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SLCC is exactly a month away now, and we're also approaching the anniversary of my first time out as Shirley (July 17 for an SL meetup and TraniWreck; see [ profile] shirleymarquez for more). Reaching milestones (or millstones?) always makes me stop and reflect on where I have gone and where I am going.

First, the various significant dates: May 28 when I decided to attend SLCC as Shirley, July 17 when I first went out, August 12-15 were SLCC, There was lots of stuff in the fall, notable Transgender Pride in Northampton in October and Transcending Boundaries in November. Winter brought the two Shirley Weeks (February 2-9 and March 13-19), and I went to living as a woman full time (with the slight exception of dancing with the Black Jokers and going to the 40th anniversary event for Carolingia as my male SCA persona) on the first day of spring, March 20. Life since then has been a series of comings out: doing the things I've been doing for years like NEFFA, May Morning, Lilac Sunday, the Dog Days Ale, and Lobstercon are all changed by my transition. I'll have more to say about that last one in another post.

So... how is it going so far? First, I continue to be pleased by the amount of acceptance that I have experienced. Some communities were no surprise at all; the Susboids, for example; they've seen it all before. Some were a slight surprise, like the morris community; I knew the local dancers would be fine but was less certain about the ones from other places who I don't know as well. The ham radio community at Lobstercon was a concern -- they're more conservative than most of the people I hang out with most of the time -- but it mostly went well.

I've also been happy with the way things have been going in other settings. I had a great time helping make the Dyke March happen this year; I wasn't merely a marcher, I was in the organizing committee. (As I put it, they were happy to get an extra pair of hands even if they are too large to get most bracelets around.) Stepping in as Shirley and helping make things happen started with SLCC, and I see it as part of the definition of the kind of woman I want to be.

Casual encounters with people have been a pleasure; people smile at me more in stores and in the subway, and I've run into new people in various places and had pleasant conversations. I've been to Queeraoke a number of times and it's almost always fun. Once I went and it wasn't fun, but I think that just meant I was in the wrong mood that night.

What I'm maybe less thrilled with is my inability to move things along more quickly. I have now passed my self-imposed deadline of one year after Marian's death before doing anything permanent physically, but financial limitations now stand in the way and probably will for some time to come. (I've got quite a way to go just to get to broke!) I'd like to have some hair removal done and start taking hormones, both of which would make me feel more like a woman and make it easier to pass, but neither is going to happen soon.

But... I won't let that stop me. As Lady Gaga sang, "I'm on the right track baby, I was born to be brave." All along I've just gone out and did things and not worried about perfection (though I talk them to death among my Second Life friends first so I can't chicken out!) and I'm not going to stop living that way.
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The past week was definitely one of letting my queer transgender self out. Things started off on Wednesday with a meeting of the Dyke March organizers. Thursday I went to see Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Friday was the actual Dyke March, where besides marching I helped set up and strike the tents. (As usual I don't do these things halfway; I didn't merely march, I was part of the organizing committee.) Saturday was the Pride Parade.Pictures of me in the march and the parade are on Facebook.

After that things returned to a bit more normality. Saturday evening I went to Jon and Stephanie's party, which had nothing to do with Pride but was a lot of fun. (One highlight for me was a conversation about the difficulties of shopping for clothing; I know, boring old girl talk but new to me and I actually had something to contribute to the conversation.) Sunday was relatively quiet; I went out and did a bit of shopping, and then we  had two visitors: Dina dropped off some videotapes, and Susan brought home a couple of friends who stayed for a little while. Dina says I'm getting better at presenting as a woman every time she sees me... but I have trouble seeing it sometimes, when I look into the mirror I just see the same old self. Except when I don't.

Today I stayed home and recovered from it all. I haven't even been out of the house yet, though I still need to take out the trash so I will go outside briefly after I finish this entry.

(Edited to clarify that it was the Dyke March that I worked on, not the Pride Parade. The March is a small grassroots organization that needed my help -- and yours next year! The Parade is much larger and more bureaucratic.)
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Yesterday [ profile] jesse_in_boston and Rachel got married. It was a perfect spring day: sunny, warm but not too hot. It was a lovely wedding; a Jewish ceremony featuring a rabbi that helpfully explained it all to us goyim. And the food from the Lebanese restaurant was yummy.

I wore a different dress for this one: a silk floral dress that I also wore on Friday at SLCC last year. But I look better in it than I did last summer. I've gotten better at the hair and makeup, and attention to my facial skin has improved my complexion, but I think the real difference is that I feel more at home in it now.
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An idea copied from [ profile] jducoeur 

Let me say something nice about you

Comment to my journal and I'll tell you why I think you're great.

