Monday, March 31, 2008

Black Party 2008 Recap

Once again I failed to delay my arrival at the Black Party to an hour more amenable to sustaining my energy until the close of the event, an accomplishment I have only made four or five times in fifteen attendances, of which this year's was my eleventh consecutive. Boo me.

But as I had many out of town friends visiting, there was once again the pre-party gathering at a Times Square hotel, this time at the decidedly undeluxe Milford Plaza, where The Thruple hosted myself, my houseguest, Chris, Little Tom, and my buddy Leif and his trio of fellow SFers. (Downside: ten gay men, one bathroom mirror.) Everybody arrived at the hotel at midnight, already in full gear, much to the amusement of the hotel staff. After a couple of hours of beer drinking, gossiping, and recountings of previous Black Parties, the anticipation got to be too much for some of the boys and reluctantly I followed them out the door. Here's how things went.

2AM: A short line at the door, a very quick ticket pick-up, then an amazingly efficient experience at the coat check (10 minutes!). We thought we were seeing the first drug collapse of the evening when a guy in the coat check line fell to the floor with his eyes closed and twitched about, but he was just pranking his friends. Oh, hilarious. Up on the dance floor there were probably four thousand guys already in the room, a bit surprising considering our relatively early arrival. Opening DJ Stephan Grondin was four hours into his set, which seemed to be going over well. I was pleased to hear Yello's 1980 classic Bostich and an updating of Cole & Clivilles' Do It Properly, although it was so altered I couldn't tell if it was a cover or the remix of the original.

2:15AM: We establish "Lost Children", a technique of setting a specific location in the room where at least some of our group can always be found again by those who have wandered off to explore. This year our home base was on the northwest corner of the dance floor and Lost Children worked pretty well to keep our guys together (when they wanted to be). Despite this, my houseguest and Little Tom are not seen again for the duration of the party. Dr. Jeff and Matt find us quickly.

2:30AM: The placement of a pool table in the lobby bar is explained when I encounter a porn star crouched on it as he's sodomized with the fat end of a pool cue. When the other guy starts shoving billiard balls in the porn star's ass, I move along. Seen that party trick already. On the way back from the bar I notice that the porn star's ass is now being filled with the contents of a beer bottle. Judging by the horrified shrieks that I hear as I leave the room, I guess that some spectators regret standing within spray distance.

4:00AM: Headliner DJ Jonathan Peters takes over. The dance area is much more crowded, but surprisingly we have little difficulty navigating the crowds to get to the bar in time for last call. Back at Lost Children, our family has grown to 20 or 30 friends and friends of friends. Lots of chat-dancing.

4:30AM: I make my only tour of the balcony area on my way to the upstairs restroom. On a stage a man is being hung with hooks through his back. Oh, the blood. Move along, Joe. Nearby, men are entering a large tent, which seems far too brightly lit inside for the kind of shenanigans I can see going on. At the other end of the balcony, I'm tempted to enter the long dark back room, something I've never done. I know that DJ Gustavo is way in the back, spinning for the huddled masses. I can hear his music, but I decide that it's not worth the trouble to push back there to see him. Mistaking my uncertainty, a perky young man stationed at the door shoves condoms, lube, and a tiny flashlight into my hands. I return the items to him, saying, "Maybe later," but I never make it back upstairs. In the bathroom, the snap breaks on my decades-old leather belt. Dammit.

5:00AM: Another sex show on the pool table. A young woman with short blond hair is dressed as a park ranger/zoo keeper as she is interviewed by a fake TV crew. Or maybe a real one. Who knows? A group of bare-breasted women wearing strap-ons proceed to "overcome" the park ranger and pillage her on the pool table. Were the other women supposed to be wild animals meting out justice on their cruel captor? Who knows? Not wanting to risk the sight of va-jay-jay, I move away quickly.

5:30AM: The main stage on the dance floor is a three-story mountain with a cave in the middle of the rocks. In the cave, an enormously obese woman wearing a giant pig head is lying in a sling over a roaring (fake) fire. OK, whatever. I go back to Lost Children and send some of our crew to see her. Minutes later the distinct smell of cooking bacon wafts over the dance floor, where it will linger for the next hour. Black Party, now in Odorama! A damn funny touch.

6:30AM: In anticipation of Little David's performance in the main show, we herd our group in front of the stage. The fat woman in the pig head is still in the sling when the music changes abruptly to the slow intro of a dance version of Stairway To Heaven. The crowd surges forward. One by one, very young men slathered with war paint climb onto the stage from the audience. I think they're dressed as school boys, maybe from one of those schools where the students are extremely ripped and don't wear shirts. Simultaneously, a chain is lowered over the dance floor and two very muscular young men ascend the chain by hand and begin to perform one of those aerialist acts that became a somewhat common feature of late 90's circuit parties. They are very, very good. On the stage, the boys wrestle Pig-head Woman from the sling and slap her around before their leader produces a butcher knife and slits her throat. Oh, the blood. Again. Fake blood this time, but still. Pig-Head Woman is decapitated and the leader of the boys holds the dripping head over his face as the blood pours down. I look around to see that the scene is being recorded by a dozen or more iPhones. So much for the "no cameras" rule. On the second tier of the mountain, two guys are using metal grinders to shoot up brilliant arcs of orange sparks. A man in rock-climbing gear begins to hoist himself up the mountain over the cave entrance, but when he reaches head-level, one of the war boys shoves a dildo in his ass. You don't see that at Crunch! Probably. Dr. Jeff and I cannot decide if any of the painted boys are Little David, but as we later find out, he and four other men are performing nude yoga poses on the top level of the mountain, out of our sight from the front of the stage. He did tell us we'd need to stand back to see him, but I'd forgotten. Sorry, David! On the cave level, additional buckets of blood appear and all the boys on the stage douse each other with it and generally writhe around. The end. Somebody suggests to me that the entire performance may have been meant to be evocative of Lord Of The Flies, but the metaphors of performance art have often eluded me. I've seen dozens of Black Party shows and this one baffles me most.

7:30AM: "Hello Black Party 2008! Woooo!" With that, a woman in a ginormous white afro and a floor-length white coat emerges from the cave on the stage and launches into a dance number. She sounds pretty good, but I couldn't catch enough of the lyrics to figure out the title of her song. At least ten people ask me who it is. Nobody knows. I worry that she'll slip on the blood. She finishes and disappears back into the cave with another "Black Party! Woooo!"

8AM: I'm kind of "meh" on Jonathan Peters thus far, but he does drop in a few of my favorites over the next couple of hours. Skatt Bros. Walk The Night. Donna Summer's new single I'm A Fire and I Feel Love. ABBA's The Visitors and Lay All Your Love On Me. Depeche Mode's Enjoy The Silence. Madonna's Like A Prayer. Bonnie Pointer's Heaven Must Have Sent You. John Paul Young's Love Is In The Air, during which people start looking around saying, "Morning Music already?" But the good stuff was few and far between. Just when we'd get a groove going, we'd be back in bang, crash, kaboom-land. Cruelly, Peters teases us with a only a snippet of the Saint standard, Hills Of Katmandu by Tantra. Dammit.

8:30AM: I'm dancing in a group that includes just-arrived Matt Foreman, his husband Frank, Rollerina, and rainbow flag creator Gilbert Baker, who is spectacularly attired in a mirror/rhinestone-flecked outfit. I think, "Holy crap, I'm dancing right in the middle of GAY HISTORY here!" Very, very cool moment. Matt, Gilbert, and I retire to the bleachers to yak about San Francisco politics: Mark Leno, Carole Migden, etc. Back on the dance floor, I find frequent JMG participant Freddy, he of P-Town, who is only wearing a jock and boots. And I would too if I had his body. Several of my friends inquire breathlessly, "How do you know HIM?" I just smile mysteriously. But not drunkenly, because the bar has now been closed for four hours. Dammit.

