Friday, March 30, 2012

WATCH: Blind Man "Drives" Google's Driverless Car

This is pretty cool. One of Google's long-term projects is the development and deployment of driver-less cars. watch this cool video of a blind man behind the wheel as the car drive itself. Is this the future? As Ken Jennings said, "I for one, welcome our new computer overlords!"

Celebrity Friday: The Talented Patrik-Ian Polk

Patrik-Ian Polk is the director and writer of the feature films Punks (2000), Noah's Arc: Jumping the Broom (2008) and The Skinny (2012) as well as the Black gay television series Noah's Arc (2004). He is one of the very few Black, gay independent filmmakers in Hollywood. His new film,  The Skinny  premiered at this year's 2012 Fusion LGBT People of Color film festival at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood on Saturday March 25th.  The Skinny  hits theaters next Friday April 6th in Washington, DC and Atlanta (click on the city name to buy your tickets now).

Happily, MadProfessah was in Los Angeles for other reasons and was able to see the premiere of Polk's new movie at Fusion. A full review of the film will be coming shortly, but regardless I intend to most definitely see the film again at the E-Street Landmark Theaters next weekend!

Patrik-Ian received the Fusion Achievment Award right before  The Skinny premiered. The award was presented to him by Lee Daniels, the Black gay director of Precious. You may recall that Daniels received an Academy Award nomination for that film, which ended up winning two Oscars, for Best Supporting Actress (Mo'nique) and Best Adapted Screenplay. Here's the blurb on Patrik-Ian's award:

PATRIK-IAN POLK made his feature film directorial debut with PUNKS, which had its world premiere in January 2000 at the Sundance Film Festival, was nominated for a 2002 Independent Spirit Award for Best Low-Budget Feature and was the Outfest 2000 Centerpiece. Polk made his television debut in 2006, creating the original comedy-drama series NOAHS ARC, the first scripted series for MTV/Viacom’s Logo network.  In November 2008, MTV/Logo released a feature film spin-off titled NOAHS ARC: JUMPING THE BROOM- written, directed and produced by Polk. The film opened at #1 on the IndieWIRE independent film box office chart and won the 2009 GLAAD Award for Best Film. The film also received 3 NAACP Image Awards nominations, including Best Film, Best Director and Best Screenplay. Polk is currently developing a NOAHS ARC series spin-off for Logo and a drama series for BET. And his 3rd feature film THE SKINNY will be in theaters soon.

During his acceptance speech Patrik-Ian explained that he had just finished editing the film ("yesterday!') and explained that he had decided to distribute the film himself, and that it will be available for limited runs (One Week Only) in major cities with large Black gay populations, starting with Washington and Atlanta on April 6t. So, if you want to see the film in your area you will need to run, not walk, to the theater when it opens because one week later it will be gone.

Here's a blurb about The Skinny:
Love, Secrets, and The City: this is what The Skinny is made of.  A group of young, sexy friends reunite in New York City a year after they graduated from Brown University. They  show off their new loves, but some resort to their old tricks. The three days they spend together in the city shows them what a difference a year makes.
There are lots of "hella phyne" bruthas in the movie and some pretty explicit sexual situation. The film is being released Unrated. It is a MUST SEE for any Black gay person living in a major city (and there's Black lesbian representation as well!)

After the premiere of the film there was a party at the Egyptian Theater, Patrik-Ian sang some of the songs from the soundtrack (which he wrote and performed). He's a very talented guy and today's Celebrity Friday!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

STUDY: Trust Science? You're a Liberal!

Towleroad reports about a very disturbing result that public distrust of science is correlated with partisanship. In "Politicization of Science in the Public Sphere: A Study of Public Trust in the United States, 1974 to 2010" published in the American Sociological Review (Volume 77, issue 2, pp. 167-187), Gordon Gauchat, a professor at the University of North Carolina, details the ongoing politicization of science. Conservatives mistrust science the most, with Liberals trusting science the most and Moderates are closer to conservatives than liberals in this instance.

From the graph above you can see that conservative trust of science is at an all-time low, with just 35% of self-identified conservatives saying that they have "a great deal of trust in science." The numbers for conservatives have been dropping for year while those of liberals have remained relatively steady.

