Friday, December 18, 2009

Friday, December 4, 2009

Art Discovery for 5th Grade

Leonardo DaVinci's Mona Lisa

Portrait of Lydia Delecktorskaya, the Artist's Secretary by Henri Matisse

This is a special post to help me with teaching my daughter's fifth grade class.

The subject is Women in Portraiture.

Here are the links I will show:

Women in art

A wonderful compilation of 90 portraits of women, displayed through a rapid morphing process. For a complete list of artists and paintings visit 500 Years of Women in Western Art.

Getting to Know Mary Cassatt

A brief look at American impressionist Mary Cassatt from a children's art awareness program.

Works of Mary Cassatt

A video of many works of Mary Cassatt

Women such as Amelia Earhart are featured in the online exhibition

Women of our Time
The Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery is pleased to present "Women of Our Time: Twentieth-Century Photographs." The exhibition is a selection of 90 images, drawn exclusively from the Portrait Gallery's collection, that celebrate women who have challenged and changed America over the past century.

Image in Advertising - Dove

I used this to start a discussion about how we view people and ourselves, and how advertising manipulates many portraits of women.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Links from our Speakers

As promised, here are the links to the materials and sites referenced in Tuesday's class.

The Kaiser Family Foundation website is an excellent resource.

Make sure to check out this section:

Health Reform Comparison Tools Now Include Senate Leadership Bill
The Foundation's interactive side-by-side health reform comparison tool now includes the Senate Leadership Bill as introduced on Nov. 18 as well as the House Leadership Bill approved on Nov. 7.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) site has many good online publications, analyses of budget and economic information. Here's a small sampling:

Promotional Spending for Prescription Drugs
December 2, 2009 pdf blog
Economic and Budget Issue Brief

An Analysis of Health Insurance Premiums Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
November 30, 2009 pdf blog
Letter to the Honorable Evan Bayh

H.R. 3962, Affordable Health Care for America Act
November 20, 2009 pdf blog
Revised cost estimate for the bill as passed by the House of Representatives

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
November 18, 2009 pdf data blog
Cost estimate for the amendment in the nature of a substitute to H.R. 3590, as proposed in the Senate on November 18, 2009

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Latest News on Health Care Reform

There's no dearth of news about our subject on the internet. A Google search of the term health care reform a moment ago yielded 41,623 news results. Here's the top story:

Will healthcare reform drive costs down? A little, report says.

Christian Science Monitor - Gail Russell Chaddock - ‎1 hour ago
A report released Monday by the Congressional Budget Office suggests that the Senate healthcare reform bill would have a modest effect on average Americans' ...

Here are some others:

White House Pushes for Passage of Senate Health Care Bill CBS News

How do you choose which news to read? There are lots of media outlets. Some clearly hold to higher journalistic standards than others. There's a good overview with links to discussions about journalism ethics and standards here.

Did you hear about the brouhaha regarding the FOX News report about Rep. Michele Bachmann's anti-health care reform rally? It's quite a tale. Comedian Jon Stewart pointed out that Sean Hannity exaggerated the turnout for this rally and that FOX showed footage from an earlier rally to give a false impression. You can watch the clip here at Media Matters or here at Mediaite, or here at Yahoo News.

As it is, it's questionable ethics for FOX to be "sponsoring" such rallies; a legitimate news outlet does not make news (Wm. Randolph Hearst's infamous quote "You give me the pictures, I'll give you the war!" notwithstanding).

My high school aged son and I discussed this issue. He felt strongly there should be some action taken against FOX. After all, when a "wardrobe malfunction" results in a $550,000 fine from the Federal Communications Commission against CBS, isn't there a precedent for protecting the public from indecency? If a newscaster falsifies information and misleads the public, isn't that indecent too?

Out of the mouths of babes...

What do you think?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Political Action Groups/ 7 Principles from the AMA

I frequently receive action alerts from various organizations about many different issues. One such group is Care 2 Make a Difference. They advocate for many things, including the reform of health policy, and recently sent out a call for people to send a letter to their congressional representatives urging the enactment of reform based on 7 guiding principles sponsored by the American Medical Association.
The action alert posted by Patients Action Network can be found online here.
These principles are:
1. Repeal of the Medicare physician payment formula that would trigger steep cuts and threaten seniors' access to care.

