Saturday, December 5, 2009

iPhone Orchestra

Very cool. Creating music with iPhones.

Stanford's iPhone Orchestra

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Shackling of Prisoners in Childbirth Should End

One of the things I periodically get worked up about is the over-medicalization of childbirth in the US. Disclosure: I had a home birth to avoid unnecessary medical procedures, so you can see where I'm coming from on this.

A few days ago, I read an editorial in the New York Times about pregnant prisoners being shackled during labor. Apparently this is fairly common in the US and only four states ban it. I had never heard about this before, and it appalls me. If you've ever given birth, you can appreciate the utter insanity of this practice. If there was ever a time when you need freedom of movement, it's during labor. Labor is unique to each woman, to each pregnancy, even. It affects everyone differently and unpredictably. Unless you're going to be completely sedated (as my mother was when she gave birth to me), you need to be able to move your body freely in order to reduce the pain of childbirth. (Although I have no doubt that any prisoner giving birth is automatically given painkillers and doesn't really have the option of natural childbirth.)

It strikes me that this practice is probably unconstitutional under the 8th Amendment of the US Constitution, which bars "cruel and unusual punishment" and probably international law as well. Apparently Amnesty International agrees with me. Amnesty International's fact sheet on the shackling of pregnant prisoners says that "[t]he UN standard for the Treatment of all Prisoners, Rule 33, states that shackles should not be used on inmates unless they are a danger to themselves, others or property or have a history of absconding. AI considers the routine use of shackles and other restraints on pregnant prisoners is a cruel, inhuman and degrading form of treatment in violation of both the UN Convention against Torture and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both of which the USA has ratified."

Amnesty International Fact Sheet on Shackling of Pregnant Prisoners

Again, if you've ever given birth, you can guess that during childbirth, prisoners probably are 100% focused on getting that baby out of their body as soon as possible. That's what the mental and physical process of labor is designed for. Your entire being (if you're not drugged) is focused on that goal. They're not thinking about escaping or doing danger to themselves or any one else. The idea is ludicrous.

I don't know how much of a movement there is to ban this practice in the remaining 46 states, but I certainly hope there is one. Frankly, this is something Congress should take up. I don't see why a federal law couldn't be passed to ban the practice as unconstitutional. That would stop the practice in all states.

Here's a round-up of articles on the issue. New York State has banned the practice since some of this articles were published.

Giving Life, Wearing Shackles and Chains, NYTimes, 7/12/09

NY Times editorial encouraging Gov. Paterson to sign antishackling bill in NY

Good article on practice of shackling pregnant women in prison

ACLU on shackling, applauding Fed. Bureau of Prisons revision of policy

Practice of Shackling Prisoners in Labor is common in US

NY one of only 4 states to prohibit shackling of prisoners in labor

Friday, July 3, 2009

Friday, June 19, 2009

Defendants Have No Constitutional Right to DNA Testing

The U.S. Supreme Court has held in a 5-4 decision that criminal defendants have no federal constitutional right to DNA testing after their conviction. District Attorney’s Office for the Third Judicial District v. Osborne. This sounds crazy to me. Defendants should always have the right to prove their innocence under the due process clause of the Constitution. State laws vary widely on DNA testing. To leave the availability of DNA testing up to the vagaries of legislatures seems fundamentally wrong. See this article in The Hill for Congressional criticism of the ruling. This quote from Rep. Jerrold Nadler is particularly apt:
Today’s Supreme Court decision violates our fundamental notion of fairness and due process of the law. To me, it is common sense that a defendant should have the constitutional right to conduct a test that would establish conclusively whether he is guilty or innocent of an alleged crime."
This is yet another example of Justice Roberts carrying deference to the legislature to an extreme.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Sacha Baron Cohen's crotch meets Eminem's face

Not sure if Eminem was in on this or not. It looks genuine, but who knows. It's pretty funny.

Friday, May 29, 2009

More negative NYTimes for Sotomayor

I'm starting to wonder if the New York Times is going after Sonia Sotomayor. The front page today had an article entitled "Nominee's Links With Advocates Fuel Her Critics. The article discussed Sotomayor's position on the board of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund ("PRLDF") in the 1980's. She quit that position when she was appointed to the federal judiciary, according to the article. What's strange about this article is that only one "critic" is quoted, and that quote doesn't even mention the PRLDF:
"Curt Levey, executive director of Committee for Justice, a conservative legal group active in judicial nominations, said that “while it’s fine to let your Puerto Rican heritage influence — or any heritage for that matter — influence your positions when you’re on a board, it’s quite a different story when you’re a judge, and I wonder whether she knows the difference.”

That's it! There's nothing in the article to support the allegation near the beginning that "[H]er critics, including some Republican senators who will vote on her nomination, have questioned whether she has let her ethnicity, life experiences and public advocacy creep into her decisions as a judge." What critics? Cite one. It sounds like the alleged "critics" are actually the Times.

In any case, that assertion, that one's "ethnicity, life experiences and public advocacy" shouldn't effect a judge's decisions, is absurd. Judges are human. They can't slice off their entire life experience and not let it effect their legal analysis. I have no doubt that Chief Justice John Roberts' life experience contributes to his siding consistently with the government, the prosecution, and corporations, as detailed in a recent New Yorker profile. This is exactly why Obama selected Sotomayor - for her life experiences. It's incredibly important to have people of diverse backgrounds interpreting our laws. Each brings a different perspective, just as people from all walks of life come before the Supreme Court to have crucial decisions made about their lives.

Sotomayor Too Testy?

Just saw this article in the New York Times: Sotomayor's Sharp Tongue Raises Issue of Temperament. You've got to be kidding. With Scalia on the court? He makes no bones about his opinions in oral argument and sometimes uses opinions to cudgel opposing viewpoints mercilessly. He's not above making fun of his opposition. This is a ridiculous notion, that anyone is too testy, as long as Scalia's on there.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Adam Lambert singing Mad World on TV Thursday

Adam Lambert is going to sing Mad World on the CBS Early Show Thursday morning! Here are videos of him setting up and rehearsing (quietly), amidst some fangirly screaming. Dig the David Bowie T-shirt.


CA Supreme Court upholds Prop 8 today

This is disappointing, but not unexpected and not all bad. Today the California Supreme Court upheld Prop 8, the ballot measure that limited marriage to straight couples. New York Times article here. The good part of the decision was that they upheld the thousands of same-sex marriages performed during the period before Prop 8 went into effect. This will surely throw a wrench into efforts to stop what seems like a steady march towards legality of gay marriage everywhere. There are now 18,000 valid gay marriages in California. These couples will demand recognition of their marriages by the federal government and other states, undoubtedly leading to many more lawsuits challenging anti-gay marriage laws in those jurisdictions.

