The Birthday Party

Click to Listen to the Show (24 MB MP3)

Happy Birthday[Rob Lee / Flickr]

2006 has been a big year for big birthdays. We started the season with Mozart’s 250th and Beckett’s 100th — now it’s time to honor the young’uns. This year Queen Elizabeth II, Hugh Hefner and Fidel Castro turn 80 — as do Alan Greenspan, Jerry Lewis and Cloris Leachman. But there is something remarkable about the Windsor-Hefner-Castro triumvirate. Each one of them came to power nearly 50 years ago and they each did their part to define the second half of the 20th century…they continue to thrive in the 21st. So come raise a glass and join us at the intersection of Monarchism, Hedonism and Communism.

At Open Source we can’t afford to hire an event planner so we turn to you to help us come up with a guest list. Who do you think we should invite to commemorate this trio?

A NOTE FROM GRANT MCCRACKEN

Hef’s Place[Eggrollboy / Flickr]

Whenever we do a show that encompases history, economics, cultural trends, etc., we turn to blogger Grant McCracken. When pulling this show together we asked for his thoughts on the Windsor-Castro-Hefner triumvirate

Hefner, Castro and Elizabeth II have not quite outlived their claims to credibility but they are cutting it very, very fine.

Normally, people who don’t change are punished with accusations of self parody. But there is a more particular problem. Each of them have built their standing on shifting sands. They are actually outliving the ideology that brought them to power.

In a world ruled (more or less) by meritocracy, monarchies look increasingly odd.

In a world ruled (more or less) by the creativity of crowds (and mass cultural invention), those who claim to be inventors of lifestyle look increasingly implausible. And let’s face it, the blondes don’t help.

In a world ruled by dynamism, those who claim power through command economies and command cultures look entirely dubious.

Otherwise, they’re fine. Good fun for ceremonial occasions, the occasional photo opp, an endearingly unstable touchpoint in contemporary culture.

Grant McCracken, Blogger and Research Affiliate in the Comparative Media Studies at MIT

After reading this email to Open Source we called McCracken to get his thoughts on Hefner and the Playboy empire

Click to Listen to interview with Grant McCracken (1.2 MB MP3)

Robert Thompson

Trustee Professor of Television and Popular Culture, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications

Founding Director, Center for the Study of Popular Television, Syracuse University

Georgie Anne Geyer

Columnist and author, Guerilla Prince

Alex Cockburn

Journalist and Editor, CounterPunch

Extra Credit Reading

erratic_hippie, someday, i’ll tell my grandchildren…, LiveJournal, August 1 2006.

guy2k, Caring About Cuba’s Future Means Caring About Fidel’s, Capitolette, August 2 2006.

Mateo, Hugh Hefner Celebrates His Birthday Whenever He Feels, Useless Things, May 25 2006.

Katie Fretland, Pomp Marks Queen Elizabeth’s 80th Birthday, Newsvine, June 17 2006.

Charlie Bravo, Criminally bizarre birthday bash, KillCastro: A War Blog, July 8 2006.

Father Raymond J. de Souza, Smut’s Savvy Peddler, National Post, April 20 2006.

Jon Lee Anderson, Castro’s Last Battle, The New Yorker, July 24 2006.

British Monarchy Media Centre, British Monarchy Podcast.

Playboy, Happy Birthday Hef!, Playboy.com.

1926 Births, Wikipedia.

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