Thursday, December 31, 2009

Welcome 2010!

2010. It just looks futuristic. Just a few years ago (or what seems just a few years ago, but was actually 15 years ago), 2010 seemed so far away. And, now here we are - really entering the future.

For me, personally, this was an amazing decade of growth and love and accomplishment. I came awfully close to becoming the person I always wanted to be, and that's a great feeling.

Ten years ago today, I was loving my life in South Beach, working at the Front Porch Cafe on Ocean Drive, and just hanging out a lot with Jason and Laura, and Shawn, Murphy, Phoenix and Jody.  Stimpy had just found his way back to South Beach, Olga and Brandie were new friends, and I hadn't yet met a lot of people who have become such central characters in my story - Rodrigo, Pablo, Brian, Andrea - and, of course, Tony.  A decade ago, I had not yet met my biological mother, and my adoptive father had just died.  I had, still fairly recently, gotten my life on track after a few lost and dark years of meth addiction, and was opening my life up to the possibilities of the Universe at Miami-Dade Community College.  I had no idea that I was capable of finishing a few years later with a Master's Degree thesis, and I had no idea I had the strength to become who I wanted to be.  

Now, at the end of the decade, I'm in the fifth year of sharing my journey with Tony, my  beautiful and silly and smarter-than-average Prince Charming.  We're living in Atlanta, I'm enjoying my work as an account manager, and hanging out a lot with Stimpy and Jody, Jamie and Ashley, Ryan, Alicia and Stacey.  We just bought an awesome, Brady Bunch-esque house with a forest for a back yard, and we're adjusting to life in the inner 'burbs.  I'm now closer to my adoptive family than I ever thought possible, and I've been able to sustain a lot of decades-old friendships.  The 00s were unbelievably good to me.

Of course, historically speaking, we all know that this decade will go down as one of the worst in the history of this nation. Starting with the election meltdown in Florida, through September 11th, Afghanistan, Anthrax, Iraq, Guantanamo, Donald Rumsfeld, Britney's meltdown, Abu Ghraib, the rise of "reality" tv, Fox News, the 2004 Tsunami, melting polar ice caps, mass extinctions, Hurricane Katrina, the real estate bubble, the real estate collapse, Twittering, Bernie Madoff, auto-tuning, the Great Recession, and Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and their Teabaggers - it's been a decade of war, disaster, fear, anger, ignorance, hate and bad, bad pop music.

But, I am hopeful that 2010 will be the start of a much better era.  There have been a lot of seeds planted this year that just might bloom in the new decade.  I definitely want to avoid stepping into the shoes of those Hollywood "psychic" New Year's Eve prognosticators - so I won't make any "2010 predictions."  But, I do think that much of the fear, anger, and ignorance crowd has eaten itself, and despite some missteps and massive criticism from every corner of the political spectrum, President Obama has moved our nation more than a few big steps in the right direction. 

And, possibly more importantly, Lady Gaga has single-handedly revived the idea of a creative, interesting, thoughtful, cutting edge pop star.  And, that definitely bodes well for the future that's now here.





Friday, November 27, 2009

The Reason For The Season

'Tis the season for re-posting my annual updated anti-Black Friday post.....

Malls across the country began decking the halls 2 months ago, and had Santa's train installed just as the last back to school sales were ending. I know it's cliche at this point to feel nostalgic for the days when the holy season of giving gently revealed itself shortly after Thanksgiving. Today, a 5am scuffle in the line outside of Best Buy on Black Friday merely marks the halfway point in the season of stress and artifice.




Again, this year, I'm committing to honoring the reason for the season - the winter solstice - and celebrating this beautiful time of year by spending quality time with the people that I love, and sharing meaningful socially-conscious gifts instead of spending time fighting the crowds, so I can check people off my list with cheap plastic crap from Walmart and iPod iPhone accessories.

Of course, this year, there will most likely be less in the way of shopping hordes, thanks to the collapse of the trickle-down economy, and that only means that every dollar you spend will have more power to bring about a better world. This season, each holiday gift that you purchase, will have an impact. Amidst all of the news of frozen credit and layoffs and golden parachutes, is the opportunity to help build our communities, bring about more peace, and protect the world around us, just by putting a little thought and a little heart into where we place our dollar power. 

So, for the like minded, here are a few ideas...

ENVIRONMENT
World Wildlife Fund
Greenpeace
Abundant Earth
Care2: Shop and Help the Planet
Defenders of Wildlife
The Sierra Club
The Nature Conservancy
E-House Eco-Friendly Gifts
The Jane Goodall Institute Store
Zappos Eco-Friendly and Vegetarian Shoes
Equita Essentials for Ethical Living

GAY COMMUNITY AND CULTURE
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
The Human Rights Campaign Fund - Designer Tees
Soulforce
The United Church of Christ
Atlanta Pride
SAVE Dade
Persad Center
The Ali Forney Center
Immigration Equality
Outspoken Clothing
Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival
Margaret Cho Shop
Kathy Griffin
Ellen Shop
Ani DiFranco
Ari Gold
Outwrite Books
TLA Video
Logo Television Shop

ANTI-DRUG WAR
The November Coalition
The Center For Cognitive Liberty and Ethics
The Drug Policy Alliance
Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies
NORML Holiday Gifts

