Friday, December 31, 2010

Best (Women's) Tennis Matches of 2010

Here are my picks for the "best" (most memorable) tennis matches by women in 2010. These are basically the matches that had the most impact on me while they were occurring, feature some of the best play, had the most impact on the rest of the year or would be ones that I would most likely to watch again in the future. You can see my previous lists: Best Women's Tennis Matches of 2009 ,Best Women's Tennis Matches of 2007, and  Best Women's Tennis Matches of 2006.

1. S. Williams USA d. J. Henin BEL6-4 3-6 6-2, 2010 Australian Open final, Melbourne.
The finals of the 2010 Grand Slam tournaments (Australian, French, Wimbledon, U.S.) are often contenders for the most memorable matches of the year, due to the historic and reputational stakes at play depending on the result which sometimes (but not often) leads to high-quality tennis. The set up for this match was Justine Henin's return to professional tennis after a "retirement" of just over 18 months. The two had never been friendly and Henin had beaten Serena Williams in three consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinals the last year they had met in 2007. Williams had won this tournament 4 times before (always in an odd year) and had never been able to successfully defend an Australian Open title. She had also had a near-death experience on her way to the final against Vika Azarenka; it was unclear if this would strengthen or weaken her confidence. What resulted was a match for the ages; Henin (inexplicably) decided to radically modify her game and go for broke on her return-of-serve and basically hit the ball as hard as she could whenever she had the opportunity. She also repeatedly rushed the net. Williams was placed into the unusual position for her of facing someone who was being even more aggressive on court. It was a high-stakes gamble for Henin which in one 10 minute period towards the end of the second set appeared to be paying dividends when the Belgian was able to win 4 games in a row (barely losing a point). However, in the third set Williams steadied her game and Henin's match inexperience with her own new service motion led to her downfall as the double faults and missed serves began to pile up, allowing Serena to win her 5th Australian Open title and 12th major title overall.

2. S. Stosur AUS d. S. Williams USA6-2 6-7(2) 8-6, 2010 French Open quarterfinal, Paris.
This was the match that decided the 2010 Roland Garros title. I am absolutely convinced that if Serena Williams had won this match she would have gone on to win her second French Open title. Amazingly, Williams actually possessed a match point late in the third set but hit an attempted winner down-the-line (instead of cross-court!) an inch or two long. Samantha Stosur had been widely regarded as a very talented doubles player but not really much of a singles threat at a major prior to this tournament. In fact, Williams had easily beaten Stosur in straight sets in Australia earlier in the year. However, in the 2010 clay court season Stosur had the most match wins of anyone on tour and her universally respected serve had become more of a weapon as her confidence increased in direct proportion to her match-win total. Always an excellent mover and possessing a great top-spin forehand as well as a both a slice and two-handed backhand, Stosur's Achilles heel had been her mental toughness. However, after beating Justine Henin, the 4-time French Open champion in the round before, Stosur showed that she had made significant progress towards erasing those doubts and took the rightful place her talent indicated in the Top 5 of Women's Tennis and a perennial threat to win major titles in the future.

3. K. Clijsters BEL d. V. Williams4-6 7-6(2) 6-4, 2010 U.S. Open semifinal, New York City.
A major tournament is always diminished by the absence of the #1 player in the world, even if they are not the defending champion. Serena Williams' absence at the 2010 US Open loomed over the tournament like the very dark stormclouds which disturbed play in the later rounds. Serena's absence led to speculation that it could help her sister Venus Williams to her best performance at a non-Wimbledon major tournament since 2003. Venus was not at her best physically but had a dream draw until she ran into defending champion Kim Clijsters after winning 5 matches relatively easily. The result was another curious showdown between Venus and Kim (but not as curious as 2009's 6-0 0-6 6-4 quarterfinal result) where the Belgian was able to come out on top by simply playing the big points better even though Venus basically dictated play for most of the match. Venus failed to respond to the call of history when the big moments showed up (2nd set tiebreak and 4-all in the third). Clijsters went on to win her 3rd US Open title in three tries and has a remarkable winning streak in New York dating back to 2005. Hopefully she can broaden her success to the other majors before she leaves the tour again in 2012.

4. K. Clijsters BEL d. J. Henin BEL6-3 4-6 7-6(6), Brisbane International final, Brisbane.
This was the first match that I saw in 2010 that I knew would end up on this list of the most memorable of the year. Despite their public protestations to the contrary, it is clear the "Belgian sisters" Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin do not like each other and that became blindingly clear in as this match progressed. Henin was playing in one of her first matches back on the tour, and Clijsters was coming off her 2009 US Open win. Clijsters easily won the first set and was cruising up 4-1 in the second when suddenly the wheels fell off and she couldn't buy a first serve or keep the ball in play. Henin, always one to take advantage when seeing an opponent in distress, easily won the 2nd set and was up a break in the third when Kim woke up from her "walkabout" and resumed playing high-quality tennis. In fact, the third set contained some of the best tennis played by any two women on tour all year. Clijsters came back from down a break (twice!) at 3-1 and 5-3 but fought back to take the match to a third-set tie-break. Henin was not done, saving 3 match points in the tie-break before finally succumbing. The length of the rallies, brilliant shot-making, and impossible defense were breathtaking and made this tennis fan very happy that both of these great champions had un-retired and returned to the Tour.

5. F. Schiavone ITA d. S. Stosur AUS, 6-4 7-6(2), 2010 French Open final, Paris.
No Italian woman had ever been in the Top 10 of the women's tour and certainly never in the final of a major championship. At nearly 30 years old, who would have expected Francesca Schiavone to lose the first set she played at the 2010 Roland Garros tournament and then never lose another, eventually holding the Coupe de Suzanne Lenglen after outplaying a stronger, bigger (and arguably more talented) player in the final? But that's exactly what happened and the tennis world was the better for it. By winning Schiavone again demonstrated why we watch sports: you never know what could happen; impossible dreams can come true. Schiavone ended the year at World #7.

