Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy 2009!!!

Have a fun and safe New Year's Eve, folks! It's been a wonderfully wacky weird year here on JMG, hasn't it? I posted 3000+ times, you commented 150,000+ times, traffic more than doubled, and the number of banned trolls became uncountable. Good times. Seriously. My humblest thanks go out to to all of you for being part of the JMG community. I can't wait to see what 2009 will bring.

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Controversy Over Trans Golf Champion

The ladies golf world is reportedly "aghast" at the revelation that the new world champion of a long drive contest is a transgender woman.
TV golf-watchers in the US sat aghast over Christmas when it was revealed that the winner of the RE/MAX world long driving championship for women - shown on the ESPN network - was a former male policeman who used to play off a plus one handicap. The new women's world champion is 55-year-old bartender Lana Lawless from Palm Springs, California whose longest drive into a 40 mph headwind at the Mesquite event travelled 254 yards to beat reigning champion Phillis Meti (21) from New Zealand by four yards.

The rules governing transgender golf competition allow for those like Ms Lawless, who have received a 'sex-change' operation to take part in such events as long as they provide mandatory doctor reports, lab results within normal female limits and onsite testing. “I am a woman,” insists Lawless, who adopted her new name from movie star Lana Turner but refuses to discuss her previous name. “This is who I am. This is my life. That other person, that 245-pound SWAT cop I used to be, he's gone. He's not coming back.”

She told Golfweek: “I've lost muscle mass. I don't have big guns (biceps). They give you a drug that stops you from producing testosterone and in about seven months, I went from 245 pounds to 175 pounds. Sure, I used to be a man. For 18 years, I was a cop for the city of Rialto, one of the most violent cities in Southern California. I worked the gang unit. I had a very tough and mean exterior. People didn't want to mess with me. I had a hard exterior, but I was compassionate inside. I always let the gay guys go; they had enough drama in their lives.”
In 2005 the USGA approved the inclusion of transgender competitors, but some are still complaining that a transgender woman has an unfair genetic advantage, even though transgender athletes must test within normal female hormonal limits in order to compete.

(Via - Pam's House Blend)

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Flashback: Ten Years Ago Tonight

Left to right at a NYE 1998 party at my place in the Castro: Marty, me, Jerry, Robb, Jim, Robert (center, my roommate), Ed, and Ken. Half of those guys were visiting from Fort Lauderdale....the house was very busy that weekend, as I recall.

Regarding my silver metallic shirt (since I know you'll bring it up) - I used to have a tradition of getting an over-the-top "glammy shirt" for a one-time wearing on NYE. This one was actually painful to wear, the metallic threads were ripping into me. So I wore a t-shirt underneath, but ended up giving it to a very cute young bartender at some afterhours club (Aftershock?). He wanted it for a disco oldies party. Sigh.

Thanks to Eduardo (the photographer) for sending this.

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In Which I Ponder My Lifetime To-Do List

Tonight's weather promises to be very ugly for the expected 1 million revelers in Times Square. Winds are expected to gust from 40-50mph, bringing the wind chill to far, far below zero. Nightmare.

I had pondered actually going to Times Square tonight, until a dozen or so of my friends collectively threatened to have me committed. Times Square on New Year's Eve is one of those once-in-a-lifetime events that has long been on my now almost completely checked off to-do list. I've done Mardi Gras, Fantasy Fest, a Super Bowl, a World Series game, and virtually every major gay/bear/leather/dance event in the country. (And some of those, many many times.)

I'll tick off a presidential inauguration in just a few weeks, leaving only Burning Man, Sydney Mardi Gras, Carnival in Rio, and the Boston Pops Fourth of July concert on my bucket list. Those I hope to mark off in the next few years or so.

Times Square on NYE still interests me, purely for the spectacle of being in one place with a million screaming people. But I fear my sick need to be preceived as a "real" New Yorker, who would never ever ever be caught dead on a stick in Times Square tonight, will ultimately cause me to cancel that entry on my lifetime to-do list.

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Obama Spokesman: The President-Elect Will Not Be Attending Mid-Atlantic Leather

Somebody at ABC figured out that the Obama inauguration happens a couple of days after the 25th Annual Mid-Atlantic Leather (MAL) Weekend in DC and wondered if the President-elect would be dropping by.
Thousands of tourists pouring into Washington, D.C. for President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration will be sharing the nation's capital with a few thousand predominantly gay leather fetishists, in town for their annual convention. Next January 16th, 17th and 18th brings the 25th annual Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend to Washington, D.C. Hosted by the city's Centaur Motorcycle Club, "a group of men with an enthusiastic interest in motorcycles, leather and other men," the event is expected to draw between 2,000 and 3,000 attendees, according to spokesman Larry Barat.

Obama's swearing-in on Tuesday, Jan. 20, is expected to draw between 500,000 to four million people. Many will likely arrive the weekend prior to sightsee and attend inaugural balls and other parties. A spokeswoman for Obama said the president-elect would probably not attend any of the Leather Weekend events. "Let's just say it's likely the president-elect will be occupied with many other activities" surrounding the inauguration, said Linda Douglass. Leather Weekend attendees wearing their gear in public may provide visitors in town for the inauguration with something to talk about back at their hotel, but in general inauguration planners say they don't expect the overlap to be an issue.
The MAL spokesman says he expects attendance to be down somewhat this year due to the lack of available hotel rooms.

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Vatican Defends Homophobic Pope

Lady Benedicia de Prada was busy hot-gluing precious gems to her Miss Hitler Youth 1944 pageant crown, so a Vatican spokeszombie stepped in defend her recent statement that mankind must defend against dirty trannies (AKA: the competition) as vigorously as against rainforest erosion.
During an interview on this morning on Radio 4's Today programme, Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor said that the pope "wasn't condemning anyone or any person" with his comments. The cardinal went on to say that the pope was only trying to emphasise the importance of the family, and the responsibility on humans to procreate. He also said that Pope Benedict's comments were "quite difficult to interpret" and as a result of this that he had been "very much" misrepresented in the media. The Pope said behaviour beyond traditional heterosexual relations is "a destruction of God's work." He also said man must be protected "from the destruction of himself" and urged respect for the "nature of the human being as man and woman. The tropical forests do deserve our protection. But man, as a creature, does not deserve any less."
Meanwhile thugs around the world felt emboldened by the Pope's call to protect mankind from homos, which they plan to do with fists, boots, and guns.

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The Other Shoe Cometh

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Y2K9

Gizmodo is reporting that the nation's 30GB Zune owners are waking up today to find their devices "frozen" in some apparent Y2K-ish programming glitch. The problem is being reported by thousands of Zune owners across numerous user forums.
Apparently, around 2:00 AM today, the Zune models either reset, or were already off. Upon when turning on, the thing loads up and... freezes with a full loading bar. I thought my brother was the only one with it, but then it happened to my Zune. Then I checked out the forums and it seems everyone with a 30GB HDD model has had this happen to them
It'll be fune to read Microsoft's response to this. I don't think I've ever actually seen anybody with a Zune. Weird, because I know there have been millions sold.

