Friday, February 27, 2009

Poll: Obama In Big, Big, Huge, Trouble


The congressional Republicans’ “No Strategy” strategy is making major headway with voters this week.

In a just-released poll, only 68 percent of voters have an unfavorable view of Republicans in Congress. The Republican Party at large is doing even better, with a George Bush-esque level of approval of 32 percent.

It's hard to imagine how President Obama can look at these numbers and think that his agenda has a chance — not when an entire quarter of Americans view him unfavorably!

Those real Americans looking for conservative leadership found it on Tuesday night with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's (R) grand slam performance following up Barack Obama. He was so wonderful — his delivery so compelling — that he is already being compared to real-life TV stars. His ideas were bold — "Why not let volcanoes destroy Hawaii?" Finally, a real conservative policy wonk.

Does anyone really think Obama has a chance in 2012 against a Palin/Jindal ticket?

Originally on The Hill.

NY Blade: Letter To The Editor

I sent this to the New York Blade today.


Dear Editor,

I was surprised to read Allen Roskoff's latest piece detailing a widely discredited story of a gay bashing at Corner Bistro. If Mr. Roskoff had bothered to Google the event, he'd have found out that it was a hoax, made up by Nick Haramis. Anyone who has viewed the surveillance tape, widely available on-line, will see that Nick's group clearly instigated the physical violence.

Mr. Roskoff sees homophobia everywhere he turns, regardless of it's validity.

Sincerely,

Ryan J. Davis
Former Secretary, Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Jack McBrayer Responds To Bobby Jindal





Jack McBrayer, Kenneth the Page on 30 Rock, responds to Bobby Jindal last night on Jimmy Fallon's new talk show.

As I've mentioned before, this would be great SNL casting.

Odds & Ends

Vote is going extremely well. Yesterday we stumbled through Act 2. Today, we spend the entire rehearsal polishing the choreography. Broadway producer Ken Davenport blogs the Vote musical backstory of how we ended up workshopping in Indiana at his blog, Producer's Perspective.

-- Michael Feingold, of The Village Voice, reminded me via e-mail that both Broadway World & Talkin' Broadway got the theater community involved in resurrecting California's canceled RENT production.

-- Another scientist goes after Bobby Jindal. "So what do we call a supposedly bright person who is a creationist and believes that an exorcism cast out cancer?"

-- If you looking to lose weight - cutting calories is the only real deal. "The lesson, researchers say, is that people lose weight if they lower calories, but it does not matter how."

-- The police arrest a suspect in the Bushwick gay-hate murder.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Rent Will Perform At Calif. High School, A Web 2.0 Victory

RENT, the Pulitzer Prize winning musical, will perform at Corona del Mar High School beginning April 23rd. The production follows an attempt by Principal Fal Asrani to cancel the musical because of "homosexual" content. Last week, she replaced RENT with You're A Good Man Charlie Brown as the school's spring musical.

Web 2.0 Powered Victory

The performance is a victory for the students and their drama teacher, Ronald Martin, who stood against the administration's decision. A victory won by their persistence and new media, specifically blogs and Facebook.

On Feb. 13th Queerty ran a story about an e-mail they had received from a reader. It was written by an anonymous student, who detailed the circumstances of RENT's cancellation. Two days later the story had spread to sites from The Huffington Post to the New York Time's Arts Blog.

While the story was went viral, the students organized. They created a Facebook group, Save Rent,which now has 441 members, and began (along with parents) to contact media.

"The immediacy the internet provides was key in this victory," Cindy Fulton, of Berkeley, a Corona del Mar High School alumnus, said today. "In the past we might have been writing letters to newspaper editors. You send it in, it gets reviewed, it gets published... maybe a week later." She says that the Internet made the difference, "In this case the internet allowed us to get right in there and work to change situation. We were able to be involved in it rather than react to it."

By the time the story was reported in The New York Times, Asrani was feeling the pressure. Martin, the drama teacher, resubmitted the script to her for written approval. She approved on Thursday.

James Ramsey, Co-Administrator of the Save Rent Facebook group, sent a message to the group, "We could not have achieved this without the support from all of you. It is amazing that we were able to do this in such a short amount of time, and everyone helped."

Principal Vs. Teacher

The LA Times Reports:


What transpired in the original meeting between Martin and Asrani is a matter of dispute between the two.

Martin said that Asrani questioned the portrayal of homosexuality and prostitution in the play -- although he said there is no prostitution in the toned-down school edition of the production -- and requested a copy of the script. He told Asrani that he did not have a script at the time and that there would not be enough time for her to review it and to obtain clearance from the licensing company. Asrani then opted to cancel the show, Martin said.


Asrani claimed she just wanted to read it.

As I first reported, there has been an atmosphere of hate in the school, ignored and even occasionally enabled by Asrani.

Many students don't believe Principal Asrani and expect there is more to the story that she isn't telling. "Even with the victory of getting RENT approved, the next battle is bringing justice to the comments exchanged in the meeting," one student told me today. Several other students and parents suggested Asrani's troubles may not be over.

Looking Forward

Regardless of what happens to Asrani, the students have won a big victory and many are looking forward to how RENT can benefit their school.

"I am ecstatic that we will be able to perform the show," says Ryan Willison, member of the school's Human Relation Council. His group is planning to integrate RENT into their club's campaign, Stand Up, Speak Out, Act Now, which emphasizes the student's voice. He continues, "Now that RENT has gotten so much attention, we want to use that publicity in a positive light and advocate for acceptance of the gay community at CdM. We are thankful that we don't have to fight for our rights in a media struggle anymore, and that we can advocate in a more positive, constructive way. Regardless of whether Mr. Martin or Mrs. Asrani is telling the truth, or some combination of the two, we are all excited to move forward."

And move forward they will, newly formed activists.

Odds & Ends

-- Barack Obama hit a home run last night, with his hugely successful Joint Address to Congress. (Can I just call it a State of the Union?) He made promises from ending the war in Iraq, to major health care reform. Ezra has details on health care reform from the budget. What a difference it is having a President who knows how to communicate.

-- We'll know tomorrow if the California high school will get to perform RENT. The bigot Principal, Fal Asrani, is making her final decision after actually reading the script. It's amazing how a week of terrible press can make you reconsider decisions, huh Fal?

-- Conservative David Brooks thought Jindal was more of a disaster than I did.

-- The deal with honor killings.

-- Nobody likes New York Governor Paterson.

Bobby Jindal's Satan Slaying Response


Tonight Gov. Bobby Jindal, of Louisiana, delivered the Republican response to Barack Obama's Speech to the Joint Session of Congress. His performance is being likened to Kenneth from 30 Rock by most of the bloggers that I read. In fact, you can even join a Facebook group to get Jack McBrayer (Kenneth!) to play Bobby Jindal on SNL.

