Saturday, March 31, 2007

Sony Ericsson Open: Women's Final Preview

This post is cross-posted to Craig Hickman's Tennis Blog:

Serena Williams (USA) [13] vsJustine Henin (BEL) [2]

The current #1 player in the world, Belgium's Justine Henin easily dispatched Anna Chakvetadze on Thursday 6-2, 6-3 and (presumably) watched hopefully as Serena Williams battled to a 7-6(4), 6-1 over Israel's Shahar Peer in the evening semifinal.

Amazingly, 5-time Grand Slam champion has only played the 8-time Grand Slam champion once since their controversial 2003 French Open semifinal almost four years ago. Serena leads their head-to-head rivalry 5 to 3 and has only ever lost to Justine on clay. In addition, Justine says she has never played well in the month of March because it is the anniversary of her mother's death; this is her first final in Miami, while it is Serena's 5th appearance (Champion 2002, 2003 and 2004; 1999 Finalist versus Venus). The tournament takes place a few hours drive from the house the two Williams sister own and share in Palm Beach Gardens. Venus has won the tournament three times also, 1998, 1999 and 2000.

However, Justine is one of the most intense fighters on the WTA tour, I would put her right behind Maria Sharapova and just ahead of Serena (by a hair), so she will not go down in a final without a monumental struggle. Despite that, I still believe that if Serena is playing her best, no one on the WTA Tour can beat her.

Mad Professah's pick: Williams in 3 sets.

Friday, March 30, 2007

WHO recommends adult circumcision as HIV prevention measure

The United Nations Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS) announced this week in a joint press release with the World Health Organization the results of three clinical trials conducted in Africa which indicate that circumsized men are 50-60% less likely to contract HIV through heterosexual sex. The results were so striking that the trials were stopped and all participants offered the circumcision procedure.

This is very exciting news for HIV/AIDS prevention efforts in Africa, but as usual, the sticking point is money.
"Money is going to be the key. If additional resources brought to bear, we can have very substantial effects on the AIDS epidemic in East and Central Africa," Ronald Gray, MD [professor of reproductive epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University] says. "These are not cheap resources. There are the costs of training, the costs of equipment and supplies, the costs of all the complexities of providing surgeries and providing postsurgical care and managing any problems that arise."

If money is not forthcoming, the recommendations may do more harm than good. Men in areas with high HIV prevalence are very much aware of the news that circumcision lowers HIV risk.

"There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that men already are lining up asking for circumcision," Gray says. "And if we do not provide safe services, they will seek unsafe services."

Further trials are being conducted to see whether circumcision has a preventive effct on HIV transmission to women and the impact on men who have sex with men.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

SB 443 Unanimously Passes Health Committee

Openly lesbian State Senator Carole Migden is carrying SB 443, a bill which would end California's ban on HIV positive men accessing assistive reproductive technologies, joining 48 other states that currently allow the practice. Yesterday, the Sacramento Chronicle reports, the bill earned a rare bipartisan unanimous vote in the Senate Health Committee, which augurs a fast track approval in the Legislature's upper house.

SB 443 is on the list of legislative priorities for the Southern California HIV Advocacy Coalition.

Equal Rights Amendment reintroduced

Kevin Drum at Washington Monthly and Shakespeare's Sister are trumpeting the re-introduction of the equal rights amendment to the United States Consitution:
Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification

The important point here is that this time there is no deadline by which the amendment must be ratified. (The first ERA expired in either 1979 or 1982, according to Wikipedia.)

The significance of the amendment can not be underestimated for LGBT individuals. The very root of the subordinated role of sexual minorities in American society is based in attitudes about gender roles. The ERA would clearly state that courts would have to apply the strictest level of scrutiny to laws which seek to make classifications based on sex. This has to be good for the gay rights movement. I would hope that LGBT orgs would recognize this and heartily endorse the amendment and work towards its ratification.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Sony Ericsson Open: Women's Semifinal Preview

This post is cross-posted to Craig Hickman's Tennis Blog:

Anna Chakvetadze (RUS) [9] vs Justine Henin (BEL) [2]

Justine Henin-Hardenne does not usually play well at this "fifth Slam" in Miami; in fact, this the first time she has made it past the quarterfinals. She was very lucky to get through a very close match in the previous round versus 6th seeded Nadia Petrova 7-6(4) 7-6(4). Chakvetadze is the "forgotten Russian" who has been having some good results lately (2007 Australian Open quarters) but she hasn't had to play a Top 10 player to get to this stage of the tournament. Chakvetadze and Henin have only played once before with Henin winning at last year's Wimbledon 3rd round Henin has two much variety and forepower for the young Russian to handle. Henin has had a very nice draw at this year's tournament and should have no problem getting to the final and cementing her grip on the #1 spot before she goes off to Europe to defend all her clay court titles from last year.
Mad Professah's pick: Henin.

Serena Williams (USA) [13] vs Shahar Peer (ISR) [14]

Bizarrely, Serena is repeating her 2007 Australian Open draw at this tournament, only in reverse. There, in subsequent rounds she played Shahar Peer (who served for the match), Nicole Vaidisova and Maria Sharapova. Here, she has taken out Sharapova 6-1, 6-1 in a stunning display of power and aggression, followed by her dismissal of Vaidisova and her last obstacle before the final is Henin (who skipped Melbourne because she was going through her divorce at the time). The Israeli player is a very good retriever of the ball and has great stamina but really has no weapon with which she can harm Serena. Serena's sister Venus demolished Peer on her way to winning a Tier III title in Memphis a little less than a month ago 6-1 6-1. If the current #18 ranked player in the world has already demolished the #2 and #8 ranked players why would she have a problem with the #16? These results should indicate to the rest of the women's tour and the "tennis mafia" that winning her 8th grand slam title in January 2007 after a 2-year gap was not a fluke, and that it's possible that Serena Williams may be be the best tennis competitor of all time.
Mad Professah's pick: Williams.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Tennis Shockers: History Repeats Itself, Twice!

At the Sony Ericsson Open tournament in Miami the much vaunted "Serenapova" showdown which pitted reigning Australian Open champion Serena Williams versus reigning US Open champion (and #1 seed) Maria Sharapova ended up with a repeat ending from their last match: Serena Williams in a blowout. This time the beatdown was even worse than in Melbourne, there Sharapova managed to win 3 games, in Miami she only managed two: 6-1, 6-1 in 58 minutes. Clearly Sharapova is suffering a case of the dreaded serving "yips." She had no aces and 8 doublefaults today although her service percentage was 67 but the average speed was well below 100 mph. Serena's service percentage was only 58 and she had only 2 aces to one double fault (but she must have had at least a half-dozen service winners). Serena's average serve speed was a muscular 109.6 mph. Serena had 16 winners to 15 unforced errors (+1) compared to Maria's 8 winners to 16 unforced errors (-8). Serena improved to 4-2 against Sharapova and has now won the last 3 encounters with the Russian. After the match Serena raised one finger, indicating she intends to be or she already considers herself to be?) the #1 player in the world. She will play Nicole Vaidisova in the quarterfinals tomorrow, a repeat of the Australian Open semifinal. Will history repeat itself again?

