Monday, November 26, 2007

It's Doing It Again

Once again Blogspot has forgotten how to play nice with my computer; it hangs when I try to blog using Firefox, and crashes when I use Safari.  I reinstalled Firefox and restarted, which is all I had to do to fix the problem last time, only this time the solution is proving more elusive.

Same story...  Yada yada can't publish anything new yada yada kick the fucking thing down the alley yada yada total shit yada yada step on their necks.

Honestly, it's all getting very dull.


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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Beyond The Comfort Zone

It was months ago when I discovered where my comfort zone was as a writer, and on that day I could have easily hunkered down in that sweet spot and written from there for the rest of my life. But no... Comfort's not good enough for me; I have to work from a place where it sometimes takes five hours of reading and 10+ rewrites to produce a single 100-word post.

Having spent the greater part of five hours committing literary seppuku in order to write both the DiMaggio and Mishima posts below as if by cesarean section, I can safely say that I am officially out of control. The worst of it is, I'm still not pleased with either one; in both cases I feel I've failed to knock them out of the park. Typically, though, it's the pieces I'm less than pleased with that get the most praise from readers - wherein I can virtually predict how much acclaim something will earn by how chuffed with myself I am for having written it - which is the only reason I would ever publish anything with which I was less than utterly satisfied.

Every year it's the same thing; the run-up to my birthday elicits such a panoply of conflicting impulses I scarcely know what to do except hang on for dear life until it passes. What it generally comes down to is, on the one hand, a kind of exasperation that I could be this old and still not established in my career and, on the other hand, a kind of relief that I'm not in the same position, only ten years older. This quandary typically manifests itself in one of two ways: either as writer's block, or a condition I like to call 'writer's frenzy' which, as you might expect, is the opposite.

At least this blog makes me feel like I'm actually doing something about that nebulous beast I'm fond of calling my career; to whit, I've just received an early birthday present - a request to reprint a very popular piece I recently published entitled RIP Norman Mailer. This singular honour, as much as the two new blogrolls to which I've been added, tells me that I must be on my way. That the request came from someone with those three magic letters after his name - P, H, and D - is either icing on the lily or gilding the cake; I can't decide which right now, what with all the frenzy.

As for that comfort zone of mine... It's a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there. Once, while engaging in a mental tug-of-war with a fellow commenter at Joe.My.God, I was referred to by my opponent as a "brain shark"; whether he meant it as a compliment or not is irrelevant, because I took it as such. My brain, like a shark, cannot stop moving or it will die.

Really, it's as simple as that.

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

BAFTA Pays Tribute To Billy Connolly

Billy Connolly isn't a comedian, nor is he an actor; he's nothing less than a philosopher who chooses to express himself through stand up comedy, folk music, and/or the inhabitation of disparate (not to mention occasionally desperate) characters.

Here he is, squirming in the hot seat at a tribute to him and his career at BAFTA, hosted by Mr. Genial himself, Michael Parkinson. In attendance are his good lady wife, Pamela Stephenson, colleagues from the ridiculous (Eddie Izzard) to the sublime (Dame Judi Dench), and providing the rebuttal no less than Saint Bob himself.

As usual, I'm showing the first part only; if you wish to watch on, simply click on the screen and start searching!
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Friday, November 23, 2007

Now Showing: "The Last Duet on Earth"

During my frequent nocturnal intoxicated ramblings throughout the Web, I often come across crazy-ass shit; witness, Exhibit A - the above video. From the immense imagination of Graham Annable of Oregon, it's The Last Duet on Earth.

Seriously, though, what's not to love? From its pertinent social message to its surprise twist ending, I enjoyed every frame; plus, zombies and banjo music somehow just seem to go hand in hand, don't they?
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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Glitch Is Back

Whatever the problem is, it wasn't with the U2 video (as related in the post below) but resides within Blogspot itself; the post published below seems to have awakened the problem.

Therefore, I must regretfully announce that publication of the Pop Culture Institute will be halted, effective immediately until such time as Blogspot gets it shit together.


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Wednesday, Bloody Wednesday

Earlier today, as some of you may know, I posted a video of U2's classic Sunday, Bloody Sunday; this being the anniversary of the day in question, I thought it would be a nice way to commemorate the occasion. Boy was I wrong.

The Anglo-Irish War had nothing on the bullshit that video put me though. (I am, of course, exaggerating; posting the video had no death toll, although it came close.)

