Monthly Archives: November 2016

In The New ‘Gilmore Girls,’ Rory Gilmore Turns Out To Be A Bad Journalist




ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

What happens when the person you looked up to falls from grace? Some fans of the show “Gilmore Girls” had that experience over the weekend. The show ran for seven seasons and wrapped up in 2007, and last week, Netflix brought back the show for a four-part mini-series.

(SOUNDBITE OF CAROLE KING SONG, “WHERE YOU LEAD”)

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Fans were looking forward to catching up with a lot of the characters, especially Rory Gilmore. She’s the ambitious, aspiring young journalist who had dreams of winning a Pulitzer.

CORNISH: So in the original series, I really loved her as a character, especially as a young teenage girl, you know – that she could be so sort of curious about the world and so passionate about academics. And I mean it’s just – it’s not something that you see depicted very often in any kind of pop culture.

SHAPIRO: That’s actual journalist Megan Garber. She’s a culture writer at The Atlantic who grew up watching “Gilmore Girls.” She says she was disappointed with the new Netflix season and especially Rory’s character.

CORNISH: That’s because – spoiler alert – even though Rory does become a journalist, she’s not a very good one.

MEGAN GARBER: I was talking with a lot of my journalist friends yesterday about that. And we all just were so infuriated. So I think the main one – the most obvious one is that she sleeps with a source. That’s, A, just unethical on its face. But, B, Rory Gilmore herself doing that sort of fits into this pretty pernicious trope that we see a lot in Hollywood of women journalists sleeping with sources.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, “GILMORE GIRLS: A YEAR IN THE LIFE”)

ALEXIS BLEDEL: (As Rory Gilmore) I was interviewing people, and then, you know, the line moved up. And I kind of bonded with this one group. And I tagged along with them to P.J. Clarke’s. We had burgers and drinks and more drinks. And then there was this guy.

GARBER: And now it has happened with Rory Gilmore, which is a disappointment. So that’s the main thing. She also is interviewing a source who is very nicely talking with her and, you know, being very operative and explaining himself to her. And she falls asleep as he is talking. So that’s both bad journalism and just extremely rude.

SHAPIRO: Even though Garber has been let down by this character, a character she used to identify with, she says maybe there’s a lesson in that disappointment.

GARBER: This happens all the time in real life, you know, where you – there’s someone you look up to, admire them maybe your whole life even. You love their work. And then you learn more about them. And you learn that they are flawed people just like everyone else.

So I think that it’s a very common feeling to have. I don’t know that “Gilmore Girls” intended itself (laughter) as sort of an object lesson in that. But I think that is probably what ended up happening. And I do think that this is the – a show just from the beginning about adulthood really and about realizing that your heroes are themselves human.

CORNISH: That was Atlantic culture writer Megan Garber. We reached her on Skype. “Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life” is out now.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “MY LITTLE CORNER OF THE WORLD”)

YO LA TENGO: (Singing) Come along with me to my little corner of the world. Dream a little dream in my little corner of the world. You’ll soon forget that there’s any other place. Tonight, my love…

Copyright © 2016 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

LGBTQ Activist Cleve Jones: ‘I’m Well Aware How Fragile Life Is’


Cleve Jones speaks outside the Supreme Court in June 2013.

Hachette Books


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Hachette Books

Longtime activist Cleve Jones has dedicated his life to working with members of the LGBTQ community, but growing up he felt like the only gay person in the world. He tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross that he felt so isolated as a teenager that he considered suicide. Then he read about the gay liberation movement in Life magazine and his outlook changed.

“This magazine, in a matter of minutes, revealed to me that there were other people like me,” Jones says. “There were a lot of us. We were organizing. … There was a community, and there were places we could live safely. And one of those places was called San Francisco.”

Jones moved to San Francisco when he was in his early 20s. There, he found a mentor in Harvey Milk, one of the country’s first openly gay elected officials. He marched alongside Milk for gay rights, and when Milk was assassinated in 1978, Jones decided to dedicate his life to the cause. “Meeting Harvey, seeing his death, it fixed my course,” he says.

After the AIDS epidemic hit San Francisco, Jones co-founded the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and started the AIDS Memorial Quilt.

Jones describes his life and his involvement in the gay rights movement in his new memoir, When We Rise. He says it’s a story of hardship, but also one of triumph. “I have these memories of great struggle and great pain and great loss, but I also in my lifetime have seen extraordinary progress and amazing change.”

Interview Highlights

On considering suicide as a kid

When We Rise

My Life in the Movement

by Cleve Jones

Hardcover, 291 pages |

purchase

I felt that my life was over before it even really began because it just seemed then that there was no way to have a decent life and to be gay. So I was terrified that I was going to be caught and I had already experienced quite bit of bullying and I just thought that only misery lay ahead and when I got caught that that would be the solution.

