• led light 28.05.2012 No Comments

    Led by Goldwater, the creative minds at Archie Comics decided to “update” their characters, which hark back to a mid-century era of malt shops and letterman sweaters — when the jalopy chassis and presumed chastity went hand-in-hand. In 2010, Archie Comics entered the current century by introducing Kevin Keller, Riverdale’s “first openly gay character.” The result: headlines and turned heads that culminated in its “Marriage of Kevin Keller!” issue selling out this year.

    To comics fans, none of this is new and surprising after decades of gay characters and relationships from mainstream publishers. But in the wake of President Barack Obama’s newly stated support of gay marriage, current examples of gay romance in comics have stepped into a klieg light of broader cultural resonance.

    Last week, Marvel Comics announced the proposal and same-sex nuptials of Northstar, its first gay superhero, in “Astonishing X-Men” No. 50 (published this week) and No. 51 (it’s a June wedding). And just days before, DC publisher Dan DiDio said at London’s Kapow comic convention that a major DC character would soon become “one of our most prominent gay characters.”

    “It was only natural that when New York legalized gay marriage last year,” says Marvel’s Tom Brevoort, editor of the “Astonishing X-Men” project, “our thoughts would turn to what impact this might have on Northstar and his ongoing relationship with his partner, Kyle. The story grew organically from there — and the zeitgeist at the moment gives it even greater relevance.”

    Is 2012, then, a flashpoint for depicting gay relationships in mainstream comics, or is this just an editorial blip made brighter by the glare of electoral politics?

    Tom Batiuk, an Akron native, Kent State graduate and Medina resident, is an Ohio man through and through. So it struck particularly close to home last year when he read about a parents’ group in the southern part of his state protesting a high school’s “tolerant attitude” toward gays.

    “I still go out to my old high school,” says Batiuk, who was a classroom teacher before launching his syndicated comic strip “Funky Winkerbean” 40 years ago.

    Batiuk knew then that somehow this picketing would make its way into his school-set strip, which has dealt with such non-traditional “funny page” issues as teen suicide and pregnancy, alcoholism and capital punishment. In 2008, Batiuk was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for “Lisa’s Story,” the arc in which one of “Funky’s” main characters battled breast cancer.

    On the comics pages this month, Batiuk’s response to the parents’ protest has played out among “Funky’s” characters at Westview High. Two male students sought to attend the prom together, sparking what the cartoonist characterizes as a generational showdown. King Features says the story arc is now concluding.

    “I’m not trying to proselytize here,” Batiuk says. “I had a viewpoint and I knew which side I came down on. It’s less an issue of [being gay] and more an issue of tolerance and intolerance. And that idea has been in ‘Funky’ from the very beginning.”


  • Yellow Medicine County finished the first quarter of the year in good overall financial shape in terms of budget expenditures, according to a report presented by Finance Manager Michelle May at the regularly scheduled county board meeting on Tuesday.

    County Administrator Ryan Krosch said expenditures from the general fund, which accounts for about half of the county budget, were at about 29 percent of budget for the first quarter. Of the other two largest county departments, Human Services spent about 27 percent of budget. Roads and Bridges was at 19 percent, much lower than normal because of the lack of snow last winter.

    “As a whole we’re right where we need to be in the first quarter,” Krosch said.

    The board also heard from Countryside Public Health Deputy Administrator Linda Norland, who summarized the state’s county health rankings in the five counties that comprise the CPH joint powers agreement.

    Countryside Public Health is operated by Yellow Medicine, Big Stone, Chippewa, Lac qui Parle and Swift counties.

    According to the data presented by Norland, Yellow Medicine County ranks 69th out of 87 Minnesota counties as measured by an aggregate number of health factors, the lowest of the five counties in CPH. The highest ranking county of the five was Lac qui Parle, the 12th in Minnesota.

    Norland told the board CPH has run in the red for the past three years, and a meeting has been scheduled to discuss priorities for health services on April 25 at a located to be determined later.

    With federal and state funding cuts, CPH will face some hard choices on how and which services to deliver, according to Norland.

    “We’d like to discuss how we decide what our priorities are,” Norland said. “Which is it better to do? Provide child car seats or water testing?”

    Norland told the board some health issues are beyond the capability of the agency to help.

    “One of the factors in poor pregnancy outcomes is lack of a significant other,” Norland said. “A third of all mothers on the WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) program are single. We can’t affect that.”

    The meeting, which Norland called a “mini-retreat,” will be comprised of a county commissioner and a layperson from each of the five member counties, with two commissioners representing Lac qui Parle County because of its relatively larger population.

    Lyon County Environmental Administrator Paul Henriksen briefed the board on the planned collection event on Saturday, May 19, for appliances, electronics, fluorescent bulbs, and tires.

