Monday, January 31, 2005

Even Wal-Mart Gets It...

The largest private employer in the United States (the U.S. federal government is the largest over-all) is Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart announced on Friday that it has expanded the definition of "immediate family" to include same-sex couples who have domestic partnerships or civil unions in the states where such legislation has been enacted. (I'm not exactly sure what this caveat implies, since only Vermont, New Jersey and California have civil union/statewide domestic partner laws with teeth, while Massachusetts is the only state with full marriage equality.) Regardless, this just goes to show that even a very conservative company like Wal-Mart, which is based in Arkansas and evil in a number of different ways, gets it. If you want to recruit and retain talented individuals, you have to offer the most flexible range of benefits, and having an expanded definition of immediate family is one relatively easy way of doing this. In fact, it's been private firms and the corporate sector who have really been the engine for the acceleration of recognition of same-sex domestic partnership rights for the last decade.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Grand Slam Review: Australian Open


  1. The "Serena scream" on the penultimate point (and again on match point) of her semifinal battle with Maria Sharpova.
  2. Lindsay Davenport getting back on the court a mere two hours after her marathon quarterfinal singles match to play doubles with Corina Morariu--leading to a second women's doubles final appearance for these two best of friends.
  3. The sleeveless shirts worn by the men (Hewitt, Nadal, Moya, Blake, et cetera)--show off those guns, boyz!
  4. Serena's silencing of the critics by winning her 7th major title at age 23.
  5. Marat Safin winning his second major title after a 5-year drought (2000 U.S. Open over Sampras at age 20).
  6. 15-year old African-American left-handed phenom Donald Young winning the Australian Open Junior Title, the youngest ever, simultaneously becoming the youngest ever Number 1 Junior.


  1. Lindsay Davenport's inexplicable collapse from 6-2, 3-4, 40-0 in the second set of the Championship Match to lose the next 5 points (double-faulting on break point) and then proceeding to lose the next 7 games and the championship in less than half an hour.
  2. Serena Williams' bib of a costume she wore on court.
  3. Dick Enberg's "commentary" on ESPN2 during the entire fortnight--inane would not be too harsh a description.
  4. The "urine test" yellow color chosen for the on-court outfits of Maria Sharapova, Lindsay Davenport, Serena Williams et alia.

Best Matches
1. S. Williams(7) d. M. Sharapova(4) 2-6, 7-5, 8-6 (women's semifinal). This was effectively the women's championship match. I had predicted that the winner of Mauresmo-S. Williams would win the tournament and that Kuznetsova would defeat Sharapova. After spraying the balls on both the forehand and backhand side in the first 10 games of the match, committing nearly 25 errors in the process, somehow Serena was able to make the adjustment quickly enough in the second set to keep the match close. Then it was the 17-year old Wimbledon Champion who grew tight (and uncharacteristically muffled) to lose the second set after serving for the match at 6-2, 5-4. In the third set, Serena had to face three match points, two of which she dismissed with two blistering, forehand cross-court, service-return winners. Finally at 6-7 Serena was able to win an incredibly long point which included some great gets by Maria and a too-short volley which Serena was able to rush to net and hit for a down-the-line winner and her first match point at 15-40. After a good serve and netted return, on her second match point Serena won the match with her second strike of the ball, a cross-court forehand winner. Game, Set and Match, Miss Serena Williams!

2. L. Davenport(1) d. A. Molik(10) 6-4, 4-6, 9-7 (women's quarterfinal). This was an incredibly close match, which says a lot about the game of the up and coming Aussie, who cemented her arrival as a Top 10 player and Grand Slam contender status by winning the women's doubles title with Svetlana Kuznetsova mere 2 days after this match. The match result was another example of why tennis must incorporate electronic imaging technology into confirming line calls. Serving on game point at 7-7 in the third set it looked like Molik served an ace but it was called out. Shotspot showed the ball clearly caught some of the line. That would have given Molik an 8-7 lead; instead Lindsay was 8-7 and served out the match (saving two break points).