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ACLU Sues To Overturn AR Adoption Ban

Via press release:
The American Civil Liberties Union today filed a lawsuit seeking to strike down a new law that bans any unmarried person who lives with a partner from serving as an adoptive or foster parent in the state of Arkansas. At a press conference at the Arkansas State Capitol this morning, several of the plaintiffs described how Act 1, which is set to go into effect on January 1, impacts their families and why they decided to be part of the case.

Stephanie Huffman, who already adopted one child from the state in 2004, was one of the plaintiffs who spoke at today’s press conference. Huffman and her partner of 10 years, Wendy Rickman, want to adopt another child or a pair of siblings through the Department of Children and Family Services, but now can’t because of Act 1. “The state already knows we’re good enough parents that they placed one child with us before Act 1 passed,” said Huffman. “Who knows how many children are now cut off by this law from loving homes?”

In the lawsuit filed today, the ACLU argues that Act 1 violates the federal and state constitutional rights to equal protection and due process. Participating in the case are 29 adults and children from over a dozen different families, including a grandmother who lives with her same-sex partner of nine years and is the only relative able and willing to adopt her grandchild who is now in Arkansas state care, several married heterosexual couples who have relatives or friends disqualified by Act 1 who they want to adopt their children if they die, and a heterosexual woman who wants to be a foster or adoptive parent but can’t because she lives with her partner of five years. The complaint was filed this morning in Pulaski County Circuit Court.

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HomoQuotable - Nancy Goldstein

"Bitch, I've seen queers more fired up when Bed Bath & Beyond runs out of sale items. Where's the passion?

"Was Van Sant afraid that audiences wouldn't be sympathetic if 70s-era gay activists were people who suffered, swore, fought back, and fucked like they meant it? If the street kids actually looked like dirty, starving, broke-ass teen hustlers?

"Gay history -- unedited -- is ugly, angry, and violent. It's police dragging us out of cellar bars and down to the station to gang fuck the femmes and face-rape the butches, queens, and trannies. It's military witch hunts; suicides and "experimental therapies," from lobotomies and electro-shock to Christian boot camps. It's Stonewall, where we showered raiding police with bottles, locked them in the bar, and set it afire. It's ACT UP and chaining ourselves to pharmaceutical companies' fences to protest AIDS drugs price gouging.

"Van Sant's gentrified Milk reflects gay activism's increasingly apologetic tone. We don't always need to be burning police cars to prove our cred, but we shouldn't be inviting homophobes to the table, then singing their praises if they don't spit on us. It's not about hugging Rick Warren and being satisfied that at least he's being nice about denying us our civil rights. Politeness has become homophobia's most popular mask.

"Ultimately I'm glad that even this pasteurized, homogenized Milk is out there. Audiences need to see the film's opening sequence -- silent archival footage depicting police bar raids from the 40s, 50s, and 60s, with men shielding their faces from the cameras even as they are shoved into vans, handcuffed, or held in waiting rooms. I want fresh salt poured on the wounds of Proposition 8 so that queers will stop apologizing for being angry with the Mormon and Catholic Church, and for boycotting supporters. I want fresh rage directed at Barack Obama for thinking that including a gay marching band in his inauguration proceedings compensates for his having invited a notorious homophobe and anti-Semite to give the invocation.

"But I'm not sure that this low-fat film will really help audience get Milk. And I'm sorry that Van Sant didn't think we could handle the truth." - Nancy Goldstein, writing for the Huffington Post.

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Time-Warner Vs. Viacom

If you subscribe to Time-Warner Cable, you and their 13 million other customers nationwide will lose all of your Viacom channels at midnight tonight as the two media giants continue to spar over a new carriage fees. Viacom wants to raise the charges for Time-Warner to carry their 19 channels, Time-Warner says they're being greedy. Same old, same old.

Among the disappearing channels will be LOGO, MTV, VH1, Comedy Central, Spike, TV Land, and basic cable's most watched channel, Nickelodeon. (That last one might be particularly annoying for the millions of parents who'll have kids underfoot for the long holiday weekend.)

These disputes tend to be resolved rather quickly once a few hundred thousand complaining customers start flooding cable companies' phonelines. Time-Warner claims they will stand firm this time, but Viacom has posted a YouTube clip inviting pissed off viewers to call the main Time-Warner complaint number.

UPDATE: It gets meaner. Time-Warner will also be blocking Viacom websites so their customers can't watch their shows online.

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United State Of Pop 2008

The insanely talented DJ Earworm has created this year's Billboard Top 25 pop singles mashup: United State Of Pop 2008 (Viva La Pop). Amazing.

In case you missed it, here's his take on 2007.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Israeli Army Launches YouTube Channel

Yesterday the Israeli army launched their own channel on YouTube so the world can witness the mighty mighty power of their American-made-and-paid-for technology.

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$300K For Bristol's Baby Pics

The world has gone insane.

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Daily Grumble

Note to Manhattan party promoters: Putting your mountain-sized and smokin' hot musclebear go-go dancer into an XXL size of Depends to evoke the New Year's Baby? Not so hot. The foot-long novelty safety pin didn't help either. Great party otherwise. Carry on.

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Suit Filed To Stop Prayer At Inauguration

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has filed a federal lawsuit to stop prayers from being offered at Barack Obama's inauguration. Among those being served with the suit are Rick Warren and Joseph Lowery.
The Madison-based foundation, its co-presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor and several of its members are among the 29 co-plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit, Newdow vs. Roberts, filed Monday by attorney Michael Newdow in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The suit seeks to stop the Presidential Inaugural Committee from sponsoring prayers at the official inauguration.

The 34-page legal complaint said for most of the country's history, clergy has not led prayers at inaugurations. Similarly, the lawsuit seeks to stop U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts from using the religious phrase, "so help me God," in the presidential oath of office. Roberts is among the defendants, along with inaugural committee officials -- such as chairperson Sen. Dianne Feinstein -- and Revs. Rick Warren and Joseph Lowery, who have been invited to deliver the invocation and benediction.

"Interlarding those ceremonies with clergy who espouse sectarian religious dogma does not unite, but rather divides, our citizenry," Newdow's complaint reads. "Similarly, instead of instilling confidence in our governmental structure, it tears at the very foundation upon which that structure is built."
The FFRF acknowledges that their suit has little chance of winning, but points out that only 18 of 57 presidential inaugurations have featured public prayer - all of those in the last 72 years.

I applaud this action by the FFRF, doomed as it is. It should be crystal clear to even the most devout Americans that there should be absolutely no endorsement or mention of any religion in a secular Democracy. Religious influence on government has never been used except to oppress, divide, demean, and ostracize.