Of course, Californians still can enter into legally sanctioned civil unions, with some attendant benefits, unlike residents of most other states, including the one I live in.

Here's the ad released by the marriage equality group Courage Campaign minutes after the decision was made public. Nice song by Regina Spektor.

Anti-Prop 8 demonstrators arrested in San Francisco, including two men who "stood for about an hour in the intersection calmly kissing while demonstrators all around them screamed, "Prop. 8 will go down, San Francisco (is a) big queer town" and other slogans." (emphasis added - these guys have stamina!)

Pam's House Blend (politically-oriented GLBT blog) links to a boatload of organizations' reactions to the decision.

Demonstrations across the country are planned for tonight. Click on that link for further info.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Movie commentary in the theater

Just found out about this from Pop Candy. You can download a podcast of The Brothers Bloom director Rian Johnson's commentary, a la DVD, and listen to it on your iPod while you watch the movie in a theater! That's incredibly cool. Download from the website. Pop Candy's Whitney Matheson was concerned that other audience members could hear it through your headphones.

Adam Idolatry, continued

Round-up of various Adam-related articles, pics and vids:

Interesting article in the New York Times about American Idol, the show, its place in pop culture, and characterizing Adam and Kris as a young Elvis Presley and Pat Boone, respectively.

New York Times review of final

New York Times analysis of singing on Idol finale and significance of Kris' win. Not an Adam fan here. grading all of Adam's outfits.
They hated the long coat in the finale. I adored it!

Adam to be new Queen singer? Brian May responds to rumors.

Rolling Stone post-finale interview with Adam, in which he says his favorite performance was Whole Lotta Love, talks about what kind of debut album he'd like to make ("a collection of different styles"), and says speculation about his sexuality "probably" impacted the final vote. However, he felt like he won just by making it into the finals and that "there's no need to dwell on the negative."

Dorothy Surrenders' take on Adam's loss. I don't know how much of a factor Adam's sexuality was. That's very hard to say. I don't know the demographics of the voters or if they really care about that or not. But I kind of identified with what she says here, on some level.

Ann Powers, L.A. Times pop music critic, interesting review of final performances. Powers writes intriguing articles on pop culture.

Powers also has
of the larger meaning of Adam and Kris' friendship.

From Entertainment Weekly's post-finale interview with Mr. Oh-so-coy:

I want to just get this question out of the way first, something that's been dangling a bit over you for the whole season: Would you like to put to rest all the speculation about your sexuality?

It's not dangling over my head. [Laughing] It may be dangling over yours, but it's not over mine. Yeah, I think speculation keeps things really interesting.

So you don't want to say anything one way or the other?

Like I said, I think speculation keeps things very, very interesting. [Laughs]

Incredibly cute Adam/Kris moment:


I think he looks like he belongs with these guys. (Although I prefer Queen.)

Why, yes, those are handcuffs!

Let's do some speculating (LOL):

American Idol winner - wtf?

This is what I wrote that night.

American Idol winner - wtf? possibly the most depressing thing I've seen on TV in a long time. So horribly wrong. Looking forward to seeing what the judges think. I noticed Simon didn't stand up at the end along with the other judges. Trust Americans to pick the safe, bland middle of the road choice. At least Adam won't have to sing that horrible single.

Weird: Cyndi Lauper playing the dulcimer on Time After Time; Steve Martin playing the banjo; bikini girl.

Painful: Having to sit through 2 freakin' hours of crap for a few seconds of revealing the winner.

Evocative: Brian May of Queen playing with Adam Lambert, reincarnation of Freddie Mercury.

On the other hand, maybe America should be scared of  a man who will wear this outfit - (round bling thingy on his thigh certainly reminiscent of handcuffs):

American Idol finale performance show

Catching up here on all the Idol doings this week.

The highlight may have been Adam's outfits. Haha. So...picspam below. Each finalist sang 3 songs. They each picked their favorite performance of the season and repeated it. That was disappointing, as I would have preferred to hear fresh material. Adam sang Mad World, which is definitely my favorite. While his outfit completely rocked, the studio version is much better than his live performance last night. He didn't hit the notes squarely at times, or as the judges would say, at times it was "pitchy". Although none of them said so last night. But the outfit...OMG, I loved it SO MUCH.

Kris chose Ain't No Sunshine, which is a song I really liked, and it was his best performance of the night. I liked the piano on it. Very nice.

Then they performed songs chosen by the show's creator, Simon Fuller. Adam did Change is Gonna Come, a Sam Cooke song and this was his best performance of the night. Absolutely fantastic. As soon as he finished, I wanted to watch him do it again. Amazing. Plus another great outfit, a silvery suit with a turquoise tie and, I think, silver boots!

Kris's song was....can't remember and didn't write it down. It was fine, but boring. Simon said it was like a bunch of guys strumming guitars at home. LOL

The last song of the night was the first single from the season, co-written by judge Kara DioGuardi. I didn't like the song at all. Not even Adam could sell it to me. I preferred his performance of it, not surprisingly. Kris' performance of it was off on some notes.

Last pic below is Adam kissing Kris on the head. Awwww. They're pretty cute together.





Adam Lambert final suit




Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Snagged from Dorothy Surrenders (Tanktop Tuesday)

Oh my good lord.

Sarah Shahi, previously on The L Word.

Sherlock Holmes Trailer

Here's a nice long trailer for the Guy Ritchie-directed update of Sherlock Holmes starring Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes and Jude Law as Watson. It looks fantastic!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Adam Lambert picspam




(Blogger sucks at posting photos - at least this layout does. I have some that are too big and get cut off. No idea how to prevent that from happening.)

Adam Lambert fever

I'm totally into Adam Lambert right now. I've never watched American Idol before. The snippets I'd seen of it showed a type of singing I don't care for. But a friend sent me a link to Adam Lambert singing "Tracks of My Tears" and I was really impressed. I decided to watch the show to check him out. Whoa! The guy is phenomenal. His glam rocker-goth guy persona is really appealing. But the main thing is his singing. I just love it. My favorite songs of his so far are Mad World, Ring of Fire, If I Can't Have You and Whole Lotta Love. Yes, I'm more than a little in love with him right now, and I'll be sad when American Idol is over. But I'm crossing my fingers that he'll win and that the world will see a lot more Adam Lambert in the future.

adam lambert Pictures, Images and Photos

Adam Lambert Pictures, Images and Photos

Republicans are responsible for torture, not Nancy Pelosi

This really ticks me off. Why is the media buying into the Republican attempt to bring down Nancy Pelosi? It's not important when Nancy Pelosi knew about CIA torture. What's important is that the CIA tortured with approval from the Bush administration. And may have mislead Congress on the issue. The focus has gotten turn upside down from where it should be. It was a Republican administration that spearheaded and approved torturing detainees in violation of international human rights agreements and possibly other laws. They are the ones responsible, not members of the minority party. The New York Times says in its article on the issue today,"Even if Ms. Pelosi had taken action, it is doubtful it would have averted the firestorm about torture that was to come."