PROGRESSIVE AMERICAN VALUES
ACLU
The NAACP
Betty Bowers Gifts
UTNE Magazine
Syracuse Cultural Workers Gifts
American Humanist Association
Unity on the Bay
Darwin Fish Stocking Stuffers
National Public Radio Shop
The Quakers
Amnesty International Gift Shop
People for the American Way
Mother Jones

HIV/AIDS/Cancer
AMFAR
Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force
AIDS Memorial Quilt
Artists for a New South Africa
Pets are Loving Support Atlanta
Susan G. Komen Promise Shop

ANIMALS
The Humane Society
PETA Shopping Mall
Adopt a Manatee
National Audubon Society
The Orangutan Foundation

ART
Kenneth Treacy
Eric Chismar Photography
The Mattress Factory
The High Museum of Art
The Warhol Museum
Clyde Butcher Photography
Corey Barksdale
Cecile Broz
Carnegie Museum of Art
Salvador Dali Museum

HOLIDAY CARDS AND ECO-DECORATING
Betty Bowers
Eco-Decorating
Tools for Change Holiday Cards
Recycled Cards That Grow

Have a Peaceful, Stress-Free and Meaningful Holiday!


Friday, November 13, 2009

The Left Side Of History



 
Every day, all day long, the media presents us with "political discussions", where one discusser defends the liberal point of view and one pushes the conservative perspective.  As pundit show ratings soar, and newspapers close up shop, the conservative versus liberal political cage matches are aired 24 hours a day, and applied to absolutely every topic imaginable.  As long as we have a conservative and a liberal fighting about something - we have a show.  And, of course, to fit the profitable format - every topic, no matter what,  must have both points of view.  In a discussion of Newton's Theory of Gravity, we would near certainly be presented with a liberal "in favor" of gravity - and a traditional conservative arguing against the controversial theory citing research by Focus on the Family that debunks everything Sir Newton ever said. 

And this liberal versus conservative "political discussion" format will always benefit the conservatives.  Of couse, there are a few success stories on the liberal side of this dangerous political battle - Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, and to a degree, Chris Matthews. 

But, the underlying problem is the most basic nature of liberal and conservative minds.  The very basis of liberalism is academic discussion and investigating different points of view.  Liberals, by their very nature, want to hear and accommodate others' points of view.  Conservatives, on the other hand, have no interest in hearing any point of view that differs from tradition.  This leaves liberals holding the political discussion bag.  While liberals seek to understand, conservatives seek to control.  Liberals agree to have the discussion about whether the gravity is real, or not, because it's only fair to listen to others' point of views. And the liberal guest will point out centuries of scientific research that has supported Newton's ideas, and the conservative will argue that Newton was against God, and that if we teach the Laws of Physics in schools, it will make the children homosexual socialist abortionists.  And, both viewpoints will be treated as equally valid by the show's host**, and too many Americans will go to sleep that night thinking that these are just two reasonable, competing points of view. 

I bring this up after a discussion with my friend, Jason.  We were talking about health care and how absurd it is that conservatives have been able to control the debate so well.  How is it that this summer's town hall meetings were filled with people fired up against government run healthcare - while demanding that Obama and his liberal army not touch Medicare?  And, how did this America-hating, secessionist, secessionist, anti-government movement come to be and where was it when Bush was running up the biggest deficit in history on two wars and tax cuts for the richest one percent?  And, how did conservatives succeed in making liberal, and progressive, bad words - especially given the heritage of conservatism in this country?


Without writing a dissertation, I just want to look at the histories of the two main schools of American political thought.  It's probably necessary to start with some definitions...


1.  Conservative - tending, or disposed, to maintain existing views, conditions, or institutions; to limit change; cautious, moderate, tending to preserve the status quo. 



2.  Liberal - favorable to progress or reform; open-minded or tolerant; free of, or not bound by traditional or conventional ideas or values; progressive, broad-minded, tolerant.


It's ironic that the self-proclaimed conservatives of Glenn Beck's teabagger movement so heavily lean on symbols of the American Revolution, when so many of the ideas of the founding fathers were so radically liberal.  The American Revolutionaries weren't tradition-loving Christianists.  They were freedom-seeking secularists.  They fought and died for radically forward-thinking ideas - ideas that laid the framework for future generations to work towards a society that recognized the equality of each of its citizens.  


Of course, it's difficult to neatly fit any of the founders into today's well-defined political camps, but make no mistake - if Thomas Paine, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were alive today, they certainly wouldn't tune in to the corporate loyalists on Fox News, and they'd want nothing to do with Glenn Beck or Michael Savage.   


The great American revolutionaries were products of the Enlightenment, and they wrote down their radically enlightened, radically liberal ideas as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America.  And, not once does either of these brilliantly conceived documents mention a nation based on Judeo-Christian principles, no matter how many times Pat Robertson and Bill O'Reilly say otherwise. 

Real homegrown American conservatism found its first home in the White House during Andrew Jackson's years as President.  Andrew Jackson dismantled the federal banking system, which caused an economic collapse known as the Panic of 1837.  He stood strongly for keeping Africans enslaved and terrorized, and he was well-known for his attempts to exterminate each and every Native American from the continent.  "Old Hickory," as he was known, is now honored for his genocidal forays, by having his image engraved on the $20 bill, and I'm sure Ann Coulter has a painting of him somewhere in her lair.     



