Friday, August 31, 2012

POLL: NV Marriage Equality Supported By 47%

A new poll from PPP of Nevada shows that support for marriage equality is up in the Silver State, now at 47% support compared to 42% who oppose it. This in response to a question on a poll conducted August 23-26, 2012 of 831 likely Nevada voters which asked "Do you think same-sex marriage should be legal or illegal?" Unfortunately, this margin of 5 percentage points is well within the margin of the error of the poll of ±3.4 points.

Interestingly, black voters in Nevada now are more likely to support marriage equality and civil unions than they had been previously.

However the other good news in the poll is that if you ask the "tri-partite" question (legal same-sex marriage, civil union, no legal recognition) then a whopping 80% support either marriage or civil unions, with the hard-hearted group favoring no recognition down to 17%. Nevada has had a comprehensive domestic partnerships law (often called civil unions in other places) since the state legislature overrode a veto by the state's governor to enact the law on May 31, 2009.

Hat/tip to LGBT think Progress.

US OPEN Day 4: Day of Drama and Despair

Yesterday was Andy Roddick's 30th birthday and he stunned the tennis world by announcing that he would be retiring from professional tennis at the end of this year's US Open. Since he had fallen out of the Top 10 late last year questions about when he would retire had started to come fast and furious at his always lively and sometimes combative press conference. Roddick had refused to answer such questions and insisted he wasn't done yet. The American with the huge serve (in his heyday he regularly hit serves in the mid-140mph range) and the booming forehand was dismissed by many as a "one-slam wonder" by only winning the 2003 US Open title days after his 21st birthday. However, he was unfortunately in an era where at least two (and possibly three) of the greatest players to ever strike a tennis ball (Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic) rose to prominence to dominate the sport. The biggest obstacle of these was Federer who cruelly beat Roddick in 4 major finals (2009 Wimbledon, 2006 US Open, 2005 Wimbledon and 2004 Wimbledon) and racked up a gaudy 21-3 career head-to-head record against him. Federer once dismissed Roddick as a "great server" (i.e. not a great player) but Roddick got the last laugh by winning their last career meeting in Key Biscayne earlier this year. Federer was voluble in his   praise for Roddick and said that he would be rooting for him in his 2nd round showdown with talented Aussie teenager Bernard Tomic tonight.

Last night what some are calling the best women's match of the year was played under the lights of Arthur Ashe stadium when Angelique Kerber of Germany met another slowly fading American star Venus Williams in an unfortunate second round clash. The match started on unpropitious terms with 5 consecutive breaks of serve leading to Kerber winning the first set 6-2 in 31 minutes. That all changed in a pivotal 3rd game of the match when Venus gritted out a service hold (for the first time in the match) already down 0-2. The veteran American used that momentum and the glimmers of hope from a partisan crowd to win 3 consecutive games and eventually win the second set 7-5 in 1 hour 16 minutes. But the drama was not over yet as the level of play increased in the third set, with Venus eventually taking a 4-2 lead. Unfortunately, she was not able to hold on to the lead and the set got back to dead even at 4-all as midnight approached. Venus was able to hold sserve again and was a mere two points away from winning the match at 30-all on Kerber's serve in the 10th game but the German was able to hold and then broke Venus as the double faults and unforced errors returned to the American's racquet. (Venus ended the match with 16 double faults and 1 measly ace; she littered the stats sheet with 43 winners and 60 unforced errors compared to Kerber's 20 winers and 25 unforced errors). After getting the final break Kerber was able to hold serve relatively easily to win 6-2 5-7 7-5 in 2 hours, 45 minutes, concluding at 12:19am on Friday morning.

For Kerber, a current Top 10 player, it was her 3rd win against Venus this year and adds to her mystique following her clutch win over Serena Williams in Cincinnati a few weeks ago.

All in all it was a day of drama and despair for American tennis.

Celebrity Friday: If Beyonce & Jay-Z Weren't Famous

Photo Credit: Harry Evans
Ever wonder what celebrities would look like if they were not celebrities, living lives of luxury under intense scrutiny in the public eye but instead were just like you and me, an Average Joe and Jane?

Through the magic of Photoshop, you need not wonder any more! Harry Evans has edited pictures of several celebrity to produce portraits which reflect what they would look like in an alternate universe where they never became famous. Picture above is what Beyonce Knowles and Sean Carter would look like.

Here's another:

check out the rest!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

GRAPHIC: Whose Policies Caused The U.S. Debt?

A picture is worth a thousand words, yes? Well, then just pretend I wrote a thousand words and look at this picture which explains exactly whose policies are to blame for the projected public debt of the United States.
That would be the policies of the person who was President from 2001-2009. Wait, what was his name again? It's on the tip of my tongue....

Hat/tip to Kevin Drum

VIDEO: Creationism is Bad For Kids

Bill Nye (The Science Guy) has published a video explaining the damage to America's future caused by the denial of the reality of evolution. He says that America is the only major country in the world where denial of evolution is more than just a fringe position, and trying to do science while not believing in evolution is like trying to do geology without believing in plate tectonics.

Watch the whole thing for yourself!

Hat/tip to TowleRoad

MOVIE REVIEW: Total Recall (2012)

A bunch of coworkers and I saw  Total Recall  at the Regal Cinemas at the Ballston Common Mall in Arlington, VA in the week after it came out. I had seen the original Total Recall movie from 1988 starring Sharon Stone and Arnold Schwarzenegger and am a big fan of the work of science fiction author Phillip K. Dick, on whose short story "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale" both films are adapted.

