Odds and Ends

Odds and Ends June 24, 2009

I had a dream the other evening.  We were still living in our home.  For some reason, it was just my youngest son and myself.  I would say he was about 5 years older than he is today.  My wife and older two children weren’t around.  Our house was almost like the description of a flat in Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment.  My son and I had one room, and we had boarders in the other main level room and the three bedrooms upstairs.  Presently those rooms are the living room, play room, den, and bedrooms.  The kitchen, bathrooms, and dining room were common rooms.  As I contemplated this further, I recognized that this was the concept of space that most of the world had.  I further pondered that the city I occupy could be consolidated into about a 6×6 block area under such an arrangement.  The scale was a bit shocking but altogether human at the same time.

As I read the Chicago Tribune Sunday, I was surprised at the number of stories that were gay-interest stories.  One was dealing with a man in an assisted living center and his debate about coming out of the closet.  Another was an advice columnist addressing how a transvestite should attire himself/herself.  There were one or two other pieces as well.  Upon reading them, I wasn’t filled with offense at all, but had to wonder, “Why?”  I’m sure these are issues within the respective communities, but that isn’t the Tribune community.  It seems that diversity was embraced for its own sake.  Publications and businesses for that matter get into trouble when they patronize their customers.  The goings on of the gay community weren’t focused on in the past not due to latent bigotry but because people didn’t care. 

Reading Mother Jones recently I was particularly struck by a recent story.  It was discussing a recent conservative pheonomenon of going Galt.  Going Galt is the process of dropping out of society or doing the bare minimum.  The big problem was that people discussing going Galt were not the doers or the high income professionals.  They were people like Joe the Plumber, people whose Galt-lifestyle beared strong resemblance to their day-to-day existance.

On that note, it is probably worth mentioning that Goldman Sach’s employees won’t be going Galt any time soon.  On the heals of being bailed out by the federal government, they announced record bonuses to their employees.  With the bonuses, 973 of their employees will exceed $1,000,000 in yearly income.  Of course we have this when Republican congressmen called the extra dollar an hour earned by GM workers over their counterparts at Toyota’s U.S. plants outrageous.  We also have this at a time, when demands that workers at a mininum earn $7 an hour and have health benefits are decried as the workers being selfish and trying to steal from the productive.  The following seems an appropriate response:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wu67yo-3jfw

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  • “I wasn’t filled with offense at all, but had to wonder, “Why?””

    Yes. This “wonder” is the key, I think.

  • David Nickol

    One was dealing with a man in an assisted living center and his debate about coming out of the closet.

    He didn’t even have his own room? What kind of assisted living center was that?

  • David Nickol

    M.Z.,

    What newspaper do gay people in Chicago read, if not the Tribune? I would bet a lot more gay people in Chicago read the Tribune than read gay newspapers. Even New York has a hard time supporting gay newspapers, which are extraordinarily boring to the vast majority of gay people. I remember hearing some time ago that the #1 song in China was, at the time, “The Workers Gloriously Carry Manure to the Fields.” That is kind of what gay newspapers are like.

    What is the “Tribune community”?

    Are there no straight people in Chicago who are interested in, or curious about, gay people?

    How do you think it reflects on straight people that Jon & Kate Plus 8 is getting major news coverage because the mother and father of sextuplets and twins are getting a divorce on their reality show? Or that one by one, we are learning about the extramarital affairs of the fifty governors?

  • M.Z.

    Chicago has a number of newspapers. The Tribune is the paper of record for the Midwest. Following your supposition, if gay periodicals can’t maintain enough interest to be profitable, why should a publication not targeting that community believe it should be able to be more profitable by running stories about that community?

    Are there no straight people in Chicago who are interested in, or curious about, gay people?
    There aren’t. Likewise the readers of People magazine aren’t interested in reading about how the towers fell on Sept. 11th, or at least they don’t pick up people hoping to find that out.

    How do you think it reflects on straight people that Jon & Kate Plus 8 is getting major news coverage because the mother and father of sextuplets and twins are getting a divorce on their reality show? Or that one by one, we are learning about the extramarital affairs of the fifty governors?
    Jon and Kate Plus 8 wouldn’t fit the Trib demographic. It is a popular show on a niche channel. The governors’ affairs aren’t all that interesting, but at least the claim could be made that political coverage is occuring.