I wish I could say that was thing of past, but you know it’s not. And even today, every year we lose an awful lot of young people, teenagers, who take their own lives because they are gay or transgender.

On being at the scene of Harvey Milk’s City Hall assassination by former San Francisco Supervisor Dan White

It changed my life forever. … Dan White had invited him into his office and shot him there. And his feet were sticking out in the hall and I recognized his wingtip shoes — he had second-hand shoes he had bought at a thrift store. Then we couldn’t leave. We were stuck there because the police were doing their thing.

And we played the tape that he had left for us to play, because he predicted his assassination. I used to tease him for it and tell him he wasn’t important enough to get shot, so that was pretty eerie and very horrible to be sitting in his office, listening to his voice predicting his death while his body is there in the hallway.

I knew by the end of the day that that was the single most important moment of my life, and it was the single most important thing that happened to me.

On Milk’s importance to the gay rights movement

[Harvey Milk]’s often described as the first openly gay person to be elected to public office. That is inaccurate, and in my book I make sure to credit the half dozen or so individuals who came before him in various places in the country. But I think Harvey’s significance really was that he became our first shared martyr. Word of his assassination spread far and wide, and even though gay people had lost many people to violence, to suicide, to drugs and alcohol, here was this symbolic figure that just struck a chord with people. For those of us in San Francisco, it was fascinating to see this guy who was really just one of your local neighborhood characters assume this worldwide significance.

On testing positive for HIV

By the fall of 1985, almost everyone I knew was dead or dying or caring for someone who was dying. I tested positive for HIV the week the test came out, which I’m thinking was 1985. That time is a bit of a blur. …

I had been in a study I had volunteered for, so I knew that they had samples of my blood going back all the way to 1977. So I learned that not only did I have HIV, but I learned that I had had it since the winter of ’78, ’79, so I never expected to survive.

On where he got the idea for the AIDS Memorial Quilt

Every year in San Francisco on November 27, we gather at the corner of Castro and Market Street and light our candles to remember Harvey [Milk] and George [Moscone, the late San Francisco mayor who was assassinated with Milk]. That year, as we were getting ready for the annual tribute, the death toll in San Francisco rose to 1,000 and there was a headline in the paper about “1,000 San Franciscans Dead From AIDS.” …

I was just so struck by that number: 1,000. … So that night of the march, I had Harvey Milk’s old bullhorn and I got stacks of poster board and stacks of markers and I asked everybody to write the name of someone they knew who had been killed by the new disease. At first people were ashamed to do it, but finally began writing their first and last names, and we carried these placards with us with our candles to … the building that housed the Health and Human Services West Coast offices for the federal government for the Reagan administration. …

We had hidden ladders in the shrubbery nearby and climbed up the front grey stone façade of this building and taped the names to the wall. After I got off my ladder I walked through the crowd. There were thousands of people. It was gentle rain, no speeches or music, just thousands of people reading these names on this patchwork of placards up on that wall. And I thought to myself, “It looks like some kind of quilt,” and when I said the word “quilt” I thought of my great-grandma. … And it was such a warm and comforting and middle-American traditional-family-values sort of symbol, and I thought, “This is the symbol we should take.”

On the pain of having lived through AIDS epidemic and Milk’s assassination

It’s similar, I think, to being in a war. I think of my friends every day. There are some days when it is so painful that I really can barely function. But I have to, and I do, and I find that I get my strength from my community and my friends. And I’m surrounded by people who went through that time with me, and we support each other and we love each other are grateful for every bit of laughter and joy that comes our way. …

Whenever I get to these junctures in my life — and we just had one with this last election — where everything I’ve been through kind of flashes before my eyes again … I think, “Well, here we go.” But finding Harvey’s body, watching all those people die during AIDS — I’m well aware how fragile life is and how short it can be and how important it is to use it fully.

A Giving History: Smithsonian Exhibit Showcases Americans’ Charitable Acts


(Left) A firefighter’s boot used to collect money from motorists for the “Fill the Boot” campaign for muscular dystrophy which started in 1954. (Center) A Habitat for Humanity belt was used by a volunteer in rebuilding homes in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. (Right) Bucket used by Jeanette Senerchia in 2014 launching the viral ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

Courtesy of National Museum of American History


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Courtesy of National Museum of American History

(Left) A firefighter’s boot used to collect money from motorists for the “Fill the Boot” campaign for muscular dystrophy which started in 1954. (Center) A Habitat for Humanity belt was used by a volunteer in rebuilding homes in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. (Right) Bucket used by Jeanette Senerchia in 2014 launching the viral ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

Courtesy of National Museum of American History

Remember a couple of years ago, when it seemed like we were all one big happy family, Americans of every age and political stripe, joined in common pursuit? Millions of us spent that summer pouring buckets of ice water on our heads, to raise money for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Philanthropy has always played a big role in the United States, helping to shape who we are, what we do and how. Now it’s the subject of a new exhibit called “Giving in America” at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

The 2014 ALS Ice Bucket Challenge turned out to be one of the most successful fundraising efforts in U.S. history. But museum curator Bonnie Lilienfeld says it had a very modest beginning — a blue plastic bucket that you might use for a mop.