Friday, April 24, 2009

New Green Day single and video

I'm not so thrilled with this. It's repetitive and has a very straightforward 2/4 rhythm. But still, exciting to see new Green Day material. The clips from their recent live "sneak preview" shows had better songs, I thought.

Obama on Intolerance

This is why I love this guy.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Fringe, American Idol

Basically, what was on Fox last night.

Fringe: What's most interesting about the last two episodes is that they were free standing. There were no references to the Pattern or Massive Dynamic, the two conspiracy nodes of the previous part of the season. There was no obvious appearance of the Observer. If he was in there, I missed him. There was no development of Peter's mysterious backstory, or anything revealed about his childhood.

American Idol: I never felt like watching this until a friend gave me a link to Adam Lambert's performance of "Tracks of My Tears" a few weeks ago. It was a very nice performance. In conjunction with his sexual ambiguity, discussed in this New York Times article this past Sunday, he's caught my interest. I inadvertently caught his performance last week because American Idol ran late, into Fringe's time slot and he performed last. Also see this NPR blog piece analyzing an ABC news report on Adam after last night's show, which described him as "coy". The NPR blog says, no, he's not coy at all, he's completely above board. (If you Google "Adam Lambert kissing", you'll see what I mean. Digging the purple hair, Adam.) He just hasn't made some big announcement. Anyway, I decided to just give in and tune in to American Idol full stop.

I didn't see the entire show. I missed a couple of the performances in the middle. Of the ones I saw, I think Adam's performance of "Born to be Wild" was far and away the best. Simon Cowell's comment was rather strange, I thought. He said he thought the performance was like something out of "Rocky Horror Picture Show" and that half the audience might not like it. I have no idea what that means. Was he trying to compare Adam to the transvestite character in that movie, Frank-N-Furter? Because he was wearing eye makeup? Umm, really not sure. Did he think the singing style was too over the top? It was kind of mysterious.

Second was Allison Irehata, which surprises me because my basic reaction was that I didn't like her performance. But I liked it better than the others. It was more lively and charismatic. The rest chose very limpid, slow songs. Although I love the song "Falling Slowly" from the movie, "One," Kris Allen bobbled his notes at the beginning and it was just not a very interesting performance. Generally I don't care for the styles of singing or music chosen, sorry to say. They generally have nice voices, but the energy just doesn't compare to Adam's or Allison's.

I know that Quentin Tarantino has been on American Idol in the past, but I have no idea why he's on it. I thought he was a movie director. Since when is he a vocal coach? I noticed that he had nothing to say to improve Adam's performance. Or they at least chose not to include anything he may have said like that.

OK, I couldn't resist.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

AmazonFail Update

Seattle Post-Intelligencer on how AmazonFail happened. An Amazon employee in France coded something incorrectly. Jeez. I'm relieved that it wasn't a hacker, as some reported yesterday.

Amazon tells GLAAD it's correcting the problem I'm glad to see GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation - works on promoting positive gay and lesbian images) reached out to Amazon on this issue. Sorry for pun.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer on Amazon's AmazonFail explanation. Amazon says it was "an embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error." Thank you!

People are complaining on Twitter that Rachel Maddow didn't mention AmazonFail on her show last night. Didn't see it. Maybe she's waiting to see what the real explanation is. As in, she has actual journalistic standards.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Amazon Gay "Glitch"? I say, boycott until "glitch" is fixed

Amazon, thy name is irony.

Think about it. Amazons are a lesbian icon. I'm so completely appalled by Amazon de-ranking all gay and lesbian material. It's incredible! I don't see how this is going to stand and I'm definitely not buying anything from Amazon until this changes. Here's a list of the classic gay and lesbian literature they've pulled from their rankings. Amazing. Giovanni's Room, by James Baldwin, Stone Butch Blues, by Leslie Feinberg, Rubyfruit Jungle, by Rita Mae Brown, Tipping the Velvet, by Sarah Waters, Maurice, by E.M. Forster, The Charioteer, by Mary Renault, even E. Lynn Harris, who writes bestselling pop novels. The list goes on and on. Even non-fiction books about gay history, gay images in film, gay travel! This is just another example of confusing "gay" with "sex". Because isn't being gay all about having sex, like, all the time? and have an excellent combined editorialthat discusses this very issue. This is the result of our culture equating homosexuality with sex, pure and simple.

As of Monday morning, Amazon is saying this was just a "glitch." Wow. That's quite a glitch.

Here's something truly horrifying. If you enter "homosexuality" in Amazon's search field, the top results are: A Parents' Guide to Preventing Homosexuality, Can Homosexuality Be Healed? and Jesus, The Bible and Homosexuality. See search results from this morning here.

Here is a good roundup of links, including samples of letters, where to go on amazon to complain, petitions to sign, etc. And here is another round up some relevant links.

This morning, the brouhaha is reaching the mainstream media. AP has picked up the story. The Seattle Post-Intelligencerinvestigates the issue in a blog. This is where I got the tip about search results in Amazon.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Green Day previews new album in surprise concerts

I'm a big Green Day fan. I've been playing their 2004 American Idiot CD steadily since it came out. So I'm really excited that they finally have a new CD coming out May 15. This week they gave two surprise concerts to preview the album, 21st Century Breakdown, which is another concept album. The first single from the album will be released April 16: "Know Your Enemy."

They played April 7 at The Independent in San Francisco. This clip of the song "Desperate" sounds promising. I can't wait to hear the album version. To be honest, some of the vocals sounded out of tune on the clips I listened to, but that won't be an issue with the CD.

Opening number: Welcome to Paradise

New song "Viva la Gloria": "> This one sounds great. Love those chord progressions. Reference to Coldplay (Viva La Vida)?

New York Times review of the concert.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Hello again, naturally

Hello, again, blog, you sadly neglected creature, you. I've been letting you lie fallow as I cavort in the fields of fandom. (points to Torchwood on the sidebar) Soon I shall be plowing your rich earth again, never fear. I see my last entry here was two weeks ago. Yikes!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Robert Pattinson as Salvador Dali in "Little Ashes"

Just a little change of pace from the last post, LOL. This movie looks very interesting. Robert Pattinson of "Twilight" stars as Salvador Dali in this film that highlights his friendship with Federico Garcia Lorca, the poet, and film director Luis Bunuel. Dali and Lorca were lovers and this film explicitly explores their relationship.

