Sunday, September 30, 2007

"Changes" by David Bowie

And so, as a suitable accompaniment to the previous post, it's David Bowie performing Changes, as introduced by Ellen DeGeneres.
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A change is as good as a rest, or so they say, which makes all of this a bit overdue, as I am well exhausted. Fortunately, though, it's a good exhausted; the kind of exhausted that comes from countless hours of doing what I love.

Yes, the ongoing evolution of the Pop Culture Institute proceeds apace.

Some of you regular readers will notice that I've added a poll to the top of the page, so please feel free to vote early and vote often, and thanks to Y | O | Y for putting me onto as well.

I've also added a new team member in Seumas Gagne, a frequent commenter and sounding board, as part of what I refer to as my brain trust. Over time I hope that Mr. Gagne and I will be joined here by Mr. Barr and Mr. Davey as part of my diabolical scheme to eventually conquer all media.

Introduction of a flesh-and-blood colleague lends itself to the introduction of felt-and-foam colleagues, and the much-vaunted appearance here (and on YouTube) of the Poppets has entered an exciting new phase. Mark 3 - in other words the third version of the prototype - is awaiting its facial features as we speak, putting its first appearance in these pages less than a month away now.

All of which makes for the kind of heady times I'll look back on in my old age (next year) with fond remembrance.

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RIP Lois Maxwell

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketLois Maxwell, Canada's pride and the inhabitor of Miss Moneypenny, died Saturday at Fremantle Hospital in Perth, Australia. She was 80.

Throughout fourteen films Moneypenny was the smart, beautiful secretary of James Bond, and seemingly the one woman he couldn't conquer, which I always liked because, well, Bond was a bit big-headed so he kind of had a comeuppance coming to him.

She was also stronger than I; if the 1960s version of Connery so much as smiled at me I think I'd have a fatal aneurysm. I shudder to think what their sexy banter would have done, as merely watching it is enough to make me all squelchy inside, even when viewed at a remove of four decades.
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"Tango Shoes" by Bif Naked

I liked Bif Naked even before I met her; a talented singer-songwriter and an energetic, charismatic performer, the former Beth Torbert is not just beloved in the Canadian music industry but worldwide. No doubt admiration for her extends to the animal kingdom as well, since she is an outspoken (though not especially militant) vegan.

Lately, though, I have yet another reason to admire her.

The two previous posts I've made about Bif Naked (one on the occasion of her birthday and another at the recent announcement of her then-impending nuptials) are responsible for about half of the traffic to my site this week, which (to be entirely honest) is partly the reason this one is here. It would be one thing if those hits were coming just from Vancouver or even Canada, but they're from Japan, Australia, and Finland as well.

On Saturday, September 29th, Bif Naked married sports-writer Ian Walker in Vancouver, and as such drove my traffic stats through the roof. This makes me feel bad, as she's the one who got married but I'm the one who got the gift.

I think I speak for people around the world - not to mention pigs and cows and chickens - when I say: congratulations Bif and Ian.
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Jenna Bush's Book Tour Underway

Oh well, better "Jenna Bush's Book Tour" than "Jenna Book's Bush Tour"... (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketI only hope that when she swings into Washington she takes the time to help her father sound out the really big words. I understand her novel is written at a young adult level, and while the President's come along way singe he finished My Pet Goat (last year), he could still have trouble with those three- and four-syllable monstrosities. Mon-straw-sit-tease...

At least we know which side of the family she takes after.

Congratulations to the First Lady and her iron-clad DNA.
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Friday, September 28, 2007

A La Recherche Du Blog Perdu

Among the worst things that can happen to a writer is the sudden, unexplained loss of work. Whether the piece in question was the result of serious mental labour or a burst of inspiration, the sickening feeling that accompanies the first few moments when it is found missing have been among the worst moments of my career, if not life. Losing work makes creating subsequent work all the more difficult; after all, what is the point of continuing if, through no fault of one's own, it might all be for naught?

Then again, I've always majored in drama-queen with a minor in defeatist.

It's happened to me any number of times, and each time it's as if a child of mine was abducted, and the body never found. Once I left a complete short story in the back of a cab; another time my grandmother cleaned my room, and took away a chapter of a novel by mistake, buried in some pseudo-archaeological mess of my own devising. Recently, I have lost five chapters of a novel; although fortunately I have a hard copy of it somewhere, the original file is not to be found within my documents folder, and I never would have deleted it, because frankly it's brilliant.