3. R. Federer(1) d. A. Agassi(8), 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 (men' quarterfinal). This was the most hyped men's match of the tournament. Federer became testy when he was asked if he would have to raise his game to beat Agassi and he clearly did so. Federer may have peaked too early because he was clearly not at his best in his next match...

4. M. Safin d. R. Federer 5-7, 6-4, 5-7, 7-6(6), 9-7 (men's semifinal). Safin figured out a way to "solve the Federer puzzle" during this instant classic match. Federer received treatment for blisters and a sore arm and was clearly not at his best and he still almost won the match! He had a match point in his serve at 6-5 in the 4th set tie break. He saved 6 match points in the 5th set, finally succumbing on the seventh. Let's do the numbers: The match was almost 4 1/2 hours and ended a little after midnight, Australia time, on Safin's 25th birthday. Federer had less errors than Safin (59 to 60), won more total points (201 to 194), and STILL LOST. Amazing stuff.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

In Defense of Hate Crimes Laws

David Nieuwert at Orcinus has the best defense of hate crimes legislation I have seen articulated in print in a long long time, and I taught a class a few years ago on the "Politics of Fear" which included lectures on hate crimes. Nieuwert's piece is in response to an editorial against hate crimes legislation which appeared in The Missoulian a Montana newspaper he used to work for. The money quote is here:

The editorial essentially argues from two key positions: that it is
somehow inappropriate to apply different sentences to crimes
with identical outcomes but different motivations; and that
hate-crime statutes create protected "classes" of victims who are
treated differently than others. Both are simply wrong.

First: The principle of proportionality in sentencing is a
fundamental aspect of criminal law. Society has always chosen to
punish crimes more or less harshly according to the culpability
of the perpetrator, particularly the level of harm he inflicts. This
is why, in the case of the death of another person, someone may
face charges ranging from first-degree murder to third-degree


Not only are bias crimes substantially different in nature from their
parallel crimes, there is no question that they cause substantially
greater harm, so a harsher punishment is fully warranted.

Second: Hate-crime statutes are neither written to protect specific
classes of persons from assault nor to enhance the charges simply
when a person from a "protected class" is the victim of a crime. We
don't have laws that create stiffer time if you simply assault a black
or a Jew or a gay person. The laws don't even specify races or
religions. Such laws would be in clear violation of basic
constitutional principles, including the equal-protection clause.

Gee, someone should give this guy a Koufax award (excellence in left-leaning blogs)! Oh, wait--someone already has. Currently, (according to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force) there are at least 15 states which still do not include sexual orientation in their hate crime laws. Federally, the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act (LLEEA), failed to pass in the last Congress, thanks primarily to Republican opposition.

MON JAN 31 2005 4:09pm UPDATE: According to QueerDay, the state of New Hampshire is now considering the repeal of their hate crime statute, which was enacted in 1990 and does include sexual orientation as a protected class.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Australian Open finals set

Americans Serena Williams(7) is playing Lindsay Davenport(1) tonight (6:30pm PST, 9:30pm EST on ESPN2) for the 2005 Australian Open title. Serena has a 13-match winning streak at this tournament (she won the 2003 title but did not play in 2004 due to injury) and is gunning for her 7th major victory. Lindsay, who became Number 1 without winning a major tournament last year, is aiming at her 4th major title (her first since the 2000 Australian Open) and a chance to retire at the top of the game. Serena is up 12-8 in head-to-head matches played, but Lindsay won the last two. PREDICTION: Serena, in 3 sets.

Australian Llewton Hewitt will be playing Russian Marat Safin for the men's title in local prime time Sunday (12:30am PST, 3:30am EST repeated 9am PST, noon EST on ESPN2). Hewitt has 2 major titles (2001 U.S. Open, 2002 Wimbledon) while Safin has 1 (2000 U.S. Open) but has made it to the Australian Open final this year, last year (lost to Federer) and 2002 (lost to Johansson). Safin won an amazing 5th set match against one of the best players ever (Federer) in the semifinal round (9-7 in the 5th!). PREDICTION: Safin, in 4 sets.