From the early days of the Union through the Civil War and through the  20th Century, conservatives fought to keep Africans enslaved, committed genocide on American's native inhabitants, fought against women's suffrage, stood strong against the New Deal policies, blacklisted movie actors "suspected" of Communism, fought to keep African-Americans separate and unequal, were disgusted by flower children, squandered nearly 60,000 young American lives in Viet Nam, made the Watergate Hotel infamous, sold weapons to terrorists in Central America, implemented "trickle-down" economics, and spent millions of our dollars in an creepily obsessive attempt to impeach Bill Clinton for lying about a blow-job.  

American Conservatism owes its history to the work of Andrew Jackson, generations of slave owners and Confederates, the Ku Klux Klan, Father Coughlin, Joe McCarthy,  George C. Wallace and Bull Connor, Richard Nixon, Jerry Falwell, Ronald Reagan, Oliver North, Jesse Helms and David Duke.  It is a history of violence, domination, oppression and genocide. 

And, while conservatives were building their hateful history, liberals were gathering as abolitionists and unionists and suffragists, constructing the Underground Railroad and putting Americans to work through the New Deal policies.  Liberals rebelled against the unnecessary Viet Nam War, crafted the Social Security and Medicare systems, and stood strong against police fire hoses and dogs in Alabama.   And, without liberals there would be no consumer protections, labor rights or civil rights.  Liberals are still educating against racism, homophobia, sexism, and xenophobia, and fighting to save our planet from the short-sightedness of conservatism.


Today, the conservative movement is completely centered around making sure that faggots and lezzies can't marry each other, and shooting dirty Mexicans in the desert.  The conservative movement has always been about keeping very distinct social classes and using violence and intimidation as regulation, and the conservative voices of today - Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Michael Savage, Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter and their ilk - are well-versed in using fear of the other to rally their tea-bagging troops.  

So, just how is it, that conservatives have managed to nearly succeed in making "liberal" a bad word in American politics?  I cannot for a minute understand why any thinking and loving person would want to associate themselves with the historic agenda of conservatism.  


On good days, I think it's just a matter of lack of education, media manipulation and fear-mongering.  On other days, my heart breaks wondering if it's just that nearly half of us are just hateful, racist, homophobic, unkind bullies.  



Friday, September 25, 2009

Acid House Flashback # 14

"Oochy Koochy" - Baby Ford - 1988

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Friday, September 11, 2009

Matters Of Probability


I'm not one who believes that there is an old man looking down on us from the sky and judging our every thought and action. I don't believe in magical trinkets, sacred sites, or holy scriptures. I'm definitely not one to pay for a palm reading or a tarot session.

I do believe in scientific method, observation and hypothesis, and rigorous testing. I believe that altruism and biophilia are wonderful evolutionary gifts that should be revered more than holy wars and televangelism, and I believe that it's possible that life is, somehow, the Universe trying to understand itself.

Now, having said that, I am also really intrigued by the idea of coincidence. I know that most "coincidences" are just matters of probability, but I do seem to have an unusually high incidence of these matters of probability. Possibly lots of us have unusually high incidences of coincidence, which, of course, would make coincidence not unusual at all. Still with me?

Carl Jung, one of the most brilliant thinkers of the early twentieth century, explored ideas of "collective unconscious" and "synchronicity." He posited that coincidences that are not causal in nature, are actually a sort of manifestation of an underlying framework of collective unconscious human experience and thought. I wonder a lot about this.

Let me just share a few odd, but true, stories of coincidence in my fairly recent experience...

* I've shared my personal adoption story here at the Lair. But there are a few really strange details that I haven't shared. Back in 2000, when I decided that I really wanted to know something about my biological parents, I began my search by using a name search website. I knew my biological parents' names, and I decided that it would be easier to find my father, because my mother's last name might well have changed due to marriage. I input my father's name, and the website generated 14 possible matches all with different addresses. I composed a letter, and sent a letter to each of the 14 addresses. A few days later, I received a call from a woman who told me that she had received my letter, because her father had the same name. She assured me that her father was not the man that I was looking for, but that, coincidentally, she was employed by the Children's and Family Services office in Pittsburgh, and that her job was to help adoptees find their birth parents. And she proceeded to help me find my biological father, who has the same name as hers. Let me just point out that the last name is Kress...not exactly Smith or Jones.

* To add to that coincidence...that wonderful lady lives and works in Pittsburgh, which is the city that I grew up in - though I was living in Miami Beach at the time. My biological father lives in Washington State.

* But the adoption story coincidences don't stop there. When my biological father was contacted, and informed that I wanted to speak with him, he refused to have any contact with me. I wrote to him, and never received a response. So, the agency then assigned someone to find my biological mother. A few months later, I received a call from the agency in Pittsburgh, letting me know that they had found her, and that she wanted to talk to me. We spoke, and I found out that she lived in St. Pete Beach, less than 5 hours from me in Miami Beach. And, she went on to tell me how she actually grew up in Miami Beach, in a house about a mile from where I was living. When I finally met her, she showed me pictures of me when I was 2 years old in Miami Beach...and I thought that I had never been to Miami Beach before I moved there when I was 23. It seems that she and my father were married, and living in Pittsburgh, when I was born. They took several extended trips, with me, to visit her parents in Miami Beach. When I was 2 years old, they got divorced and she moved back home, to Miami Beach, and left me with my father. He took me to a babysitter, and just never came back. So, I grew up in Pittsburgh, with an adoptive family - but I ended up moving to her hometown and was living there when I met her.

