Sunday, August 31, 2014

2014 US OPEN: Kvitova(3) Shocked By Qualifier Krunic; Sharapova(5) Ousted By Resurgent Wozniacki

It's been an exciting weekend at the 2014 US Open so far with the disappearance of two major champions from the women's side of the draw. On Saturday, Serbian qualifier Miranda Krunic followed up her earlier upset of hard-hitting American teenager Madison Keys with an even more improbable straight sets 6-4 6-4dismissal of the reigning Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova to reach the 4th round of a major tournament.

Later on that day Serena Williams held off a stiff challenge from Varvara Lepchenko, doing well to win in straight sets 6-3 603 in very difficult, windy conditions.

Then on Sunday, the reigning French Open champion Maria Sharapova was ousted in three very entertaining sets 6-4 2-6 6-2 by a very determined Caroline Wozniacki. Wozniacki will next play Sara Errani and the former World #1 has a very good chance to reach her 3rd U.S. Open final in five years thanks to the upsets which have plagued the bottom half of the draw.

The first big upset occurred on the Men's Side on Sunday with #4 seed David Ferrer losing to Gilles Simon. This could potentially be bad news for Roger Federer, who has never lost to Ferrer but has often struggled against the Frenchman Simon, if both players reach the semifinals by winning their next two matches.

FILM REVIEW: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

This summer's crop of movies has been somewhat disappointing to me. The biggest box-office successes released in summer 2014 are: 1) Guardians of the Galaxy ($262M); 2) Captain America : The Winter Soldier ($259M); 3) Transformers : Age of Extinction ($243M); 4) Maleficent ($237M); 5) X-Men: Days of Future Past ($232M). As you can see, I have only seen 2 of the Top 5 box-office hits to date. In fact, of the three I haven't seen the only one I would probably be interested in trying to see

One of the summer's hits that I wanted to see but almost didn't get around to it is Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, which is at #6 on the summer box-office list with $204M. I didn't see the original in the theaters, but I did see it, and I was impressed by that reboot of the venerable Planet of the Apes franchise starring James Franco to be interested to see how the story develops.

The sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, does not star Franco, but instead is carried by performances by Gary Oldman, Jason Clarke and Andy Serkis (as the motion capture source for Caesar, the talking ape from the first film). However, what sets apart this film from the other summer entertainment is the direction by Matt Reeves as well as a surprisingly clever script.

The new film starts about ten years after the events of the first film. There has been an epidemic which has basically led to a collapse of civilization. The apes from the first film have formed their own society in the depopulated woods of Northern California with Caesar as their leader.

However conflict with the humans resumes when a group lead by Jason Clarke's character ventures into the woods  to try and restart a power station in order to maintain electricity to San Francisco, where a sizable contingent of survivors who are genetically immune to the contagion which has decimated society.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is the best film that I saw all summer long. The visual effects are truly astonishing, and within the first half-hour you really start to see the apes as fully realized characters with personalities and motivations clearly communicated (mostly through signs and subtitles). The story is compelling because it features both intra-species and inter-species conflicts.

Among the humans, there are factions that refuse to believe that the apes can be anything but dumb animals and want to use their technological advantages (particularly in armaments and weapons) to exterminate the apes and just take over the land that they want to insure their source of electricity.
However, there are humans who want to co-exist with the apes and they are able to negotiate with Caesar to give them enough access to the power station to fix it.

However, among the apes there are those who remember their torture and abuse (some would call it experiments in the name of science!) and who completely distrust the humans. They think that Caesar is too accommodating to the humans and when these apes learn of the stockpile of guns and ammunition the humans have back in the City they are sure this signals treacherous intentions among the humans.

So, the film's plot revolves around the worst elements in both factions inexorably leading the better, more openminded elements of the humans and apes into a violent conflict that will lead to many deaths on both sides.

All of this goes on in the context of the audience's knowledge of the future that these events presage a world where the apes are in complete ascendance and humans are viewed as chattel and uncivilized, violent creatures.

The result is an exciting, thought-provoking and emotionally satisfying movie which is great to look at and lingers with you afterwards as you ponder the issues it raised.

Title:  Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.
Director: Matt Reeves.
Running Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes.
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief strong language.
Release Date: July 11, 2014.
Viewing Date: August 18, 2014.

Writing: A.
Acting: C.
Visuals: A.
Impact: A-.

Overall Grade: B-/C+ (2.50/4.0).

Saturday, August 30, 2014

SATURDAY POLITICS: California Legislature Passes Plastic Bag Ban

Well, well, well! The California legislature has wrapped up its action for the 2014 year, sending numerous bills to the governor for his signature. One of the most closely watched bills was SB270, which would impose a statewide ban on the use of plastic bags.
Senators who had previously opposed the bill, including incoming Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, a Los Angeles Democrat, this time supported the measure after protections were added for plastic bag manufacturers. 
The bill by Democratic Sen. Alex Padilla of Los Angeles would prohibit single-use plastic bags at grocery stores and large pharmacies in 2015 and at convenience stores in 2016. 
It includes $2 million in loans to help manufacturers shift to producing reusable bags and lets grocers charge 10 cents each for paper and reusable bags.
The bill had sparked one of the most contentious debates in the last weeks of the legislative session, with aggressive lobbying by environmentalists and bag manufacturers.
Glad to see my state senator Kevin de Leon finally changed his position and supported this important legislation! I hope Governor Brown signs it into law soon.