10:00AM: The party has thinned noticeably and is at perhaps one-third of its roughly 8000 participant max. My friends who are planning to attend Alegria or Susan Morobito's party at Splash begin to make warnings of departure. Dr. Jeff and Matt are done too, clocking an amazing ten hours at their first Black Party. I'm impressed. My pants are now so sweat-sodden that without a belt I must hold them up. Just as well, as closing DJ Joe Gauthreaux is due to begin and I need to change into sneakers and fresh jeans for the Morning Music. At the coat check I retrieve my backpack and strip naked to change, much to the interest of nobody. Can't say I blame them, there is far far better nakedness still on the dance floor. Dammit.

10:30AM: Joe Gauthreaux takes over and immediately takes the music up to top speed. Some of his stuff is OK, we dance, but knowing my love of Morning Music, everybody brings their complaints to me. "Where is the pretty?" "Where is the FLUFFY?" Even the dozen or so flaggers, who normally look completely blissed out, are shooting each other concerned looks. Matt Foreman sprinkles baby powder on the dance floor, a Saint tradition, but his dusting fails to evoke the Gods Of Fluffy And Pretty and the music remains mostly Ugly and Hard. Just like the guys upstairs! Rimshot! Just like the guys upstairs! I kid, I kid. There are enough porn stars and other beauties still here to fill the Titan float at SF Pride.

11:30AM: Still ugly. Still hard. Very very not happy about that, but there are so many friends around that even if the DJ were playing a long set of death metal, I'd still be pleasantly diverted. Maybe. I run into an old acquaintance sitting in the bleachers and ask him about his husband, who was quite ill when I last saw them a couple of years ago. Mistake. The husband has passed away. In fact, this morning is the one year anniversary of his death. My friend says he came to the party at 6am so that he wouldn't think about it all day. It also happens to be my friend's birthday. His husband died on his birthday. This revelation immediately brings me to tears, but at that moment Freddy wanders up and I recover by making introductions. After Freddy leaves, my friend also complains about the music. "I can't believe people paid so much money to endure THIS." I try not to think about it. I cuddle him in the bleachers while wanting to kick myself for bringing up his husband, who obviously would have been there if he were well. Would it have been worse not to ask at all? Dammit.

12:30PM: Two hours of DJ Joe Gauthreaux and still no hint of Saint classics. No Souvenirs. No Black Celebration. No Where Love Lives. I see some of the older guys who arrived after 8am, specifically for the Morning Music, beginning to leave in disappointment. I follow them downstairs, retrieve my coat and bag, then make a round of the main floor to make my good-byes to those waiting it out. I have no idea whether the Morning Music ever arrived, but after two hours of waiting I was too tired to find out. For the sake of those who stayed, I hope it did. My earliest Black Party departure ever. Dammit.

SUMMARY: My usual music selection issues aside, I had a fairly good time. Not the Best! Black Party! Ever! - but still OK. The presence of a couple of dozen very good friends and numerous acquaintances from around the country helped a lot. The sound system was clear and not overly loud, it never got unbearably hot, the staff was pleasant, and the entire operation from the front door to the bar was super-efficient. I didn't see any party-negatizing behavior from the patrons and the one incident I did hear about (a young man who injured himself rather grievously when he slipped on the marble staircase) was apparently handled very well. Overall, I'm giving Black Party 2008 two and half out of four stars. And I will return next year.

RELATED: Five Black Party virgins have blogged about their experience.

-Where HAVE You Been, Son?, from Dr. Jeff, author of Cynically Optimistic, who left in "awe of the spectacle of the thing."
- Black Out Party, from Scott, author of Ready, Set, Go. Scott won the Swag Tuesday ticket giveaway and had a rather adventure-filled evening.
- It's Like The Eagle On Steroids, from Rey, author of Donuts In Heaven. Rey tries not to judge. Especially his friends.
-Black Party Report, from Little David, author of Someone In A Tree. Little David enjoyed performing naked for thousands of men. And for somebody who loathes dance clubs, he had a surprisingly nice time.
-My First Black Party, from Gawker contributor Jory. Watersports! Celebrity sightings! And with Gawker's volume of readership, the city may be prompted to look into that there Black Party thing.

UPDATE: I'm told that after I left, DJ Joe Gauthreaux did play a few Saint standards, including a couple mentioned above and in the comments: Pet Shop Boys' Left To My Own Devices and Alison Limerick's Where Love Lives. Gauthreaux closed the party at 2pm (a bit early by Black Party standards) with I Hear Talk by Bucks Fizz, one of my all-time favorite songs. Argh. I'm more sorry now that I couldn't manage the final 90 minutes of the event, even though I'm told less than 200 people remained at closing. By then however, I was sound asleep. Still, I should give props to Gauthreaux for not completely ignoring the Saint canon.

UPDATE II, Mystery Vocalist: I've updated my Black Party 2008 review to add that promoters have informed me that the unannounced 7:30am performer was Katreese Barnes, the musical director of Saturday Night Live, who sang her new single Alright, Alright to general acclaim from party attendees. And that's a tough crowd right there, people. Barnes is the co-writer of SNL's smash viral video Dick In A Box, for which she shared a songwriting Emmy with Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg. Barnes' songs have been recorded by Diana Ross, Roberta Flack, Chaka Khan, Luther Vandross and many others.

Alright, Alright
was produced by Black Party headliner DJ Jonathan Peters and is available for streaming and download on Masterbeat.com, where it is currently #1 on their chart, thanks, no doubt, to Black Party attendees more in the musical know that I am. A murky clip of Barnes' performance has already surfaced on YouTube, but like the dozen or so other clips from this year's Black Party, it's almost unwatchable. I wasn't digging Alright, Alright so much at the party, but after a few listens on Masterbeat, I had to download it. There's always one tune that I hear for the first time at Black Party that comes to represent the event for me in years to come. This one is it.

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Frankly My Dear, My Rate Is $250/Hour

In a blistering review, the NY Times tears into Clark Gable: Tormented Man, a new book by David Bret who claims that Cable was "gay for pay", "rough trade", and in general a self-loathing homophobe. Calling the book "breathtakingly trashy", the Times adds: "For all its smut, the book is painfully unsexy."

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The Gay Karate Kid

About to make the rounds of film festivals is The Sensei, a movie about a gay kid who learns karate in order to mete out vengeance on the homophobes who've been beating him up.

Kenneth In The 212 has more on the movie.

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Hundreds March On Phelps Church

In what some had billed the "Million Fag March", hundreds of protesters marched on the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka yesterday.
Hundreds of people from Kansas and across the country gathered Sunday in Topeka to protest Pastor Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church. The march was also a way to promote peace, love, and equality.

People of all ages, races, and sexual orientation were present. The group of more than four hundred people marched throughout Gage Park, but were not allowed to cross any streets without a parade permit. The organizer of the march, Chris Love says he wants to show the Westboro Baptist Church there is an opposing voice equally as powerful. Other marchers feel the same.

"We don't agree with him talking about hatred and how God hates this god hates that," marcher Angi Boetta said. "We're just here to show him who we are and we're not going away no matter what you say or do."

