Tuesday, July 31, 2007

NPR Covers Egregious Racial Injustice in Louisiana

Tina Jones (left), Carwin Jones and his father, John Jenkins outside the La Salle Parish Courthouse
(Bill Haber, AP)

Mad Professah has been hearing about the case of racial injustices going on in Jena, Louisiana for awhile now but was very pleased to hear an excellent summary of the story in a piece titled "Beating Charges Split La. Town Along Racial Lines"on the Monday July 30th edition of All Things Considered by Wade Goodwyn.
Six black students were arrested and charged with aggravated assault. But District Attorney Reed Walters increased the charges to attempted second-degree murder. That provoked a storm of black outrage.

"Jena has always been a racist town," says Bailey's mother, Caseptla Bailey. "We've understood that….It has been that way since I've lived here."

But school board member Billy Fowler disagrees.

As far as racial problems, our community is no different than any other community," Fowler says.

Fowler is one of the few leaders with the school administration or local law enforcement willing to talk to the media. The principal, the school superintendent and the district attorney all declined repeated calls for comment.

Fowler says he is appalled at reports by outside media outlets that he claims portray Jena as a racist community. But he and many other white leaders agree that the charges are unfair.

"I think it's safe to say some punishment has not been passed out fairly and evenly," Fowler says. "I think probably blacks may have gotten a little tougher discipline through the years.

"Our town is not a bunch of bigots. They're Christian, law-abiding citizens that wouldn't mistreat anybody."

But the black students and their families feel mistreated. The first to go to court was Mychal Bell, the team's star running and defensive back. Bell's court-appointed lawyer refused to mount any defense at all, instead resting his case immediately after two days of government presentation. An all-white jury found Bell guilty.

A talented athlete, Bell had a real shot at a Division I football scholarship. He now faces up to 22 years in prison. The other five black students await trial on attempted murder charges.

This story deserves to get much wider exposure, although the blogosphere is starting to raise awareness of the ongoing injustice. Today Tuesday July 31st there is a rally planned with the presentation of 43,000 signatures on a petition to the local District Attorney calling for "equal justice." Equal justice? For black people in America? That's a nice idea but why start now?

LA TIMES covers young, out gay and lesbian athletes

Saturday's Los Angeles Times featured a front-page story (albeit below the fold) entitled "Young and out on the field" about the impact being out at a young age and competing in sports while in high school and college is having on the students, their peers and their educatonal institutions.

In Seattle, Goodman began dropping hints around his eight-man boat more than a year ago. He talked with his best friend, and with another rower who seemed both understanding and physically large enough to make a good ally.

When word spread, no one teased or whispered about him. The crew saves money by sharing hotel beds on the road, and the teammate who bunks with Goodman didn't mind.


The 18-year-old belongs to an emerging generation of openly gay and lesbian athletes on high school and college campuses across the country. These young men and women are quietly venturing where no pro football or baseball star has gone, challenging the conformist, if not downright homophobic, tradition of the playing fields.

Their numbers are difficult to gauge because many confide only in peers. Experts chart the trend anecdotally through athletes who join gay rights clubs at school, e-mail gay rights advocates for advice or announce their sexual orientation on websites such as Facebook and MySpace.

It was interesting to see such an encouraging article about the current state of gay rights with implications for the future in such a hidebound paper like the Los Angeles Times.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Report On Money Behind Nationwide Political Battle Over Marriage

Sacramento's main political newspaper ran an in-depth article about the "state of play" for anti-gay ballot measures in California in it's Thursday July 26th edition. The article mentions that there are now four (!) anti-gay marriage ballot measures certified by the Attorney General for active circulation for citizen signatures. However, the ones that are making LGBT activists like Equality California Executive Director Geoff Kors nervous are the ones sponsored by Gayle Knight, widow of former State Senator Pete Knight who authored 2000's Proposition 22. Heterosexual supremacist bigwigs like Focus on the Family's James Dobson, Howard Ahmanson and Ed Atsinger have all lined up behind this second "Knight Initiative." This initiative would amend the California State Constitution to limit marriage to different-sex couples while stating clearly it would not impact California's comprehensive domestic partnership act (pdf).

The article goes on to delve into the details of the battle for bucks as a prelude and proxy for the upcoming battle for votes in 2008:

In 2004, supporters of anti-gay-marriage initiatives raised $6.8 million for measures in 13 states, while $6.6 million was gathered to fight them.

Gay-marriage supporters pulled slightly ahead in fundraising in 2005, a low-money year that saw measures in only Kansas and Texas. Last year, there was a total of $18 million spent on initiatives in nine states, but gay-marriage proponents raised $14 million of that. The marriage bans won eight of those contests, but gay-marriage opponents suffered their first statewide loss at the ballot box in Arizona.


When asked why the pro-gay-marriage side has become better off financially recently, Moore said, "The biggest change between 2004 and 2006 is Tim Gill established the Gill Action Fund, which is the biggest contributor on the opposition side."

A gay political consultant, who asked not to be named, put it a slightly different way.

"While most of the rest of the gay community was holding hands and singing 'kumbaya,' Tim Gill was trying to figure out how to crush the opposition's throat."

Go, Tim Gill, you're one of my Gay Heroes.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

REVIEW: The Simpsons Movie

Mad Professah saw The Simpsons Movie this weekend. Although the New York Times' A.O. Scott said that although the movie is not as good as the best Simpsons episodes of all time, it is still good enough to want to watch it "20 or 30 times." I would agree. The Simpsons Movie is like a really good episode of the show that goes on for 90 minutes--who can be disappointed with that? After all the show is described as "an inexhaustible repository of humor, invention and insight, an achievement without precedent or peer in the history of broadcast television, perhaps the purest distillation of our glories and failings as a nation ever conceived."

However there are some aspects of the film that are notably improved over a typical well-written episode, specifically the computer enhanced animation and the focus of the film on the nature of the familial bonds between the central characters (Homer and Marge, Homer and Bart). This leads to a more engaging entertainment experience because the movie looks great while also providing more emotional hooks for the audience to connect with the plot.

And the plot is a typically convoluted Simpsons stemwinder that revolves around Lisa's environmental activism and Homer's lust for donuts and inherent sloth which leads to a catastrophic result for the entire Simpsons family and the town of Springfield. Happily, baby Maggie saves the family and (eventually) Homer saves the town. (Oh come on, is that really a spoiler? It's The Simpsons after all!)

With so many characters that have been introduced over 400 episodes there are very many individual favourites that are given short shrift in the movie. Marge's sisters Pam and Selma? Apu and Manjula? But the biggest disappointment is basically a cameo by Homer's evil boss C. Montgomery Burns and his openly gay assistant/henchman Waylon Smithers.

Despite this minor quibble The Simpsons Movie is the most entertaining movie of the summer so far, one which can be seen over and over again without a reduction in enjoyment.
Clearly, many other people agree with Mad Professah because the film opened with a weekend opening gross of over $70 million, a larger debut than any of Pixar's CGI-animated classics.


Saturday, July 28, 2007

Brazilian Water Polo Team...

