Thursday, December 31, 2009

Best (Men's) Tennis Matches of 2009

Earlier this week I posted the list of the Best Women's Matches of 2009, here now are the best men's matches of 2009. Generally, there were far more memorable matches on the ATP tour than the WTA tour this year.

Here are the most memorable tennis matches by men in 2009:

1. R. Federer SUI d. A. Roddick USA, 5-7 7-6(8) 7-6(3) 3-6 16-14,Wimbledon Championships final, London.

Roger Federer must have been pleased to see Andy Roddick was the opponent he had to beat in order to win his 6th career Wimbledon title and record 15th major title--after all he had beaten him three times before at Wimbledon and had only lost to the American twice in twenty-one matches and never in a Grand Slam. However, this was a new and improved Andy Roddick, someone who could play 5 sets of tennis and only get his service broken once. Roddick played like someone who recognized this rare opportunity and played his very best. Unfortunately, it was not enough to win the match, though he did get very, very close. I'm sure that Roddick will have nightmares about the shanked volley in the second set tiebreak which would have given him set point. Instead, at the end of that 2nd set tiebreaker the match was all tied up and with Federer again winning the 3rd set in a tiebreak things looked bleak for the American. But, then, somehow, miraculously Roddick was able to break in the fourth set and serve out the set to even the match again. And the most amazing part of the match was about to begin: a 95-minute, 30 game deciding set. In the end, the entire match came down to a few points played over a few minutes, with Federer winning a mere 10 more points out of more than 400 points over nearly 5 hours. A classic tennis match for the ages, almost as venerable as the 2008 classic between Nadal and Federer from the year before.

2. R. Nadal ESP d. F. Verdasco ESP, 6-7(4) 6-4 7-6(2) 6-7(1) 6-4, Australian Open semifinal, Melbourne.

Amazingly, the second most memorable match of 2009 is not one of the four Grand Slam finals. The showdown between two Spaniards in Australia under the stars and full moon was electric. During the match everyone who watched it knew it was an instant classic, one of those matches destined to be replayed and discussed for years. The match featured incredible athleticism and shotmaking from both players. The two talented lefties battled each other for more than five hours and ended up at practically a draw. After five sets, the stats say it all: Nadal 193 points, Verdasco 192. The 193rd point that Nadal won was due to a double fault by Verdasco on match point. Heartbreaking for both players that in these sporting contests of will and spirit there must be a loser and a winner, because sometimes that competition itself elevates all those who participate.

3. J. del Potro ARG d. R. Federer USA, 3-6 7-6(5) 4-6 7-6(4) 6-2, U.S. Open final, New York City.

For the fourth time of the year, the seventh consecutive Grand Slam tournament in a row and a record 21st time in his career, Roger Federer was in a major final. However, this time he was facing a genetically gifted nightmare: a 6-foot 5-inch, 21-year-old Argentine who grew up dreaming of glory on hard courts; Juan Martín del Potro. Federer was already the universally regarded Greatest of all Time, a newly married man and father of twin baby girls who had won his record 15th major title a mere 8 weeks before while del Potro was someone Federer had never lost to in 6 matches. In fact, earlier in the year at the Australian Open del Potro won a mere 3 games in a 3-set match in a quarterfinal humiliation featuring two consecutive 6-0 bagel sets versus Federer. An indication of the rapid rate of his improvement through the year was that by May in Paris, del Potro was able to extend Federer to a 5-set thriller in the French Open semifinals. So, it was not surprising that del Potro was in his first major final in New York City. Federer started off well and del Potro did not, and quickly found himself down a set and a break. But then something happened and Federer faltered, allowing del Potro to sneak away with the second set in a tie-break. Federer again won the all-important middle set, but again del Potro was able to take the 4th set to a tiebreak. This was Federer's chance, but he blinked. He played a horrible tie-break and del Potro kept on hitting 135+ mph serves and 100+ mph forehand winners. The final deciding set was a letdown, with del Potro building up a huge lead and holding it to savor his first win over the World #1 and his first major title. The King was dead, long live the King.

4. R. Soderling SWE d. R. Nadal ESP, 6-2 6-7(2) 6-4 7-6(2), Roland Garros 4th Round, Paris.

The upset of the decade? The biggest upset ever? Prior to this fourth round meeting between the agile, indomitable Spanish World #1 and the tall, powerful Swede, Rafael Nadal had never lost a match at Roland Garros, and was the 4-time defending champion who had won 3 of the last 4 major championships played in the last year. But Robin Soderling didn't care. He simply doesn't care what anyone thinks. He knew he had worked hard to be in the best shape of his life and knew that his game could cause anyone difficulty. It is true that Nadal did not play his best tennis, but it is also true that Soderling did, and it was enough so that the result, no matter how shocking was never in doubt: a Soderling victory over Nadal on clay in Paris.

5. R. Nadal ESP d. R. Federer SUI, 7-5 3-6 7-6(3) 3-6 6-2, Australian Open final, Melbourne.

After the incredible semifinal Nadal played to get past Verdasco while Federer had a relatively routine straight-set dismissal of Andy Roddick, most observers felt that Federer would have an edge in this first meeting between the two great rivals on hard courts, since Federer already owned 3 Australian Open titles and 5 U.S. Opens. However, Federer again started off a major final against Nadal playing badly and by failing to win the middle set tie-break he lost the match not with a whimper but in a drizzle of tears. Several people felt that Federer's outburst during the trophy ceremony was disrespectful to Nadal but it is important to note that it was his great rival himself who did the most comforting, allowing the Swiss star to bury his face in the Spaniards shoulder.

6. R. Nadal ESP d. N. Djokovic SRB, 3-6 7-6(5) 7-6(9), Madrid Masters semifinal, Madrid.

The most exciting clay court match of the year was this 3-set, 4-hour showdown between the King of Clay Rafael Nadal and the heir-apparent Novak Djokovic. Djokovic was the better player on the day and deserved to win this match, but Nadal just refused to lose. Despite losing the first set relatively easily in a 3-set match and being behind in both of the remaining sets, somehow Nadal was able to claw both sets back to tie-breaks and somehow win both of them. The points were agonizingly long, with ridiculous saves and amazing retrievals from both players, but in the end the Nadal (again!) proved why he is the Greatest Clay Court Player of all Time. After battling Djokovic for nearly four hours it is not surprising that Nadal lost one of his rare clay court finals against Federer the next day, 6-4 6-4.

7. R. Stepanek CZE USA d. I. Karlovic CRO, 6-7(5), 7-6(5), 7-6(6), 6-7(2), 16-14, Davis Cup semifinal tie, Croatia.

Absolutely insane. Davis Cup matches are usually intense due to the national prestige on the line, but this was insane. Everyone knows that Ivo Karlovic is a freak of nature: a 6-foot, 10-inch behemoth who has a serve like a lightning bolt that leaves his opponents constantly leaning the wrong way and shaking their head in disbelief having completely missed touching the ball. In this match "Dr. Evil" hit 78 aces. That's 23 more than his previous record of 55! There were exactly three breaks of serve in the 5 hour, 59 minute contest. Unfortunately, I was not able to see this match, but after reading about it, it clearly belongs in the most memorable matches of the year.

