Saturday, April 01, 2006


According to a new report from Amnesty International titled Stonewalled,

Thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people across the United States are victims of a system that fuels discrimination and facilitates torture, ill-treatment and impunity, said Amnesty International in a new report on police abuses against people on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity...

Though police forces across the country are increasingly providing some level of training intended to guide interactions with the LGBT community, 28% of police departments responding to AI’s survey reported that they do not provide any form of training. AI’s report clearly describes the persistent and widespread lack of effective systems of accountability for law enforcement officers who commit abuses. Reports to AI suggest that many LGBT individuals do not come forward with complaints about police officer conduct. AI received a number of reports of hostility or attempts to dissuade people from making complaints at police stations.

Stonewalled places the issue of police misconduct and brutality in the context of the lack of recognition of LGBT human rights. Like many other countries, the US has a long history of both criminalizing homosexual conduct and failing to protect LGBT people from discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. In turn, people are denied access to their full human rights, creating a climate in which LGBT people are more likely to face abuses.

The emergence of a strong LGBT rights movement has been successful in pushing forward greater recognition of the basic human rights of LGBT people in the last three decades. There are many indicators of this progress, including the increased public visibility of LGBT people, and especially at the local level, the successful adoption of anti-discrimination legislation inclusive of LGBT people. Yet, as this report demonstrates, serious human rights abuses targeted toward members of the LGBT community continue to be perpetrated, including by those officials in society whose duty is to serve and protect the entire community.[...]

Via Pseudo-Adrienne's Liberal-Feminist Bias.

Once again, I'm forced to concede the Dixie Chicks did not go far enough. Ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas? Sometimes I'm ashamed the United States is from the United States.

The holy grail of unseen films

In 1972, Jerry Lewis made a film about a man who is a clown in the circus during World War II. He is captured, thrown into a concentration camp, and forced to work entertaining children who are in line for the gas chamber.

It's called The Day The Clown Cried. You're already feeling the comedy, I can tell. From descriptions, it seems to be a bonanza of top-to-bottom what were they thinking? moments.

Shawn Levy's brilliant biography of the onetime funnyman devotes the better part of a chapter to the making of the movie (done in a decade when Jerry was, shall we say, not at his best) and there have been lengthy magazine articles examining it as well.

For a number of legal and creative reasons, this film has never been released, and may never be. But it continues to exert a kind of horrific fascination on the same sort of people who, had it been real, would have adored Springtime For Hitler as a comedy.

It has attained well-nigh legendary status from the eyewitness reports of the handful of people who have been allowed to see it...and now, for the first time ever, you can be among them. Our friend Mark Evanier has obtained a lengthy series of clips from the film and, as a public service to cinematic historians everywhere, made them availble on his web site.

I hope you enjoy.

A little more information about Jill Carroll

Reportedly, a condition of her release was that she was forced to make a propaganda video.
That video appeared Thursday on a jihadist website that carries videos of beheadings and attacks on American forces. In it, Carroll told her father she felt compelled to make statements strongly critical of President Bush and his policy in Iraq.

Her remarks are now making the rounds of the Internet, attracting heavy criticism from conservative bloggers and commentators.

In fact, Carroll did what many hostage experts and past captives would have urged her to do: Give the men who held the power of life and death over her what they wanted.

"You'll pretty much say anything to stay alive because you expect people will understand these aren't your words," says Micah Garen, a journalist and author who was held captive by a Shiite militia in southern Iraq for 10 days in August 2004.

Notice how, once again, people who wouldn't dream of putting themselves in harms way as did Carroll are full of "heavy criticism" for what she said and did to save her life.

ETA: Jane expands upon that little observation here, with particular reference to Jonah Goldberg, poster child for chickenhawkery.

Friday, March 31, 2006

This is one of those "review of a gay love story that makes me feel superior about mine" posts...

In this case the story is a movie called "Adam & Steve." Good one, huh? It is not, on the whole, being well received by the critics.

