Friday, May 31, 2013

2013 FRENCH OPEN: Mattek-Sands Upsets Li Na!

While I was travelling from Barbados back to Los Angeles for most of yesterday, Bethanie Mattek-Sands completed the biggest upset on the women's side of the draw at this year's 2013 Roland Garros by defeating the 2011 French Open Champion and #6 seed Li Na 5-7 6-3 6-2.

The men's side of the draw is basically following the oddsmakers (with the conspicuous upset of #5 seed Tomas Berdych due to Gael Monfils in the 1st round).

Last Day for Illinois Marriage Equality Bill To Pass

Today is the last day of the legislative session in Illinois and thus the last day the state can enact marriage equality in 2013. It needs to pass the state House by the time before adjourning. Signs are good that the measure has the votes and will come up for a vote. One of these signs is that openly gay legislator Greg Harris has been saying for days that he has the votes to pass it, and there is word that the Speaker of the Illinois House is inviting same-sex couples to the gallery to watch the vote on the measure, but it's not done until the final vote is cast!

If Illinois does enact marriage equality today, it would be the fourth state in 2013 to do so, following Rhode Island, Delaware and Minnesota.

Hat/tip to Joe.My.God

Celebrity Friday: Karen Lord, Bajan Sci-Fi Author

Karen Lord, is a Barbadian science fiction author (probably the only one!?) and just happens to also be a longtime childhood friend of mine. (We're born one day apart, her in Barbados and me in Grenada. We went to secondary school in Barbados at the same time, she at Queen's College, same school as my sister, and I at Combermere.) I met up with her while I was visiting the Caribbean on my vacation from May 15-30 and caught up on what she has been doing in the last quarter century since I last saw her!

She's been busy. Karen has even more post-graduate degrees than I do (from various and varied institutions), including a Ph.D. in the sociology of religion from the University of Wales. However, what she is most well-known for is Redemption in Indigo, her debut novel first published in 2010 that has won multiple awards:
Her debut novel “Redemption in Indigo” won the 2008 Frank Collymore Literary Award, the 2010 Carl Brandon Parallax Award, the 2011 William L. Crawford Award and the 2011 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature. It also was long-listed for the 2011 Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, nominated for the 2011 World Fantasy Award for Best Novel and shortlisted in the Best Debut Novel category of the Kitschies Awards.
Karen has also recently published a new book, The Best Of All Possible Worlds, a sequel of which is already written and will come out within the next year. The new book has earned her comparisons to writers like China Mieville, Nalo Hopkinson and Ursula K. Le Guin, who are giants in the field of speculative fiction.

I am very proud to call her my friend and this week's Celebrity Friday!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

2013 FRENCH OPEN Day 3-4: French Players Surging; Raja, Serena, Vika Thru

For the first time in recent memory, on the 30th anniversary of the last male French player (Yannick Noah) to win the Roland Garros title, the French players are surging at their country's major tennis tournament in Paris. Gael Monfils, fresh off his incredible 5-set "come back from ahead" win over #5 seed Tomas Berdych (still the biggest upset of the rain-soaked first four days of the tournament), eliminated very talented and mercurially dangerous Ernests Gulbis. Gulbis is also an entertaining player to watch and the two brought something special to their 2nd round encounter, won in 4 tight, thrilling sets by Le Monf: 6-7(5) 6-4 7-6(4) 6-2. One day before, the French hero was Marion Bartoli, who came back from a 3-5 deficit in the 3rd set, despite looking exhausted after more than 3 hours of play saved two match points and managed to win the last four games of the match to end her titanic struggle with Olga Govortsova 7-6(8) 4-6 7-5. Other French players to win include Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who is into the third round along with Monfils, Gilles Simon, Jeremy Chardy (who plays Tsonga) and Julien Benneteau (who plays Roger Federer--someone he has a win over in 2013!) Meanwhile, Benoit Paire and Richard Gasquet still need to play their 2nd round matches.

Also doing surprisingly well at the French are the American players, who have 10 players left in the tournament, led by World #1 Serena Williams who defeated a future French hopeful, Caroline Garcia 6-1 6-2 and now has lost 4 games in 4 sets of play at the 2013 French Open. Federer is also on firing on all cylinders, making his way through his "easy bake oven" of a draw--he should not have anything to worry about until he potentially faces Tsona in his quarterfinal, although if Benneteau gets hot, he could put up a stiff challenge.

Victoria Azarenka played her first match on Day 4 of the tournament due to rain delays, and with Day 5 starting both defending champions have yet to play their second match. Although it is possible to play for awhile in rain, there's no question that every major venue needs to have at least one court that is covered so that play can continue regardless of weather. And don't get me started about electronic line calling on clay! It needs to be done, now. I'm sure that Sergiy Stakhovsky would agree with me!