It sounds like something out of a sexual fantasy, but it is true, there is a Brazilian Water Polo Team and unfortunately they lost to the United States in the Gold Medal match at the Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro on Thursday. (hat/tip to TowleRoad)

Friday, July 27, 2007

African American Scientist to Receive National Medal of Technology Today

James E. West of John Hopkins University is scheduled to receive the National Medal of Technology from President George W. Bush in a White House ceremony Friday July 27th. James Edward Maceo West, 75, co-invented technology which is currently in use in approximately 90% of all microphones used in telephones and other devices around the world. West, together with colleague Gerhard Sessler received a patent for the Electroacoustic Transducer Electret Microphone in 1962 while working at the fabled Bell Laboratories for nearly 40 years.

Mad Professah received word of Professor West's prestigious award from one of West's many African American Ph.D. students. While West was at Bell Labs he was instrumental in the funding of the Summer Research Program and Cooperate Research Fellowship Program which supported many minority researchers (some estimate as many as 500) and eventual Ph.D.'s.

From the press release by John Hopkins University:

At Bell Labs in 1962, West and his colleague Gerhard Sessler patented the electret microphone, in which thin sheets of polymer film, metal-coated on one side, are given a permanent charge to serve as the membrane and bias of a condenser microphone that helps convert sound to electrical signals with high fidelity.

Almost 90 percent of the more then two billion microphones produced today are based on the principles developed by West and Sessler. West spent more than four decades with Bell Labs, building upon this research and obtaining more than 200 U.S. and foreign patents. He also authored or contributed to more than 140 technical papers.


His achievements have led to numerous professional honors. In 1998, West was elected to the National Academy of Engineering. A year later, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. He is a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the Acoustical Society of America, and has served as president of the latter organization. He has received the Golden Torch Award of the National Society of Black Engineers and the Silver and Gold Medals in Engineering Acoustics from the Acoustical Society of America. In 1997, the New Jersey Institute of Technology awarded West an honorary doctor of science degree. In 2006 he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Engineering from Michigan State University.

West was born in 1931 in Farmville, Va., and developed an interest in electronics at an early age. His parents were disappointed that he wished to study physics instead of medicine. “In those days in the South, the only professional jobs that seemed to be open to a black man were a teacher, a preacher, a doctor or a lawyer,” West said in a 2003 interview with the Johns Hopkins Gazette. “My father introduced me to three black men who had earned doctorates in chemistry and physics. The best jobs they could find were at the post office. My father said I was taking the long road toward working at the post office.”

The Simpsons Movie Is Today!

Mad Professah is a huge Simpsons fan and last week went to the website for the upcoming movie and was able to create my own MadProfessah avatar who looks like a Springfield resident! The Simpsons Movie opens today and is expected to earn $50 million in its opening weekend and is getting very positive reviews.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

REVIEW: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was released two years ago but Mad Professah re-read it this week in preparation for my perusal of the final installment of the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows which occurred this week.

The only thing I still remembered from my first reading of Book 6 in 2005 was the obvious "Dumbledore Dies!" but there is much more to the story than that earth shattering event. The sixth installment of the Harry Potter series has even more teen angst than the hormone-soaked fifth installment, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

This time, though, the teenaged trio does have serious things to worry about, like the results of important exams (O.W.L.s, which is a clever play on the British 'O' level exams which Mad Professah himself took when he lived in a Commonwealth country in the mid-1980s and in the British system of education are extremely important in determining one's future educational career path).

The most interesting aspect Half-Blood Prince is the story-within-a-story we get of the life of Tom Riddle (Lord Voldemort, to you!) told via memory retrieved through a magical device called a pensieve. It is extremely impressive that Rowling devotes so much of her narrative to providing a well-fleshed out back story for the series villain, a process she repeats in the last book with Severus Snape, and to a lesser extent, Draco Malfoy. In her world, although there is definitely good and evil, there are also shades of gray (or grey) and she makes use of the entire color palette as she paints a compelling picture of Harry Potter's maturation to adulthood in the latter books of this must-read heptology.


Checkers Is Solved

According to the Los Angeles Times, scientists at the University of Alberta have completely solved checkers. They have written a computer program which has enumerated all 500,995,484,682,338,672,639 possible board configurations and shown that with best play, the game of checkers is a draw. Their computer program, named Chinook, can not be defeated by any human player. Marion Tinsley, a mathematics professor who is widely regarded as the best checkers player who ever lived lost two games to Chinook, while only losing seven other games in a forty-five year career of competitive checkers.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Research Shows Hand Movements Aid Learning Mathematics

Mad Professah was alerted to this interesting article about the impact that using hand gestures during the teaching of mathematics. Post-doctoral fellow Susan Wagner Cook at the University of Rochester has published an article in the latest issue of Cognition which indicates that students who use hand gestures while doing math are three times more likely to remember what they've learned.

"We've known for a while that we use gestures to add information to a
conversation even when we're not entirely clear how that information relates
to what we're saying," says Susan Wagner Cook, lead author and postdoctoral
fellow at the University. "We asked if the reverse could be true; if
actively employing gestures when learning helps retain new information."

It turned out to have a more dramatic effect than Cook expected. In her
study, 90 percent of students who had learned algebraic concepts using gestures
remembered them three weeks later. Only 33 percent of speech-only students who
had learned the concept during instruction later retained the lesson. And
perhaps most astonishing of all, 90 percent of students who had learned by
gesture alone--no speech at all--recalled what they'd been taught.

Cook used a variation on a classic gesturing experiment. When third graders approach a two-sided algebra equation, such as "9+3+6=__+6" on a blackboard, they will likely try to solve it in the simple way they have always approached math
problems. They tend to think in terms of "the equal sign means put the answer
here," rather than thinking that the equal sign divides the problem into two
halves. As a result, children often completely ignore the final "+6."

More Details of LGBT Presidential Forum Released

Intrepid lesbian reporter Karen Ocamb over at The Bilerico Project and Bloggernista have posted interesting details of the recently announced HRC/Logo Presidential forum, which is being marketed as The Visible Vote '08: A Presidential Forum. Former Capital Gang panelist and Time magazine reporter Margaret Carlson and Jonathan Capehart, an openly gay, African American editor at the Washington Post have been named as additional panelists, joining previously announced Oscar winner Melissa Etheridge and HRC Executive Director Joe Solmonese.

Karen has the particularly fascinating detail that the candidates will be appearing sequentially (with no cross-talk between candidates) and that they were allowed to choose their order of appearance with a priority established by the order they confirmed their attendance at the event. Thus the order of appearance will be:
  1. Senator Barack Obama
  2. former Senator John Edwards
  3. Senator Christopher Dodd
  4. Congressmember Dennis Kucinich
  5. former Senator Mike Gravel
  6. Governor Bill Richardson
  7. Senator Hillary Clinton

Apparently Senator Joe Biden has a scheduling conflict. Note that this is not a presidential debate, because all the Democratic contenders have made an agreement with the Democratic National Committee to only appear in a certain number of debates in 2007, and that Visible Vote '08 was not on that list when the agreement was made back in the Spring.

Bloggernista apparently agrees with Mad Professah that allowing Mike Gravel to participate is waste of time, since he is "nutty as a fruitcake." However, Bloggernista also posts useful links to submit your question for the candidates as well as the link to watch the forum live online on August 6 at 6pm PDT/9pm EDT.

Mad Professah submitted the following "question":

List three accomplishments the LGBT community can expect you to achieve in
the first 100 days of your Presidency which would tangibly benefit the LGBT
community, for example, appointing an openly LGBT member of your cabinet,
issuing an executive order prohibiting discrimination in federal employment on
the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and fully funding the Ryan
White Care Act.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Bush Hits 25% Approval, 71% Disapproval

The American Research Group has their latest polling results on President Bush's approval rating and the news is not good for "The Decider."