Friday, August 29, 2014

2014 US OPEN: Venus Loses Bizarre 3-Set Battle To Errani; Halep(2) Upset Also

Venus Williams lost a bizarre match to Sara Errani of Italy, 6-0 0-6 7-6(5) in the 3rd round of the 2014 US Open. The two consecutive bagel sets were strange (but not the first time this has happened to Venus in New York) but aso was the fact that she lost to this opponent, sometone she had beaten easily in their first three meetings, giving up only 12 games total previously.

In other upsets on Friday, World #2 Simona Halep lost to Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in straight sets. Lucic-Baroni, who was something of a prodigy in the mid-1990s is now 32 years old and has now reached the 4th round of the uS Open.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

2014 US OPEN: Radwanska(4), Ivanovic(8), Cibulkova(12) and Kuznetsova(20) Lose Early

Agnieska Radwanska is the highest seed on either
side of the draw to lose in the first four days of competition
The early rounds of the 2014 US Open are coming to an end and so far all the upsets have been on the women's side of the draw. The #4, #8, #12 and #20 seeds, all very good hard-court players, have been ousted from the tournament. The biggest upset in terms of seeding and popularity is probably officially the straight-sets ouster of former World #2 Agnieska Radwanska at the hands of Peng Shuai, one of the best doubles players in the world.

To my mind, the biggest upset was Ana Ivanovic losing in the 2nd round to Karolina Pliskova despite having won the most matches on tour of any active player and playing quite well during the American hard court summer season, losing the finals of Cincinnati to Serena Williams.
Another surprising loss by a player who was playing well coming into Flushing Meadows was Svetlana Kuznetsova's departure in the first round.

The upset that is getting probably the most press is 15-year-old CiCi Bellis 3-set victory over 2014 Australian Open finalist Dominika Cibulkova. Bellis is more than 2 years younger than any other competitor in the main draw of either the men's or women's singles competition at this year's U.S. Open. She won her right to play by winning the Under-18 championships, the youngest payer to do so since Lindsay Davenport.

Serena and Venus Williams are safely through to the 3rd round. Also, 2014 French Open champion Maria Sharapova and 2014 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova did not get upset in their first two matches. Sharapova faces Sabine Lisicki in the 3rd round while Venus faces Sara Errani.

QUEER QUOTE: 7th Circuit Panel Eviscerates IND. & WIS. Arguments Against Marriage Equality

Today's Queer Quote comes from Tuesday's oral arguments before the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in marriage equality cases from Wisconsin (Wolf v. Walker) and Indiana (Baskin v. Bogan) where the three judge panel, which included the eminent jurist Richard Posner, completely demolished the states' arguments for their bans on marriage equality.

Posmer is a conservative judge and the intellectual lodestar of a form of jurisprudence that combines economics and conservative legal principles. He does not countenance fools lightly, and he savaged the lawyers making post hoc arguments to defend their states' marriage bans (when everyone knows that it was animus against gender-variant behavior that is at the root of these laws).

These excerpts, provided by Professor Josh Blackman, are today's Queer Quote:
Posner: What concrete factual arguments do you have against homosexual marriage?
Samuelson: Well, we have, uh, the Burkean argument, that it’s reasonable and rational to proceed slowly.
Posner: That’s the tradition argument. It’s feeble! Look, they could have trotted out Edmund Burke in the Loving case. What’s the difference? [Note: Loving v. Virginia was a 1967 decision striking down bans on interracial marriage] . . . There was a tradition of not allowing black and whites, and, actually, other interracial couples from marrying. It was a tradition. It got swept aside. Why is this tradition better?Samuelson: The tradition is based on experience. And it’s the tradition of western culture.
Posner: What experience! It’s based on hate, isn’t it?Samuelson: No, not at all, your honor.
Posner: You don’t think there’s a history of rather savage discrimination against homosexuals?
Ouch! But, wait, there's more!
  • “These people and their adopted children are harmed by your law,” Judge Richard Posner said of gay and lesbian couples who are barred from getting married. “The question is what is the offsetting benefit of your law. Who is being helped?”
  • Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General Timothy Samuelson responded that society as a whole benefited by preserving marriage as it has long been defined. Posner pressed on, asking if anyone would be harmed if same-sex couples were allowed to be married.
  • But Posner expressed skepticism of the idea that the states were trying to promote procreation. “You allow all these sterile couples to get married,” he said. “Why are you doing that if you’re so interested in procreation?”
  • Posner, who at times appeared to lecture the attorneys defending the bans, focused on the ability of same-sex couples to adopt children. He noted adopted children would benefit if their parents could claim the tax breaks and other perks of being married.
  • “These children would be better off if their parents could marry, no? It’s obvious,” Posner said.
  • “Why do you prefer heterosexual adoption to homosexual adoption?” Judge Posner, appointed to the bench by President Reagan, asked. When Fisher began responding that the marriage laws were unrelated to adoption, Posner was almost vitriolic in his response, saying of the state’s treatment of the children of same-sex couples, “You want them to be worse off.”
  • At different times, Posner referred to Fisher’s arguments as “pathetic,” “ridiculous,” and “absurd.”
  • “How can tradition be the reason?” he asked, mocking the answer by responding that saying “we’ve been doing a stupid thing” for a long time certainly wouldn’t be enough of a justification to uphold a law or practice.
 And this basically encapsulates why so many federal judges are ruling against state bans on marriage equality. There's no benefit to heterosexuals and there is clearly defined harm to same-sex couples (and their children).

