On the 27th episode of M*A*S*H, only three shows into its second season, Corporal Max Klinger made his most serious and likely push for his dismissal from the US Army. It was a running gag throughout the first seven years of the show that Klinger would wrap himself in dresses, stoles and boas in an effort to acquire a sacred Section 8 – a discharge from the army due to a psychiatrically diagnosed case of nuttiness. But the gag should have been quashed after the episode in question – “Radar’s Report.”
In this episode, psychiatrist Dr. Milton Freedman (he’d be assigned the first name ‘Sidney’ in all subsequent appearances) tells Klinger he’ll give him the Section 8, but only by putting down in the official record that Klinger is a transvestite and a homosexual. Outraged, Klinger insists he’s none of those things – just crazy.
Beneath the surface of this punchline lies the real truth about the Section 8. This method of discharge was a frequent tool for commanding officers who wished to rid their platoon of “subversive” gays. It was a cold and calculated bayonet to the career of anyone whose preference in a mate – or even whose skin color – offended the sensibilities of a bigoted officer. Klinger could have taken Dr. Freedman up on his offer, but it would have come at a cost.
In 1916 the US Army came up with a form of discharge that hovered in purgatory between “Honorable” and “Dishonorable”. It was printed on blue paper, and came to be known as the blue discharge or a blue ticket. It was originally used to send home kids who had enlisted to fight in World War I underage, though that act of teenage patriotism was eventually promoted to an honorable discharge. For gay troops though, the blue ticket was an easy get. Read more…
Every so often I like to remind my readers that we used to live in a world that was, by all modern standards of logic and sanity, ridiculous. Perhaps it’s my subversive way of suggesting that some of the issues we face today will be looked upon as ludicrous and/or moronic by the next generation. Or maybe I’m not quite that crafty. I suppose it depends on my mood.
On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court of the United States dropped the checkered flag on Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka Kansas, the landmark ruling that declared segregation in public schools to be unconstitutional and backwards. But the transition from ignorance to stable integration was about as murky and clumsy as you’d expect. Racism was alive and thriving, particularly in some parts of the country which have spent generations making obliviousness into an entrenched lifestyle.
Amid the thick, almost tactile fog of racial disgruntlement in Little Rock, Arkansas, a group of nine unfathomably brave young men and women volunteered to honor the Supreme Court’s ruling by marching unblinkingly into the den of hate. These nine kids were to be the first black students at Little Rock’s Central High School, and there was no way the white folk were going to make it easy on them. They are the Little Rock Nine, and a greater display of teenage badassery you will likely never find.
Virgil Blossom, Little Rock’s superintendent, had a plan to gradually unravel the segregated school system. The NAACP was, not surprisingly, displeased with this idea, as it was so vague and open-ended, the schools might still be partially segregated a decade down the road. Led by Daisy Bates, they orchestrated a search for a handful of bold youths who were willing to kick off the 1957 school year in uncharted territory.
They found the Little Rock Nine. Read more…
The reaction to yesterday’s article, which outlined future planetary events over the next couple centuries, was overwhelming. “It changed the way I see the world,” said one fan that I made up. “So much information in such a callipygian space!” said another, who clearly doesn’t know the meaning of the word ‘callipygian’ (it means well-proportioned buttocks).
But the question that was asked most often – I’d like to say by curious fans, but truthfully just by myself during the commercials of a M*A*S*H rerun last night – was what about our lives? Sure, maybe Venus will eclipse Jupiter in 2123, but certainly there must me more I can find out about life on this planet during the short window I’ll get to see.
Well, good news. With 400 articles yet to be slapped upon the giant refrigerator of this project, I have grabbed my next magnet and selected a good mix of forecasts about life on earth to form the basis of today’s entry. Let’s see what we can expect over the next fifty or so years.
I hope it’s all good news.
For starters, there are going to be a lot of us. We just passed the post of seven billion souls (and a handful of soulless folks) on this planet, and in the next 12-13 years we’ll hit eight. Nine billion in the early 40’s, and the United Nations is confident we’ll be bursting at the seams with ten billion people by 2083. I suppose the upswing to global warming is that the toastier temperatures should make the real estate in Greenland a lot more valuable – that’ll take some of the crowd-burden off the rest of us. Read more…
A few words about the great state of Tennessee before I begin. It’s a lovely state, full of history, and it features Nashville, one of the bedrock states of American music. I feel I need to preface with this, as Tennessee has taken a few hits in the media lately. This is the state where, in 2011, legislators passed a bill that would make it illegal for educators to even make reference to the fact that some people in the world are gay. As geographically removed from the deep south as Tennessee may be, their leaders have fought hard to appear as intolerant and backwards as possible.
And this is hardly a new development. One of the first ‘trials of the century’ took place in a Tennessee courtroom, and while it had nothing to do with homosexual rights, it focused the blinding media spotlight onto the state’s educational system, and revealed it to be ludicrously outmoded.
They called it the Scopes Monkey Trial. But in reality, it wasn’t the monkeys who needed defending. It was science.
It all started when a downhome folksy Tennessee farmer-turned-lawmaker named John W. Butler introduced a bill that would make it illegal for any teacher in any school in the state to teach evolution. Evolution was a bitch-slap in the face to the science of the Bible. Teachers were not – under the threat of a hefty fine – allowed to deny the origins of mankind as taught in holy scripture. Read more…
Some topics are simply too large to be contained within a single article. A month ago I marveled at some of television’s more obscure spin-offs, but I only scratched the surface. Television networks have a habit of trying to stretch their audience’s limit of how much of a good thing is good enough.
We should be relieved The Sopranos didn’t drop a three-camera sitcom called It’s Janice! after it cut to black. Or that Lost wasn’t rebooted in more mystery-heaping confusion with After-Lost. And thankfully Seinfeld did not beget The Babu & Puddy Variety Hour. Actually, I might have watched that one.
Anyway, here are a few more from the pile:
Sure, maybe you have seen all 110 episodes of Charlie’s Angels. But did you ever see Toni’s Boys? Actually, yes. If you devoted 110 hours of your life to Charlie and his girls, then you saw the episode in which a lady named Toni employed a stable of strapping young hunks for essentially the same purpose as Charlie kept his Angels. This was a ‘backdoor pilot’, meaning it aired as an episode of its parent series, in hopes there would be enough interest for the network to order a few episodes. Read more…