Jindal is one of my favorite Republicans. He's a Rhodes Scholar, so he's gotta be bright... right? Jindal believes in intelligent design, he calls it "the best sceience." He wants your kids to learn it in school.

Jindal is an exorcist.

I felt some type of physical force distracting me. It was as if something was pushing down on my chest, making it very hard for me to breathe. . . Though I could find no cause for my chest pains, I was very scared of what was happening to me and Susan. I began to think that the demon would only attack me if I tried to pray or fight back; thus, I resigned myself to leaving it alone in an attempt to find peace for myself.


So, he's not bright, but he has literally taken on the devil... Will he try and take on Obama in 2012?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Fierstein: Stop Making Weak Analogies




One of the pictures above is of slavery, a two-hundred-plus year old American institution with millions of casualties, and the other is of gay marriage. If you're Harvey Fierstein, you probably won't be able to tell the difference. Others won't have much a problem, since they don't have a whole lot in common. Fierstein writes today on The Huffington Post an open letter to President Obama, comparing his views on gay marriage to Abe Lincoln's (early) views on slavery.

Lincoln was always against slavery and was an early opponent of expansion into the western territories. The South feared he'd try to end slavery, which caused states to secede from the Union after his election. Although the Civil War was originally fought simply to preserve the Union, slavery wasn't far from anyone's mind.

Lincoln did become more progressive on his personal views of African-Americans during his Presidency, he hadn't known many before, becoming friendly with Frederick Douglass. He certainly evolved on the issue, but the quote that Fierstein picks at the beginning is cherry-picked and doesn't accurately reflect Lincoln's position on slavery at the time. Although he was a product of the culture, he always abhorred slavery.

Slavery and gay marriage are not similar issues. They don't carry equal moral weight and it's insulting to suggest that they do. Would Mr. Fierstein have used the Holocaust so casually in a weak analogy? Probably not. The gay rights struggle cannot be defined by looking at the end of the slave trade, or even the black civil rights movement. It's it's own movement, existing in it's own place in time. The sooner we stop trying to equate our movements with past ones the better.

President Obama should be for gay marriage. There isn't a single objective argument against it that isn't plain bigotry. We don't need Abe Lincoln to know that.

Crossposted on The Huffington Post.

The Hill: Legalize It! (Or at Least Decriminalize It)


Can we finally start talking about marijuana decriminalization?

Boston voted to do it in November. There was a bill just introduced in California to legalize and tax it; after all, it's their largest cash crop and would bring in $1 billion in taxes per annum. President Obama is certainly open to it.

Public Opinion is catching up. Recent polls have support for legalization at all-time highs, 40 percent, which means, in some ways, that pot is more popular than the Republican Party. Nate Silver did the math, and if support keeps growing at these rates we'll have 60 percent nationwide for legalization by 2022.

Since Obama has taken office, there have been five DEA raids on medical marijuana dispensaries in the state of California. Barack Obama should order the immediate halt of federal intervention in states like California that allow for the use and distribution of medical marijuana. Seventy-two percent of the American people would be behind him, and he pledged to do it during the campaign. These raids should be halted immediately by Attorney General Eric Holder, but the White House says they will wait until a new DEA head is named.

Once Obama clears the ways for the states to move on marijuana legislation, who knows what could happen?

Originally posted on The Hill.

Ray Kurzweil Film Trailer

Just released trailer for a new biographic documentary, Transcendent Man, on major-futurist Ray Kurzweil.



Opens in select theaters in late March. I've blogged in the past about Kurzweil's new university and book, The Singularity is Near.

(h/t Blogging The Singularity)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Late Night Odds & Ends

We just finished staging Vote! today. The last song to stage was the act 1 closer, "I Sell You What," and that went fairly quickly. With the extra time, I was able to run the first 27 pages. Tomorrow we'll stumble through act one, fixing any issues that come up.

-- George Clooney has ruled out running for office in the past, "No. I've slept with too many women, I've done too many drugs, and I've been to too many parties." But, he sure looks like a candidate meeting with Barak Obama and Joe Biden about Darfar. Clooney spoke to the press outside the White House: “They said that they would appoint a full time high profile envoy that would report directly to the president... It's good to hear because there was some concern that this could fall off the radar. . .This would be a huge policy step." Clooney's right, it's good news. The UN has estimated over 400,000 have died in Darfar, nearly the number of Americans who died in World War 2.

-- NY Times says America loves their Obamas, the President's approval is 63%. Michelle is the most popular new First Lady in 28 years, at 49%. At this point, H. Clinton had a 44% approval rating... Just saying.

-- Arnold Schwarzenegger needs to be on Obama's Cabinet. How about replacing Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense. How fucking awesome would that be?

-- Obama just paid for $10 billion dollars in new Science funding.

-- A middle ground on gay marriage? Federal civil unions make a lot of sense.

-- Even Jesus isn't paying the bills anymore. Billy Graham lays off 10% of his workforce.

-- Former Father Charles O'Byrne, Gov. Paterson's former aid who didn't pay his taxes, isn't looking to return to Albany.

Sean Penn Robs Mickey Rourke And Other Milk Thoughts


Last night Sean Penn stole an Oscar from Mickey Rourke. He won a victory because California voters felt bad about Proposition 8. Penn's performance was irrelevant.

Nate Silver called it as plainly as he could last night, "I blame Prop 8." He went into more detail today, "...politics of Sean Penn playing a gay icon in a year where Hollywood felt very guilty about the passage of Proposition 8. The disadvantage is that human beings have all sorts of cognitive biases, and it's easy to allow these biases to color one's thinking." That's what happened here. Milk is, as Andrew Sullivan calls it, a "less-than-stellar gay movie."

Milk is mis-educating an entire generation of gay activists, wrongly convincing them that they need to just be louder and more obnoxious to get the rights for which they are indisputably entitled. They're wrong, of course. We're in an entirely different phase of the struggle now. We're past rioting outside Mormon Temples to prove we exist. People know we exist and we need to show them we're deserving.

Harvey Milk was an inspiring man - the kind we needed in the 1970s. He's not what we need now. We don't need that kind of in-your-face identity politics. It won't work and it's counterproductive.

And Mickey, if you want an Oscar you're gonna have to play an illiterate-transgendered-quadriplegic community organizer in 1930s Berlin. That role has Oscar gold written all over it.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Oscar Night

Yesterday, to catch up on Oscar-nominated movies, I went to see three - The Reader, Doubt, & Revolutionary Road. One of the great things about Bloomington is that movies only cost $5, so my entire day at the theater cost about as much as one NYC ticket.

I enjoyed all three of the films, but I truly LOVED The Reader. I feel sorta ready for this year's Oscars, but I never did get a chance to see Frost/Nixon. Other than that, I'm in pretty good shape.

Nate Silver (the statistician who called the 2008 election nearly perfectly) has Oscar Predictions based on a mathematical formula. I think he's right on everything, except Best Supporting Actress, which I think will go to Viola Davis in Doubt.