6. V. Zvonareva RUS d. K. Clijsters BEL, 3-6 6-4 6-2, 2010 Wimbledon quarterfinal, London.
This year's Wimbledon was an odd tournament for me because I was actually in London for the final 5 days of the tournament (but only had tickets to the men's final). Anyway, because of this I actually saw much less of the latter round matches than usual (but still predicted the winners with better than average accuracy). Vera Zvonareva had her great breakthrough in 2010 at last, when her other, more famous Russian contemporaries (Dinara Safina, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Maria Sharapova, Elena Dementieva) either flamed out, wimped out or limped away from the court. That Zvonareva was talented was never in doubt; she's an excellent mover, has a world-class two-handed backhand and great hands at the net. Similar to Samantha Stosur, it was her emotional fortitude that had been tested and found wanting (her 2009 meltdown to Flavia Pennetta is legendary). Somehow, this year, on the grass of Wimbledon, trading backhand after backhand with Kim Clijsters, Vera found a way to play through the mental tumult by realizing the game of tennis is actually quite simple: just hit the ball into the court more times than your opponent. Surprisingly, it was the 2-time major champion who wilted first, handing the Russian just her second major semifinal berth of her career. Vera did not squander this opportunity and made it all the way to her first major final where she ran into an unstoppable force named Serena Williams. It's not clear that this tournament's winner was ever in doubt when both Williams sisters were in the draw, but this match at Wimbledon was a crucial turning point for women's tennis for 2010 when Zvonareva proved that she had reached the very pinnacle of women's tennis, ending the year at World #2.

7. S. Williams USA d. V. Azarenka BLR4-6 7-6(4) 6-2, Australian Open quarterfinal, Melbourne.
Serena Williams was down 6-4, 4-0 against the hard-hitting Victoria Azarenka when suddenly both players realized that Serena Williams, the 4-time defending Australian Open champion could lose this match. This realization had immediate and opposite impacts on both players. Azarenka started playing more tentatively (and was probably impacted by the fact that it was almost exactly a year before that she had had Serena in a similar position on this same court after easily winning the first set when Vika was forced to retire from the match due to the extreme heat). Serena on the other hand was enraged with herself and basically willed herself not to lose, slowly but surely making up the huge deficit against Azarenka point by point and game by game. Everyone watching the match was pretty convinced that the 2nd set tie-breaker would be determinative. If Vika won, the match would be over (obviously) but if Serena could come back to even the match score the mental and physical advantage would be hers. The tie-break was a taught, nervy affair but Serena was the more aggressive player and won the tie-break and went on to win the match. She was never really in much danger of not defending her title after that moment.

8. S. Stosur AUS d. E. Dementieva RUS6-3 2-6 7-6(2), 2010 US Open 4th Round, New York City.
The latest finish of any professional women's match of all time was an incredible slugfest between two great players who have never won a major title. This match was what Pam Shriver calls a "barn burner." On both sides of the net one saw world-class ground-strokes, excellent net play, incredible movement and mental anguish. Both players became tentative on their serve and both players blew leads which should have been insurmountable. This was really Dementieva's match to win. She broke Stosur impressive serve four consecutive times in the second set and in the third had a match point at 5-3 on her own serve as well as three more on Stosur's serve in the next game. Amazingly, almost all of these match points were decided by winners by Stosur who kept on going for her shots, despite being pummeled by powerful ground-strokes from the Russian. After that excitement it was only fitting that it came down to a 3rd set tiebreak, where surprisingly, it Dementieva's game which broke down first and she lost the match on a series of forehand errors at 1:36am.

9. E. Dementieva RUS d. L. Safarova CZE, 6-7(5) 6-1 6-4, Open Gaz de France Suez final.
In a curious twist of fate, Elena Dementieva won what was her last career tour title in front of Amelie Mauresmo, who had won this final hometown title the year prior to retiring at the end of 2009. This year it was Dementieva's turn for one last hurrah as she faced a determined Lucia Safarova who played "out of her head," aiming for the corners and regularly connecting to send winners screaming to the baseline out of reach of the Russian. There were some incredible, hard-hitting baseline rallies until finally Safarova's inconsistency caught up with her and she succumbed to the greatest player never to have won a major championship. I wonder who Dementieva will be watching win this title from the stands in 2011?

10. S. Williams USA d. V. Zvonareva, 6-3 6-2, 2010 Wimbledon final, London.
It's not very often that the Wimbledon final is not one of the top 5 most memorable matches in the final but that's exactly what happened this year. The reason why this match is even on this list because it was the very last match Serena Williams played in 2010, and it demonstrated how dismissive she could be of the player who ended the year ranked World #2 and had an envious second half of the year, with two consecutive Grand Slam final appearances, something no woman has done since Serena in 2008. There was never really any doubt who would win this match, or the 2010 Wimbledon title. Hopefully, Serena will return early enough in 2011 to make another impressive mark on the majors next year.

S. Williams USA d N. Li CHN, 7-6(4) 7-6(1), 2010 Australian Open semifinal, Melbourne.
K. Clijsters BEL d. C. Wozniacki DEN, 6-3 5-7 6-3, WTA Championships final.
S. Kuznetsova RUS d. A. Radwanska POL, 6-4 6-7(7) 6-3, Southern California Open final.
V. Zvonareva RUS d. C. Wozniacki DEN, 6-4 6-3, 2010 U.S. Open semifinal.
C. Wozniacki  DEN d. M. Sharapova RUS, 6-3 6-4, 2010 U.S. Open 4th Round.
K. Clijsters BEL d. S. Stosur AUS, 6-4 5-7 6-3, 2010 U.S. Open quarterfinal.
J. Jankovic SRB d. S. Williams USA, 4-6 6-3 7-6(5), Rome semifinal.
J. Jankovic SRB d. V. Williams USA, 6-0 6-1, Rome quarterfinal.
K. Clijsters BEL d. J. Henin BEL, 2-6 6-2 6-3, 2010 Wimbledon Championships 4th round.
S. Stosur AUS d. J. Henin BEL, 2-6 6-1 6-4, 2010 Roland Garros 4th Round.
K. Clijsters BEL d. V. Williams USA, 6-1 6-2, Sony Ericsson Championship final.
P. Kvitova CZE d. K. Kanepi EST 4-6 7-6(8) 8-6, 2010 Wimbledon Championships quarterfinal.

J. Henin BEL d. E. Dementieva RUS, 7-5 7-6(6), 2010 Australian Open 2nd Round.

EQCA Laws Going Into Effect 1/1/11

December 31, 2010

CONTACT: Vaishalee Raja, Equality California
PHONE: (916) 284-9187 EMAIL:

Four Equality California Sponsored Bills go into Effect Tomorrow
expands fundamental protections and freedoms for lesbian, gay, 
bisexual and transgender Californians

Sacramento – On January 1, four new Equality California sponsored bills will go into effect, advancing key rights and protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Californians.
“Each of these bills brings us closer to realizing our goal of achieving full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Californians,” said Jim Carroll, Equality California Managing Director. “In 2011, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Californians, especially LGBT and questioning youth will enjoy important new protections with greater equality and dignity under the law.”

