Thursday, February 12, 2009

February 4 - Milk and twinkies

I saw the movie "Milk" with Sean Penn. It was very thought-provoking and superbly acted by all the cast members.

I extracted the following information about Milk from Wikipedia -
Harvey Bernard Milk (May 22, 1930 – November 27, 1978) was an American politician and the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California, as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Politics and gay activism were not Milk's early interests; he did not feel the need to be open about his homosexuality or participate in civic matters until around age 40, after his experiences in the counterculture of the 1960s.

Milk moved from New York City to settle in San Francisco in 1972 amid a migration of gay men moving to the Castro District in the 1970s. He took advantage of the growing political and economic power of the neighborhood to promote his interests, and ran unsuccessfully for political office three times. His theatrical campaigns earned him increasing popularity and Milk won a seat as a city supervisor in 1977 a result of the broader social changes the city was experiencing.

Milk served 11 months in office and was responsible for passing a stringent gay rights ordinance for the city. On November 27, 1978, Milk and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated by Dan White, another city supervisor who had recently resigned and wanted his job back.

Despite his short career in politics, Milk has become an icon in San Francisco and "a martyr for gay rights", according to University of San Francisco professor Peter Novak. In 2002, Milk was called "the most famous and most significantly open LGBT official ever elected in the United States". John Cloud remarked on his influence, "[After Milk] many people—straight and gay—had to adjust to a new reality he embodied: that a gay person could live an honest life and succeed."

When Dan White was convicted and went to trial for the murders there was no question that he was guilty, but in his defence it was claimed that there were several factors influencing his mental state.

"At the trial, noted psychiatrist Martin Blinder testified that White had been depressed at the time of the crime, and pointed to several factors indicating White's depression: he had quit his job; he shunned his wife; and although normally clean-cut, he had become slovenly in appearance. Furthermore, White had previously been a fitness fanatic and health food advocate, but had begun consuming junk food and sugar-laden soft drinks like Coca-Cola. As an incidental note, Blinder mentioned theories that elements of diet could worsen existing mood swings. Another psychiatrist, George Solomon, testified that White had "exploded" and was "sort of on automatic pilot" at the time of the killings.

Because of the testimony from Blinder and other psychiatrists the defense "successfully persuaded the jury that White's capacity for rational thought had been diminished; the jurors found White incapable of the premeditation required for a murder conviction, and instead convicted him of voluntary manslaughter. Public protests over the verdict led to the White Night Riots."

After the successful use of this argument in the defence of this case, it became known as "The Twinkie Defense", even though Twinkies weren't mentioned at the time. In other words "But, your Honour, the chocolate made me do it". It adds a new perspective to the expression "I'd kill for a piece of chocolate". Just kidding.

My own opinion of this is rather more black and white. He chose to become slovenly and eat junk food. He chose to take a gun to the office and kill two innocent people. He should also have had the guts to choose to take full responsibilty for his actions, rather than hiding behind so-called expert opinions about his state of mind. After all, it was (supposedly) HIS mind.

After spending just a few years in prison White was released and subsequently committed suicide.

In terms of the movie "Milk" Sean Penn was superb in the role and I hope he gets an Oscar for it.

The page is set up to look like notes pinned to a corkboard.. The notes are written on post it notes and overlap so you can't read them from this pic. I like the effect of using paper with a cork print on it.

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