FOOD REVIEW: Fusion Burgers (Highland Park, Los Angeles, CA)

Across the street from a new fancy Italian restaurant in Highland Park called Maximiliano's is an unassuming place called Fusion Burgers. My quest to find the best burger joint in America has long been a topic on this here blog, so I won't go into that again except to say that when I hear about an excellent burger place I do try and check it out.

So, that got me into the door of Fusion Burgers, which besides getting good reviews also happens to be within a 5-10 minute drive of my house.

As I said, Fusion Burgers is located in an unremarkable strip mall on the edge of Highland Park, very close to what is probably the most well-known restaurant in the neighborhood. The two are very different, however, with Maximiliano's succeeding as an upscale Italian joint that only serves dinner (and brunch on the weekends) and Fusion Burgers is a simple burger joint.

That being said, the focus should be on the food, and that is what Fusion Burgers does, and quite well, too. I ordered the "Classic Burger" (1000 Island, boston bibb, oven dried tomato, onions, pickles and white cheddar; $8.50) along with "Beer Onion Rings" ($3) and "Ice Tea" ($2). The burger was excellent, and well matched with the bun (which tasted like some kind of brioche). However, the burger was outdone by the Umamticatessen-style tempura-like onion rings which were absolutely extraordinary (and a great bargain at $3). I finished those first after taking a quick spot check bite of the burger. The burger was ridiculously juicy (a feature of having it cooked medium rare) and was a decent size as well. A nice feature of the meal was that even though it clearly not healthy food, one did not feel absolutely stuffed, as one sometimes does at other burger outings.

I would definitely recommend going to check out Fusion Burgers, yourself. It is probably a 10-15 minute walk from the Highland Park station on the  Gold Line Metro as well as having plenty of parking on York Boulevard. Fusion Burgers offers a different gourmet burger of the week, some of them quite inventive.

I intend to check them out again in the near future, and so should you if you (like me) are in search of an excellent burger experience for under $20.

Name: Fusion Burgers.
Location: 5933 York Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90042.
Contact: 323-257-8705.
Visit: April 27, 2013.

FOOD: A+. 

OVERALL: A (4.0/4.0)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Godless Wednesday: Where The Atheists Are

Joe.My.God points out an article at the Washington Post showing where the atheists around the world reside. This is in reaction to a recent statement by Pope Francis (then retracted by the Vatican) that even atheists have been redeemed by God. This was seen as a surprisingly neutral position by the head of the Catholic church to non-believers.
Overall, the poll concluded that roughly 13 percent of global respondents identified as atheists, more than double the percentage in the U.S. 
The highest reported share of self-described atheists is in China: an astounding 47 percent. Faith has a complicated history in China. The state is deeply skeptical of organized religion, which it has long considered a threat to its authority.
 Note, of course that North America had a relatively low percentage of atheists,. The most important results, as Joe points out is that the poll concludes that "religiosity is highest in the poorest and least educated nations."

Accra Beach, Barbados

It's the penultimate day of my Caribbean vacation...

Data On Recent Marriage Equality Polls In U.S.

AZ 55-35
FL 43-45
AK 43-51
CA 61-32
IA 46-43
GA 27-65
CO 51-42
NM 45-43
KS 42-55
CT 55-33
TX 48-48
KY 27-65
DE 54-37
WI 44-46
LA 29-59
HI 55-37
IN 45-45
MS 13-78
IL 47-42
MO 36-52
DC 56-35
MT 43-49
ME 53-43
NC 34-58
MD 55-39
SC 21-69
MA 62-30
TN 28-62
MI 57-38
UT 30-63
MN 49-45
WV 19-71
NV 47-42
NE 36-54
NH 56-34
NJ 62-30
NY 55-37
OH 48-44
OR 49-42
PA 54-41
RI 60-26
VT 58-33
VA 56-33
WA 60-33
jpmassar from Daily Kos has summarized the latest polls on marriage equality from around the United States and notes that in 24 states marriage equality has a significant lead in public opinion with 6 states being inconclusive or tied and 14 states solidly against (there is no recent information from 7 states).