2. Provide health insurance coverage for all Americans.

3. Enact insurance market reforms that expand the choice of affordable coverage and eliminate denials for pre-existing conditions or due to arbitrary caps.

4. Assure that health care decisions are made by patients and their physicians, not by insurance companies or government bureaucrats. This sacred bond should include the right of patients to privately contract with physicians, so that their health care choices are respected.

5. Provide investments and incentives for initiatives that improve quality and enhance prevention and wellness.

6. Implement medical liability reforms to reduce the cost of defensive medicine.

7. Streamline and standardize insurance claims processing requirements to eliminate unnecessary costs and administrative burdens.

When I was doing research for this course, I found numerous other groups who seek to engage citizens in lobbying on health care reform. T
wo examples are
and Mad As Hell Doctors.

There's a good list of some advocacy groups here.

Have any groups contacted you? Have you discovered any organizations who appear to be particularly effective?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Scare Ads Parody

If you know me at all, you know I love to laugh and I love politics. Like Jonathan Swift, I believe that it's sometimes effective to use humour to get your point across.

Will Ferrell is best known for his comedic roles on Saturday Night Live and in popular films. He and some friends put together an ad about health care reform entitled Protect Insurance Companies. Do you think this might get someone to look at the issue differently, or is it just a way for advocates of reform to snark* at the opposition?

Credits: Will Ferrell, Jon Hamm, Olivia Wilde, Thomas Lennon, Robert Ben Garant, Masi Oka, Jordana Spiro, Linda Cardellini, Donald Faison
Written by Lauren Palmigiano, Chad Carter & Peter Koechley
Directed by Drew Antzis
Produced by Chris Bruss, Lauren Palmigiano, Laura Dawn of & Peter Salett
Edited by Drew Antzis & Laura Dawn

*snark: to make snide remarks

Thursday, November 26, 2009

What in the World's Happening with Health Care?

I'm up early this morning, working on our Thanksgiving feast. I can't offer you any sweet potatoes or turkey, but here are a few goodies I discovered about health care systems of other countries.

Tonny van der Salm clued me in about an excellent public television program she'd seen.
In Sick Around the World, FRONTLINE teams up with veteran Washington Post foreign correspondent T.R. Reid to find out how five other capitalist democracies -- the United Kingdom, Japan, Germany, Taiwan and Switzerland -- deliver health care, and what the US might learn from their successes and their failures.

You can watch the entire program online here.

There's an interesting discussion of France and the Netherlands' health systems by Jonathan Cohn at The Boston Globe.

BBC News has some healthcare comparisons on their site here.

Remember yesterday's post, the song "We're Number 37" by Paul Hipp? PolitiFact has a detailed look at the World Health Organization statistics in their Truth-O-Meter feature article.

What do you think of these sources and their conclusions? Have you found other good information on the subject? Please share in the comments!

And have a lovely Thanksgiving. I'm thankful for my great students!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

We're Number 37

Today's post features a video from youtube made by a man named Paul Hipp. He's not a policy expert, he's not a legislator, he's not a news commentator. He's a singer/songwriter who supports health care reform, and he performs his song "We're Number 37," referring, of course, to the US rank in the World Health Organization's ranking of the world's health care systems.

Warning: Some material may be offensive to some listeners.