"All the haters and stuff they need to know that its not all about that, its about positivity and we're trying to create a positive influence towards gay people," marcher Joshua Burch said. The Westboro Baptist Church is known for picketing the funerals of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq, and says their deaths are God's way of disapproving of homosexuality in America. Topeka Police were at the march to make sure everything went smoothly. Officials say the march was very peaceful and there were no problems.
There is a video clip of the protest here.

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McDonald's Goes Gay

Keep in mind that this item is from WingNutDaily, under the headline "McDonald's Signs Onto 'Gay' Agenda":
McDonald's restaurant's, famed for the Golden Arches, Ronald McDonald and kids meals, has signed onto a nationwide effort to promote "gay" and "lesbian" business ventures. The company, which is listed on the website of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce as a "corporate partner and organization ally" for an undisclosed financial contribution, also recently placed one of its executives on the NGLCC board of directors.

Earlier this month, the chamber confirmed that Richard Ellis, vice president of communications of McDonald's USA, was elected to the special interest chamber board. "We could not be more delighted with the addition of Richard to the Board," said NGLCC co-founder Justin Nelson. "Richard brings his extensive experience in communications and public affairs to a dynamic team of leaders."

Said Ellis: "I'm thrilled to join the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce team and ready to get to work. I share the NGLCC's passion for business growth and development within the LGBT community and I look forward to playing a role in moving these important initiatives forward."
According to the linked story, McDonald's and the NGLCC are refusing the reveal whether the corporation has made a financial contribution to the chamber. The McDonald's logo now appears on the chamber's web page listing corporate partners.

Last year Wal-Mart joined the chamber, prompting protests at hundreds of their stores and calls for a boycott from the American Family Association, causing Wal-Mart to back down somewhat from their previous statement of support. Let's see how McDonald's reacts to the coming storm.

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Value Judgment

Black Party 2008, dance floor, 6:30AM

Dancer 1: Oh.My.God! What ARE they doing on the stage?!? This is why straight people hate us!

Dancer 2: Honey, I've seen you do worse.

Dancer 1: I have no idea what you're talking about. Shut up.

My Black Party review will be up late tonight. I'm still mulling.

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Backfired!

Remember last week when the Polish president used a video of American gay couple getting married as a warning to his nation on the evils of homosexuality? Well, this is a fantastic development:
A married gay New York City couple have become the darlings of the Polish media since arriving in the country on the weekend. Brendan Fay and Tom Moulton were unknown in Poland until it was discovered they were the couple whose wedding pictures were illegally used by Lech Kaczynski last week to warn that ratifying a European Union treaty would lead to the forced legalization gay marriage.

When Fay found that the pictures were used without his or Moulton's permission he filed a formal complaint with the Polish consulate in New York. Kaczynski used the pictures in his conservative Law and Order Party's campaign against the European Union's proposed charter of rights, called the Lisbon Treaty, during a national broadcast. Fey and Moulton were legally married in Toronto in 2003. It was not clear where Kaczynski obtained the picture.

[snip]

The trip to Warsaw was paid for by TVN - a private television station.Reporters and camera crews were on the ground when the plane landed and have been following them ever since in what Polish gay rights advocates say it is the biggest bonanza for LGBT in the country's history.

On Monday Fay and Moulton, met with Ryszard Kalisz, the head of the parliamentary committee on human rights in Poland and a leading member of the left of center coalition.At a news conference on Monday Moulton said that he and Fay were impressed with the reception they've received.

"I want to reiterate that we feel comforted by the Polish people who feel badly how our images have been used. We come here in the hope of opening a dialogue with a community that may have not had much voice and that will make Poland a better place. The issue here is about equality."
A huge round of applause to Tom Moulton and Brendan Fay!

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Dubya Booed At Nationals Game

As he threw out the first pitch of the season, our ignoble leader was roundly booed by the crowd of 40,000 at the Nationals game.

(Via - Towleroad)

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Food Stamps Nearing Record Use

The number of Americans relying on food stamps is nearing records not seen since the 1960s.
Driven by a painful mix of layoffs and rising food and fuel prices, the number of Americans receiving food stamps is projected to reach 28 million in the coming year, the highest level since the aid program began in the 1960s.

The number of recipients, who must have near-poverty incomes to qualify for benefits averaging $100 a month per family member, has fluctuated over the years along with economic conditions, eligibility rules, enlistment drives and natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina, which led to a spike in the South.
And it's going to get worse.

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Study Claims Cell Phones More Dangerous Than Smoking

Via the The Independent (UK):
Mobile phones could kill far more people than smoking or asbestos, a study by an award-winning cancer expert has concluded. He says people should avoid using them wherever possible and that governments and the mobile phone industry must take "immediate steps" to reduce exposure to their radiation. The study, by Dr Vini Khurana, is the most devastating indictment yet published of the health risks.

It draws on growing evidence – exclusively reported in the IoS in October – that using handsets for 10 years or more can double the risk of brain cancer. Cancers take at least a decade to develop, invalidating official safety assurances based on earlier studies which included few, if any, people who had used the phones for that long.

Earlier this year, the French government warned against the use of mobile phones, especially by children. Germany also advises its people to minimise handset use, and the European Environment Agency has called for exposures to be reduced.

Professor Khurana – a top neurosurgeon who has received 14 awards over the past 16 years, has published more than three dozen scientific papers – reviewed more than 100 studies on the effects of mobile phones. He has put the results on a brain surgery website, and a paper based on the research is currently being peer-reviewed for publication in a scientific journal.
Usage of a cell phone for ten years or more doubles the rate of brain cancer? Does that mean we should start seeing an explosion in brain cancer rates right about now?

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Obama: Don't Pressure Hillary To Quit

Barack Obama is taking the high road on calls for Hillary to drop out.
Barack Obama is refusing to go along with other Democrats who are calling for Hillary Rodham Clinton to step away from the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

"My attitude is Senator Clinton can run as long as she wants," Obama said on the weekend.Obama told reporters he did not agree with one of his supporters, Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, when he said earlier this week that Clinton cannot win the nomination and should therefore drop out. "I hadn't talked to Pat about it," Obama said.

At stops throughout the day, Clinton raised the question of whether she should leave the race - eliciting loud jeers from supporters. "There are some people who say we should just stop these elections. 'Enough people have already voted, what's a few million more?'" Clinton said in Louisville, Ky. "I don't know about you but I'm glad Kentucky is going to be voting and you'll be choosing because it's such an important election."

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

One Nation Under Godzilla

I found this lady wandering Union Square.

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Friday, March 28, 2008

Black By Popular Demand

Personal cameras are strictly verboten, so for the 11th year noted Gotham photographer Robert Zash will be taking portraits of Black Party attendees in all their leathery glory. Mention JMG for a $5 discount! Since the portrait area is on the lower level, right next to the coat check, I recommend herding your cats over to Robert's lens as soon as you arrive. While everybody still looks "fresh", you know. It's always amusing to observe Robert's subjects grrring up their best Cruel Daddy Master for the camera.

Also appearing at tomorrow's party will be frequent JMG commenter and fellow blogger, our own Little David, who will be performing onstage with his Hot Nude Yoga crew. Details are sketchy on how Hot Nude Yoga is being worked into the show, but I'm guessing there will be a lot of Downward Dog. Arf, Daddy! Stop tugging my leash! David's performance is set to begin sometime around 6:30am.

RELATED: For a flashback to the other legendary gay disco, hop over to also legendary DJ Bobby Viteritti's site, where he is selling his complete Black Party 1979 set, recorded at San Francisco's Trocadero Transfer. Tata Vega! Fern Kinney! Groove me, baby.