The previews that were shown prior to the screening of Total Recall were for movies that were so execrable (Dredd, Resident Evil: Retribution come to mind) that it completely lowered expectations of the quality of the film we were about to see.

Thus the film experience was surprisingly more enjoyable than I expected. The remake stars Colin Farrell, Bryan Cranston, Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel as well as a blink-and-you'll-miss-it came from Bill Nighy.

Farrell is in almost every frame of the film, which diverges from the original pretty quickly (nothing happens on Mars, for example). The basic structure of the relationship between the main characters remains the same (Farrell is caught in a triangle between Beckinsale as the wife he knows and Biel as the woman from his dreams; in the original Stone played the wife and Rachel Ticotin had the smaller role of the woman from his dream.) The plot is frankly ridiculous, but the pace is non-stop action, with Farrell caught in an ever widening web of deceit and confusion as who he can trust becomes less and less clear.

One of the strongest aspects of the film is its visuals and production design. There are some very nice gadgets and features which the producers use to portray the film is set in the future. The film is set entirely on Earth, and one of the new things is a train that tunnels near the center of the Earth from one part of the planet (the slums or boonies) to another (the City). The look and feel of that train and the city itself, especially the anti-gravity cars are very cool.

Another nice part of the film is its shout-out to the original. The (in)famous three-breasted hooker from the first film is back, as is the malfunctioning camouflage device. One aspect of the original film I wish that they should have used in the remake was choosing two actresses who were as different from each other as Stone (blonde) and Ticotin (brunette). In the remake Biel and Beckinsale are both brunettes and very similar in appearance, which confused me in some scenes (although Beckinsale for some bizarre reason has a posh British accent).

Overall, I would recommend seeing this film on Netflix or Redbox and if you go in with low expectations they will probably be (barely) exceeded.

Total Recall.
Director: Len Wiseman.
Running Time: 1 hour, 52 minutes.
MPAA Rating: Rated R for some sexual references.
Release Date: August 3, 2012.
Viewing Date: August 7, 2012.

Writing: D.
Acting: B.
Visuals: B+.
Impact: B-.

Overall Grade: B-/C+ (2.5/4.0).

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

2012 US OPEN Day 3: Robson Ends Clijsters Career

Kim Clijsters win streak ended at 22 matches when she joined the list of other great tennis champions like Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi who ended their careers at the US Open. Clijsters lost to British mixed doubles silver medalist Laura Robson in two tough sets 7-6(4) 7-6(5) despite leading 5-2 in the first set. Robson is a powerful lefty and she showed why she will be a force in the future as matched and then outmatched Clijsters' power from the baseline, despite not moving as well on the surface as the preternaturally flexible Belgium (well-known for doing splits on the court).

Clijsters leaves the game with a Hall of fame career; she won 4 major titles (2005 US Open, 2009 US Open, 2010 US Open2011 Australian Open) and 41 tour titles. She was ranked #1 for 20 weeks and was also ranked #1 in both singles and doubles simultaneously at one point.

You'll be missed, Kimmie!

Another Virulent Homophobe Caught Molesting Kids

Ahhh, the sweet delicious irony. Heterosexual supremacists often attepmt to tar LGBT activists with the canard that homosexuality is synonymous or associated with pederasty or molestation of children. But, all reasonable evidence suggests that the vast percentage of child molesters are heterosexual (since the vast number of people are heterosexual) and that religious extremists are over-represented in the sample of heinous child sex criminals.

A case in point is one Caleb Hesse, 52, who is well-known in Northern California for his promotion of Proposition 8 and prominent anti-gay activities. According to Back2STonewall, Hesse was recently busted for sexually molesting "numerous underage boys":
A longtime anti-gay activist, California Prop 8 donor, and elementary school teacher was taken into custody on August 17th after admitting inappropriate contact with young boys.Caleb Douglas Hesse, a teacher for the Morongo Unified School District since 1987 (most recently, he was teaching first grade at Friendly Hills Elementary School in Joshua Tree) and a longtime youth volunteer with the virulently homophobic Evangelical Free Church of Yucca Valley, has confessed to sexually abusing “numerous underage boys,” with authorities believe the crimes occurred between the early 1980’s and as recently as a week ago.” Investigators say Hesse met the majority of the victims during overnight outings with a youth group at the  Evangelical Free Church. 
 During his arraignment on August 21st Hess recanted his confession and changed his plea to “not guilty”. 
 Hesse’s bail was set at 2.5 million dollars.
According to the San Francisco Examiner, Hesse is the owner of, the primary website for the proponents of Proposition 8, has been charged with four felony counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14 and is being held at the Morongo Basin Jail. The investigation of his activities is in its early stages but he has been active at the "Evangelical Free Church" for a long time.

What a shocker (not)! Another person with intense, almost obsessive activism and attention to promoting homophobia, preventing gay marriage and opposition to LGBT equality found to be sexually perverse. At this point it has almost become a cliche. After all, how, really, does homosexuality affect you if you're not gay yourself? People who have such significant issues with it are almost always dealing with some internal personal conflict over the issue.

hat/tip to Joe.My.God

AZ-09: Openly Bisexual Candidate Wins Primary

Krysten Sinema won a hotly contested Democratic primary election in Arizona's 9th Congressional District last night. She becomes the first openly bisexual major party candidate for a U.S. House seat and could potentially join a delegation of 8 openly LGBT Congresspeople elected this fall. Sinema was a State Senator in Arizona and resigned her seat to run for Congress. She defeated State Senate minority leader David Schapira who was accused by Sinema of resorting to homophobia-fueled attacks in the closing days of the primary campaign.