In his paper, Gauchat says:
As mentioned, one interpretation of these findings is that conservatism in the United States has become a cultural domain that generates its own knowledge base that is often in conflict with the cultural authority of science. For example, on fundamental ontological questions about who we are and how we got here, conservatives are far more likely to doubt scientific theories of origins, including theories of natural selection and the Big Bang (Newport 2007, 2009). A growing number of conservatives also doubt climate change: in 2010, only a third of conservatives believed that global warming is occurring, compared to almost half in 2008 (Jones 2010). These particular opinions, coupled with the general trends examined in Table 2, suggest a growing chasm between conservatives’ ideas about “what is the case” and liberals’ willingness to trust science on these matters. 
Given the theoretical relationship between education and confidence in science, an additional explanation relates to whether conservatives’ educational composition changed over the period. Simply, if conservatives as a group are less educated than they once were, this might account for the decline in trust in the scientific community. First, according to the combined GSS data, the proportion of conservatives who received at least a high school degree is greater than the proportion for liberals. Second, the percentage of conservatives and liberals who received bachelor’s degrees is nearly identical, approximately 17 percent. Liberals, however, were more likely to receive graduate degrees compared to conservatives, and the gap between ideological groups grows over the period. Importantly, this growing gap is due to an increase in the percentage of liberals receiving graduate degrees and not a decline among conservatives. Altogether, the data provide little evidence that group-specific differences in public trust in science are attributable to changes in conservatives’ educational composition.
In other words, the increasing gap is not because conservatives are any less educated than liberals. Gauchat's overall explanation is that there has been a marked change in the distrust of science among people who are conservative and attend church frequently and this drives the overall decline in the numbers.

Do you agree with his explanation for the gap between conservatives and liberals? Do YOU trust science?

KEY BISCAYNE 2012: Venus, Serena, Azarenka Lose!

At the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami (Key Biscayne), Victoria Azarenka's 2012 winning streak ended at 26 consecutive matches and 4 titles when she lost to Marion Bartoli of France 6-3 6-3 in the quarterfinals. Bartoli is now World #7 and when she is on, can beat any player on the WTA Tour and proved it on Wednesday, coming back from 1-3 down in the second set to rattle off 5 games and stun the World #1 and defending champion who was struggling mightily (and unsuccessfully) to control her groundstrokes. Azarenka was coming off winning the Indian Wells tournament the week before and the only players on the WTA tour to do the Indian Wells-Key Biscayne double are Steffi Graf and Kim Clijsters (who was forced to withdraw with a hip injury which will keep her out of the game for 4 weeks).

Losing within 18 hours of each other were Venus Williams dropping 6-4 6-1 to World #4 Agnieska Radwanska (who is 0-4 against Azarenka in 2012 but 24-0 against the rest of the field) and sister Serena Williams losing 6-4 6-4 to former World #1 Caroline Wozniacki. It was the second time in 7 meetings that Venus had lost to Radwanska and the first time in 3 meetings that Serena had lost to Wozniacki. In fact, when Wozniacki won, Tennis Channel commentator Lindsay Davenport called it "perhaps the biggest win of [her] career" because the Dane has so few victories against the purveyors of Big Babe tennis. Between the two of them, Venus and Serena had won this tournament in Key Biscayne (which is very close to the home they share together in Palm Beach Gardens) a combined 8 times in the last 12 years. Serena has done it 5 times, and Venus thrice.

In the semifinals Wozniacki will face Maria Sharapova (who beat Li Na in the quarterfinals), the one big babe she has actually beaten before (twice). Radwanska will face Bartoli in the other semifinal.

PREDICTION: Radwanska-Sharapova final.


The master of the Scottish police procedural mystery, Ian Rankin, has returned to the format with The Complaints. More famous for his best-selling series of seventeen(!) books featuring the alcoholic and somewhat misanthropic Edinburgh Police Detective Inspector John Rebus, Rankin ended that series with 2008's Exit Music and featured the Edgar-award winning Resurrection Men. (Probably the best book in the series and a good place to start, even though its about midway through the series, which are in chronological order.)

As soon as I saw that Rankin had published two books  in the last year featuring the same character, I immediately added them to my holiday wish list, and Satan Santa was kind enough to get them for me. The Complaints and The Impossible Dead have some similarities to the Inspector Rebus mysteries: they are set in Edinburgh, include violent deaths and feature police work. The main character is Malcolm Fox, who is a very different beast from Rebus. Fox is what we would call in the United States, an Internal Affairs officer, that is a cop who investigates other cops. As such, Fox and his team are generally considered persona non grata by the rest of the force. In Rankin's depiction of police work, the only officers on the Edinburgh Police force to have lower status than the Complaints is the division which prosecutes child pornography, since clearly people who spend their entire work day looking at unspeakable pictures of children in sexual situations must have something "off' about them.

As it turns out, the latest case that Malcolm Fox has dropped in his lap at the start of The Complaints is about a fellow police officer named Detective Sergeant Jamie Breck whose credit card has apparently been used to join a website where pictures of underage boys can be exchanged. It seems like a pretty open and shut case, but of course, since this is an Ian Rankin mystery, there is much, much more to the case.

Breck is on the Murder Squad, and when Fox's sister's live-in boyfriend is found dead a mere hours after he had apparently left his woman bruised and battered at home, Breck is assigned to the case and Fox meets his target in a very different setting than his usual cases and gets to know and admire Breck, which causes Fox to more closely examine the Complaint against Breck.

The same weekend that the body is found, one of the most prominent real estate developers in Edinburgh goes missing at sea, and his body stubbornly refuses to turn up? Are the two (or three) cases related? Of course they are.

How Rankin weaves together the various plot elements The Complaints while introducing us to his new police protagonist (and his two sidekicks/fellow detectives) in a nuanced and compelling way makes as good a read as any of his best John Rebus novels., They were known for the complexity of their mysteries and the emotional resonance of the graphic look at modern-day police work.

