Tag Archives: artists

March 8th

On this day in 1911 Clara Zetkin started up the first ever International Women’s Day and launched it in Copenhagen. Although she set no official date for it, the date she started it has since become the date it is celebrated  upon following the  1977 UN decision to mark UN Day for Women’s Rights and Peace. It was celebrated behind the “Iron Curtain” before then, but has only been a thing in the west for 34 years.

Clara was a fine woman and if you don't think so you are a wronger

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the day and we’ve come a long way since then. Many  people think we’ve come far enough and don’t need a women’s day and why isn’t there a men’s day and anyway get  your tits out love and shut your mouth, where’s my tea you slack bint, gertcha!

Don’t worry, darlings, I’m not going to write a long feminist treatise, mostly because if I started I don’t think Id be able to stop myself. However, to those who truly hold the opinion that we’ve come far enough, I do have three words to say: do fuck off.

Instead of making your eyes bleed and your hearts weep with how far we have to go, I’ll concentrate instead on what a great bunch of lasses, Clara Zetkin was. She had intended to become a teacher, but early in her life she became involved in leftist politics and the women’s movement and from then on devoted her life to politics. This meant many periods in exile as socialists weren’t exactly welcome in Bismarck’s Germany. While in exile she did a lot of work to set up the Socialist International and became great friends with Rosa Luxemburg.

They were both members of the SPD but, along with many more far left elements in the party, they split with them over the issue of the war. The SPD supported it and they did not. Along with Karl Liebknecht they formed the Spartacist League (named after Spartacus and his wife) and produced illegal anti-war pamphlets throughout the war. Clara was arrested several times, but she fared better than Rosa and Karl who were both murdered in the uprising that took place after the war. Clara became a member of the KPD which grew out of the Spartacist league and remained prominent in the party, with a strong interest in women’s issues until 1933, when we all know  who came along, fucked the communists and either killed or imprisoned them. Clara went into exile for the last time. She ended up in Moscow and upon her death later that year she was buried by the wall of the Kremlin.

To many she may seem a troublesome leftie bitch and some of those might even see this as a bad thing. A pox on you if you do. Clara Zetkin was a good woman on the side of those who most needed a voice. She spoke up for the poor and oppressed and she spoke for women everywhere. So if you’re doing anything to celebrate International Women’s Day today, remember Clara Zetkin and if possible raise a glass to that fine German firebrand.

Today is the birthday of Carol Bayer-Sager, songwriter, lyricist, singer and artist.

When Carol graduated from New York University, she had already written her first hit single, A Groovy Kind of Love. Over her career she as collaborated with, among others, Marvin Hamlisch, Neil Diamond, Neil Sedaka and Michael Jackson, as well as her ex-husband Burt Bacharach.  She’s won an Oscar, two Golden Globes and a Grammy for That’s What Friends are For which was originally written

Talented woman but WAY too much plastic surgery

for the movie Night Shift, but was later released by a group of singers and Elton John to raise money for AIDS.

Her career has been long and her success pretty constant. She didn’t record as a singer herself until 1977 and hasn’t released any albums of her own since 1981. She’s basically a talented woman and seems to be an all round good egg. I wanted today’s entries to be all about women what with it being IWD an’ all, but Carol aside, most of the candidates I found were either porn stars, so-so actresses or beauty queens. I mean really, c’mon! I don’t know much about Carol and I don’t have any strong feelings about her either way. Although, I do hate That’s What Friends are For with a small passion; it’s so bloody schmaltzy! But I like a lot of her stuff with Burt’s Bees and I admire her for being an incredibly successful person in an industry which was far from woman friendly when she made her name.

So, la! This lacks teeth or sweetness, but it’s honest. Probably. Happy birthday to you Ms Bayer-Sager. It will not interest you to know that I always hear your name in the faux American voice of Eric Idle in drag in The Meaning of Life, but I’m telling you because  I’m trying to pad your birthday greeting out. I love your songs, but please no more of that awful schmaltz and no more Elton John. Oh and anyone in LA, Ms Bayer-Sager has an art exhibition opening this month, er, somewhere in LA.


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Stuff that happened in February 1976

To begin at the very beginning. February 1976 started quite unexpectedly on February 1st and over in the US of A, Rich Man, Poor Man (which introduced us to Peter Strauss and Nick Nolte) premiered on ABC television. To people in the UK, it’s worth knowing – or not – that ABC is the station that shows the Oscars and has for ever and a day. Rich Man, Poor Man came to the UK as well and very popular it was too. It was about a rich man and a poor man  and years later we also got to see Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy which was  much waited for sequel and featured Alec Guinness as a spy in search of the missing beggar man and thief.