I'm working on a post which will be a Grand Slam review of the Highlights/Lowlights of the 2005 Australian Open, I hope to publish it this weekend after the Men's Final.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Against Gonzales (and Condi too!)

Just a quick post to publicly join the chorus of opposition to the nomination of Alberto Gonzales to be Attorney General of the United States. Thankfully, all 8 Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee voted against Gonzales in committe yesterday.

I was also opposed to the nomination of Condoleezza Rice to be Secretary of State. Unfortunately, only 13 Senators agreed with my position and she was approved by the full Senate yesterday by a vote of 85-13, albeit receiving the most nay votes for any proposed Secretary of State since 1825. At least my senator, Barbara Boxer, took Dr.Rice to task during her confirmation hearing.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Governmental HIV policy and common sense

The federal government has finally released guidelines on allowing post-exposure prophylaxis (also known as PEP) for all people exposed to HIV accidentally. Of, course other countries have been doing this for years. In fact some countries actually aknowledge that people are going to have a lot of sex and tries to help them to be safe. I'm highlighting this point to show how illogical, and just plain stupid governmental public policy can be on the subject of HIV and AIDS. Since I've been on the Board of Directors of an HIV/AIDS organization for nearly 3 years and lobbied State and Federal legislators on the HIV/AIDS issues I feel like I am qualified to comment on these matters, regardless of my HIV status, so it's likely this will be an occasional topic on this blog.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

For only 1,500,000,000 dollars...

you too can have your very own Embassy in Iraq, or perhaps you would like the tallest building in the freaking world?

Other things that $1.5 billion dollars could buy:

(Thanks to Atrios for highlighting the initial comparison of the two buildings.)

UPDATE: Oscar Nominations Out (75% Prediction Match)

The 77th annual Oscar nominations are out now. As you can see here, my previous predictions in the Top 8 categories of Best Picture, Best Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Adapted Screenplay and Original Screenplay, I had an accuracy rate of 75% (30 out of 40 nominations correct). In fact, I got two categories completely correct (Best Picture and Best Actress).

You can also see a full comparison of my predictions to the actual nominations.

Monday, January 24, 2005

And then there were 15

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich(D) signed a sexual orientation non-discrimination bill into law on Friday January 21, making Illinois the 15th State in the Union to include sexual orientation as a class against which discrimination is prohibited. The other states which have some form of protection against dicrimination based on sexual orientation are: California (1992, 2003), Connecticut (1991), Hawaii (1991), Maryland (2001), Massachusetts (1989), Minnesota (1993), Nevada (1999), New Hampshire (1997), New Jersey (1992), New Mexico (2003), New York (2002), Rhode Island (2001), Vermont (1992) and Wisconsin (1982). Of course, that means that 35 (70%) of the states in the Union don't have such a law, despite majority public opinion in favor of sexual orientation non-discrimination, and federal protection is lacking, since the Employment Non-Discrimination Act is still pending in the U.S. House of Representatives, where some form of the bill has been in every Congress since 1974.

Upsets at the Australian Open

There were a number of upsets at the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam tournament of the year. Of the 8 women I previously predicted to get to the quarterfinals, only 5 made it: Davenport(1), Mauresmo(2), Sharapova(4), Kuznetsova(5) and Serena Williams(7). Of the 7 Russians (Myskina, Sharapova, Kuznetsova, Dementieva, Petrova, Douchevina, Linetskaya) who made it to the Round of 16, only two made it to the quarters, and they have to play each other! Ok, so here are the quarterfinals (with my predictions):

Davenport(1) versus Molik (10)
This is a match between two very hard-hitting players. Alicia Molik
is the most-improved player over the last six months and is Australian,
so she will have the entire country rooting for her. There's a reason why Lindsay Davenport is ranked Number 1 in the world again. She played some incredibly solid
tennis last year, against the best players in the world. Despite the fact that Molik "has the best serve in women's tennis right now"(Pam Shriver), Davenport is still the best service returner in the women's game and is no slouch in the service department herself. Lindsay will get all the way to the final. The only person to ever beat her in a Grand Slam final is Venus Williams, and that player is no longer in the tournament (in fact, is no longer on the tour!) Prediction: Davenport in 3 sets.
Dechy(19) versus Schnyder(12)
Schnyder is a very crafty left-handed veteran Swiss player who is very
hot-headed. She outlasted Elena Dementieva in a tough 3-setter in the round of
16. Schnyder plays well in Australia--the ReboundAce court causes players
difficulty when confronted with the lefty spin Schnyder puts on almost every
shot; she was a semifinalist here in 2004. Nathalie Dechy easily beat Anastasia
Myskina in straight sets, who seemed to just have an off-day. I believe the
veteran will find a way to win over the hard-hitting Frenchwoman. Prediction: Schnyder in 2 sets.