Posner is described as the most cited legal theorist of the 20th century. Most observers expect a unanimous ruling from the 7th circuit upholding the lower court's judgments that state bans on marriage equality are unconstitutional under the federal constitution.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

TENNIS TUESDAY: Serena (Finally) Addresses Rumors About Her Bizarre Wimbledon Behavior

Serena Williams has (finally) addressed the rumors and innuendoes circulating to try to explain her erratic demeanor on the second Tuesday of Wimbledon three days after being surprisingly ousted by Alize Cornet in 3 sets in the 3rd round.

In an interview to Sports Illustrated, the 17-time major champion says:
“I have nothing to hide,” she says. “No, I didn’t take anything. If you want to ask me if I took drugs, I didn’t take drugs. I’m not on drugs. I’ve heard it all. I’m not pregnant; I wasn’t pregnant. Although I think a baby would be great, but there’s a time and place for everything. But no, I don’t do drugs. Never did ’em. I’m scared of ’em. I’m not on that stuff.”
Word had gone around that some in the women’s locker room that day, watching her distress live on TV, were pantomiming Serena drinking. 
But, Williams says, she wasn’t drunk, either. “God, no,” she says, laughing. “I wish.”
And she goes on to give her side of the story:
Her Wimbledon explanation: After losing meekly the previous Saturday in a third-round singles match to 25th seed Alizé Cornet, Williams took to her bed for the next three days, feeling dehydrated, dizzy and feverish, “just in my room, sweating like crazy.” She was not examined by a doctor. Venus urged her repeatedly to pull out of their Tuesday doubles match. “Begged me not to play,” Serena says.
Serena also says that the anti-doping testers showed up at her room at about 7am just as she was throwing up but she let them in and they took her sample. It has been almost 6 weeks since the incident and Serna says she has not been informed of anything being amiss.

Monday, August 25, 2014

EYE CANDY: Pierre Vuala

Pierre Vuala is a 24-year-old bodybuilder, personal trainer and fitness model from Miami, Florida. According to his Model Mayhem profile, he is 6 feet tall and weighs 200 pounds. Vuala has his own website, at and is active on Facebook and Twitter.

Hat/tip to Gorgeous Sexy Guys

Sunday, August 24, 2014

QUEER QUOTE: Science Publishes Response To Image Of Transgender Sex Workers

A few weeks ago the most prestigious science journal in the world, Science, published a special issue with numerous articles about HIV/AIDS in conjunction with the 20th International AIDS Conference being held in Melbourne, Australia. The July 11th issue used a cover of "transgender sex workers in Jakarta, Indonesia" although none of the articles in the issue had anything to do with this community.

The National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals NOGLSTP) wrote a letter to the editor ebuking Science for the ill-advised cover, which they published in the August 15 issue and Dr. Marcia McNutt (Science's first female editor in its 200-plus year history) responded.

Here is the text of Shelley Diamond's letter to the editor, which is today's Queer Quote:

I am Chair of the Board of Directors of the National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals (NOGLSTP) that encompasses lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) people in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. On behalf of NOGLSTP, an AAAS affiliate since 1994, I wish to register our indignation with the 11 July cover of Science showing transgender sex workers from Jakarta. The cover, a misguided attempt to pique interest in reading the special section on HIV/AIDS, has provoked many readers, including many members of our organization, to express their dismay at Science's lack of decorum and lack of sensitivity to a much maligned and misunderstood community. The scant attention the magazine paid to the transgender sex worker community makes these omissions all the more important. With one inappropriate picture, you have managed to stereotype all transgender women as sex workers and vectors of disease, as well as hyper-sexualize women of color in general. NOGLSTP applauds the articles presented in this issue, but we question why the cover explicitly shows transgender sex workers when there is no actual content in the articles about HIV prevention, care, or treatment efforts in these transgender communities. 
To avoid the kind of hurtful misunderstanding and atmosphere of disrespect that has been generated by this dehumanizing and insensitive decision, NOGLSTP leadership would have been happy to facilitate discussion between science and engineering leaders in the trans community and the editorial staff of Science regarding appropriate content as it relates to transgender sex workers and the struggles they face, of which HIV infection is but one. 
This incident should be used as a teachable moment to correct the prejudices of those who are insufficiently familiar with LGBTQ communities and their concerns. We exist in all cultures, ethnicities, and walks of life. We are proud scientists, engineers, mathematicians, doctors, and technologists who are part of the Science readership. The cover photo is unworthy of Science and AAAS. The LGBTQ communities, including in particular the trans community in this instance, deserve more respect than you have offered. The ethic of science demands that we regard all minds and people equally. 
Prejudice has no place in our endeavors. 
Rochelle DiamondChair, NOGLSTP Board of Directors, Pasadena, CA 91109, USA.E-mail:
And the response from the editor of Science, apologizing for using the image:
We deeply regret the harm done by the ill-considered choice of cover. Dr. Diamond, in her letter, has made constructive suggestions to help our organization prevent further misunderstandings with the LGBTQ communities, become more sensitive to their issues, and repair damaged relations. We are already in discussions on how to follow up on those recommendations. Many thanks to other leaders in the LGBTQ and other communities who have also graciously stepped forward with offers of help. 
Marcia McNuttEditor-in-Chief
I am a big fan of NOGLSTP (full disclosure: they gave me an award in 2011) and am glad to see that discussion about the image used in Science and an ackowledgement i print that LGBTQ people are part of the readership of Science. I personally was not offended by Science magazine's use of the photo to promote its special issue on AIDS but I can see how many people could have been offended and do agree that it was an "ill-considered choice."

