Tuesday, January 30, 2007

They Don't Call Em' Stereotypes for Nothin'

A story out of Clemson, South Carolina from The State: Clemson University President James Barker on Tuesday decried a party where white students mocked black stereotypes by drinking malt liquor and at least one student dressed in black face.

"I was appalled, angered and disappointed when I learned that a group of Clemson students participated in activities at an off-campus party that appeared to mock and disparage African Americans," Barker said. "Many people have been offended and deeply hurt."


Well, it does suck that people were offended by a stupid joke. I can see both sides of the fence here: on the one hand you have a group of kids who thought it would be funny to act out the stupid stereotypes they see on TV. Gold teeth, 40s, baggy jeans and 'fros can be funny on certain people -- white people. That the kids picked Martin Luther King Day for their party is in poor taste, but I don't see racism here.

I'll explain...

I can also see why black students and community leaders would be offended by this, too. As one guest on Paula Zahn tonight said, "humor is meant to be shared, these kids had their party off campus and didn't invite any black people." The logic here of course being that if you can't make fun of someone to their face you can't do it at all. And I support that -- if you call me David the Fag to my face I'll laugh; call me David the Fag behind my back and it's a whole other story.

Nowhere is the racial divide more palpable than in our nation's colleges and universities. Even at progressive, multi-cultural Boston University, my alma mater, I would often find myself being the only person of color in my classes. It didn't matter much to me, but I was definitely aware of the fact that I was in a minority. I can only imagine how these perceived differences can turn into dangerous schisms in the south.

But on the other hand, stereotypes wouldn't be funny if they weren't true. Just check out my new fav video by Lil Scrappy, Rock Yo' Hips, set appropriately in a lush college campus. These white kids got the inspiration for their costumes somewhere, and this video is a good place to start.

No one is really wrong here, just grossly insensitive and misinformed. Now, the white kids are going to have to go through the Michael Richards sensitivity program sponsored by the NAACP, but maybe it's time for the Hip Hop community to look at the message its broadcasting about black America.

Game On!

A nasty pig and a gay conservative liberal walk into a bar...stay tuned for the rest.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Hostile Words From a Nasty Pig...an Invitation, Too

Last week I wrote about an AIDS group that wants the government to stop Pfizer from marketing Viagra. My argument is simple: people must be held accountable for their actions. To go after Pfizer is ridiculous because it opens up a Pandora's Box of targets for people who don't know how to control themselves. You can start blaming anything from HBO to a clothing line called Nasty Pig for the rise of HIV cases -- so where would the recrimination end?

Well, David Lauterstein, CEO of Nasty Pig, doesn't like my thinking. So offended was he at the sight of his company's name within three words of the letters HIV and AIDS on my blog that he failed to see my point: that neither his clothing line nor Pfizer should be held responsible for the results of people's behavior.

Mr. Lauterstein called me out on his blog yesterday and made me the first inductee to his annual Hall of Shame for my "limited" and "moronic" point of view. I'm in some stellar company -- the image above comes from his blog -- and I find it laughable.

Nasty Pig is in the business of pedaling sex and the fantasy of wild, reckless behavior. And more power to them! But if I throw on a pair of their chaps and get into some wild, unprotected behavior to fulfill my fantasy, I can't go knocking on Mr. Lauterstein's door to tell him that his product and the lifestyle it promotes just gave me a deadly disease.

But of course, Mr. Lauterstein, who probably agrees with me and ponders what role his company has in the global AIDS epidemic, can't see that I'm defending his capitalist right to sell and goes on to shoot himself in the foot by saying:

If this guy [GCL] had done his research he would know that Nasty Pig publicly promotes a positive responsible view of gay sexuality while respecting personal choice. He might have read my interview in Instigator Magazine where I discuss my decision to stay negative. He might have asked around and found out that I love having incredible sex with my positive brothers.
Well, I don't subscribe to Instigator Magazine and oddly enough I wouldn't even know who to ask about whom Mr. Lauterstein is sleeping with. But I will read between the lines in his quote and translate:

"...respecting personal choice"-- Barebacking is fine by me
"...I love having incredible sex with my positive brothers"-- HIV isn't the worst thing that can happen to you.

