Thursday, May 31, 2012

2012 FRENCH OPEN Day 5: Isner Loses Marathon

Day 5 of the 2012 French Open brought a nightmarish echo of the longest match of all timeJohn Isner playing a 5-set match against a talented Frenchman in a tournament without a 5th set tiebreaker. However this time Paul-Henri Mathieu was able to win 18-16 in the 5th set after 5 hours, 41 minutes of play. The final score was 6-7(2) 6-4 6-4 3-6 18-16,with the final set being the longest set in games ever played at Roland Garros. Isner saved 6  match points, but the stoic American succumbed on the 7th match point.

Most of the other top seeds advanced to the third round: Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, David Ferrer, Richard Gasquet, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Nicolas Almagro. Other notable people also advancing were Milos Raonic, Janko Tipsarevic and the beautiful Fabio Fognini.

On the women's side Maria Sharapova had her match postponed to the next day due to the Isner-Mathieu marathon while Petra Kvitova, 2011 French Open champion Li Na, 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone and former #1 Caroline Wozniacki advanced. Other players to watch out for who advanced are the dangerous lefties Angelique Kerber and Varvara Lepchenko (who dismissed Jelena Jankovic). Virginie Razzano who dramatically beat Serena Williams on Tuesday was herself dismissed by unheralded Arantxa Rus in straight sets.

Appellate Court Voids Core of DOMA Unanimously!!

Excellent news out of Boston today! The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the July 8, 2010 trial court decision in Gill v. Office of Personnel Management and Massachusetts v U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in unanimously ruling that the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act" violates the United States constitution. This is the first (but probably not the last!) appellate court to strike down Section 3 of DOMA, the part which purports to establish a federal definition of marriage for the purpose of disbursal of federal benefits, regardless of a state's definition of marriage.

Gay and Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) who in 2003 had previously won the Goodridge case leading to marriage equality in the state of Massachusetts, sued the federal government, along with Massachusetts' Attorney General Martha Coakley that married U.S. citizens were  being denied federal benefits thanks to DOMA.

Here's a key excerpt from the decision:
We conclude, without resort to suspect classifications or any impairment of Baker, that the rationales offered do not provide adequate support for section 3 of DOMA.  Several of the reasons given do not match the statute and several others are diminished by specific holdings in Supreme Court decisions more or less directly
on point.  If we are right in thinking that disparate impact on minority interests and federalism concerns both require somewhat more in this case than almost automatic deference to Congress' will, this statute fails that test. 
The opponents of section 3 point to selected comments from a few individual legislators; but the motives of a small group cannot taint a statute supported by large majorities in both Houses and signed by President Clinton.  Traditions are the glue that holds society together, and many of our own traditions rest largely on belief and familiarity--not on benefits firmly provable in court. The desire to retain them is strong and can be honestly held. 
For 150 years, this desire to maintain tradition would alone have been justification enough for almost any statute.  This judicial deference has a distinguished lineage, including such figures as Justice Holmes, the second Justice Harlan, and Judges
Learned Hand and Henry Friendly.  But Supreme Court decisions in the last fifty years call for closer scrutiny of government action touching upon minority group interests and of federal action in areas of traditional state concern. 
To conclude, many Americans believe that marriage is the union of a man and a woman, and most Americans live in states where that is the law today.  One virtue of federalism is that it permits this diversity of governance based on local choice, but this applies as well to the states that have chosen to legalize same-sex marriage.  Under current Supreme Court authority, Congress' denial of federal benefits to same-sex couples lawfully married in Massachusetts has not been adequately supported by any permissible federal interest.
The ruling's effect was stayed until the United States Supreme Court could grant certiorari (take up the case). Only the U.S. Supreme Court can strike down a federal law and have it's impact apply to the entire nation, the 1st Circuit's ruling, if it is not appealed, would apply to Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maine and Puerto Rico (MA and NH already have marriage equality and ME is voting on the question late this year ).

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

2012 FRENCH OPEN: Day 4: Venus Loses, Raja, Nole Win

Clive Brunskill/Getty
Day 4 of the 2012 French Open did not possess the same fireworks of historical proportion that occurred on Day 3 when pre-tournament favorite Serena Williams was bounced from the tournament in the first round by Virginie Razzano in dramatic fashion. As I expected, sister Venus Williams was swept aside by World #3 Agnieska Radwanska in straight sets 6-2 6-3.

Roger Federer won his record 235th Grand Slam match to advance to the 3rd round, surpassing Jimmy Connors. World #1 Novak Djokovic, Juan Martin del Potro, Fernando Verdasco, Gilles Simon also advanced to the 3rd round.

On the distaff side, World #1 Victoria Azarenka, Samantha Stosur, 2009 French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova and 2008 French Open champion Ana Ivanovic, Dominika Cibulkova and American teen phenom Sloane Stephens all reached the 3rd round. Local favorite Marion Bartoli did not.

This Is What Romney's "Amercia" Looks Like #FAIL

Daily Kos posted this picture of what the Mitt Romney campaign seems to think that Amercia looks like. Notice anything similar about all the people pictured above? Notice any kind of people missing from that picture?

Wow. Two #major #fail in the first day after clinching the Republican Party nomination for President.

(The two fails are 1) America is not an all-white country as depicted above, and 2) America is not spelled "Amercia"!)

