Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Hola from Santiago, Chile

Hi kids, am in South America this week for work. First stop: Santiago, Chile. Six million chic, well-dressed people call this city, nestled beneath the Andes alongside several rivers, home. What stands out? This is the cleanest and most modern city I´ve ever seen in Latin America. Have had lots of interesting chats with the locals about gay life, politics and Madonna - more details on that to come but time is limited and I didn´t bring a laptop. Argh.

Stay tuned...

Monday, April 27, 2009

Bea, Thank You for Being a Friend

Picture it: Brooklyn, 1989. A wide-eyed Latino kid ignores the game of stickball unfolding on the street outside his brownstone to sit in front of the TV and laugh along to the salty adventures of four old ladies living in Miami. The references to Broadway and silver-screen legends fly over his head, yet, for some reason, he feels at home in a world of cheesecake and hot flahses.

Sigh. I'm mourning the passing of Bea Arthur today.

Growing up, I was the kind of kid who gravitated toward adults. Spending summers in Colombia with two over-protective and hyper-opinionated grandparents taught me to feel comfortable around older people - especially when my grandmother, to this day, dictates that one should sing or entertain her somehow for their supper. Leaving them behind after a month or two was always hard, but soon enough I'd find solace in the hijinks of Dorothy, Rose, Sophia and Blanche, otherwise known as The Golden Girls.

The show is my gay cultural touchstone. Much like queens of yore fondly recall singing along to the score of Funny Girl, it would be years before I would connect the dots between my own gayness and fondness for the Golden Girls. Little did I know that while I was sitting in front of the TV on Saturday night laughing along to Dorothy's acerbic retorts (e.g. Rose, played by Betty White, once asked Dorothy "why do people die?" to which Dorothy replies "I don't know Rose, I still haven't figured out why fools fall in love.") the boys across the river in Chelsea were watching the show at their favorite bars.

And why wouldn't they? At the height of the AIDS epidemic the show tackled the issue head on, and approached other gay and lesbian issues with frankness and compassion. In a time when the gay community felt especially marginalized, the Golden Girls provided relatable characters who also dealt with the malignment of youth-obsessed society with laughter, men, and food. The ladies were the moms we wished we had or loved to pieces, their heartaches and joys resonated at any age, and their camaraderie seemed genuine and powerful, much like the friendships gay men forge to bound against the world.

Today, years after my Saturday nights with The Golden Girls, I still stop by the lanai and prop a seat on the ladies' wicker sofa to listen to Rose's St.Olaf stories and watch Blanche's sexcapades. While I have a bit of Blanche streak, Dorothy's sharp-tongue and Brooklyn girl savvy always spoke to me.

Here's to you, Bea.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Beauty Queens, Bloggers, Hos- We're All Entitled to an Opinion

I should have jumped on the story sooner, but seeing as people are still hot over the gay marriage slapfest that ensued at the Miss USA pageant, there's room for my opinion on the matter.

Here's what went down: At this past weekend's Miss USA pageant, celeb blogger Perez Hilton asked Miss California, Carrie Prejean, if she thought other states in the union should legalize gay marriage. Prejean responded that, while everyone has a right to choice in this country, she personally believes marriage should be limited to a man and a woman - and she made it very clear that she meant no offense to anyone.

How nice.

While it's certainly not the right answer to give a gay man when you're dressed like a drag queen, hers was an honest answer and she is entitled to her opinion. And so is the self-proclaimed queen of all media, Perez, who took the web immediately after the pageant to call Prejean a "dumb bitch." That's Perez, that's his brand, he will shout you out and draw a penis on your mouth. Why are we all shocked by his behavior now?

Surprisngly, CNN and Fox News have both come out against Perez, saying that his attack on Prejean was unfair. Who would have thought that sequins and some salty language would bring the two networks together?

Personally, I think both Perez and Prejean should be applauded for being candid about their beliefs. Of course I think Prejean is prejudiced and ignorant, but hey, this is a free country and she's entitled to her opinion.

Let's not forget: Bush, Obama and the Clintons all agree that marriage should be limited to a man and a woman. So our liberal champions haven't really done the gay community much good on this issue either.

What's really got the press and the public in a frenzy is a well-orchestrated stunt pulled off by Perez. Bravo to him and the spotlight he's cast on the issue - if only it were so easy for me to wrangle the media.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Yo, Rudy: Shut Your Mouth When You're Talkin' About Gay Marriage

My friends, I hope you would agree that this blog is a civil forum for the discussion of the most pressing topics affecting our planet. I am, if nothing else, a gentleman. But sometimes you gotta do like Oprah after the show and take your shoes off and just start swangin' at dumb-ass people that needle you into a brawl. Or, if you're a pansy like me, a nasty blog post.