8. T. Dent USA d. I. Navarro ESP, 6-4 5-7 6-7(1) 7-5 7-6(9), U.S. Open 2nd Round, New York City.

Taylor Dent had been told repeatedly that his tennis career was over after two back surgeries in 2007 and 2008. The American serve-and-volleyer met his match in the form of Spaniard Ivan Nvarro who was also a rare serve-and-volleyer. This match was not expected to be anything special, it was just an early round match at the US Open played on the intimate Grandstand Court. However, it turned into a scorcher: a 5-set, knock-down, drag-out street brawl between two punch-drunk prize fighters. Both players had the same game plan: serve and rush the net. In the end, Dent had more control over the result than his opponent, hitting a garish 121 winners (mostly volleys) compared to 50 errors (+71!) as opposed to Navarro's 70 winners to a mere 22 unforced errors. Tennis like it used to be played and will most likely not be played in the future.

9. F. Gonzalez CHI d. R. Gasquet FRA, 3-6 3-6 7-6(10) 6-2 12-10, Australian Open 3rd Round, Melbourne.

Fernando Gonzalez and Richard Gasquet are two of the flashiest players on the ATP Tour and it was expected that this early-round showdown would be a non-stop highlight reel. The two did not disappoint. Both players hit far more winners than errors, with Gasquet at +22 (80 winners, 58 errors) and Gonzalez at +34 (85 winners, 51 errors). Gasquet has one of the most beautiful one-handed backhands on the tour and Gonzalez has a hugely powerful forehand. The battle was intense but even though each competitor won the same number of points, Gonzalez won more games and the match. This showdown would have been more widely celebrated if the Nadal-Verdasco semifinal had not cleared the decks of superlatives used to describe matches at the 2009 Austraian Open.

10. N. Davydenko RUS d. R. Federer SUI 6-2 4-6 7-5, Barclays ATP World Tour Finals semifinal, London.

Nikolay Davydenko was nearly run out of tennis at the end of a stick in 2008 after being caught up in a betting scandal. He professed his innocence but tennis fans have looked at him with a jaundiced eye ever since. Davydenko is often viewed as the invisible man, because although he has been in the Top 5 since 2005 he has racked up a slew of losses to both Federer and Nadal and was widely regarded as being unable to breakthrough in a major tournament. This win over Federer was his very first and followed a week in which he demolished a weakened Nadal, outlasted the powerful Robin Soderling and ended the year by dismissing the new wunderkind Juan Martín del Potro to win the ATP year end championships, the biggest title of his career. However, he ended the year at #6, out of the top 5 for the first time in 5 years. Perhaps 2010 will be the year that Davydenko is able to make through at a major title, now that he has shown that he can beat Mr. Major, Roger Federer.


Here are some honorable mentions for memorable matches of the year by men

N. Djokovic SRB d. R. Federer, 6-4 4-6 6-2, Swiss Open final.
R. Federer SUI d. N. Djokovic SRB, 6-1 7-5, Cincinnati Masters final.
R. Federer SUI d. N. Djokovic SRB, 7-6(3) 7-5 7-5, U.S. Open semifinal.
J-M. del Potro ARG d. R. Nadal ESP, 6-2 6-2 6-2, U.S. Open semifinal.
R. Federer SUI d. R. Soderling SWE, 6-1 7-6(1) 6-4, Roland Garros final.
R. Federer SUI d. T. Haas GER, 6-7(4) 5-7 6-4 6-0 6-2, Roland Garros 4th Round.
R. Federer SUI d. J-M. del Potro ARG, 3-6 7-6(2) 2-6 6-1 6-4, Roland Garros semifinal.
R. Soderling SWE d. F. Gonzalez CHI, 6-3 7-5 5-7 4-6 6-4, Roland Garros semifinal.
N. Djokovic SRB d. G. Monfils FRA, 6-2 5-7 7-6(3), Paris Masters final.
A. Roddick USA d. L. Hewitt AUS, 6-3 6-7(10) 7-6(1) 4-6 6-4, Wimbledon quarterfinal.
A. Roddick USA d. A. Murray GBR, 6-4 4-6 7-6(7) 7-6(5), Wimbledon semifinal.
F. Verdasco ESP d. A. Murray GBR, 2-6 6-1 1-6 6-3 6-4, Australian Open 4th Round.
J-W. Tsonga FRA d. R. Federer SUI, 7-6(5) 1-6 7-6(3), Montreal Masters quarterfinal.
J-M. del Potro ARG d. R. Soderling SWE, 6-7(1) 6-3 7-6(3), Barclays ATP World Tour Final semifinal.
J-M. del Potro ARG d. R. Federer SUI, 6-2 6-7(5) 6-3, Barclays ATP World Tour Finals round-robin.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Hottie Haaz Sleiman Cut From Nurse Jackie

Bad news, y'all. MadProfessah fave Haaz Sleiman, a.k.a. "the Arab hottie" is no longer going to be appearing in the acclaimed Showtime series Nurse Jackie. You may remember Haaz fro his great turn in last year's big indie film The Visitor (see MadProfessah's review) which was nominated for 2 Oscars last year.