With these pearls of wisdom just floating on a clothing line's blog I am AMAZED that the Board of Health hasn't availed itself of Mr. Lauterstein's unique, insightful opinions on sex and disease.

But Mr. Lauterstein is no punk -- he has enough sense to do a Google Blog Search for his company and that's how he found my blog. I appreciate his comments and his correcting me on the fact that his company has been around since the 90s. Mazel tov!

And I also appreciate his invitation for us to meet "man to man." So Mr. Lauterstein, if you're reading this, I accept your invitation for us to meet. I have some questions for you and I'm sure you have some questions for me. I'm not "coming after Nasty Pig" as you say on your blog, but you've opened the door for what I hope can be a frank and productive debate on the issues that affect our community.

Are you man enough?

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Pan's Labyrinth: The Big Questions

I'm not into warlocks, hogwarts, witches and unicorns, so whenever I see the word "fantasy" in a movie description (unless it's immediately followed by the words Speedos or Brazilian dudes), I look the other way.

I am, however, very much into Spanish cinema. And I am over-the-top into the new film Pan's Labyrinth by director Guillermo del Toro. Set in the time of the fascist revolution in Spain in the 1940s, a young girl stumbles into a magical world over which she is to reign provided she can complete three challenges. It's kind of like The Wizard of Oz meets The Secret Garden by way of
any WWII, Nazi-resistance movie.

Pan's Labyrinth is no children's movie, though. In fact, it's quite Biblical. It questions the merit of obedience and sacrifice and leads the viewer through the more benevolent forms of these concepts all the way to their most violent, hate-filled extremes. For me, watching the trials of the young Ofelia found me asking myself questions about the idea of the garden of Eden, of Jesus' sacrifice and the story of Abraham being asked to sacrifice his only son Issac. Is the biblical notion of sacrifice - of Jesus having to endure the shame and pain of his death here on earth really the only way to expiate our sins? Was it really such a horrible thing that Eve ate from a tree? Why and how is Satan? Some pretty heady stuff for a Friday evening.

I'd go into this further but I don't want to spoil the movie for you. Go see it, let me know what you think, and we'll discuss.

Monday, January 22, 2007

What's Your State of the Union?

In the age of You Tube, it makes perfect sense.

While the country waits for the President's State of the Union address, CNN.com is asking its visitors to upload their own address to the news site.

Sadly, I lost my digital camera a few months ago (though you can send in your thoughts to the site via e-mail, too)...so the following is the script for what would be the most dazzling, cinematic, dramatic, WOW, State of the Union address EVER. Starring yours truly, Mr. Gay Conservative Liberal.

Picture it: a flurry of white rose petals washes over those assembling in the Great Hall. The murmurs of awe and hate make the room tremble. Pearls are clutched, statesmen clutch their wives' hands. In fear. Where IS this country going?

Of course, Madonna, J-Lo, Ricky, Lindsay and Hillary (Clinton) are totally cheering me on and they're leading the audience in anticipatory clapping.

Suddenly, green lasers (yes, very Waiting for Tonight) pierce through the room and a steady drum beat brings everyone to their feet. There is no need to announce me for I enter the room slowly, decked out like one Mr. John Galliano at the Dior show in Paris (pictured above).

I am leading a pack of three Rottweilers, sans muzzles, to the podium. As I make my way down the aisle, avoiding everyone's gaze, marching to the beat of the drum, tugging at the dogs' leashes to keep their gait in step with mine, I realize that power, and this costume, are tedious.

But the show hasn't even begun.

I hand the leash over to a man servant and take the stage. A bedazzled microphone like the ones Mariah Carey uses is handed to me.

It's Showtime (as in the channel) because MY State of the Union Address would be on Pay-Per-View, bitches.

"My fellow Americans, I've kidnapped your leader and turned him GAY.