The 9th Congressional district is a new district that includes the city of Tempe. Her Republican opponent is still unknown because the primary is too close to call, but Vernon Parker is currently in the lead and is expected to place first in a crowded field of Republicans.

Hat/tip to Gay Politics.

Godless Wednesday: Atheists Cave To Violent Threats

The billboard pictured above has been withdrawn by the sponsors, American Atheists, due to violent threats. The point of the billboard was to raise attention at the sites of the Democratic (Charlotte, NC) and Republican (Tamp, FL) presidential conventions that both of the major party candidates are adherents of religion (Mitt Romney, Mormonism and Barack Obama, Islam Christianity).

The sponsoring organization made a statement last week explaining its decision to remove the billboards from Charlotte and Tampa.
“It is with regret that we tell our members and all of those who treasure free speech and the separation of religion and government that American Atheists and Adams Outdoor Advertising have mutually agreed to remove the billboards immediately,” said Amanda Knief, American Atheists’ Managing Director. 
“No subject, no idea should be above scrutiny—and this includes religion in all forms,” Ms. Knief said. “We are saddened that by choosing to express our rights as atheists through questioning the religious beliefs of the men who want to be our president that our fellow citizens have responded with vitriol, threats, and hate speech against our staff, volunteers, and Adams Outdoor Advertising.”
Teresa MacBain, American Atheists’ Public Relations Director said, "It saddens me to think that our country is not a safe place for all people to publicly question religious belief. How can we grow as a nation when such censorship exists from our own citizens?"
Despite the incorrect use of  the word "censorship," (no Government action was involved in the stifling of the organization's free speech so describing what happened as censorship is not accurate), I understand where the American Atheists are coming from. Religious people generally respond quite negatively when their privileged status in American society is demonstrated and challenged, usually to the detriment of the challenger, not the challenged.

What do you think, Gentle Readers, should the billboards have been removed?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

MD Anti-Equality "Arguments" Demolished in Print

The Baltimore Sun published an editorial on Sunday which completely demolishes the arguments of the heterosexual supremacists who collected signatures to put Maryland's pending marriage law up for a referendum this fall.

Below are two paragraphs which basically encapsulate the way to take down the two (frankly ridiculous) arguments from opponents of marriage equality who claim that allowing same-sex couples to legally marry in the state would 1) affect what is taught to children in schools about marriage and 2) violate the religious freedom of business owners and others.

To wit:
The law passed by the General Assembly this year says nothing about what should or should not be taught in schools. Contrary to what opponents may try to imply, it includes no mandates about curriculum whatsoever. What is taught in schools is determined not by the legislature but by local superintendents and school boards, and they are focused on making sure students master reading, writing and math. Values are now taught at home, and they will continue to be if this law is affirmed.

As for the question of business owners, the opponents are raising the notion that, for example, a baker who opposed same-sex marriage and refused to produce a cake for a gay wedding could be sued for discrimination. This law has nothing to do with that, either. The gay marriage law is silent on the issue of public accommodations because that has been settled law in Maryland for more than a decade. Just as that hypothetical baker can't now refuse to serve someone because he is Catholic or black or disabled, he cannot refuse to serve someone because of his sexual orientation. That was the result of a law championed by then-Gov. Parris Glendening in 2001. It was controversial at the time, but it has not led to bakers (or anyone else) getting busted by the thought police in the decade since.
But the real delightful part of the editirial is this ending note:
The opponents are resorting to spurious arguments to convince voters that the law will somehow be unfair to those with objections to gay marriages because they don't want to face the real question of fairness at stake. Should the law treat people differently because of their sexual orientation? Or should everyone be treated equally? Maryland's gay marriage ordinance doesn't require anyone to violate their religious beliefs or personal conscience. As much as we hope the debate over this issue will persuade everyone in the state of the value of acceptance and tolerance, the law doesn't force anyone to change the way they think. All it does is to remove a major vestige of discrimination from state law, and that is something all Marylanders should be able to support.
Doesn't get any more clearer than that, really. Your move, heterosexual supremacists! I'd love them to answer these two questions in the editorial "Should the law treat people differently because of their sexual orientation? Or should everyone be treated equally?" And if the answer is no, what is the reason for different treatment under the law for different groups of people based on sexual orientation. And, you don't get to refer to any religious-based reasons, because we're talking about how the state will treat its citizens.

10 Weeks Until Election: Obama 258, Romney 191

There are 10 weeks (70 days) until Election Day. In today's round up of the presidential race, the score is Obama 258, Romney 191. Obama is down 7 electoral votes from last week (down Michigan's 16 up Colorado's 9) , while Romney is down 29 (Florida). This just means that those states have moved from being in either the blue or red category and have become yellow (undecided).

It takes 270 electoral votes to be elected. This week Iowa (6), Florida (29), North Carolina (15), Virginia (13), Michigan (16) and Wisconsin (10) are "too close to call."

hat/tip to Talking Points Memo.

Monday, August 27, 2012

MUST READ: Coates' "Fear of a Black President"

One of my favorite bloggers, Ta-Nehisi Coates, has an astonishingly insightful (and well-written) essay about race, (American) politics and Barack Obama which is published in the latest edition of The Atlantic magazine under the title "Fear of a Black President."