Hat/tip David Dust

My Favorite Films of the Decade 2000-2009

Here is my Top 10 list of my favorite films seen in the last decade, from January 1, 2000 to December 31, 2009.
  1. The Lord of the Rings. The pure cinematic achievement of Peter Jackson's adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's classic fantasy novel The Lord of the Rings is absolutely stunning. The films were box-office blockbusters and universally critically acclaimed, even by people who had never read the book(s). I first read the book(s) at the age of 9 and loved these perfect filmic realizations even more than the original(s). Director: Peter Jackson. Released: 2001, 2002, 2003.
  2. Memento. I still remember the sense of wonder and amazement I felt during and after watching Christopher Nolan's debut feature film. My mind was blown but I knew that I wanted to see it again, and that I would make sure to see everything this director would ever release in the future (The Dark Knight, The Prestige, Batman Returns, Insomnia). Director: Christopher Nolan. Released: 2001.
  3. Avatar. Yes, believe the hype! James Cameron confounded all the doubters who refused to believe that the director of Aliens and Titanic could (again!) reinvent the cinematic experience with an(other) original story. I saw the film twice in the first weekend of release and know that I will see it again several times. This is the current generation's Star Wars: a film which restores the sense of wonder to cinema. Director: James Cameron. Released: 2009.
  4. The Incredibles. From the director of the instant classic The Iron Giant and the wizards at Pixar came this incredibly poignant and action-filled story of a family of superheroes. The Incredibles, like Finding Nemo, Up, WALL-E and Ratatouille demonstrate that animation can be as emotionally powerful as live-action. Whenever I see this film on TV I must stop what I'm doing and watch it all the way to the end. If I believed in God, I'd pray for a sequel! Director: Brad Bird. Released: 2004.
  5. Tell No One (Ne Le Dis A Personne). An innocuous little French thriller that grabs your attention from the first scene and leaves you breathless at its satisfying conclusion. The story is adapted from Harlan Coben's thriller "Tell No One." It also does a very good job of illustrating contemporary life in Paris, subtly challenging preconceptions that ideal living standards must be American. Director: Guillaume Canet. Released: 2006 (France), 2008 (United States).
  6. House of Flying Daggers. Although Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was more widely acclaimed (winning the 2000 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film and being nominated for Best Picture) I think that this film is the more amazing cinematic achievement, although this is admittedly a very close and somewhat arbitrary call. Together with this director's Hero, this trio of films (all featuring the incredible Zhang Ziyi) are must watching for anyone who likes martial arts and gorgeous spectacle. Director: Zhang Yimou. Released: 2005.
  7. Dreamgirls. Who said the musical was dead? Openly gay writer-director Bill Condon achieved the impossible by adapting the thinly veiled 80s-era musical about the 60s supergroup The Supremes and finding someone who could handle the tsunami posing as a song "(And I'm Telling You) I'm Not Going." Jennifer Hudson won a well-deserved Oscar in her debut movie role and Beyoncé showed that she was born to inhabit the role of Miss Diana Ross. Director: Bill Condon. Released: 2006.
  8. Spirited Away. This is not a Disney cartoon! Any serious student of film in general and animation in particular knows the name of Miyazaki. The Japanese filmmaker makes emotionally resonant films with curious stories that contain heart-stoppingly strange and beautiful images that are hard tp forget. In Spirited Away Miyazaki is at the top of his game and we are all the richer for it. Director: Hayao Miyazaki. Released: 2004.
  9. Far From Heaven. Written and directed by Todd Haynes but animated by Julianne Moore's heart-wrenching performance as a 1950s-era wife married to a man with a secret played by a surprisingly good Dennis Quaid, this film is like a nearly perfect confection: short and sweet and leaves you wanting more. Director: Todd Haynes. Released: 2002.
  10. Brokeback Mountain. The first film to have millions of gay men leave the theater shattered at finally seeing an emotionally true depiction of homosexuality in a major motion film. The relationship between Heath Ledger's Ennis Delmar and Jake Gyllenhaal's Jack Twist is the core of the film but it is the story and beautiful direction that really twists the knife. And, yes, I'm still bitter it didn't win Best Picture! Director: Ang Lee. Released: 2005.
And since I couldn't just mention only 10, here are ten more (not in any order) that should not be forgotten.

Honorable Mentions: Pan's Labyrinth, Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit, The Prestige, Finding Nemo, Juno, Slumdog Millionaire, Kill Bill, United 93, Milk and Moulin Rouge!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Best (Women's) Tennis Matches of 2009

After a year's hiatus in 2008, MadProfessah's list of the Best Tennis Matches of the Year has returned, this time, twice as long! You can still see that inaugural post, the Best Women's Matches of 2007.

Here are the most memorable tennis matches by women in 2009:

1. S. Williams USA d. E. Dementieva RUS, 6-7(4) 7-5 8-6,Wimbledon Championships semifinal, London.

Unanimously recognized as the best match of 2009 by competitors, fans and commentators, the semifinal showdown between Elena Dementieva and Serena Williams was the pivotal moment in the most important tournament of the year. The Russian was popularly regarded as having the most powerful ground strokes of any player on tour but also one of the weakest serves. Serena, of course, is well-known for having the best serve of any player on the WTA Tour and is also very powerful on both wings. Even so, few expected the battle royale which resulted with Dementieva holding a match point at 7-6(4), 5-4 which Serena saved after an extended rally ending with an error by the Russian. Despite the disappointment of not winning the match in the second set, Dementieva was able to exhibit incredible mental fortitude by extending the match to a record 2 hours and 49 minutes, the longest women's semifinal in Open tennis history. But Serena was able to prevail and it was this match which demonstrated that no one was going to be able to stop her from winning her 3rd career Wimbledon title, not even her sister, the best grass court player of her generation.

2. S. Williams USA d. D. Safina RUS, 6-0 6-3, Australian Open final, Melbourne.

None of the 2009 Grand Slam finals were stellar matches, but Serena Williams' dismantling of the World #1 player in the final of the Australian Open was still noteworthy. Although not as devastating as the incredible beatdown of Maria Sharapova Serena displayed in the 2007 final (in that match Sharapova was not playing badly but there's absolutely no one who could have beaten Serena the way she was playing that day), the 2009 final still ended up with a similar result: the humiliating defeat of the Russian player in the final of the Australian Open. It was Serena's 10th major title and her second consecutive Grand Slam title in a row.

3. S. Kuznetsova RUS d. S. Williams USA, 7-6(3) 5-7 7-5, Roland Garros quarterfinal, Paris.

It was clear at the outset that the person who won this match would go on to win the French Open title. The surprising aspect of this match was that the person who exhibited the superior mental toughness was Svetlana Kuznetsova, not 10-time major champion Serena Williams. Kuznetsova faced a set point in the first set but won that point and ended up winning the first set in a tiebreak. In the second set Kuznetsova held a significant lead at 5-3 and was 3 points from victory but ended up losing 4 consecutive games to lose the second set. Serena was up a break and had a lead of 3-1 in the decisive set when things fell apart and she never held a lead again. As Serena said, "It was like, 'Here, do you want to go to the semis? Because I don't.' She was like, 'OK.'" The win was a huge boost for the Russian, who Serena had beaten to win the first major of the year, and Kuznetsova went on to win the second major of the year and her second career major title.

4. C. Wozniacki DEN d. S. Kuznetsova RUS, 2-6 7-6(5) 7-6(3), U.S. Open 4th Round, New York City.

The teenaged sensation had made a name for herself on the tour all year long but it was only at the final major of the year that the Danish player made her major breakthrough to defeat 2-time major champion Svetlana Kuznetsova. The Russian was dominating in the first set, firing on all cylinders and simply overwhelming the youngster with her forehand and backhand. However, in the second set Kuznetsova started to make more errors and Wozniacki improved her retrieving abilities, often making the Russian hit two or three attempted winners to try to win the point, eventually leading to an overhit error. Eventually the second set was won by Wozniacki due to at most two points that could have gone either way. In the third set both players held and consolidated breaks of service but, surprisingly, it was the more inexperienced player who ended the match the victor. Wozniacki would go on to reach her first career Grand Slam final and end the year ensconced in the Top 5.

5. V. Williams USA d. D. Safina RUS, 6-1 6-0, Wimbledon semifinal, New York City.

Venus Williams humiliated the world #1 by delivering the worst thrashing in a Grand Slam to a top-seeded player ever and one of the most lopsided scores in a grand slam semifinal in the Open era. For the third time in the third major of the year, Safina's mental infirmities overwhelmed her not insubstantial strengths as a player but this time the meltdown occurred in a semifinal and not a final. Strangely, none of the supreme confidence and expert shotmaking Venus displayed in this match were apparent in the final against her sister the next day. Then again, it's easier to look good when your opponent is busy trying to look so awful.