The other half of the draw have followed my earlier predictions accurately:

Kuznetsova (5) versus Sharapova (4)

This should be one of the highlights of the tournament. Sharapova has been starting off slow in all her matches, but then usually finds a groove, often stringing 6-8 consecutive games together. It's doubtful she can do that against Kuznetsova, who has a serve which is even bigger than Maria's. I still think a close, hard-hitting match will ensue, but my prediction is the same. Winner: Kuznetsova in 3 sets.
Mauresmo (2) versus S. Williams (7)

I haven't seen any of Amelie's matches this tournament so far (you suck,
ESPN2!). I have seen a lot of Serena's matches and she has been playing well.
I'm really rooting for Amelie to make a breakthrough here like she did 6 years
ago, getting to the final against Martina Hingis. However, she has only beaten
Serena once in 9 tries, though in the last year all their matches have gone to
3-sets and been nailbiters.
Winner: Toss-up (edge to Serena).

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Cartoons, Homosexuality and the Right Wing

Flush with its success in helping to defeat John Kerry's bid for the presidency in the November 2004 elections, the right wing has chosen its next target: Spongebob Squarepants! As Oliver Willis has pointed out, only an "effing idiot" would fail to underestimate the ridicule one would receive from denouncing the alleged homosexuality of the fictional, animated, wildly popular icon of thumb-sucking tykes everwhere.

In other news concerning cartoon homosexuality, speculation is swirling about which Simpsons' character will be revealed as gay this season. Of course, when the plot device was first revealed (in order to raise revenue, Springfield will legalize gay marriage which leads to one of the "recurring character" to finally come out of the closet) the attention of most Simpson-watchers turned to the foppishly servile Smithers, personal assistant to the odious Montgomery Burns. Other obvious contenders are Marge's sister Selma (or Patty). A more controversial pick, the Simpsons' excessively religious neighbor Ned Flanders, has recently been making the rounds.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Cops Beat Black Boy, Win Millions of Dollars

*sigh* The videotaped beating of a developmentally disabled teenaged African American boy by two white police officers in Los Angeles made headlines around the world in Summer 2002. Inglewood Police Officers Jeremy Morse and Bijan Darvish were caught on videotape slamming 16-year old Donovan Jackson on to a patrol car and beating the boy with their fists and a flashlight. Mitchell Crooks, the guy who serendipitously videotaped the incident, ended up getting extradited to a northern california county to serve time in jail for a previous unrelated burglary conviction. Last year, after two attempts (first time 7-5 to convict, then 6-6 deadlock) trying the officers for excessive and unnecessary force and other crimes led to hung juries, the District of Attorney dropped all charges.

Now, this week comes word that the two officers have successfully sued the City of Inglewood for millions of dollars. Darvish, who is still a police officer in the City of Inglewood, and who was found guilty of filing a false police report and suspended for 10 days, received $800 000. Morse, who was fired by the City of Inglewood and who now lives in Idaho, was awarded $1.6 million. An African American officer who was also at the scene of the incident received a 5-day suspension, but was not a party to the racial discrimination civil suit.

And people wonder why the Black community has a tense relationship with the police? Donovan Jackson's attorney, Cameron Stewart, who filed the federal lawsuit against all three police officers at the scene, expressed the thoughts of many (including yours truly!) when he was quote in the newspaper saying:
"Here's a guy that basically got off after being caught beating a
teenager on videotape. He was terminated, and rightfully so, and he goes and
files a lawsuit and is awarded over a million dollars?"