It would be nice if you could copy this in your own journal and do it for other people too.
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I've gotten a surprising number of compliments on my outfits. I'm not sure whether people are being nice to me because I'm the new girl in town, whether I have freakishly good fashion sense for somebody who is so new at it (though the years of Second Life experience help), or whether people are just a lot more free at giving fashion compliments to women. I suspect it's some of all of the above. And I love every minute of it! As I've said before, being in the SCA is good practice for accepting compliments graciously.

I'm also getting called ma'am rather than sir a lot more in public recently. I suspect that having my brows done was a tipping point in appearance (I've known I wanted to do something with them for a while, just took a bit of time to get around to it), but the rest is gaining more experience and more self confidence in who I am now. I think it will still be a while before everybody gets it right.
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Last Thursday was Harvard commencement. As an alum I'm entitled to attend the afternoon part of the ceremony, so I decided that it was time for Shirley to make her first appearance there. They do an alumni procession into it, and there were only a handful of people in the graduate schools and Extension contingent (I think a lot of the grad students choose to march with their year rather than with the graduate schools group if they bother to show up at all) so I ended up being the flag bearer. There is a picture over on Facebook.

When I was there I ran into Michael Devney, which turned out to be a fortunate thing; I had somehow gotten the date of Eliza's wedding mixed up in my head! (I thought it was Saturday, which was wrong.) Susan and I had to rethink our weekend plans (the original version had been to go to the wedding on Saturday, then over to Vermont to catch some of the Marlboro Morris Ale on Sunday, but the timing for doing that didn't work with the date switch because I couldn't leave Boston until 11am or so on Saturday. Susan still wanted to get out of the city and we had a car reserved for two days, so we decided to go camping overnight on Saturday. I thought of Thomas Point because I've been there before for Lobstercon (annual ham radio gathering in July); Brunswick isn't that far up the road from Portland, it's a nice camp, and it meant not having to spend time researching places to go. We also had a tasty lobster dinner at Cook's Lobster House on Bailey Island, another place I knew about because of having been there at Lobstercon.

Sunday was the wedding. It was fun being there all dressed up, and I was pleased that I had gotten the outfit for an afternoon wedding right. (Knee-length floral dress; white base and purple flowers. Nude hose and black pumps. And a straw hat for the outdoor ceremony. Open toe shoes rather than pumps would have been the one last touch to get right, but you have to have bare legs for those and my legs just aren't smooth looking enough to really work that.) Eliza was a beautiful bride, and Maddy also looked fabulous in her bridesmaid dress. (Usually those things are hideous but this time they had pretty purple ones, and the cut was very flattering to Maddy's body so I think she'll get to wear it again.) Gillian officiated the ceremony and wrote it herself (with a final review by Eliza); it was beautiful. We ended up at the same table as Michael Devney; Muriel was also there, as well as Suzanne, one of Gillian's old friends from Boston. Only got in a small amount of dancing; modern club-style music and dancing isn't Susan's scene so we left after a couple of dances.

Next weekend: another wedding! I expect it to be even more fun; there will be more friends there, and Susan will also know more people. Plus it's a Jewish wedding rather than an American-generic one, and there is some fun ritual to that. It's at Camelot rather than in a hotel, so the atmosphere should be a bit more laid back. Farther ahead: the weekend after the wedding is Pride, the one after that is the Dog Days Ale, and after that is the Buttery Birthday Party. So a busy month ahead.
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I was inspired to write something tonight after reading [ profile] jducoeur 's latest entry on the State of the Justin. For me it's been longer; the first anniversary of Marian's death was last Friday (yep, Friday the 13th). I think I was over feeling broken by the end of the first month, and the most painful time was actually the final month of her life, not any time after.

Occasionally I think of the old John Mellencamp song about Jack and Diane; the one with the chorus that goes "Oh yeah, life goes on, long after the thrill of living is gone". Life does go on, but for me the thrill of living isn't gone. Life continues to be a journey of discovery, filled with loving friends and new things to learn.

Becoming Shirley has been an educational experience. First, there is all the stuff about living that I have to learn and unlearn; figuring out the new rules of social engagement that I'm living under now, not to mention all the basic stuff like grooming. (I enjoy being a girl, but I don't always enjoy becoming a girl. I suspect that most GGs -- genetic girls -- would agree.) There are also the insights about the human condition that you gain from looking at life from both sides now. (Or am I just recalling life's illusions?) Living as a woman changes a lot of basic human interactions, and I get to contrast those things before and after, and also how the interactions with people I already knew change and don't change.

