Tuesday, February 24, 2009

About Sean Penn's Oscar Win

Brilliant show this past Sunday's Oscars, no? Hugh Jackman, all smiles, muscles and dexterity, starlets aglitter in paillettes, diamonds and tears (forced or not), men in tuxes - it's delicious, much-needed fantasy for a beleaguered American, hell, global population. (Incidentally, people who poo-poo the Oscars were never held as infants, or so I think anyway).

Monday morning, of course, is all about post-show recap with my girls (male and female) at my PR place of employment. The one question that came up in our chats: why didn't you blog about Sean Penn's Oscar win?

Oh, right, Sean Penn. I hate him, right? Ack.

OK, here goes:

I caved back in January and went to see Milk. James wanted to see it and hell, I'm a gay man and should support movies that tell our stories, even if I may not like the politics of their cast. (Besides, as a Gay Conservative Liberal I've had to make many of these concessions in order to remain employed and socially viable in New York) I loved the movie and I thought Sean Penn lost himself in the depiction of Harvey Milk - brilliant acting, which is what we would expect from Mr. Penn.

My issue with Sean Penn has never about his acting chops. It's about his ballsy, uninformed and callous support of Hugo Chavez, whom I still consider the greatest threat to civility and democracy in the Western Hemisphere. Harvey Milk's refrain, "I'm angry," sums up the sentiment of the people of Colombia who have had enough of the Communist guerrillas looking to disrupt their country's progress for the past fifty years, most recently with the support of Hugo Chavez and his "Bolviarian Revolution." That Sean Penn, an avowed citizen of the world, would ignore the international call against Chavez and Colombia's FARC groups and instead write a glowing epistol on the dictator, is offensive and un-American.

Still, did Sean Penn deserve the Oscar? Absolutely. As political as the Oscars are they are, on paper, a celebration of acting and nothing more. But I did have a hard time swallowing Penn's acceptance speech chastising this generation for their support of Prop 8. The gay rights movement is not a communist movement, and that our visibility is tied to Sean Penn really irks me.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Yes, It is Racist to Compare Obama to a Chimp

Nazi Propaganda against Jazz -ca.1935

Right Wing Propaganda - 2009

Just throwing my two cents into the discussion about the NY Post cartoon where president Obama may or may not be depicted as a chimp: while conservative bloggers are telling people to get over it, many people - including yours truly - are offended. Historically, the image of chimps and apes has been used to dehumanize black people - the folks at the NY Post must have known this and decided to sink to the lowest depths of political mudslinging by moving forward with Sean Delonas'cartoon.

This reminded me of my days as an intern at Nickelodeon when I used read scripts of "Dora the Explorer" episodes to pre-schoolers around the city to test content. Once the scripts were approved, they'd be recorded by child actors. A very cute Latina read Dora's lines, and a very cute black kid was enlisted to read the lines of Boots, Dora's monkey sidekick. The poor kid never made it to the studio, though, as the research director at the time pointed out that it wouldn't be in good taste to have a black kid depicting a monkey. Another actor was found, and the black kid was cast as another character.

But back to the Post. It's to be expected that the conservative tabloid would try to rile Democrats and liberals to pit themselves as victims of a new agenda that's out to really silence the silent majority. That Al Sharpton has taken public umbrage only plays into what I'm certain is a well-orchestrated PR stunt by the paper - even if people are offended by the cartoon, they probably reasoned, more people are offended by the spectre of Al Sharpton, so they'll tune his words out just to tune him out. And so more tasteless, racist content can be put out as long as president Obama is in office.

Let's just remember the boycotts and CD burnings that took place in 2003 when the Dixie Chicks front woman Natalie Maines said she was ashamed that W was from Texas. This honest, unambiguous expression of free speech nearly cost someone her career but now, six years later, a cowardly, juvenile "shucks, I didn't think anyone would be offended" cartoon is permissable and should be applauded. Riiight.

What bothers me most about this cartoon is its timing. We have a black president presiding over the worst financial crisis in history - whatever unresolved issues our country has with race can bubble to the surface in nasty, violent ways. I fear that, I've written about that, and I think this cartoon is the precursor to more affronts to decency and human life.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

On Venezuela: Does the World want our Brand of Democracy Anymore?

On Sunday, Venezuelans voted 54 to 45 percent in favor of lifting term limits for their country's politicians, including president Hugo Chavez. Woe the tide of dictatorships that can sweep over Latin America, which has always teetered on the brink of totalitarianism. As Venezuela reshapes its constitution to accommodate a dictator, one has to wonder: does the world want a U.S. and western European brand of democracy anymore?