As usual, of course, Mr. Gagne saved the day when I was ready to delete the whole fucking thing and start over. Not only did he manage to calm me down (without a Taser - take note VPD) but he also managed to fix the problem faster than James Herriot could fix a spaniel.

Still, when you think about how many hundreds of videos I've posted on here, this is the first one that's given me trouble, a perspective Mr. Gagne was only too willing to shoe-horn in between my numerous interruptions and bouts of operatic melodrama. In other words, just another day at the office for the Pop Culture Institute.

Having spent six hours grappling with the problem has left me without the energy to publish any more today. I'm taking the evening off and I'll be back here tomorrow as usual.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007


It couldn't have come at a better time; the people of Britain - still reeling from the devastation of World War II, facing a winter of severe cold and the privation brought on by rationing - lined the streets to see their beautiful future Queen married to a handsome naval officer.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketIt was sixty years ago today Her Royal Highness The Princess Elizabeth married the newly-created Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, at a ceremony in Westminster Abbey (which, thankfully, had been spared the recent ravages of the Luftwaffe).

Following their marriage the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh took as their London residence Clarence House, and set about the task at hand: begetting the son and heir. One week shy of their first anniversary, in November 1948, hundreds of guns across the country and around the Commonwealth boomed their appropriate greetings for the new Prince Charles.

Earlier this year the Royal Mint released a special double portrait £5 coin - only the fifth time in history they've done so - in honour of the royal milestone; only last week, in the lead-up to today's anniversary celebration, Buckingham Palace released some 60 fun facts about the blessed event of six decades ago. And finally, last evening The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall hosted an intimate dinner party for the Queen, her consort, and 25 very special guests in Clarence House; the home which has always held so many dear memories for them now holding even more.

Today's occasion - the celebration of their diamond anniversary - was remarkably low-key, at Her Majesty's behest; there were no parades or street parties, no fireworks or pageants. Just a church service, the opening of a new pedestrian walkway, and the unveiling of a plaque. Highlighting yet again that theirs , though a love match of the highest order, always was and always will be a working relationship.
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Monday, November 19, 2007

Check Out Spain's Hottest Ringtone

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketMore than half a million people in Spain and Latin America have downloaded a ringtone of an actor playing King Juan Carlos telling Hugo Chávez to shut up; mugs and t-shirts are also available, and websites (as is their wont) have been springing up as well.

Diplomats have been labouring mightily to defuse the potential rift between Spain and Venezuela, while the public, it seems, can't get enough. The incident has put the King's already-high approval rating even higher, coming as it did hot on the heels of a nationalist visit to the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla.

It hasn't been all good news for the Royal Family, though, as late last week it was announced that His Majesty's oldest child Infanta Elena and her husband Jaime de Marichalar, Duke of Lugo would henceforth be living apart.

(Muchos gracias to my Spanish-Canadian correspondent, Javier Mainar, for the heads-up on the story; sorry I couldn't find the link to the ringtone. If you can, let me know; I'd love to get it for mine. ~ MSM)

[S O U R C E]
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Sunday, November 18, 2007

1777: A Year in Review

Unlike previous Years in Review, 1777 actually has some pretty important stuff going on, including of course, the American Revolution.

I was startled to learn, though, that 1777 was also the year that Vermont declared its independence, functioning as a separate country until 1791. So that makes California, Texas, and Vermont that were all republics before states; the mind boggles...

Meanwhile, the first pueblo in sunny Alta California - San Jose - was founded.

1777 is also the year the last native speaker of Cornish, Dolly Pentreath, died.

The second edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica was published, and it's still probably more accurate than Wikipedia; also, the Irish developed a code for duelling, called the code duello, appropriately enough.

Okay, so 1777 is pretty much all about the American Revolution; the real point is, thanks to the research I did for this point, my head is now satiated with the names of many obscure people I had never heard of before today. Good times...
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Mini-milestone: 1777

Lately, I tend to view these milestone posts rather as one might a box of chocolates; over the previous 15 days (since the last mini-milestone - 111 posts in 15 days, whew!) I've managed to collect an interesting assortment of blog-related occurrences, each of which has added some unique flavour or texture to the overall experience.

One was the discovery (quite by accident) that I have been added to yet another blogroll; I thank you for that Bear Schmear: Tales From the Blogoqueer, who generally leaves comments at Joe.My.God as "richeyrich". I haven't had a great deal of time to peruse his site, but I'm definitely getting caught up on my workload here, so I may have a spare hour or two to do just that next week.

