Gay Voices - November 20, 2013 - 9:52pm
Why do we do it? Sex, I mean. Once we have freed ourselves from idiotic biblical notions and the dictate of procreation, the question is: What is all that hugging and stroking good for, other than feeling good? Does it serve a purpose other than the satisfaction of bodily urges?
I believe that sex is an expression of creativity, and that creativity is our way to immortality. All these blowjobs are aimed at one thing: becoming immortal. Is that too great a leap? Let's go back a step.
The secret to understanding modern lives unencumbered with traditions is entelechy. I didn't invent that. Entelechy is a brilliant idea that old Aristotle came up with while watching young people around him. It was Goethe's favorite philosophy. Leibniz loved it too and turned it into the concept of monads.
In a nutshell, entelechy means having a goal, a purpose within ourselves. As living, breathing human beings, we are enough. We carry within us the seed of all that we'll ever become. Our purpose is to develop it -- and that's where being creative comes in.
Entelechy is also a movement to perfection, or the search for it. My life is beautifully concerned with becoming a better writer. I've always had it in me, and I love exploring this creative facet of my personality. At its best, it will earn me immortality.
The basest form of creativity is procreation. Having children also gives us some kind of immortality. Procreation is the easiest form of creativity and accessible to most.
On the other end of the scale is genius. Genius happens when the creativity is so strong and so well-developed that the creative output becomes more important than the creator. Think of Mozart and Shakespeare. Their lives and loves and whether or not they had children are irrelevant. They have reached the ultimate goal of human existence: immortality.
Humans have a right to immortality. Building a religious construct around the idea, derived from a legend, and promising immortality in exchange for good behavior, as most religions do, is simply cheating. All humans have the seed of immortality inside them. We don't need a god to develop it; we just need inspiration. In this sense, religion is exactly how not to reach immortality.
So back to sex, which is why you started reading in the first place. Jean Genet already said that each sex act brings us closer to immortality. I believe that he is right. We strive for beauty and happiness, and some of us seek it in sweaty congress. That's perfectly admissible in my philosophical universe.
Some people are born to be singers, writers, philosophers, or bakers. Others are born to have sex. They are so good at it and share so much of themselves with others that the perfection of that skill is their path to immortality.
Sex can easily be dismissed as just a fleeting fulfillment of desire, but shagging every dude on your dating app will indeed gain you a form of immortality: You are sharing yourself, your body, and hopefully your soul. You are passing on part of your creative spirit to the other person. Done right -- and by that I mean unselfishly, not just simply trying to fulfill your fetish needs -- sex can be a wonderful gift to another person.
Categories: Culture Wire
Gay Voices - November 20, 2013 - 9:28pm
A United Methodist minister from Pennsylvania has been suspended from the church for 30 days after marrying his gay son to another man. In addition, the Rev. Frank Schaefer was told that he will lose his credentials if he violates any church rules in that time period. But a defiant Schaefer remains unrepentant and refused to promise that he wouldn't perform more gay unions.
In studying mental toughness training for the last 28 years, I've discovered that every one of us has the capacity to be mentally tough. The problem is that most of us don't know how to access our toughness, and as a result, people who are operating from a weak state of mind are vulnerable to bullies and bigots. That's why critical thinking demands that the mentally tough stand up for the people who aren't strong enough to stand up for themselves. And that's what people like Rev. Schaefer are doing.
The Rev. Frank Schaefer is a hero, yet the church has decided to scold this man for doing the right thing -- the same thing that every other church leader in America and around the world should be doing: joining two people who love each other in matrimony regardless of sexual preference.
Rev. Schaefer said, "The church needs to stop judging people based on their sexual orientation and we have to stop the hate speech. We have to stop treating them as second-class Christians."
The nation's largest mainline Protestant denomination does accept gay and lesbian members, but it rejects the practice of homosexuality. Is this not akin to allowing blacks to attend school with whites but insisting that they drink from separate water fountains? I guess we can call it "partial bigotry."
The church is hailed as this great, loving community that welcomes "everybody" to celebrate God -- everybody except for gays and lesbians, apparently. What kind of loving community is that? Would Jesus really endorse this kind of behavior? It's time for the church to stop fighting the LGBT movement. It's never going to win. It's hard to blame people who lived during the Dark Ages for not applying their brain power or using their critical thinking skills, but in the 21st century it's just embarrassing.
Even Pope Francis has shown some acceptance of the LGBT movement quite recently. He said of gay people, "Who am I to judge?" And not long after that he said, "The church's pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel."
Schaefer testified that his son had heard hateful messages from the church and the culture around him that told him that he isn't normal or valid and labeled him a freak. And that's the crux of the problem right there: Think of all the televangelists and other anti-gay leaders who have driven so many members of the LGBT community into therapy, swallowing anti-depressants and even committing suicide. Religious leaders claim that marriage can only be between a man and a woman, and that's why they are against gay marriage. This is another far-right fabrication. The real reason that they're against gay marriage is that it would make gay couples equal to straight couples and remove the stigma that has been cast upon homosexuality.
Critical thinking in the case of Rev. Frank Schaefer is simple. The man is a loving father who did the right thing by supporting his son -- and after all, a loving parent is the backbone of the Christian faith. Schaefer is also a leader to the gay community. And most importantly, he should be treated as a role model and a refreshing change for the Christian community around the world. Suspending Schaefer is ludicrous; if anything, he's entitled to a promotion.
If the United Methodist Church in southeastern Pennsylvania eventually defrocks Rev. Schaefer, it would be a great shame. This is a man who can teach the church and the community real life lessons about love, compassion and doing the right thing.
Categories: Culture Wire
Gay Voices - November 20, 2013 - 8:47pm
"From now on you'll be history!"
So says the Munchkin Mayor to Judy Garland's Dorothy. Foreshadowing? In my opinion that would be an understatement!