MD Anti-Equality Group Turns In 113K Signatures To Force Referendum

It's on like Donkey Kong! In Maryland, heterosexual supremacists have submitted 113,000 signatures, more than twice the necessary number of 56,000 signatures to force a referendum on Maryland's marriage equality law to be placed on the November 2012 ballot. The marriage law will not go into effect until after the referendum question is settled. Of course, that will not stop there from being legally married couples in Maryland, thanks to a recent Maryland Court of Appeals ruling that if a couple gets legally married in a jurisdiction which allows it, that marriage is valid and legal in Maryland as well.

So, if the referendum passes it will just continue to force Maryland residents to leave the state and spend their money in other jurisdictions getting married, it will not prevent gay marriage in Maryland. But it is clear thta the people who distributed and signed the referendum petitions are not animated by logic, but by religious fervor and homophobic hatred:
In Bel Air last week, a steady stream of people approached a table set up by a trio of Maryland Marriage Alliance volunteers outside a Motor Vehicle Administration office. The venue provides a ready supply of people who have to wait around. Those trying to repeal the immigration law used the same method last year.

"Where do I sign up?" was the only question from Donald Johnson, a 76-year-old, born-again Christian who drove hispickup truck to the MVA for the express purpose of signing the petition.
Like most others observed at the site by a reporter, Johnson needed no pitch, explanation or convincing. "I have several nieces and nephews who are homosexual," he said. "I don't approve of their lifestyle."
The Maryland Marriage Alliance started its signature-gathering effort in churches, but has broadened the campaign to include door-knocking as well as stands at festivals and the MVA offices. The organization is not overly hierarchical: One activist in Allegany County took it upon himself to have 17,000 blank petitions inserted in theCumberland Times-News and delivered to Maryland households.
"People are sending those in to us," McCoy said. "We are getting Western Maryland, one by one by one."
Still, most of the people who signed the petition Wednesday at the MVA office mentioned religion and said they heard about the drive at their church.
Signers included Courtney Winberry, 50, who said she was opposed because "the Catholic church has a problem with it."
Of course, the Maryland marriage law only affects the issuance of civil marriage licenses and has no impact on who can or can not get married in a church or religious belief. But people who believe in a magical sky fairy who is all-knowing and all-powerful are not exactly the kind of people to engage in a reasoned political debate. Oy vey!

GODLESS WEDNESDAY: Norway Dissolves State Church

More good news about the rise of Godlessness (or decline of "organized religion") from around the world. Apparentl in Norway, the legislature has voted to support a constitutional amendment which would dissolve the official state Church of Norway:
In an unprecedented move, the Norwegian Parliament has voted to abolish the state-sponsored Church of Norway with a constitutional amendment.


The nation will not have an official religion, and the government will not participate in the appointment of church deans and bishops.


Traditionally, every citizen of Norway became a member of the Church of Norway upon baptism. 79 percent of Norwegians are registered members, but only about 20 percent make religion a large part of their lives and only two percent attend church regularly, according to 2009 and 2010 data. A 2002 study done by Gustafsson and Pettersson revealed that 72 percent of Norwegians "do not believe in a personal God."
Congratulations, Norway! (Sounds like a country I might want to visit someday!)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

2012 FRENCH OPEN: Day 3 (Rafa, Ferrer, Murray Win)

Of course Day 3 at Roland Garros was dominated by Serena Williams' shocking first round exit to hometown fave Virginie Razano but there were other important results on the day as well. First, World #2 and 6-time French Open defending champion Rafael Nadal beat the handsome Simone Bolelli easily while World #4 Andy Murray also won. Other clay court notables like Nicolas Almagro, David Ferrer and Richard Gasquet won their first round matches.

On the women's side Maria Sharapova did not lose a game in her opening round, and Petra Kvitova, Carolina Wozniacki, Francesca Schiavone and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova all advanced.

Ad For Season 2 Finale of Game of Thrones

The trailer for this Sunday's final episode of Season 2 of HBO's Game of Thrones, the brilliant television adaptation of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire books has been released. The episode will apparently be 10 minutes longer than the usual episode, clocking in at 64 minutes. Season 2 is based on the second book in the series, A Clash of Kings.

Season 3 of the award-winning television series (which has already been approved by HBO for Spring 2013) will be based on the first half of the 3rd book in the series, A Storm of Swords. That book has some of the most controversial scenes in the entire epic series and is considered by some the best book in the entire 5 books published so far. The series is allegedly intended to encompass 7 books, with Book 6 (The Winds of Winter) and Book 7 (A Dream of Spring) forthcoming.

2012 FRENCH OPEN: Serena Loses 1st Round!

Wow! The biggest shock upset of 2012 was delivered today in Day 3 at the French Open where Serena Williams, one of the favorites to win the tournament, lost her first 1st round match at a major in 47 appearances to Virginie Razzano of France in a harrowing 3 hour, 3 minute match that involved a final game which took 8 match points, 5 break points and 13 deuces. The final score was 4-6 6-7(5) 6-3.

The loss makes the 2012 French Open Maria Sharapova's to lose, and she proved it by winning her first round match 6-0 6-0 (against a much less accomplished opponent). Serena and Sharapova would have met in the quarterfinals of Roland Garros if both had played to form.

The early round loss by Serena was a huge surprise since she had not been beaten on clay all year, winning 17 matches in a row, including titles at Charleston and Madrid, before pulling out of her semifinal match with Li Na in Rome. The Rome tournament was eventually won by (you guessed it) Sharapova.

Dog For Marriage Equality!

This dog supports same sex marriage. I wonder what the dog from Texts From Dog thinks about marriage equality?

