Monday, October 30, 2006

Leave Us Alone!

Bush hits hard at gay marriage - Yahoo! News

Is it too much to ask that we get through one election cycle without the president using his opposition to the life I lead as an applause line? I don't know which makes me sicker: that Bush brought it up--
"For decades, activist judges have tried to redefine America by court order," Bush said Monday. "Just this last week in New Jersey, another activist court issued a ruling that raises doubt about the institution of marriage. We believe marriage is a union between a man and a woman, and should be defended."
--or that
The line earned Bush by far his most sustained applause at a rally of 5,000 people...In this conservative rural corner of eastern Georgia, even children jumped to their feet alongside their parents to cheer and clap for nearly 30 seconds — a near-eternity in political speechmaking.
Even children. This may take longer than we thought.

Could It Be? - 'Studio 60’ Cancellation Imminent - Celebrity Gossip | Entertainment News | Arts And Entertainment

Last night watching the big Cowboys-Panthers game, I was surprised to see that NBC will be airing Friday Night Lights instead of Studio 60 tonight. But the article above, from Fox by way of Salon, makes me think it may be part of a bigger strategy.

If so, it's a sound one. The first few episodes were increasingly dull. Two more sit on my DVR, next to The Passion of the Christ, hogging space because, even though I feel like I should watch them, I don't want to. The show has been so pompous--and so incredibly unfunny--that it's hard to give Sorkin the benefit of the doubt any longer.

But, as the Fox writer notes, the show will have served one good function. It will remind folks in Hollywood that Matthew Perry is unfailingly great on TV. Find the man a show that works and I will watch it faithfully--and never let it sit on my DVR until it's replaced by too many recordings of The Young and the Restless.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Where Are You, Vito?

New Jersey Court Backs Full Rights for Gay Couples - New York Times

Oh, if only Vito had survived the first 12 episodes of season six of The Sopranos. One can only imagine what David Chase might have made of the sudden possibility of him marrying a man. He could have made an honest man of Johnny Cakes!

Yesterday's ruling in New Jersey is a plot point in more than an HBO serial, though. Coming so close to the election, it could have served (and still might) as a spark to drive rabid cultural "conservatives" to the polls to stem the tide of equality.

But the court was quite careful in its ruling, and while that saddens me as a gay man, it gladdens my Democratic heart. While I had already cast my ballot when the ruling came down--we went yesterday before lunch, and thank goodness, as the ballot was 14 screens long and will make many voters late for work--a great many folks could have taken a full-out declaration of gay marriage in New Jersey as a sign of the apocalypse. Civil unions--the likely outcome, given that most of the Democrats who control N.J. politics don't support using the "M" word--are a little less scary. And the waiting period between now and when the legislature figures out what to call this thing that's got all the rights and financial benefits of marriage should allow time for cooling off--and let the election pass, hopefully unaffected.

Besides, if marriage had been allowed, think of all the gays and lesbians who would have been forced to travel to Atlantic City! If we're going to have a gay marriage capital of America, let's make it someplace nice. Aren't they talking about remaking Navy Pier? Start playing "In the Navy" on the pier and Chicago could become quite the tourist destination!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Simpler Explanation?

Blue-eyed men prefer blue-eyed women - More Health News -

I'm not a scientist, but I think this study takes the data a little too far. It suggests that blue-eyed men seek blue-eyed women so they can be sure that their offspring are their own--because two blue-eyed people who mate can only have blue-eyed kids.

OK, I suppose that makes sense. But sometimes homespun wisdom can tell us as much as science. Men marry their mothers, right? And what color eyes does a blue-eyed man's mother have?

As for the data that suggest that brown-eyed men, and women in general, don't care about eye color, well, should we be surprised that men are more superficial? Women may marry a man like their father, but that doesn't mean he'll look the same. And brown-eyed men don't spend their childhoods hearing about their beautiful blue eyes or gazing into the blue eyes of their sisters and mothers, learning that the rare trait makes them special.

So yeah, maybe blue-eyed men are subconsciously marrying blue-eyed women so they'll have a cheap way to check the paternity of their kids (though a kid fathered by a blue-eyed brother might slip under the radar). But maybe, just maybe, this one has more to do with nurture than nature.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Screw Us Coming, Screw Us Going

No Death Benefits for Studds's Spouse -

I can't put it more succinctly than this lead:
The federal government has refused to pay death benefits to the spouse of former congressman Gerry E. Studds (D-Mass.), the first openly gay member of Congress.
It isn't enough to treat gays like pariahs. When we die, those we leave behind get nothing--except, perhaps, a court battle to keep the house and all the other things accumulated as a couple. If only I could believe this were true:
Gary Buseck, legal director for the group Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, said Studds's case may offer "a moment of education for Congress."

