Monday, April 30, 2012

WATCH: New Trailer for Prometheus!

Prometheus open June 1st worldwide. The latest trailer was released yesterday. I think this is my most anticipated film of summer 2012.

NYT: Vote NO on NC's "Careless" Amendment 1

The New York Times on Sunday published an editorial entitled "Bigotry on the Ballot" opposing North Carolina's Amendment One. The anti-gay constitutional measure would ban any other "domestic legal union" except between a man and a woman from being recognized under North Carolina law. The impacts of such a law are unclear but potentially devastating. The heterosexual supremacist religious extremists who put the measure on the May 8 primary ballot intended to just prohibit marriage equality, but the wording chosen would also ban civil unions or domestic partnerships at the state level.

Protect All NC Families is the name of the umbrella group opposing the amendment and they have pointed out that if it was enacted it would prevent domestic violence survivors from accessing protective services offered by the state if the victim is not married to their abuser. Their latest ad makes this point powerfully by showing a prosecutor saying that she gets 150-200 cases a week and if Amendment 1 passes then she would not be able to prosecute any of the cases where the victim is not married to the abuser.

The Times said:
In their zeal, lawmakers got careless with the wording of the measure, known as Amendment One. It would constitutionally prohibit recognition not just of same-sex marriages, but of other legal arrangements like civil unions and domestic partnerships. That could harm all unmarried couples, imperiling some children’s health insurance benefits, along with child custody arrangements and safeguards against domestic violence. 
Polls suggest that defeating this measure remains an uphill struggle, but at least its approval is no longer an entirely foregone conclusion. Much will depend on turnout, especially by voters on college campuses, who will need to vote in larger-than-usual numbers to defeat this declaration of officially sanctioned discrimination. 
Opponents of marriage equality have never been able to show any evidence that any harm is caused to heterosexual marriages by granting all American adults the right to marry as they choose — because there is no such evidence. With little more than a week to go before the May 8 contest, and early voting already under way, North Carolinians need to consider whether they really want to inflict this gratuitous bigotry on their fellow citizens and their children.
One encouraging feature of the fight against Amendment One is the full-throated way that the North Carolina chapter of NAACP has come out hard and strong against the Amendment.

The head of the NC State Conference  of the NAACP president is Rev. Dr. William Barber, II and he is fierce!
"The polls and the politicians are asking the wrong questions on this discriminatory amendment, hatched in the backrooms of the extremist, rightwing think-tanks," said Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, President of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP. "Our message is consistent: A vote on the same sex marriage amendment has nothing to do with your personal and religious opinion on same sex marriage but everything to do with whether or not you believe discrimination should be codified and legalized constitutionally. We should never seek to codify or vote discrimination into the very heart and framework of our Constitution."
Dr. Barber continued, "The real insult to the Civil Rights Movement is that the same regressive, ultra-conservative Tea Party type folks suing to overturn the 1965 Voting Rights Act, re-segregating and robbing our public schools of valuable resources, blocking workers' rights to organize, trying to force us all to get photo ID's to exercise our right to vote and cut back on the time and opportunities to vote, and attempting to repeal the Racial Justice Act, now somehow think the sons and daughters of the Civil Rights Movement cannot see through their Trojan Horse trick."
The latest polls show Black voters supporting the Amendment 51 Yes, 39 No, whihc is down significantly from 61 Yes, 30 No from a month ago. Early voting is going thru May 5th in North Carolina and then again on Tuesday May 8th. It would be an astonishing feat if this Amendment is defeated, but even losing by a few percentage points would be an indicator of the weakness in the anti-gay argument: polls suggested that this measure would pass by a blow-out 20-30 points at the beginning of the year.

Eye Candy: Alan Valdez (3rd time!)

Alan Valdez is a Mexican-American model who has appeared as Eye Candy here twice before (January 18, 2009 and April 4, 2011). With his appearance today, the 23-year-old model (last listed as 6-feet and 180-pounds) joins the pantheon of the pulchritudinous few who have graced these pages three times.

Mucho gusto!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Stuttgart 2012: Sharapova Beats Azarenka; Wins 3rd Clay Title

Much to my surprise, 3-time major champion Maria Sharapova (and current World #2) was able to win the Porsche Grand Prix Open by beating the hottest player on tour, 2012 Australian Open champion (and current World #1) Victoria Azarenka 6-1 6-4 for the first time in three meetings. Despite playing on the surface least well suited to her grip-it-and-rip-it style of tennis, Sharapova was able to hand Azarenka only her second loss of the year in 31 matches played.

Sharapova played some of her best tennis to win her first championship match in 5 final chances against the Belarussian. She ended up hitting 31 winners to a mere 13 unforced errors and was serving extremely well, while Azarenka did not play or serve at her best, possibly affected by a wrist injury. That being said, Sharapova was able to win her 25th career WTA tournament (only her 3rd on clay) and capture her 6th win against a reigning World #1. She improved to 25 wins, 16 losses in career finals. Sharapova had to beat three consecutive Grand Slam champions to win the title (Sam Stosur, Petra Kvitova and Azarenka).