Roger Ebert sez:
...There is an underlying story here, and some comic ideas, that in the hands of a better director (or more ruthless editor) could have become an entertaining romantic comedy. But...The director, Craig Chester, is also the co-star; as an actor, he has the wrong director.

Chester stars as Adam Bernstein, first seen in the 1980s with best pal Rhonda (Parker Posey) dressed as Goths and entering a gay disco on Glitter Night, the wrong night for them. Adam makes eye contact with a dancer named Steve (Malcolm Gets), and it's love at first sight, but "We don't dance," they explain. "We're Goths. We're dead."

Their romance develops despite the usual plot convenience (fear of commitment), but there's a crisis...Will they reconcile? Can Rhonda and Steve's straight roommate, Michael (Chris Kattan), be the go-betweens?

This reminds me of something that was important to me thematically in developing my little lesbian romantic comedy. I never wanted the solution to the crisis to be something like Colley sitting down with Keitha and saying: "You know, Annabel really loves you, and..."

The lovers had to make it on their own. I think I was wary of making a gay version of all those stories we used to get ("Mississippi Burning," "Cry Freedom") that were nominally about civil rights for blacks, but managed to have white characters at the hub for "identification."

I've said this before, but I identify with Keitha and Annabel, and I want others to as well. I identify with Colley too, of course (I'm the writer, I identify with all of 'em); my point is, he's not there to ease the story for any uncomfortable straights who may be in the audience.

the creepiest invention I've ever seen

Interactive robot art helps your self esteem

"Sycophant explores the relationship between viewers and a human-like robot. The human head is mounted on a motorized base which moves along a track. As a viewer walks by, the head follows on the track, while plying him or her with a cornucopia of compliments such as "I really like your hair" and "You look really hot!"

Via MAKE. That's either the creepiest invention I've ever seen, the inevitable basis for a future Kraftwerk video, or both.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Riddle me this

Where are you going to find one of the best collections of balloon sculpture (and costuming!) you've ever seen? Right here, that's where. It's times like this I really love the internet.

Never let it be said that this is one of those blogs that only posts about the bad news

Jill Carroll, a reporter who had been held captive in Iraq for nearly three months, was released today, apparently unharmed.

My word

Oh, and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia made an obscene gesture and cursed out a reporter in Italian (and homophobic) terms recently. And he did it in church. And lied about it afterwards.

Via AmericaBlog, where John adds:
He did this minutes after taking the Eucharist (communion), in church, during Lent, and two weeks before Easter. In addition, he's now lying again during Lent and right before Easter.

Some man of conservative family values. He's not even a good Christian, let alone a good Christian conservative. Which begs the question of what the religious has to say about their darling being an obscene liar who shows disrespect in church?:
"We were hoping the President might elevate someone like Scalia," said Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council.

Still hoping a foul-mouthed man who disrespects church during Lent becomes the standard-bearer for Supreme Court justices?


I wanted to talk some more about Huff. I wrote appreciations of the Showtime drama's first season last year at the old blog, and more recently here, so I'll be trying not to repeat myself.

There is a moment at the end of Huff's first season when the title character speaks two words, and it's almost a throwaway. They don't pause for even a whole beat. But if you've been watching all the episodes leading up to it, it's chilling. The subtlety of that moment, and the pleasure it takes in paying off a characterization, is everything that a certain series that shall remain nameless (but starts with "L") is missing.

In his commentary track on the recently-released DVDs, series lead Hank Azaria calls that episode one of the best, if not the best, things he's ever been involved with in his career. And here is a guy who, although he may not always have had the best luck picking movie projects, can point to Robert Redford's Quiz Show, working with Mike Nichols both on film and on stage (where he got a Tony nomination), and (playing a writer better than I've ever seen one played) Tim Robbins' Cradle Will Rock. Plus several Emmy nominations for his almost 20 years on The Simpsons, a featured part on Friends (I still say Phoebe should have married him)...and I haven't even mentioned Mad About You's Nat ("Hey there, hi there, ho there.")