Month Approval Disapproval Undecided
Jul 2007 25% 71% 4%
Jun 2007 27% 67% 6%
May 2007 31% 64% 5%
Apr 2007 33% 62% 5%
Mar 2007 32% 63% 5%
Feb 2007 39% 56% 5%
Jan 2007 34% 62% 4%

Serena Williams With No Clothes On

Some one pointed this image out to me and thought I would share with my readers... (Source: bossip)

Monday, July 23, 2007

Research Paper Presents Serosorting As More Dangerous

As Gabriel Rotello and Andrew Sullivan debate whether "AIDS is over" in an ongoing online hissy fit of battling blog posts, Mad Professah came across the results of a study which bolsters Rotello's argument that "sero-sorting" (the practice of sorting your sexual partners by HIV status and then having unprotected sex with people of the same status) is actually more dangerous than not. An article in the May 31, 2007 edition AIDS by D.M. Butler entitled "Serosorting can potentially increase HIV transmissions" used a mathematical model to numerically estimate the risks of HIV transmission due to serosorting between men of differing HIV statuses having unprotected sex.

The model for ‘HIV-negative’ individuals took into account the transmission risks involved at different stages of HIV infection. Unsurprisingly, the investigators calculated that the transmission risk per 10,000 for individuals who were actually HIV-negative was zero. For individuals who believed themselves to be HIV-negative, but who had chronic, asymptomatic HIV infection, the transmission risk was calculated as seven in 10,000. This risk increased for individuals thinking themselves HIV-negative, but with advanced HIV infection to 36 in 10,000. The highest transmission risk of all was for ‘HIV-negative’ individuals with acute HIV infection who had a transmission risk of 82 in 10,000.

The investigators then modelled the risk of HIV transmission from individuals who knew they were HIV-positive and disclosed this status. They calculated that asymptomatic individuals not taking antiretroviral treatment had a transmission risk of 7 per 10,000. This risk fell to 1 per 10,000 for individuals taking stable and effective antiretroviral therapy. However, for individuals with advanced HIV disease with risk was 36 per 10,000.

“During the period of recent HIV infection, individuals typically have a much higher viral burden than they do for most of the time they are infected”, write the investigators. They add, “as the proportion of recently infected potential sex partners in the population increases, the effectiveness of disclosure for preventing HIV transmission by serosorting decreases.”


Our conservative calculations show that serosorting based on disclosure is not likely to be an effective prevention strategy when the prevalence of recently infected ‘HIV-negative’ disclosers comprises approximately 4% of the potential sex partner population. This is a realistic calculation based on current data.” They add that given the prevalence of undiagnosed acute HIV infection, “HIV-uninfected individuals who try to serosort may be more likely to become HIV infected than if they had not tried to serosort in the first place.”

REVIEW: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

My copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was on the stoop whenthe other half woke up late Saturday morning (Mad Professah was up early in order to atend an all day board meeting for Center for Health Justice) but I didn't start reading the seventh and final book in the best-selling Harry Potter series until late Saturday evening.

In order to prepare for this important event I saw the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix movie (read review) last weekend and re-read the sixth book in the series, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, this week.

Although I saw that the New York Times reviewed the seventh book two days before it was publicly released at 12:01 am on Saturday morning (Friday night) it wasn't until I saw the headline of the Los Angeles Times review "Harry Potter comes to a magical end" that I really started to worry that J.K. Rowling would really have the audacity to kill off her main character.

I don't want to ruin it for people who have not read the book yet but I will say that readers will be both pleased and saddened by the ending, and the book will make a heckuva movie! The reader will be impressed by the intricate plotting of the seventh book which ties together threads and clues which have been sprinkled throughout the first six books. Rowling's characterization of the relationship between the three friends Harry, Hermione and Ron is complex and compelling. For the first time, Rowling does not have the structure of the Hogwarts school year around which to mould her story, but in my opinion there is no diminution of emotional connection with the characters. The only slightly iff-tune aspect of the book is the monotonous portrayal of the Harry's adoptive (and abusive) Muggle family, the Dursleys. The political implications of the book, first initiated in Order of the Phoenix are continued in Deathly Hallows, and intensified to momentous effect.

It is true that at least two major characters are killed off in the Deathly Hallows, as well as all questions about the nature of Severus Snape and Album Dumbledore are answered. This and other aspects of this suspenseful conclusion to one of the great master works of modern popular fiction make the Deathly Hallows the best book in the series and a thoroughly enjoyable experience.


Friday, July 20, 2007

CNN Indicates "Bush Resigns"

David Ehrenstein has posted this excellent screen shot from CNN at his Fablog indicating "Bush Resigns" on the day that Tony Blair resigned as Prime Minister of Great Britain.

HIV+ U.S. Soldier Charged With Assault With Deadly Weapon

Joe My God alerted me to this curious story of an HIV+ soldier who was essentially arrested for having unprotected sex with a 17-year old male in North Carolina. Pfc. Johnny Lamar Dalton, a 25-year-old assigned to the 22nd Aviation Support Battalion which is part of the 82nd Airborne, was arrested last week and is being held on a $50,000 bond. There are at least two interesting aspects of this case which are revealed in the details of various media reports. One, the fact that Dalton's military superiors knew of his HIV status and made the soldier sign a contract agreeing not to have unprotected sex with any other individuals last November. In addition, the military did not immediately begin "separation" (discharge) proceedings when they discovered Dalton's HIV status. Third, North Carolina apparently still has a law enforcing a "crime against nature" as well as public health laws which "mandate certain control measures for HIV+ people."

[Maj. Tom Earnhardt, an 82nd Airborne spokesperson] said soldiers in the 82nd Airborne take an annual HIV test. He told The Associated Press that Dalton was ordered by his commander in November not to have unprotected sex after a test showed Dalton was HIV-positive. State law also prohibits a person infected with HIV from having sex unless condoms are used and requires that sexual partners be notified.


Assault with a deadly weapon is a Class misdemeanor and can carry a maximum penalty of 60 days in jail. Crime against nature is the only felony charge Dalton is facing, which for a first-time offender could mean a maximum of eight months in prison.

Carolyn McAllaster, a Duke law professor and director of the AIDS Legal Assistance Clinic, said she had never seen an HIV transmission case with the crime against nature charge.

The military's "don't ask, don't tell" rule allows gays to serve if they keep their sexual orientation private and do not engage in homosexual acts. The law prohibits commanders from asking about a person's sex life and requires discharge of those who openly acknowledge they are gay.
So, military policy requires discharge of those who are gay but NOT of those who are HIV+? I'm speculating this may be because of federal provisions against discrimination on the basis of disability, while there are no legal protections (that apply to the military anyway) that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Prince Gives Away 3 Million Copies Of Latest CD

Prince gave away 3 million copies of his latest album, Planet Earth, last Sunday with the Sunday edition of the British newspaper The Mail on Sunday. Representatives of the music industry are not pleased: "The Artist formerly known as Prince should know that with behaviour like this he will soon be the Artist Formerly Available in Record Stores," said Paul Quirk, co-chairman of the Entertainment Retailers Association.

