Have you heard the news? Caitlyn Jenner’s gonna pose fairly nudely on the cover of Sports Illustrated this summer around the 40th anniversary of her gold medal turn in the 1976 Montreal Olympics.
Jenner, Long Ago And Far Away
Don’t hate me but I have to confess — I don’t give a holy shit about Jenner’s gender choice. I’m long past the point of noodling about trans people. I accept whatever form of gender display they choose. I’m even related to a trans person and I love that person (I won’t use a gender pronoun because I don’t want to even hint who that person might be).
Now some may say Jenner’s excruciatingly public transformation is important because too many dopes in this holy land are scared little rabbits when it comes to someone making or having made the big change. Fair enough, but knowing a relative or a co-worker or a next door neighbor who’s experienced the ordeal of redefining him- or herself to the public seems a much more effective way of bringing those folks into the mainstream, which is where they belong.
Caitlyn Jenner and that whole Kardashian mob serve only themselves and not some higher moral precept like the acceptance of those who are different.
Check out this piece on cartoonist Al Jaffee of Mad magazine. The old bird just turned 95 y.o. and is still scribbling pix for the beloved satire mag. He refuses to retire, saying, “They’re going to have to suffer the ignominy of firing a 95-year-old man.”
Don’t you just love feistiness, especially in a person most of whose contemporaries have been populating graveyards for years and years? BTW: He’s in no danger of being canned.
Anyway, Mad magazine was my fave before I even hit my teens. It became a must-get after my mother, having discovered a couple of issues in my bedroom, warned me never to bring the mags to school and, moreover, not to even talk about them with my friends. She fell back on the nebulous they for authority. “They say this stuff is communist,” she said. “You can get in trouble if they (presumably my teachers, the police and/or, perhaps, the FBI) catch you with these.”
From that moment onward, I bought and hoarded every issue that came out.
Back to Jaffee, he invented the fold-in, the back cover cartoon feature wherein you folded it over at specified arrows to create a second ironic and always uproarious cartoon. The very first one featured Elizabeth Taylor kissing Richard Burton — this just as she was starting up her torrid affair with him — while her current husband, Eddie Fisher, was being trampled by the celebrity-obsessed crowd. You folded the panel in and — voila! — there was Liz smooching some other, anonymous handsome swain in the crowd with the caption, “The Next One!”
The next one, in terms of the fold-ins, featured Richard Nixon.
Mad always came down hard and funny on celebs and pols. Advertisements, big corporations, various blowhards, and sundry moralists, as well. It continues publishing to this day, both in hard copy and online, which makes me happy.
Malcolm Gladwell made a big splash with his 2008 book, Outliers, the gist of which was highly successful people like Bill Gates benefitted as much from the times they were born and where they were raised as from their brilliance, hard work and perseverance.
Now comes author Robert H. Frank with his new book, Success and Luck, connecting much of the myth-making about successful folk to the widening divides between conservatives and liberals and the haves and have-nots. Conservatives, Frank argues — as do I, love to buy into the fairy tale that the wealthy and successful got that way because they are special souls while the poor are poor because they aspire only to stand on the street corner smoking cigarettes and drinking out of bottles in brown paper bags.
Get A Job, Ya Bum!
Believe me, I’ve had countless shouty debates in barrooms w/ people who’ve made just those assertions.
Frank also tells us his ideas about how policy changes might be able to even the playing field for poor sap kids who grow up, say, in Appalachia or East LA and are just as innately brilliant, hard working, and perseverant as guys like Gates.
May 7th Birthdays
David Hume — Scottish philosopher who championed empiricism, skepticism, and naturalism. He argued in A Treatise on Human Nature that we’re not so rational but more reactive and hard-wired from birth to do what we do.
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky — Russian composer, one of the few classical greats who are known to a great number of people. He studied more Western forms and themes of music and included some of them them in his repertoire even though his output is considered definitive of the Russian character.
Gary Cooper — One of the greatest underplaying film actors of the 20th Century.
Eva Perón — Even though she’d been pals with Spain’s fascist dictator, Francisco Franco, “Evita” has been worshipped for some three-quarters of a century by Argentines for her and her husband Juan Perón’s liberal reign as the South American country’s first couple. She died young, contributing to her mythical status à la JFK.
Anne Baxter — Eve.
Thelma Houston — Late-disco-era singer whose hit, “Don’t Leave Me This Way,” became an anthem during the days of big-city, airplane-hangar-sized gay dance bars.
Amy Heckerling — One of the still-too-few female movie directors, gave us Fast Times at Richmont High and Clueless.
Thomas Piketty — Economist and author whose hugely best-selling 2013 book, Capital in the 21st Century, sits unread on millions of coffee tables around the world.