More often than not, in these cases, the abductor has been a computer; it happened to me - again - this afternoon.

This piece, you see, is haunted by the that which came before it.

I'd published a post called Remembering... Pierre Elliott Trudeau on this, the anniversary of his death, and gone back to add a link to it that I'd previously missed. I added the link, then in switching between the Edit window and the Compose window it was gone: a YouTube link and three elegant paragraphs, cast down the cyber bunny hole. Despite not saving the changes, when I hit the back button to get me back to the top, all was lost.

I suppose it does serve a purpose; if nothing else, it makes me extra careful subsequently. I will probably save each blog post I write on the clipboard for the rest of the year now, forcing myself to go to an extreme that I shouldn't have to, all because of the savage whims of a heartless machine.

I never try to recreate these lost writings, but instead have learned to let them go. In my spiritual tradition, any willing sacrifice is repaid threefold, and so despite my utter rage (born of frustration) I make myself let it go, secure in the knowledge that in some way it will return.

I suppose losing the piece was the cosmic way of reminding me to leave well enough alone. Had I not bothered to add that extra link, the piece wouldn't have been lost. It could also be the universe's way of reminding me that the computer I occasionally blog on during my breaks at work (a PC running Internet Explorer) is a Gatesian shitbox that's better for little else besides data entry and the absorption of verbal abuse.

Whatever the reasons for taking it, it's well-and-truly gone. Sentiment is a virus I can't seem to shake; events like this one, though, represent the best cure.
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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Now Showing: "America" from "West Side Story"

In honour of the 50th anniversary of the show's opening on Broadway, my favourite number from it, starring the incomparable Rita Moreno, who won herself an Academy Award for her electrifying performance.
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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

1357: A Year in Review

The Middle Ages - for all their wars, famines, and pestilence - must have been a pretty relaxing time to live. For one thing, there were no agonizing choices regarding what to do for a living; you just do what your parents did. If you didn't like that men could choose the Army or the Church, and women could choose prostitution, or the Church. In either case, there was a third option which combined a little bit of both.

For all the tyranny inherent in the era, at least there was no neurosis. There are days when I feel like I'd gladly swap a bit of one for the other. The first "modern" neurotic as such was probably Erasmus, who was able to look at human life without the certitude of religion and then worry because such a question is unanswerable. He's the one who wrecked it for the rest of us.

The most frustrating thing about the Middle Ages is looking at them in retrospect. For a historian there are so many gaps that we will likely never have a clear picture of the times, let alone the people who made them. Some people might find that a challenge, but it just pisses me off. Someone should have been taking better notes.

Fortunately, for the purposes of this post, there are a few more events from 1357 to report than there were for the dread years of 1111, 1153, or 1234. The next one - 1510 - is even busier still, proof that history is speeding up, or at least becoming more crowded.

For instance, 1357 is when influenza was first recognized as a disease. Although its symptoms were first recorded by Hippocrates prior to 370 BCE, the Church would have been instrumental in wiping clean the discoveries of that evil pagan; tens of millions of people coughing themselves to death was too good for their business.

1357 is also the first recorded showing of the Shroud of Turin, which must be close to when it was manufactured; it would be more than 600 years before it occurred to someone to screen print it on a bath towel.

It's also the same year work began on the Charles Bridge in Prague; the fact that the bridge is still standing must serve as some kind of testament to its builders. The previous bridge on the same site - the Judith Bridge - was built in 1170 and swept away by a flood in 1342.

And finally, 1357 was the year King David II of Scotland was finally ransomed, and returned from nine years' captivity in England. Of course, the comic potential of such an event are obvious; I scarcely need to make a joke about how cheap the Scottish are, especially since Mr. Gagne will hurt me if I do, and there's no part of me I'd care to have a harp up-shoved.
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Mini-Milestone: 1357 Posts And Counting...

Yes, it's milestone time again folks.

Not that I have anything new to add on that front. Regular readers will notice that the posts just keep coming on coming, and as to the lack of comments, well... Silence implies consent.

As per usual, if it occurs to anyone reading this to make a suggestion, please do.

Likewise, if you are some kind of sadistic grammarian and feel like savaging me, by all means do. To reiterate, I am a masochist and a comment whore, so our relationship will be remarkably complementary.

