Monday, August 02, 2010

In Memoriam: Myrna Loy

Many actresses complain about the lack of interesting roles available to women after they've reached a certain age; others refuse to accept that just because they're not asked to play romantic leads anymore that the roles of mother and matron somehow aren't interesting, when in fact mothers and matrons are some of the most interesting people in the world...

PhotobucketMyrna Loy - born on this day in 1905 - is clearly of the latter category, born a member of perhaps the last generation to hold a mother (with her wisdom, insight, and experience) in higher esteem than an ingenue. In fact, Loy's own ingenue roles - beginning with 1925's notorious What Price Beauty? opposite Natacha Rambova and Nita Naldi - were a mish-mash of grotesque stereotypes compared to the mid-career roles in which she played the dream wife and the dream mother.

Yet off camera, Loy was more circumspect; 'Some perfect wife I am,' she once said, referring to her typecasting. 'I've been married four times, divorced four times, have no children, and can't boil an egg.'

It's specifically because she had no children of her own to keep her legacy alive - a situation in which I find myself - that the Pop Culture Institute has undertaken to fulfill that role itself, by posting her name and her picture as often as feasible. To a certain extent, though, the movies she made - including a record fourteen memorable pairings with William Powell - are the children she never had; not only do they do their part to keep the memory of Myrna Loy alive, but they provide me with countless hours of the most enjoyable 'research' imaginable...
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"Foxtrot Uniform Charlie Kilo" by Bloodhound Gang

I suppose I could have marked the birthday of Jimmy Pop - born on this day in 1971 - with the Bloodhound Gang's monster smash hit The Bad Touch*; instead I've decided to post another of their songs, one which effectively demonstrates the band's wit by stringing together a series of euphemisms for genitalia under an entirely suggestive title, as well as Mr. Pop's facility with lead vocals - a skill much in evidence ever since he co-founded the group in 1992.

Foxtrot Uniform Charlie Kilo first appeared on the band's 2005 fourth album Hefty Fine, which was a long overdue follow up to their previous effort Hooray for Boobies, released in 1999, which topped charts around the world on the strength of The Bad Touch.

*A song many people still insist is called
The Discovery Channel, even though it obviously couldn't be - for legal reasons.
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Happy Birthday Kevin Smith

Inasmuch as he is the voice of his generation - disgruntled, suspicious, hilarious - Kevin Smith would just have to have a love-hate relationship with pop culture, wouldn't he? His characters have all invariably worshiped its hollow allure, overthought its shallow content, and sifted what gems they could from its detritus in search of something to fill the spiritual void left in them by their soulless Baby Boomer parents...

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Beginning with Clerks in 1994*, Smith has used suburban new Jersey to represent the emotional landscape in which many of those his age were raised; Mallrats and Chasing Amy continued the story in 1995 and 1997 respectively.

His masterpiece came in 1999 when the film Dogma tested Smith's abilities, yielding a work of extraordinary genius as a result; equally genius was the decision - made by Miramax - to release it on Good Friday, accurately predicting the rage of Christians who'd never seen the movie and never would to call for its censorship, thus ensuring huge ticket sales and critical acclaim. Needless to say, I love it when that happens...

2001 brought a return to the fictionalized version of Red Bank, with the stoner movie instant classic Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back; he followed it up with Jersey Girl and Clerks II, and continued expanding the View Askewniverse in 2008 with Zack and Miri Make a Porno while Red State may or may not see the light of day yet in 2010. In the meantime Smith is slated to direct A Couple of Dicks - a buddy cop picture starring Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan.

The canon of Kevin Smith's work tends to highlight the plight of lost souls, underdogs, and unrepentant losers - all of them searching for something, or someone, or to mean something to someone. Smith's skill as a filmmaker is that he lets them do it, all the while filling out the hollow and deepening the shallow with the kind of dialogue I for one pray for, but never seem to get, in real life.

*Made for $27,575 at the same convenience store where he worked.
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POPnews - August 2nd

[This February 1937 cover of Bernarr Macfadden's Physical Culture
describes marijuana as a 'sex-crazing drug menace' -
almost as though that were a bad thing!

