon occult themes in many of his films, being fascinated by Aleister Crowley, and is a follower of Crowley’s religion, Thelema.

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1959 – Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, The Big Bopper   and pilot Roger Peterson died in an aircrash near Mason City, Iowa – “The day the music died” according to Don McClean.

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1967 – Joe Meek, English innovative music producer extrodinaire, shot his landlady and then himself. The date may not be coincidence – he was obsessed with Buddy Holly and claimed to have received messages from him from beyond the grave.

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Almanac – January 23

1897 – Zona Heaster Shue was found dead in Greenbrier County, West Virginia. The resulting murder trial of her husband is perhaps the only case in United States history where the alleged testimony of a ghost helped secure a conviction.

According to local legend, Zona appeared to her mother in a dream four weeks after her funeral. She said  Erasmus Shue  (her husband) was a cruel man who abused her, and who had attacked her in a fit of rage when he believed that she had cooked no meat for dinner. He had broken her neck; to prove this, the ghost turned her head completely around until it was facing backwards.
Supposedly, the ghost appeared first as a bright light, gradually taking form and filling the room with a chill. She is said to have visited Mrs. Heaster over the course of four nights.

Zona’s body was examined on February 22, 1897 in the local one-room schoolhouse. Shue had “vigorously complained” about this turn of events, but was required by law to be present at the autopsy. He responded that he knew he would be arrested, but that no one would be able to prove his guilt.

The autopsy lasted three hours, and found that Zona’s neck had indeed been broken. According to the report, published on March 9, 1897, “the discovery was made that the neck was broken and the windpipe mashed. On the throat were the marks of fingers indicating that she had been choked. The neck was dislocated between the first and second vertebrae. The ligaments were torn and ruptured. The windpipe had been crushed at a point in front of the neck.

On the strength of this evidence, and his behavior at the inquest, Shue was arrested and charged with the murder of his wife. He was sentenced to life in prison…which didn’t last long, as he died in 1900.

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1898 – Sergei Eisenstein born. Pioneering Soviet Russian film director and film theorist, often considered to be the “Father of Montage“.

He is noted in particular for his silent films Strike (1924), Battleship Potemkin (1925) and October (1927), as well as the historical epics Alexander Nevsky (1938) and Ivan the Terrible (1944, 1958).

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1910 – Django Reinhardt born. Pioneering virtuoso jazz guitarist and composer. Reinhardt is often regarded as one of the greatest guitar players of all time and regarded as the first important European jazz musician who made major contributions to the development of the idiom.

Reinhardt invented an entirely new style of jazz guitar technique (sometimes called ‘hot’ jazz guitar) that has since become a living musical tradition within French gypsy culture.

With violinist Stéphane Grappelli, he co-founded the Quintette du Hot Club de France, described by critic Thom Jurek as “one of the most original bands in the history of recorded jazz.

Reinhardt’s most popular compositions have become jazz standards, including “Minor Swing”, “Daphne”, “Belleville”, “Djangology”, “Swing ’42”, and “Nuages“.

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1957 – American inventor Walter Frederick Morrison sold the rights to his flying disc to the Wham-O toy company, which later renamed it the Frisbee.

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1989 – Salvador Dalí died.  Dalí was a skilled draftsman, best known for the striking and bizarre images in his surrealist work. Dalí’s expansive artistic repertoire included film, sculpture, and photography, in collaboration with a range of artists in a variety of media.

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1997 – Richard Berry died. African American singer, songwriter and musician, who performed with many Los Angeles doo-wop and close harmony groups in the 1950s, including The Flairs and The Robins. He is best known as the composer and original performer of …. oh, c’mon – you all must know this…

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