I believe it's what's called quid pro queer.
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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Books Wormed: "The Architects Are Here" by Michael Winter

It's true what they say about critics; that in them burns a jealous fire and, frustrated by their own shortcomings, they tear down their more accomplished brethren to make themselves feel better. Consider, though, cause and effect.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketAs a writer I feel relatively accomplished, at least literarily. Clearly I know how to put a sentence together. I pride myself on spelling and punctuation (although I realize I am a little overly fond of the semi-colon). I do not believe in competition as an artist, but cooperation.

Yet reading Michael Winter puts me into a frenzy of envy, which is where I am when sitting down to write - what else? - this review. If only he wasn't so good, I wouldn't have to covet his talent.

When reading This All Happened I would sneeringly refer to it as What Just Happened; I still have to force myself not to call The Big Why by my own pet name, The Big What. I now have an addition to that list: The Adjectives Are Here. The reason for this, aside from my own snide nature? Jealousy.

Not only is he handsome, he's probably tall and lean and has one of those voices that could smoke bacon. All that PLUS he can write. His very existence makes me feel like an illiterate goblin. In fact, I may have to write a second review on the other side, at Self-Loathario, just to deal with it.

Winter's new tour-de-force novel The Architects Are Here fleshes out the trademark sparsity of his earlier works just enough to render his extraordinary voice the stuff of legends. The continuing story of his alter-ego Gabriel English, the novel is actually three books in one. The first part reads like a standard coming-of-age story, albeit more poetically rendered than the standard issue dreck typically churned out by BFA programs across the country. The second part is a combination picaresque/road-trip, again, re-invented with such flair as to be an entirely new genre as opposed to a retread of an existing one. The third is a coming home story mixed with elements of thriller, which ties the previous two portions together in an ending which should be too pat to be successful, yet is as satisfying as anything I've read this year.

On their own, each part would be an exemplary work, especially for those (like me) who enjoy the opportunity to luxuriate in some truly excellent diction. Although I don't always understand what motivates his characters (because I'm not deep enough), he clearly does (because he is). This is such a serious work, they really should never have sold it to anyone as frivolous as me.

Then again I am a rococo writer, whereas Michael Winter is a superlative minimalist. If his previous books were rooms, they would drive me to wallpaper. Walking into The Architects Are Here and looking around, I wouldn't change a thing.
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Saturday, September 22, 2007

In Theatres November 2nd


...uh... Do you suppose it's too early to go and get in line?
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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Canadian, US Dollars Now At Par

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Five years ago, the Canadian dollar was at an all-time low, just below 62 cents US; today, for the first time since 1976, the Canadian and US dollars are at par.

Why this is or what it means I really can't tell you. I'm not an economist, and there are clearly forces at work which are well beyond my understanding. I'm not averse to learning, you understand, it's just that whoever explains it to me has to speak really slowly and spell out the big words.

But on a personal note, it means my American friends can no longer come up here and lord it around like the princes they are, and therefore this turn of events upsets me. Gone are the feasts of sushi and nights at the cineplex, the surprise gifts and all the other perks that come with having high-rollers for friends.

On the other hand, it may be time to take some of my sturdy Canadian dollars south and turn the tables on them. In which case the Canadian dollar had better surpass the American one and stay like that for five years at least.

(I didn't mean it Mr. Gagne - I was only joking. Someone call a paramedic!)
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"Any Idea Why You Lost, M. Dion?"

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[Liberal leader Stephane Dion offering both a Gallic
and galling reason for the party's poor performance
in Monday's Quebec by-elections.]

* * *

The Liberal Party, Canada's natural governing party and best line of defense against Tory fascism, is failing and failing fast. An election is imminent, and it looks as if the Conservative minority will become a Conservative majority thanks to personality-free Liberal leader Stephane Dion.

The loss of the Outremont riding in Montreal is yet another blow to the embattled Liberal Party - one that could have been avoided had the Liberals chosen a leader with charisma instead of the one they did. Hell, they could have chosen Celine Dion and done better - even if in Quebec she's known as "Sell-out" Dion.

The Tory win in Roberval over the Bloc Quebecois, an unheard-of NDP win in Outremont, and a Bloc Quebecois win in Saint-Hyacinthe-Bagot (in which the Liberals came fourth of four) puts the current game of Parliamentary Chess dangerously close to checkmate.