My various experiments with viral marketing have proven highly successful on two separate occasions: first, a link left in the comments at Joe.My.God to one of my earlier posts - Oscar Night Bum Fight - was briefly my most popular entry page, due entirely to traffic from Haloscan; a second attempt was equally successful, linking to one of my better recent pieces, RIP Norman Mailer. All told, I have Joe.My.God to thank for at least half of my traffic whenever I am able to comment extensively over there.

The majority of my traffic still comes from the American Northeast, which suits me just fine, although European traffic is up recently, due to my more-extensive-than-usual coverage of royal news (thank you House of Bourbon!). I still don't have the quantity of comments I'd like, but my hits (and more importantly, reads) are trending upwards very nicely. I am still on the lookout for a UK blog from which I can hope to entice a few more readers.

Phase Two of the viral marketing campaign is about to begin, with my own reintroduction into Vancouver's spoken word/open mike circuit; simply informing people about the blog and/or sending them links which I felt were pertinent to them seems to be driving a considerable amount of new traffic to the site. Likewise, there is now a Pop Culture Institute group on Facebook - open to all, naturally - and I've recently begun adding content to that as well, in the hopes that it will eventually serve as portal to and from the blog.

Otherwise, what feels like the glacial pace of progress is gradually moving various other ideas forward; additionally, I've begun reprinting articles from Pop Culture Institute at Self-Loathario, whenever I feel they'd be more appropriate over there.

All told there are 43 days left in the year, during which time I plan to publish 231 posts - which is just a smidge over 5 per day and, like Jake Gyllenhaal, utterly do-able. The next mini-milestone is at 1888; see you there when I see you there!

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Duke & Duchess of Lugo To Separate

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketInfanta Elena - eldest daughter of King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain - married since 1995 to Jaime de Marichalar, announced that she and her banker husband are separating. Her Royal Highness moved out of their home, taking their two children Felipe and Victoria with her.

Known as the Duke and Duchess of Lugo (to which title de Marichalar was elevated prior to his royal marriage), it's been reported that the Duke will retain his title, even if they should divorce. So far, the Zarzuela Palace has quashed rumours that their separation would lead to divorce.

[S O U R C E]
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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Jack Danyells Speaks Out On Writers Strike

In addition to being beautiful, YouTuber extraordinaire Jack Danyells is also smart, which believe you me is a powerful combination when it comes to entertainment. For anyone with a beauty/brains fetish, this will seem like porn. I know it provokes more than my thoughts.

Here our intrepid hottie proposes bringing the writers' strike to YouTube, striking a blow for us New Media types everywhere. You heard me, Mainstream Media, it's on! There's a new MSM in town.

I'm with you Jack! I've got your back! Do I ever...

(Unfortunately, I've been unable to make a video reply as I've just locked out my YouTube stagehands. ~ MSM)

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Cartoonists In Hot Ink?

The Bourbon-anza continues, as Spain's Royal Family continues to hog the headlines.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketThe cartoon at left depicts the Prince and Princess of Asturias (the future King and Queen of Spain) "begetting the son and heir". The caption reads as follows:

Felipe: Te das cuenta? Si te quedas prenada, esto va a ser lo mas parecido a trabajar que he hecho en mi vida?"

Translation: "Do you realise, if you get pregnant this will be the closest thing I've done to work in my whole life."

Those responsible, Guillermo Torres (the cartoonist) and Manel Fontdevila (who wrote the caption), "vilified the crown in the most gratuitous and unnecessary way", according to the judge who fined them each € 3,000 yesterday for their efforts; the cartoon originally appeared in El Jueves (The Thursday) on July 18th of this year, and the issue was hastily withdrawn two days later due to a near universal outrage. It refers to a government scheme to reward Spaniards financially for having more children.

Aside from the usual slur that royals do no work (I'd like to see you feign interest while unveiling yet another plaque), most commentators in Spain seemed shocked that the royal couple were doing it "doggie-style", which apparently has no Hispanic transliteration, although I refuse to believe it's never been done there. I pawed my way through half a dozen blogs with my tragic Spanish, and it was often the only phrase I understood.

The royal couple married in May 2004 and currently have two children, Infanta Leonor (born in 2005), and Infanta Sofia (born in April of this year).

[S O U R C E]
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Monday, November 12, 2007

Megan Mullally Talks With Jay Leno (2001)

One week into the Writer's Strike and I am wicked jonesing for my chat shows; since most of them are the same old recycled small-talk over and over again, YouTube does the trick.