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Purple Haze Takes On Single Ladies

Yeah, maybe the whole dance-like-Beyonce' YouTube craze is played by now, but check out dance trio Purple Haze. The performers are Darius Crenshaw, Grasan Kingsberry, and Brian Brooks from the national touring company of The Color Purple. These guys should do a dance battle with Shane Mercado.

(Via - Towleroad)

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Love Is Blind

JMG reader Wilson tips us to Porn For The Blind, a "not-for-profit organization dedicated to producing audio descriptions of sample movie clips from adult web sites. This service is provided free of charge." From their Wikipedia entry:
Since pornography is primarily designed for visual media, there have been few methods for the sightless to enjoy this type of entertainment. A 'translator' will watch existing clips or videos and give a play-by-play of the events. In order to maintain the feeling and mood of the program, very descriptive detail will be given to parts that enhance the mood, while other details, such as curtain color or other unimportant items, will be left out of the scene. This helps the listener follow the action, and enjoy this type of program that has been mostly unavailable to them.
The site is looking for more volunteers to record descriptions, so if you've been told you have a bedroom voice, you might want to lend a hand...so to speak.

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Record Year For Gotham Tourism

For the second year in a row, New York City has topped perennial tourism leaders Orlando and Las Vegas with an estimated 47 million visitors.
Foreign tourists, who took advantage of the weak dollar and flocked to the city, accounted for most of the increase, with their numbers reaching nearly 10 million, about a million more than in the previous year, the mayor said. In all, he added, tourists spent a record $30 billion in New York City 2008. “While we can’t promise that we will hit another record next year,” Mr. Bloomberg said, “I do think we’ll continue to see a lot of tourists on our streets.” The news is, of course, welcome, given that the city is ailing badly from the effects of the global financial crisis, which has tumbled profits on Wall Street, New York’s main source of revenue. There are already some telling signs that less bountiful times loom. The hotel occupancy rate has declined to 85 percent, Mr. Bloomberg said, though it is still 20 percentage points higher than the national average.
Less expensive destinations will benefit from the economic downturn, but NYC may still take the tourism title again in 2009.

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Blago Makes His Senate Pick

Disgraced Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is somehow barreling forward and will today name Attorney General Roland Burris to fill the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama. But the pick may not stick.
The action comes despite warnings by Democratic Senate leaders that they would not seat anyone appointed by the disgraced governor who faces criminal charges of trying to sell the post, sources familiar with the decision said.

Shortly after Obama's Nov. 4 victory, Burris made known his interest in an appointment to the Senate but was never seriously considered, according to Blagojevich insiders. But in the days following Blagojevich's arrest, and despite questions over the taint of a Senate appointment, Burris stepped up his efforts to win the governor's support. Though he is 71, Burris has said that Obama's replacement should be able to win re-election and he has noted that despite a string of primary losses in races ranging from Chicago mayor to governor and U.S. senator, he's never lost to a Republican.
Oh, this will be interesting.

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Diaz Steps Up The Hate

Anti-gay New York Sen. Ruben Diaz, the ringleader of New York's now-infamous "Gang Of Three" dissident Democratic senators, has been distributing the flyer below to the press, apparently in reaction to criticism from gay rights and labor groups.Via New York Magazine:
It appears that Ruben "I hate gay people more than I like getting things done" Diaz Sr. is beginning to crack under pressure from groups like the Working Families Party, the Empire State Pride Agenda, and a handful of unions. The outside interests, who support Democratic Senate leader Malcolm Smith in Albany, have been purchasing ads in Bronx papers, passing out leaflets, and circulating petitions urging constituents to voice dissatisfaction with Diaz's split from his party. The groups have targeted Diaz and fellow rebel Pedro Espada, reports Elizabeth Benjamin in the Daily News, after political negotiations fell through.

Late yesterday Diaz's office sent out a frantic, brightly colored (but not gay) missive to the press and constituents, saying "NO!" to budget cuts. He decries Paterson's proposed cuts at length, arguing that the $15.4 billion budget gap can be addressed in "other ways." (No mention is made of how the state is legally obligated to balance its accounts, nor are alternate suggestions rendered, of course.) Then, just in case you forgot what else he hates, he adds that he does not "support the matrimony of homosexual couples, nor … abortion on demand." But, he insists, "I am still a Democrat. And I will always be a Democrat." Because opposing progressive agendas and sabotaging liberal party politics — that's what Democrats do.
Earlier this month the "deal" between the "Gang Of Three" and possible Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith abruptly fell through when Smith finally did the right thing and told the three that he'd rather the Democrats lost the majority than kowtow to their outrageous demands for leadership positions and massive personal budgets.

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O'Donnell Interviews For Clinton Seat

Openly gay NY state Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell interviewed with Gov. Paterson yesterday for Hillary Clinton's Senate seat.
To say Mr. O’Donnell, known for his active support of gay rights issues, including same-sex marriage, was overly optimistic about his chances would be a stretch. He put his odds of getting the seat at about one in 10, or “about the same as the population of gay people in the world.” But Mr. O’Donnell did offer that he believes the governor has yet to settle on a final choice.

“I didn’t get the impression that a decision was coming anytime soon,” Mr. O’Donnell said. “I have the sense that he was really weighing what people were saying. I can tell when people are listening to me and actually listening, and listening to me just because they’re supposed to listen. He seemed to be very intent on focusing on and absorbing what I think my strengths might be.” With that assessment came a dose of realism from Mr. O’Donnell, who added: “I’m sure I’m not unique. I’m sure he does that with all the people he talks to.”
As Caroline Kennedy's candidacy seems to wane, more press attention is being paid this week to other contenders for the seat, including my own Congresswoman, Carolyn Mahoney, who like O'Donnell is a strong supporter of marriage equality. Another interesting candidate is openly lesbian teachers union head Randi Weingarten.

RELATED: There has never been an openly gay U.S. Senator.

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Buzzed

Australian scientists gave cocaine to bees and discovered that while high the bees acted just like human cokeheads.
"When foraging honeybees discover a particularly good source of pollen or nectar, they fly back to the hive and perform a symbolic dance for their nest mates," said Dr Andrew Barron. "This is a specialised form of communication to tell their nest mates about the rewards they have found." But after dabbing low doses of cocaine on the bees' backs before they went out, the researchers observed that when they returned they were more likely to dance for their nest mates, and performed particularly vigorous routines explaining where the food was located.
And then they bragged about their book deal and their totally sweet loft in Soho.

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Bill Kristol Thinks He's A Poetry Critic

From Bill Kristol's op/ed piece in the NY Times:
Obama has selected Yale’s Elizabeth Alexander to compose and read a poem. I still remember watching Maya Angelou read “On the Pulse of Morning” at Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993 — and thinking that American culture really was in a state of irreversible decline, as she indulged in that multicultural cataloguing of “the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew, / The African and Native American, the Sioux, / The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek, / The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh, / The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher, / The privileged, the homeless, the teacher.” I’ve looked at some of Alexander’s poetry, and am confident she’ll be a big improvement on Angelou. It makes me think our culture isn’t necessarily getting worse. It may even be getting better.
UGH. So now this rabid war hawk jerk thinks he's some kind of poetry critic? Some of Maya Angelou's work and surely her vocal delivery provide plenty of opportunity for parody, but I don't mind telling you that as I watched her Clinton inaugural recitation of On The Pulse Of Morning, I sat there in my office in Miami and wept.

