Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Unheralded

MHD

After the White Sox game ended tonight, I couldn't find anything to have on in the background. And then, with one accidental click of the remote, I discovered that we suddenly have a channel 209: MTV HD. And it actually plays music! This could be life-altering...

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

From the Womb

Sexual orientation of men determined before birth

Now scientists are saying, again, what any gay man would probably tell you--there wasn't a day of his life when he wasn't gay. Will those determined not to believe us believe science? I'm not holding my breath.

Honestly, I think you could ask any gay man and he could regale you with tales of male-centered longings beginning at a very early age. I know that I could offer a substantial list of other boys I longed to see naked beginning at the age of five, as well as the very clever ways I sometimes succeeded in doing so. (I can think of half a dozen successes even before the mixed blessing of communal showers entered the picture in junior high.)

To be clear, at the time I thought these longings were based on curiosity. I was certain that I just wanted to compare and contrast what I saw of others with what I saw of myself. I figured everyone felt this way, willfully ignoring the fact that I had to scheme and trick in order to achieve the desired results. But I now realize that my straight counterparts were not expending their mental energy on wondering what I looked like naked. Had I realized this sooner--or admitted it to myself, anyway--I would probably have had a very different adolescence!

Number 18?

Could you pass the U.S. citizenship test?

It's almost Independence Day, which means, of course, that it's time to trot out a flag-burning amendment to the Constitution. A pretty big step, really--when you consider that only __ amendments have been added since the Bill of Rights was ratified.

Can you fill in that blank? (The answer is 17). Give the quiz above a try. I got 19 out of 20 right, missing question 19. (Why would I know the name and number of the naturalization application?) Post your scores below...

Monday, June 26, 2006

Qui va mourir?

Rowling says 2 characters die in final Potter book

For all the time J.K. Rowling has been spending chatting about book seven lately, I hope she's spent a bit writing the damned thing. I've got 7/07/07 on my calendar as the release date, and I don't know if I can wait one day longer than that.

Today she's leaked some very interesting information:
"The final chapter is hidden away, although it's now changed very slightly," she said in an interview broadcast on Monday on Britain's Channel 4. "One character got a reprieve, but I have to say two die that I didn't intend to die."

When asked to be more specific, she added: "No, I'm not going to commit myself, because I don't want the hate mail or anything else."

This is big news, in a way. Two characters died who Rowling didn't intend to kill originally? Who could they be? And who got a reprieve?

She goes on to talk about how she understands the impulse to kill off the main character, which seems like a clever dodge to me.

My first guess, for the record, is that Neville will die. Heroically, I hope, but nonetheless. Perhaps Luna, too; she seems not to fear death anyhow--and to understand what's really beyond the veil--and so her death would be less sad somehow. And it would be hard to fathom every member of the Weasley clan coming through alive. Percy, perhaps? I don't think readers could handle Ginny or Ron. Or maybe Rowling didn't know she was going to kill off the twins?

Who do you think will die? Who do you think was spared? Will Harry live to the end?

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Welcome Expansion

Home of New Belgium Brewery, Fat Tire Beer, and the Tour de Fat

Last night after work I went to Binny's to reload our refrigerator; we were down to only four bottles of beer and I figured the official start of summer called for some summery ales. I had picked up a Sam Adams Hefeweizen and two six-packs of Bell's (the always reliable Amber Ale and something new, the Oberon), when I heard another customer asking about Fat Tire. "We have it," the sales guy replied. "Over there, over there, and in the fridge."

Fat Tire! If you've traveled out west, or even to St. Louis, there's a good chance you've had someone recommend this beer to you. And for good reason--it's one of the best beers you'll ever drink. Until now, though, Chicagoans have had to make do with having one when they're traveling (or begging friends who live in a state that has it to bring some when they visit).

No more! New Belgium, the maker of Fat Tire, has expanded its distribution to two new cities: San Diego and Chicago. I was only able to find 22 oz. bottles at Binny's, but that just forces you to serve the beer out of a glass, as it was meant to be served. (I drink plenty of beer straight from the bottle, but I know I shouldn't.) I can't wait for my drinking partner to come home tomorrow so we can crack open one of the three bottles I bought and savor the taste of a world-class beer. Here's hoping I can wait that long...

