Monday, December 31, 2007

Year! Year!: Looking Back At 2007

As I sit here - hollow-eyed and slump-shouldered - I can scarcely believe that the seemingly impossible task I set myself on August 5th has actually been realized: 1,008 posts published in 148 days.

PhotobucketTo be honest, there were many times in those intervening months when it felt like either this blog would live or I would, but that certainly one of us wouldn't make it; since I'm the one doing all the work, I just naturally assumed this would be my obituary. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

Now, here it is, the last day of 2007, post number 2007, and I have exactly 2007 brain cells left, just enough to write the next three posts before becoming a born-again Christian and joining the Republican Party (which will be the only options left open to me with my diminished brain power).

What a year it's been! I started out writing whiny, masochistic essays about all the things that were wrong with me; as there's only so many ways to do that, and finding my favourite subject matter rapidly depleted, I decided to branch out. I'm pleased to say that, while not every way I branched out was equally successful, the only way I could be more pleased with my work is if I had a million readers.

Oh well, there's always next year; that, in fact, has been my motto around here, and will continue to be. On days when I could only publish twelve (and not the fourteen or fifteen I wanted to) I would tell myself "save it for next year" until the tremors and sobbing stopped.

Throughout February and March the recognizable form of the Pop Culture Institute appeared, and by April that form was pretty solid. May saw my first extended coverage - of the Queen's visit to Jamestown - of which I am still inordinately proud; and who can forget Seattle Pride? In the period from May to August I experimented, innovated, and dreamed. Everything from August forward has been a test of both my endurance and abilities; looking back, I can only say that I'm proud of what I've accomplished, and grateful that I survived it.

Which leads me to the subject of my next set of goals... Mr. Barr has managed to extract a New Year's Resolution out of me, and that is to publish three videos a week at YouTube. In order to do this I will need to facilitate a paradigm shift of how I do things here: gone are the twelve hour desk-chaining sessions, the desolation of trying to squeeze a few more sentences out of a brain that moments ago ceased being able to form coherent words, and a third thing. I... Can't... Remem... Ber? Oh yeah, lack of sleep.

Now it's time to bring it all together - news and current events, profiles, arts coverage, and opinion (not to mention a healthy dollop of video) - into an exciting new venture: PCI 2.0.
share on: facebook

Thursday, December 27, 2007

RIP Benazir Bhutto


I hate to say I told you so... Oh, who am I kidding? I fucking love to say I told you so.

I told you so! I told you so! I told you so!

As a leader, Benazir Bhutto had her faults; as a martyr all those faults just magically fall away....

Initially I was mad at her for jeopardising herself as an example of leadership to Muslim women around the world by returning to Pakistan from the relative safety of New York and London; now I see that she has given Muslim women something more important than leadership: a symbol.

It is better to die than to live oppressed.
share on: facebook

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Queen's Christmas Message (2007)

Growing up, this was my favourite part of Christmas Day; the presents had been opened, dinner was cooking, and the mountain of shredded wrapping paper had been cleared away when, glutted with candy, I put down my Princess Diana picture books and everything stopped so I could watch the Queen's Message.

I was strict too; if anyone talked during it I'd shush them and everything, and not even a soft one either. Come to think of it, this may have been the reason the TV was banished from the living room.

I didn't make anyone stand when God Save The Queen was playing, though, but my great-grandfather and my grandfather would join me anyway, being Army men. My father was Air Force, and so didn't stand for anything; in fact, I think he must have been allergic to the display of respect, since he never did it himself.

As the song ended they would salute - in the Canadian way, of course - but I always used to salute the British way, which they were okay with, but which used to piss my father off so bad it was worth the smack he'd give me, out of the blue, about two weeks later.

Christmas really is a season of memories, isn't it?
share on: facebook

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Douchebag of the Year: The Republican Party

In a year of exceptional doucebaggery, a year in which asshattery truly flourished, it has proven difficult to choose one individual who stood head and shoulders above the others long enough to allow a clear shot at taking said head clean off.

