I ran across a Herblock cartoon dating from the Kennedy administration in a civics textbook the other day. Captioned "Uh--Perhaps we should have a consultation," it shows twin incarnations of his stock character from that period representing the American Medical Society, protesting in front of the White House, recoiling in surprise from each other as they meet at a corner of the fence.
The AMA protester on the right is holding a placard reading: "The J.F.K. health plan is a fooler because it doesn't even go far enough to pay doctor bills!"
The AMA protester on the left has a placard reading: "The J.F.K. health plan goes so far it would socialize medicine!"
This week's cartoon does not address any specific criminal case. In the process of deciding which news story to draw about every week, I always find at least one story about a gay-bashing somewhere. Sometimes, hate crime charges are added to the obvious murder or aggravated assault charges against the accused; but in other cases, the prosecution exhibits a baffling reticence to bring any serious charges at all.
Take for example, the case of Robert Hannah, who has pled guilty to a charge of misdemeanor assault for (ahem, allegedly) fatally assaulting Tony Hunter at Be Bar in Washington D.C. Hannah claims that he punched Hunter because Hunter made sexual advances to him. Hunter died ten days later as a result of the assault.
If heterosexual men were subject to straight panic attacks from uninterested women they made sexual advances toward, you can bet the women would not be charged with misdemeanor assault.
When the American Foundation for Equal Rights announced that it would challenge the anti-marriage amendment to California's state constitution approved by the voters in November, mainstream LGBT rights organizations said it was too soon to go to the courts. They had been defeated in the state supreme court before the election, and again in the election itself. Since the AFER suit is proceeding anyway, those mainstream organizations have offered their assistance, but those offers are getting a chilly response.
It's hard to know whose side to be on in this kerfuffle. A quixotic attempt to refight a lost battle might do more harm than good, but what point is counseling patience while real families are being hurt? I'm reminded of a classic Feiffer cartoon: six panels show basically the same cartoon updated from 1865 to 1965, supposedly drawn by cartoonists counseling patience on Blacks' civil rights -- activists pushing for real change are represented in the cartoons-within-the-cartoon as a radical individual doing damage to his own cause.
The point of the Feiffer cartoon, of course, is that no progress comes of patience. So lead, follow, or get out of the way; just don't bleed on the car, please.
(This is an old essay from my Geocities site, resurrected for the hell of it.)
I hear that one of the reasons "Brokeback Mountain" didn't win Best Picture in 2006 is that the actual winner, "Crash," is about Los Angeles, which all the actors and writers and directors who live out there and vote for Best Picture can relate to, and none of the characters in "Brokeback Mountain" ever come close to setting foot in a big city.
I can sort of understand that. Now, I don't live in wide open country, and I don't live in a big city either. I grew up in a small town of under 100,000 people, and now live in an even smaller village of about 5,000 (about 10 minutes away from the small town). The small town, Racine, was once portrayed in the Goldie Hawn - Mel Gibson flick "Bird on a Wire" as having a Chinatown in it; I can assure you that it doesn't. But the people who make films live in cities that do have Chinatowns in them, and perhaps they can't relate to a city without one.
So anyway, as a gay man, I'm supposed to have liked "Brokeback Mountain" for the gay content alone. I'm supposed to like "Will & Grace" for the same reason, even though I have a really hard time relating to its characters. I understand the dynamic between Will and Grace, and perhaps once upon a time between Will and Jack; but most of the time, I can't figure out why these characters hang around each other at all. And yet, in spite of the shallow one-dimensional characters and the substitution of attitude and name-dropping for wit, "Will & Grace" managed to win an Emmy.
Was Hollywood's snub of "Brokeback Mountain" a way of making up for the overhyping of "Will & Grace"? Were the voters telling us "You're here, you're queer, get over it"? Well, maybe. Or maybe the Academy would have prefered a movie in which Jack Twist went to Hollywood, got all famous and went to fabulous parties and did cocaine and completely left Ennis Del Mar pining sadly away back in Bumfuck, WY until some tearful reunion scene as Jack, dying of AIDS, returns to his roots to die. Or better yet, Ennis shows up at Jack's palatial estate, because that would be in L.A.
Well, I'm sure "Crash" is a very fine movie. I wanted to see it when it was in the theatres, but it wasn't here in East Boondocks, WI very long, and my partner wasn't interested in seeing it at all. None of the best picture nominees were on local screens for more than a week (I don't think "TransAmerica" played here at all). The only Oscar nominees for 2006 we saw have been "Brokeback Mountain," "King Kong" (technical awards), and "Capote."
And, being from East Boondocks, I can't say I really care all that much about what film gets the Academy Award For Best Picture. A couple of years ago, we saw both "Saving Private Ryan" and "Shakespeare In Love," and do you remember which film won Best Picture?