Hat/tip to Towleroad.

Recent Developments In "Gays Can Change" Debate

There have been some interesting recent developments in the debate over whether sexual orientation is immutable or not a.k.a. known as the "gays can change" argument.  This point is a key locus of contention between heterosexual supremacists and LGBT equality advocates because if "gays can change" then the argument is made that civil rights protections should not be provided to something which is a choice (the counter-argument is that religion is often a choice but no-one questions whether religion should be a protexted anti-discrimination category).

Dr. Robert Spitzer, a psychiatrist who was the author of a 2001 study which reported that conversion therapy (also known as "reparative therapy") could change someone's sexual orientation, has recently announced that he is disavowing that paper and is publicly apologizing in The New York Times for the damage his study has been used to inflict upon thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of gay men and lesbians. Spitzer's study has been cited multiple times by opponents of equal rights for LGBT citizens to prevent legislative protections from being enacted. Spitzer appeared on NPR's Talk of the Nation with host Neil Conan and explained why he made the difficult decision to  go public with his announcement that he was wrong:
CONAN: Why did you change your mind?
SPITZER: I changed my mind because I had been bothered for several years about it, and then when I was visited by Gabriel, who I gather you're having on the program...
CONAN: Gabriel Arana, who's going to be with us a bit later.
SPITZER: Right, and he described what it was like to be in therapy when he really didn't get any benefit from it at all, and he asked me about my concerns with the study, and I just realized that I had to make - explain to people why I think I made a big mistake.
CONAN: A mistake that's had some important consequences.
SPITZER: Well, I guess so. And that's why I wrote an apology both to the gay community and to individual gays who may have been wasting their time in this kind of therapy because they thought I had proven that it was valuable and useful.
CONAN: You obviously could not control how others used your study, and as you know, it was used as quote-unquote proof that homosexuality was a choice.
SPITZER: Right, right.
CONAN: And I know you said that's not what my study was about. After...
SPITZER: They also gave the impression that my study showed that it was common to be able to change, and I made it very clear, actually in the study discussion, that although it could happen, I thought it was very rare.
CONAN: Do you think homosexuality is a choice?
SPITZER: Is a choice? No, for sure, that's the one thing I have no doubt about, it's no choice.
In California, State Senator Ted Lieu has introduced a bill (SB 1172) to regulate the practice of conversion therapy in the state of California by prohibiting anyone under 18 from undergoing the "treatment" and requiring that adults potential patients be given an informed consent form which includes the following text:
Having a lesbian, gay, or bisexual sexual orientation is not a mental disorder. There is no scientific evidence that any types of therapies are effective in changing a person’s sexual orientation. Sexual orientation change efforts can be harmful. The risks include, but are not limited to, depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior.
Medical and mental health associations that oppose the use of sexual orientation change efforts include the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the American Counseling Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.
The bill is sponsored by Equality California and is likely to pass the Democratic Party-controlled state Legislature. It will be interesting if other progressive legislators around the country follow the lead of LGBT ally State Sen. Lieu and carry this model legislation to other states.

If heterosexual supremacists lose the "gays can choose" weapon it will be a great advance for the good guys in the ongoing kulturkampf over gay rights in this country (and around the world).

Hat/tip to LGBT Think Progress

Monday, May 28, 2012

2012 FRENCH OPEN: Day 2 (Vika, Nole, Raja Win)

Day 2 of the French Open concluded with both World #1 players, Novak Djokovic and Victoria Azarenka, getting through their first-round matches. Azarenka's was the more complicated journey, since she was down a tiebreak set and 0-4 serving  a second serve on a  break point to go down 0-5 when she came up with a second serve ace to keep her in the game and match. Because she was so far down and out she actually relaxed and started playing better tennis against Alberta Brianti. Azarenka eventually won 6-7(6)  6-4 6-2.

Djokovic's path to the second round was not a cake-walk, as Italian Potito Starace played some inspired tennis to stay toe-to-toe with the World #1 through the first 90 minutes or so, but eventually succumbed 7-6(3) 6-3 6-1. Djokovic is attempting to win his 4th major title in a row.

World #3 Roger Federer continued his history-making career by winning his 233rd Grand Slam match, equaling Jimmy Connors total. But Federer has only lost 35 major matches (to Connors 49), giving the Swiss Great a winning percentage of 0.869 compared to Connors' 0.826.

Other players to watch winning on Day 2 of Roland Garros were John Isner, Jelena Jankovic, defending champion Li Na, Aggie Radwanska, Marion Bartoli and Gilles Simon. Feliciano Lopez became the first seed to lose when he retired from his match with an abdominal strain.

On Day 3, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova will be in action.

SUCCULENT SUNDAY HOLIDAY: Astrophytum cv 'Onzuka'

I've had mixed results with genus Astrophytum. I've lost some of these cacti to mysterious, chunk-devouring pests—I suspect rats, but it could be squirrels or birds. I've lost others to rot… perhaps underwatering, dead roots, and then rot growing on the dead roots.

This individual Astrophytum cv 'Onzuka' is doing really well so far. It overshadows its 3-inch pot with a full 3.5-inch diameter. I'll repot it soon. I've heard from an advanced grower that he cuts off the taproot at a certain age, forcing the stem to grow smaller, less rot-prone roots. Sounds radical but I seem to recall he claimed everyone in Japan does this.

It's hard not to like Astrophytum cv 'Onzuka'. It has strange, white-speckled skin, its body is oddly geometric, and its flower is understated but beautiful.