With The Complaints, Rankin shows us that even though the color and canvass have slightly changed, he remains a great artist.

TitleThe Complaints.
Author: Ian Rankin.
Length: 480 pages.
Publisher: Back Bay Books.
Published: November 2, 2011.

OVERALL GRADE: A/A- (3.833/4.0).


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Mainers United for Marriage Launches!

AUGUSTA – Today, Freedom to Marry joined Maine families and organizations in launching Mainers United for Marriage, the campaign to make Maine the first state to win the freedom to marry through a ballot measure, to be voted on this November. 
Marc Solomon, National Campaign Director of Freedom to Marry, released the following statement:
“Freedom to Marry is proud to be a leader in Mainers United for Marriage, the campaign to secure the freedom to marry for all of Maine’s loving and committed couples.  This campaign has been more than two years in the making, as volunteers and organizers have been making the case to Maine voters about why marriage matters to gay and lesbian couples, in the process growing public support to a solid majority of 54 percent.   Under the banner of Mainers United for Marriage, families and organizations, volunteers and our own staff will now ramp up and use every resource we can muster to explain to Maine voters about why now is the time to end the exclusion of loving, committed same-sex couples and their families from the protections and support that only marriage provides.  
“On a personal note, I am thrilled that Matt McTighe will be managing this campaign.  I’ve worked closely with Matt since 2006, when he served as my political director at MassEquality.   Matt is smart, creative, quick on his feet, extraordinarily skilled in making the case for the freedom to marry, and relentlessly determined to win.  We at Freedom to Marry commit ourselves to working closely with Matt and the impressive team that he’s assembling in order to bring about a resounding victory in November.”   
Maine advocates collected more than 100,000 signatures and submitted them to the Secretary of State in January in order to get the measure on the ballot.  
Winning marriage in Maine is one of Freedom to Marry’s priorities for 2012.  Freedom to Marry is providing strategic support, assistance in specific areas such as new media, and financial support through Freedom to Marry’s Win More States Fund, launched last Thursday to raise $3 million to win marriage in key battleground states this year. 
Freedom to Marry is the campaign to win marriage nationwide. We are pursuing our Roadmap to Victory by working to win the freedom to marry in more states, grow the national majority for marriage, and end federal marriage discrimination. We partner with individuals and organizations across the country to end the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage and the protections, responsibilities, and commitment that marriage brings.

GODLESS WEDNESDAY: PA Sued Over Year of the Bible Resolution

Joe.My.God reports about a lawsuit filed by the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) against the state of Pennsylvania. The lawsuit is in response to action by the State House to pass H.R. 535 (unanimously!), which declares "2012 as the 'Year of the Bible' in  Pennsylvania."

FFRF describes the lawsuit thusly:
FFRF factually contests the resolution, which claims the “word of God” and “biblical teachings inspired concepts of civil government.” Another sponsor, Rep. Jerry Stern, claimed the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause doesn’t apply to the State of Pennsylvania, even though its guarantees apply equally to state citizens under the 14th Amendment.

FFRF noted the passage of HR 535 “is particularly ironic in Pennsylvania, . . . which was founded as a refuge for those seeking religious tolerance by William Penn.” The complaint quotes Jonathan Malesic, associate professor of theology at King’s College, who said HR 535 “flies in the face of Pennsylvania’s history.” 

“HR 535 improperly proclaims the bible to be ‘the word of God,’ . . . the Pennsylvania House of Representatives has no such authority or right to determine what is ‘the word of God,’ or if there is a ‘word of God,’ or if there is a ‘God’.”

FFRF’s legal complaint notes our nation is not founded on religious belief or a bible, but upon “a secular and godless Constitution, which grants sovereignty not to a deity or a ‘holy book,’ but to ‘We the People.’ ”

FFRF asks the court to find that HR 535 violates the Establishment Clause, to order defendants to discontinue further publication and distribtion of HR 535, to declare that public officials in Pennsylvania are indeed subject to the Establishment Clause, to declare that the theocratic principles of the bible do not constitute the ”official, preferred or endorsed religion” of the state, and to declare that the government is not “Judeo-Christian.”
Of course the lawsuit will probably be thrown out of court without serious consideration but I appreciate the spunk of FFRF to challenge the encroachment of the rights of everyone to be from religious persecution.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

U.S.Customs Issues Pro-Gay Border Crossing Policy

Finally! One of the more annoying aspects of international travel as a U.S. same-sex couple is returning home after a hellishly long flight from a foreign country (Spain, Argentina, Canada, South Africa, Netherlands, Portugal etc) where one is treated like a marital unit is the welcome from the United States Border agent completely denying the legitimacy of your relationship by refusing to allow same-sex couples to fill a single customs declaration form like other families travelling together.

On Monday came word from the Obama Administration that they are going to make an administrative rule change that will eliminate that homophobic nuisance at the border for good.