686 CE - Pope John V died; he was succeeded by Pope Conon on October 21st. As it happens, Conon was a compromise candidate... Initially the clergy favoured archpriest Petros, while the military favoured another priest named Theodoros, and it took a couple of months of delicate diplomacy to solve the quandary.

1100 - England's King William II - better known as William Rufus - died while on a hunting trip in New Forest, when his companion Walter Tyrrel accidentally struck him in the chest with a stray arrow intended for a buck; he was succeeded by his younger brother, who reigned as Henry I.

Photobucket1589 - France's King Henri III (shown, at right) died, having been stabbed by a Dominican friar named Jacques Clément the previous day while lodged with his army at Saint-Cloud during preparations for an impending siege of Paris... Clément himself was killed on the spot by the King's bodyguard. The last of the Valois kings (his own marriage to Louise of Lorraine being childless likely due to his rather open homosexuality) the fourth son of Henri II and Catherine de' Medici was succeeded by the Huguenot King of Navarre Henri III, who would reign as the first of the Bourbon kings under the name Henri IV - although he wouldn't be crowned until February 1594, having been forced first by the Catholic League and then by Spain to win the throne through a rather arduous conquest.

- Henry Hudson reached what would later be called Hudson Bay on board Discovery, thinking he'd passed through the Northwest Passage into the Pacific Ocean.

1790 - The first US Census was conducted.

1798 - During the French Revolutionary Wars the Battle of the Nile (Battle of Aboukir Bay) concluded in a British victory for Sir Horatio Nelson over French vice-admiral François-Paul Brueys D'Aigalliers, who died in battle.

1870 - Tower Subway, the first underground tube railway in the world, opened in London; not a subway in the modern sense but more a horizontal lift, it connected Tower Hill to Vine Lane south of the River Thames.

1903 - The Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization led an unsuccessful rebellion against the rule of the Ottoman Empire, an event now known as the Ilinden-Preobrazhenie Uprising.

1916 - Austro-Hungarian sabotage was blamed for causing the sinking of the Italian battleship Leonardo da Vinci in the harbour at Taranto, killing 249 of the thousand men aboard; although the vessel was salvaged after World War I, planned repairs were never finished, and it was sold for scrap in 1923.

1923 - Following the sudden death, at San Francisco's Palace Hotel, of Warren G. Harding - who took ill a week earlier during a visit to Vancouver - his Vice President Calvin Coolidge became the 30th President of the United States.

1934 - Adolf Hitler became Führer of Germany following the death of Reichspräsident Paul von Hindenburg.

1937 - Marijuana was made illegal in the United States following passage of the Marihuana Tax Act.

1943 - PT-109 was rammed by the Japanese destroyer Amagiri in the Blackett Strait between the Solomon Islands of Kolombangara and Arundel; in charge of the vessel was Lieutenant, junior grade (LTJG) John F. Kennedy, future US President, who managed to save all but two* of his crew from the ship, which sank. Kennedy then led his crew to safety by swimming to uninhabited Plum Pudding Island** (deep in enemy waters which were also shark- and crocodile-infested) before they could be rescued, six days later, from the more resource rich Olasana Island nearby.

*Seamen Andrew Jackson Kirksey and Harold W. Marney.
**Which was renamed Kennedy Island in his honour.

1945 - The Dutch Royal Family returned to Holland from their exile in Canada, apparently.

1964 - During the Gulf of Tonkin Incident North Vietnamese gunboats allegedly fired on US destroyers USS Maddox and the USS Turner Joy, an event which President Lyndon B. Johnson used as a justification for the Vietnam War (despite the fact that it may have never happened) under the terms of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.

1967 - The second Blackwall Tunnel opened, connecting the London boroughs of Greenwich and Tower Hamlets.

1973 - A flash fire killed 51 at the Summerland amusement centre at Douglas on the Isle of Man.

1980 - The Pro Football Hall of Fame Game ended with 5:24 remaining when it was canceled due to severe lightning, ending the game in a 0-0 tie.

1990 - Iraq invaded Kuwait - or 'Province 19' as Saddam Hussein liked to call it - sparking the first Gulf War.
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