"Someplace where there isn't any trouble? Do you suppose there is such a place, Toto? There must be. It's not a place you can get to by a boat or a train; it's far, far away, behind the moon, beyond the rain...."
Those are the lines that lead into the song that has become synonymous with the then-16-year-old Judy Garland. They are the very words that helped catapult her into a life and career that surpassed mere celebrity into that rare (and nonexistent these days) realm of "legend."
When I was a young gay boy (in the making), The Wizard of Oz was my introduction to La Garland. That special night somewhere around Easter time (and, coincidentally, my fifth birthday), when my godmother sat me down in front of the TV set, was one of those rare and wonderful childhood moments that never leave you. Many people have similar stories. It is perhaps why I have always been opposed to the marathon showings of the film that have become a normal part of TV programming in the last 10 years. When I was growing up in the '80s and '90s, The Wizard of Oz was always an event -- and now, at 75, it still is!
For most films, hitting a 50th or 60th anniversary would receive little to no hoopla. However, where The Wizard of Oz is concerned, well, as the Wicked Witch of the West says with devilish glee, "Why, my little party's just beginning!" Seventy-five years after its initial release, MGM's 1939 film has been given another makeover, another re-release: For just one week audiences have been able to experience the marvelous land of Oz in 3D! (Actually, the re-release has been extended for several weeks in a few markets across the United States, albeit not in 3D.) Yes, the men and women at Oz's Wash & Brush Up Co. have been working twice as hard to polish up what is in all probability the most beloved and most watched film ever made. Warner Bros. crafted all of this in time for the Blu-ray release on Oct. 1, 2013, a limited edition of 220,000 boxed sets.
It would seem that Oz fans are split down the middle when it comes to a 3D rendition of the beloved film. Most cling strongly to the old adage, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!" It raises the question: Does The Wizard of Oz, a film that has been captivating moviegoers for 75 years, really need a 3D makeover? Many believe that the restoration was just a gimmick to milk more money out of the film's loyal fans and audiences, and sure enough, they have spent hundreds of dollars over the years on various VHS and DVD box sets, all boasting a new and improved land of Oz for your viewing pleasure.
Well, here's my personal experience. My husband and I attended a 3D screening of the film a short time ago, and as always, it did not disappoint. It was admittedly sparsely attended for a 9:30 p.m. showing; notably, not as many families were present as I had expected. There were several teenagers, but the majority of the audience consisted of gay and straight couples ranging in age from their 20s to their 50s. My one fear was that this 3D makeover would somehow undermine that innocence of a Hollywood gone by, but that was not our experience. The 3D effects work very well, especially in the high-action moments. The tornado that picks up Dorothy's Kansas farmhouse seems to spin out of the screen! The deadly poppy field almost blossoms before your eyes. Those winged monkeys swooping through the haunted forest do feel as though they are about to enter the theater. Margaret Hamilton's terrifying Wicked Witch of the West is even wickeder. The standout benefit of the 3D version, for me, was that it made me appreciate even more the lovable comic performance of Bert Lahr, though another favorite moment (I have several) is when Dorothy walks toward the camera before her big song; it seems as though you could reach out and touch her, but of course, this was the case before the 3D effects were added.
For the record, there was never anything one-dimensional about Judy Garland or her performance as Dorothy Gale, nor about any of her performances in her film career, for that matter. Those who saw her in concert and live on stage always maintained that the star had the incredible ability to make each person in a room full of thousands of people believe that she was delivering her performance to him and him alone. She always gave you the sense that you could reach out and touch her. She would chat with audiences from the stage as if they were old friends or dear family members. They would shout out song titles from her repertoire for her to croon or belt. She once said, "Well, we've got 'Over the Rainbow,' but that's the end of the act!" But in 1939 that song was just the beginning for Judy Garland.
Miss Garland and The Wizard of Oz have very much been in the public consciousness over the last year and half thanks to several Oz-related works and projects. Disney's Oz the Great and Powerful offered what I consider a highly imaginative and very entertaining prequel to the classic 1939 film. Director Sam Raimi, and especially the artistic department, tried very hard to recapture that "land that we heard of once in a lullaby." On the other side of the spectrum, there's the tabloidy and insidiously fictionalized, half-dimensional musical play End of the Rainbow, which played in New York and Los Angeles. Its portrayal of Judy Garland could best be summed up by the Tin Woodman of Oz: "No heart! All hollow!" Perhaps Warner Bros. could drive away that miasma of a show by continuing to run The Wizard of Oz in movie theaters. If for no other reason than that, this re-release of The Wizard of Oz is crucial to the preservation of Garland's legacy -- "Ah, that's what she was really about."
We all know the urban myth about Judy nearly losing her signature role of Dorothy to child star Shirley Temple. In all honesty, this is something that has been blown out of proportion over the last several decades. But it does make for good copy and good drama and adds to Hollywood mythology and showbiz lore -- something that Garland herself would become all too aware of in her lifetime.
It is not urban legend that the Arlen/Harburg tune "Over the Rainbow," Garland's signature song, was in fact cut from the film early in previews, after much protest from MGM executives. "They said it took up too much time with this fat little girl singing it," Garland would quip to Oz co-star Ray Bolger on her 1963-64 CBS series. The star held the song in great regard and gave the CBS TV executives a good "what for?!" when they suggested that she parody it on her TV series. Let us keep in mind that these were the same men who forbade her to sing "Battle Hymn of the Republic" following the assassination of JFK because, they explained to Garland, "in two weeks no one would even remember who John F. Kennedy was!" Uh, yeah, right! A few shows later comedian Carl Reiner would inform the 4'11" powerhouse, "Lady, you'll live to be 80, and they'll still say" -- pinching her cheeks -- "'Dorothy! Oh, Bubala!'"