Travis Bickle gets cross when his passenger shows no interest in who he had in the back of his cab the other day

And that was just the beginning of the month. Staying with visual entertainment type stuff, films that were released that month included: Picnic at Hanging Rock, The Return of the Pink Panther and the truly sublime Taxi Driver which starred Robert de Niro as a slightly killy taxi driver and Jodie Foster as a prostitute. One of the most wonderful things about the film was its moral ambiguity and an ending that would just not be allowed today, well not in a mainstream Hollywood movie anyway. It was very much part of a new golden age of movies that started with Bonnie and Clyde and ended some time around the period that the whole world got a hard on for Star Wars. That’ s not to say that George Lucas is totally to blame for the 80s glut of “high concept” movies, but along with his mate Steven Spielberg he pretty much opened the way to the Don Simpsons of this world. The utter twat. Please to  be noting, I do like Star Wars – especially Han Solo and Chewbacca – I just mourn the passing of the ethos surrounding movies in the 1970s, although to be fair to Mr Lucas, it was probably cocaine that messed things up every bit as much as he did.

Moving on! Much as I’d like to stay with films and television, there were other things afoot in February 1976. There was some sport in Innsbruck, when the 12th Winter Olympic Games opened on 4th February. Lots of people did skiing and skating, some of them jumped on tea trays and slid down icy tubes of death and everyone had a tremendous amount of fun in the snow and ice. Meanwhile, away from the Winter Wonderland, political type events were going on.

The US were still doing nuclear testing in Nevada. Why? Well there’s a question. One would have figured that they knew how everything worked by then, but no, they kept on testing. Maybe the government had something against Nevadans and wanted them all to get nuclear type diseases to keep them in their place. One thing’s for sure, even Mulder and Scully never investigated that one, so, well, yeah. Something really strange must have been going on. Conspiratorially yours, etc.

Over in Africa, the last of the Europeans were pulling out. Not out of the goodness of their own hearts, lawks a mercy no! The Spanish pulled their armed forces out of the Western Sahara on 26th February and the following day the Western Sahara declared its Independence. Coincidence? I think not! That said Spain did keep a couple of enclaves in the region, but  not for long. Probably. Hey! I’m only looking at February 1976, I don’t want to give the whole story away!

In the Netherlands a huge scandal was emerging centring around the Lockheed Corporation and bribes. Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands had received a lot of money from the corporation and he wasn’t the only one. Internationally, Lockheed had been handing out millions of dollars to all and sundry to ensure that their planes were bought by the military. Their Chair and Vice-Chair had to resign on 13th February in the face of everyone being all “Ooh, how dreadful, you corrupt so and sos!” (It was 1976, swearing wasn’t quite as common as it is now, so even when very angry, people were careful not to call a fucking bastard an utter bollockhead). Of course, Lockheed didn’t suffer too much. A few laws were passed to stop bribery and corruption, most notably in the US, but funnily enough bribery and corruption didn’t quite go away.

Meanwhile, somewhere far, far away in the South Atlantic, Argentinian destroyers fired across the bows of a British ship called the Shackleton. It was probably the start of a wee bit of trouble that later developed into the Falklands war, which was the moment that British people all went to their maps and breathed a huge sigh of relief when they discovered the Falklands weren’t islands just off Scotland so we weren’t about to be invaded by Eva Peron.

One other political type happening is worth remembering. Moscow, still under the rule of Leonid Brezhnev, prepared to issue posters of Margaret Thatcher, not yet PM, but getting ready to thrust herself upon the world and make the 1980s utterly bloody miserable for most of the UK, depicting her as the Wicked Witch of the Cold War. Alas, there is no pictorial evidence of this available to us, but it’s nice to know that the Soviets were one step ahead of the rest of us in recognising what a stain on humanity Maggie really was.

Onwards and upwards. Heaven sent type stuff. In this month Basil Hume became Archbishop of Westminster (and was called a

Basil tells his mate about the time I rubbed his belly. Hilarity ensues

cardinal a few months afterwards). When I was but a young girl, I got to meet Basil Hume on retreat. We were in the queue for dinner and for reasons that totally escape me now, I rubbed his belly – it was a little rounded, which sort of belied his lean image – and, well, I rubbed a Cardinal’s belly. I think I asked him if I could, but knowing me I probably didn’t and just went for the rub. I hasten to add that this was entirely innocent on both our parts. Hume did not order me to rub him and there was no frisson between us. It was just a very ordinary belly rub, albeit, a very strange thing for a young girl to do to a Cardinal. He was a very nice man indeed.

