Friday, April 16, 2010

Gratuitous Brunette: Jon Cryer

I'd like to think I'm not one of those people who tries to trap a star in amber, refusing to let them grow or develop beyond whatever adolescent crushes I might have had on them... For instance, as cute as Jason Bateman was in Silver Spoons - and he was - I'm just as comfortable perving on his tall, dark, and hilarious self in Arrested Development a generation later.

PhotobucketThe same goes for Jon Cryer, who practically invented geek chic when he assayed the role of Duckie in Pretty in Pink opposite the scowl who walked like a girl (aka Molly Ringwald); but that doesn't mean I wasn't thrilled to see him resurface on television after some twenty years, courtesy of Two and a Half Men - a show I didn't want to like but that I ended up liking despite myself*.

Born on this day in 1965 to Broadway actors David and Gretchen Cryer, the world's foremost Matthew Broderick impersonator has been delighting audiences for a quarter of a century now, and shows no signs of slowing down... Although, the Sitcom Curse** being what it is, who knows where he might turn up next, or even if he and his career will even get a third act. One thing is certain - as long as there's a Pop Culture Institute Jon Cryer will have a following...

*Not to mention itself!
**The Sitcom Curse can be described as a combination of typecasting, burn-out, and the comfort that comes from earning fat residuals; it conveniently, if glibly, explains how an actor who's outstanding on one show can disappear from view entirely when it does.

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"Beds Are Burning" by Midnight Oil

Midnight Oil's 1987 hit Beds Are Burning may be the world's only pop song about aboriginal rights*; whether or not it is, it is certainly one of the most famous. Either way, much of the song's success is due to its singer, birthday boy Peter Garrett, whose snarly vocals can be clearly heard to exhort 'just give it back!' - which, as far as pop songs go, is not merely political but entirely unequivocal on the issue of native title.

The band's consistency regarding this issue was much in evidence as Garrett and his bandmates - Martin Rotsey, Peter Gifford, Robert Hirst, and Jim Moginie - performed the song at the 2000 Sydney Olympics in black clothes emblazoned with the word 'sorry' in white letters. Their protest could be said to be highly visible, since it was seen by billions of viewers around the world who'd tuned in to watch the closing ceremonies of the Games. Not only did Midnight Oil's performance that evening shake up the conservatives who dominate the International Olympic Committee it pretty effectively shamed then-Prime Minister John Howard, who had refused to apologize for the numerous outrages committed against the country's original inhabitants over the previous two centuries, including (but not limited to) the Stolen Generations.

Originally appearing on the band's sixth studio album, Diesel and Dust, Beds Are Burning has been covered several times - most notably in 2006 by Pearl Jam; as for Peter Garrett, since November 2007 he's been making numerous appearances in Canberra - as Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts in Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's Labor Party government.

*Then again, it may not be... We're looking into it.
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Happy Birthday Your Majesty

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketHer Majesty Queen Margrethe II of Denmark turns 70 today.

She ascended the throne in January 1972, having succeeded her father Frederick IX at his death. In fact, Danish law had to be altered to allow for this eventuality; 1953's Act of Succession meant that then-Princess Margrethe would one day be queen in her own right. The previous queen, Margrethe I, ruled first Denmark, then Norway, and eventually Sweden under the Kalmar Union (which she founded) beginning in 1375 and until her death in 1412.

Trained as an archaeologist, Her Majesty is also a skilled painter, and speaks six languages; she studied at Girton College, Cambridge, Aarhus University, the Sorbonne, and the London School of Economics.
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Pop History Moment: Queen Launches Royal Yacht Britannia

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On this day in 1953 thousands were on hand to welcome the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh when they arrived in Scotland to launch the new royal yacht, HMY Britannia, just six weeks before her coronation...

was built by John Brown & Co. Ltd in Clydebank, with the hopeful intention (sadly, unmet) of giving Scotland's once-mighty shipbuilding industry a badly needed boost. What was given a boost, though, was morale; of an afternoon the crowd heartily cheered their beautiful young queen, sang Rule Britannia, and momentarily forgot the ration cards and the bomb craters, even in a heavy rain.

Over the next forty years, the Royal Yacht Britannia would convey the Queen and her family to ports of call across the globe, covering more than a million nautical miles; for a nation fond of its nautical lore, the vessel - a floating palace, really - would help make Elizabeth II that seafaring nation's seafaringest monarch ever.