    Collection points will be set up in county highway shops in Granite Falls and Canby and at the city of Clarkfield Maintenance Shop. Disposal of appliances will be free, except for freon-containing appliances such as refrigerators and air conditioners. All electronics will cost $10 to dispose of. There will be a sliding scale for fluorescent bulbs and tires ranging from 50 cents to $1.75 for bulbs, and from $2.25 to $35 for tires depending on size.


  • When I was a little girl my mother informed me, early and often, that “children should be seen, and not heard.”

    An obedient sort, I soon learned that if I would only keep my piehole closed, I was quite welcome to hover at the periphery of adult gatherings, until well past bedtime. There, I would quietly drink in the stories that would bubble up and out of various aunties and uncles whose guards were let down and tongues loosened—for better or worse—thanks to a steady imbibing of what they called “the creature” in all its shades.

    These relatives were never glad of a present moment, but once it had slipped into the ether of memory, they were happy to indulge in the sloppiest of sentiments about the glory of days gone by. In particular, they loved retelling the stories that reinforced their understanding of themselves as Irish Stereotypes in Good Standing—the “donnybrooks,” between families, the “fisticuffs” between siblings of either sex, the “shenanigans” they suspected were going on everywhere and at all times.

    Since Irish wakes usually served up the donnybrooks, fisticuffs, and shenanigans along with healthy helpings of superstition and drunken excess, the most often retold (and most often exaggerated) stories—the ones that brought table-slapping guffaws and wheezes from all sides—were tales of the in-house wakings of their beloved dead. Most infamous among these was the circa 1930 wake of one “Uncle Charlie” a child-beating brute who died of a stomach cancer but not before being written up in a medical journal, for—my mother claimed—”being the curious case of a man burning out his gut from his own acid hate.”

    My mother, who often bore the brunt of his wrath, was six or seven years old at Charlie’s passing, and she recounted approaching his laid-out body with great care, just in case he still had a slap left in him. The rest of the family had moved from the parlor (”we called them parlors, then”) to the kitchen to take either liquid or solid suppers.
    “There was a cube of ice, somewhere in that box, but I don’t know that,” she said, “and as the thing melted, Charlie shifted in the box. I screamed ‘he’s alive, he’s alive!’ and tore into the kitchen, and Uncle Joe brought me back out along with a plate of beef and carrots and potatoes and laid it on Uncle Charlie’s chest; ’shush, ye child, he just wants to be included.’”

    Hearing these stories in an age when death had been moved out of the parlor and into the funeral home, it was both spooky and exotic to consider that once upon a time people took care of their own dead; they washed the bodies and made them presentable, and then invited the neighbors in to toast him farewell, “everyone came,” my mother said. “See, they wanted to make sure he was dead, but even the mailman stepped in and tipped his hat and had a healthy dose to his memory.”

    Death, for the people of that era, and every era before, was no stranger and brought no squeamishness. There was nothing mysterious about death beyond those questions we still ask—will we see them again in the next life, and why, so often, do the good die young while old bastards hold forth for far too long? A family mourned and drank, and fought and keened and then stumbled into church for the funeral; they buried their beloved and stumbled about some more, and life went on.

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  • Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are purposely coy about their relationship. In fact, the only time they drop a little nugget of information about their private lives is when one of them is promoting a movie. Since they take turns working, that is pretty much all year round. Brad recently sat down with Entertainment Weekly to discuss not only his personal life with Angie and the kids, but his career.

    As always, Brad is pretty candid and holds no punches back. He has been in the business for a long time and has learned what he should or should not say, but just does not seem to care. He is currently filming his big production Zombie thriller movie, “World War Z” and promoting his film, “Moneyball.” It is clearly his turn to work!

    He talks about the agreement he and Angelina have in place about their work schedules and hints it may not be working.  As always, he is asked if he and Angie will ever work together again. He says, “We should be doing them together.” He reflects back on the collaboration of “Mr. and Mrs. Smith.” He says, “That was just a great collaboration that turned into a greater collaboration.” Yep, that joining led to three biological kids between the two and three adopted kids. That is one heck of a “collaboration.”

    It is as if a light bulb went on. He reiterates, “We should be doing everything together, and then we could work less. We could have more time off.” Oh, sounds like he is missing his woman. Brad and Angelina are two of the highest paid actors in the industry. They could probably afford to take some time off. Just saying.

    Brad talks about how much he hated the long, tedious filming  of “Interview With the Vampire.” He reveals just how close he came to quitting the whole production.  “David, I can’t do this anymore.  I can’t do it. How much will it take to get me out?’ And he goes, very calmly, ‘Forty million dollars.’” As we know, he sucked it up and pulled through.

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