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New HIV Infections Up 48%

Despite that the 2006 data includes cases from seven states that previously had not reported new HIV infections to the CDC, AIDS activists and government researchers are "stunned" by a 48% increase in new infections over 2005.
Reported new HIV infections in the United States increased by 48 percent in 2006 according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The stunning figures, in the CDC Surveillance Report, comes in advance of a long anticipated in depth review of HIV infections that was to have been released early this year but is believed to be months away.

The CDC said last December at the HIV Prevention Conference that it was working on new estimation methods but the federal agency has delayed release of the document. In its Surveillance Report the CDC this week said there were 52,878 new HIV infections in 45 states and the District of Columbia for 2006. In 2005, CDC reported only 35,537 new infections in 38 states and the District of Columbia.

HIV/AIDS groups say that the increase is alarming, despite an increase in the number of state reporting. The seven new states for which CDC is reporting HIV data for the first time in 2006 are: California, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington.

"New CDC data showing a 48% higher incidence of new HIV/AIDS diagnoses in 2006 compared with 2005 are just the latest piece of bad news about the sexual health of the American people," said Marjorie J. Hill, PhD, Chief Executive Officer of Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC).
Keeping in mind that this spike is fueled in part by better reporting, the news is still sobering, to say the least. I probably should rattle off the "get tested, play safe" mantra, but maybe it's more useful to remind you that by far the most infectious person is the freshly-seroconverted guy who truly believes he is negative.

It doesn't matter how often or how recently you've been tested. Even with "rapid testing" the average time between infection and detectable antibodies is still 25 days. If you are regularly sexually active and somebody asks if you are HIV+, there are only two possible answers: "Yes" and "I don't know." Those guys that trumpet the date of their negative test in their hook-up profiles must believe in time travel. Treat every "negative" partner as if he were just infected yesterday. Because if he passes the virus to you, he probably was.

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The TSA Wants Your Nipple Rings

After being forced to remove her nipple rings in order to pass through airport security, a woman has hired the grand dame of litigiousness, Gloria Allred, in order to sue the TSA. Having traveled many times with fairly hardcore leathermen, I can tell you that as I am typing these words, TSA employees around the country are getting quite an education from Black Party-bound men. BEEP! "That's my P.A." BEEP! "That's my frenum." BEEP! "Guiche." BEEP! "Um, that shouldn't be there."

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Siriano Retires "Fierce"

I never watched the show, but I've got to admit Christian Siriano slays me.

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Sally Kern Lightens Up

After a meeting with a local PFLAG chapter, archenemy to the gays Sally Kern softened her hate, saying that she now agrees with workplace protections for LGBT people.

Via PageOneQ:
Hosting a group of parents from Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays in her office at the state capitol today, Oklahoma House Rep. Sally Kern has taken a stand opposing discrimination against gays in the workplace. The embattled lawmaker is also considering another meeting with more PFLAG parents at their local chapter, sources tell PageOneQ.
To my mind, PFLAG is one of the most powerful (if underutilized) tools in the fight for gay equality. Only PFLAG, a coalition of families, could get through to someone like Sally Kern. There's a reason that the loudest cheers at every pride parade happen though wet eyes as PFLAG goes by. Kudos to them. AND to her. For this, anyway.

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Or Obama-Bloomberg?

Some are speculating that Obama would do well to choose a Jewish running mate in the hopes of defusing the Rev. Wright debacle. But according to the NY Times, the two weren't exactly BFFs at yesterday's meeting in NYC.
It was only hours after Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg finally made it clear he was not running for president that his chief political guru, Kevin Sheekey, publicly floated the notion that he would be the perfect running mate for Senator Barack Obama.

So Mr. Bloomberg’s highly orchestrated introduction of Mr. Obama at a speech at the Cooper Union this morning quickly resuscitated speculation that the billionaire mayor could end up in the White House after all. (The Caucus has a roundup of the blog commentary.) But despite a few jokes and a stiff embrace, the men seemed nothing like two peas in the same political pod, destined to share a ticket.

In presenting Mr. Obama, Mr. Bloomberg pointedly noted that he has not endorsed a candidate, saying that now was the time for people to listen to the candidates’ ideas. Referring to the ostensibly private breakfast the two men shared at a Midtown coffee shop in November with a throng of news media pressed against the window, Mr. Bloomberg joked that it was his pleasure to introduce him, “and not just because he picked up the check.”
But Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic says:
Obama isn’t much of an administrator or a details guy by his own admission, while Bloomberg is so concerned about Your Health and Welfare that he studies intently the ins and outs of congestion pricing and trans-fats. He’s a prime minister-type — although he brings an outsider’s sense of efficiency to the bureaucracy. Let Obama be the vision guy; Bloomberg could be the brass-tacks administrator.

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Coming Out In Droves

The Los Angeles Daily News uses Lawrence King's murder as a jumping off point to discuss gay kids coming out earlier and earlier:
The slaying of 15-year-old Lawrence King on Feb. 12 and the reaction to it illustrated a social shift characterized by gay youths "coming out" younger and their straight counterparts learning the art of tolerance. "I think we want to hope that, when something awful like that happens, there are going to be people who stand up against it," said Stacy Sigman, a licensed family counselor who works with families grappling with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender relatives.

"Larry's death has the potential to pick up that speed. This person will not die in vain." Roman is confident things are changing. "This was one of those turning points in society," he said. "It was a reality shock for everybody. They realized, `Hey, people are being bullied, and we're not doing anything about it."'

But even with an estimated 35,000 openly gay students in the Los Angeles Unified School District - a number based on general population statistics - teenagers, school officials, private counselors and advocates agree there's a long road ahead to wipe out discrimination. "While there is increasing acceptance, the world's still a hostile place for gay teenagers," said Virginia Uribe, a retired LAUSD counselor and founder of the district's Project 10, a support program for gay students.
I was going to gay bars when I was in a junior in high school, but I can't imagine having come out to my fellow students. That was so not gonna happen.

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Broadway Friday

- In an all-star fundraiser on May 18th at Town Hall, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS will present a one-time performance of Pamela's First Musical, a new work by Tony winners Cy Coleman and David Zipper. Direction is by Tony winner Graciela Daniele, book by Tony winner Wendy Wasserstein. Cast: Donna Murphy, Lynn Ahrens, Christian Borle, Carolee Carmello, Sandy Duncan, Gregg Edelman, Christine Ebersole, Stephen Flaherty, Kathie Lee Gifford, Adam Heller, Richard Kind, Robert Klein, Tommy Tune and many others. Tickets $60-$1000 are available here.

- Jenifer Lewis will replace Darlene Love as Motormouth Maybelle in Hairspray on April 22nd. Last year Lewis had a smash with Bipolar, Bath & Beyond, her one-woman show at the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center. Hairspray composer Mark Shaiman also wrote the words to Lewis' 1999 Lifetime special, Jackie's Back.

- Long-running aerialist/daredevil show Cirque Dreams: Jungle Fantasy will have a summer run at the Broadway Theatre, which recently hosted the now-closed The Color Purple. In September Shrek: The Musical lands at the Broadway.

- Due to "unexpected ticket demand", Rent has had its run extended by three months. The show is now set to close on September 7th. Ticket demand? Or maybe the extension has something to do with American Idol castoff David Hernandez, who auditioned for Rent last week.

- Gerald Goehring and Douglas C. Evans, who recently turned Frankenstein into an Off Broadway rock musical, have aimed their makeover cannons towards the 1983 classic movie, A Christmas Story. The show may hit the boards by this year's holiday season.