I'm looking forward to Mickey Rourke winning tonight. The Wrestler was AMAZING and one of my favorite films of the year. I would have nominated it for Best Picture and Director. I'd also have nominated Wall-E and The Dark Knight for Best Picture. Slumdog Millionaire was damn good, but paled in comparison to the similar City Of God. Now that's a fucking movie.

Follow My Twitter for Oscar Night Details!

Friday, February 20, 2009

David Paterson: With Democrats Like These...


I was a fan of David Paterson when he became governor of New York. He seemed like an interesting, unique guy who would make a solid governor. Boy, was I wrong -- Paterson has been a total and complete failure who is in entirely over his head.

After weeks and weeks of whining about how "Saturday Night Live" treats him unfairly, Paterson defended the New York Post for its racist chimp-shooting carton. Paterson tells us to "move on." One doesn't need to be a genius to see how self-serving his defense of the Post is, after an op-ed of theirs supported the return of the tax-cheating ex-priest Charles O'Byrne as his chief of staff. Because what Albany needs are more cheats and con artists. (O'Byrne's lawyers claimed he had a condition known as "non-filer syndrome," which causes people to not be able to file their tax returns. Not a joke. That was really what they said.)

New Yorkers are aghast at the miserable budget Paterson has proposed. A majority support a progressive millionaire tax, but Paterson would rather put the burden on the middle class. Does he know anything about tax policy? Who is making these terrible decisions for him?

While Illinois's Senate replacement disaster has gotten the most press, Paterson completely bungled finding a replacement for Clinton's Senate seat. He picked an unpopular, Sarah Palin-esque figure from upstate who actually keeps rifles under her bed. I'm serious, it's not a joke. Kirsten Gillibrand's appointment is so un-serious that she's already down 10 points in 2010 primary election polls.

Paterson's poll numbers make congressional Republicans look popular. The same poll showing the weakness of his Senate pick shows him down an astonishing 32 points to New York's popular Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.

If another Hudson Miracle happens and Paterson somehow manages to get the nomination again, he'll almost certainly be beaten in the general by Rudy Giuliani. Paterson may single-handedly revive the New York Republican Party.

Thankfully, he doesn't have nearly enough political skill to actually be elected governor. At this point, it's unlikely he could win a middle-school race for Student Council.

Originally posted on The Hill.

Night Owl / Early Morning Odds & Ends

I'm back from flu land. My temperature is gone and I was finally able to do something outside the house besides rehearsal. I hung with my new friend Quinto, after my dinner at the IU-staple Mother Bears, and we watched the first three episodes of Rupal's new Logo Series Drag Race. It's a drag version of America's Next Top Model, that I sorta loved. It wouldn't work without Ru Paul, but with her it really works.

Rehearsal went great tonight, we're finally getting the chance to polish some of the dances. Today we worked on D-Gates, a song where Muffin (yes, Muffin) and Mike meet and fall for each other outside an airport. In this photo, Eric Anderson Jr. is at the piano, Aly Bloom is in front, and the two-Ms are Jen Saltiel and Justin Klein.

Vote in Bloomington tickets went on sale yesterday and we perform the weekend of March 6th-8th.

The News:

-- The NY Times has a major feature on the RENT California drama. Mr. Martin, the school's amazing drama instructor, describes in some detail his initial conversation with the bigot principal.
He said his principal, Fal Asrani, had objected to the show because of its treatment of “prostitution and homosexuality.” “When I heard that, I stopped her and looked her in the eye and said, ‘First, there is no prostitution in ‘Rent,’ and second, homosexuality is not wrong,’ ” Mr. Martin said. “She made no comment. It was the most demoralizing, disappointing moment in my career as a teacher.”


-- Kathleen Sebelius will make a great HHS Secretary. But, what is Howard Dean gonna do?

-- Obama has a 67% approval rating in the latest AP Poll. The Republicans in Congress are at 33%.

-- I agree with Andrew Sullivan, Obama should give Arnold a job when he leaves office. Arnold should become Obama's top Republican ally.

-- Republican Chairmen Michael Steele is out of his mind.
Newly elected Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele plans an “off the hook” public relations offensive to attract younger voters, especially blacks and Hispanics, by applying the party’s principles to “urban-suburban hip-hop settings.”

The RNC’s first black chairman will “surprise everyone” when updating the party’s image using the Internet and advertisements on radio, on television and in print, he told The Washington Times.


-- Al Franken will soon finally be a Senator. 59 Democrats. Obama will just need a single GOP vote to pass legislation.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

RENT May Go On At Calif. School

I just received confirmation that Ronald Martin, the hero drama teacher at Corona del Mar High School, is putting a copy of the RENT script on bigoted principal Fal Asrani's desk on Monday. He is still pushing to do the show, with the full support of the parents of every cast member.

Asrani will have to read the script, and reply in writing as to her objections. She'll no longer be able to lie to the media about the reasons for not wanting to do the show.

I spoke to a parent of a cast member on the phone tonight, who said that she was feeling very optimistic about her child getting to perform in the show. Apparently the Anti-Defamation League is now involved.

To catch up on this story, read my first and second pieces.

Atmosphere Of Hate In Rent-Canceling High School


Fal Asrani, the principal of Corona del Mar High School who canceled their production of RENT due to homosexual content, has been known to show tolerance toward overtly violent anti-gay hate speech. In January three senior boys posted a public Facebook video calling for the rape and murder of a lesbian student. The several minute long video is especially shocking for the humor the boys find in their threats.

The horrified parents of the girl quickly notified the school's administration of the video and were deeply troubled at their response. The boys were suspended for five days. Earlier in the school year, these boys were suspended for two months for “streaking.” Apparently Asrani believes that seeing someone's bare butt is vastly worse than threats of murder and rape. Go figure.

The girl's parents sent an e-mail to Asrani expressing their regret at RENT's cancellation:


...your administration has sent a clear message that threatening sexual violence is a minor offense punishable by 5 days of suspension (though "streaking" is punishable by two months of suspension); that "gay bashing" (as was depicted throughout the Facebook video) is also merely a minor infraction and one that the school will not acknowledge (and thereby tacitly endorses); and that any attempt by the school community to address these issues in a positive and thoughtful way--a way that would encourage dialogue and understanding (i.e. producing a play like RENT), will be soundly squashed. The gay students who daily brave CDMHS, along with the young women who endure all forms of sexual harassment while you look the other way, deserve more from their school's administration.


Ronald Martin, the school's drama teacher, wrote me, “I knew that there was an increase in hate language and I wanted to do something before it got too far out of hand.” He had a meeting with the parents of everyone in the cast and they agreed to let their children perform.

Asrani now wants the students to perform You're A Good Man Charlie Brown instead of RENT. But, the members of the RENT cast that I've been in contact with haven't given up yet. They intend to push the issue, as they should.