Not just for the historic and unprecedented mention of gay people as part of the tapestry of America, but for the almost overwhelming sense of hope that the piece and the day delivered. Years later when Angelou's recitation of Pulse was sampled in the trance hit Psalm by Inspirione, I had many a "moment" on the dance floor. On The Pulse Of Morning is one of the few poems of which I can recite a substantial portion, and given a beer or ten, I'll throw in my Angelou impression as well. My favorite bit:

I, the Rock, I the River, I the Tree
I am yours--your Passages have been paid.

Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need
For this bright morning dawning for you.

History, despite its wrenching pain,
Cannot be unlived, and if faced
With courage, need not be lived again.

Lift up your eyes upon
The day breaking for you.

Give birth again
To the dream.

Women, children, men,
Take it into the palms of your hands.

Yeah, fuck Bill Kristol.

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Morning View - Slave Memorial

In 1991, excavation for a new office tower in lower Manhattan revealed a centuries-old burial ground for the slaves of New Yorkers, grim testament to the nearly 200 years that slavery was legal here. An estimated 15,000 Africans are buried on the seven acre site, which in those days was just outside of the city limits as slave cemeteries were banned in New York. After protracted legal wrangling, the site was finally dedicated last year as the African Burial Ground National Memorial, where the Park Service now offers daily instructional talks and tours of its visitors center. Read more about memorial and the history of slavery in New York here.

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Year-End Swag Tuesday

As is tradition, the final Swag Tuesday prize for the year is the JMG Mystery Box O' Swag. Contained therein is an assortment of items that were never offered as prizes or are extra copies of earlier giveaways this year. I haven't counted it up yet, but there should be a least two dozen items in total - books, CDs, movies, and a DVD box set or two.

Enter to win the JMG Mystery Box O' Swag by commenting on this post. Only enter once and please remember to leave an email address you check frequently. Entries close when 2008 ends on the west coast. Publicists: If you'd like to take part in Swag Tuesday on JMG, please email me.

UNRELATED SWAG COINCIDENCE: The two winners of last week's Saint-At-Large party tickets not only work in the same office, they are BFFs. Totally weird, but also cool.

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Monday, December 29, 2008

AIDS Denialist Christine Maggiore Dies Of The Disease She Claimed Doesn't Exist

Christine Maggiore, the notorious AIDS denialist who barely escaped felony charges in 2006 after her baby died untreated for HIV, has herself succumbed to the disease she claimed did not exist.
Maggiore, 52, was founder of Alive & Well AIDS Alternatives, a nonprofit that challenges "common assumptions" about AIDS. Her group's website and toll-free hotline cater to expectant HIV-positive mothers who shun AIDS medications, want to breast-feed their babies and seek to meet others of like mind. She also had written a book on the subject, titled "What if Everything You Thought You Knew About AIDS Was Wrong?"

In 2006, the Los Angeles County district attorney's office decided not to file criminal charges against Maggiore, whose daughter died the year before in what the county coroner ruled was AIDS-related pneumonia. Los Angeles police had been investigating whether Maggiore and her husband, Robin Scovill, were negligent in not testing or treating Eliza Jane Scovill for the human immunodeficiency virus before her May 2005 death. Maggiore had said that she did not take antiviral medications during her pregnancy and that she did not have her daughter tested for the virus after birth.
Maggiore joins the sad list of dead denialists such as David Pasquarelli and Micheal Bellefountaine, both of whom campaigned vigorously and violently against the "AIDS myth." In 1998, Maggiore published What If Everything You Thought You Knew About AIDS Is Wrong?, a book heralded as "brave" and "groundbreaking" by the insane denialists. Poz.com blogger Peter Staley reacts to Maggiore's death:
What should we call it? A suicide? What should we call it when a woman dies because she refuses to believe she has a treatable illness? And what should we call it when a woman lets her baby daughter die because she refuses to believe the baby has a treatable illness? A murder? AIDS denialism has resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths in South Africa (see my previous post explaining why), and now two more here in the U.S. Any other idiots want to kill themselves or their children today? Anyone else out there with an HIV diagnosis want to just believe it's a harmless virus?
The AIDS denialists do not merely endanger their own crackpot lives. Some of them actively campaign to reduce or end funding for AIDS research and treatment, sometimes testifying before legislatures that are already ill-informed about the disease.

There is no satisfaction in Christine Maggiore's death, even though she not only caused the death of her daughter as well as her own, and may have influenced others to an early grave. All we can do is hope, perhaps futilely, that her story finally convinces other denialists to give up their dangerous crusade.

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Prop 8 Backlash Spurs Calls To End Donation Disclosure Laws

Last month the gays justifiably dug into the public records on who donated to Proposition 8, resulting in protests, boycotts and a handful of people losing their jobs. The haters screamed bloody murder (even though their side used the tactic as well) and now there's a call to repeal laws that require political donations be public. From an op/ed piece in the Wall Street Journal:
Ironically, it has long been minorities who have benefited the most from anonymous speech. In the 1950s, for example, Southern states sought to obtain membership lists of the NAACP in the name of the public's "right to know." Such disclosure would have destroyed the NAACP's financial base in the South and opened its supporters to threats and violence. It took a Supreme Court ruling in NAACP v. Alabama (1958) to protect the privacy of the NAACP and its supporters on First Amendment grounds. And more recently, it has usually been supporters of gay rights who have preferred to keep their support quiet.

There is another problem with publicizing donations in political elections: It tends to entrench powerful politicians whom donors fear alienating. If business executives give money to a committee chairman's opponent, they often fear retribution.

Other threats are more personal. For example, in 2004 Gigi Brienza contributed $500 to the John Edwards presidential campaign. An extremist animal rights group used that information to list Ms. Brienza's home address (and similarly, that of dozens of co-workers) on a Web site, under the ominous heading, "Now you know where to find them." Her "offense," also revealed from the campaign finance records, was that she worked for a pharmaceutical company that tested its products on animals.

In the aftermath of Prop. 8 we can glimpse a very ugly future. As anyone who has had their political yard signs torn down can imagine, with today's easy access to donor information on the Internet, any crank or unhinged individual can obtain information on his political opponents, including work and home addresses, all but instantaneously. When even donations as small as $100 trigger demonstrations, it is hard to know how one will feel safe in supporting causes one believes in.
As much as I want to know where some groups get their money, I'm not sure I entirely disagree. I'm not losing any sleep over the four people known to have lost their jobs versus the 18,000 gay couples who may have their marriages revoked. Boo frickin' hoo. But maybe a middle ground can be struck where only donors above a certain dollar amount are made public. Still, as Pam Spaulding notes, you can bet that Yes On 8 would have gotten even more money from corporations and high-profile people had they not feared being publicly denounced as homophobic.