- Talk about stunt casting! Mrs. Tom Cruise is reportedly in talks to make her Broadway debut in Arthur Miller's All My Sons, which open later this year. Tom will be leaping on his seat.

- Similarly, Britney Spears has been offered the role of Blanche DuBois in London's cast of A Streetcar Named Desire, after her very well received guest spot last week on TV's How I Met Your Mother.

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Gore-Obama?

Some fascinating fantasizing from TIME's Joe Klein:
Let's say the elders of the Democratic Party decide, when the primaries end, that neither Obama nor Clinton is viable. Let's also assume—and this may be a real stretch—that such elders are strong and smart enough to act. All they'd have to do would be to convince a significant fraction of their superdelegate friends, maybe fewer than 100, to announce that they were taking a pass on the first ballot at the Denver convention, which would deny the 2,025 votes necessary to Obama or Clinton. What if they then approached Gore and asked him to be the nominee, for the good of the party—and suggested that he take Obama as his running mate? Of course, Obama would have to be a party to the deal and bring his 1,900 or so delegates along.

I played out that scenario with about a dozen prominent Democrats recently, from various sectors of the party, including both Obama and Clinton partisans. Most said it was extremely unlikely ... and a pretty interesting idea. A prominent fund raiser told me, "Gore-Obama is the ticket a lot of people wanted in the first place." A congressional Democrat told me, "This could be our way out of a mess." Others suggested Gore was painfully aware of his limitations as a candidate. "I don't know that he'd be interested, even if you handed it to him," said a Gore friend. Chances are, no one will hand it to him. The Democratic Party would have to be monumentally desperate come June. And yet ... is this scenario any more preposterous than the one that gave John McCain the Republican nomination? Yes, it's silly season. But this has been an exceptionally "silly" year.

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Baghdad In Chaos, U.S. Troops Told
To Seek Shelter

MSNBC is reporting that U.S. troops in Baghdad are being told "not to leave reinforced buildings" today as Shia insurgents are overwhelming many parts of the city. Via Reuters:
Iraq’s Prime Minister was staring into the abyss today after his operation to crush militia strongholds in Basra stalled, members of his own security forces defected and district after district of his own capital fell to Shia militia gunmen.

With the threat of a civil war looming in the south, Nouri al-Maliki’s police chief in Basra narrowly escaped assassination in the crucial port city, while in Baghdad, the spokesman for the Iraqi side of the US military surge was kidnapped by gunmen and his house burnt to the ground.

Saboteurs also blew up one of Iraq's two main oil pipelines from Basra, cutting at least a third of the exports from the city which provides 80 per cent of government revenue, a clear sign that the militias — who siphon significant sums off the oil smuggling trade — would not stop at mere insurrection.

In Baghdad, thick black smoke hung over the city centre tonight and gunfire echoed across the city. The most secure area of the capital, Karrada, was placed under curfew amid fears the Mahdi Army of Hojetoleslam Moqtada al-Sadr could launch an assault on the residence of Abdelaziz al-Hakim, the head of a powerful rival Shia governing party.
What do you mean the surge isn't working? Why do you hate America?

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Gays Pile On To Flip Leno the Bird

The Gays are rushing to follow the example of Avenue Q creator Jeff Whitty, who this week flipped Jay Leno a photographic bird for Leno's continual habit of making gays the butts of his jokes. Go to MyGayestLook.com and see famous and not-so-famous homos and homo-friendlies wagging their middle digits in Leno's direction. The site was was co-created by Whitty and blogger Melissa McEwan of Shakesville and they invite you to participate.

A SAMPLING BELOW:
Armistead Maupin, Dan Savage, Eric Leven.

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Slain AIDS Activist's Memorial This Sunday

A memorial service for slain AIDS activist Michael "La La" Brown will be held this Sunday at 6:30PM at Bryant Park in Lake Worth, Florida. The park is also host that day to Palm Beach County's Pridefest, for whom Brown was a recent Grand Marshall. Brown, 50, was a beloved bon vivant, a pillar of the South Florida gay community, and was adored by the patrons of H.G. Roosters, his gay bar where he hosted innumerable charity events over the last 20 years.

Brown was murdered in his home last week (presumably) by the man with whom he'd had a tumultuous relationship for several years. The killer stayed in Brown's home for two days after the murder, answering Brown's phone and walking his dogs. He then hung himself on a bedroom door. Police found both bodies when Brown's concerned employees reported him missing.

The NAMES Project/AIDS Memorial Quilt, for whom Brown served on the South Florida board of directors, offers this remembrance:
This week The NAMES Project Foundation lost a long-time volunteer and dear friend, Michael Brown. With a generous spirit and an unwavering commitment to community, Michael was always there, ready to step in and help at a moment's notice. He was loved by many and will be missed by all of us.
NOTE: Pridefest organizers plan to discontinue their admission charge an hour before the end of the event, in order that mourners attending the memorial not be charged to enter Bryant Park.

UPDATE: Tony Plakas of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel has written a lovely tribute to Michael Brown, his close friend. The column also ruminates on gay bar culture and how a single saloon such as Brown's H.G.Roosters, run by the right person, can become the soul and spirit of a small town gay community.

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Post Gay, Post Race, Post Gender

A 17 year-old gay kid in the UK has launched a site called Ditch The Label, which urges socially marginalized teenagers to discard the labels of race, sexuality, gender, and appearance.
The founder of DitchtheLabel is 17-year old student, activist and part-time model, Liam Hackett. He developed the site primarily aimed at marginalised teenagers looking to break free from social stereotypes based on race, sexuality or gender. The site aims to challenge negative stereotypes and provide a forum in which young people can share their experiences of prejudice and social labelling.

Based in Manchester, the prodigious teen first launched the website via Myspace in July 2007 and since then, the Myspace page has attracted more than 50,000 visits. Liam looked into developing a more permanent website that would allow a greater expansion of the campaign.

The new DitchtheLabel site was conceived after Liam secured a business grant from the local Chamber of Commerce, who recognised the site's appeal and potential.He was only the second person under 18 in in his region to obtain a business grant. Despite its early days, the website looks like it will become a flourishing internet resource for teenagers looking to break outside social stereotypes.
Hackett says, "The campaign hopes to change the negative stereotypes associated with labels of race, gender, sexuality, appearance and lifestyle and together, we believe that we can significantly reduce bullying and therefore, increasing self-confidence and feelings of self-worth to thousands of young people worldwide. I myself have been subjected to bullying due to my sexuality and I grew up believing that being gay was wrong and disgusting. Since leaving school and meeting new people, I've grown to understand that sexuality is as significant as the colour of your eyes and nobody really cares anymore."

If he were American, I'd wager that this kid will end up a Queer Theory/Gender Studies double-major at Berkeley or Smith. Wait, not Smith. They'd have to be Post Gender for that.

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Mike Gravel Joins Libertarian Party

Mike Gravel, everyone's favorite wacky idealist (and BFF of the gays), is ditching the Democrats to run for president under the banner of the Libertarian Party. In other momentous switches, the NYPD will change the color of parking tickets from safety orange to burnt orange. (And when Gravel is elected, we'll be doing away parking tickets entirely. The government should not be in the business of telling Americans where they can park!)

I really shouldn't mock Mike Gravel. After all, he is one of only two Democratic presidential candidates who have signed off on every bullet point on the Homosexual Agenda: marriage equality, ENDA1, hate crimes, DADT, putting a Judy Garland Monument on the National Mall2.