So what is the everlasting appeal of The Wizard of Oz? The answers are probably as long and as endless as the yellow brick road itself. It starts with the often-forgotten and unsung hero L. Frank Baum. Without Mr. Baum's classic American fairy tale, there would be no MGM film, and that's just the simple truth of it. He wrote to please his children and wound up touching the child in all of us. Mr. Baum was the J. K. Rowling of his day, firing up the imaginations of children worldwide, who sent the scribe imploring letters begging him for more stories about Dorothy Gale and Oz. Mr. Baum is finally getting his due with a comic rendering of his life via Bluewater Comics. But without question, Garland's performance takes a lot of the credit. Crucial to that performance was the direction that the young actress received from one of the films directors (there were four), George Cukor, who told her to remember that she was just a little girl from Kansas. That being said, the film is an ensemble piece, and everyone involved worked tirelessly and from the heart.
Of course, part of the answer lies in the film's old cliché: "There's no place like home." However, for so many displaced LGBT people who don't fit the mold and/or are not understood by their families, it is perhaps more about the family that Dorothy finds in Oz, those individuals whom she meets and befriends during her journey through Oz to the Emerald City. Her companions are different, unusual and unique, and yet she loves and protects them just the same, no matter how many fireballs she has to dodge or how many winged monkeys are ready to fly in and carry her off, and they return that love in full measure. Still, in the end, she wants to go home and is forced to choose between the two. In Baum's book Dorothy gets to have it both ways, as she returns to the land of Oz (which is not just a figment of her imagination as it is in the film) on several occasions and eventually lives there with her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry, "over the rainbow."
As a Judy Garland tribute artist, I can tell you that no matter what else I do my act, "Judy Garland Live in Concert," nothing ever really tops the section of the program when "Judy" talks about Oz. With some prompting from my stage manager, "Judy" hesitatingly inquires, "Do you really want me to talk about Wizard of Oz?" The question always inspires a hearty, resounding "yes!" Most audiences know the stories about the randy and rowdy munchkins who tugged at Judy's skirt, and some know that Judy's three companions nudged her out of the group and into the background as they danced down the yellow brick road. Still, the tales always get a laugh. Audiences love to join in on a singalong rendition of "We're Off to See the Wizard." Everyone always seems to be waiting for that moment when "Judy" sits down to sing "the song." It's a very gratifying and rewarding moment, and it has little to do with me: It's all about their love for Judy. That one song takes them back to that moment when they first saw the film. Like its star, The Wizard of Oz is timeless.
Earlier this month two new books and a graphic novel about the film hit the stands. Bluewater Comics released L. Frank Baum: The Creator of The Wizard of Oz. Also released was The Wizard of Oz: The Official 75th Anniversary Companion by William Stillman and Jay Scarfone. This tome is an update of their previous pass with John Fricke for the film's 50th anniversary. Not to be left out, Mr. Fricke himself wrote a new book, The Wonderful World of Oz: An Illustrated Guide to the American Classic. Mr. Fricke once related to me that at a Judy Garland concert sometime in the late '60s, Judy asked her audience, "What else would you like to hear?" A small voice muttered something from the audience, but Garland could not hear, so she asked, "What song did you want to hear, darling?" The voice of a young child, now more audible, said simply, "Yellow Brick Road." Ever obliging, Judy replied thoughtfully, "Oh!" And with no orchestration to back her up, she began to sing, a cappella, "Follow the yellow brick road! Follow the brick road! Follow, follow, follow, follow, follow the yellow brick road!" After a short pause, she exclaimed, "Yes, I was Dorothy!" eliciting an "oooh!" and "aaah!" of delight from the crowd.
Of course, there's nothing past-tense about it. Judy Garland was, is and always will be that Dorothy. I truly believe that that is part of the lasting appeal of the film. There will always be a little bit of Dorothy in all of us, longing for adventure, eager to escape the sepia Kansas of our everyday lives, but in the end always wanting to go home, whether we are gay or straight. And whether it's the family we were born into or our chosen family, the ones who love us, who impart their wisdom and give us courage, are our home. And whether you're gay or straight, there is no place like home.
Categories: Culture Wire
Gay Voices - November 20, 2013 - 6:51pm
CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation Wednesday allowing same-sex weddings starting this summer, making President Barack Obama's home state the 16th overall — and largest in the nation's heartland — to legalize gay marriage.
Speaking in front of thousands at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Quinn said the new law ensured that "Illinois does not have a situation where individuals are discriminated against in any way when it comes to love and marriage." Illinois, where Democrats lead both legislative chambers and the governor's office, legalized civil unions in 2011, but the road to same-sex marriage was bumpy.
When 2013 began advocates hoped Illinois would've been the 10th state, but watched as other states passed it. Gay marriage is allowed in Washington D.C., and 15 other states; Hawaii's governor signed a measure last week.
Even with support from top business leaders, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the state attorney general and even a few top Republicans, several lawmakers were resistant to the idea. That included even Democrats in more conservative downstate Illinois and some Chicago-area lawmakers.
"We've realized that to have a forward-looking state, you cannot have backward-looking laws that discriminate against good and talented people, regardless of their sexual orientation," Emanuel said at Wednesday's ceremony.
The measure was fought hard by some of the state's most well-recognized religious figures, including Cardinal Francis George of the Archdiocese of Chicago and the Rev. James Meeks, a former state senator who runs a politically-influential mega church in Chicago.
Meeks was part of a coalition of black pastors who said marriage should remain between a man and woman and sponsored robocalls in several legislative districts and on the airwaves. The opposition placed black lawmakers in the House in a spotlight and several evaded public inquiries on the matter for months.
But proponents launched an equally aggressive campaign with help from unions, the former head of the Illinois Republican Party and the ACLU. They billed the measure as a matter of civil rights and equality for families.