The pail belonged to a New York woman, Jeanette Senerchia, whose husband has ALS. A relative challenged her to dump ice on her head to raise awareness about the degenerative disease and to post the video online. She did just that, and the rest is philanthropic history.

“People just started dumping ice on their heads,” Lilienfeld says. “It seemed like a kind of crazy thing, and at the time people wondered what it really was going to do.”

But the grassroots campaign raised more than $115 million to fund medical research and became the latest symbol of Americans’ creativity when it comes to giving. Lilienfeld says U.S. philanthropy comes in many shapes and sizes.

“Like this wonderful 1764 silver plate that was given by Thomas Hancock to his church in Boston, Massachusetts,” she says, pointing to a large communion dish on display. The border of the plate is inscribed with the name of Hancock’s church, but also his own name, making clear to all the other parishioners that he was the one who made the donation.

Lilienfeld says people not only give to help others, but sometimes to help themselves.

These early 19th century alms boxes were used to collect money for religious institutions and charities.

Courtesy of National Museum of American History


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Courtesy of National Museum of American History

These early 19th century alms boxes were used to collect money for religious institutions and charities.

Courtesy of National Museum of American History

Still, U.S. philanthropy has met important social needs over the years, often funding things that government did not. In the 19th century, wealthy industrialist Andrew Carnegie used his money to build libraries across the nation. He believed the rich had a responsibility to support the common good.

And in the early 1900s, philanthropist Julius Rosenwald worked with Booker T. Washington to build thousands of schools in the South to educate black children, who would otherwise have had an inadequate education. The exhibit includes a metal lunch tray from one of those schools.

But Lilienfeld says charity isn’t just about those with money. Far from it.

“It’s amazing what just a little bit can do,” she says, pointing to a small orange box, the kind trick-or-treaters used on Halloween to collect spare change. Over the years, the money added up, raising more than $175 million for UNICEF.

A UNICEF Halloween collection box, late 1990s. Amid concerns about world affairs after World War II, Americans were encouraged to donate to international relief. Philanthropy became the human face of global American influence and organizations and foundations frequently funded projects led by the United Nations.

Courtesy of National Museum of American History


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Courtesy of National Museum of American History

A UNICEF Halloween collection box, late 1990s. Amid concerns about world affairs after World War II, Americans were encouraged to donate to international relief. Philanthropy became the human face of global American influence and organizations and foundations frequently funded projects led by the United Nations.

Courtesy of National Museum of American History

Sometimes, giving doesn’t involve money at all. The exhibit also includes a blood donation kit.

“That’s really sort of the ultimate gift of really giving of yourself,” says Lilienfeld. “We included that story here to get people to understand, sometimes the smallest act really is an act of philanthropy.”

Maryland slaveowner George Burchhartt granted freedom to his slave in a letter from 1793.

Courtesy of National Museum of American History


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Courtesy of National Museum of American History

Maryland slaveowner George Burchhartt granted freedom to his slave in a letter from 1793.

Courtesy of National Museum of American History

She says many Americans prefer to do something more to help charity than just writing a check. There’s a tool belt on display that a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity used to build a house. And a t-shirt from a charity race.

But not all giving was quite so benevolent. The exhibit includes a 1793 letter from a Maryland slaveholder, granting one of his slaves her freedom.

“It’s not always a happy story. I mean for her, at least she got freedom, but it really reminds us of the power this man had over her,” says Lilienfeld.

She adds that mostly, giving in the U.S. has been aimed at improving life, and seems to fill a need many Americans have to take matters into their own hands.

“This idea that we come together in a crisis, we come together to take care of each other, we come together to get things done,” she says.

The exhibit is on permanent display at the museum.

In The New ‘Gilmore Girls,’ Rory Gilmore Turns Out To Be A Bad Journalist




ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

What happens when the person you looked up to falls from grace? Some fans of the show “Gilmore Girls” had that experience over the weekend. The show ran for seven seasons and wrapped up in 2007, and last week, Netflix brought back the show for a four-part mini-series.

(SOUNDBITE OF CAROLE KING SONG, “WHERE YOU LEAD”)

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Fans were looking forward to catching up with a lot of the characters, especially Rory Gilmore. She’s the ambitious, aspiring young journalist who had dreams of winning a Pulitzer.

CORNISH: So in the original series, I really loved her as a character, especially as a young teenage girl, you know – that she could be so sort of curious about the world and so passionate about academics. And I mean it’s just – it’s not something that you see depicted very often in any kind of pop culture.

SHAPIRO: That’s actual journalist Megan Garber. She’s a culture writer at The Atlantic who grew up watching “Gilmore Girls.” She says she was disappointed with the new Netflix season and especially Rory’s character.

