Sunday, January 31, 2010

Avatar

I've seen Avatar twice now, once in regular-D and today in Imax 3D. The difference -- not that much, really. The biggest difference were that the sound effects louder. Still a visually stunning, enjoyable film. For a 3 hour long cliche.

I realized on the second viewing what a cliche this movie is. From the hard-nosed bad ass military shithead, the awe-shucks hero (played by dreamy Sam Worthington), the evil corporation, the Dian Fossey-like scientist fighting the system to save the objects of her study (the casting of Sigourney Weaver was brilliant -- Cameron is relishing this cliche), the tribal dance and chanting...we've seen it all before. The local flora and fauna taking on the powerful military. Ewoks, anyone? May the Eywa be with you.

The movie can be forgiven all of that for it's visual effects. And Sam Worthington.

But what I can't quite forgive is James Horner's uninspired score. Horner has written some fine movie music and if I'm going to be on a boat that hits and iceberg and goes down by the head I can't think of more a more fitting soundtrack than what he composed for Titanic. Likewise if I'm going to take on Khan or blow up the Enterprise.

All composer's borrow from themselves, but really, much of the score for Avatar was Horner's score for Glory with conga drums added. And the Na'vi of Pandora sing in traditional four part harmony?

If you want a creative example of using western music to protray memorably the clash of Western and non-western culture I think the film music of Ennio Morricone in his score for The Mission meets the test. The haunting oboe solo...the floating first "Hallalujah," the unexpected entrance of the drums...yes, it's all western music but much more creatively used than what Horner served up for Avatar. Like the movie, we've heard it all before.

Did I mention Sam Worthington is hot?

Walking in Memphis

Lone Star's cover of Walking in Memphis. I love this song.

The Party of We Can't Be Serious

The GOP spin coming out of the House GOP's meeting with Obama is "He said we have proposals! He's read them! He likes us, he really likes us!"

Okay, maybe not that last part. But almost.

We're not the "Party of No" they want to say.

But having policy proposals and the sincerity and seriousness to stand by them if it means ceding political ground to the President is another matter.

Dana Milbank:

A month ago, a bipartisan group of senators asked Obama for his "strong support" for a commission to solve the national debt crisis. "We don't recommend this special process lightly," they wrote, calling it "the best way to reach a lasting bipartisan solution that will put our nation back on a sound long-term fiscal path."


One of the signatories, Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), issued a news release trumpeting his sponsorship of the legislation. "Now is the time," he proclaimed.


Obama agreed and gave the idea his backing. When the measure reached the Senate floor on Tuesday last, four of the Republican Senators who had sponsored it -- including the aptly named Crapo -- voted against it.


They can't be serious.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Obama and the House Republicans


I was feeling pretty good about Obama's performance with the House Republicans, but wondered how the other side felt. So this morning I clicked over to the National Republican Congressional Committee site to see what they had to say.

Nothing. Nada. Zip.

Hmm.

Well, they were taking the president to task for not listening to their ideas. So I clicked over to their news release page to see what policy ideas they were offering.

Nothing. Nada. Zip.

On the page were a series of releases trumpeting bad economic news, bad poll numbers about the stimulus bill (didn't that happen a year ago?). The only positive news on the page was about Republican prospects in the 2010 election.

Maybe I'm looking in the wrong place, I thought. So I glanced back at the top navigation bar. There must be a section for "Issues."

Nothing. Nada. Zip.

Nothing about how House Republicans propose ending two wars, reducing the deficit or creating jobs.

Every time I look for evidence the GOP offers serious governing alternatives to the Democrats?

Noting. Nada. Zip.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

First Lady's Guests Tonight to Include Out Gay Businessman

According to TPM, sitting with Michelle Obama during tonight's SOTU will be Trevor Yager, who has a partner of seven years, with whom he is trying to adopt a baby. Is this the first time an openly gay man has been part of the First Lady's official guests during the SOTU?

Here are the full details:

Trevor Yager (Indianapolis, IN)


Trevor Yager began his career in 1995 while in college by founding TrendyMinds, a full-service advertising/public relations firm. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from Anderson University and went on to work with various motor sports sponsors, team owners and sanctioning bodies. Today, at TrendyMinds, Yager provides strategic planning, business development, marketing and technology guidance and support to various local, national and international clients. In 2009 the agency grew by more than 200 percent, doubled the number of employees and gained 15 new accounts. Yager credits President Obama's welcoming climate for small businesses, including the many initiatives under the Recovery Act, for this success.


He is also passionate about helping non-profits and TrendyMinds is committed to giving back to the community by donating in-kind services to organizations throughout Indiana.


Yager resides in Indianapolis with his partner of seven years, Tyler Murray. The two have recently started the process of adoption and look forward to adding a new member to their family.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Kiss DADT Repeal Goodbye This Year

Dan Friedman and Billy House write in Congressional Daily today:

"House and Senate Democrats plan a 2010 agenda aimed at leaving the second half of the 11th Congress as firmly identified in the public's mind with economic measures as 2009 was with healthcare reform."