Join the SAVE RENT group on Facebook.

(Correction- The girl in the video that the three boys suggest should be raped and murdered is not actually a lesbian. She is very involved in the drama program and has many gay friends. Several of whom the boys mock in the video.)

Important Things with Demetri Martin

Demetri Martin's new show Important Things with Demetri Martin is really funny. I always thought he was good on The Daily Show, but he's really come into his own with this series.

The below video is of this amazingly funny sketch titled Creedocide, which I laughed very hard at.



I look forward to many more laughs. New episodes air on Comedy Central on Wednesdays at 10:30EST.

(Please note the Comedy Central website is extremely clunky and this video may take forever and ever to load, but it's worth it.)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Joe Biden Sees Billy Elliot On Broadway



Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill recently saw Broadway's Billy Elliot.

I'm a huge fan of the show, saw it two years ago in London. I haven't been to see the NYC production(Comps Anyone?), but I'm sure it's wonderful. It is a very nice thing to have an Administration that values the arts and sciences again.

(h/t Adam J. Thompson for the pic)

Twitter Time


There is no doubt that it's time to join Twitter. The above Alexa graph, the best internet ranking site, demonstrates the amazing exponential growth of Twitter in the last year. I've just started getting into it myself, being the late adopter that I am, so I haven't figured out all the tricks. But, follow me and I'll follow you.

The revolution will be Twittered.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Hill: Killing RENT - Behind the Times and Beyond the Pale


Fal Asrani, the principal of Corona del Mar High School in Newport Beach, Calif., either doesn't like gay people or is an extremely slow reader.

The school was scheduled to perform “Rent,” a Pulitzer- and Tony Award-winning rock musical (and, arguably, the only culturally relevant musical produced on Broadway in the ’90s), as its spring show. Asrani, apparently a huge fan of censorship, wanted approval over the script — already gutted for the high school edition — but needed more than a month to review.

Even so, she had already made her decision on the show, according to drama instructor Ron Martin — "she had already told me that she would not let it proceed because of the homosexuality in it."

Asrani has begun backpedaling, claiming that Martin canceled the show himself and that gay people deserve the same respect as straight people. But her actions clearly reflect her bigotry and ignorance. “Rent” is an important show, and the students should be exposed to its universal themes of love, friendship and tolerance. Asrani, for her part, needs to see this show more than anyone in California.

“Rent” was a huge part of my high school experience; I went to see a national tour in Washington with a local public high school in Maryland in 1998. That was 11 years ago. Just how behind the times in Asrani? A pretty pathetic story — and one you'd expect out of Alabama, not California.

Originally posted on The Hill.

Odds & Ends

I'm on day three or four of this Indiana flu. I think I've seen the worst of it. The only thermometer in the apartment is old-school mercury, so I had to Google to figure out how long to keep it in my mouth. So far my record is 101 degrees... Feeling the burn.

News from my fever-riddled brain:

-- Bristol Palin is almost certainly smarter than her mother. “Everyone should be abstinent . . . but it’s not realistic at all,” the 18-year-old told Fox’s Greta Van Susteren, adding that having sex as a teenager had become “more and more accepted now” among people her age. Teenagers are into sex? Breaking news.

-- Donald Trump, the always overrated joke of a man, has run yet another business into the ground. His Trump Entertainment has filed for bankruptcy protection for a third time. Maybe somebody should give him a show called The Failure, where he goes around putting otherwise solvent companies out of business.

-- The NY Times weighs in: Vitamins don't work.

-- Despite all the reports to the contrary propanolol is not a "spotless mind" drug. It won't erase bad memories. Quoting the guy who actually did the study: "There was no memory erasure, just elimination of the fearful response."

2012 Watch: Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, Jr.

Gov. John Huntsman, of Utah, recently announced that he supports gay civil unions. The "good" people of Utah don't agree with their popular governor, 70% oppose them. Huntsman is not seeking reelection, leaving many to wonder if he plans to run for president as a GOP moderate.

It's not just civil unions, Huntsman is a fan of LGBT legislation in general.

Beyond civil unions, Huntsman also threw his support behind a bill to allow two unmarried, co-habiting adults to sign a "joint-support declaration" to gain inheritance rights and medical-decision making decisions for one another, as well as a bill to outlaw employment and housing discrimination for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

I can actually see how being more moderate on gay issues may help Huntsman in New Hampshire, but fail to see what his path to the nomination would be. Does he think he could win South Carolina in a primary against Palin? Doubtful.

He seems like a cool guy for a Mormon. He speaks fluent Chinese and is a fan of progressive rock, but still goes to the opera.

Part of my continuing series, 2012 Watch.

Monday, February 16, 2009

10PM Odds & Ends

I'm starting to feel better, from whatever coldy allergy thing that I'm dealing with here in Bloomington. Someone told me yesterday that, "If you don't have allergies before you come to Bloomington, you'll have them after." Well, I had them before. So, I guess I have them doubly now.

-- NY Times - Is the conservative Supreme Court out to abolish the Exclusionary Rule?

-- Another liberal pushing for a return of The Fairness Doctrine. This is one dumb issue.

-- Bob Burnett makes a case for the separation of civil unions and religious marriage. No one has ever explained to me what business the state has issuing marriage licenses. Federal civil unions for all. Get married in your church.

-- Wild visualization of Walmart's growth.

-- Focus On The Family spent six-times as much money on Prop 8 as the Mormons.

Stop Kiss - A Play Review

This weekend I saw Indiana University's handsome production of Diana Son's Stop Kiss at The Wells-Metz Theatre.

The production itself was solid and featured a strikingly realistic set by Katie McDermott. One thing that isn't remotely realistic is Diana Son's dated, sitcomy script. The play was first produced in 1998 at The Public Theater, so being theater you have to subtract a decade to find it's real place in the zeitgeist. 1988 makes way more sense than 1998.

Each of the characters struck me as deeply unrealistic for different reasons. The two women, who fall for each other during the course of the play, are strong and intelligent, and it's completely unbelievable they would have such a struggle with their homosexual feelings. The lead, Callie, is a NYC traffic reporter and NYU graduate, living in Greenwich Village. We're supposed to believe that she is totally taken aback by her attraction to her friend? Unlikely.

Two other characters, an angry homophobic cop and a scared odd neighbor don't gel at all with the kind of people you'd meet in the West Village. The play's main event, a gay bashing on the corner of Bleecker and W. 11th Street, is a very rare occurrence and hardly one of the main struggles of urban life.

What makes this worth writing about? Stop Kiss paints an unfair portrait of life in New York City, while billing itself as a "contemporary look at urban life." It's hardly contemporary and certainly not realistic.

President's Day


Lincoln is my favorite U.S. President. I'm a total cliche.

Last year when I read that Obama's favorite book was Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals, I read it right away. I was the only person reading it on last summer's Rosie Family Cruise. It's a terrific book, detailing Lincoln's life and focusing on his experiences with his cabinet.