New Attempt at North Carolina Anti-Bullying Law

Last year, North Carolina legislators tried to pass an anti-bullying law that protected gay students. It was defeated in part because of conservative opposition. Anti-Bullying Law Debated in North Carolina A similar law has been introduced this year and is now being debated. Text of law; Pam's House Blend discussion of law. The law protects students from bullying behavior based on a litany of "differentiating characteristics," including sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation.

The mind boggles at how conservatives could oppose a law that protects children from bullying. This item from Concerned Women for America, a conservative organization, gives some insight. They object to including sexual orientation as a protected characteristic on the grounds that it's an unnecessary and undeserved "special right." They seem to argue that all children should be protected against bullying, with no one singled out for special protection. This makes no sense if the very reason a child is being bullied is perceived difference based on a protected category. They also raise the apparently horrifying specter that including sexual orientation in the list of protected characteristics will somehow give gay activists leverage in lobbying for more civil rights. (because that would obviously be the end of civilization as we know it.)

Again and again, anti-gay conservatives resist acknowledging the existence and reality of gay people. They really want to pretend we don't even exist (and would we please go away and shut up, because it's just icky and gross). They should really grow up and get over it. Yes, some children know they are gay from an early age, and so do all the other children around them. Children can be cruel to those who are different. Gay teens actually commit suicide because they are gay. Family Equality Council post about anti-gay bullying

Anti-Bullying Sponsors Seeks to Legalize Sodomy in N.C. I came across this little gem when searching for info on the anti-bullying legislation. This is an example of the completely irrational thinking engaged in by conservatives obsessed with homosexuality:

Representative Glazier's bill is entitled, "Conform State Law to Lawrence v. Texas," an innocuous title unless you know that Lawrence v. Texas was the 2003 U.S. Supreme Court case that struck down the sodomy laws in Texas. If Representative Glazier had wanted the average "Joe" to know what his bill was about, he would have entitled it, "Repeal Sodomy Laws in North Carolina." From the man who brought us the "Anti-Bullying" bill, we now have the "Pro-Sodomy" bill.

Leaders in our General Assembly clearly need to hear from people and pastors all across North Carolina about how ridiculou [stet] this bill is. Besides being unnecessary, it is clearly the first step in a series of many by pro-homosexual activists to attempt to legalize the sexual practices that prevail in same-sex marriages. First they must do away with the crime of sodomy. Next, they must abolish the law against cohabitation; then they must abolish the law that prevents homosexuals from adopting children; and finally they will attempt to legalize same-sex relationships. It is always a gradual process—just ask Massachusetts and Connecticut.

Where to start? First, Lawrence v. Texas struck down the Texas law that criminalized sodomy because it violated the federal constitution. So, all other state laws outlawing sodomy are also unconstitutional. The North Carolina law is therefore a mere technicality. It can't be enforced. Therefore, it should be taken off the books. This idiot acts like sodomy is still illegal in North Carolina, not to mention the mere fact of being in a "same-sex relationship".

Furthermore, male-female couples can engage in sodomy, so technically, anti-sodomy laws apply to them too. But they usually were enforced only against same-sex couples. In North Carolina, sodomy is "a crime against nature" (N.C. Gen. Statutes 14-177). ""Crime against nature" has been defined by North Carolina courts as "sexual intercourse contrary to the order of nature," including all "acts of bestial character whereby degraded and perverted sexual desires are sought to be gratified." While this definition is incredibly broad, enough so that it could conceivably include masturbation or sexual positions once thought "unnatural," the CAN law is now only used in cases involving oral sex (fellatio and cunnilingus) and anal intercourse." from North Carolina Gay Advocacy Legal Alliance website Clearly, different sex couples can engage in these sexual activities as well as same sex ones. So the "sexual practices that prevail in same-sex marriages" referred to above are many of the same ones that prevail in male-female marriages.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The L Word Finale: Reaction

The finale of The L Word should have had me crying, but instead I felt totally apathetic. I wanted to know who killed Jenny, but when it became clear that they weren't going to tell us, I was surprisingly disengaged. All in all, none of the open plot lines were resolved, which was very frustrating. This last season was a complete failure, in my opinion, even worse than the previous one.

Who Killed Jenny: Both Tina and Bette had opportunity. I don't think anyone else did, but correct me if I'm wrong. Of the two, I don't think Tina could kill. Bette possibly could, but the threat from Jenny didn't seem adequate to make her kill. It would have been more convincing if they'd built up the threat more gradually instead of inserting it last episode. I tend to think Jenny tripped and fell.

In any case, the "Who Killed Jenny?" tagline for the entire 6th season was somewhat of a red herring, poorly planned and poorly executed. If you're going to frame a TV show as a mystery, you should provide the goods. Yes, they carefully provided each character a reason to kill Jenny. But it was pro forma. It was as if their heart wasn't in it. It wasn't really believable. They've spent 5 seasons trying to get us to empathize with these characters, and now we're supposed to believe one of them was capable of killing Jenny? This was half a mystery. We didn't see Jenny die, we didn't even hear her fall or scream, there weren't any real clues as to what happened, other than both Bette and Tina were alone with her right before it happened. And there's an awful lot of irony in having a show that was supposed to celebrate lesbian's lives end in death.

I assumed Bette and Tina were going to adopt Max's baby, but they didn't even resolve that. And, by the way, they never explained why they decided to adopt rather than have one of them carry the baby themselves. Unless I missed it. They already did that, so why not again? Apparently just to provide a mini-plot about a potential birth mother.

Dylan and Helena: WTF??? An awful lot of the episode was taken up with strange interactions between these two and I found I just didn't care. I felt like there must have been a missing episode that would have explained what was happening, LOL. Suddenly Dylan's grabbing a knife and into d/s? Why would Dylan have been mad about the "test" if Jenny already told her about it? It didn't really make sense. And why did they make Helena basically an alcoholic so late in the game? What was the point? And when did she acquire this fancy-schmancy seaside home? I thought she lost everything when she went to jail.

Alice/Tasha: It was very awkward when Tasha suddenly appeared at the end. I guess it was supposed to mean she rejected Jamie in favor of Alice, but it was so rushed, it wasn't clear.

Shane/Molly: I loved seeing Molly again. There didn't seem to be any point to her letter to Shane other than convincing Shane that Jenny really was evil. I wish they had let Shane stay with Molly. (And, guh, Carmen in the tribute video. I forgot how hot she was.)

I laughed when Jenny said her tribute video was 3 hours long.

And what was up with the smiling strutting in the final credits? That was just weird. We segue from the friends mourning Jenny, all sad-faced and anguished, to smiling, well-groomed, shiny, happy people sauntering in slo-mo towards the camera, for no apparent reason.