CBP Announces Proposal to Expand Filing of Joint Customs Declarations WASHINGTON— U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will publish tomorrow a notice of proposed rulemaking proposing to revise its regulations concerning when members of a family residing in one household and traveling together on their return to the United States may make a joint declaration for all members of the family.
 CBP is proposing to expand the definition of the term “members of a family residing in one household” to include domestic relationships, which would allow more U.S. returning residents to file a joint customs declaration for articles acquired abroad. “Domestic relationship” would be defined to include foster children, stepchildren, half-siblings, legal wards, other dependents, and individuals with an in loco parentis or guardianship relationship.  CBP would also include within the definition two adults who are in a committed relationship including, but not limited to, long-term companions and couples in civil unions or domestic partnerships where the partners share financial assets and obligations, and are not married to, or a partner of, anyone else. “Members of a family residing in one household” would continue to encompass relationships of blood, adoption, and marriage.  By expanding the definition of “members of a family residing in one household,” CBP anticipates a reduction in the number of declarations (CBP Form 6059-Bs), which would streamline passenger processing by CBP officers and reduce costs. CBP believes that this proposed change would more accurately reflect relationships between members of the public who are traveling together as a family.  Written comments must be received on or before May 26, include the agency name and docket number by visiting the Federal eRulemaking Portal: or by mail to: Trade and Commercial Regulations BranchRegulations and RulingsU.S. Customs and Border Protection799 9th Street, N.W. (Mint Annex)Washington, D.C. 20229-1179-CBP- U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.

Anyone think a Romney Administration would be making a similar rule change? "Jus' sayin'"!

KEY BISCAYNE '12: Venus, Serena, Azarenka Win!

Venus Williams won the 602nd match of her stellar career by defeating former #1 Ana Ivanovic, 6-7(4) 6-2 6-2 to reach the quarterfinals of the Sony Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne, which she has won 3 times and her sister Serena Williams has won 5 times. Venus is know only the 14th player in WTA history to reach the 600-win landmark, with an overall win-loss record of 602-147.

World #1 Victoria Azarenka staged an(other) epic comeback from 6-1 5-1 down against Dominique Cibulkova when she came back to extend her 2012 winning streak to 26 matches by gutting out the win 1-6 7-6(7) 7-5. Last year, Azarenka had come back to beat Cibulkova despite being down 6-3 3-1 down at this very same tournament!

Serena Williams rocketed a career high 20 aces in this rematch of the 2011 US Open women's final to defeat Samantha Stosur 7-5 6-3 despite being a break down in both sets.

In the quarterfinals, Serena will face former World #1 Caroline Wozniacki , while Venus will face World #5 Agnieska Radwanska and Azarenka will play Marion Bartoli. The last quarterfnal will feature Li Na versus Maria Sharapova.

KEY BISCAYNE '12: Roddick Beats Federer!

Well, well! Former World #1 Andy Roddick shocked almost all observers by defeating World #3 Roger Federer 7-6(5) 1-6 6-4 in the 4th round of the Sony Ericsson Open, almost exactly 4 years after he had last beaten the Greatest of All Time in an ATP tour match (coincidentally) at this same tournament.

Federer came into the match sporting a  record of 40 wins, 2 losses since his heartbreaking semifinal loss to Novak Djokovic in the 2011US Open Semifinals and had won last week's ATP Masters Series tournament in Indian Wells for a record 4th time, defeating arch-nemesis Rafael Nadal in the process. The Swiss Maestro was on a 16 matches winning streak and had won 77 consecutive matches against players outside the Top 20.

But Monday night belonged to the American, who served a bucketful of aces and exhibited uncharacteristic aggression on his return games coupled with surprisingly tenacious defense. Both were pivotal to Roddick's win Monday night. In the first set tiebreaker Roddick returned a surprisingly weak Federer ovehead on a sitter and tracked down an angle volley to hit a winner and clinch a mini-break which he nursed to claim a razor-thin 7-6(7-5) first set. In the 2nd game of the 3rd set, after losing 7 consecutive games, Roddick was down 0-40 on his serve when he suddenly stopped missing first serves and was able to save 4 break points and hold serve. Roddick followed up the momentum change by forcing 0-40 in Federer's very next service game by playing the most aggressive return game of his career I have ever seen, hitting four forehand winners to break serve. With his win, Roddick improved to 3 wins and 21 losses against Federer, but showed the rest of the field that even though the former top American is now over 30 and his ranking is in the 20s he can still string together enough strong points to make an impact at any tournament.

Monday, March 26, 2012

WATCH: Freedom From Religion Foundation TV Ad

Slovenia Votes To Reject Same-Sex Adoption Rights

Slovenia held a national referendum on whether the new Family Code should go into effect and rejected the measure after a campaign that focused on whether same-sex couples should gain the right to adopt children jointly as a couple.

Raw Story reports:

With over 99 percent of ballots counted, the results showed that 54.77 percent of voters rejected a proposed new family code while 44.23 percent backed it, the electoral commission of the eurozone member state announced. 