National Dems are not going to wade into the non-jobs waters of DADT repeal. It deviates from the message. And, as I note below, they will be unwilling to do anything as controversial and "liberal" as allow gays to serve openly in the military in the wake of the Coakley debacle.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

If Coakley Loses

We can kiss any chance of DADT repeal this year goodbye. Perhaps for the rest of Obama's first term. Democrats will be too shell-shocked to take a chance on something as potentially so controversial. That may be the case even if Coakley manages to pull it off.

And Then They'll Come for You

Good as You makes a good point:

Don't kid yourself into believing that the "pro-family" side's mission ends at banning same-sex unions. What they seek is an all-out revolution, in which they tell EVERYONE how they should live and love.

That's not paranoia. In a letter to Congress this week, Bigot Bishop Harry Jackson and a band of "national pastors and leaders," urged Congress to intervene in DC's legalization of marriage equality. They claimed standing to demand action, describing themselves as "moral and cultural watchmen."

They aren't simply demanding a stop to gay marriage. They could have said they are watchmen over traditional marriage but instead chose to assert themselves broadly as guardians over all morals and culture. They are demanding to become America's theocratic ruling class. They threaten:

Let us restate the fact that the demographic we purport to represent is not simply an appendage of the “religious right.” If our estimates are correct, people who think like us number between 60 and 75 million voters. This voting block is the foundation of a new kind of coalition that voted for Proposition 8 in California. They also voted for President Obama. A danger for both parties would be to write us off as being doctrinaire, impractical, or out of touch with their respective political bases.


In short: Do what we say, or else.

And this passage is also telling:

Our views are based on timeless values and clear principles that anchor both our faith and our politics [Emphasis added].

In Bishop Harry Jackson's America, there is only freedom for HIS religion. There is no room for other religious views here, it's tradition and culture viewed through only one faith-based lens. Theirs.

There's a scene in that horrible Star Trek movie (5, I think) where, having traveled to the center of the galaxy to find God, and the "God" they find attempts to steal the Enterprise. This prompts Kirk to ask, "Why does God need a starship?"

Why does God need a Congress? Or human government?

Garry Wills, author of "What Jesus Meant" argues that Jesus' didn't need or want his followers to impose Christianity through government:

Many would like to make the reign of Jesus belong to this political order. If they want the state to be politically Christian, they are not following Jesus, who says that his reign is not of that order...If people want to do battle for God, they cannot claim that Jesus has called them to this task, since he told Pilate that his ministers would not do that.

Harry Jackson and his ilk are not of that opinion. And at a time when an otherwise rational, thoughtful and highly educated man who is president of the United States himself shapes his views on marriage equality based on his religious biases, I worry that they may succeed.

Thomas Jefferson, please call your office.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Lettuce Prey

Ascaris round worm, a parasite that can be found on unwashed lettuce. It can cause some nasty stuff.

Meet America's First Legal Male Prostitute

His name is Markus. And he prefers the term "gigolo" over prostitute, thank you very much.

He makes clear in this Details article that:

1) He's an artist
2) He's proclaiming the American Male's right to get paid for booty calls in the name of Rosa Parks
3) He wanted to have sex with his Mom and sees his new line of work as a way to copulate with a surrogate mother. I think I got that right.
4) His sphincter is NOT for sale. I know I got that one right. He is very clear about that -- though he thinks we gays are "well put together." Personally, btw, I don't find him the least bit handsome, attractive or desirable. But then again, I'm not looking to be some one's surrogate mother.

I think the boy needs some help.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Judge Rules Against Stand for Marriage

No, you can't have your vote and get people to vote against other people's human rights.

Near Miss

I was commuting home on the bike last night. Biking on DC city streets has its dangers. Biking on DC's streets at night ups the ante.

Usually the biggest danger I see (or don't see) are un-illuminated joggers on the George Washington Parkway trail. If you ever wonder if there are any optimists left in the world, look no further.

My commute starts south of Reagan National Airport. So I head home this time of year in the dark on the GW trail...it seems there are joggers who go out of their way to wear dark clothes with no reflective gear. I wish they knew how invisible they are at night. Fortunately most running shoes have some reflective material on them, so I watch for flashes of light on the path (I am not an optimist, I have a strong headlamp and tail light).

But it wasn't an invisible jogger that caused my near miss last night. It was an oncoming jogger on the wrong side of the path.

This happened at the foot of the 14th street bridge sidewalk, where it crosses E. Basin Drive behind the Jefferson Memorial heading into Haines Point. Some joggers think they are safer if they jog facing traffic. They are mistaken, as any cyclist who has rounded a blind curve to confront a jogger on the wrong side of the trail can tell you. But I saw this guy coming, the area is lit and there were no blind curves.

When someone's coming straight at you on your side of the road the inevitable game of chicken begins. It's unavoidable. Do I move to the left? What if there is oncoming traffic behind the guy, but on the correct side of the road? What if he moves to the same side of the trail with me? Then we're back in the same boat. Since he's breaking the rules of the road, I think he should give way. But I'm a damn cyclist, he's thinking, "screw him!" (Though he gets the longer hospital stay if we collide, so screw yourself). If this were on water, the rules of the road dictate that the more maneuverable vessel give way to the lesser one. Which one of us is that? I'm faster, but am more dependent on being on pavement for maneuverability. He can jog on grass with no problems, I would risk skidding. I'm also larger, with my bike, so there's more of me to move.

