Friday, May 30, 2008

Marian Anderson Lets Freedom Ring At The Lincoln Memorial

Even though the famed 1939 appearance of contralto Marian Anderson on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial took place on Easter Sunday - April 9th - I decided to post this clip of her performance here not to commemorate that event, but to show what the memorial stands for.

While most of the Presidential monuments - those to Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln - hearken back to classical times, they represent very modern ideals. Washington's obelisk suggests a singularity of purpose (in this case, that of the man himself) without which the Revolution that forged the nation might never have succeeded; Jefferson's pantheon suggests inclusion as befits the author of the phrase "all men are created equal", while Lincoln's Grecian temple (like the man himself) represents the very pillars upon which democracy rests, namely that of people standing together in support of a common goal.
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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Happy Half-Birthday To Me

Today is six months since my last birthday and therefore six months to my next one, the exact middle of my personal year. In the same way the weather and the seasons on these two days are mirror images of each other, so are the birthday and the half-birthday mirror images of each other.

Instead of having a party I spent the day alone, in silent reflection. Instead of opening actual presents from people I took note of the gifts I received from the universe, and gave thanks for them. Instead of gobbling down cake and ice cream I reminded myself of the sweets life already contains.

Most importantly, I took the time to think about where I am, where I want to be, and how I might go about bridging the gap between the two. The older I get the more I am reminded, not just about the shortness of life, but the quickness of it as well; waiting for the life I want to come to me simply isn't efficient, and so it's time to go out and get the life I want. Only by following my bliss will I be able to encourage my bliss to begin following me.
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Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Old Poll Is Dead; Long Live The New Poll!

An amazing 60 people voted on the old poll, concerning which century is your favourite, and what a modern bunch you are, too. The overwhelming winner, with 23 votes, was the 20th Century.

Check out the new poll in the sidebar, and try to take it in the jovial spirit in which it's intended, please.
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A Compromise?

Owing to the immense popularity of the Pop Culture Institute amongst those few who do read it, for the time being I will continue to publish POPnews - and those posts I can repost without extensive rewriting - until such time as I can justify returning full-time and/or my up in the air employment situation has settled back into some kind of regularity.

Thank you in advance for once again coping with my galloping neurosis.

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A Sad Day

It is with a heavy heart and an acute sense of my own shortcomings that I come to you today to announce the closure of the Pop Culture Institute.

Having spent many hours daily on research and the creation of content over the past 18 months, it's clear to me that after nearly 2500 posts I have failed to connect with the public in any meaningful way; not only that, where I once had maybe 8-10 regular readers, in recent weeks my numbers have dwindled to 2 or 3. I routinely go a week now without a single comment; whereas my original purpose in starting this blog was in the creation of a dialogue, I seem to have created a monologue instead - or an endless droning lecture more like. Clearly my famously lovely personality has once again gotten in the way of my success.

I suppose I could have continued writing it for myself, but the fact of the matter is that even I am no longer interested in it - I've a feeling that the endless hours I've spent crouching over a computer would have been better spent doing almost anything else - and maybe it's that quality that has crept into the work, and turned off my readers. At heart, of course, I am a deeply needy person; my desire for validation makes me weak, I know. I also know that I am the only person in the world with such a need, in much the same way that I am the only person who has ever expressed bitterness or anger or sarcasm. I know this because of the number of times I am accused of such things, by people who would never dream of accusing anyone else of them, and have certainly never been guilty of such things themselves.

I will be leaving it up for an unspecified period of time as I cut and paste those posts I feel like keeping into some kind of archival document. In doing so, I am mindful of the praise and support I have received over the months, even if I have often had to fish for the compliments I've gotten. Given the bait I'm using, I should be grateful to have gotten what I have, I guess.

The greatest human failing is the assumption that everyone else is like you - that your interests are shared by everyone, that your motivations are universal, and that your prejudices are perfectly natural. Clearly, that is where I have gone wrong here. I thought (erroneously, as it turns out) that my zeal for things historical would infect all those who came into contact with this blog. In this I was wrong, and for that I apologize; to those of you momentarily touched or even moved by something I may have written, I thank you.

Being a writer, of course, I can't altogether give up writing, even though the failure of this enterprise (and my failure at it) has only served to confirm what I have already known- namely that my lack of formal education has doomed me to always be a writer, as opposed to a Writer. No doubt there will be other blogs, and in them perhaps even the elusive formula for success I have been chasing for what seems like my whole life. I may try fiction, or photography, or a subject matter which is more specific - maybe in them I will finally achieve the connection of souls which every artist (even a poor one such as me) seeks.

UPDATE: So, you may have guessed by now that not only have I not closed the Pop Culture Institute, but it's even more alive now than ever. The only reason I haven't taken this post down is a) I'm proud of the writing, even if it is a bit* on the self-pitying side, and b) I agree with every one of its sentiments.

When I initially undertook this endeavour I knew it wouldn't be easy; I knew it might be years before I found my audience (if ever) and that those who did find it would do so in a piecemeal fashion, thanks largely to the efforts of search engines. I also knew going in - as how could I not - that I am emotional and moody (a deadly combination), and that among the blog's many posts would appear works which are as deadly peevish as they are peevish in their deadliness. In this, at least, I have not disappointed.