Azarenka has been #1 for 13 weeks and will probably retain the top spot long enough to surpass Jennifer Capriati and Maria Sharapova's current total of 17 weeks at the top of the rankings.

SUCCULENT SUNDAY: Parodia microsperma from Bolivia and Argentina

Returning from a month-long hiatus, I worried many Sentient Meat plants would be dead. Luckily I had few casualties, and many of the survivors put on noticeable growth in my absence. Since spring is the most active season, many are now in riotous flower... like today's Parodia microsperma.

This plant was obtained without a label, and I had believed it was Parodia herzogii. Consulting Anderson The Cactus Family and other references, I learned this is not wrong, but the accepted name for this type is Parodia microsperma. I also learned this type has been published under literally dozens of different name, all likely synonyms for this basic species.

It has a reputation as a showy plant, and this individual indeed puts on a show. Flowers range from yellow to deep orange (like this one) and even blood-red.

Parodia microsperma and its many synonyms are native to southern Bolivia and northern Argentina.

BARCELONA 2012: Nadal Beats Ferrer To Win Title

Rafael Nadal beat David Ferrer 7-6(1) 7-5 to win the Barcelona Open for the 7th time. It was Nadal's 48th career ATP title (34 won on clay) and 2nd win in as many weeks. The "King of Clay" became the first player to win more than one tournament 7 times. (He won the Monte Carlo tournament for an astonishing eighth time last week.)

In a few weeks, Nadal will try to win the French Open for a record seventh time.                          

U.S. Same-Sex Couples More Likely To Be Diverse

A new report from the Williams Institute analyzes the 2010 United States Census data and discovers the interesting result that same-sex couples are more likely to be interracial or inter-ethnic than either different-sex married couples or different-sex unmarried couples. The report, entitled Same-sex couples in Census 2010: Race and Ethnicity, and written by Gary Gates (the premiere LGBT demographer in the United States) estimates that 20.6% of same-sex couples are interracial/inter-ethnic while only 9.5% of different-sex married couples are and 18.3% of different-sex unmarried couples are. (Actually another interesting result here is the wide difference in diversity between married and unmarried different-sex couples, 45 years after Loving v. Virginia legalized interracial marriage nationwide. Is it a possible residual effect of social stigma against "miscegenation"?)

The report also looks at the variation in same-sex couple racial and ethnic diversity by state:
More than half of same-sex couples in Hawaii (53%) are interracial or interethnic (see Figure 6).  About a third fit that category in California (33%), New Mexico (31%), and Nevada (30%).  Other states where same-sex couples are likely to be interracial or interethnic include Alaska (28%), District of Columbia (28%), Oklahoma (26%), Arizona (26%),  Texas (25%), and Colorado (24%).  Less than 10% of same-sex couples are interracial or interethnic in Maine, Mississippi, Vermont, West Virginia, and New Hampshire, and Alabama.
Gives a new meaning to "We Are Everywhere"!

Hat/tip to Wonder Man.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Stuttgart Final: #1 Azarenka v #2 Sharapova

For the third time in 2012, World #1 Victoria Azarenka will face World #2 Maria Sharapova in the final of a WTA Tournament. Sharapova failed to win a set in the first two finals (Melbourne's Australian Open final 6-3 6-0 and Indian Well's BNP Paribas Open final 6-2 6-3) the two have contested, and is unlikely to improve her results by playing Azarenka on clay at the Porsche Grand Prix Open in Stuttgart.
Azarenka now leads their head-to-head 5 to 3.

Azarenka is the hottest player on tour, having only lost once all year, to Marion Bartoli in Key Biscayne 6-3 6-3 and is now 29-1 for 2012 with 4 WTA tour titles. To get to this point, Azarenka had to beat her erstwhile best friend on tour, World #4 Agnieska Radwanska  in the semifinal. Radwanska has now won 28 matches against everyone else on the women's tour this year but has also lost 5 times to Azarenka.

Sharapova snapped World #3 Petra Kvitova's winning streak in indoor matches at 27 matches by defeating the 2011 Wimbledon champion 6-4 7-6(3) after outlasting 2010 French Open finalist Samantha Stosur in a 3-hour slugfest 6-7(5) 7-6(5) 7-5 in the quarterfinal. The Stuttgart tournament featured the Top 4 players in the world in the semifinals.

This is only the second meeting between Sharapova and Azarenka on clay, with Sharapova winning in Rome last year when the Belarussian was forced to retire. That is almost the only way that Sharapova can win tomorrow; clay rewards the player with the best movement (and mental toughness) and although the two are well-matched in mental toughnes, Azarenka is a much better mover in general, and especially on clay, where Sharapova once famously referred to herself as graceful as "a cow on ice."

MadProfessah's prediction: Azarenka.

