Thursday, November 30, 2006

FUSION LGBT People of Color film festival stars tomorrow

Outfest's Fourth LGBT People of Color film festival, FUSION, is this weekend, December 1-3, 2006 in Los Angeles. I am planning on going to the Opening Night gala tomorrow evening at the Aratani/Japan American Theatre (4 South San Pedro Street in downtown Los Angeles) where the program will feature a number of interesting shorts.
SHE KILLS HE Dir: Dave Rodriguez
SARANG SONG Dir: Tamika Miller
TWO NIGHTS Dir: Rolmar Baldonado
MY CRAZY LIFE Dir: Carlos Arguello & Enzo Ybarra
DO THE MATH Dir: Mary Guzman
The first Fusion film festival was in January 2004, quickly followed by the second in November 2004 (where I was blown away by director Rodney Evans Brother to Brother). I missed last year's edition in November 2005 but I am very glad to see that Fusion is back in 2006 and urge everyone to try and attend one of the sessions (some of the sessions during the day are free!) Attendance by seniors (over 65) and youth (under 21) is completely subsidized.
Pass the word on!

South Africa Marriage Law Goes Into Effect!

As Rod 2.0 points out, South Africa's recently passed civil unions law goes into effect today! The country which used to be a symbol of racial apartheid and disregard for basic human rights now has some of the most progressive laws and policies regarding same-sex couples and equal rights for all disenfranchised and subordinated minorities in the world. It's sort of interesting to reflect how the contemporary commitment in South Africa to nondiscrimination by the State in all respects is a very product of the blatant and explicit governmentally sanctioned exclusionary policies which were once considered traditional and permanent.

Of course, the country is not without its problems, namely with HIV prevalence rates in the general populace approaching 30%, and the current ANC Government's response has been less than laudatory, to be sure.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

HEROES: Save The Cheerleader, Save The World

NBC's Heroes is the new breakthrough show of the television season. I have only caught up with the show recently (from episode #7) so I was happy to see that the SciFi Channel has been running repeats of each weekly episode, and today it is running a marathon of the first 6 episodes that I had previously missed! My DVR is set, so I thought I would drop a hint on y'all.

UPDATE THURSDAY 11/30/06 19:11: I watched the pilot episode and I have some of the complaints the other half when he saw me watching Episode #7: the acting is simply not very good. Yes, the storylines and production values are strong, but I don't know if they can survive extremely unpersuasive chracterizations and inability to emote realistically. Maybe there's a 2-dimensional quality that the director is forcing the actors to portray to reflect the source materials comic book roots? I'm not sure, but I'll have more to say about the show later on.

Best (Men's) Tennis Matches of the Year

1. R. Nadal ESP d. R. Federer SUI, 6-7 (0) 7-6 (5) 6-4 2-6 7-6 (5), Rome ATP Masters Series final.

An instant classic. It is already considered by some as one of the Top 10 matches of the 21st Century. 5 hours and 5 minutes long. 3 tie break sets. 2 match points saved by Nadal. The shot making was at an insanely high level. Federer was basically blasting multiple winners on single points because Nadal was able to retrieve so many balls. It was only when he would hit physically impossible shot (impossible for other mortals) that he would actually be rewarded with a winner. After hours and hours of this the Swiss player started to overhit and tire. He got himself into a winning position at 4-2 in the 5th set and had match points on Nadal's serve at 5-6 in the 5th. Federer was even up 5-3 in the tiebreak and uncharacteristically missed a sitter forehand to set up 3 match points. Instead Federer lost four consecutuve points to lose the match and give the Spaniard his 5th win in 6 matches. Nadal has now not lost on clay since April 2005 and is the unquestioned best player in the world on this surface. It was a testament to the quality of this match that both players pulled out of the Hamburg Masters Series tournament which started the next day, citing "exhaustion."

2. D. Tursunov RUS d. A. Roddick USA, 6-3 6-4 5-7 3-6 17-15, Davis Cup semifinal.

Which country would have the right to play Argentina for the Davis Cup came down (improbably) to the result of this match. Tursunov had a breakthrough year in 2006, and Roddick was in the middle of a mid-career correction after a peculiar slump. The 32 games of the final set is more than most matches on the tour last. The famous Becker quote is "The fifth set is not about tennis, it's about nerves." How about a fifth set on your worst surface in front of tens of thousands of screaming foreign nationals. No one can really question Roddick's stamina or mental toughness after this match. Either player could have won it.

3. R. Federer SUI d. R. Nadal ESP 6-4 7-5, Masters Cup semifinal.

True, this match was played recently and was fresh in my mind as I compiled this list. However, I believe it stands up when measured against many other matches played this year (see Honorable Mentions below). Both players were completely crushing the ball, repeatedly. Returning clearly winning shots with clearly winning shots. At 4-5 in the first set, the players had a 26-stroke rally where at least half of the strokes the ball was hit as hard as possible and landed precisely on the line. Federer had served for the set at 5-3 and been broken and was clearly determined to win the first set, which he did two points later. The number of "unforced errors" was very low in this match, when players hit the ball out of the court it was because they were hitting an "attempted winner," a category which I believe should be added to the statistics. Match point was another amazing 16-stroke rally which ended when Federer got to an excellent Nadal crosscourt dropshot and whipped it at top speed crosscourt right in front of Nadal out of reach, blistering the sideline.

4. J. Blake USA d. A. Roddick USA 4-6 6-4 7-6(5), RCA Championships final.

The African American had an absolutely stunning year. Prior to August 2005 he had exactly 1 ATP Tour title which he had won three years before. In 2006, he won five titles (Sydney, Las Vegas, Indianapolis, Thailand and Stockholm), ending the year as the Top Ranked American tennis player with the World #4 ranking and a career high 8 titles. The RCA Championships final in Indianpolis was during the American hard court season leading up to the US Open and this match would determine bragging rights for "Best American player." Roddick came out blasting his serve with an incredibly high percentage in, averaging over 130 mph, and still barely won the first set. In the second set, Blake's superior movement allowed him to get some attempted winners by Roddick and return them for actual winners. Roddick had numerous opportunities to break in the third set but somehow Blake was able to save all 5 break points and the match was decided in the tiebreaker.

