Thursday, January 31, 2008

Not Just a Great Drag Queen Name

Although it's wonderful to have a black man and a woman as strong, viable candidates for President, let us never forget Lenora Fulani, the first female black woman to be on the ballot in all 50 states.

Dedicated to Peter.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Your Daily "Duh"

Clay Aiken NOT Justin Timberlake
(Thanks to CRD)

Although, really, I could have done without the picture of Clay choking the chicken.

Justin Timberlake on the other hand...(or both or either hand for that matter) would be fine.

Weak Dollar Fuels Foreign Purchase of US Businesses

Strengthens a weak economy or exposes and leaves us vulnerable to foreign influence and policies? Show your work

Washington Post Article

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Pathos of Cloverfield

Perhaps I should call movie reviews "My Eight Dollars Worth"? Yeez.

Rating: Recommended (B)


In brief, Cloverfield was pretty much what I expected: Godzilla meets Blair Witch. What I didn't expect was the queasiness and mild headache I experienced watching it. I'm not prone to motion sickness at all: I love high G-force rides like Disney's"Mission to Space", am not bothered by roller coasters, frequently read in moving cars, and such.

The camera work on this film, which emulates someone using a home video cam, however, is extremely shakey and gave me pause for concern about halfway through. I had to leave for a few minutes to take a break and settle down - and I NEVER leave a movie once it starts. Movies with similar shakey work like Blair Witch had no impact on me nor did the second Bourne movie, which had a very shaky cam. Cloverfield left me feeling not so great. My two co-viewers did not experience this problem. CNN reports others experiencing this same discomfort. I suspect that on home video this will not be a problem and I will enjoy it more on the small screen.

Queasiness aside, I found the movie entertaining. I like the idea of the movie best of all - what is like for the average person on the street in a monster film? You become part of the small group of twentysomethings as they experience with confusion, uncertainty, shock, horror, disbelief, and sheer panic the sudden attack on the city. Most of the characters are not particularly likeable, and although the guy filming their experience is almost a stereotype, he offers up some amusing comic relief with some of his comments. There is a little bit of a love story here, to offer a slight emotional resonance to the film as well as an excuse for the characters to stay in the danger areas, but you don't really have time to get to know the characters. The characters, however, aren't really the point.

The point is the exprience, much less so than any plot. Some viewers behind me complained that there was no story. There is a small character arc, but the story is not what makes this movie enjoyable and actually clever. What is entertaining here is the perspective on a well known film trope. Usually a large monster movie offers you the bird's eye view. But here the view is in miniature for the entire film. The thrill is in not knowing exactly where the monster is, where it's going to be, for a while what it looks like, you never find out what its motives or origin are, or certainly all that it is capable of doing. The film entertains by putting you in the middle of the chaos and making you ask yourself, "what would I do?"

Will you abandon your friend's irrational and emotional decision to turn back to find his love who may not even be alive? Would you stay above ground or go under? Would you fight for control of decision making for the group or just follow another person's directives? What risks would you take? Would you collapse under the emotional strain of the horror and loss? Would you have what it takes to survive?

Having seen it now, I do think that the largely favorable reception of the movie has been because of the new monster movie spin it offers, but perhaps moreso because it provies a very detached and dispassionate way to experience the visceralness of the 9/11 attacks in New York. Cloverfield offers the nation a vent for that morbid speculative pressure.

Although it may seem profane to some to already be slicing up New York again, I think Cloverfield may be a fitting epilogue to those events. Appropriate for its "voice", the movie never answers the "whys," "wheres," and "hows" of the monster and its attack. This fits. Yes, we know who attacked us and how they did it, and we may have an idea of why, but I suggest not really. I suggest that most of us still wonder what exactly prompted that merciless and unprecedented attack on so many innocents. Like the monster in Cloverfield, the 9/11 attacks were sudden, random, and exceptionally violent. And in both cases, we know most intimately about the human toll and still so little about the real origin and reason for the violence.

Only the Onanly

This is an interesting article about a gay man who is choosing to live a celibate life, at least for now. Typically the stories I've seen or read about people choosing to refrain from sex involve strong religious convictions (and those can get particularly creepy at times) to people who seem to make the choice for rather unhealthy reasons, most because they are uncomfortable with their sexuality or had a bad relationship or such. However, this guy seems to be making the choice for rather healthy, considered reasons. Plus, how can you not like a guy who says that the world would be less tense if there was more porn?

The FCC Never Went to Gym Class Apparently

The FCC is being run by idiot puritans who clearly can't tell their ass from their crotch

Sometimes a Lollipop is Only a Lollipop

Wither Ledger's Joker

Speculation abounds on how Heath Ledger's untimely death will impact one of the most highly anticipated films of this year, The Dark Knight. Will the studio can the film? Delay it? Can Warners sustain the Joker-centric marketing in light of Ledger's death at the expense of negative fan reaction?

