Thursday, September 28, 2006

A Little More Equal

Partner benefits proposed for federal workers | News |

This is huge. And I have to give credit where it's due: Joe Lieberman, of all people, joined Gordon Smith--a Republican!--to propose it. If that combo doesn't make domestic partner benefits seem like the very picture of moderation, I don't know what does.

Change clearly happens in stages. This would be a big step in the right direction!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

First Man

Bill Clinton’s quest to save the world, reclaim his legacy—and elect his wife.

Grab a tall cup of coffee. This profile by David Remnick is definitely not short. But by the time you're done, I think you'll understand Bill Clinton--and understand why, despite their faults, I believe the Clintons are the best chance the Democrats have right now of winning and of using their power to actually accomplish something.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Refreshing Honesty

Archives open up centuries of British sex

The results of a 57-year-old British survey are being released this week, after being embargoed because they were too shocking to be reported when they were compiled. I think this paragraph explains why:
Despite the taboos of the time, the 1949 sex survey, originally meant for national newspapers but never published due to its content, found one in five men had homosexual experiences and a quarter admitted to having sex with prostitutes. One in five women confessed to extra-marital affairs.
One in five! That's a lot of extra-marital affairs! (And the number of men diddling men is pretty remarkable, too.)

Seriously, the one in five number doesn't surprise me. Anyone who's got a bit of an Anglophilic bent knows what goes on in those boarding schools. While we have a "Lesbian until Graduation" (or LUG) phenomenon in America, Britain long had a GUG trend, though it took place behind closed doors rather than at bars.

This does, however, give new meaning to a scene from Will & Grace (courtesy of imdb):
Lorraine: You're a fancy dresser. Are you English?
Will: Oh no, I'm gay.
Lorraine: Well, its the same thing.
Will: If that weren't true, I'd find that offensive.
Finally, a loophole that lets me be English!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Solid Foundation

Alexander out indefinitely with broken foot - NFL

This is sad news. A terrific, though sometimes selfish, player should never go down in the third week of the season. I hope Alexander is able to return to the Seahawks before the season ends.

I also hope that when his team meets the Bears in the playoffs, it's at Soldier Field rather than in Seattle. And this injury, by making next weekend's Sunday-night game more winnable, definitely makes that possible. Sick, perhaps, but it's tough for the fan in me not to see a silver lining after several injury-plagued seasons in Chicago.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Just a Peck

The New Yorker: The Talk of the Town

This story, in which a gay couple resting their heads on one another during a flight from Paris to New York results in the captain threatening to divert the plane, makes me cry inside just a little bit. I try to believe that the world is becoming more accepting, to enjoy being in public with the man I love (even if we would never put on even this small a display of affection for an audience). But reading about this reminds me why we tend to just stay home. I hope American Airlines issues an apology.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Gut Check

The excuses keep on coming for Ellison's behavior

I hate that I agree with Katherine Kersten, but what is going on in my old congressional district? Kersten suggests that Minnesota's 5th District Democrats are so excited about the prospect of a black Muslim in Congress--a worthwhile first, no doubt--that they're ignoring Keith Ellison's faults, and it's tough to argue with her. They threw former state party chair Mike Erlandson overboard in favor of Ellison, who in the past aligned himself with Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam and who has a history riddled with violations of laws related to both campaign finance and operating a vehicle.

Ellison will almost certainly still win in November; the 5th District is true-blue; the situation is quite like that in Cook County, where a new poll shows Todd Stroger running away with the election for board president despite a blatant lack of qualifications and a...let's call it "questionable" path to the nomination. But unless he shows heretofore untold abilities in Congress, I hope his stay is brief. It's fun to make history, Minnesota. But there's no need to fill a safe seat with someone who's nothing more than a seat-filler.

Don't Panic

Bush approval rating rebounds in new poll

I know that this news is hard to fathom; other than cheaper gas, nothing has changed. (Though I've been saying for a long time that, reality be damned, a lot of people decide whether things are going well based on the price at the pump.) But one thing has changed since Bush's super-low ratings earlier in the year: There's an election on. Elections tend to rally people to their standard bearer, for good or ill. (Remember how Democrats stood behind John Kerry?) The poll confirms that this is the reason for Bush's rebound:
Bush's approval rating edged up largely on the strength of Republicans coming back to the fold with 86 percent saying they support him now, compared to 70 percent in May, USA Today said.
That doesn't change the discontent in the country with his performance, only how it's quantified. It will take more than poll numbers like these to convince me that people are really unlearning the lessons of the last six years of misrule.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Back in the Day

Top 200 Songs of the '80s

One of the most admirable things about my friend Paul is that he always has a project in the works. The one linked above is ambitious; he's created a list of the top 200 songs of the 1980s. While he got help from several others, myself included, this has his stamp on it. He's up to #171 right now, with ten songs unveiled every other day. Subscribe with Bloglines and follow along!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Minor Infraction

The incumbent's win in Rhode Island is a sign of the tough fight to come. By John Dickerson - Slate Magazine

John Dickerson's analysis of last night's sorta-surprise win by incumbent Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee over town loon/Cranston mayor Steve Laffey in Rhode Island is a good one, but what it foretells is not. Here's one of the great lines of this week:
Do you like grown-ups calling each other names? Treating each other with the bitterness and recriminations usually reserved for faculty fights? This may be the election season for you.
If you find that funny, pick up a copy of Richard Russo's Straight Man. You'll love it. (If you've already read that, try just about any David Lodge novel.)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

All of the Above

The Chronicle: 9/15/2006: A Pop Quiz for Constitution Day

Did you know that next Monday is Constitution Day? Somehow that didn't make my office calendar, though my wall calendar insisted that yesterday was "Patriot Day (USA)." In any case, give the quiz above a try. You may not get a perfect score, but it will probably make you think!