The book inspired me so much on the whole Team of Rivals idea, that I argued on Queerty that Obama should choose Clinton as his VP. Thankfully he didn't listen to me, because I'm quite a fan of Joe Biden.

I'm excited for The History Channel's Stealing Lincolns Body, tonight at 9PM EST.

Today is George Washington's Birthday. I've read David McCullough's 1776, but not a full biography on Washington - so I just ordered His Excellency by Joseph Ellis. Until that comes in, watch this three minute YouTube Video on Washington that truly made me LOL.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Late Night Odds & Ends


We're nearly halfway done staging Vote!

Yesterday, Aly (my choreographer) and I were staging "Ambition," one of Mark's big numbers. Mark is one of the candidates running for senior class president in the show and is a mix of Alex P. Keaton & Karl Rove. David Coleman, who is playing Mark in the Bloomington production, is a freshman at IU and is doing quite a nice job in the part.

During one moment we had Mark try a crane kick. David knew exactly what to do and it was really funny. But, he didn't know what the reference was from! It made me feel pretty old. I thought everyone grew up on Karate Kid.

-- David Axelrod says Obama plans to lift the ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research sometime soon.

-- Kissing really matters. - "Saliva is like a chemical cocktail, and hooking up may have evolved to help us quickly tell if someone is a good mate or not." And, there is probably more to it than that:
"There may be more to this chemical assessment than just kissing," Fisher said. "I think kissing is the tip of the ice berg. I think we'll find that all kinds of other chemical systems are in play that we don't know about."
Goodbye freewill.

-- We've got a Stimulus Package! More on that tomorrow, but watch SNL go after the GOP this week.

-- NY Times: Five NYC economists on the state of the city's economy. Money quote:
“New York City isn’t like Elkhart, Ind.,” Ms. O’Cleireacain said, referring to a city that President Obama visited last week, one that largely depends on a single industry, recreational-vehicle manufacturing, and where unemployment has soared to 15 percent. New York, she said, “is a magnet for talent: for smart, enterprising, ambitious, innovative people, not only from this country but from around the world. Everyone wants to be here, and I think that sets us apart from virtually any other city.”


-- 71% of Americans believe there should be an investigation by either criminal prosecutors or an independent panel into the actions of the Bush administration.

-- Just what will White Spaces give us?
New cellular phones are being planned that would operate independently of existing networks, and would instead access the Internet through white-space technologies and send and receive calls over the Web. High-definition TV broadcasts and movies can be streamed through white spaces directly to a person's laptop, BlackBerry or iPhone.

"It takes images and sound and sends them great distances with no distortion," said Jake Ward, a spokesman for the Wireless Innovation Alliance.


-- Time's Joe Klein on the Israeli Election.

-- Thank you for the link NY Daily News!

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Hill: Can Bill Clinton Go Away, Please?

Bill Clinton is one of my least favorite people. He's arrogant, classless and was recently on Time magazine's list of people responsible for the economic crisis. Plus, during the primary campaign he was trying to win the World's Most Racist Man Award. Oh, and NAFTA … and welfare reform.

Here are two very recent things Clinton has done to make me dislike him even more:

• Talking about the Fairness Doctrine yesterday on Mario Solis Marich's radio show. Clinton suggested, "We either ought to have the Fairness Doctrine or more balance on the other side." Worrying about the fairness of talk radio in 2009 is absurd. Hey, Bill, when you're done cleaning up talk radio, let’s promote liberal papyrus rolls.

• He's crossing a picket line to speak at a hotel owned by an anti-gay bigot. Look Bill, I know your history with gay people is pretty miserable, from the Defense of Marriage Act (ironic, since you care so little for your own) and Don't Ask, Don't Tell — but it is 2009; you can be more tolerant now.

Go away, Bill. Retire. The Democratic Party will do just fine without you.

Originally posted on The Hill.

David Paterson: SNL Insensitive To Bad Governors


David Paterson is complaining about SNL's treatment of him again. He says the show's continued parodies hurt disabled people not in a position to fight back.

What Paterson doesn't understand is the show isn't making fun of him for being blind. It's making fun of him for being a lame governor. From his bizarre pick of Annie Oakley to represent New York in the Senate to his regressive, terrible budget. Also, it's references to your past of youthful drug use and womanizing are historically unchallenged.

SNL doesn't hurt disabled people not in a position to fight back, it hurts lame Governors who are facing increasingly tough reelection bids. So stop complaining, you're starting to remind me of Sarah Palin.

2012 Watch

Mike Huckabee

During the 2008 primary campaign I though of Huckabee as a sweet, misguided guy. But, now he's getting on my nerves. Huckabee sent an e-mail to his supporters saying: “The dust is settling on the ‘bipartisan’ stimulus bill and one thing is clear: It is anti-religious.”

Huckabee, a minister, cites wording that doesn't allow higher education funds in the bill from being used on a “school or department of divinity.”

In 2008, Mike Huckabee won the Iowa Caucuses, propelling him into the spotlight. He's going after the same voters Palin will need in '12.

Bobby Jindal

Although Bobby Jindal has expressed doubts about running against Obama in 2012, he's taking him on now. Jindal will deliver the GOP response after Obama's address to a joint session of Congress on February 24th.

House Minority Leader John Boehner said that Jindal was chosen because of his "commitment to bringing forth new and innovative ideas." Jindal is a creationist, an idea I wouldn't call either new or innovative.

Part of my continuing series, 2012 Watch.

Early Morning Odds & Ends


I went to bed early last night, so for some reason I had to get up at 5am. So much for catching up on sleep.

Vote! rehearsals are going very well, we're moving right along blocking the show. The cast has been a blast to work with. Here they are, during rehearsal Wednesday night.


-- My thoughts are with the families and friends of victims of last night's plane crash outside of Buffalo. 49 people died.

-- Obama's speech last night honoring Lincoln was a beautiful tribute to the man and the Union that he kept together. Watch it - Part 1 and Part 2.

-- Seattle's Police Chief is on his way to being our next Drug Czar. Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said "He’s likely to be the best drug czar we’ve seen. Not that that’s saying much.” Seattle is a city known for fairly progressive drug laws.

-- Obama is quickly learning that anyone who calls themselves a Republican these days is bound to be useless. Judd Gregg is a childish asshole, who should never have been given the honor of serving in Obama's cabinet. James Boyce has a great idea for Commerce Secretary - Bill Gates.

-- These new special edition extra-Lincolny pennies are really cool.

-- Scientist have taken skin cells and reprogrammed them into heart cells. They actually made them beat in the dish - there is even a YouTube video of it.

-- Google and friends have started a White Spaces group to advise the FCC on starting a database. Mobile internet is about to get really fucking fast. No more 3G bullshit.

-- Designer babies have finally arrived.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Hill: Bad Science

The past few days haven't been good for vaccine-autism conspiracy theorists.