And this was not the biggest story of the day! World #1 Roger Federer played Guillermo Cañas for the second time in 10 days, and having lost in straight sets to the Argentine at the Pacific Life Open the Swiss player was clearly looking for revenge. However, history repeated itself! Federer lost the match 6-7(2), 6-2, 6-7(5) despite leading 3-1 in the final set and having a "gimme" overhead at 5-5 in the tiebreak to set up match point. Instead of letting the high overhead bounce, Federer hit that overhead into the net, setting up match point for Cañas who grabbed the opportunity with a 125 mph service winner to seal his second consecutive defeat of the World #1 in under a fortnight. Federer had 58 winners to 51 unforced errors (+7) to his opponent's more modest 19 winners to 14 errors (+4). Cañas improved to a lifetime record of 3-1 against Federer as well as 2-0 for the year, while Federer is 14-0 against the rest of the ATP tour. And this is before the clay court season which starts next month, which is widely regarded as the Argentine's best surface. These two defeats have to put once-unthinkable thoughts into the head of Andy Roddick and Rafael Nadal as they contemplate 2007's remaining Grand Slam tournaments in Paris, London and New York.

California HIV-related Legislation

The Southern Coalition HIV Advocacy Coalition (SCHAC) is the main organization tasked with tracking HIV-related legislation and policies in the state of California. The San Francisco AIDS Foundation, AIDS Project Los Angeles, AIDS Healthcare Foundation all have HIV policy staffers but curiously do not have publically available up-to-date policy positions on statewide legislation on their websites (except for an excellent PDF summary at Below is a list adopted from the most important bills on the organization's bill tracking list for the 2007 legislative session:

State Senator Carole Migden has introduced legislation (SB 443) to repeal a ban on HIV-positive individuals participating in assistive reproductive technology like in vitro insemination if three conditions are met: 1) The HIV positive donor’s sperm is processed to minimize the infectiousness of the sperm for the specific donation; 2) Informed mutual consent has occurred; 3) Sperm processing and testing procedures must be recognized by the American Society of Reproductive Medicine.

Assemblymember Sandre Swanson has reintroduced the condoms bill (AB 1334) carried last year by former Assemblymember Paul Koretz that was mocked and then vetoed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger last summer. The Center for Health Justice on which Mad Professah sits on the board of directors is the main sponsor of this legislation.

Assemblymember Patty Berg has introduced a bill sponsored by the evil AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AB 682) to implement the previously announced routine universal HIV testing policy promoted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The bill would delete provisions from existing law that currently prohibits a person from testing a person's blood for HIV without the written consent of the subject of the test, and would allow HIV tests to be given by verbal consent instead.

Assemblymember Bonnie Garcia has introduced a bill (AB 272) that would mandate that any woman receiving an annual gynecological exam or family planning appointment be provided with information on HIV and AIDS and the woman be offered the option of being tested onsite, if available, or provided referral information to other testing locations. If the woman chooses to be tested for HIV, the bill would require the physician or other health care professional attending the woman at the time the results are received to ensure that the woman receives information and counseling to explain the results and the implications for the woman's health, including any followup care that is indicated.

Assemblymember (and openly gay member) Jon Laird has introduced a bill (AB 110) that would authorize state General Fund money to be spent on the purchase of sterile needles for needle exchange programs.

Assemblymember Mervyn Dymally is re-introducing his controversial bill (AB 66) to mandate HIV testing of all California prisoners incarcerated for over a year. The bill specifies that testing should occur within the first 30 to 60 days of their sentence and within 30 to 60 days prior to their release. The 2006 version of the bill attemped to enact a mandatory HIV testing regime for incarcerated individuals and was strongly opposed by the Center for Health Justice and most AIDS service organizations. The amended version of the bill does include an opt-out provision for prisoners as well as provide for counseling and voluntary consent for partner notification, protections for HIV positive inmates so that they are not denied eligibility for and access to programs, and the development of an in-prison HIV care and treatment program for inmates who test positive and upon release into the community.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Battlestar Galactica 3rd Season Finale Is Frakking Good

Battlestar Galactica aired the last episode of the third season on SciFi Channel Sunday night and it was a doozy! We learned the identity of four of the five unknown Cylons with strong intimations that President Laura Roslin (played by Mary McDonnell) might be a Cylon also.
The four new Cylons are: Saul Tigh (Michael Hogan), Galen Tyrol (Aaron Douglas), Kara Thrace's widower Sam Anders (Michael Trucco) and Roslin's chief of staff Tory Foster (Rekha Sharma). The Cylons are man-made machines (there are only a dozen different humanoid models) who launched a pre-emptive attack on the human colonies, slaughtering billions but a mere fifty thousand survivors who escaped in a motley array of ships and one battleship, Galactica. The idea that there are deadly enemies of humanity living among the survivors who themselves did not know they were Cylons is an absolutely intriguing notion.

If that was not enough to blow our minds rebellious fighter pilot Starbuck appeared to fellow pilot Apollo while they were both in raptors (single occupant fighting spaceships) and claimed that she had been to Earth and could take Apollo there. This is a huge moment in the series because as far as the surviving members of the human race are concerned Earth is a semi-mythical place and Starbuck was last seen (by Apollo) entering the atmosphere of a planet and her ship exploding in a very pretty fireworks display two episodes ago!

Battlestar Galactica is widely regarded as one of the best shows on television by many critics and has already won a Peabody award. It will return in 2008 for its fourth (and possibly last) season.

Oh, and did I mention the "not guilty" verdict in the trial of the century of the former President of the colonies who has been colluding with the Cylons (and who himself thinks he may be one) from the very beginning of the series?

Venus Loses Close Match To Sharapova

It's been more than 20 months since Venus Williams and Maria Sharapova met on a tennis court and today's match did not disappoint. The #1 Seed from Russia defeated unseeded the 3-timeAmerican champion in the third round of the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami on Sunday 2-6, 6-2, 7-5 in a 146-minute match plagued by errors from both players. After leading 2-0 in the first set, Sharapova lost 6 games in a row and the set to Venus Williams, but then broke Williams in the first game of the second set. Sharapova maintained her lead while continuing to hit many of her 13 double faults but evened the match. In the third set Williams raced off to a quick lead of 3-1 and held game point for 4-1 before being broken in two consecutive service games to go down 3-4. She then broke back and held to be leading 4-5 on Sharapova's serve and was two points away from winning the match at deuce during that game.In the crucial 11th game when Williams had opportunities to hold her serve she became tentative and let the Russian dictate play until the American commited a (usually forehand) error. Match point was (another) Venus Williams forehand error sailing more than 10 feet long past the baseline.

Venus Williams missed more than 50% of her first serves during the match (at one point she missed 4 serves in a row or two consecutive double faults in the third set and served only one ace after the first set) and committed 55 unforrced errors to 28 winners (-27). Sharapova had only 22 winners but also only made 36 unforced errors (-14) but her first service percentage was 54% compared to Williams' 49%.

The match (as usual) came down to who played the bigger points better and Sharapova converted 7 of 12 breakpoints while Williams converted one less at 6 of 12.

If Serena Williams wins her (rain-delayed) match against Lucie Safarova tomorrow then there will be a repeat of the 2007 Australian Open final on Tuesday: Maria versus Serena II: This Time It's Personal.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

REVIEW: Boy Culture

MadProfessah and a friend from San Diego went to the Laemmle Sunset 5 Theatres in West Hollywood to see Boy Culture at an early Saturday afternoon matinee showing (12:30pm). Boy Culture is based on a well-regarded romantic gay novel by Matthew Rettenmund who also maintains an excellent blog called Boy Culture. Although I rarely run out to see movies in their opening weekend, I have been curious about the movie Boy Culture for awhile since it co-stars Darryl Stephens, who is more well-known for playing the lead character Noah on the groundbreaking but now cancelled black gay cable television series Noah's Arc, as Andrew. It's not often one can see a movie based on work created by a fellow blogger. The film also stars straight television actor and current Advocate cover boy Derek Magyar as X and actor Jonathan Trent as Joey.