PhotobucketThe short list includes (in no particular order) many of our favourite douchebags, both long-term and newly anointed, such as Rudy Giuliani, Vladimir Putin, George W. Bush, Stephen Harper, Karl Rove, Ted "Totally Heterosexual" Haggard, Mitt Romney, Jerry Falwell, Mike Huckabee, Sam Sullivan, Rupert Murdoch, Alberto Gonzales, Mel Gibson, Larry "Wide Stance" Craig, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, James Holsinger, Pervez Musharraf, and Dick Cheney; each of them, in their own way, added to the general douchebagginess of 2007 in some unique and special way.

The one (some would say lowest) common denominator the majority of these fine upstanding citizens possess is membership in the Republican Party, making their group win not only feasible but a veritable fait accompli. (I love using French - or Liberty, as many of them would call it - around these loathsome toads.)

From where I'm sitting the Republican Party is the fount from whence most of the hatred and intolerance in the world gushes; keeping in mind that a douchebag is both a symbol of oppression and a useless item which causes more harm than good, I can think of no more deserving winner for this singular honour.
share on: facebook

Saturday, December 22, 2007

1969: A Year In Review

1969 - the year I was born - has always held a great fascination for me; since we are shaped by the times we live in (and, in my case, by the media created in those times) it's always been a year I've regarded as special - and not just because it's the year I was born either, although in personal terms that does make 1969 the most special of them all.

The year began, as it ended, with the US embroiled in an unjust foreign war declared on the basis of specious intelligence; thank goodness people today have evolved beyond all that. Not that I was aware of it. I wasn't even aware of Sesame Street, the show that would have the greatest impact on my young psyche, which made its debut 18 days before I made mine.

1969 was the year evil media baron Rupert Murdoch began making his inroads into British media, with his purchase of News of the World, yet also the year the media's saviour was born, namely me; of course, in those days blogs, the Internet, and even the concept of pop culture were all just glimmers in various eyes, awaiting the One who would whip them all into a frenzy affectionately known as the Pop Culture Institute.

The New York Jets defeated the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III, President Lyndon Baines Johnson left office prior to the inauguration of Richard Milhous Nixon, and martial law was declared in Spain as The Beatles gave their final public performance (on the roof of Apple Records) which was included in their film Let It Be; the event later paid homage to in the U2 video Where The Streets Have No Name. And that was just in January!

February saw Yasser Arafat appointed head of the Palestine Liberation Organization, an oil slick fouled the harbour of Santa Barbara, California, and FLQ bombs fouled the Montreal Stock Exchange. In March Concorde made its initial test flight, Sirhan Sirhan confessed to killing Robert F. Kennedy while a week later James Earl Ray pleaded guilty to assassinating Martin Luther King Jr., NASA launched Apollo 9 to test the lunar module (later returning safely to the Earth), Golda Meir became the first female Prime Minister of Israel, and either Nixon or Kissinger hatched the brilliant plan to bomb the shit out of Cambodia.

In April the Harrier jet entered service in the RAF, 300 members of the Students for a Democratic Society seized the administration building at Harvard, and Charles de Gaulle stepped down as President of France; things got really interesting in May, when the Soviets landed Venera 5 on the surface of Venus where NASA's Apollo 10 flew within 15,400 m of the Moon as John Lennon and Yoko Ono were conducting a Bed-In at Montreal's Queen Elizabeth Hotel.

While still in bed in Montreal in June John Lennon recorded Give Peace a Chance (the first solo single by a Beatle), whereas an hour away in Ottawa the finishing touches were being put on Canada's National Arts Centre; at the end of that month, the event that would most profoundly effect the way I live occurred at the Stonewall riots.

In July Charles, Prince of Wales, was invested with his title beneath a vast perspex pavilion at Caernarfon, French was elevated to official language status in Canada, the first American troops were withdrawn from Vietnam, Ted Kennedy drove Mary Jo Kopechne to her doom at Chappaquiddick, Gloria Diaz became the first Filipina Miss Universe, and the Apollo 11 mission went to the moon and back.

In August Sharon Tate and her friends were murdered by Charles Manson and his "family", a suitably ironic prelude to the peace, love, and harmony promoted at the Woodstock Festival.