The following legislation takes effect tomorrow:

Mental Health Services for At-Risk Youth (SB 543), authored by Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), enables at-risk youth to access mental health services without parental consent, which will help young people get the care they need before they are in crisis. Current parental consent requirements for mental health services create a barrier to treatment that is especially harmful to LGBT youth who may be put at risk of emotional or physical abuse by coming out to their parents prematurely or without support. 
Repeal of Discriminatory Code, (AB 2199) authored by Assemblymember Bonnie Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) calls for the repeal of a section of the California Welfare and Institutions code that instructs the State Department of Mental Health to conduct research into the “causes and cures of homosexuality,” with the implication that lesbian, gay, and bisexual Californians are sexual deviants, potential sex offenders and a threat to children. The code, which was originally authored in the 1950s, implies that lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals can and should be cured, in direct contradiction with an enormous body of research that demonstrates otherwise.
Separation Equity Act, (AB 2700), authored by Assemblymember Fiona Ma (D-San Francisco) will amend the state's family code, allowing for couples who first registered as domestic partners and who legally married thereafter to dissolve both contracts through a single, uniform procedure. The current system forces couples to go through a separate process for each, which can take an extra one to two years for each case to be resolved and unnecessarily burdens the judicial system. 
Unemployment Benefits Act (AB 2055), authored by Assemblymember Hector De La Torre (D-South Gate), ensures that same-sex couples in California have access to unemployment benefits. Currently, couples who are engaged to be married are eligible for unemployment benefits if one of the partners must leave his or her job in order to move closer to his or her future spouse. This bill would extend the same rights to couples who plan on entering into a domestic partnership. The bill is especially beneficial for same-sex couples because they are prohibited from legally marrying and therefore unable to receive these benefits.

Equality California (EQCA) is the largest statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights advocacy organization in California. Over the past decade, Equality California has strategically moved California from a state with extremely limited legal protections for LGBT individuals to a state with some of the most comprehensive civil rights protections in the nation. Equality California has passed more than 70 pieces of legislation and continues to advance equality through legislative advocacy, electoral work, public education and community 

BOOK REVIEW: Alastair Reynolds' Absolution Gap

Alastair Reynolds' Absolution Gap is the third novel in his Revelation Space series. I was turned on to his work by Mark Chitty's Walker of Worlds blog, who is also a big fan or Peter F. Hamilton and Neal Asher, two other big British science fiction writers.

I read the first book in the Revelation Space series in Fall 2009 but have been eagerly devouring all of Reynolds works since then. See my reviews of the first two books in the trilogy, Revelation Space and Redemption Ark. In addition, there are two other novels which are set in the Revelation Space universe, Chasm City and The Prefect, both of which are excellent, well-written science fiction novels.

Surprisingly, even though Reynolds is most well-known for his original trilogy of novels set in the Revelation Space universe, they may not actually be his greatest creations.

Absolution Gap is the third and concluding book in the trilogy and features all the characteristics we have come to expect from Alastair Reynolds: dense, multi-layered plot(s), ambiguously identities of main characters, political intrigue, relativistic suspense and vast quantities of prose.

There is a 20-year gap between the events from the end of Redemption Ark and the events from the beginning of Absolution Gap. Our main protagonists Neil Clavain, the Conjoiner who defected to join Humans, Scorpio, a human-pig genetic hybrid, Ana Khouri (the main character from  Revelation Space and Redemption Ark), Skade (head of the Conjoiners and arch-nemesis of Clavain) all return and interact in ways on the planet Ararat which are exciting and horrifying (not everyone survives and I don't want to give away any spoilers here). It is nice to see characters that we are familiar with re-appearing in this third and final book of the series.

As with his other books in the Revelation Space series, the sophisticated plot of Absolution Gap also unspools in multiple time periods, due to Reynolds' insistence on no space flight greater than the speed of light combined with events that occur in different star systems.

The new characters that Reynolds introduces are terrifying and fascinating. On the planet Hela, Rashmika Els is a teenaged girl who apparently always knows when someone is telling the truth. Hela is ruled by the clearly insane Quaiche, who is a former crewmember of the Ultra spaceship Gnostic Ascension, and Grelier another crewmate who acts as Quaiche's right-hand man and enforcer. Quaiche has been infected with an indoctrination virus which makes him obsessed with Hela's star, Haldora, which appears to disappear intermittently (for fractions of a second every decades or so). He has had his eyelids removed and placed himself in a cathedral in perpetual motion so that he can (literally) keep his eyes constantly on Haldora so he doesn't miss a single vanishing. Rashmika goes to work for Quaiche and Grelier since someone with her unusual talents are invaluable.

The two storylines from Ararat and Hela intersect when the "lighthugger" Nostalgia for Infinity leaves Ararat (the Inhibitors are destroying that planet's star and are only prevented from destroying the planet itself by Clavain's old Conjoiner friend Remontoire) and everyone goes to Hela for the resolution of the story. It turns out the mystery behind Haldora's bizarre disappearing act is the existence of another alien species who may be able to help humans in the fight to stave off extinction, or who may be even worse than The Wolves.

Overall, although Absolution Gap is not as gripping as the first two installments of the trilogy, it is a reasonably high-quality conclusion to an incredibly original, well-written space opera which can be favorably compared to any of the classics in the genre of hard science fiction.

Author: Alastair Reynolds.
Title: Absolution Gap.
Length: 768 pages.
May 31, 2005.

OVERALL GRADE: B+ (3.4/4.0).

Thursday, December 30, 2010


The Other Half and I saw Joel & Ethan Coen's True Grit last week in the run up to the holidays. We've always been a fan of the Coen Brothers, and I think we have seen most of their entire oeuvre (Raising Arizona, Miller's Crossing, Barton Fink, Fargo, The Hudsucker Proxy, The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men and Burn After Reading) although we skipped last year's Osar-nominated A Serious Man.