"We're Number 37"

Come one, Come all
Down to the hall
We're gonna make noise
We're gonna bust balls
We're gonna disrupt
We're gonna jump in the fray
I got a list of all the things that were supposed to say
We're gonna get real rowdy
Have a barrel of fun
But we're the USA so by the way be sure to bring a gun
And buddy

We're Number 37
We're the USA
We're Number 37
And we're so proud to say
We got old people crying at the pharmacy
Pay your deductible
This ain't the land of the f-f-f-free Grandma
We're Number 37
We're the USA

People of the town come on down
And if you got a crazy rumor you can spread it around
I kind of like my insurance and I like my health
The other 47 million can go treat themselves
To some prayer in chapel
Fold your hands and pray
Because we are a Christian nation and that is the Christian way
And brother

We're Number 37
We're the USA
The big Number 37
And were so proud to say
Were #1 one in tanks
We're #1 in planes
We're #1 in war with #2 for brains
We're Number 37
We're the USA

I drew a Hitler mustache on the president
Yea! Ain't that neat
My brother had a hernia operation last year
And now he's living out on the street

We're Number 37
We're the USA
The big Number 37
And we want to keep it that way
Be sure to bring the kids
All of the boys and girls
Because the #1 health care system in the world...
Is in France???

We're Number 37
We're the USA
We're Number 37
And we got something to say
We pay more for less
40% in fact
Let's bite some fingers off
Shout at the handicapped
'Cause buddy
We're Number 37
We're the USA

Wer'e Number 37
We're the USA
We're Number 37
We're the USA

© Paul Hipp 2009

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Health Care in Other Nations

I found this cartoon at an interesting blog called Ed Stein Ink. Ed is a Denver-based editorial cartoonist who has some great commentary with his drawings.

Today we'll be hearing from some folks from other nations. As Senator Keiser mentioned at our first class, the US is ranked well below many developed nations on various measures of health care. Those rankings obviously concern many people, but our class today will focus on specific experiences people have had to give a picture of what different policies are really like.

I'll provide links to various places where you can learn more about other nations later this week.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Health Care Reform - a Partisan Referendum on Presidential Power?

Denver-based editorial cartoonist Ed Stein has some interesting things to say about why people are opposing reform that would be in their own self interest:
I shouldn’t be any more, but I’m still surprised when people argue vehemently against their own self-interest. The health care debate has taken this disconnect to new levels. The states that seem to have the strongest polling against health care reform are those where people would be helped most by the reforms. The arguments I hear tend to be more political than practical, involving deep suspicion of government in general and Obama in particular, fear of some sort of socialist takeover of the economy, and the truly loony equation of health care reform with Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.
I've seen a several political humour bits that echo his thought that opposition to health care policy reform is less about policy and more about politics.

Certainly, there are many protesters who have gotten quite personal in attacking the President rather than the bill itself. It's impossible to look into men's hearts and minds and separate out political power motives and party allegiance from true concerns about legislation. If we could create an alternate universe where John McCain had won and went on to propose similar legislation, it would be fascinating to see if the same people would be opposing reform.

What do you think? While you're pondering the heavy question, take a peek at these funny bits from Saturday Night Live and satirical website The Onion.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Hatred & Threats from Anti-Health Care Reform Protestors

I wonder if you saw a story I read yesterday about a newspaper in Michigan that reported about a "Tea Party" protest against health care reform organized by Rep. Michele Bachmann.

The Port Huron Times-Herald ran an editorial which observed:

Rally participants carried a variety of disturbing signs. One placard had a health care message superimposed over dead bodies from Holocaust concentration camps. One referred to President Barack Obama as "Sambo." One depicted the president as the evil "Joker" from Batman movies. One referred to "Obama and his Marxist buddies."

At one point, the crowd chanted "Nazi, Nazi."

Apparently, our congresswoman is OK with all of this.

The piece describes Rep. Candice Miller's participation in the anti-health reform protest as "shameful." The paper concludes:

If Miller truly has signed up with the right-wing fringe -- the bigots, the hate-mongers and the Nazi-chanters -- all of us in the Blue Water Area might well need to take another look.

Perhaps Miller could start with an apology for her performance at last Thursday's GOP festival of hate.

One 60 year old reader who supported the protests was so angered by the editorial that she allegedly called the newspaper and "threatened to take a gun to the newspaper and 'do what they did at Fort Hood,' according to police," the Times-Herald reported.

I invite your comments and discussion.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

CBO Analysis of Public Plan Impact on Private Companies

Opponents of health care policy reform who claim that the House bill would cause the demise of private insurance should consider the analysis of the bill by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

The Annenberg Public Policy Center has a great site, which provides great information about claims made by all sides on a variety of issues. Warning: once you click the link and go to the website, you might not surface again for a long time. There are many interesting articles.