It will be interesting to see how Dr. McNutt follows up with her letter. Perhaps some coverage of NOGLSTP's Out to Innovate summit in November 2014 or at the very least some discussion of the role of LGBTQ people in science would seem like reasonable actions.

2014 US OPEN: Federer and Serena Favorites To Win

Sadly I spent an hour or two writing a post on the analysis of the men's and women's draw for the 2014 U.S. Open but Blogger ate it! I really don't have the time or energy to try to replicate that post, but the summary is that Roger Federer and Serena Williams are the favorites to both win their 18th major title.

Friday, August 22, 2014

SCOTUS Stays Virginia Marriages, Maintains Suspense On Its Position On Marriage Equality

While I was driving from Los Angeles to Albuquerque via Tucson on Wednesday, the Supreme Court issued a stay in the Virginia marriage equality case Bostic v Schaefer, preventing same-sex marriages from happening in that state the next day. This was not a surprise, as the Court has issued stays four other times this year in other similar cases. However, these actions don't really tell us much about what the Supreme Court will ultimately rule on the marriage equality question, says noted Supreme Court expert Lyle Denniston at SCOTUS blog:
Through all of this year, from January on, the Court could not help but be aware of what was happening in the lower courts, with a string of decisions nullifying state bans on same-sex marriage.  The fact that the Court has been drawn in on five occasions has kept it in the middle of the controversy, even if it has mostly kept its own counsel about what it is thinking. 
With a little more than five weeks until the Justices assemble in their first private Conference, in advance of the new Term starting October 6, it is by no means clear that any same-sex marriage case will be ready for the Justices to consider it on September 29.  That depends, in part, on whether the Court will have cases before it one at a time, as each is ready, or in a group., when several are ready. 
The last scheduled day for distributing a case for consideration by the Justices at the September 29 meeting is September 10 — now, just three weeks away.  The pending Utah case has a fair prospect of being ready then, but there is reason to doubt at this point that the pending Oklahoma and Virginia cases will be complete.  The lawyers involved have said they were working diligently to push matters along, but the clock is against them for action by the Justices at the outset of the new Term. 
There will be plenty of time, though, to get a case before the Court for decision during the new Term.  If a case is accepted for review by sometime next January, it is almost certain to be decided before the end of the Term, late next June. 
Is a grant of review a certainty in coming months?  There is never a sufficiently strong advance signal to predict that.

So, basically even if a critical mass of marriage cases is not ready by the September 10th deadline, almost certainly enough will be ready by the January deadline that the Court will have take a position (of whether they want to decide these cases outright, or to wait for a Circuit split and then a likely ruling in an election year instead of in 2015). I suspect we'll have an answer by June 2015 and it will be one that surprises most people.

CELEBRITY FRIDAY: Richard Chamberlain Discusses His Hollywood's Closet

80-year-old Richard Chamberlain has been in the public eye for well over a half-century, since he bewitched audiences with his appearance on Dr. Kildare in 1961 as doctor on the hit television series. However, even as Chamberlain became a Hollywood heart throb and all through the peak of his celebrity he maintained a secret: he was a gay man.

He eventually came out about a decade ago in his 2003 memoir Shattered Love but now Chamberlain is discussing his Hollywood career with the Bay Area Reporter from the perspective of looking back on it as an openly gay man.
"I knew I was gay at age 11 or 12, but I grew up in the 1930s and 40s, when being gay was not an option. I spent a lot of time trying to be someone else. My friends knew, but in Hollywood I was a romantic leading man, so I always lived in fear of being outed. When I started writing my book at age 65, I thought it would be a guide-to-life kind of thing, but my partner at the time and my publisher said, 'You've got to make it personal, and being gay is part of the story.' "While I was writing, it was almost as if an angel walked into the room and said, 'Richard, it's over. All this fear, this self-loathing is just stupid.' The message got right into my bones, and all the fear and self-loathing vanished."

Hat/tip Joe Jervis

Thursday, August 21, 2014

I'm on a road trip to the Land of Enchantment!

MadProfessah is on a road trip from Los Angeles to Albuquerque, New Mexico via Tucson, Arizona and Las Cruces, NM so blogging may be spotty the next few days...

