Wednesday, December 31, 2008

MOVIE REVIEW: Slumdog Millionaire

Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire is the critic's darling of 2008. MadProfessah has been a big fan of Boyle's previous films, especially 28 Days Later... and Sunshine (see my review) although the director is probably best known for Trainspotting.

Boyle's lastest film is a heart-racing look at India from the viewpoint of two children who are forced to survive on their own from a very young age. It depicts heart-breaking poverty and a stunning disregard for human life in a country with a population well over one billion. The plot device used is of a chai walla (a guy who serves chai tea to telephone help desk operators) going on the Indian version of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" not to win the money, but to "win" the girl.

The amazing life story of the guy (played by a winningly handsome 18-year-old Dev Patel) is told in flashback starting from about the age of 8 or so to about the moment in time in which the film begins.

Having been to Indian within the last two years, including visits to Mumbai and Agra the two main cities depicted in the film, gave the film an extra emotional impact for me. The beauty of the Taj Mahal can simply never be over-estimated, although what gives the film it's real wallop is its incredible pacing. It literally starts with a bang and never stops. Although it's told in flahback, we're really never quite sure how (or if) our young protagonists are going to escape the predicaments they are placed in.

But at the heart of Slumdog Millionaire is two love stories: one between Jamaal and Latika, as well as between brothers, Jamaal and Salim. How these stories get resolved in Simon Beaufoy's screenplay adaptation of Vikas Swarup's novel cobined with the technical expertise of Boyle's direction along with the absolutely incredible score featuring the music of M.I.A. among others catapults the film to the very top of all cinematic releases in 2008.

Running Time: 2 hours, 1 minute. MPAA Rating: Rated R for some violence, disturbing images and language. In English and Hindi (English subtitles).



Meg Whitman Is A Homophobe?

Meg Whitman is considering running for the Governorship of California. The Republican Party is notoriously homophobic, although Arnold Schwarzenegger is in a different mode, he is termed out and must be replaced in 2010. In June of that year there will be gubernatorial (and legislative) primaries. On the Republican side State Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner has already announced he is running, and Log Cabin Republicans claim that he is a fiscal conservative but social moderate. Whitman, apparently wants to go in another direction:

She has made no broad announcements on the issue, but Whitman adviser Zak said she has told GOP gatherings in the last two weeks she supports the same-sex marriage ban.

[Tom] Campbell, a moderate Bay Area Republican, opposed and even wrote an op-ed for libertarian-leaning making a conservative case against the initiative. Poizner has not taken a position.

All three Republicans fashion themselves as social moderates, which could leave the 2010 gubernatorial field open to a GOP entrant from the right. None of the three Republicans are openly supporting Proposition 4, the abortion notification measure.
Many Capitol watchers are not impressed. The 2010 California Governor's race should be very very interesting, perhaps on both sides of the aisle. Another question is whether there will be another same-sex marriage proposition on the ballot. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


MadProfessah and The Other Half saw the animated film Bolt at our local theater in Alhambra, CA and paid the extra bucks to see it in "Disney Digital 3-D." Since some of my favorite movies of the last few years have been Pixar's The Incredibles (2004), Ratatouille (2007) and Wall-E (2008) we generally try to see well-reviewed animated films, although we still have not seen Madagascar 2 or Kung Fu Panda.

Bolt features the voices of John Travolta and Miley Cyrus and was written and directed by Chris Williams. It is the story of a dog (named Bolt, voiced by Travolta) who is the star of a television show where he plays a "super dog" who repeatedly goes on missions to save the world. The conceit is that the dog does not know that he is just the star of a television show, in a sort of animated canine version of The Truman Show. However, through a mishap Bolt gets sent out into the real world, where he meets a canny cat (named Mittens, voiced by Susie Essman) who teaches him some amusing truths about cats and dogs.

As a pet owner, Bolt is particularly meaningful, and the 3-D aspect is fun for anyone who is into technology. The story is not particularly significant but overall the movie-going experience is an enjoyable, kid-friendly one that is thoroughly entertaining.



Obama and Clinton Most Admired People In America

Joe.My.God posted the results of Gallup's annual poll about the most admired public figures in America.

Barack Obama is the most admired (32% of respondents) with "Still-President" George W. Bush second at 5%.

Interestingly, Hillary Clinton (with 20%) is at #1 among women, where she has been for 13 of the last 16 years (!), while Sarah Palin is second with 11% and Oprah is down to 3rd with 8%.

The questions has been asked by Gallup for 60 years at this time of year and this is the second time ever that the President-Elect has been the most admired man (Eisenhower was the other, in 1952).

Monday, December 29, 2008


Doubt is in the hunt for Oscar nominations, especially for its high-powered cast of Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams and Viola Davis.

Doubt is written and directed by John Patrick Shanley (who won the 1988 Oscar for Moonstruck) and adapted the screenplay from his own play, Doubt: A Parable, which won the Pulitzer, Drama Desk and Tony awards in 2005.

However, I have doubts about Doubt the movie. As a film director, Shanley is an excellent screenwriter. It is true that Streep is amazing in the lead role of Sister Aloysius that won Cherry Jones the 2005 Tony award while fellow Oscar winner Hoffman matches her in scene after scene as Father Flynn. Many people are touting the chances of Davis to be nominated for (and possibly win) the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for the pivotal role of Mrs. Muller. To MadProfessah the most affecting non-lead role performance was delivered by Amy Adams who plays the young and innocent Sister James.

Davis is also affecting in her one extended scene but the animating force of the impact is from the plot twist that she reveals during her conversation with Sister Aloysius. The story is set in 1964 in a predominantly Irish and Italian section of the Bronx. It depicts the everyday lives of the Catholic nuns and priests and their congregants in a particular parish. The movie is centered around an incident which may or may not have occurred at a Catholic middle school whose principal is played by Streep's character and is in a parish headed by Hoffman's character. The incident involves the first black member of the school, who is an altar boy in Hoffman's church but also in Adams' 8th grade class.