I was one of the many women at the giveaway of Caitlin's clothing last weekend. I missed the opening bell -- both because of my own disinclination to get up early, and my awareness that my presence might be an issue for some of the other women, and therefore I chose to avoid the most crowded hours -- but still came away with a lot of useful things that filled more than an entire plastic storage bin. Being in the room full of dresses and skirts and blouses and suits and trying things on was fun; the women who were there at the time accepted my presence and life was good. I realized afterward that I should have taken the suit where the jacket fit well but the skirt was too big; I could have fixed that problem, and it might have been useful for interviews. (I'm likely to have that problem with most women's suits, because I've got big shoulders and not a lot of hip.) The things I did take include a couple of dresses,  a skirt, a bunch of blouses (including a couple of linen ones), one fancy beaded top (which will be perfect for the dressup parties at Boskone - the outfits at those are all about glitz), a couple of dress jackets, a few casual shirts, a bunch of camisoles, some belts, a couple of purses and scarves, and one sweater. (There were LOTS of sweaters but I don't wear them often; the one I took was just too nice to resist, and a lovely forest green.) And one white jacket and skirt; I don't have the faintest idea when I might need such a wardrobe item, but when the time comes I'll be ready! I looked at the hats but they didn't fit, and I knew going in that the shoes weren't the right size.

The weekend after next will bring another new life experience; going to the wedding of the younger of Marian's granddaughters. The following weekend is another for [ profile] jesse_in_boston  The weddings will be interesting because there will be lots of people I don't know; the groom's family at the first one (I've met most of the bride's family on other occasions), both families at the second, plus friends who know them from social circles other than the ones I am in. I don't expect hostility, but I can't help wondering how accepted I will be... will I be included in the womens' gossip circles? Will the men ask me to dance? (I'm also open to invitations to dance with the women, but mostly weddings don't go that way.) I had to get advice on what to wear; fortunately I've already got some suitable dresses and shoes. (The stuff I got from Caitlin's collection included two dresses but neither are right for this occasion; either I missed the other ones that I would have liked or our taste in dresses was just too different. And I had to reject a couple because they didn't fit.) I could use a hat but that's a challenge; most women's hats are too small for my head. (Insert joke here about having a big head.)
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Try though I might, I really can't think of any bad experiences recently. The background bad problems of being unemployed and broke remain.

The last couple of weekends have featured a lot of being out and about, with some emphasis on the out. The weekend that just ended was NEFFA, which is always fun. I performed with the Black Jokers (likely for the last time) and Red Herring; both performance sets went well though not perfectly. I danced in a bunch of contra and English dances (in both roles with people of all genders), did a bunch of sound engineering, got to hear a few awesome performances while I was doing sound, and picked up a pretty skirt and top in the Bazaar. I heard about Einstein's Little Homunculus return to NEFFA while I was at the festival and thought I was going to miss it because it was during one of my sound shifts... but then I checked my schedule and discovered that it was in my room so I got to hear it from the best seat in the house!!

The previous weekend was BarCamp Boston (the name isn't related to drinking, it's because it was a response to Foo Camp); I didn't merely attend on Saturday, I worked at registration. This year's camp didn't feel like quite the total awesomeness that my first BarCamp was last year, but it's probably because it wasn't the first time any more. I didn't go back Sunday because that was our board gaming day here; I ended up staying up until 4am playing Dominion with James and Kiran.

So what about the out part? By being in the world as who I am, doing the stuff that I do, and being visible as someone who helps make these things happen (by being a performer and volunteer, not just an attendee), I am putting a face to my transgender self, as one thing that a self-created woman can be. Right now life feels like a continuing process of coming out as I interact with communities where people have not yet encountered me as Shirley; I suppose that ends eventually (or at least slows down a lot) but it could be a while. For example, the next high school reunion won't be until 2013, so if I finally get to one of those (I haven't yet; I've always thought it would be fun but not $200+ worth of fun) there will probably still be people to surprise. (And by then I might be changed enough that everybody will think I'm somebody's wife or date until they read the name badge!)

I do not disown my past. If I ever pass well enough for there to be any question that I once lived as a man, I plan to be open about it. I freely admit to and happily talk about my long relationship with Marian. I'm still a geek who spends too much time on her computer, and I still fix my friends' computers. I play board games and I'm happiest when I win. I go to technical conventions and science fiction conventions and gaming conventions. (Now I also go to transgender conventions.)

