Monday, March 14, 2011

"Where's The Love" by Hanson

Birthday wishes go out today to Taylor Hanson, one-third of tweeny-bopper garage band Hanson, whose first album came out of the Middle of Nowhere to become a huge hit in 1997; rather than posting their huge hit MMMBop, though, I decided to post their second single, Where's the Love, which I always liked better anyway.
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In Celebration of Johan Paulik

Ask most men if they enjoy porn and they will insist they do not, no way; which is why porn makes more money annually than either the movies or video games. No one's watching it, and those who do all seem to download it for free, which I guess means those profits are being laundered by organized crime and the preponderance of stores that sell it are fronts of some sort. Honestly, there's no other explanation, unless it can be believed that men are capable of lying.

PhotobucketWell, I watch porn, and I'm not some pussy who's afraid to admit it either; Hell, I'll even admit that the porn I watch has absolutely no pussy in it whatsoever. In fact, given that I am interested in all aspects of pop culture, I can even be said to study porn, once I'm done using it for its intended purpose. I've been known to discuss, conversationally, the relative merits of William Higgins versus Kristen Bjorn with very little prompting; like Jack McFarland (in the words of Grace Adler) I 'have a porn collection that requires its own storage facility'.

Defying all expectations, I am just as likely to favour the models found in Titan Media as I am those of Bel Ami; I simply cannot bring myself to be open-minded in every aspect of my life only to be narrow-minded when it comes to my sexuality. Which is why today I am marking the birth of one of the most charismatic porn stars of the past decade, Johan Paulik, with this silly little essay.

Paulik represents a seismic shift in the porn industry, away from the meth-addicted steroid aficionados of Southern California to a healthier, more athletic, altogether human ideal represented by Europeans, especially in countries such as the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary. Like many of his fellow models, he claims to not partake in those activities offscreen which have made him so rightly famous on it, a claim I have no trouble believing. It makes sound business sense to hire models who are unaroused by their circumstances, as a 20-minute scene can take as long as three hours to film, during which someone who's entirely into what they're doing might accidentally spoil the take.

(Plus, I kind of like the idea of straight guys having sex with each other; just don't tell anyone, okay? ~ MSM)

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In Memoriam: Albert Einstein

Physics - that unholy combination of beautiful science with horrifying math - is almost the only topic of conversation that will cause my eyes to glaze over instantly; in fact, whenever it comes up, I know I have about three seconds in which to brace myself on something sturdy or risk falling over. It stands to reason, then, that physicists ought to be the very last people I would write about on the Pop Culture Institute, where our editorial policy consists of the unholy combination of beautiful history with horrifying entertainment (or, if you prefer, vice versa).

PhotobucketYet every so often - okay, twice, but technically that still counts as 'every so often' - a physicist also becomes a pop culture icon, putting me in the kind of awkward position of which a sadistic Pilates instructor (or is that a tautology?) can only dream.

It's happened before, with Sir Isaac Newton; unable to suitably gird myself I passed over his birthday without remarking on his extraordinary life. Today, though, I decided to man up and tackle the life of Albert Einstein, whose remarkable achievements I cannot hope to understand but am still able to admire.*

The man who made E = mc2 famous was born on this day in 1879; best known for his theory of relativity, Einstein's early marriage - to Mileva Marić - ended in divorce in 1919 (after a five-year separation), having produced two sons: Hans Albert in 1904 and Eduard in 1910. A daughter named Lieserl, about whom very little is known, was born before they were married. It was during this time (1905) that he also produced the Annus Mirabilis Papers, on which the majority of his early fame was built; these writings did much to overthrow the ideas of that other physicist I've heard of, Newton. Several months after his divorce, Einstein was remarried, this time to his second cousin Elsa Löwenthal, a relationship which endured until her death in 1936.