The lasting impact of the movie with this viewer was of the immense tragedy Catholic education was and a disturbing sense of awe at the sheer immensity of the Catholic Church and its impact on America.



Obama's Official Cabinet In Order Of Succession

Over at Oxdown at Firedoglake, twolf1 has posted a link to an interactive look at the 15 official members of Obama's cabinet (in order of Presidential succession).

Eye Candy: Dark Chocolate!

I just discovered this very cool blog called Another Guy Blog which features smoking hot pictures of Black guys every day. They deserve much more traffic, and will most likely be a frequent source of MadProfessah's Eye Candy in the future. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Leona Lewis Tackles "I Will Always Love You"

When I was a young queer I used to listen to Mariah Carey's music every day and she still remains my "diva" no matter how messy she gets. But I can see how the young 'uns may have moved on to Leona Lewis, the 2006 winner of the British version of American Idol and the singer of "Bleeding Love," the #2 pop single of 2008. Below is her (overly faithful) rendition of Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You."

Frank Rich Column Repeats "Prop 8 Zombie Meme"

In today's New York Times, Frank Rich mars an otherwise-excellent column ("You’re Likable Enough, Gay People") by repeating what Pam Spaulding has labelled "the meme that will not die" (or zombie meme) that Black Californians voted 70% for Proposition 8, thus enabling the heterosexual supremacist initiative to be enacted. Rich commits this faux pas in an absolutely amazing column in which he captures the root of the somewhat hysterical response by progressives and LGBTs to the Rick Warren inauguration invocation invitation (say that three times fast!) while he simultaneously updates his readers on the latest flashpoints in the kulturkampf (Warren being attacked by both pro-LGBT and anti-LGBT people, evangelical leader who was demoted for supporting civil unions, Focus on the Family laying off workers after massive donations in support of Proposition 8 and Sean Penn in Milk) and quotes three openly LGBT people (U.S. Representative Barney Frank, Bishop Gene Robinson and Harvard professor Timothy McCarthy) smacking Obama. It is a masterful column and deserves to be read in its entirety. Do that now, then come back and read my commentary on it!

As we saw during primary season, our president-elect is not free of his own brand of hubris and arrogance, and sometimes it comes before a fall: “You’re likable enough, Hillary” was the prelude to his defeat in New Hampshire. He has hit this same note again by assigning the invocation at his inauguration to the Rev. Rick Warren, the Orange County, Calif., megachurch preacher who has likened committed gay relationships to incest, polygamy and “an older guy marrying a child.” Bestowing this honor on Warren was a conscious — and glib — decision by Obama to spend political capital. It was made with the certitude that a leader with a mandate can do no wrong.


There’s no reason why Obama shouldn’t return the favor by inviting him to Washington. But there’s a difference between including Warren among the cacophony of voices weighing in on policy and anointing him as the inaugural’s de facto pope. You can’t blame V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, the first openly gay Episcopal bishop and an early Obama booster, for feeling as if he’d been slapped in the face. “I’m all for Rick Warren being at the table,” he told The Times, but “we’re talking about putting someone up front and center at what will be the most-watched inauguration in history, and asking his blessing on the nation. And the God that he’s praying to is not the God that I know.”


Unlike Bush, Obama has been the vocal advocate of gay civil rights he claims to be. It is over the top to assert, as a gay writer at Time did, that the president-elect is “a very tolerant, very rational-sounding sort of bigot.” Much more to the point is the astute criticism leveled by the gay Democratic congressman Barney Frank, who, in dissenting from the Warren choice, said of Obama, “I think he overestimates his ability to get people to put aside fundamental differences.” That’s a polite way of describing the Obama cockiness. It will take more than the force of the new president’s personality and eloquence to turn our nation into the United States of America he and we all want it to be.


The success of Proposition 8 in California was a serious shock to gay Americans and to all the rest of us who believe that all marriages should be equal under the law. The roles played by African-Americans (who voted 70 percent in favor of Proposition 8) and by white Mormons (who were accused of bankrolling the anti-same-sex-marriage campaign) only added to the morning-after recriminations. And that was in blue California. In Arkansas, voters went so far as to approve a measure forbidding gay couples to adopt.

There is comparable anger and fear on the right. David Brody, a political correspondent with the Christian Broadcasting Network, was flooded with e-mails from religious conservatives chastising Warren for accepting the invitation to the inaugural. They vilified Obama as “pro-death” and worse because of his support for abortion rights.

Stoking this rage, no doubt, is the dawning realization that the old religious right is crumbling — in part because Warren’s new generation of leaders departs from the Falwell-Robertson brand of zealots who have had a stranglehold on the G.O.P. It’s a sign of the old establishment’s panic that the Rev. Richard Cizik, known for his leadership in addressing global warming, was pushed out of his executive post at the National Association of Evangelicals this month. Cizik’s sin was to tell Terry Gross of NPR that he was starting to shift in favor of civil unions for gay couples.

Cizik’s ouster won’t halt the new wave he represents. As he also told Gross, young evangelicals care less and less about the old wedge issues and aren’t as likely to base their votes on them. On gay rights in particular, polls show that young evangelicals are moving in Cizik’s (and the country’s) direction and away from what John McCain once rightly called “the agents of intolerance.” It’s not a coincidence that Dobson’s Focus on the Family, which spent more than $500,000 promoting Proposition 8, has now had to lay off 20 percent of its work force in Colorado Springs.

But we’re not there yet. Warren’s defamation of gay people illustrates why, as does our president-elect’s rationalization of it. When Obama defends Warren’s words by calling them an example of the “wide range of viewpoints” in a “diverse and noisy and opinionated” America, he is being too cute by half. He knows full well that a “viewpoint” defaming any minority group by linking it to sexual crimes like pedophilia is unacceptable.