It's fascinating to note that the 6 states where public opinion is basically tied are Florida, Iowa, New Mexico, Texas, Wisconsin and Indiana. Only one of these currently has marriage equality (Iowa), and only two are red states: Texas and Indiana. Of the 24 states that support marriage equality, 11 have enacted marriage equality which leaves 13 states where public policy does not reflect popular opinion: Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Happily, it is likely that California and Illinois may join the marriage equality states soon.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

2013 FRENCH OPEN Day 1-2: Monfils Upsets Berdych(5), Venus Loses Marathon

Gael Monfils, affectionately known as Le Monf, and one of the most dramatic and athletic players on tour, was able to "come back from ahead" and upset #5 seed Tomas Berdych 7-6(8) 6-4 6-7(3) 6-7(4) 7-5 in 4 hours and 2 minutes, despite blowing a 2-set lead. This match will almost certainly end up on the list of best matches of the year and is the match of the tournament so far.

Things did not turn out so well for a different black tennis player in another marathon clay court encounter when Venus Williams fell to the less-heralded Radwanska sister, Urszula 7-6(5) 6-7 (4) 6-4 in 200 minutes. Despite blowing a 4-0 lead in the tie-breaker, the younger sister of Agnieska Radwanska was able to eliminate the older sister of Serena Williams from the tournament. Venus is actually seeded, but is playing with an injured back, and at age 32 her best tennis is clearly well behind her. Her sister, however, is playing some of her best tennis and erased all memories of last year's shock first-year defeat with a 6-0 6-1 demolition of Anna Tatshvili.

The first round continues today in Day 3, but so far the expected seeds have made it through, such as #2 seed Roger Federer, #3 seed David Ferrer, #4 seed Rafael Nadal, and #7 seed Richard Gasquet. Onthe women's side 2012 Roland Garros champion Maria Sharapova won easily, as did 2011 Roland Garros champion Li Na, while #5 seed Angelique Kerber and Ana Ivanovic won tough 3-setters against good opponents to advance to the 2nd round.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Eye Candy: Daniel Sisniega

Daniel Sisniega is a 24-year-old, openly gay underwear model from Mexico City who is best known for his work with the Andrew Christian underwear brand. I found him over at the Gorgeous Sexy Guys blog where they have many more pictures of this "Mexican stunner."

He has Facebook ( and Twitter (DannySisniggles) profiles.
I'd follow him, wouldn't you?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Game of Thrones (S3E08): "Second Sons"

Episode 8 of Season 3 is called "Second Sons" and I would have thought that the title refers to the problems of male children in a system of primogeniture where the first-born son is the heir apparent to the name and holdings of the father, so the second son is always an inferior with potential but no actual power. (Sort of like a perennial vice presidency!) The most prominent second sons in Game of Thrones I can think of are Tyrion Lannister, second son of Lord Tywin Lannister of Casterly Rock (the richest man in the world), Stannis Barratheon, the younger brother of King Robert Barratheon (the most powerful man in the world) and the two second sons of Lord Eddard Stark of Winterfell: Jon Snow (the bastard and actual second son) and Brandon Stark (acknowledged and official second son). However, the title "Second Sons" apparently mostly refers to the name of a band of warriors who Danaerys Stormborn meets in Essos since neither Jon nor Bran appear in S3E08. (Kudos to Erik Kain of Forbes magazine whose review of "Second Sons" points out two more second sons in Game of Thrones: Sandor "The Hound" Clegane, the younger brother of Gregor "The Mountain" Clegane and Samwell Tarly, who even though he was born as the first son, was demoted to the second son by his father Randyll Tarly.)

S3E08 focuses on Dany and the Second Sons in Essos, the wedding between Tyrion Lannister and Sansa Stark in King's Landing, and the evil things Stannis will allow Melissandre to do in order to get to the Iron Throne in Dragonstone. In fact, this episode was nicely paced, because these three stories dominated the action, with only two more locales shown: Arya and The Hound somewhere in the Riverlands and Sam and Gilly with nameless baby boy travelling beyond The The Wall.

The episode opens with Arya realizing that her captor (the hated Hound) is asleep and she finds a huge stone to bash his head in with. However just as she is poised to drop it and kill him, Clegane opens his eyes and says to go ahead and try but if she doesn't succeed he will break both her wrists. Arya quickly realizes it's not worth the risk. Soon afterwards we discover that The Hound is not taking Arya back to King's Landing and a horrible fate at the hands of the Lannisters but instead thinks he'll get more money from the Starks who are attending the wedding of Arya's uncle Edmure Tully to one of the Frey girls at the Twins a bit down the river. The look on Arya's face as she realizes she may actually be reunited with her mother and brother is heart-breaking, because (as a book reader) I know that happy event is not going to happen. Happiness is not a large part of Arya's future.