Minor quibble: I also laughed when Jenny was frantically trying to buy editing software mere hours before the video was supposed to be finished, and sent Shane out to the Mac store to buy Final Cut. I have that software, and you'd have to be a genius to learn it in a couple of hours. This little exchange pushed my buttons because Final Cut has been nagging my soul for a few months and I quake in my boots every time I start trying to make a video with it. I keep wimping out and using iMovie instead (way simpler). Possibly Jenny was familiar with the software already, but why was she just buying it? They showed her with the video on her computer before she talked about having to buy the software.

Thoughts on sequel with Alice: Alice in prison? darker tone? give me a break. What's great about Alice is her wry humor. She doesn't seem suited to a prison story. And do we really need another show about lesbians in prison? Did Chaiken not get this out of her system with Helena's ridiculous jail story? I can't imagine this is going to be any good. Although I hear Laurie Metcalf is going to be in it, and I've always liked her. (She played Rosanne's sister on the Roseanne show back in the day, and in fact, I always thought she'd make a good lesbian, or at least her character in that show should have come out, haha.)

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Americans' Tender Sensibilities

I just read this article in the New York Times about "Ashes to Ashes," which I watched on BBCAmerica last night. Apparently Americans just can't take the actual dialogue of DCI Gene Hunt and BBCAmerica decided to edit it. Crap! "[Hunt's face can be seen on] coffee mugs, T-shirts and bottle openers emblazoned with one of Gene Hunt’s most famous run-on slurs, “You Great, Soft, Cissy, Girly, Nancy, French Bender, Man United Supporting Poof.” (BBC America has chosen to clean up his juicily phrased, almost poetically off-color outbursts.)" That's really too bad because that sounds like it would be really entertaining. I never watched "Life on Mars" (this is a sequel to that show), but I'd really like to, especially as it stars John Simm (I loved him as the Master in Dr. Who), but apparently it's not available on DVD in the US, so I'll have to resort to other methods, whenever I get around to it.

I was intrigued by the premiere episode, but I couldn't help wondering why Alex Drake, the lead female character, (Keeley Hawes from MI-5, another show I loved) kept her over-the-top 80's makeup and costume after the first day of her arrival in the 80's, since her contemporary dress and look was very restrained. Sadly, I'm old enough that the 1981 setting has quite a bit of nostalgia for me. It's funny to hear the old songs and see all the old technology (wow, a Sony Walkman!, VCRs!, rotary phones! desktop computers that can only play Pong) and remember when that was all we had.

NYTimes Review of "Ashes to Ashes"

I'll be watching The L Word finale tonight, which I'm sure will be just as ridiculous as the rest of the show. There's no way they can resolve all the open-ended plot points in one hour. So disappointed in Ilene Chaiken. This show could have been so much better.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Is it defamatory to call someone gay?

This is something I was recently thinking about, and now there's an article about it: Is it defamatory to call someone gay?, Gabriel Arana in Slate. Defamation is damage to someone's reputation through public statements. Traditionally, there are certain statements that are defamation per se, such as "attacks on a person's professional character or standing, allegations that an unmarried person is unchaste, that a person is infected with a sexually transmitted disease, or allegations that the person has committed a crime of moral turpitude." When a plaintiff brings a cause of action for defamation per se, he or she doesn't have to prove damages - damages are presumed. Obviously, historically it was considered a crime of moral turpitude to be gay, not to mention being "unchaste."

This article brings up an interesting question. Can it be defamatory to call someone gay when not everyone thinks being gay is immoral, nor is it illegal for the most part (in this country). Arana thinks that gay rights groups, who have been silent on this issue, should actively oppose private lawsuits seeking damages for being called gay. He thinks people could be shamed into dropping such suits. In some ways, this is idealistic, as there could be situations where someone could be damaged if they were thought to be gay, such as an actor whose public persona rests on a heterosexual image (Tom Cruise brought such a case). Naturally, it would be better if this weren't the case. Ideally, no one would think there's any problem with being gay. But we're not there yet.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Crocuses in the Snow

Taken today in my front yard.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

New TV fav: Mistresses

My newest TV favorite: "Mistresses" on BBCAmerica. Mistresses homepage; Mistresses on I love this show! The title's cheesy, but the show is packed with intriguing and sophisticated female characters who are full-fledged adults with all the accompanying baggage, anxieties and subtleties. The show features four female friends in varying sorts of relationships, from married to widowed to devotedly single and adulterous, who each get involved with someone during the course of the series. There are six episodes in Series 1 and a second series in now airing in the UK. I've seen two episodes and I was immediately drawn into the lives of these characters. After the first one, I couldn't wait to see the second. I think this is partly due to the quality of the acting, which is fantastic. There are several actors that have appeared in other recent British shows shown in the US, including Sharon Small (The Inspector Lynley Mysteries, aired on PBS) and Raza Jaffrey (MI-5, aired on BBCAmerica). My two favorite characters so far are Katy Ronan and Siobhan Dillon, played by Sarah Parish and Orla Brady, respectively. Katy is a doctor who had a long-term affair with a patient who recently died. Her lover's adult son is now hot on the trail of his father's lover, but also has the hots for Katy, who is also his doctor. Siobhan is a married lawyer who is trying to get pregnant and getting involved with a co-worker. The difficulties Siobhan and her husband are facing are played with quiet poignancy. (Katy on right, Siobhan on left)

Other highlights are Anna Torv playing a lesbian about to get married, but attracted to main character, single and loving it Jessica Fraser, played by the beautiful Shelley Conn. Torv stars in American series "Fringe" (another of my favorites) as FBI agent Olivia. She's very believable here as a lesbian. (Is it getting hotter in here or is it my imagination?)

While this might sound like a rip-off of Sex and the City, Brit-style, the show feels completely different, perhaps because it's an hour long and goes at a slower pace. And, of course, because it's British. There is less overt discussion of men and sex, and more scenes that simply show the women's friendship and the development of the various sexual relationships. The show is airing on BBCAmerica on Friday nights at 9pm EST.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Word of the Day

The Word of the Day is "jejune": according to the American Heritage Dictionary, lacking in nutrition, insubstantial; not interesting, dull; lacking maturity, puerile; from the Latin, jejunus, hungry. What a great word! I love the sound of it. Yesterday, New York Times columnist Frank Rich described Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal as "jejune", which prompted me to look up the word. Jindal provided the Republican response to Obama's address to Congress this past week. Rich accurately described Jindal's speech as follows:

The Louisiana governor, alternately smug and jejune, articulated precisely the ideology — those G.O.P. “policies” in the Times/CBS poll — that Americans reject: the conviction that government is useless and has no role in an emergency. Given that the most mismanaged federal operation in modern memory was inflicted by a Republican White House on Jindal’s own state, you’d think he’d change the subject altogether.