* Last September, Tony and I had a fantastic time on a trip to Italy. We started off the journey with a few wonderful days in Rome. On our third day, I stopped at a very small internet shop on a small side street near our hotel, to check e-mails. There was just one other person in the shop, and I couldn't help but to notice how much he looked like a guy that I knew back in Miami. As he gathered his things, and walked towards the door, I couldn't help but to ask if he was possibly from Miami...and of course, he was. We talked for a bit, and wondered together what the chances were of running into someone that you know in another country, thousands of miles away, in a tiny internet shop, at 8 in the morning. Coincidentally, we ran into him again the next day int he train station.

* So, back to Pittsburgh for the background of this story. I actually grew up in the south suburbs of Pittsburgh. Our high school had about 1,000 students, and my grade had less than 250. Not very big. In 1992, I moved to San Francisco. In 1994, I moved to Miami, and just this past April, I moved to Atlanta. Shortly after moving here, Tony and I started going to the Unitarian-Universalist Church, just to check it out, and possibly meet some like-minded folks. On our third visits, at the end of the service, I noticed a woman in a red shirt walking ahead. I turned to Tony, and said, "See that woman in the red shirt? I think I went to high school with her!" Of course, he looked at me like I was insane, but I darted off to get a closer look. I walked up beside her, and asked if her name was Laurel. Now, of couse, you know it was, and we fumbled around for the right words to say to address the weirdness of the situation. I think it needs to be pointed out that the Unitarian-Universalist Church here in Atlanta is not an 8,000 member mega-church. It's a small congregation, and there couldn't have been much more than 100 people there. It's also probably interesting to point out that she and her family live about 30 minutes north of the church, and Tony and I live about 20 minutes southeast. It's probably also interesting to point out that Laurel's husband is from Albany, New York and went to school in Syracuse....and Tony is from Syracuse, and went to school in Albany. AND...two weeks later, Tony and I ran in to Laurel at Piedmont Park. Did I mention that there are over five and a half MILLION people in the Atlanta Metro Region?

I won't bore with more stories, but I do have these types of "coincidence" more often than seems possible. Of course, it could be that I just don't understand the probability of the simultaneous occurances, and I feel some need to place a deeper meaning on, what are essentially, non-meaningful events.

Tell me...do you have similar stories of coincidence? How do you see synchroncities?

Friday, July 24, 2009

That's A Lot Of Oysters

As a follow up to my recent post about the American fight for healthcare, here's another important perspective from Bill Moyers. Thanks to Brandie and Olga for the video tip.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

So You Think You Can Make Me Cry?

This performance piece on So You Think You Can Dance made me fall apart. The choreography was inspired by, and portrays, a woman's fight against breast cancer, and it is one of the most beautiful works of art that I've ever had the privilege of viewing.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Hypocritical Oath of Conservatism

President Obama has promised massive reform of the American healthcare system. He's letting the nation know that "we're going to get it done," and that the goal is to have his public-option plan in place by the end of the year. While 46 MILLION of us, who currently have NO health insurance and absolutely NO access to preventative healthcare wait and hope, the fucking Republicans are on the attack and unveiling their plan through slick television spots and town-hall meetings.

And just what is this Republican plan? Well, actually, there isn't one...other than to paint President Obama as a socialist and to fill their coffers with insurance industry money. Of course, just a small portion of that money is used to run ads like this one...



The level of dishonesty and outright deceipt is un-fucking-believable, even considering that this ad is paid for and sponsored by the Americans for Prosperity group - which is an extremely misnomered, extremely right wing organization, headed by Tim Phillips (of Jack Abramoff and Ralph Reed money-laundering fame). The AFP is an "astoturf" organization - meaning that it is a group which portrays itself as a grassroots-from-the-people coalition, when in fact it is a very deep-pocketed, industry funded political machine. Americans for Prosperity was set up to fight against environmental regulations and regulations on climate changing pollution, to fight against oil drilling bans in national parks, to fight against tobacco regulations and indoor smoking bans, and the AFP is one of the leaders behind the recent Tea-Bagger protests which have served as rallying points for anti-government secessionists and militia wackos. They're a bunch of charmers, for sure. Oh, did I mention that the funding for the AFP is pretty easily traced to Koch Industries - the nation's largest privately held company that has been built on oil trading and refining and operates oil pipelines all over the North American continent.

So, while these anti-healthcare tycoons are pouring millions of dollars into these ads, to try to convince Americans that it's a bad idea to institute a comprehensive plan that would institute a public OPTION...

* Over 46 MILLION Americans do not currently have health insurance.

* 10.7 percent of all American children do not have access to the healthcare system.

* The United States is spending 15.3% of its GDP on healthcare, while Canada is spending 10%.

* Life expectancy is longer in Canada than in the United States.

* Infant mortality rates in Canada are significantly lower in Canada than the United States.

* More than 40% of Americans do not have adequate access to healthcare, while just 5% of Canadians are left out.

* More than a third of U.S. employers do not offer any health insurance assistance.