It's pretty simple, folks. Of course the film will be released. It will be released on its originally scheduled date, which is months from now. And all of that is entirely appropriate and not unusual at all. I think that any actor would want his/her final work released, even given that the role is a very dark one, about a character who deals in death. Brandon Lee's final film was about a young man who comes back from the dead. Lee died making that film and it was still released, and I'm sure there are other examples I'm not recalling currently. Ledger's acting ability far outstrips that of Brandon Lee, so his final work should be seen.

And it will. Warners will not fail to put out the film that will earn them the most revenue this year.

Warners should probably be advised to slightly alter their marketing campaign, however. And I think they will. I don't think we'll see marketing sans Joker, but likely and advisedly we will see less Joker and more focus on Bale/Batman reacting. I think we will see more imagery that evokes the Joker than actual shots of him. Respect to Ledger notwithstanding (and I don't mean to imply that showing him in ads would be disrespectful), it's a smarter move to downplay the Joker in the ads so that the character makes a larger impact on the screen. Less is more.

In an only marginally related note, I agree with Joel McHale of E! Network's The Soup that media hounds need to stop trying to dig up dirt on and sensationalize Ledger's death. The man seemed like a decent human; let him be remembered that way.

Friday, January 25, 2008

To Have and to Collar

Found via Yahoo! News
"Pet" girl kicked off bus for wearing leash
LONDON (Reuters) - A British bus company has apologized to a girl who is led around on a leash by her boyfriend and describes herself as a human pet after one of its drivers threw her off a bus.

Tasha Maltby, 19, told British newspapers she was the "pet" of her 25-year-old fiance Dani Graves.

Pictures showed her dressed in black Gothic-style clothing with silver buckles on a silver chain -- which the driver of a bus from the firm Arriva took exception to.
She told the Daily Mail newspaper Wednesday she was thrown off and told: "We don't let freaks and dogs like you on."

Arriva would not comment on specifics but said it apologized if the couple felt they had been discriminated against. It added, however, that the driver was worried about safety and the company told Maltby to take the leash off in the future.

"We have spoken to the driver who has talked about health and safety," a spokesman said. "Should she be attached to a chain and something happens on the bus, that could be dangerous. All we are saying is that she is very welcome to use the buses but not when she is on her lead."
Maltby -- who lives on state benefits and got engaged in November -- said her choice of lifestyle might seem unusual but was harmless.

"I am a pet," she told the Daily Mail. "I generally act animal-like and I lead a really easy life. I don't cook or clean and I don't go anywhere without Dani. It might seem strange but it makes us both happy. It's my culture and my choice. It isn't hurting anyone."
(Editing by Michael Winfrey)

I read this and wonder, given that this seems to be a male-female, monogamous relationship with individuals who have the intention to become married, how hard religious right activists would work to protect the sanctity of this relationship.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

That's What We Call Mannahs, Mr. Savage...

Everyone was very nice about me roasting on a spit in hell for
all eternity."

"They're really friendly about you roasting in hell."

--Dan Savage on histrip to South Carolina

Would you rather we be rude about it, Sir?

Seriously, the "cognitive dissonance" Savage and Mahr bring up about the South is an interesting topic, perhaps to be explored later on this blog.

I'm also very intrigued by Savage's observation on his trip on how many Huckabee supporters now see Dubya as a bad Christian because he's not a good president. Clearly, you can't be a good Christian and ruin the country. So, we now need change: a good Christian (Huckabee) in the White House. Savage's retort on this perspective is classic.

Dan Savage on Bill Mahr (found via Joe.My.God.)

Monday, January 21, 2008

Tom Cruise is totally insane

The nine minute video circulating around the net, although four years old, confirms what I suspected for a while: Tom Cruise has totally lost it.

He is a handsome man, but has lost any remnant of sex appeal the past few years and this pretty much seals the deal. Much like Mel Gibson, who is also completely off his rocker, I can't stand to even watch Cruise in films. Seeing him wrapped in this little cocoon world where he's CLEARLY received no outside perspective, where people have told him what he wants to hear and others have fed his own sense of self-importance and ego really makes my stomach churn. I admit I'm morbidly fascinating with this video, but it's the last film of any length outside of a documentary that I would watch with Cruise.

The film is loaded with jargon:

"KSW" - keep scientology working - which, according to many internet sites is a philosophy of not just spreading the work of scientology, but supressing criticism of scientology

"SPs" - suppressive people - people like me, I imagine

"PTS" - potential trouble sources

Aside from the jargon, the way he talks in absolutes, claims unsupportable authority and expertise in areas where he has none is just creepy. He's become a fundamentalist, not much different than fundamentalists from Islam or Christianity, albeit his religion is based on the writings of a science fiction author who may have started the church for his own profit and ego.

