A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
1959 – Sam Raimi a television producer and film director. On TV he produced Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and the much more successful Xena: Warrior Princess. He has done a number of pretty good movies including A Simple Plan and The Quick and the Dead. His biggest hits so far, though, are Spiderman, Spiderman II and Spiderman III. He can also claim to have directed one of the best kisses in the history of Hollywood.
1959 – Weird Al Yankovic, an icon of the 80s. Weird Al reinvented himself in the 21st Century and has had substantial hits with “Don’t Download this Song” and “White and Nerdy.” He is perhaps the only parody songwriter ever to last more than an album or two. He began his career with “My Bologna” (a parody of “My Sharona,” by The Knack) and “Another One Rides the Bus” (a parody of Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust.”) Most musicians take Al’s parodies as good fun but a few, like Prince, get cranky about them. Al has sold millions of albums and CDs and anybody who was older than 12 in 1980 can quote at least one of his songs.
1958 – On October 23rd, Johan and Peewit were having an adventure, drawn by the Belgian artist Peyo in the comic book Spirou. They were on a quest to recover The Flute with Six Holes. On the way, they discovered a bunch of little blue guys called Schtroumpfs. Almost immediately, the Schtroumpfs popularity replaced Johan and Peewit as the main attraction. Within a year, the Schtroumpfs were getting their own stories in Spirou. Soon they were appearing all over Europe. In 1981, the Schtroumpfs jumped the Atlantic and showed up as a Saturday morning cartoon, called The Smurfs. There seem to be millions of the little buggers. They’re everywhere – on baby clothes, on key chains, in garage sales. There doesn’t seem to be an end to them. But the real question is since there is only one female of the species – Smurfette – where do Smurfs come from?
2001 – Apple launched the iPod and the entire world went “Wow!” Suddenly, everything that came before it was obsolete. No invention in history has ever been so complete or immediate. It brought Apple back into the Big Leagues of the digital revolution and led to piles of imitators. Its success also put the development of the iPad on the fast track. This is a wonderful device which is, unfortunately, way too awkward to actually use.
1939 – Zane Grey was the original western writer. He was one of the first authors to make a million selling books, and his Riders of the Purple Sage is still the all-time, best-selling western novel. Despite what everybody says, Grey did not invent the Old West. It was always there; Grey just romanticized it. Actually, he was simply carrying on the tradition started by the “Dime Novels” and authors such as Ned Buntline. Grey’s stories have been adapted for radio, television, movies and comic books. There is a nasty rumour that his novel The Lone Star Ranger was the inspiration for The Lone Ranger. This is a lie.
1957 – Christian Dior, a fashion designer who got his start in World War II Paris, designing clothes for wealthy Germans and their collaborator mistresses. In 1947, he presented his own line of fashion which was immediately dubbed the “New Look”, the first of over a million “new looks” in the fashion industry. In 1947, however, Dior’s look actually was new and it propelled him and his House into the mainstream of Parisian fashion. Today, along with Yves St. Laurent and a few others, Dior, as it is now called, sits at the top end of the fashion world and most designs are arbitrated from there. Dior also makes perfumes which smell more or less the same as every other overpriced fragrance.