6. M. Oudin USA d. M. Sharapova RUS, 1-6 7-6(3) 6-3, U.S. Open 3rd Round, New York.

Melanie Oudin is the third highest-ranked American player after the Williams sister who made a name for herself by dismissing former World #1 Jelena Jankovic in the fourth round of Wimbledon. She is nearly a full foot shorter than the statuesque 3-time major champion Maria Sharapova. However, despite losing the first set easily, Oudin never seemed to panic or feel that she was unable to win the match despite the stark difference not only between the two player's heights but the difference in their levels of success on the WTA tour. Oudin was aided by Sharapova's wobbly serve--the Russian former #1 double-faulted 21 times, the most of any player in a WTA tour match all year. The American also had a very partisan and rowdy New York City crowd behind her who never gave up on the diminutive American despite Sharapova's service-break lead in the final set. The 17-year-old became the youngest American semifinalist at the U.S. Open since Serena Williams nearly 10 years before on her way to winning the first of her 11 major titles.

7. S. Williams USA d. V. Williams USA, 7-6(2) 6-2, Wimbledon Championships final, London.

It's not often the Wimbledon final doesn't make into the Top 5 Best Matches of the Year but 2009 was that kind of year (on the Women's side). For the fifth time of the decade (and second consecutive year) the Williams sisters would face each other in the Wimbledon final. At the time, Venus was widely regarded as the finest grass court player of her generation with 5 titles and Serena was the current defending champion of two of the four majors and is clearly the best player of the decade. Unfortunately (as usual) the showdown did not live up to its potential. Venus demolished her semifinal opponent without breaking a sweat the round before and was never seriously challenged in London until the final. Serena got through the match of the year by defeating Elena Dementieva in an incredible match that lasted nearly 3 hours. However, in the final it was Venus who seemed the less physically present, and Serena was definitely the more mentally focused, thus leading to the relatively lopsided score after the relatively close first set, which was filled with deep powerful hitting and incredible ball retrieval by both players.

8. C. Wozniacki DEN d. V. Azarenka BLR, 1-6 6-4 7-5, Sony Ericsson Championships round-robin, Doha.

In the last tournament of the year, the young Caroline Wozniacki met the young Victoria Azarenka for the third time in 2009, having lost both matches played against the feisty Belorussian . After losing the first game of the match, Azarenka won 6 games in a row to take the first set. The second set featured an amazing 14-deuce fifth game and lasted almost 80 minutes, nearly half the duration of the entire match. Despite losing the second set, Azarenka served for the match at 5-3 in the deciding set but only had a match point on Wozniacki's serve at 4-5 but made an error to even the match at 5-all in the third. Eventually Wozniacki broke to go up 6-5 and won the match on a service winner. Azarenka and Wozniacki will most likely be rivals for many major titles well into the future.

9. K. Clijsters BEL d.V. Williams USA, 6-0 0-6 6-4, U.S Open 4th Round, New York City.

The first two sets of this highly anticipated match-up between the beloved mother of Jada and the 7-time Grand Slam champion were the two most lopsided sets of tennis of the year, with Clijsters starting off hot and Venus Williams committing error after error followed by a set where Williams settled down and started painting the lines with successive winners despite the Belgian's legendary flexibility. This match was a canonical example of "Big Babe Tennis" with both players banging away from the baseline, impressing the audience with huge serves, blistering groundstrokes and powerful athleticism. In the end, Clijsters' superior control was the edge that gave her the victory.

10. F. Pennetta ITA d. V. Zvonareva RUS, 3-6 7-6(8) 6-0, U.S. Open 4th Round, New York City.

Flavia Pennetta became the first Italian women to reach the Top 10 in August 2009 a few weeks before this classic showdown with the always combustible Russian Vera Zvonareva in the 4th Round of the U.S. Open. In the second set, Pennetta saved no less than SIX match points, several with winners on her racquet and ended up winning the middle set. Zvonareva was so mentally frazzled by this result that she failed to win a single game and lost the deciding set 6-0. An incredibly memorable result for the popular Italian.


Here are some honorable mentions for memorable matches of the year by women

D. Safina RUS d. A. Mauresmo, 4-6 6-3 6-4, Wimbledon 3rd Round.
S. Williams USA d. S. Kuznetsova RUS, 5-7 7-5 6-1, Australian Open quarterfinal.
J. Dokic AUS d. A. Kleybanova USA, 7-5 5-7 8-6, Australian Open 4th Round.
M. Oudin USA d. J. Jankovic SRB, 6-7(8) 7-5 6-2, Wimbledon 3rd Round.
C. Suarez Navarro ESP d. V. Williams USA, 2-6 6-3 7-5, Australian Open 2nd Round
K. Clijsters BEL d. S. Williams USA, 6-4 7-5, U.S. Open semifinal.
K. Clijsters BEL d. C. Wozniacki DEN, 7-5 6-3, U.S. Open final.
M. Oudin USA d. N. Petrova RUS, 1-6 7-6(2) 6-3, U.S. Open 4th Round.
V. Williams USA d. S. Williams USA, 6-1 2-6 7-6(3), Dubai Championships semifinal.
V. Azarena BLR d. S. Williams USA, 6-3 6-1, Sony Ericsson Open final.
S. Williams USA d. V. Williams USA, 6-2 7-6(4), Sony Ericsson Championship semifinal.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Top 10 Most Significant LGBT Events of the Decade

Following up on my recent post detailing the most significant LGBT-related events of 2009, I have decided to try and compile a list for the entire decade of the "aughts," from January 1, 2000 to December 31, 2009.

By most significant, I mean the events that either had the most impact on the lives of the most number of LGBT people or that are likely to be remembered as the most significant by historians in the future.

Here we go:

10. The Vermont legislature enacts nation's first civil unions law, signed by Governor Howard Dean, in response to the Vermont Supreme Court's Baker v. Vermont ruling, 2000.

In late December 1999 the Vermont Supreme Court issued its unanimous ruling in Baker v. Vermont, deciding that there was discrimination in the differing ways that the state's laws treated same-sex couples relative to opposite-sex couples, and although it also ruled that under Vermont law the legislature had intended to have marriage be a union between a man and a woman only (and could legally do so), the Court compelled the State to come up with a statutory remedy to address the disparate treatment of same-sex and opposite-sex couples. The Vermont Civil Unions bill, modeled after European civil partnership legislation, attempted to provide "civilly united" same-sex couples all the rights and responsibilities that married couples had under Vermont law. It was signed by Governor Howard Dean on April 26, 2000 and went into effect on July 1, 2000. (Me and my other half got a civil union on August 8, 2000 in Burlington, VT.) Thus Vermont became the first state to attempt to end state-sanction discrimination in relationship recognition in the United States, leading to full marriage equality on September 1, 2009.

9. California legislature passes Assemblymember Jackie Goldberg's AB 205, the first comprehensive domestic partner statute granting almost all the rights and responsibilities of marriage in state law (signed by Governor Gray Davis, went into effect January 1, 2005), 2003.

