Saturday, January 01, 2011

POPnews (EU) - January 1st

[The elevation of Sweden's Princess Victoria to the status of Crown Princess was the source of some controversy, even within the Royal Family itself; her father, King Carl XVI Gustaf - although said not to be opposed to women taking the throne nevertheless wasn't happy about having his son Carl Philip, Duke of Värmland, set aside in the process. Currently the only female heir to any throne in the world (notwithstanding Monaco's Princess Caroline, who is that country's de facto heir, being heiress presumptive rather than heiress apparent) Princess Victoria married personal trainer Daniel Westling in a lavish ceremony in June 2010.]

1438 - Albert II, the Habsburg Duke of Austria, was crowned King of Hungary.

1515 - France's King Francis I succeeded to the throne, filling the vacancy there left by the death of his first cousin, Louis XII.

1527 - Croatia's nobility elected Austria's Ferdinand I King of Croatia in the Parliament on Cetin.

1707 - John V was crowned King of Portugal.

1739 - Bouvet Island was discovered by French explorer Jean-Baptiste Charles Bouvet de Lozier.

1801 - The dwarf planet Ceres was discovered by Giuseppe Piazzi.

1822 - The Greek Constitution of 1822 was adopted by the First National Assembly of Epidaurus.

1876 - The Reichsbank opened in Berlin.

1945 - In retaliation for the Malmedy massacre, US troops massacred 30 SS prisoners at Chenogne; on the same day the German Luftwaffe launched Unternehmen Bodenplatte, a massive but ultimately failed attempt to knock out Allied air power in northern Europe in a single blow.

1958 - The European Community was established.

1973 - Denmark and the Republic of Ireland were admitted into the European Community, on the same day as the UK.

1980 - Sweden's three-year-old Princess Victoria was made that country's Crown Princess in accordance with changes made to that country's Successionsordningen, or Act of Succession, in 1979.

1981 - The Republic of Greece was admitted into the European Community.

1986 - The Kingdom of Spain and the Portuguese Republic were admitted into the European Community.

1993 - Czechoslovakia was divided into the Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

1995 - The Kingdom of Sweden and the republics of Austria and Finland were admitted into the European Union.

1998 - The European Central Bank was established.

1999 - The Euro currency was introduced.

2007 - Bulgaria and Romania officially joined the European Union; also, Bulgarian, Romanian, and Irish became official languages of the European Union, joining 20 others.
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POPnews (US) - January 1st

[The first Rose Queen was Hallie Woods in 1905; this one is Joan Culver, from 1956, while in 2009 (the first year I posted this) the Rose Queen was Courtney Chou Lee. Despite my ambivalence towards beauty pageants - an attitude that would no doubt be different if I were eligible for one - who am I not to post a photo of six fuschia organdy dresses?]

1845 - Brooklyn's Cobble Hill Tunnel was finished, running beneath Atlantic Avenue from Hicks Street to Boerum Place.

1863 - Daniel Freeman made the first claim under the Homestead Act, for a farm in Nebraska.

1890 - The first Tournament of Roses Parade was held in Pasadena, California - twelve years before the first Rose Bowl game in 1902.

1892 - Ellis Island opened its doors to new immigrants.

1898 - New York City annexed land from its surrounding counties, creating the City of Greater New York; the four initial boroughs, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and The Bronx, were joined later that month by Staten Island to create the modern city of five boroughs.

1908 - For the first time, a ball was dropped in New York City's Times Square to signify the start of the New Year at midnight.

1909 - Drilling began on the Lakeview Gusher in California's Midway-Sunset Oil Field; regarded as the largest oil well gusher in the world, it was drained after just 18 months, having produced 90,000 barrels a day at its peak.

1934 - Alcatraz Island became a US federal prison; it had previously served as a military prison during the US Civil War.

1939 - William Hewlett and David Packard founded Hewlett-Packard.

1942 - The Declaration by the United Nations was signed by twenty-six nations during the Arcadia Conference in Washington, DC.

1962 - US Navy SEALs were established.

1983 - The ARPANET officially changed to using the Internet Protocol, creating the Internet.

1990 - David Dinkins was sworn in as New York City's first black mayor.
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Father Guido Sarducci Explains The Five Minute University

Here one of the Pop Culture Institute's spiritual leaders, Father Guido Sarducci, pitches his idea for the Five Minute University to the audience of Gilda Live, a concert recorded by Gilda Radner both in Boston and at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 1980, directed (for stage and screen) by Mike Nichols and produced by Lorne Michaels.

Sarducci, of course, is the creation (rather than the evolution) of comedian Don Novello - born on this day in 1943; the fact that he is not yet Pope dismays me more than I can say. And yes, I know he's not a real priest - I'm just saying, he'd have to be better at it than the current guy, is all...
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Joey Stefano: Chachi Loves Chachi

Ever since the quintessential Chachi - the inimitable Scott Baio - first sashayed across the soundstage of Happy Days, there's been a soft spot in my brain for cute, tough, little Italian guys; of course, I'd hate to meet an actual one in person, for fear of earning myself a thumping*, but from the convenient distance of a telephoto lens or thanks to the intercession of modern consumer electronics there's nothing with quite the same combination of tough and tender...