When, in 1921, Einstein was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics, he gave the considerable award money to his ex-wife, as had been stipulated in their divorce papers; the following year he made his first trip to New York City. Unlike many people who are savants in their field but idiots in life (say, me, for instance) Einstein was canny enough both to have taken out Swiss citizenship (as early as 1901) and gotten the Hell out of Germany long before Hitler's rise to power in March 1933, having more or less settled at Princeton University by then (although he often spent his winters in Pasadena at the California Institute of Technology).

As war threatened, then broke, and especially after the nuclear genie had been let out of the bottle, Einstein was increasingly concerned with peace, which naturally outraged many who were enamoured of the pro-war position (including much of the US government); Einstein's FBI dossier was soon more than 1400 pages thick, and his enlightened views on race relations, world government, even vegetarianism, meant it became difficult to obtain funding for his work.

Einstein's April 1955 death should have been the end of it, but 45 years later he was voted Time magazine's Person of the Century, his name having long since become synonymous with the word 'genius'; part of the reason for his renown, of course, was his considerable charm, as demonstrated by the 1951 photograph of him which adorns this post, which was taken by UPI photographer Arthur Sasse. When Marilyn Monroe expressed her attraction to him the hearts of every geek in the world were considerably gladdened. He was most famously portrayed in Fred Schepisi's 1994 film I.Q. by another charming uggo, Walter Matthau.

*Hopefully by the time it's Nils Bohr's birthday I'll be over it all!

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Pop History Moment: Queen Opens Heathrow's Terminal 5

More than half a century after she ceremonially laid the first paving stone (in 1953) and opened the first permanent terminal at London's Heathrow Airport (in 1955), Her Majesty The Queen toured its swanky new Terminal 5, which opened to passengers amid much chaos the following March 27th; the first flight to arrive at the cavernous, light-filled £4.3 billion structure hailed from Hong Kong.

PhotobucketIn addition to speeding up the bottleneck in security, streamlining baggage handling, and being more aesthetically pleasing, the new building features an array of posh shops - including Fortnum & Mason and Cartier.

First suggested in 1982, the new terminal will be occupied exclusively by British Airways, which will vacate its current premises in Terminals 1 and 4 as part of a sweeping reorganization of Europe's busiest airport. Terminal 5 will also be linked to the capital by its own rail and Tube connections.

Not everyone is ecstatic about the new terminal building, though; since its use will be reserved exclusively for British Airways, Richard Branson's Virgin Atlantic for one will have to remain in the same dowdy quarters; similarly, environmentalists fear that its opening will pave the way for a third runway - and a commensurate rise in noise and other pollution in the vicinity. To read more, click here.

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Happy Birthday Your Serene Highness

A celebratory 101-gun salute was fired in Monaco after Princess Grace (formerly film star Grace Kelly) gave birth to a son, Albert, on this day in 1958; the following day was declared a holiday in the tiny principality - a wealthy enclave basking in the Mediterranean sun - by his father Rainier III.

PhotobucketThe 'bonny, bonny Prince' - as his Grandmother Kelly declared him - automatically took precedence over his older sister Princess Caroline, giving the House of Grimaldi (which has ruled Monaco since 1297) another generation of life, thanks to that universal Holy Grail of the aristocracy, a male heir.

Ironically enough, though, she's the one who may have provided for the survival of the dynasty, as thus far none of Albert's children have been born in wedlock; despite a high profile relationship with model Claudia Schiffer, His Serene Highness has preferred to splash out the fruits of his fertility illegitimately - whether on real estate agents or air hostesses or porn stars, causing necessary changes to be made to Monaco's constitution to ward off any danger of extinction to the royal line.

Currently, the Prince is scheduled marry South African Olympic swimmer Charlene Wittstock in July, one of three royal weddings the Pop Culture Institute will be following in 2011*.

*The others, of course, being Wills and Kate in April and Zara Phillips and Mike Tindall in July.

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"Disco Duck" by Rick Dees

Years before Rick Dees became a respected purveyor of acclaimed popular music via his syndicated radio show The Rick Dees Weekly Top 40 Countdown he managed to shovel this unholy drivel into every ear it reached; in fact, more than six million copies of Disco Duck were sold in 1976, making it very nearly one of the worst hate crimes in history. Naturally, I couldn't resist including it here on his birthday...