Birthday gal Megan Mullally, though... She really gives good interview; too bad her own show - cleverly titled The Megan Mullally Show - was unable to find itself an audience, running a mere 71 episodes in 2006-7.

If you happen to be in Manhattan, Mullally's new show Young Frankenstein just opened at the Hilton Theatre; the show is unaffected by the current strike/lockout of stagehands currently plaguing Broadway.
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Spanish King To Chavez: "Shut Up"

What a headline grabber King Juan Carlos of Spain is becoming! The normally mild-mannered monarch is turning into the Duke of Edinburgh right before our very eyes.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketLast week he rode into battle against Islam like a modern-day Ferdinand III of Castile by visiting Ceuta and Mellilla - two long-held Spanish enclaves in Morocco - with his good lady Queen in tow, setting off an political firestorm in the process (a no-no for a constitutional monarch). Now he's furthering the cause of international diplomacy by asking Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez "¿Por qué no te callas?" (Why don't you shut up? - in a tone reserved for children) for his constant interruptions of Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, igniting a controversy at the normally staid Ibero-American Summit.

I mean, before all this went down, who even knew there was such a thing?

Chávez responded with questions of his own about the King's knowledge of or involvement in an attempted coup against his leadership in 2002, during which Manuel Viturro (the Spanish ambassador at the time) appeared in public with Pedro Carmona, his would-be overthrower; then he called Zapatero's predecessor José María Aznar a 'fascist', just for good measure.

I guess this means later this week it's off to Hollywood for Britney's weekly intervention, a guest spot on Dancing With the Stars, and possibly a charity bullfight for PETA.

Mr. King, and touché!

[S O U R C E]
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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Prince Harry No Longer A Chelsy Supporter

Well, if this isn't a black fly in his Chardonnay I don't know what is.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketIt seems Prince Harry's Zimbabwean girlfriend Chelsy Davy has dumped him after he missed her 22nd birthday to go to the Rugby World Cup Final in Paris; apparently our Chelsy is well fed up with his boozing and coozing.

It's out of the frying pan into the fire for Prince Harry, who's already been raked over the coals this week for allegedly blasting protected hen harriers out of the skies over Sandringham. Although no charges are likely to be laid (since the event likely never took place) for a couple of days there it looked like his goose was cooked.

Speaking as a major apologist for the Royal Family, I doubt the event happened, even though Harry and his brother William are a little too fond of the hunting for my (and, no doubt, their mother's) liking. Obviously a selective cull is a sound part of wildlife management; but when it takes forty aristos on horseback in red coats and a pack of dogs to get one fox I'm afraid I have to draw the line, no matter how historic or photogenic it may be.

Such is the untenable situation the royals occupy in their own country that if I were to say that Prince Harry killed and ate a Martian prostitute there would be people willing to believe it; no matter how preposterous a suggestion, the chattering classes tend to hate whatever they can't understand, starting with royalty.

A n y w a y... What was I talking about?

Oh yeah! So, he's single girls - have at 'im. If you like sporty ginger blokes who aren't all clingy and will one day inherit a grand title, he's yours for the taking.
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Controversy: When Is Nancy Cartwright's Birthday?

With all that's going on in the world, this is what sticks in my craw?

It was my genuine intention to mark the birthday of one of the world's most talented voice actors (the voice of Bart Simpson, for the love of freak!) and here I've ended up in this morass.

Mmm... More ass...

Go on and Google "Nancy Cartwright birthday" sometime; in fact, I just did it for you. According to the Internet Movie Database it's October 25th. Same with and Wikipedia. Same goes for the Pop Culture Institute. According to Yahoo TV, and of course Wikipedia (her page and the notable birthdays page) though, it's today. Yet not three weeks ago her page stated it was October 25th. This definitely highlights the numerous shortcomings of Wikipedia, upon which much of this blog is based.

Well, I've been moving this blog away from its Wikipedia dependence for that very reason; it's getting to the point where I wouldn't believe them if they said 9-11 was in September.

Will no one rid me of this meddlesome online encyclopedia?

(D'oh! Now I've gone and done it. I'm going to go have a cow.)

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Benazir Bhutto Under House Arrest

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The state of emergency in Pakistan has deepened; the beleaguered government of General Pervez Musharraf has put its only credible opposition under house arrest. Naturally, it's said to be for her own protection; the stunning turnaround may be the nearest thing to a feminist utterance ever made by a Muslim government. I wonder when they start painting the target on her roof.