The video has been deleted so many times on YouTube, I am linking to Gawker, who claim they will not take it down. Full Nine Minute Video of "Tom Cruise on Tom Cruise, Scientologist"

Gawker: More Cruise Footage - The Freedom Medal Award Ceremony

Is Cruise the Goebbels of Scientology?

Keith Olbermann: Is Scientology a Cult and German film fracas

Stop Scientology: Information and Parody Site

This is still one of the funniest videos ever...perhaps moreso now

Just a Clover Expression?

This idea had flashed in the back of my head and now noted comic writer Warren Ellis has noted something similar on his mail list, so here it is:

(Haven't seen it yet, need to soon!) Could Cloverfield be an expression of post -9/11 ennui? Or more precisely, is the huge chunk of cash it took in reflective of Americans' ennui with the continuing fear- and war-mongering, Bush regime lies and devisive tactics, Bush's arrogant and anti-intellectal rhetoric, decisions and positioning, and now our hopelessly entangled involvement in the middle east?

Might the citizenry be saying, "we just don't care any more; let's see New York get torn up in a fantasy I can enjoy because given the way the country is headed, it's going to happen for real all too soon?"

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A worry wart? Sir, you insult my capacity to worry (and what's love got to do with it?)

Depression and worry run in my family. My beloved grandmother, now passed, was a notorious worrier. I particularly remember a time when she had to take a math class and make a certain score on a following test to keep her job when she was in her sixties. She fretted and worried for months about losing her job, only to make a really good score.

I, myself, am a pretty strong pessimist by nature. I can be woefully optimitic (and prefer to be this way) about many things, but I am particularly harsh on myself. It doesnt' matter how much success I have, I constantly believe in my own capacity to screw it up. To counter-balance this, it's nice to have a husband who strongly believe in my best and actually has a much better opinion of me than I have of myself (which, according to the research of Sandra Murray and others, is a key element to a happy marriage, so, yea, me I lucked up on that one).

Recent resarch seems to indicate that perhaps like a wart, worry is biological: inherited, genetic. Unrelated to this study, noted psychologist Dr. Martin Seligman has noted his belief that pessimism and optimism are both inhereted traits, at least partially. However, as Dr. Seligman has demonstrated and as this research back up, you can work to overcome those worrisome ruminations. You may continue to think about how your glass is half empty, but part of the strategy is to see what options are available for filling the glass up, instead of just fretting about your lack of water.

During a particularly low part of my life, I obsessed on a image that I've had in the back of my head for quite a long time. It's an image of my future that likes to pop up when I'm feeling really down: a picture of myself, quite aged, alone in my house, lonely except for about a dozen cats. A counselor looked at me as if I were stupid and said, "can you picture a different picture of your future? Can you see a future where you are surrounded by friends and people who care for you?" Well, sure, doc, but why would I want to?

See, now that's real pessimism for you. I can't say that I've put that bleak future away for good, but it actually was something of a revelation to consider a positive end to my life. If you're a natural optimist you probably think I am genuinely nuts at this point, but it actually took someone else to point this out to me.

Dr. Seligman outlines an ABCD technique not dissimilar to this approach that I have begun teaching to my students. I think it's highly valuable although I admit that it is probably too easy for my optimistic students and very difficult for my pessimistic students. I try to help by challenging negative thinking when I hear it from them, but I admit I feel like something of a hypocrite when I do. Still, it's about them, not me, so I plug away at it. I fully recommend that you take a look at either (or both really) of Dr. Seligman's books to learn more about his techniques. He also discusses the real, tangible, quantifiable benefits of optimism and the actual negative repercussions happen for pessimists. Optimistis actually go to the doctor less, have better health and live longer lives than pessimists. Of course the true pessimists says "good, let's get this all over as soon as possible."

Some of Dr. Seligman's works
Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life

Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment

A few links on successful relationships. And, no, I'm not legally married of course but I consider my relationship the equivalent to a marriage.

Successful marriages

Gottman research on marriage success and failure

How are Gay Couples Different? (found via Joe.My.God)

Here's to your health...oh, wait, you can't afford that

I may not fit the best definition of a socialist, but I often feel like one in context to how many people feel that "good ole" capitalism is just the bees' knees. Unrestrained capitalism brings about things like this.

I do believe in national health care. There is no reason in the world that any American citizen should not have access to medical care that doesn't bankrupt them. My mother, who relies heavily on my father's corporate health care to pay for her very necessary and continuous expensive medical care, has argued with me that national health care would lessen the quality of care that she could receive. They are able to afford very competent and attentive health care and I would never want that to be taken from her or from any other individual.

