Friday, April 25, 2008

Stanley Cup Semi-Final Heating Up

I don't publish much in the way of sports news; call it a residual effect of having to deal with jock bullies my whole childhood. I found this video, though, which neatly sums up how I feel about the current Montreal Canadiens-Philadelphia Flyers contest; made by and starring super-hot Internet sensation Jon Lajoie, it celebrates the rough-and-tumble working-class ethos of the winningest team in hockey.

Go Habs!
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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Star Jones, Al Reynolds To Divorce

When does losing a beard not involve a razor? When it involves a divorce lawyer, that's when.


Star Jones, former cohost of The View, married Al Reynolds (an investment banker) in November 2004 amidst much hoopla - some of it concerning her ability to find a never-married black man in his late 30s. Almost immediately the tabloids went into overdrive trying to find proof of why he'd never been married and, when unable to do that, just saying what everyone else was thinking*.

The Jones-Reynolds Wedding was a tacky monstrosity of corporate shilling which cost Jones her cushy job of nine years, her comfy seat next to Barbara Walters, and whatever credibility she'd previously accrued either as a journalist or as a human being.

As an act of hubris, though, the matter is finally settled. Jones filed divorce papers in March; because the matter is uncontested, the papers are sealed. Through spokespeople, both parties have said they are determined to take the high road. Only time - and the tabloids - will tell if it's too little too late.

*He's a giant homo; not for nothing has his nickname been "Big Gay Al" for the past four years.

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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Madonnathon: "Papa Don't Preach"

In celebration of the hypocritical mewlings of Pope Benedict XVI, whose first official visit to the United States this week coincided neatly with the third anniversary of his elevation to the pontificate, as much as in celebration of Madonna's new album Hard Candy (which drops on April 29th!) here's a personal favourite Madonna video of mine, one which was the subject of much ferocious debate amongst us in the 11th grade* following its June 1986 release.

Papa Don't Preach was the second single from her album True Blue; the video, directed by longtime Madonna collaborator James Foley, starred the then-unknown Danny Aiello as Madonna's father, Debi Mazar as one of her friends, and Alex McArthur, who plays her boyfriend; in response, Aiello later recorded an answer song entitled Papa Only Wants the Best and despite that managed to become a star anyway with his appearance in Moonstruck the following year.

Papa Don't Preach was covered by Kelly Osbourne in 2002.

*High school being the forerunner of the blogosphere.
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Viscount Severn Christened


Viscount Severn, infant son and second child of the Earl and Countess of Wessex (as well as the Queen's eighth grandchild), was christened today in a private ceremony at the family chapel in Windsor Castle; officiating was the Dean of Windsor, Bishop David Conner. The baby's five godparents are Denise Poulton, Jeanye Irwin, Alastair Bruce, Duncan Bullivant and Tom Hill.

Unlike most royal babies since Princess Victoria in 1841, young James was christened in a new gown, a replica - made by Angela Kelly and the Palace's in-house dressmaking team - of the Royal family's heirloom christening gown, which is now being preserved by order of the Queen.
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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Madonnathon: "Borderline"

Of the five singles officially released from Madonna's self-titled 1983 debut album, only Borderline hasn't aged like milk; which is not to say that Lucky Star doesn't bring back memories or that Holiday isn't a great sentiment - Hell, even Everybody, Burning Up, and Physical Attraction can be a great blast from the past. But that's exactly what they'll be, is a blast from the past. In the summer of 1984, though, Borderline seemed like a blast from the future - a tantalizing glimpse into what she would achieve...
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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Pope's Positive Message For The US

At the start of his first visit to the United States today, Pope Benedict XVI wished to state first and foremost that his message to the people of that country - and not just the 75 million of them not going to Hell - was a positive one.


I'm positive that the Vatican and the Holy Mother Church stands at the forefront of the global struggle to obtain human rights for all people. I'm positive that queers (especially the uppity ones) are not people, which is why I can say what I'm saying while keeping up a positively scathing attack on them and their equal rights. I'm positive that in commanding you all to verbally and physically attack queers whenever you see them (or think you see them), you won't have any trouble carrying out something which isn't terrorism at all, but the work of God, who is the God of love. I'm positive that this sort of hypocrisy is just the sort of thing people have come to expect from the Roman Catholic Church.

I'm positive that life begins even before the moment of conception, just as I'm positive that death begins at the moment of birth. This is why it's so important that every fetus made be born, even if it only lives long enough to be baptized a Catholic. Whatever degradation, squalor, and violence it encounters from the moment that holy water hits its precious face is probably its own fault, since it's a filthy evil thing born out of an even filthier, more evil act. I say this because, as a "celibate" I know so much about sex, and as a religious leader I know even more about science.