Earlier today, the Special Court of Federal Claims ruled that no evidence existed that the MMR vaccine contributes to autism. One of the judges said that the parents had been misled by physicians pushing the theory, who were guilty of "gross medical misjudgment."

The ruling comes on the heels of The Times of London's report that Andrew Wakefield, M.D, the chief charlatan behind the anti-vaccination movement, fudged his data to reach his discredited conclusion.

Wakefield's lies have made well-meaning parents question vaccinations. The U.S. has experienced large outbreaks of measles in recent years. "What concerns me is the trend of more and more people not vaccinating their children because of fears that vaccines cause autism -- although no studies have proven this to be true," said Dr. Joseph Rahimian, an infectious-diseases specialist at St. Vincent's Hospital in New York City. Kids don't have to get measles; it's outrageous in 2009.

On Tuesday night, Keith Olbermann correctly named Andrew Wakefield the worst person of the day for lying to the world. I was shocked to see him backpedal on the story last night, citing conflicts of interest in The Times's reporting. A bizarre move, more worthy of Rush Limbaugh than Keith Olbermann.

Perhaps Keith got a call from conspiracy theorist RFK Jr. that made him change his mind, or maybe he just hates science. Either way, shame on you, Keith -- you're my worst person of the day for questioning solid and important reporting. (Unlike anything on your entire hour last night.)

Obama has promised to restore science to its rightful place. That means opposing nonsense like creation science, global-warming denial and autism-vaccination links. It's all the same kind of bad science.

Originally posted on The Hill.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Blog Updates

I've just switched over to Feedburner as my RSS Source because it has lots of cool features that Blogger doesn't offer. If you subscribed before, please make sure you switch to this feed: http://feeds2.feedburner.com/ryanjdavis.

If you use a Blogger Account, please follow this blog. It's pretty easy, just browse down the page until you see "Followers" on the left hand side and click on "Follow This Blog." That would make me very happy.

Also, please follow me on Twitter!

Odds & Ends


Last night was my first out on the town of Bloomington and I had a really good time. After we staged eight pages (two songs!) from Vote! in just over three hours, I went to a 21st birthday party and then hit a few frat bars with some new friends. We paid a late night visit to Uncle Elizabeth's, the town gay bar, which was totally empty except for a few scary guys with goatees playing pool.

The picture to the right is me drinking a $2 Peach Long Island Ice Tea. It's rather large and very tasty.

-- Entertainment Tonight ran a preview of Quentin Tarantino's new film Inglorious Bastards and it looks fantastic. The Dirty Dozen meets Kill Bill. See the video here. I can't wait.

-- A new Gallup poll shows that Iranians and Alabamians have the same level of religiosity. Frightening. Vermont, my second home, is the least religious state in America. No doubt I'm retiring to Burlington.

-- One of the craziest things that I've read in a while - "Anthony R. Stancl, is charged with setting up fake profiles on Facebook, the popular social networking site, to dupe 31 male classmates, some as young as 15, into sending him nude photographs of themselves over the last several months." Even MORE: "But, the authorities said, Mr. Stancl did not stop there. In addition, they said, he threatened to release the photos to the victims’ friends or even all of Eisenhower’s 850 students if the youths who had sent them to him did not agree to perform sexual acts he demanded. The tactic was successful, officials said. Mr. Stancl is accused of using it to sexually assault seven boys." How much longer before Facebook requires proof of indentity to sign up? I wouldn't be against it, as it would eliminate some of the weird spam request I receive.

-- We've got a stimulus package and it's got technology's fingerprints all over it.

-- Asshole-loser Norm Coleman has found himself seven new votes. When is this loser going away?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

2012 Watch

The 2012 Republican Presidential Primary is going to bring me great joy. There is nothing I like to see more than a party desperately trying to justify their own existence. Although the January 2012 Iowa Caucuses are a few years away, I'll keep track of the contenders here. A few to start with:

Sarah Palin


Palin is all over the place with ads for her new PAC. This one, which i grabbed from the Drudge Report, has been running nonstop. She also came out against Obama's Stimulus Package on her Facebook Page - which has 497,683 supporters. I consider her the one to beat in '12.

Mitt Romney

I have a soft spot in my heart for Romney. He's super handsome and willing to say or do anything, absolutely anything, to get elected. Plus, as a Mormon, he is extra divorced from reality. Romney is attacking Obama with the best of them (From Time Mag): “I think President Obama is off to a rocky start. The theme ‘Yes, we can’ seems to have been replaced with ‘Well, maybe we can’t.'" He only has 56,353 supporters on Facebook.

David Petraeus

General Petraeus is the one to watch. He's brilliant and in control of a large part of the military. Plus, it looks like he's leaking misleading documents to the media to make Obama look bad. It's unknown if he's running, or just trying to get what he wants out of Obama - either way it's interesting. (He only has 3,985 fans on Facebook.)

Odds & Ends

The first day of Vote! rehearsals in Bloomington was a blast. We've got a great cast up here (comprised mostly of IU students) and I think the show is gonna be lots of fun. I'll try and get some pictures for you all soon.

Lots of Odds & Ends today:

-- Gay City News has a great feature on gay marriage in New York, with lots from Majority Leader Malcolm Smith. Also, a little shout-out to yours truly for my article on Daniel Squadron. (Also, thanks to the NY Daily News for their link last week.)

-- We may finally be able to visit Cuba legally.

-- Christopher Hitchens on Zimbabwe.

-- I'm really fucking disappointed in Chris Brown. I thought more of him. Apparently Rihanna's injuries are "horrific."

-- Huge study out that appears to show that multivitamins may not work at all.

-- Looks like Connecticut voters are finally done with Joe Lieberman.

-- Shepard Fairey, Obama's Hope artist, is fighting back against those assholes at the AP.

-- How awesome is it that Obama called on The Huffington Post's White House correspondent last night? Welcome to the future.

-- Catholicism is back in the dark ages! You can now pay to get rid of sin again.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Odds & Ends

This morning was my first in Bloomington, sadly the local coffee shop doesn't have Wi-Fi, so I'm late blogging. Rehearsals start tonight for Vote! and I'm excited to finally meet finally meet the cast. Last night Eric Anderson, the producer, took me out to Mother Bear's Pizza near IU, it was fantastic and is ranked fourth in the nation by whoever ranks pizza places.

-- Norm Coleman is such an asshole. Not only is he trying to force a revote by continuing to legally challenge the election results, he lost to Comedian Al Franken, and running negative ads like there is still a campaign - now he's saying Jesus is on his side. On Friday, he gave an interview to conservative radio host Mike Gallager - Coleman said he starts every day with a prayer and that he knows “God wants me to serve.” God hates Al Franken.