CORNISH: That’s because – spoiler alert – even though Rory does become a journalist, she’s not a very good one.

MEGAN GARBER: I was talking with a lot of my journalist friends yesterday about that. And we all just were so infuriated. So I think the main one – the most obvious one is that she sleeps with a source. That’s, A, just unethical on its face. But, B, Rory Gilmore herself doing that sort of fits into this pretty pernicious trope that we see a lot in Hollywood of women journalists sleeping with sources.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, “GILMORE GIRLS: A YEAR IN THE LIFE”)

ALEXIS BLEDEL: (As Rory Gilmore) I was interviewing people, and then, you know, the line moved up. And I kind of bonded with this one group. And I tagged along with them to P.J. Clarke’s. We had burgers and drinks and more drinks. And then there was this guy.

GARBER: And now it has happened with Rory Gilmore, which is a disappointment. So that’s the main thing. She also is interviewing a source who is very nicely talking with her and, you know, being very operative and explaining himself to her. And she falls asleep as he is talking. So that’s both bad journalism and just extremely rude.

SHAPIRO: Even though Garber has been let down by this character, a character she used to identify with, she says maybe there’s a lesson in that disappointment.

GARBER: This happens all the time in real life, you know, where you – there’s someone you look up to, admire them maybe your whole life even. You love their work. And then you learn more about them. And you learn that they are flawed people just like everyone else.

So I think that it’s a very common feeling to have. I don’t know that “Gilmore Girls” intended itself (laughter) as sort of an object lesson in that. But I think that is probably what ended up happening. And I do think that this is the – a show just from the beginning about adulthood really and about realizing that your heroes are themselves human.

CORNISH: That was Atlantic culture writer Megan Garber. We reached her on Skype. “Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life” is out now.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “MY LITTLE CORNER OF THE WORLD”)

YO LA TENGO: (Singing) Come along with me to my little corner of the world. Dream a little dream in my little corner of the world. You’ll soon forget that there’s any other place. Tonight, my love…

Copyright © 2016 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

LGBTQ Activist Cleve Jones: ‘I’m Well Aware How Fragile Life Is’


Cleve Jones speaks outside the Supreme Court in June 2013.

Hachette Books


hide caption

toggle caption

Hachette Books

Longtime activist Cleve Jones has dedicated his life to working with members of the LGBTQ community, but growing up he felt like the only gay person in the world. He tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross that he felt so isolated as a teenager that he considered suicide. Then he read about the gay liberation movement in Life magazine and his outlook changed.

“This magazine, in a matter of minutes, revealed to me that there were other people like me,” Jones says. “There were a lot of us. We were organizing. … There was a community, and there were places we could live safely. And one of those places was called San Francisco.”

Jones moved to San Francisco when he was in his early 20s. There, he found a mentor in Harvey Milk, one of the country’s first openly gay elected officials. He marched alongside Milk for gay rights, and when Milk was assassinated in 1978, Jones decided to dedicate his life to the cause. “Meeting Harvey, seeing his death, it fixed my course,” he says.

After the AIDS epidemic hit San Francisco, Jones co-founded the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and started the AIDS Memorial Quilt.

Jones describes his life and his involvement in the gay rights movement in his new memoir, When We Rise. He says it’s a story of hardship, but also one of triumph. “I have these memories of great struggle and great pain and great loss, but I also in my lifetime have seen extraordinary progress and amazing change.”

Interview Highlights

On considering suicide as a kid

When We Rise

My Life in the Movement

by Cleve Jones

Hardcover, 291 pages |

purchase

I felt that my life was over before it even really began because it just seemed then that there was no way to have a decent life and to be gay. So I was terrified that I was going to be caught and I had already experienced quite bit of bullying and I just thought that only misery lay ahead and when I got caught that that would be the solution.

I wish I could say that was thing of past, but you know it’s not. And even today, every year we lose an awful lot of young people, teenagers, who take their own lives because they are gay or transgender.

On being at the scene of Harvey Milk’s City Hall assassination by former San Francisco Supervisor Dan White

It changed my life forever. … Dan White had invited him into his office and shot him there. And his feet were sticking out in the hall and I recognized his wingtip shoes — he had second-hand shoes he had bought at a thrift store. Then we couldn’t leave. We were stuck there because the police were doing their thing.

And we played the tape that he had left for us to play, because he predicted his assassination. I used to tease him for it and tell him he wasn’t important enough to get shot, so that was pretty eerie and very horrible to be sitting in his office, listening to his voice predicting his death while his body is there in the hallway.

I knew by the end of the day that that was the single most important moment of my life, and it was the single most important thing that happened to me.