Check out The Government-Run Mantra and see what you think.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What's the Real Cost of Health Care?

Speaker Victoria Dain shared a great website with the class yesterday.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The History of Health Care in America

Thomas Nast originated the use of the elephant as a cartoonist's symbol for the Republican Party. Mike Luckovich employs it here to represent the GOP position on health care reform. Do you think it's a fair characterization? Why or why not?

Nast certainly seemed to think that government moved slowly, based on this 1877 piece in
Harper's Weekly entitled The Lighning Speed of Honesty. Uncle Sam (another iconic Nast brainchild) rides the snail of Congress.

David Horsey goes back to 1909 for a look at policy reform. His Republican president, Teddy Roosevelt (or is it Wm. Howard Taft?) seems to advocate reform, but Congress is dragging its feet. Who remembers which party controlled Congress then?

Your fun Congressional trivia fact for the day is that the Republicans held majorities in both Senate (60 to 32) and House (219 to 172).

Friday, November 13, 2009

Public Opinion on Public Option

Getty image from Reuters

There were some interesting polling figures reported in October related to health care reform. An article from Reuters reported public support for a US public healthcare option.

Perhaps the most meaningful statistic of several cited is:
Nevertheless, one Pew poll last month found that 67 percent of respondents found the healthcare debate difficult to understand...

There's a thought-provoking post in the blog FiveThirtyEight: Politics Done Right entitled
Poll: Most Don't Know What "Public Option" Is -- Including Pollsters
I found myself nodding (in agreement, not nodding off) with this passage:

This is also why relatively small changes in wording can trigger dramatic shifts in support for the public option, which has been as high as 83 percent in some polls and as low as 35 percent in others depending on who is doing the polling and how they're asking the questions.
You can find numerous articles about public opinion on the public option. One of the most interesting I read was
Pollster Behind Controversial Public Option Poll Has Long Ties To Insurance Industry

How do you think such polls should be worded?

What do you think about including a public option in reform legislation?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Protesters Claim Inadequate Coverage

Talk about the "naked truth."

Activists endeavor to "expose" the problems with private coverage.

You will receive five points for every punny comment you submit.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Public Interest Groups Advocate for Health Care Reform

Today, we'll hear from a pair of organizers from two different public interest groups:

Betsy Dillner, Oregon State Coordinator of HCAN (Health Care for America Now)

Dustin Lambro, Washington State Director of OFA (Organizing for America)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Senate Considers Health Care Reform Bill

Now, I had some pretty good coaching last night,
and I find that if I yield only for a question or a point of order
or a personal privilege, that I can hold this floor almost until doomsday.
In other words, I've got a piece to speak, and blow hot or cold,
I'm going to speak it.
Jimmy Stewart, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington
CBS News reported that health care reform faces major opposition in the Senate. Here's a summary of Sunday's Face the Nation with Sen. Lindsey Graham, (R-SC) who claimed the bill is "D.O.A" and vowed he would filibuster reform with a public option.

Senator Joseph Liberman (I-CT) plans to join the filibuster, as this analysis points out. The link includes a clip of him talking with Chris Wallace on Fox News.

While filibusters have been portrayed (some would say romanticized, thanks to Jimmy Stewart's Mr. Smith Goes to Washington) as opportunities to speak out against injustice and stand up for one's principles, there are many who argue that they've been used for pure obstructionism. What do you think?

There are a ton of interesting articles at History News Network about filibusters. You can read them here.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Vocabulary Lesson

There are a lot of terms being tossed around in the debate. Reuters News has a nice glossary of terms related to health care policy reform.
You can read it here.

If you really want to expand your vocabulary, take a peek at this page on the PBS website.

There's a great article about the power of defining words in this debate at the Christian Science Monitor.

Are there any terms that aren't covered that you wish to learn more about? Be sure to ask our speakers. In fact, it could be interesting to see what different definitions you might receive, depending on the speaker.