PhotobucketThat must have been what first attracted me to Joey Stefano. Yeah, that must have been it. Not the heroic manner with which he entertained Ryan Idol's member in 1990's beachfront all-male epic Idol Eyes, and certainly not for the electrifying performance he gave in Chi Chi LaRue's ground-breaking More of a Man...

Of course, porn stars are intended to evoke archetypes, so as to enrichen the otherwise quotidian purpose of the material; in quite the opposite way grimy setting, poor lighting, paper-thin plot, and cheesy music take away from the experience, once the action is got down to the model is free to inhabit the viewer's imagination, which can whisk him unimpeded back through memory, to some glancing encounter with an unobtainable beauty, and evoke something that never was but that needed to be and make it so in some small way. Either that, or he's just a hot guy I like rubbing one out to before overthinking my justification for the whole exhilarating process!

For whatever reason, there was something fascinating about Joey Stefano, and the same cannot be said for all of his costars; honestly, he was eminently watchable, even with his clothes on. Tragedy, of course, plays as great a part in his star quality as the versatility of his performances; born on this day in 1968, his was a short, brutal life which ended with a whimper in November 1994, whereas it had been lived with considerable banging.

I've recommended Charles Isherwood's book Wonder Bread and Ecstasy: The Life and Death of Joey Stefano to my readers before, but I also believe that it should be read by anyone bent on a career in gay porno. Not that everyone contemplating such a move necessarily came from such a shitty home as he did, raised within a culture of addiction and violence, dogged by the shame that only dogma brings. Still, for an industry whose reputation for eating its young is scarcely ameliorated by its filming of the process, I say the best thing they could do in future is provide their prospectives with the shining example of his worst-case scenario and thereby possibly prevent such a thing from happening again, if only once...

*Or worse, for fear of enjoying said thumping.

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In Memoriam: Alfred Stieglitz

His early photographs of New York City continue to exert an influence over the practice of street photography, and his nudes, so revolutionary in their day, still have the power to awe...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketFor elevating photography to an art form, photographers should be forever grateful to Alfred Stieglitz; in 1902 he co-founded the Photo-Secession movement with Edward Steichen, Gertrude Kasebier, Clarence White and Alvin Langdon Coburn to insist that photography should have its own aesthetic, that 'a photograph should look like a photograph' and not a painting, which was a revolutionary moment in the earliest days of the art form.

In later life, Steiglitz would be better known for his relationship with the much younger Georgia O'Keeffe, the scandal of which was sweetened by their fruitful collaboration as artists.

Alfred Stieglitz was born on this day in 1864.

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"Roll Away The Stone" by Mott The Hoople

Birthday wishes go out today to Morgan Fisher, who joined British glam rock band Mott the Hoople as its keyboardist at the apex of their success; in other words, at just about the time it would be rent asunder by the egos of its members and the greed of their label... Not that I'm bitter.

Roll Away the Stone originally appeared on the band's 1974 album The Hoople; to me the band's sound is a melding* of Ray Davies of The Kinks and David Bowie**. Their real claim to fame, though, wasn't Fisher but Ian Hunter, who went on to pen the iconic song Cleveland Rocks - which has been used as the theme tune for The Drew Carey Show, albeit in a cover version recorded by Presidents of the United States of America.

*Which I'd have been well into watching at the time, since back then they were both still hot...
**Who actually produced the band's earlier albums (including 1972's All the Young Dudes, a personal favourite of mine).

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POPnews (UK) - January 1st

[Although it wouldn't be officially opened by Queen Victoria until May 21st (not coincidentally her birthday) the Manchester Ship Canal opened to traffic on this day in 1894; the 36-mile (58 km) long waterway - known in the charming local patois as the 'Big Ditch' - made the rivers Irwell and Mersey navigable for seagoing ships from the Mersey Estuary to Salford Docks, transforming what was then a landlocked industrial powerhouse into an international port.]

1651 - England's exiled King Charles II was crowned King of Scotland at Scone.

1772 - The first traveler's cheques - which could be used in 90 European cities - went on sale at the London Credit Exchange Company in London, more than a century before Thomas Cook made a name for himself doing that very thing; American Express, now the largest issuer of traveler's cheques, was a latecomer to the game, beginning operations only in 1891.

1788 - The first edition of The Times of London - previously The Daily Universal Register - was published.

1818 - Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus was published anonymously by the publishing firm of Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor & Jones of London.

1877 - England's Queen Victoria was proclaimed Empress of India.

1894 - The Manchester Ship Canal opened.

1901 - The British colonies of New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia federated as the Commonwealth of Australia; Edmund Barton was appointed the new country's first Prime Minister.

1906 - British India officially adopted Indian Standard Time.

1948 - British railways were nationalized to form British Rail.

1957 - An Irish Republican Army unit attacked the Brookeborough barracks of the Royal Ulster Constabulary in one of the most famous incidents of the IRA's Operation Harvest.

1973 - The United Kingdom joined the European Union.