On Milk’s importance to the gay rights movement

[Harvey Milk]’s often described as the first openly gay person to be elected to public office. That is inaccurate, and in my book I make sure to credit the half dozen or so individuals who came before him in various places in the country. But I think Harvey’s significance really was that he became our first shared martyr. Word of his assassination spread far and wide, and even though gay people had lost many people to violence, to suicide, to drugs and alcohol, here was this symbolic figure that just struck a chord with people. For those of us in San Francisco, it was fascinating to see this guy who was really just one of your local neighborhood characters assume this worldwide significance.

On testing positive for HIV

By the fall of 1985, almost everyone I knew was dead or dying or caring for someone who was dying. I tested positive for HIV the week the test came out, which I’m thinking was 1985. That time is a bit of a blur. …

I had been in a study I had volunteered for, so I knew that they had samples of my blood going back all the way to 1977. So I learned that not only did I have HIV, but I learned that I had had it since the winter of ’78, ’79, so I never expected to survive.

On where he got the idea for the AIDS Memorial Quilt

Every year in San Francisco on November 27, we gather at the corner of Castro and Market Street and light our candles to remember Harvey [Milk] and George [Moscone, the late San Francisco mayor who was assassinated with Milk]. That year, as we were getting ready for the annual tribute, the death toll in San Francisco rose to 1,000 and there was a headline in the paper about “1,000 San Franciscans Dead From AIDS.” …

I was just so struck by that number: 1,000. … So that night of the march, I had Harvey Milk’s old bullhorn and I got stacks of poster board and stacks of markers and I asked everybody to write the name of someone they knew who had been killed by the new disease. At first people were ashamed to do it, but finally began writing their first and last names, and we carried these placards with us with our candles to … the building that housed the Health and Human Services West Coast offices for the federal government for the Reagan administration. …

We had hidden ladders in the shrubbery nearby and climbed up the front grey stone façade of this building and taped the names to the wall. After I got off my ladder I walked through the crowd. There were thousands of people. It was gentle rain, no speeches or music, just thousands of people reading these names on this patchwork of placards up on that wall. And I thought to myself, “It looks like some kind of quilt,” and when I said the word “quilt” I thought of my great-grandma. … And it was such a warm and comforting and middle-American traditional-family-values sort of symbol, and I thought, “This is the symbol we should take.”

On the pain of having lived through AIDS epidemic and Milk’s assassination

It’s similar, I think, to being in a war. I think of my friends every day. There are some days when it is so painful that I really can barely function. But I have to, and I do, and I find that I get my strength from my community and my friends. And I’m surrounded by people who went through that time with me, and we support each other and we love each other are grateful for every bit of laughter and joy that comes our way. …

Whenever I get to these junctures in my life — and we just had one with this last election — where everything I’ve been through kind of flashes before my eyes again … I think, “Well, here we go.” But finding Harvey’s body, watching all those people die during AIDS — I’m well aware how fragile life is and how short it can be and how important it is to use it fully.

‘Moonlight’ Scored At The Gotham Awards, Which Is Why We Have Awards


Alex Hibbert and Mahershala Ali, from a scene in “Moonlight.

David Bornfriend/Courtesy of A24


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David Bornfriend/Courtesy of A24

Alex Hibbert and Mahershala Ali, from a scene in “Moonlight.

David Bornfriend/Courtesy of A24

At an exceptionally strong Toronto International Film Festival this year, Moonlight was the film I kept hearing that people couldn’t get into. One critic told me he’d tried at three different screenings; all were full. That’s not a terribly common Toronto tale, particularly with a film where the director/screenwriter and the lead actors are not especially famous. What was driving people to the film was word of mouth. What was driving them to it was that people kept telling them how good it was. That’s how it ought to work; that’s not how it always works.

Enthusiasm for Barry Jenkins’ honest, gorgeous, subtly stunning coming-of-age film, which follows a little boy in Miami named Chiron as he becomes a sensitive teenager and then a self-reliant grown man, has continued to build. Monday night at the Gotham Independent Film Awards, it won best feature, best screenplay, the audience award, and a special ensemble award for its cast, which includes three actors — Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes — who all play Chiron at different ages. That’s a big haul from a ceremony that only hands out a handful of film awards every year.

Using one awards ceremony as a predictor for others — the Oscars, for instance — is generally folly, because for every 2014 and 2015, where the Gotham Awards agreed on the best feature with the ultimate best picture Oscar winners (Birdman and Spotlight), there’s a 2012 and 2013, where the Gotham juries chose Moonrise Kingdom and Inside Llewyn Davis, neither of which scored even a best picture nomination. Furthermore, the Oscars are voted on by a giant and sprawling membership, while the Gotham Awards are voted on by little juries.