An election is likely before the end of the year.
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Monday, September 17, 2007

"She Left Her Blank In San Diego."

Brett Somers is the butt of the joke on this episode of Match Game '74.
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RIP: Brett Somers

I must confess that all I know about Brett Somers I learned from watching Match Game.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketIf all she'd ever done was Match Game hers would still be a pivotal career; bantering with Charles Nelson Reilly like she did through nine seasons must have enervated untold numbers of young homos to consider repartee as a permanent avocation.

But Somers was smart (she ran away to New York at 17) and she was talented (her resume is impressive) and we've already established she was funny. But I never knew she was married to Jack Klugman, nor that she played Siress Belloby on the original Battlestar Galactica.

Somers died Saturday of cancer, aged 83.
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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Pangea Day - Get Involved!

A Who's Who of hipster dignitaries is trying to bring the world together through the almost-universal medium of film.

They've already designated May 10th, 2008, as Pangea Day, when...

Well, why should I tell you when you can check it out for yourself?
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New Discovery Gives Stem Cell Research Teeth

Finally a scientific discovery I can get behind. Some day - as soon as five years from now - it may be possible to grow new teeth from stem cells. I know it's true because I read it in The Province, even though I can't seem to find any account of it online.

Which means I only have to keep the teeth I have until I've managed to raise the small fortune it's likely to cost to replace them. At least in that eventuality when I smile it won't look like I have a toilet in my mouth, like so many of the ceramic smiles I see on Hollywood stars and the like.
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Madge Miffs Mullahs

A couple of weeks ago I found this great picture of Madonna online; I liked it so much I couldn't wait for her to hit the news again so I could use it. Then she decided to do one her occasional disappearances (I suppose she has to work sometime) and there it sat.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketWell, today I really hit the jackpot. Or should I say crackpot?

Muhammad Abdel-Al of the Palestinian terrorist group the Popular Resistance Committees has been quoted as saying: "If I meet these whores I will have the honor--I repeat, I will have the honor--to be the first one to cut the heads off Madonna and Britney Spears if they will keep spreading their Satanic culture against Islam."

He continued, "If these two prostitutes keep doing what they are doing, we of course will punish them."

Well, he'd better be ready for gayhad if that ever happens: I'll be the first to issue a fagwa against him. If he thinks Christians and Jews are evil, he's never met the Gays when they're pissed off. First we will mess him up, then we will mess his mama up...
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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Caught Hooker, Line, And Sinker

Officials in the Republican Party are breathing a sigh of relief tonight; not because they've had a day without a new scandal surfacing - let's face it, that ain't happening - but because for once they've had a male Senator accused of having sex with - get this! - women.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketI know! I was as shocked as you are.

The junior Senator from Louisiana, David Vitter, has been accused of adultery (among other things) by Wendy Ellis; the Senator, naturally, has denied the allegations, which I'm sure he will undeny later, since undenial is so much more Republican than either admission or confession. I dunno, maybe it's a legal loophole or something.

Any new thoughts on the sanctity of marriage, Senator Two-Face?

Isn't it always the way? Finally they catch a halfway cute one with his pecker out and he's straight. But when Senator Larry "Crypt-Keeper" Craig gets an itch he can't scratch the only thing straight about him is the direction he heads for the nearest men's room.

I only hope it's not a smoke screen. You know, the Senator using a prostitute only to provide him with a perfect hetero alibi while he's on the loose and fondling dudes? I mean, I just hate to see a hooker treated so disrespectfully. I mean, a wife expects it...

Meanwhile, Ellis will tell her story, lavishly illustrated, in the feminist tome Hustler; no word on where Mrs. Vitter will peddle her tale of woe, but it will probably be to prominent Republican porno rag National Review.

(It's one thing to see National Review consorting with whores, but it does irk me to see a quality publication like Hustler tarnish itself by doing so. What's next - porn stars? Ah, but that's a story for another day...)

[S O U R C E]
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Sunday, September 09, 2007

What Is The Deal With Adam Sandler?


I know today is his birthday and all, so I'll go easy on him. But seriously, what is the deal with Adam Sandler?

It turns out the amount of weed I would have to smoke in order to make him funny may, in fact, be the fabled fatal dose of marijuana American government scientists have been trying to discover since the drug was outlawed in the 1920s.