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Pleasant Page-Turner



This review of Alternatives to Sex by Stephen McCauley has been posted to Amazon.com.

This book definitely has its moments. The characters are cleverly drawn, from the neurotic narrator, William, to his fastidious flight attendant friend, Edward, to pugnacious ex-marine and professional motivator Marty.

There are moments of delicious irony, like when William talks to a real estate client about a salacious book she wrote about female sexuality that sold well because of its clever title, Come Again. Clearly McCauley chose his title for the same reason, though for me it had the effect of drawing a few vexed looks from people who saw me reading it.

And there are moments of profundity, appropriate as this is, more than anything else, the story of William figuring out what really matters. (He begins the book addicted to internet-arranged trysts and ends it with a notion of what it means to love someone.) His talks with his mother about the nature of love add up to an important lesson.

Just don't slow down! If you do, you'll figure out what's coming, and once you do you'll also begin to notice that there aren't enough pages left for it to happen. That's because it doesn't--McCauley chooses to end the book on the verge of the development it leads up to, rather than giving the reader the satisfaction of witnessing it. Perhaps this is meant to tell us that the journey to understanding what matters is more important than the destination, but it makes turning the last page a bit sad.

Nevertheless, this is a quality novel, but light enough to be perfect for summer. Definitely recommended, especially if you're looking for an interesting plot, pleasant but slightly warped characters, and plenty of wry humor.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Broken Communion

New US church leader says homosexuality no sin

The Anglican Communion is about to fall apart. (For a thoroughly fascinating article from The New Yorker on how it was cobbled together in the first place, click here.) And I couldn't be happier.

I have nothing against the Anglican Communion; I find the idea of an entire church created based on one man's desire for a divorce charming, in a weird sort of way. But today, one branch of Anglicans, the Episcopal Church in the United States, has taken a big step into my heart--one that will likely lead them away from many other branches.

Katharine Jefferts Schori, the new leader of the church, already made headlines as a woman chosen to lead a major American faith community. But today she's making more:
Interviewed on CNN, Jefferts Schori was asked if it was a sin to be homosexual.

"I don't believe so. I believe that God creates us with different gifts. Each one of us comes into this world with a different collection of things that challenge us and things that give us joy and allow us to bless the world around us," she said.

"Some people come into this world with affections ordered toward other people of the same gender and some people come into this world with affections directed at people of the other gender."
I tell you, I almost cried reading that. The article goes on to note that her statements could serve to further distance the American version of the church from those in other countries, especially in Africa. That makes her willingess to explicitly say that she believes I was made by God to love the way I love that much braver.

One day, I hope, she will not look so alone in standing up for the idea that a loving God can love all his creations. While I don't consider myself Christian, I do believe, as a reader, that Jefferts Schori has the right idea about what the Bible's main message is:
Asked how she reconciled her position on homosexuality with specific passages in the Bible declaring sexual relations between men an abomination, Jefferts Schori said the Bible was written in a very different historical context by people asking different questions.

"The Bible has a great deal to teach us about how to live as human beings. The Bible does not have so much to teach us about what sorts of food to eat, what sorts of clothes to wear -- there are rules in the Bible about those that we don't observe today," she said.

"The Bible tells us about how to treat other human beings, and that's certainly the great message of Jesus -- to include the unincluded."
Her words may not yet be gospel, but they are good news indeed.

Grows Into a Gem



This review of the first season DVD of
Boston Legal has also been posted to Amazon.com.

If you, like me, came to Boston Legal a little late in the game and started watching it during the 2005-2006 season, you'll definitely enjoy watching the show get rolling and seeing how it grew from a quirky little legal series into the engaging half-comedy, half drama it has become.