  • David Nickol

    if gay periodicals can’t maintain enough interest to be profitable, why should a publication not targeting that community believe it should be able to be more profitable by running stories about that community?

    M.Z.,

    One might also argue why a daily publication that ran only recipes, or crossword puzzles, or foreign news, or stories about parenting would not succeed, and yet virtually all newspapers print recipes, crossword puzzles, foreign news, and stories about parenting. One might ask why the New York Times publishes stories of interest to black people when we have the Amsterdam News. Or why the Times publishes stories about Chelsea and Clinton (two adjacent neighborhoods in Manhattan) when we have the Chelsea Clinton News (no connection to Bill and Hillary).

    Jon and Kate Plus 8 wouldn’t fit the Trib demographic.

    And yet I notice on the Tribune Entertainment page this:

    ‘Jon & Kate’ divorce papers say marriage ‘irretrievably broken’

    And this . . .

    Maureen Ryan’s blog:
    The Watcher

    The intriguing ‘Virtuality’ doesn’t deserve to be lost in space

    She’s ‘Out of Here’: Patti Blagojevich’s ‘Celebrity’ adventure

    Splitsville for ‘Jon & Kate’ (but that’s not the reason show’s ratings will likely sink)

    ‘Burn Notice’ at Comic-Con: Sam Axe heading to San Diego

    ‘Jon & Kate’ and their ‘big announcement’: Your guess?
    More…

    Three separate items. And I got 49 hits when I searched the paper for Gosselin (Jon & Kate’s last name).

    Every gay person I know read the New York Times in the days when it didn’t even print the word “gay,” and they all read it now an enjoy seeing an occasional gay-related story.

    It is not a mystery. Gays are people too.

  • M.Z.

    You’re being silly David.

  • David Nickol

    M.Z.,

    Actually, I am pulling my punches. Quite frankly, it seems to me bigoted and insulting to ask, “Why am I finding their news in our newspaper?” Do you honestly believe no gay people read your newspaper? Do you think they don’t appreciate seeing a story about other gay people occasionally? And do you think people with gay sons or daughters or fathers or mothers aren’t occasionally interested in reading about gay people?

    I was actually stunned when I read your comment. Do you really think no gay people read the Chicago Tribune? Or that the paper ought not to print stories of gay interest so you don’t have to scratch your head and wonder, “What is this doing in our newspaper?”

  • M.Z.

    A general estimate is 3-4% of the population is homosexual. The over 70 population facing issues of how to address their homosexuality in their assisted living center would seem to be well south of 1%. I can’t even imagine the guy’s own mother would care, God rest her soul most likely, would care. As for the trasvestite “Ask Abby” column or whoever the columnist was, I can’t imagine the most empathetic person in the world finding a way to relate to the story. We aren’t talking lesbian maple syrup farmers where people can still have interest in maple syrup even if it is made by lesbians. I would speculate the most common reaction among folks at the old folks home was “Shut up already, we know you’re gay. When’s Matlock on?”

  • MZ – I imagine the motives of the Trib might be something like, “Here’s a human interest story, having to do with elderly gays. This will certainly interest our gay readers; since homosexuality and how society relates to it is much in the news recently, and since this particular angle hasn’t really been done, let’s do a feature story on this.”

    With Gay marriage being legalized, which is a new phenomonon and thus liable to spark curiosity about the lives of gays more generally, this seems appropriate. Lots of straight America is just now starting to be introduced to the issues and pitfalls that homosexuals face in their ordinary lives. Reading stories in the paper might allow people to gain a greater understanding and empathy for gays by straights.

    Stories like that also dispel bigoted notions of gay life being one long orgy. Gay people’s lives are as diverse as straight folks’ lives. “They” are no different than “us” except in whom they are attracted to.

  • David Nickol

    M.Z.,

    You’re changing your position slightly. Of course it would be pointless for any newspaper to publish stories that nobody would be interested in. But you were complaining that there were three or four stories that were “gay-interest” stories. You said, “I’m sure these are issues within the respective communities, but that isn’t the Tribune community.” One can only assume you mean the Tribune is for straight people and not for gay people, and that “gay interest” stories don’t belong in the Tribune unless there is at least some element of “straight interest” in them.

