Monday, February 21, 2011

Pop History Moment: Televangelist Jimmy Swaggart Disgraced


On this day in 1988 Jimmy Swaggart - at the time America's leading television evangelist - resigned from his ministry with the Assemblies of God after revelations he had been consorting with a prostitute named Debra Murphree; she later revealed that, while he had been a paying customer of hers, they'd never engaged in sexual conduct, although later still she failed a polygraph test fairly thoroughly. Their illicit relationship came to light after Swaggart's condemnations of fellow disgraced televangelists Jim Bakker and Marvin Gorman, following which Gorman hired a private detective to follow Swaggart to the Travel Inn on Airline Highway in New Orleans. Because that's what Jesus would do.

'I have sinned against you, my Lord,' Swaggart tearfully confessed to his congregation, 'And I would ask that your precious blood would wash and cleanse every stain until it is in the seas of God's forgiveness.' The fact that he should be entitled to forgiveness when so many far more blameless people had been subject to the excoriation of his myriad judgements didn't seem to strike him as ironic.

Despite the fact that the whole sordid mess exposed the hypocrisy and charlatanism of televangelism the profession still inexplicably flourishes...

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Pop History Moment: Nixon Opens China


On this day in 1972 US President Richard Nixon arrived in China at the start of a week-long summit aimed at ending 20 years of frosty relations between the two countries. It can be said to be somewhat successful as now, thirty years later, America's manufacturing base is dwindling to nil and China holds a sizable portion of that nation's debt.

Stay tuned to see how it all plays out...

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"Love Me Or Leave Me" by Nina Simone

Not only was the late Nina Simone (who was born on this day in 1933) difficult to categorize as an artist, as a woman she was similarly defiant - recalcitrant even; the effect of growing up when she did, as a black woman in the United States, appears to have left her increasingly embittered and hostile as she grew older. Although surrounded by fans - many of them gay men - until her death in April 2003, her hostility towards those fans made their devotion a challenge.

Still, sometimes someone needs to be a jerk (especially when being nice isn't yielding appreciable results) and Nina Simone threw herself into this aspect of her activism with zeal. With such songs in her repertoire as Mississippi Goddam, Strange Fruit, Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood, To Be Young, Gifted and Black, and Sinnerman Simone savaged blacks and whites alike for their role in the perpetuation of racism.

Yet as both a singer and a pianist she was also a gifted interpreter of jazz standards, such as I Put a Spell on You, Little Girl Blue, and You'll Never Walk Alone.
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The Death of Tim Horton

Like many Canadians of a certain vintage*, I first became aware of Tim Horton when visiting one of the many stores across the country that bear his name... To an earlier generation, though, Horton's name would have been familiar for the amazing 24 seasons** he played in the National Hockey League, during which time his defensive skills benefited the Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Buffalo Sabres.

PhotobucketGenerally acknowledged as the strongest man in hockey, he appeared in 486 consecutive regular-season games between February 1961 and February 1968 - an NHL record for a defenceman until it was broken by Kārlis Skrastiņš in February 2007. That he began this epic run in the midst of his 11th season makes it even more epic, in my opinion, but that it also came after suffering a broken leg and jaw*** - having been checked by Bill Gadsby of the New York Rangers during a game in March 1955 - must have made Horton seem immortal among his colleagues...

Horton may have begun to believe the hype himself, because on this day in 1974 - while traveling through St. Catharines along Queen Elizabeth Way from Toronto to his home in Buffalo following a game - he lost control of his De Tomaso Pantera sports car (a gift from Sabres' GM George 'Punch' Imlach), struck a concrete culvert at Twelve Mile Creek, and flipped the vehicle. Horton wasn't wearing a seatbelt, and was ejected; he was later pronounced dead on arrival at a nearby hospital. Eyewitnesses estimate he'd been traveling at a speed of 160 kph (100 mph), and he may have also been multiply intoxicated, having been given Dexamyl for a recent injury. An autopsy report, released in 2005, also indicated his blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit.

And so ended one of the greatest careers in hockey... His early death meant that he wasn't present when, in 1977, he was posthumously inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame; it also prevented Horton from seeing the company he'd started in 1964 become Canada's largest restaurant chain, with more than 2700 franchises here and 80 across the American Northeast as well.

*Forty and younger, thank you very much!
**Including four
Stanley Cup championships!
***The kind of injuries generally considered catastrophic enough to end a career.
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One Wonders: Who Taught You To Hate Yourself?

My all-time favourite Malcolm X speech asks the single most important question - rhetorical or otherwise - ever spoken: Who Taught You To Hate Yourself? Truer words were never spoken...
The Pop Culture Institute is proud to present it here during Black History Month, but would post it any day of the year, and that's the truth.

So... Who taught you to hate yourself?
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Pop History Moment: The Assassination of Malcolm X

The universe has a way of balancing things - light and dark, hot and cold, black and white... The American Civil Rights Movement was once possessed of a similar equilibrium; as Dr. King was preaching nonviolence and unity to a nation still violently enamoured of segregation, Malcolm X was raising consciousness with talk of revolution and rage.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingOf course, neither way was entirely wrong or right, which is yet another of those balancing acts that occurs in life. As a white man I can comfortably say that Dr. King's message (and methods) are more to my liking, but that as a gay man in a straight society I understand where Malcolm's anger came from; while I may fear the expression of it (especially when it might be needlessly directed at me) when it must be expressed I can only hope that it can be done in a healing, rather than hurting, manner.