The measure passed the Illinois House earlier this month by a narrow margin 61-54; It needed 60 votes to pass.
Although Illinois once appeared poised to become the first Midwestern state to approve gay marriage in the Legislature, Minnesota did it sooner and started holding its first same-sex weddings over the summer. Iowa allows gay marriages too because of a court ruling, not a legislative vote.
When the law takes effect June 1, same-sex couples can begin applying for marriage licenses. And Cook County —the state's most populous — has even said it'll be open for business that day even though it's a Sunday.
There's a small chance weddings could take place before then; Legislation is pending that could change the effective date to immediately. Lawmakers aren't expected to gather for regular session until the end of January.
Follow Sophia Tareen at https://twitter.com/sophiatareen.
Categories: Culture Wire
Gay Voices - November 20, 2013 - 6:42pm
Jessica Pope is a sophomore at Lindblom Math and Science Academy, is a member of the poetry team/club and expresses herself in Louder than a Bomb. She participates in The OpEd Project's Youth Narrating Our World.
This week Illinois Governor Patrick Quinn will sign into law a gay marriage bill that will make it legally possible to marry a partner of the same sex. At the same time, Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Ill. Is calling for an "exorcism" for the "sin" of this legislation.
As a gay teen, I am not evil, but now I am equal.
Because of this law, I will be able to hold hands with a partner of the same-sex and make a commitment to marriage in the future. Now that gay marriage is set to be legalized in Illinois, joining 15 other states where such unions are legal, more Americans are realizing that everyone is equal.
A Gallup poll earlier this year showed that the majority of Americans -- 54 percent -- agreed that same sex partners should be allowed to marry. That number is exactly double the percentage of Americans who had the same opinion in 1996. This year, fewer than 46 percent of Americans said same sex marriage should not be valid.
Studies show that 8 to 9 million adults identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. So millions are affected; millions who deserve a chance at happiness.
Everyone has the right to happiness. The possibility of this law being signed in our state brought tears to the eyes of many of my friends who are teenagers just like I am. We are teens who are gay and we are happy because we are finally being accepted for our preference in a partner of the same sex.
Happiness is something that everyone dreams to have. If the law allows you to marry and the majority of America agrees with you, you would feel accepted like you belong in that place you would call home.
We can finally say we are proud to live in Illinois.
It has been observed that it is slightly hard for teens to find relationships with other gay teens because of not feeling accepted for who they are. But now that we can marry when we are older, we are more able to express ourselves and the love for the person in a way just like a heterosexual couple would.
The Human Rights Campaign report "Growing up LGBT" showed there are many difficulties arising for teens from not being accepted by people or cultures around them. Nearly 57 percent of LGBT youth says that churches or places or worship in their community are not accepting of LGBT people.
Also nearly 50 percent of LGBT youth say the community they live in is not of accepting of LGBT people. Imagine how you would feel if you weren't loved or accepted for whom you are by the people around you.
Gay youth who are homeless account for 40 percent of the homeless population. Homelessness is a struggle for many teenagers not having a place to eat, sleep, and do daily things a "normal teenager" would do. At least one homeless youth, Jay Tedhen, knows how it feels. She lives by her word that it will get better as time moves forward.
That feeling of acceptance is bittersweet. The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States reports that 75 percent of Americans ages 18-34 are more accepting of LGBTQ. By the next generation you can say being LGBTQ would be even more acceptable to many Americans.
When my friends and I heard the news recently that the legislature voted to make same-sex marriage legal and that all was left was for the governor to sign it into law, we let out hollow sobs filled with feelings of bliss.
We feel for the many people who have died from suicide or bullying just to show we are equal. Moving forward, we are uplifted that the law states our love is the same love that others feel. We are finally able to say, "I do."
Categories: Culture Wire
'We Are Empowered' Campaign Proves That Everyone Struggles With Bullying.. But Anyone Can Overcome It, Too (PHOTOS)
Gay Voices - November 20, 2013 - 6:37pm
Mackenzie Koffenberger wants the world to know that bullying comes in all forms.
Her new online campaign, "We Are Empowered," shows that "nerds and skinny kids" aren't the only ones targeted by bullies.
The result is a powerful series of images, growing everyday, that touch on issues like race, sexual orientation, and body image.
"The idea is to share your story with people who don't know you," Koffenberger, a 21-year-old senior at the University of Pittsburgh, told The Huffington Post in an interview. "But they know how you feel."
Most importantly, her project illustrates that overcoming bullying is more than possible.
These brave people are proof of that:
Visit We Are Empowered's website to submit your own photo and help combat bullying.
Categories: Culture Wire
Gay Voices - November 20, 2013 - 6:18pm
The first key hurdle in implementing a law that would legalise same-sex marriage in Scotland has passed the Scottish Parliament, with MSPs backing a change in principle by a huge majority of 95-15.
The vote followed a rancorous debate, highlighting the controversial nature of the legislation with a small but vocal number of politicians, including members of the SNP, opposing the law, arguing that the rights of faith groups were ill-recognised in the bill and that the definition of marriage was not a matter with which the state should tamper.
One Labour MSP even said it had been suggested to her that she be burned at the stake as a witch for voicing her opposition to the bill. However, the Health Secretary Alex Neil struck a more representative tone, arguing: "In a country that aspires to be an equal and tolerant society, this is the right thing to do."
Neil added: "It is encouraging we have secured the support of Parliament at stage one of the Bill and that we have agreed the general principles. It is an important step on the journey but we will continue to work closely with the Parliament as the Bill goes forward."
The minister said that safeguards have been built in to the law, adding that the terms of the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill allow religious bodies to opt in to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies.