Hi, Rudy Giuliani - welcome back from political obscurity. It had been a minute since I last thought about how stupid and slimy you are.

The former NYC mayor and clumsy presidential contender, who would scream "fire!" in a crowded theater for attention, is back to his old shenanigans, elbowing his way into the gay marriage debate. In an interview with the New York Post (snicker) this week, he addressed New York Governor David Paterson's move to legalize gay marriage in the state: "Marriage, I believe, both traditionally and legally, has always been between a man and a woman and should remain between a man and woman."

Now picture me smiling and nodding at this prick all polite and such before I throw a martini in his face and remind him of his Gay Pride marching back in the 90s.

Rudy, you dropped the ball in the GOP primaries - nobody bought your redeemed conservative act which is why the heartland gave you a pat on the bum and sent you and your honking, obnoxious wife back to the hovel from whence y'all came. But now here you are, trying to get your come-up off the gays. You're an attention-seeking, depraved starlet at best, but you're mostly a prick. Your kids told me so.

Let's not be delayed, people: Rudy is taking a shot at your life and is hinging his aspirations for world domination on the hopes that he can stir the GOP to consensus by hate.

OK Rudy, we wanted to play nice but now you're getting a little out of hand. While we don't expect your opinion to matter much we're aware of your scheming and witch hunting and we won't let you get away with it.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Narcissism: Live It

From USA Today: "In her new book, The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement, psychologist Jean Twenge of San Diego State University and co-author W. Keith Campbell of the University of Georgia say research shows more young people today have 'narcissistic traits' than in previous generations. Such traits, Twenge says, include a very positive and inflated sense of self, which is illustrated by a preoccupation with MySpace, Facebook and YouTube."

Well, color me not surprised. I don't need a book to fall on my head, or slap me in the face, or back me into a corner to know that narcissism and entitlement are on the rise among young adults. Hello, I work in public relations. But I don't know if I would place the blame squarely on social media platforms, I mean, let's also cast an eye of scorn and judgement upon those parents who still cut the crust off their children's sandwiches well into their twenties. They've crippled a generation of people who can can't string a sentence together or tie their sholeaces - these are also the same people who took out loans on homes they could not afford and spent spent spent money that just wasn't there and have burned our economic system into the ground. These folks didn't have Facebook pages and certainly weren't tweeting about their reckless spending, but sure enough their entitlement has become everyone's problem. And let's not forget our former president, the poster child of the entitled, narcissistic baby boomers who took us to war to make sure the Real Housewives of wherever have gas for their Hummers.

So, there's lots of blame to go around with lots of living and breathing culprits at the top of the list of suspects for the epidemic of me-me-me.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Another Way of Dealing with Chavez

A few people are ticked off over President Obama's handshakes and bear hugs with Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez at the fifth Summit of the Americas, which ended yesterday in Trinidad & Tobago. While the sight of our president laughing it up with Chavez is unpalattable, such is the cost of Obama's New Deal: democracy with a smile, not military threats.

Leading the chorus of tea partyers and Obama haters on CNN was senator John Ensign (R-Nev): "This is a person [Chavez] who is one of the most anti-American leaders in the entire world [...] He is a brutal dictator and human rights violations are very, very prevalent in Venezuela. And you have to be careful. When you're talking about the prestige of the United States and the presidency of the United States, you have to be careful who you're seen joking around with."

True, we can spend the rest of our lives talking about how horrible Chavez is. But we can also make an attempt to re-establish diplomatic relations with a country that is exerting a lot of influence in our hemisphere. As Latin America teeters dangerously toward the left and many leaders continue to use words like Yankee Imperialism, it's up to us to respect the sovereignty of these nations and their elected officials - whether we agree with them or not. Unless you think we can afford a war with Venezuela, Bolivia, Iran, North Korea, and anyone else who doesn't want to play nice with us.