Because America doesn't need crotch-grabbing cowboys who can't pronounce words like "nuclear" and "radicchio." Cowboys may have won the West, but today's mission of winning the hearts of the world will be won with intellect, with compassion.

And that starts here at home.

If we haven't figured out that democracy equals choice then we have no business trying to "spread" it in other, oil-rich parts of the world.

Let's face it, there are people who hate us and who are dying under oppressive regimes in countries that can't even turn up a dung beetle. And if Osama (the Arab not the black guy) ever got a gun in any of these people's hands we'd all be in trouble. So here's the truth, the war on terror is a pre-emptive move to preserve our greedy way of life.

It is what it is, accept it. Unless you want to wind up your car or your bus or your train to work every five minutes on your way to work in the morning. So get used to it, we're not leaving Iraq until Steve Jobs can create an i-car that runs on the beat of the Immaculate Collection.

When I talk about compassion I mean ensuring that this stupid war that W got us into actually turns into something good for all of us. So I'm asking Congress to appropriate Halliburton's profits and turn it into seed money for the first comprehensive healthcare program for every American citizen.

Because as Americans, we're all part of one big family. And that's why I'm asking Congress to let our brothers marry their brothers. That's right, America, the gay marriage debate ends here. In my American family, everyone is allowed to marry whoever they want. We're going to tax the crap out of you, of course, but fair is fair.

Now, I don't know about you but I think these Evangelicals have got a little too much pull here in Washington. So they can have it! Let's go WAY back to the principles on which this country was founded and bring our nation's capital back to New York City.

And finally, because I know you're all anxious to get to the after-party, I want to talk about immigration.

It's not really a problem for me and that brings us back to my point about making this stupid war we're in count for something. If we're gonna blow up countries with the explicit purpose of preserving our sovereignty, than anyone who is ballsy enough to cross in here and try to raise a family and put them through school deserves a shot at it. Now that doesn't mean I want to see immigrants, or any American, popping kids out recklessly. If you're here and you're working hard that's great, but if you're going to coast by with no education and stuffing your third butt cheek with Pizza Hut you can bet your Payless shoes I'm deporting you and your American-born children back where you came from.

OK folks, I love you all, I love this country. Things are bleek now but not for longer. I want to thank my musical guest Beyonce and I want to thank all of you at home for watching. Good night, and God Bless America!"

Sunday, January 21, 2007

AIDS and Viagra: Excuses, Excuses

From CNN:

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) told Reuters it wants Pfizer to be barred from marketing Viagra as a lifestyle or sexual enhancement drug. The nonprofit organization said Pfizer's actions had led to risky behavior by men and an increase in HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Um, no. While HIV rates may be on the rise among young gay men here in the States, it's hardly because of a little blue pill. Viagra is for dudes who can't get it up just like Sudafed is for people with stuffy noses -- oh, and if you're a meth head, you can throw in some Drano and have yourself a gay old time. So because some reckless people can do some damage with everyday products does that mean companies should stop marketing them?

The real reason why HIV continues to haunt the gay community is because our hyper-sexed, party-obsessed culture has allowed it to. In an age where gay men are over-powered by choice -- you can sort through gay.com to hone in on your dream trick, you can have your goat-cheese burger at Elmo cooked to your prissy specifications and you can bark at a sales clerk to dig up that last pair of rainbow-stitch True Religion jeans -- it's not up to a drug company to tell our community that taking drugs you don't need can lead to bad things.

Call me sheltered, but I see more party ads and naked 2xist models on my walk down 7th avenue than I do Viagra ads. In fact, the last Viagra ad I saw featured Bob Dole.

If the AHF is concerned about people profiting from sex and the pedaling of risky behavior, why don't they go after the guys behind a new clothing line called Nasty Pig? Mind you, I think the company's models are hot, but some ill-informed bug-chasing idiot might just embrace the Nasty Pig mentality and throw on a pair of chaps and his better judgment to the wind.