In September Libya's King Idris was ousted by Muammar al-Gaddafi, information about the My Lai Massacre was suppressed by a co-operative (or, if you prefer, collusive) media, and the Chicago Eight trial began; October saw the opening of the Beijing Subway, Willard S. Boyle and George Smith invented the CCD at Bell Laboratories (precipitating the digital age whose fruits we currently enjoy), Willy Brandt became Chancellor of West Germany, the first message was sent over ARPANET (which would later become the Internet, the greatest invention in the history of mankind), and Wal-Mart (among the worst inventions in human history) was incorporated.

November - as has already been discussed - saw the arrival of both me and Sesame Street; additionally, Seymour Hersh broke the story of My Lai, Apollo 12 went to the moon, the UK's BBC1 and ITV began broadcasting in colour, the US Senate voted against the appointment of Clement Haynsworth to the Supreme Court, and John Lennon returned his MBE in protest of British support for the Vietnam War.

The year ended with the murders of Black Panther Party members Fred Hampton and Mark Clark in their sleep by the Chicago police department, the fiasco at Altamont, and the Piazza Fontana bombing in Italy, all recently discussed on the Pop Culture Institute.

Among those born in this year: Christy Turlington, "Brian Warner", Jason Bateman, Dave Grohl, Jennifer Aniston, Chastity Bono, Paul Rudd, Renée Zellweger, Cate Blanchett, Steffi Graf, Ice Cube, Jennifer Lopez, Elliott Smith, Edward Norton, Christian Slater, Matthew Perry, Jack Black, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Gwen Stefani, Brett Favre, Trey Parker, Sean "Diddy" Combs, Matthew McConaughey, Ken Griffey, Jr., Jay-Z, Martha Byrne, and Jay Kay.

Among those who died include Violet and Daisy Hilton, Jan Palach, Boris Karloff, Thelma Ritter, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Osbert Sitwell, Judy Garland, Brian Jones, Rocky Marciano, and Jack Kerouac.
share on: facebook

Mini-Milestone: 1969

For the most part, I have rendered this blog with the utmost enthusiasm; there have been days, though, that have tested the limits of my endurance, whether emotional or intellectual or even physical. There have even been days, like yesterday and today, which came close to being all three. Over the past two years I have any number of times (and for any number of reasons) come thisclose to deleting the whole shebang; my cursor has even lingered near (though never over) the DELETE BLOG button. The longer I work at it, the more I put into it, the less appealing this option becomes; anyway, I soon get over myself, and the feeling passes.

What might seem to be a phoenix-like response of mine - rather than cleansing or rejuvenating - is actually profoundly self-defeating; the wholesale destruction of manuscripts, friendships, and even aspirations, invariably takes away more than it gives in return, and I have never not come to regret any such rash action on my part. This is why I haven't resorted to such a drastic step now with regards to the Pop Culture Institute, and also why I never will; in amongst all my clumsy attempts at evolution it seems that I just might have, however accidentally or unintentionally, evolved beyond the need to destroy. Each of these dalliances with deletion has served as a defiant affirmation, not only of the work I do here but also my ability to do it.

It's telling that the most important romantic relationship I've ever had has been with this blog; I've worried over it, been elated by it, and even occasionally even loathed it. Unlike the men with whom I've been romantic, though, this blog has let me worry over it, been in its own way elated by me, and never let my loathing become reciprocal. Despite my commitment to it, whenever I've needed space it's been offered without question, and upon my inevitable return it's greeted me with open... Er... Peripherals?

I've decided to start taking it a little bit easier, so as not to burn myself out. This blog was originally intended as a kind of workout for my writing; rather than a couple of leisurely hours of stretching a day, though, it's become something of an endurance test, like trying to compete in the decathlon while wearing anvils instead of shoes. The imposition of such strict discipline on a person who is essentially lazy may be necessary to help him realize his dream of someday not having to be a security guard, but it's really played Hell on my psyche. When a masochist says something hurts, it really hurts, and the last two days have been very painful indeed.