Our president is setting an example for the way diplomacy should work. This doesn't undermine our military might nor does it compromise our national security but places the responsibility of reciprocity squarely on the shoulders of leaders who tell their people that the U.S. is out to get them. We're certainly capable of armed combat but we're open to a softer approach - let's give that a chance for now.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Cabal of Gay Marriage Opponents in New York

Headline from today's NY Daily News: "On first day as archbishop, Dolan says he won't 'shy away' from gay marriage fight"

That would be New York's new Catholic Archbishop Timothy Dolan, whose first day in office (today) coincides with the introduction of a bill in favor of gay marriage by New York Governor David Paterson. Joining the cacophany of otherwise distracted public figures who have been riled from ignoring the real issues that affect New Yorkers is Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr., from the South Bronx, who called Paterson's decision to introduce a gay marriage bill on Dolan's first day as Archbishop "disrespectful."

Listen Ruben, focus on the pandemic crime, high school drop out rates and teenage pregnancies in your part of the city and stop trying to deny New Yorkers their basic civil rights. As for Archbishop Dolan, whom you wouldn't know from a hole in the wall, way to make a first impression. Bravo.

Another issue in this debate - which hasn't seemed to rile up the gays I know - is Governor Paterson's ability to even see this bill turned into law. With diminishing support in general for his administration, and the lack of consensus from gay rights groups in the States, the folks at Queerty wonder if this is all just a publicity stunt that ends with a thud in the state senate?

Whether the bill goes through or not, we can certainly expect for the usual suspects, those publicity-seeking rabblerousers, to paint a grim picture for the future of the American family. Lord, I don't think I can take another 45 state debates on this issue.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Problem With Cuba: They Don't Have Pandas

The thing about introducing bold, progressive policy is that you're never going to please everyone, not least the people whom the policy is meant to help. Case in point: President Obama's newly lifted restrictions on travel to Cuba for U.S. citizens who have family on the island. On both sides of the Cuba debate, one thing is clear: the policy is flawed, limited, and an (un)intentional endorsement of Fidel Castro's regime.

A fair enough point, so, can we talk about China for a minute and how we can't get enough of their trespasses on human rights? If we can court and applaud a regime that's one billion plus people strong and hell-bent on scorching the earth with contaminants and poisoning the world with lead-tainted products, we can surely extend an olive branch to our friends south of Miami.

You know what the problem with Cuba is? They don't have pandas. If they had cuddly, droopy eyed pandas then the US would be all over them. Alas, the island nation only has miles of sugar cane and tobacco.

People, would you like to go back to the Cold War and the Bay of Pigs fiasco?

Of course Barack isn't endorsing Castro's regime, he's not even saying that Castro was right all along. What our country is realizing, after forty years of misguided, stubborn policy, is that with 90 miles of water between the U.S. and Cuba, and lots of heartache on both sides of the divide, it's time for new thinking on the subject - and who better to guide that thinking than the U.S.? A conciliatory approach to foreign relations is not an admission of defeat, it's an acknowledgement of the fact that trying to work together toward coexistence is better than ignoring each other all together.

True, the Cuban government is going to impose a 30 percent tax on remittances - an exhorbitant fee for sure - but that's just grandstanding by La Revolucion in the wake of all this pro-USA sentiment that's likely resurged in the country now that the embargo is showing the first signs of easing up. I would expect for these fees to come down soon enough once the initial wave of media interest in this story dies down.

My take on the matter: it's time for a new point of view on Cuba. The US is finally seizing an opportunity to realign the thinking of the Western Hemisphere toward a pro-democracy, pro-US stance.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

On Day 1 of Citi Field

Y'all didn't think my first post after a week-long hiatus would be about baseball, did you? Well, don't worry. I'm not going to write about cutie pants David Wright, but instead, the gross waste of money that is Citi Field (and the new Yankee Stadium).

How fitting that the Mets' new stadium should bear the name of one of the biggest culprits in the financial crash of 2008. All the greed and entitlement - buzz words tossed around in the how-could-this-happen-when-we-thought-it-never-would coverage of the recession - now have a shrine where fat, beer-guzzling, nacho-eating plebes can go worship overpaid and undereducated grown men playing a kids' game. The combined cost for both unnecessary stadiums: over 2 billion dollars. And we wonder why America is going to hell in a handbasket.

If America has been compared to an empire in decline before, then it's only fitting that our nation's greatest city should have not one, but two, Colosseums of its very own. So nevermind the homeless, or those people the presidential candidates called out during the campaign - those poor working stiffs or feeble retirees who live hand-to-mouth - they dont exist anymore apparently because corporate America, and the American public have money to spare.

Now, who was to know that by the time opening day rolled around for these two colossal wastes of private and public funds, that Americans would be trying to embrace some semblance of austerity. Now that conspicious consumption is out, we have two billion dollars worth of ego and greed to look at and remind us of how warped our values are.