Many thanks are due today to the ministrations of Mr. Gagne, whose management of me in the years that I've known him has skillfully alternated between feather light and hammer blunt; the most amazing thing is how he always knows which method to use when, with his method's remarkable efficacy running a close second. Though all that you see here has been due to my hard work and sacrifice, the fact that it's still here is due entirely to his steadying influence.

*Okay, a lot...
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In Theatres Now: "Baby Mama"

Michael McCullers wrote and directed Baby Mama, an unusual girl-on-girl buddy comedy, starring two of my favourite ladies - Tina Fey and Amy Poehler; although reviews have been typically sniffy, the consensus is that this is a likable (if predictable) romp through the minefield that is expectant motherhood in this day and age.

It's on my list of movies to see, but given my track record in this regard I'm sure I'll enjoy the DVD even more once it's released.
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Saturday, May 17, 2008

When Is A Royal Wedding Not A Royal Wedding?


When technically speaking neither the bride or the groom is royal, yet the groom is the oldest grandson of The Queen, the ceremony in question is held at St George's Chapel - within the historic walls of Windsor Castle - and is attended by senior members of the royal family, that's when!

Not that the wedding of Peter Phillips to Canadian Autumn Kelly didn't have all the trappings of a royal wedding including - as has been alluded - a star-studded guest list*, a dowry of £500,000 courteously provided by Hello! magazine, and even a media-generated scandal designed to compete with the persistent drizzle of the day. The service was conducted by David Conner, the Dean of Windsor, the gown was by designed by Sassi Holford, and among the six bridesmaids (elegantly kitted out in mint green) was the groom's sister Zara Phillips.

Owing to the pictures row and various other tensions within the royal family, the day proved just how the personal can be political; even when the persons involved are supposed to be above partisan politics, their personal politics often can't help but interfering. To this end, many senior royals bypassed the official photo shoot and pointedly posed for the national press assembled at the gates of the castle instead, an action seen by many as intended to bring the once publicity-shy but suddenly publicity-hungry Phillipses into line. One bright spot, though, had Prince Harry formally presenting his girlfriend Chelsy Davy to the Queen for the first time, an important first step in her quest to become a royal bride.

Following their wedding the happy couple will be honeymooning in undisclosed tropical climes; upon their return to Britain they will continue to reside in their home on the grounds of Gatcombe Park where he grew up, try to return to their private life and careers in the private sector, and begin working on the Queen's first great-grandchild.

Behind the photo find the full story, lavishly illustrated, courtesy of the Daily Mail.

*Including (in no particular order) among those already mentioned, the Duke of Edinburgh, The Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall, The Princess Royal, The Duke of York, The Earl and Countess of Wessex, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke of Kent, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, Lady Louise Windsor, Sir Michael Parkinson (the bride's boss), Sir Jackie Stewart, and Mike Tindall; notable for their absences were Prince William - although his girlfriend Kate Middleton was there representing him he was attending a different wedding, in Kenya, with his ex-girlfriend Jecca Craig instead - and the Duchess of Kent, whose recent conversion to Roman Catholicism probably meant she boycotted due to the bride's recent conversion to the Church of England (which is vastly different - NOT!). Also, although the groom's father Mark Phillips was in attendance - his ceremonial sword was used to cut the cake, in fact - I could find no mention of the groom's step-father Timothy Laurence being there, although I suppose he could have been but no one bothered to notice.
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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Queen Visits Turkey


Turkish President Abdullah Gül today welcomed Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, at the beginning of a four-day visit to Turkey. It's the royal couple's first official visit to the country - which sits on the cusp of Europe and Asia - in 37 years, and comes as Turkey is struggling to enter the European Union; by the Queen's presence in Ankara today the British government is making it known that the UK's position is in favour of a European (and therefore pro-Western) Turkey.

When last the Queen visited Turkey - in 1971 - excited crowds surged past protective barriers and swarmed the royal party's open cars; there was no possibility of such a breach of protocol today. There was, however, a noticeable indication of the religious schism threatening the largely Muslim country - the president's wife, Hayrünnisa Gül, wore a hijab to greet Her Majesty, an act which ensured that military leaders boycotted a state banquet in Ankara on the first night of the visit. The Turkish military are sworn to uphold the country's secularism.

Secularism has been a hallmark of Turkish life since the modern republic was establish by
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in October 1923; in recent years, though, that sacred principle has been under fire as Islamic fundamentalism is on the rise in Turkey as it is around the world. A secular, European Turkey has long been a British desire, and the hope is that the Queen's visit (coming as it does less than two years after a similar visit by Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands in February 2007) will do much to encourage that.

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Friday, May 02, 2008

Autumn Kelly Puts Faith In Royal Family


Ever since it was announced in July 2007 that Canadian Autumn Kelly was set to marry Peter Phillips - eldest son of The Princess Royal and eldest grandson of Elizabeth II - royal watchers* have been all a-tizzy over whether or not he would renounce his place in the succession (currently he's eleventh) or whether she would convert from Roman Catholicism to suit the Royal Family; under the terms of the Act of Settlement 1701, none of their number can either be Catholic or be married to one if they want to maintain their right to the throne.

Well, it seems she's done the heavy lifting in this instance; her conversion to the Anglican faith was recently announced. The last time this rather sticky wicket presented itself was in 1978, when Prince Michael of Kent decided to forego his birthright to marry the ersatz Marie-Christine von Reibnitz.

The marriage of Autumn Kelly and Peter Phillips is set to go ahead May 17th at St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle.

*Okay, okay, just me.
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