The article is summarized at the top with a short paragraph:
As a candidate, Barack Obama said we needed to reckon with race and with America’s original sin, slavery. But as our first black president, he has avoided mention of race almost entirely. In having to be “twice as good” and “half as black,” Obama reveals the false promise and double standard of integration.
The basic thesis of the piece is that Obama is another example of the common belief that minorities (or women) who are "the first" often have to be "twice as good" as their majoritarian counterparts, while simultaneously trying to appear only "half as different" from the dominant group already in the power structure.  It covers everything from public reactions to the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman incident, the Katrina disaster, Republican recalcitrance and defiance to Obama's presidency, Joe Biden's own racist gaffe (remember when he called Obama "clean"?), America's long storied history of white supremacy, Skip Gates' run-in with a white police officer on his own front stoop and yet another fatal shooting of an innocent Black man that can be ascribed to the assumed guilt of dark skin. Powerful stuff.

Coates says that he worked on the piece for nine months and it shows. At times the writing is simply stunningly beautiful; it is complex, clear and humming with energetic ideas. To wit,
By virtue of his background—the son of a black man and a white woman, someone who grew up in multiethnic communities around the world—Obama has enjoyed a distinctive vantage point on race relations in America. Beyond that, he has displayed enviable dexterity at navigating between black and white America, and at finding a language that speaks to a critical mass in both communities. He emerged into national view at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, with a speech heralding a nation uncolored by old prejudices and shameful history. There was no talk of the effects of racism. Instead Obama stressed the power of parenting, and condemned those who would say that a black child carrying a book was “acting white.” He cast himself as the child of a father from Kenya and a mother from Kansas and asserted, “In no other country on Earth is my story even possible.” When, as a senator, he was asked if the response to Hurricane Katrina evidenced racism, Obama responded by calling the “ineptitude” of the response “color-blind.
Now, that is a paragraph (almost) any teacher would be proud a student of theirs wrote. Congratulations, Ta-Nehisi!

The rest of y'all go read the piece in its entirety for yourself. Right now!

Eye Candy: Jordan Burroughs

Jordan Burroughs is a 24-year-old amateur wrestler from New Jersey. He is 5 foot 8 inches tall and weighs 163 pounds (74 kg); Burroughs won the 2011 NCAA Championships, the 2011 World Championship and the 2012 London Olympics Gold Medal in the under 74 kg category. This last feat makes him eligible for a $250,000 prize from the U.S. Olympics Committee.

Clearly he is in amazing shape and is this week's Eye Candy!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Ex-FL Gov. Charlie Crist Endorses Pres. Obama

Well, well! Charlie Crist is the former Governor of Florida who lost a 2010 bid for the United States Senate to Cuban-American Republican Marco Rubio. Crist has long been suspected of being a closeted gay man by many in the blogosphere and beyond. he day before the GOP convention was supposed to start in Tampa, Florida the former Republican Governor of the state has penned an editorial endorsing the  re-election of the Democratic President of the United States!

Crist wrote in The Tampa Bay-Times:
As America prepares to pick our president for the next four years — and as Florida prepares once again to play a decisive role — I'm confident that President Barack Obama is the right leader for our state and the nation. I applaud and share his vision of a future built by a strong and confident middle class in an economy that gives us the opportunity to reap prosperity through hard work and personal responsibility. It is a vision of the future proven right by our history.
I wonder how long it will take Republicans in Florida to call their former governor "disgruntled"? Start counting now, 1, 2, 3....

Friday, August 24, 2012

Queer Quote: Brian Brown

Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage and It Gets Better project founder Dan Savage sat down for dinner at Savage's home last week to debate marriage equality in the presence of a New York Times reporter. The entire debate was uploaded to YouTube.

During the debate the heterosexual supremacist Brown made the following self-unaware comment when responding to Savage's question about why NOM doesn't go after divorce as much as they do same-sex marriage:
"Just because you believe something is wrong, it doesn't mean that you make it illegal"
Exactly, Brian, exactly! So, why would you want to make same-sex marriage illegal even though you believe it is wrong? Get it? You yourself just made a statement which supports repealing Proposition 8!

Celebrity Friday: Mariah Joins Idol For $17m

Mariah Carey, the best-selling pop diva with the multi-octave vocal range, has decided to join the cast of Fox's American Idol as a judge on the show's 12th season for the regal fee of $17 million dollars. Carey, 42, is married to the hella phyne Nick Cannon, 31, and the proud mother of 14-month old twin babies Madison and Moroccan (don't ask).

Carey is my favorite singer of all time, but her appearing on the show will still probably not convince me to watch the show, though it may make it more likely I won't change the channel instantaneously if I stumble upon it.

Do you still watch American Idol? If not, will you watch it now that Mariah is going to be on it?

2012 US OPEN: The Women's Draw Is Out!

The 2012 US Open women's draw was released on Thursday. Serena Williams has won the last two big tournaments contested earlier this summer on the green lawns of the All-England Lawn Tennis Club: the 2012 Wimbledon championships and 2012 Olympics Singles Gold medal.

Happily for her, Serena has what can only be described as a stress-free path back to the US Open final, which she inexplicably lost last year to Samantha Stosur. The only notable names in her path to a semifinal showdown with 2012 Wimbledon finalist Agnieska Radwanska are Ekaterina Makarova (3rd round) who bounced her from the 2012 Australian Open, and Caroline Wozniacki in the quarterfinal.

World #1 Victoria Azarenka has a much harder draw. In her half of the draw there is Petra Kvitova, Kim Clijsters, Stosur, Maria Sharapova and Li Na. In order to reach the semifinals in New York (something she has never done before) Azarenka will have to get through Sabine Lisicki and either Clijsters, Stosur or Li in the quarterfinal. If seeds hold the Belarussian would face the winner of the Sharapova.Kvitova quarterfinal in the semifinal.