Dare I say it? Whatever happened to personal accountability?

If Nasty Pig can be the cover story of a weekly gay magazine under the headline "From Swans to Swine," then Viagra should be allowed to sell its little blue pill to trolls, middle-aged men and meth-heads alike.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Pentecostalism Tearin It Up In Harlem

My favorite writer at the New York Times is David Gonzalez, a reporter who writes about Latino life here in the city. His latest dispatch focuses on the Pentecostal church, a staple in any working class Latino neighborhood, along with greasy Chinese take-out and Kennedy Fried Chicken.

Where I grew up in Brooklyn, I was within walking distance of five Pentecostal churches -- storefront places of worship whose members duck out between what seem like endless hours of praise to buy toilet paper and lotto tickets at the 99 cent stores they're crammed next to.

Mr. Gonzalez's piece talks about the church's plight to hold on to its young while still promoting its hard-line views on an ascetic, media-deprived existence. No jewelry, no make-up, no flamboyant colors, no music (unless its Christian music), no television, no, no, no. And they wonder why the kids aren't flocking to the storefront.

For his article, "A Church’s Challenge: Holding On to Its Young, " Gonzalez visits a new church in Harlem. The characters are all too familiar for me: all barely working-class Latinos, a deliciously verbose Pastor who has a crap job by day but dusts himself off for daily hours-long diatribes on redemption and sacrifice, and the stoic, all but broken elderly women who make sure everyone tows the line of penitence and restraint.

In places like Spanish Harlem, Pentecostals and Jehovah's Witnesses compete for converts. I remember making fun of the dilapidated churches I'd see on my way to Kingdom Hall -- me dressed up in a fierce suit clutching my mom's hand as her stilettos clicked down Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn, she'd look at the church and call the people inside ridiculous. While our JW digs were nicer and the presentation was more restrained and scholarly, the message was still the same: separate yourselves from this world, you won't be poor for much longer, everything except this belief system is flawed.

As I write this post I'm gearing up for an all day event for my silly PR job - the suit is pressed and the pointy gay-as-hell shoes are shined. But I'm thinking about other times I used to get up this early to throw some fabulous duds on, back then it was for God, today it's for a healthcare client. My experience in my strict religion taught me discipline and how to dress for success -- I hope these little storefronts throughout the city do half as much for their young.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Too Much Information

First, my apologies for a week-long absence. Internet Explorer, my default browser, somehow stopped being compatible with Blogger and I was unable to log on all of last week. With work being a bit hectic as well, I didn't have much time to troubleshoot either. Thanks to Alejandra, though, all is normal now and I am gracing the blogosphere yet again thanks to Mozilla.

But enough about me (and the fact that two weeks into my resolution to post daily I failed miserably) and on to the news, or rather, the excess thereof...

I process the news in the context of fear. I don't expect to read about chirping birds in Central Park or pillow fights between members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on the front page of CNN or the New York Times. Instead, I have come to expect death tolls and an update on how far Beyonce has come in her 25 years on this earth versus me. And I'm OK with that.

However, journalists seem to operate under a different construct. They neither compare themselves to Beyonce and they fear nothing.

Otherwise they wouldn't go around pouring itching powder into the conflicts that plague our little planet. And neither would the victims of these conflicts, as these people seem especially inclined to just shoot their mouths off at any microphone shoved in their faces.

In reading the news today, I was shocked and annoyed that the Times of London would publish an article listing the ingredients used in the terrorist attacks of 2005. Now, I know the media has done stupid stuff like that in the past, but in the midst of a war that is showing no signs of relenting, is it wise to inform the public, and the wackos in their midst, on how to assemble mini weapons of mass destruction? In an article titled "How high street ingredients 'could become weapons for mass murder'" reporter Sean O'Neill writes:

The ingredients of the July 21 bombs were acquired in the high street and required little more than a rudimentary knowledge of chemistry to make up. The shopping list of the alleged bombers included hydrogen peroxide — widely used in hairdressing — chapati flour, nail polish remover (acetone), sulphuric acid, batteries, torch bulbs, electrical wires, cardboard and half a dozen food storage tubs, Woolwich Crown Court was told yesterday.