However, Time magazine calls it a briliant move.
In a world where free usually means worthless, many in the industry can't stomach the idea that one day consumers could pick up the new Eminem album with every packet of M&M's. But one man's freebie is another man's fortune. Prince was reportedly paid $500,000 over and above the royalties for each CD — typically around 10%. Considering that his last album, 3121, sold only 80,000 copies in the U.K., this deal may have earned him more than eight times as much. Plus, Planet Earth — which has gotten fairly good reviews so far — is now in the hands of thousands of people who may never have thought to buy it. Maybe they like what they hear ... and maybe they want more. They'll have to settle for buying up his back catalog, because the 21 shows he's playing in London in August and September are already sold out. Naturally, he's giving away a copy of the album with every ticket (a trick he pulled with Musicology back in 2004).

For its part, the Mail on Sunday printed, and sold, an extra 600,000 copies in addition to the 2.3 million they usually sell every week. Advertisers find it hard to resist those kinds of sums. And according to managing director Stephen Miron, his office has been flooded with calls from other artists wanting in on the action (as for who, he won't tell). "They are saying they think this is a much more effective and efficient way of building up their business."

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Democrats Likely To Win Presidency If Bush Remains Unpopular

Today's Los Angeles Times has an op-ed by political reporter Ronald Brownstein ("Bush the Albatross") which repeats an argument Mad Professah has been echoing since last November: The Democrats have the upper hand in winning back the White House in 2008 due to the unpopularity of the current Republican president in particular and of Republicans in general. Happily, in his well-written (excellent topic sentences!) column Mr. Brownstein uses actual polling data and historical analysis of presidential results to bolster his claim:
Bush won't be on the ballot in 2008, of course, but throughout American history, outgoing presidents have cast a long shadow over the campaign to succeed them. And when a departing president has been as unpopular as Bush is now, his party has usually lost the White House in the next election.


In the elections to replace departing presidents, weakness seems more contagious than strength. Outgoing presidents with a high job approval rating haven't always succeeded in passing on the White House to their chosen candidates. Ronald Reagan did in 1988, but, in two nail-biting contests, Dwight Eisenhower in 1960 and Bill Clinton in 2000 could not. [Though MadProfessah and others would argue that Gore did win the presidential election in 2000, but did not get inaugurated.]


Voters dissatisfied with a departing president typically want change. And they usually believe the opposition party will deliver more change than the president's. The most recent elections to replace retiring two-term presidents — Reagan in 1988 and Clinton in 2000 — help us quantify that instinct. In each case, media exit polls found that the same share — 88% — of voters who disapproved of the retiring president's job performance voted against his party's nominee, George H. W. Bush in 1988 and Al Gore in 2000. By contrast, about four-fifths of voters who approved of the outgoing president's performance voted for his party's nominee each time.

Those are ominous numbers for Republicans today. On the day of the election to succeed them, both Reagan and Clinton enjoyed approval ratings just over 55%, with about 40% of voters disapproving. In last week's Gallup/USA Today poll, Bush's approval rating stood at just 29%, with 66% disapproving. If voters divide as they did in 1988 and 2000, and Bush's ratings do not improve, that would translate into a 2008 Democratic landslide. That's why Emory University political scientist Alan Abramowitz says flatly, "There is no way any Republican can win the presidential election next year if Bush's approval rating remains anywhere near where it is now."

REVIEW: Azeen's Afghani Restaurant (Pasadena, CA)

Recently I had lunch at Azeen's Afghani Restaurant in Pasadena, CA. Pictured above is an excellent dish called mantu (Steamed dumplings filled with chopped beef, onions and herbs topped with yogurt and sautéed Mixed vegetables, $4). My lunch companion ordered pakawra-e-badenjan (Batter dipped, sautéed slices of eggplant topped with yogurt and meat sauce, $4). I don't even like eggplant, and I thought this was very tasty. These were both appetizers. For our entrees we ordered the chicken and lamb kabobs, which came with pallaw, an interesting seasoned rice (the rice is cooked in the juices and gravy of the meat, so arrives infused with flavor) and Afghani bread which was described as a cross between Indian naan and Italian focaccia. It was served with a very interesting spicy/minty green chutney. The bread had a look of corrugated cardboard and the texture of somewhat dry toast. To be honest, I enjoyed the appetizers more than the entrees (cooked meat on skewers is nothing new). The pallaw was a dry shadow of the Caribbean pelau, which is a similar gravy-infused wet rice dish (reminiscent of risotto or paella). The meals were served with delightfully refreshing Afghan iced tea with cardamom. Afghani cuisine appears to be an interesting hybrid of sources from India, Persia and the Middle East.

I definitely intend to return to Azeen's in the near future, for some more mantu, and to sample the rest of their interesting appetizer menu.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

TerranceDC's Amazing Post On Hate Crimes

Run, DO NOT WALK, over to Pam's House Blend or Republic of T to see TerranceDC's latest round up on hate crimes raising awareness of the federal hate crimes bill, S. 1105, currently pending before the United States Senate.

The post is lengthy, well-written and powerful. Read it now!

Democrats Lead Money Race

Bloggernista yesterday posted a summary of the actual cash on hand available to Democratic presidential candidates:
Barack Obama - $34 million
Hillary Clinton - $33 million
John Edwards - $12 million
Bill Richardson - $7 million
Chris Dodd - $6.4 million
The Los Angeles Times published an article today outlining that the Democratic campaign committees are also raising more money than their Republican counterparts.
In the first six months, the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee reported raising $31.2 million; its GOP counterpart garnered about half that — $15.7 million.
On the House side of the ledger, the Democratic campaign committees reported raising about $36 million from Jan. 1 through June 30.

The comparable GOP group has not yet released a final figure, but it is expected to lag the Democrats. The gap, however, may not be as pronounced as it is for the Senate campaign committees.

Oh, I wish it were 2008 already! Or January 21, 2009.

L.A. Times Covers Plight Of Same-Sex Binational Couples

Monday's Los Angeles Times carried an article by Teresa Watanabe in the California section entitled "Line in sand for same-sex couples" which documents the plight of same-sex binational couples who are negatively impacted by the lack of a provision in U.S. immigration law for a citizen or permanent resident to sponsor a same-sex partner to remain legally in this country. The tag line for the article below the main headline is "Unlike a heterosexual spouse, a gay U.S. citizen cannot sponsor his or her noncitizen partner for a green card."

About 36,000 same-sex binational couples were recorded in the 2000 census, although researchers believe that figure could be undercounted by anywhere from 10% to 50%, according to an 2004 Urban Institute analysis conducted for Immigration Equality, a New York-based advocacy group for gays and lesbians.

The analysis by Gary J. Gates, now at UCLA's Williams Institute, showed that nearly one-third of the couples live in California, and that Mexico was the home country for the largest number of foreign partners, followed by Canada.

Same-sex binational couples say the legal restrictions cause them financial and emotional devastation. Some couples endure long-distance relationships, spending thousands of dollars on flights, phone calls and legal advice on how to obtain visas to reunite.

The problems don't end for those lucky enough to obtain a visa, however. Visas expire, and then what? Some foreign partners go underground and live in the United States illegally. Those who refuse to do so face a wrenching choice: Break up or leave the country.

The article has some important background information about the history and current state of the fight for LGBT immigration rights:

The battle over immigration rights for gays and lesbians has been fought in Congress and the courts for more than four decades. U.S. immigration law banned the entry of gays and lesbians in 1952, amid the Red Scare that linked homosexuals with Communists as subversive, according to a report on the same-sex immigration issue last year by Human Rights Watch and Immigration Equality.

