Monday, December 31, 2007

REVIEW: The Golden Compass

The film adaptation of Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials, Volume 1: The Golden Compass (see my earlier review of the books) directed by Chris Weitz is from the same company that brought us the stunning (and excellent) Lord of the Rings films: New Line Entertainment. Mad Professah saw the film on opening day at the Arclight Theaters in Hollywood.

Sadly, the film, starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig is unable to achieve the same level of sheer entertainment or astounding spectacle as Peter Jackson's masterpieces. It's not immediately clear why this is so, because the source materials are arguably equivalently complex and nuanced portrayals of imaginary but fascinating worlds that would enthrall any audience.

However, there are significant differences between Tolkien's books and Pullman's books. Firstly, Tolkien's books have been thrilling kids of all ages for nearly three-quarters of a century while Pullman's books recently were published in their first decade anniversary edition. Secondly, there are important structural differences between the two narratives. His Dark Materials' main character is a pre-pubescent girl who is the subject of an ancient ambiguous prophesy and whose parents are centrally important to the forces of good and evil. The Lord of the Rings is about a seemingly hopeless quest to rid the world of an incredibly powerful but seductive evil by a motley band of acquaintances.

The point is that the narrative structures lead to two very different cinematic storytelling experiences. The Golden Compass stars a newcomer, Dakota Blue Richards, who does an excellent job portraying the fickle, brave Lyra Delacqua who is at the heart of the His Dark Materials trilogy. The Lord of the Rings has an ensemble cast anchored by appearances by stellar veteran actors like Sir Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchett, Viggo Mortensen, Hugo Weaving and Christopher Lee.

Interestingly, another feature that both movies have in common is Sir Ian McKellen, who voices the character of Iorek Byrnison, a talking ice bear in Compass and was nominated for an Oscar for inhabiting the pivotal role of the wizard Gandalf in Rings.

The main contributing factor(s) to the film adaptation of The Golden Compass failing to have the same impact on the audience as the book it is based on or the Lord of the Rings adaptations is the running time of 113 minutes and direction/script of Chris Weitz. Somehow there simply is not enough time in the filmic vision presented by Weitz in his reasonably faithful and creative adaptation of the first book to engage the audience at the same emotional level that Pullman's words on the page are able to produce. I think much of this is from the way in which information is revealed in the film which in the books is only gradually revealed in subtle ways that engages the reader in a much more actively involved way.

That being said, I do hope that New Line goes on to make the two sequels, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass, into films as well. It is doing a bit better at the box-office internationally than it is doing domestically in the U.S.A. which may lead the studio to be able to recoup its initial investment.


Sunday, December 30, 2007

Trip to Northern Italy Jan 1 to Jan 17

Mad Professah and the other half are going to be spending the first two weeks of 2008 in northern Italy. We'll be spending 3 nights in Milan, 8 nights in Turin and 4 nights in Florence.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Parks versus Ridley-Thomas Electoral Smackdown Coming

Councilperson Bernard ParksMark Ridley-Thomas
Bernard ParksMark Ridley-Thomas

The electoral showdown between former LAPD Chief and current Los Angeles Councilperson Bernard Parks and former State Assemblyperson and current State Senator Mark Ridley-Thomas for the 3rd District seat on the 5-member Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors being vacated by retiring Yvonne Brathwaite Burke has political junkies licking their chops.

Ridley-Thomas has received the backing of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, while Parks has received the endorsement of 1st District County Supervisor Gloria Molina.

The five Los Angeles County Supervisors are known as "the five little kings" because each represents nearly 2 million residents and incumbents often faced only token electoral opposition and served for decades. There are now term limits of 3 four-year terms (following passage of a 2002 ballot measure) but no new member has joined the "Supes" since 1996(!)

After Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, 75, decided to retire when her current term expires in 2008 many people were expected to throw their names into the hat to replace her. Former Speaker of the Assembly and current Los Angeles City Councilperson Herb Wesson was the most prominent but decided not to run for the seat in May 2007. Other people who have demurred from running are Congressperson Maxine Waters, Congressperson Diane Watson, Councilperson Jan Perry: a who's who of black politicians in Los Angeles. The 2nd District seat is gerrymandered to have a plurality of African American voters and the 1st District is gerrymandered to have a plurality of Latino voters.

Wanda Sykes on Gay Marriage

Hat tip to High in Chelsea.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Oregon DP Law Enjoined From Going Into Effect January 1

The Oregon Family Fairness Act, a statewide domestic partnership act which was enacted by the Democratic-controlled Oregon Legislature and signed into law by Governor Ted Kulongoski on May 9, 2007 has been prevented from going to effect on Tuesday January 1 by an injunction issued at the behest of heterosexual supremacists at the Alliance Defense Fund in an ongoing dispute about whether enough signatures had been gathered to put a measure on the statewide ballot to repeal the measure. The Oregon Equality Act, a non-discrimination law which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity will go into effect on Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Michael W. Mosman issued the injunction late Friday December 28 and set a hearing date of February 1, 2008.

Polls Show Close Race (on Both Sides)

Taegan Goddard's Political Wire is reporting that there is a Strategic Vision poll (+/- 4.5% margin of error, Dec. 26-27, 2007) which shows a completely deadlocked race in Iowa:

For Democrats, it's Obama at 30%, Clinton at 29% and Edwards at 28%.

For Republicans, it's Huckabee at 29%, Romney at 27%, Thompson at 15%; and McCain at 14%.

