I grew up reading Mad Magazine, as one of my childhood escapes from the doldrums of elementary school and catechism classes...and a rather conservative, cold Protestant/Catholic family. Now, I realize Mad's not for most adults who enjoy more sophisticated parody, but it sure was a satisfying "forbidden fruit" for loner kids like myself, whose nerdiness and strange allergies often forced us into isolated lives, even at school among our peers. For us, Mad Mag was a wholesome rebellion against conformism and bullies; for our kind grew cynical at an early age, already awakened (at least in part) to "family values" hypocrisy and adult dictatorship.
I discovered Mad at a large variety store (across the street from Nunley's Happyland & Jolly Rogers on Hempstead Turnpike), where I'd often lose myself among science fiction paperbacks and fantasy mags...somewhere around the age of nine or ten. (I was a precocious reader...instead of praising me, my father'd often taunt: "You think you're such a know-it-all." My fantasy world was my compensation.)
Many Sundays were spent with relatives in Brooklyn, who played Michigan Rummy and Pokeno while I sat like a diminutive elf on a vast, cushiony couch bursting with flower petals and butterflies. I often took pleasure then, reading the latest issue of Mad Magazine, after purchasing a copy at the corner candy store run by an old, old man with thick eyeglasses, whose face I no longer remember...and in fact, never even thought about until this very moment.
I do remember discovering exotic candies, like gummy-red "silver dollars" (raised impression of a founding father on one side), pastel candy buttons on long scrolls of blank white paper, cherry-flavor whistle rings, and other sweetly edible curios I never imagined. I was a child of the sterile 'burbs. Surrealistic candies like these did not exist in the outlands of Long Island. Our housing tract was called the "Arrowhead Development", because living on Shawnee, Mohawk, or Iroquois Drive, one could easily find real arrowheads simply by digging a garden in the backyard.
My childhood was indeed lonely in a profound way--though not at all unusual for children raised in dysfunctional Amerikan nuclear-family homes in the post-war, pre-Beatles 50's. Fortunately I was bright, and blessed by a vivid inner world. Which world was happily populated by many characters out of comic books, sci-fi movies, and, thankfully, Mad Magazines.
But when I became an adult, I put away childish things (as the saying goes), including Mad Mag. Not that I felt "above" such material, but I truly came to enjoy other kinds of humor and parody. It wasn't until a week or so ago--here in The Castro where I've lived and/or hanged out since 1973--that I decided to buy my next issue of Mad...the first one in over 32 years. Truly, nostalgia forced my hand...though in a gentle, friendly manner. It was the June 2004 edition.
"$3.50 - Cheap!" the cover boasted.
Yeah. What a laugh. I remember when it went up to 35 cents, then a couple years later 50...and how offended I was over such drastic increases. (50 cents was a lot for a kid back then!) Now, with the hindsight of eight or nine days (as I type this), it occurs to me that I bought this latest issue of Mad out of gratitude for the fact this magazine was still kickin' ass, and waiting here for me, like a faithful guardian who years ago, watched over me to make sure there'd be smiles scattered throughout my difficult formative years. Waiting for me to awaken to that level of appreciation where I can look back and say:
For, just like Looney Toons, Crusader Rabbit, Soupy Sales, Froggy the Gremlin, and Abbot & Costello: the wonderful authors of Mad Magazine made sure that so many of us children living lonely lives were granted these oases of laughter and parody, that we may not only survive a stark childhood, but hopefully thrive as adults, thanks to the peals of laughter they brought to our wizened little hearts. I remember once, in 5th grade, reading a Mad that I had surreptitiously slipped inside my grammar book...and our teacher Miss Murphy sneaked up from behind, pulled it right from my tiny birdlike hands. She chastised me for exposing my innocent widdle mind to such trash, and sent me home with a letter. What a delicious memory! (If you also loved Mad Magazine as a kid, why not share one of your own youthful memories, here in my ZekeBlog? Just click on "comments" below.)
So, last week having purchased a copy of Mad in a local Walgreens, I went on home, prepared a snack, then sat down to read that delightful collection of crazy satire, like I used to as a little boy, a long, long time ago, sitting by myself at the kitchen table while my brother played his 45 rpm's in the bedroom, and my parents dressed up for a dance at the American Legion Hall (Post 86, Bethpage). And there on the front cover, were the unmistakably familiar freckled nose, mischievous eyes and gap-toothed grin of Alfred E....staring at me through a very broad, green face, with these strange, tubular ears that poked out like stalks. At the bottom of the slick cover, stamped in a large, bold, vegetable-green, electric-aura 3-D font was the title: "Shrek!". (Beneath that, in smaller purple letters: "Yecch!")