I believe that a national heatlh care system should allow people to still select to remain on company paid insurance plans if they have them available and can afford them. I personally would probably choose to remain on my employer's health plan, as expensive as it is. Prior to the current plan options, employees had only one option: it was completely free but had a huge deductible and woe unto you should you need any considerable hospital care. I'm much more secure in knowing that the health care I have, while FAR from perfect, will not ruin me should I get run over by a truck tomorrow.

Yet so many citizens can't afford or don't have access to health care. People working hard but living paycheck to paycheck who must forgo preventive and reactive health care for themselves and/or their children because it's so damn expensive. That's a reason I salute corporations like Starbucks, which for all its faults, does provide health care benefits to part-time employees on up. But clearly, as this story shows, you can't rely on corporations to do the right thing and American health care is nothing but another mega-corporation.


Just in case you were wondering...

Where Presidential Candidates Stand on GLBT issues

The lesbians have spoken!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

A Review of IN THE LIFE

I was given the opportunity to preview the January IN THE LIFE episode. I was familiar with the name, but had never watched the show.

I enjoyed the wide range of topics covered in the episode, even though I wasn't particularly interested in all of the segments. The segment least appealing to me, a story about gay and lesbian hip hop artists, still contained some interesting moments. I greatly enjoyed several of the topics.

I was very glad to see the coverage of religious topics: the continuing schism in the Anglican /Episcopalian community and look at the documentary For The Bible Tells Me So (reviewed elsewhere in this blog and available for pre-order at Amazon - check it out in my store). I was choked up over the director of FTBTMS relating that after he had done a story on gays and lesbians reclaiming the truth of the Bible (on a previous episdoe of ITL), a 15 year old boy wrote in to say "I bought the gun last week. I wrote the note to my mom yesterday. After seeing your show, I threw the gun in the river." This, people is the REAL price of the religious right - of hatred disguised as Biblical truth - human life.

I only wish more time had been devoted to these segments; they are worth even exploration.

I certainly appreciated the approach to the uncovered angle on the Larry Craig story: the entrapment and harrassment of gay men by police. Crag's story is not just a warning of what a closeted life can do to you, but that government sanctioned persecution of homosexuals is, unfortunately, still just as alive and well since the 50's. The segment very briefly touches on the idea of how the media perpetuates stereotypes of gay men as predatory sex-fiends in the way they cover such stories, ignoring both that heterosexuals also conduct such public sex acts, just as the police also do because the real issue is not curtailing public sex, but thinly veiled homophobia. I would love ITL to follow up on these threads in future shows.

My only real criticism of the show is that the segments were just too short. They gave a quick touch or overview of the story, but didn't have enough length to go into any depth. The entrapment piece I thought was the most fleshed out piece and still more could have been done with that. I appreciate the variety in the show, but personally would love to see episodes with fewer segments that go into more detail and examination of their subject. The upside to the format is that there is bound to be something for almost everyone in a given episode.

I thought the mix of serious topics with lighter, but still serious examinations of facets of pop culture was a nice touch. For instance, the coverage of photographer Gerald Mocarsky was entertaining for the look at his evokative photography of men dancing with men that also touched on issues of internalized homophobia and societal perceptions of men.

I would defnitely recommend watching IN THE LIFE, it's well worth your time. The press release for the January show and the link to their website so that you can catch episodes can be found below.


IN THE LIFE Kicks-off the New Year with Margaret Cho

NEW YORK, December 14, 2007 – IN THE LIFE – the three-time Emmy-nominated series documenting the people and issues shaping the gay experience – kicks off the New Year with a brand new January episode featuring controversial comic, Margaret Cho, going head-to-head with lesbian comic Kate Clinton on everything from ice-truckers to the Senator Larry Craig scandal. “It’s the year of the sorry-old-queen,” says Cho, “a queen who has no piano bar to go to.”

This month’s IN THE LIFE will explore “entrapment” through the lens of the Senator Craig media wildfire, as well as delve into stories on gay rappers, a photo-essay on men who dance with men, update the October’s season premiere story, “A Church Divided,” and look at past IN THE LIFE producer Dan Karslake’s documentary, "For the Bible Tells Me So."

In “A Church Divided,” IN THE LIFE examined the growing schism within the Anglican Communion over homosexuality and traditional biblical interpretation. As an update, IN THE LIFE continues to track the battle between conservative and progressive churches. Keeping in that theme, this month’s IN THE LIFE “Real to Reel” looks at the question, what does the bible say about homosexuality? In Dan Karslake’s documentary, "For the Bible Tells Me So" he takes on that question.