BOOK REVIEW: Brent Weeks' The Black Prism

Brent Weeks is the author of the acclaimed The Night Angel trilogy (The Way of Shadows, Shadow's Edge and Beyond the Shadows). He has a new series out, called the Lightbringer series. The first book is titled The Black Prism, and it is really, really good. As regular readers of this blog know, I am an aficionado of genre fiction, primarily "hard" science fiction (space opera in the mold of Peter F. Hamilton, Alastair Reynolds, Richard K. Morgan and James S.A. Corey) and mystery thrillers (Henning Mankell, Peter Robinson, Michael Connelly, Ian Rankin and Jo Nesbø). I also read some fantasy, but only what I would consider the very top of the line stuff (like George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, Peter Brett's Demon Cycle saga, Daniel Abraham's The Dagger and the Coin series and some Brandon Sanderson). I would add Weeks to this list of great fantasy writers on the strength of his first trilogy and the promise of how good his second one, the Lightbringer series, is shaping up to be.

Like his Night Angel trilogy, the Lightbringer trilogy has as its central character an orphaned boy who may have special powers. Although this sounds cliched, in both series Weeks  makes things interesting by adding surprising elements to his characterizations of lead and supporting characters.
The main character is Kip, an overweight 15-year-old who is literally the son of the village idiot. They live in a region called Tyrea which is one of the Seven Satrapies which comprise the known world. Tyrea is shunned because it was devastated during a recent war and so anything associated with Tyrea is considered unlucky, backwards and shameful.

The Lightbringer series is built around an interesting, if complicated magic system which is based around using light and a magical substance called luxin to do amazing things. Because of this magical system, the central power structure is called the Chromeria, and is headed by a person called the Prism, who has the rare power to use luxin combined with light of any color. Very few people can use luxin at all, and usually if they can they can only use it with one or possibly two hues.

It turns out that not only can Kip use (or "draft") luxin (in more than one color) but that he is also the illegitimate son of the current Prism, Gavin Guile, who defeated his own brother Dazen Guile 16 years ago during a civil war known as the Two Prisms War. Kip is brought to the Chromeria and so we have a typical "fish out of water" tale combined with the youngster with hidden powers tale.
There is also a fair amount of political intrigue around the governing of the Chromeria itself and when a dangerous insurrection starts up (in Tyrea, of course) The Black Prism becomes a bit of war tale as well.

I don't want to go reveal too many more aspects of the plot, I hope that I have given you a taste of the book and a sense that regardless of what kind of fantasy plots you like (rooting for the underdog, palace intrigue, complicated magic system, big action scenes of battle or the will they or won't they of star-crossed lovers) you will enjoy The Black Prism because all of these themes (and more) are included in its pages.

Apparently, The Black Prism is the first book of a four book series. I have also bought (in hardcover!) and read the second book (The Blinding Knife), which is possibly even better and I am looking forward to reading the third book, The Broken Eye when it comes out later this summer, and of course the final book, The Blood Mirror.

Title:  The Black Prism.
Author: Brent Weeks.
Length: 688 pages.
Publisher: Orbit.
Published: July 23, 2013.

OVERALL GRADE: A/A- (3.83/4.0).


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

TENNIS TUESDAY: Ivanovic #9 Leapfrogs Jankovic #10; Azarenka Plummets to #17; Berdych Slumps To #7

Ana Ivanovic's gutsy 3-set win over Maria Sharapova on Saturday night in the Cincinnati semfinals allowed her to leapfrog her countrywoman Jelena Jankovic to reach World #9 on the WTA rankings this week, which means she will be seeded in the Top 8 of the U.S. Open next week due to Li Na's withdrawal from the tournament.

Simona Halep continues at World #2 in the rankings after losing a tight 3-set match to Sharapova in the quarterfinals of the Cincinnati tournament despite being up a break in the last two sets.

2-time major champion Victoria Azarenka plummeted to World #17 in the rankings after failing to defend her championship points in Cincinnati. She's trying to get her game back after being off the tour for several months with an injury.

Tomas Berdych's slump continues, although being at World #7 in the rankings is still an impressive achievement.

Rafael Nadal's withdrawal yesterday from the US Open means that he will lose the 2000 points from his 2013 win, but in order for Roger Federer to leapfrog his arch-nemesis and reach World #2  immediately the 17-time major champion would need to win his record 18th major in New York.

Monday, August 18, 2014

2014 US OPEN: Nadal Unable To Defend Title Due To Wrist Injury

Defending champion Rafael Nadal withdrew from the 2014 US Open today, one week before the tournament starts due to a wrist injury which has prevented the former 14-time major champion from defending any of his ranking points won in his undefeated 2013 hard court summer season where he won 3 titles (Cincinnati, Montreal and New York).

Nadal issued a statement in English and Spanish on Facebook:
Siento anunciar que no podré participar en el US Open, torneo en el que en los últimos años he tenido muy buenos resultados. Entenderéis que es un momento duro para mi porque es un torneo que me encanta y en el que tengo muy buenos recuerdos, de los fans, de los partidos nocturnos, de tantas cosas. No me queda otra que aceptar que no puedo competir este año y como siempre trabajar para que cuando vuelva esté preparado de la mejor manera para competir. 
I am very sorry to announce I won’t be able to play at this year’s US Open a tournament on which I’ve played 3 consecutive finals in my last participations. I am sure you understand that it is a very tough moment for me since it is a tournament I love and where I have great memories from fans, the night matches, so many things… Not much more I can do right now, other than accept the situation and, as always in my case, work hard in order to be able to compete at the highest level once I am back.