“It remains to be seen what impact such a delay will have on children, families and the rest,” said Majda Potrata, deputy head of the opposition Social Democrats which led the previous government that drafted the bill.
Pre-referendum opinion polls had predicted an outcome of about 60 percent in favour of the proposed measure, with warnings that a low voter turnout would favour conservatives in the country of some two million people.
The commission said turnout was about 29.95 percent, lower than predicted by pollsters.
Under Slovenian law, if a bill is rejected in a referendum it cannot go back to parliament for another 12 months.
Conservative civil groupings backed by the Catholic Church had challenged the new Family Code passed by parliament in June 2011 and gathered the 40,000 signatures needed to force a referendum on its implementation.

Yet another example of heterosexual majority lying to pollsters and implementing their homophobia and protecting heterosexual privilege in the confines of the ballot box.

Eye Candy: Josh Englehart

Josh Englehart is a fitness model, bodybuilder and trainer who has been featured several times at Dark Flex. According to the bio on his official website (, Josh is married to a woman and has five kids. He is 30 years old, and according to his profile, he is 5'11", 197 pounds with 7% body fat.

Regardless, "hawt is hawt" and as these pictures show, Josh is a hottie, and thus qualifies to be Eye Candy.

Let me know what you think about Josh, in the comments.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

OMG! An Excerpt from The Winds of Winter!

Oh my! Regular readers of this log will know that I am a big fan of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, the inspiration for HBO's Game of Thrones miniseries (which starts airing its second season on April 1st!).

Anyway, Martin has published an excerpt (for free!) of one of the chapters from the sixth book in the series, which is titled The Winds of Winter. The format of Martin's books is that each chapter has a character name as the title and generally tells the story from the perspective of the named character. There are now dozens of named characters and Martin has been ruthless (and notorious) for having horrendous, brutal and sometimes fatal events befall his characters, causing readers to constantly be on edge when reading, because you never know when a favorite or beloved character may be dispatched.

Anyway, the title of the free exerpted chapter is Theon, who is Theon Greyjoy, one of the most despicable and  defiled characters in the series. He is widely hated because everyone believes he is responsible for the deaths of the two youngest Stark children. The Stark family are the ostensible heroes of the series, with the Lannister family being the villains, but this is far too simplistic a characterization of the nuanced nature of the two families. (For example, Peter Dinklage has won an Emmy playing Tyrion Lannister, who is one of the most popular characters in the series, even though he is presumably "on the wrong side.")

Here is a little taste of the chapter:
   The king's voice was choked with anger.  "You are a worse pirate than Salladhor Saan."      
Theon Greyjoy opened his eyes.  His shoulders were on fire and he could not move his hands.  For half a heartbeat he feared he was back in his old cell under the Dreadfort, that the jumble of memories inside his head was no more than the residue of some fever dream. I was asleep, he realized.  That, or passed out from the pain.  When he tried to move, he swung from side to side, his back scraping against stone.  He was hanging from a wall inside a tower, his wrists chained to a pair of rusted iron rings.  
      The air reeked of burning peat.  The floor was hard-packed dirt.  Wooden steps spiraled up inside the walls to the roof.  He saw no windows.  The tower was dank, dark, and comfortless, its only furnishings a high-backed chair and a scarred table resting on three trestles.  No privy was in evidence, though Theon saw a champerpot in one shadowed alcove.  The only light came from the candles on the table.  His feet dangled six feet off the floor.     
"My brother's debts," the king was muttering.  "Joffrey's too, though that baseborn abomination was no kin to me."  Theon twisted in his chains.  He knew that voice. Stannis.        
Theon Greyjoy chortled.  A stab of pain went up his arms, from his shoulders to his wrists.  All he had done, all he had suffered, Moat Cailin and Barrowton and Winterfell, Abel and his washerwomen, Crowfood and his Umbers, the trek through the snows, all of it had only served to exchange one tormentor for another. 
You really deserve it to yourself to read the entire thing. Sadly, it may take another 4 or 5 years before the entire finished version of the book is released. The 4th book (A Feast for Crows) was released in 2005, while the 5th book (A Dance with Dragons) was released in July 2011.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Faux News Barely Covers #TrayvonMartin Story

Color me unsurprised.

Hat/tip to Think Progress

Federer Named Greatest Of All Time By TennisChannel

The Tennis Channel has been heavily promoting their countdown of the 100 Greatest (Tennis Players) Of All Time. The list of the 100 best players (men and women combined) as voted on by a panel of experts, former and current players was run through all this week and my favorite tennis player, Roger Federer, was named #1, or the G.O.A.T.

The Top 10 are:
  1. Roger Federer
  2. Rod Laver
  3. Steffi Graf
  4. Martina Navratilova
  5. Pete Sampras
  6. Rafael Nadal
  7. Bjorn Borg
  8. Margaret Court
  9. Chris Evert
  10. Billie Jean King
Serena Williams ended up at #14 and Andre Agassi, the husband of the Greatest Female Player of all Time (Steffi Graf) was placed at #12. Between them was John McEnroe and Serena's sister Venus Williams was at #22, 4 places ahead of Justine Henin at 26.