Alex Neil MSP speaking during Stage One of the Marriage and Civil Partnership Bill
More from the Press Association:
Politicians were given the opportunity to vote freely, not having to toe any party line. Among those voting No were Scottish Government ministers Roseanna Cunningham and Fergus Ewing, joined by four SNP backbenchers, eight Conservatives and one Labour MSP.
Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, in a highly personal speech in favour of the Bill, spoke of her experience growing up as a gay woman denied the opportunity to marry. "I don't want the next generation of young gay people growing up, as I did, believing that marriage is something they can never have," she said.
"We have the opportunity with this Bill to change that, and to change the attitudes and even the stigma that being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender can still evoke and which can cause so much harm."
Young gay people are made to face guilt and shame, she told MSPs. "At the moment we tell them you're good enough to serve in our armed forces; you're good enough to care in our hospitals; you're good enough to teach in our schools, but you're not good enough to marry the person you love and who loves you in return," she said.
"We tell them you're something different, something less, something other and that marriage, that dream, that gold standard, that does not apply to you - you don't get to have that."
Labour MSP Elaine Smith spoke strongly against the Bill, and was the only one from her party to vote No. "Since indicating that I did not intend to support the redefinition of marriage, my religion has been disparaged, I have been branded homophobic and bigoted, I have been likened to the Ku Klux Klan, and it was suggested that I be burnt at the stake as a witch," she said.
Questioning the strength of safeguards in the legislation, she said: "MSPs have a responsibility to ensure that to the best of their ability they are not introducing legislation with consequences, albeit perhaps unintended, that will negatively impact on society. I hope that MSPs have not been bounced into voting yes for fear of being branded homophobic, because they signed a pledge, or because they have not reflected on all of the arguments presented to the Government or the committee."
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But her party colleague Jackie Ballie commended the Scottish Government for taking forward the Bill. "For many of us, this is about how we see ourselves as a nation and how others see us - about the values that we hold and whether Scotland is indeed a confident, progressive nation where equality is truly valued," she said.
Three Labour MSPs abstained - Hanzala Malik, Michael McMahon and Siobhan McMahon. SNP member John Mason voted against the Bill, warning that Parliament is "not reflecting public opinion". He said: "I do not seek to impose Christian values on what is an increasingly secular society, neither do I seek to restrict rights of anyone in society. "I do seek equality for each person in society, but I remain unconvinced by the assurances given, and therefore I will vote against the Bill."
His SNP colleague Marco Biagi drew on personal experience, saying he could only conclude he was "different" and "less deserving" when he was growing up. "When I came out, it was the time I stopped looking at those around me and wishing I was the same as them, and instead started to wish I had the same rights as them," he said.
Green leader Patrick Harvie said he is in "impeccably neutral territory" on the issue. "I'm single, I'm bisexual, I've no idea whether I'll have a long term relationship with a man or a woman in the future and I've no idea whether I would want to get married," he said.
Harvie dismissed some of the arguments against the legislation as spurious, silly, mischievous or curious, but warned against ignoring other "serious" arguments. "They should be confronted and defeated because they assert, whether they do so in religious terms or any other, they assert basically the lesser worth, the lesser dignity, the lesser status or the lesser value of LGBT people and our relationships," he said.
"These arguments are serious and should be defeated, they deserve to be defeated." Lib Dem Jim Hume said: "Today's vote was a big step forward for equality and a move towards the fairer Scotland that we all want to see."
Ruth Davidson gave a personal speech about her experience growing up as a gay woman
Tom French, of campaign group the Equality Network, said: "This vote is a huge step forward which will send out a strong message that LGBT people are equal and valued members of our society. While there is still more work to do to improve the bill and ensure it becomes law, LGBT people across the country will be celebrating this significant milestone in the journey towards full equality."
Rev Dr Alan Hamilton, from the Church of Scotland, said marriage is between one man and one woman. "Until any future General Assembly of the Church of Scotland decides otherwise, that remains our position," he said. "But our commitment to care for all people, gay and straight is no less. We stand against homophobia.
"We also recognise that there is a widespread public opinion about whether legalising same sex marriage is the right thing, and that spread of public opinion is reflected among members of our congregations across the country. One thing is very clear and that is there is not unanimous support for this legislation in Scotland.
"As the Bill progresses through Holyrood, the Church of Scotland will continue to be a constructive voice in the national debate about it. We would also seek robust and detailed legal assurances and protection for those who do not wish to conduct same sex marriages as a matter of conscience. The Church is conducting a wide-ranging review of marriage but there are no plans on the table for the Church to stop conducting marriages."
Categories: Culture Wire
Gay Voices - November 20, 2013 - 6:14pm
Transgender model Carmen Carrera stopped by HuffPost Live today and discussed her fans' petition to have her be the first transgender Victoria's Secret model, as well as the transphobic comments surrounding her transition coming from the mainstream media and various entertainers.
Carrera specifically addressed the jokes she says were made about her gender identity by comedian Chelsea Handler, as well as comments made by Miss Universe that transgender people should have their own beauty pageants.
“It’s time for a change. It’s time to embrace women from all walks of life," Carrera told HuffPost Live.
Check out the clip above to hear Carrera discuss the petition to have her become the first transgender Victoria's Secret model and watch the clip below to hear her respond to Miss Universe's transphobic comments.
Categories: Culture Wire
Gay Voices - November 20, 2013 - 5:24pm
Scott Bradlee's collective of musicians, known as Postmodern Jukebox, is famous for re-imagining pop songs in different genres, and they never cease to amaze.
You might remember how they transformed Miley Cyrus' "We Can't Stop" into a 1950s doo-wop track, or how they changed Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" into a bluegrass hit.
Well, when they saw that Lady Gaga had beat them to a jazz version of her latest hit "Applause," the group had to up the ante, and give Gaga a run for her money.