Last summer when I met Gravel at an appearance before the only there for the open bar politically charged Gays Of Chelsea, he spoke eloquently about how love is the only important thing in the world, and how as president, he'd work for the equality of all Americans, "Be they gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transvestitite." Are travestitites the ones that wear their hair UP? Or is that the transvestimites? Check amongst yourselves.

1After I told him what it was.
2To balance that dreary Korean War thing.

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HomoQuotable - Gore Vidal

"Now, to Newsweek’s obituary of this late dishonorable American in which my editor-friend assures me that his brain-dead son Christopher had a hand: “Buckley bridled at bullies.” And who was the bully in context? Myself. He was also an expert at changing indefensible contexts. Buckley maintained that I supported revolutionaries who favored murdering U.S. Marines. Yet all the talk of Nazis etc. was started by Buckley. There was no lie he would not tell to get back at those who defeated him in debate.

"The current editors at Newsweek appear to have listened eagerly to his son Christopher, who is guiding them to a benign view of what had been a most hysterical queen (WFB), much admired by a media that takes everyone at his own evaluation of himself as they did with Capote, who told them that he was a great writer like Proust (pronounced Prowst) and the hacks ate it up.

"The correct assessment of any reputation today is so far from plausible reality that it might be a good thing if the hacks of a magazine like Newsweek steered clear of characterizing those disliked by the advertisers; hence his creepy son’s depiction of me as a “bully” when I was simply attending to one, and then—o, joy!—Buckley called me a “queer” and actually threatened me with physical violence, so great was his testosterone level. Next, the loyal son, suspecting that the pejorative use of “queer” is politically incorrect in mag-land, Christopher rambles into a story about his father’s kindness to a Mr. Bauman who had lost his seat in Congress after the congressman had been caught while soliciting Oral Sex from a 16-year-old male (note how prurient Newsweek’s prose is, in describing undesirable people). Chris weeps into his computer as he describes how Dad gave the poor sinner of the flesh an envelope containing $10,000 (I bet?) in cash adding, mysteriously, “He was a knightly man”: Who was—the cocksucker recipient of Buckley’s charity? Or his admirer, Mr. Buckley himself?—Bauman was very right wing, it is said. RIP WFB—in hell." - Gore Vidal, on Newsweek's lionization of William F. Buckley.

(Via - Truthdig)

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You're Not Crazy To Eat At McDonald's,
BUT YOU WILL BE

Oh, this is just fucking great.
Middle-aged people with excess visceral fat - usually apparent in the thick waist or pot belly of an apple-shaped body - are nearly three times more likely to suffer from dementia in their 70s and 80s than people with little to no belly fat, according to a study of Kaiser Permanente patients.

Researchers have long connected obesity, diabetes and heart disease to dementia. The new study - published today in Neurology, the journal of the American Academy of Neurology - suggests that the effect of fat on the body is more complicated than just a number on a scale.

"People need to think not just about weight, but where they carry their weight," said Rachel Whitmer, a research scientist at Kaiser's Division of Research in Oakland and lead author of the study. "They need to know if they're apples or pears."

People with pear-shaped bodies tend to carry most of their weight below the waist, in the hips, buttocks and thighs. People with apple-shaped bodies are at greater risk of having too much visceral fat surrounding internal organs deep in the abdominal cavity. Visceral fat is more common in people who are overweight, but even a very lean person with a small pot belly could have hidden visceral fat.
Kinda outta left field, innit? That is, if left field were in a stadium on a small moon orbiting a dwarf star in Andromeda. And here ALL THIS TIME my poor mother's been shouldering our family's Alzheimer's worry burden, shouting, "It's STARTING!" anytime she can't find her car keys. I can already hear the jokes come Sunday at the Dugout. "You sure you want that beer, Joe? You have been acting kinda weird lately."

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Open Thread Thursday

What's the best advice your mother gave you? What's the worst?

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Daily Grumble

With all this emailing and blogging and such, is anybody else losing their ability to write by hand? My handwriting was never good and back when they graded you on "penmanship" in grammar school, that's where I always got my lowest marks. But these days, oy! I can hardly address an envelope without needing to start over at least twice. At this rate, I'll be signing my name with an "X" in a few years.

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Democide

Via Ben Smith in Politico.com:
A new Gallup analysis reveals that — at this heated moment — significant amounts of Democratic primary voters say they would take McCain in the general if their preferred candidate doesn’t get the nomination: Clinton supporters appear to be somewhat more reactive than Obama supporters. Twenty-eight percent of the former indicate that if Clinton is not the nominee — and Obama is — they would support McCain. That compares to 19 percent of Obama supporters who would support McCain if Obama is not the nominee — and Clinton is.

It is unknown how many Democrats would actually carry through and vote for a Republican next fall if their preferred candidate does not become the Democratic nominee. The Democratic campaign is in the heat of battle at the moment, but by November, there will have been several months of attempts to build party unity around the eventual nominee — and a focus on reasons why the Republican nominee needs to be defeated.
How about it, Hillerites and Obamatons? If your candidate doesn't get the nom, will you go McCain?

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This Is What A Feminist Looks Like

Remember those uptight lesbian separatists who told me that a man could never be a feminist? Here's what the Feminist Majority Foundation says.

Thanks to Mike at Manhattan Chowder for the tip.

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Nancy Reagan Endorses McCain

Ronald Reagan attracted many Democrats to his "revolution" and now Nancy Reagan has endorsed John McCain, albeit rather tepidly. Nancy says,"Ronnie and I always waited until everything was decided and then we endorsed. Well, obviously, this is the nominee of the party." McCain: "The Reagan Democrats are very important and I hope every one of them and new Democrats will be watching."

I wonder if Nancy had a little chat with McCain about stem-cell research.

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The Overhaul Of AIDS

After a spate of failures in AIDS vaccine trials, the U.S. government is calling for "new and novel ideas".
The U.S. government began a major overhaul of its effort to produce an AIDS vaccine on Tuesday, stressing a return to basic scientific research after the failure of a key clinical trial last year. Government officials at a summit with AIDS scientists pledged to prioritize spending on lab work and animal tests rather than expensive, and thus far disappointing, large-scale vaccine trials on humans.

"We need to turn the knob in the direction of discovery. That is unambiguous," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who convened the meeting outside of Washington.

"We really do need new and novel ideas."

The vaccine summit follows the failure last year of an experimental HIV vaccine developed by Merck & Co (MRK.N: Quote, Profile, Research) which had been widely touted as one of the best hopes in the field. Clinical trials, however, indicated the vaccine candidate did not protect against infection with the AIDS virus and might even have made recipients more susceptible, although how is not exactly clear.

Scientists said the surprising outcome of the Merck trials demonstrated how little HIV is understood after more than two decades of intensive research. "Despite hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars, the reality is that in 2008 an effective HIV/AIDS vaccine is beyond our grasp," said Warner Greene, a co-chair of the summit and professor of medicine at the University of California-San Francisco. "There is no question in my mind that the HIV vaccine effort is in need of a major mid-course correction."
There are almost 30 HIV vaccine trials still underway around the world. Fauci: "Under no circumstances will we stop AIDS vaccine research. Not only will we not cut it, wherever possible we will increase it."

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Their Love Is Golden

This will warm even the most cynical of hearts, even mine.
John Cook and Waverly Cole are doing what they’ve been doing for 50 years — traveling, enjoying the company of friends and giving to charitable causes.

Cook, an 88-year-old retired teacher and school counselor, and Cole, a 78-year-old retired physician, are poised to celebrate their 50th anniversary April 15 with a cocktail party among friends. At last week’s Servicemembers Legal Defense Network dinner in Washington, the two were recognized on stage for reaching their Golden Anniversary.