Before we get to the very end of this strange round-up of events, we should take a quick peek into the hallowed world of art. In this month the Tate Gallery (now Tate Britain), put on display Equivalent VIII, which quickly became known as “The Bricks”. It was, to all intents and purposes a pile of bricks. The public was in uproar about it, or to be more precise, the media said the public was in uproar about it. Well, taxpayers’ money had been paid for the bricks and oh my gosh! The Tate had been conned, etc.  The Bricks, were just the latest in a long line of artworks that left people thinking that they’d discovered that the Emperor was naked. Maybe he was and maybe he wasn’t. Equivalent VIII is still on show at the Tate Modern. These days people get in less of a two and eight about them.

And finally we turn our minds to death. This month saw the death of an artist who was loved by everybody, L.S. Lowry. Thought of by many as a naive artist, Lowry’s most famous paintings and drawings are of the industrial landscape of Salford, featuring many vaguely abstract figures, often called matchstick men. Lowry’s influence has been wide and the love of his work is still going strong 35 years after his death.

No cats were harmed in the formulation of Heisenberg's principle, which is more than can be said for his mate Schrodinger

This month also saw the tragically early death of Florence Ballard, the real voice of the Supremes. She was dropped from the group in 1967 after one too many arguments with Berry Gordy who had made Diana Ross his mistress and the leader of the Supremes. She had a solo career, but things were never right for Florence after the Supremes and she died of coronary thrombosis on February 22nd 1976.

There were many other births and deaths in this month, but compiling a list of them would be tedious for both you and me. I shall leave you with one last death: on the first day of this month, as Rich Man, Poor Man was starting on ABC, Werner Heisenberg breathed his last, of this we are certain. We think.

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February 7th

On this day in 1497 the most famous Bonfire of the Vanities took place in Florence, directed by infamous joy-sucker, Girolamo Savonarola. This wasn’t just a burning of books, which would have been bad enough, but just about anything they could get hold of that might cause an occasion of “sin”. Books, paintings, statues, mirrors, cosmetics, fancy-schmancy dresses and musical instruments. There are no contemporary reports of any serious injuries, but one has to imagine that the mirrors might have got a bit explodey and hit a few observers in the eyes. Granted this would have made certain occasions of sin less likely – no more coveting of

Burn, baby, burn! Savonarola feels the heat.

the neighbour’s wife – but it was a little ill-thought out by the naughty fire-starters. Luckily, there wasn’t much in the way of man-made fibres in those days, so the chances of toxic fumes from polyester, flammable foam or flying lurex bombs was pretty much nil.

There has long been a historical rumour that Botticelli took part in the bonfire and threw some of his own work in. This is true, but what is less well-known is that the young Michelangelo, who thought Savonarola was an utter dick, egged Botticelli on, seeing it as a good way of getting one of his rivals out of the way. The even younger Machiavelli was an observer of Michelangelo’s wicked deed and was heard to say to his mates “That’s a bit Michelangean, I’m going to use that in a book I’m thinking about writing.”

Whatever the ins and outs of the combustibility of the materials burned and the cunning plots going on among artists and writers, it is clear that Savonarola was a bit wrong in the head. Worry not, dear scholar, the Borgias come to our rescue. History has not been kind to the Borgias, one might say with good reason, but while Pope Alexander VI might have been, to all intents and purposes, a very bad sort of a pope indeed – corruption, mistresses and slightly killy children – he did have Savonarola executed. The manner of his execution? Well, given that he was a bit of a pyromaniac, it was only fitting that he got stuck on a bonfire, in the exact same spot that he’d burned some nice schmutter, and met his death via the means of state sanctioned arson.

Many centuries later the author Tom Wolfe wrote a novel called The Bonfire of the Vanities which was well-received. However, it was later turned into a film that was so bad it left some critics calling for a bonfire of the vanities of The Bonfire of the Vanities.

Today is the birthday of pie-eater and survivalist expert, Ray Mears. He is famous for his television programmes which consist of him wandering around forests and wilderness type areas, surviving on a diet of insects, poo and twigs. He explains to the hapless viewer that they too can be like him. He never points out that if, unlike him, they haven’t eaten a quantity of pies before heading off for a few days of (quite literally) eating shit, they may well get a bit hungry and scared.

Prodigious Pie Eater, Raymond Mears

Mears is also lacking when it comes to things like how to fight a bear, fool a snake and wrestle a crocodile, which means that while he can point you toward the tastiest insect in any given locale, his survival skills are somewhat lacking. What if a bear and I are both after the last stick insect in the rain forest – or wherever bears and stick insects live together – or I have to pretend to be a statue so a boa constrictor doesn’t eat me and my dinner of poo and locusts? Mears has no answers for these important questions.

That said, it is the man’s birthday, so enough quibbling. Happy birthday, Mr Mears and to celebrate, why don’t you try a nice Club Med holiday this year!


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