Friday, December 17, 2010

"There Ain't No God For Dogs" by Milla Jovovich

Birthday wishes go out today to Milla Jovovich, the Ukraine-born, London-raised triple hyphenate: model-actor-singer. Despite an early controversial appearance in Return to the Blue Lagoon (1991), plus roles in such high profile films as Chaplin (playing real-life Mildred Harris) and the perennial stoner classic Dazed and Confused, it wasn't until her appearance, opposite Bruce Willis and Gary Oldman, in The Fifth Element that Jovovich was catapulted into superstardom.

Which brings us to this video... There Ain't No God For Dogs may be the weirdest song I've ever heard, yet I found it oddly moving. Here she is, performing it for Carson Daly on Total Request Live.
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Eugene Levy: Man Of A Thousand Characters

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketSome of the finest moments I've ever spent watching television have been spent watching SCTV; the iconic sketch show - filmed entirely in Edmonton! - was anarchic enough to ensure a constant supply of hilarity, but also had a kind of cohesion that was absent from other shows of its ilk, in that the sketches functioned as shows within a show.

Life in Melonville would have been pretty dull indeed, had it not been for the comedic talents of one Eugene Levy (born on this day in 1946); responsible for dozens of that show's characters, Levy honed his craft with the Second City troupe before making the jump to television and then to movies.

A stand-out in just about any role he assays - from 1986's Club Paradise to 2006's Over the Hedge, and everything in between - he was especially good in one of the Pop Culture Institute's favourite shows, the little-seen cult classic sitcom Greg the Bunny.
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Happy Birthday Craig Kielburger

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketIt was the 1994 murder of Iqbal Masih which turned Canadian Craig Kielburger from a student into an activist; in 1995 Kielburger founded Free The Children, an international relief agency dedicated to ending the practice of child labour. Free The Children also builds schools and provides health care in developing nations, especially in rural areas. That he founded the organization in the first place is grounds enough for kudos... That he was only thirteen when he did is nothing short of a marvel.

In 1995 he founded Me to We, and in 1999 - still aged only 17 - he cofounded Leaders Today, a youth leadership training organization that has helped more than 350,000 young people worldwide to achieve their potential.

In 2007, at the age of only 24, Craig Kielburger was inducted into the Order of Canada for his efforts, which then amounted to half his life; by the age many people are only just figuring out what they want to become, Kielburger not only has it figured out but is an old hand at it.

The Pop Culture Institute is watching the career of this extraordinary young man with great anticipation...
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"Radio Free Europe" by R.E.M.

Birthday wishes go out to Mike Mills, bass player for R.E.M.

Radio Free Europe was R.E.M.'s first single, released on the independent Hib-Tone label in 1981; it was later re-recorded and used on their 1983 debut album Murmur, which was released by I.R.S. Records.
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"Elevator Rock" by Tommy Steele

Birthday wishes go out today to Britain's original teen idol, Tommy Steele, who's seen here performing one of his more obscure hits, Elevator Rock, in the 1957 film The Tommy Steele Story; Steele rose to prominence playing at various Soho coffee bars - including The 2i's Coffee Bar and The Cat's Whisker - both as a solo act and as part of such ensembles as Wally Whyton's Vipers Skiffle Group and The Steelmen.

Following a long career as a singer, actor, author, and sculptor, in April 2008 Steele felt the need to add fabulist to his resume, after an unlikely tale about a visit to the UK by Elvis Presley 'some time in 1958' came to light during an interview showbiz impresario Bill Kenwright gave to Ken Bruce on his popular BBC Radio 2 program in a segment called Tracks of My Years; Steele later confirmed the story in an interview with the Daily Mail. Presley famously made only one visit to the UK during his lifetime - a short stopover at Scotland's Prestwick Airport in March 1960 on his way home from a well-publicized hitch with the US Army in West Germany.

Given that in 1958 Elvis Presley was one of the most famous people on the planet, and would have been mobbed by hysterical women wherever he went, it seems unlikely that any disguise* would have been able to conceal him long enough to travel from Scotland to London and back - let alone while touring the capital for the day with Tommy Steele, including a visit to the Houses of Parliament - and not be spotted. As much as the Pop Culture Institute would like the story to be true, we're very much with Paul Merton** in doubting that it is. Lamar Fike - a former member of the so-called Memphis Mafia who was at the time Elvis' roommate - later claimed on a fan site that he was the man Steele showed around London on that day.

*Even an American military uniform and regulation short haircut.
**Who devoted considerable time debunking the story on
Have I Got News for You, albeit with considerable aplomb; the discussion in the clip begins around the 6:30 mark...

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Pop History Moment: The Wright Brothers Take Flight

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Orville and Wilbur Wright's Wright Flyer I, which made its iconic maiden flight over the dunes of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, wasn't the first heavier-than-air craft to fly, nor was this the first flight by the Wright Brothers, nor even the first flight by them in the Wright Flyer I; three days earlier at the same location Wilbur took off, pulled up too sharply, stalled the engine, and crashed after about three seconds, causing minor damage to their flimsy, kite-like airplane.