Speaking of Japan, that's where this justifiably popular cultivar of Astrophytum myriostigma is said to originate.

Black Gay Nominee To NJ High Court Unlikely To Be Confirmed

New Jersey Star-Ledger
Rod 2.0 is reporting that Republican Governor Chris Christie's Republican, Black, gay nominee to the New Jersey Supreme Court Bruce Harris is unlikely to be confirmed by the Democratic Party-controlled State Legislature.

The New Jersey Star-Ledger reports:
A group of black state legislators announced its opposition to Gov. Chris Christie's choice of a gay, black Republican for the Supreme Court on Thursday, mounting evidence that Democrats were ready to reject the second of the governor's high court picks.

The New Jersey Legislative Black Caucus told The Associated Press that attorney Bruce Harris's legal qualifications fall short of the high standard required of the court's seven justices. No blacks currently sit on the court.

"The nomination of Mr. Harris sends the wrong message , that we can only achieve diversity on the Supreme Court through lowering the bar for qualifications," said Sen. Ron Rice, the caucus leader. "In a state with many distinguished African-American lawyers and judges, nothing could be further from the truth."
The Republican governor failed to reappoint the court's only black justice in 2010, touching off a firestorm among Democrats. Justice John Wallace had two years to go before reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70.
The governor nominated Harris, a 61-year-old Morris County mayor, and Phil Kwon, a 45-year-old with a top spot in the state attorney general's office, to fill two open court slots in January. Democrats rejected Kwon in March over ongoing concerns regarding cash deposits from a liquor store owned by his wife and mother. Kwon, who was born in South Korea and came to the United States when he was 6, would have been the first member of the court to be born outside the United States and its first Asian-American member.
Interestingly, the Star-Ledger editorialized Sunday in favor of the Harris nomination. Only time will tell if that will have any impact on the votes necessary to lead to confirmation of New Jersey's first openly gay State Supreme Court justice.

POLL: Maryland Supports Marriage Equality 57-37

A new poll shows that Maryland voters would likely vote to retain their state's marriage equality law if a referendum on the measure were to qualify for the  November 2012 ballot. Wide attention has been given to the new result that a majority of Black Marylanders for the first time say that they support marriage equality as well, 55% to 36%, which is an almost about-face reversal from previous polls, and comes just a few weeks after President Obama publicly endorsed marriage equality on May 9th.

Also in the new poll by PPP, a majority of Maryland likely voters also say that they support marriage equality (52% to 39% with 9% "unsure"). The poll used an oversample of African-Americans and was conducted May 14th-May 21st. The margin of error overall is ±3.4 points and for Black voters it is ±4.9 points.

2011 Nebula Award Winners Announced

The 2011 Nebula Award winners were announced last weekend. The winner of the Best Novel was  Among Others  by Jo Walton, which is also nominated for the 2011 Hugo Award. I have not read Among Others and really don't have any intention to (I might take a look at it if it becomes a rare Nebula-Hugo winner). The nominees were announced in February 2012, and included China Mieville's Embassytown (see my review) and Jack McDevitt's Firebird. I have started reading McDevitt's Alex Benedict series, which Firebird is the latest entry.

As part of the Nebula Awards, two of my favorite female science fiction authors, Connie Willis and Octavia Butler were also recognized. Willis was named a "Grand Master" of Science Fiction, and Butler was posthumously given the Solstice award.

The Hugos will be announced in late August at WorldCon in Chicago.

Hat/tip to Whatever.

Eye Candy: Gabriel "Carioca" from MundoMais

Gabriel is another model I found at the Brazilian website, MundoMais. Previous MundoMais finds are Filipe and Flavio. According to MundoMais his name is Gabriel Carioca, but I think that means "Gabriel from Rio" in Portuguese. The website says he is 25-years-old and  that's about all the information I can find on him. I still think he's more than handsome enough to qualify as Eye Candy, since I have said many times, "hawt is hawt" and I have a thing for Brazilian guys anyway. :)

Doesn't everyone?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

New Poll Shows Dramatic Shift Towards Marriage Equality

A new poll from the ABC/Washington Post poll shows a dramatic shift towards marriage equality following President Obama's declaration that he thinks same-sex couples should be allowed to get married. The top line number is that an astonishing 53% of respondents say they support legal same-sex marriage while only 39% say they think it should not be legal.
Overall, 53 percent of Americans say gay marriage should be legal, hitting a high mark in support while showing a dramatic turnaround from just six years ago, when just 36 percent thought it should be legal. Thirty-nine percent, a new low, say gay marriage should be illegal. 
The poll also finds that 59 percent of African Americans say they support same-sex marriage, up from an average of 41 percent in polls leading up to Obama’s announcement of his new position on the matter. Though statistically significant, it is a tentative result because of the relatively small sample of black voters in the poll. 
Americans divide about evenly — 49 to 46 percent — on whether gay-marriage laws should be made at the state or federal level. Most backers of same-sex marriage support a federal approach, while opponents prefer letting states decide. That is a stark shift from 2004, when a CBS News-New York Times poll found widespread support for federal authority over gay marriage among its opponents, not its supporters.
Amusingly, now that they are losing the war for public opinion heterosexual supremacists are arguing that polls on marriage equality are not important (and that the polls are wrong). The only polls that matter, they say, is the results at the ballot box. It will be interesting to see what they say once they start losing at the ballot box as well.

We shall see this November!