Boy Culture is a very enjoyable, cleverly scripted, well-acted, incisive look at contemporary gay male sexuality and culture.

This is not to say that the movie is without flaws or problematic aspects. The foremost of these is the choice of a male hustler (X, played by Magyar) as the central character and narrator of the film. The script actually makes an amusingly deprecating reference to this cliché by saying (I'm paraphrasing) "Since this is a gay film, you should have figured out by know [the central character] is a hustler." This leads to some discomfiting scenes depicting X's "work."

In addition, although the film in general has verisimiltude as a strength, the composition of the household (20-something gay male hustler X, 20-something gay black video store employee Andrew and barely legal nubile freeloader Joey) in a huge, beautifully decorated apartment defies belief. The film does indicate that X is a successful enough hustler that he selectively chooses his client list (older, rich, predominantly white, gay men) and restricts the number to a manageable lucrative dozen clients.

As Rod 2.0 has highlighted recently, the character of Alex was not intended to be African American in the author's original conception of the story. This color-blind casting leads to opportunities for the film to cast its incisive gaze on gay interracial relations as well as homosexuality in the African American community. It tackles both with intelligence and wit.
Of course there's an obligatory reference to "BBD" (big black dick) but there's also an hysterical visit with Andrew's African American family and attendance at Andrew's African American ex-fianceé's wedding.

The direction by Q. Allan Brocka is understated but efficient.

The character of Joey, the 18-year old "gayby" is the comic relief of the piece, played with delightful abandon by Jonathan Trent. Almost everything that comes out of his mouth is side-splittingly funny, usually because of the blissfully ignorant naivete the comments reveal. All gay men over the age of 18 will find something amusing (and familiar) about Joey and his comments.

All-in-all, a film worth seeing, although the screening I attended (admittedly reasonably early on a weekend day but in the heart of the gay ghetto) was very sparsely attended (about 40 people in a theater wihch could hold 300) with the average age of the moviegoers equal to the sum of me and my 20-something friend combined. I believe the film does deserve to reach a wider audience and I hope it does.


Saturday, March 24, 2007

Califonia LGBT-related legislation and legislators

The state's largest LGBT civil rights organization, Equality California, has released a list of pending legislation in the California legislature of interest to the LGBT community. Equality California has been incredibly effective in the last 8 years, by sponsoring and shepherding a number of landmark bills into enactment by two Governors. The 2007 slate of bills is listed below:

AB 43 - Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act (Leno)
The Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act would guarantee the California Constitution's promise of religious freedom and extend the vital protections afforded by marriage to loving and committed same-sex couples

SB 777 - Student Civil Rights Act (Kuehl)
The Student Civil Rights Act would create uniform nondiscrimination standards within the state’s education code so students, teachers and school administrators clearly understand the protections that are provided within California’s publicly-funded schools and programs.

AB 14 - Civil Rights Act of 2007 (Laird)
Assembly Bill 14, the Civil Rights Act of 20067, authored by Assemblymember John Laird (D-Santa Cruz), would amend existing nondiscrimination provisions to be consistent with the nondiscrimination protections in the Unruh Civil Rights Act and Government Code Section 11135, which prohibits discrimination in state funded programs and activities. AB 14 is the forth in a series of successful nondiscrimination bills authored by Assemblymember Laird and sponsored by EQCA to strengthen major areas of California law and clarify that people are protected from discrimination regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

AB 102 - Name Equality Act(Ma)
This legislation would allow domestic partners and married spouses equal opportunity, regardless of gender, to change their surnames upon marriage or domestic partnership registration.

SB 559 – Fair and Equal Taxation for Surviving Partners Act (Kehoe)
Prior to 2006, California law did not allow registered domestic partners to transfer property between each other without having its value reassessed, which can often result in increased tax liability. The Fair and Equal Taxation for Surviving Partners Act would allow certain domestic partners to seek a reduction in their property taxes if those taxes were unfairly increased prior to the availability of comprehensive domestic partnership protections in California.

One impact of California's decision to move its presidential primary to February 5, 2008 and allow for a ballot measure which would relax term limits is the ancillary effect of saving the California LGBT Legislative Caucus from disappearing. It is no coincidence that Equality California's record legislative success has occurred while the most openly lesbian and gay members of the state Legislature served. In 2008, State Senator Sheila J. Kuehl, Assemblymember John Laird and Assemblymember Mark Leno (or State Senator Carole Migden, depending on who wins their divisive primary battle initiated by Leno) will all be termed out, reducing the number of openly gay members to State Senator Christine Kehoe (who will be termed out in 2012) and whoever wins the Leno-Migden contest. It's possible, but not inevitable that the 13th Assembly district currently held by Leno will be filled by an openly gay or lesbian member. Last year, the 45th Assembly District in which MadProfessah lives which was represented by an openly lesbian member (Jackie Goldberg), but is now represented by straight (Latino) member Kevin DeLeon. If the term limits ballot proposition passes in February 2008 Kuehl, Laird and Leno could all retain their legislative seats. which bodes well for Equality California's ambitious legislative portfolio.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Fox News Channel viewers most rabidly pro-Bush demographic

This poll result from Senator John Kerry's pollster Mark Mellman up needs to become more widely known:
Fox News viewers supported George Bush over John Kerry by 88 percent to 7
percent. No demographic segment, other than Republicans, was as united in
supporting Bush. Conservatives, white evangelical Christians, gun owners, and
supporters of the Iraq war all gave Bush fewer votes than did regular Fox News
Anyone surprised? It should be noted that more cable viewers watch Fox News than watch CNN, CNBC or MSNBC.

The Rich Are Cheap

Sunday's Los Angeles Times Current section has a front page article titled "A Wealth of Cheapskates" by Gregg Easterbrook repeating a meme about the paucity of philanthropic donations among the super-rich which has been making the rounds in the last month or so.
Consider the numbers (which are based on current estimates in the recent Slate 60 index of the year's leading philanthropic donors and the net-worth estimates in the Forbes 400). The 60 leading American donors gave away $51 billion in 2006, according to Slate. They were led by Buffett, whose spectacular $44-billion donation — mainly to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, whose primary cause is healthcare in the developing world — was the largest gift anyone has ever given. These donors had an estimated combined net worth of $630 billion last year, meaning that they gave away 8% of their money, on average. Sounds magnanimous, until you consider that the Dow Jones industrial average rose 16% in 2006 — which suggests that, as a group, the leading donors contributed less than they gained.

Now subtract Buffett and his generous gift from the group, and the rest of them begin to look downright miserly, handing to others a mere $7 billion of a combined net worth of $584 billion — or just over 1%. Numbers from the philanthropy watch organization Giving USA show that Americans as a whole annually give away about 0.5% of their net worth. So, except for Buffett, society's top givers donate to others at only a tad higher rate than the population as a whole. That's, well, pathetic. And that's just counting top givers, not the super-rich who give away little or nothing.

Microsoft mogul Paul Allen, net worth $16 billion, gave away $53 million in 2006, according to Slate — one-third of 1% of his fortune. Software magnate Lawrence Ellison, net worth $20 billion, gave away $100 million — half of 1%. Pierre Omidyar, founder of EBay, net worth $7.7 billion, gave away $67 million — less than 1%. Nike tycoon Philip Knight, net worth $7.9 billion, gave away $105 million — slightly more than 1%.