The episode closes with Sam again showing his incompetence (intentionally, I think) by not starting a fire in a deserted house he and Gilly are seeking shelter in during the night. Gilly suggests that they can keep warm by sharing their body heat under the covers and Sam's eyes light up lustfully. However, of course before that can happen we hear strange noises outside and it turns out an Ice Zombie (i.e. White Walker) is near. Amazingly, the cowardly Sam rushes towards the beast and it throws him aside easily and shatters his sword by merely touching it (presumably due to the extreme cold). The Walker then moves towards Gilly and the baby and Sam rushes towards the deadly creature again, this time with the sharp black stone (which from the books we know is obsidian) and plunges it into the Walker's back as Gilly screams and the White Walker explodes spectacularly into ice and water. This is the first time we have seen a White Walker destroyed in the television series so it is a big moment in the story. (Of course, this being Sam, he ruins the moment by dropping the weapon and he and Gilly run screaming into the night, chased by what looks like a thousand crows.) Roll credits.

In between, the three main stories are told well, although the one most likely to have the most significant impact on the course of the larger tale is probably the one with Melissandre seducing Gendry. While the two are having sex she ties him up and puts leeches on his body (including his engorged penis!) to obtain the "king's blood" (i.e. the blood of Robert Barratheon) running in his bastard veins. Stannis uses the leeches filled with his brother's son's blood in one of the Red Witch's eerie fires and calls for the death of three people: Robb Stark, Tywin Lannister and Balon Greyjoy. This is a good marker for the audience to see how powerful the Lord of Light is if anything happens to these three important people. Thanks to an intervention by Davos, Gendry is not killed for his blood, but this "demonstration" of the R'hllor's power is put together by Melissandre instead. That being said, things do not look too good for Gendry. Since this is a variation from the book I don't really know what is Arya's former travelling companion's future.

However, the story which is most interesting (and executed the best) in this episode is the first wedding of Season 3 (and first in a series of weddings that occur in the book A Storm of Swords): the union of Sansa Stark and Tyrion Lannister. Sansa has been repulsed by the Lannister dwarf since she first met him way back in Season 1 and the drastic change from thinking she was going to be wed to her crush Ser Loras Tyrell (a.k.a. The Knight of Flowers) to the reality of marrying The Imp has got to be soul-crushing. Even so the actual wedding is done very well and reveals numerous schisms among the powerful Lannister family. The odious King Joffrey serves as the father figure in the wedding because he is the titular "Father of the Realm" and gives Sansa away (which must be even more galling since Joffrey had her own father killed). Joffrey takes away the stool some kind person had placed there for the diminutive Tyrion to use during the actual saying of the vows and then leads the laughter when the wedding couple's height differences leads to awkwardness. Joffrey goes even further by threatening to rape Sansa on her wedding night, saying that she is just trying to get a Lannister baby inside her and doesn't matter which Lannister gives it to her, and that he would have two of his Kingsguard hold her down. Later on, Tyrion threatens to  "geld" Joffrey and Joffrey explodes, looking ready to sentence his uncle to death when his grandfather Tywin smooths the waters. The best part of the scene was the Queen of Thorns remarking to her grandson Loras that when he marries Cersei, instead of being Margaery's brother, he would also be her father-in-law (since her brother is marrying her fiance's mother!). The familial connections this would make are complicated and amusing. Cersei has an important moment when she explains the significance of the song "The Rains of Castermere" which is about the slaughter of "the second richest family in the Kingdom" to Margaery Tyrell, noting sweetly ("The Tyrells are the second richest family in Westeros, aren't they?") Cersei goes on to rebuff Margaery's gambit that "I want us to be like sisters" by saying "If you ever mention anything about us being sisters again I will have you strangled in your sleep" and later when her alleged fiance, Loras (Margaery's brother) approaches Cersei she snaps at him, rebuking him as well and demonstrating how upset she is at the loss of control over events in King's Landing.

There were many highlights of this episode

  • Sam The Slayer! Sam Tarly finally showing some spunk and slaying the White Walker. In a significant deviation from the book, he not only loses the obsidian weapon, but the incident occurs with only Gilly as a witness, which nullifies the impact it had on Sam's "street cred" among the fellow members of the Night's Watch in the books.
  • Bitchy Cersei. As Queen Regenct Cersei Lannister Lena Headey is doing Emmy-worthy work (as is Charles Dance as Lord Tywin Lannister, her father) but in S3E08 she had a short but very important scene and nailed it, communicating menace and bitchiness in very effective ways.
  • Naked Gendry! Of course the nudity of Game of Thrones is becoming legendary but they have started making sure that they are being even-handed about it by showing male nudity more. The sex scene between Gendry (Joe Dempsie) and Melissance (Carice van Houten) went on two long, but there's no question that both actors are handsome physical specimens.
  • Daario? Daario! We were finally introduced to Daario Naharis, who in the books we know becomes a love interest/crush object of Dany. He was played by a male model-looking guy named Ed Skrein, but in my mind the guy who they chose to play the leader of the Second Sons should have been cast as Daario instead.
  • Arya's Face. The look on Arya's face when The Hound tells her that he is taking her to the Tully-Frey wedding to ransom her back to her family is absolutely heart-breaking.