* The average rate of inflation in the U.S. has been 2.5%, while the average rate of health insurance increases is over 12% per year.

* About 20% of uninsured Americans are using the emergency room as their main source of healthcare. The American taxpayer pays the emergency room rate, instead of the cost of a visit to a primary care physician. This costs about $100 billion per year.

* Almost a third of Americans who do have health insurance are actually underinsured, and would be unable to cover any major medical expenses. Most of the uninsured don't even know that they are uninsured.

* The number of deaths in the U.S. among adults ages 25-64 due to being under-insured is about 18,000 per year...more than diabetes.

* Republicans are hammering on "frivolous medical malpractice lawsuits" as the real problem in healthcare costs, all malpractice lawsuits - frivolous or otherwise - actually contribute less than 1% of all healthcare cost in the United States.

The saddest part of all of this is that these corporate fat cats seem to be gaining in convincing working-class folks that they should stand against Obama's "socialist" "Canadian-style" healthcare. plan Most working-class families don't have the time or resources to check out the facts, and Americans for Prosperity knows it. So, they simply put together a quick, slick ad, filled with lies, and air it on prime time tv.

The Canadian citizen in this particular ad lets us know that she had a brain tumor, and that she would've died in her native country. She tells us that she would've had to wait 6 months to see a specialist in Canada. The fact of the matter is that the median wait time to see a specialist in Canada is about 4 weeks. In the United States it's a little more complicated. If she had been an American citizen with a brain tumor, and she had top-notch health insurance, she would have been able to see a specialist in about 2 weeks. If she had to rely on Medicaid, the wait would be about 12 weeks, and if she had no health coverage, she would have been completely out of luck. Luckily, she is obviously wealthy enough to cross our border, and pay for her diagnosis and treatments in cash. (The truth is that she flew to the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale Arizona fo see one of the best specialists in the country, and she spent over $100,000 to do so).

In this ad, we're told by that oh-so-scary voice that in Canada, "some patients wait a year for vital surgeries," when, in fact, the median wait time for surgeries in Canada is less than 4 weeks. In the United States, without insurance, the wait time is closer to never.

Then, we're back to Shona Holmes, Canadian citizen, who lets us know that she was able to recieve "world class treatment" in the United States. Personally, I think it's a little offensive to have this super-wealthy woman foreigner speak to the tens of millions of Americans who have no access to healthcare systems about the top-of-the-line care that she received in the country that they live and work in.

Next, the old big bad "government should never come between you and your doctor" line. Of course, the having the sweet-faced, kind-hearted insurance companies between you and your doctor is ok.

And, finally, the foreigner, Ms. Holmes, lectures us "don't give up your rights." I'm a little confused as to which rights we would be giving up by providing a public OPTION where anyone without insurance could be covered, and anyone with coverage that they were happy with and could afford would be able to continue being happy with it.

The time for us to fix the broken system is now. We can't afford to wait any longer. At a rate increase of 12% per year, how long will it be before 50% of us don't have health coverage? And when will we hit 75%? And 85%? And just exactly what is the Republican plan? Well, I'll let Republican Senator Chuck Grassley tell you...




Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Some Truth In Reality

I'm not a huge fan of "reality" television. I've never seen "Big Brother," "Survivor," or "Fear Factor," and I don't even get whether "Hills" is a reality show, or not. I'll admit that I exposed myself, just once, to "The Housewives of New Jersey," and I really dig "Project Runway" and "Top Chef." Mostly, I'm content to watch re-runs of "The Golden Girls," "Roseanne," and "I Love Lucy" - and, admittedly, too much "Rachel Maddow" and "Anderson Cooper."

I do think that television affects society, at least as much as reflects society. I'm not sure what the current state of television, in particular the ridiculous popularity of "reality" shows based on the spectacle of instant celebrity and humiliation, says about our current state as a society. And, tonight we'll have a brand new spectacle to soak up - "Miami Social."

As devoted Nibblers here at the Lair know, I recently moved to Atlanta, after living in Miami for 15 years. Twelve of those years were spent in South Beach. I wrote about my long-term relationship with South Beach a few years ago, and I knew then that my Miami chapter was coming to a close. I arrived in South Beach as a 23 year old kid, and I became an adult there. I found and built strong friendships with people who I will never stop missing. And I will always dream of the endless ocean and pink, purple and orange skies.

But, unfortunately, the reality of "Miami Social" has a lot of truth in its depiction of current South Beach culture - and that I will never miss. Sure, there are a lot of people in South Beach who aren't as vapid and artificial as the "cast" of this new show...but I think most would be surprised by how many are. And, the problem is that if you work in real estate or hospitality (basically the only legal industries in Miami), you have to deal with these types of people all day long.

I'm surprised by how much I don't miss Miami. I don't miss the rude drivers, or the lack of common courtesy. I don't miss the cashiers and waiters who wouldn't acknowledge my presence, or the tacky plastic VIPs. And, I definitely don't miss the reality of "Miami Social."

Friday, July 03, 2009

Sincerely,

I loved this letter to the DNC, posted on Salon.com (I was tipped to it over at Joe.My.God.). Tony sent an abridged version in response to a written request for more money....