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Lesbian Couple Wins NJ Discrimination Suit

Last year a lesbian couple sued after a church group in Ocean Grove, New Jersey refused to let them hold their wedding at a beach pavilion that they had regularly been renting to the public. The case is routinely trumpeted by the Christianist right as an example of how same-sex marriage will trample religious freedom. Today the women won their case.
The New Jersey Division on Civl Rights ruled today that gay couples will be allowed to hold civil union ceremonies at the public boardwalk pavilion in Ocean Grove, N.J., according to Garden State Equality. Harriet Bernstein and Luisa Paster sued the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association for refusing to allow them to hold their civil union ceremony at the pavilion.

The Division ruled that the couple has “probable cause” to claim that the ban violates New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination. The couple was represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey. "Though we're not home free yet, today's decision by the Corzine Administration is a significant victory for liberty and justice for all in Ocean Grove," said Steven Goldstein, chair of Garden State Equality. "The Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association has only itself to blame for pursuing a lawsuit that will cost it hundreds of thousands of dollars – and potentially millions of dollars in potential tourism to Ocean Grove, known across the country as a leading LGBT-friendly destination."
Expect the wingnut blogs to light up all over again on this.

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Thousands Of Gifts For Bristol's Baby

Wasn't Bristol Palin supposed to have a baby ten days ago? She'd better hurry because the baby presents are piling up. According to an interview with her grandfather, Bristol and the baby have already received thousands of presents from around the world, in fact he estimates they've gotten over 100,000 packages and letters. Seriously.

Meanwhile the details of the drug charges against her baby daddy's mama have become known.
The mother of Bristol Palin's boyfriend sent text messages to two police informants discussing drug transactions before her arrest on felony drug charges, authorities say. An affidavit filed Monday says Sherry L. Johnston sent text messages referring to "coffee" as a code for the drug OxyContin. The 42-year-old Johnston was arrested last week after state troopers served a search warrant at her Wasilla home. She is out on bail.

Johnston is the mother of 18-year-old Levi Johnston. Gov. Sarah Palin announced in September that her 18-year-old daughter Bristol was pregnant and Johnston was the father. Authorities say the case began in the second week of September — a couple of weeks into Palin's campaign as Republican vice presidential candidate — when drug investigators intercepted a package containing 179 Oxycontin pills. That led to the arrest of the suspects, who agreed to be informants. According to the affidavit, Johnston sent a text message to one informant Oct. 1, writing: "Hey, my phones are tapped and reporters and god knows who else is always following me and the family so no privacy. I will let u no when I can go for cof."
In a sick way, I can't wait for Palin 2012 so we can accuse her of "palling around" with drug dealers.

UPDATE: It's a boy.
Bristol Palin, the 18-year-old daughter of former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, gave birth on Sunday to a healthy 7 lb., 4 oz., baby boy in Palmer, Alaska. "We think it's wonderful," said Colleen Jones, the sister of Bristol's grandmother Sally Heath, who confirmed the news. "The baby is fine and Bristol is doing well. Everyone is excited." The baby's name is Tripp Easton Mitchell Johnston, according to Jones. Baby Tripp takes his surname from his dad, Levi Johnston, an apprentice electrician and former Wasilla High School hockey player who has been dating Bristol for three years. Bristol Palin is currently residing in Wasilla and completing her high-school diploma through correspondence courses. Johnston is studying to become an electrician. He told the Associated Press in October that he and fiancée Bristol in 2009 and raise the child together.
Tripp & Trig. They'll make a great rap duo.

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Dick Cheney Doesn't Know Why Everybody Thinks He's A Complete Douche Nozzle

Dick Cheney has an approval rating of 29% and he says he doesn't know why. From his hometown newspaper, the Casper Star-Tribune:
How do you explain your low approval rating?

"I don't have any idea. I don't follow the polls. My experience has been over the years that if you govern based upon poll numbers, upon trying to improve your overall poll ratings, people I've encountered who do that are people who won't make tough decisions. And the job the president has and those who advise him is to make those basic fundamental decisions for the nation that nobody else is authorized or able to make."
Patriot Act. Abu Graib. Guantanamo. Halliburton. Blackwater. Wiretapping. Torture. Iraq. Yeah, eight years of playing the evil puppet master to to our Dunce In Chief and he has no idea why everybody loathes him.

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Virginity Pledgers More Like To Get Knocked Up

So much for those creepy purity balls and abstinence pledge cards.
Teenagers who pledge to remain virgins until marriage are just as likely to have premarital sex as those who do not promise abstinence and are significantly less likely to use condoms and other forms of birth control when they do, according to a study released today. The new analysis of data from a large federal survey found that more than half of youths became sexually active before marriage regardless of whether they had taken a "virginity pledge," but that the percentage who took precautions against pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases was 10 points lower for pledgers than for non-pledgers. "Taking a pledge doesn't seem to make any difference at all in any sexual behavior," said Janet E. Rosenbaum of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, whose report appears in the January issue of the journal Pediatrics. "But it does seem to make a difference in condom use and other forms of birth control that is quite striking."
RELATED: Last month the Obama transition team announced that his administration will end the practice of linking AIDS funding to abstinence education.

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All Dogs Go To Heaven

Charles Blow has an interesting opinion piece in the NY Times about the Pew Forum's recent survey which surprisingly shows that 70% of Americans believe that people from religions other than theirs (and even atheists) can go to heaven.
One very plausible explanation is that Americans just want good things to come to good people, regardless of their faith. As Alan Segal, a professor of religion at Barnard College told me: “We are a multicultural society, and people expect this American life to continue the same way in heaven.” He explained that in our society, we meet so many good people of different faiths that it’s hard for us to imagine God letting them go to hell.

In fact, in the most recent survey, Pew asked people what they thought determined whether a person would achieve eternal life. Nearly as many Christians said you could achieve eternal life by just being a good person as said that you had to believe in Jesus. Also, many Christians apparently view their didactic text as flexible. According to Pew’s August survey, only 39 percent of Christians believe that the Bible is the literal word of God, and 18 percent think that it’s just a book written by men and not the word of God at all. In fact, on the question in the Pew survey about what it would take to achieve eternal life, only 1 percent of Christians said living life in accordance with the Bible.
There's a great discussion going on in the comments to the piece. My favorite is this little poem left by one atheist:
It seems that I was unaware
That to a Place that isn't there,
I'll end, like True believers will,
Ungrateful, unbelieving still!
.