In addition, the Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll also shows a statistical dead heat in Iowa on the Democratic side (Clinton 31%, Edwards 25%, Obama 22%) but on the Republican side Huckabee leads with 36%, Romney has 28%, Thompson 10%.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

REVIEW: American Gangster

Saw Ridley Scott's American Gangster starring Oscar winners Denzel Washington (Glory, Training Day) and Russell Crowe (Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind) from a script by Steve Zaillian (Schindler's List) at my favorite second-run theaters in Pasadena (Regency Academy Theaters) this weekend.

Although it is billed as two-star vehicle, it is clearly Denzel's show and he runs away with the film, although I was impressed with Crowe's understatedly effective work. It is unlikely it will bring him his 4th Oscar nomination, although it is likely it will bring Denzel his 6th.

What the most impressive feature of the film to me was Ridley Scott's direction. I was shocked to discover that the creative force behind Alien (1979), Blade Runner (1982), Legend (1985), Thelma & Louise (1991) and Gladiator (2000) has been nominated 3 times (Thelma & Louise, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down) but never won an Oscar or Director's Guild of America Award.

The film is set in the late 1960s and early 1970s in New York City and New Jersey and reproduces this era with amazing precision and verisimilitude. Additionally, the story is pretty complex, recounting the details of how Frank Lucas became the most "dangerous drug dealer in New York City, even bigger than the mafia" in the words of Richie Roberts, the detective who locked him up. However, through clever pacing and non-showy direction, Scott weaves the tale with an ever increasing level of suspense despite the fact the ending is known walking into the theater.

The only caveat to my enthusiasm for the film is its shockingly retrograde depiction of women.
First of all, it is a testosterone-fueled film, with all the central characters depicted by men, from Lucas (Denzel) and Roberts (Russell) as the two main protagonists followed by Denzel's lieutentants played by his brothers and every single cop being male. The female characters are Denzel's wife, Denzel's mother, Russell's estranged wife and Denzel's drug production lieutenant. None of these characters is afforded agency and most of them are depicted one dimensionally. There are several incidental depictions of females as (mainly nude) objects of entertainment for men or as drug-addicted irresponsible caregivers.

Despite this drawback, overall American Gangster is a well-made, suspenseful period crime drama featuring two notable performances from two Oscar-level actors working at the top of their game.


Monday, December 24, 2007

REVIEW: Terroni Restaurant (Hollywood, CA)

Mad Professah visited Terroni Restaurant and took the following pictures:
Carpaccio di Manzo (Raw Beef Sirloin Marinated with Extra Virgin Olive Oil & Lemon Juice with Arugola & Shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano, $11.95)

Funghi Assoluti (Baked Oyster Mushrooms with Parmigiano,Balsamic Vinegar, Extra-Virgin Olive Oil, Garlic & Parsley Served on Arugola, $11.95)

Pappardelle alla Iosa
(Homemade Pappardelle with Homemade Spicy Italian Sausage, Button & Oyster Mushrooms, Peas, Garlic & Extra-Virgin Olive Oil, $15.95)
Fettuccine di Tuccino
(Homemade Fettuccine, Tiger Shrimp, Asparagus,Cherry Tomatoes, Mint, Garlic & Extra-Virgin Olive Oil, $15.95)

Torta Calda al Cioccolato
(Warm Flourless Venchi Dark Chocolate Cake
with White Chocolate Ganache, $7.50)

Exterior Window of Terroni, 7605 Beverly Boulevard (at Curson)

Mad Professah and 3 others ate at Terroni one Wednesday evening. With the slightly too-eager encouragement of our server, we ordered two appetizers (the carpaccio di manzo and the funghi assoluti pictured above, in the top row). The carpaccio was delicately tender but a little too infused with lemon juice to be subtle. More successful was the mushroom appetizer, which was warm, hearty and well-matched with arugula. There were no second bites of that one, while Mad Professah finished off the carpaccio (not unhappily).

I ordered the pappardelle alla iosa on the recommendation of one of my dinner-mates who is a Terroni regular. It was absolutely perfect: al dente thick loops of pappardelle pasta infused with slightly spicy sausage accented (in color and in taste) by sweet, supple green peas and counterbalanced by the tang of shredded parmesan cheese. The portion size was not large but after cleaning my plate I was happy that I still had room for dessert. My fellow diners ordered the fettuccine di tuccino (pictured above, declared "very tasty"), a pizza and another pasta dish (no complaints). Although I ordered the torta calda al cioccolato, all four of us were able to get a taste of the rich dark chocolate cake which was coupled with a weakly sweet white chocolate sauce. Overall, the consensus was that the dessert was good, but nothing to write home about.

The ambiance of the restaurant was lively and well-lit, with attentive service. The owner of the restaurant came by our table and unhurriedly chatted with us for 5-10 minutes, generally decrying restaurant reviews (both positive and negative) and making our all-Black table feel comfortable amongst the relatively monochromatic clientele. Terroni does not take reservations and does not allow substitutions or alterations to its menu items.


'The Wire' Returns On January 6th!

The best show on television, The Wire, is starting it's fifth and final season of 10 episodes on January 6th. (Actually if you have Time Warner Cable you can see the first episode on HBO On Demand starting January 31.)

The Wire has been one of Mad Professah's favorite television shows since discovering the second season by accident. I immediately bought the first season DVDs and devoured the entire 13-episode season in a weekend in order to catch up on the back story as the second season unspooled.

