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    Ann Rostow: Call Me When It’s Over

    By Ann Rostow–

    Call Me When It’s Over

    Before we start, my friends, I have to admit that Mel and I were not crazy about Call Me by Your Name, the movie I’ve been hyping for six months that was supposed to have been a lyrical expression of gay love, starring two beautiful actors and set in a magical summer in Northern Italy. Even though I’m a gay woman, I have always appreciated the male form, and am always thrilled about romantic tales of men in love. And I also don’t mind slow-paced movies, particularly those set in magical summers in Northern Italy. Before the film began, I whispered to our other friend who joined us: “I can’t wait to see this movie.”

    So, I was patient. Time passed. The gorgeous men went swimming. They biked into town. Everyone had breakfast and dinner at the outdoor table on the veranda. Jokes were exchanged. More time passed. After an hour or so, Mel gave me a questioning look, which I ignored. Our friend left to make a phone call. Fifteen minutes later she returned. “You missed nothing,” I snapped in a whisper.

    Eventually, we just left. It had been at least two hours, and I felt betrayed. Betrayed by the reviewers, the nominations, the film writers’ blather. It wasn’t simply that I disagreed with the general consensus. It was another one of these times when people cannot make unbiased judgments about gay culture. Yes, the movie was languid and lovely. Europe in the 1980s was idyllic and innocent. Rural Italy was as we imagine it should be. The handsome guys had a summer fling. But that was it. And it wasn’t enough. If the main characters had been heterosexual, the reviewers would have slammed it as a yawner with nice scenery. (Editor’s Note: San Francisco Bay Times film critic Gary Kramer holds a different view of the film. See his review and interview at:

    It’s a Mad Mad World

    Mel is reading Fire and Fury while I write, interrupting my efforts every now and then with unbelievable crazy quotes. For once, I almost agree with the irritating David Brooks, who opines (sort of) that opposition to Trump is serious business, while this book is silly gossip. Keep your eye on the ball, his message implies. 

    Perhaps, but it’s possible to eat your vegetables and have dessert, isn’t it? Maybe two desserts. Maybe two desserts, a bag of Fritos and a margarita on the rocks, no salt. Wait. Make that a pitcher. The book is a guilty pleasure without much guilt. And yes, it rings true. The image of Kellyanne Conway making a gun out of her finger and firing it into her head in reaction to something Trump did or said is so real that I feel as if I myself were in the room with her. 

    As for the idea that Oprah should run for president based on her lifetime of success and the great speech she gave at the Golden Globes, I agree with Nancy Pelosi. Yes, based on Trump, she should run. No, based on Trump, she should not run. I’ve always been a fan of good politicians and good lawyers. These maligned professionals are the ones who are trained to perform the tedious and often laborious hard work of governing, and as a rule, they’ve got my vote. Of course, I’d trade Trump or Pence for Oprah in a heartbeat, but I don’t really want another celebrity in the oval office.

    Some Like It Hot

    I guess climate change is having an impact on green sea turtles that nest on islands near the Great Barrier Reef. According to Current Biology, the warmer the sand, the more likely it is that the turtles will hatch female babies. In the last couple of decades, the baby turtle population on one particular island has risen to 99.8 percent female, threatening the survival of the local turtles. Either the few remaining boy turtles must spend all of their time procreating, or the group will have to find cooler climes. 

    Speaking of gender, the editor of the Burlington Free Press has been fired after a tweet that broke the camel’s back. Denis Finley was hired in 2016, and from the short article I read, he seemed to enjoy being a red man in a blue state, blasting Barack Obama, politicians in general and generally sounding like a jerk on Twitter. Usually, the editor of the local paper would avoid taking public positions outside of the opinion page, but for whatever reason, this guy liked the cyber banter. 

    Recently, however, Vermont lawmakers began discussing whether or not to add a third gender option for the state drivers’ license and, this being Burlington, Vermont, the reaction was positive. Into the mix popped off Finley, who first called the idea “apocalyptic” and then fell into a back and forth with other tweeters. When one of them wrote that “recognition is awesome,” Finley replied: “What if someone said it’s awesome they are going to recognize pedophiliacs on licenses? I’m not being snarky, I’m just asking. Not all recognition is awesome.”

    The problem is, you can’t just say, “I’m not being snarky,” when in fact you are all that and far, far more. Needless to say, the Vermont twitterverse erupted. “This is despicable,” one particularly articulate woman wrote. “Whether intended or not you equate non-binary recognition with pedophilia. One is a horrid crime, and the other a nod to humans just trying to live authentic lives.”

    The Gannett newspaper chain, owners of the Free Press, dismissed Finley on January 8, three days after the Friday evening exchange. 

    The Russians Are Coming

    By the way, I just paused to write some headlines and I’m not sure I ever mentioned that one of my father’s best friends was a successful Hollywood screenwriter named Bill Rose. (Not Billy Rose.) Anyway, he wrote It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World while staying at our house in Washington, D.C., and I just found a notebook with the ten-page typed proposal he made to the producers. Pretty cool, huh? He won an Oscar for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, and he named the characters in one of his movies (The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming) after our family—Walt, Elspeth, Peter and the adorable little girl, Ann.