The full list is available online.

WATCH: Obama Comments On #TrayvonMartin Case

Venus, Serena Return To WTA Tour With Wins

Serena Williams and Venus Williams returned to the WTA tour this week at the Sony Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne, FL, in winning style. In her first match since September 2011, Venus defeated Kimiko Date-Krumm 6-0 6-3 in her first match back and then followed that up with an upset in her second match reigning Wimbledon champ Petra Kvitova 6-4 4-6 6-0. Wow! 2 bagels in two matches, I guess Venus is back and she's serious!

Serena also played her first match after a long lay-off, by defeating Zhang Shuai 6-2 6-3 at the Sony Ericsson Open

Friday, March 23, 2012

Celebrity Friday: Whitney Cause Of Death Released

*sigh* More than a month after the sad event, the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office has finally released the report on the official cause of death Whitney Houston's untimely demise at age 48 the Beverly Hills on February 11 (the day before the 2012 Grammy Awards).

CNN reports:
Whitney Houston died from an accidental drowning in a hotel bathtub, but the "effects of atherosclerotic heart disease and cocaine use" were contributing factors in her death, the Los Angeles County Coroner said in an initial autopsy report released Thursday.
Houston, 48, was "found submerged in bathtub filled with water" and "no trauma or foul play is suspected," the coroner said in a one-page release.
Her cocaine use appeared to have "in the time period just immediately prior to her collapse in the bathtub at the hotel," Assistant Chief Coroner Craig Harvey told reporters.
The 60% narrowing of her arteries "suggest a cardiac event complicated by the cocaine use" led to Houston slipping underwater, Harvey said.
"Something happened that caused her to go down and we know that when she slipped under the water she was still alive," he said. "We have evidence of drowning since there was water in the lungs."
The toxicology tests found other drugs in her body, including marijuana, the anti-anxiety drug Xanax, the muscle relaxant Flexeril and the allergy medicine Benadryl, the report said. But these drugs "did not contribute to the death," it said.
This is just sad, sad news, although not that surprising. Note that prescription drugs are not the culprit, but heart disease (presumably) due to (longtime) cocaine use.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Landmark Ruling on LGBT Rights From IACHR

Word comes from Rex Wockner of a landmark ruling from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (El Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos) or IACHR that declares that sexual orientation and gender identity are protected categories under the American Convention on Human Rights.

The New York Times has a useful, short summary of the details of the case involved:
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled that must pay damages to a judge who was denied custody of her three daughters by the Supreme Court in 2004 because of her sexual orientation. The ruling by the human rights court, a judicial entity of the Organization of American States, requires Chile’s government to pay the judge, Karen Atala, left, $50,000, in addition to $12,000 in court costs. The February ruling, which was made public on Wednesday in Chile, is the latest development in a multiyear legal battle waged by Judge Atala, a lesbian who had lost custody of her daughters to her ex-husband, also a judge. Judge Atala’s lawyer called the decision “historic” for Chile’s legal system. Justice Minister Teodoro Ribera said Wednesday that Chilean authorities had acted to protect the “superior interests of the children involved,” but he also said Chile would respect the ruling. 
The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission was also involved with the case, and submitted a legal brief on behalf of Atala. Their website has an excellent summary of the significance of the ruling.
The Court’s landmark ruling found that Chile not only violated Atala’s right to equality and non-discrimination but affirms for the first time in its history that sexual orientation and gender identity are protected categories and such discrimination violates international law. It represents a historic victory for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights in Chile and around the world.

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), MADRE and the City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law co-authored a brief (EnglishEspañol) for the Court, arguing that sexual orientation and gender identity should be found to be a protected class under the American Convention on Human Rights as held under international law. Attorneys from Morrison and Foerster focused on the custody issue at hand, arguing that sexual orientation and gender identity not be a factor in custody determinations. The brief was joined by 13 other organizations. This week’s ruling upholds both arguments.

“Though Karen Atala and her daughters can never regain the time they have lost together because of the destructive impact of homophobia, today the Inter-American Court has vindicated the legitimacy of their family,” said Jessica Stern, Director of Programs at IGLHRC. “The Court has set a transformative precedent to which every signatory to the Inter-American Convention – 24 countries throughout the Americas – is bound. Based on both American regional standards and international jurisprudence, the Court has ruled that LGBT people must live free from discrimination, whether as parents or in any other aspect of their lives.”

Lisa Davis, Human Rights Advocacy Director at MADRE and Clinical Professor for Law for the International Women’s Human Rights Clinic at CUNY Law School said today, “The Court’s ruling is a milestone victory for human rights advocates the world over. It sets a precedent in international law that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a human rights violation—one that we hope will help defend the rights of LGBT persons wherever these rights are under attack.”
This is great news!