Not very many low-lights in this episode. The choice to focus on three main stories and book end those with two other scenes is an excellent format which I hope the show returns to in the future.

Grade: A-.
Overall, S3E08 was definitely better than S3E07, and very close to the quality of the three best episodes, (S3E03S3E04S3E05)  and probably equivalent to S3E06. All in all, the wait for the next episode, S3E09 (which will be aired next Sunday due to this week's Memorial Day holiday) will be excruciating! The final episode on Sunday June 9th will be breath-taking!

Bathsheba, Barbados

The Other Half just spent a lovely day touring the entire island of Barbados from coast to coast. This picture is a shot I took with my iPhone from an iconic spot in St. Joseph Parish called Bathsheba.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Puerto Rico Approves Strong LGBT Rights Bill!

Great news from Puerto Rico. The legislature gave final approval to two bills which will improve the public policy position of LGBT residents on the island. One bill with strengthen anti-discrimination protection in employment based on sexual orientation and gender identity and the other will include same-sex couples into Puerto Rico's domestic violence statutes.

The Washington Blade reports:
The Puerto Rico House of Representatives on Friday approved two bills that would ban anti-LGBT discrimination in the U.S. territory and add sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to the island’s domestic violence laws.
The voice votes on the two measures that each passed by a 29-22 vote margin took place at the end of a nearly three hour debate. Lawmakers had been scheduled to consider the bills on Thursday, but they adjourned after a marathon session that ended well after midnight.
“I can serve God without having to discriminate against anyone,” Rep. Lydia Méndez Silva of Sabana Grande said before she announced her support of the anti-discrimination bill.
Good news indeed! Congratulations to everyone involved, especially PJ Serrano!

Hat/tip to Blabbeando.

UK Marriage Equality Bill Now To House Of Lords

A marriage equality bill passed its 3rd (and final) reading in the British House of Commons this week by a vote of 366-161. According to an official summary of the legislation written by the Government, if it becomes law it will:

• provide that same sex couples can get married in England and Wales;
• provide that such marriages are to be treated the same as marriages between a man and a woman in England and Wales;
• permit marriage of same sex couples by way of a civil ceremony;
• permit marriage of same sex couples according to religious rites and usages where a religious organisation has opted in to that process (with the exception of the Church of England and the Church in Wales);
• provide a process by which the Church in Wales can request and obtain legislative change to allow marriages of same sex couples according to their rites if they wish to do so;
• provide that there will be no obligation or compulsion on religious organisations or individuals to carry out or participate in a religious marriage ceremony of a same sex couple;
• provide protection under equality law for religious organisations and individuals who do not wish to marry same sex couples in a religious ceremony.
The bill is now before the House of Lords, where it passed its first reading (equivalent to introduction) by voice vote and will have it second reading on June 3 with committee actions on June 17 and June 19. It is expected that heterosexual supremacists will try to derail the bill by getting unacceptable "poison pill" amendments added to the text of the legislation. However, it is possible that the British government can ignore any actions by the House of Lords by invoking the  Parliament Act.

In Barbados now

This is a view of the Careenage in Bridgetown, Barbados.

Friday, May 24, 2013

2013 FRENCH OPEN: Nadal & Djokovic In Same Half; Murray Out

The draw for the 2013 edition of the French Open has been released! With the news earlier in the week that World #3 Andy Murray was withdrawing from the tournament due to a back injury all eyes are on where World #4 (#3 seed and 7-time champion) Rafael Nadal would end up in the draw. It turns out that last year's champion is in the same half of the draw as World #1 Novak Djokovic, meaning that a reprise of last year's final is not possible, but a reprise of the 2011 final between Nadal and Roger Federer. The men's French Open tennis odds indicate that Nadal is the clear favorite against the field, with 8:11 odds. However, since a Djokovic-Nadal final is not going to happen, there are also odds for the various possible finals: Federer-Nadal (7:2), Ferrer-Nadal (11:2), Federer-Djokovic (17:2) and Ferrer-Djokovic (11:1). The possibility of some other combination is 8:11. So, curiously, the oddsmakers think that it is likely Nadal will win the tournament and they also think that it is just as likely that someone from the field will win the tournament. Federer has basically a dream draw and should have no problem reaching the quarterfinal against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

On the women's side of the drawdefending champion World #2 Maria Sharapova is in the other half of the draw from the clear favorite World #1 Serena Williams. World #3 (and 2013 Australian Open championVictoria Azarenka is in Sharapova's half of the draw, as are 2011 French Open champion Li Na and 2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova.