-- John Glover, who comes from my hometown of Salisbury, MD, is joining the cast of Waiting for Godot on Broadway. Glover is replacing David Strathairn and joins the star-studded cast featuring Nathan Lane, Bill Irwin, and John Goodman.

-- Atheists in London have bought ads on buses proclaiming, "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life." This has upset Christians so much, that they are buying their own ads that say, "Psalm 53: "The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God." The Christian group is apparently spending over $50,000 on the ads. I bet Jesus would rather see that 50k go to the poor instead of boosting the ego of David Larlham, the assistant general secretary of London's Trinitarian Bible Society, who payed for the ads. But, that 50k bought him a few quotes a paper, so finally his life may have some value.

-- The almost bankrupt New York Times published an article on how hard it is to live in NYC for less than $500,000 a year. Fuck you.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Airports


I'm waiting for my flight at Figs, some crappy restaurant near the D Gates at LGA. They made me the blandest sausage, egg, and cheese that I've ever had.

I payed $15 to check one bag. You don't even get ONE for free anymore with American Airlines.

I also had to pay $4.95 for an hour of internet over this Boingo Wi-Fi and it took thirty minutes of my time to find an outlet to plug into. That's an idea for the stimulus package, free Wi-Fi in every airport in America and plenty of outlets.

Maybe O'Hare is nicer.

Early Morning Odds & Ends

I'm up early, getting ready to leave for my flight to Indiana to direct the musical Vote! I'm a little worried about making it through airline security with this orange plastic bag from a Halloween store full of colorful costumes, but I guess it doesn't make me look like a terrorist... just crazy.


Jeff, Kevin,& Me


--Last night Kevin and I went to see People I Slept With Who Never Called Me Back at Ars Nova. The show, written and performed by my friend Jeffery Self, was part of Ars Nova's Residency Encore series and was extremely funny. You missed this run, but Jeffery is one half of YouTube's VGL Gay Boys and blogs daily. So, keep up.

-- This women, a lesbian denied seeing her dying partner in a Florida hospital, is an example of why the gay movement needs to focus on federal civil unions asap. It's not enough to protect gays who live in liberal states. Federal unions are the only way to protect the rights of gays and lesbians in conservative states where there isn't a path to full marriage in the near future.

-- Human cloning is finally viable. "The research is the first step toward therapeutic cloning — making embryonic stem cells from a patient's own DNA capable of replacing diseased tissue, failing organs and even lost limbs. And, theoretically, the same technique could be used to produce a cloned person."

-- Cablevision's internet service continues to be less reliable than the 28.8 modem I used in 7th grade and even makes AT&T's cell service look acceptable by comparison.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Odds & Ends

Thanks to everyone who made it to my going away party last night at Cafe 50 West. It was a great time and a shout-out to Kevin Jacobs for hosting us. Plenty of pictures to see on Facebook.

-- Obama Hope Artist Shepard Fairey was arrested in Boston on outstanding warrants 'alleging the Los Angeles artist tagged property with graffiti.'

-- NYC is loosing it's middle class - "I guess the day of reckoning is finally - and unfortunately - happening. The city that has long been the place of racial, cultural and class ferment is watching its heart - its middle-class - be replaced by the super-rich. Pretty sad, if you ask me."

-- A new poll shows Hamas more popular now than before the recent war. Ezra says: "The question with the war in Gaza was not whether it was right. It was whether it was smart. If you believe that the point was to weaken Hamas and push the Palestinians towards more sensible leadership, it's hard to see how Israel's assault can be judged successful."

-- The Howard Dean for HHS idea is spreading. Sen. Tom Harkin has backed Dean. Now if only we can turn Rahm Emanuel around.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Google Ads Are Funny

The most amusing thing about Google Ads, is when the advertising content is exactly opposite of what it should be. Yesterday, in a piece at The Huffington Post - I brought up the idea of copyright law reform under Obama.

In the article I told the story of my own battle with Mr. Broadway, known to everyone in the world besides himself as Stewart Lane, over using Mr. Broadway as the title for a beauty pageant benefiting homeless gay teens. Mr. Lane has now purchased Google Ads for the search "Mr. Broadway," and one appeared under my recent Huff-Po article.

The ad is for a book he wrote on "Great Theater Plays!" Sounds insightful.

Barack Obama: The Musical




A video from CBS, who interviewed the "creative team" behind the Barack Obama musical opening in London. It looks pretty awful. Oh, Obama's Campaign Manager was a man, not a women with marital problems.

There will be many interesting dramatic versions of Obama's life & campaign. But, this musical in London doesn't look like one of them.

I'm all about Obama inspired art, Joe and I loosely based our upcoming musical Street Lights on the themes of Obama's campaign. We even produced an Obama remix of one of the songs, Miracle, and made a music video.

Huffington Post: Gay Marriage In New York Unlikely in '09 or '10


Daniel Squadron, the twenty-nine year old freshman New York State Senator, is ready to take the lead on gay marriage in New York. Squadron said his goal was, "making this a law as quickly as possible," last night at a meeting of the Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn. He came to discuss strategy with leading activists and received plenty of feedback.

However, Squadron is not optimistic about passing gay marriage in the 2009 Senate session and believes that 2010 will be even tougher, due to the election year. "Looking at the members, it's hard to get to thirty-two votes," he admitted. Thirty-two is the magic number to pass a bill in the New York State Senate.

Squadron is not opposed to attempting in 2009, but said their were basically two strategies. Either, put the bill up in 2009 and risk a defeat or lay the ground work for passage later. "Just making the Senate Democratic is not enough, we need a fundamental change in Senate culture," Squadron explained. He believes that while the Senate is progressing, we aren't there yet.

Laying the ground work for victory, Squadron believes, involves showing marriage opponents "the ways it (gay marriage) leads to a traditional family structure." As well as explaining to members of the Senate the economic benefits Squadron added that, "real resources" need to be spent on changing people's minds in key districts and in the Senate.

Earlier this year I met with New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver at his Manhattan office. He assured us that he'd have the votes to pass marriage again. The Assembly passed marriage in 2007, largely due to member Daniel O'Donnell, an Upper West Side Democrat. O'Donnell, a gay man, personally plead his case to members of the Assembly.

Squadron revealed that the heads of many New York gay political groups are urging caution. One even suggesting that an attempt in 2009 would "kill us."

I believe that ultimately, it's not worth risking defeat in 2009. A major defeat in the Senate would set us back five years or more. We could have those votes as early as 2011 or '12, the way the public support continues to move toward marriage. If we keep winning the hearts and minds.

Outside of LGBT issues, Squadron truly impressed me tonight with his knowledge and support of progressive taxation and affordable housing. He spoke out directly against the change in the term limits law, calling it "obviously undemocratic." I supported his opponent in the primary, but it looks like we may have a rising star on our hands.

--

Ryan J. Davis is on the Board of Directors of the Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn. All views reflected are his own. This was originally written for The Huffington Post.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Huffington Post: Idiot Copyright Holders

Idiots who overprotect their copyrights really bother me.