5. R. Federer SUI d. R. Nadal ESP, 6-0 7-6(5) 6-7(2) 6-3, Wimbledon Championships final.

Almost by definition, the Wimbledon final must be one of the top matches of the year. This year the hype was and importance of this match was raised to a near fever pitch. The 3-time defending Wimbledon champion did not drop a single set coming into the final, where his opponent was the 2-time French Open champion, the first person to ever beat Roger Federer in a Grand Slam final, which he had done a mere 4 weeks before. Clearly Federer rose to the occasion and Nadal started off nervously, getting bageled in an easy 24 minutes. Amazingly, after winning the first game of the second set (and his first game of the match) Nadal sprinted to the other side of the court, eager to continue the match. "Look at this kid," said commentator Mary Carillo, "he just got bageled and he thinks he can win this match." Through the next two see-saw sets which went to tie-breaks the Spaniard showed that he had modified his game to be successful on clay but when Federer raised his game at the end of the third set and beginning of the 4th set it soon became clear it would not be enough to deny Federer his 4th consecutive wimbledon title and 48th grass court match. The Swiss player is now the unquestioned best player on this surface.

A. Agassi USA d. M. Baghdatis, 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 5-7, 7-5, US Open 2nd Round.
R. Federer SUI d A. Roddick, 4-6 7-6 (8) 6-4, Masters Cup Round Robin.

UPDATE 11/30/2006 20:53
To see what other tennis fans think was the Best Men's Tennis Match of the Year check out this poll at Craig Hickman's tennis blog (a site I just discovered but will be checking out more frequently in the future!)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Bush's Approval Rating Falls Again

Today's Taegan Goddard's Political Wire links to a cool Wall Street Journal graphic (reproduced above) which shows the President's approval rating in 6 prominent national polls since January 2001. He hasn't been anywhere near 50 per cent in nearly two years. I wonder how low his approval ratings can go before January 20, 2009?

Monday, November 27, 2006

E.R. Is Still Good, Dammit!

Although it is no longer the highest rated show on television (although it is still in the Top 40) or even the highest rated medical drama on television (that honor would go to ABC's Gray's Anatomy), E.R. is starting to get some props due to its quality and not just its longevity. The Los Angeles Times had a puff piece entitled "Clear! 'ER' gets a jolt of new life this season" less than two weeks ago and more and more people are talking about the black gay storyline which has popped up recently. In addition, excellent actors (Sally Field, James Woods, John Mahoney, Cynthia Nixon) have been guest starring on the show for quite awhile now, with this season featuring a multi-episode arc featuring Forest Whitaker.

Dr. Gregory Pratt (Mekhi Phifer) had recently allowed another one of his biological father's sons, i.e. Pratt's college-aged "half-brother" Chaz Pratt (Sam Jones III) to move into his bachelor apartment, "for a month or two." One day Dr. Pratt comes home to find his brother and a "friend" with only towels on in his bathroom. Pratt is shocked and disgusted and immediately tells his brother to pack up his stuff and get out. Interestingly, later, with no dialogue we see Greg run out into the street to catch Chaz and convince him to come back to the apartment.

In last week's Thanksgiving episode, Greg asks his colleague and former supervisor Dr. Kerry Weaver (Laura Innes), who has been an open lesbian on the show for at least half a decade, when she knew she was gay. She replied that she didn't fully acknowledge her homosexuality herself until she was 30, but that her life significantly improved then. Pratt said that his brother told him that he was "just experimenting" and that "it's a phase" and remarked that Chaz was taking a very attractive young woman home for Thanksgiving dinner. Weaver told him that she often brought boys home to her parents and that Chaz is probably just telling Greg what he wants to hear. It was great to see the show deal with the coming out process in such a real way--Pratt's first reaction is to talk to the one out gay person he knows about his brother, to try and understand the situation better. I look forward to E.R. furthering this storyline in future episodes.

There's very few new shows that I am watching and some of last season's hits have definitely faded for me (Desperate Housewives) but after losing Alias and The West Wing for good last season ,its heartening to see some longtime favorites like E.R., The Simpsons and Survivor are still going strong.

Sunday, November 26, 2006


As most gay cinephiles, Mad Professah is a huge Pedro Almodóvar fan. Of the sixteen movies directed and/or written by him that have been released in the United States, I believe I have only missed seeing two, Kika and Tacones lejanos ("High Heels"), in the movie theater. So, I was quite excited to see Almodóvar's latest film at the Laemmle's Playhouse 7 Theaters in Pasadena. Volver stars Penélope Cruz and Carmen Maura (the lead actress from his first international hit Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown) and is brimming with the briliance and brio of the now-legendary openly gay Spanish writer-director. He won the Best Foreign Language Film for Spain in 2000 with Todo sobre mi madre ("All About My Mother.") and was nominated for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay Oscars for his next film Hable con ella ("Talk To Her") in 2003, which won the Screenplay award. Almodóvar returned with (I think) the even better La mala educación ("Bad Education") which was shut out of Oscar contention in the midst of the inevitable Almodóvar backlash which had begun.

Hopefully this new film will be able to be evaluated on its own merits alone. Cruz is dazzling as Raimunda, a newly single mom of a fourteen-year old daughter named Paula struggling to make ends meet in the big city (Almodóvar 's beloved Madrid) with complicated familial obligations and an even more complicated familial past. Maura has a pivotal supporting role as Cruz's mother Irene who after being burned to death in a fire appears to many members of her family, including Raimunda's aunt, sister (Sole, played by Lola Dueñas) and daughter.

The script is sharp, with a well-shaped plot filled with memorable lines and Almodóvar's signature unusual situations leading to both hilarity and drama. Volver continues his intimate exploration of mother-daughter dynamics about which Talk to Her and All About My Mother revlolved. The look of the film is also remarkable with brilliant cinematography showcasing the director's typically gaudy color palette. The performances are stellar, with Penelope Cruz' revealing portrayal leading the way. Her cleavage has a supporting role and are practically another character in the film!


Saturday, November 25, 2006

ELECTION 2006: America in Blue and Red

Hat tip to Pam at The Blend for posting this picture from the Facing South blog:

The image above shows the Congressional majority vote tallies by party registration (Blue for Democratic, Red for Republican) in every County in the United States. Pretty different from the 2004 Presidential results, eh?

Apparently, the 2004 Congressional county-by-county results are not available as a map. Interestingly, apparently there is a bias in the human eye which responds more to red than blue. The more unbiased way to present the information would be to use black and white and grayscale.

Friday, November 24, 2006

REVIEW: The Illusionist, Borat, Deja Vu

Mad Professah has been busy catching up with some films now that the other half is in town for the Thanksgiving holiday. Tuesday night I saw The Illusionist because a friend had said it was at least as good as The Prestige, which I thought was an absolutely brilliant movie. "It's probably better than The Prestige," he said. To which I now reply, "Huh?????"