Feel free to share any links to good glossaries in the comments!

House Passes Health Care Reform Bill

CNN reported that the House passed the Health Care Reform bill.
Click here for the article.

They voted a strict ban on abortion subsidies. You can find the AP story about that here.

The big question now on everyone's minds is: Will the Senate take action on this bill?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Congressman Baird's Statement on Health Care Reform Issued Today

Wondering what the local Congressman thinks about health care policy reform? We'll be hearing from his district director, Kelly Love, on December 1st. Meanwhile, here's the latest press release from his office. Clicking on the title will take you to his website.

Congressman Brian Baird’s Statement Regarding H.R. 3962 – The Affordable Health Care for America Act

Washington, D.C.- I strongly believe there is a need for health care reform and I have offered my own proposal for how this should be accomplished. The bill before the House is a result of thousands of hours of effort put in by members of Congress and their staff, plus the unprecedented input from the public on all sides of this issue. Clearly, people care about how we deliver and pay for health care in this country and there is a need and opportunity for change.

In comparison to the initial draft of H.R. 3200, a number of improvements have been made. To name just a few, the current bill would allow negotiations for prescription drugs under Medicare D, promote alternatives to malpractice litigation, and allow for cross state agreements to purchase cross state insurance (something especially relevant to border districts such as my own). There are also elements that could at long last correct the Medicare payment disparities that disadvantage our state, and the bill would end the anti-trust exemption long enjoyed by insurance companies.

All of those changes are commendable, but there are still reasons for concern. The most important of these is the simple fact that we do not yet have reliable estimates of how this legislation will impact the premiums paid by people who already have insurance.

This week I spoke with Nancy-Ann DeParle, the President's chief health advisor and Doug Elmendorf, the director of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Although some prominent economists have asserted that premiums on average may go down relative to what they would be without this bill, the CBO has yet to complete its analysis of the issue. Furthermore, just yesterday, the chief actuary for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) said he did not think a cost estimate of the House bill would be available before the scheduled vote.

This is no small matter. To insist that members vote on this legislation without having cost estimates of Medicare and Medicaid impacts by CMS or an estimate of premium impacts from the CBO seems premature and unwise.

Precisely because this matter is so important, it is critical that we do things right, and know what we are doing. At present, unfortunately, I do not believe we have answers to fundamental questions.

Another troubling matter is how the legislation will be brought to a vote. As of this writing, only one amendment will be allowed from the Republican side. No other amendments, by either the majority or minority members, will be allowed. I believe that is a mistake. For a matter of this importance, and on which reasonable people can and do disagree, there ought to be more opportunity granted for amendments on both sides.

For these reasons, until more information is available on premium estimates and Medicare impacts, I will vote against the legislation in its current form. I will wait to make a decision on final legislation until this critical information becomes available and when the House and Senate together produce one bill.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Moving to a New Classroom - Joan Stout Hall 245

I'll be posting several health care policy reform pieces shortly. Meanwhile, here's a quick announcement that I was successful changing the classroom.

We will NOT be meeting in Foster Auditorium any longer. The remaining four sessions will be held in Joan Stout Hall Room 245.

I look forward to some great speakers and question/answer sessions!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Health Care Reform Course Delay

The Mature Learning Division notified me that there's insufficient enrollment for this course, so they've pushed the starting date three weeks later in an effort to get more folks registered. I hope it works! I've lined up a ton of great speakers.

There’s a lot of clamour and controversy going on about health care reform these days. This course gives you a chance to hear from many different participants and perspectives in the debate, and to ask questions to make sense of it all. We’ve invited health care professionals, insurance industry representatives, business people, public interest group staff, legislative policy experts and others to share their insights about this hot topic.

Clark College Mature Learning Division

5 sessions: Tuesdays 2:15-4:15 Foster Auditorium

Nov. 3 Nov. 10 • Nov. 17 Nov. 24 Dec. 1

Click here to register now!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Health Care Reform But Were Afraid to Ask

There’s a lot of clamour and controversy going on about health care reform these days. This course gives you a chance to hear from many different participants and perspectives in the debate, and to ask questions to make sense of it all. We’ve invited health care professionals, insurance industry representatives, business people, public interest group staff, legislative policy experts and others to share their insights about this hot topic.