The ban was repealed in 1990. But HIV-positive gays and lesbians are still barred from entry.

To turn the political tide, gay and lesbian activists and their friends have turned to lobbying, networking and greater public outreach on the issue.

The biggest push is in support of federal legislation by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-New York) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) to allow Americans in a same-sex relationship to sponsor their "permanent partners" for legal residency in the United States. The Uniting American Families Act, which was first introduced in 2000, would require that applicants be adults in "committed, intimate relationships" who intend a lifelong commitment to one another.

According to Nadler's office, at least 16 other countries grant immigration benefits to same-sex couples, including Australia, Canada, Germany, Israel, South Africa, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

In California, the San Francisco-based Out4Immigration advocacy group has focused on local advocacy. In 2004, the California Assembly and Los Angeles City Council passed a resolution supporting immigration benefits for same-sex binational couples.

This is quite a coup by the Out4Immigration group, which I guess is a rivial to the group Immigration Equality that Mad Professah was involved in founding in the mid-1990s.

$660 million for L.A. Catholic sex crimes

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles agreed Monday to a further payment of 660,000,000 dollars to settle lawsuits by 508 individuals who alleged they had been sexually abused by Catholic priests. Previously the Church had paid out $114 million to settle 86 abuse claims. Amazingly, the Church has absorbed this bill without impacting it's central activities:
In the $660 million Los Angeles deal -- easily the largest payout yet in the crisis -- Cardinal Roger Mahony said the settlement will not have an impact on local ministries. He said he won't sell parish properties or schools to cover the cost, but the archdiocese will have to sell buildings, use some of its invested funds and borrow money.

The Los Angeles archdiocese will pay $250 million, insurers will pay $227 million and religious orders will chip in $60 million. The remaining $123 million will come from litigation with religious orders that chose not to participate in the deal, which a California judge approved Monday.

Monday, July 16, 2007

REVIEW: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Mad Professah saw the new Harry Potter movie, the fifth one in the series, called Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, on Thursday at the Edwards Renaissance Theaters in Alhambra. The screening was packed so I'm not surprised to see that the movie mad $140 million dollars in its first 5 days of release, with an opening weekend gross of nearly $77 million. Nikki Finke over at Deadline Holllywood Daily had predicted a big debut early in the week. "Never bet against Harry" she said, and Mad Professah agrees.

But how is the movie? Actually I think it's easily the most entertaining movie made of the J.K. Rowling books. The users (86%) and critics (76%) at rottentmatoes.com agree with me. It's very clear now that these are not "kid's books" just as the movies are not "kid's movies." The actors portraying the 15-year old main characters in the books of Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), his best friends Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and know-it-all Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) are 17, 18 and 17 respectively. The lead actor has appeared nude on the London stage, and those picture are widely available on the Internet.

The adaptation (by Michael Goldenberg, Contact) of the novel does an excellent job of not including any extraneous of superfluous plot threads. The main thrust of the narrative energy is bestowed to the idea of a political rift in the Ministry of Magic and the wizarding populace at large about whether it is true that He Who Shall Not Be Named (Lord Voldemort, chillingly actualized by un almost unrecognizable Ralph Fiennes) has returned. At the end of the fourth book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,the reader and Harry have no doubt that Voldemort has returned because he kills the most popular boy at Hogwarts School for Wizards and Witches, Cedric Diggory at the culmination of the quadrennial Tri-Wizard Tournament. Unfortunately since Harry was the only person who witnessed Voldemort's murder of his friend and he has no physical evidence to substantiate his story the Ministry mounts a campaign to maintain order among the Wizarding community by denouncing Harry and denying The Dark Lord's return.

In the meantime, Harry has become a real life teen-ager with a requited crush on Cho Chang and typical teenage angst about his place in the world, which is made worse by his family situation, since he is an orphan and the person who killed his parents and failed to kill him as a child is very much out there and gathering strength to make further attempts to assassinate him. The director, Peter Yates, makes some hard choices to not include fun but distracting story elements like John Cleese's Nearly Headless Nick and Moaning Myrtle. The casting is again impeccable, with Oscar nominee Imelda Staunton as the latest Defense Against The Dark Arts professor, Dolores Jane Umbridge, who is deeply involved in the political machinations at the Minstry of Magic to denounce Harry Potter and Hogwarts' Headmaster, Albus Dumbledore, played with great impact by Michael Gambon. However, even among these great actors and actresses (Dame Maggie Smith, Emma Thompson and Helena Bonham Carter also make appearances) Alan Rickman steals every one of his scenes as the ambiguously sinister Severus Snape. I'm hoping that Dame Judi Dench and Patrick Stewart make an appearance before the Harry Potter series concludes.

In Book 6, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, there are some shocking developments and Rowling has stated that at least two main characters will die in the final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which is released worldwide on Saturday July 21, 2007. It will be interesting to see if film makers can top Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix with the last two books, which are according to IMDb set for release in 2008 and 2010, respectively.


Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Simpsons Movie Is Coming!!

I finally checked out the website for the upcoming Simpsons movie which comes out on July 27th. It's very fun. Mad Professah created his own Simpsons avatar; you can too! If you can't see me in the above picture (I'm in the lower left corner :)), here's a close up (note the color-coordinated outfit!):

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Congratulations to Larkin's Joint!

Apparently Larkin's restaurant in Eagle Rock, serving high-end southern cuisine, has finally officially opened; the Los Angeles Times' main food critic S. Irene Virbila reviewed the joint (relatively favorably) in Thursday's paper. Mad Professah reviewed it over three months ago.
From the Times:

ACROSS from the Eagle Rock Baptist Church, a new soul food restaurant has
opened in a sweet little 1911 bungalow with a wraparound porch. Partners Larkin
Mackey, the chef; Joshua McBride, who runs the front of the house; and sous-chef
Rick Rowan have been working overtime for months to make it all happen, after
long delays. But it's here, and none too soon.

Finally, something that's not Italian or tapas or sushi. Larkin's revels in
Southern cooking with a contemporary spin. The copy on the restaurant's website
goes a bit over the top, hailing Larkin's debut as "a new era in soul food." But
you have to love the partners' enthusiasm.

The fact is, Larkin's cuisine really is something different. That's because
Mackey, who can trace roots back to New Orleans, grew up in Southern California
— a vegetarian. And he weaves the Mexican spices and California accents of his
youth through his tribute to all things Southern.


For those always on the lookout for a good fried chicken, I can say that
Mackey makes a mean one — cooked the way it should be, in a heavy cast-iron
skillet to give it the requisite crunch. It comes with red garlic mashed
potatoes and a little gravy. Jambalaya is nice and spicy. There's corn-battered
and fried catfish too. Southerners, though, may find the fish somewhat lacking
in that tasty funk they expect from catfish. It could be any fish at all under
that batter. And the smothered pork chop comes not only without the bone, it's
enclosed in a pasty gravy. Back to the drafting board on that one.

Most main courses come with sides, but you can order extra, or different
too, including "Aunt Carolyn's potato salad," the creamy old-fashioned kind,
both sweet and spicy, or skillet-sauteed collard greens with tomatoes, hot
pepper and garlic. Sweets include sweet potato pie — how could you not? — as
well as banana pudding, strawberry red velvet shortcake, fruit cobblers and
whatever else strikes the cook's fancy.