It is even more toxic in a year when that group has been marginalized and stripped of its rights by ballot initiatives fomenting precisely such fears. “You’ve got to give them hope” was the refrain of the pioneering 1970s gay politician Harvey Milk, so stunningly brought back to life by Sean Penn on screen this winter. Milk reminds us that hope has to mean action, not just words.


McCarthy added that it’s also time “for President-elect Obama to start acting on the promises he made to the LGBT community during his campaign so that he doesn’t go down in history as another Bill Clinton, a sweet-talking swindler who would throw us under the bus for the sake of political expediency.” And “for LGBT folks to choose their battles wisely, to judge Obama on the content of his policy-making, not on the character of his ministers.”

Amen. Here’s to humility and equanimity everywhere in America, starting at the top, as we negotiate the fierce rapids of change awaiting us in the New Year.
First, I want to thank Allah for what a supportive ally LGBT people have in Frank Rich! Not only does he get to the crux of the issues with this column, but he gives three prominent openly gay men access to the Sunday New York Times op-ed page to promote their sound-bites and all three deliver. Kudos!

(Were any of you surprised or disappointed by my reference to "Allah" in the above sentence? That's my tongue-in-cheek reference to a deity for no apparent reason (similar to what we will shortly be seeing repeatedly as award season heats up in the beginning of the year) that I hope highlights the incongruity of faith. Why should Robinson and Warren be praying to the same God? Is that the same God that Osama bin Laden and George W. Bush and Barack Obama are praying to? Reading I Don't Believe In Atheists over the last week has tipped me further along the agnostic-atheist spectrum.)

However, my main focus of this post is trying to (again) plunge a rhetorical stake through the heart of the undead idea that Black people were responsible for Proposition 8 passing. Rich links to a November 6th New York Times article "Bans In 3 States on Gay Marriage" written by Jesse McKinley and Laurie Goodstein which promulgates the dubious exit poll number of 70 percent African American support for Proposition 8. MadProfessah has seen multiple documents which reference other polls that put this number as closer to 56-58% African American support, which although still higher than any other ethnic or racial group in California is clearly not in the asshole range of Republicans or weekly churchgoers (80+% Proposition 8 support).

Rich ends his piece calling for "humility and equanimity" that will be required of all of us in order to enact the "change we can believe in" next year.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

My Thoughts on Hedges' "I Don't Believe In Atheists"

Chris Hedges’ I Don’t Believe In Atheists is a book that is intended to be a direct retort to the best-selling books by the so-called “Unholy Trinity” of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens who are also known as the "new atheists." Hedges is the New York Times-bestselling author of American Fascists and a former foreign correspondent for multiple media outlets as well as a graduate of Harvard Divinity School. He sat down and wrote the book after becoming enraged following multiple debates with Harris and Hitchens in 2007. I was asked to review Hedges’ book and host FDL’s online book salon by Lisa Derrick of La Figa fame whom I met at the National LGBT Bloggers summit convened by Mike Rogers (of BlogActive and PageOneQ) in Washington, D.C. in December 2008. I approach the text as an academically minded, scientifically trained highly non-religious LGBT activist and blogger (at who doesn’t really identify as an atheist but doesn’t shy away from the label. I have read (and enjoyed) Dawkins’ The God Delusion but had not read anything by Hitchens or Harris before being assigned I Don’t Believe In Atheists.

The thesis of Hedges’ text (cleverly distilled to the bolded words in the title), as I understand it, is this: the new atheists share a utopian vision of humanity with religious fundamentalists that has led to violence historically and that this philosophy must be rejected.

Hedges’ makes clear very early on that he doesn’t disbelieve in all atheists, there are some atheists who are acceptable.

An atheist who accepts an irredeemable and flawed human nature, as well as a morally neutral universe, who does not think the world can be perfected by human beings, who is not steeped in cultural arrogance and feelings of superiority, who rejects the violent imperial projects under way in the Middle East, is intellectually honest. These atheists may not like the word sin, but they have accepted its reality.

They hold an honored place in a pluralistic and diverse human community.

Atheists, including those who brought us the Enlightenment, have often been a beneficial force in the history of human thought and religion. They have forced societies to examine empty religious platitudes and hollow religious concepts. They have courageously challenged the moral hypocrisy of religious institutions. (pp. 24-25.)

I think very many atheists (or atheist-leaning agnostics like myself) would be annoyed by the notion that Hedges thinks that we have accepted the reality of “sin.” Umm, no, we haven’t! The notion of sin requires a religious imprimatur which as non-believers we reject (both the religion and the authority to declare certain acts sinful).

But I am digressing from addressing Hedges' main argument directly. First of all, I think it is simply incorrect to equate the views of the new atheists or what he calls "secular fundamentalists" with the views of religious fundamentalists. A religious fundamentalist is someone who believes in the inerrancy of their chosen religious text (Bible, Koran, etc). Hedges extrapolates from the new atheists' stated position that they reject religion and the supernatural (or divine) to say that they believe in the perfectibility of man. In Hedges' view religious fundamentalists believe that man will reach heaven after death while secular fundamentalists believe that they can form a "heaven on earth" through inevitable scientific and technological progress. Hedges' rightly (and lengthily) identifies the dangers of the belief in the ability to create a utopian society, which are primarily violence and totalitarianism. However, to me he is unpersuasive in connecting the views of the new atheists to this Utopian dream.

There are other reviewers, such as Barney Zwartz of Australia's The Age newspaper who are more persuaded by Hedges. In his December 27 rave review of the book, Zwartz says:

Hedges marshals an array of evidence and arguments against the "new atheists" from history, literature, philosophy and the atheistic double-deity of science and reason. This, combined with despair at religious fundamentalism, points him towards a profound pessimism about the "dying culture" of an increasingly militarised and corporatised America indeed, about humanity.


Hedges believes we are becoming an entertainment-dominated, image-based society less able to grapple with abstract thought. "Image-based societies do not grasp or cope with ambiguity, nuance, doubt and the many layers of irrational motives and urges, some of them frightening, that make human actions complex and finally unfathomable."

