Wednesday, October 31, 2007

It Has Already Happened. Again.

A chilling story in this month's Esquire magazine, recounting the story of two former Bush administration officials who were part of a diplomatic process in which Iran was making major concession to resolve MIddle East issues -- concessions the adminstration rebuffed.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

License and registration, please

One of the bigger dustups tonight centered around an answer by Hilary Clinton as to whether she supported NY Governor Eliot Spitzer's plan to issue driver's licenses to undocumented workers. The brouhaha is not so much about her answer, but as to whether she was caught saying two different things on the same issue, but that's neither here nor there. Chris Dodd was especially clear in his opposition, saying driving was a privilege.

But if part of the problem of illegal workers is that they are undocumented, giving them driver's licenses is a step in the right direction, documentation-wise.


Now all I need is the $15-25 million.

Tear Down the Ghetto Walls

In the post-Stonewall era, the gay community has made enormous strides. From a time when our sexuality had to be hidden because it was not only socially unacceptable but also illegal to now, when gay people are highly visible (Ellen, Barney Frank, David Geffen, Philip Johnson -- just to name four people at or near the peak of their respective professions), the Supreme Court has struck down antiquated sodomy laws as unconstitutional, and we can get married (at least in Massachusetts), the gay community has come farther in the past 40 years than any of us might have imagined.

Granted, we still have a long way to go toward achieving civil equality. (Social equality may never come, but we'll have to live with that.) The military in this country still prohibits gay people from serving openly. There are dozens of states where we can be fired or denied housing simply because of our sexuality. Most states in the union have passed constitutional amendments defining marriage as being solely the territory of heterosexual couples.

With the changes we have gone through, something has changed about our community. The ghettos (I use that term not in a perjorative sense) are disappearing. Where we once needed the Castro and Chelsea and Provincetown and West Hollywood as safe enclaves, the greater visibility we have gained since 1969 has shown the straight world that we are everywhere, and that we have valuable contributions to make as citizens.

As usual, of course, Andrew Sullivan has said it better than I can.

But I will say that I think this is a good thing. My partner and I are planning our first ever cruise. (At least it's MY first ever cruise.) Many people have asked if we are going on a gay cruise. The answer is no, and the reason is two-fold. First, gay cruises are overpriced. Second, ghetto walls can only be torn down from the inside. The more we separate ourselves from the rest of society, the less that broader society feel our presence. Yes, it would be nice to be able to hold hands on deck without thinking that the Kansas families on the Lido deck are staring at us -- but if the Thompsons from Topeka never see a gay couple that doesn't look like the flamboyant types the media point their cameras at during Pride parades, how are they going to learn exactly what it is they are being asked to tolerate.

The New York Times had a story in today's issue on this same basic topic.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Count the Laterals

And you thought the Stanford-Cal final in 1982 was the craziest play you ever saw. To that I say, "ha!" Check this out.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Out and Moving On

Click here to find an interesting blog post by Glenn Greenwald about an out candidate for Senate in North Carolina.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Dumbledore is Gay!

According to J.K. Rowling (who now has more money than God, but not quite as much as Oprah), her character Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwart's School of Witchcraft and Wizardy is gay. Of course, anyone who'd been watching closely already knew this: if the fact that he never mentioned (or seemed at all interested in) women, and seemed to have a boyhood crush on rival wizard Gellert Grindelwald, the robes would be a dead giveaway.

I'm waiting for the Christianists to start their usual hissy, this time bemoaning how awful it is for children to hear that the kindly leader, the wizard who fought ceaselessly against evil, is a pooftah. I wouldn't be suprised to hear some go on about the tragedy of a gay man being in charge of children -- even fictional ones.

Monday, October 15, 2007

"One thing in common...they got the fire down below..."

First it was Jesus in the tortilla, now it's the pope in the bonfire. Some believers have latched on to the photo above left as evidence that the late Pope John Paul II is speaking from the grave. Aside from the fact that we're talking about 1/250th of a second where the flames SORT of resemble the late pontiff -- why has no one thought to suggest that this Harry Potter-esque incarnation means JP2 didn't pass muster with St. Peter and is currently residing in the hotter of the two afterlifes?

But this picture is my favorite instance of supernatural messianic appearances in the natural world:
(And that's not your imagination -- the file cyles, underlaying the original image with an actual image of Jesus, in order to highlight the similarities.)

Expediency vs. Rationality

Schwarzenegger did it again. He vetoed the same-sex marriage bill passed by the State Assembly. His reasons for doing so, I'm sure, are entirely politically-motivated. My guess is he believes in equality, but also loves the power of his office and can't keep that office if voters think he's mocking their deeply-held religious beliefs by allowing abominations (specifically, two people of the same gender committing to a legally-recognized partnership of mutual support) to be state-sanctioned. Instead, he hides behind the skirts of the courts and says, let them decide.

This column from The Daily Californian (the UC Berkeley student paper) gets it mostly right -- not just exhorting Schwarzenegger to lead and do the right thing, but by succinctly laying out the logical reasons why signing the law would in fact have been the right thing to do. I guess we'll just have to let the courts lead, and listen to the right squawk about "activist" judges.

Read This

From Andrew Sullivan's blog blog.

A reader in Iraq gave him some encouraging news from inside the country. Money quote: "An Arab democracy is being formed here. Forming political parties and coalitions is the new growth industry. It is staggering just how enthusiastically Arabs take to this sort of thing."