But like all zealots, Jindal is oblivious to how nonzealots see him. Pleading “principle,” he has actually turned down some $100 million in stimulus money for Louisiana. And, as he proudly explained on “Meet the Press” last weekend, he can’t wait to be judged on “the results” of his heroic frugality.

Good luck with that. He’s rejecting aid for a state that ranks fourth in children living below the poverty line and 46th in high school graduation rates, while struggling with a projected budget shortfall of more than $1.7 billion.

The Ecstasy and the Agony

It's hard to believe the Republicans think their position of rejecting the stimulus bill has any appeal. We've been living with 8 years of government "non-intervention," resulting in our current crisis. More of the same isn't going to cut it. That seems insane.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

National Blog Posting Month Redux

I'll be making a blog post every day in March, at least theoretically. If you look at this blog, please leave a comment. Otherwise, it's hard to know whether anyone ever reads it! OK, pathetic whining will stop now. The theme this month is "Giving (Up)". I'll be endeavoring to make a few posts on that topic.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Financial Crisis, simplified

I just heard a fantastic episode of This American Life on NPR that was absolutely the best explanation that I've heard of our current financial crisis. As someone who knows next to nothing about economics or finance, I felt like I really understood what was going on after listening to this show. Unfortunately, it was also extremely alarming, as the "Wizard of Wharton," a business school professor, explains that the last time our cumulative debt equaled GNP, as it did in 2007, was in 1929. "Bad Bank" episode of This American Life. 30 second promo here

Friday, February 27, 2009

Film Editing

Since I've started making fan videos, I've become much more attuned to the intricacies of film editing. I was therefore intrigued by this article in the New York Times which advocated an Oscar for title sequences in movies. Credit Where Credits Are Due As anyone who goes to the movies knows, title sequences can be a significant part of the film-going experience. This article highlights a few notable title sequences from the past (Psycho, The Pink Panther, Dr. Strangelove), and gives awards to this year's films for "Best Achievement in Film Title Design" to the following films: Wall-E, Tropic Thunder, Slumdog Millionaire (ending titles dance sequence), Iron Man, and Mamma Mia!.

Incidentally, Slumdog Millionaire won the Oscar for Best Film Editing. I have to agree that the editing was impressive.

Just for fun, here's that "Jai Ho" dance title sequence from Slumdog Millionaire. I think this is a slight remix, but it's basically it.

Update on "Rent - School Edition"

Last week, I talked about schools not allowing the performance of "Rent - School Edition". The New York Times reported today that one of the schools that had not permitted the production of "Rent" has relented. Show Will Go On: CA School Approves "Rent" The principal of Corona del Mar High School in Newport Beach, CA, claimed that she had simply wanted to read through the script before approving, and that the drama teacher had not provided her with the script. Since the original New York Times article on the controversy appeared, the principal has read the script and decided the school can go forward with the performance. Yeah!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Oscar ramblings

Why is it that they always present the award for Best Actress before the award for Best Actor, as if Best Actress is less important? This bothers me every year. I wish they'd switch it up from year to year. I liked the way they presented the awards this year, with several past award winners directly addressing nominees.

I liked Sean Penn's acceptance speech. I was happy he included some pro-gay political points.

I was very happy Kate Winslet won Best Actress for "The Reader". It was a fantastic performance.

I wish they had ended the broadcast with a big Bollywood dance number like "Slumdog Millionaire," with all the Slumdog people on stage. That would have been really fun.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Answer to a Question I've Had for a Long Time

What does a Hollywood producer do, exactly? and why do they take home the Oscar for Best Picture? Slate provides the answer.

Random Interesting News

The Good Old Days (or rather, the bad old days) The FBI investigated Jack Valenti in the early 1960's to find out if he was gay. And an editor's note that appeared after the article was published shows that we still have the idea that it's bad to be gay. The Washington Post stated that: A
Feb. 19 Page One article disclosed an FBI investigation into the personal life of the late Jack Valenti, former White House aide to President Lyndon B. Johnson. The piece should have stated more expressly than it did that the investigation produced no evidence that Valenti was gay or had a sexual relationship with a photographer who was mentioned in FBI records but whose name was redacted from those files.

Because it would of course be the worst thing in the world if Valenti were gay. (Actually, technically probably it is libelous to publish a statement that someone is gay when they aren't, so that must be why the Post made this statement, although they go on to say that Valenti's family OK'd the piece and didn't want to publicly comment.)

Valenti appeared frequently on TV, and this is how the Post described him; "When Beltway insider Jack Valenti died two years ago at age 85, he was playing the role of intermediary between Washington and Hollywood as the theatrical, snowy-haired president of the Motion Picture Association of America."


A high school version of "Rent" is not flying in some parts of the country. "Rent," the High School Musical? Not in Some Communities Some school officials and parents object to characters who are gay or have AIDS, as well as some other aspects of the show. In some towns where productions of "Rent" have been canceled, high school students got involved in productions on nearby college campuses. One high school drama teacher described his experience. His principal "had objected to the show because of its treatment of “prostitution and homosexuality.” “When I heard that, I stopped her and looked her in the eye and said, ‘First, there is no prostitution in ‘Rent,’ and second, homosexuality is not wrong,’ ” Mr. Martin said. “She made no comment. It was the most demoralizing, disappointing moment in my career as a teacher.”" The principal disputed Mr. Martin's version of events. One of the producers of the show on Broadway had this to say about the controversies:

“Like it or not, we’re right smack in the middle of an enormous cultural shift right now, and that shift will give way to acceptance of homosexuality and acceptance of gay characters,” said Jeffrey Seller, one of the “Rent” producers, who are also backing a national tour now under way. “But it’s a process, it’s a messy process, and it makes sense to me that we’ll take steps forward and hit a pothole and take a step backward.

“But you know what?” Mr. Seller added. “The kids are going to win. They may not win this month, they may not win this year, but if they want to put on ‘Rent,’ then they are going to have to fight a little bit and stand up to their schools.”


This is hilarious! George Mason University in Fairfax County, Virginia, outside Washington D.C. has selected a drag queen to be it's homecoming queen this year. Work That Tiara, Boy!

photo by Teddy Meyer - Broadside

She looks pretty good, don't you think? Naturally not everyone is happy with this development.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Too Many Dicks on the Dance Floor

From Flight of the Conchords, last night's episode. Absolutely priceless! Watch for the disco ball codpieces. This show consistently makes me laugh out loud.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Preview for Series 3 of Torchwood

Just because.