Interesting first round match-ups are Aravane Rezai versus Kvitova, Caroline Wozniacki versus Laura Robson, Mona Barthel versus Angelique Kerber and 2009 French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova versus Ekaterina Makarova.

On the men's side the first round matches to watch are Gael Monfils versus #5 seed Tomas Berdych, Milos Raonic versus Xavier Malisse, and Marcel Granollers and Feliciano Lopez.

Celebrity Friday, Barry Obama (circa 1979)

This picture of 17-year-old Barack "Barry" Obama at his senior prom has been making the rounds. It was taken just a few months before he would start school at Occidental College in Los Angeles (where I teach).

I think it is an interesting enough picture that it should be today's Celebrity Friday. Can you tell that he would become the first Black president of the United States? I can't! I wonder where the other people in the picture are now?

Hat/tip to Wonder Man

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Boy Scouts To Allow Gay Scouts, Exclude Gay Adults

The Boys Scouts of America have voted to end their ban on openly gay Scouts but did not vote on the existing ban on openly gay adult Scout leaders.

NBC News reports
Over 61 percent of Scouting's National Council of 1,400 delegates from across the country voted to lift the ban, BSA officials said. The final tally was 757 yes votes, to 475 no. The ban on gay leaders was not voted on and will remain in place. 
"This resolution today dealt with youth. We have not changed our adult membership standards. They have served us well for the last 100 years. Those were not on the table," said Tico Perez, BSA national commissioner.
The policy change will go into effect Jan. 1, 2014, "allowing the Boy Scouts of America the transition time needed to communicate and implement this policy to its approximately 116,000 Scouting units," the BSA said in a statement.
But the outcome of the historic ballot is not going to end the debate: Some opponents on the right said they would pull their sponsorships of packs and troops, and parents threatened to take their boys out of Scouting; LGBT activists said the policy change doesn't go far enough because gay adults still wouldn't be allowed to participate.
This is a nice step forward but the fact that they did not even consider the ban on openly gay adult Scout leaders is still quite problematic. However, some progress is better than none. It will only be merely a matter of time where openly gay Scouts who "age out" of the policy and want to remain involved with Scouting challenge the ban on openly gay adults.

Hat/tip to LGBT Think Progress

Traveling from Grenada to Barbados Today!

It's pretty rainy here today, as you can see but hopefully we will escape the clouds as we make the 55 minute hope from St. George's, Grenada (GND) to Christ Church, Barbados (BGI).

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

L.A. MAYOR 2013: Garcetti Beats Greuel 54-46!

As I predicted yesterday, Eric Garcetti will be the next Mayor of Los Angeles. He beat Wendy Greuel by a surprising 8 points, 54% to 46%, in a hard-fought, expensive campaign whose outcome was not known until after 3am local time! In fact, despite polls showing Garcetti ahead, when all the vote-by-mail ballots were counted, Greuel led 50.9% to 48.1% but turnout went up from the primary to the general election, to around 20%. Garcetti, at age 42 will be the youngest mayor in nearly a century and the first Jewish one.

The other election results were encouraging as well: openly gay Mitch O'Farrell will replace Garcetti on the City Council and openly gay Ron Galperin looks to be winning against soon-to-be ex-City Councilman Dennis Zine in the race to replace Greuel as Los Angeles City Controller. The voters strongly rejected the idea of a second term as City Attorney for Carmen Trutanich, choosing Mike Feuer instead.

And of the three marijuana measures, only Measure D passed.

All in all a good progressive election. Back to my vacation!!

Same-Sex Couples Dropped From Immigration Reform Bill

There has been a pretty disturbing development in Washington late yesterday while I was out celebrating my birthday at the Aquarium restaurant in Point Salines, Grenada. Senator Pat Leahy (D-Vermont) withdrew his amendment which would guarantee same-sex binational couples a right to stay together in the United States in the  comprehensive immigration reform bill the Senate Judiciary Committee was marking up. Basically, Leahy bent to political pressure fueled by homophobia from Republicans (and political cowardice from Democrats, most likely Senator Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer) to prevent the Uniting American Families Act from even getting a vote by the 20 member committee.

This is a huge loss for LGBT equality. President Obama issued a statement:

I applaud the Committee members for their hard work, especially “Gang of Eight” members Senators Schumer, Durbin, Graham and Flake. None of the Committee members got everything they wanted, and neither did I , but in the end, we all owe it to the American people to get the best possible result over the finish line. I encourage the full Senate to bring this bipartisan bill to the floor at the at the earliest possible opportunity and remain hopeful that the amendment process will lead to further improvements
Hopefully there will be more details in the near future about exactly who threw same-sex binational couples under the bus in the pursuit of political expedience. 