POLL: NH Support for Marriage Equality Way Up

A new poll from the Rockefeller Center shows that support for marriage equality has jumped in the last year by 13 percentage points, and is now at 55 percent.
The proportion of respondents in support of same-sex marriage in the state of New Hampshire increased from 41.5 percent in 2011 to 55.1 percent this year. The rate of opposition decreased from 42.2 percent last year to under one-third (30.9 percent) in this year’s survey. The majority of registered Democrats or Undeclared voters are in support of same-sex marriage (76 percent and 66 percent, respectively). Under one-third (29 percent) of Republicans surveyed support the measure. The majority of respondents who self-identified as “liberal” or “moderate” support same-sex marriage, while the majority of those who self-identified as “conservative” are in opposition.
Poll numbers like this may explain why a Republican-dominated legislature that was expected to attempt to pass a marriage repeal bill by a veto-proof majority earlier this year instead rejected the legislation by a shocking vote of 211 to 116.

AD-51: CA Justice Moreno Endorses Luis Lopez

Carlos Moreno is a celebrated hero of LGBT people in California for his votes on the California Supreme Court in two very important marriage equality-related cases In re Marriage Cases (2008) and Strauss v. Horton (2009). Moreno announced his retirement from the Court in January 2011.

Justice Moreno also announced this week that he is endorsing the bid of my friend Luis Lopez to represent the 51st Assembly District. Moreno, Lopez (and yours truly) all live in this assembly district in Northeastern Los Angeles.
“Our state is at a turning point,” says former state supreme court justice (retired) Carlos R. Moreno, “whether we will be true to the vision of one society with a shared responsibility to advance the common good, or whether we fracture, accept inequality, and fail the biggest challenge of our time.”
“Luis Lopez is a leader from our community who has repeatedly stepped forward to confront this challenge in our community and our state. He is equal to the responsibility and the opportunity of serving us in the 51st District, now when we are poised to improve healthcare and fix our budget so that courts, schools, clinics, and campuses might fully function once more. I am proud to endorse Luis Lopez to be my Assemblymember and an effective leader for all Californians.”
Justice Moreno was replaced by fellow LGBT ally and UC Berkeley law professor Goodwin Liu on the California Supreme Court.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Racial Disparity In Marriage Equality Support Ebbs

There's a new poll out from the Pew Research Center which shows that support for marriage equality is higher than opposition, although that support varies with the racial identification. Overall, 47% of respondents support marriage equality opposed to 43% that oppose it (+4 in favor of marriage equality).
One new result in the April 2012 poll is that the percentage who strongly oppose "allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally" is matched by the percentage who strongly favor equal marriage rights: 22%. (Thus it means that a higher fraction of the opposition to marriage equality is strong opposition, i.e. 22 of 43 percent as compared to 22 of 47 percent.)

Among Black people, 49% oppose marriage equality compared to 39% which support it, a deficit of -10 in marriage support, the lowest gap between opposition and support for marriage equality Pew has ever found. This demonstrates that the racial disparity in views towards marriage equality is ebbing.

Hat/tip to Joe.My.God.

"Sometimes it snows in April"

Prince was right! "Sometimes it snows in April." The picture below is of the view when I woke up in Edmonton this morning...

Celebrity Friday: Stephen Stafford is Young, Gifted & Black

Stephen R. Stafford, II is the name of the whiz kid who entered Morehouse college at the tender age of 13-year-old two years ago. He is also (quite) young, (very) gifted and Black!

Stephen is now 15 years old and a junior at Morehouse College in Atlanta studying mathematics (yeah!) and computer science, after he recently dropped his 3rd major of pre-med. Like most teens, he is active on Facebook.

From his frequent posts, he is clearly interested in the special needs of extremely gifted kids like himself.
The picture above was taken before his appearance on the Mo'Nique Show last year. Stephen spends a lot of his time (when not studying) doing outreach to kids in schools to demonstrate the importance of education.

Keep up the good work, Stephen!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

In Edmonton Canada (Without Cell Service)

I'm in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada to attend the opera FIDELIO, which Mr. Sentient Meat is performing in. I'm scared to turn off "Airplane mode" on my iPhone here because of At&t's vicious roaming charges. But because I can't (or won't) turn on my phone, I can't receive text messages in order to login to my Google account (oops!) to read mail or to blog.

Google's two-step account verification is a good idea, but one needs a work around if one is in a foreign country without cell service. Any thoughts? Respond in the comments!

Blogging should resume tomorrow when I'm back in the US of A or earlier if I figure out a work around!

Sent from my iPad

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

GRAPHIC: Death Penalty Across the United States

The Economist analyzed every single execution that has occurred in the United States since 1977 and produced this handy-dandy graphic reproduced above. As I noted when I blogged about Connecticut becoming the 17th state to repeal the death penalty earlier this year, the data shows that  more than one-third of all people executed in this country have occurred in the state that gave the world Governor Rick Perry and Governor George W. Bush: Texas.