Wait a minute... What were we talking about?

As you can see, even the amount of medication I needed to do the research for this piece has left me with desert mouth and wicked munchies. These are all technical terms...

Okay, focus. Adam Sandler. Right.

I'm serious; what is his deal? Well, let's see. His comedy comes from anger, which is okay, since when not performing he usually comes off as having the personality of a potato. At least he has a suitable outlet for his anger. Still, is one less serial killer really worth having to watch all those terrible movies he makes?

Of course it is; at least at the Cineplex you can choose not to be raped and left for dead.

At the Pop Culture Institute, a crack team of researchers (as opposed to a team of researchers on crack) are looking into this very matter as we speak, and will be issuing reports from time to time; so at least, like the end of every Adam Sandler movie, you have something to look forward to.
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Moroccan Tories Nab Parliament?

Now, normally I would be the last person to celebrate a right-wing victory - especially in a Muslim nation, but in the case of recent elections in Morocco, it would appear to be for the best.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketMorocco's king, Mohammed VI, is very much an executive monarch, which means that very little gets done in Rabat (and thus the nation) without his consent. Since His Majesty is allied to the West, it matters little which party controls Parliament since, it would seem, that none of them really do.

The election in question was between a moderate Islamist party and a secular nationalist party, with the usual allegations of vote buying and corruption, some of which has been borne out by international observers. I will be the first to celebrate a secular victory anywhere, especially given the creep of theocracy in the post-9/11 world.

Since His Majesty's accession in 1999 he has introduced various modernizing measures which have angered Muslim fundamentalists, including the extension of greater rights to women.

[S O U R C E]
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Now Showing: Ren and Stimpy by John Kricfalusi

Birthday boy John Kricfalusi is either the most boring person alive or a raving dementoid. I can make such an outrageous claim because in my vast experience with kooks (okay, okay, you got me; all of my experience with crazy people is limited to myself) that's how these things work.

There was a time when Ren & Stimpy was favoured watching material, mainly because it's crazy beyond belief. The above clip contains three mock commercials, including the most famous of them - Log, by Blammo - whose theme song I still sing in order to cheer myself up.

John K.'s blog - All Kinds of Stuff - is available here, and henceforth in my blogroll. It contains his voluminous knowledge of cartoon history and various rants regarding same. Enjoy!

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Damien Hirst's $100M Rip-Off?

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[Roman Heart, taking one for the team,
in Falcon Studio's
Heaven and Hell, $69.95.]

The first thing I thought when I saw Damien Hirst's newest sculpture, a diamond-encrusted skull which recently sold for a hundred million bucks, was "Oh, the decadence!" The next thought, mere minutes later (once I'd been revived), was "Where have I seen that before?"

It turns out that in 2006, the nice people at Falcon - the world's foremost purveyors of all-male erotica - released an epic film called Heaven and Hell, and in a couple of the scenes what should I spy (eventually) but...

A diamond-encrusted skull?

Now, it may be that I missed Art History the day they covered "Bits of Skeleton Covered in Precious Gems Through the Ages" (probably because I've never been to university), but the "coincidence" did seem a little queer. Unlike the rest of it, of course, which is a lot queer.

Methinks maybe Damien Hirst has some 'splainin' to do...

[S O U R C E]
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Saturday, September 08, 2007

Now Showing: "It's A Soaraway Life" starring Fry & Laurie

It's totally apropo of nothing, but I was arsing around YouTube and happened upon this scrumptious bit of comedy - which you know I will be showing again at Christmas and on Old Rupe's birthday.

Rupert Murdoch (played with great Australianity by Hugh Laurie) gets to see what the world would be like if he'd never been born, accompanied by the angel Clarence (Stephen Fry). Brilliant.
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1234: A Year in Review

Okay, so the first one of these I did was funny. By the last one the joke was beginning to wear thin; considering that the last one I did was also only the second one, should have been my first clue. I'm so over them now, at number three, that it'll be an effort to write it. Yet here I am...

Oh, what the Hell? See for yourself what a washout the year 1234 was.

You'd have thought someone would have thought - "Hey! That's a funny number for a year!" - and had a party or something. Say what you will, but people in olden times were boring. All they did was kill and pray.