Here is a promo for the 5th Season

In addition to this vieo, the producers have released some cute "prequel" videos prior to the start of the final season, mostly for cultlike fans to enjoy, since if you haven't seen the show before you won't really understand their significance.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Doggie Saturday: Dezmond

Too lazy to blog so I'll throw up this picture of the latest edition to the household: Dezmond.

Friday, December 21, 2007

REVIEW: Enchanted

Saw Enchanted opening weekend at the Highland Theater at Figueroa and Avenue 56th Street in Highland Park. The other half wanted to check out the very close cheap theaters and we love Susan Sarandon so I tagged along.

The trailers for Enchanted were frankly horrific so I went into the theater with pretty low expectations. In fact, we had had no intention to see the movie at all until it started getting glowing reviews at the New York Times (Manohla Dargis), Los Angeles Times (Kenneth Turan) and positive user feedback at

Since then Enchanted has gone on to become a legitimate hit for Disney, grossing upwards of $91 million dollars domestically, sure to surpass the magic $100 million threshold by the end of the year.

The movie stars Amy Adams, Oscar nominee for Best Actress in Junebug two years ago, the very handsome James Marsden (Hairspray) as her prince and Grey's Anatomy's McDreamy himself, Patrick Dempsey as the other contender for her heart.

The story is cute; not as shmaltzy as one would think. The other half liked it more than I did.

I liked it more than Dana Stevens ("There's something rotten about Enchanted") at did, however!

The last act is atrocious, built around Susan Sarandon's evil mother-in-law morphing into an evil, fire-breathing dragon. However, the overall message (filtered through Disney's aggressive cross-promotional efforts of buy, buy, buy!) that people should follow their heart even if that doesn't lead to a fairy tale ending is a surprising one. Yeah, I was pretty surprised when the dragon kills the Princess at the end.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Uruguay and Hungary Enact Civil Unions Laws

Flag of UruguayFlag ofHungary

Blabbeando alerts us to the fact that Uruguay is poised to become the first country in Latin America to enact civil unions for unmarried couples (both same-sex and opposite-sex).

On the same day came the news that Hungary has enacted the Registered Partnership Act, which would allow same-sex couples to have access to many of the rights and responsibilities of marriage in the eastern European country.

Geeks Rejoice! Peter Jackson is doing 'The Hobbit'

Peter Jackson has agreed to be the executive producer of two movies that would act as prequels to the blockbuster, award-winning Lord of the Rings trilogy. As you will recall, the books that the movies were adapted from were written by J.R.R. Tolkien, who years before had written a more juvenile-level fantasy book called The Hobbit which is also set in Middle Earth about 50-70 years (When Frodo's uncle Bilbo Baggins was young) before the events of the Lord of the Rings books. The movies would start shooting in 2009 and be ready for release in 2010 and 2011. Unfortunately, Jackson has so far said that he will not be directing the films because he does not want to make fans wait until his schedule clears. He has already completed is still working on a film adaptation of The Lovely Bones based on Alice Sebold's deeply affecting novel told from the perspective of a raped and murdered child looking down from heaven on her family and assailant and has agreed to make a series of three films on the world-famous Tintin character with and for Steven Spielberg.

Fans of the books and films are already starting to congregate at a site called The Hobbit Blog.
Interestingly, the scuttlebutt is that they are not intending to split The Hobbit into two books but the Oscar-winning team of Fran Walsh, Peter Jackson and Philippa Boyens will create their own story which links the events of the Hobbit and fills in details of events that occur before Lord of the Rings (probably the travels of Aragorn and/or Gandalf).

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

REVIEW: Stephen Baxter's MANIFOLD trilogy

Stephen Baxter's Manifold trilogy is basically a collection of three books with the same characters which tell different (albeit related) stories involving these characters in parallel universes with different time-lines.

After seeing a blurb from Grandmaster of Science Fiction Robert A. Heinlein on the back of one of these books by Steve Baxter I mooched the entire set from last April and read them over the summer.

It's taken me this long to write my reviews of the novels and the delay has not made me kinder towards these books. The first one I read (Manifold: Time) turned out to be the best of the bunch, followed by Manifold: Space with Manifold: Origin picking up the rear. Actually, Manifold: Origin is probably the most gripping of the three, but only for about the first half of the book, and it has a completely unreadable sub-plot. I rated Manifold: Time the highest because it sustains interest for the longest duration, but it is really not the most interesting of the three.

A curious feature of the trilogy is that you can actually read them in any order. Because of the parallel but non-causally related universes each book's plot has the same characters (and even some of the same events) but told from other characters' perspectives.

It was actually pretty difficult to finish all three novels. Unfortunately, Baxter's work shares the same well-known flaw as Heinlein's: an inability to coherently complete an entire book of science fiction. For about two-thirds of a book, Heinlein's works have always been engaging and then they go completely off the deep end (if one actually completes reading the book instead of flinging it from you in disgust.)

Actually, the Los Angeles Times recently weighed on the sensitive issue of Heinlein's legacy by publishing a curious piece entitled "Robert Heinlein's future may be past" on Sunday December 9.

Heinlein, who in life was a divisive figure, has become, in death, a polarizing one and even something of a punch line. "When an emerging science-fiction writer's work earns him comparisons to Robert A. Heinlein," Dave Itzkoff begins a 2006 New York Times review, "should he take them as a compliment?"


Though he became a symbol of all that was backward to the new wavers, some cite him as a major influence. "He was the enemy -- yes," said Samuel R. Delany, a leader of the '60s insurgence who is also black and gay. "But he was the enemy to be bested at his own game. We took his rhetorical tricks, his ways of dramatizing an argument, and then used them to dramatize arguments he would have hated."