Interesting first round matches are Sloane Stephens versus Francesca Schiavone, Bethanie Mattek-Sands versus Venus Williams, and Li Na versus Heather Watson.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

2012 US OPEN: Men's Draw Released

Finally one of the most pressing questions surrounding the 2012 US Open can be answered. Roger Federer and Andy Murray will be in the same (top) half of the draw, with 2011 US Open defending champion Novak Djokovic by himself in the bottom half of the draw, thanks to Rafael Nadal's absence from the tournament.

In fact, Federer has one of his toughest draws at a major tournament in a long time. In the 3rd round he has a potential match up with Fernando Verdasco with a 4th round encounter with Ivo Karlovic, Gilles Simon or Mardy Fish. His quarterfinal opponent could be Tomas Berdych  or Sam Querrey. Then Federer would face Murray in the semifinal and Djokovic in the final. Federer's first round match is with African-American lefty Donald Young who is having an annus horribilis with a 3-21 record for the year.

Other interesting first-round matches are Juan Martin del Potro versus David Nalbandian, Ernests Gulbis versus Tommy Haas and Robin Haase versus Feliciano Lopez.

The Graphic That May Decide The Presidency

Matt Yglesias points out this chart signals doom for Mitt Romney's desire to be President. According to a poll from the Pew Research Center, 71% of people think Romney's policies will help "wealthy people" while 42% of people think those policies will help "Middle-class people" and only 33% of people think Romney's policies will help "poor people."

On the other hand, President Obama's policies are viewed by people as more likely to help middle class people (52%) and poor people (62%) as opposed to wealthy people (38%).

FILM REVIEW: The Dark Knight Rises

The third movie in director Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, is now difficult to be seen outside of the context of a horrific act of gun violence by a mad man and the follow-on to one of the most successful films of the last decade, 2008's The Dark Knight. However, to me, it was my most anticipated film of the year because it is the new film by my favorite director. Nolan's previous film was the brilliant Inception, my favorite film of 2010.

The Dark Knight Rises stars Oscar winners Christian Bale, Sir Michael Caine, Marion Cotillard and Morgan Freeman. Also in the cast are Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy and Gary Oldman. The film's screenplay was written by Nolan and his brother Jonathan Nolan. The film's story is credited to Nolan and David S. Goyer (Dark City, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight).

As expected, the film has set the box-office aflame, although not at quite the same torrid pace of the record setting The Dark Knight. That movie made over $1 billion worldwide, and grossed $533 million dollars domestically. It has a current rating of 94% on while the sequel has a rating of 87%. The sequel The Dark Knight Rises  grossed $353 million domestically in the first 17 days of release, which is about 11% below where The Dark Knight was at that point.

So, which film is better? I would unequivocally answer that The Dark Knight Rises is the better movie, and clearly the best of Nolan's Batman trilogy. Having seen the film twice in its first two weeks of release, I can summarize the high points of the film.

They are: Hathaway's performance as Catwoman Selina Kayle, Hardy's performance as Bane and Gordon-Levitt's John Blake. Other key components are Nolan's direction, Hans Zimmer's score and the overall "look and feel" of the movie, which I think would be art direction/production design. I even apprecviated Cotillard's surprisingly small (but pivotal) role as Miranda Tate. Hathaway looks amazing as the cat burglar who forms an uneasy alliance with Bruce Wayne/Batman but who also betrays him in a potentially deadly fashion. I'm a Kinsey 6 (exclusively homosexual) but even I was looking at Hathaway in her catsuit going, "Damn that is one hot outfit!" Hardy is absolutely terrifying as Bane. One's first reaction when one sees him on screen is "Oh my goodness what have they done to Tom Hardy's body? The guy is huge!" Bane is physically imposing and extremely threatening. Despite (or maybe because he is) wearing a bizarre facial mask which only reveals his eyes, Hardy is forced to use his voice and physical presence to convey the nuances of his character and he does an outstanding job. Gordon-Levitt has left his child star days long behind him with his breakout roles in (500) Days of Summer and Inception. Here he plays the main audience surrogate as a fresh-faced police officer who is a fan of the now-reviled Batman and who never loses sight of the greater good. As in most Nolan's film the casting of every role is exquisite, even in essentially tiny roles. One of my personal favorite actors, the attractive Daniel Sunjata has a way too-brief appearance as a special forces officer.

The script is engaging, and includes some very nice twists and surprising reveals at the end. That is not to say that the plot hang together completely, but the central questions posed by entire trilogy such as "What are the implications and complications of an ordinary man with extraordinary resources who decides to put on a mask and fight crime and evil in a crime-ridden city?" The way Nolan resolves these issues in the third film are extremely satisfying and one walks out of the theater appreciating the way the three films work together as a cohesive and continuous story.

The Dark Knight Rises is not just an excellent example of a summer superhero movie but is also an example of simply a very good film, and finding one film which is able to exist as examples of both of these is quite a rare thing indeed.

TitleThe Dark Knight Rises.
Director: Christopher Nolan.
Running Time: 2 hours, 45 minutes.
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some sensuality and language.
Release Date: July 20, 2012.
Viewing Date: July 23, 2012 (and July 28, 2012).

Writing: A.
Acting: A.
Visuals: A+.
Impact: A.

Overall Grade: A/A+ (4.083/4.0).