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Right Wing Expresses Dismay Over Bush's New Position on SSM

As reported here a few days ago, George W. Bush has decided that it is fruitless to pursue a constitutional amendment to ban federal recognition of same-sex relationships (a.k.a. the anti-gay marriage amendment). Apparently, the right wingnuts don't read The Mad Professah Lectures or diaries at MyDD since, they only expressed their dismay to the President yesterday, according to the Washington Post (registration required), as noted by the indispensable Political Wire.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Los Angeles Mayoral Election

The major candidates in the Los Angeles Mayoral Election set for March 8, 2005 (run-off May 17, 2005) are

In the 2001 Mayoral Election to succeed Republican Richard Riordan, Villaraigosa was first in the first round (30%) ahead of Hahn (27%) and (Riordan's pick) Steve Soboroff (20%), but then lost to Hahn in the run-off 46.5%-53.5%. It was widely thought that Villaraigosa's loss was due to Hahn's support among African-Americans who were not ready for the first Latino Mayor.

Today I heard a debate among the challengers on one of my local NPR stations, KPCC 89.3 FM (Hahn seems to be limiting the number of candidate forums that he has--a smart move since debates put the incumbent on the same level as his opponents, which he doesn't want).

My general impressions were that Villaraigosa and Hertzberg did well, with Parks and Alarcon bringing up the rear. The Los Angeles Times reported last week that Parks has had problems fundraising and had replaced his top advisors recently.

The Mayoral Race is a nominally a non-partisan race, though all the major candidates and the incumbent are all registered Democrats.

Party Registration in the City of Los Angeles

Democrats: 806,669 (56.3%);
Republicans: 293,325 (20.5%);
Decline to State: 264,379 (18.5%)

Today, the Los Angeles County Democratic Central Committee will be making its endorsement in the mayoral race. This is a crucial endorsement, particularly since Hahn has succeeded in denying Villaraigosa other endorsements (primarily Labor-related).

Monday, January 17, 2005

Doubting Thomas (The Legacy of MLK)

Michael Kinsley, recently named Editor of the Los Angeles Times editorial page, has a great column in Sunday's paper on Clarence Thomas' chances of becoming Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States called "Fool Me Twice, Shame On Me":

But Clarence Thomas is different, because his famous 1991 confirmation was
different. His strategy was to do or say anything that would allow him to crawl
past the finish line. When the prize is a virtually invulnerable lifetime
appointment, that's a good strategy. But it can, and should, come back to haunt
you when you put in for a promotion.

Thomas' performances at the hearings, as well as the things we know now that
we didn't know then, and even the things we knew then but were bullied or rushed
into ignoring, are not just fair game — they are disqualifying. If he wasn't
unworthy of the Supreme Court when his confirmation hearings began, he certainly
was by the time they were over. The fact that he got confirmed as an associate
justice anyway is no reason to give him a free pass to chief justice. Fool me
once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me

Clarence Thomas' nomination to become an Associate Justice passed the Senate on a 52-48 vote on October 15, 1991, the most ever votes to oppose a successful Supreme Court nomination. It is clear that he lied to the Senate during his confirmation hearing. Again, from Kinsley's op-ed yesterday:
It is beyond legitimate dispute that he tried to leave the impression that
he'd never even thought or talked about Roe. This was implausible on its face —
Roe is the most controversial Supreme Court ruling of the last century, and it
came down while Thomas was in law school — but no one could prove Thomas a liar
during the hearings. Since then, however, several people have popped up with
memories of having discussed Roe with Thomas. His views were as you would
suspect, and he has reasserted them with a vengeance from the moment he joined
the court.

Thomas' supporters say he didn't commit perjury because he testified only
that he had never "debated" Roe, not that he had never "discussed" it. They also
like to point out that he said he had no view on Roe "this day," which doesn't
make him a liar if he expressed a view some other day.