Despite a backlash of masculine, hard-science-driven work in the early Reagan era, the new wave effectively won the war when cyberpunk and its variations became the dominant strains over the last few decades.

Sadly, Stephen Baxter's work is reminiscent of Heinlein's -- this is not a compliment.

GRADE A-: Manifold: Time
GRADE B-: Manifold: Origin
GRADE B+: Manifold: Space

Damages & The Wire Gets Some Award Season Love

The F/X television show Damages was one of my favorite guilty pleasures during the summer and early fall. It has recently been renewed for two more seasons and is now starting to be named in the end-of-year award nomination lists.

At the Golden Globes, Damages leads all television series with 4 nominations. It received nods for Best Television Series--Drama, Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series--Drama (Glenn Close), Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made For Television (Rose Byrne) and Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made For Television (Ted Danson).

At the Writers' Guild of America awards, Damages was recognized for Best New Series.

Interestingly, another one of Mad Professah's favorite television shows, The Wire, received two WGA nominations: Best Dramatic Series and Best Episodic Drama (for "Final Grades" the Season 4 finale). The Wire returns to HBO on January 6, 2008. This will be the 5th and final season for the Peabody Award-winning television series.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Pets Become "Family"

The New York Times published an article entitled "Who Invited The Dog?" in which these statistics about pet ownership are given:

More American households have pets than ever — 68.7 million of them in 2006, according to a new survey by the American Veterinary Medical Association, up 12.4 percent from 2001.

Among dog owners, 53.5 percent considered their pets to be members of the family, the survey found. For cats, the number was 49.2 percent.
Of course, the paper of record for all sorts of meaningless factoids is USA Today, which also reported on the results of a survey released by the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Apparently there are 10 million more cats than dogs (81.2 million to 72 million) in the United States there are more American households that have dogs than cats. 59.5% of all households have a pet compared to 35% of households that have children.

Although there more pet cats than dogs, more families actually have dogs. Counting by household, 37.2% are dog owners, compared with 32.4% with cats. But cat owners have more of them: 2.2 per house compared with 1.7 for dogs.


The survey involved 47,842 American households.

Hmmm, well Mad Professah just moved from 1 dog per household to 2 dogs per household.

According to Autumn Sandeen at Pam's House Blend, LGBT families have more pets per household than straight households. Interesting, eh?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Gay Mormon Wins $1m on Survivor: China

Despite losing interest in the show after fan favorite and über-hottie James Clement was voted off the show a few weeks ago MadProfessah still couldn't resist watching the Survivor finale Sunday night. Surprisingly, for the second time ever, an openly gay contestant won the $1 million dollar prize (Richard Hatch, the show first ever winner was also its first openly gay winner). Todd Herzog, a 22-year-old former Southwest Airline steward from Utah and Survivor-fanatic who first started watching the show when he was barely a teenager received 4 votes from the jury to wrest the prize from the more-deserving Amanda Kimmel, a 23-year-old beauty queen from Montana currently living in Los Angeles and the dangerously thin (and needlessly cruel) Courtney Yates, a 23-year-old waitress from New York City. Todd is actually the second openly gay Mormon to be a contest on the show; the other was Rafe Judkins from Survivor: Guatemala who made it to the jury.

Happily, the very handsome and pleasant James (who unfortunately made one of the most boneheaded moves ever in Survivor history which resulted in him being voted out while holding two special talismans that confer immunity if played at the right time) was awarded a $100, 000 prize by Sprint for the most popular Survivor contestant.MadProfessah thinks that the "popularity consolation prize" of $100k is a good addition by the producers to the show. Denise Martin, the mullet-wearing 40-year-old non-lesbian was given a $50, 000 donation by Mark Burnett, the executive producer and creator of Survivor, upon hearing that the $7-an-hour lunch lady had been demoted to a janitor at her elementary school. Denise was the last member of the jury to be decided when Amanda made the fatal decision NOT to renege on her Day 1 alliance with Todd and instead ended up receiving only 1 vote from the jury, even less than the odious Courtney (2 votes) and eventual obnoxious winner, Todd.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Video Preview of 'Lost' Season 4

'Lost' to return Thursday January 31 at 9pm

Season 4 of Lost will return to television with 8 consecutive episodes on Thursdays on ABC at 9pm (Grey's Anatomy's time slot) starting January 31, 2008. It was previously announced that Lost would end in 2010 after 3 seasons of 16 consecutive episodes in 2008, 2009 and 2010 --- but that was before the writers' strike. The producers of 24 have announced they will not start airing the show until they can guarantee that the full season of 24 episodes can be aired in its entirety.

There has not been a new episode of Lost since May 23, 2007.

Friday, December 14, 2007

New Jersey Poised To End Death Penalty and Enact Gay Marriage

Great news from New Jersey! (Obligatory Joisey Joke: "I don't write that very often!") The state Legislature, controlled by Democrats, has passed a bill to abolish the death penalty in the Garden State. Governor Jon Corzine has stated that he intends to sign the bill into law.

Last week Pam's House Blend highlighted the fact that fundies have practically admitted defeat at preventing the legislative enactment of marriage equality in New Jersey.

These are two more examples of why elections matter and what can happen when Democrats control the legislative and executive branches of government.

Florida Heterosexual Supremacists Force Vote To Amend State Constitution

Pam Spaulding alerts her readers that the heterosexual supremacists at Florida4Marriage and Liberty Counsel have apparently qualified a ballot measure to amend the Florida state constitution by adding these words: "Inasmuch as marriage is the legal union of only one man and one woman, no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized."

