Saturday, August 21, 2010

Happy Birthday Kim Cattrall


As much as I used to wish, while watching Sex and the City, that I could be more like sexy Samantha Jones, somehow I always end up being cynical Miranda Hobbes (or, on a good day, observant Carrie Bradshaw); I suppose it could be worse*... Still, I have known Samanthas in my life, and I have always admired their confidence and brazenness, despite the difficulty I've had with expressing either of those traits in my own life.

I think it would be a mistake, though, to think that Kim Cattrall is at all like Samantha; for one thing, in interviews Cattrall comes across as highly gracious and very soft-spoken as well, neither of which qualities are much in evidence in the character of Samantha. For all her highly erotically charged performances (say, in films like Porky's or Mannequin) she's either an excellent actress onscreen or off; that is to say, either her public persona is her greatest role or she gets it all out of her system when the cameras are rolling.

Either way, you can count on my following her career closely to continue searching for clues as to what makes this lovely, classy lady tick...

*I could be more like uptight Charlotte York... (shudder)

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"What The World Needs Now Is Love" by Jackie DeShannon

In the 1960s few female performers had the string of hits enjoyed by Jackie DeShannon; often considered the first female singer-songwriter of the rock era, DeShannon may have been hurt as much as helped by her luminous blonde beauty, at least in the United States. Songs like Needles and Pins and When You Walk in the Room were even bigger hits in Canada and the UK than they were in the US which, if it dismayed the American-born singer she didn't let it show. In fact, much of DeShannon's early output would prove more popular for other artists than for her, including the two previously mentioned, which became huge sellers for The Searchers.

Jackie DeShannon's version of Burt Bacharach and Hal David's What the World Needs Now Is Love was for years the gold standard version of the song; here she's seen performing it on the popular show Shindig! She followed it up with the similarly popular Put a Little Love in Your Heart.

Born on this day in 1944, Jackie DeShannon still records and tours, owing to the huge market for nostalgia; her songs have also been recorded by Tracey Ullman, Annie Lennox and Al Green, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, and Dolly Parton. Then there's the little matter of a song called Bette Davis Eyes, which was named the most successful pop single of the 1980s after it was paired with the raspy contralto of Kim Carnes in 1981.
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Jeff Stryker: The Poet Laureate of Dirty Talk

Like many diehard consumers of hardcore gay porn whose first exposure to the genre came about in the mid- to late-1980s, the first model* who made an indelible impression upon me then was Jeff Stryker. The reasons for his pre-eminence are multiple, and not merely related to the size of his member; his looks (which put me, at least, in mind of the young Elvis Presley) and his rough, dominating manner seem to complete the fantasy - fantasy being the whole point of porn in the first place - of the rough trade top. No less a wit than John Waters has referred to Stryker as 'the Cary Grant of porn'.

PhotobucketBorn on this day in 1962, Stryker was discovered by legendary porn producer John Travis in 1986 and immediately got on the porn treadmill, starring in dozens of films a year owing to the fact that the shelf-life of the average porn star is about five years.

Stryker's real innovation, however, was in the creation and marketing of the Jeff Stryker dildo, although even this highly successful endeavour was tainted when it was revealed that its manufacturers had added an inch to both the length and the girth of the popular adult conversation piece. Stryker later confessed to being hurt by this turn of events, although it's nothing on the hurt its many consumers have felt. If Stryker got screwed at least he was well-paid for his first attempt at bottoming; no doubt they were gentler than Stryker ever was.

Nowadays, of course, most porn stars with even minor name recognition have been honoured with similar rubber trophies, but Stryker's marketing juggernaut has also extended to an album of music entitled Buck Wild, including the title track of one of his most famous films, 1986's Bigger Than Life; another bears the imaginative title Pop You In The Pooper**. Additionally there have been Jeff Stryker lube, condoms, and playing cards. As gay porn continues its steady transit to the mainstream, expect to see much more of this sort of merchandise available; it's important to remember, however, that the marketplace might be somewhat stretched, seeing as who was there first.

*While I have no problem calling them porn stars, I cannot bring myself to call even the best of them porn actors, as some do.
**Warning: Do not click on the link unless you have headphones in or your computer is muted; it's definitely NSFW from the first line.

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Happy Birthday Your Majesty


One of the Arab world's most moderate* leaders, Mohammed VI has been the King of Morocco since the death of his father Hassan II in July 1999; His Majesty is the 18th sovereign of the country's Alaouite dynasty, which has ruled the North African country since 1666.

Born on this day in 1963, His Majesty's mother is Lalla Latifa Hammou, whose only title is Mother of the Princes; the King's wife is Princess Consort Lalla Salma, who's the first wife of a Moroccan King to ever be given a title, no doubt part of His Majesty's commitment to liberalizing his country.

Moroccan Muslims (especially the conservative ones) are known to be quite touchy where images of their King are concerned; I'd like to state here and now that the above image was placed with all due reverence, and will continue to be treated as such. I may be an irreverent gay pagan, but I'm smart enough to pick and choose my opportunities to express each of these facets of my personality when they'll be best received...

*That is to say, friendly to the West; it's also a highly relative term, but a good effort besides.

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Who Killed Benigno Aquino?

More than a quarter of a century has passed since Benigno Aquino Jr. (known as Ninoy) was assassinated, on this day in 1983... In the years since then his widow, Corazon Aquino, has come and gone from the Malacañang Palace*, plagued while in office not only by the usual politics but also by natural disasters, such as the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo, which devastated the Luzon region.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketFourteen soldiers have been detained since 1983 for their role in the assassination; while Mrs. Aquino had said that she forgave them she also made it clear that she would never appeal for either clemency or their release.