Clark College Mature Learning Division

5 sessions: Tuesdays 2:15-4:15 Foster Auditorium

Oct. 13 Oct. 20 Oct. 27 Nov. 3 Nov. 10

Click here to register now!

Friday, September 11, 2009

I need a catchy title

Another instructor just cancelled his course at the last minute, and I'll be teaching a course about Health Care Reform beginning this October

Sure, it's a hot topic, but I want to make it sizzle. Hotter than hot. Like dry ice hot! So I need a snappy course title.

Have at it. I await your comments!

Friday, June 5, 2009

The American Dream: How Has It Changed?

I am excited to announce that I've succeeded in my quest to get a course proposal accepted! It will be offered next winter quarter, and I'm busy collecting all kinds of good things to share and discuss.

Here's a peek at the basic idea, subject to minor alterations.
As always, I welcome your suggestions.

The American Dream: How Has It Changed?

We'll engage in a bit of "dream analysis" as we examine this question. David Kamp's essay, Rethinking the American Dream, suggests there's been a shift in our national aspirations from “a set of deeply held ideals rather than a checklist of goals or entitlements.” Kamp, an editor at Vanity Fair, noted in April:

As a people, we Americans are unique in having such a thing, a more or less Official National Dream. (There is no correspondingly stirring Canadian Dream or Slovakian Dream.) It is part of our charter—as articulated in the second sentence of the Declaration of Independence, in the famous bit about “certain unalienable Rights” that include “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”—and it is what makes our country and our way of life attractive and magnetic to people in other lands.

We'll use several short readings to stimulate discussion about The American Dream, including passages from John Kenneth Galbraith's 1958 book The Affluent Society and Henry Luce's 1941 essay “The American Century” in Life. The class will also watch the Academy Award-winning documentary American Dream, and some popular culture films which depict the issue such as the classic Depression tale Grapes of Wrath, to The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and The Honeymooners to Hollywood documentary Frank Capra's American Dream to the contemporary The Namesake about immigrants from India seeking a better life in the US.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Teaching Technology Woes

I would just like to appeal for some sympathy this evening because I am feeling very sorry for myself.

I prepared a beautiful 37 slide powerpoint presentation about Elizabeth Taylor for today's Actresses of the Silver Screen attendees. And a very brilliant talk peppered with sparkling quotes.

Got to the auditorium, put the thumb drive into the computer, and...
Approximately 87% of the images would not display.

How would Miss Taylor handle such a situation, I wondered. With grace and charm, no doubt.

Then I thought of her Oscar-winning performance in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf.

But I am not a famous Hollywood actress.

This is what I looked like:

In two weeks, I am scheduled to talk about Claudette Colbert.

I am making sock puppets just in case.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Upcoming Classic Movies Series: Great Actresses Of The Silver Screen

I'm excited to announce that I'll be introducing two films this April at Clark College. The series features five classics with wonderful actresses. You can learn more about the specifics at this Mature Learning webpage and register if you're interested.

"My" films are Taming of the Shrew with Elizabeth Taylor on April 16th and It Happened One Night with Claudette Colbert on April 30th. I'm having fun preparing a short slideshow for each. Such glamour and talent!

If you have any suggestions of things I should include, feel free to comment. But with these women's lives as rich as they are, I don't think I'll be hard pressed to find material....

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Door to More Learning is Always Open

Want more? Let me know if you'd like to see another class!

This has been a great five weeks. I've enjoyed sharing these films with you and exploring the issues in class and on this blog.