Check out this 1940s rendition of "Just Dance," which has become "Just Tap Dance," with the help of tapper, Alex MacDonald and voice talents of Robyn Adele Anderson.
It's hard to decide which version is better.
Categories: Culture Wire
Gay Voices - November 20, 2013 - 5:21pm
"The Gay Agenda" is a new web-based talk show in which a panel of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals discuss and deconstruct their own views about the "gay agenda" and what their specific identity means to them.
Hosted by four diverse members of the LGBT community, the talk show also seeks to critique mainstream notions of gay identity and the LGBT movement, and discuss what it means to be a part of the queer community. Tackling pop culture, politics and matters of the heart, the group is made up of a business adviser/film producer, a member of the Chicago improv community, an organizer for far-left progressive issues, and an expert in social media.
"Our vision with 'The Gay Agenda' is to recognize that, in some ways, we are the stereotypes," the show's hosts told The Huffington Post. "We have great fashion sense, or at least our own sense of fashion, we can re-arrange a room in seconds and make everything work, and we can throw a theme party that would put the best school room mothers to shame. But we also push through the obvious boundaries that portray the LGBT community as a monolithic segment of society –- through interviews with political leaders and celebrities, we illuminate the different perspectives on current issues, creating a deeper understanding."
Released earlier this month, the second part of the first episode of "The Gay Agenda" can be viewed above, in which the panel discuss identity, relationships, and the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. For more information on "The Gay Agenda," visit the series' website.
Categories: Culture Wire
Gay Voices - November 20, 2013 - 5:21pm
I am ashamed of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people right now. We've had a great tragedy in our community, and few of us have reacted with even an ounce of the effort we've put into the fight for marriage equality.
Islan Nettles, a beautiful 21-year-old innocently walking with her friends, was confronted by a group of men yelling transphobic and homophobic slurs. Those slurs quickly escalated into a brutal punch that was so hard that it knocked Islan unconscious and later led to her death. The man accused of this crime just had the charges dropped. He walked away free.
Haven't heard about this? Haven't seen your lesbian, gay, and bi friends posting about it and changing their profile pictures to raise awareness about this injustice? Maybe that's because Islan was a trans woman.
I do not identify as transgender, nor do I claim to be an expert on transgender issues, but I am a gay man, and that makes me a member of the LGBTQ community. A great injustice befell a member of my community. I cannot sit on the sidelines when transgender people have stood beside LGBs throughout countless battles for equality. Have we not failed when there is no community in community organizing? We must stand together.
Many of us can relate to the constant fear of walking down the street and being targeted by someone who hates us merely for who we are. We all could have been Islan Nettles.
I am calling on all members of the LGBTQ community to raise awareness of this heinous act. Nov. 20 is Transgender Day of Remembrance, and there are hundreds of opportunities worldwide to memorialize and raise awareness of anti-transgender hatred and prejudice.
Prosecutors aren't acting quickly and have already allowed a speedy trial time of 90 days to pass on charges brought against one of the other attackers. Someone's life was taken away from them at the young age of 21. We must become conscious of this injustice and demand a fair and accurate trial.
It is our responsibility as members of this community to stand together and raise awareness in honor of Islan Nettles.
Categories: Culture Wire
Gay Voices - November 20, 2013 - 5:07pm
Owen Smith shared his emotional story of being assaulted for being transgender in an emotional interview with HuffPost Live.
Smith, who is now the Community Programs Manager at Equality Utah, recalled the 2002 incident, which he says began "because of a misunderstanding and a mistaken identity" in a Baltimore grocery store.
After being taunted by a group of teens as he neared the checkout line, Smith said he was exposed by one of the teens as being transgender, who began taunted him with anti-trans slurs before attacking him.
"Even today, I don't like going to the grocery store during the day by myself," Smith, who noted that the suspects were never caught, "I'm really self-conscious whenever I'm in a public space; I'm really mindful of the way that people look at me and the way people treat me."
Categories: Culture Wire
Gay Voices - November 20, 2013 - 5:07pm
NEW YORK -- When Delores Nettles heard that charges had been dropped against the young man accused of assaulting her daughter, she was hopeful.
"It's a waiting game right now," Nettles told The Huffington Post Tuesday after learning of the district attorney's decision. "But I think they're working hard, I've seen them canvassing in my neighborhood," she continued. "And I don't want my baby to die in vain."
It had been three months since Nettles' daughter, a 21-year-old transgender woman named Islan, was walking with friends in the early morning near her home in Harlem when they ran into a group of young men outside a police precinct. A fight ensued, and Nettles, who was knocked to the ground and beaten by one of the young men, slipped into a coma. A few days later, she died.
Since then, her family and transgender-rights advocates have decried the response from the police as inadequate, and condemned the district attorney's decision to charge a suspect with a misdemeanor assault and not homicide.
But on Tuesday, the DA's office restated its commitment to solving the case, and bringing a murder charge once it gathers sufficient evidence, either against Paris Wilson, who was charged with the misdemeanor in the case, or another man, also identified as a suspect.
At a court hearing Tuesday, Assistant District Attorney Nicholas Viorst announced that the misdemeanor charges would be dropped and that the crime is being investigated as a homicide, not as a misdemeanor. "The case has turned out to be a uniquely complex one," he said. "We continue to actively investigate this case in the hopes of ultimately holding the person responsible for this crime accountable."
Family and a handful of activists gathered outside the criminal courthouse were encouraged by the DA's statements. The office's decision to drop the misdemeanor charges paves the way for homicide charges to eventually be filed, they said. Although there is now no suspect in custody, Nettles' supporters felt more confident about the investigation.
"Oh, I still feel like crying," Nariko Wright, the organizer of a small rally outside the courthouse said. "But I think it's going in the right direction now."