Let me be the first one to call "bullshit" on the misogynist dictator and his cabal of bullies.

[S O U R C E]

UPDATE: "The detention order has been withdrawn," said Aamir Ali Ahmed, Acting Deputy Commissioner of Islamabad today (November 9th - the day after the house arrest was ordered). You're welcome Mrs. Bhutto; anything else you need just let me know. You don't have to take that shit.
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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

One Wonders: Will ENDA be the End?

So my buddy, Joe Solomonese over at the Human Rights Campaign is telling me that I should feel happy today; that my rights as a gay man have been advanced. I have to disagree. Yesterday the House of Representatives has passed an Employment Non Discrimination Act that does not include transgender persons.

It's destined to fail in the Senate and Bush has said he will veto it if it makes it to his desk. So I have to ask myself: Was it was OK to offer the transgendered up on the altar of public condemnation? The answer, of course, is that it wasn't, and further, a steep price is going to be paid for this empty show of support.

I'm not worried for myself about the weakness of the bill. As a Washington resident, I already enjoy stronger protections than ENDA offers due to 20 years of work on the part of our local civil rights activists.

My mind wanders, however, to imaginary scenarios all over the US. Small towns, big towns, small companies and large, where transgender people are left wondering how they could have been left out in the cold. Still not good enough. Still not protected. I guess I'm too much of a feeler to experience any happiness when people with whom I have a connection are betrayed.

Is there some transgender teen in Boston standing on the railing of a bridge right now? Was this the last straw for someone in Iowa who has now utterly given up on ever living the life that their deepest inner self knows it the right one? My heart aches for the transgendered everywhere, but today especially for those in the US, who got a bucket of cold water poured down their spines yesterday.

Warning: pagan religious content - stop reading if your religious sensibilities are easily offended

Brìd, my Goddess, this is my blog-prayer today. You who stoke the forges in the hearts of stars where all stuff of planets and parliaments are first made; You who temper the connections between words to make them strong enough to hold the contents of our hearts and minds, hear me: Make your stars shine a little brighter for the transgendered today. Guard them from hurtful words and send them comfort. Lift up their hearts today, Brìd, and give strength to all who stand up for them.
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Recording Artist Sues Fans

A recording artist I am hesitant to name, since to use his name might mean infringing upon his precious copyright and therefore get sued, is suing some of his fan sites on the Internet for using his likeness, lyrics and such.

The artist - who is a short black man, fond of purple, and hails from Minneapolis - will therefore never be featured on the Pop Culture Institute in perpetuity. Since his given name is also a title frequently used by male royalty, I can only hope I won't be sued for using it in that context.

[S O U R C E]
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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Plaintive Plaintiff: Part Two

Court sucks. It's the worst place in the world. It's filled with cops and lawyers and criminals - three of my least favourite kinds of people. Throw in a couple of Bible-bashers and I think I would have grabbed a gun from one of the sheriffs and done myself in.

So, there's bad news and worse news. The bad news is that after waiting there for three hours, today's trial was adjourned - for the second time! The worse news is, now I have to go back there in six months to sit and wait and surround myself with cops and lawyers and criminals.

Always on the lookout for a silver lining: a) at least the process will be less scary next time, since today was the first time I've ever been inside a court house, b) there were a surprising number of hot guys there, even among the cops and lawyers and criminals, and c) I didn't get murdered or maimed.
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Vatican III: Cage Match

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketSaudi Arabia's King Abdullah and Pope Benedict XVI are meeting for the first time today to discuss matters of vital import to each party - like how to divvy up the entire world between their respective desert cults.

This should go well...

[S O U R C E]
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The Plaintive Plaintiff

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With a flair for the dramatic that is my birthright as a first-class whoopsie, I am writing what may be my last blog post ever, since by this time tomorrow I may be dead or worse - horribly maimed.

But wait... I guess I should back up and tell the whole story.

On June 29th, 2006, I was out for a walk at about 7 in the evening, taking pictures of clouds (as I am wont to do). I was about halfway across the Granville Bridge on the west side of it when I heard someone yelling; looking around I saw a man running towards me from the south. As he approached I could hear him say that he wanted my camera, only not in such nice words.

When he was close enough to me to stop running he made several aggressive gestures, like he wanted to take my camera from me. Checking for traffic I made to cross the eight-lane bridge, assuming he wouldn't follow me. He did.