Happily, Florida has changed its election laws so now a initiative constitutional amendment must get 60% support of voters in November 2008 in order to go into effect.

The main opponents to the measure will be Equality Florida and a straight ally group called Florida Red & Blue.

As Nadine Smith, executive director of EQFL, says:

They picked a fight in Florida in 2008 for one reason - Florida is a must win Presidential battleground. This is yet another cynical attempt to elect the most right wing candidates by ensuring prejudice drive their voters to the polls. That is why this isn't just a battle for Floridians. Everyone reading this has a stake in what happens at the polls in Florida come November.


Polling across the country and in Florida shows that the far right has gone to the well too often and voters are not buying the attempt to demonize gay couples and attack unmarried people.


We can win in Florida. We can defeat this in a battleground state with the whole world watching.


Get your friends, retired relatives, ex-girlfriends, classmates...who live in Florida to sign the Pledge To Vote NO petition.
Invite friends to join the FairnessForAllFamilies Facebook group.
Send a note of encouragement to the students, seniors, staff, phone bankers, canvassers, and all the volunteers working hard to drive a final stake through the heart of these meanspirited political wedge issues that make it harder for our families to protect and care for each other.

Give 'em hell, Nadine!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

This is NOT the next A/X Underwear Model

Andy Towle was one of the judges assisting in selecting the new face (well, body, really) for Armani Exchange A/X Underwear. It is NOT the guy pictured above, whose name is Daniel Lee and was maybe a wee bit too ethnic for the judges? Instead the winner was Ryan Barry, who has an amazing portfolio of pictures shot by West Hollywood-based photog Adam Bouska.

Furutani Wins 55th Assembly District Seat

The political dominoes continue to fall into place after the surprising sudden death of African American Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald and the election of Assemblywoman Laura Richardson to represent the the 37th District of California and serve out the rest of Millender-Macdonald's term. Yesterday, the Labor-backed and EQCA-endorsed candidate Warren Furutani won election to fill Richardson's 55th Assembly District seat and serve out the rest of her term. Both Furutani and Richardson are supporters of equal marriage rights for lesbian and gay men in California. Both the 55th Assembly District and 37th Congressional District are racially diverse districts with significant percentages of Black, Latino, Asian and LGBT registered voters. Furutani is currently a member of the Board of Trustees of the Los Angeles Community College District.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Monday, December 10, 2007

Barack Obama in L.A. Today

Barack Obama is following up his successful barn-storming Iowa, South Carolina and New Hampshire with Oprah Winfrey with an appearance in Los Angeles tonight.


Jamil Mena of Doorman

Mad Professah checked out the 5th Outfest Fusion LGBT People of Color film festival at the Egyptian Theater. Here are my reviews of the short films that I saw (summaries in italics are from the Fusion program). The grades generally refer to the impact the films had on me and reflect only my particular impressions.

THE MATCHMAKER, Dir. Cinzia Puspita Rini, Indonesia (subtitled), 10 min. Things aren't always what they seem when a beautiful woman in a bookstore leads Darren to believe he's about to embark on a romantic journey. This was a pretty cute short where there's a beautiful Asian woman in a bookstore who appears to be conducting an increasingly serious flirtation with a handsome Asian guy she meets in a bookstore. The most unusual aspect of this short was the dialogue; it was a curious melange of English and Indonesian. GRADE: B.

MAKE A WISH, Dir. Cherien Dabis, USA/Palestine (subtitled), 12 min.
A young Palestinian girl will do whatever it takes to buy a birthday cake. The most interesting aspect of this short was the opportunity to get a glimpse of actual life in the West Bank. The story is told simply and compellingly but there is absolutely no LGBT content to the short. The director was present at the screening and although she did she was a person of color she did not mention she was a member of the LGBT community. But, even so, if an LGBT person of color makes a film about a subject completely unrelated to their identity should it be programmed into an LGBT POC film festival? GRADE: B+.

EL PRIMO, Dir. Nick Oceano, 2007, USA. 16 min.
A sheltered teenager visits his tough, older cousin in Laredo, Texas and learns a
lesson about what it means to be a man
. Although quite well-made I had serious intellectual problems with this film. While it is ostensibly about "what it neans to be a man" this is depicted through seriously degrading depictions of women and inclusion of profane and objectifying language that completely took me out of following the story and frankly offended me. I thought this arguably misogynistic film was even less deserving to be included in an LGBT POC film festival than Make A Wish. All the actors were excellent and the film was well-made but the story about a small-town boy who is trapped by heterosexual strictures and assumptions that we have seen MANY times before. GRADE: C-.

KALI MA, Dir. Soman Chainani, 2007, India (subtitled), 15 min.
A suburban Indian mother delivers her own brand of vigilante justice when she finds out her son is being bullied. An aggressively theatrical, disturbing and amusing short film with high production values and two very attractive lead actors in Brendan Bradley and Manish Dayal. Surprisingly effective and very entertaining. GRADE: A-.

PARIAH, Dir. Dee Rees, 2006, USA, 27 min.
A Bronx teen unsuccessfully juggles multiple identities to please her friends and family. An absolutely stunning tour de force. A well-acted, well-directed, compelling depiction of a teen's grappling with gender identity in a contemporary urban environment. Should be required viewing at colleges everywhere. GRADE: A+.