I'm positive that the leaders of this great nation are willingly and gladly partaking of a Crusade against unbelievers, doing everything they can to wipe out the infidel scourge now overtaking Europe which the wussies of the 12th and 13th centuries failed to do when they had the chance. I'm positive, as well, that the Roman Catholic Church - alone among world religions - is entitled to a seat at the United Nations; I'm also positive that once we get on the Security Council, it's "Look out San Francisco!" Two words: dildo nukes!

I'm positive that poverty can be eradicated; in fact, as I sit in my marble palace filled with priceless art treasures I can't help but be reminded of the way Jesus himself lived, and thinking what a chump he must have been for not having more bling. Same with all those poor people starving on our doorsteps; obviously they haven't prayed enough, or they wouldn't be starving on our doorsteps now, would they?

And finally I'm positive that when I get back to my luxurious hotel suite this evening my handsome male secretary Georg Ganswein will give me an extra long hot oil rub; seeing as it's my first visit to the United States as your pontiff, he's also promised me the full release. I can't wait; in fact, I'm as giddy as a choir boy who's just joined Hitler Youth.

DISCLAIMER: The contents of this speech may have been paraphrased, read between the lines, and sifted from tons of bullshit. It also definitely contains nuts.

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Reader's Choice Tuesday*: Daffodils

Today's Reader's Choice is from Sr. Mainar (aka Javier) a frequent commenter, who asked for more of my photography. I figured that given the season and the subject matter of the previous post and the fact that I asked for reader input only to seemingly ignore it, this would be an elegant solution to various conundra.






*When I originally came up with the idea for Reader's Choice I called it Reader's Choice Monday, since Monday is my day off, and the best chance to get some extra writing out of me. But then I thought... Why couldn't every day be Reader's Choice Day? So now it is. ~ MSM
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Friday, April 11, 2008

Prince William Earns His Wings

Today The Prince of Wales (in his role as Air Chief Marshal), his wife the Duchess of Cornwall, and surprise guest Kate Middleton were on hand to see Cornet William Wales earn his wings as Flying Officer Wales at RAF Cranwell, near Sleaford, in Lincolnshire.

PhotobucketIt's all a part of the heir presumptive's military training, which has already seen him serve in the Army and which will next see him tackle duties with the Royal Navy. All of which is in preparation for his one day being Head of the Armed Forces, of course.

It turns out Prince William was a quick study at the controls, flying solo after just eight days of training.

Prince William was just one of 25 graduates who received their wings insignia from the Prince of Wales, who was also on hand to distribute trophies for excellence. It must have been a poignant moment for Prince Charles, who was one of the first to graduate from Cranwell in 1971.

During his twelve week course, William learned to fly light aircraft and helicopters, making him a competent (but not operational) flier; the full course for an RAF pilot is four years long and includes jets and heavy aircraft as well.
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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Madonnathon: "Beautiful Stranger"

Beautiful Stranger has such a cool vibe - reminiscent of the Sixties - likely because it contains heavy samples of a song by The Mamas & The Papas called The In Crowd. Madonna's co-producer William Orbit had used the same sample previously on Ray of Light, and again on the song Amazing.

The song was written for (and included on the soundtrack of) Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999), a film which itself heavily sampled from its predecessor and continued to reuse the same gags in its successor.

The video was shot by Brett Ratner on May 1st, 1999, at Universal Studios; it costars Mike Myers as Austin Powers and features cameos by Michael York as Basil Exposition and Verne Troyer as Mini-Me.
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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Madonnathon: "Ray of Light"

After the catharsis of an address to my readers, how better to follow it than a Madonna video; and so, having just parted the clouds of the past hundred days, what should appear but a Ray of Light? This was the song - from the album of the same name - which saw me through a much darker time than this...

Ten years ago on April 1st my grandmother died; that she was more like my mother than my mother was needs to be said. Additionally, she was my best friend. She used to piss me off from time to time, but then that's what I look for in a friend, and what I wouldn't give to have her pissing me off still. She still haunts me dreams, though; in fact, I dreamt about her last night. She smiled at me and said, "You're driving yourself crazy again. I wish I knew why you did that." I wish I did too, grandma, I wish I did too.

It was a confusing time was 1998; although I was in one of my rare relationships, my then-boyfriend was a cold fish from an emotionally abusive Christian family, and so I got no support from him. I was mad at the way the doctors had failed to treat my grandmother - diagnosing a gall bladder attack when in fact it was a heart attack she was having - and my mother's blind faith in them and the toxic little pellets they're so fond of dispensing meant that I grieved mostly on my own.