Earlier on Tuesday, Wright said she thought the investigation was "botched," and several other transgender-rights advocates gathered concurred. Nettles' case was not unique, they said, she was just one more young transgender woman whose murderer was not brought to justice.
"Our life expectancy is only 25 years," said Brooke Cerda, who was holding a sign that showed images of six security cameras near the scene of the crime with a message for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.: "Vance says the perp can't be identified ???" The DA's office is not discussing any additional details of the case publicly.
According to the Anti-Violence Project, an advocacy group that tracks hate-crime statistics, more than half of all victims of anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender hate crimes in 2012 were transgender women, a percentage that has increased steadily over the past three years. Transgender women of color, like Nettles, are especially at risk of violent attacks.
"And who do we have to support or protect us? Nobody, nothing," Cerda said.
Categories: Culture Wire
Gay Voices - November 20, 2013 - 5:01pm
LOS ANGELES (AP) — NBC says Robin Williams, Whoopi Goldberg and William Shatner are among those joining Kelly Clarkson's holiday special.
The special, titled "Kelly Clarkson's Cautionary Christmas Music Tale," is also set to include country stars Blake Shelton, Reba McEntire and Trisha Yearwood, NBC said Wednesday. The show is a comedic musical approach take on the meaning of Christmas, the network said. In the story, Clarkson schemes to boost her popularity with a holiday special but ends up learning an important lesson.
The featured songs are from the Grammy-winning pop star's newly released Christmas album, "Wrapped in Red," with classics including "Silent Night" and "White Christmas."
Other guests include Danica Patrick, Heidi Klum and Jay Leno. Clarkson's special is set to air at 10 p.m. EST on Dec. 11.
Clarkson, 31, also had personal news to announce this week. The original "American Idol" winner said she and husband Brandon Blackstock are expecting their first child together.
Clarkson and Blackstock were married last month. Blackstock is the son of Clarkson's manager, Narvel Blackstock, and McEntire's stepson.
Categories: Culture Wire
Gay Voices - November 20, 2013 - 4:51pm
The team had decided yes. The player had decided the same. It was set. It was going to happen. An NFL player was going to publicly say he was gay and then play in the NFL.
Categories: Culture Wire
Reuters Environment - May 21, 2013 - 6:03pm
MOORE, Oklahoma (Reuters) - Rescuers went building to building in search of victims and thousands of survivors were homeless on Tuesday, a day after a massive tornado tore through a suburb of Oklahoma City, wiping out whole blocks of homes and killing at least 24 people.
Categories: Culture Wire
PopSci - May 21, 2013 - 5:30pm
Microsoft Xbox One Microsoft
MicrosoftAt last: a game console that doesn't require gaming.
"PlayStation" is a literal description of what you do with it: it's a station at which you play. Nintendo has released systems with "game" in the name--Game Boy, GameCube. But Xbox doesn't mean much of anything. Originally it stood for, in charming Microsoft fashion, "DirectX Box," as it used the familiar DirectX graphics technology. Now? It's just a box. Who knows what it does?
And that's fitting, because the Xbox One, newly announced today, is barely a games device.
Of course I'm going to get one. But I would have loved to have seen one game I could get excited about. #XboxReveal
— Kumail Nanjiani (@kumailn) May 21, 2013
Microsoft spent the first half of the Xbox announcement on non-gaming elements of the system. People tuned in, excited to hear about the first new Xbox in eight years, and Microsoft talked about voice control and motion sensing navigation, the addition of live TV, Skype integration, a new guide that lets you search by show/actor/genre, how to connect your cable box to the new Xbox, and a new TV show from Steven Spielberg. After all that, there were some games, but even the games were tempered with non-game parts; the new version of Madden NFL has a fantasy football integration, the new Halo will have a standalone TV show exclusive to the Xbox.
This is all because the Xbox isn't a games console: it's Microsoft's living room device. This generation, there are only two consoles on the market that cater to hardcore gamers (the Xbox and the PS4). Microsoft already has locked down a fair number of exclusive franchises, and isn't trying to reinvent the gaming wheel, which makes the Xbox unlikely to fail. That means this isn't really a battle; Microsoft doesn't have to beat Sony at all. It'll sell plenty of consoles and games by just cruising. The real game is to get non-gamers to buy Xboxes, and the Xbox One is a ridiculously high-level entertainment device.
* * *
Let's say you don't play games at all. Not your thing! But you are an American, and as such you spend hours and hours a day watching TV and movies. And because it is 2013, and the new season of "Arrested Development" is only available on Netflix, you have to have some kind of way to connect your TV to the internet.
Your options: use a "smart TV," which are usually designed in a way that couldn't be less smart, or get a box. Roku and Apple TV are the two most successful; they are very small boxes that cost around $100 and have apps to watch things.
Or: the Xbox One. The Xbox integrates your existing cable box or, presumably, HD antenna, so you don't have to use multiple remotes or switch between inputs. It has a pretty guide for this input. It has a web browser and Skype, which neither Roku nor Apple TV have. It has more apps than the Apple TV (including HBO Go and Amazon), and integrates with your computer, tablet, or smartphone (provided you're using Microsoft products) better than Roku. It has a crazy-futuristic control scheme; you can turn it on by talking to it, you can navigate by waving your arms, you can yell at it and the thing listens and obeys.
And, of course, if you want to play games, it's good at that, too.
It'll be more expensive than $100--we don't know how much yet, but $350 or $400, with the Kinect, wouldn't be surprising--but you get so much more. It makes existing media devices seem like little toys from some decade past. I wouldn't be at all surprised to find a well-used Xbox One in a house with no games--it's a tremendously capable and forward-thinking gadget even without that element.
Categories: Culture Wire
PopSci - May 21, 2013 - 4:58pm
It will be powering smartphone apps by the end of the year too.