During a lengthy phone interview last week from their second home in Virginia Beach, the two recalled the fateful 1958 cocktail party where they met in Farmville, Va. We were introduced and we found each other attractive and pleasant and nice and so we started going together,” Cook says.

Job opportunities led Cook and Cole to Richmond in 1960. As far as they know, they were the first gay men to live together openly in Richmond. After selling their home two years ago, they moved into a retirement home, also in Richmond, with their dog, a Jack Russell mix named April.

Cook served in the Army during World War II and was part of the second wave of troops that stormed Omaha Beach in France on D-Day, June 6, 1944. He was also among the thousands of troops who liberated Paris from Nazi control. Cook enlisted in the Army three months after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. He entered as a buck private and was promoted to staff sergeant during his three-and-a-half-year service during the war.
Fifty years. The couple continues to be interested in gay activism, supporting the repeal of DOMA, with Cook saying, "I can tell you right now if they had fired every gay and lesbian person in World War II, we would have lost the war." Interestingly, the couple prefers civil unions over gay marriage. Cook says, "I don’t think it’s wise to call it gay marriage. I think you should call it civil unions and give [us] all the rights and benefits that occur to married people." From the story: "Cook and Cole have been major donors to gay advocacy groups like Lambda Legal, Human Rights Campaign, SLDN, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network and Equality Virginia."

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HomoQuotable - John Waters

"I don't think my generation is better or had it better. The one thing you’ll never see again—and I’m not so sure it’s bad you missed it—was the sexual revolution. You can’t imagine what it was like to go home and have sex with someone different every day … People really did! In Provincetown there was a bar called Piggies, totally mixed, gay and straight, but it was outside of town and everyone had to walk home and every person would just have sex in the graveyard along the way.

"I mean, those days will never happen again. Going to places like Hellfire in New York City, you look back and it’s so amazing, and that certainly did lead to terrible things like AIDS—and AIDS ruined everything for the rest of our lives. It ruined people taking chances. That’s over. You missed that." - John Waters, in New York Magazine.

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Gay Group Honors Desmond Tutu

Desmond Tutu will receive the 2008 Outspoken Award from the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission. The executive director of the IGLHRC, Paula Ettelbrick, says, "Archbishop Tutu's vision of a world in which human rights are respected has always explicitly included LGBT people, despite the fierce opposition he has faced from his peers and colleagues. He has challenged political apartheid in South Africa and continues to challenge spiritual apartheid within his religious community." The award will be bestowed in San Francisco on April 8th, where IBM will also be honored for its work in support of the IGLHRC in Latin America.

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Majority Support For Vermont Marriage

Support for gay marriage in Vermont is now in the majority.
A majority of nearly 7,000 Vermonters completing opinion surveys on Town Meeting Day said they favor same-sex marriage. 54-percent said they support allowing gay couples to marry while 37-percent were opposed. That represents an 8-per cent jump in support for same-sex marriage in the last year, noted Johnson State College political science professor and state Sen. William Doyle of Washington County who compiles the results each March.

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Brazilian Court Orders Wealthy American To Pay Palimony

An interesting development from Brazil.
A court in Brazil has ruled that a married American man must share part of his wealth with a Brazilian man with whom he had a four year relationship. The Court of Justice in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, a state that legalized civil unions in 2004, recognized that the US citizen and the Brazilian man had a 'stable union.' The couple, whose identities have been kept secret, had frequent meetings in Brazil, the US and other countries, the court was told. In addition to this the Brazilian showed the court that he had supported three members of the American man's family, reports EFE News.The American, who lives with his wife in Miami, is said to have over $450 million in assets.
How much is four years of being a boy toy worth? Apparently one farm, two apartments, and a house. The precedent-setting case marks the first time a Brazilian court has made such a judgment for a gay couple that had not lived together. The American is appealing the decision.

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The Long Defeat

From David Brooks in the NY Times:
In short, Hillary Clinton’s presidential prospects continue to dim. The door is closing. Night is coming. The end, however, is not near. Last week, an important Clinton adviser told Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen (also of Politico) that Clinton had no more than a 10 percent chance of getting the nomination. Now, she’s probably down to a 5 percent chance.

Five percent.

Let’s take a look at what she’s going to put her party through for the sake of that 5 percent chance: The Democratic Party is probably going to have to endure another three months of daily sniping. For another three months, we’ll have the Carvilles likening the Obamaites to Judas and former generals accusing Clintonites of McCarthyism. For three months, we’ll have the daily round of résumé padding and sulfurous conference calls. We’ll have campaign aides blurting “blue dress” and only-because-he’s-black references as they let slip their private contempt.

For three more months (maybe more!) the campaign will proceed along in its Verdun-like pattern. There will be a steady rifle fire of character assassination from the underlings, interrupted by the occasional firestorm of artillery when the contest touches upon race, gender or patriotism. The policy debates between the two have been long exhausted, so the only way to get the public really engaged is by poking some raw national wound.

For the sake of that 5 percent, this will be the sourest spring. About a fifth of Clinton and Obama supporters now say they wouldn’t vote for the other candidate in the general election. Meanwhile, on the other side, voters get an unobstructed view of the Republican nominee. John McCain’s approval ratings have soared 11 points. He is now viewed positively by 67 percent of Americans. A month ago, McCain was losing to Obama among independents by double digits in a general election matchup. Now McCain has a lead among this group.
Read the rest of Brooks' The Long Defeat. I don't know that I buy the 5% number, but the drumbeat for Hillary to withdraw is certainly getting quite loud.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Pregnant Husband

A transgender man, legally male and legally married to a woman, is carrying the couple's baby.
To our neighbors, my wife, Nancy, and I don’t appear in the least unusual. To those in the quiet Oregon community where we live, we are viewed just as we are -- a happy couple deeply in love. Our desire to work hard, buy our first home, and start a family was nothing out of the ordinary. That is, until we decided that I would carry our child.

I am transgender, legally male, and legally married to Nancy. Unlike those in same-sex marriages, domestic partnerships, or civil unions, Nancy and I are afforded the more than 1,100 federal rights of marriage. Sterilization is not a requirement for sex reassignment, so I decided to have chest reconstruction and testosterone therapy but kept my reproductive rights. Wanting to have a biological child is neither a male nor female desire, but a human desire.

[snip]

How does it feel to be a pregnant man? Incredible. Despite the fact that my belly is growing with a new life inside me, I am stable and confident being the man that I am. In a technical sense I see myself as my own surrogate, though my gender identity as male is constant. To Nancy, I am her husband carrying our child—I am so lucky to have such a loving, supportive wife. I will be my daughter’s father, and Nancy will be her mother. We will be a family.

Outside the local medical community, people don’t know I’m five months’ pregnant. But our situation ultimately will ask everyone to embrace the gamut of human possibility and to define for themselves what is normal.
Predictably, the Freepers are outdoing themselves on this one. However, there's an intelligent and (mostly) respectful conversation going on over at Boing, Boing.

(Via - Advocate.com)

UPDATE: Since I was living in SF at the time and knew the story well (as one of the subjects was a bartender at the Lone Star), I should have included a link to a story about Pal Califia and Matt Rice, two gay transmen who had a baby together around 2000. JMG reader Chris B tracked down the story for us.

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Hillary On Rev. Wright

Hillary Clinton says that wouldn't have stayed in Rev. Wright's congregation.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, in a wide-ranging interview today with Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reporters and editors, said she would have left her church if her pastor made the sort of inflammatory remarks Sen. Barack Obama's former pastor made.