This is pathetic. But it's also irrelevant. The standard for becoming chief
justice ought to be a bit higher than the standard for staying out of jail.
Thomas indisputably did his best to deceive senators trying to perform their
constitutional duty of advice and consent. If that isn't something the Senate
should consider when passing judgment on his fitness for an even higher job,
then "advice and consent" has no meaning. And we have endured too many sermons
from Clarence Thomas, strict constructionist, to believe that the words of the
Constitution have no meaning.

Note the Thomas nomination by George H.W. Bush occurred when the Democrats had majorities in both the House and Senate. I'm saddened to say that both the Senators in my state of California (Cranston(D) and Seymour(R)) voted for Thomas. It is worthy to note that it was the Hill-Thomas Hearings that led to an unprecedented number of women running for the Senate in 1992 ("The Year of the Woman") and led to both Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer being elected U.S. Senators from California just over a year later.

On this day that we celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr's birthday with a reflection on the state of civil rights in this country let us not forget that there are those who would use the language of that movement to dismantle and destroy the hard-fought gains. Clarence Thomas is in that group and his nomination to be Chief Justice must be opposed by all progressive and reform Democrats and those who truly believe in continuing the battle for equality and justice that Martin Luther King, Jr fought for while he was alive.

Kuznetsova said to test positive for ephedrine

Associated Press has more details on a story that appeared in today's Los Angeles Times sports section by Lisa Dillman bout one of four players at an exhibition last month in Belgium (Justine Henin-Hardenne, Nathalie Dechy, Elena Dementieva and Svetlana Kuznetsova) testing positive for a banned substance.

"A Belgian sports minister" said that Svetlana Kuznetsova tested positive for ephedrine, according to the article.

Of course as everyone knows ephedrine is present in many cold and cough medecines and apparently the testing was done by a non-WTA-sanctioned body at a charity event, so it is unlikely that Kuznetsova will be punished.

Bush Backs Down on Anti-Gay Marriage Amendment

So, George W. Bush, the most openly homophobic president in history, who campaigned for re-election and for a constitutional amendment to prevent governmental recognition of same-sex relationships simultaneously, has decided (on the eve of his second inauguration) that he will no longer push for this legislation. I guess someone finally told W. that 1) There is a Defense of Marriage Act on the books which already prevents the federal government from recognizing any marital relationship other than "one man and one woman" and 2) It takes 67 votes to pass a constitutional amendment out of the United States Senate.

This, coming a few months after Bush told Good Morning America that he disagrees with the Republican Party platform's opposition to civil unions

Gee, I wonder if two days after his inauguration, on the 32nd anniversary of Roe vs Wade (January 22, 1973), he will announce his opposition to the Republican Party call for the adoption of a Human Life Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which would outlaw most abortions? I wonder, do you? After all, that Amendment requires 67 votes in the Senate, too.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Update on 2005 Australian Open Predictions (Using the draw)

When I made my initial predictions about the Australian Open I had not seen the official draw yet. If people play to form, then here's what the Quarter-Finals will look like:

Davenport(1) versus V. Williams (8)
This is a re-match of one of the best matches last year, Venus and Linday's U.S. Open Quarterfinal (which Lindsay won). I think Lindsay will win again, this time in 3 sets. Winner: Davenport.
Myskina(3) versus Dementieva (6)
Anastasia has already shown that she knows how to handle her best friend in the Grand Slams. This will be no exception. Winner: Myskina.
Kuznetsova (5) versus Sharapova (4)
This should be one of the highlights of the tournament. I'm not convinced that Sharapova will even get to the Quarterfinal, but if she does, I think Svetlanawill be ready for her. A close, hard-hitting match will ensue Winner: Kuznetsova.
Mauresmo (2) versus S. Williams (7)
Again, this will be an awesome match, or at least it is an awesome match-up. I think whomever wins this match will face (and defeat) Davenport in the final. Winner: Toss-up!

The winner of Davenport-Williams plays the winner of Myskina-Dementieva in one semi-fimal, and then the winner of Kuznetsova-Sharapova plays the winner of Mauresmo-Williams in the other semi-final.

