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Going out gracefully…

Twenty-four more valedictions at Buzzfeed’s “The Last Words Of 25 Famous Dead Writers.”  And many more parting shots– like Oscar Wilde’s “My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us has to go”– at Wikiquote’s Famous Last Words.

As we rehearse our final scenes, we might spare a tuneful thought for trumpeter, bandleader, and composer Miles Dewey Davis III; he died on this date in 1991.  Davis was a pioneer of a number of jazz forms– bebop, cool jazz, hard bop, modal jazz, and jazz fusion, among others– but was perhaps even more influential for the musicians he launched in his bands (an extraordinary roster that includes Bill Evans, Gerry Mulligan, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, Elvin Jones, and Jack DeJohnette) and for the bands and musicians he influenced (and equally amazing list that includes Lalo Schifrin, Tangerine Dream, King Crimson, Steely Dan, Frank Zappa, Duane Allman, Radiohead, The Flaming Lips, Lydia Lunch, Jerry Garcia, and Prince).

source

Please, Please, Please…

He was “the Hardest Working Man in Show Business,” “the Godfather of Soul”– James Brown.  Immensely popular with audiences from the mid-Fifties (when “Please, Please, Please,” above, was a hit), he was a tremendous influence on popular music, with admirers who included jazz greats like Miles Davis, and emulators like Sly and the Family Stone, Booker T & the MGs and “soul shouters” like King Curtis, Edwin Starr, and David Ruffin (of The Temptations).  He was a famously-tough task master as a band leader; but it served his musicians well, as their education at his hands laid the foundation for several successful solo careers (e.g., Bobby Byrd, Lyn Collins, Vicki Anderson, Hank Ballard, Bootsy Collins, and Carlos Alomar).  And he was the ur-source of Funk (e.g., admirer George Clinton cast Brown alumni Fred Wesley and Bootsy Collins centrally in the seminal Parliament-Funkadelic).

But Brown made what was arguably his most influential contribution with his feet: he was, as anyone who saw him perform can attest, an astonishing dancer.  As a child, he’d earned pocket money buck dancing to entertain troops headed to Europe at the outset of WWII.  Over the years he made that traditional form uniquely his own– inspiring performers like Michael Jackson and Prince, who modeled their moves on his, and prefiguring the current vogue of dance-centric pop performances.

James Brown died on Christmas Day, 2006.  But happily, he left behind a guide to the moves that made him famous.  The holiday party season, with its fraught occasions to dance, looms; but there’s no reason to fear, Dear Readers– just watch and learn.  Michael Jackson did…

 

As we trip the light fantastic, we might recall that it was on this date in 1946 (when James Brown was 13 years old) that Walt Disney released Song of the South, a feature film based on the Uncle Remus stories of Joel Chandler Harris, in which live actors frame animated enactments of the adventures of Br’er Rabbit– like the story of “The Tar Baby.”  The film won the Best Song Oscar for “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah”; but, while the film was re-released theatrically in 1972, 1981, and 1986, and has been released to home video in Europe and Asia, it has never been released to home video in the U.S.– perhaps because Disney executives feel that it might be construed as racist.

James Baskett, who played Uncle Remus, was the first black actor hired by Disney to play a live role.  He was unable to attend the film’s premiere in Atlanta, the event hotels there would not have him. (source)

 

Before their time…

A number of "obituary templates" (like this one) were accidentally made public on CNN's website in August of 2003. Source: Snopes.com

In keeping with Prince’s declaration that “the Internet is completely over,”  Wikipedia’s list of premature obituaries– the example above, and many, many more untimely announcements…

(TotH to GMSV)

As we recommit to double checking, we might recall that it was on this date in 1932 that King C. Gillette actually did die.  An American businessman popularly known as the inventor of the safety razor (although several models were in existence prior to his design), Gillette’s true invention was an inexpensive, high margin stamped steel disposable blade– and the business model that later became known as freebie marketing: “give away the razor, sell the blades.”

King Gillette

Going conkers…

It’s that time again…  today, the 2009 World Conker Championships will be held at New Lodge Fields, near Oundle, Northamptonshire.

For readers unfamiliar with the sport, the web site explains:

Choose one conker (a nice big round shiny horse chestnut) and then bore a hole through the middle of it. Be VERY careful as you do this! Most people use a skewer, but don’t hold it in your hand because you could end up skewering your hand (I remember using a metal compass when I was at school, but these days they all seem to be made of plastic and not strong enough for this job). Thread a piece of string through the hole and tie a knot at one end, so that it doesn’t pull through. The string should be long enough to wrap twice around your clenched hand and still have about 10 inches (25 cm) left.

A toss of the coin usually decides who starts first – but in the playground this is more often a matter of whoever shouts something like ‘Obli, obli oh, my first go.’

Each player has a their conker on its knotted string. Players take turns at hitting their opponent’s conker. If you are the one whose conker is to be hit first, let it hang down from the string which is wrapped round your hand. A 10 inch (25 cm) drop is about right. You must hold it at the height your opponent chooses and you must hold it perfectly still.

Your opponent, the striker, wraps their conker string round his hand just like yours. He then takes the conker in the other hand and draws it back for the strike. Releasing the conker he swings it down by the string held in the other hand and tries to hit her/his opponent’s conker with it. If he misses he is allowed up to two further goes. If the strings tangle, the first player to call “strings” or “snags” gets an extra shot. Players take alternate hits at their opponent’s conker. The game is won when one player destroys the other’s conker. If a player drops his conker or it is knocked from his hand, the other player can shout “stamps” and immediately stamps on the conker; but should its owner first shout “no stamps” then “stamps” is disallowed and the conker hopefully remains intact.

In playground tournaments a winning conker can then go on to do battle with other conkers, each victory adding to the conker’s score. A conker which has won one battle is called a “one-er”, two battles a “two-er” and so on. So for example, you might overhear a child saying “I beat his fiver with my twoer”. In this case, and depending on which rules you play by, the winning twoer might simply become a three-er or it might become an eighter (two previous victories plus the victory over the fiver plus the five-score of the fiver). In this way winning conkers can quickly accumulate quite large scores!

And for readers already experienced, there are handy tips; for instance, this from two-times World Conker Champion Charlie Bray:

There are many underhanded ways of making your conker harder. The best is to pass it through a pig. The conker will harden by soaking in its stomach juices. Then you search through the pig’s waste to find the conker.

As we wait for ESPN to ring, we might recall that it was on this date in 1981 that a relative unknown from Minneapolis burst onto the scene (and into the scale of venue he was born to haunt), as His Purpleness, Prince, opened for the Rolling Stones at the L.A. Coliseum.

source: Critical Junctions

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Written by LW

October 11, 2009 at 12:01 am

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