Interestingly, he thinks the new atheists are the product of this morally
stunted world of entertainment, appealing not to reason but to our deepest and
most irrational subliminal desires. "The simple slogans these atheists repeat about religion do not communicate ideas. They amuse us. They bolster our
self-satisfaction, anti-intellectualism and provincialism."

Basically, Hedges says a plague on both their houses. He wants us to reject
simplistic Utopian visions and accept the ineluctable limitations of being
human. This book "is a call to face reality, a reality which in the coming
decades is going to be bleak and difficult."

In my view, one of Hedges’ goals in writing the book is to try to replicate the success that the Unholy Trinity has had in energizing the approximately one-seventh of the United States population that describes themselves as “without religion” to actively embrace agnosticism or atheism. Hedges, however, would apparently like to energize the larger group of people who do describe themselves as religious (and are alarmed by the popularity of the new atheists)
in order to have them buy his book and embrace his opposition to the views he ascribes to the new atheists and, in so doing, diminish their influence upon the culture.

All in all, I do think that Hedges has skillfully written a useful text in that he does a good job of pointing out the ridiculous nature of religious fundamentalism and the concomitant dangers it poses to society. However, where he goes astray is arguing for a false equivalence between
religious fundamentalists and what he calls secular fundamentalists. These new
atheists, who as individuals may be vulnerable to some of his critiques, are not a monolithic group and Hedges is mistaken when he tries to repeatedly use Hitchens, Harris and Dawkins as the representatives of all non-believers. Some of us just don’t believe in (your) God and that’s all there is to it.

FOOD REVIEW: Diner on Main (Alhambra, CA)

Katie's Steak Sandwich

MadProfessah and The Other Half ate lunch at Diner on Main St in Alhambra, California on Monday. It is a very interesting example of the retro-50s "Googie" style. MadProfessah had "Katie's steak sandwich" (with onion rings, since they were out of sweet potato fries) and The Other Half had the club sandwich.

The food was surprisingly good. I suspected I was in for a shock when the perky waitress asked how I wanted my steak cooked. Both sandwiches had surprising touches: his club included avocado (on sourdough toast) and my steak sandwiched had a deliciously piquant aioli mayonnaise.

The googie ambiance was appealing and well-maintained, although a bit out of step with the oldies Christmas music and flat-screen televisions with live football. The service was quite good and although the food was quite good, it wasn't overwhelmingly cheap ($10.95 for the steak sandwich, $8.95 for the club). The Other Half thought the onions rings, while extremely tasty, were a bit oilier than he prefers and there definitely was a not-insignificant amount of gristle in my sanndwich. All in all, I would definitely eat at The Diner on Main again, especially late at night (they are open to 2am on the weekends).


Friday, December 26, 2008

MadProfessah Hosting Book Chat at Sat 2PM

Tomorrow MadProfessah will be hosting a online chat from 5-7 pm EST (2-4pm PST) at on the book I Don't Believe In Atheists written by Chris Hedges.

Alternate Obama Logos

I think this one is okay.
I think this one has too much "Osama" going on.

This is my second favorite.

Almost there!

The undisputed winner.

Andrew Sullivan alerted me to this compilation of alternate logos designed for the Obama '08 presidential campaign. Which is your favorite?

Judge Blocks Statewide 8th Grade Algebra Requirement

The controversy over whether and when algebra should be taught (and tested for) in California schools just keeps going and going, sort of like a limit heading towards infinity! Last Friday a judge blocked the state from requiring all 8th graders to take algebra four months after the California Board of Education had approved such a policy at the strong urging of the Governor.

MadProfessah has been involved in a project to improve algebra instruction in Los Angeles-area high schools for a few years now and getting to know the details of the problem is quite sobering.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

CA-32: Chu Makes Her Intention To Run Clear

Judy Chu has made it official: she is running for California's 32nd Congressional district. An article in yesterday's Los Angeles Times carried her annoncement as well as interesting analysis of various politicians chances of winning the seat:
In an interview with The Times on Monday evening, Chu said she made the decision to run Sunday after days of urging from supporters.

"I've decided to heed those calls," she said. "I know this district very, very well and I believe the people of this district know me and know I'm very devoted to the San Gabriel Valley."

Romero could not be reached Monday afternoon, but said publicly last week that she would pursue the seat. A staunch labor supporter, Romero was elected to her state Senate seat in 2001, replacing Solis. She had previously served in the Assembly and said she represented the district at the state level for 10 years.

She would have an important leg up on Chu, according to political consultants.

"Most people believe a Latino would be favored," said Allan Hoffenblum, publisher of the California Target Book, a nonpartisan publication that analyzes and handicaps legislative races.

He said about 48% of the district's voters are Latino. Asians are the second-largest group, making up 13% of the vote.

But if several Latino candidates split the Latino vote, he said, a strong Asian candidate could put together Asian and white voters and take a majority.

Perhaps an even larger factor, said Democratic political strategist Steve Maviglio, is who the Los Angeles Federation of Labor backs, and how strongly.

"They have the most horses in the county. They have the most money. If they put all their firepower behind one candidate, it's pretty much over," he said.

That's partly because most special elections have turnouts below 20%, which he said favor grass-roots, get-out-the vote campaigns that are labor's strength.
Another interesting aspect of the race is that apparently there is not a residency requirement for the special election, so theoretically any big name Latino politician could consider running for the seat. Fabian Nunez, anyone? Then again he's a bit busy right now keeping his son out of jail!