It's shocking and saddening that a once vibrant and cosmopolitan country like Venezuela is shrinking into the desperate seclusion of countries like Cuba and Iran. If a U.S. model of democracy is ever an option for a people, why wouldn't anyone opt for that? Ask the people of Vietnam or Iraq for an answer - clearly, not everyone thinks our way is the best way to govern.

Does Venezuela, or the world, deserve an unencumbered Hugo Chavez grandstanding for time indefinite? As the world tries to move forward, past a global economic crisis and the threat of nuclear armament by rogue regimes, can we tolerate the presence of the swashbuckling Hugo Chavez, preening for media attention and sabotaging every attempt at fairness and democracy on the world stage?

The answer, of course, is no. However, the world is sending us a clear message: Our way doesn't work for everyone.

And that's a challenge the Obama administration seems ready to take on. We can't compromise our values and we can't applaud the agendas of Chavez, Castro and other dictators, but we can certainly promote dialogue with the hope of winning hearts and minds, and limiting the impact individuals like Chavez have on the rest of the world.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Life of Panic and Shame

Rarely do I feel bad about the things I do. I smoke, I drink, I don't give a **** what y'all think. Actually, I only drink (in polite company) (polite, is a loose term) but this is a line from a track I like so I thought to cite it here. Anyway, the spectre of world events has forced me into a corner of self-reflection and I don't like what I see.

New York, as I see it, is a ghost town. The stores are empty, restaurants are empty, and people have a look of white-knuckled, quiet panic about them. Conversations with friends, even the twentysomething set, aren't brimming with laughter and possibility (martinis after work? corner office by 30?) instead, everyone is "busy." So no weekend dinners, no boozey nights after work, everyone is busy. Busy panicking.

Like me, for instance. Fresh off my jet set weekend in Puerto Rico I'm looking at my bank statement and I'm saying to myself "how could you be so stupid? The world is falling apart and you're paying $12 for margaritas? You're pushing 30 and live in a rental - what is the matter with you, man?"

Then, in the middle of a frantic work day, I skim the New York Times and find an article bemoaning the plight of down-sized finance types who just can't live on $500,000 a year in this town. I almost sympathized with the characters in the story...and I shop at H&M (sometimes)(OK, a lot). I feel guilty for spending, I feel stupid for thinking I had it made at 25 when I moved in with James and left communal living in the past. What will become of me now?

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Tweeting from San Juan thru Monday

I'm in San Juan this weekend soaking up the sun and tweeting here and there. Follow my adventures with James and Pam on Twitter at www.twitter.com/davidperez212

Thursday, February 05, 2009

White-Collar Rage and Power Suits: No More Mr. Nice Guy

It's hard to say how "nice" any of us would be if we had our hands tied behind our backs and our heads on a chopping block. As this is the condition that many, many Americans in the corporate world find themselves in, it's to be expected that all manner of civility at work or on the subway, or anywhere where you're likely to find more than one human being, is going to erode fast.

Ever heard of "white-collar rage"? Details magazine did a story on this last month and it states that men are especially freaked out by the economic crisis and that they are lashing out in the sissy-est of ways. Printer slamming, shoving, cursing - causing scenes at Starbucks when they're cut in line - the corporate A-hole whose swagger made up for his jerk ways is now a PMS-ing, rage-a-holic bitch.

Truth: last night a young lady told me about how a middle-aged man, dressed in a suit and tie, literally ran up behind her on the subway, SHOVED HER, and said "you did that to me at the top of the stairs, now I'm doing it to you." And seeing as New York women don't put up with ish, my homegirl shoved the dude back, only to have him LUNGE FOR HER THROAT.

Suits and ties, lunging for throats, shoving and screaming.

Yes, people, times are getting harder.

Now, seeing as I work in PR I'm used to bitchy behavior, it can be the up-and-down assessment of your outfit when you walk into a meeting or the thud of a PowerPoint presentation being dropped on your desk as someone mumbles the words "fix it" at you. But now I'm noticing straight up rage coming from pansies who are way overpaid to update their Twitter and Facebook accounts - just a few weeks ago some (very senior) dude cursed me out when I asked for a document that only he had access to! Now, if this were (what's left) of Lehman Brothers, or some other testosterone-driven environment, I'd laugh it off, but I work in the business of "girl, I love those shoes" and "yeah, I'm doing pilates now," so you can imagine my shock when someone tried to butch up at me.