And he says Huff is "Creatively...the best job I've ever had." Are you beginning to get why those of us who have become its fans think it's so extraordinary?

One of the reasons I think Huff's first season may have had trouble attracting the viewers it deserves is because it lacks a hook, it's determinedly "low-concept." It's not "Melrose Place, only with lesbian softcore sex" (The L Word). It's not "Family politics, and family politics, of a mob boss" (The Sopranos). It's not "single mother in the suburbs becomes pot dealer" (Weeds).

It's just-who would've thunk of it?-a really well-made, strong show. How strong? Let me put it this way-I think it's the best TV drama since the first few seasons of The West Wing. And if you know how I feel about The West Wing, you know what a compliment that is.

I will qualify it slightly by defining my terms-there have certainly been other series since that I've had a lot of time for. But to me, 24 is not a drama-it's a suspense series. Gilmore Girls is not a drama, it's a "dramedy" or if you prefer, "human comedy." Boston Legal is not a drama, it's a...well, I'm actually not sure what Boston Legal is; neither are they, and that's part of its appeal. Veronica Mars, at its height, was not a drama, it's a mystery series. Okay, Bones is probably a drama, and one that I'm increasingly enjoying, but it's nowhere near as good as Huff.

Which brings me back to the question of why I think Huff is so good. Well, first of all, it's one of the first hour-long drama series since The West Wing that I've wanted to watch over and over. Most such series, no matter how well-made, simply don't invite repeat viewing-that's why sitcoms do so much better in syndication.

Huff does, and rewards it. I was re-watching the first season as they broadcast it ramping up for the second season premiere, and I still found it terribly moving, and noticed things I'd missed the first time.

Plus there is the ensemble cast. I've praised Azaria, female lead Paget Brewster and Blythe Danner, who won an Emmy for her role, in the first post linked above. So here I'll say keep an eye on Anton Yelchin, who plays Byrd, Huff's teenage son. Those of you who know my work: I think if I were casting for the You & Me, Baby section of Girlfriend's Boyfriend, this guy would be on my wish list to play the high school-aged Colley. His hair shouldn't be quite so long and curly, and he's only about 17 so there'd be a problem with him playing the adult version. But what the hell, it's all pie-in-the-sky anyway, and my point is, it's a great performance. Byrd is someone who is in some ways wise beyond his years, but at the same time very much a teenager.

Speaking of my work, I don't think I can say that Huff is an influence on it-although it may very well prove to be. It's more that the writing, done and/or supervised by series creator Bob Lowry, has a quality to it that I respond to. And recognize as appearing in parts of my own work.

I think it's a-way of seeing the joke even in something quite serious (and vice-versa) while still-I hope to god-maintaining the integrity of the characters.

The second season is starting in a few days (Sundays, 10pm) and I gather Showtime is running another one of their free weekend previews. So I wanted to give you these few more reasons why I'm so keen on it.

With the admission that the last time I promoted the second season of a prized but low-rated series so heavily to you, it was Veronica Mars. And that show's ended up spinning way too many plates this year, and has lost a certain emotional cohesion as a result.

Though the last couple episodes have been improvements, but that's another post.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Geeking It Oldschool

According to this How Geeky Are You? quiz from MSNBC/Newsweek:
Your score is 15
0 to 29: Stuck in the Last Century

0 to 29: Stuck in the Last Century
30 to 60: Heading to Geekdom
61 and up: Seriously Nerdy

"Bush to Iraqis: Time to get a government" *

Iraqis to Bush: You first.

*Actual headline on Yahoo! News.

More words to live by

From Writing & Selling Your Novel, by Jack Bickham.
Notice, too that conflict is not the same as adversity.

...a reader needs to feel more than sympathy for a character. Adversity may build sympathy, but it will never build admiration or concern.