Dawkins versus O'Reilly On Virtues of Atheism

'Milk' Starts To Pick Up Steam in Awards Season

Milk is starting to appear on several year-end Best Of lists, with Sean Penn's performance receiving universal accolades. Kris Tapley over at In Contention has compiled the Best Picture winners of the various critics associations:
African American Film Critics Association — “The Dark Knight”
Alliance of Women Film Journalists — “Slumdog Millionaire”
Austin Film Critics Association — “The Dark Knight”
Boston Society of Film Critics (IC coverage) — “Slumdog Millionaire,” “WALL-E”
Broadcast Film Critics Association (IC coverage) — winners announced Jan. 8
Chicago Film Critics Association (nominees, winners) — “WALL-E”
Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association — “Slumdog Millionaire”
Detroit Film Critics Society (IC coverage: nominees, winners) — “Slumdog Millionaire”
Florida Film Critics Circle — “Slumdog Millionaire”
Houston Film Critics Society — “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Hollywood Foreign Press Association (IC coverage) — winners announced Jan. 11
International Press Academy (IC coverage: nominees, winners) — “Slumdog Millionaire,” “Happy-Go-Lucky”
Las Vegas Film Critics Society — “Frost/Nixon”
London Film Critics Circle (IC coverage) — winners announced Feb. 4
Los Angeles Film Critics Association (IC coverage) — “WALL-E”
New York Film Critics Circle (IC coverage) — “Milk”
New York Film Critics Online — “Slumdog Millionaire”
Phoenix Film Critics Society — “Slumdog Millionaire”
San Diego Film Critics Society (IC coverage) — “Slumdog Millionaire”
San Francisco Film Critics Circle (IC coverage) — “Milk”
Southeastern Film Critics Association“Milk”
St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association — “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Toronto Film Critics Association (IC coverage) — “Wendy and Lucy”
Utah Film Critics Association — “The Dark Knight”
Washington, D.C. Area Film Critics Association — “Slumdog Millionaire”
Clearly, Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire is the front runner but most Oscar watches expect Milk to be on the Best Picture list announced on January 22, along with The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Frost/Nixon.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

President O (shirtless)!

Huffington Post ran this shirtless picture of Barack Obama on vacation in Hawaii yesterday.

How Much Should A Free Book Cost LAUSD??

Spoken word artist (and CalTech alum) Sandra Tsing Loh has been spending a lot of time battling with Los Angeles Unified School District administrators and has lot to say about the experience. Recently, the Los Angeles Times published an op-ed by her entitled "LAUSD needs a pit bull PTA mom"

My L.A. public school mom friend -- and Oprah Angel Award winner -- Rebecca Constantino is the founder of Access Books, a 10-year-old non-profit that brings 10,000 new and almost new books to each of the many needy LAUSD elementaries requesting them. Thanks to a web of volunteers and private donations, the books come absolutely free.

The only obstacle? LAUSD Central Library Services. It has capped Access Books donations to a maximum of 300 books a school (some with more than 1,000 students) because of an LAUSD cataloging cost of $18 a book!

Call me hormonal (what I actually call myself is a "Burning Mom"), but I believe the district's director of Instructional Media Services should be fired -- today! That would save taxpayers $119,724.84 a year, according to an L.A. Daily news website that allows you to check the salary of any LAUSD employee.

While we're at it, let's also right-size the budget by firing any LAUSD front office worker who is rude (do you, like me, suddenly see huge, huge savings?).
Call me crazy, but I don't think it is reasonable that it should cost $18 to catalogue a free book!

Monday, December 22, 2008


If you want to thank Jerry Brown for his position on Proposition 8 that he filed with the California Supreme Court on Friday, please email him directly at

Read the Prop 8 Briefs: AG Brown's and Protect Marriage's

TowleRoad has posted the entirety of Attorney General Jerry Brown's 111-page brief urging Proposition 8 is unconstitutional using a cool new webtool called Scribd that allows one to embed documents in webpages.

Pam at Pam's House Blend has posted the brief of Protect Marriage which argues that the 18,000 couples married between June 15th and November 4th should be forcibly divorced.

TowleREAD: Answer Brief in Response to Petition For Extraordinary Relief

Economic Conditions Are Worsening

Lesbian Named Fellow of the AAAS

Rochelle Diamond, founder of the National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals (NOGLSTP) has been named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science precisely for her work in organizing out LGBT individuals in science.
The announcement was made in the December 19 issue of the association's journal, Science. Diamond is one of 486 new fellows awarded for "socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications," says the AAAS.

The association recognized Diamond for "outstanding technical contributions to the field of cytometry/cell sorting, and for distinguished professional service in development of understanding human diversity in science and engineering.
I have been an email correspondent of Rochelle's for nearly 20 years, although I have never met her. Regardless, I am very supportive of her work, and replicated it somewhat when I co-founded a silmilar organization for Mathematicians in 1995. Congratulations, Rochelle!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Keith Boykin Breaks His Silence On Proposition 8

Keith Boykin has broken his silence on the topic of Proposition 8 and the divide between Blacks and Gays in a piece entitled "Is Gay the new Black?" on the website he edits, The Daily Voice, published on Thursday December 18th.

Many critics of black homophobia fail to grasp the difference between the politically progressive and the socially conservative streaks in the African American community. To communicate effectively to blacks, you need to know how to frame these issues.

If you can figure out how to frame the gay question as a political issue for basic rights instead of a social issue about acceptance, then blacks are much more likely to support it. That's a hard sell for same-sex marriage because many blacks see marriage as a religious structure, not a civil institution. But it creates opportunities to learn effective messaging.

It's important to remember the messenger is just as important as the message. Straight black people are not likely to sympathize with white people preaching to them about the evils of gay discrimination. That's a message that can most effectively be delivered by other blacks, straight and gay. Until the white LGBT movement learns this obvious point and implements strategies to include many more LGBT people of color in positions of visibility and responsibility, they are doomed to repeat the same tragic mistakes of their past failures. [emphasis added]

It's also not helpful for gays to equate one movement with another. The civil rights movement is not the same as the gay rights movement, racism is not the same as homophobia and blacks are not the same as gays. [emphasis added]

Although there are similarities between the two movements, there are also major differences. But why do gay activists feel the need to prove the struggles are the same in the first place?