That equilibrium, then, which pitted the southern Baptist way of Dr. King against the Harlemized militancy of the Nation of Islam, teetered irrevocably on this day in 1965, when, shortly after he began addressing a crowd of 400 at the Audubon Ballroom a commotion erupted on the floor of the auditorium below him. As Malcolm attempted to ascertain what the problem was, he was approached by a man who shot him at point blank range with a sawed-off shotgun; two other men fired on him with handguns. In total, he was hit 16 times.

As Malcolm was rushed to Columbia Presbyterian Hospital (where he would be pronounced dead on arrival) his assailants were beaten and berated by the crowd that had been robbed of the opportunity to hear their hero speak, even as the man himself had been robbed of the right to speak to them. His assailant, Talmadge Hayer, was caught at the scene of the crime to which he later confessed; Norman 3X Butler and Thomas 15X Johnson were later detained, and although Hayer resolutely maintained their innocence (even backing up his claim with the Hayer affidavits while simultaneously implicating Leon David and Wilbur McKinley), it was Hayer, Butler, and Johnson who served the time. None of which matters much, since ultimately it was Malcolm X who paid the penalty...

In death Malcolm X has hopefully experienced the peace that, to his way of thinking and in his experience, would never have been available to him in life as a black man in America; that he had to die to do it is a shame and a disgrace which must never be forgotten.

Two documents best depict the life and times of Malcolm X: the first, a posthumous memoir The Autobiography of Malcolm X (co-written by Alex Haley) has always faced challenges as to its veracity; the second, Spike Lee's masterful 1992 film Malcolm X (starring Denzel Washington and Angela Bassett and based on the earlier book) is considered a landmark of the biopic genre.

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POPnews - February 21st

[Incas, the last known Carolina parakeet, ironically died in the same cage where Martha, the world's last known Passenger Pigeon, had cooed her last four years earlier in September 1914.]

1245 - Thomas, the first known Bishop of Finland, was granted resignation by Pope Innocent IV having confessed to torture and forgery; after donating his books to a Dominican convent in Sigtuna he retired to a similar institution in Visby to live out the remaining three years of his life.

1543 - At the Battle of Wayna Daga a combined army of Ethiopian and Portuguese troops commanded by Ethiopia's Emperor Galawdewos defeated the Muslim army of Ahmad ibn Ibrihim al-Ghazi.

1613 - Mikhail I was unanimously elected Tsar by a national assembly, beginning the Romanov dynasty of Imperial Russia, although it took them five weeks to find the teenager and his mother at the Ipatiev Monastery near Kostroma.

1848 - Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels published the Communist Manifesto; it took the world just under a hundred and fifty years to discover that, however laudable their aims might have been in principle, the book's tenets are utterly unworkable in practice.

1874 - George Staniford and Benet A. Dewes published the first issue of the Oakland Daily Tribune.

1878 - The first telephone book was issued, in New Haven, Connecticut; it was all of a single page, and listed just 50 numbers.

1885 - The newly completed Washington Monument was dedicated in the presence of US President Chester A. Arthur and Civil War hero William Tecumseh Sherman.

1916 - The First World War's pivotal Battle of Verdun began; lasting until mid-December, it was a crucial engagement along the Western Front between France and Germany.

1918 - The last Carolina parakeet died in captivity at the Cincinnati Zoo, although it wouldn't be until 1939 that the species was considered extinct.

1919 - The German socialist Kurt Eisner was assassinated by Anton Graf von Arco auf Valley; his death resulted in the establishment of the Bavarian Soviet Republic and parliament and government of Bavaria fleeing Munich.

1945 - The Empire of Japan's Kamikaze planes sank the escort carrier USS Bismarck Sea and badly damaged the USS Saratoga near Iwo Jima, where the two craft had been assisting the American invasion of that island.

1948 - NASCAR was incorporated.

1952 - In Dhaka, capital of East Pakistan (present-day Bangladesh), police opened fire on a procession of students who were demanding the establishment of Bengali as the country's official language, killing four people and starting a country-wide protest which eventually led to the recognition of Bengali as one of the national languages of Pakistan; the day has since been declared International Mother Language Day by UNESCO.

1958 - The Peace symbol was designed and completed by Gerald Holtom; it had been commissioned by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, in protest against the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment, and remains a powerful emblem of both the 1960s and the anti-war movement to this day.

1971 - The Convention on Psychotropic Substances was signed at Vienna.

1972 - US President Richard Nixon made an historic visit to the People's Republic of China in an attempt to normalize Sino-American relations.

1973 - Over the Sinai Desert, a pair of Israeli F-4 Phantom II fighter aircraft shot down Libyan Arab Airlines Flight 114 jet killing 108 of the 113 passengers and crew on board over the jetliner's refusal to leave Israeli airspace.

1995 - Steve Fossett landed in Leader, Saskatchewan, making him the first person to make a solo flight across the Pacific Ocean in a balloon.

2004 - Europe's first political party organization, the European Greens, was established in Rome.
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