This is disturbing news, isn't it? Mad Professah gives away around 2% of his "fortune" every year to non-profits like the Center for Health Justice, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, The Williams Institute and Environment California. However, there's no question that a billionaire's largess would have a much greater philanthropic impact than my paltry pennies.

Another interesting fact that we know about philanthropy is that Southern California's rich people give more of their fortunes than Northern California's similarly situated residents.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Mathematicians (finally) completely describe 248-dimensional object

(image courtesy the The New York Times/Peter McMullen)

Mad Professah is excited to report that E8 has been fully described. What the heck am I talking about? Why, all the 248 possible symmetries of a 57-dimensional object, of course! (See visualization above.) Sophus Lie, a 19th century Norwegian mathematican, is the creator of Lie Group Theory, which deals with continuous symmetry.

"What's attractive about studying E8 is that it's as complicated as symmetry can get. Mathematics can almost always offer another example that's harder than the one you're looking at now, but for Lie groups E8 is the hardest one," Vogan said.

"E8 was discovered over a century ago, in 1887, and until now, no one thought the structure could ever be understood," said Jeffrey Adams, project leader and a mathematics professor at the University of Maryland. "This groundbreaking achievement is significant both as an advance in basic knowledge, as well as a major advance in the use of large-scale computing to solve complicated mathematical problems."
Fellow gay mathematician J.M. Kreps Professor of Mathematics Robert Bryant of Duke University is quoted in Tuesday's New York Times giving an analogy to describe the significance of the mathematical breakthrough. "Scientists can learn a lot about an animal from its DNA, but to understand it fully 'you have to grow the organism and then study it,' Dr. Bryant said. 'In a certain sense, that is what the E8 team did. They used massive computation to fully develop the group E8 and its representations so that they could list its important features.'"

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Quest Is Over: Good Caribbean Food Found In Los Angeles

BBQ ribs with plaintains, rice and peas,
steamed vegetables and johnny cake
Brown stew chicken with fried plaintains,
rice and peas, steamed vegetables and johnny cake

MadProfessah's long nightmare is now over. My ongoing quest for good Caribbean food in Los Angeles has been completed. I have finally discovered Ackee Bamboo restaurant in Leimert Park. Aparently it's been around for over a year beause I saw a commendation signed by former Inglewood City Councilman (now Assemblymember) Curren Price dated November 2005 praising the restaurant's commitment to the Best of Jamaican cuisine.

Last week, I went to 4305 Degnan Boulevard (at the corner of 43rd Street) and ordered the Special of the Day (barbecue ribs) as well as the brown stew chicken for takeout. Both meals came with fried plaintains, rice and peas, steamed vegetables and johnny cake. The portions were quite generous. The ambience is very simple, with medium-sized photographs of indigenous Caribbean fruits and flowers dotting the walls above cheap but functional furniture.
You come here for the food,m and it does not disappoint.

Both meals were delicious, but particularly the brown stew chicken is something I intend to make a regular habit of ordering. It is moist, tender and spicy without being overly hot. The plaintains were not overly sweet and contrasted nicely with brown stew. The peas and rice were pleasantly starchy as I remember from home-cooked meals. I even ate the steamed vegetables and (what appears to be suspiciously deep fried dough) johnny cake. I found the sauce of the barbecue ribs a bit too sweet, but the meat absolutely fell off the bone, which Leenah enjoyed immensely.

If you are in the Leimert Park area (and even if you aren't, it's worth a special trip during an off-peak traffic hour) to check out the food at Ackee Bamboo.


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Quel Dommage! Mauresmo Out For A Month

World #3 Amélie Mauresmo is going to be off the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour for a month after having surgery on Sunday to have her appendix removed, it was announced on her official website. She will miss "the fifth Grand Slam" officially known as the Sony Ericsson Open which starts Wednesday in Miami. She also did not play in Indian Wells at the Pacific Life Open and her website says that she will return to the tour during the European clay court season in late Spring.

Pay Equity Completes The Gland Slam

Lost among my frenzied coverage of the Pacific Life Open last week was this tidbit that the French Tennis Federation (la Fédération Française de Tennis) announced that it would be offering equal prize money at the 2007 French Open at Roland Garros. Previously, the champions of the Men's and Women's singles draws were awarded equal prize money but there was a discrepancy in the amount awarded to male and female participants who lost in earlier rounds (which, obviously is the vast majority of the competitors).

Last month, All-England Law Tennis Club (which runs Wimbledon) announced that it was going to end it's hold out against pay equity for male and female competitors to great fanfare. The Australian and United States Opens both have offered equal pay to men and women for years. With the FFT's announcement last week, pay equity has completed the Grand Slam!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Barack Obama as 'Magic Negro'

Barack Obama in Hawaii on vacation

This picture appeared in People magazine, alongside
other pictures of Hugh Jackman and Penelope Cruz

Openly gay, African American blogger and film critic David Ehrenstein has a typically fabulous op-ed published in today's Los Angeles Times entitled "'Magic Negro' Returns" giving his incisive and cinematic take on the Barack Obama phenomenon:

AS EVERY CARBON-BASED life form on this planet surely knows, Barack Obama, the junior Democratic senator from Illinois, is running for president. Since making his announcement, there has been no end of commentary about him in all quarters — musing over his charisma and the prospect he offers of being the first African American to be elected to the White House.

But it's clear that Obama also is running for an equally important unelected office, in the province of the popular imagination — the "Magic Negro."

The Magic Negro is a figure of postmodern folk culture, coined by snarky 20th century sociologists, to explain a cultural figure who emerged in the wake of Brown vs. Board of Education. "He has no past, he simply appears one day to help the white protagonist," reads the description on Wikipedia

He's there to assuage white "guilt" (i.e., the minimal discomfort they feel) over the role of slavery and racial segregation in American history, while replacing stereotypes of a dangerous, highly sexualized black man with a benign figure for whom interracial sexual congress holds no interest.

As might be expected, this figure is chiefly cinematic — embodied by such noted performers as Sidney Poitier, Morgan Freeman, Scatman Crothers, Michael Clarke Duncan, Will Smith and, most recently, Don Cheadle. And that's not to mention a certain basketball player whose very nickname is "Magic."

This is absolutely great stuff. Please go read the entire article here for yourself. One of the many things Ehrenstein is doing in this piece is deconstructing the very nature of op-ed page discourse itself. Note the explicit inclusion of a link to a web-based resource (Wikipedia). I also love the references to film characters and the sequioedalian word choices: ersatz paterfamilias, snarky, miscegenation, trope and accouterment!

I think it is a brilliant commentary on the Barack Obama phenomenon. What do you think?

Women Look At Faces, Men Look At Crotches

Jockohomo alerted me to a "funny little article" originally posted by Jason Kottke. It was also referenced in a question on one of my favorite weekend pastimes: the radio show "Wait Wait" on NPR affiliate 89.3 KPCC. According to an article published by USC's Annenberg Center for Communications' Online Journalism Review entitled "Eyetracking points the way to effective news article design" by Laura Ruel and Nora Paul:

When photos do contain people related to the task at hand, or the content users are exploring, they do get fixations. However, gender makes a distinct difference on what parts of the photo are stared at the longest. Take a look at the hotspot below.