2 Men on Gay Cruise Arrested For "Buggery" In Dominica

Two men who were on an Atlantic gay cruise through the Caribbean were arrested while the ship was docked on the island of Dominica because they could be seen having sex from shore and were charged with the crime of "buggery." Dominica is one of the many island-nations in the Eastern Caribbean (usually known as the West Indies) where sodomy is still illegal and open homosexuality is a cultural taboo.

According to TowleRoad, the two men have plead guilty to indecent exposure and will be released after they pay a fine:

Two gay men from Eastern Shore Lane in Southern California, Dennis Jay Mayer and John Robert Hart who pleaded guilty to the charge of “Indecent Exposure” were scheduled to live the island on Thursday, after paying a fine of EC$2,400.00 [roughly US$900] each.The court heard that the men were seen on the balcony of the cruise ship, Celebrity X Cruises, naked fondling each other.Hart, a retired police officer and Mayer a personal assistant real estate agent told the court, ”We are sorry for what happened, we regret the incident and humbly apologize to the people of Dominica.”
As regular readers of this blog may know, Mad Professah was born on the island of Grenada, and spent 8 years on the island of Barbados going to the equivalent of middle school and high school.

It's not clear to me that a straight couple would have been arrested if a woman and man were seen "naked fondling each other." Cruise ships with all-gay clientele have  been controversial in the Caribbean for years, with local activists often expressing displeasure and exhibiting homophobic attitudes in Grenada and the Bahamas.

It's said that gay cruises specifically avoid the islands of Barbados and Jamaica because of local attitudes, while on the other hand the Virgin Islands are very welcoming to all-gay cruises.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

NH House Defeats Marriage Equality Repeal Bill!

Great news from New Hampshire! Despite expectations that the Republican majority in the New Hampshire legislature would pass HB 437 to repeal that state's 2009 marriage equality law and that the fight would be over whether the heterosexual supremacists could override a promised veto from Democratic Governor John Lynch.

Instead, today the New Hampshire House voted 211-116 to defeat the bill, thus preserving the right of same-sex couples to receive civil marriage licenses in the Live Free or Die state.

The Washington Blade reports:
House bill 437, which would have prevented New Hampshire from recognizing any new same-sex marriages and revived the 2007 civil unions law in its place, was introduced last year by GOP Rep. Bates, along with 11 Republican co-sponsors. After the bill lost traction in the House last week, Bates introduced an amendment that would put a nonbinding question on the issue before voters in November, prior to the law’s official repeal date in March 2013, as well as have left intact the 2,000 existing same-sex marriages already recognized by the state, much like California’s post-Proposition 8 law that created, what advocates call 15,000 “limited edition” legally recognized same-sex marriages in that state. 
The floor amendment, meant to give the law a better chance of surviving a veto, failed to be adopted after a vote of 162-188, leaving the bill less likely to become law in the long run. 
After a failed first vote on returning to civil unions, the legislature voted to divide the combined civil unions-referendum amendment into separate issues, an effort that also failed on a vote of 128 to 222. 
Countering the call for a ballot initiative, Rep. Steve Murphy (R- Bedford) declared, “The rights of the people are not subject to popular vote.”Earlier, the initial vote on the civil unions amendment — prior to the multiple votes to reconsider — failed on a vote of 82 to 266.
This is great news! It just goes to show the extent to which heterosexual supremacists like the National Organization for Marriage is losing the fight against marriage equality nationwide. NOM abandoned any pretense of principle and actually announced their support for the version of HB 437 which would have (re)enacted civil unions in New Hampshire, which is in direct contravention with public announcements they made against civil unions legislation in Illinois.

As I predicted earlier this year, in 2013 there will be more Americans living in jurisdictions where marriage equality is legal than there is right now, despite the efforts of NOM and other heterosexual supremacists to force ballot measures on these issues in Washington, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina and Maine.


Did you know that this weekend in Washington DC (which is exactly when the famed Cherry Blossoms are in peak bloom!) there will be a rally and conference by American Atheists? Watch the following video by the president of American Atheists, David Silverman, and be informed!

In fact, this week, from March 18th through March 24th is designated "A week" This is a Facebook event decided to raise awareness of being "Good without Gods":

Join thousands of people from all over the world in a global shared experience. Display an 'A' as your Facebook profile picture for one week starting 18 March 2012 to raise awareness of how many people are ‘Good without Gods’ and don’t need religions to influence their lives. 

You can find more instructions on how to change your Facebook profile image at the following link.

I would love to attend these events but I will be in Los Angeles at Fusion 2012, the LGBT People of Color Film Festival this weekend.

For more information on A week, follow the Twitter hashtag #aweek12.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

President Jimmy Carter Endorses Marriage Equality

The 39th President of the United States, Jimmy Carter, has given an interview to Huffington Post where he explicitly endorses civil marriage equality for same-sex couples. Like our current President, Carter was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (albeit well after his Presidency) and is a Christian, a Southern Baptist. The 87-year-old Carter is the author of dozens of books and his latest is a treatise attempting to answer difficult questions from a Biblical perspective.