(Watch for the next exciting installment - 1357: A Year in Review. Coming soon to the Pop Culture Institute...)
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1234: A Mini-milestone

Another milestone has arrived, giving me a few moments to pause and take a breather, look back over the accomplishments of the past couple of weeks, kick myself buttockally for all my weaknesses and failings (whether as a writer or a person) contained therein, then forge ahead until the next milestone, when I get to do it all again.

Good times...

With each new post my intentions regarding this blog as well as my life's work become clearer, at least to me. To the extent that I still allow myself to dream, I can foresee books and TV shows and all the stuff of an actual career being derived from what is currently a hastily compiled, occasionally over-written, slightly hysterical account of the calendar year as celebrated by yours truly.

Of course, I tell myself it'll be better next year, but I should know better than to believe myself when I say things like that. I'll never be happy with myself or my achievements, and no matter what I come to think of this blog I won't rest until it is a cake made entirely of icing, and may not rest even after that.

Rest assured, if even a tiny glimmer of satisfaction should manage to creep in upon the gloom that is my ego, I feel certain that my dread fear of being called arrogant will snuff it. My personal motto - the more you know, the less you know - has never been truer than it is at this moment. For every story contained on this blog there are a million which are not, and may never be, and it kills me what I may never know, let alone get to write about, because of the limitations of time and ignorance.

It should be fairly clear to one and all that, despite my fear and loathing of people, people are what the Pop Culture Institute is all about; whether they famously write books, corruptly run countries, or obscurely defuse bombs, my view of history is overwhelmingly people-centric. Writing about people allows me to express my interest in them without having to deal with their inevitable rejection of me. Where the threads of their lives sometimes cross, and often tangle, can be interesting; how inevitably they end up producing the rich tapestry of history is utterly fascinating.

Or, if you prefer... Uh, something less cliche?

There are now 774 posts separating this day from New Year's Day; I have no idea what those posts will contain, but I do know that I do not lack for subject matter, nor will I ever. I should probably get back to writing about Vancouver, which I haven't been doing for a few months now, nor have I been posting many of my own photos lately. I have yet to publish fiction, and there's also the pending matter of the puppets...

All in good time, friends. In the meantime I cannot stress enough that your comments are much appreciated. I've decided to lift the embargo on anonymous posts, and I am once again calling on everyone who can read these words to join me in building something unique: a community of people interested in studying the people's history, which is pop culture, and as ever the focus of the Pop Culture Institute.

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Friday, September 07, 2007

My Life: A Life In Progress

There used to be a famous song - there still might be for all I know - called This Is My Life. It was allegedly sung by Shirley Bassey, which is better by far than having been sung allegedly by any of the Spice Girls. None of which has anything to do with me, except in the most stereotypical way.

What I'm trying to say is that thing I have the most trouble saying; know what I'm saying?

In the anals of history - and I do. mean. anals. - my life has gone down. Yet for all the anals I've gone down, I should have a shittier outlook. From where I am I can see the sun is shining, so I must be in the best seat in the house.

Ironically, it's in the great Oral exam of life where I'm failing. Whereas I could write an essay about the fleas on bees or Jesus' knees or any kind of Hollywood sleaze, if you see me in the street I shall beat a hasty retreat. Just don't be offended if I'm afraid of you; it only means I think you're hot.

A writer's life is a one-man show with a cast of thousands, which tends to give a brain a capacity crowd even before the audience arrives. The audience, the audience... Look away and I will long for your attention; never look directly at me, but ever-askance. I assure you, it's my most flattering angle.
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Thursday, September 06, 2007

"Nessun Dorma" sung by Luciano Pavarotti

The song may be as much a cliche as the Maestro himself, but the song and the singer owe each other much of their current popularity. Its title Nessun Dorma translates as "let no one sleep", as though anyone could sleep while this thundering aria is being sung. It comes from the opera Turandot.

The song was used as the theme of the 1990 World Cup and had long been associated with Pavarotti before he made it even more famous.
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RIP Luciano Pavarotti

La Maestro, Luciano Pavarotti, has died at his home near Modena, Italy; the 71-year-old tenor had pancreatic cancer.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketFrom his debut in 1961 at Reggio Emilia singing Rodolfo in La Boheme through to his recent high-profile performance of Nessun Dorma at the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics in Torino, Pavarotti was one of those responsible for bringing opera to a broader audience.