2012 FRENCH OPEN: Day 1

The second major tournament of the year, Roland Garros, began in Paris today. Two Americans in the twilight of their careers, Andy Roddick and Venus Williams, took the court and had contrasting results. Roddick, playing with a very pedestrian win-loss record of 7-9 for 2012 lost in the first round of a grand slam tournament for the first time since 2007 by falling to hometown favorite Nicolas Mahut 6-3 6-3 4-6 6-2.

Venus, playing in her first grand slam match since she withdrew from the 2011 US Open after revealing she suffers from Sjogren's Syndrome (an energy sapping auto-immune disorder), started off slowly but eventually won her first round match against Paula Ormaechea 4-6 6-1 6-3. Unfortunately, she will almost certainly play World #3 Agnieska Radwanska in the next round. I don't see her getting through that match, despite sporting a 5-2 career head-to-head against the red-hot Polish player who has the most wins on tour this year.

Other players to watch who survived Day 1 were 2010 French Open finalist Samantha Stosur, #5 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Angelique Kerber, Juan Martin del PotroFernando Verdasco and 2009 French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Analysis Of Marriage Equality On Marriage Rates

This above graphic comes from an analysis by Slate magazine of marriage rates in jurisdictions which have legalized marriage equality (Massachusetts, Iowa, Vermont, Connecticut, New Hampshire and District of Columbia) versus the national marriage rate. Do you see a trend or correlation? Me neither!

Neither does Slate, according to "Does Gay Marriage Destroy Marriage?":

Start with Massachusetts, which endorsed gay marriage in May 2004. That year, the state saw a 16 percent increase in marriage. The reason is, obviously, that gay couples who had been waiting for years to get married were finally able to tie the knot. In the years that followed, the marriage rate normalized but remained higher than it was in the years preceding the legalization. So all in all, there’s no reason to worry that gay marriage is destroying  marriage in Massachusetts. 
The other four states that have legalized gay marriage—New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, and New Hampshire—have done it more recently, somewhere between 2008 and 2011. But from the little data we have, it looks as if the pattern will be more or less the same—a temporary jump in marriage followed by a return to virtually the same marriage rates as before gay marriage became legal. Washington, D.C., which started accepting same-sex marriages in March 2010, saw a huge 61.7 percent increase in marriage that year, though it’s too soon to see where it will settle. Again, no signs of the coming apocalypse.

The piece also goes on to look at divorce rates in the states where same-sex couples can get legally married (and divorced) right now to try to determine if such activity has any impact on the divorce rates of opposite-sex couples. The data just does not indicate that there is any impact of marriage equality on divorce or marriage rates in a state, unsurprisingly. What a shock, another talking point by religious extremists and heterosexual supremacists turns out to be obviously false.

Hat/tip to Americablog

Friday, May 25, 2012

Celebrity Friday: Jim Parsons Comes Out

Jim Parsons is one of the stars of CBS's The Big Bang Theory, one of the highest-rated comedy shows on television. He has earned two consecutive Emmy awards (2010 and 2011) and a Golden Globe award (2011)  for his portrayal of Dr. Sheldon Cooper, the central character of the show. Parsons, 39, came out recently in a piece in the New York Times:

By the winter of 2011 Mr. Parsons had won his first Emmy for “Big Bang” and was midway through Season 4 when he felt he was “spinning my wheels” as an actor, and began looking to do a play again. He landed the role of Tommy Boatwright, a young gay activist in “The Normal Heart” who bucks up the main characters in their fight against AIDS. The humanity and intensity of the play appealed to him, he said, just as Beckett and Büchner once did; in graduate school, too, his thesis project was a 15-minute performance piece about a mentally disabled death-row inmate, a psychiatrist and a murder victim’s father — all played by Mr. Parsons. 
“If I ever wrote a script myself, it would be strongly emotional material,” he said. “Every time I think about writing, comedy doesn’t interest me in the slightest. I can play comedy, but I don’t think in terms of comic dialogue.” 
“The Normal Heart” resonated with him on a few levels: Mr. Parsons is gay and in a 10-year relationship, and working with an ensemble again onstage was like nourishment, he said. As the production was ending last summer, he heard that the Roundabout Theater Company was considering a revival of “Harvey” — initially with John C. Reilly under consideration for Elwood — and last November the play’s director, Scott Ellis, asked him and Ms. Hecht to do a private reading of the work in Los Angeles.

Hat/tip to Wonder Man.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

DOJ Affirms Right To Tape Public Police Activity

Finally!  The U.S. Department of Justice has slapped down state and local jurisdictions who have been trying to criminalize what most people is obviously legal activity by citizens, recording the official activity of police officers in the execution of their duties.

Here's an excerpt from a letter DOJ sent to the Baltimore Police Department on this issue (pdf):
Because recording police officers in the public discharge of their duties is protected by 
the First Amendment, policies should prohibit interference with recording of police activities except in narrowly circumscribed situations.  More particularly, policies should instruct officers that, except under limited circumstances, officers must not search or seize a camera or recording device without a warrant.  In addition, policies should prohibit more subtle actions that may nonetheless infringe upon individuals’ First Amendment rights.  Officers should be advised not to threaten, intimidate, or otherwise discourage an individual from recording police officer enforcement activities or intentionally block or obstruct cameras or recording devices.