It is suspected that the trigger was pulled by Rolando Galman, who was himself fatally shot by airport security, but to this day there is no concrete evidence who killed Aquino; even less is known about who ordered it, although naturally people have their theories.

As to the mastermind of the operation, the chief suspect, Ferdinand Marcos, was recovering from a kidney transplant that day, although he certainly could have given the order, even from a hospital bed. The other main suspect is Fabian Ver, Marcos' first cousin, who at the time was head of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, or AFP. Marcos himself blamed Rodolfo Salas, head of the Philippine Communist Party, who was his favourite scapegoat following the various atrocities he ordered committed (such as the Plaza Miranda bombing, twelve years to the day earlier, which dealt a major blow to Aquino's Liberal Party.

The Agrava Commission, which Marcos promptly struck in the days following the crime to investigate them, was controversial from the start; for one thing, it cleared Rolando Galman of the crime, as it did for Marcos, Ver, and Salas. After a year of meetings and investigation, it issued a report claiming a military conspiracy but refused to point fingers or assign blame.

Ten days after his murder as many as 2 million people attended the funeral of Ninoy Aquino, which lasted from 9am to 9pm; his death polarized opposition to the Marcos regime, in a way that mere speeches and political campaigning could not have done. Today the Monday nearest August 21st is a public holiday in his homeland, his face appears on the 500-peso note, and there are statues and memorials to him around the country.

'...the Filipino is worth dying for...' he said, in an interview just prior to his fateful return. Presumably he meant it, but until his killers are identified, justice cannot be served.

*Indeed, she's come and gone from this life as well...
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POPnews - August 21st

[Although he argued strenuously against slavery during 7 three-hour debates with Stephen Douglas, Abraham Lincoln lost the Illinois Senate seat to his longtime rival anyway... Following the defeat, Lincoln had his thoughts on the subject published in book form; the massive popularity of that book, as much as the widespread publicity engendered by the debates, made him a shoo-in for the nomination at the 1860 Republican National Convention - which itself set in motion a series of events that would within a decade would render Lincoln a legend.]

1680 - Pueblo Indians captured Santa Fe from the Spanish colonists living there, thus ending the Pueblo Revolt; those who survived Popé's cunning strategy of cutting off the city's water supply were relocated to El Paso del Norte.

1689 - The Battle of Dunkeld occurred in the vicinity of Dunkeld Cathedral, pitting the royalist supporters of Scotland's so-called James VII under Alexander Cannon against the ultimately victorious Cameronians of William Cleland (who died in battle) and George Munro of Auchinbowie.

- Captain James Cook claimed for England the territory in Australia he called New South Wales.

1810 - French-born Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte was elected Crown Prince of Sweden and made Generalissimus of the Army; he would later succeed Charles XIII as Charles XIV John.

1821 - Jarvis Island was discovered by the crew of the British ship, Eliza Frances, which was owned by Edward, Thomas and William Jarvis and mastered by a Captain Brown. Initially claimed by Britain, the island was annexed by the US in February 1858 under the Guano Islands Act, and it remains to this day classified as one of the United States Minor Outlying Islands despite being uninhabitable (owing to the fact that it has no fresh water and very little rainfall - and is covered with bird shit besides!) and therefore uninhabited.

1831 - Nat Turner led slaves and freemen alike in a rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia, which claimed 57 whites and as many as five times as many blacks, including Turner himself.

1842 - The Tasmanian city of Hobart was founded; if you don't know where that is, ask any Australian woman to show you her map of Tasmania and she'll likely accommodate you. (snicker, snicker)

1858 - The Lincoln-Douglas debates began, pitting Republican Abraham Lincoln against his Democratic rival Stephen A. Douglas at Ottawa, Illinois; at stake was a seat in the Illinois Senate. This also marks the last time the Pop Culture Institute ever rooted for a Republican to win anything (except possibly a seat in a dunk tank!).

1862 - The Vienna Stadtpark opened its gates, making it the first public park in that city.

1863 - The pro-Union town of Lawrence, Kansas (itself an abolitionist stronghold) was destroyed during the Lawrence Massacre by a legion Confederate guerrillas called Quantrill's Raiders led by William Clarke Quantrill.

1878 - The American Bar Association was founded.

1911 - In what may be the single largest example of internal shrinkage ever Leonardo Da Vinci's priceless masterpiece, the Mona Lisa, was discovered stolen from Paris' Musée du Louvre by artist Louis Béroud; Vincenzo Peruggia was later arrested for trying to sell the painting to the Uffizi Gallery in Firenze.

1944 - The Dumbarton Oaks Conference - at which the United Nations began to take shape - began; it would conclude on October 7th.

1959 - President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Hawai'i Admission Act, making Hawai'i the 50th state; to this day the third Friday in August is celebrated statewide as Hawai'i Admission Day - although our sources tell us the 'celebration' is growing increasingly muted with each passing year...

1968 - A posthumous Medal of Honor was awarded to James Anderson Jr., the first African-American to be so honoured.

1969 - An Australian national named Michael Dennis Rohan set Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque on fire, gutting the southeastern wing of the Temple Mount holy site, in the process destroying a thousand-year-old minbar which had been the gift of Saladin.

1971 - Two hand grenades were tossed onstage at a campaign rally held by the Liberal Party of The Philippines in Manila's Plaza Miranda, injuring 95 and killing 9 anti-Marcos political candidates and their supporters including a five-year-old child and a photojournalist.

1983 - Benigno Aquino Jr. was assassinated on the tarmac at Manila Airport upon his return from exile. The killing hastened the demise of the Marcos regime, which has been seen as responsible; within three years Ninoy's widow would be President of the Philippines, and while she was unable to discover who killed her husband, at least she renamed the airport after him.

1991 - Latvia seceded from the Soviet Union, which at least helped to halt the military's August Putsch against the government of Mikhail Gorbachev.
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