But Moonrise Kingdom and Inside Llewyn Davis both came from widely celebrated writer-directors (Wes Anderson and the Coen Brothers, respectively), meaning that they’d already opened to considerable attention and anticipation. Barry Jenkins, who directed Moonlight and wrote the screenplay based on Tarell McCraney’s play, had directed only one feature previously: Medicine For Melancholy, in 2008. The most famous actor in Moonlight is probably Janelle Monae (who’s terrific in it). She’s better known as a musician, but she’s suddenly showing up in more acting roles, including both this and the upcoming NASA movie Hidden Figures. And it certainly helped that Moonlight was released under the umbrella of A24, the production company that’s backed a lot of high-quality independent films in the last few years (including Room, Obvious Child and Ex Machina). But Moonlight is anchored by three actors — Hibbert, Sanders and Rhodes — who all have short resumes and likely expansive futures.

A lot of people will tell you awards are stupid. And when awards are just preludes to other awards, when the whole thing turns into a predictive engine facing forward and directed at the Oscars, they really are stupid. But when awards serve to help raise the profile of a movie that really had few baked-in advantages coming out of the gate other than excellence, awards are one of the few places where that excellence can be translated fairly directly into attention. And if that attention multiplies the number of eyes and ears that encounter a wonderful piece of art, it makes up for a lot of bad monologues and insufferable red carpet sequences.

‘Searching For John Hughes,’ And Finding Yourself


Searching for John Hughes

Or Everything I Thought I Needed to Know About Life I Learned from Watching ’80s Movies

by Jason Diamond

Paperback, 240 pages |

purchase

The elusive dream of adolescent empowerment has been with us for at least as long as we’ve had Clearasil or wedgies. Tweens, teens, and everyone in between have enough wherewithal to know what they want, but not enough agency in their own lives to get it. And director John Hughes tapped into that youthful anxiety perhaps better than anyone in the history of Hollywood. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Weird Science, The Breakfast Club, Home Alone and his other early films all gave a voice to those caught in the age old battle between us and them.

Hughes spoke directly to the hopes, fears and impotence of disaffected suburban kids of my generation, and Jason Diamond, author of the memoir Searching For John Hughes, is no exception. Diamond grew up in the same Chicago suburbs that Hughes mined for inspiration, even if Diamond’s upbringing was less idyllic than that of the McCallister family. His emotionally and physically abusive father makes Cameron’s old man look like dad of the year. As for his mom, she throws up her hands and leaves him to fend for himself when he’s still a teenager. He has no one. No one, that is, except John Hughes.

Somewhere along the line, as he tells it, Diamond decides he wants to move to New York and become a professional writer. His first big project? The definitive biography of a certain reclusive director. The only problem is that Diamond doesn’t know the first thing about how to do it, even if he’s telling people in his life otherwise. “I would write the John Hughes biography that nobody else had ever attempted,” he writes. “I would pay the highest tribute to a man whose work had such a huge impact on me, whose vision I had basically based my worldview on. This was my big idea, the one I came up with while drunk and lying.”

Diamond becomes a little obsessed, and sometimes it seems like he spends more time talking about the biography at bars than he does actually writing it. A world-weary bartender in Chicago, after hearing Diamond’s spiel, shares some needed folksy insight: “It sounds like this book is more about you than it is about John Hughes.”

And, of course, he’s right, both about Diamond’s quixotic biographical project and the the memoir it became. The weakest parts of Searching for John Hughes occur when he belabors that conceit — Diamond works like hell to fit his own narrative into this Hughesian framework, and sometimes it’s a stretch. (Is every guy from high school some variation on the archetypal handsome jock, Jake Ryan? Sometimes it feels like it.)

But this memoir is satisfying in a way that a Hughes film never could be, and the author’s story will be achingly familiar to anyone who relied on Hollywood for a respite from reality but who came away disappointed. To paraphrase The Breakfast Club, those of us who went searching for John Hughes (figuratively, if not literally) saw him as we wanted to see him, in the simplest terms, and the most convenient definitions. Sure, all us disaffected ’80s kids wanted to live in a John Hughes movie, but it’s just possible we didn’t think through the implications.

“I told myself that getting into his life and putting something into the world, that was what I needed to make all of my problems disappear,” Diamond admits. He does, and he does, but not in the way he expects. And while Searching for John Hughes isn’t exactly the book he originally set out to write, it’s clearly the book he was meant to write. Diamond helps us — with an assist from that wise bartender — understand that our love for these flawed, wonderful movies was never really about John Hughes at all. It was about us the whole time.

Drew Toal works in politics and is an occasional contributor to NPR Books. A native of southern New Jersey (yes, it’s pork roll), he now resides in San Francisco with his wife, Stacey.

