31 January 2006


Coretta Scott King, RIP

We have a lot more work to do in our common struggle against bigotry and discrimination. I say “common struggle” because I believe very strongly that all forms of bigotry and discrimination are equally wrong and should be opposed by right-thinking Americans everywhere. Freedom from discrimination based on sexual orientation is surely a fundamental human right in any great democracy, as much as freedom from racial, religious, gender, or ethnic discrimination. -- Coretta Scott King, 9 November 2000.



In the Walk the Line post below, I forgot to mention that the set decoration was accomplished by Mack's cousin, Carla Curry. My bad. I met Carla at the get together that Mack's mom and her sisters put together for their family, the Simmons-Clark reunion. She was working on the movie then, had recently been in Memphis, where Mack and I lived before moving here to Florida in fall 2000.

The Tennessee scenes, both Memphis and Hendersonville, were part of what I appreciated about the movie.

30 January 2006


Walk the Line

Mack and I saw Walk the Line [website, IMDB] last night. It was very well done. Excellent performances by Joaquin Phoenix and Reece Witherspoon. I can recommend it without reservation.

A memorable moment: The scene of a shotgun-wielding Mother Maybelle warding off Johnny Cash's dealer is a hoot.

I didn't know ReeceWitherspoon was from the Nashville area until reading about the SAG awards today. I went to prep school with a Witherspoon. Wonder if there's a relation?


Putt, Putt, Putt, Putt....

You remember those t-shirts with the weeping Microbus from when Jerry Garcia passed away? Well, here's another reason for a teary-eyed box. From the March 2006 print edition of Car and Driver:
The last air-cooled Volkswagen rolled off the assembly line in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in a VW Microbus. Tightening emissions regulations forced the end of the engine whose roots can be traced to the 1930s. A water-cooled version of the engine will replace the long-standing four banger in 2006.
Truly, it's the end of an era.

28 January 2006


Gay Agenda Once Again Revealed

Mark Morford, here, in the San Francisco Chronicle (web site: SFGate):

Do you want to know the real gay agenda, what 96.8 percent of all gay couples wish for every single day including Sunday? Here it is:

From what I can glean and above all else, the gay people of America seem to want this simply inexcusable level of boundless, unchecked normalcy. It's true. For some reason, they believe the utterly disgusting idea that they should be able to live their lives in peace and trust and health, with full support and assistance from their schools and hospitals and government, just like everyone else. I know. Shudder.

It is, in fact, remarkably similar to what heteros want. And women. And black people. And immigrants. And dwarves. That is, to be able to fall in love and maybe even get married (or at least have the option) and have decreasing amounts of sex and raise a family and hold down a good job and pay their taxes and argue with their lovers over who the hell spent 200 bucks on long distance to their mother, all while not having to worry about getting the living crap beaten out of them with tire chains by Arkansas and Alabama and most of Texas, or secretly loathed by small-minded pseudo-Christians who wouldn't know Jesus' true message if it bit them on the other cheek.

Ah, the deviousness of it all, the sheer nerve to desire the same sort of lives as everyone else. But do you want to know the kicker? The true aspect of the "gay agenda" that makes the religious right's skin really crawl? Here it is: When all of that normalcy is in place, when these repulsive gay beings who like to walk around in public and eat at restaurants and drink their lattes and laugh out loud and stick things into each other's bodies for sexual pleasure, well, they want the most appalling thing of all: They just want to be left alone.

He goes on and gets in this great line:

[G]ay people do not seem to care in the slightest for converting anyone to homosexuality, which of course would be the equivalent of converting a frying pan into a doorknob. It simply cannot be done.

As one kinda famous blogger says: Read the whole thing.


Bono, AMEX, Launch "Red Card" Supporting End to AIDS in Africa

U2 front man Bono ("Am I bugging you? I hope I'm not bugging you"), the Gap, others, and American Express have teamed up to create the American Express Red Card. The back of the card says, "This card is designed to eliminate HIV in Africa." 1% of the user's transactions are credited to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Story here from CNN/Money.

27 January 2006


International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Today, Friday, 27 January, 2006. Appropriate timing given the Hamas win in the Palestinian elections the other day and the ongoing death-yammerings of that yahoo in Tehran.

Link via the Moose.

26 January 2006


What If There Was an Australia Day but It Was Over in Australia Before You Ever Could Tell Anyone About It?


25 January 2006


More "Brokeback Mountain"

(1) Towleroad, who has been all over matters Brokeback Mountain since it was reported being made into a film, has this interview with the movie's producer, James Schamus.

(2) Larry McMurtry says, "I was startled by it. Unfortunately, I don't write short fiction. But if I did write short fiction, I should have written it myself." Among other things.