I might have been alright if I hadn't still been hurting from the death of Princess Diana the previous August, but as it was, it felt like yet another of those times when the universe decided to pile on Michael. As it is, it would take me almost an entire decade to pull out of it, and in fact, I may not be all the way out yet. No one ever fought as hard for peace of mind as I have, though, so I may come to it still.

Fortunately there was a frenzy of activity to keep me busy then; the day my grandmother died we'd moved across the hall into a larger, brighter apartment. With her death the decision was made to move to Vancouver, which we did. Through all the packing and cleaning and moving this album was more or less the soundtrack, and hearing it still takes me back to that time. For a long time I couldn't listen to it, for the painful memories it brought up, but lately I've taken to playing it again. Now it reminds me of movement and progress and change - all of which I need more than anything right now.
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2008: The First Hundred Days

Well, for all the fanfare which greeted the year it's been a frustrating tussle, at least for me.

I've been sick since the end of January, the principal underlying cause being neurosis; there's so much to write, so much to read, and so much to do that I spent most of February asleep on the couch. In my zeal to write my way out of my crappy job and my boring life I may have inadvertantly burnt myself out. Lack of exercise and an electrolyte imbalance conspired to make my body unable to do any of the things my mind had been screaming at it to do; this was followed almost immediately by a fallen arch in my left foot, which replaced a month of numb apathy with a month of excruciating pain.

While in my mind I realize that I only have a year or two more of this before I can relax a bit, I also realize that I may not be able to take a year or two more of this, and so will have to force myself to relax now, in order to allow both a time to rest and the time to look after basic life skills before the ability to do so is lost forever. Already I can feel myself pulling away from people in person, preferring the company of people on the Internet (although that tendency has always been one of my strongest).

Also on the minus side, I lost my first columnist; check out his new enterprise here. The Pop Culture Institute's loss is his own gain, and I wish Mr. Gagne the best of luck grappling with the impenetrable irrationalities of Christianism.

On the plus side, I couldn't be happier with the way my writing has been; I've written fewer posts, but the ones I've made have been longer, which is all a part of my plan to train myself to start writing for magazines at some point down the road. Also, there's been some innovation; despite its failure I quite enjoyed the virtual vacation, and am quite looking forward to writing another one, knowing now what sort of a commitment it is to write one. I'm also looking forward to meeting your needs better with the Reader's Choice feature, which so far is being won by Mr. Davey.

The next few months ought to see some great innovations, including interviews, fiction (both serialized and one-off), a second series of Vancouver Views, and of course the long-promised debut of the Poppets. So stay tuned!

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Monday, April 07, 2008

Madonnathon: "True Blue"

Madonna's last album - Confessions on a Dance Floor - was released in November 2005, two full months before the Pop Culture Institute was born; I am determined to make up for that now by going as whole hog online over the release of her latest album Hard Candy as I normally do in private, part of which involves oodles of posted videos over the next three weeks.

Did I mention the album is being released three weeks from tomorrow? Ahhhhhhhh!!!!!!!

It's okay; I'm better now. Anyway, here is the title track from her 1986 album True Blue; as the third single from her third album, it has special powers, which only gay pagans can access.
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Introducing: Reader's Choice Monday

Is there some topic you're dying to have me write about? Some person or event that's meaningful to you whose coverage I might have neglected? A genre, subculture, or holiday I've either willfully or absent-mindedly avoided?

If so, leave a comment, and next Monday your suggestion may well appear on the Pop Culture Institute. Just remember, you have to play to win*!

*You won't actually win anything except the satisfaction of making me work harder.
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Sunday, April 06, 2008

Happy Birthday Zach Braff

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

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"4 Minutes" by Madonna (with Justin Timberlake)

Did I mention that Madonna has a new album - her eleventh - coming out April 29th? Well, I haven't mentioned it yet today, anyway. 4 Minutes is the first single from Hard Candy; a duet with Justin Timberlake and Timbaland (who work together so often - and so well - they should just change their name to Justin Timbaland), and as one might expect the song is insanely catchy.

With its release Madonna's longstanding contract with Warner Records will be nearly at an end; only a compilation either later this year or early next remains, neatly tying a bow on a dozen albums which taken together will comprise a remarkable career, beginning when she was signed by Warner-affiliated Sire Records in 1982.