With that, my love affair with Mad Magazine burst forth anew. The fabled slogan "What, me worry?" soothed my troubled heart like a wholesome balm, and for a while I forgot all about the Religious Reich, homophobia, Dubya, Iraq, the increasing violence in San Francisco's own black ghetto, Bay View/Hunter's Point...and my advanced middle age of almost-54.
As if reunited with a beloved friend on a higher level than before, a special treat lay in store for me on page 33:
and then again (back peddling), on page 7:
Looking at them in brief, you might not comprehend why my present gratitude for Mad increased in leaps and bounds after viewing page 33...and then, once more on page 7. For both pages were parodies that give honor to sexual minorities, not ridicule! (Page 33 presenting in a casual, fun, and non-bigoted manner, two males who suddenly discover romance in each others' arms...Page 7 a satire on the hypocrisy of the "ex-gay" movement.)
For Mad Mag is doing exactly what society needs, to rise above its evil hatred of gays and other sexual minorities: exposing America's youth to humorous entertainment depicting gays as normal and decent as any hetero you'd ever want to befriend. For it is in these formative years that prejudice takes root...and if children do not witness gays as a healthy part of our every-day lives, in cartoons, plays, TV shows, Sunday comics, and magazines...then they will not grow up to respect and appreciate gay people for their own special brand of humanity...as one more facet on the brilliant diamond of cultural diversity.
So, with all my heart--with all my child within that heart--I say: "Kudos Mad Magazine! You're one great bunch of fine, outstanding crew of artists, and challengers of the status quo! As you always have been, and always will be (I'm sure of that, now)."
May Alfred E. Neuman's smile grace all our queer lives with joy, and affirmation of our Great Destiny soon to emerge across this sorry, tired, jaded little homophobic (but not for much longer) planet we call earth.
What, me worry?
Did you know that Mad Magazine was (probably) the only comic medium that refused to sign the McCarthy-era "Comics Code Authority" covenant? Their happy work-around was to morph from a comic book into a magazine. Did you also know that Mad Mag's circulation is now down to 500,000 annually, from a peak of 2,800,000 back in '73? To read more, click here.
I think Mad well deserves my subscription payments, for all the good they've done throughout a most difficult childhood; don't you? Don't let Alfred E. Neuman down at this, his most challenging last-minute trump, about to be played on the human race. Show Mad your love, TODAY!
You may recall my disappointment (posted Tuesday 05.25.04) when I discovered that one of my favorite escape-fantasy sites of all time, "Castle of Spirits", censors the word "gay". Their site hosts a large and ever-growing collection of true ghost tales. I debuted my first blog ever, by featuring that site...'cause that's how much I enjoy spooky tales (and if true, all the more thrilling). A couple of days after I praised their site, I logged on to their guestbook, with the intent to invite Castle of Spirits' owner to read my angelic review. But when I posted my entry, it showed up with word "gay" censored! So that my website URL came out "***-bible.org", and my self-description as "free-lance *** actvist".
So I posted my grave disappointment to this web log, and to various LGBT newsgroups:
Shortly after that, Castle of Spirits shut down their guestbook signing for several days...
making me wonder if others posted criticism to their guestbook, after having read my haunting critique. Well, I believe that is precisely what happened (so thanks to all you good LGBT faeries) as their guestbook signing is now back up, with this caveat:
--begin Castle of Spirits caveat:
IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT ABUSE
Unfortunately we have had to filter out some words from their use in the ghostbook, I have had some comment about this with people taking offense to it as they cannot use these words in the PROPER CONTEXT that they are meant to be used.
The problem is the MISUSE of these words and the usual thing of people spoiling it for everyone else due to their childish behavior and selfishness.
There is a constant problem with what appears to be a certain uneducated age group of young people, who do not have the maturity to understand how offensive they are being and continue to overuse and be extremely offensive on purpose by continuously misusing these words and targeting our ghostbook with it. We hope they will grow up one day :o) .......but so far it's not looking good.
Of course, we do not wish for this sort of thing in our ghostbook and try to deflect this by taking the option to leave those words out at this time.
Castle of Spirits does not discriminate against anyone of different race or choices in their lifestyles and we do feel a certain responsibility to try to stop the offensive use of certain words. We welcome genuine visitors to our ghostbook for genuine comments and apologise for any inconvenience or offense that may be taken. Thanks for understanding! :o) .