Nadal's withdrawal means that Roger Federer will be seeded #2 at this year's U.S. Open and will be unable to meet World #1 Novak Djokovic before the final. Federer and Djokovic met in four consecutive semifinals from 2009 to 2012 (with Federer only winning once, in 2009, but losing the final to Juan Martin del Potro) and Djokovic has reached the final the last four years, winning only once (in 2011, defeating Nadal). It also means that World #9 (and 2012 US Open champion) Andy Murray will be seeded #8 and thus could not meet Federer or Djokovic until the quarterfinal at the earliest.

2014 HUGO AWARDS: Ann Leckie's Ancillary Justice Wins Best Novel

The 2014 Hugo Awards were announced in London yesterday and Ann Leckie's debut novel, Ancillary Justice, won Best Novel. Ancillary Justice is one of the most celebrated science fiction novels of all time, having earlier this year won the Nebula award for Best Novel as well.

Leckie, 48, has also won the British Science Fiction award and the Arthur C. Clarke award for Ancillary Justice. According to Kameron Hurley (who won 2 Hugo awards yesterday!), it is the first book in history to win the Clarke, Hugo and Nebula awards. It also won the Locus award for Best First Novel, while Abaddon's Gate won the Best Science Fiction Novel award.

I have now read the book and while I think it is good (possibly great) I probably would have voted for Charlie Stross's Neptune's Brood instead. Happily, Stross won a Hugo award for Best Novella.

I will try to get my review of Ancillary Justice posted before the sequel, Ancillary Sword is released on October 7, 2014. Ancillary Justice has received much acclaim for the thought-provoking way in which gender is dealt with in the book.

The Hugo award winner for Best Short Story was an interesting story by John Chu called "The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere" which has gay sexuality at its core. Other notable wins were Gravity for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form and Game of Thrones ("The Rains of Castamere") for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form.

One of my favorite sci-fi blogs, A Dribble of Ink won a Hugo for Best fanzine!

EYE CANDY: David Lovelace

David Lovelace is an African-American male model from Houston, Texas. According to his Model Mayhem profile, he is 37 years old, 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds. He has a Facebook page where he is listed as a pro natural bodybuilder as David A Lovelace and another where he is listed as a model.

I think you can see why!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

2014 CINCINNATI: Federer Defeats Ferrer To Win 80th ATP Title

Roger Federer won his 80th ATP career title by defeating David Ferrer 6-3 1-6 6-2 in the finals of the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati. This match was the first ATP Masters series final to feature two players above the age of 30. It was Federer's 22nd ATP Masters shield, placing him five behind Rafael Nadal's record total at 27 and 3 ahead of Novak Djokovic's 19. It was Federer's first win at this level since his 2012 win (in Cincinnati over Djokovic) and stopped a streak of four losses in a row in ATP masters series finals (l. Tsonga in Toronto 2014, l. Wawrinka in Monte Carlo 2014, l. Djokovic in Indian Wells 2014 and l. Nadal in Rome 2013).

Federer has now won in Cincinnati six times: 2014, 2012, 2010, 2009, 2007 and 2005. His career total of 80 is 3rd on the all-time list. Only Jimmy Connors (109) and Ivan Lendl (97) have won more. Federer is now 80-41 in career finals and 3-4 in finals this year. He has the most wins on tour of any active player: 49 and beat three top 10 players on his way to the title: Milos Raonic, David Ferrer and Andy Murray.

2014 CINCINNATI: Serena Defeats Ivanovic To Win 5th Title of 2014

As expected, World #1 Serena Williams defeated Ana Ivanovic 6-4 6-1 to win the final of the Western & Southern Open, her 5th title of 2014, the 62nd WTA tour title of her career but her first in Cincinnati after 6 appearances. Just by reaching the final, Serena clinched the title of the 2014 US Open Series and will have the opportunity to win a record $4 million if she defends her 2013 US Open championship.

2014 CINCINNATI: Ivanovic Defeats Sharapova In 3-Set Drama; Faces Serena In Final

Ana Ivanovic dominated Maria Sharapova for the first 12 games of their semifinal match at the Western & Southern Financial Open, racing out to a 6-2 4-0 lead when a controversial call came at 30-all which robbed the Serb of a point. Sharapova was able to grab the momentum by breaking and holding serve and eventually stole the second set despite being down 2-5 by winning 5 consecutive games while Ivanovic got more tentative as the Russian hit with more authority. After a quick break early in the 3rd set almost everyone was expecting Sharapova's 8-3 head-to-head record to be decisive. Especially after Ivanovic stopped play soon afterwards in the 3rd set to have her blood pressure checked after she complained of intense nausea and pain.  Ivanovic was able to break back to even the match at 2-all but Sharapova went up a break again to lead 4-2 and 5-4. However, amazingly Ivanovic was able to save two match points on Sharapova's serve at down 4-5 and eventually the Russian double-faulted to even the third set at 5-all. Sharapova was not happy by this turn of events and mouthed clearly "Check her blood pressure!"