The Illusionist is a truly execrable film, and specifcally pales when compared to The Prestige in almost every dimension. It has a lesser lead star (Ed Norton versus Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman), a lesser co-star (Paul Giamatti versus Michael Caine) and a lesser female lead (Jessica Biel versus Scarlett Johansson). In addition, The Prestige was written and directed by the very talented Christopher Nolan while The Illusionist was written and directed by Neil Burger who had only made the little-noticed Interview with the Assassin. The main problem with The Illusionist is its over-reliance on digital visual effects. This is particularly damaging since it is a movie about a magician (or "illusionist") so that when fantastical or hard-to-explain feats occur on screen the audience can easily see it is due to the the film director's "magic" abilities and not the character's purported magic abilities. This is an absolutely fatal flaw, despite Ed Norton's always riveting screen presence. In The Prestige, the inclusion of fantastical elements and visual special is always internally consistent within the logic of that film's universe, and is clearly described and proscribed. The good things The Illusionist has going for it are underutilized. Paul Giamatti is completely wasted in a role where he is reduced to following around Norton and blathering on in a ridiculous "Viennese" accent. Jesscia Biel is beautiful (if you like that sort of thing) but the plot is atrocious; not for a moment did I feel an ounce of suspense or uncertainty of where the film was going or how it would end.

A lack of suspense is something that Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan shares with The Illusionist. However, in a subversive comedy instead of an intended dramatic love story, this is not a meaningful defect. As some of you may know, Mad Professah is not a particularly politically incorrect kinda guy, so I had some trepidation in paying money to see the film which has since become a cultural touchstone (One is sort of forced to take notice when Entertainment Weekly says it "may be the funniest film ever made").

Although one does laugh out loud at moments in Borat it is instructive to contemplate precisely what the audeince is laughing at. Is the audience laughing at the "fish-out-of-water" joke? The "let's laugh at those unfortunate people" joke? The nervous "let's laugh at those people about to make a fool of themselves on camera revealing socially unacceptable views" joke? The sheer absurdity or eccentricity of the character played by writer-creator Sacha Baron Cohen? At different times in the movie I think the laughter is motivated by one or more of each of these aspects. Only some of these are actually about "throwing a spotlight on Americans' own prejudices and cultural quirks" through portraying an openly bigoted naif wandering around the United States. The others are merely about getting the audience to laugh. Not that there is anything wrong with that. All in all, I think that the movie contained a well-measured mixture of gags and gimmicks which will amuse a very large segment of the audience. GRADE: B+.

Since Borat was pretty short (82 minutes long) we decided to see (for free) Déjà Vu, the new Denzel Washington flick which earned a surprisingly positive review from Los Angeles Times film critic Kenneth Turan on NPR's Day to Day this morning. It's directed by Tony Scott (Crimson Tide, Man on Fire, Top Gun), the younger brother of highly acclaimed film director (Sir) Ridley Scott (Gladiator, Blade Runner, Thelma & Louise, Alien). Déjà Vu is produced by Jerry Bruckheimer (C.S.I., Pirates of the Caribbean, Bad Boys). Besides the always interesting double Oscar-winner Washington, the movie co-stars newcomer Paula Patton and Val Kilmer (in a middle-aged supervisorial role!) along with Adam Goldberg (Saving Private Ryan) and Jim Caviezel (who played Jesus in Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ as the uncomfortably attractive "bad guy").The script is credited to Bill Marsilii (Cartoon Network's Courage the Cowardly dog) and Terry Rossio (Pirates of the Caribbean, Shrek). The film is the first big Hollywood production to be set in an aprés-Katrina New Orleans. Columbia University physics professor Brian Greene (The Elegant Universe) is listed as a consultant on the film.

Although other reviewers are generally giving the film a shellacking ("exceptionally average," "preposterous," and "formulaic") there are uniformly positive reactions to the performances.
Mad Professah thinks that Déjà Vu is a surprisingly good film. First off, it is actually a sci-fi, action, romance thriller! This is not clear from the odd marketing campaign, which promises to explain what causes feelings of déjà vu. In some sense, it is also a clever marketing hook, since anyone who has experienced the spine tingling sensation of "haven't I seen this before?" which we call déjà vu will be a likely candidate to see Déjà Vu. The film does not explicitly provide a global explanation for feelings of déjà vu but does hint at a metaphysical source.

As Kenneth Turan's insightful review points out, the story appears to be heavily influenced by the work of Phillip K. Dick, who was one of the most creative science fiction authors of all time. His work has been the source material for many hollywood films such as Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report, Paycheck and A Scanner Darkly among others. The science fiction element enters the film quite early and it is at this point where the audience has to decide whether they will buy into a admittedly preposterous plot device or not. This is where a significant fraction of most reviewers check out. However, most Denzel Washington fans and/or science fiction aficionados will happily continue to follow the story albeit with perhaps a little chuckle.

If they do, they will be rewarded with a slow building romance between the always attractive Denzel and the truly stunning Paula Patton ("She looks like a young Halle Berry!" said the other half) as well as a truly suspenseful action thriller. There is a remarkable car chase with Denzel in a souped up Hummer driving against traffic while literally keeping only one eye on the road as well as the de rigeur Bruckheimer booms and bangs and Scott directorial flourishes.


Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving in Los Angeles, CA

Hey, we have seasons here in Southern California! Here's a picture of the liquid amber tree in my front yard, with Leenah nosing around in front of it taken today, Thanksgiving Day 2006.

UPDATE 8:00pm: Here's a picture of Thanksgiving dinner:

with the other half, and Leenah on my lap

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Homosexuality is unnatural? Then explain these examples...

One of the canards most frequently repeated by anti-gay conservatives is the notion that "homosexuality is unnatural." But scientists have observed homosexuality in over 1,500 species, and well-described in at least one-third of those. LiveScience has an interesting online presentation titled Gay Animals: Alternate Lifestyles in the Wild which includes a List of Top 10 Ocuurences of Homosexuality in Animals:
  1. Black swans
    Homosexual couples account for up to 20 percent of all pairings annually.
  2. Giraffes
    According to one study, one in every 20 male giraffes will be found necking with another male at any instant.
  3. Bottlenosee dolphins
    The homosexual activities of these mammals include oral sex during which time one dolphin stimulates the other with its snout.
  4. Guianan cock-of-the-rock
    Almost 40 percent of the male population of this brightly colored perch engage in a form of homosexuality, with a small percentage never copulating with a female.
  5. Walrus
    The older males are typically bi-sexual, mating with females during breeding season and copulating with other males the rest of the year.
  6. American bison
    More than 55 percent of mounting in young males is with the same gender.
  7. Kob antelope
    Homosexual mounting encompasses almost 9 percent of all sexual activities within these hoofed mammals in the wild.
  8. Gray whale
    In slip-and-slide orgies, as many as five males roll around, splashing water, and rubbing their bellies against each other so that their genitals are touching.
  9. Japanese macaques
    Female macaques form intense bonds with each other and are serially monogamous, meaning they only have one sexual partner at a time.
  10. Bonobo chimpanzees
    Considered the closest living relative to humans, nearly all of these peace-loving apes are bisexual, with about two thirds of the homosexual activities occurring amongst females.