True Grit stars Jeff Bridges in the role that won John Wayne his Best Actor Oscar (which Bridges won last year for Crazy Heart), Matt Damon, Josh Brolin and introduces Hailee Stanfield. Stanfield plays 14-year-old Mattie Ross who hires Bridges' U.S. Marshall Rooster Cogburn to hunt down Brolin's Tom Chaney who killed Mattie's father and stole a horse. Damon plays a Texas Ranger named La Boeuf who has been tracking Chaney for years but hasn't been able to get very close to him. The three (La Boeuf, Cogburn and Ross) reluctantly join forces to find Chaney in the unincorporated Western Territory even though Mattie wants Chaney captured so that he can hang for killing her father while La Boeuf needs Chaney alive to be brought back to Texas in order to collect a substantial reward. Cogburn will go along with anyone who can guarantee him a steady enough to income to pay for his excessive alcohol consumption.

The original True Grit is a classic Western, based loosely on a book by the same name by Charles Portis. The novel has very stylized language (there are no contractions like "can't" or "ain't"); the Coen Brothers adapted the book, kept most of the formal dialogue and inserted broad humor.

In relation to the end-of-year award sweepstakes True Grit holds its own as an enjoyable, well-made and well-acted film in a genre which hearkens back to the Golden Age of Hollywood. It is not as meaningful a film as Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven, which re-imagined and re-invigorated the Western. However, (somewhat surprisingly to some) the Coen Brothers have not produced a quirky parody of a Western, but a pretty straightforward example which emphasizes the strengths of the form.

TitleTrue Grit.
Running Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some intense sequences of western violence including disturbing images.
Release Date: Wednesday, December 22, 2010.
Attendance Date: Thursday, December 23, 2010.

Writing: A-.
Acting: A.
Visuals: A-.
Impact: A-.

Overall Grade: A- (3.75/4.0).

Obama Has Lowest Judicial Confirmation Rate In 30 Years

When the 111th Congress ended with a bang by approving DADT repeal, the START treaty and the Obama-Republican tax-cut deal, the Senate's shameful inaction on confirming federal judges may have been overlooked by some, but not by yours truly.

Think Progress notes that roughly one-ninth of all Article III judgeships are now vacant. In fact, Obama has the lowest rate of judicial confirmation (60 judges) of any of the last 6 presidential administrations after the conclusion of their first Congress.

It should especially be noted that Republican obstructionism is disproportionately preventing judicial nominees who happen to not be white or male from joining the federal judiciary. I'm sure that's just a coincidence. NOT!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Palm Springs Police Chief Apologizes For Using Epithet

There is an update on the story about the Palm Springs public sex sting that MadProfessah has been following rather closely since this summer. Palm Springs Police Chief David Dominguez who had previously angrily denied the reports tat anti-gay epithets had been hurled during the public sex sting, has apologized for calling the gay men arrested "a bunch of filthy motherf***ers."

Palm Springs City Manager David Ready released a report which admits wrongdoing by the police department.
As a result of the accusations against the police department, the city opened its own investigation into the sting.  The city's report admits that "portions of the operation were not conducted according to professional standards."

The mistakes highlighted in the report include:

  • Not notifying hotels, businesses and residents of the Warm Sands neighborhood of the complaints
  • Using undercover decoys instead of just surveillance cameras
  • "Disturbingly offensive remarks" were made during the operation
The report says disciplinary action has already been taken, and there will be more actions taken in the future.  However, under California law, names of officers and the punishment handed out cannot be released.
As a result of the city's investigation, no decoy operations will ever take place unless there is "careful pre-operation training."  All officers have received Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual sensitivity training.  The city will also create a "LGBT Employee Resource Group" in which city employees can provide a forum to discuss LGBT issues in Palm Springs.
Apparently there will be a hearing on January 20, 2011 to determine the status of the men who were arrested and whom the Riverside County District Attorney was insisting plead guilty to crimes which would lead them to be forced to register for life as sex offenders with the state of California. Their attorney, Roger Tansey, is seeking a dismissal of all charges due to the "discriminatory intent" the Palm Spring Police Department exhibited towards the gay men.

MadProfessah will continue to follow the story until it is completely resolved.

WATCH: Behind the Scenes of DADT Repeal Bill Signing

The White House has released this behind-the-scenes video of the President signing the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Repeal Bill of 2010 into law on Wednesday December 22nd. Watch for yourself:

BOOK REVIEW: Peter F. Hamilton's The Evolutionary Void


Peter F. Hamilton's The Evolutionary Void is the third (and final) book in the British science fiction grandmaster's Void Trilogy which started with The Dreaming Void and The Temporal Void. I was looking forward to reading this book very much and even purchased the hard copy on months prior to its official publication.

Hamilton is well-known for his long, intricately plotted, hard sci-fi space operas which are peopled with a dizzying number of characters. The Evolutionary Void is no exception, and it is even more complicated than his other books because it is not only the culminating work in the Void Trilogy, it also follows his earlier Commonwealth Saga books Judas Unchained  and Pandora's Star.

The Evolutionary Void picks up exactly where The Temporal Void concluded. There are multiple storylines which are instantaneously resumed which requires the reader to get up to speed very quickly. In fact, it is probably impossible to read and enjoy this book without reading the first two books (The Temporal Void and The Dreaming Void) first, and relatively recently.

The main story lines are bifurcated into action that takes place either inside or outside the Void, a spatial anomaly which can potentially expand to eliminate the known Galaxy. Inside the Void, the main character is Edeard the Waterwalker who lives in the curiously exogenous city-state of Makkathran which possesses a pseudo-feudal political structure with very limited technology but is populated with humans having telekinetic and telepathic powers. Outside the Void, 1200 years have passed since the exciting events depicted in Hamilton's Judas Unchained  and Pandora's Star. Many of the main characters from those books (Paula Myo, Ozzie Isaacs, Nigel Sheldon, Gore and Justine Burnelli and Oscar Monroe come to mind) are still around, and if you haven't read the previous duology then the reader will miss some nuances of these characters' interactions. The people outside the Void know about the goings on inside through Dreams which are shared in the gaiasphere, a galactic-wide network where properly equipped humans can share their emotional states (invented by Ozzie, of course!) with everyone. Only two people have ever been able to dream about events happening (or that have happened?) within the Void: Inigo (The First Dreamer, around whom a powerful religion called Living Dream has been formed) and the unknown Second Dreamer, who is only identified (and publicly exposed after a multi-planet manhunt) as an average Commonwealth citizen named Araminta. Araminta is a great creation, again demonstrating Hamilton's deft approach with female characters; just as Paula was the heroine of the first series, Araminta is the heroine of the second.