I was perched on the median waiting for a final car to pass when he struck me, knocking my glasses off. Having done that, he didn't try to take my camera, but crossed the road back to where he came from; rather than walking south along the bridge (where he'd come from) he continued walking north, into downtown.

I gathered up my glasses and my wits (in that order) and once I'd made it onto the east sidewalk followed him at a safe distance. I called 9-1-1 and was still talking to them seven minutes later when police intercepted him. Following an aggressive altercation with police he was finally taken down. I filed a police report and pressed charges, as I'd been brought up to do, still shaking from the shock.

The case was originally set to go to court on May 23rd of this year, but at the last minute was postponed; it was rescheduled for today, November 6th. So far I have received no 11th-hour reprieve which means that I, for the first time in my life, get to go to court tomorrow. I'm trying to keep a positive spin on it, for the sake of my sanity if nothing else, but with each passing minute the dread I feel grows. I doubt I'll get any sleep tonight.

Ever since that day I have lived in fear of this one. I'm afraid that somehow my address will be revealed, or that I'll be followed out of the courthouse and home either by him (if he's acquitted) or by his friends, and either assaulted or killed. After all, if a person is so psychotic that they'd assault a total stranger for taking pictures, there's no telling what he'd do to someone who sent him to jail. I have a restraining order, for what that's worth, but it only covers him and not his friends or family members.

In speaking with the office of the Attorney-General I tried to drop the charges, but wasn't allowed to. So now I guess I have to do what I have to do.

I only hope this is another case of my fondness for the worst-case scenario, compounded with considerable ignorance as to the workings of the judicial system, not to mention that flair for the dramatic I mentioned earlier. He has all the rights in this case, after all, and I have none.

With any luck, this won't be good-bye, then, but merely see you later.

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Monday, November 05, 2007

Ceuta, Melilla Royal Visit Invites Ire

For the first time in his 32-year reign, Spain's King Juan Carlos is visiting the last two remaining Spanish enclaves in Africa - the cities of Ceuta and Melilla. His visit is the first by a Spanish Head of State there in 80 years, although the Spanish Prime Minister visited last year.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketHis Majesty arrived in Ceuta today via helicopter, accompanied by Queen Sofia; the royal visit is expected to last two days, and will continue on to Melilla tomorrow. Flag-waving crowds numbering in the tens of thousands surrounded the royal couple upon their arrival, although there were about a thousand protestors as well.

The Moroccan government has already recalled its ambassador in protest, and convened a special session of its parliament to deal with the situation. Fortunately, Morocco enjoys good relations with the West, and says it will seek a diplomatic solution to the impasse.

Morocco has been agitating for the two cities to be returned to its sovereignty, a move opposed by the majority of their citizens (Ceutians? Melillites?); al-Qaeda has also targeted the two as areas which "must be reclaimed" for Islam, which probably accounts for the visit. The cities have been Spanish possessions for centuries, since long before Morocco even existed, and enjoy a privileged status they wouldn't have under Moroccan rule, namely EU membership.

Spain is among Morocco's biggest trading partners (after France), and there are half a million Moroccans living in Spain; so why in these troubled times the Zapatero government - a Socialist one at that - would want to risk the terror attacks and other reprisals that are sure to follow is anybody's guess. Perhaps to lure jihadists resident in Spain out of hiding?

[S O U R C E]
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Sunday, November 04, 2007

Hollywood Writers On Strike; Hollywood Barely Notices

Now imagine if the special effects guys went on strike... There'd be chaos!

Yes, it seems that a threatened strike by the Writer's Guild of America has materialized, complete with the idiotic posturing and unbelievable give-and-take which is a staple of many of the cheesy screenplays by its members which now won't be getting made. It all boils down to a squabble over DVD royalties, which fat-cat producers and studio executives alike cling to like studio executives and fat-cat producers alike cling to their tiny silver spoons (whose contents, naturally, they pay for with all those clung-to royalties).

Still, for those of us in new media, this could be a boon. In fact, I am rushing my blog sitcom into pre-production from pre-pre-production where it's been languishing for months as I've struggled to keep up with a self-imposed editorial quota designed to ensure me no meaningful life away from this computer. Now that I have a show to write, star in, and film in addition posts to research, write, and publish I should be dead by spring.