A TWO WOMAN ONE ACT, Dir. Vanessa Libertad Garcia, 2005, USA, 11 min. Two women face the forbidden lust between them in this musical set in the mortuary of a Los Angeles barrio. An attempt at a caliente lesbian dance video is inexpertly directed, marring its effectiveness and overall impact. GRADE: B-.

JUST, Dir. David Maurice Gil, 2007, USA, 10 min.
Two strangers acquaint themselves after meeting each other online and a passionate hook-up, for better (or worse). The strangers were played by actors Keo Woolfood and Edward Gunawan, the latter who also wrote the thought provoking script. Starts off as a simple excursion into eye candy and ends up being quite a serious meditation on the evolving nature of gay male relationships in the Internet age. GRADE: B+/A-.

FIGHTER, Dir. Sharon Barnes, 2007, USA, 11 min.
AJ, a rebellious oil wrestler, uses her prize money to enter herself into an anti-gay Christian conversion program in order to break her girlfriend out of the institution. A disturbingly realistic depiction of life in a heterosexual indoctination camp satirized in the camp classic But, I'm A Cheerlader with two distractingly attractive lead actresses played by Erica Peeples and Monica Raymund. The introductory boxing scene seemed somewhat gratuitous but the work reflects a filmmaker in complete control of her idiom. GRADE: B+.

DOORMAN, Dir. Etienne Kallos, 2006, USA, 18 min.
A deeply closeted Latino doorman of a New York apartment building begins
to emotionally unravel when he is seduced and dumped by a privileged college
. A breathtakingly handsome doorman played by Jamil Mena (pictured above) ackowledges and acts on his attraction to a callow youth played by Stephen Sheffer only to discover the kid is a nonchalant party boy who doesn't really care about him. The story is told effectively without using almost any dialogue. Although problematic at parts (why would such a stunningly handsome Latino guy fall for such an ordinary white guy and particularly why would he have unsafe sex with him in a freight elevator?) the cryptic film leaves an indelible impression on the viewer which lasts long after it is over. GRADE: A-.

SHOOTING GERONIMO, Dir. Kent Monkman, 2007, Canada,11 min.
A Cree twist on the old Western starring Miss Chief Eagle Testickle. An experimental monochrome film depicting the re-imaginination and reversal of Native American-White Man tropes in the Wild West. Definitely not for the faint of heart. GRADE: B.

I’M JIN-YOUNG, Dir. Sung-eun Lee, 2006, Korea, 19 min.
An irrepressible little girl falls in love for the first time. A too-cute little girl is the focal point and narrator of this over-long short film about her mother's infidelity with another woman and the complications this introduces to her rapid rush into puberty and beyond. GRADE: B-.

The DL Chronicles: Boo, Dir. Deondray Gossett & Quincy LeNear, USA, 2007, 40 min. Boo is an ex-convict who can't - much to the frustration of his girlfriend - change his lying and cheating ways as he continues to hook up with various sexual partners. When Boo suffers some sobering consequences to his actions, he's finally forced to take a serious look at his life. The very attractive Oneil Cespedes portrays Boo in a believable way that adds to the effectiveness of the entire piece. The writing is sharp and the direction efficient. There are some qualms in endorsing the depiction of Boo as a Black man who is hypersexualized, cheating on his girl with both men and women as he apparently has no job and mooching off his long-suffering, religiously homophobic mother. However, it's clear that Gossett & LeNear are simply depicting a slice of African American LGBT life, and not every representation can be favorable. GRADE: A-.

The DL Chronicles: Mark, Dir. Deondray Gossett & Quincy LeNear, 2007, USA, 40 min. Mark faces the absurd reality of living on the DL in his own home when he asks his boyfriend to pretend to be his roommate when his cousin comes to stay. The short opens with shots of the stereotypically perfect domestic bliss of Mark (Ulrich Que) and Donte (Colbert Alembert), two handsome gay men living in a tastefully decorated apartment in San Francisco with 2 bedrooms (a bedroom and "office" cum guest bedroom). When a distant cousin named Terrell crashes at his place Mark asks Donte to pretend to be his roomate of three years and starts sleeping in the guest bedroom to hide his sexuality from his relative. Hilarity ensues. Again, Gossett & LeNear do an excellent job of marrying verisimilitude and entertainment leavened with humor and hot guys! GRADE: A.

Unfortunately, I missed the Queer Women of Color shorts program on Saturday December 1 because I was exhausted after tabling at the Community Roundtable that afternoon. I look forward to next year's Fusion!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Campaign To Test 1 Million Angelenos for HIV Announced

Despite the announcement happening on one of my own local public radio stations on the Friday before World AIDS Day, I somehow missed the news story that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa intends to launch a campaign to test 1 million residents of Los Angeles for HIV. Here's a transcript of the reporter by KPCC reporter Brian Watt:

Nurse: What I'm gonna do is swab your gum line on the top and also on the bottom. Okay, so if you can open up.

Brian Watt: In a matter of seconds, a nurse from the non-profit AltaMed health center gave Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa a rapid swab HIV test. The results come back within 20 minutes. By the end of the program in the parking lot of the Ramona Gardens housing project, Villaraigosa could stand under an umbrella and share his results.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa: I'm negative, but what's important is not whether people are negative or positive. What's important is that you take the test.

Watt: L.A. City Council members Jan Perry and Jose Huizar, and Congresswoman Linda Sanchez joined Villaraigosa in an effort to beat back the stigma and fear associated with HIV testing. They cited statistics showing that HIV is on the rise among blacks, Latinos, and Asians.