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NH House To Get Marriage Bill

On January 7th, openly gay New Hampshire state Rep. Jim Splaine will introduce an amendment to change that state's recent civil union law into one that provides for full marriage equality.
When legislators meet in 2009, there will be several bills to consider that deal with civil unions and gay marriage. State Rep. Jim Splaine, D-Portsmouth, submitted a bill asking that civil unions, which are currently recognized by the state, be changed to allow marriage. State Rep. Paul McEachern, D-Portsmouth, is co-sponsoring the bill. "The bill would essentially provide for full marriage equality," Splaine said. "I submitted the bill because I think it's important that we keep this dialogue going." Splaine said the bill will be presented on Jan. 7 along with the other bills introduced for the session. He said then it will be scheduled for a public hearing or sent to a committee.

Splaine said that although civil unions are recognized in New Hampshire, gay marriage is not. He said a bill introduced by state Rep. David Hess, R-Hooksett, would prohibit New Hampshire from recognizing gay marriages performed in other states as civil unions here. "I introduced — in 2006 — a civil union bill and a lot of people thought it was not a good time, but it passed in 2007," he said. "I offered an amendment to add full equality for marriage, and that didn't pass. This is my second try at getting full marriage equality."
There have been over 600 civil unions in New Hampshire since the law took effect last year.

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On Hulu: The Times Of Harvey Milk

Towleroad tips us that the Oscar-winning documentary The Times Of Harvey Milk is up on Hulu. So here it is.

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Please Don't Divorce Us

The Courage Campaign is soliciting submissions for their "Please Don't Divorce Us" photo essay.

Infamous prosecutor Ken Starr has filed a legal brief -- on behalf of the "Yes on 8" campaign -- to nullify the 18,000 same-sex marriages performed in California between May and November of 2008. It's time to put a face to Ken Starr's shameful legal proceedings. To put a face to the 18,000 couples facing forcible divorce. To put a face to marriage equality. Because, gay or straight, YOU are the face of the Marriage Equality Movement.

Please click through the photos in the slideshows below and then submit your own photo, as an individual, a couple or in a group (perhaps with your family over the holidays). Take a picture holding a piece of paper that says "Please don't divorce us," "Please don't divorce my moms,""Please don't divorce my friends, Dawn and Audrey," "Please don't divorce Californians" or whatever you want after "Please don't divorce..." and send it to: pleasedontdivorce@couragecampaign.org.

We want to share this beautiful project with as many people as possible. Please tell your friends about this slideshow by clicking here to use our simple and easy invite page. To support the "Please don't divorce..." project or our campaign to repeal Prop 8, please consider making a contribution to the Courage Campaign. Click here to make a timely donation.

Check out the photos submitted so far here.

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In Which New York Joins The EU

The Wall Street Journal reports that Russian media is giving a lot of attention to a local academic who is predicting that the United States will collapse by 2010 in a civil war brought about by "mass immigration, economic decline, and moral degradation."
Prof. Panarin, 50 years old, is not a fringe figure. A former KGB analyst, he is dean of the Russian Foreign Ministry's academy for future diplomats. He is invited to Kremlin receptions, lectures students, publishes books, and appears in the media as an expert on U.S.-Russia relations. But it's his bleak forecast for the U.S. that is music to the ears of the Kremlin, which in recent years has blamed Washington for everything from instability in the Middle East to the global financial crisis. Mr. Panarin's views also fit neatly with the Kremlin's narrative that Russia is returning to its rightful place on the world stage after the weakness of the 1990s, when many feared that the country would go economically and politically bankrupt and break into separate territories.
The map above depicts how Panarin thinks the country will break up. Mexico gets the south, Canada gets the midwest, and for some reason the west goes to China. But the neatest part is that the new "Atlantic America" will join the European Union. I've always wanted an EU passport!

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HomoQuotable - Anderson Cooper

"Rachel Maddow is an incredible talent -- she's funny, and smart, obviously well researched on subjects. I'm just not interested as a viewer in listening to anchors' opinions. It seems like there's an awful lot of yelling, and this year yelling's been replaced by sarcasm and snarkiness." Anderson Cooper, taking a swipe at Rachel Maddow in an interview by Choire Sicha. (I love Rachel's snark.)

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Morning View - Subway Diva

In 2004 artist Nancy Spero installed a series of tile murals in the subway station under Lincoln Center. This one's my favorite, see the rest here.

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But Will He Still Get The Job?


Here's the audio of Barack, The Magic Negro, the song that RNC chair hopeful Chip Saltsman sent out to his friends as a Christmas gift. The GOP leadership is reportedly horrified and embarrassed by Saltsman's action.
A leading contender to become chairman of the Republican Party has left senior officials horrified after he distributed a CD featuring a parody song called Barack the Magic Negro. At a time when the party seeks to recover from heavy electoral defeats in November - and amid calls that it should reach out to younger and ethnically diverse voters - the emergence of the parody, sung to the tune of Puff the Magic Dragon, has left many Republicans cringing.

Chip Saltsman, a former leader of Tennessee Republicans, who is seeking to take over the party's national committee, sent the CD to party members as a Christmas gift. But unlike him, few found it funny. The ditty, written by Paul Shanklin, a conservative parodist, alludes to an opinion piece penned by the black writer David Ehrenstein in the Los Angeles Times last year headlined “Obama the Magic Negro”. In the article the author argued that voting for the “warm and unthreatening” Mr Obama helped whites to alleviate guilt over the country's past racial injustices. The song has been played by Rush Limbaugh on his conservative talk radio show. “Barack the Magic Negro,” it begins, “made guilty whites feel good/They'll vote for him and not for me/Cos he's not from the hood.”

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Frank Rich On Rick Warren

NY Times columnist Frank Rich thinks its time to let the Rick Warren thing go and prepare to judge Barack Obama by his deeds.
By the historical standards of presidential hubris, Obama’s disingenuous defense of his tone-deaf invitation to Warren is nonetheless a relatively tiny infraction. It’s no Bay of Pigs. But it does add an asterisk to the joyous inaugural of our first black president. It’s bizarre that Obama, of all people, would allow himself to be on the wrong side of this history.

Since he’s not about to rescind the invitation, what happens next? For perspective, I asked Timothy McCarthy, a historian who teaches at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and an unabashed Obama enthusiast who served on his campaign’s National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Leadership Council. He responded via e-mail on Christmas Eve. After noting that Warren’s role at the inauguration is, in the end, symbolic, McCarthy concluded that “it’s now time to move from symbol to substance.” This means Warren should “recant his previous statements about gays and lesbians, and start acting like a Christian.”

McCarthy added that it’s also time “for President-elect Obama to start acting on the promises he made to the LGBT community during his campaign so that he doesn’t go down in history as another Bill Clinton, a sweet-talking swindler who would throw us under the bus for the sake of political expediency.” And “for LGBT folks to choose their battles wisely, to judge Obama on the content of his policy-making, not on the character of his ministers.” Amen. Here’s to humility and equanimity everywhere in America, starting at the top, as we negotiate the fierce rapids of change awaiting us in the New Year.

Read the entire essay.

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Evening View - SuperTarget

On what is supposed to be one of the busiest shopping weekends of the year, a few blocks from my mother's house in Orlando I found this brand new and massive SuperTarget nearly deserted, with only two of two dozen checkout lanes open.