The last writer's strike, some of you may remember, was at the turn of the century; it was marked by a rise in the proliferation of reality television like Survivor, for which those responsible should be shot at dawn. Make no mistake - reality television is written, it's just not scripted, and therein is a semantic hairsplitting worthy of Bill Clinton (depending, of course, on what your definition of "is" is).

Rest assured, at the Pop Culture Institute there will be no labour action; as these things go, you couldn't pick a better scab than me!

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Today's Sermon: Catholicism by Kathy Griffin

I can scarcely believe it myself, but this is the first time in almost 1700 posts that I have shown Kathy Griffin. You, dear reader, can rest assured that I have taken myself in hand and punished myself for this oversight.

Here then, appropriately enough for a Sunday, is one lapsed Catholic's take on the foibles of her co-religionists.
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Friday, November 02, 2007

Best Wishes Your Majesty & Your Royal Highness

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketPrincess Galyani Vadhana, elder sister of Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX) and one of that kingdom's greatest humanitarians, has been in Bangkok's Siriraj Hospital since June, where she is being treated for abdominal cancer and, more recently, a cerebral embolism.

The King himself has been a patient there since October 13th, having experienced weakness due to a blood flow disorder, the Royal Household Bureau has stated.

The King - who last year celebrated 60 years on the throne - is reportedly making progress in his recovery, as is the Princess. Since being in hospital both the King and the Princess have received throngs of well-wishers - between 4,000 and 5,000 per day are reportedly visiting the hospital - as well as letters from Elizabeth II, Japan's Emperor Akihito, and King Abdullah II of Jordan.

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1666: A Year in Review

The year 1666 was supposed to be the year the Earth ended, seeing as the Mark of the Beast - 666 - is right there in it.

Instead, it was called the Annus Mirabilis, or Year of Miracles, by its contemporaries, the name also being the title of a poem by John Dryden which was published the following year. Despite the utter destruction of London (hot on the heels, as it were, of a terrible plague in 1665), the year was fairly peaceful for the times, with only minor skirmishes between the English and Dutch navies.

Not only did the burning of London reduce the severity of successive plagues (at least, bubonically speaking), it cleared the way for the rebuilding of the muddy, thatched hovels of the medieval City with many a Baroque splendour; furthermore, in Oxford and Cambridge, a flowering of scientific and mathematical knowledge poured forth. Many of Sir Isaac Newton's greatest discoveries date from this year, not to mention the foundation of Sweden's Lund University and the French Academy of Sciences.

Those who died that year include the Dutch landscape artist Frans Hals and the builder of the Taj Mahal Shah Jahan, who was buried in his splendid creation next to his beloved Mumtaz Mahal.
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Mini-Milestone: 1666

Coming, as this does, hot on the heels of yesterday's state of the blog address, the challenge is to say something here that won't duplicate what I said previously. Which should be easy enough to do, given that I always seem to have something to say, not to mention seeming to have an opinion on everything (which is a little trick I do with mirrors), and a horror of repeating myself. The real challenge today, though, is in saying anything at all because I'm so damn tired.

In honour of this mini-milestone, then, I closed the boring old poll, mainly because I finally thought of a replacement, which I'll leave up until it bores me or I think of yet another (or, miracle of miracles, someone out there suggests another one). Four people voted in the old one, and the winner was current events. So I'll be writing more current events which, in addition to the earlier suggestion of "more sex" oughta put me right out of my comfort zone where, ironically, I'm most comfortable.

A n y w a y... I've often spoken about how the intent of this blog has changed since I began it, but I've been more reticent when it comes to talking about how I've changed during the same period. Approaching 1700 blog posts (which, even if the average one consisted of 100 words, is, by my calculator, a shitload of words) I have suddenly come to realize that I am not the same person on this end of them that I was on the other. 170,000 words is 3-4 novels' worth; not, maybe, a huge achievement for Vikram Seth, but from my point of view I feel like Shakespeare.

Even though writing a blog is a different discipline than writing a novel the act of putting this many words in one place has had a transformative effect on me; I no longer feel like a failing novelist but a successful writer, publisher, and (in the last month) editor as well. The ensuing sense of confidence is beginning to spill over into the rest of my personality, which previously could not be described as confident even by an imagination greater than my own. More on that in the days and weeks ahead...