Policies should prohibit officers from destroying recording devices or cameras and 
deleting recordings or photographs under any circumstances.  In addition to violating the First Amendment, police officers violate the core requirements of the Fourteenth Amendment procedural due process clause when they irrevocably deprived individuals of their recordings without first providing notice and an opportunity to object.  
There have been some ridiculous horror stories about people being arrested and charged with crimes for recording police officers while they conducted arrests. Hopefully the DOJ letter will put an end to this foolishness and help the police recognize that more information and openness about their activities will lead to more trust between the community they are sworn "to protect and serve," not less.

Hat/tip to Digby.

MD High Court: All Legal Marriages Valid Here, Too

Big news! The Maryland Court of Appeals, the highest court in the state, has issued a 7-0 ruling in a divorce of a lesbian couple (Jessica Port v. Virginia Anne Cowan) who were legally married in California in 2008 that all same-sex marriages legal in the jurisdiction when they were performed are valid and recognized in Maryland, as well!

Chris Geidner of Metro Weekly has the deets:

[N]o still viable decision by this Court has deemed a valid foreign marriage to be "repugnant," despite being void or punishable as a misdemeanor or more serious crime were it performed in Maryland. The present case will be treated no differently. A valid out-of-state same-sex marriage should be treated by Maryland courts as worthy of divorce, according to the applicable statutes, reported cases, and court rules of this State.

More importantly, even if a referendum is qualified this June (and passed this November) to invalidated Maryland's recently passed marriage equality law, Maryland residents can still go get married in any of the 6 states (and Washington, D.C.) that allow same-sex marriage and their marriage will be valid or legal in Maryland as well. It would take a state constitutional amendment to overturn this decision by Maryland's highest court.

This was already believed to be the law in the state of Maryland (like in Rhode Island) due to opinions issued by the relevant Attorneys-General of those states, but a ruling by the state supreme court settles the issue in Maryland and an executive order issued by the Governor of Rhode Island strengthens (but does not completely settle) the legal situation in that jurisdiction.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Rome 2012: Nadal Restores Order With Win

Defying my prediction, Rafael Nadal restored order to the top of men's tennis today with a 7-5 6-3 win over World #1 (and defending champion) Novak Djokovic to win his 6th Italian Open title and reclaim the World #2 position from his arch-nemesis Roger Federer a mere 6 days before the start of the 2nd major of the year in Paris.

It was the 32nd meeting between Djokovic and Nadal and with his win Nadal improved his career head-to-head record to 18-14 and vaulted to the top of the record books with 21 ATP Masters series titles (1 ahead of Federer's 20). The BNL Internazionale d'Italia title was Nadal's 49th ATP tour title (35th on clay).

NAACP Endorses Marriage Equality!

Major news on marriage equality occurred this weekend which confirms my belief in the inexorable victory of the good guys in the ongoing kulturkampf over LGBT equality. The NAACP, the nation's oldest and most respected civil rights organization, has officially endorsed marriage equality.

Here's the text of the resolution which the NAACP Board of Directors passed this weekend:
The NAACP Constitution affirmatively states our objective to ensure the “political, education, social and economic equality” of all people. Therefore, the NAACP has opposed and will continue to oppose any national, state, local policy or legislative initiative that seeks to codify discrimination or hatred into the law or to remove the Constitutional rights of LGBT citizens. We support marriage equality consistent with equal protection under the law provided under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Further, we strongly affirm the religious freedoms of all people as protected by the First Amendment.
It's gonna be pretty hard for heterosexual supremacists and religious extremists to continue argue that the right of everyone to marry the adult partner of their choice regardless of gender is not a civil right anymore after this. Note the reference to religious freedom, discrimination and equal protection. The text of the resolution was written by my friend Maxim Thorne and publicized via Twitter this weekend.

Nice birthday present for me! I've been a NAACP member ever since the California NAACP endorsed marriage equality way back in 2005!

Djokovic-Nadal XXXII: Rome 2012 Final on Monday

Due to the rain which postponed and dramatically impacted the gripping women's final between Maria Sharapova and Li Na at the BNL Internazionale d'Italia, the men's final between World #1 Novak Djokovic and World #3 Rafael Nadal will be held at noon local time (3am PDT / 6am EDT). I'm not sure I'll watch the final live, since my time in the Eternal City is coming to a close, and today is my birthday!

This is the 32nd career match between the two players who have won the last 8 Grand Slam titles between them (5 for Djokovic and 3 for Nadal with the Spaniard losing to the Serbian in 3 of those finals and beating him in one).

The two are playing in their 8th consecutive final since March 2011, with Djokovic winning 6 of those matches in a row but Nadal won their last meeting, on clay, in the Monte Carlo final earlier a month ago. This will be their 4th clay court final, Nadal's best surface and Djokovic's worst.

In the semifinals, Djokovic played an excellent match against Roger Federer, winning 6-2 7-6(4) to beat the person who had stopped his astonishing winning streak from last year in the semifinals of the French Open. It was only Federer's 4th match loss since the 2011 US Open semifinal loss to Djokovic. Nadal outlasted his countryman World #5 David Ferrer in his semifinal 7-6(6) 6-0 despite being down a break 1-3 in the first set. Both players are playing well and should be rested after not playing at all on Sunday. I didn't see any of them play during my visit to the tournament on Friday for the quarterfinals.

The 2012 French Open starts in under a week (Sunday May 27th) and is looming large over this 32nd meeting between the two leading contenders for the title. For Djokovic, if he wins it he will become the first male player in several decades to win 4 consecutive major titles (the Nole slam). If Nadal wins it, it will be his record 7th French Open title and 11th major title overall.