America doesn't ask women, Jews, people with disabilities or immigrants to prove that their discrimination is identical to black suffering, and yet no one denies that sexism, anti-Semitism, ablism and xenophobia exist in our society. So why should gays and lesbians need to prove that their suffering is identical to black suffering in order to be treated equally under the law? That doesn't make much sense, but we're not talking logic here; we're talking prejudice.

Gay activists are also deceiving themselves if they think they can change public opinion simply by proving that homosexuality is not a choice. Blackness is not a choice either, and that hasn't stopped prejudice against African Americans. [emphasis added]

Sure, we can easily blame black homophobia on religion, but it's not that simple either. The black church is a paradox. It is the most homophobic institution in the black community and at the same time the most homo-tolerant. Just scan the gay members of the choir the next time the pastor wanders off into one of his fire and brimstone sermons about homosexuality and you'll understand. We have a "don't ask, don't tell" policy about homosexuality in the church.

We have the same policy in parts of the black community. That's why we often downplay the LGBT identities of many of our black heroes and sheroes. And yet who could imagine black culture without James Baldwin, Lorraine Hansberry, Alvin Ailey, Angela Davis, Billy Strayhorn, Barbara Jordan or the Rev. James Cleveland?

Yes you can argue until you're blue in the face that not all blacks are straight and not all gays are white. Yes you can prove that homosexuality is not a "white thing" invented by Europeans and you can show that it existed in pre-colonial Africa. Yes you can refute the simplistic argument that "gays did not have to sit at the back of the bus as blacks did" by simply pointing to black gays and lesbians who endured segregation with their straight counterparts. And yes you can remind people that Dr. Martin Luther King's closest political adviser, Bayard Rustin, was a black gay man, and he helped to organize the 1955-56 Montgomery bus boycott.

Some people will get it; some won't. But why should you have to prove all of this simply to win the "right" to be treated equally? Who cares if gay is the new black? In the end, it doesn't and shouldn't matter.

It doesn't matter which group was first oppressed, or which is most oppressed, or whether they are identically oppressed. What matters is that no group of people should be oppressed. As long as various groups continue to focus on the hierarchy of oppression, they will validate the hierarchy and minimize the oppression.

I'm glad to see that Keith has (finally) engaged with the discussion over what to do in the aftermath of the passage of Proposition 8 in California.
This is a valuable contribution to the dialogue about how people like myself who are fighting to end discrimination in civil marriage about tactics and strategy.

However, I must disagree with Keith that gay activists "are deceiving themselves if they think they can change public opinion simply by proving that homosexuality is not a choice." Much public polling shows that people who believe homosexuality is NOT a choice are muhc more likely to support equal rights for LGBT people. Much of the source of African American resistance (aided and abetted by religious leaders) to civil equality for LGBTs is based in the belief that homosexuality is a choice while skin color is not and thus racism and homophobia can not be compared, let alone equated.

I do strongly agree with Keith that the messenger matters in discussing the issues of gay rights in the African American community as well as the message itself and that it is not helpful to "equate" racism and homophobia or Blacks and gays. I do think it is useful to contrast, compare and connect the two, however.

Eye Candy: Jason Holmes

The editors of have finally selected a model with dark skin as one of their Morning Goods models and his name is Jason Holmes. Happy holidays!

CA-32: Romero and Chu Eye Solis' U.S. House Seat

State Senator Gloria Romero

It's all about MadProfessah's hood! Previously, I blogged about a scramble among prominent Latino politicians in Los Angeles that had started when word leaked that MadProfessah's congressman, U.S. Rep. Xavier Becerra (CA-31) had been offered a position in President Obama's cabinet as U.S. Trade Representative. Becerra turned the position down, deciding to stay in the House as the #5 Democrat in that chamber and wait his chance to become to the first Latino Speaker of the House. This will not be the last time we hear the name Xavier Becerra.

Now imagine the maneuverings are going on now that U.S. Rep. Hilda Solis (CA-32) has accepted Obama's nomination as Labor Secretary, giving up a Congressional seat in East Los Angeles that she has held for 5 terms. This time it's my State Senator Gloria Romero who has given an explicit statement of interest in the job. "
"Absoutely I am very interested in this seat. I have represented this district for over 10 years in the California state legislature," she said. "I know this district well, and this district knows me."

Other names that have been discussed for the seat include Assemblyman Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina, Judy Chu, chairwoman of the state Board of Equalization, and her husband Assemblyman Mike Eng, D-El Monte.

Both Chu and Romero would be an amazing congressional respresentative and I would be hard pressed to pick between Romero and Chu, although knowing what I know right now, I would pick Chu. I know very little about Hernandez except that he's in his second term in the Assembly. Both Chu and Romero are strong supporters of LGBT equality and have been endorsed by Equality California when they ran for their current elected positions. Interestingly, Romero replaced Solis as the representative of the 24th State Senate district, will she also replace Solis as the representative of the 32nd Congressional district?

The race is on. May the best woman win!

The 2009 "Gay Agenda"

As we protest the legal maneuverings by heterosexual supremacists to annul 18, 000 married couples in California (including MadProfessah) as well as the fact the President-elect appears to like to cavort with homophobes, we should also keep our eye on exactly what LGBT Americans are asking President Obama to do:
Issue an Executive Order within the first 100 days that reaffirms
protections for federal workers based on sexual orientation and expands them to also include gender identity;
• Work with Congress to sign Hate Crimes legislation into law within 6 months;
• Support only a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA);
• In the first 100 days develop a plan to begin the process of eliminating the failed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”
policy; and
• Work with Congress to end unequal tax treatment of domestic partnerships benefits

Hat/tip to HRC's Backstory.

Friday, December 19, 2008

UPDATE: AG Brown Argues Prop 8 Unconstitutional

There is breaking news in the fight over Proposition 8: California Attorney General Jerry Brown has changed his mind and is now arguing that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional and filed a brief with the California Supreme Court urging that it be struck down.