In summer of 2003, California became the second state (after Vermont) to enact legislation that tried to provide same-sex couples with as much of the rights and responsibilities of marriage while still reserving the word marriage to the exclusive domain of heterosexuals. In April 2000, California voters had passed Proposition 22 by 61%-39% which re-affirmed that state law banned recognition of same-sex marriages. Unlike in Vermont, the California legislature was not reacting in response to a state Supreme Court ruling. Instead, the state legislature was specifically expanding a bundle of rights to an existing statutory entity, the registered domestic partnership, instead of creating something new from whole cloth, like the Vermont civil union. California's comprehensive domestic partnership law would become the model that other (mostly Western) states would follow later in the decade: Oregon, Washington and Nevada. At the time there was much heated debate in the LGBT community about "settling" for domestic partnership in the midst of a pitched battle for equal marriage rights that would be repeated time and again with echoes present even today. Domestic partnerships and civil unions (commonly lumped together as "everything but the word marriage" laws) became overwhelmingly popular with the general public so that even during the backlash against marriage in the middle of the decade voters repeatedly defended such measures in elections (Arizona, 2006 and Washington, 2009).

8. Democrats retake congressional majorities in both the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate, 2006.

After losing control of both Houses of Congress in 1994, fueled by the energy and organizational skills of the progressive blogosphere and under the leadership of Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Rahm Emmanuel and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee head Charles Shumer the Democrats were able to shock political observers by wresting back control of the entire legislative branch of the federal government in 2006 despite losing two consecutive national Presidential elections. The return of the Democrats to the helm of the federal legislature meant that draconian measures like the Federal Marriage Amendment that would have banned legalization of marriages for same-sex couples in all the 50 states would now be unable to advance. However, with Republicans in control of the executive and judicial branches of government, there was very little positive change the Democrats would be able to enact until a change was made in the occupancy of the White House. The 2006 election were an augur of progressive change to come in the country.

7. Voters pass ballot measures amending 11 state constitutions to ban recognition and validation of same sex marriages while re-electing President Bush, 2004.

In 2004, George W. Bush chief political strategist Karl Rove together with the (closeted) head of the Republican National Committee Ken Mehlman instigated the most coordinated attack on the LGBT community in history in an attempt to boost conservative evangelical turnout for Republican candidates (especially the top of the ticket) nationwide. Their evil strategy worked, although if a mere 60,000 voters in Ohio had voted for Senator John Kerry instead of the incumbent, there would have been another historical discrepancy between the winner of the presidential popular vote and the electoral college vote. The eleven states that voted to amend their state constitution to ban marriage for same-sex couples were: Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon and Utah. In all the states but Oregon the measures were supported by more than 60% of voters and resulted in harsh anti-gay language being constantly repeated during state and local electoral campaigns. 2004 was the political nadir for progressive election results in the decade, with LGBT issues caught in the downturn.

6. U.S. House of Representatives passes Employment Non-Discrimination Act prohibiting discrimination in employment based on sexual orientation nationwide after gender identity protections are dropped, 2007.

Federal gay civil rights legislation was introduced for the first time in May 1974 by New York City-based U.S. Representatives Bella Abzug and Ed Koch as a bill that would add "sexual orientation" to the 1964 Civil Rights Act. However, it was not until November 7, 2007 (a full generation later) that a version of a federal gay civil rights bill passed a single chamber of Congress. Unfortunately, the version passed in the U.S. House by a vote of 235-184 was not only watered-down to an extent that it only covered discrimination in employment (and not public accommodations and housing like the corresponding landmark civil rights legislation of the 1960s) but it also was stripped of the gender identity protections. The passage of the trans-exclusive version of ENDA in the U.S. House of Representatives was significant for the historical precedent it set as well as the internal community it sparked over transgender issues in the LGBT civil rights movement. Even among openly gay Congressmembers Tammy Baldwin and Barney Frank there was disagreement about whether it was better to pass ENDA with sexual orientation and gender identity protections or not. Frank was in favor, Baldwin opposed. For practical purposes, the issue of which measure should be law became moot because the measure died in the United States Senate after President Bush issued a veto threat. However, the passage of ENDA by the House augured well for the passage of other LGBT civil rights legislation in the future.

5. Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court rules marriage for same-sex couples is a fundamental right that can not be constitutionally denied, 2003.

In November 2003, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health became the first high court in the United States to rule that opposite-sex only marriage laws were unconstitutional and that the remedy required was to allow same-sex couples full marriage equality. The Court deemed that the state did not even have a rational basis for denying such an important fundamental right to a class of its citizens on both equal protection and due process grounds. On May 17, 2004, the 50th anniversary of the United States Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, the Goodridge decision went into effect and the first legal marriages between same-sex couples occurred on U.S. soil. Although the marriage of the lead plaintiffs Julie and Hilary Goodridge did not survive the decade, Massachusetts marriage equality did, and the 4-3 Goodridge decision was the harbinger of positive marriage equality decisions in California (In Re Marriage Cases, 2008; 4-3) Connecticut (Kerrigan v. Department of Public Health, 2008; 4-3) and Iowa (Varnum v. Brien, 2009; 7-0). Through intensive political organizing, the LGBT community and its allies were able to prevent the state legislature from allowing a constitutional amendment from going to the voters and by the end of the decade Massachusetts marriages were considered safe and the state was suing the federal government for discriminating against its legally married same-sex couples in the disbursal of federal recognition and benefits.

4. United States Supreme Court overturns the homophobic Bowers v. Hardwick (1986) precedent, ruling that sodomy laws are unconstitutional, in Lawrence v. Texas, strengthening privacy rights for all Americans, 2003.

For nearly two decades the Bowers v. Hardwick ruling of the United State Supreme Court was used as a legal club to eliminate any claims for civil rights for gay men and lesbians in a number of different contexts. In a 5-4 majority opinion written by Justice Byron White, the court contemptuously dismissed the notion of "a fundamental right to homosexual sodomy" and affirmed the state of Georgia's law criminalizing oral or anal sex between consenting adults--even in the privacy of their own house. The indisputable fact that the highest court in the country had decided that the act which defines homosexuals makes them criminals was used over and over again to refute the concept of equal rights for gay men and lesbians. This all changed on June 26, 2003 when Justice Anthony Kennedy read part of the majority decision in Lawrence v. Texas before assembled court reporters and teary-eyed LGBT legal advocates which declared that the Court's previous sodomy decision in 1986 "was not correct when it was decided, and it is not correct today. It ought not to remain binding precedent. Bowers v. Hardwick should be and now is overruled." The Court's action struck down sodomy laws in 13 states including four states (Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri) that had restricted their laws to homosexuals only. The court ruled that the sodomy laws violated due process and equal protection laws. By decriminalizing homosexuality nationwide, the decision in Lawrence dramatically reduced stigma against gay men and lesbians and was a significant legal and cultural advance in the movement for full LGBT equality.

3. Proposition 8 is passed by California voters, stripping the recently-granted right to marry after an $83 million electoral campaign filled with lies and deception, 2008.