For someone whose reputation is built (deservingly so) on his depiction of action-packed, explosion-filled space battles and mind-blowing, futuristic technology, Hamilton does a surprisingly compelling job of telling what is essentially a fantasy tale inside the Void involving Edeard. The fantasy bits are the best part of the Void books, in my opinion. Hamilton's actually used this device of interlaced chapters of fantasy and hard science fiction before, in Fallen Dragon, and it works very very well. In fact, when the fantasy section becomes somewhat irrelevant due to an ill-chosen plot device I will not give away here, the science fiction story did not hold my attention nearly as well as my previous interest in Edeard's story and as a result I lost interest in The Evolutionary Void. This really surprised me, but it's undeniable that at some point I was just simply confused and slogging through the out-of-the-Void story, anxiously looking forward to catching up on Edeard's story inside-the-Void. When all I could look forward to was whatever Paula, Araminta, Oscar or Inigo would do next, my attention and interest flagged.

This is not to say that The Evolutionary Void is a bad book; Hamilton is an incredibly ambitious author and I think he just tried to do too much in one ridiculously large novel. (Really, the three Void books are clearly just one gigantic tale that due to the constraints of the publishing industry had to be released as three separate volumes.) This is also not surprising because Hamilton's masterwork, The Night's Dawn Trilogy, which is hands-down the best science-fiction trilogy ever written, was released as no less than 6 different books when really it is one gargantuan tale. I have to confess even reading that work one can get lost, but there the problem was that one had too many plot threads and characters one cared about. Reading the Void trilogy we have precisely the inverse problem: too few characters we care about--even characters that we had previously cared about quite a bit in the earlier duology. Of the new characters, only Araminta and Inigo are really fully drawn, with the primary villain of the piece recycled from the earlier series (The Cat). I think there was just one more hook (mystery, romance, comedy, horror) which if it had been included would have greatly strengthened my overall evaluation of this final book, and by extension the entire series. I have read both The Night's Dawn trilogy and Judas Unchained Pandora's Star twice in their entirety; I believe I would rather re-read those than the Void trilogy (although I will probably give The Evolutionary Void another read, just for completeness).

There is still a lot of science fiction out there I have not read, such as Hamilton's own Misspent Youth, which is a standalone novel set around 1500 years before The Void Trilogy. If any of it is as creative and compelling as this sub-par (by his superlative standards!) Hamilton novel, I will be happy indeed.

Author: Peter F. Hamilton.
Title: The Evolutionary Void 
Hardcover: 704 pages.
Publisher: Del Rey. 
August 24, 2010.


OVERALL GRADE: (3.583/4.00) B+/A-.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

WATCH: Thor Trailer


Australia: A Female, Atheist Prime Minister & Marriage Equality Majority

The current Prime Minister of Australia is Julia Gillard. She is 49-years-old, unmarried and a confirmed atheist. She became Prime Minister when she became the leader of her party after the previous head (then current Prime Minister Kevin Rudd) lost the confidence of the Labour party.

Surprisingly, she is opposed to marriage equality for same-sex couples, even though a vast majority of Australians now support equal marriage rights for same-sex couples.
78% of Australians believe there should be a conscience vote on allowing same-sex couples to marry, according to a national opinion poll released today.

The poll also found an increase in support for marriage equality with 62% of Australians supporting the reform, up from 60% last year.

The Galaxy poll also showed that 80% of Australians aged between 18 and 24 support same-sex marriage and 72% of households with children aged under 18 were also in favour. 74% of Labor voters and 48% of Coalition voters support equality. 
Support for a conscience vote is uniformly high with 80% of Labor voters and 75% of Coalition voters supporting it.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Sotomayor, Ginsburg and Kagan: 1/3 of the Highest Court

Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan
This picture just make my heart sing. I can't wait until the day where the United States Supreme Court actually has a majority of women on it!

BOOK REVIEW: Alastair Reynolds' Chasm City

British science fiction master Alastair Reynolds has very quickly become one of my favorite authors and Chasm City is a big part of that. Although it is not formally in the Revelation Space trilogy of Revelation Space, Redemption Ark and Absolution Gap, it is set in the same universe as those other books, like The Prefect and his short story collection Galactic North.

Specifically, Chasm City is located on the planet Yellowstone, which once featured the most advanced human civilization in Reynolds' Revelation Space universe; the planet and its environs are mentioned frequently in Revelation Space and Redemption Ark.

The main character of Chasm City is Tanner Mirabel, or at least we the reader think it is. One of the themes in Reynolds' work that I have noticed is the idea that the narrator doesn't not always know their own identity. In other words, the threat of subversion of one's individual identity is always a possibility. Tanner arrives on Yellowstone from another planet called Sky's Edge in order to kill Argent Reivich, whom he believes killed the woman he loved (who just happened to have been the wife of the crime boss Cahuella who hired Tanner to be his chief of security). This storyline appears to be a pretty straightforward revenge tale.

The second, more intriguing story is about Sky Haussman, the original colonist of Tanner's home planet Sky's Edge, who in the intervening centuries since the planet's colonization has become revered as a near God-like figure by some but a Machiavellian mass-murderer by others. Tanner has been infected with a bizarre virus which causes the infected to bleed stigmatically from the palm and to dream obsessively about the life story of Sky Haussman and the sad, bizarre tale of how Sky's Edge was colonized.

There are multiple other subplots, which are also well-written and fascinating. One of the most memorable involves a bizarre extra-terrestrial  creature which is part plant and part reptile called a hamadryad which Cahuella is obsessed with capturing and confining in his private zoo/garden. Another subplot involves a subculture in Chasm City which revolves around a particular drug called "dream fuel." This dangerous substance allows users to avoid the devastating effects of the Melding Plague (a nanotech virus which destroys all machines at a cellular level, including nanomachines that most advanced humans possess during this era and which shows up in the other Revelation Space novels).

Chasm City is the most ambitious and intricately plotted of Reynolds novels, and, in my opinion, the most successful. The threads come together in a surprising way. I thought I had figured out the secret twist about two-thirds through the novel but there was a twist on the twist which completely floored me.

Any lover of well-conceived speculative fiction who has an appreciation for other genres (especially hard-boiled detective fiction) will not be disappointed by taking the time to read Chasm City.

Author: Alastair Reynolds.
Title: Chasm City.
Length: 704 pages.
May 27, 2003.


OVERALL GRADE: A+/A (4.15/4.0).