Thursday, July 02, 2009

On The Sidelines


I grew up in Pittsburgh. And the first things that come to mind when most people think of Pittsburgh are steel mills and professional sports. For most people, the Steel City conjures images of the grimy, smoky city of the Deer Hunter era - a place where beer drinking steelworkers cheered "Mean "Joe Greene, Terry Bradshaw, and Willie Stargell on to make sports history.

And, when I was a kid, Pittsburgh wasn't far from the imagined. The steel industry was already on the decline, but football and baseball held the city together. Even for a kid, like me, who couldn't be less interested in team sports, there wasn't a day without terrible towels, "We Are Family," and the distinctly Pittsburgh voice of Myron Cope. I go back to visit once or twice a year, and I can assure anyone that, while the steel mills have been replaced with tree-lined, mixed-use shopping districts and "green" technology start-ups, Pittsburgh is still very much a sports town. So, it always comes as a real surprise to others when I mention that I have never attended a professional sports game. Yep. I'm from Pittsburgh, and I have never - not once - attended a Steelers game. Or a Pirates game. Or even a Penguins match. Never. I suppose it's like someone from Italy who's never had pasta.

So, on Sunday, I became a professional sports spectator for the first time. One of Tony's colleagues had a couple of extra tickets to the Atlanta Braves vs. Boston Red Sox game, and he was kind enough to invite us. It was a great introduction, despite the scorching 98 degree heat. We were seated at first base, in the third row, and we had a great view of everything.

Having now had the inside spectator experience, I can now say, with full authority, "I just don't get team sports." I'm actually fascinated by how much I don't "get it." I'll concede that, had I had a more clear understanding of all the rules and such, it might've been a little different. But, I'm sure that my not "getting it" is much more fundamental than that.

For one, I just don't get what makes people so passionately devoted to a team. So, most of the people sitting around us were from Atlanta. And, they were passionate Atlanta Braves fans. They jumped up and down with joy when the Atlanta team scored a homerun or a stole a base. And they heckled and booed the Boston players every chance they had - and at times were really fucking obnoxious about it. Here's what I don't get...few, if any, of the Braves players are from Atlanta, or have even ever lived in Atlanta. The Atlanta Braves are a marketed franchise, like Subway or McDonald's. The franchise buys players from all over the world. But, these people from Atlanta put their hearts and souls into being Braves fans. I just don't understand why folks feel so passionate about an Atlanta team that in no way at all represents anything about the City of Atlanta.

Second. I don't get the behavior of heckling and booing the other team. I just don't understand what joy people get out of screaming "you suck!" and "papi, you're a big loser!" And, I don't get how that's acceptable and expected behavior, just because of the game setting. People actually pay money, so that they can sit in stadium seats and hurl insults at other people. Weird.

Lastly, I just don't get why the masses are so attracted to team sports, as opposed to individual athletic achievement. I actually love watching many of the Olympics events. And, I'm not sure what that big difference is for me. I'm sure that the big spectacle of team sports stimulates some genetic militaristic tendency that I just don't have, but the sociology of team sports is just so intriguing to me.

Any thoughts?

Monday, June 29, 2009

Iran So Far Away

Watching the post-election events in Iran has been a very emotional experience for me. My heart breaks for the people in the street who were brutalized, beaten, gassed, shot and murdered by their own government And, I'm so, so sad for their families and friends. I'm afraid for those who have been rounded up and imprisoned. But, I'm also deeply moved by the bravery of those fighting in the streets against injustice and corruption. I understand the rage generated by a stolen election, and I stand in awe at their raw courage.

The images that made it out of Iran tell the story of a people desperate for change. And, I can't help but to think of the incredible joy that I felt watching the era of the Bush / Cheney regime come to a close on the day of President Obama's inauguration. My only wish now for the people of Iran is that they soon know that same feeling of joy. And, I believe that they will.

I think it's obvious that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will soon be completely irrelevant. His smirky arrogance, his uneducated simple-mindedness, and his belligerant love of power worked well during the Bush years. Ahmadinejad and Bush needed each other. Bush needed a scary Axis of Evil to entertain the USA-chanting masses, and Ahmadinejad needed a Crusading Western Empire to keep his power flowing. And the common good-hearted people of both countries were caught in the middle.

But, now Bush is gone, and against the wishes of the dwindling GOP, President Obama has refused to step into the required role. Obama's brilliant speech in Cairo left Ahmadinejad standing alone. And the people of Iran voted to accept Obama's invitation to a better world. Unfortunately, their voices were denied by system-wide election rigging. And then, they took to the streets.

I don't know exactly how the story will play out. But, I do know that Obama's promise of change in the world is coming to pass, and I know that eventually the people of Iran will know hope. Until then, I will hope for them.

This past Saturday, I had the honor of witnessing some from the Iranian-American community here in Atlanta, stand up in solidarity with the people in their homeland. It was a very moving experience. Unfortunately, I didn't have much time to take part, but I've joined the local Facebook group and next time, I'm so there.







Thursday, June 25, 2009

Farewell

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Sanctity of Marriage Warriors



1. I am the Lord, thy God.
2. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
3. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.
4. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord, thy God, in vain.
5. Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy.
6. Honor thy father and thy mother.
7. Thou shalt not kill.
8. Thou shall not commit adultery.
9. Thou shalt not steal.
10. Thou shall not covet.