Although both men and women look at the image of George Brett when directed to find out information about his sport and position, men tend to focus on private anatomy as well as the face. For the women, the face is the only place they viewed.

Coyne adds that this difference doesn’t just occur with images of people. Men tend to fixate more on areas of private anatomy on animals as well, as evidenced when users were directed to browse the American Kennel Club site.
As Jockhomo says "Nothing wrong with dudes hanging out…checking out each others packages…"

What are YOU looking at?

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Hantuchova and Nadal win Pacific Life Open titles

Craig Hickman has pictures of the 2007 Pacific Life Open champions Daniela Hantuchova (d. Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-3 6-4) and Rafael Nadal (d. Novak Djokovic 6-2 7-5).

PacificLife Open Men's Final Preview

[12]N Djokovic (SRB) vs[2]R Nadal (ESP)
The men's semifinals played Saturday were a bit of a let down after the previous round's thrillers (Andy Roddick d. Ivan Ljubicic 7-6(7) 7-6(8) and Andy Murray d. Tommy Haas 3-6 6-3 7-6(8)). World #2 Rafael Nadal made quite a statement by demolishing Roddick in straight sets 6-4 6-3 by serving at nearly 90% percent and made 33 winners to a mere 12 unforced errors (and really some of those 12 were "attempted winners" that just missed), an astonishing +21 performance that rocked the American's confidence so that his serve was diminished in accuracy and impact (a mere 16 aces).

Novak Djokovic's career has neatly paralleled Andy Murray's: they were born one week apart (Murray was born 15th of May 1987 and Djokovicwas born the 22nd of May 1987), are now one World ATP ranking position apart (#13 and #14) and have almost identical ATP Tour records. However, on Saturday's match between the two was not close: Djokovic won 6-2, 6-3.

Sunday's final will be an interesting showdown between two young guns showcasing the first of many important clashes in the future: 20-year-old Nadal versus 19-year-old Djokovic. They have only played once before, at last year's Roland Garros where the reigning King of Clay was leading the Serbian 6-4, 6-4 when Djokovic said "No Más!" and retired.

I doubt that Nadal will have it so easy in Sunday's final but if he plays anywhere near the level he displayed against Roddick it will be a very short day at the office. Djokovic should celebrate reaching his first ATP Master Series final, but he knows that it is possible for a 19-year old to win an ATP Master Series shield--his opponent has won six of them as a teenager in 2005-2006.

Mad Professah's pick: Nadal.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Pacific Life Open Women's Final Preview

This post is cross-posted to Craig Hickman's Tennis Blog:

[2]S Kuznetsova (RUS) vs[14]D Hantuchova (SVK)
And then there were two. As I predicted yesterday, the last three letters of the name of the 2007 Pacific Life Open women's champion will be the same as the last three letters of the 2006 Pacific Life Open women's champion: O-V-A. Last year it was Russian Maria Sharapova but she went out to fellow Russian Vera Zvonareva with a severe case of the service yips (25 double faults in two rounds of tennis!) which seem to be getting worse, not better. This year a new champion will be crowned, and it will be one of the two women pictured above in their official Sony Ericsson WTA Tour photos.

Svetlana Kuznetsova has already won a Grand Slam tournament and been to the final of another and holds 8 WTA Tour titles. After a severe let down in 2005 following her 2004 US Open win she spent 2006 steadying her game and rebuilding her ranking to its current lofty height of #4 in the World, a career best to date. Daniela Hantuchova has been ranked in the Top 5 in the world before, but has never been past the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam. She has won exactly one WTA Tour title before, but happily for her, it is the one that she is competing for tomorrow: the Pacific Life Open.

On paper one would have to give this to the Russian in an easy two sets but something tells me that Hantuchova will come out with an intense desire to win. When she is on, she can hit the ball as hard and paint the lines as any of the best ball strikers out there, ever. Hantuchova has much more to prove but I just don't believe that deep in the third set that her confidence will remain strong enough to take her past the woman Martina Navratilova called "the most talented of the Russians."

Mad Professah's pick: Kuznetsova (in 3 sets).

Pacific Life Open Men's Semifinal Preview

(12)DJOKOVIC, Novak SRB vs (9)HAAS, Tommy GER (13)MURRAY, Andy GBR

Novak Djokovic has been slicing through the Pacific Life Open draw like a scythe, another beneficiary of Bloody Sunday where a third of the tournament's seeded players lost, including The Mighty Fed. Thus the youngster's 6-4 6-3 demolition of Spain's (14)David Ferrer was something of a surprise to some but not to Mad Professah, who has been keeping his eye on the young Serbian player since the 2005 US Open. The slightly older (Djokovic and Murray were born one week apart) Scottish youngster turned over his ankle in the 3rd game of the second set against (9)Tommy Haas while up a break but still managed to hold onto the break and win the second set 6-3 after losing the first by the same score. Then Murray managed to save two match points against and win the match in an 18-point tiebreak in the third set! Djokovic and Murray have only played once (at last year's Madrid ATP Master Series event) with the older player winning 1-6 7-5 6-3. I think it is perfectly natural for Murray to experience an emotional letdown after such an amazing quarterfinal win and that ankle injury looked like it's gotta hurt the next day. Mad Professah's pick: Djokovic.

(3)RODDICK, Andy USA vs (2)NADAL, Rafael ESP

The New Andy Roddick™ played the best match of the tournament to beat powerful serving Ivan Ljubicic in two tight tiebreak sets 7-6(7) 7-6(8) of high quality tennis on Thursday. Ljubicic actually served more aces (12 to 8) and had the fastest serve (143 mph to Roddick's 142) but lost due to Roddick's superior balanced firepower on both wings, as well as the American's surprisingly consistent slice backhand. World #2 for a record 86 consecutive weeks Rafael Nadal took out Argentine Juan Ignacio Chela slightly more easily 7-5 7-5 to set up this mouth watering clash between the top two remaining seeds. Bizarrely, Roddick and Nadal have only played once before in a regular ATP tour match, at the second round of the 2004 US Open when the young Spaniard was just a few months past his 18th birthday. Roddick won that encounter easily in straight sets 6-0, 6-3, 6-4. However, Nadal beat Roddick in a decisive Davis Cup tie on clay in Seville, Spain in four sets to clinch the title for Spain later that year. This match is incredibly important for both players in order to resolve who is the legitimate challenger to World #1 Roger Federer. Mad Professah's pick: Roddick (in 3 sets).

Friday, March 16, 2007

Pacific Life Open Women's Semifinals Preview

This post is cross-posted to Craig Hickman's Tennis Blog:

[12]N Li (CHN) vs [14]D Hantuchova (SVK)

Daniela Hantuchova is the only player left in the draw who has previously won this tournament (in 2002). Bizarrely, that is the only Sony Ericsson WTA Tour title this hard-hitting, long-legged, rail-thin Slovakian has after more than 5 years on the women's professional tennis tour. Li Na (her "family" name or surname is Li, her "proper" or given name is Na but the Chinese convention is that the family name is written or voiced first, followed by the proper name.) Li is a hard-hitting, very mobile player and the highest ranked member of the fast-improving Chinese contingent on tour. She also has only won one tour title. Li has the ability and tools to beat just about any player on tour if she's having a good day but can also spray the court with errors if she's off. Hanuchova's biggest liability is her delicate mental state. however, Hantuchova feels very comfortable on this court and that should give her the mental edge the Slovak needs to prevail in a slugfest over the slightly higher ranked Chinese player. Mad Professah's pick: Hantuchova.