Am I overreacting or is this too much information? Who cares what the ingredients used were? The problem isn't how available they are it's how many people know that a combination of certain household items can cause some major damage?

Reports from the war-zone are no better. No sooner are we processing the less than humane execution of Saddam Hussein (I'm against the death penalty but what else could you do with a monster like that? My issue is with the treatment of a man already sentenced to death by his executioners...verbal taunting, slapping...) and we're getting reports that his older brother's head snapped off during the execution.

Wha?? How is the world better off for knowing this bit of information?

Things are no better in Colombia, where the kidnapping of former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt still goes unsolved. From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

Colombia's interior minister said Monday that kidnapped former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt was in good health, reopening a national debate over freeing thousands being held captive by mostly leftist rebels. [...]

Betancourt's mother, however, said she feared the government was planning a military rescue of her daughter - a move that in the past has led leftist rebels to immediately kill hostages.

"What terrifies me is that the government may know where Ingrid is and will launch a rescue mission," Yolanda Pulecio said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Umm, why is this woman's mother trying to sabotage any attempt by the government to rescue her daughter? Shouldn't her misgivings be addressed in private with the president of her country and the people who will execute any rescue operation? What the hell is the AP going to do about saving her daughter?

And finally, just when I was rejoicing over the much-deserved victory of one Miss Jennifer Hudson at the Golden Globes, I caught a commercial for the Today Show announcing an interview with the parents of one of the two kidnapped boys found in Missouri yesterday.

If recounting the horror of such an ordeal with friends and family won't be of help to me, and I feel like reaching out to a disinterested media personality, I'd try to call Beyonce and tell her all about how my son was kidnapped and holed up with some dude for five days. She won't care any more than Meredith Viera, but hey, she's Beyonce. But then, who would cover the story? BET? I'm not black...

So what am I getting at here?

The news is full of too much fluff and fear mongering and there are way too many people who think national television is an appropriate vehicle through which families can process trauma. Editors are becoming increasingly unethical and scandalous in what they peddle as news -- telling people how to create bombs is the equivalent of screaming fire (or, if you were Beyonce, Ring the Alarm) in a crowded movie theatre.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Ashley X: Compassion or Convenience? Fox News Sucks, BTW

Interesting story out of Seattle: The parents of a mentally-disabled girl who cannot speak, move or feed herself have opted to begin treatments that will stunt her growth and leave her child-sized for the rest of her life.
I came across this story through my friend Alejandra and what struck me about it is the question that it raises about what I would do if I had to care for a disabled child whose mental development will not advance beyond infancy.

First, I didn't know such a procedure was possible, but basically, Ashley will remain the size of a six-year-old for the rest of her life. This, her parents say on their blog, is intended to improve Ashley's quality of life.
In reading through Ashley's parents' blog, where they refer to children with their daughter's disease (Static Encephalopathy or permanent or unchanging brain damage) as "pillow angels," I get the impression that they have come to a decision that takes the best interest of their daughter and their family into consideration. They're not planning on disposing of their child, instead they're looking for the best way to keep their daughter under their care and make sure she has the best quality of life possible.

Of course, some media, like the Los Angeles Times (who broke the story) and the BBC have taken this story as an opportunity to discuss euthanasia and other medical ethics issues. The Fox News Channel, pandering to simpler minds, posted a piece called "Forever Young" on their site and featured a picture of Peter Pan with the opening: "Ashley X is not a character from Peter Pan, but like the Lost Boys, she too will never grow up."
Clearly, this issue defies catchy headlines and should really provoke questions about how we define humanity and quality of life -- for both the infirm and those who care for them. It's one thing to talk about the terminally-ill and permanently-disabled in the context of sympathy -- but where does that get us in the day-to-day grind of caregiving?
From what I understand about the approach taken by Ashely X's parents is that this is the best way for them to keep their daughter in their family and allow her to live her best life. In her childlike state, Ashley can experience the world around her without the added stress of hormonal changes and other issues that surround the transition into adulthood. And yes, this arrangement is of benefit to the family, who wants to care for their daughter as best they can. It's one thing to move a six year old around, but what about an immobile adult?
What do you think of this?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