Gerald Mocarsky is a photographer, who – even as a gay man – felt uncomfortable with looking at "Men Who Dance With Men." Through that photo-essay, Mocarsky not only tells the story of coming to terms with himself, but how he came to see that capturing the beauty, story and language between these men was a step forward toward social acceptance.Rap is often criticized for promoting violence, objectifying women and being homophobic. It might surprise many to know there's an emerging generation of gay rappers, like Shorty Roc and Kin, who are countering that image head-on, and demonstrating that “one love” includes everyone.

Our final story, “Wide Stance,” examines the Senator Craig scandal and public sex. There exists a world-on-the-margin, where gay and closeted men – some of them married – meet in public spaces for sexual encounters. There's been widespread condemnation for Senator Craig's actions, from both gay and mainstream media. But there's an angle of this story that's been largely glossed-over. IN THE LIFE takes an unflinching historical look at public sex through the lens of Craig's defense: entrapment.

Viewers can watch IN THE LIFE, of see when it airs in their area by going to:


1. Working with college students for a little over 12 years now, this is, albeit hysterical (and mostly hysterical because I don't have to deal with him), sadly not that shocking, surprising, or unusual.

2. Does Melbourne news really have nothing better to report on than that it can spend several minutes with this guy?

3. Despite running a little on the long side, the end is priceless.

Found via Wayne Besen's Blog

File Under: "No Duh"

Study finds that Clowns are Scary (Yahoo News)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Why The Recent Spat of Post on Ex-Gays?

Although the December posts by Peterson Toscano caused me to pause on the subject and that it's never to far from the back of my head when the topic of the religious right comes up, the subject of ex-gay ministries is a particular topic of interest to me because of the amount of harm I believe they cause. They are also at the heart of the religious right political movement; the existence of these programs helps justify the legal and civic discrimination religious righters seek to and have been successful in perpetuating on gays and lesbians. If they can demonstrate (and I use the term very loosely) that sexual orientation is a choice, and worse, is something wrong that needs to be changed, they can more easily justify their bigotry.

I fortunately never had any experience with ex-gay ministries except for very, very briefly considering one. I had never really heard of them until I came out and stumbled upon a television minister proclaiming that my homosexuality could be changed. I wrote down the toll-free number, kept it for a few days, and discarded it. I decided I didn't need to change; I was who I was supposed to be.

Although I grew up in a fundamentalist Southern Baptist Church, I cannot ever recall the subject of homosexuality being discussed in church. Our church, while conservative and literalist, was much more of a community interested in being together and doing the right things. Our ministers were about serving the congregation and were very people-focused. No real hellfire and brimestone sermons except for the occasional visiting minister maybe, but that was very atypical. So, I was blessed or lucky or both, depending on your perspective.

My family, both immediate and extended, have done nothing but demonstrate support and love for me and I have some very fundamentalist family members. I think that my family members are true Christians and understand that love is at the heart of the faith, regardless of where we stand of a theological standpoint of sexual orientation. Frankly, I've discussed the dogmatic side of homosexuality very rarely with any family member. It hasn't been important; all of their first reactions have been to demonstrate love.

So, how then, can I come to an understanding of what other families, parents, spouses, siblings, and alleged friends put their gay and lesbian children, spouses, brothers and sisters through? I can't. I still am amazed at the amount of harm that has been and continues to be perpetuated by ex-gay programs and churches trying to convert their gay/lesbian members. It's a true horror story and one that I am committed to help in my own small way stamp out by spreading truth.

The truth that science has demonstrated that sexual orientation is largely if not entirely inherent: genetic or hormonal possibly. Regardless of how it is formed, it's not changeable. People can change their behavior, yes, but the impulses and desires will remain. Further, there is no reason the people need to change even their behavior; to do so is more likely to cause harm than not. There is no Biblical basis for needing to change; being homosexual or committing homosexual acts is no sin.

Right Wing Watch: "I-35 0, Homosexuality 1" - this story reports the follow-up to an individual featured on a recent broadcast of the 700 Club (that's Pat Robertson's show) who claimed that evangelicals rescued him from homosexuality during a night of carousing at gay bars. (He was carousing, not the evangelicals. Well, okay, I don't know that. The evangelicals may have been carousing as well, I don't know.) This story is just one, current example of how ex-gay therapy does not work.

Former Ex-Gay Minister Speaks Out

Beyond Ex-Gay

"Anything But Straight": Ex-Gay Movement History

APA Help Center on Sexual Orientation

UC Davis Article on Reparative Therapy

The Wonder Year

What's wrong with this picture? (Not Safe For Work)

Much is being said about the fetishization of Wonder Woman here in Playboy, and there is some worthwhile discussion on this topic that I'd encourage you to read up on if you're so inclined.