[33]S Bammer (AUT) vs [2]S Kuznetsova (RUS)

Sybile Bammer of Austria is 26 years old and one of the very few mothers on tour (5-year-old daughter). She's a hard-hitting lefty who also has only one WTA Tour title but is having a good tournament. The only seed she had to take out was the very talented Serbian [10]Ana Ivanovic by coming back after losing the first set in a tie-breaker. Svetlana Kuznetsova is the only Grand Slam champion (2004 U.S. Open) and finalist (2006 Roland Garros) among the Pacific Life Open semifinalists and has almost three times as many WTA Tour titles (8) as the other players combined. As the tournament's top remaining seeded player, clearly she believes that this is her tournament to lose, and it is. By winning a tight match against Czech [8]Nicole Vaidisova 6-4 in the 3rd set the round before one could make the argument the tournament was decided in that quarterfinal. One thing is sure, for the second year in a row, an "ova" will be the Pacific Life Open champion. Mad Professah's pick: Kuznetsova.

Queers Come Out To Protest Homophobic General in New York's Times Square

Well, well, well! It looks like many other gay and lesbian activists were as annoyed as MadProfessah was by General Peter Pace's homophobic remarks, as well as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton's feeble response.

Joe.My.God, Good As You, Pam Spaulding, Rex Wockner, Blabbeando and Towleroad all have coverage (with photos and video) of the direct action which took place in New York City's Times Square today. The New York Times so far has no coverage of the event on its website.
What happened Thursday morning was that a number of prominent gay activists such as Matt Foreman (Executive Director of The Task Force) and Larry Kramer (founder of ACT-UP, Gay Men's Health Crisis) and others marched to the Armed Forces Recruiting station located at the center of Times Square and blocked traffic by unfurling a 100-foot-long rainbow flag and denounced General Pace's pronouncement that "homosexuality is immoral."
The direct action in Times Square was sparked by Kramer's speech (now available online) on Tuesday March 13th at the New York City LGBT Center celebrating the 20th anniversary of an even more famous speech he gave which is widely regarded as the founding moment of ACT-UP (AIDS Coaliition to Unleash Power) and directly led to the AIDS and queer activism of the late 80s and early 90s which followed.
This time a new group, either called Queer Justice League or ACT UP ARMY has been formed and today's activities were their first direct action. Although the mainstream media has not taken notice yet, the queer blogosphere definitely has. Mazel Tov!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

General Pace Refuses To Apologize for Homophobic Remarks Despite Furor

Yesterday I mentioned the blatant and ignorant homophobia of Marine General Peter Pace, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States Military. After a furor erupted and he was summarily called into the office of his civilian boss, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to explain his remarks, Pace issued a statement expressing regret but refusing to apologize.

U.S. Representative Martin Meehan who has introduced legislation to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" has decided to leave Congress in July and become Chancellor of the University of Massachusetts at Lowell. However he says that he hopes to have the repeal of the anti-gay policy be part of his legislative legacy.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, United States Senate Armed Forces Committee ranking member John Warner and Servicemembers Legal Defense Fund and Human Rights Campaign all condemned General Pace's remarks.

Pacific Life Open Men's Quarterfinal Preview

This post is cross-posted to Craig Hickman's Tennis Blog:

1)FEDERER, Roger SUI (14)FERRER, David ESP vs (12)DJOKOVIC, Novak SRB

After Roger Federer lost his opening round match for the first time in nearly 3 years to Guillermo Cañas (who promptly lost his next round match to Carlos Moya) this quarter of the draw opened up considerably. Ferrer beat his countryman, the pulchritudinous Moya in a tough 3-setter while Djokovic destroyed French pretender Julien Benneteau 6-3, 6-1. Presumably the young Serbian will not have any of his infamous breathing difficuties in the beautiful clear air of Indian Wells. These two have only played once before nearly 3 years ago when Djokovic was twelve. The Serbian will show the Spaniard how much he has grown up since. Mad Professah's Pick: Djokovic.
(13)MURRAY, Andy GBR vs (9)HAAS, Tommy GER

The young Scot Murray took out the always surprisingly hard-to-beat Nikolay Davydenko relatively easy after winning the match in two error-prone, sketchy sets 7-6(3) 6-4. Haas took out the 2007 Australian Open finalist Fernando González relatively easily 6-3 6-2. These quarterfinalists are the two of the hottest players on the tour, with both of them only having lost 3 matches (and each has won an ATP tour title) so far. Surpisingly, they have not played each other before. Tommy Haas is one of MadProfessah's players to watch for 2007. I think he will get all the way to the Pacific Life Open final. Mad Professah's pick: Haas.


The New Roddick™ played an excellent match versus French wunderkind Richard Gasquet to get into this quarterfinal match against the hard-serving Croatian. Both players were +18 (more winners than errors) and at one point in the brilliant first set Gasquet(!) finished off his service game by serving three consecutive aces. However after getting into the tiebreak the shotmaking Frenchman's forehand became unglued and once he lost that set and an early break in the next set the match was effectively over: 7-6(2), 6-3. Ljubicic had a good win over Argentine grinder David Nalbandian despite dropping the first set: 2-6, 6-4, 6-2.The last two years Ljubicic has lost to the eventual tournament champion (Federer) and I suspect that will happen this year also. Mad Professah's pick: Roddick.

(30)CHELA, Juan Ignacio ARG vs (2)NADAL, Rafael ESP
Funny how Federer's dip in play seems to have coincided with Nadal's surge. Due to the Pacific Life's middle Sunday's seed massacre Chela has not had to play a seeded player to get to this quarterfinal. Chela and Nadal have only played twice before and only once on hard courts (2004 Cincinatti which was won by Chela 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(3) in an incredibly close match). I suepect this match will be closer than people expect, but Nadal 2007 is a much better playwe than Nadal 2007, and probably Chela 2007. Mad Professah's pick: Nadal.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Biblical Illiteracy, A Godless Congressman and the Times

In today's Los Angeles Times Professor Stephen Prothero of Boston University has an op-ed published where he decries the paucity of religious literacy among the American populace ("We live in the land of biblical idiots.") He starts his piece with a census of the religious affiliations of the U.S. political elite:
[...] THE 110th Congress has brought to Capitol Hill 43 Jews, two Buddhists and a Muslim — Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), who took his oath of office on Thomas Jefferson's Koran — Washington remains a disproportionately Christian town. More than 90% of federal legislators call themselves Christians, making Congress more Christian than the United States itself. The president is an evangelical Protestant. Catholics enjoy a majority on the Supreme Court.

Prothero's thesis is that Americans know very little about religion in general and the Bible, specifically and that this is a bad thing. He has documented the phenomenon that we are a "nation of biblical illiterates" in his book Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know -- and Doesn't.

In yesterday's Los Angeles Times U.S. Representative Pete Stark (D-CA) has revealed that he is an atheist and does not believe in God. By responding to a survey sent to all members of Congress by the Secular Coalition for America, the Congressman became the sole member of Congress to be an open "nontheist" and the highest ranked atheist elected official in the United States.

Recent poll data has shown that the average American would be less like to vote for an atheist candidate (45%) for the U.S. Presidency than an African American (94%), a Jewish person (92%), a Catholic person (95%), a Mormon person (72%), a 72-year old (57%), a thrice-married person (67%) or an openly gay person (55%).