[your character] can't fight adversity. He has no chance. Adversity is blind and will come and go by luck, no matter what [he] does or doesn't do. In a universe of adversity, nothing makes sense-nothing [he] does makes any difference.

It's very difficult to hold a reader with nothing but blind fate playing all the cards. The story may be exciting in places, but it tends to be meaningless.

Let me see if I've got this straight...

So there's this series called Arrested Development. It won Emmy awards and has been much beloved by critics and a small group of devoted fans. Trouble is, virtually nobody else wanted to watch it.

I myself tried on at least two or three separate occasions, but I'm sorry, it simply never once made me laugh. Not that Two And A Half Men does or anything, it's just that AD seemed to me to fall into the category of: Ha-ha, very funny, aren't you clever, rather than actually funny-you know, the kind of funny where you actually sit and laugh.

But anyway, my opinions aside, after Fox's decision to remove it from the schedule, the show's fan base has been hoping against hope that it might be picked up by Showtime. Where ratings matter less than awards, critical acclaim and a fanbase.

Although that still doesn't explain why The L Word outrates Huff, which is its superior in every way.

But I digress again. The Showtime deal for AD looked like it actually had a chance of happening, but now the creator of the show, a man named Mitch Hurwitz, says he's leaving it, which is likely to quash the deal.

His stated reasons?
"The fans have been so ardent in their devotion and in return ... I've given everything I can to the show in order to try to live up to their expectations," Hurwitz told Variety in a phone interview from New. York. "I finally reached a point where I felt I couldn't continue to deliver that on a weekly basis. "

Hurwitz said he told executive producer Ron Howard he would be willing to act as a consultant if the producers find a home for the series, but as a showrunner, "I've gone as far as I could go."

So, like I say, let me see if I've got this straight: The man is walking away from a deal because he thinks he's given everything he has, rather than just pocketing the money and delivering a substandard product. He feels he's gone as far as he can go with this idea, so he's not going to go farther.

What Hollywood is he living in, anyway?

(Of course, all this assumes we can take Hurwitz's comments at face value. That it's not all just spin to cover the fact that he wanted more money and Showtime wouldn't cough up. But I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.)

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

We are nothing if not fair here at Dictionopolis in Digitopolis

And in the past, we have written that Sharon Stone was "embarassing" herself in recent talk-show appearances and the like, wherein her costuming seemed to be trying to send a message of:

"I know Basic Instinct was almost 15 years ago, boys, but remember these?"

So. It therefore behooves us to sit up and take notice of times when she actually looks pretty good.

Here she is at the premiere of Basic Instict 2, a sequel I am looking forward to...somewhat less than the Ice Age one. But it must be said that she looks pretty good. Maybe she's engaged a new makeup person.

Everybody was kung-fu scratting

You know, I think I'm looking forward to this sequel more than I might have had any reason to expect.

I'm a big fan of the first Ice Age movie, which I discovered in its many cable showings.

I thought it was really funny, and the (acknowledged, I believe) Chuck Jones homage didn't hurt either.

In fact, I think it was the best non-Pixar CGI animated film I've ever seen (I'm not a big fan of the Shrek movies). So, the sequel? More? Yes please.

This has been an unpaid commercial endorsement.

With a step to your left and a flick to the right

Alec Baldwin got into a little dust-up with Sean Hannity recently. The well-known Saturday Night Live host, movie star and occasional actor was appearing on a radio program. Hannity, the well known radio host and better known idiot called in, alongside a fella named Mark Levin, who is apparently also an idiot and radio show host. Only not as well known.

The pair wasted little time in demonstrating the genius for sensible debate that is the hallmark of the modern republican movement.
LEVIN: And you know what you are? You're "Brokeback" Alec. [END EXCERPT]

Unfortunately, I don't think either side comes out particuarly covered in glory. Baldwin does a little better, but as we've discussed before, as a political spokesman, Alec Baldwin is a great actor.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

I think I was meaninglessly hit on at the Safeway this evening

Sadly (for my purposes), it was by a guy. That's not to say it wasn't flattering, of course. I rode up in the elevator from the parking garage with a couple of guys who-well, I didn't actually see them kissing or holding hands or anything...