Hat/tip to Think Progress

Lambda Files NV Marriage Lawsuit in Federal Court

Well, well, well! After complaining for years about groups going off filing ill-timed and ill-considered lawsuits to attempt to legalize marriage equality, Lambda Legal has apparently decided to join the party, and filed a federal lawsuit in Nevada on April 10, 2012 to attempt to win marriage equality for its Nevada-based clients.

Professor Arthur Leonard analyzed the lawsuit at his blog Leonard Link:
Lambda Legal has filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Nevada, contending that the state's failure to open up marriage to same-sex couples violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.  The lawsuit, Sevcik v. Sandoval, Case 2:12-cv-00578, was filed on behalf of eight same-sex couples who reside in Nevada and whose attempts to marry in the state or to get their out-of-state same-sex marriages recognized in the state have been unsuccessful.  The defendants are Governor Brian Sandoval, a Republican, and three county clerks who have denied marriage licenses to same-sex couples in recent days.  The defendants are sued only in their official capacities.
Nevada has a constitutional amendment very similar to California Proposition 8, stating that only different-sex marriages are valid or recognized.  The state also has a so-called "mini-DOMA," a statutory provision limiting marriage to different-sex couples.  However, Nevada also has a domestic partnership law, under which both same-sex and different-sex couples can enter into registered partnerships that provide almost all of the state law rights of marriage.
Having adopted a domestic partnership law, Lambda asserts that Nevada cannot credibly argue that it has a policy against recognizing a legal status for same-sex partners, or that it has a policy against LGBT families as such.  Neither can it argue that it is necessary to exclude same-sex couples from marriage in order to "protect children," inasmuch as the domestic partnership law and Nevada family law accord full parental rights and recognition in this context.  Indeed, with a broad domestic partnership law in place, the main function of the constitutional amendment and mini-DOMA are to "send a message."  These measures become to a large extent "expressive" enactments, and the question is: What is the message that they send? 
The answer is clear to LGBT people in Nevada.  The message is that their intimate family relationships are unequal and inferior to the relationships of non-LGBT people.  Is it constitutional for a state to embody such a message in a constitutional and statutory structure that creates separate and, in absolute terms, unequal statuses for same-sex and different-sex couples? 
The case is brought by Lambda based solely on a 14th Amendment Equal Protection claim.  Avoiding the necessity to argue that access to marriage for same-sex couples is a fundamental right protected as a liberty interest under the Due Process Clause, the complaint focuses solely on equality theory, arguing that in light of the domestic partnership law, Nevada has no legitimate justification for excluding same-sex couples from marriage. 
I am sure we will be following developments in Sevcik v. Sandoval closely here at!

Monday, April 23, 2012

EEOC Rules Gender Identity Covered Under Title VII

Wow! In a huge win for LGBT people, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued an official decision that transgender individuals are protected from gender identity discrimination under federal law.

Chris Geidner of Metro Weekly has the exclusive report (and his usual excellent analysis):
An employer who discriminates against an employee or applicant on the basis of the person's gender identity is violating the prohibition on sex discrimination contained in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, according to an opinion issued on April 20 by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The opinion, experts say, could dramatically alter the legal landscape for transgender workers across the nation. 
The EEOC decision, issued without objection by the five-member, bipartisan commission, will apply to all EEOC enforcement and litigation activities at the commission and in its 53 field offices throughout the country. It also will be binding on all federal agencies and departments.
In the decision, the EEOC states, ''[T]he Commission hereby clarifies that claims of discrimination based on transgender status, also referred to as claims of discrimination based on gender identity, are cognizable under Title VII's sex discrimination prohibition ....''
''When an employer discriminates against someone because the person is transgender, the employer has engaged in disparate treatment related to the sex of the victim,'' the decision states. ''This is true regardless of whether an employer discriminates against an employee because the individual has expressed his or her gender in a non-stereotypical fashion, because the employer is uncomfortable with the fact that the person has transitioned or is in the process of transitioning from one gender to another, or because the employer simply does not like that the person is identifying as a transgender person.''
I strongly encourage you to read the entirety of Chris' article, which also summarizes the state of current Supreme Court precedent , along with federal law in this area and includes commentary from transgender legal experts.

This is really a momentous decision that will have a real impact on the lives of transgender people throughout the country and (again) demonstrates the importance of Presidential appointments to federal commissions. The EEOC is a 5-member body, one of whose members is the openly lesbian "mother" of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, Chai Fledblum.

Elections have consequences!

NC Ad Wars Begin On Hateful #Amendment1

The advertising wars have begun over the anti-gay ballot measure campaign to amend North Carolina's constitution to insert discrimination against anything not "the domestic legal union between a man and a woman."