Former Wonder Woman scribe Greg Rucka offers a brief opinion. And another.

One feminist's (Ragnell) perspective on this: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

Another feminist perspective (Rachel)

Related: A look at the creation of Wonder Woman

I'm very interested in Rucka's implication that this issue was timed for release in a way to undermine feminine power and authority. With Hillary Clinton a strong contender for the presidential nomination, Playboy releasing this issue where perhaps THE modern iconic pop-culture representation of female power is literally laid bare, made an object for the enjoyment of men does seem tantilizingly subversive. Of course, calling Playboy subversive is probably far too much credit due them, but even discounting any intent here, the timing is curious.

Wonder Woman is a very well-known pop culture figure; likely a vast majority of Americans know her as the female equivalent of Superman. To strip her literally and figuratively of her symbolic power in the most widely-distributed and well-known porn magazine at the same time a woman is running for the highest office does reinforce societal misogynistic messages, particularly: even the most powerful of women are only valuable relative to the sexual pleasure they bring to men.

A related argument going around the comic blogosphere is that Wonder Woman was created as a fetishistic character. Her early stories frequently revolved around themes of bondage, domination, and similar kink. Some are arguing that given her origins and the fact that in comics she is already hyper-sexualized, and that since that's what she's primarily known for (her toned body and skimpy outfit), any outrage over this Playboy spread is manufactured.

I'm not outraged; I think it's a very poor use of the Wonder Woman character and hypocritical of Warner/DC to sanction this since the DC publisher has previously stated that mainstream DC characters (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc.) need to be kid-friendly and accessible and have gone after an artist depicting a sexualized and homosexual Batman and Robin. I'm sure other porn magazines have used WW-like model shoots previously, but likely none of them were DC-sanctioned. Personally, I'm waiting on my Batman PlayGirl spread any day now (and please let it be Christian Bale...woof!). Of course that's not going to happen because there is a clear double standard in place here and that's part of the problem also. To some degree any comic superhero is hyper-sexualized, at least to the point that they have exaggerated anatomy, although I'd point out that most male superheroes seem not to carry that exaggeration between their legs, although female heroes certainly do on their chests. So, the double standard is a problem. Perhaps the biggest problem is that here in Playboy, the character of Wonder Woman, which is does carry with it certain important symbols and significances, is subsumed to the object. Wonder Woman, already sexy, doesn't become more sexy, she becomes sex.

Further, I'd argue that even with her hyper-sexualization in comics and somewhat in TV, that festishism associated with her origins or sexuality does not translate to younger fans. What translate is the symbol, the empowerment, the goodness. While I'm sure young female viewers and readers looked up to the character, I personally know many gay men, including myself, who did. We looked to Wonder Woman as the empowered female and we saw something in her that made us feel good about our own power and possibilities. I frequently use the quote, "homophobia is a room in the greater house of misogyny." I think even as young queers, we subconciously and instinctively understand this. If a woman can have this power and defeat evil men, then us sissies can do it too.

To see an icon of power and hope prostituted in this manner is sad for many of us. Who wants to see their hero put up on display. Although the model has never been associated with the character, the distinctive costume carries the symbol as easily as if it had been Linda Carter doing the shoot. It's not about sex being involved either; sex is fun, positive, and healthy. It's about subversion of the symbol.

It's analogous to the villian finally winning: Wonder Woman is finally stripped of her power and independence, she's just a plaything for men. Her abilities are valueless unless she can arouse a man. The reaction here is related, I think, to the outcry over her recent characterization in Infinite Crisis, where she felt cornered into killing a man. Readers reacted because the symbol that is Wonder Woman was not upheld; it was distorted for what people perceived as a cheap trick to build sales; the main difference here is, it's a cheap thrill rather than a cheap trick.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

This Sums Up My Day Nicely

From where else...

The Impact of Televangelists

Dan (DFV) left an interesting comment on my post on televangelists that I'd like to take a moment to address. I started leaving this in the comment section, but it got too long! Before, I get to it, however, Dan, congratulations on your award. What you are doing for the kids in your building is awesome!

Again, thanks, Dan, for writing and I suppose I could have summed it all up with "I agree!" Nobody takes the very real threat of the religious right more serious than I do, but sometimes you just gotta laugh or you're gonna cry!

Although most televangelists hold very little political power, unlike the real fiends like Dobson and formely Haggart who hold (held) tremendous power in the Republican Party, I think they do very real damage on multiple levels. I think their decidedly for-profit rhetoric perpetuates an out-moded way of thinking and reinforces an "in group" mentality - Christians vs. everyone else." But I probably feel worse for the greater damage they do to the pocketbooks of individuals who would be much better off keeping their money. I'm convinced that televangelists pray off the poor working class first and foremost, with the elderly close behind. These are people often desperate for a miracle and promises of instant health and wealth lure them in, not unlike how lotteries negatively impact the poor.