    Chicago is the third largest city in the country, and there are tens of thousands of gay people there. I am sure a lot of them read the Tribune. I don’t see why there can’t be a few stories aimed at them. It’s no skin off your nose. The same would hold true for blacks, Hispanics, Italians, diabetics, stamp collectors, cab drivers, undertakers, Jews, Catholics, and so on. They might all have publications that catered directly to their interests, but that doesn’t mean there should be no stories that appeal to them in the Tribune.

  • M.Z.

    One can only assume you mean the Tribune is for straight people and not for gay people, and that “gay interest” stories don’t belong in the Tribune unless there is at least some element of “straight interest” in them.

    One doesn’t need to make an exclusive claim. I think the issue was the black vote, and Rush Limbaugh made the statement that maybe Republicans should talk to them about defense and taxes. I’m pretty sure gay folks don’t read the Trib to be pandered. I would speculate they read it because it has been one of the best papers in the midwest for addressing national and regional issues. The Sun Times still has a better sports section, but such is life.

    And while it may offend you, I’m not paying $3.50 a week to read gay interest articles, particularly given that the paper is about a third its former size. I’ll gladly spend my money elsewhere if the Tribune is uninterested in real journalism and wants to be a diversity journal. I would probably get the NY Times (particularly for the int’l coverage) except my son doesn’t think that is a real newspaper due to the absence of comics.

    What’s bothersome about the comments here is that folks think I should actually care how people cope with who they are having sex with. [yes, I lightened that from what I wanted to say.] I don’t care. Between married couples thinking I care when they got snipped or when they missed their pill, people seem to think I have a lot invested in their sex life. I don’t care. I’m not going to feel bad about not caring. Quite frankly if some gay guy in Chicago wants to shoot up on cocaine and have a 3-night orgy with 27 men, I don’t care. If people at the old folks home treat a guy differently when he thinks they need to be his captive audience for dealing with his affections for another man, I really don’t care. I’ve spent 5 responses now telling just how much I don’t care when the initial paragraph I thought made clear that I didn’t care.

  • David Nickol

    M.Z.:The over 70 population facing issues of how to address their homosexuality in their assisted living center would seem to be well south of 1%. I can’t even imagine the guy’s own mother would care, God rest her soul most likely, would care.

    Readers help 85-year-old man
    Tribune staff report
    June 25, 2009
    On Sunday, the Tribune profiled Victor Engandela, an 85-year-old gay man living an isolated existence in an Evanston home for seniors, surrounded by straight people his age, many of whom consider homosexuality taboo.

    Engandela had longed to attend a weekly program for gay seniors at the Center on Halsted, a community center for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, but transportation was a problem.

    Since the story ran, more than 50 Chicago-area people — gay and straight — have contacted the Tribune and volunteered to give Engandela rides to the senior center, or to just visit him and chat.

    To read our original profiles of Engandela and other gay seniors, visit chicagotribune.com/gayseniors.

  • David Nickol

    M.Z.

    First, here’s something you probably don’t want to know. An uptick in the number of gay-related stories in the newspaper is probably due to the fact that June is Gay Pride Month. The New York Times covers it, too.

    What’s bothersome about the comments here is that folks think I should actually care how people cope with who they are having sex with. [yes, I lightened that from what I wanted to say.]

    It’s doubtful that the 85-year-old man in the home for seniors was having sex with anyone. The story about the “transgender twentysomething” (not a transvestite) was not about having sex with anyone. It was about gender identity and clothing. There are many gay people who have never had sex with anyone.

    I don’t care.

    But you do seem to care. You don’t appear to be indifferent. You appear to be hostile. You can skip over stories in the newspaper you aren’t interested in, but you are threatening to cancel your subscription.

    Quite frankly if some gay guy in Chicago wants to shoot up on cocaine and have a 3-night orgy with 27 men, I don’t care.

    Tell us what you really think about gay people.

  • M.Z.

    An uptick in the number of gay-related stories in the newspaper is probably due to the fact that June is Gay Pride Month.

    So it is a stupid diversity appeal. Thanks.

  • David Nickol

    M.Z.,

    Does the Tribune cover Chicago’s St. Patrick’s Day festivities?

  • Personally, I recommend the WSJ — though it also lacks comics and has only a single sports page. However, it’s got a great drinks column and wine column, and the book reviews and international/financial news are always good.

  • Magdalena

    I second the suggestion for the WSJ – although I hate that you have to pay for their website. There’s also some stuff you won’t find anywhere else but the NYT.