Needless to say, Equality California Executive Director Geoff Kors was happy about this turn of events:
"Attorney General Brown's position that Proposition 8 should be invalidated demonstrates that he is a leader of courage and conviction," said Equality California Executive Director Geoff Kors. "We are very pleased that upon review of the law, he has moved from his previous statements that he would defend Prop 8. As the state's highest attorney, Jerry Brown has done his job today to defend the Constitution and protect the rights of minority groups, including the more than 18,000 same-sex couples who married in California."
This comes late in a day where the heterosexual supremacists defending Proposition 8, led by law professor Kenneth Starr filed motions with the state's highest court arguing that all same-sex couples (estimated to be over 18,000, including mine) should be annulled.

66 Countries Sign On To UN Statement On Homosexuality

The 66 countries who signed the declaration on homosexuality that was debated at the United Nations on Wednesday are:

Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guinea-Bissau, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Montenegro, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, United Kingdom, Uruguay, and Venezuela.
This number is slightly more than one-third of the 192 member countries of the United Nations. Note that the United States is not on the list. Shame on you, Condoleezza Rice!

LA TIMES Urges Attorney General To Reject Prop 8

Thursday's Los Angeles Times editorializes in favor of California Attorney General Jerry Brown to oppose Proposition 8 on constitutional grounds in his brief before the California Supreme Court which is due to be filed today.
Among the many legal opinions on Proposition 8 that the California Supreme Court will consider, the most high-profile one will come from Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown. By Friday, Brown is supposed to deliver his legal brief on whether the initiative banning same-sex marriage is an amendment to the state Constitution or, as opponents claim, a fundamental revision of it, which would require far more than a simple majority vote to take effect. As California's top lawyer, Brown is bound by his oath to defend the state's laws. But in this case, does that mean defending the will of the voters, or defending the Constitution from the will of the voters? Either way, Brown must deliver a robust and sincere argument that reflects his honest interpretation. In other words, he has to call it as he sees it.

As obvious as that sounds, it's not the role that attorneys general have commonly played; historically, the official legal representative for the state or nation defends newly passed laws against court challenges. Nor is this an easily resolved constitutional issue.

Certainly, Proposition 8 is not a wholesale rewrite of the state Constitution. The question is whether fundamental change has to mean extensive and elaborate change, or whether it's enough that a ban on gay marriage deprives a group that has long been a target of discrimination of an essential constitutional right.

The question deserves a well-considered answer by the court -- and an honestly rendered argument from Brown. If Brown deems Proposition 8 an unconstitutional revision, the state deserves better than a pro-forma argument defending it simply because that's what his office has usually done -- just as Brown should defend the measure vigorously if, in his opinion, it is an amendment, even though he opposed it before the election.

Though it's the less common path, there are precedents in which attorneys general have taken a stance on constitutional grounds, rather than on the idea that they must defend the will of the voters no matter their own legal beliefs. In a 1983 case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, U.S. Atty. Gen. William French Smith sided against a law that would have allowed a single house of Congress to overrule immigration decisions. In 1967, California Atty. Gen. Thomas C. Lynch argued against Proposition 14, a rollback of fair-housing laws that was ultimately found unconstitutional.

Californians on both sides of the gay-marriage debate deserve an equally principled argument from Brown.
It will be interesting to see how Brown walks a fine line between what he actually thinks the law requires and how that relates to his possible gubernatorial campaign in 2010. Most of the other top Democratic contenders for Governor of California are strong supporters of civil marriage for everyone: Gavin Newsom, Antonio Villaraigosa and Jack O'Connell.

Black Gay Books Reissued by Redbone Press!

A little bird told me recently that Redbone Press has re-issued the seminal Black, gay works Brother to Brother and In The Life which wered edited by Esex Hemphil and Josep Beam, respectively.

Both of these books are filled with incredibly inspiring words and images for Black gay men everywhere. MadProfessah can not endorse them highly enough! One of the most exciting days of my college career was the day that I met Essex Hemphill after a reading at Vassar College in the early 1990s.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Obama's Cabinet Is Complete (and Straight)

Barack Obama's cabinet is now complete with the selection of African American Ron Kirk as U.S. Trade Representative and Latina Rep. Hilda Solis as Secretary of Labor:
- 5 Women (Clinton, Napolitano, Rice, Jackson, Solis)
- 4 African Americans (Holder, Rice, Jackson, Kirk)
- 5 Westerners (Salazar, Richardson, Kirk, Solis, Napolitano -- who was born in NYC but raised in Albuquerque)
- 3 Hispanics/Latinos (Salazar, Richardson, Solis)
- 2 Asian Americans (Shinseki, Chu)
- 2 Republicans (Gates, Lahood)
- 2 Sitting Senators (Clinton, Salazar)
- 2 Sitting Governors (Napolitano, Richardson)

(Hat/tip to First Read)

Obama Responds To Rick Warren Controversy

Barack Obama responded directly to a question about the Rick Warren controversy today at his press conference:

Here's the transcript:
I am fierce advocate for equality for gay and -- well, let me start by talking about my own views. I think it is no secret that I am a fierce advocate for equality for gay and lesbian Americans. It is something I have been consistent on and something I intend to continue to be consistent on during my presidency.

What I've also said is that it is important for America to come together even though we may have disagreements on certain social issues.

And I would note that a couple of years ago I was invited to Rick Warren's church to speak, despite his awareness that I held views entirely contrary to his when it came to gay and lesbian rights, when it came to issues like abortion.

Nevertheless, I had an opportunity to speak, and that dialogue, I think, is a part of what my campaign's been all about, that we're never going to agree on every single issue. What we have to do is create an atmosphere where we can disagree without being disagreeable, and then focus on those things that we hold in common as Americans. So Rick Warren has been invited to speak, Dr. Joseph Lowery -- who has deeply contrasting views to Rick Warren about a whole host of issues -- is also speaking.