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

POLL: National Marriage Equality Support At 53%

A new poll from the Washington Post asks the question "Do you think it should be LEGAL or ILLEGAL for gay and lesbian couples to get married?" The results say that 53% respond legal and 42% respond illegal.
There are differences among partisan groups, with Democrats supporting marriage equality 68% to 27%, Independents supportive 57% to 39% and Republicans 30% to 67%.

The poll breaks out "strongly" held opinions versus "somewhat" and the most strongly held opinion is among 54% of Republicans who have a "strongly held" position that it should be illegal for gay and lesbian couples to get married. This is slightly larger than the 52% of Democrats who have a strongly held belief that it should be legal. Among all adults, there are more people who strongly support marriage equality (39%) than who strongly oppose it (33%).

This latest poll was conducted July 25 to August 5 among a random national sample of 3,105 American adults. It was released August 20, 2012 and becomes one in a series of national polls demonstrating majority support for marriage equality in the last year or so.

Godless Wednesday: Dawkins Playboy Interview

Richard Dawkins, probably the most famous atheist in the world, has an interview in the latest Playboy magazine.

Below is an excerpt, but you really should go and read the entire thing yourself. Dawkins wit, intelligence and commitment to educating the public on the irratioality of religious belief come through loud and clear:
PLAYBOY: Is there a better word for a nonbeliever than atheist? Darwin preferred agnostic. Some have suggested humanist, naturalist, nontheist.
DAWKINS: Darwin chose agnostic for tactical reasons. He said the common man was not ready for atheism. There’s a lovely story the comedian Julia Sweeney tells about her own journey from devout Catholicism to atheism. After she’d finally decided she was an atheist, something appeared about it in the newspaper. Her mother phoned her in hysterics and said something like “I don’t mind you not believing in God, but an atheist?” [laughs] The word bright was suggested by a California couple. I think it’s rather a good word, though most of my atheist friends think it suggests religious people are dims. I say, “What’s wrong with that?” [laughs]
PLAYBOY: You’ve described yourself as a “tooth fairy” agnostic. What is that?
DAWKINS: Rather than say he’s an atheist, a friend of mine says, “I’m a tooth fairy agnostic,” meaning he can’t disprove God but thinks God is about as likely as the tooth fairy.
PLAYBOY: So you don’t completely rule out the idea of a supreme being. Critics see that as leaving an opening.
DAWKINS: You can think so, if you think there’s an opening for the tooth fairy.
PLAYBOY: It sounds like the argument made by Bertrand Russell, who said that while he could claim a teapot orbited the sun between Earth and Mars, he couldn’t expect anyone to believe him just because they couldn’t prove him wrong.
DAWKINS: It’s the same idea. It’s a little unfair to say it’s like the tooth fairy. I think a particular god like Zeus or Jehovah is as unlikely as the tooth fairy, but the idea of some kind of creative intelligence is not quite so ridiculous.
PLAYBOY: So you aren’t taking Pascal up on his wager. He was the 17th century philosopher who argued it’s a smarter bet to believe in God, because if you’re wrong——
DAWKINS: The cost of failure is very high. But what if you choose the wrong god to believe in? What if you get up there and it’s not Jehovah but Baal? [laughs] And even if you pick the right god, why should God be so obsessive about you believing in him? Plus, any god worth its salt is going to realize you’re feigning. The odds are extremely low, but nevertheless it’s worth it because the reward is extremely high. But you may also be wasting your life. You go to church every Sunday, you do penance, you wear sackcloth and ashes. You have a horrible life, and then you die and that’s it.
PLAYBOY: Assume there is a god and you were given the chance to ask him one question. What would it be?
DAWKINS: I’d ask, “Sir, why did you go to such lengths to hide yourself?”
hat/tip to Friendly Atheist

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

11 Weeks Until Election: Obama 265, Romney 220

It is now 11 weeks (77 days) until November 6, 2012, also known as Election day. Last week Obama led 317 electoral votes to Romeny's 191. This week the race is closer, with Obama-Biden down to 265 electoral votes with Romney-Ryan up to 220. It takes 270 electoral votes to be elected President of the United States. This week Colorado, Iowa, Wisconsin, North Carolina and Virginia are all too close to call.

Hat/tip to Talking Points Memo.

Maryland Finalizes Marriage Referendum Language

The official language of the referendum on Maryland's marriage equality law has now been set.
The measure will be known as Question 6 on the November 6, 2012 ballot and will look like:
Establishes that Maryland’s civil marriage laws allow gay and lesbian couples to obtain a civil marriage license, provided they are not otherwise prohibited from marrying; protects clergy from having to perform any particular marriage ceremony in violation of their religious beliefs; affirms that each religious faith has exclusive control over its own theological doctrine regarding who may marry within that faith; and provides that religious organizations and certain related entities are not required to provide goods, services, or benefits to an individual related to the celebration or promotion of marriage in violation of their religious beliefs.
The organization defending the law is Marylanders for Marriage Equality. They praised the ballot language as "accurate and straightforward." (A YES vote on the referendum supports marriage equality, just like the ballot measures in Washington and Maine.) The latest polling shows that marriage equality in Maryland is supported 54 percent to 40 percent.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Maryland: Poll Shows Support for Marriage Equality

Another poll confirms that support for marriage equality in Maryland is becoming a majority position, which is good news for supporters of equality as a referendum on the state's marriage equality law looms on the November 2012 ballot. A key result in the latest poll from Hart Research Associates indicates that African-Americans are split almost evenly about marriage equality.