As Karen Ocamb notes at LGBT POV, this time it will be Chad Griffin, HRC's incoming executive director and board president of AFER in his role as a media consultant versus Paul Schubert, the man who designed the lying Yes On Proposition 8 ads ("A Prince can marry a Prince..."). Interestingly, the group fighting Amendment One, Protect All North Carolina Families, has decided to go with ads that also focus on children, describing the harm that passage of the anti-gay amendment will have children (of unmarried parents) and (children of)survivors of domestic abuse

Pam Spaulding over at Pam's House Blend describes the two videos perfectly:

Ad #1: Melissa
“Melissa” tells the story of Melissa and Libby and their 5 y/o daughter. Libby works for the city of Durham and they have healthcare coverage under Durham’s domestic partnership benefits plan. If the amendment passes, they are afraid that their daughter will lose her health care. And the cost of getting her an individual policy is prohibitive.
Ad #2: Consequences
“Consequences” tells the story of a survivor of domestic violence and currently has a protective order against her attacker. They were never married. She is afraid that a court could decide that her situation is not “domestic” because they were not married and that her protective order could be put in jeopardy.

North Carolina is one of the states which has weeks of early voting (until May 5th), so everyone who opposes this discriminatory measure should run, not walk to the polls to defeat Amendment One!

Eye Candy: Ruben Baars (3rd time)

The stunningly handsome Ruben Baars is a Dutch model (and bodybuilder) who has done some incredibly hot photos with photographer Salvador Pozo (see more explicit pictures of Ruben at Burbujas Deseo). He has a (mostly out-of-date) page in Dutch at According to his regularly updated Facebook page he was born August 18, 1988 (23 years old).

Couldn't resist ending the post with a bonus shot of the gorgeous Ruben.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

GRAPHIC: Obama's (Many) LGBT Accomplishments

Har/tip to TowleRoad.

Nadal Wins 8th Consecutive Monte Carlo Title

As predicted, 10-time major champion Rafael Nadal, the King of Clay, stopped his string of consecutive losses to World #1 Novak Djokovic at seven by routing his rival 6-3 6-1 in the finals of the 2012 Monte Carlo Masters. With his convincing win Nadal became the first player to win any tournament 8 times in a row, and has now won an incredible 42 consecutive matches in Monte Carlo. He improved to 17-14 head-to-head against Djokovic and with his 20th Masters Series shield regained his place at the top of the list of all-time Masters Series shields winners, edging 16-time major champion Roger Federer who has 19. It was the 25-year-old Spaniard's 47th title, 32 of which have been on clay. His clay court final record is 32-4 and his overall tour finals record is 47-21.

Nadal's win demonstrated that he will improve on his disastrous 2011 where he lost to Djokovic six times, including twice on clay. Djokovic was still reeling from the death of his grandfather 3 days ago and clearly did not play his best tennis. Regardless, Nadal can use this win to give him confidence in what will surely be tight moments against the World #1 as they battle for dominance of the tour for the rest of the year.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

White House Endorses Anti-Bullying Legislation

Yesterday, on the National Day of Silence to recognize the impact of anti-LGBT bullying on school children all over the country, the White House endorsed two federal anti-bullying bills which aim to combat the practice and improve the lives of school-age kids who are bullied due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The pending bills the White House endorsed are the Student Non-Discrimination Act (S. 555) and the Safe Schools Improvement Act (S. 506).

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan also released a statement of support:
“Bullying can no longer be seen as a normal rite of passage. As a country, we must all work together to take action against bullying and improve the safety climates of our schools and communities. That's why I support the Student Non-Discrimination Act and the Safe Schools Improvement Act. I would like to thank Sen. Al Franken, Sen. Bob Casey, Rep. Jared Polis and Rep. Linda Sanchez for introducing these bills and for their commitment to putting an end to bullying, discrimination and harassment in our nation's schools. I also want to thank Rep. Danny Davis for his leadership on this issue to help keep every student safe and learning.”
Additionally, the White House screened the documentary Bully for anti-bullying advocates on Friday and launched a website called

Djokovic-Nadal XXXI: 2012 Monte Carlo Final

For the 8th consecutive time, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic will meet in the final of an important ATP tournament. In the last 14 montha, the World #1 and World #2 have met in the finals of 3 major tournaments (2011 Wimbledon, 2011 US Open and 2012 Australian Open) and 4 Masters Series finals (2011 Indian Wells, 2011 Key Biscayne, 2011 Madrid, and 2011 Rome). On Sunday they will meet in the final of the Monte Carlo Masters, a title that Nadal has won a record 7 times in the last 8 years.

It will be their 31st career meeting, with Nadal leading 16-14 but having lost the last 7 (final) matches the two have contested.

If Djokovic wins this match he will basically have demonstrated that he can beat Nadal anywhere, anytime and may never lose to him again. Nadal is playing well, in his first clay tournament of the season, on the surface where he is considered the best player of all time. Nadal has not dropped a set all week long. Djokovic, on the other hand, is not playing that well, although he managed to dispatch Robin Haase in straight sets just hours after he received the distressing news that his grandfather had passed away on Thursday. Instead of withdrawing from the tournament, Djokovic rallied to beat Tomas Berdych in a 3-set semifinal.