And, yet nothing about the great evil of homosexuals getting married. Not one word about the gays in the highest and most sacred rules of the Judeo-Christian tradition? The same Judeo-Christian tradition that we hear about non-fucking-stop from those folks who are tirelessly defending the word marriage from being "re-defined" to allow federal recognition of the lives and commitments of same-sex couples?

Let's take a look at some of that tireless work that's being done to save traditional opposite marriage, shall we? Due to limits of time and space, we'll only be able to delve into the past 2 weeks. For more information on the Sanctity of Marriage warriors, please click on any of the following adulterous hypocrites: Marion Barry, David Vitter, Newt Gingrich, Larry Craig, Randall Tobias, Mark Foley, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Bowers, Vito Fossella, Connie Mack....

Senator John Ensign

In 1998, the born-again Christian and Nevada Republican Representative John Ensign, was the among the first in Congress to condemn Bill Clinton's adulterous affair with Monica Lewinsky. He called on President to quit because "he has no credibility left." In 2004, Senator Ensign was a passionate supporter of the Federal Marriage Amendment, which if passed would've added an amendment to the Constitution of the United States banning states from recognizing same-sex marriages. He stated:

"Marriage is the cornerstone on which our society was founded. For those who say that the Constitution is so sacred that we cannot or should not adopt the Federal Marriage Amendment, I would simply point out that marriage, and the sanctity of that institution, predates the American Constitution and the founding of our nation."

On June 16th, Senator Ensign admitted publicly that he had an adulterous affair with a female campaign staffer from December 2007 to August 2008. While the affair took place, Senator Ensign doubled his mistress' salary - which was apparently being paid by the Republican Political Action Committee.

Governor Mark Sanford

Yesterday, South Carolina Governor and ardent defender of traditional marriage, Mark Sanford, admitted to abandoning his post as governor and secretly flying to Argentina to be with his mistress. His admission ends nearly a week of speculation as to the Governor's whereabouts. His adulterous affair has lasted nearly a year, so far. Incidentally, his trip to Argentina preempted Father's Day weekend, so his four children were unable to celebrate the fruits of traditional marriage with their father. Also incidentally, the Governor (and father of the year) voted to ban gay and lesbian people from adopting unwanted children. Um, yeah. And, while reporters dig to see if this Sanctity of Marriage warrior paid for his secret Argentine rendezvous with South Carolina taxpayer money, let's take a look at Governor Sanford's very recent cameo on the Joe Scarborough morning show....


*** UPDATE *** As it turns out...Governor Mark Sanfor, Defender of Traditional Opposite Marriage and Decliner of President Obama's Irresponsible to the Taxpayers Stimulus Plan, did in fact use taxpayer money to fund his adulterous affair in Argentina - according to the New York Times. I wonder how relieved Governor Sanford was to hear of Michael Jackson's news dominating death.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Another World

"Another World" - Antony and the Johnsons

Thursday, June 18, 2009

On The Beach




This past weekend, we were finally able to make it to the High Museum of Art, here in Atlanta. It's an impressive museum space, designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, and it houses a significant collection of 19th and 20th century American and European art, African-American art, and some outstanding contemporary and modern pieces. The High (as it's often called here), has a partnership with the Louvre and is currently exhibiting Claude Monet's "Water Lilies," which was fairly interesting.

But, I was really intrigued and moved by an exhibit of Richard Misrach's photography series, "On The Beach." Each photo was huge, in some cases measuring 6 x 10 feet, and the detail captured in each was just extraordinary. The photos are of people in the ocean, and/or on the beach in various positions and postures - but photographed from an almost omniscient spot high above.


As Misrach explains, "The photographs that appear in On the Beach were made between January 2002 and November 2005. My thinking was influenced by the events of 9/11, as well as by the 1950s Cold War novel and film, On the Beach. I was drawn to the fragility and grace of the human figure in the landscape. For me, the work is both a celebration of our survival and an elegy. Paradise has become an uneasy dwelling place; the sublime sea frames our vulnerability, the precarious nature of life itself."

Truly fantastic.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Knot For Equality



The great postmodern writer and thinker, Gore Vidal, once said "style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn." This week, the Levi's Company let the world know that Levi's is still at the forefront of American style. Shoppers and window shoppers of Levi's stores in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco will see mannequins wearing the new summer line, and small pinned "white knots" that symbolize support for marriage equality.


Levi's is getting in the spirit of the season by dressing its storefront mannequins in white. In Levi’s-owned stores in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco, that means more than just marking the passing of Memorial Day, the traditional date to begin wearing white: in 20 stores, the mannequins’ white Levi’s jeans and shirts are adorned with White Knots, a symbol of solidarity with the same-sex marriage movement.

The symbol was made more timely by the California Supreme Court’s decision on Tuesday to uphold Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in the state. Developed by Frank Voci, a digital media consultant, as a response to Proposition 8’s passage last November, the White Knot for Equality is a white ribbon tied in a knot.

I could definitely use a few new pairs of jeans. Looks like I'll be heading to the Levi's store today.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Acid House Flashback # 13

"Pacific State" - 808 State - 1989

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Voice Of Morality



Last Tuesday, the city council of Washington DC, voted 12 to 1 to recognize same-sex marriages from the states that have now passed marriage equality laws - Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont and Maine. There was just one council member who opposed the measure - former Washington DC mayor, Marion Barry. Yes, the same Marion Barry who is apparently now serving as the moral voice for several local African-American churches, and who:

* In 1989 was arrested for cocaine possession.