Eye Candy: Nick Ayler (reprise)

Nick Ayler is one of the most searched for terms which bring people to this blog. He is a very successful 23-year-old model who also happens to have been named the sexiest man alive by DNA magazine (Australia's best-selling gay magazine) and was a previous Eye Candy model on July 19, 2010. Frankly, I'm somewhat surprised by this post's popularity because Ayler would probably just barely make the Top 10 of hot models that I have featured on this blog.

See for yourself by browsing the Eye Candy tab, in which I have posted thumbnail pictures of all the Eye Candy models for 2010.

Regardless, back by popular demand, enjoy this reprise appearance by Nick Ayler as Eye Candy.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Ireland Approves Same-sex Civil Partnerships

From La Figa comes the news that Ireland has enacted a same-sex civil partnerships law that goes into effect on January1. Apparently one has to pay €150 to register one's union and wait 3 months so the first gay civil partnership ceremony will not occur until April 1, 2011.

Irish Justice Minister Dermot Ahern signed the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act of 2010 (which had been passed by the Irish Parliament on July 19 2010) on December 23rd and said:
Gay couples, whose relationships have not previously been given legal recognition by the State, may now formalise their relationships in the eyes of the law and society at large. Their relationships will be legally recognised and protected.
Congrats, Eire!

For Your Consideration: "Inception"

The campaigns for the 2010 Best Picture Oscar have begun in earnest.... Here is the promotional trailer for Christopher Nolan's Inception

Friday, December 24, 2010

Celebrity Friday: VP Biden Says Marriage Is "Inevitable"

Vice President Joe Biden made news this morning on ABC's Good Morning America by declaring that it is "inevitable" that a national consensus on marriage equality will be reached.

Joe.My.God quotes:
“I think the country’s evolving,” he said. “And I think you’re going to see, you know, the next effort is probably going to be to deal with so called DOMA [Defence of Marriage Act].” DOMA prohibits federal government from recognising gay marriage, meaning that even if states allow the practice, gay couples still cannot access federal benefits. Mr Biden added that attitudes had changed to openly gay soldiers and that consensus was beginning to turn in favour of gay marriage. He said that gay troops were now “widely accepted” and “the same thing is happening now in regard to the issue of marriage.”

Thursday, December 23, 2010

WATCH: All 2010 Movies In One Clip


MOVIE REVIEW: The King's Speech

Finally saw The King's Speech, the latest Oscar-bait ("Based on the incredible true story") from The Weinstein Company. It is directed by Tom Hooper, starring the crème de la crème of British acting talent (Colin Firth as King George VI, Helena Bonham Carter as Queen Elizabeth, Timothy Squall as Winston Churchill, Michael Gambon as King George V) as well as some renowned Australian actors (Geoffrey Rush and Guy Pearce).

The King's Speech is widely seen as a front-runner for the 2010 Best Picture Oscar, with Firth garnering kudos from almost every critics group under the sun and building a convincing claim that last year's Best Actor nomination for A Single Man was merely a precursor to a win this year. Rush, who already has a Best Actor statuette for Shine, is generating buzz for a supporting Oscar, but it looks like Christian Bale's work in The Fighter may have that category wrapped up.

It's hard to evaluate the film outside the context of the annual Oscar race, especially considering the Weinsteins' history and the caliber of the actors involved. Hooper is a well-regarded but youthful British direct most well-known for the HBO miniseries John Adams which starred Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney and won a boatload of Emmys last year.

The King's Speech is about the story of an unorthodox Australian speech therapist named Lionel Logue who worked with the Duke of York (the King's second oldest son) to try to correct a severe stammer and a concomitant paralyzing fear of public speaking. Firth does a heart-wrenching job of portraying the agony of a chronic stutterer. Since, he is second-in-line for the throne, Firth's character (called Bertie by his friends and family) has many, many opportunities (and obligations) to give public speeches and the film depicts the way time seems to stand still as Firth labors to produce coherent and articulate sounds. In addition to the personal journey of Bertie to overcome what appears to be an insurmountable disability, the film also is leavened with suspense as the political intrigue thickens as Bertie's brother becomes King, making Bertie next in line. Of course, the problem is that if Bertie becomes King then of course he will have even more obligations to speak publicly.

Overall, the film depicts pre-World War II era London impeccably. Firth's performance, along with Bonham Carter's clever turn as his consort and Rush's attempt to steal scenes are the main reasons to see the film. Although it is hugely entertaining and captivating, I did n;t leave the film thinking "Wow, that was a reallly good movie" which is how I did feel when I walked out of Toy Story 3Inception, The Kids Are All Right and The Social Network.

Title: The King's Speech.
Running Time: 1 hour, 51 minutes.
MPAA Rating: R for some language.
Release Date: Friday, November 26, 2010.
Seen: Tuesday, December 21, 2010.

Plot: B+.
Acting: A.
Visuals: A-.
Impact: A.

Overall Grade: A- (3.75/4.0).

White House Staffers: It Gets Better


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Gallup Poll Reveals Vast Majority of Americans Are Idiots

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Dec. 10-12, 2010, 

with a random sample of 1,019 adults, aged 18 and older, living in the continental U.S., selected 
using random-digit-dial sampling.For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence

 that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

A new Gallup poll reveals again that the vast majority of Americans believe in God, and also believe that a "deity" had either full or partial responsibility for creating humans. A plurality of Americans (40%) believe "God created humans pretty much in their present form approximately 10,000 years ago" (strict Creationism) while a smaller percentage (38%) believe that "God guided a process by which humans developed over millions of years from less advanced life forms" (intelligent design-lite) while a mere 16% believe that "humans developed over millions of years, without God's involvement" (science). Happily, this last number is the largest it has ever been, but it is still a disappointing result, since it reflects undisputed scientific fact.

Unsurprisingly, there is a partisan differential between Democrats, Republicans and Independents over who believes what:

December 2010 Views of Human Origins (Humans Evolved, With God Guiding; Humans Evolved Without God's Involvment; God Created Humans in Present Form) -- by Party

Clearly a majority of Republicans (52%) believe that humans are less than 10,000 years with a minuscule 8% believing in God-less evolution, while Democrats and Independents are virtually indistinguishable between 40% believing in God-guided evolution and approximately 20% aligning with the vast body of scientific knowledge on the topic.

And, that, ladies and gentlemen, is why we have the 112th Congress with a Republican House majority!