The Rome final should be an excellent proxy fight. I believe Nadal really wants it, but I think, over 3 sets Djokovic can impose his will and blunt Nadal's mastery of the surface over a finitely defined time (3 tie-break sets).


Eye Candy: Daniel Louisy (3rd time!)

Daniel Louisy is a 6'4" 210 pound model born in London, England in January 1982. He has his own website at He has been featured as Eye Candy on twice before (December 19, 2011 and February 27, 2012), usually showing his eye-catching physique. I wish i could hear his British accent, is there anything sexier than a Black Brit?

What is really interesting about Daniel is his ability to portray all sorts of different types, as depicted in these four images above. Regardless of what he is wearing (or not wearing), he always looks yummy!

Happy Birthday to me!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

ROME 2012: Sharapova Guts Out Title Win Over Li

Julian Finney/Getty 
Julian Finney/Getty 
Maria Sharapova continued her string of surprisingly successful clay court performances by retaining her Italian Open title with a gut-wrenching,  rain-drenched 4-6 6-4 7-6(5) win over reigning French Open champion Li Na in Rome. The match took nearly 3 hours in playing time (2 hours, 52 minutes) but more than twice that in actual duration due to the inclement weather. It drizzled most of the day starting around 3pm and eventually the rain lead to a 2 hour break, astonishingly right before the decisive 3rd set tie-breaker.

The drama was not only in the sky but also on the court. When I started watching the match (after a long day walking around the centuries-old Foro Romano) the score was 6-4 4-0 for Li Na, who was then a mere two games away from claiming the BNL Internazionale d'Italia title after winning six games in a row. At that point, the Chinese player inexplicably started spraying the ball around the court with unforced errors and an inability to hit first serves and ended up losing the next eight games in a row; this resulted in her losing the second set 4-6 and being down a break before she was able to win another game, on serve. Sharapova was able to break serve again and eventually served at 4-1 in the 3rd set when the momentum suddenly shifted again when Li Na managed to break the Russian's serve and rattled off 4 consecutive games to grab the lead 4-5, on serve. The next 3 games were played in pouring rain, but all went with serve (although Sharapova also had to save a championship point in the 12th game after mangling an easy put away on the deuce point to give her opponent a chance to break and win the match). Finally at 6-all the umpire stopped play due to rain and the two combatants had to wait for nearly 2 hours to play a tension-filled tiebreak which Sharapova won when a Li backhand down the line missed the sideline by millimeters.

Sharapova ended up with twice as many double faults (10 to 5), more unforced errors (59 to 56) and less total points (101 to 102) but with a win.

The Russian has to be considered  a front-runner for the Roland Garros title which starts next week, since Serena Williams withdrew with a back injury on Saturday instead of playing her semifinal with Li Na and World #1 Victoria Azarenka withdrew after playing a pro forma match so that she would not be fined by the WTA for skipping the mandatory Rome tournament.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Madrid and Rome: A (Tennis) Tale of Two Cities

Rome, Italy Madrid, Spain

Thanks to some clever scheduling and an accommodating spouse, I was able to arrange my family's annual vacation to coincide with two of the most important clay court tournaments of the year: the Mutua Madrid Open in Madrid, Spain and the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome, Italy. That the tennis tournaments happen to be in two of the European cities that we have not visited yet but were relatively high on our joint bucket list was an extra bonus.

Before arriving, we were told that Rome is a much more exciting city than Madrid so we budgeted twice as much time for the Eternal City. However, Madrid is the larger city (3.3 million residents to 2.8 million residents) while Italy is the more populous country (60.6 million to 46 million). Tennis-wise, both the Madrid and Rome tournaments share the feature of the four Grand Slams (Australia, French, Wimbledon and U.S.) that women and men compete at the same event, which is excellent for someone like me who is a fan of both the ATP (men's tennis) and the WTA (women's tennis). Both tournaments are very important stops on the two tennis tours, labeled a Masters 1000 event for the Men and a Premiere event for the Women (i.e. the largest tournaments just below the Majors). The Madrid tournament is technically larger (it has a draw of 64 and a purse of $5 million for the women and € 3 million for the men) compared to the Italian tournament (which has a slightly smaller draw of 56 but a significantly smaller purse of $2 million for the women and € 2.4 million for the men). The Madrid final is played in a state-of-the-art stadium called La Caja Magica (The Magic Box) while the Rome final is played in a Centre Court at the Italico Foro (Italian Forum) on the site of the 1960 Olympics.

Here are my impressions of the two tournaments, having attended the exact same session on the same day 1 week apart in the same year (the day session of Day 5: Quarterfinals Day).

In Madrid, the matches we were able to see with a ticket to the largest arena were: World #1 Victoria Azarenka v Li Na, Serena Williams v. World #2 Maria Sharapova and Tomas Berdych v. Fernando Verdasco (who had eliminated World #2 Rafael Nadal the round before). We also potentially had access to every other match being played during the day, which included Juan Martin del Potro v Aleksandr Dologpolov, World #4 Agnieska Radwanska v. a Qualifier and World #5 Samantha Stosur v. a Qualifier. The latter matches were played on Court #3, since for some reason Court #2 was not used on this day but I believe was in service during the earlier part of the tournament. The Night session featured World #1 Novak Djokovic v Janko Tipsarevic and World #3 Roger Federer v World #5 David Ferrer.