Fandom Pilgrimage to NY Comic Con

Going on a fandom pilgrimage to the New York Comic Con this weekend. Known to normal people as a comic book convention, these events have morphed into so much more. Branching out from traditional comic books, they now include graphic novels, sci fi and fantasy, with a requisite contingent of attendees dressed as their favorite superhero, scifi, or anime characters. They've become magnets for movie and TV promotion, especially for anything remotely scifi or fantasy-related. One participant describes it as "a marriage between Cannes and Sundance - but with a touch of freak parade". (Fernanda Cohen in Design Arts Daily). I'm going primarily to attend a panel on Torchwood (see sidebar) with cast members and the director of the next series, as well as a couple of other TV panels (e.g. Fringe). I wish I could go to the panel on Dollhouse with Joss Whedon, but it's at the same time as Fringe. We'll see.

PopWatch blog on what not to miss at NY Comic Con

Website for New York Comic Con

ny comic con Photo by tancread on Flickr

NY comic con Photo by Del Far on Flickr

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Sherlock Holmes, Man of Action

This movie looks good. Is That You, Sherlock Holmes? (NYTimes) A remake of Sherlock Holmes starring Robert Downey, Jr. as Holmes and Jude Law as Watson, directed by Guy Ritchie. Any movie with those two can't be too bad, and the concept sounds fantastic: Sherlock Holmes as a man of action. It's not coming out until next November, but I can't wait.

Photo: Alex Bailey, Warner Bros Pictures

And here's Jude Law with Mr. Downey:

My Favorite Illustrator

Joost Swarte

Joost Swarte, a Dutch illustrator. Absolutely love his work. I was so excited to see this in today's NY Times Book Review, for a review of T. Coraghessan Boyle's new novel about Frank Lloyd Wright. It shows one of Wright's masterpieces, Falling Water, in western Pennsylvania, which I've been to. My partner and I visited Swarte in his studio in Haarlem, the Netherlands, a few years back, it was like visiting Mecca for us.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

CA Court: Religious schools can discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation

This is the natural consequence of allowing religious exemptions to discrimination laws. School can expel lesbian students, court rules. (LA Times) California law prohibits businesses from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. A state appellate court has ruled that a private Christian school could legally expel two students for having an allegedly lesbian relationship. The court reasoned that the school was not a business and therefore wasn't subject to the law. The girls' attorney is planning to appeal to the California Supreme Court.

No Mail on Saturdays?

Postmaster General: May need to cut Saturday mail delivery Yikes!

Snow Days

For everyone whose lives have been interrupted by the bad winter weather this week, a corrective: Nature's Way of Telling Us to Chill Puts things in nice perspective.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Coffee is Good

I always like to see an excuse to drink coffee. Coffee Reduces Risk of Dementia Maybe this explains why you always see so many older people drinking coffee.

Photo by javaturtle on flickr.

Change continues - Obama Reverses More Bush Policies

Obama has already made some great moves to undo Bush's policies. It's exciting to see a new announcement practically every day.

1. Obama Directs Regulators to Tighten Auto Rules. During the Bush years, some states wanted to pass more liberal laws than the federal government. The feds argued that federal law superseded state law in these instances. Now, Obama has enabled states to impose more strict regulations on vehicle emissions than required by federal law.

2. "President Obama repealed rules...that restricted federal money for international organizations that promote or provide abortions overseas, sweeping aside a pillar of the social policy architecture of George W. Bush’s presidency." Obama Reverses Rules on U.S. Aid for Abortion This policy has been batted about by Republicans and Democrats since Bush I, I believe. It was sad to see Bush 2 reinstate it. Now it's a relief to see Obama restore sanity to US aid in this area. From the NYTimes: "The restrictions Mr. Obama lifted on Friday barred the United States Agency for International Development from providing money to any international nongovernmental organization that “performs or actively promotes abortion as a method of family planning” in foreign countries, and covered a wide range of activities, including providing advice, counseling or information regarding abortion. The restrictions did not apply to counseling for abortions in the case of rape, incest or danger to the life of the pregnant woman."

3. I mentioned these earlier, but it's worth mentioning again, as this is a huge development. Obama Reverses Key Bush Security Policies "Mr. Obama signed executive orders closing the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, within a year; ending the Central Intelligence Agency’s secret prisons; and requiring all interrogations to follow the noncoercive methods of the Army Field Manual." An open democracy with a bill of rights should not have implemented these policies to begin with - it was embarrassing.

Here's the Washington Post's rundown of Obama's changes: Effort to Roll Back Bush's Policies Continues

Monday, January 26, 2009

US to World: Sorry for Interruption in Service

This is an e-mail making the rounds. I thought it was funny.

Dear World:

We, the United States of America , your top quality supplier of the
ideals of liberty and democracy, would like to apologize for our
2001-2008 interruption in service. The technical fault that led to
this eight-year service outage has been located, and the software
responsible was replaced November 4. Early tests of the newly
installed program indicate that we are now operating correctly, and we
expect it to be fully functional on January 20. We apologize for any
inconvenience caused by the outage. We look forward to resuming full
service and hope to improve in years to come. We thank
you for your patience and understanding.


Friday, January 23, 2009

Daily Show on Republican Reaction to Obama Presidency

This is just priceless.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

This is Change

I can't tell you how thrilled I was to read this headline this morning in the Washington Post: Obama Starts Reversing Bush Policies So exciting. Closing Guantanamo and tightening lobbying rules. Yeah!

Political Spectrum Quiz

My Political Views
I am a left social libertarian
Left: 4.6, Libertarian: 5.23

Political Spectrum Quiz

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Reaction - mini

My brain is fuzzy from a cold, but I have to say, it was mighty satisfying to see Bush ride away over Washington in that helicopter today.

Beyond the miracle of Obama's swearing in, another highlight was Obama's mention of "non-believers" in his inauguration speech. That's got to be a first. I'm not sure it outweighed the unpleasantness of hearing the homophobe Rick Warren deliver an invocation which was thoroughly drenched in thanks to God and Jesus and made you think this was a religious occasion. I totally resent the inclusion of ministers and prayers in official government ceremonies like this. (Moreover, all the religious figures featured in the inaugural concert and today's ceremonies were Christians.)

Moving beyond the crabbyanne-ness of that statement, I was very moved by the inauguration and I teared up at several points. I still can't believe Obama is the president. It's amazing.

It was very cold and damp here in the Washington area today, even with some sun, so I applaud all the people participating and watching in the cold for many, many, many hours. I watched from a warm living room, with easily accessible bathrooms and much food and drink.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Obama Inauguration Concert

I watched some of this on TV. I thought the production was very well run, from what I could tell. The lineup of artists was pretty amazing, although it was weighted in favor of genres I don't care for (soul, R&B, country). I thought it was quite moving at times. I loved seeing James Taylor, Stevie Wonder, and a number of others. Renee Fleming sang "You'll Never Walk Alone" from "Carousel," which always makes me tear up (sucker for musicals). And Beyonce's outfit was fabulous.