    He eventually retired to the Isle of Jersey for tax purposes and drank heavily until his death. (Hey! Just read Jersey will vote on marriage equality January 30. Guernsey passed it last year.)

    The holidays are over, but it takes a little time to get back into the swing of things, so I’m allowed to ramble. I think I told you that they did finally pass marriage equality in Australia, and the law went into effect this month, so that’s done at long last. I’m not sure, however, if I mentioned that Bermuda became the first country to do what California did in 2008, take marriage equality away from its citizens. 

    The Overseas British Territory enjoyed marriage equality for a brief time, thanks to a May 2017 court ruling, but last month, cruel lawmakers decided to pass a statute downgrading gay couples into domestic partnerships. I do not believe that John Rankin, the British Governor to Bermuda, has signed the legislation, but it’s not clear that he has the authority to veto lawmakers to begin with, so it might not matter. 

    There’s also not much the United Kingdom can do about the situation, even though everyone in Bermuda is a British citizen. The U.K. is rightly hesitant to throw its weight around, now that the sun has indeed set on the British Empire, so Bermuda has the power to run its own government, for better, or as in this case, for worse. If nothing intercedes to reverse the reversal, we can only hope that tourism suffers and dies, choking the life out of the Bermudan economy and making those members of parliament rue the day they chose hatred and discrimination over love and human rights. 

    We are watching Victoria on PBS, just finished season two of The Crown on Netflix, and can’t get enough of the endearing younger generations of the royal family. I think it has something to do with Trump. I want a monarch. Someone devoted to country and duty. I want him or her (I don’t care which!) decked out in sashes and ribbons, maybe a sword at hand, certainly a lot of jewels and a crown. 

    You Stay, Girl!

    I just read that Justice Kennedy hired a full set of law clerks for the 2018/2019 session that starts this fall. That’s good news, considering there had been a rumor he was considering retirement. Justice Ginsburg, in turn, hired clerks for 2018/2019 and another group for 2019/2020. You go, girl! 

    In other Supreme Court news, I’m not sure what to make of the fact that the High Court declined to review a horrible decision by the Fifth Circuit, upholding Mississippi’s outrageously unconstitutional “religious freedom” law. We know virtually for a fact that the four left-of-center justices could not support a law that allows businesses and organizations to discriminate on the basis of moral opinions as long as said opinions are loosely tied to “faith,” an amorphous concept.

    Given that these four would likely want to reverse the Fifth Circuit, why didn’t they band together and accept the case, a decision that only requires four votes? One possibility is that they feared they could not find a fifth vote in favor of all that is right and good in the world. Another is that they agreed with a technical aspect of the Fifth Circuit’s ruling, to wit the idea that the case is premature since no one has yet to be injured by the law, and therefore no one has legal standing to challenge it. 

    That’s the most encouraging, and also the most likely theory. It’s worth keeping in mind as well that in states like Mississippi, there’s nothing keeping a business from discriminating against gays to begin with. That lack of protection is bad enough, but at least a city or a county could install a civil rights ordinance. With this new law, however, such an ordinance would be unenforceable.

    We’re still waiting to see if the Court will let stand the Seventh Circuit’s Title IX transgender rights ruling, the case of a transgender boy, Ash Whitaker, who won the right to use the boy’s facilities at his Wisconsin school. Remember that the Court previously took review of a similar trans school victory, the Gavin Grimm case out of the Fourth Circuit. The Court changed its mind after the Trump administration withdrew the Obama team’s legal policy that had been a major factor in the Fourth Circuit’s reasoning. The point is that the Court wanted to examine the subject (it seems) so they might put Whitaker on their docket.

    Speaking of the Whitaker case, I should mention that over the holidays, a federal judge in Illinois ruled against a bunch of “concerned” parents, who were trying to overthrow the trans-friendly policy of their school district. The 14-page decision pointed out that the Seventh Circuit just issued a Title IX opinion in favor of a transgender student, which is now binding law. I gather that the parents had argued that the Whitaker decision was really terrible and so outrageous that it shouldn’t really count as a precedent. Um, that’s not how it works, kids.

    Time’s Up, Steven

    I can’t stop without introducing you to a Baptist minister named Steven Anderson, who is fighting a petition urging the government of Jamaica to cancel his pending visit. According to his foes, Anderson celebrated the Orlando shootings and has called for women to stay at home and have children.

    Speaking to the Jamaican newspaper The Gleaner, Anderson defended himself against the charges. Anderson told the paper that teaching women to stay at home is not an attack “because women are actually a lot happier when they are doing what God intended them to do, and getting married and having children.” 

    As for the part about celebrating Orlando, Anderson said that was a lie. 

    “I never praised or celebrated the Orlando shooting. That part is not true. All I said was that I didn’t feel bad for the people who died because they were disgusting pedophiles anyway that deserved to die, according to the Bible, but I didn’t celebrate it or praise it because, obviously, I don’t think it is right for people to take violent measures against these people. I don’t believe in violence.”