To make matters worse, the "Power Suit" is making a comeback. So now you can expect whatever freakshow who's harboring homicidal tendencies to come at you full-force in his best Alex P. Keaton regalia. I'm rolling my eyes packing a blade (and my shoulder pads).

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Kirsten Gillibrand and Immigration; Gays, Are You Watching?

Latinos have cause to be concerned about Hillary Clinton's replacement in the Senate. Her successor, Kirsten Gillibrand, has more of a conservative streak than some of us can stomach.

In last week's edition of Latino USA on NPR, host Maria Hinojosa interviewed Univision's top anchor, Maria Elena Salinas (who just interviewed President Obama), who commented on Gillibrand's staunch policy on immigration that includes sending the military to patrol the border and penalizing so-called "sanctuary cities" that harbor undocumented immigrants. The ladies bemoaned the apparent affront to President Obama's promise to expedite a fair, realistic and compassionate immigration policy.

While I'd like to rail against the President and remind all of you that this isn't the first time Mr. Obama has called for unity and inclusion while inviting divisive figures to play in the sandbox, I think we should give his approach of engaging all points of view a chance. The man hasn't even been in office for a month, let's give inclusion, even when it means giving a platform to points of view that we don't like, a chance. For now.

But I would like to bring this issue to the attention of gays who might otherwise give Gillibrand a pass because she's pro gay marriage. As we seethe from the cold shoulder given to us by African Americans and Latinos on the Prop 8 vote in California, let's not forget the response these groups have given us: "When did you stand up for us?" I'll refrain from calling out racism within the gay community, but perhaps we are too self-centered to even consider how we can promote progressive thought (on immigration, on healthcare, on reproductive rights, and yes, gay marriage) instead of being all one-note about our issue being THE issue of the 21st century.

So, gays, let's please keep an eye on Kirsten. She's a Democrat and she has the approval of Mr. President and Mrs. Almost President - so let's cooperate, for now.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Liberals Won't Have Every Victim

Ann Coulter's new book Guilty centers on the premise that liberals love love love a good victim. From single mothers to lynched Negros, the liberal agenda, according to Coulter, is to propagate victimization.

One "victim" we won't have, however, is Ted Haggard, the disgraced Evangelical minister who is making the rounds a-la-Blagojevich on the news circuit to deflect stories about his drug use and lying to talk about how the Christian right has lost its way. In an interview with "World News Sunday," he says "I think the religious right is increasingly impotent right now in America. And that it's going to have to return to the gospel in order to regain strength."

Ted, do us all a favor and just shut up. No one wants to hear from a recovering Meth addict/Evangelical hate monger, much less when he wants to portray himself as a victim of sexual abuse and an intolerant religious community. Liberals and the LGBT community have enough to worry about without having to turn on the TV and have you speaking out on our behalf (kinda).

Monday, February 02, 2009

On Loyalty

A must-read for brown-nosers who think that in this economy their jobs will be spared by a boss who will sooner keep a mediocre employee because they know how to fetch a venti latte over a capable, less-emotionally invested employee: check out Jack and Suzy Welch, former CEO and first lady of GE, and their opinion piece in BusinessWeek on the issue of "loyalty."

In short, performance trumps martyrdom. Slave away if you want on weekends, skip your father's funeral and look the other way as your relationship tanks if you want, but don't expect your boss to care about your spineless "commitment" come time to slash throats. Is it evil? Unfair? Cold and heartless? Not really. That these words are coming from a mushy push-over like myself should really get you worked up, too. If post-college life has taught me one thing it's that "fair" is for the playground (Candace Bushnell said this somewhere and it makes perfect sense), and in the real world, you're only as good as your last big feat. So keep your game up, kids.

No one can say for sure that their job is safe. It's a fact that I've come to terms with, so every now and again you'll find me folding my sweaters and jeans ever so delicately as I prepare myself to re-enter the world of retail with greater ease on the day that my strategic thinking is rendered useless by my company. Instead of wanting to rage against the machine and slap a couple of people because it's not fair that my job isn't safe, I see the transformation of the professional landscape from rows of cubicles to a battle field as a tremendous opportunity. Someone has to come out on top, and it might as well be me.

This thinking is also liberating. Think about it: that boss you're kissing up to today could be asking you for a spare box to pack up his or her things tomorrow. So why waste your time trying to be the best Smithers you can be when you could be up early, reading the news and looking for ever more ways to be useful to your company? When the ship is sinking it's every man for himself. So have at it kids. And if this seems harsh, just know there are always jeans that need to be folded and lattes to be served.