A reader points out this interesting article in USA Today (!) which hypothesizes the following correction running in a newspaper:

Correction: Despite what you might have read, heard or been taught throughout your churchgoing life, homosexuality is, in fact, determined at birth and is not to be condemned by God's followers.

The central thesis of the Op-Ed is that religion risks losing its moral authority by making absolutist claims about the morality of homosexuality which are based on selective textual fidelity. The author, a Baptist minister, points out that years ago the Catholic Church staked its reputation on the notion that Earth was the center of the Solar System and tortured one of humanity's most brilliant minds (Galileo) to get him to conform his understanding of the Universe to their view. The Church was spectacularly wrong then, so it is not surprising that clearly thinking people should expect the chruch to be right about homosexuality now.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

FOOD: Nyala (Little Ethiopia, Los Angeles)

It had been aquite a few years since I had visited the Little Ethiopia section of Los Angeles or even tasted Ethiopian food, so when Mad Professah's San Diego correspondent said hewas driving up last weekend and wanted to eat some good ethnic food that he couldn't easily find in that less cosmopolitan city, I suggested Ethiopian, asked around and was told that Nyala (1076 South Fairfax Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90019; 323-936-5918) was the place to check out.

The picture above doesn't provide a sense of scale, the white platter was probably about 18" in diameter. The three of us ordered the vegetarian combo, the meat combo and a shrimp dish (#6, #14 and #16, respectively on the menu).

The vegetarian combination consisted of samples from Yemiser Wot (red lentil stew simmered in seasoned red pepper sauce, fresh garlic and ginger), Kik Alecha (mild yellow split peas cooked with onion, fresh garlic and ginger), Defen Yemiser Wot (bean stew cooked in fresh garlic and ginger), Yatakilt Wot (mixed vegetables: fresh carrots, potatoes, and cabbage cooked with garlic and ginger) and Yabesha Gommen (collard greens seasoned with fresh garlic and ginger). In the picture, the vegetarian dishes basically appear in an outer ring starting with the light yellow Kik Alecha in the lower left, up to the white cabbage and veggies in the upper right.

The meat combination consisted of Doro Wot (chicken marinated in lemon juice, then sautéed in seasoned butter, fresh garlic, onion, ginger and seasoned red pepper sauce), Yebere Wot (beef marinated in red wine and sautéed in seasoned butter, fresh onion, garlic and ginger) and Yebere Alecha (Tender pieces of lamb sautéed in seasoned butter, fresh onion, garlic and ginger). We also wanted a seafood dish, so we picked Shrimp Tibs (shrimp sautéed with onion, tomato, garlic, seasoned red pepper sauce and olive oil).

The feature of Ethiopian cooking that everyone remarks upon is the lack of utensils and the family-style sharing of entrées. One uses the spongy, crepe-like material called injera as an implement to pick up pieces of any of the stews or sauces.

Surprisingly (since I'm not vegetarian) I found the Kik Alecha and the Yemiser Wot to be the tastiest dishes, along with the Shrimp Tibs. This is mostly because there simply was not enough meat in any of the chicken, beef or lamb dishes which made up the meat combination to satisfy three adult males. In fact, all the "meat stews" were decidedly niggardly (look it up!) in the amount of meat they contained. Also, somehow the texture of the lentils and split peas combined well with the malleable injera to produce a pleasant sensation in the mouth.

I must say I was somewhat disappointed with how small the portions were at Nyala. In some sense, that is a good review, because it means that I wanted more of what they were offering.
However, to me, this seems to be a fundamental miscalculation in the dining experience. One doesn't leave Nyala hungry (the injera is quite yummy and seems to expans in one's stomach like most starches), but one doesn't leave Nyala satisfed, either.

For dessert we ordered baklava, which was pretty mediocre by Los Angeles standards. There is excellent baklava to be found in almost any hole-in-the-wall shop in nearby Glendale, so it is puzzling Nyala would serve such an indifferent confection and call it dessert.


Sunday, November 19, 2006

Federer and Henin-Hardenne Confirm Their Dominance To End Tennis Season

Roger Federer completed his amazing 2006 tennis season with his 92nd match win, over American #1 James Blake, to win his 3rd ATP Masters Series Championship title 6-0, 6-3, 6-4. It wasthe Swiss player's twelfth title of the year. Federer is so far ahead of the rest of the field that even if he did not play until March he would remain the World's #1 player. This is significant because on February 26, 2007 he will break Jimmy Connors 25-year-old record of 160 consecutive weeks (over 6 years!) at #1. Federer was in the finals of all four Grand Slam tennis tournaments this year, winning the Australian, Wimbledon and the US Open, for the second time in one year (he also won the same 3 majors in 2004). Federer only lost 5 times all year (four times to Rafael Nadal, and once to Andy Murray). Over the last three years he is an incredible 247-15 with thirty four titles, the single most dominant period in men's tennis in the Open era.

Justine Henin-Hardenne ("the Roger Federer of the women's game" as John McEnroe likes to say) was also able to appear in all four Grand Slam finals of the year, although the diminutive Belgian was able to do what "The Mighty Federer" could not, namely win at Roland Garros. She lost to Amelie Mauresmo in Australia and London, and to Maria Sharapova in New York. Last week, Henin-Hardenne and Mauresmo played for the final of a very important tournament with one million dollars on the line and this time Henin-Hardenne won easily 6-4, 6-3. Justine won 6 tournaments and appeared in 10 finals of the 13 tournaments she entered, compiling a 60-8 record.

However, both tennis phenomenons were able to win their tour ending championships and cement their status at the top of their respective tours. Federer was able to get revenge against his arch-nemesis Nadal in probably one of the best matches of the year in the semifinals.

It should be noted that James Blake had an incredible year winning 5 titles and ending up the year as the Tennis Player #4 in the World.

A Confluence of Birthdays: 1958 was a very good year

For a while I have known that 1958 was the year some very famous music celebrities were born. Madonna (August 16, 1958), Michael Jackson (August 29, 1958) and Prince (June 7, 1958). Interesting, eh? Note, also that 1984-1985 was the year that all three of these superstars were enjoying their greatest successes, when they were 26 or 27 and MadProfessah was 16.