In 1947 Tennessee Williams wrote a masterpiece of a play, Streetcar Named Desire, which has been a major part of the American dramatic cannon for over sixty years. Everyone has read it or seen it, it's something most of us were forced to read in high school or college.

It's now 2009 and Mark Sam Rosenthal has put together a satirical look at the government's response to Hurricane Katrina through the eyes of Blanche DuBois, Streetcar's leading lady. The play, Blanche Survives Katrina in a FEMA Trailer Named Desire, is a one person drag performance that didn't really work for me - but certainly is not in anyway infringement on Tennessee Williams' intellectual property.

That's not how the copyright holders feel, they sent the producers a cease-and-desist letter stating the performance was an "infringement on the university's valuable intellectual property rights." For some reason Streetcar's copyright is held by The University of the South, which has no interest in exploring their play or creating new work - those silly educationy things. They love money and they set out to stop the production as quickly as possible.

Rosenthal's reaction mirrored mine: "I don't think Tennessee Williams would approve of anything they're doing in the name of protecting his work, not one bit. He was one starving artist, and I don't think he'd do anything to hurt other starving artists."

Beyond that, the whole idea of some university holding the copyright on one of America's most famous and beloved plays and then not allowing people to develop things based on it is absurd. Are these lawyers so clueless that they haven't seen the now famous Simpsons episode lampooning a community theater production of a Streetcar musical? (Which was un-satirically made into a real-life opera for some reason.) Is it really realistic that a play showing in a 99 seat theater in SoHo can hurt their internationally known play's reputation?

I think if they truly cared about the play, they wouldn't have let Roundabout Theater put on that dull revival a few years ago, which caused serious damage to their 'property.'

Even more ridiculous than some southern college claiming to stick up for Tennessee Williams is the AP taking Shepard Fairey to court for drawing a poster. (You know - that world famous Obama Hope one) based on a picture they took. Markos on Dailykos responded, "This is quite the novel claim by those assholes at the AP -- that artwork based on a photograph is now a copyright violation. Not use of the photo, or even use of part of a photo. But that an entirely different work, on a different medium, is now somehow owned by the AP because it happens to be based on that photo."

I'm no stranger to frivolous copyright lawsuits. In 2007, while producing a male beauty pageant with Broadway actors benefiting a gay youth homeless shelter, we picked an obvious name: Mr. Broadway. Little did we know, that some 150 year-old man had trademarked Mr. Broadway as his personal nickname. I'm serious! He sued us and for the last two years we had to use a less convincing title- The Broadway Beauty Pageant. At least he's been made fun of in the NY Post for being such a jerk.

In this era of YouTube and blogs, our copyright laws need some serious work. Something else for President Obama to put on his to-do list. If he's too busy, give it to Lawrence Lessig to figure out.

Originally posted on The Huffington Post.

Odds & Ends

-- Google Earth will now let you explore both the ocean and time! A new historical feature lets you see satellite images from different time periods. From SF Gate: Former Vice President Al Gore, now known for his environmental activism, highlighted the Grinnell Glacier in Montana for the audience of Google executives, partners and press, starting with aerial image from 1991 and then showing subsequent photographs in which the ice field dramatically shrinks in size. "My hope is that people around the world will use Google Earth to see for themselves the reality because of the climate crisis," said Gore, who also serves as a Google adviser.

-- The smell of maple syrup that has been a NYC mystery has finally been solved. Apparently it comes from a plant in New Jersey.

-- The TED Conference, a gathering of brilliant people, is going on now and I'm terribly sad that I wasn't invited. Bill Gates tried to give them all malaria, just to prove a point.

-- Last night's gay party at Northeast Kingdom,a Bushwick first, was a big, big success. I'd like to give a shout-out to organizers Jeff Hnilicka & Scot Bowman for their efforts. The next party is Wednesday, March 4, and every first Wednesday of the month after that. Just take the L train to Jefferson, starts at 11pm.

Singularity University


Both Google and NASA are financially backing Ray Kurzweil's new Singularity University. The nine-week program focuses on topics out of Kurzweil's best-selling books The Singularity is Near & The Age of Spiritual Machines.

The main premise of the Singularity is that the continuing rapid advance of computer technology will lead to a merger of human and computer intelligence. If this is accurate, then computer speeds will have to continue to double every year to eighteen months. Which, is at least true up to 2012, as IBM has recently announced a supercomputer 19 times faster than any previous model.

There are critics who think Kurzweil is overly optimistic, but Ian Douglas backed up Google's decision in a piece for the Telegraph yesterday:

Not so fast. The Age of Spiritual Machines, published in 1999, put some dates next to the predictions so we have something we can test. By 2009, said Kurzweil, computers will connect wirelessly (WiFi), rotational storage will be replace by electronic storage (flash memory rather than hard discs), computers that cost $1,000 would be capable of one trillion calculations per second (achieved in 2008 by an ATI Radeon graphics processor), high resolution displays range in size from a few centimetres across to the size of a book (have you looked at your mobile phone screen lately?), routine business transactions will be done between people and computers (this has been the case for some years), computers would be capable of language translation (translate.google.com is not perfect but it's a useful tool, and Altavista were doing this for years before Google muscled in) and bioengineered treatments for cancer and heart disease will be arriving.

Unless we see a real slowdown in development, I'm siding with Kurzweil and the good folks at Google.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Watching Skins...


I just finished watching season 1 of BBC's Skins, a sexy, realistic look at middle class teens in suburban England, on DVD. The series goes way further than any similar American show at realistically portraying the experience of being a contemporary teenager. It's full of sex, violence, and drugs. All the stuff I remember most from my teenage years.

Some of Skin's characters are new to television. Dev Patel (from Slumdog Millionaire) is Anwar, who trying to find his place in society as both a teenager who wants to have fun and a Muslim. One of his best friends is Maxie (The super cute Mitch Hewer), a gay tap dancer who struggles with his friend's faith more than his own sexuality. One of the most powerful scenes for the first season involves Anwar's conservative father and Maxie. The other characters deal with traditional teen stuff from anorexia to low self esteem. It's great television.

Skins doesn't follow a traditional narrative, each episode focuses on different character and flows freely from story to story. It's the kind of grown-up story telling that teen shows usually don't receive. The cast is uniformly great and you may notice Nicholas Hoult, the boy from About A Boy, is now all grown up and the most popular boy in school.

The show has been quite controversial, apparently British teenagers now throw 'Skins parties' where they do drugs and have sex. My bet is they had those same parties before Skins premiered, under a different title.

Skins has just entered it's third season on the BBC, but for now those of us in the USA can only get season one on DVD. The second season is scheduled for release in the states on April 14th 2009.

Note: In America Skins was shown on BBC America, but it is a Channel 4 Production. Thanks for the note.

Cross Posted on The Huffington Post.