If you'd like me to offer a class in the future, please contact me. And be sure to let Mature Learning know. They decide whether to accept my course proposals. They can be reached at (360) 992-2422 or e-mail

Take care, and keep learning!
Holly Forrest, Teacher

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Class 5 - Prop 8 The Musical Starring Jack Black

Various actors have portrayed Jesus. I unearthed a partial list at Listology:
  • Willem Dafoe in The Last Temptation of Christ
  • James Caviezel in The Passion of the Christ
  • Jeremy Sisto in Jesus (made for tv)
  • Brian Deacon in Jesus (from '79)
  • Claude Heater in Ben-Hur
  • Kenneth Colley in Life of Brian
  • Ted Neeley in Jesus Christ Superstar
  • William Powell in Jesus Of Nazareth
  • Max Von Sydow in The Greatest Story Ever Told
  • H.B. Warner in The King Of Kings
  • Jeffrey Hunter in the King of Kings ('61)
Most of these portrayals are pretty serious. Admittedly, Life of Brian is a comedy, and Jesus Christ Superstar is a musical. But marrying the two genres with a Jesus character hasn't widely been done before. And Jesus singing about two men marrying in a musical almost certainly hasn't been done before.

Until now.

A recent musical comedy, Prop 8 The Musical, was prompted by the issue of gay marriage.

There's a good background piece at about the video. The video was launched at Funny or Die about four months ago (written, as writer Marc Shaiman notes, "six weeks later than he shoulda" referencing the date of the passage of California's Ballot Measure 9) and has received almost 4 million hits.

Shaiman refers to it as a "viral picket sign...hopefully funny" in his interview at NYT ArtsBeat Blog.

What do you think? Funny? Blasphemous? Likely to influence someone who didn't have a strong opinion before seeing it?

Do you think if this had been produced before election day, it could have made a difference to the outcome?

Oh - and one more thing. I just discovered this, a mock PSA on the Jimmy Kimmel show by actress Portia de Rossi, who married Ellen Degeneres in August 2008.

Any thoughts?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Class Five: Stephen Colbert on Gay Marriage

The late Tim Russert did a decidedly tongue-in-cheek bit on Meet the Press with Colbert in October 2007 where they briefly discussed gay marriage as part of an interview about Colbert's short-lived presidential campaign.

The Colbert Report did a funny piece on gay marriage in 2006 here.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins came on the show in May of last year. Stephen and Perkins discussed their outrage over the CA Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage. I get the impression that Stephen is not really outraged, don't you? Ah, the power of satire.

After Proposition 8 passed in 2008, Stephen noted the attempt by newscasters to cast their issue as a Blacks vs. Gays conflict. His commentary, Imaginary Gay/Black Warfare: The senseless and escalating imaginary war between blacks and gays is tearing our great nation apart, called to mind the famous quote from William Randolph Hearst discussed in this article from Time Magazine in 1947.

What do you think about the media and their coverage of this issue and others?

A week after the election, Dan Savage, a sex columnist for Seattle's Stranger, appeared on Colbert's show and assessed whether black voters were responsible for the passage of Prop. 8. His conclusions may strike you as deliberately provocative, if not downright offensive. He believes that the major opposition to gay marriage came from "old people." And he proclaimed that the proponents of gay marriage will win in the end because they will "outlive, outlast and outsmart the bigots."

What do you think about what Savage says? Is it acceptable to fight discrimination by exhibiting ageism? Do you think his later remark, in which he replaces "old people" with "bigots" is an attempt to recast the comment and clarify who the true villains are?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Class Five - Gay Blogs

There are many blogs which focus primarily on gay rights and issues.

One that caught my attention is Petrelis Files: Reports & Musings from the Veteran Gay and AIDS Human Rights Advocate by Michael Petrelis. His profile states "Michael has appeared on The O'Reilly Factor, CNN, ABC News, and National Public Radio. He has been quoted by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Raw Story, The Chicago Tribune, The New Republic, and Stars & Stripes."