In Rome, the quarterfinal matches were split between the Centre Court and the Super Tennis Arena. Thanks to the fact that all tickets to the Italian Open can only be purchased online through (which appears to be the Italian version of Ticketmaster) I was unable to get what I considered an acceptable Centre Court ticket online and opted for tickets in the 4th row of the 2nd largest court instead. My decision was made easier when it also became clear that buying a ticket to the largest court did not provide optional access to the 2nd largest and all other courts on the grounds, which is typically the practice in every tournament I have been to, including all four slams. In the day session at Centre Court was Serena Willliams v Flavia Pennetta, World #1 Novak Djokovic v. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and World #3 Rafael Nadal v. Tomas Berdych. In the Super Tennis Day session was World #5 David Ferrer v Richard Gasquet (who had eliminated World #4 Andy Murray), Li Na v Dominika Cibulkova, and Venus Williams v World #2 Maria Sharapova. The night session featured World #3 Petra Kvitova v Angelique Kerber and World #2 Roger Federer v Andreas Seppi.

Overall, I'd say the Madrid tournament is the tournament that I would more be likely to attend again.
This decision is made on the following reasons:

Accessibility (Madrid): The site of the Madrid Open is very accessible by public transport from the center of the city by Metro, followed by a short (10 minute walk) from the nearest subway stop (San Fermin-Ocasur on the Yellow Line). The Italian Open is a 40-minute bone-jarring bus ride from the Central Train Station and then a short 5-minute walk to the Olympic complex which contains the tennis stadiums.

Fan Friendliness (Tie): The Madrid Open allows absolutely no food or drink to be brought in from outside (these rules are not posted on the tournament website). I had brought two packs of Trader Joe's cranberries, a banana and some locally purchased tangerines and security would not let me enter with even a single piece of fruit after a thorough search of every bag. At the Italian Open you could probably walk in with a pizza (or a gun!) the security was almost negligible with no searching of bags whatsoever.
However, the Madrid site has numerous other aspects which make it more oriented toward the casual tennis fan (give-aways of posters with players names, lots of booths with tennis gear and tournament schwag and a gigantic television screen outside of the main court showing all the scores and the action on the main court).

Tournament Site (Madrid): Madrid's Caja Magica is one of the best tennis venues I have ever been in bar none (and that includes Centre Court at Wimbledon!). It is clearly better (in the sense of being more modern and comfortable to be in with better sight lines) than all of the stadiums at Roland Garros and Flushing Meadows (except perhaps Louis Armstrong Stadium in New York). I haven't been to every court at Flinders Park in Melbourne or Wimbledon but of the British courts since only Centre Court has a roof that is the only court I would say approaches the Caja Magica. I've heard that Hi-Sense Arena and Margaret Court Arena (both of which will have roofs by next year) are excellent stadiums buut I've only been to Rod Laver Arena, which I think is slightly too big. The Magic Box contains three courts in one carpeted arena, which for all intents and purposes are indoor courts because they have retractable roofs. Of course, the blue clay is controversial but the seats are well-marked and the traffic flow of getting fans to their ticketed seat is professionally maintained. Rome's Super Tennis Arena has no marked areas to distinguish the different seating areas and then uses the same numbers to describe two different seats in two different areas! There are no ushers once when gets into the stadium so basically even if you have an assigned seat, it is very unlikely that is where you will be sitting.

Ticketing and Pricing (Madrid): The Italian Open website is a disorganized disaster (though bizarrely, the one thing they do better than Madrid is live-streaming of the matches online) with the ticketing problems already mentioned. Their seating charts of the two main stadium are very misleading (this is a common problem with the seating charts of every tennis stadium I have ever been to!) What is needed is the actual measurements of the stadium and always the location of the umpire's chair to be indicated. If this information was provided I see no reason why any tennis fan would ever buy a ticket to Arthur Ashe Stadium again--it is the absolutely worst tennis stadium in the world to watch a tennis match for the average fan. The Italian Open tickets were slightly cheaper but the availability was significantly reduced. As a fan coming from another country, a site that allows printing of one's ticket from the website is necessary, and only has that option for certain tickets and the Italian Open re-sellers rarely had that option at all. The Madrid Open website allows one to print out tickets directly from it's own website.

City and Country of Event Location (Tie): Both the Italians and the Spaniards have the shocking habit of answering their cellphones (and engaging in a full conversation!) when they ring during a match. As a city and country, Madrid and Spain seem more technologically advanced than Rome and Italy. The Spanish metro is one of the best in the world, with modern, clean trains coming every 2-4 minutes. It's not cheap, but it's fast and efficient. Rome's metro system is like a throwback to New York's subways from the 70s or 80s. They are covered in graffiti and there are only two(!) lines. The bus and tram (light rail) lines are the more efficient way to get around the city, but the city transport service (called ATAC) does not make it easy to find the location of the routes. However, a weekly pass (which allows travel on all bus, tram or subway) is half the price it is in Madrid (or Barcelona) and is an excellent bargain. Yes, there's probably more to see (and eat) in Rome than Madrid as a tourist but the Spanish city is a more livable city (i.e. more grocery stores, easier to get around, cheaper accommodations) and when the tennis is over one has to enjoy the rest of one's stay. The Spaniards really do start eating dinner at 9, 10, 11pm at night but they also have a nap (businesses close) in the middle of the day. It's all very civilized. It's true that while in Italy there are many, many more cities you could visit (Milan, Florence, Venice, etc) while in Spain there are fewer alternate destinations (Barcelona, Seville, Bilbao).

Interestingly, the next tournaments I want to attend are in North America: Sony Ericsson Open in Miami and the Roger Cup in Toronto (or Montreal).


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