Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Happy Birthday Robin Williams

In this very funny clip Robin Williams does what he does best and succeeds in taking the piss out of Ryan Seacrest while doing it - I call that a win-win situation! Taken from American Idol (a show which I am vehement in disliking, to the extent that I refuse to link it) Williams here plays the Russian Idol, complete with a barrage of highly literate jokes about Stalin and gulags and such. I love how Seacrest just plays along, even though you know he's only thinking about his hair.

The last couple of years have not been so great for Robin Williams - rehab and divorce! - but the Pop Culture Institute would like to wish one of its favourite funny-men the happiest of birthdays, in the hopes that the cosmic ripples of that tiny action might in some way reach him some day when he needs a bit of a boost.
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Pop History Moment: The Final Harry Potter Book Was Published

On this day in 2007 would-be witches and wizards around the world defied the scorn of Muggles and other grumps by waiting on line to buy Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the seventh and final book in J. K. Rowling's imaginative (and popular) series of alleged children's books*.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketBeginning with Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in 1997 Rowling's pen then proceeded to spin out a story which within three years was a phenomenon, quickly morphed into a juggernaut once the film of the first book was released in 2001, and shows no sign of relinquishing its cult status now. No doubt when today's children are grown, they'll hand their copies over to their children to become immersed in, and so on...

Rowling - as I am so fond of pointing out - is the first writer to become a billionaire through her efforts; not only was she extensively consulted throughout the making of the films (which fact alone has made any author who's watched their work lost in the translation from the page to the screen green with envy) but thanks to lucrative deals on toys, video games, and merchandising of every sort the one-time single mum who wrote her masterpiece while raising her daughter on social assistance has ensured that her great-great-grandchildren will still be rolling in dough a century from now.

To say that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was successful is an understatement of massive proportions; the book sold 11 million copies in its first 24 hours. All told nearly 400 million Harry Potter books have been sold worldwide.

*Naturally, so was I; far be it from me to miss out on such an important pop culture event!

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POPnews - July 21st

[The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, described by Antipater of Sidon, who
said of it '...apart from Olympus, the Sun never looked on aught so grand.'

356 BCE - A young man named Herostratus set fire to the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, destroying it; he did so, he said, for fame. Sure enough, more than 2300 years later the readers of the Pop Culture Institute are learning - many of them for the first time - the name of the douchebag who gave his name to the term herostratic fame, meaning 'fame at any cost', a concept all-too-familiar to us in the era of reality television.

1403 - At the Battle of Shrewsbury England's King Henry IV defeated rebels led by Henry Percy (better known as Hotspur) to the north of the county town of Shropshire; the site of the battle is now a village called, aptly enough, Battlefield.

1545 - The French invasion of the Isle of Wight occurred when, coincidentally enough, French troops landed on the coast of the Isle of Wight; that the event took place during the Italian Wars ought to confuse matters even more.

1718 - The Treaty of Passarowitz was signed by the Ottoman Empire, Austria, and the Republic of Venice.

1831 - Léopold I - widower of England's Princess Charlotte and therefore uncle of the future Queen Victoria as well as father (by his second marriage) of Mexico's ill-fated Empress Carlota* - was inaugurated as the first King of the Belgians.

*Later portrayed by Bette Davis in the 1939 film Juarez.

1865 - Wild Bill Hickok shot Davis Tutt Jr. dead in the market square of Springfield, Missouri, in what is now regarded as the first true western showdown.

1873 - Jesse James and the members of the James-Younger Gang pulled off the first successful train robbery in the American West at Adair, Iowa; the gang successfully derailed the train, killing the engineer, and managed to make off with $3,000.

1919 - The dirigible Wingfoot Air Express crashed into the Illinois Trust and Savings Building in Chicago, killing 12 people - although the pilot and co-pilot managed to parachute to safety.

1925 - Following the Scopes Trial high school biology teacher John T. Scopes was found guilty of teaching evolution in class and fined $100.

1960 - Sirimavo Bandaranaike was elected Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, making her the first elected female head of government in the world; as leader of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, 'Mrs. B' served Sri Lanka three times as its Prime Minister (first in 1960-1965, again from 1970-1977, and finally 1994-2000).

1969 - Neil A. Armstrong and Edwin 'Buzz' Aldrin left the Moon, following a successful landing by the Apollo 11 mission the day before and a break to stretch their legs.

1970 - After 11 years of construction, Egypt's Aswan High Dam was completed.

1972 - The Bloody Friday series of bombings by the Provisional IRA in and around Belfast saw 22 explosions kill 9 people and seriously injure 130.

1973 - During the Lillehammer Affair in Norway, Israeli Mossad agents killed a waiter named Ahmed Bouchiki whom they mistakenly thought was involved in 1972's Munich Olympics Massacre.

1976 - Christopher Ewart-Biggs - British ambassador to the Republic of Ireland - was assassinated by the Provisional IRA.

1977 - The four-day-long Libyan-Egyptian War - essentially a border dispute between the two nations - began.

1983 - The world's lowest temperature - −89.2°C (−129°F) - was recorded at Antarctica's Vostok Station.

2002 - Telecommunications giant WorldCom filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the largest such filing in US history.

2005 - Four terrorist bombings occurred exactly two weeks after the similar July 7 bombings, targeting London's public transportation system; all four bombs failed to detonate and all four suspected suicide bombers were captured, convicted and given long prison terms.
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