As for proof of their miraculous healing, you are, of course, spot-on. Where's the proof? Where's the documentation? Don't you think such great news would hit CNN? There's no documentation because there's no proof! As a person of faith, I believe God could instantly heal people and sometimes does...through the intervention of modern medicine! The fakery and trickery of faith healers should be well documented at this point, yet people continue to believe in their abilities. But as you can see from the clip below, even well-debunked charlatain Peter Popoff (who is very stereotype you can imagine about televangelists) continues to do well.

I recommend James Randi's book The Faith Healers for more reading on that particular subject.

And several televangelists have been investigated over the years and even this past year for fraud, tax evasion, and various financial abuses, including Hinn, Richard Roberts, Creflo Dollar, Kenneth Copeland (note that him and Dollar are seen together in that post's clip), Joyce Meyer, Paula White, Robert Tilton, and others, but not nearly enough. Other ministers, like portly and hellfire-thriving (and really scary zionist political mover) John Hagee, are not your typical televangelist, but still like to sell every book, CD, DVD, and trinket they throughout their telecasts. And, I may catch flack for saying this, but even mostly beneign ministers like Robert Schuller, who probably does a lot of good, endlessly shills his wares.

I'm not arguing that these individuals should necessarily give their products away, but many of them have congregations in the thousands and certainly could offer their products for less than they do. I remember Jerry Falwell's endless appeals to grandparents, which constantly drove me mad. Most grandparents I know are on fixed incomes and certainly have better ways to spend their money.

So, all this to say is that there are some VERY dangerous people in the religious right movement that we should keep an eye on, but I think the major damage caused by televangelists are on the pocketbooks of the people who can least afford it.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Blue about Red-ily Blackballing Candidates

My friend and colleague Anne has recently and rightly been complaining about all the political pundits declaring candidates out of the race, washed up and through after only a few state caucuses. Seemingly not having learned their lesson after New Hampshire, reporters and pundits continue to talk about the fate of candidates with little information to go on.

Pundits and predictors rationalize the NH error: people strategically voting for McCain to upset Romney even though they support Obama. Women voting for Hillary because of her show of emotion or to give the middle finger to the news elite who seem to fondly bash on Hill and Bill. Or perhaps it was undercover racism: people said they were going to vote for the black man so they wouldn't look bad, but behind the curtain they put on their pillow cases. Probably the most reasonable explanation I've heard is that people didn't actually pay attention to the numbers. Looking long term, all the polls showed Clinton as the clear victor except for a small, recent blip. I've heard but haven't had time to verify that even the caucus day polls actually showed Clinton as the victor, but they weren't interpreted correctly.

The most interesting thought I've heard on this is from a reporter on NPR who discussed why he felt imbedding reporters in campains was a bad idea. He discussed how easy it is to loose perspective and how the current news structure is set up to cause failure of pundits. He said that after following a candidate around, he needed about four hours to research and process information to give him context. Events and receptions can appear drastically disproportionate to the larger picture, but immersed in that candidate's world for days, the reporter fails to see that.

Of course in this 24-hour news cycle that type of time is a luxury. And, really, the news outlets don't seem too interested in balanced, contextualized reporting. This reporter supported assigning staff to issues; as he correctly points out, the Clinton reporter's expertise in environmental issues doesn't come close to the expert who was hired to formulate the Clinton position on the environment, or on the economy, middle-east relations, etc. You need time to talk to a bevy of experts and the compare multiple candidate's positions against what your source experts tell you. This seems like a reasonable argument to me, but one not likely to happen in journalism that seems to favor the soundbite more than the reasoned argument.

I think there's a real hunger for solid information out there, but I don't know by how much of the population. Unfortunately our society seems heavily favored by people who only want to know where candidates stand on just one or two hot-button issues. I personally don't get enough information that I find easily accessible on the history candidates have on an issue. Candidates are naturally going to show their most favorable side on a public issue and it can be difficult to discern where they stand unless they are Mitt Romney, the John Kerry of the Republican Party. For instance, Obama I think does underplay where he has supported the Iraqi War, acting as if his stance has somehow been different from Hillary, when it's pretty much the same. Bill took him to task on this, but prior to that it hasn't received much press attention. This may not make you (or me) not vote for him, but it can make selecting the person to be your best candidate difficult.

To help simplify this process, there are a few resources available:

Mother Jones offers a comprehensive chart of candidates on a variety of topics
(thanks, Anne, for that referral)

A less reliable, but possibly more fun candidate selection tool
This piece of software takes it information, right and wrong, from here.