    W/ regard to the Tribune argument, yes I’m sure the Tribune covers St. Pat’s. However St. Patrick’s Day is not *just* for the Irish. And it is not really about being Irish, or even about St. Patrick – it is usually about wearing green and drinking copious amounts of green beer.

    Lots of people are interested in St. Patrick’s Day. Nobody is interested in how a transvestite dresses except transvestites. Maybe Dear Abby had other motivations besides a shameless diversity pander, but it had nothing to do with “broad and general interest” which is what a non-niche newspaper is supposed to be shooting for.

  • David Nickol

    Nobody is interested in how a transvestite dresses except transvestites.

    Actually, as I mentioned, the person writing in was not a transvestite, but a transgender — biologically female, but with an aversion to the usual attire a woman would normally wear to a wedding.

    Gender identity is actually a fascinating topic, and more than a few parents are faced with the dilemma of what to do when their boy wants to dress like a girl, or vice versa. Psychologists are divided as to how to deal with the problem.

    Here’s what I suggest. All the people who don’t want to know about these things should learn to look at transgenders, transvestites, gays, and lesbians as freaks to laugh at and feel superior to. That way — as good Catholics — they can find entertainment in publications that practice “diversity journalism.”

  • Liam

    Hint: you don’t really have to pay to get access to the WSJ online – if you come in through a found link, it’s free….

    Another hint: newspapers in our culture have long traded in human interest stories about the UNusual. So there is built in bias to cover the less usual over the more usual. It’s still what moves news. And of course there is a long tradition of people getting indigestion over that: I’m shocked, shocked, to find gambling going on in here!

    And, for those who follow the institutional history of the NY Times, it was not until the death of Iphigene Ochs Sulzberger in 1990 that the Times began using the word “gay” – her powerful opposition to its use in the Times was the cause of deep bitterness during a tumultuous period of time. If one is wondering why the Times seemed to “go gay” in the 1990s and thereafter, it was a quite predictable swing given the very contorted stance the paper had on matters gay before her death. Some things are readily traced to ordinary stuff like this, not massive conspiracies.

  • David Nickol

    Sad as I am about the decline of the newspaper, with the New York Times and the Washington Post available free on line, I buy a newspaper maybe about four or five times a year. The Christian Science Monitor was always highly regarded, but I never think to check out their site. Google News can be a good source, especially when there are stories that make the national news but you want to read local coverage in a hometown newspaper. I occasionally check out the BBC site, and I used to read Haaretz occasionally, although I haven’t been reading it recently. Politico is an interesting site, and The Daily Beast is fun. And for good coverage of gay news, there’s 365gay.com, The Advocate, and especially the Chicago Tribune.

  • David Nickol

    More Gay coverage in the Chicago Tribune:

    Tyson Gay runs 100 meters in 9.75 seconds in first and only race of nationals

    Cancel my %$*&#* subscription!

  • Joseph

    So St Patrick’s Day has universal appeal whereas transvestites do not? What a ridiculous idea! Transvestitism has been a pillar of the theater since the dawn of time, and it is a major presence in contemmporary cultures, as witness movies like Tootsie, Victor/Victoria, Paris is Burning, M. Butterfly. This glorification of the Irish macho beer-fest and pooh-poohing of “effeminate” pillars of culture is just a self-gratifying display of philistinism. Laced of course with homophobia.

  • Joseph

    So no straights are interested in stories about gays??? I guess no gentiles are interested in stories about Jews. and no whites in stories about blacks, and no men in stories about women…

    MZ is clearly very interested in gayness. as a bugbear of some kind. But many straights also have a positive, warm, gay-friendly interest in their gay relatives and friends and in the presence of gays in our communities and cultures. This is the humanisitic spirit of cherishing the rich texture of human diverity. Homo sum, nihil humanum a me alienum puto.

  • Joseph

    Vox Nova is tending to support the perception that homophobia is a characteristically Catholic attitude.

  • Joseph

    I remember how pathetically grateful gays were when their mere existence was recognized in the media — as in stilted coverage by TIME or miserably timid Hollywood movies such as “Midnight Cowboy” or “Making Love” daring to touch on the delicate topic (and later “Philadelphia” and “Brokeback Mountain” were not much better). Now the media are closer to a proportionate representation of gays and their lives, but still far short of real proportionality. MZ would like gays to remain “unmentionables of the Oscar Wilde sort”, and thus to perpetuate discrimination, prejudice and bigotry.