But I'm also doing my best to listen more, and to show more interest in people's feelings and relationships. To smile at people, compliment them, and thank them for the wonderful things they do. To be more patient with the small annoyances of life, and to take more joy in the small pleasures. In short, to be Me 3.0; keeping the good things about the previous version but with changes that improve the experience for me and the people around me. (Why 3.0? 2.0 was my post-SCA and post-Marian self, already a big improvement over 1.0. And because, in at least certain notable cases like a certain large software company, 3.0 is when they finally start to get things right. And I don't really want to get started down the slippery slope of trying to calculate how many reinventions of self I've really been through over the years!)

One example: a few days ago I was on a crowded T bus, and a man in a wheelchair wanted to board. Another man with a wheeled cart was in the space where the wheelchair needed to be; convincing the man and cart to move took some persuasion by the driver. He handled the difficult situation well, showing considerable tact and patience, so I let him know that I had noticed his effort when I got off the bus. He beamed as if I had made his day. Maybe I did, or at least a small part of it. I like to think I helped in some small way to make the world a better place that day, just as he had done by doing his job.
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It's not where I'm headed in life, it's a rock opera at Club OBERON, the second venue of the American Repertory Theater. Turning a 2500 year old Greek tragedy into a modern dress rock musical might seem one of the more improbable theatrical ideas to come along, but the production by the A.R.T. makes this unlikely idea work. The production uses the space at OBERON well; at times people are seen on ladders that were erected for the production, on a rolling platform, on the bar and on tables on the mezzanine, and in the balcony. Oh yes, and once in a while on the stage. This will be a difficult production to bring to other venues, as a lot of the design was specifically done for OBERON. A tech crew moved the various platforms around, herded the floor audience out of the way as needed, and danced and cheered on the main characters when not otherwise occupied.

The focal character of the show is, of course, Prometheus. Tonight the role was played by the understudy, Michael Cunio, who normally plays Oceanos, the prime antagonist of Prometheus. Oceanos was, in turn, played by the understudy for that role, Steven Good. (It's fascinating that either way, the two major male roles are played by actor and understudy.) Cunio handled the physical demands of the role well (he is called on to struggle against his chains dramatically while showing off his glistening bare chest); his was not the strongest voice in the show but it was certainly sufficient to carry the story. Good's Oceanos was a sneering biker-gang member who mocked Prometheus in his insistence in resisting the will of Zeus (the über-god who is not seen in the play). The most memorable voice in the show belonged to Uzo Aduba, playing Io. The other important female was Force, portrayed by Lea Delaria who in the role looks like a butch dyke but appears to have some interest in the male gods. The three Daughters of the Aether (Celina Carvajal, Ashley Flanagan, and Jo Lampert) get the sweet harmonies. Hermes (Gabe Ebert), a supporting player for most of the way, emerges in the final act to chew the scenery and steal the show.

Aeschylus is not the most familiar material to most of us (certainly not to me); as a result I occasionally found the story difficult to follow. (It is presented in a new modern translation, so understanding the language is not a problem.) But the strength of the music and images carry the show through the sticking points and get the essential message across; the evils of tyranny.

There are two shows left tonight (Saturday). Some floor tickets are left and the code PROBO15 might still work to get you a discount on them. If you read this in time and can get to OBERON tonight, I recommend seeing Prometheus Bound.
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You ought to read my [ profile] shirleymarquez other LJ.. Or check me out on Facebook.

The short version: I'm not going back to boy drag; Shirley Week Two has become Shirley Life I'm here and I'm queer; get used to it!
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This is crossposted from, the LJ of my other identity...

We're at the original official end of Shirley Week, though I'm going to stretch it into a Beatles Week (eight days) because there is a dance I want to go to tonight. But I'll write about it now anyway :)

So... what was living as a woman?