But I like to think I have a pretty finely tuned gaydar for a straight person, and it was going "ping!" So anyway, inside the store I was in the cat food aisle and I'd knealt down to look at the flavors in the canned variety.

Just then one of these fellas walked past me and said something I didn't catch all of (let this be a lesson to you, people: if you're going to flirt, e-nun-ci-ate!) but definitely finished with "As long as you're down there..."

Well! I mean...he wasn't even attractive, that's the tragedy of it...

Long live The Dixie Chicks

Speaking of women whose outspokenness and ability I've admired almost as long as their good looks...

You may have heard that The Dixie Chicks have recently released their first new music since the firestorm. That link will play you their new single, "Not Ready To Make Nice."
I made my bed and I sleep like a baby
With no regrets and I don’t mind sayin’
It’s a sad sad story when a mother will teach her
Daughter that she ought to hate a perfect stranger
And how in the world can the words that I said
Send somebody so over the edge
That they’d write me a letter
Sayin’ that I better shut up and sing
Or my life will be over

I like it; Bill Sherman said recently that it's overproduced and he's right in places, but the instrumentation and singing balances that out, for the most part. The song is already in the top 40 on the country charts, and has reportedly been getting a very positive reaction on satellite radio as well.

If anything, the Chicks now just look ahead of their time. They were ashamed of Bush before the rest of the country caught on to what an incompetent he was. Now that they have, anybody really that surprised that the Dixie Chicks are still doing well?

Now, what's weird is that many traditional media outlets are calling this a "comeback." Even though, as two or three blogs have documented, the Chicks didn't exactly fall from grace...

They fail to point out that although the corporately-led boycott by radio stations indebted to the policies of the Bush Regime meant less airplay for the Dixie Chicks, sales of CDs and concert tickets actually increased. In 2003 The Dixie Chicks won 4 Grammy Awards (their first ever): Best Country Album (HOME), Best Country Performance ("Long Time Gone"), Best Country Instrumental Performance ("Lil' Jack Slade") and Best Recording Package (HOME). And the Dixie Chicks went from being a band appreciated by country music fans to being a band appreciated by MUSIC fans-- all over the world.

And I'm among them.

I am a mass of contradictions

There's this woman named Lara Logan; she's the Chief Foreign Correspondent for CBS News. As I stopped watching network TV news long ago, I admit I had never heard of her before Crooks and Liars linked to a segment of her being interviewed.

On a CNN program, she responds to the criticism that people have an unrealistic picture of Iraq, because terrorist-sympathizers like herself keep reporting only the bad news. She comes off as firm, eloquent, calm and assertive.

Everything you want in a Foreign Correspondent, I say. So, I thought, who is this woman who seems so learned and sensitive? A quick Yahoo! search yields the following information. According to her official CBS News bio,

Logan was the only American network journalist in Baghdad when American troops invaded the city, reporting live from Firdos Square as the statue of Saddam fell. Her reporting from the frontlines of Afghanistan and with the Green Berets searching for Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden appeared on 60 Minutes II, where she was a contributor from 2002 to 2004, and on the CBS Evening News, The Early Show and CBS News Radio, for which she served as a general assignment reporter.

Before formally joining CBS News in 2002, Logan already had 14 years of journalism experience, including 10 years in the international broadcast news arena...She reported on the war in Afghanistan, Middle East violence, the Mozambique floods, the land invasions in Zimbabwe and the India earthquake...Logan also served as a freelance correspondent for CNN (1998-99), covering the U.S. embassy bombings in Nairobi and Tanzania, the conflict in Northern Ireland and the war in Kosovo, among other stories.

She got her start in broadcast journalism in Africa as a senior producer for Reuters Television (1992-96).