* In 1990 was caught in a FBI undercover sting, smoking crack with a girlfriend in a hotel room. Mr. Barry was charged with three felony counts of perjury, one misdemeanor count of conspiracy to possess cocaine, and ten counts of misdemeanor drug possession. The incident was caught on tape, and Marion "Sanctity of Marriage" Barry was, at the time, married to his third wife, Effi. He was sentenced to six months in a federal prison, and the audio from the videotape where Mayor Barry declares "Bitch set me up! I shouldn't have come up here. God damned bitch!" played a bazillion times on local, national, and international news.

* In 2005, after being investigated by the IRS, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of failing to pay local and federal taxes. The mandatory drug testing for the hearing showed that Marion "Moral Leader" Barry was still smoking crack, as well as marijuana. He was sentenced to three years probation.

* In 2006, Marion "There's Gonna Be a Civil War" Barry was stopped by police for stopping at a green light and then running a red light. The police officers smelled alcohol and administered a field sobriety test. Councilman Barry was taken in for a breathalyzer test, and a urine test. The police claim that the breathalyzer was giving inaccurate results and Marion "I Didn't Do It" Barry refused to take the urine test. He received tickets for running a red light, and refusing to submit to a urine sobriety test.

* In 2007, Marion "Between a Man and a Woman" Barry was fighting federal prosecutors who sought to have his probation revoked because he failed to file his 2005 income taxes. A U.S. Magistrate judge ruled that it had not been proved that he willfully declined to file.

* In February of this year, federal prosecutors again filed a motion to have Marion "Traditional Marriage" Barry's probation revoked - this time because he failed to file his 2007 income tax returns. According to one of the prosecutors, Councilman Barry has not filed his tax returns for 8 of the last 9 years.

The hyprocrisy of this man, and his ilk, is simply nauseating. But, here we have it - the people and voices of the movement against marriage equality.

And now, for a word from the pro-marriage equality camp....


The Daily Show With Jon Stewart

M - Th 11p / 10c

Gaywatch - Marion Barry

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Friday, April 17, 2009

On The Road Again


Did I mention that we're moving to Atlanta next week? Well, we are.

Buycott The Big Four!

Last Friday, the Iowa Supreme Court, unanimously decided that the state's law banning same-sex marriages was unconstitutional - and in doing so, became the third state to grant equal marriage rights to same-sex couples.

It's actually not that surprising that Iowa is at the forefront of marriage equality, as the state has a long history of leadership on civil rights issues. In 1839, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that a slave becomes free upon stepping foot on Iowa soil. And in 1868, the Court ruled against "separate but equal" segregation in schools - a full 85 years before the United States Supreme Court came to the same decision. The next year, in 1869, Iowa became the first state to permit women to practice law. Located in the very heart of the this country, Iowa does in many ways represent the very best of the American ideal - friendly, tolerant, practical. It's not the extremist America that we are exposed to everytime we turn on the tv. It's the real "silent majority." The people who hold and practice a live and let live worldview.

On Tuesday, Vermont became the fourth state to recognize marriage equality.

I think it's important, especially during these economic times, to spend money wisely. And, right now, I can't think of a better way to spend money than to purposefully buy products and services that support the working people of the four states that now offer a welcoming handshake to all Americans. A sort of thank you BUYcott.

Here's a very incomplete list of companies based in the Big Four Equality states, as well as a few travel points of interest.


Companies based in Connecticut: Aetna, Bevin Bells, Bigelow Tea, Bob's Discount Furniture, Cannondale Bicycles, Crabtree & Evelyn, Dooney & Bourke, Duracell, Ethan Allen, Harney & Sons Teas, Hartford Financial Services, Hosmer Mountain Soda, Newman's Own, PriceRite, Priceline.com, Subway, Time Warner Cable, United Natural Foods, World Wrestling Entertainment


Companies based in Massachusetts: 3Com, BJ's Wholesale Club, Autonomie Project, Aubuchon Hardware, Bertucci's, Brigham's Ice Cream, Cape Cod Potato Chips, Casual Male, Cherrybrook Kitchen, Converse, Cumberland Farms, Digital Federal Credit Union, Dunkin' Donuts, Friendly's, Filene's Basement, Bent's Cookie Factory, Gazelle, Gentle Giant Moving Company, Honey Dew Donuts, Independent Fabrication Bikes, Jordan's Furniture, Lycos, Massachusetts Bay Trading Company, Ninety Nine Restaurant, Ocean Spray, Papa Gino's, Rockport, Saucony, Stop & Shop, Tea Forte, Upromise, Welch's, Yankee Candle Company

Companies based in Vermont: Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream, Bruegger's, Building Green, Burton Snowboards, Cabot Cheese, Fine Paints of Europe, Green Mountain Coffee, King Arthur Flour, Lake Champlain Chocolates, Long Trail Brewing, Magic Hat Brewing Company, Maple Landmark Woodcraft, Otter Creek Brewing, Vermont Teddy Bear Company, Rhino Foods, Stave Puzzles, Vermont Country Store


Friends of mine, Peter and George, at Miami Beach Pride, who have been together for 65 years. Photo by Jason Weaver.