RELATED: This SuperTarget is in a development cringingly called "SoDO", the "South of Downtown Orlando" area. Eeesh.

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Xmas In Central Florida


I think this video pretty much says it all - a prog-rock version of O' Little Town Of Bethlehem set to 40,000 computerized Xmas lights. More videos here, including a freestyle version of Jingle Bell Rock.

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The Ehrenstein Effect

The shockwaves of writer (and frequent JMG commenter) David Ehrenstein's Magic Negro column continue to reverberate, this time causing a little bit of Christmas trouble for a Republican National Committee candidate.
RNC candidate Chip Saltsman’s Christmas greeting to committee members includes a music CD with lyrics from a song called “Barack the Magic Negro,” first played on Rush Limbaugh’s popular radio show. Saltsman, a personal friend of conservative satirist Paul Shanklin, sent a 41-track CD along with a note to national committee members. “I look forward to working together in the New Year,” Saltsman wrote. “Please enjoy the enclosed CD by my friend Paul Shanklin of the Rush Limbaugh Show.” The CD, called “We Hate the USA,” lampoons liberals with such songs as “John Edwards’ Poverty Tour,” “Wright place, wrong pastor,” “Love Client #9,” “Ivory and Ebony” and “The Star Spanglish banner.” Several of the track titles, including “Barack the Magic Negro,” are written in bold font.

The song, which debuted on Limbaugh’s show in late March 2007, latches onto an opinion column in the Los Angeles Times of the same title. That column, penned by cultural critic David Ehrenstein, argued that Obama could serve as a balm to whites who felt guilty about past treatment of African Americans. Limbaugh first highlighted the column the day it ran, according to a contemporary report by Media Matters, the liberal watchdog agency. Media Matters reported Limbaugh repeated the phrase more than two dozen times the day the column ran.
From Ehrenstein's original column:
"As every carbon-based life form on this planet surely knows, Barack Obama, the junior Democratic senator from Illinois, is running for president. Since making his announcement, there has been no end of commentary about him in all quarters — musing over his charisma and the prospect he offers of being the first African American to be elected to the White House.

"But it's clear that Obama also is running for an equally important unelected office, in the province of the popular imagination — the 'Magic Negro
.' The Magic Negro is a figure of postmodern folk culture, coined by snarky 20th century sociologists, to explain a cultural figure who emerged in the wake of Brown vs. Board of Education. "He has no past, he simply appears one day to help the white protagonist," reads the description on Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magical_Negro .

He's there to assuage white "guilt" (i.e., the minimal discomfort they feel) over the role of slavery and racial segregation in American history, while replacing stereotypes of a dangerous, highly sexualized black man with a benign figure for whom interracial sexual congress holds no interest.

As might be expected, this figure is chiefly cinematic — embodied by such noted performers as Sidney Poitier, Morgan Freeman, Scatman Crothers, Michael Clarke Duncan, Will Smith and, most recently, Don Cheadle. And that's not to mention a certain basketball player whose very nickname is "Magic."
I excerpted Ehrenstein's essay here on JMG in January, almost a year after it was first published. Read reactions here.

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Morning View - Breakfast

When everything in Grandma's kitchen is set up to serve 5 year-olds, you eat the mini-waffles and shut up about it.

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Friday, December 26, 2008

HomoQuotable - Rex Wockner

"Some bloggers and others have suggested that the 'Stonewall 2.0' phenomenon is petering out. 'Join the (diminishing) Impact,' said Peter Staley. Dan Savage jumped in saying Join The Impact's followup events to Nov. 15th's massive national demos have been weak. Everyone involved in the Stonewall 2.0 phenomenon should read both critiques (click the bolded names above). But Stonewall 2.0 isn't fizzling...

"That's because Stonewall 2.0 already happened. Stonewall itself lasted three nights in 1969, but it set the stage for much that came after it. Stonewall 2.0 lasted, at minimum, 11 days -- and, I suggest, set the stage for much that will come after it.

"In David Carter's book Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution, one Michael Fader told Carter: "We all had a collective feeling like we'd had enough of this kind of shit. ... Everyone in the crowd felt that we were never going to go back. It was like the last straw. It was time to reclaim something that had always been taken from us. ... There was something in the air, freedom a long time overdue, and we're going to fight for it. It took different forms, but the bottom line was, we weren't going to go away. And we didn't."

"Sound familiar?

"Stonewall 2.0 may or may not be inextricably wed to Join The Impact, the viral entity that coordinated the massive, 300-city, 50-state demos on Nov. 15, but what happened from Nov. 5 to Nov. 15 in California and across the country indisputably fired up a new generation of activists and lit a fire under complacent, comfortable older generations. It was a 2.0 moment -- different from the gay marches on Washington, the AB 101 protests, the White Night Riots and other post-Stonewall historical moments precisely because it took place from coast to coast and border to border, and because the method by which it was organized (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, blogs, e-mail, text-messaging) can be reactivated in minutes whenever the moment strikes." - Veteran gay reporter Rex Wockner, writing on his blog. Read the entire piece.

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Obama: Most Admired American

A Gallup poll shows Barack Obama as the most admired living American man. Hillary Clinton is the most admired living woman.
A month before his inauguration, Americans choose Barack Obama as the man they admire most in the world, according to a new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll. It's the first time a president-elect has topped the annual survey in more than a half-century. President Bush falls to a distant second after seven years as the most-admired man.

Hillary Rodham Clinton leads the list of most-admired woman, a spot she's held for 13 of the past 16 years — as first lady, then New York senator and now Obama's designate for secretary of State. A newcomer is second: Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who wasn't well-known nationally until Republican presidential candidate John McCain chose her as his running mate in August. The findings, a snapshot of public opinion at the end of a tumultuous year, reflect soaring expectations for an incoming president who will take over daunting economic challenges on Jan. 20.
Gallup has been asking the question since 1948. The last president-elect to top the poll was Dwight Eisenhower in 1952.

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Daily Ungrumble

Gonna hit 80 today.

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Eartha Kitt, 81

Eartha Kitt, the bawdy, sexy, sultry performer whose name will forever live in the pantheon of gay icons, died today at 81.
Actress and "Santa Baby" singer Eartha Kitt has died. Kitt, 81, died Thursday in New York City, her publicist confirmed to CNN, after being treated there for colon cancer. Her daughter Kitt Shapiro was by her side. Known primarily for singing in her distinctively raspy voice and purring like a cat as Catwoman on the television series Batman, Kitt was a star of stage, film, television and music, who was nominated for three Tony awards, two Grammy awards and two Emmy awards, according to her official Web site. A performer to the very end, CNN reports that Kitt taped a PBS special six weeks ago in Chicago, which is set to air in February.
Two year ago Little David and I attended the wretched Off Broadway show Mimi Le Duck, only because we feared that this day would be here soon. I will forever be glad that we got to sit ten rows from the stage and hear Eartha Kitt's inimitable growl. From 1962: C'est Si Bon and I Want To Be Evil.

