Monday, May 24, 2010

"Stir It Up" by Patti LaBelle

If there's one thing I enjoy it's stirring it up; it's only natural, then, that I should enjoy a song called Stir It Up, especially when it's performed by such an electrifying (not to mention stirring) performer as Patti LaBelle.

Taken from the soundtrack to the 1984 film* Beverly Hills Cop, it's the less popular companion to her smash crossover hit New Attitude (and therefore, the one more likely to feature on the Pop Culture Institute, which - in case you hadn't noticed - has a serious obscurity fetish). The song features Desiree Coleman was later re-recorded by LaBelle (and Joss Stone) for the soundtrack to the 2005 film Chicken Little.

*You may have noticed that I haven't included a link to purchase this film; that's because it - and its star Eddie Murphy - are both rancidly homophobic**. Still, mentioning the fact does give me a chance to 'stir it up' some more!

**Because he's obviously a closet case himself; otherwise, he wouldn't be so damn insecure.

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Happy Birthday Patti LaBelle

If gay men have a better friend than Patti LaBelle I'd sure like to meet her; for over forty years - since many years before it was de rigeur, even - Patti's been on our side, choosing to believe that Christ's message was one of love, rather than hate.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketIn recent years she has turned the focus of her loving work on the black gay community, which has naturally raised the ire of many black leaders, most of whom would prefer not to be reminded that such a thing exists; their bigotry is chiefly to blame for the higher than average rate of HIV and AIDS infection among black men (since it encourages the shame-based behaviour of the down low).

Born on this day in 1944, LaBelle first achieved prominence as a member of Labelle, along with Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash; she went solo in 1977, and finally made her crossover from R&B to pop in 1985, with the release of New Attitude, which featured on the soundtrack to Beverly Hills Cop. She's been a steadfast fixture on the record charts and concert circuit ever since.

Currently a spokeswoman for the American Diabetes Association - since diabetes, like homophobia, seems to strike the black community at disproportionate levels - she continues to record, appear on television and has even tried her hand on Broadway, appearing as Motormouth Maybelle in the musical adaptation of Hairspray.
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In Memoriam: Queen Victoria

A poll was held in Canada some years back, asking historians and academics whom they felt was the most important Canadian...

PhotobucketAlmost unanimously they selected Queen Victoria who, as Queen of Canada, made numerous important decisions with regards to this fledgling corner of her Empire in its earliest days. For instance, she placed the capital at Ottawa, on the border between Upper (English) and Lower (French) Canada rather than in the more obvious locations of Toronto or Montreal or even Kingston. Regina, the capital of Saskatchewan, and Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, were both named for her. In addition, her birth is still commemorated in Canada every Victoria Day.

In fact, more places, facilities, and geographical features in Canada are named for her than any other single person - more than 300, in fact - probably because she was queen when, in 1867, Canada became a Dominion, an important step on the colony's journey to full nationhood. Her daughter Princess Louise* and son-in-law the Marquess of Lorne even served the country as the viceregal couple from 1878 until 1883.

Other than that, Queen Victoria was known to take an interest in aboriginal welfare; in return her First Nations wards honoured her with a reverence bordering on worship. Since treaties between European settlers and the First Nations were signed in her name, when they were breached (as often they were) she was not afraid of expressing her displeasure; her attitude towards the country's original inhabitants is one which has since been adopted by her successors as well.

Born on this day in 1819 to Prince Edward Augustus, Duke of Kent and Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, Victoria was sovereign longer than any other (of the forty since 1066) and for more of her life, ascending to the throne following the death of her uncle William IV less than a month after her 18th birthday and reigning until January 1901; until December 2007 she was also the oldest person ever to serve as monarch (a title recently claimed by her great-great granddaughter Elizabeth II).

*The Canadian province of Alberta was named after the royal-born marchioness - later the Duchess of Argyll, whose full name was Louise Caroline Alberta - as was one of its loveliest and most famous geographic features, Lake Louise.