I agree the pan-fried chicken is excellent and Larkin's is worth checking out for that alone!

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Algebra Project on PBS Tonight

The public television show Now will be airing a segment tonight on The Algebra Project, a non-profit group who is trying to improve the teaching of elementary and high school algebra in low-income and minority schools throughout America. Mad Professah met the founder of the group, Bob Moses, at a Math and Social Justice conference in Brooklyn, NY this past April.

Celebrity Friday: Shemar Moore Nude on Gay Beach

Towleroad alerted me yesterday to the existence of nude pictures of hottie Shemar Moore who has appeared on numerous television shows (Criminal Minds, Moesha, Birds of Prey) and worked as afashion model:

Anyway, if you wipe that drool off your face long enough, listen to this. The beach that Shemar was frollicking in the buff was apparently a well-known gay beach in Hawaii. Shemar is 37 years old and unmarried. His mom is white (Dutch) and his dad is African American. He learned to speak Dutch before English and has reportedly dated Halle Berry and Toni Braxton. (Source: IMDb)

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Wimbledon 2007: 5 Most Memorable Matches

Now that Wimbledon 2007 is history, I want to follow in the footsteps of Mary Carillo and John McEnroe and provide a list of Mad Professah's Most Memorable Moments at Wimbledon 2007 (with apologies to On The Baseline news):

1. R. Federer SUI (1) d. R. Nadal ESP (2), 7-6(7) 4-6 7-6(3) 2-6 6-2, Final.

Regardless of who won this match, history would be made in that something would have been done for the first time since 1980: Either Federer would be the first person since Bjorn Borg to win 5 consecutive Wimbledon titles or Nadal would be the first to win the French Open and Wimbledon double in the same year.

This match is the most memorable of the tournament for me because of the closeness of the match with the stakes so high. In addition, both Federer and Nadal both played well, with Nadal arguably playing better in the first three sets but unfortunately losing two of the three in tiebreakers, mostly thanks to Federer's more effective serve (24 aces and 38 unreturnables).

It was clear to me (and probably most people who watched the match) that Nadal can win this tournament, that he does have the game which can defeat Federer on just about any surface and that he probably will defeat Federer at a Grand Slam other than Roland Garros, sooner rather than later.

2. V. Williams USA (23) d. M. Sharapova RUS (2), 6-1 6-3, 4th Round.

To me this was an even more memorable match than Venus' win over Marion Bartoli in the final for her fourth Wimbledon title a few days later, because just a few days before she had been staring defeat in the face at the hands of Akiko Morigami when the Japanese player served for the match at 5-3 in the third set. By winning the last four games of that match, Venus was able to set up a rematch with the reigning U.S. Open champion and current World #2 who had beaten her in a heartbreakingly close match ni Miami earlier this year. She made ample use of the opportunity, turning her game around and for the first time in the tournament (and possibly the year) she played a match with more winners than errors (22 to 14). Sharapova for the third time this year had absolutely no chance against a Williams sister. This time she only lost 6-3, 6-1. But by showing that she could easily dispatch Sharapova, Venus sent the signal that other high ranked players, #5 Svetlana Kuznetsova and #6 Ana Ivanovic and possibly even #1 Justine Henin would have fared no differently.

3. S. Williams USA (7) d. D. Hantuchova SVK (10), 6-2 6-7(2) 6-2, 4th Round.

The most dramatic moment of the tournament occurred during this unsurprising matchup between the hard-hitting Slovak Daniela Hantuchova and the most powerful female player on the planet after Serena was cruising along at 6-1, 5-5, 15-15 when suddenly she experienced a massive cramp in her left calf muscle which caused her to collapse to the ground.

Despite what Serena-haters have been saying ("She faked the injury!" "She was over-dramatic! She used gamesmanship!") there's no question in my mind Serena was in extreme pain. It took incredible guts to play on despite very limited mobility and force a tiebreaker until the rains came down and granted a 2-hour reprieve which she could use to regroup. In the third set, despite injuring herself again (which no-one saw!) she was still able to overpower a rather good grasscourt opponent.

4. N. Djokovic SRB (4) d. M. Baghdatis CYP (10), 7-6(4) 7-6(9) 6-7(3) 4-6 7-5, Quarterfinal.

To me this was the best men's match of the fortnight. A five-hour classic of high quality tennis from two extremely talented and emotive combatants. The 20-year-old Serbian phenom, the heir apparent to Federer and Nadal who is currently the third best player in the world versus the flashy Cypriot shotmaker who is two years older and has already been two Grand Slam semifinals and a Grand Slam final and is attempting to return to the top of the game after the emotional rollercoaster such early heady success landed him on.n In the end Baghdatis had more winners 74 to 58 but also more errors, 60 to 50, than Djokovic who had 17 breakpoints to Baghdatis' 8 but they both converted just 5 times. At 4-4 in the final set, the total number of points won was tied, but the Serbian ended up winning 7 more, and thus the match.

5. M. Bartoli FRA (18) d. J. Henin BEL (1), 1-6 7-5 6-1, Semifinal.

The upset of the year, and possibly the decade. The completely unheralded French player, who is shunned by the French Tennis Federation and managed and coached by her father in a completely unorthodox manner, knocked out the World's #1 player, after previously beating the World's #3 player two rounds before--both times coming back from a set and break down! Bartoli plays with two hands on both sides and takes the ball early. She's also a tenacious fighter which compensates for her less than stellar fitness, although she is faster around the court than she looks thanks to heightened "ball awareness." Henin had been even-odds or better to win her first grass court championship, especially after the defending champion Mauresmo was dismissed in the 4th round, but Bartoli was a 100-to-1 shot. Absolutely no one thought that after Henin had won the first set easily at 6-1, and come back in the second set to lead 4-3 that she would lose the match but Bartoli won 10 of the last twelve games from that point. An incredible win and a devastating loss for the Belgian.

UPDATE 07/11/2007
has added pictures to the version of this article I posted to his Tennis Blog, which also includes bonus "honorable mentions."

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Controversial HIV Testing Bill Faces Crucial State Senate Hearing Today

Today Mad Professah will be in lovely Sacramento, CA attending a hearing by the California State Senate Health Committee chaired by out lesbian State Senator Sheila J. Kuehl which will be considering AB 682 (Berg), a controversial bill to drastically alter procedures for conducting HIV tests in the state of California.

Previously I blogged about the bill when a story about the battle to amend the bill hit the pages of the local LGBT media and discussed the ongoing battle of state legislatures to implement the U.S. Center for Disease Control's misguided revised recommendations on HIV testing the federal agency issued in September 2006.

The issue pits large AIDS service organizations like AIDS Project Los Angeles, AIDS Healthcare Foundation and the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Services Center against groups staunchly protective of civil rights (like the American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal, etc) and smaller AIDS organizations like Being Alive Los Angeles, HIV/AIDS Legal Services Alliance and Center for Health Justice. The groups in the first camp think that an "HIV test should be just like a cholesterol test" and that "all mental barriers to HIV testing should be removed" while the groups in the second camp think that in no way does society or the law treat being HIV positive like having high cholesterol and that there is a long-standing constitutional doctrine enshrined in California jurisprudence called "informed consent" which this bill attempts to nullify. It is clear that AB 682 goes much further than Illinois' recently enacted law would go in modifying HIV testing protocols and does not conform with the CDC's recommendations themselves which stimulated the legislative activity or with the 15 guiding principles of HIV testing announced by a wide coalition of groups on national HIV Testing day as recently as 2 weeks ago.