Obama-Biden Transition Tries To Explain Homophobe Inclusion

The Obama-Biden transition team chief spokesperson Linda Douglass issued the following talking points defending the decision to have Saddleback mega-church pastor Rick Warren deliver the invocation at Barack Obama's inauguration January 20th:

* This will be the most open, accessible, and inclusive Inauguration in American history.

* In keeping with the spirit of unity and common purpose this Inauguration will reflect, the President-elect and Vice President-elect have chosen some of the world's most gifted artists and people with broad appeal to participate in the inaugural ceremonies.

* Pastor Rick Warren has a long history of activism on behalf of the disadvantaged and the downtrodden. He's devoted his life to performing good works for the poor and leads the evangelical movement in addressing the global HIV/AIDS crisis. In fact, the President-elect recently addressed Rick Warren's Saddleback Civil Forum on Global Health to salute Warren's leadership in the struggle against HIV/AIDS and pledge his support to the effort in the years ahead.

* The President-elect disagrees with Pastor Warren on issues that affect the LGBT community. They disagree on other issues as well. But what's important is that they agree on many issues vital to the pursuit of social justice, including poverty relief and moving toward a sustainable planet; and they share a commitment to renewing America's promise by expanding opportunity at home and restoring our moral leadership abroad.

* As he's said again and again, the President-elect is committed to bringing together all sides of the faith discussion in search of common ground. That's the only way we'll be able to unite this country with the resolve and common purpose necessary to solve the challenges we face.

* The Inauguration will also involve Reverend Joseph Lowery, who will be delivering the official benediction at the Inauguration. Reverend Lowery is a giant of the civil rights movement who boasts a proudly progressive record on LGBT issues. He has been a leader in the struggle for civil rights for all Americans, gay or straight.

* And for the very first time, there will be a group representing the interests of LGBT Americans participating in the Inaugural Parade.

It is true that Rev. Lowery is going to have a more prominent role than Rick Warren, and that the LGBT Americans that are participating are the Lesbian and Gay Band Association, who were invited to participate in the Inauguration.

However, many LGBT Americans are still pissed off their new President is cavorting with a homophobe.

Barack Obama Named Time's 2008 Person of the Year

Time magazine has named Barack Obama their Person of the Year 2008. In their lengthy article on the soon-to-be 44th President of the United States, they also include pictures from a 1980 photo shoot of "Barry Obama" as a freshman at Occidental College in Los Angeles (where MadProfessah teaches now) taken by photographer Lisa Jack for her colege photography portfolio.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

HRC Letter in Response To Rick Warren Invite to Obama Inauguration

Brad Luna of the Human Rights Campaign released the following letter by HRC President Joe Solmonese addressing Barack Obama's announcement that anti-gay preacher Rick Warren would be giving the invocation at Obama's inauguration on January 20th:

Dear President-elect Obama -

Let me get right to the point. Your invitation to Reverend Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at your inauguration is a genuine blow to LGBT Americans. Our loss in California over the passage of Proposition 8 which stripped loving, committed same-sex couples of their given legal right to marry is the greatest loss our community has faced in 40 years. And by inviting Rick Warren to your inauguration, you have tarnished the view that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans have a place at your table.

Rick Warren has not sat on the sidelines in the fight for basic equality and fairness. In fact, Rev. Warren spoke out vocally in support of Prop 8 in California saying, “there is no need to change the universal, historical definition of marriage to appease 2 percent of our population ... This is not a political issue -- it is a moral issue that God has spoken clearly about." Furthermore, he continues to misrepresent marriage equality as silencing his religious views. This was a lie during the battle over Proposition 8, and it's a lie today.

Rev. Warren cannot name a single theological issue that he and vehemently, anti-gay theologian James Dobson disagree on. Rev. Warren is not a moderate pastor who is trying to bring all sides together. Instead, Rev. Warren has often played the role of general in the cultural war waged against LGBT Americans, many of whom also share a strong tradition of religion and faith.

We have been moved by your calls to religious leaders to own up to the homophobia and racism that has stood in the way of combating HIV and AIDS in this country. And that you have publicly called on religious leaders to open their hearts to their LGBT family members, neighbors and friends.

But in this case, we feel a deep level of disrespect when one of architects and promoters of an anti-gay agenda is given the prominence and the pulpit of your historic nomination. Only when Rev. Warren and others support basic legislative protections for LGBT Americans can we believe their claim that they are not four-square against our rights and dignity. In that light, we urge you to reconsider this announcement.


Joe Solmonese
UPDATE 3:04PM PST: many LGBT and progressive bloggers (like MadProfessah) are incensed over this selection of a homophobe in such a prominent role in the inauguration. Joe My God has posted the video of Rick Warren exhorting his flock to vote YES ON PROP 8. Pam of Pam's House Blend has posted the email address of the LGBT Liaison to the Obama Transition Team: and invited people to send their own letters letting them know how they feel. Atrios has named Barack Obama "wanker of the day" for selecting Warren for the benediction. Oxdown at has the story on the front page.

SD-26: Ridley-Thomas Endorses Curren Price As Successor

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas strongly endorsed Assemblymember Curren Price to fill the 26th District State Senate seat vacated by Ridley-Thomas on December 1 on his elevation to his County Supervisorial position. There will be a special election in the district on March 24, 2009 to fill the seat, with the winner being up for election in November 2010 for a four year term.

MadProfessah is a big supporter of Mark Ridley-Thomas and had previously blogged about the potential match-up between two current Assemblymembers: LGBT-supportive Curren Price and Mike "I'm not (voting in favor of anything) gay" Davis and given the edge to Price.

As others have pointed out, having Ridley-Thomas' endorsement makes Price "the man to beat" in the race for the 26th district state senate seat, although I do expect some Latino politician(s) to also contest the election.


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