Now, it's still FUN (if you're a geek) to make predicitions; although I don't claim any level of expertise in this area, I still do it. And some of my predicitions probably aren't rocket science. For instance, I think Huckabee will win the South and McCain will show very well, either second or first possibly in some states. Romney will fall behind in the South but do better in other states. That's probably a safe answer, but it's fun to speculate. On the Dem side, Obama takes the South pretty easy with Edwards possibly doing better than Clinton, but not by much. I'll go out on a little bit of limb and say Romney will not do as well as he hopes in Michigan, possibly taking first, but with a close McCain second, and possibly falling to second himself. Guilliani's gamble in Florida will not be as profitiable as he hopes; I'm putting him second there.

Who is the final nominee? It's impossible to predict at this point. Although it's a bit of interesting psychology to note that most people vote for the most hopeful candidate in an election. I've been trying to gauge who sounds the most positive and hopeful of the future in speeches (it's fakable short-term, but difficult in the long run) and perhaps more importantly in their "regular" interactions, which are possibly more telling to make a prediction based on this little bit of research.

It's hard to tell: my guess at this point for the Dems would be Obama. I think he's capitalizing well off of the hope and change factor. That could well carry him past the well-oiled, funded, and supported machine of Clinton, but the instrument behind her is so strong it will be tough to overcome.

For the Republicans, I hope it's McCain at this point. Huckabee is a huge step backwards, but I think he has a real chance. Romney I think is a no-go. He doesn't seem the least bit positive and hopeful to me. He's aloof and unlikeable. While that might not get him disqualified as the Republican candidate, I think it would as president. Still, despite his wealth, I think another candidate will win the nomination here.

We'll see how it falls out and how close these well-hedged predictions comes. Of course, don't listen to me, I didn't even look at polls when I made these guesses!

Why State Sanctioned Religion is the LAST Thing We Need

First, a distressing yet humorous look at modern televangelists. The very end segment cracks me up. I call this "Separation from Church and Money"

Did we or did we not first invade this country in search of religious freedom? Were not our leaders, some Christian, some not, overwhelmingly dedicated to the idea that all citizens should be able to practice whatever faith they chose?

Washington Post: "Congress's Bullying Pulpit"

PBS: First Amendment and the Founding Fathers

Wikipedia entry on the Founding Fathers

The Government is Secular

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

New Year, New Movies

Here is my list of the Top 10 major studio release that I want to make sure to see this year, in the order in which I want to see them (from most to least). I'll address some of the other major films coming out in 2008 very soon. Clicking on the title will take you to a site where you can view a larger or higher resolution version of the trailer or, if no trailer is available, to a site with information about that film.

1. Wall-E (6/27)
The last of the original Pixar concepts to be brought to life, the trailer looks fantastic. Story and character are always at the heart of Pixar films and this one seems to have a double-dose of both. Innovations like very little traditional dialogue and some live mix-in effects (although Lasseter says "not like Happy Feet") should make this especially interesting. I expect this to be in the top three best movies of the year, if not the best.

2. The Dark Knight (6/18)
Batman Begins was perhaps the perfect super-hero film and the trailer suggests that this one continues to hit all the right buttons. Ledger is genuinely creepy as the Joker in the previews, convey the proper air of psychopathic terror that the Joker should. This will be the best action film of the year.

3. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (5/22)
Although I don't have high expectations for this (although Karen Allen returns as Marion from the first film), there is no way I would miss it.

4. Bond 22 (11/7)
Daineil Craig! I don't need to know more. Casino Royale was the BEST Bond movie ever!!

5. Prince Caspian (5/16)
The second Narnia film boasts even more impressive visuals; the brief look at Aslan in the trailers is staggeringly real looking. The first Chronicle was overall done quite well; I hope the same holds true for the sequel.

6. Star Trek (12/25)
This remake should be interesting. I'm no Trekkie, but I'm interested to see what comes of this. Plus, the dreamiest Captain Kirk ever!

7. Cloverfield (1/18)
Giant monster destroys New York as told through the video cameras of the guys and gals on the street. Sold!

8. Iron Man (5/2)
The Batman and Spider-Man films have been the best of the modern lot of super-flicks (Superman Returns had some great moments but also some real problems), and the rest have fallen short at best. This one looks fairly promising, however. Downey as Tony Stark is brilliant casting.

9. Speed Racer (5/9)
Go Speed Racer! Go Speed Racer! Go Speed Racer Gooooo! This looks like fuuuunnn!

10. Persepolis
This is a cheat since it was released this past December, but I would love to see this film adaptation of the graphic novels, which depict a woman struggling with fitting in based on her cultural and personal identity.