I think this will be an excellent match, but I think one has to give the edge to Nadal this time. Djokovic does have his number, but I find it impossible to believe that anyone could beat Nadal 8 times in a row, especially in 8 consecutive finals! Djokovic will have a mental escape hatch in the death of his father. I don't think this potential loss will prevent Djokovic from beating Nadal on clay in other tournaments this season.

MadProfessah's prediction: Nadal in 3 sets.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Occidental College Celebrates 125th Anniversary

Occidental College, one of my employers, is celebrating its125th anniversary today. Oxy's most famous attendee is Barack Obama, who was at the school from 1979-1981.

Congratulations, Oxy!

How To Talk About The Zimmerman-Martin Case

hat/tip to Daily Kos.

Celebrity Friday: Sir Anthony Hopkins As Hitchcock

Sir Anthony Hopkins, who won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1991 for playing Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs is clearly trying to follow the footsteps of fellow uber-thespian Meryl Streep by physically transforming himself in the likeness of a well-known historical figure for his next role in order to win another Oscar.

The picture above shows Hopkins looking astonishingly similar to renowned film director Alfred Hitchcock. Hopkins is set to star in the film Hitchcock, which is about the making of the film's seminal film Psycho. Oscar winner and MadProfessah-fave Helen Mirren also appears in the film, along with Scarlett Johannsen, James D'Arcy, Toni Collette and others.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

MOVIE REVIEW: The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins were a sensation in the world of young-adult literature, becoming that rare phenomenon of art created for children which also appealed to adults. Now, at last the film adaptation of the trilogy has begun, with the first movie, The Hunger Games, released to generally positive acclaim and rapturous audiences. The movie version has also become a sensation, this time at the box-office with a over half a billion dollars of tickets sold in less than a month.

The explanation for such a huge box-office hit can be explained by the fact that the original source material has sold well over 35 millions copies, so there was huge built-in interest and excitement about the film adaptation. Credit for the script is given to the original author, Suzanne Collins, the director Gary Ross, and Billy Ray, which also doesn't hurt. The film stars Jennifer Lawrence, who received an Best Actress Oscar nomination in 2011 for the acclaimed indie film Winter's Bone, in the lead role of Katniss Everdeen. Katniss is the central character around which the entire trilogy is built around, and the plot is her story. The other two main characters are Peeta (played by Josh Hutcherson from The Kids Are Alright) and Gale (played by Liam Hemsworth who is the younger brother of Chris Hemsworth who starred in the title role of Thor). This being young-adult fiction, there is the inevitable love triangle between Katniss, Gale and Peeta, similar to the love triangle in the Twilight books between Bella, Edward and Jacob. (I haven't even read the books or even seen the movies and I know that much about the characters in that series, which by the way has been outsold by The Hunger Games!) The casting is somewhat off age-wise because Katniss is supposed to be 16, and Lawrence, while an excellent young actress, is 21 while Hutcherson (whose Peeta is supposed to be about the same age as Katniss) is 19 and Helmsworth (whose character Gale should be slightly older than Katniss) is 22. Elizabeth Banks and Stanley Tucci do a frighteningly good job of portraying sinisterly eager Capitol citizens who have been involved with the Hunger Games for years. Woody Harrelson does a surprisingly good job with the difficult role of Haymitch, a former Hunger Games winner. Max von Sydow does his usual job of playing evil as the President of Panem.

The basic story of The Hunger Games (the book) is that it is a story about a young woman (Katniss) who gets placed in an impossible situation, and how through determination, skill and a bit of luck she somehow manages to survive. (It's not really a spoiler, right? There are three books after all!) The Hunger Games are an annual tournament broadcast live nationally where each of the 12 Districts which comprise the country of Panem are forced to provide a male and female child between 14 and 18 years of age to compete in a battle to the death, with only one survivor. Katniss, Peeta and Gale all live in District 12, which is considered the boonies by the people who control the country and run the Hunger Games in The Capitol. Years ago there was an attempted revolution by the Districts against the centralized authority of the Capitol, and to punish the losers (or commemorate the event by the winners) each District serves up two of its youth as "tributes." The sole winner of the Hunger Games receives food and riches for their family for life.

All-in-all, the film adaptation of the movie is a surprisingly loyal one, because The Hunger Games (the book) is a very bloody and violent tale. At its core it's a story about teenagers killing other teenagers while an entire country watches on live television. There are some really sick and depraved aspects of the Panem society and The Capitol in general and the film depicts these unflinchingly. For example, each district has a resource which it provides to the Capitol, and thus is well-known for. District 12 is a source of coal, and the beginning of the film does a reasonable job (though not as effectively as the book, in my mind) of showing just how bleak and deprived the life of District 12 residents is, especially compared to the bountiful and privileged life of people in the Capitol. The first Capitol citizen we see has what appears to the audience a ridiculous amount of makeup and is a shock of color (bright pink in hair, makeup and clothing) among the drab greys and monochromes of District 12. The art direction, makeup, costume design and production design of the film demonstrate how the cinematic medium can enhance the written word.