What America Needs: Compassion

...we're all born with it but it's beaten out of us by the time we reach kindergarten.
I know America's children need health care and education, but if our leaders took a refresher course in the most basic of human values, I think this culture war, and other battles we're so embroiled in, would fall to the wayside.
Check out this article from Jane Meredith Adams, a reporter for Parenting.com, featured on CNN.

And you don't need to embrace the problems of the Third World to show your humanity and decency, you don't even have to jump in front of a speeding train to show the world you're a decent person. But allowing everyone to live their best life and accepting that in spite of differences everyone is entitled to love, happiness, freedom and health, you're setting in motion the phenomenon of compassion.
And that's what we all need right now.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Send Pat Robertson to Guantanamo

Pat Robertson's bff, God, has told him that our country will be beseiged by a "mass killing" in September of this year.

In the meantime, Robertson's terrestrial cohorts at the American Family Association are hard at work boycotting the Ford corporation for "its support of the homosexual agenda." And it would seem that the hate and fear mongering are making strides in Massachusetts, where gay marriage now stands to be revoked by the state's legislators.
Not that Pat is saying that the September 07 blood bath is divine retribution for our country's wanton homosexual ways -- YET -- but the Christian right's fervor in the midst of a Democrat upset in Washington is reaching a fever pitch. So here come the warnings, the protests, the talking heads on the Fox News Channel, and bla bla bla.
I'm all for the sanctity of life, marriage and the family. But here's what I want to know: Doesn't war break up families? When you send young men and women to fight overseas aren't you hurting a mother and father somewhere? Doesn't war kill?

So why aren't the talking heads even lamenting the death toll in Iraq? Forget about justifying the war, what about lamenting the fact that human beings are dying on a daily basis. And for what? Do we even remember why we're in Iraq?
Back to the homosexual agenda.

The Ford corporation is being attacked because it buys ad space in The Advocate and Out, both gay magazines. A bunch of losers in Massachusetts are celebrating on the steps of Capitol Hill because they've denied people they don't even know the right to start their own families. Meanwhile, no one sees anything wrong with Army recruiters hitting up young people in disadvantaged communities across America.

Where am I going with this rambling post, you may ask. Well, I'm shouting out people's selective convictions.
? Abortion is murder but war is a "pre-emptive measure."
? The institution of family is sacred, but gay marriage, an attempt at the creation of family, is an "abomination."
? The free market, not big government is going to be the salvation of America, but buying ad space in a publication you'll probably never read calls for kicking an American company in the nuts, hurting its sales and ultimately threatening to put other Americans, maybe even good Christians, out of jobs.
Beware of false prophets, people. The Christian right is taking on a new form, it's playing Nostradamus, it's tetering on the dark side, and it is making some huge moves to shape our nation's course.
I propose a pre-emptive measure: let's send Pat Robertson, who could very well be making threats against this country, down to Gitmo until October of this year.

Gerald Ford, and Spirit of Bi-Partisanship, Laid to Rest

Learned a few interesting things about Gerald R. Ford over the weekend. Dare I say it, I even started to like the man.

Disappointed with the direction the Republican Party has taken under the Bush administration, Ford himself was against the war and was not a proponent of letting faith inform policy.

I was especially pleased to learn that Mr. Ford was respected for being a man of the House first and a Republican second. He promoted a spirit of cooperation in Congress and was more concerned with uniting our country in the midst of the Vietnam War than with finding more issues to deepen the schism between the people and our government.

It's interesting what hours and hours of funeral coverage will teach you about a man. Some great things have been rightfully said about him, but they were also marred, for me, by watching Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld serve as pallbearers - they're the antithesis to cooperation and unification.