Heath Ledger eventually got his Oscar, posthumously, for his role as the Joker in the Batman flick, "The Dark Knight." We watched that film recently on TV... it's not exactly a nuanced performance. But then, an actor gets more acclaim for playing Richard III than for playing Henry VI. In a way, Ledger's award was just like those Lifetime Achievement Awards the Academy gives to tremendously talented actors who never got a statuette for their best work.
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P.S.: You know what else I liked about "Bird on a Wire"? Gibson and Hawn get to Racine on the Detroit-Racine ferry.
The Detroit-Racine ferry?! Come on, Mr. Hollywood Room Full of Monkeys at Typewriters! Was I-94 supposed to be closed? Detroit and Racine are not even on the same lake! Why the hell would there be a ferry going all the way from a big city on the southwest shore of Lake Huron, clear around the lower Michigan peninsula to a little city on the southwest shore of Lake Michigan?
For an additional movie reference to Racine, there is also "Autumn Leaves," starring Joan Crawford, Cliff Robertson, Lorne Green and Vera Miles. 50ish Crawford marries 30ish Robertson, who has told her that he's originally from Racine, but tells the wedding authorities in Tijuana, Mexico, that he was born in Chicago.
I've found that whenever I'm abroad and somebody asks me where in the U.S. I'm from, I might as well say I'm from near Chicago. My reasons aren't as sordid as Cliff Robertson's; foreigners (and, I suppose, Hollywood film makers, too) just aren't likely to know where Wisconsin is.
On the 40th anniversary of the bar raid at the Stonewall Inn, Fort Worth Police investigated the week-old Rainbow Lounge and reportedly found that patrons were drinking in the establishment. In the course of the police making arrests for disorderly conduct, one patron had to be hospitalized for a serious head injury.
Since then, the chief of Fort Worth Police Department, also pretty new to the job, has been in full damage control and apology mode, so at least that counts for some progress since 1969.
Now that Minnesota's senatorial election has at long last been settled, the truth can finally be told.
I met Al Franken in 1980, when we were both supporting a Republican candidate for President. I was a junior at St. Olaf College, a Lutheran liberal arts college across Northfield, Minnesota from Carleton College. Minnesota's presidential caucuses that year would be held on the same day as the New Hampshire primary; then as now, New Hampshire got the overwhelming majority of the media and candidates' attention. After all, local party members around Minnesota were only electing delegates to the next round of state caucuses.
Like many college students that winter, I supported John Anderson for president. Canvassing for the Republican party, I found very few Republicans who supported the eventual nominee, Ronald Reagan; in fact, some Republicans told me they were horrified at the prospect of his nomination. College students, particularly St. Olaf students, overwhelmed the Northfield caucus on election day, producing a lopsided supermajority for Anderson. (George H.W. Bush came in second, Reagan a distant third.) By the time the state caucus was held, Republicans who didn't live in college towns turned the state delegation solidly for Reagan, but that's getting way afield of this story.
Back to preparing for the caucuses. While Anderson, Bush, Reagan, John Connally, Howard Baker and Phil Crane were busily campaigning in New Hampshire, they sent surrogates to Minnesota. Anderson's surrogate to college campuses was Al Franken, a Minnesota-bred writer on Saturday Night Live. He appeared on the show in a deconstruction of comedy team conventions, playing Costello/Lewis/Tom to the Abbott/Martin/Dick of Tom Davis. The bit would open with an animated caricature of the Franken and Davis duo.
The guys running the St. Olaf campaign for John Anderson approached me in advance of a visit to the campus by Al Franken to ask me to draw a poster advertising the event. The obvious idea to me was to draw a take-off of the Franken & Davis cartoon, substituting John Anderson's head on the lankier Tom Davis body. My problem was that when Saturday Night Live was broadcast that weekend, there was no Franken & Davis bit on the show. And with no internet, Hulu, or even video casette to refer to, I had to draw the cartoon completely (except for the easily found pictures of Anderson) from memory.
My fellow students thought my cartoon was just swell anyway, and got the idea that when Franken came to campus, I should present the poster to him. They arranged for the presentation to take place at lunch in the school cafeteria. What any of us thought Mr. Franken would want with the black marker drawing on 3.5' by 2' blue poster board is anybody's guess. What happened was this.
Franken took a look at the poster and made a comment that it was almost, but not quite right. With a magic marker, he then drew an e-NORRRRRRR-mous phallus protruding from his crotch, right across John Anderson and into the advertising copy.
I'm pretty sure he didn't keep the poster. I know I didn't. Maybe somebody in the Students for Anderson group held onto it for a semester or so. We certainly didn't bring it to the caucus.