However, after I made this claim to my disbelieving dinner companions last night I finally looked up other celebrities born in 1958 and found several more (although none as big as these first three): Ellen Degeneres (January 26, 1958), Sharon Stone (March 10, 1958), Holly Hunter (March 20, 1958), Alec Baldwin (April 3, 1958), Michelle Pfeiffer (April 29, 1958), Drew Carey (May 23, 1958), Keenen Ivory Wayans (June 8, 1958), Kevin Bacon (July 8, 1958), Angela Bassett (August 16, 1958), Tim Burton (August 25, 1958), Jennifer Tilly (September 10, 1958) and Megan Mullally (November 12, 1958).

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Mad Professah Electoral Prediction Evaluation

Recall that prior to the November 7 midterm election Mad Professah made some bold predictions about the results. Although there are some five U.S. House races still yet to be decided, and the situation in FL-13 (Katherine Harris's old district) is probably the most egregious.

Mad Professah Prediction Actual Result
U.S. House +30 +30 (as of 11/18/2006)
U.S. Senate +5 +6
Governors +8 +6

The three (sic!) specific statewide races in which I predicted the outcome incorrrectly were Claire McCaskill's impressive U.S. Senate win in Missouri, and the Governor's races in Florida (where the once and future outee Charlie Crist won) and Minnesota (where bland incumbent Governor Tim Pawlenty held on to his title, barely). In fact, there are two run-off races (Louisiana's 2nd and Texas's 23rd) which will be decided in December but are unlikely to result in partisan switches. In fact, in all the remaining races where votes are still being counted ten days after the election, the incumbent Republican is likely to (barely) hold on to their Congressional seat. Sadly, New Mexico's 1st District (represented by the execrable Heather Wilson looks like it might be one of those.

Overall Grade for MadProfessah predictions for Midterms 2006: A+.

Friday, November 17, 2006

REVIEW: The Queen

Last week I saw The Queen, directed by Stephen Frears and starring Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II. The story is centered around the incredible week in 1997 between the day Diana, Princess of Wales was killed in a car accident while the Royal Family was on holiday in Scotland.

I was looking forward to seeing this movie for quite awhile because Stephen Frears is the director of my all-time favorite movie, Dangerous Liaisons, and Helen Mirren is one of my favorite actresses. Others have commented on the curious fact that Mirren has portrayed both Queen Elizabeth I and II in two important productions this year. In the HBO miniseries Elizabeth I (co-starring Oscar winner Jeremy Irons) Mirren is completely riveting for four hours in the best long-form television program of the year. (Elizabeth I won 9 Emmy awards, including Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie for Mirren and Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie for Irons.) In The Queen, Mirren amazes again by completely disappearing into the role of the most famous woman in the world: the current Queen of England, Elizabeth Windsor. What one first notices is the stunning physical transformation of the 61-year-old Mirren into a nearly identical simulacrum of the then-71-year old Scottish grandmother who happens to also be sovereign to over 100 million people. One is also overwhelmed by the relentless verismilitude and sense of location provided by the brilliant art direction and production design of the film. "Surely, that is not the actual interior of Buckingham Palace we are looking at, is it?" The casting of Michael Sheen as Tony Blair is absolutely brilliant. He eerily resembles the actual Prime Minister and the actor exudes just the right amount of opportunism and officiousness.

But the center of the film is The Queen as played by Helen Mirren, along with the depictions of the trappings of royalty. What is interesting is how simultaneously unusual and familiar her life seems to us. She lives with her aged mother, prickly husband and impatient son in a huge sprawling castle on a Scottish estate the size of Rhode Island. The family dynamics are familiar, or at least probable. However the lifestyle is almost unbelievable plush and pampered. Meetings with the head of the government are shown as slightly irritating ammoyances which disturb the day's leisurely flow.

The story takes place during the week following Princess Diana's death and the film employs actual television footage combined with re-enacted scenes for the movie to great emotional effect. Per force, the audience compares their reaction to Diana's death with the Royal Family's reaction and the film poses the question of how would YOU have reacted if YOU were in The Queen's position? The film follows Tony Blair's attempts to "save the Royals from themselves" as the Queen's instinctive reaction is to treat the death of her son's ex-wife (and the mother of the future King of England) as a private family matter. The recently elected politician's reaction (and his young modern staff) is to get to a microphone and make a statement to assuage and mediate the public's sentiment. As the outpouring of grief turns into a tsunami which threatens to sweep away the monarchy itself, the modernizing Prime Minister goes out of his way to help the out-of-her-depth Queen negotiate the rapid media maelstrom and right the ship of state.


Thursday, November 16, 2006

Black AIDS Institute fundraiser tonight!

Looking forward to attending the Black AIDS Institute fundraiser Heroes in the Struggle tonight at the Directors Guild of America building in West Hollywood. As I stated last week, Dionne Warwick is going to be honored for her phenomenal contribution to AIDS philanthropy through the song "That's What Friends Are For."

I forgot to mention that Cheryl Lynn, the diva behind one of the best dance songs ever recorded ("Got To Be Real"), will be performing prior to the awards ceremony.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Sign The Pledge To End HIV Discrimination by Condoleezza Rice

Below is a letter addressed to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice regarding the State Department's refusal to admit people living with HIV into the U.S. Foreign Service. The letter will be delivered to Secretary Rice on World AIDS Day (December 1) together with a petition with individual signatures. If you or your organization is able to sign on to this letter, please email to by close of business on NOVEMBER 20.
The petition has gained over 16,000 signatures, and we hope to gain atleast 4,000 more by World AIDS Day. Individuals may sign on to the petition by following this link:

December 1, 2006

Dear Secretary Rice:

The undersigned organizations urge you to examine and revise the U.S.Department of State's practice of not hiring people living with HIV as Foreign Service Officers. The department's longstanding practice of excluding applicants for Foreign Service employment because they are HIV-positive reflects outdated and largely unsupported assumptions about HIV, and unfairly excludes qualified individuals from serving their country through careers in the Foreign Service. We believe that your policy of excluding HIV-positive applicants from employment is arbitrary and discriminatory. The department's rationale for its practice - that HIV-related medical care may not be available in some Foreign Service posts - ignores the realities of HIV disease andmakes little sense as a public policy. HIV disease affects individuals in different ways, and many people living with HIV experience it as a chronic illness that requires periodic monitoring and use of antiretroviral medication, not constant medical attention. Failing to account for this basic fact, the department's policy appears to be grounded in assumptions about the frailty of people with HIV, without adjustment for revolutionary medical advances over the past two decades.