There'll be no writing off Madonna just yet, though; this year she turns fifty, and likely has as many albums in her again as she's already released. Or, if you like, consider things this way: the more encouragement we give her singing the less likely she'll be to return to acting.
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Duke of Edinburgh Discharged From Hospital

PhotobucketThe Duke of Edinburgh was released from King Edward VII's Hospital in London today after three days under medical supervision for a pulmonary infection brought on by a persistent heavy cold; the hospitalization was said to be of a precautionary, rather than emergency, nature. It meant, though, that the Prince was forced to miss a Thanksgiving Service at St. George's Chapel, Windsor, for the late mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary, attended by various dignitaries from New Zealand as the newly-widowed Lady June Hillary and that country's Prime Minister, Helen Clark.

Both upon entering and exiting the hospital His Royal Highness was ambulatory; he's said to be recuperating at Windsor Castle, having canceled a scheduled visit with the Queen to the Britannia Royal Naval College (where legend has it they met) in Dartmouth on April 10th.

Now 86, since his early seventies the Queen's husband has been living with a heart condition - which remains unspecified - and is currently patron of the British Heart Foundation. During the recent three-day State Visit to the UK by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his new wife Carla Bruni Prince Philip joined Her Majesty and The Prince of Wales at various engagements looking as robust as ever.

The Pop Culture Institute wishes him a speedy recovery; may he provide us with spectacular gaffes for many years to come.
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Canada's Tories In Gay Slur Shocker

I know, I know, you're shocked... Canada's Conservative Party - populated by nutjobs and peckerwoods of all kinds (besides the usual contingent of douchebags and asshats which typically comprise the political right), the same Conservative Party that tried to revoke marriage equality a full year after it had been passed because its leader (our illustrious Prime Minister Stephen Harper - shown here wearing the costume of the more charismatic, albeit less dangerous, Charles Manson) takes his orders directly from fundamentalist Christians in the United States - has been hit by allegations that some of its members - get this! - might be in possession of ignorant, ill-informed, and bigoted views of gay people!

PhotobucketI know, I know... You coulda knocked me over with a feather - unlike the aluminum baseball bat with which many of these people would prefer to knock me over.

Tom Lukiwski, the current Member of Parliament for the Saskatchewan riding of Regina - Lumsden - Lake Centre, has been shown on a videotape made in 1991 saying "There's A's and there's B's. The A's are guys like me, the B's are homosexual faggots with dirt under their fingernails that transmit diseases." The tape was recently released by that province's left-leaning NDP; also shown on the tape the thoroughly evil current Premier, Brad Wall, being thoroughly evil years before anyone had ever heard of him by mocking the Ukrainian ethnicity of then-NDP leader Roy Romanow.

Although tradition dictates Lukiwski had to make a formal apology, outside the Commons he returned to lying: "If I could take those comments back I would... They do not reflect the type of person that I am," he has said. And yet, they so totally do; obviously he's a pig who gets drunk and blabs hateful bullshit into the nearest camcorder given the slightest opportunity. Still, he seemed to realize that this incident would taint his political career in perpetuity; or at least it will, as long as I have a breath left in my body. He could always co-host a show called Canada's Funniest Career-Immolating Videos with fellow Tory Stockwell Day; I could watch that clip of him arriving at a press conference on a jet-ski over and over again.

A n y w a y... The Prime Minister has refused to discipline Lukiwski further, saying “He has given an unqualified apology — clear, heart-felt remorse for these actions . . . I believe when such apology and remorse is sought from an individual member, the generous and high-minded thing to do is to accept that apology.” Wrong again, Stevie Blunder.

The real irony in all of this: the Conservatives only have a minority government! That must really irk them, having to be a minority...
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"Luff Song" by Lucy Knisley

I happened to come across this sweet little video while surfing YouTube the other day, and once I'd heard the first three or four lines of the song I knew I'd be featuring it here. I do loves me some puppets!

You can subscribe to her channel here.
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Saturday, April 05, 2008

Bonus Video: "Hung Up" by Madonna

Heavily derived from ABBA's Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight), Hung Up was the first single from Madonna's last album, Confessions on a Dance Floor. I've posted it here because a) it relates to the previous post, and b) it relates to many future posts as well, since Madonna's new album Hard Candy drops on April 29th; I'm as giddy as a school girl about that, as you can imagine.

So far the new single - 4 Minutes - has been burning up my iPod (it's also my ringtone, so if you call me and I don't answer right away, you'll know why), and if the rest of the album is that good I can already tell it's going to be the soundtrack of Summer 2008. All of which means there's going to be beaucoup (or de trop, depending on your perspective) de Madonna on the Pop Culture Institute over the next three weeks.
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