Quote for the Day

From novelist/philosopher Rebecca Goldstein (wife of one of my favorite writers/thinkers, Steven Pinker): "(Spinoza) really does believe that we can save ourselves through being rational. And I believe in that. I believe that if we have any hope at all, it's through trying to be rigorously objective about ourselves and our place in the world. We have to do that. We have to submit ourselves to objectivity, to rationality."

Read the full interview with both here.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

"Our crucible moment"

An interesting, reflective column from Thomas Friedman.

Money quote: "Never has so much national unity — which could have been used to develop a real energy policy, reverse our coming Social Security deficit, assemble a lasting coalition to deal with Afghanistan and Iraq, maybe even get a national health care program — been used to build so little. That is what historians will note most about Mr. Bush’s tenure — the sheer wasted opportunity of it all."

Friday, October 12, 2007

"I am one with my BlackBerry."

Sometimes, I think my cell phone is vibrating. I feel it in my pocket. I reach for it. But it's not vibrating. It's just an illusion. Apparently, I'm not alone in having such hallucinations. Money quote (that I think also best explains the genesis of the phenomenon): "As human beings, we're so tapped into our community, responsiveness to what's going on, we're so attuned to the threat of isolation and rejection, we'd rather make a mistake than miss a call," said B.J. Fogg, director of research and design at Stanford's Persuasive Technology Lab. "Our brain is going to be scanning and scanning and scanning to see if we have to respond socially to someone."

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Marriage is Mainstream

According to this story from the Associated Press, advice columnist Dear Abby (actually Abby's daughter, who has assumed the mantle) has come out foursquare in favor of same-sex civil marriage. Money quote: "Women were once considered chattel, and slavery was regarded as sanctioned in the Bible. However, western society grew to recognize that neither was just. Canada, Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain have recognized gay marriage, and one day, perhaps, our country will, too."

How much more mainstream can you get? If Abby is on our side, I think a majority will share her opinion.

Attend the Tale of Sweeney Todd

I don't know how it happened, but I've become a Stephen Sondheim fan. I'd never much cared for his music. Oh, I liked a few songs here and there: "Send in the Clowns" when I was young. (Always loved the highly dramatic and/or tragic.) "Ladies Who Lunch" and "Not Getting Married" were a couple of others I dug. Then I saw "Company" in New York last year, and an interesting DVD version of "Follies." Those got me listing over to Stephen's side, but it was last night's production of "Sweeney Todd" at the Geary Theater that put me over the edge. I'd never seen the show before, had heard a few of the songs, but it had never drawn me. But in John Doyle's brilliant pared-down staging (in which the nine-member cast is also the orchestra), I was transported into the grand guignol world of the penny-dreadful story of the Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

Tickets are available at half-price on I suggest you go.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

"I love the arctic in October...when it sizzles."

Fox News, it seems, has finally admitted that global climate change is real. But rather than joining the consensus that we ought to do something about reversing it, they believe it's just what we need because it will give us access to previously untapped oil reserves. More here.

Friday, October 05, 2007

How Much is that Coatamundi in the Window?

New license laws for exotic pets in Britain. Sign me up for an ocelot.

The Manx Turns 40

My middle brother, like my father, is exceptionally handy. A guy who can fix or assemble almost anything. (I, on the other hand, rely heavily on the maintenance and repair professionals of the world. When it comes to home improvement, for example, my skills top out at jiggling the handle. Get much beyond that and I call in the pros.) When he was in his early 20s, he bought a kit to build a Meyers Manx, the quintessential California dune buggy. (Seen above.) I remember his search for a VW bug which had suffered significant body damage, but still had its frame intact. (Building a Manx involved primarily the Beetle frame and drive train -- the body was tossed.) I can recall the bare frame of the Beetle in our garage on Randolph Street, sliced in two in order to shorten the wheelbase. I remember the fiberglass body (orange, I think) being bolted to the new frame, and new, dramatic, upturned exhaust outlets being added to the air-cooled VW engine. My brother then had a doorless, topless vehicle that he used to run on the dunes and beaches near our coastal home.

Later, my brother sold the Manx -- but quickly took on another project, creating a "Baja Bug" by customizing another Beetle by abbreviating the hood, enhancing the engine and adding wide tires designed for traction in sand. Sort of like this one, but blue.
All this reminiscing was brought on by a story in the New York Times about the 40th anniversary of the Meyers Manx, the original dune buggy kit car. Who knew they'd end up being collectible?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

On Top of the World

When I was a boy, camping with my family or, later, visiting our houseboat at Trinity Lake in the far northern reaches of California, I would occasionally see a fire lookout station -- the mountaintop shacks where people would spend a summer by themselves, watching the surrounding landscape for signs of forest fires. I always thought it would be interesting to sit up there, perched, all alone, observing. I would read and look up to scan the horizon. I'd cook whatever I wanted, and on rare occasions be visited by a passing hiker.

Today's New York Times has a story on a real life tower lookout. Interestingly enough, his life sounds just about like my fantasy.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Editing is one thing...

...mutilation is another.

Flipping through the channels tonight, I ran across one of my favorite movie comedies, Mel Brooks' "Blazing Saddles." It was playing on the Country Music Channel, CMT. I can understand some editing to satisfy the FCC, but if there is one word that you can't cut from "Blazing Saddles," it's "nigger." The whole point of the movie is how an all-white town in the post-Civil War era deals with the arrival of an African-American sherriff. And what's the main word they cut? Of course. It's like airing "Citizen Kane" and cutting "rosebud." It's just not the same movie.