Applying a blanket rule excluding all people with HIV, regardless oftheir health, is backward and unsound. Furthermore, the stated basisfor excluding applicants with HIV is internally inconsistent, as ForeignService officers who contract HIV during their careers are, quiterightfully, allowed to continue to serve.Additionally, barring people with HIV from employment, purportedly fortheir own protection, runs afoul of federal law that protects peoplewith disabilities from government discrimination. Instead of broadly excluding people with HIV, under the law, the State Department must evaluate each Foreign Service applicant and provide reasonable accommodations on a case-by-case basis. We understand that Lambda Legal represents Lorenzo Taylor and Kyle Smith in two cases currently pending, one in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and another before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In a decision this past June, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit raised serious questions about the department's position with respect to applicants with HIV, calling the government's policy "suspect," and allowing Mr. Taylor's case to proceed to trial.

We urge you to reconsider your existing policies and to adopt a hiring practice that comports with the law, is fair and nondiscriminatory to people with HIV, and allows applicants with disabilities to use their talents to serve their country.



Tuesday, November 14, 2006

South Africa Approves Same-Sex Civil Marriage Bill; Other marriage news

I'm still in the Washington, D.C. area but I wanted to report the good news about the South Africa parliament giving final approval by a vote of 230 to 41 the civil union ("gay marriage") bill I blogged about last week. South Africa becomes the fifth country in the world (after The Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Canada) to allow same-sex couples to enter into the identical state-recognized legal relationships as heterosexual couples.

In other marriage news, the City and County of San Francisco has decided to appeal the negative appellate decision from last month to the California State Supreme Court. Sadly, the name of the case will no longer be Woo v. Lockyer, and not only because the Attorney General of the state of California is changing from Bill Lockyer to Jerry Brown. (Lockyer was elected to the position of State Treasurer last Tuesday. Current Mayor of Oakland and former Governor of Caifornia Jerry Brown was elected Attorney General one week ago.) The reason is that lead plaintiff couple Lancy Woo and Christy Chung have announced that they have separated. They were together for 18 years and have a 7-year old daughter.

Sadly, this is the second high profile long term lesbian relationship which has been a casualty in the fight for marriage equality in the United States. The lead plaintiff couple (Hillary and Julie Goodridge) in the successful Massachusetts marriage case Goodridge vs Department of Public Health announced this summer they had separated (and would divorce) after nearly 2 years of marriage and nearl 21 years of living together. They have a 10 year old daughter, Annie.

It's not easy being a gay and lesbian activist in the spotlight, maybe that's why after 20 years, Keith Boykin is giving it up also.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Travelling to DC...

I'm in Washington, D.C. for the next few days, participating in Peer Review Panels for grants submitted to the National Science Foundation. It should be interesting to see if there are any visible signs of last Tuesday's electoral tsunami. I'll probably not be blogging much until Wednesday...

Friday, November 10, 2006

Marriage News: Massachusetts, Mexico and South Africa

There's been some exciting developments involving same-sex marriage in various areas around the world in the last few days.

As MadProfessah reported yesterday, marriage opponents needed just 50 votes out of 200 possible in the joint session of the state legislature to continue the process of forcing Massachusetts voters to decide the question of whether their state constitution should be amended to override the 2003 Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decision (Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health) which legalized gay marriage in the Bay State.
However, late yesterday evening came the lovely news from the Washington Blade website that there was a vote of 109-87 to recess the constitutional convention until January 2, 2007, the last possible date of the current legislative session. If no vote occurs on that day, then the 170, 000 signatures marriage opponents gathered will be deemed null and void. They will have to start gathering signatures again, and attempting to have votes by 25% of two constitutional conventions in two consecutive legislative sessions. Bottom line, yesterday's events mean ithat "a fatal blow" has been dealt to the hopes of gay marriage opponents to force a November 2008 vote to end gay marriage in the one state in the United States which has had it since May 17, 2004, with over 7,000 same-sex couples married to date.

There was more good news (hat tip to Apuuli and Blabbeando) about advances for state recognition of same-sex couples in other parts of the world, also. On Thursday, the Mexico City Assembly voted 43-17 (with 5 abstentions) to pass a civil unions bill which would provide registered couples with municipal benefits equivalent to heterosexual married couples. Mexico City (known as Distrito Federal or simply D.F. in Spanish) is the capital district of the Government of Mexico similar to Washington, D.C. except that is on a much larger scale, with a population of nearly 9 million people. The Mayor of Mexico City, Alejandro Encina, stated his intention to sign the measure into law. Interestingly, heterosexual couples are allowed to register under the legislation. Same-sex marriage is still explictly banned under Mexico City law and Mexican law, in the world's second largest Roman Catholic nation.

In addition to developments in Mexico this week, there was also good news from South Africa also. On Friday, a parliamentary committee approved a bill to allow same-sex couples to register their unions with the state similarly (but separately) to heterosexual couples who want to get married. The government of South Africa is under a December 1, 2006 court-mandated deadline to end discrimination based on sexual orientation in state-sanctioned marriages thanks to a ruling (Minister of Home Affairs v. Fourie) issued December 1, 2005 by the High Court of South Africa in which the Ministry of Home Affairs lost a combined lawsuit accusing it of violating South Africa's explicit constitutional guarantee of equal rights based on sexual orientation (the country has had, since 1996, the first national constitution in the world to include sexual orientation) by not issuing civil marriage licences to same-sex couples.

FOOD: Tigeorge's Chicken

Faithful readers know my Ongoing Quest For Excellent Caribbean Food West Of The Mississippi. Sadly, the reason the quest is "ongoing" because it has been spectacularly unsuccessful so far. I have discovered and favourably reviewed Joan and Sisters, a Belizean restaurant.

A while back I made it to Tigeorge's Chicken (309 North Glendale Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90028, 213-353-9994) in Echo Park. I had heard good things about this Haitian Restaurant and it did not disappoint.

I had the lunch special (available between 11am and 3pm), the 1/4 Chicken with Rice and Beans and Salad for $6.75 (pictured above to the left). In addition I could not resist an appetizer of Sweet Plantains for $2.50 (pictured above, to the right).

The food was amazing. The chicken was tender and juicy with a just-right crispy skin. The salad (and I hate salad) was actually pretty yummy, with a piquant dressing which complemented the comforting rice and peas. Then there was the sweet plantains which were perfectly fried to a diabetic-shock level of sweetness (as they should be!) Needless to say, I cleaned my plate, but brought some plantains home for the other half.