This clip is practically the song's definitive performance, from a little show called The Midnight Special; produced by Dick Ebersol, it was eventually canceled so that he could take over Saturday Night Live after the departure of Lorne Michaels. After Michaels' return to SNL, Ebersol went on to produce Friday Night Videos, which wouldn't have showed anything this louche.
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POPnews - March 14th

[The final resting place of President John F. Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery is adorned with this Eternal Flame, intended to represent both his undying spirit and the legacy of his presidency; Kennedy shares the grave site with his widow, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and two of their children - Patrick Bouvier Kennedy and John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Jr. - while two of his brothers, slain New York Senator Robert F. Kennedy and long-serving Massachusetts senator Edward M. Kennedy, are buried nearby.]

1457 - China's Jingtai Emperor died, having ascended the throne in September 1449 after his older brother the Zhengtong Emperor was militarily defeated and taken prisoner by the Oirat Mongols of Esen Khan, and just three days after abdicating in favour of that same brother, who for some reason took the unprecedented step of changing his regnal name to the Tianshun emperor upon his ascension.

1590 - Henry of Navarre (the future Henri V) and his army of Huguenots defeated the forces of the Catholic League under the Duc de Mayenne at the Battle of Ivry during the French Wars of Religion.

1647 - Bavaria, Cologne, France and Sweden signed the Truce of Ulm, ending the Thirty Years' War.

1757 - On-board the HMS Monarch, Admiral John Byng of Britain's Royal Navy was executed by firing squad for neglecting his duty in failing to prevent Minorca falling to the French following the Battle of Minorca.

1794 - Eli Whitney was granted a patent for the cotton gin.

1889 - German Ferdinand von Zeppelin patented his Navigable Balloon.

1903 - The Hay-Herran Treaty, granting the United States the right to build the Panama Canal, was ratified by the US Senate, although it would later be rejected by the Colombian Senate.

1910 - The Lakeview Gusher, the largest oil well gusher in US history, vented to atmosphere near Bakersfield, California; in all an estimated 9 million barrels (1.4 billion liters/378 million gallons) of oil were spilled before the gusher was brought under control within 18 months, by about September 1911.

1915 - Cornered off the coast of Chile by the Royal Navy after fleeing the Battle of the Falkland Islands during World War I, the German light cruiser SMS Dresden was abandoned and scuttled by her crew.

1942 - John Bumstead and Orvan Hess became the first in the world to successfully treat a patient, Anne Miller, using penicillin.

1943 - The Kraków Ghetto was declared liquidated after less than 48 hours.

1958 - When Prince Albert (a male heir to the House of Grimaldi and therefore the throne of Monaco) was born to the reigning Prince Rainier III and his wife, the former Hollywood film star Grace Kelly, the populace of the tiny Mediterranean principality became very publicly overjoyed at the disinheritance of the couple's previous child - Princess Caroline, born in January 1957 - who ever since her brother's April 2005 ascension has nevertheless been heiress presumptive.

1960 - The Lovell Telescope at the UK's Jodrell Bank Observatory contacted the Pioneer 5 probe, which was then 655,000 km (407,000 miles) from the Earth.

1964 - A jury in Dallas found nightclub owner Jack Ruby guilty of killing Lee Harvey Oswald, assassin of John F. Kennedy, and sentenced him to death.

1967 - The body of President John F. Kennedy was moved to a permanent burial place at Arlington National Cemetery.

1978 - The Israeli Defense Force invaded and occupied southern Lebanon during Operation Litani.

1984 - Gerry Adams, head of Sinn Féin, was seriously wounded during an assassination attempt carried out by the Ulster Freedom Fighters in central Belfast.

1991 - The so-called Birmingham Six were freed after spending 16 years in jail for the Birmingham pub bombings; all were eventually awarded damages from £840,000 to £1.2 million.

1995 - Astronaut Norman Thagard became the first American to ride into space on-board a Russian launch vehicle.
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