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"No Clause 28" by Boy George

While his was not the only song written to protest Clause 28 - UK punk legends Chumbawamba also recorded a song called Smash Clause 28! Fight The Alton Bill! - Boy George's No Clause 28 was the more widely distributed at the time. Plus it features this groovy Thatcher-baiting video; Thatcher-baiting invariably increases my enjoyment of whatever I may be watching, as I hope it does yours as well.
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Pop History Moment: The Passage of Clause 28

On this day in 1988 Britain's Parliament passed Section 28, more commonly known as Clause 28, an amendment to the Local Government Act 1988 which the Right felt would protect children from being forced to commit homosexual acts in the classroom (or whatever paranoid fantasy they might have been harbouring regarding the teaching of respect for diversity); either way, the measure was the most rancidly homophobic piece of dribble-piss the Thatcher Government could devise - which is saying something, considering the self-loathing capabilities of the many closet cases smugly ensconced therein.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketStill, it wasn't all bad...

Boy George wrote a pop song about it entitled No Clause 28 (catchy title!), and the move caused Ian McKellan (pre-knighthood, shown at left with Michael Cashman, at a rally protesting the measure) to come out. As with all previous attempts to eradicate homosexuals and homosexuality from the tapestry of life - along with, I dare say, all future ones as well - the result was inevitably more homosexuality rather than less.

Bigotry like this, for all that it is corrosive and hateful, really has a way to mobilize communities, which was certainly the case here. Bold-faced names who stood up to oppose Clause 28 included such favourites of the Pop Culture Institute as Jane Horrocks, Helen Mirren, and Simon Callow; in the House of Lords opposition was led by openly gay peer Waheed Alli. Newspapers such as The Guardian, The Independent, and even the rabidly right-wing drivel factory of the The Daily Mirror also voiced their opposition.

Section 28 was repealed by New Labour on June 21st, 2000, in Scotland and on November 18th, 2003, in England.

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What's The Occasion? Victoria Day

Designed to honour the Dominion of Canada's first and most important sovereign, Queen Victoria - whose choice of Ottawa as the nation's capital was pointedly designed to unite the Two Solitudes of English and French (mainly by granting them a common enemy), and who gave her name to one provincial capital and her title (in Latin) to another - over the years this most royal of Canada's national holidays has grown to serve other purposes as well...

PhotobucketFirstly, it gives Canadians a break from whatever lovely spring weather they might have been enjoying by providing an invariably overcast and frequently rainy day at a time of the year otherwise plagued by warm temperatures and sunshine*; secondly, Victoria Day has given successive generations of Canadians a break from having to get drunk in the city by affording them a three-day weekend with which to go and get drunk in the country, christening many a cottage and cabin and campground for the upcoming season with countless puddles of celebratory piss and sick in the process. Plus, sometimes there's even fireworks! To me, nothing says Victoria Day like the smell of burning flesh and whimsical disfigurement caused by drunken frat boys fucking around with gunpowder cunningly packaged to look like candy.

Why not celebrate Victoria Day yourself by watching Victoria & Albert, the 2001 A&E miniseries about the marriage that shaped an Empire which stars Victoria Hamilton as Her Majesty? Or maybe you'd prefer Dame Judi Dench's volcanic performance in the 1997 film Mrs Brown (which I still haven't replaced after junkies broke into my apartment and swiped it in June 2004, but which I may be about to, since I haven't seen it in several years now).

You can even go old school and buy a book, such as Jean Plaidy's biography, entitled Victoria Victorious: The Story of Queen Victoria, which I bought to go with Carrolly Erickson's Her Little Majesty - which I found satisfying, not least of all for its myth-busting qualities; the point is, when it comes to Queen Victoria-related media, the possibilities are far greater than the money most of us have to indulge whatever consumerist whim might overtake you come pay day.

Happy Victoria Day, eh?
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POPnews - May 24th

[It was with considerable razzmatazz that the Brooklyn Bridge was finally opened on this day in 1883, which was maybe less than appropriate, considering the tragedies that occurred during its construction - not the least of which were the death of its architect, John Roebling and the incapacitation of his son and successor, Washington Roebling. In fact, it was largely due to the indefatigable efforts of the younger Roebling's wife, Emily Warren Roebling, that the project was completed at all. The entire thrilling story is told in a work of popular history by David McCullough, called The Great Bridge, which naturally is housed in the collection of the Pop Culture Institute; the tale also opens Brooklyn Bridge (1981), the first documentary made by Ken Burns for PBS, which was narrated by McCullough.]

1487 - Lambert Simnel was crowned as 'King Edward VI' at Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin; Simnel, along with Perkin Warbeck, was a pretender to the English throne which had been usurped by Henry VII at the Battle of Bosworth Field in August 1485. Neither of them had any right to the throne, though, whereas Henry VII did*; so while the King was initially lenient towards them when they became a threat to his rule he reluctantly had them put to death.