(3) The web site for the movie has a kind of guest book where individuals can write about their own experiences -- in their lives or of the movie. Go to the web site, the click on "Share Your Story", then on "click here to VIEW A FEW SHARED STORIES". There are probably a hundred or so of them.

22 January 2006


School Vouchers

There's a post by Richard Epstein (link via the Volokh Conspiracy) at The University of Chicago's Law School blogs in which he argues against the recent Florida Supreme Court decision declaring school vouchers unconstitutional. Both his argument and that in the initially-civil-then-devolving-into-neener-neener-neener discussion in the comments revolve around economic, competition vs. state monopoly, issues regarding vouchers.

Nowhere does anyone address underlying historical/cultural reasons for why this issue exists in the first place, those being court-ordered busing to achieve public-school desegregation and the refusal of the federal government to use the school to impose Christian religious practices on students who don't come from Christian families. Both those led to the increases in the numbers of and enrollment in private schools associated with Protestant churches, as well as to increases in the practice of home schooling, and neither had anything to do with the failings of the academic aspects of public schools.

To talk about vouchers without even a wink and a nudge to the fact that they're being used to support religious instruction and religious institutions is to engage in a phony disucssion. That's not to deny that there are reasons to put the feet of the public schools in the USA to the fire and to make them perform: lots of them don't, and some of the reasons are bad academic management, ineffective teachers, and lousy curricula as well as not enough resources. And along the same lines as making sure the discussion includes the evolution of private Christian schools as a response to desegregation, we have to make sure to note that a result of that is public schools that are even more segregated than they were before well-intentioned state actions tried to remedy the situation.

21 January 2006


Okay, Now I Am Totally Creeped Out

A few weeks ago, Kit at Paperfrog said to me in e-mail when I pointed him to this resurrected blog: "[W]e're putting the band back together!"

Now, Dragonleg is back. Link via Solonor.


A Red State Hypothesis

Ross Douthat at The American Scene has this post about this article by Garance Franke-Ruta at The American Prospect online. The article argues that "red state" voters vote Republican on cultural issues because (1) they're satisfied enough with their economic situation to be able (2) to vote based on cultural (read "family") concerns precisely because the family situations in those states are lousy.
Lower-income individuals simply live in a much more disrupted society, with higher divorce rates, more single moms, more abortions, and more interpersonal and interfamily strife, than do the middle- and upper-middle class people they want to be like. It should come as no surprise that the politics of reaction is strongest where there is most to react to. People in states like Massachusetts, for example, which has very high per capita incomes and the lowest divorce rate in the country, are relatively unconcerned about gay marriage, while those in Southern states with much higher poverty, divorce, and single-parenthood rates feel the family to be threatened because family life is, in fact, much less stable in their communities. In such environments, where there are few paths to social solidarity and a great deal of social disruption, the church frequently steps into the breach, further exacerbating the fight.
In his commentary on the article, Douthat goes on to argue beyond the Prospect article against what he sees as libertinism and lingering impact of "the sexual revolution":
A more libertarian economy does have something to do with the breakdown of "sensible middle-class values" over the last few decades, even if conservatives are sometimes loath to admit it. But the breakdown is also largely a result of the cultural and sexual revolution that began in the '60s and continues to this day - a revolution that has been great for well-off Blue Staters and not so great for everyone else, and whose negative consequences modern liberalism often seems unable to reckon with.
Nowhere does either Franke-Ruta or Douthat consider the role of better education as creating a context that influences whether the consequences of the cultural changes -- changes that were almost inevitable given the Second World War and its aftermath -- are negative or positive. And the role that economic affluence ought to play in making that education more available to all.


"A big statue of Bill Hall. And Snowbird."

Sorry, but this edition of Red State Update probably won't make a lick of sense unless you've spent some amount of time in the past 30 years in Middle Tennessee.

I kind of think it's a shame what they've done to Snowbird. I liked the concept better when it was a badly-animated penguin that just went "No School! No School!" Now it looks like some kind of disfigured gigantic gingerbread reject from Jim Henson's muppet factory.


More "Why Gay Marriage" (part 4,502,599)

It's not just Oklahoma (but you knew that).

Freeholders (that's New Jersey-ese for "County Council member") in Ocean County, New Jersey, have refused to pass a local ordinance allowing a former police officer who is dying of cancer to leave her pension to her partner. This in spite of the fact that New Jersey state law explicitly allows for such action on the county's part. Towleroad: "They say that allowing Hester's partner her pension would 'violate the sanctity of marriage'."

Excuse me, but pensions are a civil financial arrangement.