In May 15, 2008 the California Supreme Court issued its landmark ruling In Re Marriage Cases which not only ruled that California's marriage laws discriminated against same-sex couples but also declared that sexual orientation was a suspect classification deserving of strict judicial scrutiny on par with race and sex and ordering civil marriage licenses to be issued to gay and lesbian couples in 30 days, on June 15th. 173 days after that, on November 5, 2008, California voters passed a ballot measure 52.3% to 47.7% to amend their constitution to strip away the recently granted right and banned gay marriage. The electoral battle to pass Proposition 8 became the most expensive ballot measure over a social issue in the nation's history with an estimated $83 million ($40 million by Yes on 8, $43 million by No on 8). Many LGBT activists felt that the No on 8 campaign squandered what public polls said were double-digit leads through an overly safe television campaign which did not feature images of gay or lesbian people. However, internal polls never showed the campaign ahead and no public poll ever showed majority support for the concept of marriage equality in the state. The battle over Proposition 8 was a political coming of age for an entire generation of LGBT activists. After Proposition 8 passed an incredible outpouring of rage and disappointment resulted in demonstrations (primarily organized online) in dozens of cities around the country which were estimated to have been attended by over 1 million people. In California, several brand-new grassroots organizations were formed and statewide gatherings of LGBT activists were held in Los Angeles, Fresno and San Bernardino to organize, inform and strengthen the community activists who attended. The lessons of Proposition 8's passage (that majorities would vote to strip away the right to marry from their fellow citizens even in a presumably progressive state like California) were repeated in 2009 when Question 1 in Maine was passed by an even larger margin. Currently Proposition 8's constitutionality is being challenged under Federal law by the legal dream team of super-litigators David Boies and Ted Olson after the California Supreme Court refused to strike down the measure under the state constitution with a full trial on the merits set for the beginning of the next decade, on January 11, 2010.

2. President Barack Obama signs the federal hate crimes bill, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr Hate Crimes Prevention Act, into law, 2009.

Despite the carping from some corners that the legislation only gives rights to LGBT people only after they are victimized or dead, the historic echoes of the President's signature on H.R. 1913 should not be under-estimated. The federal hate crimes bill became the first piece of federally enacted legislation to ever include the words "gender identity" and only the second to expand rights based on sexual orientation. Yes, the measure was attached to a "must-pass" piece of legislation, the Defense Reauthorization Act of 2009, instead of a stand-alone bill. But this did not make Republican opposition any less fierce or morally questionable. After the federal hate-crimes act was enacted it could never be said again that there were no protections in federal law for the LGBT community. The binding precedent of the legislative action meant that it would not be unthinkable to pass other LGBT civil rights laws in the future.

1. George W. Bush is (s)elected president after U.S. Supreme Court intervention in Florida recount results in defeat of Vice-President Al Gore, 2000.

The presidential election of 2000 was the most pivotal political moment of the decade as a 2-term Democratic president was going to be replaced by either his Vice President who would maintain and mainly continue Bill Clinton's relatively pro-gay policies or by Texas Governor George W. Bush, the "compassionate conservative" attempting to restore the Bush family name to the highest echelons of power in the country. That Al Gore would get more than half a million more votes than George W. Bush but the presidency of the United States would come down to a few hundred votes in Florida (a state where the candidate's brother was the Governor) was something a Hollywood screenwriter would have been discouraged from including in a political thriller as too far-fetched and simply unbelievable. But, thanks to intervention from the United States Supreme Court in the case of Bush v. Gore where David Boies and Ted Olson were on opposite sides, Bush was declared the winner. Instead of governing like he had just won the closest presidential election in U.S. history, Bush proceeded to dismantle as much of the Clinton legacy as he could as rapidly as possible. Thanks to Bush's election (and re-election) we now have two relatively young arch-conservative jurists on the United States Supreme Court (Chief Justice John Roberts, 54 and Samuel Alito, Jr., 59) along with hundreds of other conservative federal judges in lifetime appointments on District and Appellate Courts throughout the country. Additionally, Bush being president for most of the decade meant that federal progress on enacting LGBT civil rights was stymied at every level, with attention moving to state-based legislative, judicial and administrative action. The low point came in 2004 when President Bush endorsed the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would have explicitly stripped the fundamental right to marry from same-sex couples, an unprecedented and maximalist attack on a particular minority group that would have incorporated discrimination in to the founding document of the country which has been only amended 27 times in 222 years. The main impact of having a Republican in the White House was the aid and comfort the Bush Administration gave to virulent homophobes and the political cover it provided for other Republican politicians to express and implement counterfactual and prejudiced views and policies towards LGBT citizens.

Eye Candy: James Guardino

Hot is hawt. Here at we do try and showcase models of color (of all races), with a penchant for multiracial specimens like Martin Elkholm and Daniel Norell, or chocolate brown brothas like JR Rolley, Chadwick Johnson, Adem Aluka, and many, many others.

But you gotta admit, the "white boy" featured above, named James Guardino is hawt. He may look familiar to some of you, because he has been featured several times in Undergear® catalogs.

James is a 26-year-old model living in New York City.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Happy Holidays: Martin Elkholm and Daniel Norell

While you're enjoying your holidays have some Eye Candy! Martin Elkholm and Daniel Norell are models that have been featured individually on this blog recently (here and here). For your holiday pleasure, here they are together!

VIDEO: A depiction of all of known space

hat/tip to TowleRoad.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Serena Williams is Athlete of the Year (and Decade)

The year-end and decade-end assessments are pouring in and Serena Williams (and Roger Federer) are racking them up.
Some might argue that Williams, 28, is the best story in sports (notwithstanding her temper tantrum at the 2009 U.S. Open). Consider her accomplishments this decade: She won nine of her 10 Grand Slam singles titles and two Olympic gold medals in doubles (with her sister Venus), and she recently reclaimed the No. 1 ranking. She boasts the most powerful game in modern tennis, and she is best when the stakes are highest. Throw in the nearly $29 million in prize money -- most of it earned in the aughts -- and it's an improbable haul for a woman who was schooled in the game along with Venus by their father, the self-taught Richard, on pockmarked public courts in Compton, Calif.
Serena's sister Venus ended the decade at #6.

Hat/tip to Craig Hickman.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Peter F. Hamilton's The Temporal Void is Book 2 in his Void Trilogy. Hamilton is one of my favorite authors, primarily for his Night's Dawn series and the Commonwealth Saga (Pandora's Star and Judas Unchained). The first book in the Void Trilogy was The Dreaming Void and was released in the United States in March 2008. This second book was released in March 2009. The third (and final) book, The Evolutionary Void is expected to be released August 31, 2010.

The Void Trilogy
is unusual for Hamilton, because it combines elements of fantasy and hard space opera. The setting is fifteen hundred years in the future from the events that are depicted in the Commonwealth Saga books Judas Unchained and Pandora's Star, although some of the major characters from those books are still alive (thanks to rejuvenation technology), like (my personal favorite) Paula Myo, the openly gay Oscar Monroe and Ozzie (who has become so famous his name is a regular outburst).

The Temporal Void continues immediately after the The Dreaming Void and dispenses with the background details that were necessary in that initial outing to acclimatize the reader to Hamilton's intricately detailed universe.

The best features of The Dreaming Void are included in its sequel: the continuing saga of Eldeard Waterwalker, the development of his telekinetic and telepathic powers and his ascension through the society of the medieval city-state of Makkathran.

Additionally, the space opera components of the story are stronger, but as varied as ever.
Happily, more time is spent with old familiar characters like Investigator Paula Myo and Senator Justine Burnelli, and new characters like the memory-wiped assassin Aaron and the fugitive Second Dreamer Araminta begin to intrigue and impress.