"Now they have a death in the congressional family of one of their distinguished members whose spouse is being treated differently than any of their spouses," Buseck said.

It's pretty to think so, but something tells me this isn't quite the teachable moment that will get their attention.

Many Misfortunes

Last night after work I had a few errands to run--Menard's to return something, Target to buy a few things, and a book drop to pick up the final installment of the Lemony Snicket books, A Series of Unfortunate Events: Book the Thirteenth: The End. Fittingly, everything went wrong.

First, lightning struck my usual book drop during a storm two weeks ago, so rather than picking up the book on my way home, I had to go quite a bit out of my way. But I tried to turn this into a good thing by using it as an excuse to shop at the new Target on 59 and Higgins. Leaving that Target, I thought I'd avoid making two left turns by taking Old Sutton Road up to the book drop instead, creating a series of simple right turns and staying away from traffic. Halfway up Old Sutton, though, there's a railroad crossing, and when I arrived a train was apparently going through it. Except--well, the train wasn't moving. It was dark, so this wasn't immediately clear, but as the cars lined up, it became obvious we weren't going anywhere for a while. So I turned around and made three left turns instead of the original two, sitting through several red lights. When I finally arrived at the book drop--which doubles as the village hall for a neighboring town--there was a squad car with its lights blaring in the entrance! After waiting a while for the man who was out of his car talking to the cop through the window to move, I finally honked him out of my way, drove in, and got the book.

Now, this is all nothing next to the perils the Baudelaire orphans have faced though 12 soul-crushing tomes, but doesn't it seem a bit foreboding?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Not a Reunion

ABC sticking with 'Brothers & Sisters'

This news makes me happy. While we've given other new shows a try this fall--Studio 60 and Dexter--this is the only one, so far, that we've actually kept up with. (The others are building to a critical mass on our DVR--methinks next Saturday will see a marathon in our house!)

Yes, Brothers & Sisters is a fairly standard issue family soap opera, complete with a family business that creates a wealth of strife, a la just about every daytime soap. But it also looks at how political and social issues play a role in a family dynamic; Calista Flockhart and Sally Field have a long-running feud over the Iraq war. And the big family includes a gay son, who copes with being accepted but still feeling different from the rest. Why on earth wouldn't I like this show?

Oh, and while it hasn't met the grim fate of Reunion, it does serve as a reunion of sorts for us, with Dave Annable from that show and Rachel Griffiths from Six Feet Under among the cast. (Notice that Dexter also features an SFU alum, Michael C. Hall, while Studio 60 is essentially a re-write of The West Wing. Creatures of habit, anyone?)

Have you found any good new shows this season?

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Can't Go Back

My five-year reunion took place over the weekend at Augustana. It was a fairly uneventful visit--I saw some professors, walked around campus, and had a beer at Blue Cat. (It still tasted great to me five years and many other beers later--who'd have thought a little pub in the Quad Cities would have such exceptional ale?)

But one thing happened that will never happen again.

I visited Carlsson Hall on Friday. In the lounge I found a plaque with my name on it, honoring me as a four-year resident. (That isn't strictly true--I moved in partway through my freshman year--but I'll take it.) Also pictures taken at picnics in front of the building, many containing hallmates I haven't seen since I graduated. And even a plaque commemorating the many times our floors won the award for the best male GPA on campus.

Carlsson, as I heard later at the president's house, is slated to be gutted next year; when they rebuild the inside it will become the home of many business-oriented departments. The beautiful new residence hall behind Andreen will surely help the school to recruit new students; the kids only have to share a bathroom with four people rather than dozens, and the rooms are huge. (The place also looks like a nursing home to me, but I suppose if the college ever goes under it can always be repurposed.)

And so this weekend was the last time I will ever stroll through the halls of my old home as it was. It makes me a little bit sick to my stomach to think of it, honestly.

But, while I hope the plaques and pictures are preserved and set up somewhere else on campus, being back made me realize that I don't need Carlsson as a vessel for the memories that happened there. This weekend was the first time I set foot on campus in four and a half years, and while it's nice to think that it might be the start of something, the harsh reality is that it may be longer than that before I go back again. It's comforting, somehow, to know that the bathroom where I puked up my 21st birthday drinks hasn't been altered, and that the tile in my senior year room still peels away to reveal the names of the room's residents going back many years. But Augustana gave me all that it could--an education, mentors, friends, and love. It exists for a seventeen-year-old somewhere, who may be just like I was, thinking about his first year away from home and the changes that it might bring. I hope that he decides to go to Augustana, and that it is everything for him that it was for me. And that can happen with or without the chance to live in Carlsson Hall.