I feel that the movie The Hunger Games tells the basic story of what happened in the book The Hunger Games without also effectively capturing the aspects of the books which vault it from basic young-adult fiction into something more interesting and subversive. One, the books are very political (and become moreso as the series continues) and by not addressing specifically what the geographical and temporal setting for the books is, force the reader to think about the differences between our country and Panem and make unsettling comparisons and conclusions. Second, by basically choosing to avoid depictions of most of the violence (we start with 24 teenagers so there are at least a score of deaths to be shown) the film minimizes the horror of these deaths, which are an inescapable part of the original text. Third (and this is probably the most important defect the film has over the movie), the film does a surprisingly bad job of communicating various aspects of the internal motivations and the intensity of the emotions of several of the main characters. I understand that a film can not communicate as much information and nuance as a book, but isn't a picture worth a thousand words? I think that a more skilled director would have been able to more strongly communicate the emotional turmoil of Katniss, Peeta and Gale's complex relationships to the audience.

That being said, the film is a successful adaptation of a well-written and emotionally engaging young-adult novel which captured the imagination and interest of many adults. It will be interesting to see if the subsequent films will be as successful, as the books become even more intense and more political, but also less emotionally engaging as the story evolves beyond Katniss to be more about the people she loves and the country in which she lives.

Title: The Hunger Games.
Director: Gary Ross.
Running Time: 2 hours, 22 minutes.
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for intense violent thematic material and disturbing images--all involving teens.
Release Date: March 23, 2012.
Viewing Date: April 15, 2012.

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

Overall Grade: A- (3.67/4.0).

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Facts About (NC's Anti-Gay) Amendment One

TN "Don't Say Gay" Bill Advances In State House

*sigh* Last May the Tennessee State Senate passed a fragrantly unconstitutional bill called SB049 which would have banned any discussion of any other sexual orientation other than heterosexuality in that state's public elementary or middle schools. Commonly known as the "Don't Say Gay" bill, it brought much attention (and ridicule) to Tennessee last year.

Today comes word that the Tennessee State House has passed a similar bill (HB229) out of committee just weeks after the Governor allowed a bill  which would basically allow the teaching of creationism in that state's schools to become law without his signature. (Funny how Republican Governor Chris Christie wouldn't let a marriage equality bill become law without his signature but felt he needed to veto it. But I digress!)

The New York Times' Andrew Rosenthal connects the dots:

The small government Republicans who dominate the Tennessee Legislature are taking a very active role in public education. Earlier this month the governor allowed passage of a law protecting teachers who challenge the “scientific weaknesses” of topics such as “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming and human cloning.” The sponsors say it fosters “critical thinking;” its opponents point out the obvious: It’s an anti-science measure intended to promote creationism and intelligent design, and to cast doubt on climate change. 
Now the Legislature is considering a measure that would bar any critical thinking in another area. It would interdict elementary and middle school teachers from discussing homosexuality. 
On Tuesday, House Bill 229 cleared a House education committee. Dubbed by critics the Don’t Say Gay bill, it “prohibits the teaching or furnishing of materials on human sexuality other than heterosexuality in public school grades K-8.” Its sponsor, Rep. Joey Hensley, explained that he has “two children—in the third- and fourth-grade—and [I] don’t want them to be exposed to things I don’t agree with.”

The sheer arrogance of the position that one can ban discussion of topics from children because you don't "agree with" them is breathtaking. I suppose if Rep. Hensley doesn't agree with Euclid's Postulates does that mean Tennessee will get legislation to ban the teaching of Geometry?

(As an aside, it should be noted that it is already illegal under Tennessee law to have an discussion of sex education at the middle or elementary school level.)

And they wonder why Republican's are called the "know nothing" party!


The great Christopher Hitchens doing what he does best, destroying the flimsy "arguments" for the existence of G-d, live and on video.

Hat/tip to Friendly Atheist.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Shuttle Discovery Flies By DC!

Of course it would happen when I am out of town.

Hat/tip to Flickr and The Atlantic Wire.

U.S. Immigration Announces Transgender Policy

Good news! The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services finally announced the release of a Policy Memorandum which will provide guidance to all immigration offices around the country on how to process immigration petitions from individuals who are transgender. This is a big deal, because, as in all cases where having accurate and official documentation of one's identity is key to accessing a right or benefit, the fact of the matter is that for transgender people their birth sex may not coincide with the sex or gender of the person they present to the world and this can cause bureaucratic headaches for all concerned.