The weather in DC was warmer than it has been for the last couple of days, thankfully for the performers and audience. It was still gloomy, cold and damp, however. I was thinking that the Obamas are having the coldest weekend of their lives. Although they're used to Chicago weather, which sucks big time (I lived there for a number of years).

It was exciting just to see the beginning of the inaugural events and see the crowd's excitement. The setting in front of the Lincoln Memorial was wonderful and evocative. Shades of Martin Luther King Jr's famous speech, how far we've come since Lincoln freed the slaves, etc.

The Caucus Blog (NYTimes) on the concert, with photos

Although this event was supposed to be viewable by all for free on HBO, my mother couldn't seem to figure out how to watch it. Obviously, there was a flaw there somewhere. I don't know whether the feed wasn't available in her area, or what. It's supposed to be viewable on their website.

Yesterday, Fox News was already talking about when Obama's "honeymoon" will end. Sigh. Come on, Fox News, give us a little time to celebrate, why don't you?

Hallelujah! Bush Says Farewell

I thought this day would never come. What a relief. Bush Says Farewell to the Nation

I was horrified when Bush first announced he was running for president way back before the 2000 election and all the Republican politicians were jumping on his bandwagon. I couldn't see the appeal. I thought he seemed like an idiot. My opinion never changed. I just found out he was a dangerous idiot. I never believed his "compassionate conservative" shtick. It didn't jibe with his past. I was sorely disappointed when Gore and then Kerry lost to him. (Let's not get into the resolution of the 2000 election here. That could be the subject of another rant. Suffice it to say that I was completely disgusted, particularly as a lawyer. I thought the Supreme Court acted politically, which I never thought I'd see, and was very disillusioned.)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

This is Why China Should Not Have Been Awarded the Olympics

China should not have been awarded the Olympics because it does not believe in human rights, especially freedom of speech, and an impartial legal system. Would-Be Olympic Protester Sentenced to 3 Years in Prison China set aside several parks in Beijing for protests. This was apparently just for show, however. When Chinese people applied for permits to protest they were arrested! According to this New York Times article, no protests were held in any of the parks. Two women in their 70's were arrested for applying to protest and were then sentenced to "re-education through labor". This is the infamous punishment used throughout the era of Mao to send people away to remote labor camps.

This is what happened to Ji Sizun, the subject of this article:

Mr. Ji, from the coastal province of Fujian, met with a similar fate [being arrested]. He arrived in Beijing planning to hold a protest against government corruption, an issue that angers many Chinese and that undermines the legitimacy of the government.

On Aug. 9, Mr. Ji went to the Deshengmenwai police station to apply for a permit to protest at the Purple Bamboo Park, one of the three designated protest areas. Mr. Ji had several reporters accompany him because he feared being arrested. He tried to submit his application but was questioned intensely by police officers. The reporters who accompanied him said they were harassed. Mr. Ji left the station that day, but returned two days later to check on the status of his application. The police arrested him then.

And now he's been imprisoned for three years. For applying to protest. I'd like to know what the International Olympic Committee and the United States have to say about this. How can they justify awarding the Olympics to China when this kind of thing happens? Clearly, the Olympics did not improve human rights there at all.

Friday, January 16, 2009

A Culture Minister for the U.S. - Yes!

Quincy Jones is spearheading an effort to get Obama to appoint a "culture czar" for the United States. Does U.S. Need a Culture Czar? (NPR story); Quincy Jones Lobbies Obama for Secretary of Culture Post (Rolling Stone). You can sign an online petition in support of the position here. I think this is a great idea at a time when public schools are cutting down on music and art classes, cultural institutions are shrinking and groveling for money, and the arts in general are denigrated as a career option. Not to mention that many other countries have a minister for culture. It would highlight the importance of the arts in our lives.

Obama cookies!

Obama cookies! Acquired at my local Safeway.  Washington is overrun with Obama memorabilia, but I never expected to see his face on a cookie. Too funny.

And here's the cookie post-3 year old munching.  Hopefully it's not an omen for the fate of the Obama administration.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Further Adventures of Joe the Plumber

Joe the Plumber becomes Mideast war correspondent for a conservative website. Incredible. What are his qualifications?

Calvin Trillin Inauguration Poem

I heard Calvin Trillin reading a poem he wrote called Anticipating The Inauguration Of Barack Obama on NPR today. It's quite wonderful and I wanted to share it. You can see the poem and listen to him reading it here.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

You Know You're a Lawyer When...

You drive past a church in your neighborhood and wonder whether churches are zoned for commercial activity or if they have their own special zoning. (Noticing how churches are interspersed in residential neighborhoods with no other businesses.)

Atheist Bus Messages

Akira Suemori/Associated Press

Atheists Send a Message, on 800 British Buses

I love this.

Similar bus messages apparently are appearing in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the American Humanist Association(link is to their campaign website), but they don't seem as fun, and they're geared to Christmas. Leave it to the Brits to be drolly cheeky.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Illinois Senate Seat Circus Continues

Burris is Blocked from Taking Senate Seat This is so dramatic. Apparently Roland Burris, appointed to replace Obama by alleged felon Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, walked into the Senate today and presented his credential to the Senate Secretary, who denied him the Senate seat. What a mess! It was also the day the new Congress was sworn in.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Reader

Go see this movie! Kate Winslet and Ralph Fiennes star in an adaptation of the bestselling German (Swiss) novel of the same name by Bernhard Schlink. Here's the description from Oprah's Book Club selection:
Originally published in Switzerland, and gracefully translated into English by Carol Brown Janeway, The Reader is a brief tale about sex, love, reading, and shame in postwar Germany. Michael Berg is 15 when he begins a long, obsessive affair with Hanna, an enigmatic older woman. He never learns very much about her, and when she disappears one day, he expects never to see her again. But, to his horror, he does. Hanna is a defendant in a trial related to Germany's Nazi past, and it soon becomes clear that she is guilty of an unspeakable crime. As Michael follows the trial, he struggles with an overwhelming question: What should his generation do with its knowledge of the Holocaust? "We should not believe we can comprehend the incomprehensible, we may not compare the incomparable.... Should we only fall silent in revulsion, shame, and guilt? To what purpose?"

Kate Winslet plays Hanna, and Ralph Fiennes plays the grown-up Michael, who is featured mostly in the last third of the movie. Kate Winslet's performance is exquisite and subtle in a role that is not always sympathetic or attractive. Fiennes nicely portrays the conflicting motivations of Berg. The younger Michael, who is on screen for most of the movie, is well played by David Kross. Stephen Daldry directed. (He also directed The Hours, a beautiful movie.) I've always liked Kate Winslet and I admit to having a bit of a thing for Ralph Fiennes (even when he was playing an SS commandant in "Schindler's List"); I think it's the eyes.

Official Movie website Trailer:

The Reader on