The Dreaming Void fulfills the promise of the first book and sets up what should be a thrilling conclusion in the final book, The Evolutionary Void. I can't wait!

Hardcover: 736 pages.
Publisher: Del Rey.
March 24, 2009.



Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Mexico City Passes Marriage Equality

Wow! I guess following in the footsteps of the District of Columbia last week, the Distrito Federal (also known as Mexico City) has also passed marriage equality legislation.
The leftist-dominated legislature of this massive city of about 20 million people turned aside opposition from the influential Roman Catholic Church and ended lively debate to approve the measure by a 39-20 vote. Mayor Marcelo Ebrard is expected to sign the bill into law.

"Mexico City has put itself in the vanguard," said legislator Victor Hugo Romo. "This is a historic day."

Mexico City's initiative goes further than any other in Latin America by rewriting the law to redefine marriage as a "free union between two people" not only between a man and a woman. It gives homosexual couples the same rights as heterosexual pairs, including the right to adopt, inherit, obtain joint housing loans and share insurance policies.

Several countries, most of them in Europe, and a handful of U.S. states have legalized same-sex marriage in recent years, and the issue is being hotly debated in parts of predominantly Catholic Latin America. Uruguay was the first Latin American nation to recognize same-sex unions, as well as adoptions by gay couples, and some cities in Argentina have adopted similar laws.
It's interesting that the capital city of both United States and Mexico have adopted marriage equality in the last two weeks.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Top 10 Most Significant LGBT Events of 2009

It's that time of year! No, I'm not talking about Chrismuhkwanzakkuh, I'm talking about the annual ritual of making of Top 10 lists. Herewith is my list of the Top 10 Most Significant LGBT Events of 2009 in the United States.

10. Sonia Sotomayor is confirmed to the United States Supreme Court: August 6, 2009.

Hey, the United States Supreme Court doesn't get new members every year. Lots of presidents don't get to appoint any justices, and their influence can extend far beyond a presidential quadrennial or octennial term of office. So it must have been music to the ears of former University of Chicago Law School professor Barack Obama when Associate Justice (and confirmed bachelor) David Souter announced he wanted to return to New Hampshire and leave the nation's highest court. With 60 votes in the majority caucus, Obama could have forced almost anyone through the Senate (including openly gay law school deans Elana Kagan and Kathleen Sullivan) but he chose the person at the top of everyone's short list: Sonia Sotomayor, the New Yorker of Puerto Rican descent who went to Princeton and Yale Law School and went on to become the the first female, Hispanic justice. Although she was asked (and politely declined to answer) her thoughts on LGBT issues there's no question that Sotomayor's vote will be key to achieving full equality under the federal constitution for LGBT Americans in my lifetime.

9. The Vermont Legislature overrides the Governor's veto to enact marriage equality: April 7, 2009.

In a breathtakingly brief period of a few weeks late this Spring, the legislatures of Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Vermont all passed marriage equality measures.Vermont was particularly stunning, because the Republican governor had the temerity to veto the measure and the Legislature was able to achieve a two-thirds majority in both Houses (by a margin of one vote in the lower body) to enact the law ending discrimination against same-sex couples having their relationships recognized by civil authorities in the Great State of Vermont.

8. The District of Columbia becomes the first Southern jurisdiction to pass marriage equality legislation: December 18, 2009.

Just squeaking in before the end of the year, the District of Columbia, which has a population slightly larger than the state of Wyoming and slightly less than the state of Vermont, passed a marriage equality ordinance through its unicameral legislature, the DC City Council 11-2. What makes the action so significant is the fact that the District of Columbia is below the Mason-Dixon line, which means that it is the first jurisdiction in the Southern United States (which also has a majority African American population) to affirm the principle that equality for all includes gay and lesbian couples access to civil marriage.

7. Barack Obama becomes 2nd sitting President to address LGBT rights fundraising event, reiterates promises to end "Don't Ask, Don't Tell": October 10, 2009.

After an increasingly impatient LGBT community complained that the Obama administration's moves towards institutionalizing LGBT progress were distressingly slow, the President agreed to attend the Human Rights Campaign's annual DC gala, which this year was occurring a few hours before hundreds of thousands of LGBT citizens would walk the streets of DC for the National Equality March. At the dinner, Obama gave a typically stirring speech where he reiterated his opposition to Don't Ask, Don't Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act and called for Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, the Domestic Partner Benefits and Obligations Act and the federal hate crimes act for his eager signature. Obama became the first president to attend an LGBT fundraising event in the first year of his first term (Clinton attended in 1997 after his re-election the year before) but it was not enough. LGBT critics complained that Obama did not layout a timeline for when his legislative accomplishments would be achieved.

6. Openly lesbian Annise Parker is elected mayor of Houston, the nation's 4th largest city: December 12, 2009.

After being elected by her hometown six consecutive times statewide in races for City Council and as City Controller, Annise Parker built up a resume and reputation that one would expect for a leading contender to be elected mayor of the nation's fourth largest city. That she was also openly gay and had been so for her entire electoral career gave the race against African-American Gene Locke extra media attention. In the end, Parker was elected handily. Whose to say that she will stop at Mayor? What her election does show is that there is no lavender ceiling for openly LGBT politicians in electoral politics.

5. California Supreme Court refuses to strike down Proposition 8 but affirms marriages of same-sex couples entered into prior to its passage: May 26, 2009.

Almost exactly one year after the California Supreme Court released its landmark ruling In Re Marriage Cases (which struck down Proposition 22 and the state's 1974 marriage statute, legalized marriage for same-sex couples and elevated sexual orientation to a category receiving the highest level of judicial analysis) the same court disappointed millions of people by refusing to exhibit similar judicial courage to invalidate Proposition 8. In a 6-1 vote (only Justice Carlos Moreno, under consideration by President Obama for the United States Supreme Court at the time, was willing to strike down the constitutional amendment which stripped same-sex couples of the right to marry) the Court upheld the legality of Proposition 8 under the California constitution. The Court also unanimously upheld the legal principle that all people married during the 173 days between June 15, 2007 and November 3, 2008 had all the rights and responsibilities of civilly married couples. This will not be the last word on whether Proposition 8 will remain in the California Constitution, however, the legal superduo of Ted Olson and David Boies have filed a federal lawsuit against the measure, and a full trial has been scheduled for January 11, 2010.

4. The Iowa Supreme Court unanimously rules in favor of marriage equality: April 3, 2009.

In the last three years all of the half-dozen or so state Supreme Court decisions which have decided marriage equality prior to Iowa's unanimous Varnum v. Brien decision had been 4-3-vote majorities (Favorably: Massachusetts, 2004; California, 2008; Connecticut, 2008. Unfavorably: New Jersey, 2005; New York, 2006; Washington, 2006; Maryland, 2007). That's what makes the ruling by the Iowa State Supreme Court so significant. The logic that there is no rational basis or legitimate state purpose for preventing same-sex couples from being issued civil marriage licenses is unassailable. The decision went into effect three weeks later, and same-sex couples have been getting married ever since without much publicity. In Iowa, the state constitution can only be amended by passing through the state legislature and the Democratic majority is refusing to consider such a measure. Iowa puts paid to the idea that gay marriage is an idea that is a purely liberal or geographically centered. If same-sex couples are getting married in Iowa, can Kansas be far behind?