Addendum (SUN 22 JAN): The Freeholders have reversed themselves, so the officer's survivors benefits will go to the surviving partner. Story here from 365gay.com. Also, the negative publicity from their earlier cold-hearted attitude has led several other NJ governments to change their domestic partnership policies. (Link via a comment to this post at Mike Silverman's Red Letter Day blog.)


The Mormons LDS of Korea

I had an unusual visitor at the door the other day. A young Korean gentleman with very bad English stopped by to tell me about The Unification Church. Luckily, he was wearing a lanyard with a big "UNIFICATION CHURCH MISSIONARY" card on it around his neck, or I might've listened to him for a while before figuring out what he was trying to sell me. (Slow me was not quick-witted enough to take a picture.)

I felt bad for him: He seemed really dejected when I cut him off quickly with a "Thanks, but I'm not interested."

At least LDS missionaries travel in teams. On bicycles. Wearing crisp white short-sleeve shirts and skinny dark ties. This guy seemed to be over his head to be in a strange country with little language skills pushing cultural boundaries so that not only do we recognize those nice young usually American men who are LDS missionaries, but also those nice young Korean men here to witness about Rev. Moon's operations. (And I'm not talking about The Washington Times.)

19 January 2006


Why Gay Marriage (or Functional Equivalent Thereof)?

Andrew Sullivan has new digs at Time. Today, he's got this post, "Brokeback Today," up about how the surviving member of a gay male couple in Oklahoma is getting screwed out of his share of his partner's estate -- a nice sized ranch -- because one asshole cousin successfully contested the will. If they'd've had proper protection for their relationship under the law, like married straight people, it would've just transfered.

And people ask why gay couples want the right to civil marriage. Because they are always one ornery relative away from having their relationships shredded under the law.

Non-married or non-marriagable-at-this-time people reading this: Put as much property as possible in both of your names. There's nothing to contest then.

Read the background about the couple and how they raised three kids here. To add insult to it all, the cousins of the deceased partner are suing the surviving partner for back rent. Barf.

18 January 2006


Intimacy Between Men

I first read "Brokeback Mountain" as the final story in Annie Proulx's Close Range: Wyoming Stories collection of short stories. I had no idea what I was getting into when I read it. Sure, other stories in the collection had displayed the hard, homophobic, aspects of the American west -- like the killing of the retarded guy who was hitting on other guys. But "Brokeback Mountain" was completely out of the blue.

I didn't know anything about nor had I anticipated this love story between two young men hired to herd sheep one summer in Wyoming. I didn't know it had appeared in The New Yorker. I didn't know Annie Proulx from diddly: I had picked up the book in the Cleveland airport when I was changing planes there on the way back to Memphis, where we lived at the time, from a job interview in Erie, PA. I was taken with the entire collection, even before I got to "Brokeback Mountain."

I didn't grow up in Wyoming, but I did grow up in the only town of a rural county in middle Tennessee. I was lucky to go "off to school," but I had enough experiences in my little home town to know the kinds of things the locals thought about "queers" and "faggots." I knew I was one of "them," even as I told myself I wasn't.

Of the long duration it took me to come out (I didn't come out until I was 33), the sadest part is that for the bulk of that time, I never allowed myself to imagine that I could be emotionally close to another man. Sexually close, yes, but emotionally close: I didn't believe that was in the cards. It was only when I began to consider that option, to see that closeness with another -- another who was going to be another man -- was what I wanted that coming out became part of the picture.

Brokeback Mountain, the movie, depicts a different story: a story of episodic emotional closeness between two men. Their times and situation preclude their intimacy developing further; in fact, the character of Ennis Del Mar, played by Heath Ledger, doesn't even realize the degree of his intimate connection to the other, Jack Twist, until Jack is gone from this world. To me, the movie is solid and substantial: perfectly, if slowly, paced; beautiful in cinemagraphic scope; carefully scripted (by Larry McMurty and Diana Ossana); subtly scored. It covers twenty years, realizing the times and places well.

The story and the movie have affected both Mack and me. The sadness. The possibilities. The connections to the small-town rural lives we could have had. What might have been. What was for many. What still is for some.

The last minutes of the movie, in which the Ennis character goes to see Jack's parents, in which he for the first time, un-selfconciously, is honestly himself before others who are not like him, has stuck with me. He doesn't even realize that just by being there he is saying, "I loved this man." Jack's father is a homophobic asshole, but Jack's mother understands. Perhaps for the first time in his life, Ennis felt okay that he had loved another man. And he seems to have learned the preciousness of that love by the closing scene in the movie.