Though critics and purists alike may have sneered at the resulting "popera", Pavarotti was simply being true to his art; opera, like Shakespeare, was originally intended for a mass audience.
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Monday, September 03, 2007

Burnout Under Control

A rainy day, a lack of sleep, a lingering cold...

Any one of these could cause a person to lose their ambition, if only for a day. Imagine then, having all three at once, plus a lack of interesting subject matter besides. Hopefully, that gives you some idea of what Monday was like at my place.

No doubt it happens to many people, even as they are excitedly engaged in their life's work. Shadows of doubt, crises of faith, and my old companion worry have also been getting to me. Not any specific worry, just a generalised feeling of discontent that's easier to refer to as worry than anything else.

The cure for burnout is defiance. After all, burnout can suffer from burnout as easily as talent or ambition, and will often do so quicker, since it's made of the stuff. Faced with a seemingly insurmountable task (which I have set for myself), mourning what must be sacrificed in order to make it so, but also accustomed to following the path of least resistance, I have simply returned to my work determined to do it for me, and for my sake alone.

The decision to switch paths, to contend with one where there is more resistance in the belief that at the end of it there must be a greater reward was not an easy one. I did so expecting to come up against the occasional wall or bog or some other obstacle, even if the obstacle is the outer edge of my own talent and the yawning abyss beyond that.

These are the normal challenges in a writing life; our confessional society and beloved Internet make it easier for readers to know the unique efforts that go into what they're reading. But neither make it easier to deal with.

Which is all a very flowery way of saying I woke up, read four chapters of a book about Jack the Ripper, had a nap in which I was plagued not by nightmares as such but of my present fears made into archetypes, and when I awoke again with a start a couple of hours later I felt much better.

Lately I've been feeling more like a machine than a storyteller, and a spot of lucid dreaming seems to have proven the best solution.
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"Angst" by aniboom

I came across this the other night in my never-ending quest for the very best content I can find. I just loved the lyrical images and the depiction of angst.
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Sunday, September 02, 2007

Trouble For Trouble?

New York state law prevents dogs from being buried in human cemeteries (and, presumably, vice versa); too bad for Trouble her owner held the law in such disregard.

Under the terms of Leona Helmsley's will, when her $12 million dog Trouble dies, she's to be interred next to her former captor - er, owner - in the grand mausoleum Helmsley built for herself and her husband in Sleepy Hollow, New York.

Trouble is now 8, so it'll be a few more years until this needs sorting out.
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Saturday, September 01, 2007

The World's Most Powerful Women

Forbes magazine recently they released their list of the world's most powerful women (in their opinion). The top 30 are:

1. Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany
2. Wu Yi, Vice Premier of China
3. Ho Ching, CEO Temasek Holdings
4. Condoleezza Rice, US Secretary of State
5. Indra K. Nooyi, chief executive of PepsiCo
6. Sonia Gandhi, president of India's National Congress Party
7. Cynthia Carroll, chief executive of Anglo American
8. Patricia A. Woertz, chair of Archer Daniels Midland
9. Irene Rosenfeld, CEO Kraft Foods
10. Patricia Russo, chief executive of Alcatel-Lucent
11. Michèle Alliot-Marie, French Minister for the Interior and Overseas territories
12. Christine Lagarde, French Minister of Finance
13. Anne M. Mulcahy, CEO Xerox
14. Anne Lauvergeon, president of Areva
15. Mary Sammons, CEO Rite-Aid
16. Angela Braly, chief executive of WellPoint
17. Marjorie Scardino, CEO Pearson PLC
18. Wu Xiaoling, Deputy governor of the People's Bank of China
19. Brenda Barnes, president of Sara Lee Foods
20. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, US Supreme Court Justice
21. Oprah Winfrey, chair of Harpo Productions
22. Margaret "Meg" Whitman, president of eBay
23. Elizabeth II, head of the Commonwealth of Nations
24. Melinda Gates, cochair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
25. Hillary Rodham Clinton, U.S. junior senator from New York
26. Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives
27. Michelle Bachelet, President of Chile
28. Safra A. Catz, president/CFO of Oracle
29. Susan E. Arnold, president (global business units) for Procter & Gamble
30. Andrea Jung, CEO Avon

Agree? Disagree? Discuss...

[S O U R C E]
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