One specific area where this has been a concern is in the case of married couples where one of the spouses was transgender. Because of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the federal government can not provide a benefit based on a same-sex marriage. For transgender people, determining what their sex is for purposes of marriage recognition can be legally frustrating and confusing enterprise. The memorandum makes it clear that if a transgender couple has been recognized as a different-sex couple for the purpose of state law, then they will also be considered as such for immigration purposes, thus avoiding any DOMA-related problems.

From the press relase from Immigration Equality:
The revisions update the Adjudicator’s Field Manual, a guide binding all USCIS staff overseeing immigration procedures.
NCTE Policy Counsel Harper Jean Tobin said, “Today’s announcement is another example of the Obama Administration’s long-term commitment to equality. These revisions mean that trans people and their families can obtain accurate identification while maintaining their privacy. It’ll also reduce bureaucratic delays, intrusive questions, and wrongful denials of immigration benefits.”
Significantly, the gender designation change is modeled after the U.S. State Department’s updated passport policy, which does not require sex reassignment surgery. “This Guidance is an important step forward for transgender immigrants and their families,” said Victoria Neilson, legal director for Immigration Equality. “It brings USCIS in line with DOS in its guidance for updating gender markers on identity documents – no longer requiring any specific surgery, but instead allowing a doctor to certify the individual’s gender.”
NCTE has been working with Immigration Equality to advance these urgently needed policies, part of our comprehensive agenda for the fair treatment of transgender immigrants.  Neilson added, “The memo affirms existing law and precedents, and recognizes that if a marriage is considered valid and opposite sex under state law, it is valid for immigration purposes.”
“And while these two revisions aid some trans immigrants and their U.S. citizen spouses, and vice-versa, the revisions only highlight the need to eliminate the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act,” said Tobin.
You can read the full 7-page Memorandum for yourself below.
U.S. Immigration Trans Policy

Obama-Biden 2012 YTD Fundraising Numbers

The Obama-Biden 2012 campaign released their March 2012 fundraising numbers recently.

The Democratic National Committee and U.S. President Obama's re-election campaign had their best fundraising month so far in 2012, raising $53 million in March. 
The two organizations collected in $29 million in January and $45 million in February. In the fourth quarter of 2011, the Obama campaign and DNC combined to raise $68 million.
The Obama-Biden campaign had $67 million in cash-on-hand as of February 29, 2012.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Majority Support For Marriage Equality in Colorado

A new poll from PPP (pdf) confirms that marriage equality has majority support in Colorado. In fact, legal state recognition of same-sex relationships is a position expressed by an overwhelming majority of Coloradans in the poll, which was conducted remotely by telephoning 542 Colorado voters from April 5-7, 2012 and has a margin of error of ±4.2 points.
A majority of Coloradans support legalizing gay marriage, and only 22% feel there should be no legal recognition at all of same sex couples, a new poll from Public Policy Polling finds. 53% of Colorado voters say same sex marriage should be legal and 40% say it should be illegal. Voters also say they would support the Colorado legislature passing a bill that would let same-sex couples form civil unions by a 62-32 margin. When asked whether they support gay marriage, civil unions but not gay marriage, or no legal recognition at all of same sex couples, 47% choose legal gay
marriage, 28% say civil unions and just 22% say there should be no legal recognition
whatsoever of gay couples.

“Colorado is another in a growing number of states where polls show voters are rapidly shifting towards supporting legal gay marriage,” said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling.
This should barely be news any longer, since in 2011 multiple national polls showed majority support for marriage equality, but it is always exciting to see it reinforced at the state level that marriage equality is becoming the majority position, and the heterosexual supremacists are slowly becoming a bitter, vituperative minority trying to cling to a discriminatory status quo.

The cross-tabs by party affiliation on the marriage equality questions are fascinating:

Note that a plurality (43%) of Colorado Republicans take the position that there should be no legal recognition of same-sex relationships! A more important number is found buried in the cross-tabs by age:

A stunning 77% of people in the 18-29 age bracket think same-sex marriage should be legal. Is it likely that they are going to change their mind as they get older? Maybe some of them, but it is highly improbable that they will have the same profile as people older than 65 (who oppose marriage equality 59% to 28%).

Basically, the kulturkampf over marriage equality is almost over, which is something even one of the proponents of the anti-gay marriage amendment in North Carolina, House Speaker Tom Tillis acknowledged recently:
Tillis was quoted as predicting the amendment will pass with about 54 percent of the vote, but will be repealed within 20 years because young people are more supportive of marriage rights for same sex couples. 
"It's a generational issue," Tillis, a Republican, was quoted as saying. "If it passes, I think it will be repealed within 20 years."  

A new poll from North Carolina says that 45% of voters agree with Tillis (while 41% disagree) that marriage equality will be legal in their state in 20 years. Regardless, the point is that they are still willing to have the entire state vote on inserting explicit discriminatory language into the founding document of the state so that for the next twenty years the prejudices of heterosexual supremacists can be bolstered until their numbers die out to the level where the progressive value of equality for all prevails. I

Is that sick or what?


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