Another is Big Queer Blog. It is written by a team of several authors. One recent post, White House's Support for the LGBT Community noted the Obama administration's policies:
Inside the agenda of the new office, listed under civil rights, is Obama's promise to support the LGBT community:

1. Expand Hate Crimes Statutes
2. Fight Workplace Discrimination
3. Support Full Civil Unions and Federal Rights for LGBT Couples
4. Oppose a Constitutional Ban on Same-Sex Marriage
5. Repeal Don't Ask-Don't Tell
6. Expand Adoption Rights
7. Promote AIDS Prevention
8. Empower Women to Prevent HIV/AIDS

I noticed on both blogs, there was a little symbol:

So I did a little research. There's an enormous network of blogs which provide opportunities for advertising. It states that no explicit adult material is tolerated. I saw a pricing sheet with costs ranging from $10 to $18,000. It would appear that even if some segments of society aren't willing to grant equal rights to the gay community, there's recognition that gays have purchasing power. Sites in the Gay Blogads Network are most definitely part of our culture.

Lavender Newswire bills itself thusly: We're here. We're queer. We're news junkies.
The writers have an interesting post earlier this year:

NEW YORK, January 7, 2009 — The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) today identified the worst anti-gay and anti-transgender voices of 2008.

Not all gay blogs focus on news and political commentary. Some are just collections of photos of handsome shirtless men or writings from a gay perspective about music or travel or a million other things. Some, like Ham and Cheese on Wry by Curly McDimple, are not overtly gay at all. They focus on day to day trials and tribulations of work, weight loss and financial woes.

Just like straight blogs.

What do you think about the issues raised in some of these gay blogs?

And if you're wondering about the photo at the top of this post, do a little research on Alan Turing. Note that the woman is carrying a rainbow flag and wearing an "I agree with the SJC" sticker. Protest signs that use sarcasm and slighty obscure references can be tricky to decipher. But I have faith in you!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Class Five - Other Films about Gay Rights

Before there was Milk, there was Wilde. Le Placard's main character wasn't really gay, but there are plenty of films that feature real life gay people. Wilde is one of them. And unlike the recent Oscar-winning actor Sean Penn, who portrayed gay activist Harvey Milk, Oscar Wilde-portraying actor Stephen Fry is gay. Fry may not have received an Oscar for his Oscar, but he was the winner of the Seattle International Film Festival Golden Space Needle Award for Best Actor. Really, isn't that just as good? has a list of Gay and Lesbian Films created a post called 50 Greatest Gay Movies of All Time! posted The Best Movies About Gays

Had you previously seen any films with gay characters that you thought were particularly good? Did any film make you think about gay rights differently?

I can remember seeing Philadelphia in 1993; Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington were wonderful in the drama about fighting against discrimination facing a gay man who is dying of AIDS.

Did you read about any films that you'd like to see? I did! My "DVD's to rent" list has officially expanded. One of the movies is In & Out with Kevin Kline. In some ways, it's like Le Placard when an straight man is "outed" as gay and has to deal with everyone's new view of him. Wikipedia describes the inspiration for the plot:
The film was inspired by Tom Hanks' tearful speech when he accepted his 1994 Oscar (for his role in Philadelphia), in which he mentioned his high-school drama coach Rawley Farnsworth, and his former classmate John Gilkerson, "two of the finest gay Americans, two wonderful men that I had the good fortune to be associated with" - unaware that Farnsworth was still 'in the closet'.The film became one of mainstream Hollywood's few attempts at a comedic "gay movie" of its era, and was widely noted at the time for a 10-second kiss between Kevin Kline and Tom Selleck.

Guy Damman wrote an article for the Guardian Film Blog, How Gay Films Made Me a Better Man, when he reviewed a new book
Out at the Movies: A History of Gay Cinema by Steven Paul Davies in December 2008. He states:
I was, for many years, one of those who looked away. It wasn't that I wanted to, or that there was any genuine homophobia in my attitudes. Yet I simply found I just couldn't quite cope with the sight of Rupert Everett canoodling with Michael Jenn in Another Country, or Daniel Day Lewis getting it on with Gordon Warnecke in My Beautiful Laundrette. Now, though, with the progress of cinema's slow journey out of the closet and the gentle readjustment of my sensibilities - and perhaps those of millions of others, too – I can, with pleasure.

Though our focus is on popular culture films, I think it's worth mentioning Celluloid Closet, a 1995 documentary of the history of gays and lesbians in cinema. It was based on the book of the same name by Vito Russo.

Have your attitudes about gay people changed as cinema has come out of the closet?