A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
1869 – Superhero and moral darling, Mohandas Gandhi. Gandhi has been deified by his numerous and dedicated followers for his use of civil disobedience to effect social and political change. Although Gandhi was a great teacher and spiritual leader, to be fair, his opponent in his various campaigns was The British Empire, the most benevolent oppressor in history. Had he tried hunger strikes and civil disobedience in any other jurisdiction of the time — notably the Russian, German or even American empires — today he would be referred to as Gandhi Who?
1951 – Sting, a musician and songwriter who is one of a growing number of celebrities we’re entrusting the future of our planet to. For some strange reason, as world problems get bigger and deeper, we have developed a burning need to replace our economists, scientists, planners and engineers with rock stars, actors and talk show hosts. This is not Sting’s fault; he’s doing the best he can. But even he must realize that playing an awesome bass guitar doesn’t pre-qualify you to tackle urban planning, agrarian reform or regional infrastructure renewal – even if you get some help from Bono and Sean Penn.
1872 — Phileas Fogg left London at 8:45 p.m. to begin his journey Around the World in Eighty Days. Jules Verne’s novel, published in 1873, was inspired by an advertisement for the first Trip around the World, promoted by Thomas Cook Travel. Fictional Fogg did make it around the world in 80 days and win his bet at the Reform Club, but it was New York World reporter Nellie Bly who undertook the same journey for real in 1889 and made it in 72. But, of course, she was a woman.
1950 – Peanuts began syndication in 8 newspapers across the United States and it would continue every day for 50 years — until January 2000. In its heyday, Charlie Brown and his gang dominated the comic strip world, producing books, TV specials, hit songs and a Broadway musical. Peanuts was merchandised everywhere and the characters were used in a number of commercial campaigns. However, the world changed and “Happiness is a Warm Puppy” was replaced by more strident comics with more social and political satire. Still, there aren’t very many people around who can’t whistle the theme from “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Try it.
1985 – Roy Scherer Jr., one of the first notable deaths in the AIDS epidemic. Scherer was a Hollywood actor who appeared in over 60 movies, including Giant, A Farewell to Arms and Tobruk. Although he apparently made no secret of his homosexuality within the movie community, his loyal fans and the general public were kept in the dark throughout his career. He is best remembered for the romantic comedies he made with Doris Day under his stage name: Rock Hudson.
1988 – Generoso Pope Jr., media giant and undisputed king of “slime from the checkout line”. In 1952, Pope bought The New York Enquirer. Two years later, he changed the name to The National Enquirer and journalism has never recovered. The Enquirer, as it has come to be known, is considered an unholy joke by most members of the serious media; however, its influence in today’s journalism is unmistakeable. Just look around you! The weird thing is in recent history, The Enquirer has actually broken some pretty big stories, including Rush Limbaugh’s drug habit and John Edwards’ extramarital affair.