This should serve as a chilling reminder of the virulence of the strain of homophobia in the GOP and also a key indicator of the political power of the LGBT community. It is absolutely false that this bill was about recognizing same-sex marriage, it was about providing LGB Americans the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts to keep the person that they love ( who happens to be a foreign national) in the United States, regardless of the state where they reside and the status of marriage equality. 19 countries ( many of which do NOT have marriage equality) provide this option to their residents, the United States does not, and unless the Supreme Court negates the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), there will be NOTHING to help same-sex binational couples in federal law resolve their plight.

That being said, getting an immigration reform bill through the Senate is important, and the bill passed the committee 13-5 to the Senate floor. This issue can and should be revisited after June 27 when we know the status of DOMA.

5th Out LGBT Obama Federal Judge Confirmed: Michael McShane

The fifth openly LGBT federal judge during President Obama's tenure has been confirmed by a voice vote, according to a report by Buzzfeed's Chris Geidner. Michael McShane will serve as a federal district court judge for the District of Oregon. The other four openly lesbian or gay federal judges confirmed since January 2009 are J. Paul Oetken (U.S. District Court for Southern District in New York), Ali Nathan (U.S. District Court for Southern District in New York), Michael Fitzgerald (U.S. District Court  for Central District in California) and Pamela Ki Mai Chen (U.S. District Court for Eastern District in New York).

There are also several pending nominations of other LGBT federal judges, including the first openly gay Black man to be nominated for a federal judgeship, William L. Thomas and several nominated for federal appellate positions.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

L.A. MAYOR 2013: Election Today! Garcetti 48, Greuel 41

Today, besides being my 45th birthday, is also an important day because it is also Election Day for the next Mayor of Los Angeles. Eric Garcetti, 42, and Wendy Greuel, 51, are the two candidates competing in the run-off today. Garcetti, who this blog has endorsed, has been leading in almost every poll published since the March primary, but turnout is expected to be very low in today's general election so the result is still very much in doubt although recent polls also show that among people who have already voted by mail (like yours truly) Garcetti leads 48% to 42%, and 48% to 41% in how people say they intend to vote.
The survey, conducted from Tuesday through Thursday, showed a narrowing of the race since a survey a month earlier by the same researchers gave Garcetti a 10-point lead over Greuel. 
They are vying to replace Democratic Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who is stepping down after eight years because of term limits. 
The non-partisan campaign has centered on what Greuel and Garcetti agree is a dire financial outlook facing America's second most populous metropolis, and the political clout commanded by the city's public employee unions. 
The latest USC Price/LA Times poll indicated Garcetti had built a lead by forging an unusual coalition of liberal and conservative supporters and by winning over voters in the suburban and largely middle-class San Fernando Valley, which had been expected to be Greuel's stronghold.
Garcetti also has a slight lead in money spent, $9.4 million to  $8.9 million but has had more cash on hand in the final stretch than his opponent, but outside groups (mostly unions of city employees) have been breaking records to spend money to support Greuel, who is considered the slightly more conservative candidate.

I think Garcetti is going to take it (and I hope he does) but don't forget about the other races. Openly gay Ron Galperin is running for Los Angeles City Controller (against Dennis Zine) and openly gay David Vela is running for Los Angeles Community College District (Seat #6) against incumbent Nancy Pearlman. Progressive and very strong straight LGBT ally Mike Feuer is running against Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich. As for the three(!) marijuana measures on the ballot, I voted  Yes on Measure D and No on Measure E and No on Measure F.

Happy Birthday (To Me) In Grenada

Monday, May 20, 2013

France Officially Enacts Marriage Equality!

France officially enacted marriage equality this weekend when Socialist President Francois Hollande signed the measure passed by the French legislature last month into law on Saturday, one day after the nation's highest court ruled that the measure was indeed constitutional. France became the 14th country in the world to open civil marriage to same-sex couples.

Hollande made "marriage for all" a central plank of his presidential election campaign last year. On Friday, he tried to turn the page on months of bitter opposition to the measures, arguing it was "time to respect the law and the Republic".  
And he warned that he would tolerate no resistance. 
"I will ensure that the law applies across the whole territory, in full, and I will not accept any disruption of these marriages," said the president. 
French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira, who steered the legislation through parliament, has said the first gay marriages could be celebrated as early as June. 
Marriages in France must take place in town halls, most of which take around four weeks to process marriage applications. 
The issue of gay marriage and adoption has provoked months of acrimonious debate and hundreds of protests that have occasionally spilled over into violence and is unlikely to drop off the political agenda. 
Although the Constitutional Council approved the bill on Friday, the International Day Against Homophobia, its opponents have vowed to fight on.