Mad Professah will be attending the hearing representing Being Alive Los Angeles. We're asking that the bill be amended so that whenever a person conducts an HIV test they have to make a notation in the medical chart that the person consented to the test and the consent was informed consent (which can be done through the distribution of an information sheet about the HIV test); that protections against using HIV tests to discriminate in the provision of medical services be strengthened; that the effect of AB 682 be studied to see if it increases the percentage of people who take HIV tests and that people who test HIV-positive have their results told in person and not through any telephonic or electronic medium and are immediately counselled and linked to treatment and care. The current version of AB 682 eliminates the current state requirement for both pre- and post-test counselling when conducting HIV tests.

I'll try and report back later on today to let you know how it goes. It should be interesting to see the public health policy of the state of California determined rihgt before my eyes...

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

HRC and LOGO TV Partner To Air Presidential Forum on LGBT Issues

The LGBT blogosphere (Pam's House Blend, Bloggernista, Joe.My.God, Towleroad, etc) is buzzing about the news reports that the Human Rights Campaign and Viacom's LGBT cable channel Logo are joining forces to put together and broadcast a presidential forum specifically devoted to LGBT issues. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Christopher Dodd have all confirmed their attendance.

In light of the recent stories circulating about his use of the Spanish pejorative maricón (faggot), Mad Professah would not be surprised to see Vice President-wannabe Bill Richardson also attend the event also.

Hopefully, since it will be taped in Studio City, CA on August 8 at HD Vision Studios (according to Pride Depot) maybe MadProfessah can wangle an invite! Stay tuned!

Electronic Line Calling Defended

Electronic line calling is being defended by it's creator in today's Times of London

In the third game of the fourth set, with Roger Federer a break down and
serving at 30-30, he did not play at a ball near the baseline. He thought that
it was out, the line judge thought it was out, the umpire thought it was out and
a BBC freeze frame seemed to confirm this, too.


Hawkins said that the ball had landed in by 1mm. He claimed that the naked
eye was deceived because of the way a tennis ball compresses and skids on

“The ball will be in contact with the ground for about 10cm,” he said.
“In the very first impact, it will compress so that the bottom half is flat.
Then it will start to roll and skid and uncompress. The freeze frame the BBC
used showed the ball about 7cm after it touched the ground.” He said tests had
showed that his technology was accurate to within 3mm. “The ball was definitely
in,” he added.

Hmmmm, how do you know the call was in by 1mm if the error is +/- 3mm? Any engineer knows that if the result is within yuor margin of error you really can't make the call. The ball might have been 2mm out. But, regardless I doubt that Federer or the umpire could distinguish that difference.

What The War in Iraq Costs

Think Progress has some metrics of war
Bloomberg notes, “Four thousand U.S. service members have
died in U.S. President George W. Bush’s ‘war on terror’
in Iraq and
Afghanistan 5 1/2 years after American forces ousted the Taliban in December
2001.” AP adds, “All told, Congress has appropriated
$610 billion
in war-related money since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror assaults,
roughly the same as the war in Vietnam. Iraq alone has cost $450 billion.” The
wars cost approximately $12 billion a month, according to a new Congressional
Research Service report.

Monday, July 09, 2007

REVIEW: Live Free Or Die Hard

The first Die Hard (1988) movie by director John McTiernan is one of the great action movies of all time. The latest installment, the fourth in the series is called Live Free or Die Hard and stars Bruce Willis as John McLane, divorced New York City cop with the estranged family and a Superman complex even more over-developed than Jack from ABC's Lost. This edition Willis' sidekick is played (quite well) by Justin Long, "that guy from the Mac commercials."

What makes (or breaks) the Die Hard movies in the end are their villains. In the past, the villains have been played by veritable scene munchers like Alan Rickman (Die Hard) and Jeremy Irons (Die Hard: With A Vengeance, 1995). The main reason why Die Hard 2 sucked is that the producers didn't spend the money to find a convincing villain. In the third Die Hard we were also treated to the lovely buddy repartee of Bruce Willis and Samule L. Jackson. Plus it takes place in New York City, on location.

Sadly, this time the villain is played by Timothy Olyphant (HBO's Deadwood) who really is just the poor man's Jonathan Rhys Meyers (Match Point, Showtime's The Tudors). If you want a young, slightly British, pretty boy villain I don't think you should settle for someone who can barely communicate a sense of displeasure, to say nothing of malice and violence which are requisite job requirements of any well-reviewed cinematic villain.

Despite this lack, the first 90 minutes of the movie are crackling fun, with well-directed, suspenseful action sequences and a terrorist plot with enough verisimilitude to plausible real-world events to forestall instant dismissal. Unfortunately, the film is 130 minutes long with what seemed like a 30-minute action sequence of Bruce Willis in an 18-wheel truck battling a military fighter jet on a subway overpass inserted for no other reason but to enthrall 12-14 year old boys. Once McClane saves the country again (surprise, surprise!) the film is over for all intents and purposes but it keeps spooling on, like some kind of party guest who refuses to leave even though the party's over and the music has been turned off for a half hour.

"If they had real guts, the producers would have killed him off at the end," my film companion said as we left the theater.

"Yeah," I replied "but then how could they make another one?"




Sunday, July 08, 2007

Wimbledon 2007: Federer Wins 5th Consecutive Title

Roger Federer SUI (1) d. Rafael Nadal ESP (2) 7-6(7), 4-6, 7-6(3), 2-6, 6-2 in 3 hours, 45 minutes to win a 5th consecutive Wimbledon title, his 11th major career title and extend his grass court winning streak to 54 consecutive matches and impriving to 5-8 against the Spanish "King of Clay."

This was Federer's first 5-set match at Wimbledon since his dispatch of his idol Pete Sampras in 2001 and he improved to 10-10 lifetime in 5 set matches. The final was a thrilling, high quality encounter with Federer's 65 winners to 34 errors (+31) outpacing Nadal's 50 winners to 24 errors (+26), with the key statistic being 24 aces (3 double faults) for the Swiss #1 to only 1 ace (2 double faults) to the #2 Spaniard.

In other news, African American phenom Donald Young won the Wimbledon Boys Title by defeating the top seed 7-5, 6-1. Craig Hickman has more details on this important result over at his Tennis Blog.

Gay Star Trek Fan Fiction in LA TIMES

In Saturday's Los Angeles Times the above-the-fold picture and Column One story is about an openly gay Star Trek fan's creative homage to the science fiction television series. Rob Caves is "a diminutive 28-year old" who has created the longest-running series in fan fiction history. Star Trek: Hidden Frontier has been running for seven years and consists of 50 fan-created, free-for-download episodes.

ASK Caves why he started a fan series, why he has kept it going for seven years and why he opens his house to strangers each weekend, and he'll mention that he loves "Star Trek" and he wants to be part of its legacy.


Caves shoots seven episodes a year at $200 per episode, and he has never built an actual set. "Hidden Frontier" may not be the most professional-looking fan series, but in the world of "Star Trek" fan films it is known as the series with the most heart.


The wedding party, dressed in matching white jackets, looked like waiters from a 1940s drama. The guests were a mix of series actors, digital camera-toting fans dressed in "Star Trek" uniforms and a few members of a local Klingon club. The grooms (it was a gay marriage) were hopeless romantic Lt. Corey Astor (played by filmmaker J.T. Tepnapa) and Lt. Nevin. Their love story had been a continuing arc since Season 2, when Caves, who is gay, insisted that there be a gay story line.