Her work has earned her four American Women in Radio and Television Gracie Awards: in 2004 for Individual Achievement for Best Reporter/Correspondent; in 2003 for Best News Story for her CBS Evenign News report on the attempted assassination of Afghan President Hamid Kharzi; in 2002 for Best News Story for her CBS News Radio coverage of the war in Afghanistan; and in 2000 for Best News Story for her CBS News Radio coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

I don't know about you, but that's what I call a reasonably impressive resume for a hardworking, serious and experienced journalist. I also note ruefully that she's the exact same age as I am. Dear god, what have I done with my life...but, I digress.

I confess a weakness for women journalists anyway-Molly Ivins and especially Linda Ellerbee have been among my personal heroes. Ms. Logan is probably not perfect-network TV news, let's not forget-but she seems to be the kind of woman I deeply admire. And if I had a daughter, the kind of woman I would hope she would deeply admire, or take as a role model (along with the likes of, say, Holly Hunter).

In some ways she seems to be the kind of woman I like to write, too; compassionate, driven, with a good sense of herself, poised.

(Keitha: What are we, ballerinas?)

(Annabel: Shh!)

Now-I mentioned contradictions earlier. And there's a reason why I've carefully listed Ms. Logan's credits, journalistic experience and awards up top here, to make the case for her. It's because I don't want you to think of me as I thought of the republican board when I saw a certain comment they'd posted about her:

CBS News Decides to Emphasize Breasts Over Brains!

See, everything I've said about the sense I got of Ms. Logan from that clip, and by doing a little research into her work, is true. It is also true that the very first thing that turned my head about her is the fact that she is cute as a button.

How cute? Well, apparently, she worked as a swimsuit model while in high school and college. That's how cute. Something that some of her (I'm guessing) less-cute colleagues and critics are quick to point out.

Indeed, two or three of them seem to have what I would deem an unhealthy obsession with her cup size. Because, god forbid a woman should look good in a bathing suit (or have other physical charms) yet also be a seasoned, accomplished and compassionate reporter. As Ralph Wiggum would say, that's unpossible.

To make matters worse, they say, she may use her good looks to her advantage in her work. Yes, I was shocked too. But frankly, her response to such sniping only makes me admire her more.

A New York Times story from last year quoted her,
Over a recent lunch in Manhattan, during a break in her coverage of the Saddam Hussein trial, Ms. Logan said, "There isn't a journalist alive who won't admit to you they use every advantage they have."

In that respect, she said, she was no different from the generations of male reporters who had employed various means to ingratiate themselves with the military. "Some guys come from a military background, and they'll use that," she said. "Some guys are very sporty, and they'll play on the sporty thing."

"As a woman, I have lots of advantages you don't have," she told a male interviewer. "I can be vulnerable. Usually you don't have to do anything. Men do it to themselves. They feel like they want to protect you."

Shuffle in my seat, snort, I don't know what she's talking god nobody hurt you, did they baby? Come here, I'll tell you everything!

So anyway, yes, ahem, contradictions. As I was saying. On the one hand, I genuinely like the kind of mind this woman seems to have. On the other...oh my god, she's gorgeous.

This has been a review of the precarious position in which you'll find a lot of us liberal, "non-macho" heterosexual men.

Our worst is better than their best

John makes an interesting comparision betwixt and between the loony left and the right-wing radicals.
Whenever I get into a discussion with a Republican over how nasty conservatives have become over the past 15 years, I often get the "well you have Michael Moore" refrain.

Only problem is, yes we do have Michael Moore, and when did he ever suggest blacks are genetically inferior to whites (Republican David Duke), that Supreme Court justices should be assassinated (Republican Ann Coulter), and when was he ever indicted (Tom Delay, Jack Abramoff, Scooter Libby, and oh so many more)?

He hasn't, because Michael Moore is someone conservatives simply disagree with, and that makes him per se hateful. Kind of like the Dixie Chicks, except they have boobs too, which makes it an even bigger crime in Republican circles that they have opinions.

Read the rest in AmericaBlog.