Republicans Kill Liu Nomination; Approve 19 Others

Goodwin Liu

What's that smell? I think it's the stench of "pragmatism" and horse trading. Apparently a deal has been reached between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to kill the nominations of four "controversial" federal judicial candidates in return for getting several other of President Obama's judicial nominations approved. The four judges that were anathema to Republicans just happen to be Goodwin Liu, Edward Chen, Louis B. Butler, Jr. and John J. McConnell, Jr.

MadProfessah has been following the odyssey of Liu's nomination because I met him once at joint State Assembly and Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Proposition 8, where the Dean of UC Berkeley's Boalt School of Law. Liu is an unapologetic API LGBT ally and progressive jurist who some consider a likely candidate for a Supreme Court nomination in Obama's second term.
Officials familiar with the deal said Democrats agreed not to seek votes on the nominations of Goodwin Liu, associate dean at UC Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law, and three others, while Republicans agreed to confirm at least 19 of President Barack Obama's noncontroversial nominees.
If confirmed, Liu, 40, of Berkeley, would be only the second Asian-American serving on a federal appeals court and the only active Asian-American on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and is seen by some as a potential future U.S. Supreme Court pick. However, his nomination in February was almost immediately met by Republican opposition.
"Professor Liu is an outstanding nominee and it is most unfortunate that my Republican colleagues are blocking an up-or-down vote on his nomination," U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said Tuesday. "I will keep fighting until he is confirmed."
The approval of judges means that Democratic-nominated judges are now a majority on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals and increased their margin on the 4th Circuit to 9-5. There are 11 federal circuit courts of appeals.

Transcript of POTUS Remarks at DADT Repeal Signing


Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release                                                       December 22, 2010

Department of Interior
Washington, D.C.

9:10 A.M. EST

     THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Hey, folks, how are you?  (Applause.)  It’s a good day.  (Applause.)  It’s a real good day.  As some of my colleagues can tell you, this is a long time in coming.  But I am happy it’s here.

     Ladies and gentlemen, welcome.  Please be seated.

     It was a great five-star general and President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, who once said, “Though force can protect in emergency, only justice, fairness and consideration, and cooperation can finally lead men to the dawn of eternal peace.” 
By repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" today, we take a big step toward fostering justice, fairness and consideration, and that real cooperation President Eisenhower spoke of. 

This fulfills an important campaign promise the President and I made, and many here on this stage made, and many of you have fought for, for a long time, in repealing a policy that actually weakens our national security, diminished our ability to have military readiness, and violates the fundamental American principle of fairness and equality -- that exact same set of principles that brave gay men and women will now be able to openly defend around the world.  (Applause.) 

It is both morally and militarily simply the right thing to do.  And it’s particularly important that this result was fully supported by those within the military who are charged with implementing it.  And I want to pay particular respect, just as a personal note -- as we used to say, I used to be allowed to say in the Senate, a point of personal privilege -- Admiral Mullen, you're a stand-up guy.  (Applause.)  I think they like you.  (Applause.) 

He already has enough power.  Don't -- (laughter.) 

     And it couldn't have been done without these men and women leading our military.  And certainly it could not have been done without the steady, dedicated and persistent leadership of the President of the United States.  (Applause.) 

     Mr. President, by signing this bill, you will be linking military might with an abiding sense of justice.  You’ll be projecting power by promoting fairness, and making the United States military as strong as they can be at a time we need it to be the strongest.

     Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States of America, the Commander-in-Chief, Barack Obama.  (Applause.) 

     AUDIENCE:  Yes, we did!  Yes, we did!  Yes, we did!

     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you!  Yes, we did. 

     AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Thank you, Mr. President!

     THE PRESIDENT:  You are welcome.  (Applause.) 

     This is a good day.

     AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Yes, it is!

     AUDIENCE MEMBER:  (Inaudible.) (Laughter.) 

     AUDIENCE MEMBER:  You rock, President Obama! 

     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, thank you, thank you.  (Laughter.) 

You know, I am just overwhelmed.  This is a very good day.  (Applause.)  And I want to thank all of you, especially the people on this stage, but each and every one of you who have been working so hard on this, members of my staff who worked so hard on this.  I couldn’t be prouder.

     Sixty-six years ago, in the dense, snow-covered forests of Western Europe, Allied Forces were beating back a massive assault in what would become known as the Battle of the Bulge.  And in the final days of fighting, a regiment in the 80th Division of Patton’s Third Army came under fire.  The men were traveling along a narrow trail.  They were exposed and they were vulnerable.  Hundreds of soldiers were cut down by the enemy. 

And during the firefight, a private named Lloyd Corwin tumbled 40 feet down the deep side of a ravine.  And dazed and trapped, he was as good as dead.  But one soldier, a friend, turned back.  And with shells landing around him, amid smoke and chaos and the screams of wounded men, this soldier, this friend, scaled down the icy slope, risking his own life to bring Private Corwin to safer ground. 

     For the rest of his years, Lloyd credited this soldier, this friend, named Andy Lee, with saving his life, knowing he would never have made it out alone.  It was a full four decades after the war, when the two friends reunited in their golden years, that Lloyd learned that the man who saved his life, his friend Andy, was gay.  He had no idea.  And he didn’t much care.  Lloyd knew what mattered.  He knew what had kept him alive; what made it possible for him to come home and start a family and live the rest of his life.  It was his friend. 

And Lloyd’s son is with us today.  And he knew that valor and sacrifice are no more limited by sexual orientation than they are by race or by gender or by religion or by creed; that what made it possible for him to survive the battlefields of Europe is the reason that we are here today.   (Applause.)  That's the reason we are here today.  (Applause.)

So this morning, I am proud to sign a law that will bring an end to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”  (Applause.)  It is a law -- this law I’m about to sign will strengthen our national security and uphold the ideals that our fighting men and women risk their lives to defend.

No longer will our country be denied the service of thousands of patriotic Americans who were forced to leave the military -– regardless of their skills, no matter their bravery or their zeal, no matter their years of exemplary performance -– because they happen to be gay.  No longer will tens of thousands of Americans in uniform be asked to live a lie, or look over their shoulder, in order to serve the country that they love.  (Applause.)

As Admiral Mike Mullen has said, “Our people sacrifice a lot for their country, including their lives.  None of them should have to sacrifice their integrity as well.”  (Applause.) 

That’s why I believe this is the right thing to do for our military.  That’s why I believe it is the right thing to do, period. 

Now, many fought long and hard to reach this day.  I want to thank the Democrats and Republicans who put conviction ahead of politics to get this done together.  (Applause.  I want to recognize Nancy Pelosi -- (applause) -- Steny Hoyer --  (applause) -- and Harry Reid.  (Applause.)