A Giving History: Smithsonian Exhibit Showcases Americans’ Charitable Acts


(Left) A firefighter’s boot used to collect money from motorists for the “Fill the Boot” campaign for muscular dystrophy which started in 1954. (Center) A Habitat for Humanity belt was used by a volunteer in rebuilding homes in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. (Right) Bucket used by Jeanette Senerchia in 2014 launching the viral ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

Courtesy of National Museum of American History


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(Left) A firefighter’s boot used to collect money from motorists for the “Fill the Boot” campaign for muscular dystrophy which started in 1954. (Center) A Habitat for Humanity belt was used by a volunteer in rebuilding homes in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. (Right) Bucket used by Jeanette Senerchia in 2014 launching the viral ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

Courtesy of National Museum of American History

Remember a couple of years ago, when it seemed like we were all one big happy family, Americans of every age and political stripe, joined in common pursuit? Millions of us spent that summer pouring buckets of ice water on our heads, to raise money for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Philanthropy has always played a big role in the United States, helping to shape who we are, what we do and how. Now it’s the subject of a new exhibit called “Giving in America” at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

The 2014 ALS Ice Bucket Challenge turned out to be one of the most successful fundraising efforts in U.S. history. But museum curator Bonnie Lilienfeld says it had a very modest beginning — a blue plastic bucket that you might use for a mop.

The pail belonged to a New York woman, Jeanette Senerchia, whose husband has ALS. A relative challenged her to dump ice on her head to raise awareness about the degenerative disease and to post the video online. She did just that, and the rest is philanthropic history.

“People just started dumping ice on their heads,” Lilienfeld says. “It seemed like a kind of crazy thing, and at the time people wondered what it really was going to do.”

But the grassroots campaign raised more than $115 million to fund medical research and became the latest symbol of Americans’ creativity when it comes to giving. Lilienfeld says U.S. philanthropy comes in many shapes and sizes.

“Like this wonderful 1764 silver plate that was given by Thomas Hancock to his church in Boston, Massachusetts,” she says, pointing to a large communion dish on display. The border of the plate is inscribed with the name of Hancock’s church, but also his own name, making clear to all the other parishioners that he was the one who made the donation.

Lilienfeld says people not only give to help others, but sometimes to help themselves.

These early 19th century alms boxes were used to collect money for religious institutions and charities.

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These early 19th century alms boxes were used to collect money for religious institutions and charities.

Courtesy of National Museum of American History

Still, U.S. philanthropy has met important social needs over the years, often funding things that government did not. In the 19th century, wealthy industrialist Andrew Carnegie used his money to build libraries across the nation. He believed the rich had a responsibility to support the common good.

And in the early 1900s, philanthropist Julius Rosenwald worked with Booker T. Washington to build thousands of schools in the South to educate black children, who would otherwise have had an inadequate education. The exhibit includes a metal lunch tray from one of those schools.

But Lilienfeld says charity isn’t just about those with money. Far from it.

“It’s amazing what just a little bit can do,” she says, pointing to a small orange box, the kind trick-or-treaters used on Halloween to collect spare change. Over the years, the money added up, raising more than $175 million for UNICEF.

A UNICEF Halloween collection box, late 1990s. Amid concerns about world affairs after World War II, Americans were encouraged to donate to international relief. Philanthropy became the human face of global American influence and organizations and foundations frequently funded projects led by the United Nations.

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A UNICEF Halloween collection box, late 1990s. Amid concerns about world affairs after World War II, Americans were encouraged to donate to international relief. Philanthropy became the human face of global American influence and organizations and foundations frequently funded projects led by the United Nations.

Courtesy of National Museum of American History

Sometimes, giving doesn’t involve money at all. The exhibit also includes a blood donation kit.

“That’s really sort of the ultimate gift of really giving of yourself,” says Lilienfeld. “We included that story here to get people to understand, sometimes the smallest act really is an act of philanthropy.”

Maryland slaveowner George Burchhartt granted freedom to his slave in a letter from 1793.

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Maryland slaveowner George Burchhartt granted freedom to his slave in a letter from 1793.

Courtesy of National Museum of American History

She says many Americans prefer to do something more to help charity than just writing a check. There’s a tool belt on display that a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity used to build a house. And a t-shirt from a charity race.

But not all giving was quite so benevolent. The exhibit includes a 1793 letter from a Maryland slaveholder, granting one of his slaves her freedom.

“It’s not always a happy story. I mean for her, at least she got freedom, but it really reminds us of the power this man had over her,” says Lilienfeld.

She adds that mostly, giving in the U.S. has been aimed at improving life, and seems to fill a need many Americans have to take matters into their own hands.

“This idea that we come together in a crisis, we come together to take care of each other, we come together to get things done,” she says.

The exhibit is on permanent display at the museum.

LGBTQ Activist Cleve Jones: ‘I’m Well Aware How Fragile Life Is’


Cleve Jones speaks outside the Supreme Court in June 2013.

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Hachette Books

Longtime activist Cleve Jones has dedicated his life to working with members of the LGBTQ community, but growing up he felt like the only gay person in the world. He tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross that he felt so isolated as a teenager that he considered suicide. Then he read about the gay liberation movement in Life magazine and his outlook changed.

“This magazine, in a matter of minutes, revealed to me that there were other people like me,” Jones says. “There were a lot of us. We were organizing. … There was a community, and there were places we could live safely. And one of those places was called San Francisco.”