However, Ivanovic showed why she leads the WTA tour with the most wins on tour this year by holding serve and hanging touch in Sharapova's service game to go up 4-12 for double match point. Ivanovic squandered the first when she challenged a line skipper that was clearly in but on her second she hit a powerful crosscourt backhand that Sharapova could not handle to end the year's most dramatic contest 6-2 5-7 7-5.

Ivanovic will face Serena Williams in the final. Serena came back to beat her good friend Caroline Wozniacki  in 3-sets for the second consecutive week. This time it was 2-6 6-2 6-4.

Serena leads Ivanovic 6-1 in their career head to head but the sole loss came earlier this year at the Australian Open and the two have played 3 times so far in 2014, with all three meetings going to three sets. The two are playing in their 5th tour final of the year on Sunday, with Serena sporting a 4-0 record and Ana a 3-1 record. If Ana plays on Sunday the way she started the match with Sharapova it will be  a rough match at the office for the World #1. However, I doubt that she ca come back from such an emotional win and put up a similar level of play two days running.

MadProfessah's pick: Serena!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

MOVIE REVIEW: Guardians of the Galaxy

The latest movie from Marvel Studios is Guardians of the Galaxy. This movie has been heavily marketed and I really had not intended to see it but after it was released the film earned excellent reviews and stellar ratings at (92% critics, 96% audience). The film stars Chris Pratt as Peter Quill a.k.a. Star Lord, the sole human member of a rag tag group of misfits and criminals from across the Galaxy that includes Groot (a talking and walking tree-like alien, voiced by Vin Diesel), Rocket (a small furry alien who resembles a raccoon, voiced by Bradley Cooper), Gamora (a green-skinned humanoid played by Zoe Saldana who is also a deadly assassin and daughter of the villainous Thanos) and Drax (a muscular, powerful humanoid who takes all statements a little too literally, played by Dave Bautista).

Guardians of the Galaxy is bolstered by a breakout performance by Pratt as Star Lord. He is funny, sexy, geeky and charismatic--sometimes in the same scene! Pratt is definitely the best thing about the movie, but after him the next best thing is the overall "vibe" of the film, which irreverent and fun. It is also, quite often, a bit ridiculous.

Some examples of the ridiculous aspects of the film include: 1) Glenn Close's hair and make-up (playing the leader of the planet Xandar whose people Thanos is trying to exterminate) is comically bad, resembling a cartoon. 2) Peter Quill has a mixtape of 70's and 80's hit songs from his dead mother which we are to believe that even though these civilizations have spaceships and advanced technology they don't have digital copies of music? 3) There's a scene which takes place in a prison which our characters will of course break out of (is this a spoiler?). The ridiculous part of the scene is basically how easily our heroes escape because of how incompetent the guards are as well as the venality of the other prisoners.

The irreverent vibe is exemplified by the film's great soundtrack and Pratt's goofy but effective dancing, to songs like "Oooh Child," "I'm Not In Love," and "Ain't No Mountain High Enough." Another example is the Star Trek like make-up to indicate alien physiognomy.

Overall, Guardians of the Galaxy is a classic sci-fi romp, reminiscent of the original Star Wars  (in tone) but with flaws reminiscent of other fun films like The Fifth Element and Serenity. What I'm trying to say is that Guardians of the Galaxy is definitely worth seeing and an enjoyable entertainment.

Title: Guardians of the Galaxy.
Director: James Gunn.
Running Time: 2 hours, 1 minute.
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language.
Release Date: August 1, 2014.
Viewing Date: August 10, 2014.

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

Overall Grade: B+/A- (3.50/4.0).

Friday, August 15, 2014

CELEBRITY FRIDAY: With Lauren Bacall's Death, Every Star In Madonna's Vogue Is Dead

Madonna's 1990 hit song Vogue is well-known for its name-checking bridge, where the Material Girl gives shout outs to some of Hollywood's greatest classic stars. With the death of Lauren Bacall on Tuesday at the age of 89, everyone mentioned in the song is now dead. It's also one of my favorite songs of all time!

Matthew Rettenmund at Boy Culture recounts the 16 celebrities who were mentioned in Madonna's song:
#8 Greta Garbo (September 18, 1905—April 15, 1990)
#3 Marilyn Monroe (June 1, 1926—August 5, 1962)
#9 Marlene Dietrich (December 27, 1901—May 6, 1992)
#13 Joe DiMaggio (November 25, 1914—March 8, 1999)
#14 Marlon Brando (April 3, 1924—July 1, 2004)
#2 James Dean (February 8, 1931—September 30, 1955)
#4 Grace Kelly (November 12, 1929—September 14, 1982)
#1 Jean Harlow (March 3, 1911—June 7, 1937)
#12 Gene Kelly (August 23, 1912—February 2, 1996)
#6 Fred Astaire (May 10, 1899—June 22, 1987)
#10 Ginger Rogers (July 16, 1911—April 25, 1995)
#5 Rita Hayworth (October 17, 1918—May 14, 1987)
#16 Lauren Bacall (September 16, 1924—August 12, 2014)
#14 Katharine Hepburn (May 12, 1907—June 29, 2003)
#11 Lana Turner (February 8, 1921—June 29, 1995)
#7 Bette Davis (April 5, 1908—October 6, 1989)
The stars are listed in the order that they were mentioned in the song (which if you click on the image at the top of the post has the text of the bridge).