Dancing at a contra dance and SCA Renaissance practice
Seeing the Vagina Monologues for the first time and being brought to tears by the transgender one
Going fabric shopping with a house guest, another friend, and a housemate
Trying on and buying girly jeans
New Betsey Johnson panties
Spending more time doing laundry because of all the delicate items
Extra attention to shaving
Putting on makeup (but no eye makeup this week, I'm having a flareup of a recurring eye condition)
Being brought to tears at a greeting card rack
Going out to the movies (The King's Speech) with a housemate during the Super Bowl
Freaking out a little girl at the subway station (she saw me and hid behind her mother)
Buying groceries and makeup and plastic hangers
Eating more sensibly because Shirley cares about how she looks and feels
Walking nearly everywhere in warm snow boots with heels that come to just below the knee
Showing up at Great Council in a little red dress and a pearl necklace
Ruining a pair of cheap knee-high stockings by walking in them too much
Spending four hours at the dentist and being calm about it
Telling the dentist the two minute version of what's going on
Going crazy over cheap jewelry at Forever 21
Seeing the eye doctor
Bouncing (fake) boobs at morris practice
Eating Tosci's and BerryLine
Listening to Bring Me To Life by Evanescence and being brought to tears (sensing a theme here?)
Hugging a male friend and suddenly having it feel different
Being loved and accepted by all my friends!

So, what was it? One of the most extraordinary ordinary weeks of my life. Now I have to figure out how much of the wonderfulness was that I'm coming closer to being my true self, and how much was a result of everything being shiny and new.
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A peculiarity of English: sometimes we have one or more derived forms of a word but lack the base word. Two such are tain (we have detain, retain, obtain, and sustain) and volve (we have revolve, evolve, and devolve). Spanish has the missing base words tener and volver as well as the derived forms; I'm sure other languages do as well.

A related case are the missing positive forms. We have inept and inert (both of which derive from the prefix in-, meaning "not", plus a Latin word, but we don't have ept or ert. These two might be related to a vowel shift, as we do have the words apt (and derived forms like aptitude) and art.

In- is a tricky prefix, as it can mean both "not" and "inward". And sometimes it morphs, as in immigration, which comes from "in-" plus a Latin word. In Spanish it's inmigración, though when spoken it's sometimes pronounced as if it were spelled like the English word, with two Ms at the beginning.

I have noticed other examples over the years; I'll post them when I remember them.
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A lot of you know me as Pryder mab Aurddolen, my persona in the SCA. Some of you actually know me as Mark Dulcey. Few of you know my avatar in the Second Life® virtual world, Shirley Marquez, nor did she matter to most real life people. But next month is the Second Life Community Convention, where I am a track leader (about the equivalent of a committee position at a science fiction convention). I'm planning to attend SLCC as Shirley, so it's time to come out to the world about my other other identity, as it will be thoroughly out in four weeks.

Shirley has her own LJ ([ profile] shirleymarquez); you can read a lot more of her story and mine there.
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On Wednesday, Greg and Victoria came to The Buttery to read the vows that they were planning to give at their wedding to Marian, as they knew that she would be unable to attend. (It turned out to be her final day, though we didn't know that yet at the time.) I had already been planning to go to the wedding, but after that I HAD to go!

So I did, taking Gillian (Marian's daughter) in Marian's place. It was a lot of fun. Their ceremony and vows were beautiful, and brought a tear (the good kind) to my eye. After that there was lots of yummy food in the potluck dinner (I didn't bring anything, but I think I get a free pass this week because of circumstances), some toasts (including one to absent friends, and they mentioned Marian), and music and dancing after that.

I got lots of expressions of friendship and love and lots of hugs, including extra special long ones from Abigail and Roza. Now that I'm having to get along without my morning hugs and evening snuggles, the human contact was very very welcome; thank you, everybody! Life has some new challenges right now, but I'll get by with a little help from my friends.
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My wife, Marian Walke (aka Marian of Edwinstowe or Old Marian), died shortly after midnight on Thursday. She passed away quietly at home, attended by me (her husband Mark), her daughter Gillian, and her grandchildren. I will miss her, and I believe that many of you will also miss her.

We will be holding a day of remembrance for Marian on Sunday, May 23, here at The Buttery. (Send email to if you need to find out how to get here.) It's impossible to avoid conflicts with EVERYTHING, but that day appears to be clear of SCA and morris dancing events.

We'll open the doors at noon and begin the speech-making at 2; scheduling of speeches will be done that day. (I'm guessing they will need to be brief; plan accordingly!) In keeping with Buttery traditions, we'll have a potluck buffet. Please, no flowers; Marian mostly didn't care for them.
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Massachusetts got around to choosing an interim Senator to serve until a special election is held in January. One available choice was a politician with a distinguished career in elected office, including two terms as governor. Instead we get a political insider who has never served in any elected office, evidently because he was the choice of the Kennedy family.