Some of the characters in the early episodes may grate--Lake Bell's character comes to mind--but by the time the partly-animated credits are gone (the fifth episode) the show is off and running. Things really hit their stride when Candice Bergen joins the cast in episode 11, "Schmidt Happens," as the (until then, a mystery) third named partner of the firm. Her witty interplay with William Shatner's Denny Crane and James Spader's Alan Shore is likely a big part of their Emmy success. So are the duo's sometimes tense, sometimes funny scenes with Rene Auberjonois, whose resolute Paul Lewiston grounds the show and the firm in reality.

But Shatner and Spader are the cornerstones of the show, and this abbreviated season (only 17 episodes--the rest were rolled into season two when Grey's Anatomy took off in the old Boston Legal timeslot) shows how the writers and producers became aware of their remarkable chemistry and learned to harness it. Those already familiar with the second season will watch with knowing glee as the show-ending conversation between the two becomes a standard.

Sadly, I can only give this collection four stars out of five because the early episodes are a bit weaker than the later ones, and because the end of the season (an episode about a death penalty case in Texas) is so abrupt. The latter is a forgiveable offense--the show's producers didnt know it would have to serve as a finale--but it still results in the set leaving a weird taste in your mouth when you finish watching.

Still, a good beginning for a great series.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Double Shudder

In praise of boxer briefs. By Seth Stevenson

This is one of the great pieces of Slate journalism--the sort of thing you'd only find there.

It's also dead-on accurate. Few things can ruin a day like the wrong undergarments. Heck, I reviewed undershirts on Amazon.com. I take these things seriously.

And boxer briefs are serious underwear. They are not, as their overpraising advertisers would have you believe, the "best of both worlds." They are neither as supportive as tighty-whities nor as liberating as boxers. But then, isn't that the trouble? Briefs are so "supportive" that they practically crush your genitals into your body. Boxers are so "liberating" that at the end of a long day walking around in them you want to put your feet up just to give your balls a break.

Stevenson goes through all the reasons boxer briefs are superior: "cuppage," the way they don't shift around all day long like boxers do or ride up like briefs, the way they look, how they prevent what he terms "flop out" while still allowing quick access in times of need. But I have a perspective Stevenson does not: I know what looks hot to me. And while all three options have their allure, boxers on anyone who isn't "perfect" tend to look like they're being used to hide something and briefs, as Stevenson notes, make a man look like a seven-year-old. The boxer brief offers more curves than the boxer, a bit more modesty than the brief--and it doesn't make the wearer look like a seven-year-old. I'm sure there are plenty of folks out there with a fetish for men wearing superhero underroos, but I'm not one of them.

Do you agree with Stevenson (and me)? Or is there something I'm missing?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Timing the Pullout

Alterman: Time to declare victory?

Deciding when to pull out is always a dicy issue. But I think Eric Alterman is right--the time for Bush to do it is now. Zarqawi's death can be interpreted as a victory, and the non-charging of Rove means it won't be seen as an intentional distraction. As Alterman says, "now would be a great time to declare victory and get the hell out of there." That's what Bush ought to do while he's in Iraq today: declare that the U.S. has achieved its (nebulous, ever-changing, never-quite-defined) aims in Iraq.

Just think--we're but a single "Mission Accomplished (For Real This Time)" sign away from bringing most of the troops home!

Peter Principle

MSNBC, Promoting From the Bottom Up

Lisa de Moraes expresses disbelief that MSNBC would promote Dan Abrams, of the crap-tastic Abrams Report, to be the general manager of the all-news network. She evidently didn't read her own article, which notes:
Abrams, who will step down from his show but continue to be NBC News's chief legal correspondent, said he wants to make MSNBC more "vibrant," more "exciting" and "maybe even a bit more irreverent."
That's right--this promotion will take Abrams, whose on-air manner varies between boorish and boring, off the air. Once the network dumps Rita Cosby and Tucker Carlson in favor of some better on-air talent, perhaps it can compete successfully for the half-dozen people who actually want to watch constant news.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Chronicle, Yes. Reflective? No!



This review of Now It's My Turn: A Daughter's Chronicle of a Political Life has also been posted to Amazon.com.