(When questions arose about how people in the future will respond to gay relationships, Caves said they will be socially advanced enough that nobody will think twice about it — "Whatever powers your starship," as one of Nevin's friends tells him.)
Being a big science fiction fan myself I had heard about these fan films, especially Star Trek: New Voyages, which has been covered by National Public Radio, but had never seen any episode until today. I was actually reasonably impressed when I watched episode 1 of Season 6 of Star Trek: Hidden Frontier, and I look forward to experiencing the latest episode of New Voyages when it comes out in about a month. The Times article mentions that this fan film costs $40,000 per episode although only one new episode is made per year.

Another interesting aspect of Caves is that he lives and does his filming in South Pasadena, which is literally 2 miles from my house. I was also impressed that the Times allowed Deborah Netburn to include the gay aspect of the story in such a matter-of-fact fashion. Kudos!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

WIMBLEDON 2007: Ladies' Final (and Semifinal) Review

Venus Williams USA (23) d. 6-4, 6-1 Justine Henin BEL (1) Marion Bartoli FRA (18) . In one of the most shocking upsets of the year, and possibly the decade so far, yesterday unheralded Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli came back from down losing the first set 1-6 to defeat 6-time Grand Sam champion and 2-time Wimbledon finalist Justine Henin, the top seed, 1-6, 7-5, 6-1 to reach her first major final. Venus continued her astonishingly consistent and aggressive play to defeat 2007 Roland Garros finalist Ana Ivanovic (who will enter the top 5 in the WTA rankings on Monday) relatively easily 6-2, 6-4 in the other Wimbledon semifinal.

However, on Saturday Venus Williams broke her own record from 2005 by becoming the lowest seeded player (#14 in 2005, #23 in 2007) to win her 4th Wimbledon Ladies' singles title, 50 years after Althea Gibson became the first African American tennis player to win a major title. Williams won her 6th major title over-all and joined the elite players of the game, Martina Navratilova (9), Steffi Graf (7) and Billie Jean King (4) who have won (at least) 4 Wimbledon titles.

Marion Bartoli played well and proved herself a fearsome competitor, with a powerful, unorthodox game (two handed on both sides). She takes the ball very early and finds very difficult angles, a la Monica Seles. However, Venus played better, with 29 winners to Bartoli's 7 (Venus was running down everything). Venus had a mere 12 unforced errors (a very low total for her in 17 games played) to 9 errors for the Frenchwoman. If Venus can play like this on other surfaces, or even again at Wimbledon, there's no reason why she can't catch up to her sister Serena's total of 8 Grand Slam titles (3 Australian, 1 French, 2 Wimbledon, 2 US Opens).

There were some interesting quotes in the Los Angeles Times (formerly Venus' hometown newspaper) article covering the story:
"It has been a long road back," Williams said during the trophy ceremony. "I brought it together here against some of the best players in the world, including Marion."

She lost 22 games in her final four matches, beating 2004 Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova on Wednesday, 2004 U.S. Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova on Thursday and French Open runner-up Ana Ivanovic on Friday.

"She loves the grass," said Williams' boyfriend, pro golfer Hank Kuehne. "And she loves the environment here."

Her father and coach, Richard, said that when his daughter was about 9, she declared she wanted to win Wimbledon more than anyone else.

"I think she can win three more," he said, "and I would be disappointed if she did not."


Williams' resurgence was reminiscent of the run to this year's Australian Open title by her sister Serena, who entered that tournament ranked 81st. Venus expressed gratitude to her sister -- among others -- during the trophy ceremony.

"Serena, she inspires me," Venus said. "The Australian Open champion -- I wanted to be like her."

REVIEW: Ratatouille

The other half and I saw Ratatouille last Friday, the day it came out, primarily because we are fans of Brad Bird, the director of the film, who was also the main creative force behind The Incredibles, my favourite film of 2004. Plus, Pixar's track record at making computer animated films with intelligence and heart, has been impressive and consistent.

Ratatouille is no The Incredibles, but happily, it's not Cars, either. In fact, over at Oliver Willis blog I have been adding my comments on Oliver's rating of Pixar's entire oeuvre, in order of best to worst. I think my list would look something like this:

The Incredibles (2004)
Finding Nemo (2003)
Toy Story (1995)
Ratatouille (2007)
Monsters, Inc. (2001)
Toy Story 2 (1999)
A Bug's Life (1998)
Cars (2006)

What's amazing is that a movie about rat in Paris who wants to be a chef got made at all. One does not usually think these elements would make a compelling animated (which unfortunately is usually a synonym for kid-oriented) film: vermin, food and France! But somehow the film works, despite the lack of highly-paid voice talent and somewhat disjointed pacing. The film is highly creative in its depiction of the mysterious magic of cooking and taste; in fact cooking can really be thought of as a metaphor for any creative artistic endeavor. The plot is a bit silly but the strong points are the villain(s), the animation itself, especially in the more frenetic "swarm of rats" scenes and the character denouement of the food critic.


Friday, July 06, 2007

Celebrity Friday: Jill Scott Gets Divorced And Big Movie Role

You go, girl! One of Mad Professah's favourites, Jill Scott, has been making a lot of news recently. Two weeks ago it was confirmed that she is divorcing Lyzel Willliams, her longtime lover (and husband since 2001), and the inspiration for one of the best songs on her debut album, "He Loves Me (Lyzel in E-Flat)."

Jill's movie career has been heating up as her romantic life has been cooling. She is co-starring with Janet Jackson and Michael Jai White in the Tyler Perry movie Why Did I Get Married. In addition, she has been cast as Precious Ramotswe, the lead role in the new Anthony Minghella (Best Director Oscar winner for The English Patient) movie, The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. This movie is based on the best-selling mystery novel about the first female detective agency in Botswana written by Alexander McCall Smith. The movie also stars Anika Noni Rose (Dreamgirls) and Idris Elba (Transformers, HBO's The Wire). The cast arrived in Botswana on Tuesday for 40 days of shooting on location. The book is the first in a series which highlight contemporary African life in the context of the mystery genre.

Villaraigosa Adultery Hits Media Sweet Spot

The Los Angeles blogosphere (LAist, LA Observed, Intersections, etc) and other local media have been buzzing with the news that recently separated Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has revealed that he is in a relationship with local Telemundo television anchor Mirthala Salinas.

But, wait, there's more! As Kevin Roderick has been revealing, Salinas has been cutting a swath through the top of the Mexican American Princes of Los Angeles politics for quite some time. Prior to dating the current Mayor of Los Angeles, Ms. Salinas was also romantically linked with Speaker of the State Assembly Fabian Nunez in the brief period during which Mr. Nunez was divorced from his wife (whom he later re-married) and Ms. Salinas also dated Los Angeles City Council President Alex Padilla (elected to the State Senate in November 2006).

The whole affair (sic) reaches "truth is stranger than fiction" levels when it was revealed that Salinas, who stopped covering local politics for the television station soon after she started dating the Mayor(!) a few weeks ago actually read the news story of the Mayor's decision to separate from his wife on the Spanish language station where she is an anchor:

(Thanks to Daniel Hernandez of Intersections blog for the screen shot of Mirthala Salinas.)


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