Thursday, November 09, 2006

That's What Friends Are STILL For (20 Years Later)

Exactly one week from today the Black AIDS Institute is throwing it's annual Heroes in the Struggle fundraising gala at the Directors Guild of America building in West Hollywood starting at 6pm. The theme of the event is "That What Friends Are Still For" in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the release of the song "That's What Friends Are For" written by Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager, recorded by Dionne and Friends (Dionne Warwick, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight and Elton John) as a charity single with all funds going to AmFar (American Foundation for AIDS Research). The song won two Grammy awards (Best Song and Best Pop Performance by Duo or Group with Vocal) at the 29th Annual Grammy Awards and raised at least 2 million dollars for AIDS research.

On YouTube there's this amazing live rendition of the song with Whitney Houston, Luther Vandross, Dionne Warwick and Stevie Wonder:

Dionne will attend the event, as will Mad Professah, so I hope to have a report on the event next week. Tickets are still available, and proceeds go to a good cause. The motto of the Black AIDS Institute is "Our People, Our Problem, Our Solution."

Massachusetts: Anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment vote today

Two days after Arizona made history by rejecting a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, civil unions and domestic partnerships called Proposition 107 and Massachusetts made history by electing its first African American governor (Deval Patrick, the second elected African American governor in the history of the United States!) the issue of gay marriage in Massachusetts has an important day Thursday November 9. That is the day proponents have scheduled a vote on a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in the state of Massachusetts, which happens to be the only state where gay marriage is currently legal! Because of the specific rules of how their state constitution can be amended, the proponents only need to get 50 votes out of a joint legislative session of 200 members, in two consecutive legislative years.

Happily, Governor-elect Patrick and Attorney General-elect Martha Coakley are both open supporters of full marriage equality for same-sex couples, and Tuesday's elections brought more marriage equality supporters into the Massachusetts legislature. But Thursday's vote is being cast by lame-duck members.

Keep your fingers crossed!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Election Results: California and Los Angeles Analysis

In California, "Republican" Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger beat challenger Democratic State Treasurer Phil Angelides by over a million votes, 55.8% to 39.2%. The rest of the statewide races went along with Mad Professah's pre-[election endorsements, which were all won by Democrats except for one: Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi, Secretary of State Debra Bowen, State Controller John Chiang, State Treasurer Bill Lockyer, Attorney General Jerry Brown and Republican Insurance Commisioner Steve Poizner. In addition, very gay-supportive Judy Chu the District 4 seat on the Board of Equalization.

In the statewide ballot propositions, the first 7 ballot measures (including 43 BILLION DOLLARS of bonds for all sorts of infrastructure projects) were approved, while the next 6 measures were rejected, including the odious "teen abortion/parent notification" Proposition 85 and the Libertarian tax-hating wet dream Proposition 90. Unfortunately the progressive oil tax measure for alternative energy measure Proposition 87 was also rejected.

In statewide legislative races, in Assembly District 80 Democrat Steve Clute is barely losing to Assemblymember Bonnie "I wouldn't kick him out of bed" Garcia in a race in which he barely beat openly Black gay mayor of Palm Springs Ron Oden in the Democratic primary in June.

Openly gay Assemblymembers John Laird and Mark Leno easily won election to their final Assembly terms, they make up the increasingly tenuous California LGBT Legislative Caucus which also includes State Senators Sheila Kuehl, Christine Kehoe and Carole Migden. Unless there are some new openly gay or lesbian people elected in 2008, the entire openly gay and lesbian delegation in Sacramento will disappear.

The California Legislative Black caucus will increase in size from six to nine: Assemblymembers Karen Bass, Curren Price (new), Wilmer Carter (new), Laura Richardson (new), Sandre Swanson (new), Mervyn Dymally and State Senators Ed Vincent, Mark Ridley-Thomas, Kevin Murray. Equality California says that more than half of theBlack caucus: Ridley-Thomas, Price, Richardson, Swanson and Bass were all EQCA PAC endorsed candidates who support full marriage equality for same-sex couples.

Locally in the City of Los Angeles, Mad Professah endorsed ballot propositions Measure R (term limit relaxation and ethics reform) passed easily while Measure H (low-income housing)failed by a few percentage points to reach the necessary two-thirds threshhold.

In the judicial races, both California State Supreme Court justices endorsed by MadProfessah won: Carol Corrigan and Joyce Kennard were retained with over 72% of the vote. In the L.A. County Superior Court judgeships (where there were actually some races) MadProfessah endorsed Sanchez, Gutierrez, Zacky, Tillmon and Barquist; only Gutierrez and Stuart lost.

Election Results Analysis

There were some other very exciting results around the country:

Thank You, John Kerry, For Losing in 2004!

Without U.S. Senator John Kerry (D-MA) losing to George W. Bush in 2004 the unprecedented electoral rout of the Republicans yesterday in which they lost their majority in the United States House of Representatives, Governorships, control of State Legislatures and probably the United States Senate would not have been possible!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Monday, November 06, 2006

Midterm Election Predictions

One of the readers of this blog contacted me and challenged me to issue my predictions for the midterm elections. In the table below I have summarized my predictions with the most famous political prognosticators in the business, Charlie Cook, Stuart Rothenberg and Chris Bowers.

           MadProfessah   Charlie Cook    Stuart Rothenberg    MyDD
House 30 20-25 34-40 23-28
Senate 5 4-5 5-7 4-5
Governor 8 5-8 7-9 6-9

I am being deliberately optimistic in my predictions, particularly in the House because I do believe that the midterm elections of 2006 will be an equivalently historical election the 1994 midterm elections in which the Democrats lost 54 seats in the House and 9 seats in the Senate.

I will go further and pick exactly which Senate and Governorships the Democrats will pick up.

In the Senate, I believe the Democratic pick ups will be: Montana, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Ohio.

In the Governor's races, I believe the Democratic pick ups will be: New York, Massachusetts, Ohio, Colorado, Maryland, Minnesota, Arkansas and Florida.

The Democrats will control the House of Representatives, the Senate will be under Republican control with 48 Democrats, 2 Independents (Sanders and Lieberman) and 50 Republicans (Vice President Darth Cheney breaks ties in the Senate under his constitutional role as Presiding Officer of that body.)

UPDATE: I have posted my election scenario on the great New York Times election blog site.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Nov 7 Election Endorsement Summary

I'm off to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada today to see the Edmonton Opera's performance of Don Giovanni on Saturday November 4. While I'm gone I will reiterate all of my electoral endorsements for the November 7 election with probably no blog updates. I sent in my absentee ballot yesterday.