This book lives up to half its title. It is, indeed, a chronicle of political life--of the everyday rigors of traveling on a campaign plane, wearing suits that don't show stains, and eating hotel club sandwiches. That chronicle is interesting--for about ten pages.

But Mary Cheney knows why people are (or aren't, if the Bookscan numbers so far are accurate) buying this book. They want to see how she, a lesbian in a committed relationship, grapples with having worked for George W. Bush even as he used his opposition to gay marriage to win the election. The implication of the first half of the title--"Now It's My Turn"--is that we'll hear where she stands.

We do, sort of, but it's a dishonest reflection. Her characterization of Kerry and Edwards as "bad men" because they mentioned her during the debates reads as more heartfelt than any criticism she may have for Bush and his position. She tells the reader she considered quitting over the gay marriage amendment, but after that her troubles with her own side seem to have vanished, replaced with vitriol for any Democrat. An earlier Amazon reviewer said she could have replaced the word "Democrat" with "devil" and the book would have read the same, and that's true.

The book reads terribly, by the way. It's littered with the same phrases over and over; "Which, indeed, they did" and "It was exactly the right thing to do" come to mind. Invading Iraq, dissembling to the press, picking a speaker to introduce her father; everything was "exactly the right thing to do." As I said, not exactly a reflective book. Instead, we're treated to constant self-congratulation, down to such petty achievements as the Cheney family beating the family of the other VP candidate onto the stage following the debate and the quick thinking required to come up with a gesture to John Edwards (sticking out their tongues) that wouldn't draw attention to the family.

This was Mary Cheney's one chance to make a real contribution to the nation, and perhaps to atone for her support of Bush. As a book, and as atonement, "Now It's My Turn" fails miserably.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Fun Coincidence

Sometime in the next few days, the counter at the bottom of the page will roll over to 30,000. Next Monday, my parents will have been married for 30 years.

In honor of the former achievement, I've taken a look at two stats I rarely examine: Where visitors come here from and what they look for most often.

Turns out a lot of one-time visitors to the blog show up because it's listed on bestgayblogs.com (at least 75 unique visitors) and queerfilter.com (at least 64 unique visitors). I have James in Seattle to thank for more than 40 visitors who came from isleepinadrawer.com. Betty Rocker has sent at least 35 unique visitors my way. The Sage Grouse, up in Canada, accounted for at least 24 unique visitors. Jon has sent 20 people my way, while Quad Cities blogger pioneer98, of The Bridge to Somewhere, has sent no less than 15 (likely shocked) visitors to me.

And why does the outside world find its way to me? In terms of people just finding their way to a specific post out of nowhere, often as a result of a Google or Yahoo search, more people have visited this post on how diet pop messes with your appetite than any other. Coming second was my post about Mandisa's intro to the second-to-last song she performed on American Idol, where I claimed that her reference to "lifestyle" was code for "gay." Also frequently sought out were my top ten and "Best of the Rest" posts summing up my thoughts on albums released in 2005. And people have come looking for my thoughts on both Andrew's bitter feud with Bree on Desperate Housewives and on the death of John Spencer of The West Wing.

Calling a Spade a Spade

Andrew Sullivan | The Daily Dish: "Bigots"

Yesterday I mentioned Orrin Hatch's frustration with the use of the term "bigot" to describe supporters of the antigay amendment. He's not the only one getting hot and bothered about the term. Andrew Sullivan responds:
Nevertheless, when opponents of marriage rights for gays never even mention gays in their arguments, never address some of the legitimate concerns that many gay couples have, and refuse even to allow minimal domestic partnerships that allow us to visit one another in hospital without the threat of other family members intervening, then I think we're onto territory where complete uninterest in the fate of gay people blurs into bigotry. To have no social policy toward gays, except that they should repent or be cured or shut up, is a function of profound disrespect, intelligible only through the prism of prejudice.
As Sullivan notes, some supporters of the amendment manage to talk about it while pretending that the only people it would actually impact--gays and lesbians--don't exist. One such supporter is President Bush. In his speeches on the topic, he never uses the word gay, never discusses the people who actually get married when the "activist judges" he so loves to scapegoat find that equal protection under the law really applies to everyone, not just heterosexuals. In an interesting LA Times article pondering why this is so, Independent Gay Forum writer David Link says:
...the irony gets thick when the president purports to be evenhanded in conducting this half-debate. Bush said this in his most recent address on the issue: "As this debate goes forward, we must remember that every American deserves to be treated with tolerance, respect and dignity. All of us have a duty to conduct this discussion with civility and decency toward one another, and all people deserve to have their voices heard."