From 1983: The gay disco classic, Where Is My Man.

From 1984: I Love Men. From 1989: Cha Cha Heels.

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Xmas 1966

Yeah, it's seems pretty obvious, even 42 years ago.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Dance Of The Sugar Plum Lesbians

This story makes its fifth annual appearance on JMG....

Grand Central Terminal functions as the mechanical heart of midtown New York City, pumping out several thousand workers and tourists on one beat, then sucking in several thousand more on the next.

The rhythms of the terminal are fascinating.

Beat. Four thousand, inbound from New Haven.

Beat. Three thousand, outbound to Westchester.

Worlds collide on the main floor.

The tourists gawk up at the gloriously ornate ceiling and uselessly flash their digital cameras at objects hundreds of feet away.

The commuters rush up to the track displays to determine their track number, then dart across the terminal floor, dodging the milling tourists, heads down, like running backs heading for the end zone.

It's mesmerizing. It's majestic.

And sometimes, like tonight, it's magical.

I'm walking through the massive main room just as the holiday laser show begins on the ceiling. To the tune of Take The "A" Train, the laser depicts two trains arriving from different directions. The trains stop opposite each other and a reindeer leaps out of each one and crosses over to the opposite train.

The laser traces the outline of one of the zodiac constellations painted on the ceiling. The Cancer crab leaps to life and becomes the Crab Conductor, waddling down the center aisle of the car, punching the reindeers' ticket stubs with his claws.

I move over to the edge of the room, near the entrance for Track 25, so I can watch the reaction to the show. As usual, I'm more entertained by watching the audience than by watching the actual show.

At the ticket windows, standing in front of signs that say "Harlem Line" or "Hudson Line", commuters tilt their heads painfully back to view the show directly overhead. The tourists cluster in delighted circles, holding each others' elbows for balance as they nearly bend over backwards.

Some people move to the edges of the great hall, as I have, to remove themselves from the traffic flow while they watch. Among those that come to join me on the perimeter of the room is a lesbian couple. They stand quite close to me, the taller woman behind the shorter one, with her arms wrapped around her, supporting her a bit as they both lean back on the marble wall.

The shorter woman is stout with a large firm chest. Her hair is short and brushed back into what might have once been called a ducktail. She has an ornate tattoo on her left forearm and she has a leather wallet protruding from the rear pocket of her jeans, attached to her leather belt by a short silver chain. She has more than a passing resemblence to Tony Danza, her big boobs notwithstanding, so naturally (in my head) I name her Toni.

Toni's girlfriend is blond and her short ponytail dangles just above her collar. She is wearing long Christmas tree earrings which nearly brush her shoulders. Her lanky, sinewy limbs are bound in a tight running outfit, over which she is wearing a school athletic jacket. I imagine that she might be a coach at Yale or Harvard, perhaps a girls lacrosse coach, or maybe track and field.

Coach is squeezing Toni tightly and they bounce together to the music a bit. Coach looks over at me and catches me smiling. She nudges Toni, who looks over at me too, and we all grin goofily at each other for a moment.

Overhead, a new show begins. The familiar opening notes of Tchaikovsky's Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairies ring out as the Empire State and the Chrysler buildings sprout arms, bow to each other, and begin waltzing across the ceiling.

I look around the room and it's as if time was frozen for just a second, every person stopped in mid-stride, eyes cast upward, mouths open in silent joy.

Toni pushes away from Coach, turns around and delivers her a bow as deep and as elegant as the one just depicted overheard.

"Madame, may I please have this dance?" she asks Coach.

Coach looks around a bit awkwardly. "You are TOO much!" And she giggles.

"Madame, I must insist!" says Toni, as she takes Coach's hands into hers.

Coach relents and she and Toni begin a beautful, slow waltz, moving in half-time to the music. As you might have guessed already, Toni leads.

As they dance, their eyes remain locked on each other. Toni is giving Coach an intense look, her lips tightly curled into a satisfied smile. Coach is grinning from ear to ear and again, she giggles.

All around Coach and Toni, the tourists, the businessmen, the students, the conductors, even the guy with a broom...they're all watching. Some are expressionless, but more are smiling, and some of them...some of them are frantically fussing with their cameras, eager to capture this magical New York Moment.

Serendipity prevails, the tune ends, and Toni dips Coach backwards with a dramatic upsweep of her free arm as a firestorm of camera flashes erupt around them. Toni pulls Coach up and close to her and they hug. There's another camera flash and the crowd begins to move along.

Then.

"Hey, look!"

The laser show is being concluded with giant sprigs of mistletoe appearing over our heads. This time it's Coach who bends down and plants a long tender kiss on Toni's non-lipsticked mouth. There's another flash of cameras from the delighted audience.

Toni takes Coach's hand and they begin to move off towards the exit.

"Oh, don't stop!" says a disappointed woman, still rummaging for her camera.

Toni looks back over her shoulder and says, "I never will."

Grand Central Terminal, the mechanical heart of New York City, beats again. But this time I hear a different rhythm. This time I hear a double beat.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS EVERYBODY!

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Shepard Fairey On Rick Warren

Shepard Fairey, the creator of the Obama campaign's most iconic image also drew the cover of this week's TIME Magazine Person Of The Year issue. But Fairey has mixed feelings over the honor. From last Friday:
“Tomorrow my illustration for Time Magazine’s “Person of The Year” hits the newsstands. While I’m very honored to be validated by a periodical that is nothing short of an American institution, the moment is bittersweet because I’m very disappointed by Obama’s appointment of Rick Warren to deliver his invocation during Obama’s inaugural address. Rick Warren is against gay marriage and reproductive rights, and he does not believe in evolution (maybe he offers himself as proof of lack of evolution). I understand that Obama is trying to appeal to conservatives and evangelicals, but this move is symbolically a slap in the face to many people. Warren is not a uniter, but a divider… he is intolerant in many of his views.

"I still think Obama is the best choice for president, but I can’t condone Warren’s involvement in Obama’s inauguration, no matter how insignificant it is. While I’m on the subject of gay marriage, I will be donating a chunk of the proceeds from an inauguration poster of Obama I was asked to create to the movement to overturn Prop 8. At first I was considering pulling my inauguration poster, but I think re-directing funds from it to put into a cause I care about is actually more constructive. Plus, I wouldn’t want withdrawing the image to come across as a blanket boycott of Obama. I’m sure I will ultimately disagree with Obama about many things, but I think I will agree with him on more. I think it is important to speak one’s mind, but also to not let the narcissism of petty differences sabotage our unity and progress.”
I think our differences with Obama on Rick Warren are far, far more than "petty", but I'll agree with Fairey that we can probably expect to agree with Obama much less than we disagree. The question is, exactly how much will this particular disagreement impede the progress of the movement? Have we made the necessary noise and can now get back to the business of Obama's promises to us? I don't know. I think this pervasive sense of betrayal may linger.

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