Jones moved to San Francisco when he was in his early 20s. There, he found a mentor in Harvey Milk, one of the country’s first openly gay elected officials. He marched alongside Milk for gay rights, and when Milk was assassinated in 1978, Jones decided to dedicate his life to the cause. “Meeting Harvey, seeing his death, it fixed my course,” he says.

After the AIDS epidemic hit San Francisco, Jones co-founded the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and started the AIDS Memorial Quilt.

Jones describes his life and his involvement in the gay rights movement in his new memoir, When We Rise. He says it’s a story of hardship, but also one of triumph. “I have these memories of great struggle and great pain and great loss, but I also in my lifetime have seen extraordinary progress and amazing change.”

Interview Highlights

On considering suicide as a kid

When We Rise

My Life in the Movement

by Cleve Jones

Hardcover, 291 pages |

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I felt that my life was over before it even really began because it just seemed then that there was no way to have a decent life and to be gay. So I was terrified that I was going to be caught and I had already experienced quite bit of bullying and I just thought that only misery lay ahead and when I got caught that that would be the solution.

I wish I could say that was thing of past, but you know it’s not. And even today, every year we lose an awful lot of young people, teenagers, who take their own lives because they are gay or transgender.

On being at the scene of Harvey Milk’s City Hall assassination by former San Francisco Supervisor Dan White

It changed my life forever. … Dan White had invited him into his office and shot him there. And his feet were sticking out in the hall and I recognized his wingtip shoes — he had second-hand shoes he had bought at a thrift store. Then we couldn’t leave. We were stuck there because the police were doing their thing.

And we played the tape that he had left for us to play, because he predicted his assassination. I used to tease him for it and tell him he wasn’t important enough to get shot, so that was pretty eerie and very horrible to be sitting in his office, listening to his voice predicting his death while his body is there in the hallway.

I knew by the end of the day that that was the single most important moment of my life, and it was the single most important thing that happened to me.

On Milk’s importance to the gay rights movement

[Harvey Milk]’s often described as the first openly gay person to be elected to public office. That is inaccurate, and in my book I make sure to credit the half dozen or so individuals who came before him in various places in the country. But I think Harvey’s significance really was that he became our first shared martyr. Word of his assassination spread far and wide, and even though gay people had lost many people to violence, to suicide, to drugs and alcohol, here was this symbolic figure that just struck a chord with people. For those of us in San Francisco, it was fascinating to see this guy who was really just one of your local neighborhood characters assume this worldwide significance.

On testing positive for HIV

By the fall of 1985, almost everyone I knew was dead or dying or caring for someone who was dying. I tested positive for HIV the week the test came out, which I’m thinking was 1985. That time is a bit of a blur. …

I had been in a study I had volunteered for, so I knew that they had samples of my blood going back all the way to 1977. So I learned that not only did I have HIV, but I learned that I had had it since the winter of ’78, ’79, so I never expected to survive.

On where he got the idea for the AIDS Memorial Quilt

Every year in San Francisco on November 27, we gather at the corner of Castro and Market Street and light our candles to remember Harvey [Milk] and George [Moscone, the late San Francisco mayor who was assassinated with Milk]. That year, as we were getting ready for the annual tribute, the death toll in San Francisco rose to 1,000 and there was a headline in the paper about “1,000 San Franciscans Dead From AIDS.” …

I was just so struck by that number: 1,000. … So that night of the march, I had Harvey Milk’s old bullhorn and I got stacks of poster board and stacks of markers and I asked everybody to write the name of someone they knew who had been killed by the new disease. At first people were ashamed to do it, but finally began writing their first and last names, and we carried these placards with us with our candles to … the building that housed the Health and Human Services West Coast offices for the federal government for the Reagan administration. …

We had hidden ladders in the shrubbery nearby and climbed up the front grey stone façade of this building and taped the names to the wall. After I got off my ladder I walked through the crowd. There were thousands of people. It was gentle rain, no speeches or music, just thousands of people reading these names on this patchwork of placards up on that wall. And I thought to myself, “It looks like some kind of quilt,” and when I said the word “quilt” I thought of my great-grandma. … And it was such a warm and comforting and middle-American traditional-family-values sort of symbol, and I thought, “This is the symbol we should take.”

On the pain of having lived through AIDS epidemic and Milk’s assassination

It’s similar, I think, to being in a war. I think of my friends every day. There are some days when it is so painful that I really can barely function. But I have to, and I do, and I find that I get my strength from my community and my friends. And I’m surrounded by people who went through that time with me, and we support each other and we love each other are grateful for every bit of laughter and joy that comes our way. …

Whenever I get to these junctures in my life — and we just had one with this last election — where everything I’ve been through kind of flashes before my eyes again … I think, “Well, here we go.” But finding Harvey’s body, watching all those people die during AIDS — I’m well aware how fragile life is and how short it can be and how important it is to use it fully.