What Americans is he talking about? The ones he consciously never named in his speech? Does he seriously think lesbians and gay men are being treated with "civility and decency" — much less "tolerance" or "respect" — when he will not meet publicly with a gay or lesbian group on this issue and will not even mention that the debate over same-sex marriage is about them?

It is beyond laughable at this point for the president to say that "all people deserve to have their voices heard" when he is the chief person who will not hear those voices.
It's one thing to make an argument that it will be a better world if gays and lesbians can't marry; I disagree, but at least there are points up for debate. But to pretend that this argument is all about judges is dishonest. It's about people--millions of us, who pay taxes like the rest of you, who go to work every day like the rest of you, and who simply want to know that our families are protected like the rest of yours are. If you can't even bring yourself to acknowledge that we exist, or to consider how we should fit into the bigger picture of American society other than to say that to allow us to marry would bring on Armageddon, what other word can we use to describe you? Bigot seems to fit...

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Ha!

Supporters lose in gay marriage ban vote

It would be wonderful if this hateful measure never came up for a vote again--they should be voting to allow us to file our taxes together and visit one another in the hospital, not attempting to decree in the Constitution that we don't deserve any rights--but if it had to come up, it's always nice to see it shot down. And shot down with one less vote than last time, to boot!
The Senate on Wednesday rejected a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, dealing an embarrassing defeat to President Bush and Republicans who hoped to use the measure to energize conservative voters on Election Day.

Supporters knew they wouldn't achieve the two-thirds vote needed to approve a constitutional amendment, but they had predicted a gain in votes over the last time the issue came up, in 2004. Instead, they lost one vote for the amendment in a procedural test tally that ended up 49-48.
Next time around, here's hoping that supporters of the amendment are actually in the minority.

By the way, Orrin Hatch has been "fuming" in the AP's coverage of the amendment since Monday about a comment Ted Kennedy made, asking, "Does he really want to suggest that over half of the United States Senate is a crew of bigots?" I don't know about Kennedy, but I know this, Orrin: Today's vote says it's less than half, and a crew of bigots is exactly what you are.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Activist Bloggers

Take Action: Tell your Senators to keep discrimination out of the Constitution

You all know how I feel about this amendment. If you've got 15 seconds to click on the link above and tell your Senators how you feel, well, that would be great.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Definitely Not

British vote Oasis album best of all

I have my doubts that any Oasis album could be the best album ever--and I was, at one time, one of their biggest fans. I think my overwhelming affection for their underwhelming third album, Be Here Now, which came out the week I started college, was directly responsible for the rancor between me and my first roommate. Well, that and the underlying sexual tension of a gay man who isn't out even to himself living with a guy who has already caught the scent of difference and suspects that he's being watched when he changes.

Anyhow...the Brits have chosen Definitely Maybe, the first Oasis album, as the best of all time. But it isn't even the band's best! What's the Story (Morning Glory) takes that honor, both for reasons of sentiment (it was my first experience of the band) and quality. DM may be a more exciting first listen, but WTSMG is the one that lasts.

Still, it's not a bad list overall. I'm always happy with a top ten of which I own nine (I'm a bit young to have gotten excited about the Stone Roses in their day):

1. "Definitely Maybe," Oasis.
2. "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," The Beatles.
3. "Revolver," The Beatles.
4. "OK Computer," Radiohead.
5. "(What's the Story) Morning Glory?" Oasis.
6. "Nevermind," Nirvana.
7. "The Stone Roses," The Stone Roses.
8. "Dark Side of the Moon," Pink Floyd.
9. "The Queen Is Dead," The Smiths.
10. "The Bends," Radiohead.