The Canada Council - in its wisdom - won't give a writer any grant until that writer has published three books (or the equivalent), an asinine rule if ever there was one, seemingly designed to support those writers whose work has already found its niche in the marketplace, while suppressing new work - in contravention of its own mandate. I've always said that I would never take a grant from the Canada Council, loath as I am to align myself with any elite; however, people change, and even though the Canada Council's politics and perspective are anathema to me, the idea of free money with which I might buy a laptop, travel to New York City - oh, and support the furtherance of Canadian culture and ideas, blah blah blah - is an appealing one.

The task ahead - now that I've written the equivalent of my first three books - is to begin the arduous process of applying for one of those elusive, lucrative grants which, once I'm awarded one, will free me up to take this bad boy to the next level: self-sufficiency. Not only do I want this blog to pay for me and the lavish lifestyle to which I intend to become accustomed, but for my contributors (present and future) and theirs as well.

The humanitarian aims I first stated on January 26th, 2006 - the day this blog was founded - remain in place; using pop culture as a lens with which all human endeavour can be observed, educating through entertainment (ie: Edutainment), and the bringing together of disaparate cultures in a defense against corporate globalization are and will always be the reasons why I sit in that chair every day and spool out the things I do.

Thanks again for reading,


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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Burning Issue: Translink

Yet another Vancouver bus driver has been assaulted - this time by twin Santa Clauses!

A Translink driver working Hallowe'en night saw two girls dressed as Santa, so she pulled over to give them candy; for her trouble she was dragged off the bus and assaulted. Unable to continue, her passengers transferred to another bus. When the driver returned to her ride she found that it had been torched, with extensive damage to the driver's seat and dashboard area.

Total cost to repair the bus: $100,000.

Stories like this make me so mad I scarcely know what to say or do. I try always to be compassionate, but at the same time that well is almost always dry, while there's usually a fresh pile of ass kickings just a-piling up on my desk next to me. On second thought, I'd better move those.

Another problem exists in the media too; they'll report on this side of the story but there won't be any follow-up, which leaves people like me hanging. I want to know why they would do such things - even though at best I'm sure we'd get a sullen "I d'no" and a shrug from the teenagers in question. I want to know that these two bitches have to work two jobs for ten years just to pay the deductible for the damage they've caused. I want to know why they've been so badly parented that they could even conceive of such a thing. I need closure, dammnit!

Of course, there were no CCTV cameras near the incident, and since the assailants were in costume it isn't likely that they'll ever be caught; the only hope is that someone saw and has the guts to report them.

[S O U R C E]
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A State Of The Blog Address

It's official! October was the most productive month yet at the Pop Culture Institute. 247 posts easily beats the previous record held by March, in which I made 214; this puts my stated goal of attaining 2,008 posts by New Year's Day 2008 a likelihood.

It's also the month the royal we became a literal we as I welcomed a new contributor in Seumas Gagne, whose three posts alone have generated nearly as much traffic as my 244; there was a while there when, if one were to Google "Dumbledore Unrequited", his article came up first, which means Mr. Gagne is well-connected to the zeitgeist. It also means that I must be some kind of super genius for retaining him; once I figure out how to make this puppy pay for itself he will be making out like a bandit.

There is still much to do, which is always the way with me; never content to rest on my laurels (which, besides everything else, are pointy) I am always looking at new places to make improvements. The recently added ClustrMap (located to your right, beneath the links) came from Library Muscle Guy, and gives me something else to obsess over, so thanks for that Tank.

I have just about gotten over my lack of comments - mainly because I look at some of the comment threads at sites like Joe.My.God and think I wouldn't care to play host to the name calling and didacticism I see over there; and that's one of the good sites. I've stumbled across some blogs where the comment rolls qualify as hate crimes, and not just on YouTube either.

I have even gotten over the relatively low number of page hits we get, since I am able to see now that they are trending upwards in the preferred manner (ie: gradually). It looks like quite a few people subscribe to me via Google news reader (which blog friend Y|O|Y pointed out to me the other day - thanks for the heads up!). Viral marketing via HaloScan on several sites also appears to be generating results, as is a similar effort via YouTube.

Another suggestion from Y|O|Y is that I ramp up the sexual content to draw in readers; how exactly to increase sexual content when I am essentially a functional celibate eludes me. Plus there's the other matter of how to fit it in (!) which I will be discussing with my team over the next few weeks. Not to worry; I have a few ideas up my sleeve, and even more up my pant leg.

So now the thing that sticks in my craw is how to increase my authority at Technorati - it's been stuck at 7 since I joined, and there are no indications on their website (that I can find) how to increase it. Suggestions, anyone?
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