Today we’re marking an historic milestone, but also the culmination of two of the most productive years in the history of Congress, in no small part because of their leadership.  And so we are very grateful to them.  (Applause.)

I want to thank Joe Lieberman -- (applause) -- and Susan Collins.  (Applause.)  And I think Carl Levin is still working -- (laughter) -- but I want to add Carl Levin.  (Applause.)  They held their shoulders to the wheel in the Senate.  I am so proud of Susan Davis, who’s on the stage.  (Applause.)  And a guy you might know -- Barney Frank.  (Applause.)  They kept up the fight in the House.  And I’ve got to acknowledge Patrick Murphy, a veteran himself, who helped lead the way in Congress.  (Applause.) 

     I also want to commend our military leadership.  Ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was a topic in my first meeting with Secretary Gates, Admiral Mullen, and the Joint Chiefs.  (Applause.)  We talked about how to end this policy.  We talked about how success in both passing and implementing this change depended on working closely with the Pentagon.  And that’s what we did.

And two years later, I’m confident that history will remember well the courage and the vision of Secretary Gates -- (applause) -- of Admiral Mike Mullen, who spoke from the heart and said what he believed was right -- (applause) -- of General James Cartwright, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs; and Deputy Secretary William Lynn, who is here.  (Applause.)  Also, the authors of the Pentagon’s review, Jeh Johnson and General Carter Ham, who did outstanding and meticulous work --  (applause) -- and all those who laid the groundwork for this transition. 

And finally, I want to express my gratitude to the men and women in this room who have worn the uniform of the United States Armed Services.  (Applause.)  I want to thank all the patriots who are here today, all of them who were forced to hang up their uniforms as a result of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” -- but who never stopped fighting for this country, and who rallied and who marched and fought for change.  I want to thank everyone here who stood with them in that fight. 

Because of these efforts, in the coming days we will begin the process laid out by this law.  Now, the old policy remains in effect until Secretary Gates, Admiral Mullen and I certify the military’s readiness to implement the repeal.  And it’s especially important for service members to remember that.  But I have spoken to every one of the service chiefs and they are all committed to implementing this change swiftly and efficiently.  We are not going to be dragging our feet to get this done.  (Applause.) 

Now, with any change, there’s some apprehension.  That’s natural.  But as Commander-in-Chief, I am certain that we can effect this transition in a way that only strengthens our military readiness; that people will look back on this moment and wonder why it was ever a source of controversy in the first place.     

I have every confidence in the professionalism and patriotism of our service members.  Just as they have adapted and grown stronger with each of the other changes, I know they will do so again.  I know that Secretary Gates, Admiral Mullen, as well as the vast majority of service members themselves, share this view.  And they share it based on their own experiences, including the experience of serving with dedicated, duty-bound service members who were also gay. 

     As one special operations warfighter said during the Pentagon’s review -- this was one of my favorites -- it echoes the experience of Lloyd Corwin decades earlier:  “We have a gay guy in the unit.  He’s big, he’s mean, he kills lots of bad guys.”  (Laughter.)  “No one cared that he was gay.”  (Laughter.) And I think that sums up perfectly the situation.  (Applause.)

Finally, I want to speak directly to the gay men and women currently serving in our military.  For a long time your service has demanded a particular kind of sacrifice.  You’ve been asked to carry the added burden of secrecy and isolation.  And all the while, you’ve put your lives on the line for the freedoms and privileges of citizenship that are not fully granted to you. 

You’re not the first to have carried this burden, for while today marks the end of a particular struggle that has lasted almost two decades, this is a moment more than two centuries in the making.

There will never be a full accounting of the heroism demonstrated by gay Americans in service to this country; their service has been obscured in history.  It’s been lost to prejudices that have waned in our own lifetimes.  But at every turn, every crossroads in our past, we know gay Americans fought just as hard, gave just as much to protect this nation and the ideals for which it stands.

There can be little doubt there were gay soldiers who fought for American independence, who consecrated the ground at Gettysburg, who manned the trenches along the Western Front, who stormed the beaches of Iwo Jima.  Their names are etched into the walls of our memorials.  Their headstones dot the grounds at Arlington.

And so, as the first generation to serve openly in our Armed Forces, you will stand for all those who came before you, and you will serve as role models to all who come after.  And I know that you will fulfill this responsibility with integrity and honor, just as you have every other mission with which you’ve been charged.

And you need to look no further than the servicemen and women in this room -- distinguished officers like former Navy Commander Zoe Dunning.  (Applause.)  Marines like Eric Alva, one of the first Americans to be injured in Iraq.  (Applause.)  Leaders like Captain Jonathan Hopkins, who led a platoon into northern Iraq during the initial invasion, quelling an ethnic riot, earning a Bronze Star with valor.  (Applause.)  He was discharged, only to receive emails and letters from his soldiers saying they had known he was gay all along -- (laughter) -- and thought that he was the best commander they ever had.  (Applause.) 

There are a lot of stories like these -- stories that only underscore the importance of enlisting the service of all who are willing to fight for this country.  That’s why I hope those soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who have been discharged under this discriminatory policy will seek to reenlist once the repeal is implemented.  (Applause.) 

That is why I say to all Americans, gay or straight, who want nothing more than to defend this country in uniform:  Your country needs you, your country wants you, and we will be honored to welcome you into the ranks of the finest military the world has ever known.  (Applause.) 

Some of you remembered I visited Afghanistan just a few weeks ago.  And while I was walking along the rope line -- it was a big crowd, about 3,000 -- a young woman in uniform was shaking my hand and other people were grabbing and taking pictures.  And she pulled me into a hug and she whispered in my ear, “Get ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell’ done.”  (Laughter and applause.)  And I said to her, “I promise you I will.”  (Applause.)   

For we are not a nation that says, “don’t ask, don’t tell.” We are a nation that says, “Out of many, we are one.”  (Applause.)  We are a nation that welcomes the service of every patriot.  We are a nation that believes that all men and women are created equal.  (Applause.)  Those are the ideals that generations have fought for.  Those are the ideals that we uphold today.  And now, it is my honor to sign this bill into law.  (Applause.)  

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Thank you, Mr. President!

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you!

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We're here, Mr. President.  Enlist us now.  (Laughter.) 

(The bill is signed.)

THE PRESIDENT:  This is done.  (Applause.) 

                                              END                     9:35 A.M. EST


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