In the above figure I have indicated the last four public polls about marriage equality in Maryland. 3 of the 4 have shown greater support for marriage equality than opposition. The latest poll, which was releases in early August, shows 54% support the marriage equality law as opposed to 40% who do not. This is good news, but since the margin of error is ±4.5 percentage points this indicates that there may not (yet) be a majority for marriage equality in Maryland.

Advocates such as myself for marriage equality are nervous about polls which indicate support for marriage equality prior to public (secret ballot) votes on the issue, because the public has repeatedly rejected the right when they had the chance. However, there are good indications that 2012 will produce more favorable results than we have previously had in 2008 (Proposition 8 in California) and 2009 (Question 1 in Maine). Critics of the latest poll results in Maryland point out that Hart is Governor Martin O'Malley's polling firm and is not an unbiased observer of the referendum fight since O'Malley has expended so much of his political capital in promoting nd enacting marriage equality in his state.

Only time will tell which side is correct about the true level of support for marriage equality at the ballot box and among the Maryland electorate.

2012 CINCY: Li Na Wins 1st Title in 15 Months

Li Na won her first WTA title in over 15 months by defeating Angelique Kerber 1-6 6-3 6-1 in the finals of the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, Ohio on Sunday. It was Li's first title since she won the 2011 French Open title, and it came in her 4th WTA tour final of 2012.

After being blown out by the lefty German in the first set, Li received on-court coaching from Carlos Rodrigues (the former coach of Justine Henin) and was able to come back from a break down in the second set to clinch the middle set by following her brand new coach's direction (use more topspin). They key point of the match was an interminable game at 3-4 which lasted some two dozen minutes where Li had more than a handful of breakpoints, saved by incredible defense by Kerber. Eventually, Li did garner the break and the German was basically mentally exhausted and proceeded to lose the next 5 games, going down 0-4 in the deciding set. This was quite a surprise because Kerber has one of the best three-set records on the WTA tour. Li closed out the match by breaking Kerber at love when a lefty forehand flew feet over the baseline.

Li must be happy to have ended her title drought right before the US Open starts one week from today, since hardcourts are her best surface.

Eye Candy: Antonio Vizcaino (black/white)

Antonio Vizcaino has appeared on this blog as Eye Candy twice before (September 12, 2011 and November 7, 2011). It's pretty hard to find information about him. We do know that on his model management's web site they have various dimensions listed such as height: 6'2" tall, wasit: 30" and shoe: size 11. Also, he apparently has his own Twitter account: AntonioVizCali.

Despite wanting to know more about him, one thing I do know is that his pictures qualify as eye candy!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

2012 CINCY: Federer Beats Djokovic To Win 76th Title

Much to my surprise Roger Federer beat Novak Djokovic to win his 76th ATP Tour title and 5th Western & Southern Open title in Cincinnati 6-0 7-6(7). (Federer has now claimed the Cincinnati Masters in 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2012.) It was the 28th meeting between the two champions, with Federer improving to 16-12 and winning his first bagel set in over 82 sets played.

For the first time in ATP history both players reached the final without having lost their serve, but Djokovic started extremely flat. After winning the first point of the match with an ace, he proceeded to hit 2 double faults in his very first service game, and ended up being broken. In fact, the first set went by in a blur, with Djokovic struggling to win points, and after 21 minutes it was over. The second set was more competitive but it wasn't until half way through it that Djokovic hit his very first winner and Federer held his serve throughout, forcing the tiebreak. Federer quickly went up a mini-break and won the first 3 points of the tiebreak.  Djokovic responded by winning the next four points to go up a mini-break but then things were pretty even on serve after that. Eventually Djokovic was able to save championship point against him on his own serve at 5-6 but was unable to do so at 7-8 after Federer saved a set point down on his own serve at 6-7.

Federer's win today puts him back in a tie with longtime rival Rafael Nadal with 21 ATP Masters shields each.

The 2012 US Open starts in a week, on Monday August 27th. The draw will be revealed on Thursday August 23rd.

2012 CINCY: Li Na Faces Kerber in Final

Li Na will face Angelique Kerber in the final of Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati today. Li got here by beating an injured Venus Williams 7-5 3-6 6-1 while Kerber beat the always erratic Petra Kvitova 6-1 2-6 6-4. Kerber has only lost one of her last nineteen 3 set matches and is coming off the biggest win of her career on Friday when the German lefty dispatched 14-time major champion Serena Williams 6-4 6-4.

Li leads Kerber 4-1 and even though she has not won a title all year long she has reached three finals, including last week at the Rogers Cup in Montreal where she lost to Kvitova in 3 sets.

MadProfessah's prediction: Li in 2 sets, Kerber in 3 sets.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

2012 CINCY: Federer-Djokovic XXVIII In Final

World #1 Roger Federer, 31, will face World #2 Novak Djokovic, 25, for the 28th time in their careers on Sunday, this time with the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati on the line. It is the 7th final the two have contested, with the series tied at 3-all. Overall, Federer leads their rivalry 15-12 and won their last meeting, in the semifinals of this year's Wimbledon, on his way to his record 17th major title. The Swiss great has won the Cincinnati Masters title 4 times before, while 5-time major champion Djokovic is 0-3 in finals here.

In Saturday's semifinal Federer beat his countryman Stanislas Wawrinka for the 11th time in 12 meetings (now 10-0 on hard courts) 7-6(4) 6-3 despite serving atrociously (well below 50 percent first serves in with more double faults than aces). Djokovic was able to get revenge on Juan Martin del Potro for denying him his second bronze medal in the Olympics 3 weeks ago. Djokovic has been serving exceptionally well, and more importantly, defending his service games at an extraordinary rate. In his last 3 hard court tournaments he has saved an astonishing 90% of the break points against him, and today saved 5 against the hard-hitting Argentinian, which is more than he had faced in the rest of his matches combined in Cincinnati. Last week in Toronto, Djokovic won the tournament and only had his serve broken once.