"He would not have been my pastor," Clinton said. "You don't choose your family, but you choose what church you want to attend."

Obama's lead in national polls has slipped since clips of the retired Rev. Jeremiah Wright began being played on national news programs. The uproar prompted Obama to give a wide-ranging speech on race in America a week ago. The Clinton campaign has refrained from getting involved in the controversy, but Clinton herself, responding to a question, denounced what she said was "hate speech."

"You know, I spoke out against Don Imus (who was fired from his radio and television shows after making racially insensitive remarks), saying that hate speech was unacceptable in any setting, and I believe that," Clinton said. "I just think you have to speak out against that. You certainly have to do that, if not explicitly, then implicitly by getting up and moving."
Sigh. We need to coin a term for the uniquely Democratic habit of cannibalizing their own. And the McCain train rolls on.

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The Bullied Boy

Bullies don't care if you're actually gay.
In ninth grade, a couple of the same boys started a Facebook page called “Every One That Hates Billy Wolfe.” It featured a photograph of Billy’s face superimposed over a likeness of Peter Pan, and provided this description of its purpose: “There is no reason anyone should like billy he’s a little bitch. And a homosexual that NO ONE LIKES.”

Heh-heh.

According to Alan Wilbourn, a spokesman for the school district, the principal notified the parents of the students involved after Ms. Wolfe complained, and the parents — whom he described as “horrified” — took steps to have the page taken down. Not long afterward, a student in Spanish class punched Billy so hard that when he came to, his braces were caught on the inside of his cheek. So who is Billy Wolfe? Now 16, he likes the outdoors, racquetball and girls.
I can't imagine what kids go through with the digital arsenal at the bullies' disposals today.

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H&R Block: No Online Returns
For Civil Unioned

Via the ACLU:
The American Civil Liberties Union sent a demand letter to H&R Block today demanding that it change its online tax preparation system to accommodate gay couples in Connecticut with civil unions. The ACLU is representing a couple with a civil union who attempted to file their taxes on the company’s website through their online service, TaxCut Online, but were told, “We don’t support Connecticut civil union returns.” Through its website, the company said the couple would have to work with one of their professionals, by phone or at one of their office locations, which would be more time consuming and substantially more expensive.

“This is yet another example of the many ways that civil unions just don’t live up to marriage,” said Jason Smith of Hartford, who has been with his partner Settimio Pisu for six years. “It really stung when I realized it would cost an additional $150 dollars to have our tax returns prepared. We’re saving for a house and hoping to start a family, so every penny counts right now.”
According to the story, H&R Block's online tax system does accommodate married gays in Massachusetts.

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HomoQuotable - John Amaechi

"I nearly just decided not to ever go back to America and just stay here and say 'let them froth around in their own mess,' but I went to Manchester Pride and Sir Ian McKellen was the Marshal … I'm not very fluffy with these things and I'm quite cynical.

"However, the sight of him waving and looking at the reactions of people to him waving, the sight in people's eyes of 'That's Gandalf, international superstar.' I thought, obviously I am not anything like that status of superstar or even celebrity, but if on a smaller scale I could have an impact that would be a good thing." - Openly gay retired NBA star (and British citizen) John Amaechi, crediting Sir Ian McKellen with spurring him to come out.

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Burger Logo Riles Humor-Free Queers

Gay students at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor are upset with the logo of a local burger joint.
The Stonewall Democrats, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender caucus of the University's College Democrats chapter, has taken offense with the restaurant's logo and recently began circulating a petition to sway the owners to change the logo. LSA senior Kolby Roberts, a member of the Stonewall Democrats who has led the effort, said he finds the logo's message inappropriate and offensive.

"I have a problem that you take a women riding a hamburger and you put it next to the word 'quickie,' " he said. "It just seems like it's not putting a good message out there for the objectification of women."

Maria Arman, whose family owns the restaurant, said the logo was meant to invoke a cowboy theme. "We were thinking beef, rodeo, so instead of putting a cowboy, we just picked a cowgirl," she said. "It's a rodeo-style cowgirl riding a bull, but instead, it's a burger. It was put together to be funny and different. No offense was meant to anyone."

Before selecting a logo for the restaurant, which features a maize and blue color scheme with televisions tuned to ESPN on the interior, the owners showed the logo to more than 100 people and none of them objected, Arman said. "The people who we talked to told us, 'It's a college town and the kids will think its funny,'" she said.
Oh, jeebus people. PICK YOUR BATTLES! Dumbass petty shit like this make us look like humorless pricks. How much cred will the Stonewall Democrats have at the school when a real issue comes up? The national chapter needs to set these kids, uh, straight.

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Craig Replacement Could Be Pro-Life

Literally. A nutjob running for Larry Craig's seat has legally changed his name to Pro-Life Richardson.
A 66-year-old Idaho strawberry farmer, formerly known after a previous name change as Marvin Pro-Life Richardson, is now, simply, "Pro-Life." "I think it's just and I think it's proper to have Pro-Life on the ballot," Pro-Life told the Idaho Press-Tribune. "If I save one baby's life, it's worth it."

Pro-Life made the change after an unsuccessful run for governor under the Constitution Party in 2006, hoping this time to skirt the state policy that prevented him from using what was then his middle name as his name on the ballot, as the state considered it not a name, but a slogan. Officials must now recognize Pro-Life's legal name. According to CBS News, Pro-Life will from now on run as an independent for the highest state office in each election every two years on a platform of advocating murder charges for abortion doctors and the women who seek their services.
Murder charges for abortion doctors and their patients? Idaho has the death penalty, so I think this guy might need to change his name again.

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Obama: Gays Are A Wedge Issue

Via PageOneQ:
Senator Barack Obama (D-IL), speaking to rally attendees in Medford, Oregon on Saturday, took issue with how recent political campaigns have used wedge issues to divide the electorate, but have ultimately done little to make a real difference, especially when there are more important things to worry about.

"I mean, think about what these last few election cycles have been about," the Senator said. "We argue about immigration, but we don't try to solve the immigration problem. It's an argument that is all about people's passions instead of trying to figure it out.

"We argue about gay marriage. You know, in the meantime the planet is, you know, potentially being destroyed. We've got a war that is bankrupting us. And we're going to argue about gay marriage? I mean, that doesn't make any sense."
Not exactly an earth-shattering revelation, is it? But it's good that he said it.

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Sally Kern Stands By Her Hate


On Sunday, Sally Kern appeared on a local Oklahoma political chat show to defend her remarks, appearing opposite openly gay pastor Scott Jones. This clip quickly devolves in the usual interpretations of Leviticus, Sodom and Gomorrah, and Santa Christ, but Kern takes some good hits from the panelists. Here's part two of the show.

(Via - Pam's House Blend.)

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Jeff Whitty To Jay Leno

Avenue Q creator Jeff Whitty's long-running battle with Jay Leno over the Tonight Show host's habit of making homophobic jokes has gone into overdrive. Read the piece, it's awesome.

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Busted On Bosnia


"In politics, memory should always match the videotape."

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Bill Clinton Defends DOMA

Speaking to college reporters, Bill Clinton defended the Defense of Marriage Act as a "reasonable compromise" for the political climate of its time and accused Melissa Etheridge of "rewriting history" when she said that his administration "threw gays under the bus" once his election was achieved. Clinton also seems to predict that gays will suffer greater harassment if states are forced to recognize gay marriages from other states. Watch the clip. Bill gets rather testy.

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