As it happened, he moved to "his" side of the trail in time.

But my "near miss" wasn't really this jogger. It was the car I almost didn't see because I was so focused on the jogger. The path here crosses E Basin Drive and I didn't see the car barreling down the road destined to be at the same spot as me and my bike. I did see it "just" in time and thankfully I have good breaks and that I didn't go flying over the handlebars.

It's my fault for not seeing the car -- but a good case-in-point about any distraction, whether it be unlighted joggers on the wrong side of the road or shirtless ones acting as eye candy -- on DC's dangerous streets.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Dr. Ruth to become DC's "Secretary of Love and Relationships."

That's what the WaPo is reporting.

"On Thursday, Dr. Ruth will be sworn in as the city's honorary secretary of the “Department of Love and Relationships.” She'll help announce a new “stimulus plan” for the city's tourism business.
Organizers say a monthlong promotion in February is aimed at sparking new romances and relationships in the city."

Hmmm. A promotion to spark new romances and relationships in DC...a city inhabited by the likes of David Vitter, John Ensign, Mark Foley, Gary Condit, Bill Clinton, etc. Do we really want to encourage this?

US News has the list of DC's Top 10 Sex Scandals. It needs updating, I think.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Perry vs. Schwarzenegger

There's a lot of stake in the court case being brought by Ted Olson and David Boies to strike down the hateful Prop 8 that re-instituted marriage inequality in California. Michael Petrelis pegs what this is really about in his post of impressions of Day One:

"I sense a foundation is being laid down to deal with the issue underlying the gay marriage question, the question of homosexuality itself, and that is what is really on trial here." (emphasis mine)

Yes. Exactly right. And that's always what gay marriage has been all about. For if gays can marry legally, then homosexuality will be morally equal to heterosexuality in the eyes of the law. As long as the most fundamental thing about us -- who we love and chose to spend our lives with -- is treated by law as morally inferior to the straight majority, state-sanctioned injustice is possible.

The other side gets it -- which is why they are saying the dumbest things and going to any length to prevent it.

This lawsuit is an enormous risk. With enormous possibilities.

Monday, January 11, 2010

A Gay Ugandan's Anniversery

Nine years ago a man in Uganda met his mate. Another Ugandan man. Like anyone in a long term relationship, he doesn't have the answer to "how do you do stay together:"

I can safely say that by the second week, I did know that I was hooked. I was in love.

No. A one night stand does not lead to the love of life. The chemistry is more subtle, more distant.
To date I joke that it was a one night stand that has lasted the nine years. And, in a way it is true. What do I know of love?
I cannot counsel lovers. Because, despite the experience, to me it has been a day at a time. That is how they have come, that is how they were taken.

Of course, his government is considering legislation, a "Kill the gays" law that would put them both to death for their love.

One day at a time. That is how they have come, that is how they were taken.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Five Cents a Bag

Last year the DC City Council passed gay marriage and a five cent tax on plastic bags. Congress may yet step in prevent marriage equality and opponents may get the issue before the voters -- so gay marriage in DC is far from being in the bag. But nothing will stop a tax. Even on bags.

Judging from my grocery store people have adapted, bringing cloth tote bags. The process has definitely slowed checkout down.

But the burning question I have is -- what are we going to pick up dog poop with? Will we get fewer plastic bags in the Anacostia but more poop on the devil strips?

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Trying Terrorists

Let the numbers speak:

3 vs. 100

In the past nine years three terrorists have been convicted by military tribunals; 100 have been convicted in civilian court.

Presumably "the last nine years" includes the 8 years of the Bush Administration.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Texting Fail

Did the Washington Post really need to text me at 6:14 a.m. to tell me that there was "light snow on the ground" and schools are delayed? I mean, text me when something unexpected happens. Like Michael Steele saying something that doesn't embarass Congressional Republicans.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Brad L. Graham

The guy who coined the word "blogosphere" has died unexpectedly. At age 41.

His blog, Bradlands, was the first blog I followed. We traded emails a few times. I loved his sense of humor and way with words. He used a number of running gags on his blog, including the "conversations from a bar scene" in which he recounted a conversation he (supposedly) had with his friends there. Such as this one:

Jeff: I have to take something for the office potluck tomorrow. Do you know how to make an artichoke dip?

Brad: Sure, that's easy. The hard part is getting it to dance with you in the first place.

Jeff: (stares)

Brad: What?

Jeff: Seriously, how do you ever get laid?

In recent years he blogged less frequently and I stopped reading. Even so, I feel as if I have lost a friend.

Gay Marriage -- A Look Back

Jonathan Rauch provides an excellent summary of the year gay marriage went mainstream.

Security Theater

So, if they can't keep uninvited guests from entering a State Dinner at the White House, do we really think they can keep bad guys off airplanes?