By reaching the final, Federer assured that he will be seeded #1 at this year's US Open which starts on August 27th and will retain the World #1 ranking for 3 more weeks. In fact, since losing to Djokovic in last year's US Open semifinals, Federer has reached an amazing 11 of 12 semifinals and currently has a tour-leading record of 55 wins and only 7 losses for the year. Despite this fact, unless Federer improves his play substantially above what he showed today, he will be routed by the Serbian, who is approaching the peak level of play he exhibited last year when he won 3 major tournaments. With Rafael Nadal recuperating from what must be a serious knee injury and Andy Murray crashing out early in Toronto and Cincinnati, it is likely that the battle for 2012's bragging rights will come down to Federer and Djokovic, with tomorrow's final an important battle in the year-long war of attrition.

MadProfessah's prediction: Djokovic.

AZ & ND Block State Benefits for Undocumented Youth

The big news this week is that the Obama's administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which provides benefits to young undocumented immigrants that are similar to those of the DREAM Act, has gone into effect.

According to Huffington Post here are the details of the program:

The administration plan is to stop deporting many undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children. To be eligible, immigrants must prove they arrived in the United States before they turned 16, are 30 or younger, have been living here at least five years and are in school or graduated or served in the military. They also cannot have been convicted of certain crimes or otherwise pose a safety threat. 
Under guidelines that the administration announced Tuesday, proof of identity and eligibility could include a passport or birth certificate, school transcripts, medical and financial records and military service records. The DHS said that in some instances, multiple sworn affidavits, signed by a third party under penalty of perjury, also could be used. Anyone found to have committed fraud will be referred to federal immigration agents, the department said. 
Alejandro Mayorkas, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said being approved to avoid deportation "does not provide lawful status or a path to citizenship." 
The paperwork for the program can be downloaded from the Immigration Services website. Applicants must pay a $465 fee and provide proof of identity and eligibility.A decision on each application could take several months, and immigrants have been warned not to leave the country while their application is pending. If they are allowed to stay in the United States and want to travel internationally, they will need to apply for permission to come back into the country, a request that would cost $360 more.

Of course Republicans view this program very differently. The infamously brainless governor of Arizona, Jan Brewer, responded by announcing that in Arizona they will seek to deny any person who applies for deferred action to be ineligible for a driver's licence or any other state-issued benefits.

In her executive order, Brewer essentially said that undocumented immigrants granted deferred action will not be recategorized as lawful residents. The order is intended to cut through some confusion created by the president's program, Brewer spokesman Matthew Benson said. 
"As the (DHS) has said repeatedly ... these individuals do not have lawful status," Benson told The Republic. "They are able to remain in the country and not be deported and not be prosecuted, but they do not have lawful status." 
Regina Jefferies, a Phoenix immigration lawyer who chairs the Arizona chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said Brewer's order contradicts state law. 
She said that deferred action existed before the program started on Wednesday and that there are "many, many" instances in Arizona of immigrants granted deferred action for other reasons who have received licenses. 
She said Brewer will likely face a lawsuit. 
Brewer's order bars undocumented immigrants who receive deferred action from public benefits that include state-subsidized child care; KidsCare, a children's health-insurance program; unemployment benefits; business and professional licenses and government contracts, Benson said. 
This is Brewer just being an asshole. Of course states get to determine whom they issue state issued benefits to, and they can decide to not issue any benefits to undocumented immigrants. The fact that the federal government is providing employment benefits and reprieve from deportation to these same individuals is irrelevant to state actions. But the timing of Brewer's action was really just to make sure her xenophobic (some would say nativist) perspective is included in any media coverage about the Obama administration's new program.

Of course, it is only a matter of time before other Republican governors join Brewer in demonstrating their disapproval of immigrants. Governor Dave Heineman of North Dakota became the first to jump in the hateful pool after Brewer:

“President Obama’s deferred action program to issue employment authorization documents to illegal immigrants does not make them legal citizens. The State of Nebraska will continue its practice of not issuing driver’s licenses, welfare benefits or other public benefits to illegal immigrants unless specifically authorized by Nebraska statute.”

Well, duh.

LOOK: How Wet Dogs Dry By Shaking Explained!

This is fascinating stuff! Some scientists and engineers have studied how dogs shake their fur incredibly efficiently to dry themselves and wet and discovered that a  "dog can shake roughly 70 percent of the water from its fur in four seconds."

In fact, it's not only dogs.
So, get this, the process that dogs use is common to many mammals, even if some, like kangaroos and elephants, don't really need to use it for a variety of reasons. And the researchers found something astounding: the animals tuned how quickly they shook to their size. That is to say, the bigger animals shook slower while the smaller ones shook really quickly. That's because they need to exert a certain amount of force on the water droplets to shake them off. For the little guys, that means moving really quickly: a mouse has to shake 30 times per second, a rat 18 times per second, and a cat nine times per second. (Remember the labrador retriever was at about 4 times per second.) 
"The largest animal is 10,000 times heavier than the smallest animal," [David] Hu [of Georgia Tech]  told me, "but the forces on the drops are basically constant across all these mammals."
Check out a wet shaking dog getting dry  in (super slow mo) action:

Pretty cool!


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