Sorry, Governor Patrick, this was just wrong. Ted Kennedy was a great Senator, but he's dead now. This appointment is about best serving the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the United States of America, not the Kennedy family. It's about the future, not the past. Mike Dukakis would have been an able Senator, and a strong advocate for both health care (Kennedy's cause) and transportation alternatives (his own cause). Instead we get Kirk, whose greatest political qualification is raising money.
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After a slow summer, I'm working for the Census Bureau again as a crew leader for Group Quarters. In other words, we're visiting all the places that were identified as some sort of group or institutional housing situation last time and finding out more about them. It will be reunion time with a few people I worked with last spring.

WFNX continues to be good to me; while I was on the way home from bringing Marian to the hospital on Monday, I won an all-access pass to the Disorientation series of concerts on October 5-9. I don't expect to get to all five of them, but I'll attend SOME of them.

Red Herring will be dancing out on the weekend of October 3-4; with the Ha'Penny tour on Saturday and on a tour that the team is supposed to be assembling on Sunday. I've been out of that loop because of being busy with Marian, but I do hope to do some dancing that weekend.
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The good news: the surgery on Monday was successful. As one might expect she was very weak that day, but she improved significantly on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The bad news: on Wednesday they shifted her to a liquid diet (rather than IVs) and that hasn't gone well so far. She is not currently expected to leave the hospital on Friday as originally planned. I'll post again when I know more.
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I'm sitting in City Hall Plaza right now while it happens around me! Two bands have played so far: Ra Ra Riot and Passion Pit, each of which played for about half an hour. I forget who the next one is (update: it's Metric), but I know after that it's Gaslight Anthem, Airborne Toxic Event, and The Bravery, each of which will play longer sets. I got here half an hour before the music started and it was already crowded; the stairs/amhpitheater of City Hall Plaza were already packed with people.

I enjoyed Ra Ra Riot's set. There were six of them including two women (one on violin and one on a weird electric cello that was just the OUTLINE of a cello with no solid body). Passion Pit didn't do a lot for me. So far the crowd is big but low-key; the three big-name bands are being saved for the end, so I expect the energy level to build as the evening goes on.

(later that day...)

The headliners, The Bravery, are playing now. As one would expect, they are playing a strong, high-energy set and the crowd is enjoying it; as I write this they are covering Any Way You Want It.

For me, the group just before them, Airborne Toxic Event, was the highlight of the show; their set was total awesomeness. They're a five member group: a lead singer/guilar player/keyboardist, a woman who plays fiddle, keyboards, and tambourine (and briefly went crowd surfing during the set!), another guitarist, a bass player/keyboardist, and a drunmer. Everyone but the drummer helped out on background vocals. Their hit, Some Time Around Midnight, was the highlight of the set, but the rest was strong as well.

Gaslight Anthem was a bit of a disappointment; aside from their hit, '59 Sound, their songs didn't grab me and their live sound was muddy. Metric is a duo, one man and one woman, who did an acoustic set here; she played electric piano, he was on guitar, and she sung all but one of the songs. I enjoyed their low-key set; it was a pleasant change of pace from the rest of the show.
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The Oscar ceremony was tonight, and that led me to think about Best Picture winners and non-winners past and present. First, I'm happy with Slumdog Millionaire as the winner this year, though I would have also been happy with Milk; both are fine films.

Once again, animated films were snubbed for nomination, so WALL-E didn't even have a chance to win. Only one animated film has even been nominated for Best Picture -- Beauty and the Beast in 1991. (It didn't win.) Now that the Academy has created the Best Animated Picture ghetto it's unlikely that we'll ever see another animated Best Picture nominee. No, not even Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was nominated for Best Picture, though it did win a special Oscar.

I had a look at the list of historical winners on Wikipedia. There are some clear cases where the best picture didn't win (even leaving aside the ones that weren't even nominated), and some Best Pictures that haven't stood the test of time. There are also some cases where the Academy had a hard choice, this year being one such. Let's look through the history; I'm offering no opinion on pre-1939 films because I don't know enough about them.

1939: Many people feel Gone With The Wind was a bad choice, but I don't agree. It's a bit melodramatic and a bit long, but it's a beautiful film, the interplay between Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh is often sharp, and it is still arguably the most successful movie of all time. (It has fallen off the top box office list due to inflation, but still holds a huge lead if measured by number of paid admissions.) That said, The Wizard of Oz is also deserving.

1940: The nearly forgotten Rebecca beat The Grapes of Wrath and Chaplin's The Great Dictator. This one looks pretty bad in hindsight.

1941: How Green Was My Valley over Citizen Kane and The Maltese Falcon? Puh-leeze.

1942: The Magnificent Ambersons is widely regarded as one of the truly great partially lost films, and Yankee Doodle Dandy is a fine example of its kind. But Mrs Miniver won.