Monday, April 06, 2009

The L Word

The panic over the violence along the U.S.-Mexico border has some academics, journalists and politicians making a case for the legalization of marijuana and other drugs. Yours truly supports the idea.
*Image: The Economist

During her visit to Mexico last month, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton admitted that Mexico's drug problem is our problem given the U.S.' demand for illegal drugs, a welcome departure from our country's usual high-handed point of view on the subject that placed the blame for the drug wars squarely on drug-producing nations. And while that gesture of humility is appreciated, the fact remains that the U.S. continues to spend a lot of money on a broken system that still yields ridiculous profits for drug cartels, corrupt government officials and anyone else who's done with trying to get by through legal means.

Calling legalization "the least bad" solution to the problem of illegal drugs, The Economist attempts to break down the process of collecting tax on cocaine while admitting the potential public health pitfalls of such a move: "Legalisation would not only drive away the gangsters; it would transform drugs from a law-and-order problem into a public-health problem, which is how they ought to be treated. Governments would tax and regulate the drug trade, and use the funds raised (and the billions saved on law-enforcement) to educate the public about the risks of drug-taking and to treat addiction. The sale of drugs to minors should remain banned. Different drugs would command different levels of taxation and regulation. This system would be fiddly and imperfect, requiring constant monitoring and hard-to-measure trade-offs. Post-tax prices should be set at a level that would strike a balance between damping down use on the one hand, and discouraging a black market and the desperate acts of theft and prostitution to which addicts now resort to feed their habits."

Here in the U.S., Latino USA, one of my fav NPR programs, recently delved into the legalization debate and interviewed Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez of California who is open to having her homestate try a pilot program that would examine the potential gains of decriminalizing marijuana. The show also interviewed University of Miami Professor Bruce Bagley, an expert on drug cartels and violence, who said that while decriminalisation has always been an option in the war on drugs, it's a solution that most Americans just can't rally behind.

My take on the matter, as someone who has never tried drugs - which I'm not saying in some grandiose way, I'm just letting you know that I'm not a burnout - is that, regardless of my moral opinion on the subject, the death toll among law enforcement officials and civilians speaks to gross inefficiencies in a system that is, ironically, supposed to ensure the public's safety. And where some people may, rightfully so, see a public health challenge, I see an opportunity for our society to turn what has been the scourge of democracy and civility in many parts of the world into a vehicle for change and progress.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Michelle Obama: From Good Times to High Times

It's America's fashion moment on the world scene and girl, I love it. Europe has fallen to the charms of Michelle Obama. From the moment she set foot on Brit soil in a look-at-me yellow Jason Wu dress, our First Lady ushered in a new era of US-European relations. Yellow, the color of friendship, was amped up to a blinding, mega-watt affair that said "sorry about the last eight years," and "yeah, you want this." A demure, knee-length wrap served to elongate her ebony legs and zing! went the strings of my heart.

But that was just the start of Michelle's sartorial rapprochement with Europe. Forget the 99 cent American flag lapel pin, Michelle is unflinchingly patriotic in American designs from J.Crew and Michael Kors - yes, you can get these frocks online AND wear them for tea with the Queen. Shoppers, on your marks...

To spend this much time talking about Michelle's clothes may seem, to some misguided heathens in Birkenstocks and sweat pants, to be frivolous - even offensive - given the current economy. As one of my colleagues recently pointed out, the economy is just another fad, so you know what? Let's stop using it as an excuse to not live our lives - I love Michelle, her clothes, and I can't get enough. Besides, everywhere she goes our First Lady isn't just a representative of our nation, she's also a role model for people of color in the industrial world. From council youths in Britain to project chicks here in the States, Michelle is a walking billboard for the virtues of higher education, and that's a message that bears repeating again and again.

Now, a few weeks ago New York magazine placed Michelle Obama on the cover and included essays from a bunch of writers on the impact she's expected to have - from her curves to her Ivy League pedigree - the main idea is that Michelle can do no wrong and oh my god, I think she walks on water. I rolled my eyes at the articles, finding them trite, sycophantic and whatever other ten-dollar word you want to use to describe brazen ass kissing. However, the point I'm trying to make with my post is that I find our First Lady inspirational - yes, from that superficial gay perspective that loves all that glitters, but also from the perspective of a young man of color who applauds the example Michelle Obama is setting for the working class. Our Southside Girl is movin on up, breaking barriers, redefining style, and making friends around the world. Now that's jet set.