NYT/CBS Poll Results (2004-2007) on Recognition for Same Sex Couples

Below are results from the New York Times/CBS News poll (source .pdf) for the last three years tabulating responses to the question: Which comes closest to your view? Gay couples should be allowed to legally marry OR gay couples should be allowed to form civil unions but not legally marry OR there should be no legal recognition of a gay couple’s relationship?

Poll Taken Marry Civil unions No legal recognition DK/NA
3/10-14/04 22 33 40 6
5/20-23/04* CBS 28 29 40 3
7/11-15/04 28 31 38 3
10/28-30/04 23 34 36 7
11/18-21/04 21 32 44 3
2/24-28/05 23 34 41 2
7/29-8/2/05 CBS 27 27 43 4
10/27-31/06 28 29 38 5
3/7-11/07 28 32 35 5
REPUBLICANS 14 30 52 4

What one notices immediately is that there really has not been much of a shift in public opinion in
over three years of polling, although there was a dip in support for full marriage equality coinciding with the 2004 presidential election and the presence of anti-gay initiatives on numerous statewide ballots.

The last line separates the poll results for registered Republican voters. Interestingly, these voters have a nearly identical level of support for civil unions as the general population. However when it comes to a complete denial of marriage equality (i.e. no legal recognition whatsoever) a majority of Republicans support explicit codified discrimination.

Together, the latest poll results reveal that nearly 60 percent of all registered voters support some form of legal recognition for same sex couples. This is bad news for heterosexist supremacists who are still trying to promulgate anti-marriage ballot measures in the states. This is good news for organizations that are trying to enact civil unions in states like Washington, Oregon and Illinois.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

REVIEW: Dreamgirls

The definitive review of Dreamgirls has already been written (by Boy Culture's Matthew Rettenmund). In fact the sheer volume of ecstatic reviews from fellow bloggers (Keith Boykin "an instant classic," Towleroad "a dazzling adaptation") raised awareness of the movie to a near fever pitch. Anchored by a stunning, heartwrenching rendition of "The Song," i.e. "And I Tell You (I Am Not Going)" by Jennifer Hudson, the movie has become a
favorite for black gay fans everywhere. In January Dreamgirls led all nominated films with 8 Oscar nominations in 6 categories and ended up winning two (Best Supporting Actress for Hudson and Best Sound Mixing) a few weeks ago at the Academy Awards show.

Last week, Mad Professah named the movie my #1 Favorite Film for 2006.

I saw Dreamgirls for the first time on Monday December 18 during a weeklong special engagement at the Arclight Cinemas before the film's Christmas Day opening. I had not gotten around to seeing it again for the second time and felt I needed to see the movie twice before I could write a review that does it justice. I was able to do that today, and it did not disappoint.
On second viewing what stands out is the writing and direction of Bill Condon, who won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for Chicago. The pacing of the film is truly exquisite, with the story never becoming less than engrossing for a second. There are numerous directorial flourishes which I didn't notice the first time: a shot of the action on stage reflected in the glasses of an audience member, a fade-in from practicing dancers in a vee formation to a similar shape of the top of a skyscraper and the quick edits in many of the Dreams musical numbers.

With the knowledge that Eddie Murphy and Jennifer Hudson received Oscar nominations (and both won Screen Actors' Guild awards) for their roles one does pay careful attention to their performances. But even without such acclaim it is clear from the first time Jimmy "Thunder" Early (Murphy) and Effie White (Hudson) appear on screen that they are tearing up the scenery. The story is written to revolve around Effie so I believe it is even more impressive what Murphy manages to do with what could be a purely campy part. Again, the one person who under-performs is Jamie Foxx, whose portrayal of Berry Gordy Curtis Taylor, Jr is surprisingly flat. The script is designed to make his character the central villain of the piece but Foxx's acting is uninteresting and monotonous.

Many tongues have wagged about alleged tensions between Beyoncé and Jennifer Hudson. "Beyoncé is jealous because she is the bigger star but is getting less attention!" This seems silly and untrue to me. It is clear that Beyoncé understands the structure of the Dreamgirls piece and there is no question that she demonstrates her star power (and breathtaking beauty) as Deena Jones replicates Diana Ross' career path. To me the ultimate message of the film is that there is room for both a largely talented singer like Effie and a beautiful entertainer like Deena.


Top U.S. Military General Calls Homosexuality 'Immoral'

Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the top military officer in the United States was quoted by the Chicago Tribune saying he believes homosexuality is immoral and supports the current "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.

"I believe homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts."

"I do not believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is OK to be immoral in any way."

"As an individual, I would not want [acceptance of gay behavior] to be our policy, just like I would not want it to be our policy that if we were to find out that so-and-so was sleeping with somebody else's wife, that we would just look the other way, which we do not. We prosecute that kind of immoral behavior."

So the top military officer in the United States equates homosexuality with adultery. And apparently he is not alone among the top brass in holding these views.

Happily, Congressman Martin Meehan (D-MA) has introduced a bill (H.R. 1246) to repeal the Pentagon's policy on homosexuality which currently has over 100 co-sponsors.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Vishy Anand Becomes World's Highest Rated Chess Player

A former friend of mine Grandmaster Viswanathan (Vishy) Anand of India will become the highest rated chess player in the world in April 2007, after securing first place in the strongest chess tournament in the world, the XXIV Super Grandmaster tournament in Linares, with a score of 8.5 out of 14 (4 wins, 1 loss, 9 draws for what is typically called a +3 result). The current World #1 chess player Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria had a disastrously bad tournament, ended up tied for last among the eight Super Grandmasters invited to play in this year's edition of Linares.

A super-grandmaster is an international grand master who has achieved a FIDE rating of over 2700 (when I was playing it used to be 2600!) The participants at Linares-Morelia 2007 (a double round-robin tournament with first 7 matches played in Morelia, Mexico and the last 7 rounds played in Linares, Spain) were 6 of the Top 8 rated players in the world: Anand (currently second in the world at 2779), Topalov (currently top rated at 2783), 16-year old Danish sensation Magnus Carlsen (who tied for second place overall was rated 24th in the world at 2690), Alexander Morozevich (Russia, also tied for second, started the tournament ranked 8th in the world rated 2741), Vassily Ivanchuk (Ukraine, ranked 5th in the world at 2750), Peter Leko (Hungary, ranked 6th in the world at 2749), Levon Aronian (Armenia, ranked 6th in the world at 2744) and Peter Svidler (Russia, rated 12th in the world at 2728).
Anand has been the world's second rated player for over a decade, usually behind the Greatest of all Time Garry Kasparov who retired at the top of the rankings after losing to Topalov in his final match at the 2005 Linares Super GM tournament (and still tied for first in that tournament, his last as a professional chess player).
However, after winning Linares (for the second time, he also won it in 1998) Anand will gain 37 rating points to 2816 which will put him far ahead of current World Champion Vladimir Kramnik (Russia, currently ranked 3rd in the world at 2766) and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Azerbaijan, currently ranked 4th in the world at 2754) while Topalov loses 92 points to fall below 2700 for the first time in years. Wunderkind Carlsen will gain 88 points to likely become the new World #2 at 2778. Morozevich will almost definitely be in the Top 5 after gaining 30 rating points to 2771.
Over 20 years ago, Anand and I were playing in the same tournaments (1986 Oakham Junior Invitational in England, 1985 World Junior Championship in Helsinki, Finland) and being some of the few players of color in those high level tournaments we were friendly with each other.I treasured for years a carved wooden elephant key ring he gave me. Even back then Anand was one of the best players in the world and did not play many more junior tournaments after that.
Anyway, congratulations to Vishy on achieving his lifetime goal of becoming the World's #1 chess player!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Shock Among Upsets: Federer Win Streak Ends at 41

They are already calling it the tennis upset of the year: World #1 and defending champion Roger Federer of Switzerland has been beaten in straight sets 7-5, 6-2 by Argentine Guillermo Cañas at the Pacific Life Open in Indian Well, California. Federer had not lost an ATP Tour match since August 16 2006 at the Cincinatti Master Series event when he lost to Andy Murray 7-5, 6-4. Federer had won the tournament the last three years in a row and had numerous other streaks on the line in Indian Wells. Cañas has now won 11 of 13 matches played this year, having come back from a 2-year suspension (later reduced to 15 months) in June 2005 when he was ranked #8 in the world following a positive drug test for a banned substance on February 21, 2005. Federer called for the trainer twice in the match, for an unspecified foot injury.