--end of Castle of Spirits caveat
Now, doesn't this strike you as disingenuous at best, and sinister at worst? Wait, before you show them any kind of empathy, please realize they do not ban words "homosexual" and "lesbian"...which I just tested. By censoring "gay" under grounds that some immature posters use that to insult and disrupt thier guestbook...then, by default, all good gay folk are condemned along with the guilty parties. Once more, we are scapegoated for the sins of others, and relegated to the same ghoulish status as our own homophobic enemies.
I really don't understand why an innocuous word like "gay" is targeted; for I sincerely doubt homophobes would use that word for an expletive, when a choicer one is more obvious, like: "fudge packer", "pervert", "faggot", "jizz guzzler", "cock sucker", and "rump ranger". Hmmm, methinks 'tis the host of Castle of Spirits that interprets "gay" as intrinsically filthy, and not these so-called spammers. (Do I spot a mote in my neighbor's eye?)
Castle of Spirits: I think you need to show us some proof that your claim is true...I for one, find it hard to believe. But even if true: your particular strategy only gives the enemy victory, not loss...for they succeeded in getting you to censor any gay presence on your site. You've played right into their hands (and I suspect, even willingly). Your apology rings hollow. You won't even type the word "gay" in your statement...which you should, in some sort of relevant context, if it's really an issue!
To add insult to injury, their newly posted guestbook policy does not stop with the above caveat, but continues with a further warning:
Castle of Spirits.com will record any IP address of anyone signing or posting any material in our ghostbook or any other online form where information is submitted (including submitting stories and discussion group). Your details will never be used EXCEPT FOR:*1. if you choose to purposefully place any type of unwanted abuse/spam or other offensive material, including any type of terrorist threat or information, through any of our online forms, including the ghostbook (guestbook).
*2. Under current Australian law (Spam Act 2003 which came into effect 10th April, 2004) it is now illegal to place any spam through or target any spam at any visitors of castle of spirits.com causing them to receive unwanted e-mails, or unwanted spam links/information placed in the ghostbook (guestbook). Castle of Spirits.com has the right under Australian law to take full action upon any spamming information placed in any of our forms, including the Guestbook and also therefore records all IP addresses for this specific purpose.
Your IP information and any other form of communication you placed through castleofspirits.com may then be passed on to Federal Authorities who may choose to use this information to track and or monitor your use of the Internet and action may possibly be taken against both you and your ISP.
This is currently a serious matter and we hope that you will take another thought about placing anything unwanted and or irrelevant in any of our forms. Thank you
Makes you wonder if they're chastising pro-gays who posted complaints about censorship, to their guestbook--rather than to the original miscreants--miscreants who, AFAICT, were conjured up by Castle of Spirits in the first place. Now, if some pro-gay elements spammed their guestbook to invoke a DoS attack, I'd have to deem it a successful act of civil disobedience.
So the battle rages on. Please convey to them your feelings, by either sending them a message, or posting to their guestbook.
Help put an end to Castle of Spirits' devilish hypocrisy. Then treat yourself to a frappucino, you darling armchair quacktivist, you!
Hear what other underworld celebrities have to say about Castle of Spirits' gay censorship. (Note: some had to be resurrected for a post post-mortem interview):
"I signed their guestbook with someone else's blood." - Dracula
"I'd give my left nut, if it'd make a difference. Wait: just kidding, give it back!" - Frankenstein's Monster
"I'm not queer; stop saying that!" - Casper the Friendly(?) Ghost
"Gay rights go hand in hand with succubus rights." - Morticia Addams
"Mother, Castle of Spirits is censoring the gay word!" - Norman Bates
"Some of my best fiends are homosexual." - Teenage Werewolf
"Rarrr#@!!jhphbt87rrrLGBTQ aaauu7ggh" - Taz
"People often call me Penis Breath. So I do feel your pain." - Alien Baby
"This is too much to absorb all at once." - The Blob
"Some of my best feasts are homosexual. Especially with fava beans. And arugula." - Hannibal Lecter
"It's wrong to leave anyone out in the cold." - The Thing
"Here, have a slice of homophobe meat pizza with scream sauce!" - Freddie Kruger
"We don't discriminate against anyone. Show us how." - Tribbles
"Homophobes are playing with fire." - Mothra
"That Zeke has big balls!" - King Kong
"Censor gays? They must have a heart of stone." - Pet Rock
"Hot scaly monster with severe eczema, seeks...oh, this ain't a dating service? Never mind!" - Megalon
"Not one cent of my bountiful charity money goes to LGBT issues." - Richest breeder on earth