UPDATE 01/17/05: Jon Wertheim of has similar predictions.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Stop Arnold From Killing

Today I got a robocall from that nice actor from M*A*S*H urging me to call The Governator of Kalleeforneeyah to urge him to stop the execution to Donald Beardslee, who is currently scheduled to die on Wednesday January 19 by lethal injection. For more information on the case, read these reports.

2005 Australian Open Predictions

Here are the latest WTA world tennis rankings for the Women (Like most gay men, I follow women's tennis much more closely than Men's tennis--the personalities and games are for more interesting!) with my predictions for how they will fare in the next two weeks at the first Glam Slam tournament of 2005, the Australian Open:
1. L. Davenport

Lindsay had a remarkable year in 2004, despite not winning a major she was deep in the mix in every single one, especially the U.S. Open and Wimnbledon, where she lost to the eventual winners, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Maria Sharapova, respectively. At the French she lost in the fourth round to Elena Dementieva, who got to the Final and at last year's Australian Open she lost an excruciatingly long match against the eventual titleholder, Justine Henin-Hardenne. She was particularly dominant during the summer on the fast hardcourts she grew up playing on in Southern California. Unfortunately, the ReboundAce surface that the Australian Open is played on is nowhere as fast as hardcourts. It's not a good sign for this years AO that she withdrew from a match earlier in the month with a thigh injury, but perhaps she was just saving her body for Melbourne. Prediction: Semi-finalist

2. A. Mauresmo
Amelie also had a breakthrough year in 2004. She became Number One on September 13, 2004, the second player to do so without winning a Grand Slam first (Kim Clijsters became Number One in 2003 the same way). At the Grand Slams, she twice lost to eventual finalist Elena Dementieva (no, I don't know how either) at the French and U.S. Opens. At Wimbledon, she played a very strong match against Serena Williams, coming back when down in the first set to win it, and leading in the second before losing in 3. At last year's Australian Open she had to default her quarterfinal match to Fabiola Zuluaga, a player she hadn't lost against in over four years, due to a lower back strain. Amelie usually plays well in Australia, it was the site of her first (and so far, only,) Grand Slam final (against Hingis, in 1999). If she's healthy, she'll do well.Prediction: Finalist
3. A. Myskina
The 2004 French Open champion was the first of the recent horde of Russians to win a Grand Slam title, though she is generally not considered the most talented (that would be either Sharapova or Kuznetsova). Regardless, she has maintained her #1 Russian ranking for all of 2004. At last year's Australian she lost to eventual Finalist, Kim Clijsters in the Quarters. After winning the French, she flamed out early at both Wimbledon and New York. She lost a number of long, tight matches in important tournaments after holding leads (against Henin-Hardenne at the Olympics and against Serena Williams at the WTA Tour Championships). Prediction: Quarter-Finalist
4. M. Sharapova
What more can one say about Maria? Clearly, after 2004 the rest of the tour knows that there's a new sheriff in town. She's currently thought to be the most highly paid female athlete in the world. At the tender age of 17, Sharapova got to her first French Open quarterfinal and then a few weeks later barrelled through the Wimbledon field, ending with a straight set victory over a shocked Serena Williams. Although she followed that up with a number of disappointing results during the hard court season she finished the season on a high note by defeating an injured Serena Williams in a wild season-ending WTA Tour Championships final. However, she's never played well in Australia. Prediction: Quarter-Finalist
5. S. Kuznetsova
Long identified as the most talented of the upcoming Russian players by Martina Navratilova and others, Svetlana finally broke through to her win her first Grand Slam title at the U.S. Open over Dementieva after an injured Lindsay Davenport could not keep up with her in their semi-final match. The rest of her 2004 Grand Slam outings were pretty dismal, but perhaps her New York win should give her the confidence to go further than she has in the past in Melbourne. Prediction: Quarter-Finalist
6. E. Dementieva
Oh, Elena! Despite making two Grand Slam finals in 2004 (French and U.S.) Dementieva can not really be considered a threat to win a major until she locates a professional caliber serve. It is true that all her other strokes are quite strong, but they are not enough to win when you start of 0-30 in every one of your service games. Prediction: Quarter-Finalist
7. S. Williams
Serena Williams has a lot to prove in 2005. After dominating the Tour for most of 2002 and 2003 she was unable to win a Grand Slam title in 2004, despitre three attempts. Worse, two of those losses came to her blood enemy, Jennifer Capriati (U.S. and French Quarterfinals). In her mind, she is the defending Australian Open Champion (from 2003). However, she has now lost twice consecutively (in important finals) to the new "It Girl," Maria Sharapova. Nothing motivates a true Diva as strongly as an incorrectly focussed spotlight.Prediction: Finalist
8. J. Henin-Hardenne
The current Australian Open Champion is not defending her title due to the mysterious virus that has sidetracked the former #1 player for over a year.