But the statistic driving this citywide initiative to test a million people is this: A quarter of Angelenos who are HIV positive don't know it.

Dr. Felix Carpillo: And that's why the infection continues to grow, because that pool of individuals are having sex and they don't know that they are passing the disease.

Watt: Dr. Felix Carpillo directs HIV services for AltaMed.

Carpillo: We know that once they know their status, patients tend to really, you know, behave better, and by understanding, they can just protect their partners.

Watt: But the challenge, says Carpillo, is getting people to take the test and find out. He says many are stuck in the past. They think only certain kinds of people get the virus that causes AIDS. And that AIDS is a lethal disease that kills quickly, as it appeared to in the 1980s. But Carpillo says that's changed. Anyone can get AIDS, but it doesn't mean they're gonna die a fast death.

Carpillo: We have options in treatment that can help the patients live a very productive and long life, as much as they were going to live anyway, if they take the medications.

Watt: The initiative in Los Angeles will expand HIV testing at more than 50 hospitals and clinics. The money to do that comes from the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Gilead Sciences, and OraSure, which makes the rapid swab test.

How could this possibly be cost-effective? If each HIV test costs $20 then this campaign will cost at least $20 million, but since at most .5% of the general population you are spending $20 million to identify at most 5,000 HIV+ Los Angeles residents, or a cost of $4,000 per person. This is why most experts say that targeted HIV testing campaigns are more effective and provide more bang for the buck.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Hottest Brazilian of the Year

Run, do not walk, over to Made in Brazil to vote for the Hottest Brazilian of the Year. MadProfessah's pick is Ramirez Allender, pictured above.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Democrats Kill Federal Hate Crimes Bill

The Democratic leadership in Congress quietly killed the Federal Hate Crimes bill yesterday, stripping it from the conference report of the Defense Authorization Bill, Pam's House Blend reports. The Washington Blade broke the story:

The decision kills the hate crimes bill for this year, but House Democrats, led by gay Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), are calling on the Senate to pass a freestanding hate crimes bill as early as February.

Senate Democrats had hoped to pass the Department of Defense authorization bill with the hate crimes measure intact, saying it was the best strategy for discouraging President Bush from vetoing the hate crimes measure, which Bush opposes.

House Democratic leaders, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), supported the Senate strategy, but a block of about 30 liberal Democratic House members threatened to join Republicans in voting against the combined defense-hate crimes bill, saying they could not support legislation advancing the president's Iraq war policies.

Interestingly, Barney Frank was behind this legislative twist in the failure of pro-gay legislation to pass the Congress.
Frank broke publicly this week with many of the nation’s gay advocacy groups by questioning their request that House members back continued funding for the Iraq war in order to support the hate crimes bill.

Frank voiced his concerns over the strategy pushed by Senate Democratic leaders to pass the hate crimes bill as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act as news surfaced late Wednesday that many House Democrats opposed to the Iraq war were prepared to vote against a combined hate crimes/defense bill.


“House Democrats tell me, ‘Of course I support the hate crimes bill, but don’t tell me to vote for the war,’” Frank said.

“They’re saying why are you asking me to vote for the war in order to vote for this,” he said.

Celebrity Friday: Is Jodie OUT now?

AfterEllen is reporting that Jodie Foster may be slowly stepping out of her closet through her recent statement of thanking "my beautiful Cydney" at a recent awards luncheon. She is probably referring to Cydney Bernard, who Foster apparently met on the set of the 1993 film Sommersby and who coincidently happens to have the same middle name as Foster's two sons, Kit Bernard Foster and Charles Bernard Foster. Jodie Foster has won two Best Actress Academy Awards, in 1998 (The Accused) and 1991 (The Silence of the Lambs).

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Iran Executes Gay Man Despite Previous Stay Of Execution

Paula Ettelbrick of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission emailed me yesterday with the news that Iran has gone ahead and executed Makvan Mouloodzadeh, despite previous news reports (repeated by Mad Professah) that his execution had been stayed.
Mr. Mouloodzadeh was a 21-year-old Iranian citizen who was accused of committing anal rape (ighab) with other young boys when he was 13 years old. However, at Mr. Mouloodzadeh's trial, all the witnesses retracted their pre-trial testimonies, claiming to have lied to the authorities under duress. Makvan also told the court that his confession was made under coercion and pleaded not guilty. On June 7, 2007, the Seventh District Criminal Court of Kermanshah in Western Iran found him guilty and sentenced him to death. Despite his lawyer's appeal, the Supreme Court upheld his death sentence on August 1, 2007. The case caused an international uproar, and prompted a letter writing campaign by IGLHRC and similar actions by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Outrage! and Everyone Group.

In response to mounting public pressure, and following a detailed petition submitted to the Iranian Chief Justice by Mr. Mouloodzadeh's lawyer, the Iranian Chief Justice, Ayatollah Seyed Mahmoud Hashemi Shahrudi, nullified the impending death sentence of Mr. Mouloodzadeh. In his November 10, 2007 opinion (1/86/8607), the Iranian Chief Justice described the death sentence to be in violation of Islamic teachings, the religious decrees of high-ranking Shiite clerics, and the law of the land.

In accordance with Iranian legal procedure, Mr. Mouloodzadeh's case was sent to the Special Supervision Bureau of the Iranian Justice Department, a designated group of judges who are responsible for reviewing and ordering retrials of flawed cases flagged by the Iranian Chief Justice. However, in defiance of the Chief Justice, the judges decided to ratify the original court's ruling and ordered the local authorities to carry out the execution.