IBM's Watson computing platform made a name for itself on Jeopardy, but its incremental roll-out into the real world has been no less impressive. It has worked in finance at Citi helping to assess risk and at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center sifting through medical cases and data to help oncologists make the right diagnoses. Now the supercomputer is rolling out to the masses as a computerized customer service agent designed specifically to help customers connect with the information they want at a variety of firms in a variety of businesses, including Australian finance house ANZ, at media ratings maker Nielsen, and at Royal Bank of Canada.
This new offering of Watson, known as IBM Watson Engagement Advisor, will give customer service transactions a layer of cognitive computing help, leveraging Watson's unique skills to make those transaction go more smoothly. Those unique skills include Watson's ability to understand context and to learn as it goes, giving it far deeper insight and the ability to return far more meaningful answers than a simple Web search can.
The reason Watson can do this is because it is more or less designed like a human brain. That is, where a Web search is great for finding certain blocks of text out there on the Internet or sifting through structured data sets, Watson works well with unstructured data, or data that hasn't been organized into a database. Web search can find you a snippet of text within a sea of words as directed by the terms of your search. Watson can understand both the nuance of your question and the context of the text surrounding your potential answer, wherever it lives out there on the Web. As such, Watson's answers tend to be more meaningful.
On top of that, Watson can learn as it goes. So imagine Watson working alongside your financial planner. Your planner asks you questions, you answer, Watson remembers your answers. Watson is also sifting through an Internet's worth of financial data as well as your specific financial data, looking at your transactions and the economy in your city and state and the global economy and several anecdotal, unstructured stories and opinion on the municipal bond market, in which you have invested a meaningful portion of your savings. You can ask your advisor a specific question about your portfolio and its prospects for the near term, and he or she might have to get back to you with the answer. Watson can put a good answer in front of the both of you instantly.
And it doesn't stop there. Beyond being a client-relations assistant, IBM is also bringing Watson directly to the masses via an "Ask Watson" feature that offers help to customers via various channels, including email, text, and chat. Considering nearly half of the 270 billion customer-service-related calls go unresolved every year, Watson's cognitive ability could go a long way toward alleviating load stress on call centers and in resolving customer service issues (imagine calling the help desk only to find you can't get a live person on the phone and you still get to walk away satisfied).
IBM Watson Engagement Advisor will roll out with a handful of companies (including those listed above over the next few months, during which it will be evaluated for a variety of tasks (ANZ will use it to evaluate insurance portfolios to help customers determine where they are over-insured and where they are exposed, while Nielsen will roll it into the software tools that help its clients in media planning figure out where to buy their ad space) before being released into the larger ecosystem.
Keep an eye on it, as it will likely grow into something larger, and quickly (IBM says the first Watson-powered consumer apps will emerge later this year). Imagine a voice-activated Watson assistant that understands your linguistic nuance and learns from your past queries what to expect in the future. In other words, imagine a Siri that really works.
Categories: Culture Wire
NY Times Technology - May 21, 2013 - 4:53pm
Categories: Culture Wire
PopSci - May 21, 2013 - 4:30pm
Xbox One Microsoft
MicrosoftToday Microsoft unveiled its next-gen console. Some of the rumors turned out to be spot-on. Others, not so much.
Today, Microsoft unveiled its new console, Xbox One, from its headquarters in Redmond, Washington. There's still going to be news coming out between now and another announcement at E3 in June (which we'll be at), but this is what we saw so far.TV, TV, TV
This is just barely a gaming console. Microsoft is pitching it as something more like a Living Room Entertainment Box. For about half of today's presentation, no games were even mentioned; instead, Microsoft opted to show the ways Xbox One is integrated with TV. It functions sort of like an amped-up Google TV: it's a command center that hooks up to a cable box and allows you to control what's happening on TV through gestures and voice control. You can switch between TV, games, and a web browser--all through a single system. Say "Xbox on" and the console fires up, then "Switch to TV" or "Switch to internet" and it flips over.ALWAYS ONLINE
One big, controversial rumor was that the Xbox One would require an internet connection to play any games. That's turned out to be both true and false. Your games are downloaded to the console's hard drive, but certain features in certain games may require an internet connection. It's up to the game-makers to decide if they want to use those.
But there are apparently some restrictions on used games. The first time you use a game, it gets tied up to your Xbox account. If you want to move that to other accounts, you'll need to pay a fee.NEW LOOK
This is actually a pretty major departure from the Xbox 360's design at launch. The controller, as predicted, looks fairly similar, but the sleek black console-box is a far cry from the white-and-green 360 we saw before a black version was adopted. That makes sense: after all, if this is something meant to work as more than just a console, it needs to be able to disappear in the living room.NEW HARDWARE
The Xbox did get a bump in power (obviously): it'll have 8GB of RAM, USB 3.0, a fancy Blu-ray player, and an HDMI in port, but more interesting is probably the overhaul of Kinect. The Xbox's motion-sensitive camera looks like it'll be better at picking up movement, with a 1080p camera replacing the lower-res VGA sensor of the last generation. Microsoft also announced that the gadget would automatically respond to a specific user's voice and movement patterns. In other words, it knows you, and just you. Apparently that new Kinect is a mandatory feature, too.GAMES
This is last for a reason. For better or worse, Microsoft seems to be backing off the idea of a console devoted only, or even mostly, to games. Even an announcement seemingly about the popular Halo game series ended up being an announcement about a live-action Halo TV series.
There's a racing game (Forza Motorsport 5) and the new Call of Duty: Ghosts (in a promotional video, they made a big deal out of the game featuring a dog, for some reason). There's also a partnership between Microsoft and EA for a slew of sports games, including the next edition of the popular FIFA series. More original franchises, they say, are on the way. We'll probably see more when Microsoft takes to the more game-centric E3 next month for another announcement.
Categories: Culture Wire