Amazingly, after losing for the first time in over 6 months, Federer later went back on the court and won a doubles match with his countryman Yves Allegro over Spaniards David Ferrer and Tommy Robredo 6-4, 7-6(2).

In a bizarre twist, the other person in the draw who had also won the tournament more than once, the odious Lleyton Hewitt (2002 and 2003 champion) lost to Serbian Janko Tipsarevic 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-2. In addition, Marat Safin(23), Dominic Hrbaty(24), Tomas Berdych(11), Mardy Fish(21), Marcos Baghdatis(17), Jurgen Melzer(27), Tommy Robredo(7), Dmitry Tursunov(20) and Radek Stepanek(25) were all seeds who lost in a blisteringly hot day.


The movie 300 (an adaptation of a Frank Miller graphic novel directed by Zack Snyder) has had huge buzz for weeks and a very effective marketing and advertising campaign that has been emphasizing the amazingly unique look of the film, the breathtakingly beautiful nearly-nude male physiques and the violently bloody hand-to-hand combat scenes. The result is packed theaters, lines around the block and record box-office.

MadProfessah had every intention of seeing the movie this weekend and called up some other black gay men to see if they wanted to join me. "What's the movie about?" one of them texted me. "Look it up! Hot Nked Guys. Violent. Spartans vs Persians" I replied. Two of them said yes. Although it opened up on over 3000 screens nationwide, it didn't open on the Arclight Cinemas so we decided to see it at the Vista Theater at the intersection of Sunset and Hollywood Boulevards in Silverlake. When we got to the theater about 40 minutes before the showing there was an impressive looking line stretching about a block and a half down Hollywood Boulevard. Clearly we weren't going to make it to that screening. Buying a paper quickly from a newspaper dispenser (where the heck is a free LA Weekly when you need one?) I saw that the movie was showing at the Glendale Mann Showplace 4 theaters a 10 minute drive away an hour later than our original showtime at the Vista.

Arriving at the theater in Glendale (which is near the corner of Brand Boulevard and Harvard Boulevard about one block away from The Grove owner Rick Caruso's Americana at Brand development set to open next year basically adjacent to the Glendale Galleria) about 45 minutes before our showtime there was a short line to get tickets but a very long line of people waiting to get into the theater. Clearly, 300 was going to have a huge opening weekend box-office total.

The movie is about a famous battle (The Battle of Thermopylae, or "Hot Gates" in Greek) between a vastly outnumbered group of Spartans (Umm, 300 of them, get it?) and a huge army of invading Persians. The (mostly phenotypically White) and uniformly muscular) Spartans are led by King Leonidas (played by Gerard Butler) wearing a fetching black letaher jock strap while the (mostly phenotypically Black, and bizarrely pierced) Persians are led by Xerxes (played in a curiously gender noncomforming way by Lost's Rodrigo Santoro) in a gold mesh jock strap.

Spartans, the audience is told by a helpful narrator, are raised from a young age (in an environment which modern day sensibilities would characterise as child abuse) to be violent, courageous and indomitable. We are shown a young teenaged Leonidas, practically naked except for a loincloth in a wintry blizzard being stalked by a giant wolf. The young Leonidas cleverly manages to kill the wolf and returns home to his people (who seem surprised he survived the challenge) to be declared their king.

The highlights of the movie are the unique canvass painting look of the film, the stunningly beautiful examples of male physique voyeuristically displayed and the non-stop bloody violence which saturates the film.

There's quite a difference between how regular viewers are embracing the film (89% positive at, B+ average at compared to film critics (62% positive, B- average). I must say that I agree more with the users in regards to this film.


Saturday, March 10, 2007

Breach of Confidential HIV Data Reported

The very useful resource Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Reports had this item recently:
The California Department of Health Services last week inadvertently revealed the names and addresses of up to 53 residents enrolled in the state's AIDS Drug Assistance Program by mailing benefit notification letters to the incorrect ADAP members, department officials said Friday, the Los Angeles Times reports. According to Sandra Shewry, director of the department, a newly hired clerk did not realize that each letter was personally addressed and put the 54 letters into envelopes. The clerk then attached 54 preprinted mailing labels to the envelopes, according to Shewry. At least one letter was placed in the correct envelope, according to the Times. The letters were sent to people in 16 counties, including Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Diego. The letters also included Medicare Part D plan names and premium payment amounts but not Social Security numbers, medical record numbers or other confidential information. According to Shewry, the department learned of the mistake after 12 people called to say they had received letters addressed to someone else. Many of the callers were concerned they had not been approved for benefits, according to Kevin Reilly, director of prevention services (Engel, Los Angeles Times, 3/3). The clerk who made the error has been reassigned, according to Shewry (Feder Ostrov, San Jose Mercury News, 3/3). The department on Friday through certified mail informed the ADAP enrollees of the error and asked that incorrectly addressed letters be destroyed. It also notified the California Highway Patrol, as is required under state law for security breaches. According to the Times, the error comes after the California Legislature last year changed the state's HIV reporting system from a code-based system to a names-based system (Los Angeles Times, 3/3).

Shewry said the department has a "no-excuses, zero-tolerance policy" regarding infringements of patients' privacy, adding that the error is "extremely regrettable." Shewry said the agency would take steps, such as using envelopes with address windows, to ensure a similar mistake does not happen again (San Jose Mercury News, 3/3). Shewry said the department is "investigating and interviewing all the employees who are involved in the chain of command" that led to the error. Jeff Bailey, director of client services for AIDS Project Los Angeles, said he hopes the error is an "anomaly." Bailey added, "I would not want to give way to panic about this release. It did not go to random citizens of the state, where this information might be shared with someone outside the HIV and AIDS circle." Lori Yeghiayan, spokesperson for AIDS Healthcare Foundation, said that the error is "unfortunate" but that it does not signal a systemwide failure (Los Angeles Times, 3/3).
Well, isn't that special? From 2004-2006 when I was on the board of directors of an organization (one of the very few AIDS organization in the the state to do so) that opposed California's switch to reporting HIV infections using name-based data instead of by alpha numerical code I was told repeatedly that "there had never been a serious breach of confidential HIV data in the state of California" and that it was very unlikely there ever would be one.

What strikes me as poignant in the news reports of the latest breach of confidential personal data in California (there have been others, those just have not usually been HIV/AIDS specific) is 1) The employee who made the error was only reassigned, not terminated; and 2) Why the heck is the California Highway Patrol the state agency responsible for policing confidentiality breaches?


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