Joe.My.God highlights the key responses Carter gives in the interview:
A lot of people point to the Bible for reasons why gay people should not be in the church, or accepted in any way. 
Homosexuality was well known in the ancient world, well before Christ was born and Jesus never said a word about homosexuality. In all of his teachings about multiple things -– he never said that gay people should be condemned. I personally think it is very fine for gay people to be married in civil ceremonies.[emphasis added] 
I draw the line, maybe arbitrarily, in requiring by law that churches must marry people. I’m a Baptist, and I believe that each congregation is autonomous and can govern its own affairs. So if a local Baptist church wants to accept gay members on an equal basis, which my church does by the way, then that is fine. If a church decides not to, then government laws shouldn’t require them to.
Unlike our current President, Carter is clearly not a graduate of Harvard Law or a constitutional law professor because it would be a very obvious violation of the First Amendment for any law to require a church to marry any individual or force a church to accept someone as a member.

Carter joins the 42nd President of the United States, Bill Clinton, as the only two living ex-presidents to endorse marriage equality. There are two other living ex-presidents, both with the surname Bush, but surprisingly(sic) they have not done the same. Clinton and Carter are Democrats...

Monday, March 19, 2012

Walking Dead Season 2 Finale: A-mah-zing!

Last night was the Season 2 of AMC's The Walking Dead and it did not disappoint. The producers had been leading up to the final episode by killing off major characters in the last two episodes so that the audience was primed for a wholesale massacre of their favorites who have so far survived two season of living in a post-zombie apocalypse America. The producers have made it clear that basically every character in the show can potentially be killed (except for the main star) Rick Grimes played by handsome English actor Andrew Lincoln.

According to Nikke Finke's Deadline Hollywood TV the ratings for the finale were excellent:
Last night’s Season 2 finale of the zombie drama posted 9 million viewers and 6 million adults 18-49, hitting series highs in total viewers and all key demo categories. Vs. the Season 1 finale, The Walking Dead was up a big 51% in total viewers, 50% in adults 18-49 and 50% in adults 25-54 (5.3 million). The series  eclipsed its previous highs, 8.1 million total viewers, 5.4 million in 18-49 and 4.4 million in 25-54 logged by the second season premiere. Those 18-49 and 25-54 deliveries were the highest ever for a basic cable drama series. Now they will be replaced in the record book by last night’s deliveries. The Walking Dead ranks as the No.1 drama series in basic cable history in such key demos as Adults and Men 18-34, Adults and Men 18-49, and Adults and Men 25-54. For season 2, the series averaged 6.9 million viewers, up 32% vs. season one, 4.6 million in adults 18-49 (up 32%) and 4 million in 25-54 (up 32%). 
Creatively, the series also went to new heights, and many fans were thrilled with the introduction of the Michonne character, a samurai-sword-wielding Black female who has two armless zombies attached to her by chains as an undead retinue.

The main tension of the show is in the depiction of a group of people would manage the day-to-day details, travails and decisions of living in a post-apocalyptic world where basically all technology is non-functional, you are surrounded by flesh-eating zombies and it appears as if 99.99% of civilization is dead and gone. (The "walking dead" in the series title refers to the surviving humans, not the shaking, stumbling zombies.) Rick was a sheriff deputy (before the zombie apocalypse arrived) and is a strong alpha-male kind of guy so the group has generally gone with his decisions as Rick has tried to maintain a semblance of humanity and democracy. However, in last night's finale Rick revealed that he had killed someone (another one of the major characters) and that he no longer felt that the group should be run as a democracy, and whoever didn't like that siutation could leave.

It will be interesting to see how the group dynamics develop in Season 3, where apparently we will be introduced to not only the very strong Michonne character, but also one of "the most intimidating villains in recent pop culture history" in The Governor.

I am happy that the producers have not killed off the one Black character in the sea of milky whiteness (Glenn the nerdy Asian guy is hardly a deviation from the decidedly Republican demographic that is over-represented in the cast). It would be great if T-Dog outlived everyone, even Rick.

One quibble I do have with the series, and it's a relatively big one is that the producers are shockingly inconsistent in depicting the physical abilities of the zombies "walkers." Generally, they show most walkers not posing a real physical threat because they basically shamble along at a very slow pace, reacting to the stimulus of sound or light as a potential source of live flesh which presumably is their only source of nourishment. So, most humans can generally out-run and really even out-walk most walkers. But every now and then the producers will show a sudden lightning-quick attack by a walker, usually burying their teeth into the soft flesh of a living character, dispatching them to a horrible death and their undead career.

I understand the tension the producers have, they need to make the walkers threatening enough so that the characters are in constant danger from the walkers, but they can't make the walkers powerful enough so that any close encounter between a live human and a dead walker results in two dead walkers. My main problem is with the unfortunate inconsistency in the portrayal; it comes across as unfair and arbitrary instead of scary and threatening.

With that one caveat, I would still have to say that I am very impressed with  The Walking Dead and I am in no way shape or form a horror fan, I like the show for its depiction of an alternative reality and its focus on the characters and their motivations and interactions.


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