1978 - South African Donald Woods, former editor of the East London Daily Dispatch, arrived in London having fled the apartheid regime after he and his family were targeted for his controversial friendship with Steve Biko; he was later portrayed by Kevin Kline in Sir Richard Attenborough's 1987 film Cry Freedom.

1984 - The Sultanate of Brunei gained its independence from the United Kingdom.

1985 - Britain's first mobile phone call was made by television comedian Ernie Wise - out of Morecambe and Wise - to Vodafone.

1995 - Gloucester builder turned serial killer Fred West was found hanging in his cell at Winson Green prison near Birmingham.
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Pop History Moment: Samuel Pepys Begins His Diary

Blessed be God, at the end of the last year I was in very good health, without any sense of my old pain but upon taking of cold. I lived in Axe yard, having my wife and servant Jane, and no more in family than us three. My wife, after the absence of her terms for seven weeks, gave me hopes of her being with child, but on the last day of the year she hath them again...

PhotobucketWhen, on this day in 1660, Samuel Pepys of London began keeping a diary with those very words, nobody - least of all him - could have predicted the sweep of history he'd end up recording there during the nine-and-a-half years he kept at it.

While his take on the current events of the day - the Interregnum and the failure of Cromwell's Protectorate, the restoration of Charles II (at which he was present, having accompanied Sir Edward Montagu to the place of the King's exile at Breda, in the Netherlands), the Second Dutch War, the Great Plague of 1665, and the following year's Great Fire of London - make for an interesting enough read, it's the minutiae of his own life, from his illnesses to his petty squabbles to his lusty embraces, which are most enlightening, rendered as they are by him with great wit and extraordinary empathy.

Pepys protected his musings from prying eyes by keeping them in shorthand, which would take their eventual translator three years to decipher. Although the diary was initially begun for personal reasons, Pepys later rewrote and bound the pages he'd made, as well as indexing them in amongst his rather substantial library (which contained 3,000 volumes at his death, including the diary) as though he expected they would one day be published.

For all his modesty, Pepys was as illustrious as his colleagues in the Royal Society, men such as Sir Isaac Newton and Sir Christopher Wren; his friend John Evelyn remembered him as 'universally beloved, hospitable, generous, learned in many things'. First a civil servant and later an MP, Samuel Pepys walked amongst some of the most illustrious people of any age as one of their own. For all his erudition, though, Pepys could never have foreseen that one day his old words would be given new life on a thing called the Internet in a thing called a blog, which it is; the link is on the blogroll here at the Pop Culture Institute, as well as behind the picture, but I'll include it here too.

Pepys - born in February 1633 - abandoned his diary in May 1669; he died in May 1703.

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"Happy New Year" by ABBA

Happy New Year, which appears on ABBA's 1980 album Super Trouper, is not a song with which I was familiar before I first posted it on this day in 2008; I find it oddly reassuring that, as much as I know about ABBA, there is still so much left to learn... Others of you - Mr. Barr, for instance - might find this possibility disturbing, I know, which I find hilarious.

Here, then, are Agnetha, Benny, Anni-Frid, and Bjorn working their usual magic...
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POPnews - January 1st

[Vancouver's sylvan Point Grey neighbourhood (in the foreground) is possessed of some of the city's finest homes, which are themselves occupied by some of the city's most insufferably stuck-up people - and that's really saying something, given the massive influx of nouveau-riche douchebags the city as a whole has seen over the last decade.]

1804 - French rule ended in Haiti, which became the world's first black republic and the first colony in the West Indies to gain its independence, under Jean-Jacques Dessalines - one of two generals who served under Toussaint L'Ouverture. (The other was Henri Christophe.)

1810 - Major-General Lachlan Macquarie officially became Governor of New South Wales.

1880 - Ferdinand de Lesseps began the French phase of construction on the Panama Canal.

1912 - The Republic of China was established.

1929 - The former municipalities of Point Grey and South Vancouver were amalgamated into Vancouver.

1950 - The state of Ajaigarh was ceded to the Government of India.

1956 - The Republic of the Sudan gained its independence from the Egyptian Republic and the United Kingdom.

1959 - Fulgencio Batista, president of Cuba, was overthrown by Fidel Castro's forces during the Cuban Revolution.

1960 - The Republic of Cameroon gained its independence from France and the United Kingdom.

1962 - Western Samoa gained its independence from New Zealand and changed its name to the Independent State of Western Samoa.

1965 - The People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan was founded in Kabul.

1966 - Following a coup, Colonel Jean-Bédel Bokassa assumed power as president of the Central African Republic.

1982 - Peruvian Javier Pérez de Cuéllar became the first Latin American to hold the title of Secretary General of the United Nations.

1986 - Aruba gained its independence from Curaçao, though it remains in free association with the Kingdom of the Netherlands to this day.

1994 - The Zapatista Army of National Liberation initiated twelve days of armed conflict in the Mexican State of Chiapas.

1997 - Ghanaian diplomat Kofi Annan was appointed Secretary General of the United Nations.

2000 - As the world celebrated, no major crisis arose from the dreaded Y2K computer 'millennium bug'.
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Happy 2011!


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