3. On election day, Maine voters reject marriage equality law while Washington voters retain "everything but marriage" comprehensive domestic partnership statute: November 3, 2009.

The weeks and months leading up to election day were dominated by the "Proposition 8-redo" in Maine called Question 1 where heterosexual supremacists again forced a public vote on whether private relationships would be treated equally by the state. Another public vote, another devastating loss. For the 31st time in 32 tries, the public voted against marriage equality for LGBT couples, this time by a margin of 52.75% Yes to 47.25% No (even larger than Proposition 8's 52.3 Yes to 47.7% No in 2008). However, thousands of miles away in Washington State, voters overwhelmingly Approved Referendum 71 (by a margin 0f 53.15% to 46.85% or 113,00 votes) to retain a recently enacted comprehensive domestic partnership law modeled after California's landmark AB 205 from 2003. (Interestingly, Nevada was able to enact their comprehensive domestic partnership act over their Republican governor;s veto on May 31, 2009.)

2. John A. Pérez is named the next Speaker of the California Assembly, the first openly gay person of color to head a state legislative body: December 10, 2009.

John A. Pérez is someone I have hung out with at parties and sat next to at banquets and stood next to at rallies. He is also the first LGBT person of color ever to be elected to the California legislature (in 2008). In January 2010, he will become the Speaker of the Assembly, one of the Top 3 positions in California politics. Yes, he's the cousin of the Mayor of Los Angeles and had to defeat my own Assemblyman Kevin de Leon in order to win over a majority of the California Democratic caucus as a first-term legislator in order to have up to 4 years of eligibility to serve as head of the lower body of the California Legislature, the first gay and third Latino to do so. His elevation among his peers, along with Annise Parker demonstrates the assimilation of sexual orientation into the mainstream of Democratic politics. It is more likely John's sexual orientation helped him rather than hurt him in becoming Speaker of the California Assembly and that speaks volumes for the trajectory of the LGBT civil rights movement in the future.

1. President Barack Obama signs the federal hate crimes bill (the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr Hate Crimes Prevention Act) into law: October 28, 2009

Despite the carping from some corners that the legislation only gives rights to LGBT people only after they are victimized or dead, the historic echoes of the President's signature on H.R. 1913 should not be under-estimated. The federal hate crimes bill became the first piece of federally enacted legislation to ever include the words "gender identity" and only the second to expand rights based on sexual orientation. Yes, the measure was attached to a "must-pass" piece of legislation, the Defense Reauthorization Act of 2009, instead of a stand-alone bill. But this did not make Republican opposition any less fierce or morally questionable.

Eye Candy: Martin Elkholm

There has been quite a buzz about the multiracial model Martin Elkholm, who is of Swedish and Jamaican descent, on lots of the "eyecandy" blogs.

I'm sure you can appreciate why. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sarah Palin Gets Lie Of The Year Award For "Death Panels"

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has received the dubious distinction of being recognized by Pulitzer Prize-winning website PolitiFact for telling The Lie Of The Year.
To refresh your memory, here is the lie (posted to her Facebook page) Sarah Palin told:
Seniors and the disabled "will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care."
Sarah Palin, Friday, August 7th, 2009.
PolitiFact says:
Of all the falsehoods and distortions in the political discourse this year, one stood out from the rest.

"Death panels."

The claim set political debate afire when it was made in August, raising issues from the role of government in health care to the bounds of acceptable political discussion. In a nod to the way technology has transformed politics, the statement wasn't made in an interview or a television ad. Sarah Palin posted it on her Facebook page.

Her assertion — that the government would set up boards to determine whether seniors and the disabled were worthy of care — spread through newscasts, talk shows, blogs and town hall meetings. Opponents of health care legislation said it revealed the real goals of the Democratic proposals. Advocates for health reform said it showed the depths to which their opponents would sink. Still others scratched their heads and said, "Death panels? Really?"
Congratulations, Sarah!

Meet The Wileys: Not All Black Pastors Oppose Marriage Equality

The above video shows Reverend Dennis W. Wiley and Christine Y. Wiley articulating the reasons why they support marriage equality for same-sex couples.

In Saturday's Washington Post the Wileys published an incisive editorial which explains for a wider audience some of the roots of black cultural opposition to same-sex marriage and race-based homophobia in general.
We are sometimes asked what accounts for the homophobia within the African
American community. This question seems to assume that the community is
disproportionately homophobic compared with other racial and ethnic groups.
We are not aware of any credible study that has conclusively proved this
assumption. However, our first-hand experience has convinced us that
homophobia within the black church and the wider community is real. And the
factors that have nurtured these beliefs over the years are complex.

When issues of gay rights and gay marriage come up, the first question many
black people ask is, "What does the Bible have to say about it?" This
seemingly innocent question doesn't acknowledge that when we approach the
Bible, our perspective has been shaped by where we were born, by whom we
were raised, what Grandma taught us, where we went to school and what our
pastor preached in church -- usually conservative ideas on matters such as
homosexuality. Therefore, we tend to interpret the Bible not objectively,
but through the lens of our cultural and historical context.

The conservative strand of black religion is evident in what Harvard
professor Peter Gomes calls "bibliolatry" -- the practice of worshiping the
Bible rather than worshiping God. It is also found in a "literal"
interpretation of the Bible that focuses more on the letter of the text than
on its spirit, and concentrates on passages about domination, oppression,
hierarchy, elitism and exclusion rather than on the major themes of love,
justice, freedom, equality and inclusion that run throughout the Bible.

A more complicated element of black homophobia is the lingering influence of sexual stereotypes that originated during slavery. According to theologian Kelly Brown Douglas, the myth of "over-sexualized" black bodies portrayed
black men as violent "bucks" who posed an ever-present threat to white
women, and black women as "Jezebels" who seduced white men.

These stereotypes served to justify the whipping, lynching and castration of
black men, and to excuse the sexual violation of black women by white men.
They were just one element of what blacks had to struggle against to gain
acceptance and respectability in white society, especially during the late
19th century and the first half of the 20th. On this matter, religion has
often been a vehicle of suppression, accommodation and control. While the
church was a refuge from the horrors of racism and played an empowering role
in African American history, it also taught black people to repress
behaviors -- especially sexual behaviors -- that might attract unwanted
attention, appear uncouth or seem threatening to white people.

A final piece that shapes black attitudes toward same-sex marriage is the
preoccupation with racism in the black community. This obsession, although
justifiable, has led to a failure to appreciate how racism is inextricably
connected to all other forms of oppression. Those who fail to see this
connection may resent the comparison of gay rights with civil rights. But as
Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice

Last week, two black D.C. Council members voted against the same-sex
marriage bill. But five black council members voted for it. Our black mayor
signed it on Friday, and our black congressional representative has promised
to defend it on Capitol Hill. Although the bill faces the possibility of
intervention by Congress, something revolutionary is happening in this city
to debunk the notion that the black community's homophobia is entrenched.
Wow! Read those paragraphs again. They really do an excellent job of detailing the reasons for some Black homophobia while expertly dismantling them.


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