Hat/tip to Kenneth in the 212 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

President Obama Makes Statement About Disturbing Police Activity In Ferguson, MO

President Obama has made an appearance where he uses the term "excessive force" in describing the disturbing situation in Ferguson, MO. Obama where the police have been using aggressively militaristic tactics like tear gas, firing rubber bullets at protesters and arresting journalists to "maintain order" in response to community protests about the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, an unarmed African American male, on Saturday August 9.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

HISTORIC FIRST: Fields Medal (Mathematics' Nobel Equivalent) Goes To Female Stanford Professor

Maryam Mirzakhani is the first woman to win mathematics' most prestigious prize
Finally! After 80 years, the most prestigious prize in mathematics, the Fields Medal has been awarded to a woman. Maryam Mirzakhani, currently a full professor at Stanford University was declared one of four winners of Mathematics' Nobel-equivalent at the International Mathematics Union in Seoul, Korea today.

The Guardian reports:
Born in 1977 in Tehran, Iran, Maryam Mirzakhani received her Ph.D in 2004 from Harvard University, where her advisor was Curtis McMullen. From 2004 to 2008 she was a Clay Mathematics Institute Research Fellow and an assistant professor at Princeton University. She is currently a professor at Stanford University. Her honors include the 2009 Blumenthal Award for the Advancement of Research in Pure Mathematics and the 2013 Satter Prize of the American Mathematical Society.
I wonder if any media outlets will be requesting comment on Mirzakhani's breakthrough achievement from Larry Summers?

4th Circuit Denies Request For Stay In Virginia Marriage Equality Case

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has refused to prevent its July 28th ruling opening up Virginia's discriminatory marriage laws to same-sex couples from going into effect next week.

The action by a 3-judge panel in the Bostic v. Schaefer case means that unless the U.S. Supreme Court intervenes, which it almost certainly will, Virginia same-sex couples could start getting married next Wednesday August 20.

This is unlikely to happen, as the U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled in the 10th Circuit case of Kitchen v. Herbert that a stay could be issued while Utah appeals its loss at the federal district and federal appellate levels.

Hat/tip to Joe Jervis

GODLESS WEDNESDAY: Poll Indicates LGBT Americans Less Religious

Joe.My.God pointed out a recent Gallup poll which demonstrates that LGBT Americans are less religious than other Americans. In my mind, this is a good thing!

Gallup explains the difference may be explained:
The under-representation of LGBT Americans in the ranks of the religious in the U.S. today has a number of possible causes. Some of these center on the effect of church policies and doctrine, which have historically been disapproving of non-heterosexual love and relations, while others may reflect demographic and geographic differences in the LGBT population compared with the rest of the population. 
Societal attitudes toward same-sex relations have become more accepting, and recent stances taken by several churches and religions reflect this. Just this summer, the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted to allow that denomination's ministers to perform same-sex marriages in states where it is legal. If these types of shifts continue, LGBT adults may be more likely to feel welcome in attending churches and other religious institutions, as well as in identifying as religious, personally.
So maybe that's why atheism and gayness go together like rainbow flags and pride parades!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

QUEER QUOTE: LGBT Groups Issue Statement On Michael Brown Killing

The fatal shooting of an unarmed 18-year-old Black man named Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri (just outside St. Louis) has been roiling the internets since it happened on Saturday August 9.

LGBT groups are often criticized by other progressive groups, especially African American civil rights organizations for a lack of reciprocity when it comes to coalition work but today comes word of a joint statement from numerous LGBT groups about the heinous Michael Brown killing:
When communities experience fear, harassment and brutality simply because of who they are or how they look, we are failing as a nation. In light of the recent events in Missouri, it is clearer than ever that there is something profoundly wrong in our country. The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community cannot be silent at this moment, because LGBT people come from all races, creeds, faiths and backgrounds, and because all movements of equality are deeply connected. We are all part of the fabric of this nation and the promise of liberty and justice for all is yet to be fulfilled. 
The LGBT community stands with the family of Michael Brown, who was gunned down in Ferguson, Missouri. We stand with the mothers and fathers of young Black men and women who fear for the safety of their children each time they leave their homes. We call on the national and local media to be responsible and steadfast in their coverage of this story and others like it--racialized killings that have marred this nation since the beginning of its history. We call on policy makers on all levels of American government not to shrink from action, and we are deeply grateful to Attorney General Eric Holder and the Department of Justice for their immediate commitment to a thorough investigation. At this moment, we are inspired by the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies … but the silence of our friends." 
ACLUCenter for Black Equity, Inc.Equality FederationGay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD)GMHCHuman Rights CampaignNational Black Justice CoalitionNational Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR)National Center for Transgender EqualityNational Gay and Lesbian Task ForceNational Minority AIDS CouncilNational Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA)PFLAG NationalPride at Work, AFL-CIOSoulforceSoutherners on New Ground (SONG)United AIDS
Good work!

Even while on vacation, President Barack Obama has also commented on the shooting, calling it "heartbreaking."


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