Designed for use as a hospital ship in times of war, thankfully Britannia was never called upon to that end; she did once convey a thousand refugees from a civil war in Aden, though, in 1986.

Britannia was decommissioned in 1997; now permanently moored at Leith's Ocean Terminal, she currently serves as an exhibition ship, hosting conferences, banquets, and the like.
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"Son Of A Preacher Man" by Dusty Springfield

For obvious reasons, I've always been fond of the song Son of a Preacher Man; long before I knew that it was uber-cool white soul goddess Dusty Springfield who was responsible for it, I was humming (and even singing) along to its dulcet tones with somewhat less than dulcet tones of my own, which made for more than one awkward moment between me and my fifth grade teacher I can tell you.

Today would have been Dusty Springfield's 71st birthday; had she not succumbed to breast cancer just weeks before her 60th birthday, the Pop Culture Institute is certain she'd be singing still - and cannot verify either way whether she is or isn't anyway - except to say that thanks to the various and sundry miracles of modern technology not only will she always be with us, she will continue expanding her fan base from the great beyond...
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POPnews - April 16th

[When I first heard that the Catholic Church subjected Martin Luther to the Diet of Worms I can remember thinking 'What is this, the Inquisition or I'm A Protestant Heretic... Get Me Out Of Here!?' Of course I was much much younger then; it must have been four or five years ago now. Ah, youth...]

73 CE - The Jewish-held fortress of Masada fell to the Romans after several months of siege, ending the First Jewish-Roman War with the mass suicide of Sicarii fugitives who'd been barricaded inside; in April 1981 a miniseries starring Peter O'Toole dramatized these events, based on the book The Antagonists by Ernest Gann.

- The Serbian Empire was proclaimed in Skopje by Stefan Uros IV Dusan, known as Dusan Silni or Dusan the Mighty; in time it would end up occupying much of the Balkans.

1521 - Martin Luther made an appearance before the Diet of Worms to have his religious convictions examined by the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V; following his five-day examination Luther was offered exile at Wartburg Castle by Frederick III, Elector of Saxony.

1582 - Spanish conquistador Hernando de Lerma founded the settlement of Salta in Argentina.

1746 - At the Battle of Culloden - the last military battle on British soil - Scotland's French-supported Jacobites attempted to put the Catholic James Francis Edward Stuart (known as the Old Pretender) on the Protestant throne of England, then occupied by George II. They were soundly defeated by the King's forces, led by his son the Duke of Cumberland.

1780 - The University of Münster was founded in North Rhine-Westphalia.

1858 - The Wernerian Natural History Society, a Scottish learned society and offshoot of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, closed down; its first meeting had been held in March 1808.

1912 - American aviatrix Harriet Quimby became the first woman to fly an airplane across the English Channel.

1919 - Mahatma Gandhi organized a day of prayer and fasting in Amritsar in response to British attacks on Indian protestors at the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre three days earlier.

1925 - During an assault by the Bulgarian Communist Party on Sofia's St. Nedelya Church, 150 were killed and 500 wounded.

1943 - Dr. Albert Hofmann discovered the psychedelic effects of LSD.

1945 - The US Army liberated Nazi Germany's maximum security prisoner of war camp Oflag IV-C (better known as Colditz Castle).

1947 - An explosion on board a freighter in port caused the city of Texas City to catch fire, killing almost 600.

1963 - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote his famous Letter from Birmingham Jail while incarcerated in Alabama for protesting against segregation.

1964 - Following a trial at the Buckinghamshire Assizes in Aylesbury for the 12 men of a fifteen member gang apprehended for committing the Great Train Robbery in August 1963 Mr. Justice Edmund Davies sentenced those convicted - including mastermind Bruce Reynolds and the soon-to-be celebrated Ronnie Biggs - to a total of 307 years.

1972 - Apollo 16 was launched toward the Moon from Florida's Cape Canaveral.

1987 - British Conservative MP Harvey Proctor appeared at London's Bow Street Magistrates' Court charged with gross indecency; formerly known for his extreme right-wing views, he is now remembered for the fondness with which he spanked and caned rent-boys.

2003 - The Treaty of Accession was signed in Athens, admitting 10 new member states to the European Union.

2007 - At the Virginia Tech massacre - the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history - a gunman named Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people and injured 23 others before committing suicide.

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