Office                                MadProfessah Voted For
Governor Phil Angelides
Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi
Attorney General Jerry Brown
Secretary of State Debra Bowen
Controller John Chiang
Treasurer Bill Lockyer
Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner
Board of Equalization, 4th District Judy Chu
Proposition Number (Topic) MadProfessah
Proposition 1A (Transportation Funding "Protection") NO
Proposition 1B ($19.9bn Transportation Bond) YES
Proposition 1C ($2.85bn Housing/Shelter Bond) YES
Proposition 1D ($10.4bn K-16 Education Bond) YES
Proposition 1E ($4.1bn Disaster/Flood Bond) YES
Proposition 83 ("Tough on sex offenders" measure) NO
Proposition 84 ($10.5bn Clean Water Bond) YES
Proposition 85 (Teen Abortion Parental Notification) NO
Proposition 86 (Cigarette Tax Increase) YES
Proposition 87 (Alternative Energy Program Funded By Oil Tax) YES
Proposition 88 (Fake Education Reform Property Tax Increase) NO
Proposition 89 (Political Campaign Reform/public Financing) YES
Proposition 90 (Overturns U.S. Supreme Court Kelo Decision) NO
There are also some local (Los Angeles City and County) measures to be voted on
Proposition (Topic)                                MadProfessah
Measure H ($1bn Low-Cost Housing Bond) YES
Measure J (Technical Fix to 2000 Prop. F) YES
Measure R (City Council Term Limit Extension) YES
Figuring out which judges to vote for is always difficult, particularly with limited information, but here is who I voted for:
Judicial Office             MadProfessah Voted For
State Supreme Court Joyce L. Kennard
State Supreme Court Carol Corrigan
Court of Appeal, 2nd Appellate District
Division One Frances Rothschild
Division Two Victoria M. Chavez
Division Three Patti S. Kitching
Division Four Norman L. Epstein
Division Four Steven Suzukawa
Division Five Richard M. Mosk
Division Seven Laurie D. Zelon
Division Eight Candace D. Cooper
Division Eight Madeleine Flier
Judge of the Superior Court
Superior Court, #8 Deborah L. Sanchez
Superior Court, #18 John C. Gutierrez
Superior Court, #102 Hayden Zacky
Superior Court, #104 Bobbi Tillmon
Superior Court, #144 Janis Levart Barquist

REVIEW: The Prestige

I saw The Prestige at the Los Feliz 3 cinemas on Friday October 27. Christopher Nolan has directed another absolutely excellent movie, following his successes with Memento (My favorite movie of 2000), Insomnia and last year's Batman Begins. I was surprised by the somewhat tepid reviews on KPCC's Film Week program last weeek, so I didn't go see it earlier, but that made me all the more pleasantly surpised by the clever script, taut acting and beautiful cinematography which I experienced in the theater watching The Prestige. The film has also been embraced by viewers and most other critics, opening at #1 with a weaker than expected $14 million last weekend, beating out Martin Scorcese's highly touted The Departed and Clint Eastwood's Flags of our Fathers.

The screenplay is co-written by Christopher Nolan with his brother Jonathan Nolan, the same team which also co-wrote Memento. The story is based on a novel of the same name by Christopher Priest. "The Prestige," the audience is told in an opening monologue narrated by the always impeccable Michael Caine, is the third and final act of every magic trick. The first two parts are "The Pledge" and "The Turn." The movie is also structured into three parts, with the most impactful moment coming in the final seconds of the film. In addition, the movie reveals the secret behind certain magic tricks (pulling a rabbit or dove out of a hat) while teasing the audience to try and figure out how the central magic trick of the movie is done. The movie also foreshadows later revelations with earlier information that if you "are watching closely" can allow the audience to solve the puzzle before the final frame. The movie also uses the standard magician's technique of misdirection to try to delay the moment of realization by the audience, to great effect.

Christian Bale's Alfred Borden and Hugh Jackman's Robert Angier are apprentice magicians in late 19th century London to a behind-the-scenes man, Michael Caine's Cutter.
Scarlett Johanssen's breasts have a co-starring role as the magician's assistant (at different times) for both magicians. After a magic trick which goes tragically wrong Borden and Angier become increasingly bitter and somewhat violent rival magicians. Using the now-familiar device of telling us the end of the story first, the audience is put into the position of sleuths trying to figure out how and why one of the main character's is in jail for the murder of the other main character. During the course of the story there are double and triple crosses, and some very nice voice-over work by Bale and Jackman when the plot follows the secret diaries of both magicians.

Despite having a 91% rating from users at (with an ouch! 73% rating from critics), the movie has been pulling in only middling attendance numbers. I do think the marketing was a bit muddled. It probably wasn't clear to many casual observers how (or if) this movie was diffferent from the other Fall battling magician's movie, The Illusionist with Edward Norton, Paul Giamatti and Jessica Biel. However, that movie was directed by disgruntled Crash producer Bob Yari. I have heard some people think The Illusionist is a better movie (91% users rating, 75% critics rating at RottenTomatoes) but I find that hard to believe.


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

MARYLAND: Latest Poll Data

The Simpsons Annual Treehouse of Horror Episode Takes On Iraq War

The best 30 minutes of television every year is often The Simpsons Halloween special, called the "Treehouse of Horror" episode. Apparently, this year's episode, the seventeenth edition of the now-classic television tradition, will be devoted to a satire of the Iraq War and Orson Welles' War of the Worlds. Due to scheduling issues with Fox airing the World Series and Halloween falling exactly one week before election day, this year's Treehouse of Horror with its bitingly clear anti-war message will air exactly two days before the midterm election. There is some consternation among political circles that in an election season where public distaste for the GOP's misadventure in Iraq has been a major campaign issue The Simpsons episode could crystallize late-deciding undecided voters' determination to vote for the Democrats in a way that traditional political messaging can not.

Black Tennis Report for SEPTEMBER and OCTOBER

Black Tennis Report (September and October 2006 Edition)

Venus Williams, losing in the second round at the Luxemborg Open 6-3, 6-0 to Agnieszka Radwanska, suffered a recurrence of her left wrist injury which will end her 2006 WTA Tour season.

James Blake won the Stockholm Open for the second consecutive year. He beat Finnish player Jarkko Nieminen 6-4, 6-2.

Venus and Serena Williams announce McDonald's Williams Sisters Tour 2006. They will visit Denver (November 30), New Orleans (December 5), and Charlotte (December 7).

It was announced that Venus Williams and Taylor Dent will represent the United States in the January 2006 Mixed Doubles International Team Competition called the Hopman Cup in Perth, Australia.


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