I know this isn't a review. I know it isn't telling you, the reader, whether to see the movie or not. The story and the movie matter to me: not in some kind of Star Wars gotta see it 14 times way, but in a way that reflects something about what I feel for Mack, about what I feel as being a man who loves another man. The movie, moreso than the story, makes me aware of how lucky I am to have him, to live with him, to feel secure enough in our lives together that our concerns about wacko neighbors coming to off us because we are gay is shrugged off as a humorous fantasy, even if it is still non-negligible. It wasn't always so here, it isn't necessarily so other places, even in this country, and it's not something to take for granted.

12 January 2006


Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!

From this article in the St. Pete Times:

The group trying to put a gay marriage ban on the Florida ballot in 2006 is being bankrolled by the state Republican Party.

New state campaign finance records show that of the $193,000 that has been raised by Florida4marriage.org, the political committee working to amend the state constitution to ban gay marriage, $150,000 of it came in a single donation from the Florida Republican Party.

"Serious discussion" (and humor!) about gay marriage is something that responsible citizens can and should engage in, but one has to be realistic about its influence compared to $150,000 freaking dollars of GOP money intended to use gay people and their serious intimate relationships as yet another boogeyman in their quest for electoral dominance.

09 January 2006


The Donkey's Future

"There will never be a Democratic President until the American people believe that the donkey will be as or more forceful than the Republicans in combating the Jihadists." -- The Moose, here.

Likely, that should be extended to President or Congress.

08 January 2006


Campaign 2008 Update!

Here's the latest on the 2008 candidates:


"It's hard to mess up a good western"

Over at Red State Update, Jackie Broyles and Dunlap video blog their comments on a couple of recent movies here. Via Jim Emerson at Roger Ebert's site.

06 January 2006



Engadget and Gizmodo are all over the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Meanwhile, Jalopnik is covering the LA Auto Show.

05 January 2006


"I was in the area pastoring to police"

Story here. Link via Towleroad.

Addendum 1: Julian Sanchez at Hit and Run: "Sure, there's a certain amount of poetic-justice schadenfreude here, but my first thought was: 'What kind of sick dystopia makes it a crime to offer someone a hummer?' "

Addendum 2: It's still illegal here in Florida for unmarried individuals, of whatever sexual persuasion, to cohabitate. See Item 798.01 in Title XLVI of the Florida Statutes. Yow!

04 January 2006


Bad Timing

Over at TPM Cafe, there's a post titled "The Abramoff Mine Canary." That's about as timely today as those Fanta "tidal wave of flavor" in-theater commercials last year at the time of the Indian Ocean tsunami.


Beneath the Antlers

Here's a fun profile of Marshall Wittmann, former Trotskyite, Heritage Foundation flack, and (Jewish) spokesperson for the Christian Coalition. Yow!

He's an advocate of McCain and Friedman (Kinky, not Milton), and he's currently employed by the Progressive Policy Institute of the DLC. His TR-worshiping militant-centrist blog (one of my daily reads) is The Bull Moose.

Link via The Corner.

03 January 2006


Sometimes, All You Need to Get a Different Perspective Is to Sit in a Different Seat

From today's poem at The Writer's Almanac:
in the process of getting the bowl and the tank and the seat and
some pipes and gaskets from the warehouse, we got to talking
about our outhouses and he allowed as how the one he had in
Florida when he was kid in the fifties hadn't been all that
bad, except for the bugs and sometimes a snake, and we both
agreed that there are times out there when you see things from
an unusual vantage, for instance: that view of the night sky in
winter is unparalleled.

02 January 2006


Be Vewy Vewy Quiet: I'm Optimizing My Bwain Pewfowmance

Leo Chalupa's dangerous idea, from responses this years Edge "What Is Your Dangerous Idea?" question. Link via Boing Boing.
My dangerous idea is that what's needed to attain optimal brain performance — with or without prior brain exercise — is a 24-hour period of absolute solitude. By absolute solitude I mean no verbal interactions of any kind (written or spoken, live or recorded) with another human being. I would venture that a significantly higher proportion of people reading these words have tried skydiving than experienced one day of absolute solitude.
I'm skeptical that it would lead to "optimal brain performance" -- how do you measure that in the first place? -- but I'm comfortable that it would lead to an improvement in the quality of life. (Okay, okay. That's hard to measure, too.)

Maybe one could start with 10 minutes of silence and solitude a day and then work up to 30 minutes or so on a regular basis!


Git R Done!

Mr. Fripp suggests an approach to handling what seems an overabundance of tasks and opportunities here:
So much stuff, in several places & areas, is waiting that it is tempting to walk away.

Q. What to do when there is so much stuff to do that nothing is possible?

A. One small thing in front of you.

Q. What to do when there’s still so much stuff that one small thing hasn’t changed the pile?

A. Firstly, this is not a question: it is a statement, that nothing has changed. This statement is incorrect: addressing the one small thing has changed everything, although this may not be immediately apparent.

Secondly, do a second small thing in front of you.

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