Mr. Mouloodzadeh's execution came days after a panel at the UN General Assembly passed a resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Black LGBT Film Quiz

Keith Boykin, the partner of Nathan Hale Williams, one of the producers of the new film Dirty Laundry which opens Friday December 7th in New York and Los Angeles, is running a Black LGBT Film Quiz at his website. The rules are that you need to match the Actors with the movies in which they played a Black LGBT character (extra credit is if you can name the character).

The Actors
Pearl Bailey
Lady Chablis
RuPaul Charles
Ossie Davis
Loretta Devine
Rockmond Dunbar
Charles Dutton
Redd Foxx
Whoopi Goldberg
Kadeem Hardison
Hill Harper
Alicia Keys
Queen Latifah
Harry Lennix
Jenifer Lewis
Anthony Mackie
Larry B. Scott
Will Smith
Wesley Snipes
Daniel Sunjata
Chris Tucker
Courtney Vance
Terri J. Vaughn
Michael Warren
Isaiah Washington
Forest Whitaker
The Movies
Blind Faith
Brother To Brother
But I'm a Cheerleader

Dirty Laundry
Get on the Bus
Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil

Norman... Is That You?
Revenge of the Nerds
Set It Off
Six Degrees of Separation
Ski Trip

Smokin' Aces
The Color Purple
The Crying Game
The Fifth Element
To Wong Foo

The movies that Mad Professah has seen are in blue. I intend to see Dirty Laundry on Friday at the Beverly Mann (Theaters inside the Beverly Center mall in West Hollywood).

Local TV Coverage of California's Dirty Tricks Initiative

Saturday's Los Angeles Times carried a story which made it seem likely that the proposed ballot measure to change California's allocation of presidential electoral votes from winner-takes-all (as it is for for more than 520 of the 538 votes up for grabs in 48 of 50 states) to a district-based method is going to fail to qualify for the June 2008 ballot. Dubbed the Dirty Tricks Initiative by actor/activist Bradley Whitford, the measure would probably make it impossible for a Democrat to win the White House in 2008 if it were to be enacted.

Frankly, Mad Professah (and his readers) thinks the measure clearly violates the Federal constitution, since Article 2, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution gives to the Legislatures the right to assign Electors. It is doubtful whether the People of the State of California can change how Electors are allocated by exercising some legislative authority that the State Legislature has ceded them through enactment of the Initiative process, but that will be up for the United States Supreme Court to decide. Bush v. Gore, anyone?

Anyway, the story is starting to get local attention:

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

U.S. Wins Davis Cup

From left to right, Davis Cup team captainPatrick McEnroe, Bob (Mike?) Bryan, Mike (Bob?) Bryan, James Blake and Andy Roddick, the 2007 Davis Cup champions. Tennis blogger Craig Hickman went to Portland, Oregon to view the festivities and has tons of pictures and videos and first hand accounts of hanging out with the team members in the wee hours of the morning after their win on Saturday night.

Boris Kodjoe Guest Stars On Nip/Tuck

Finally got around to watching last week's Nip/Tuck episode "Chaz Darling" which, to my delight, co-starred the excessively pulchritudinous Boris Kodjoe (Soul Food, Love & Basketball, Madea's Family Reunion) as a "successful African American lawyer in Los Angeles" who runs a heterosexual swinger's club where Black men have sex with white suburban housewives while their husbands watch.

It was great to see Boris Kodjoe on television again, he looks as phyne as ever as you can see from the picture above. The storyline was a bit problematic, although the stories about actual swingers' clubs like this have been swirling about the 'net for awhile now. On the show, Sean is freaked out after his girlfriend confides that the thought of Sean watching her getting her brains frakked out by a "Big Black Stud™" like Boris. Sean himself seems oddly titillated by his client's activities (Kodjoe comes in to the plastic surgeon's office with huge scratches down his back reminiscent of the injuries caused after a slave's whipping) although he professes disgust at the entire notion of white couples getting serviced by black men.

In another story line, the also excessively pulchritudinous AnnaLynne McCord attempts to blackmail Christian in providing a free surgery to her BGF (Best Gay Friend) played by former Queer Eye for the Straight Guy Jai Rodriguez, who does a believably fey turn as Eden's stylist.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Anand Loses World Blitz Chess Championship in Last Round

Viswanathan Anand of India lost in the final round to Vassily Ivanchuk of Ukraine at the World Blitz Chess Championship in Moscow, Russia about two weeks ago. Anand had readched the position above and was in a clearly winning position with two pawns up; all he had to do was push White's h-pawn to the 7th square to firmly tie down Black's pieces to cement the win. Instead, Vishy moved his knight and eventually blundered into a fork which would cost him a rook, the game and the World Blitz title by 1 point. As Susan Polgar put it on her blog, "you can not create a better ending" although I bet Anand would disagree!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Uruguay To Legalize Same-Sex Civil Unions Soon

Blabbeando reports that Uruguay will become the first South American country to legalize same-sex unions nationwide next month, when the upper legislative house reconciles its previously passed bill with a bill that passed the lower house recently. The law would allow gay and straight couples who have lived together for 5 years to register their union with the state and receive social security, parenting, pension and inheritance rights and protections.

Mad Professah visited the capital of Uruguay, Montevideo, in October 2006 and is very happy to see the country make strides in recognizing gay rights. In Latin America, the cities of Buenos Aires and Mexico City and one State in Brazil also recognize same-sex couples and provide state-mandated benefits to registered partners.


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