*Sort of... At least a better one than either of them!

1621 - The Protestant Union was formally dissolved under pressure from Ferdinand II, the Holy Roman Emperor; the event was one of many factors contributing to the continuance of the Thirty Years' War.

1626 - Peter Minuit bought Manhattan Island from the Canarsee - a Metoac band related to the Lenape Nation - even though they had no right to sell it; the transaction greatly displeased the Weckquaesgeek (whose land it actually was) and who later fought the Dutch during Kieft's War in retaliation. The sale - for 60 guilders but often since rendered as $24 - has been used to bigoted ends ever since to prove the triumph of the supposedly superior European over the stupid heathens, but in fact the sale greatly strengthened the Canarsee in the region by not only undermining their rivals but helping them to obtain technology, since the sale was not in cash but in trade goods for that value, goods which enabled them to get the upper hand geopolitically.

1689 - The English Parliament passed the Act of Toleration protecting Protestant Nonconformists (in other words, those who dissented from the Church of England) from religious discrimination; Roman Catholics were intentionally excluded from protection.

1738 - John Wesley converted from Anglicanism, essentially launching the Methodist movement; the day is celebrated annually by Methodists as Aldersgate Day.

1798 - The Irish Rebellion of 1798 - led by the United Irishmen against British rule and inspired by both the American and French revolutions - began in the counties of Leinster and Kildare.

1830 - Mary Had a Little Lamb, a poem by Sarah Josepha Hale, was published.

1844 - When Samuel F. B. Morse sent a Bible quotation - 'What hath God wrought' (Numbers 23:23) - from the Old Supreme Court Chamber in the US Capitol to his assistant, Alfred Vail, in Baltimore along a single wire strung beside the track of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad it became the first message ever sent by telegraph.

1883 - The Brooklyn Bridge was opened to traffic after 14 years of construction, which had begun in January 1870.

1930 - Amy Johnson became the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia, having departed from Croydon on May 5 and flown a total of 11,000 miles before landing at Darwin; the de Havilland Gipsy Moth in which she made her historic flight (and which she named 'Jason') is currently on display at the Science Museum in London.

1943 - Josef Mengele became chief medical officer at the Auschwitz concentration camp.

1962 - As part of NASA's Project Mercury, astronaut Scott Carpenter orbited the Earth three times in the Aurora 7 space capsule.

1970 - The drilling of the Kola Superdeep Borehole began in the Soviet Union.

1976 - At the so-called Judgment of Paris professional wine testers rated wines from California higher than their French counterparts, challenging the notion that France was the foremost producer of the world's best wines.

1989 - Sonia Sutcliffe - wife of Peter Sutcliffe, the so-called Yorkshire Ripper, who was found guilty in 1981 of the gruesome murders of 13 women - was awarded £600,000* in damages after winning an action against Private Eye; the magazine's editor, Ian Hislop, had the temerity to suggest in print that there was a bidding war for Mrs. Sutcliffe's story - which there was, as was later proven - and famously stated following the trial 'If that's justice, then I'm a banana.' As for Private Eye, they scored a major PR coup by holding a fundraiser, known as the Bananaballs Fund, with the amount left over donated to the families of Sutcliffe's victims.

*The sum was later reduced to £60,000 on appeal, which at the time was £100,000 more than the previous record-holder for libel in Britain, and a hundred times greater than any compensation given to Sutcliffe's victims.

1990 - Earth First! activists Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney were critically injured when a pipe bomb planted in their car exploded in Oakland, California; the FBI initially attempted to charge them with the crime, but once it was proven to them that such a thing was not possible no further investigation was carried out. The culprit or culprits remain unknown.

1992 - The last Thai dictator, General Suchinda Kraprayoon, resigned following a series of pro-democracy protests known as Black May.

1993 - Eritrea gained its independence from Ethiopia with Isaias Afewerki as the new country's first Provisional President.

2001 - Owing to faulty construction the third story of the Versailles wedding hall - in Jerusalem's Talpiot suburb - collapsed, killing 23 and injuring more than 200 in what is considered Israel's worst-ever civil accident. In the aftermath of the disaster laws were passed which tightened the regulation of construction, and the hall's owners - Avraham Adi, Uri Nisim, and Efraim Adiv - were found guilty of causing death by negligence. The ruin was demolished in 2007, and the land remains unoccupied, although across the street there is a memorial garden honouring the victims.
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