Having repaired the machine, they returned to try again on this day in 1903, and this time found success; the real innovation on display that day, though, was not the flight itself but the three axis-control which enabled the pilot to actually pilot the plane and not merely serve as its ballast. In addition to the Wright Brothers themselves, the flights were witnessed by five people: Adam Etheridge, John Daniels and Will Dough of the coastal lifesaving crew, area businessman W.C. Brinkley, and Johnny Moore, a boy from the village.

The brothers each made two flights that day; first, Orville, who flew 120 feet in 12 seconds at a speed of 6.8 mph (as seen in the above photograph), then Wilbur who went 200 feet. On his second attempt of the dayOrville went 175 feet; finally, it was Wilbur who took the aircraft a whopping 853 feet before the front elevator supports snapped. This final flight, like the others, achieved a maximum altitude of ten feet and resulted in a bumpy landing.

Following these preliminary flight tests, the plane was being taken for repairs when a gust of wind picked it up and rolled it end-over-end, damaging it to such an extent that it was never flown again; although it was further damaged during the Great Dayton Flood of March 1913, in later years the Wright Flyer I was restored and, after much bureaucratic wrangling, came to the Smithsonian Institution in 1948, where it resides to this day.
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POPnews - December 17th

[That the Simpsons have evolved over their record-breaking run is evident in this image of them from their earliest appearances.]

920 CE - Romanos I was crowned co-emperor alongside the underage Emperor Constantine VII; he then married his daughter Helena Lekapene to the pre-teen monarch over the objections of the boy's mother, Zoe, who was so formidable she went from the concubine of Leo VI to Empress and thence to being the regent of the Byzantine Empire on her son's behalf.

942 CE - Normandy's Duke William I was assassinated by supporters of Arnulf I, Count of Flanders.

1538 - Pope Paul III excommunicated England's King Henry VIII.

1586 - Go-Yozei became Emperor of Japan following the abdication of his grandfather Emperor Ōgimachi.

1600 - France's King Henry IV married Marie de' Medici following the annulment of his marriage to Marguerite de Valois.

1807 - Napoleon issued the Milan Decree in order to enforce the Berlin Decree, which had initiated the Continental System, whereby the French Emperor hoped to ruin England's economy by forcing the rest of Europe to undertake a trade embargo against them. The entire thing backfired, not only hurting Europe but strengthening the British Empire into the bargain.

1819 - Simón Bolívar declared the independence of the Republic of Gran Colombia in Angostura - now the Venezuelan city of Ciudad Bolívar.

1862 - Union General Ulysses S. Grant issued General Order No. 11, expelling all Jews from Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky; although he issued the order to stop the smuggling of cotton - which he blamed on the Jews - he later disowned it, claiming it had been drafted by an underling and that he had signed it without reading it.

1865 - The first performance of Franz Schubert's Symphony No. 8 (best known as his Unfinished Symphony) was given in Vienna, under the direction of Johann Herbeck - 37 years after its composer's death.

1918 - During the the so-called Darwin Rebellion as many as 1000 members of the Australian Workers' Union, led by Harold Nelson, marched on Government House in the capital of Australia's Northern Territory, Darwin; once there they burnt an effigy of John Gilruth, demanding his resignation from the post of Administrator of the Northern Territory. Gilruth later fled the town onboard HMAS Encounter.

1935 - The Douglas DC-3 airplane - engineered by a team led by Arthur E. Raymond - made its maiden flight; the DC-3 would revolutionize cross-country commercial aviation in America, reducing the east-west flight from more than 32 hours in 1934 to under 15 by 1936, as well as providing sleeping berths and an onboard kitchen.

- Australia's Prime Minister Harold Holt went for a swim near Portsea, Victoria - and never came back; while there are numerous theories as to what happened to him, for a satirical take on the tragic event, only Shaun Micallef's The Micallef Program will do.

1969 - The US Air Force closed its investigation of UFOs, called Project Blue Book, after 17 years of study found no credibility in thousands of sightings.

1973 - 30 passengers were killed in an attack at Rome's Leonardo da Vinci Airport when Palestinian terrorists threw phosphorous bombs onto Pan-Am's Flight 110; the plane had been destined for Beirut.

1978 - The Workers Party of Jamaica was founded by Trevor Munroe; the anniversary is only pertinent because the party is now defunct, its founder has since renounced Marxism, and I felt like gloating over a failed Marxist movement because that's what I'm like.

1981 - US Brigadier-General James L. Dozier was kidnapped by Italy's left-wing Red Brigade in Verona; he was rescued during a raid on an apartment in Padua 42 days later.

1983 - Harrods was bombed by the IRA, killing six and injuring 90.

1989 - Originally a series of shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show (beginning in April 1987) The Simpsons characters were given their own show on Fox; that show's first episode, Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire, debuted on this day. Currently in its twentieth season, it is both the longest-running animated series in American prime-time, as well as the longest-running sitcom in American history.

1999 - The United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 54/134 designating November 25th thereafter as the annual International Day to Eliminate Violence Against Women.
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