1943: The Academy got it right this time with Casablanca, one of the great films of all time.

1944: A war-weakened year with no films that I am familiar with.

1945: Anchors Aweigh and The Bells of St Mary's are fondly remembered musicals, but the winner was The Lost Weekend, a film I have not seen and which seems to be largely forgotten.

1946: Olivier's Henry V and It's A Wonderful Life were both snubbed in favor of The Best Years of Our Lives; another one that looks bad in hindsight.

1947: Miracle on 34th Street is a holiday classic. But the winner was Gentleman's Agreement.

1948: This time Olivier got a statue for Hamlet. But he didn't deserve it this time, with the superior The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and The Red Shoes on the ballot.

1949: No opinion.

1950: All About Eve is a fine choice.

1951: An American In Paris is solid, but A Streetcar Named Desire would have been even better. Brando had to wait a few more years for his turn.

1952: The Greatest Show On Earth was hugely popular in its day but hasn't stood up over the years. High Noon and The Quiet Man both look better from here.

1953: From Here To Eternity deserved its statue.

1954: On The Waterfront is another clear winner. Seven Brides For Seven Brothers is a wonderful example of the classic musical and would have been a good choice most years, but in 1954 it was outclassed.

1955: Hard though it can be for those of us who grew up watching McHale's Navy to imagine, Ernest Borgnine was a fine dramatic actor in his day, and Marty was his best film. Mr Roberts would have been a reasonable alternate choice.

1956: Around The World In Eighty Days was the winner over two other decent and very different films: Giant and The Ten Commandments. The latter looks hopelessly bombastic to modern eyes but is a good example of epic film making of its day.

1957: It's hard to argue with The Bridge Over The River Kwai. 12 Angry Men was another good film.

1958: Gigi is fun, but The Defiant Ones and Cat On A Hot Tin Roof look stronger in hindsight.

1959: Ben-Hur is a classic epic film that has withstood the test of time.

1960: No argument with The Apartment. The only plausible contender, Spartacus, wasn't on the ballot, one of the biggest Oscar slights over the years.

1961: West Side Story. Enough said.

1962: Lots of good films that year; The Longest Day, The Music Man, To Kill A Mockingbird, and Mutiny on the Bounty were all on the ballot. But Lawrence of Arabia is one of the all-time great films.

1963: Tom Jones was the best that a weak year had to offer. Not a bad film, but most of the 1962 or 1964 nominees would have beaten it.

1964: A year of tough choices. My Fair Lady was the winner, and hardly a bad film. But one could make a case for any of the other four films being better: Becket, Dr Strangelove, Mary Poppins, and Zorba the Greek. Dr Strangelove is my personal favorite, but I love all five.

1965: The Sound of Music was a cultural phenomenon then and now. Dr Zhivago was a good film but lacks the cultural impact.

1966: A Man For All Seasons is a classic.

1967: In The Heat Of The Night won in another year of hard choices, with The Graduate and Guess Who's Coming To Dinner on the ballot. Bonnie and Clyde and Dr Dolittle aren't bad films but weren't contenders for best that year.

1968: One of Oscar's biggest missteps; Oliver! The Lion In Winter was a much better film.

1969: Midnight Cowboy hasn't stood up to time all that well, but deserves its statue based on its cultural impact at the time. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is the best of the rest.

1970: Patton was OK, but I'd have gone for M*A*S*H. Love Story fully deserved not to win.

1971: The French Connection wasn't a bad film, but many of the year's nominees look better in hindsight: A Clockwork Orange (my vote), Fiddler On The Roof, and The Last Picture Show.

1972: The Godfather made the Academy an offer it couldn't refuse. Cabaret and Deliverance might have been winners in other years.

1973: The Sting was a lot of fun, but in hindsight American Graffiti looks like the more influential film.

1974: The Godfather Part II continues the Coppola love. Chinatown was the leading alternative.

1975: One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest deserved its win. Robert Altman loses again with Nashville (after M*A*S*H in 1970).

1976: Rocky is one of the few Oscar winners I actively dislike. Network or Taxi Driver would have been better picks.

1977: The Academy finally gave Woody Allen some love for Annie Hall. But Star Wars was a far more important film culturally and should have won.

1978: The Deer Hunter was the clear winner.

1979: Kramer vs Kramer won but hasn't stood up well. Apocalypse Now was widely regarded as a disaster when it was released; it took years for filmgoers and critics to fully understand it. Breaking Away was one of the first Little Indies That Could to get a nomination.