9. V. Williams
Venus Williams has not been in a Grand Slam final since the 2003 Wimbledon final and has not won one since the 2001 U.S. Open. It is clear to everyone else, if not the Williams household, that the rest of the field has caught up, and to some extent surpassed, the former 'ghetto superstars.' If she doesn't make a change in her preparation soon, it's likely there will be no more Grand Slam titles in her future. Despite making the 2003 Australian Open final (and losing to Serena), Venus has never played very well in Australia. Prediction: Fourth Round
10. J. Capriati
She's so over.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Oscar Nomination Predictions

Movie award season is in full swing. The Golden Globe Awards are on Sunday, and the Oscar Nominations will be announced on Tuesday January 25. Here are my predictions, together with my picks.

Best Picture
  • The Aviator
  • Finding Neverland
  • Million Dollar Baby
  • Ray
  • Sideways


Best Director

  • Clint Eastwood, Million Dollar Baby
  • Marc Forster, Finding Neverland
  • Michael Mann, Collateral
  • Alexander Payne, Sideways
  • Martin Scorsese, The Aviator

MY PICK: Zhang Yimou, House of Flying Daggers or Hero

Best Actress

  • Annette Bening, Being Julia
  • Catalina Sandino Moreno, Maria Full of Grace
  • Imelda Staunton, Vera Drake
  • Hilary Swank, Million Dollar Baby
  • Kate Winslet, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

MY PICK: Annette Bening, Being Julia

Best Actor

  • Don Cheadle, Hotel Rwanda
  • Johnny Depp, Finding Neverland
  • Leonardo Dicaprio, The Aviator
  • Jamie Foxx, Ray
  • Paul Giamatti, Sideways

MY PICK: Jamie Foxx, Ray

Best Supporting Actress

  • Cate Blanchett, The Aviator
  • Laura Linney, Kinsey
  • Virginia Madsen, Sideways
  • Sophie Okonedo, Hotel Rwanda
  • Kate Winslet, Finding Neverland

MY PICK: Sharren Warren, Ray or Meryl Streep, The Manchurian Candidate

Best Supporting Actor

  • Thomas Haden Church, Sideways
  • Jamie Foxx, Collateral
  • Morgan Freeman, Million Dollar Baby
  • Freddie Highmore, Finding Neverland
  • Peter Sarsgaard, Kinsey

MY PICK: Morgan Freeman, Million Dollar Baby

Best Original Screenplay

  • John Logan, The Aviator
  • Pedro Almodovar, Bad Education
  • Charlie Kaufman, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  • Keir Pearson and Terry George, Hotel Rwanda
  • Bill Condon, Kinsey

MY PICK: Brad Bird, The Incredibles

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • David Magee, Finding Neverland
  • Tina Fey, Mean Girls
  • Paul Haggis, Million Dollar Baby
  • Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, Sideways
  • Alvin Sargent, Spider-Man 2

MY PICK: Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, Sideways

Most Nominations

  1. The Aviator (10)
  2. Million Dollar Baby (9)
  3. Sideways(9)
  4. Ray(7)
  5. Finding Neverland(6)
  6. Kinsey(5)

We're baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack!

After an extended hiatus where I have been busy reading blogs and participating pretty regularly during the election season with dairies at MyDD and DailyKos among other websites, I have decided that I will try and resume this, my personal blog. It will be focussed mainly on queer politics, politics and law in general, tennis, and of course, showbiz! (This is L.A. after all, and I am gay!)


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