Thursday, October 05, 2006


George F. Will - What Goeth Before the Fall -

George Will's column today is pretty much brilliant. Often a handmaiden for the party, today Will calls the Republicans on their hypocrisy. Referring to Dennis Hastert's complaint that whoever brought forward the Foley e-mails and IMs has disrupted the "story" he and other GOPers are trying to tell, Will says, "Their story, of late, has been that theirs is the lonely burden of defending all that is wholesome. But the problem with claiming to have cornered the market on virtue is that people will get snippy when they spot vice in your ranks."

Will goes on to note the disturbing turn that has taken place among evangelicals. Once, they believed that their religion forbade their active participation in politics. Those were the good old days! Will quotes Ryan Sager, author of The Elephant in the Room: Evangelicals, Libertarians, and the Battle to Control the Republican Party:
"Whereas conservative Christian parents once thought it was inappropriate for public schools to teach their kids about sex, now they want the schools to preach abstinence to children. Whereas conservative Christians used to be unhappy with evolution being taught in public schools, now they want Intelligent Design taught instead (or at least in addition). Whereas conservative Christians used to want the federal government to leave them alone, now they demand that more and more federal funds be directed to local churches and religious groups through Bush's faith-based initiatives program."
These changes have transformed politics, and morphed a mostly tolerable Republican party into one that has festered into a thing revolting to behold, both for many sensible Americans and for most of our allies abroad. The Foley episode only crystallizes in the public mind a dreadful shift that has taken place, as Republicans have harnessed well-meaning (but wrong, nonetheless) people of faith, whipped them into a frenzy, and used their anger for their own ends. In a sense, the entire Republican party is Foley, and a great many Americans who have been taken in by it are those young men, giving the party what it wants--in this case power rather than titillation--in hopes that they'll eventually get what they want out of it, too.

Now all those Americans feel violated. And so, as Will puts it, "If, after the Foley episode -- a maraschino cherry atop the Democrats' delectable sundae of Republican miseries -- the Democrats cannot gain 13 seats [Will concedes the two former gay Republican seats, Foley's and Jim Kolbe's, to the Dems], they should go into another line of work."

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Smear Campaign

"The List" (of Gay GOP Aides on the Hill)

No, this is not a link to a list of gay Republican aides, though that is probably available somewhere on the Web by now. But that list will be the next piece of the pie in the Mark Foley scandal, suggest both David Corn (above) and Josh Marshall. Not really a surprise, I suppose.

The theory is that Hastert & Co. will blame this whole affair on gay staff members who enabled Foley's behavior. While this would be reprehensible if true, something--namely Kirk Fordham's statement--tells me it isn't.

David Corn notes:
What's interesting about The List--which includes nine chiefs of staffs, two press secretaries, and two directors of communications--is that (if it's acucurate) it shows that some of the religious right's favorite representatives and senators have gay staffers helping them advance their political careers and agendas. These include Representative Katherine Harris and Henry Hyde and Senators Bill Frist, George Allen, Mitch McConnell and Rick Santorum.
This raises the question: Are these people sincere in their hate of homosexuality? If not, the base they've convinced that they are should be appalled. (And if so, of course, they're both bigots and, apparently, hypocrites.) Or are they merely opportunistic, willing to play to any prejudice to gain power? It's hard to look at those names and think of any nice way to spin this.

The fact remains, though, that in the next few days we're probably going to see two things: A desperate blame game by Republicans that blames gay staffers for this whole sordid mess, and a mass outing in Washington that will put other such campaigns to shame. I feel sorry for the great many politically-minded gay men who are about to be violently torn from the closet, but let's face it: They knew the score going in. They worked for forces of hatred at a time when those forces were pressing down especially hard on their fellow gays and lesbians. They brought this pain on themselves.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Not Again

Rep. Mark Foley, IM jockey. By Timothy Noah - Slate Magazine

Like James and Zach in Seattle, I'm dismayed by the news about Mark Foley, whose IM conversations with teenage boys, including the one documented above (which is probably too filthy to read if someone might look over your shoulder), sent him from Congress to rehab faster than you can say filibuster, much less pedophile. What is it about staying in the closet for decades that leads to behavior like this?

National Coming Out Day is next week (October 11). Maybe the rest of the closeted members of Congress should join the celebration rather than going down the same self-destructive road that took down Foley?