Game of Thrones (S3E07): "The Bear and the Maiden Fair"

Episode 7 of Season 3 of Game of Thrones is titled "The Bear and the Maiden Fair" which in the fictional land of Westeros is avery famous song and as depicted in the image at the top of this post, refers to the plight one of our favorite characters, the gender-bending Brienne of Tarth, finds herself in  during this episode. S3E07 was written by George R.R. Martin, the author of the source material for the series of books which inspire the television series (it's not clear if we can call the HBO series an adaptation of the books any more since they have strayed so far from the original text). Martin's involvement raised expectations for this episode, which sadly were not really met.

As you know I have been blogging ever my reactions to every episode in Season 3 (click on the House Buckmire sigil in the left navigation bar for my Game of Thrones-related blogging). However, I was unable to write up my reaction to S3E07 in a timely fashion because I had to get ready for my 15-day Caribbean vacation (which I am currently on).  I will also probably not review S3E08 "Second Sons" until after I return to the United States on Friday May 31. Happily, I actually do have access to HBO at the place I am staying so I will try and view it at least once, but I can't promise a review. The soon-to-be infamous S3E09 "The Rains of Castamere" episode will air on Sunday June 2.

Anyway, one reason why I wasn't motivated to write about "The Bear and the Maiden Fair" was that it was somewhat disappointing. (Any episode in which Varys doesn't appear tends to be that way!) After the brilliant run of three great episodes (S3E03S3E04, S3E05) and one very good episode (S3E06) this 7th entry in the 10-episode season was mostly about setting up things that will conclude the season, so there was not much action or shattering events in this episode.

The main highlight of this episode was that Jon Snow, who is probably my favorite character in the books, finally got some dialogue for Kit Harrington (the actor who plays Jon Snow so fetchingly) to sink his teeth into and reveal more about the depths of his character. He has an excellent scene where he explains to his Wildling girlfriend Ygritte how he knows that the Wildlings are going to fail in their attempt to defeat the Night's Watch and invade Westeros. "Six times in the last thousand years, a King-beyond-the-Wall has attacked the kingdoms. Six times they failed. You don't have the discipline. You don't have the training. Your army is no army. You don't know how to fight together." Of course, the fiery red-head responds with her stock phrase "You know nothing, Jon Snow!" We will see...

The other highlight of S3E07 was of course Dany taking on the slavemasters of another city on the continent of Essos. She and her Unsullied army are camped outside of Yunkai when she is brought two trunks full of gold and the offer of a ship to sail to Westeros as a bribe if she will just leave Essos (and its slave trade) and go on and cause trouble someplace else. Dany doesn't take this well and neither does her dragon (which looks amazingly rendered on screen). Doesn't everybody know dragons love gold? The Yunkai dude is lucky to leave with  his life and Dany has another battle on her hand. Not only Yunkai but their "powerful friends," whoever they are.

Other highlights

  • Margaery Tyrell consoling Lady Sansa Stark and realizing that the Stark girl is really very clueless about how relationships work between (straight) men and women, revealing to the audience (and to a clueless Sansa) that she has a lot of knowledge about sex, which presumably comes from experience, which as a professed virgin about to marryKing Joffrey she really should not have (or be telling anyone).
  • Jamie Lannister jumping into the bear pit where Brienne has already been injured slightly after forcing Lord Bolton's men to turn around and go back to Harrenhal save her, after getting his stump treated by Maester Qyburn who we also find out has some unorthodox (i.e. vivisectional) proclivities of his own

The main problem with this episode was raised expectations not met. This happened in multiple scenes, starting from the confrontation (finally) between Lord Tywin Lannister and his teenage grandon King Joffrey Barratheon, the famous titular scene between Brienne of Tarth and a very large bear, and another scene with Tyrion trying to placate Shae (this time because he is being compelled by his father to marry her employer Sansa who she is already jealous of). All of these scenes should have been absolutely crackling and basically each one of them fizzled, or failed to meet (admittedly very high) expectations.

Grade: B-.
I understand that there can't be major action in every single episode of the show, and that a lot of the action of Game of Thrones is really in the dialogue and drama between the characters and the intricacy of their competing motivations. I just think S3E07 was not well-executed, which is pretty shocking since the source material was from the Source Himself, George R.R. Martin. Happily, the preview for (S3E08) "Second Sons" looks like we will atleast see an out-of-control Joffrey and the introduction of a potential love interest for Dany, the dashing Daario.


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