Governor's lead solid, but voters seem wary | Chicago Tribune

Unless something wild happens, it looks like term number two will start for Gov. Blagojevich about the same time prison term number one starts for former Gov. Ryan. The results of the poll linked above, for which I was one of the 600 respondents, indicate that Blago has a 12-point lead over the plain-talkin' Judy Baar Topinka.

Between this race and the one for Cook County Board President, though, I have to admit it's tough to get fired up for this election. I'll vote, of course, but how can I get excited about my choices? Blago is, at best, a seat-filler. Stroger is such an empty suit that I don't think I can even vote in his race; I'm going to leave it blank and hope Peraica doesn't eke out a win. And then there's Rep. Melissa Bean, who shocked Phil Crane two years ago and since has been the most Republican of Democrats in the House. I'll punch her number, but it's tough to feel great about it. (Still, she's better than McSweeney.)

Are you feeling election fever this season, or just waiting for it to end?

Friday, September 08, 2006


Help! Home for sale: Terry Likens and Duane Przybilla

I love this story for two reasons. First, it encourages my thinking that not owning a house right now is not the worst thing in the world; the difference between us having bought over the summer and waiting until next summer or the summer after that, price-wise, is likely to be negligible due to a flat market, and in the meantime we can save the money we're not paying toward the mortgage faster than the combination of appreciation and chipping away at the principal would have gained us equity in the first two years. All we're losing is time.

But the second reason is more exciting. This article is one of more and more articles that appear in the mainstream media that matter-of-factly present a gay couple as an example of an issue that has an impact on everyone. What will ultimately make gay equality a reality isn't petitions and fundraisers and protest, though those are important. It's opening paragraphs like this one:
Travel agent Terry Likens and his partner, contractor Duane Przybilla, own a three-bedroom, four-bath townhouse in Eden Prairie, Minn. They would rather have a single-family house with more space and a backyard.
What could be more subversive? Without once using the words "gay" or "marriage" or even "civil union," the article presents a gay couple facing the same issues as any straight one, handling them in the same way. The cumulative effect of articles like this is that gay couples are normalized, as is the idea that, yes, indeed, gay men can have a stable life. When that idea takes root, equal rights won't be far behind.

Evolution at Work?

St. Paul Pioneer Press | 09/08/2006 | U finds test drug prolongs sex for men

While this article raises questions about whether this drug will ever be sold, it's clear that pharmaceutical companies view it, and premature ejaculation treatments in general, as the next big thing. But I have to ask: Is premature ejaculation really a sexual dysfunction?

Obviously, for the couple experiencing it, it's not something to crow about. But isn't it at least possible that calling it a dysfunction misunderstands an evolutionary strategy?

Perhaps "premature " ejaculation is one of two methods for trying to pass on genes. Call it the "Don't worry, baby, this will only take a second, you'll barely even notice" method of gene-spreading. Others opt for the "You know you want it baby--remember how good it was last time?" method. Clearly, as a civilization, we're claiming that we prefer the latter option. But does that really mean that the former is a dysfunction?

According to the article, "As many as one in three men may experience premature ejaculation." That doesn't sound like a dysfunction--it sounds like a common situation.

Then again, the numbers in the study are such that I wonder if maybe it is a dysfunction:
Roughly 2,000 men in the trials took pills and then used stopwatches to time sexual intercourse with their spouses or significant others. Intercourse increased for some men from less than one minute without medication to 3½ minutes on the highest dosage that was studied.
3½ minutes? One minute!? Never mind what I said before. Get these guys a pill. Their wives and lovers deserve better than that.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

High Holiday

Ellen DeGeneres tapped to host Oscars

The Oscars are a gay holy day of obligation, and now we have just the priestess we need. Jon Stewart was a good idea, but this is pure genius! And Ellen is even funny accepting the job:
"When [Oscar producer] Laura Ziskin called, I was thrilled," said DeGeneres in a statement. "There's two things I've always wanted to do in my life. One is to host the Oscars. The second is to get a call from Laura Ziskin. You can imagine that day's diary entry."
I have no idea what will be nominated, but I can already tell that the next Oscars will be great!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Back on Top

Bob Dylan earns first No. 1 album since 1976

Have you seen Bob Dylan lately? He's been everywhere, especially in a striking new commercial for iTunes that raises questions about his assertion that current music sounds terrible. (A tiny, compressed sound file [MP3, or any other format you use on your iPod] is not the same thing as a digital recording carefully processed into discrete analog channels and output to specific speakers to create a particular sound field [SACD].)

And the saturation, combined with superb reviews, has worked, driving him to the top of the charts for the first time since three '70s albums in a row took the mantle from 1974 to 1976. If you haven't heard Modern Times yet, you're missing out!

Standing Out

MedlinePlus: Sexual orientation seen linked to bulimia risk

There are plenty of ways I hew to the stereotypes of my people, but this news is a reminder that there are just as many ways I don't. I am, increasingly, a healthy eater in both senses of that term. And, a few wild nights in college aside, there is something about myself that I hold very dear: I. Do. Not. Puke.