1980: Ordinary People seemed impressive when it came out but is largely forgotten today. Raging Bull has held up better.

1981: Another miscue, with Chariots of Fire winning; Raiders of the Lost Ark should have.

1982: Gandhi won. Two very different films had a good case: E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial and Tootsie. The Academy likes serious biopics so this wasn't really a contest, but it should have been. Blade Runner wasn't on the ballot; the originally released version as butchered by the studio wasn't a Best Picture but the later Director's Cut and still later Final Cut would have deserved a statue.

1983: Terms of Endearment is a winner that I actively dislike; to my mind it's horribly overmanipulative. The Big Chill or The Right Stuff, both fine films in their day and fine period pieces now, would have been better choices.

1984: Amadeus.

1985: Out Of Africa was a bad pick. Witness is my favorite of the other nominees. Back to the Future and The Purple Rose of Cairo should have been on the ballot but weren't.

1986: Platoon won in a weak year. Children of a Lesser God and Hannah and Her Sisters (to my mind not nearly as good as some other Woody Allen films that didn't even get nominations) were alternatives.

1987: The Last Emperor wins another weak ballot. Moonstruck and Broadcast News were the best of the rest.

1988: Rain Man is a good film. I personally enjoyed The Accidental Tourist a lot more.

1989: Driving Miss Daisy tugged the Oscar heartstrings. Field of Dreams tried to tug them in a different direction but failed to win the statue. Dead Poets Society was also there. Branagh's Henry V was the notable omission from the Best Picture ballot, though Branagh was nominated for Best Actor.

1990: Lots of people criticize the winner, Dances With Wolves. I'm not among them; I found it a beautiful and lyrical film. Ghost was another good film.

1991: Beauty and the Beast, one of my favorite films ever and the only animated Best Picture nominee ever, was robbed. But at least it was robbed by Silence of the Lambs, a fine film though a difficult one to watch because of its emotional impact.

1992: Unforgiven was a sentimental favorite, but I think that the classical Western was past its expiration date. But it was also a weak year; The Crying Game and Scent of a Woman were memorable but flawed. Robert Altman should have finally gotten his Best Picture turn for The Player but wasn't on the ballot.

1993: Schindler's List deserved its win. I'm glad I saw it, and I never want to watch it again.

1994: Forrest Gump was the winner, and I have mixed feelings about that; I go back and forth between believing it was charming and feeling it was manipulative. It's certainly stunning as a technical accomplishment; the insertion of Gump into archival footage was brilliantly done. The hindsight winner is Pulp Fiction, a hugely influential film.

1995: My choice for Worst Best Picture Ever, Braveheart; it should have gotten a Razzie nomination for Worst Picture. I think that the 1995 Worst Picture, Showgirls, was a better movie than Braveheart, though I'm not sure about some of the other Worst Picture nominees. Any of the other nominees would have been better. So would Don Juan de Marco, a film that should have been on the ballot but was not.

1996: The English Patient isn't a bad movie, but it was hardly the best one on the ballot. My vote would have been for Fargo, but I'd have also taken Jerry Maguire or Shine ahead of the winner.

1997: Titanic was an unstoppable cultural phenomenon. The Full Monty was more fun, but sometimes you just can't stop the juggernaut.

1998: Shakespeare In Love is a film that some people like to cite as a bad choice. I disagree; it succeeded in being both a playful romp and an interesting (if slightly twisted) look at history.

1999: American Beauty was the class of a weak field.

2000: Gladiator is another contender for Worst Best Picture, though not a contender for a Razzie because there were some REALLY bad films in 2000. (Battlefield Earth got the Worst Picture award.) Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or Erin Brockovich, please.

2001: A Beautiful Mind is OK, but there were better films available. If you're not going to vote for LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring (the Academy probably didn't want to give the series THREE Best Picture awards like the Hugos did) my choice would be the visually groundbreaking Moulin Rouge!

2002: If you're ignoring LOTR again until the final installment, Chicago is a good pick.

2003: Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King finally wins.

2004: Million Dollar Baby is a solid winner. Finding Neverland is the best of the rest.

2005: Another mistake with Crash. Brokeback Mountain had a huge cultural impact and probably should have won but was too daring a pick for the Academy. Good Night, and Good Luck was another good choice.

2006: The year that Little Miss Sunshine, another Little (semi)Indie That Could, should have won. But the Oscar inexplicably went to The Departed.

2007: No Country For Old Men got the statue. Another plausible year for the indies, with Juno on the ballot.
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