In the end, it's your warm words (as much as my love of the work) which invariably end up bringing me back. Mr. Gagne, of course, has been the best friend I (or it) could ask for, and is solely responsible for much of the look of this blog, being the one to teach me HTML, the literary equivalent of calculus; Mr. Davey, too, has helped me to shape its attitude with his own. Being added to the blogroll of Y|O|Y in March gave me my first shred of credibility, in that a total stranger liked my work enough to recommend it to others. Daniel, Eddie, and Javier have all taken to it enthusiastically in recent months, and offer input and insight (rather than adding insult to injury) for which I am deeply grateful; they are a brilliant foreboding of readers yet to arrive. Finally, there are the dozens of people who've crossed this path and, whether they've left their mark on this blog or not have left their mark on me, whether by bruises or lipstick traces...


share on: facebook

Thursday, December 20, 2007

¡Feliz Cumpleaños! Infanta Elena, Duques de Lugo

PhotobucketDivorce can be a very uplifting time - the elation of kicking his cheating ass to the curb, for instance, I always find very invigorating - but too often people focus on the negative aspects of it; my humble suggestion, Your Royal Highness, is to do your utmost to find the good in your current situation, heal, and then move on.

It doesn't matter what your parents think, and as for the impact divorce will have on your children, believe me when I tell you that a miserable marriage is way worse than a single mother any day. Believe me... I know whereof I speak. Believe me. (Or did I say that already?)

I'll get you started on your quest for the silver lining; consider it a birthday present... In the olden days a Princess - even a royal Princess - who couldn't play nice either got shunted off to a nunnery or else they locked her up in a drafty castle until she died of consumption; thank your lucky stars you live in 2007.

Now you try...
share on: facebook

Song Of The Year: "You Know I'm No Good" by Amy Winehouse

Musically, 2007 has been a great year for Amy Winehouse; personally...? Not so much.

Nevertheless, ever since the moment I heard it You Know I'm No Good has not left my iPod; I've already posted it, as we say, on the other side (namely, at Self-Loathario) so I thought why not post it here too, as part of my big year-end celebration? And since there's no one here but me and the cat, and she didn't say anything, that's what I did.
share on: facebook

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Hottie Of The Year: Jake Gyllenhaal


Born on this day in 1980 - obviously a very good year - Jake Gyllenhaal is not only Hottie of the Year for this year, but last year, next year, any old year he wants really.

(Any suggestions for female Hottie of the Year should be left as comments here as quickly as possible; a winner will be announced before in one week. Unless, of course, I get no input - in which case I'll be forced to choose one on my own, and that may not go well.)
share on: facebook

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

"Dirrty" by Christina Aguilera

Way, way, WAY back in the olden days - I'm talking ten years ago now - Britney Spears was the perky little all-American girl everyone loved and Christina Aguilera was an over-the-top skank who seemed well on her way to dying with a needle in her arm and a dick in her mouth...

My, how times have changed; now it's Britney who's on suicide watch, weaning her kids on Mountain Dew, and generally doing her utmost to win White Trash Mother of the Year while Christina's found herself a nice Jewish boy, got married, and found herself in a family way - and in that order! So retro!

To celebrate both her birthday and her burgeoning waistline, here's a reminder of Mrs. Bratman's past, present, and future hotness...

share on: facebook

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Public Service Announcement

Which of us has not borne this terrible stigma at one time or another in our life?

Watch this video and learn how to protect yourself; until there's a cure, this is our best line of defense.
share on: facebook

Sunday, December 09, 2007

1888: A Year In Review

Of all the years I have reviewed so far for the feature A Year in Review, 1888 is probably the one which holds the most fascination for me. The height of the late Victorian period is an age which is rich in the kinds of characters and events especially favoured for coverage by the Pop Culture Institute; many of their lives and works (for good or ill) resonate with us still.

From the diminutive Queen who towered over the era to which she gave her name to the five humble streetwalkers - Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly - who found themselves butchered by Jack the Ripper; and from Annie Besant who organized a strike by match girls in London to Susan B. Anthony and her agitating for women's rights in Washington, DC, it was a time when women (in the West, at least, and whether they agreed with the tenets of feminism or not) were about to embark upon their arduous journey to equality. Brazil, on the other hand, was just getting around to abolishing slavery.

The year in which the National Geographic Society was formed was first and foremost an age of science and exploration; while Thomas Edison was scratching his head over how to invent sound film, Louis Le Prince was filming his motion picture Roundhay Garden Scene - all 2 seconds of it; for his soundtrack he could have used Handel's Israel in Egypt, which was the first classical music recorded - in the style of the day - on a wax cylinder.

George Eastman meanwhile had patented his new Kodak camera, complete with a new innovation - roll film - which would revolutionize photography, overnight making everyone the potential subject of a portrait; for the budding landscape artist, perhaps a photo of the newly opened Washington Monument would suffice. Or, should you find yourself on the other side of the world, you might catch an early glimpse of a remarkable dolphin named Pelorus Jack in New Zealand's Cook Strait.

Today, whenever inordinate amounts of snow fall on Manhattan, it's bound to be compared to the Great Blizzard of '88, which killed 400 along the Eastern Seaboard in March; references to Vincent van Gogh's missing ear (which he gave to a prostitute named Rachel for safe-keeping) also date from December of this year.

Known as the Year of Three Emperors, Germany's Wilhelm I, Friedrich III, and Wilhelm II all shared the throne in 1888; in presidential politics Grover Cleveland won the popular vote but lost the Electoral College to Benjamin Harrison during a hotly disputed election. That other American pastime - baseball - added to its own body of lore with the publication of Casey at the Bat.

Knute Rockne, Anita Loos, Max Steiner, Irving Berlin, Jim Thorpe Raymond Chandler, T. E. Lawrence, T. S. Eliot, Eugene O'Neill, Robert Moses and Fernando Pessoa were among those born; poets Edward Lear and Matthew Arnold were among those who died.

The last surviving documented person born in 1888 was Adelina Domingues who died at the age of 114 in August 2002; no word on whether or not she used Mum deodorant, the first commercially available product to combat body odour, which was invented in Philadelphia the year she was born.
share on: facebook

1888: Abso-tively, Posi-lutely The Penultimate Mini-Milestone

Well, another mini-milestone has arrived, and thank goodness it's almost the last one; what started out as a clever idea quickly grew tiresome, like a Steven Seagal movie, or having children. The very last mini-milestone will occur at post number 1969 probably just before Christmas.

There isn't much to say in this one except the usual: how grateful I am to my readers and for what little input I manage to drag out of them. Efforts to build a community around this site are ongoing, and as such will be forthcoming in fits and starts whenever I can manage to wrestle a little energy from my ageing carcass and something resembling cogent thought from my overworked brain.

In the meantime, please enjoy, comment, make suggestions, and tell your friends.

share on: facebook

Monday, December 03, 2007

I Can't Seem To Help Myself

Gradually I am coming to understand why I keep fucking this up; as a happy accident, as I am coming to understand what I'm doing wrong, I am also coming to understand how to fix it. All of which amounts to a lot of coming and a lot of understanding, even for me.

Naturally, I've done it again, embedded a video and locked myself out of the blog. And since every time previously the only way to fix it was to write some stupid explanation afterwards, renouncing the blogosphere forever as the murderer of dreams, etc. etc. that's what I'm doing now, to whit:

Everything hates me; boo-fucking hoo.

That oughta do it. What I'm really doing, though, I haven't the faintest idea. The morally neutral and non-sentient circuitry of my computer isn't responding to my histrionics even in the remotest way, but is simply doing an end run around some minor glitch in its code which my posting this would seem to encourage.

Please be patient; a bigger problem is brewing on the home front. I renamed my Music folder, and now iTunes can't find anything to play; I renamed the folder (back to Music), but it still can't seem to find it. Unless... I also renamed my external hard drive; if I change its name back... Yes! There's my iTunes! I did something right!

(Honestly, I shouldn't even be allowed to own a computer.)

Here then, is to the Pop Culture Institute: Long May She Snark!

share on: facebook