Wednesday, May 25, 2005
And, as a technologist, I have to say, it's quite impressive that the show drew 500 million votes this season. The spring 2003 Idol drew 24 million votes, with 2.5 million text messages sent on the final show alone. The 2004 Idol had 7.5 million text messages sent in its final show, with tens of millions of votes through the season. Sponsoring American Idol was a stroke of genius for ATT Wireless, since in 2003 (the first year they used text message voting), one third of the 2.5 million voters were using the text message feature for the first time. That was a heck of a lot better marketing than the $120M they dropped on their m-Life campaign. (Remember m-Life? Nobody else does either.) I'll be interested to hear the stats for Verizon Wireless this year.
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
Monday, May 23, 2005
May 23, 1982, toward the end of my sophomore year in college, is a day I celebrate as my epiphany, or as I sometimes call it, my "gay birthday". It was not so much a day that I suddenly had all the answers, but it was the day I started asking the right questions. The experience of that day (or night, rather) both disrupted and clarified the path my life would take, and for that experience as well as its consequences, I am truly grateful. (You can read the whole story here, on an old personal web site that's become a bit of a time-capsule of my life as of 1998.)
What is remarkable to me now is to look back over the 23 years since my epiphany and realize with some astonishment at how much the world has changed for gay people. 1982. We were just beginning to recognize the AIDS crisis. Sodomy was illegal in more than half the states. It would be nearly another decade before we'd have our first few tentative gay characters on TV. Remember the shockwaves of seeing two men seen in the same bed on Thirtysomething (1989), Abby and CJ's kiss on LA Law (1991), Roseanne's kiss, or Melrose Place's Matt having an almost-on-screen kiss (1997)? On screen, 1982 was the year of the movie Making Love. Remember that one? Don't worry, nobody else does either. Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, and Richard Gere all turned down the opportunity to play a young married doctor who finds himself having an affair with another man. In 1982, most gay people were legitimately closeted at work, for fear of losing their jobs. It wouldn't be until the early 1990s that a few radicals started to rock the workplace by seeking domestic partner benefits. And I can remember taking part in a 1992 discussion in Out/Look magazine on the topic of gay marriage, pro and con. At the time, those on both sides of that debate saw it as an abstract remote ideal that may or may not become a real option in our lifetimes.
Granted, we certainly have a ways to go, and the "backlash" of state marriage amendments is disheartening. But I can't help but feel great about the time I've lived in when I step back and look at the longer perspective.
Sunday, May 22, 2005
It seems I've scored a hit on Google. In the past, whenever I've even missed a day or two of blogging, I've noticed the number of visitors to my blog declines. In recent weeks, I've had an average of less than 10 visitors to my blog per day. So this last week, while I was gone, I figured it would drop off altogether. Wrong. It was the usual handful of stalwarts in the beginning of the week, and then on Wednesday, I had over 60 people visit, and nearly as many on Thursday and Friday. I figured somebody must have linked one of my posts. So I looked at the "referring pages" to see where these visitors were coming from. Google! Nearly every one of them. It seems that whatever "secret sauce" it takes to rise to the top of Google's results pages, I inadvertently hit it. On Wednesday, I was at the top of the list for anyone querying on "filibuster history". The Google algorithm is intentionally mysterious, but some combination of keywords, content "relevance", links, "freshness", and who knows what else. Guess I did something right.
Granted, I've been ranting about the filibuster and supermajorities long enough, so it was good of Google to send inquirers my way. Still, it's an unexpected surprise to come back from a week away and find more visitors than I've had in a long time! Now, if only some of them are from "red states" and were swayed just a bit toward the sensible conclusion. It seems that Tuesday is "nuclear day", so if the issue reaches its critical mass, I pray that there are at least 6 GOP Senators who do the right thing.
Monday, May 16, 2005
Saturday, May 14, 2005
Thursday, May 12, 2005
Like many, I find the whole blurring of religion and politics disturbing for political reasons. But I find something else very disturbing for religious reasons, and that's this whole notion of voting anybody out of their church. A Christian church should not be like some reality show where people get "voted off the island". But apparently, it is not at all unheard of for a self-righteous congregation to "disfellowship" some of its members when they don't meet the church's approval. I was appalled when I first heard of this practice. Isn't that the spiritual equivalent of throwing somebody out of a life raft? How can people call themselves Christian and do such a thing? (Perhaps they read the Gospels and thought that the Pharisees were the heroes of the story?)
Look again at the quotes above from those two pastors. While both of them claim to disapprove of a purely political ouster, they also both clearly suggest that there may be other legitimate reasons for voting someone out. I wonder, just what sort of reasons might there be for disfellowshipping someone? For true Christians, I don't think there are any. (Even if someone embezzled the church funds, well, just read Les Miserables to learn the appropriate Christian response to that.) There are at least 40 people in East Waynesville, and countless others like them all across the country, who need to do some serious soul-searching about what it really means to be a Christian. I suppose these people might think they're just trying to distance themselves from sin. But this is not to follow the example of Jesus, who consorted with tax collectors and prostitutes, and who taught that whatever you do to the least among us, you do to Him. So essentially, the so-called Christians who disfellowship anybody are throwing Jesus out of their church.
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
In reading Harris' historical accounts, it's useful to keep in mind how the role of Vice-President has changed since the early days of the republic. Originally, the Vice-President functioned as a bit more of a balance because originally the Vice-President was generally not politically aligned with the President. Prior to Amendment XII of the Constitution, the Vice-President was the runner-up in the presidential election. Which is how you had Thomas Jefferson, the original Democratic-Republican, serving as Vice-President to John Adams, died in the wool Federalist. When Calhoun was Vice-President, the Federalists had collapsed, and everyone nominally belonged to the Democratic-Republican party, although there were factions and Calhoun was certainly not in John Quincy Adams' camp. Thus it makes sense that the filibuster didn't exist per se at the start of the republic, but became necessary as our present two-party system evolved. Harris sees the filibuster as just one tactic along an evolution of procedural brinksmanship, with each new "nuclear" threat serving to preserve consensus and balance. And he may not be exaggerating when he says that democracy hangs in the balance.
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
Sunday, May 08, 2005
I have no idea what made me think of it today, but in a flash I realized that that once obscure philosophical debate has found new life here in 21st century America. It seems antidisestablishmentarianism has resurfaced and is frighteningly relevant. Of course, as with all reincarnations, the new form is not exactly the same as the old. To refresh the memories of those who have forgotten (and to inform those who never were precociously sesquipedantic children), antidisestablishmentarianism was coined in the context of a 19th century English debate about the separation of church and state. In England, there had been an "established church" for many centuries, intertwined with the government. Even today, there are bishops who are ex officio members of the House of Lords, and the state government is involved in the appointment of the Archbishop of Canterbury (the highest ranking prelate in the Church of England). In 19th century England, in the political wake of the American and French revolutions and the philosophical wake of the Enlightenment, there were those who began to advocate for a separation of church and state ("disestablishment"), i.e., disestablishmentarians. And as every liberal impulse stimulates an equal and opposite conservative reaction, there arose "antidisestablishmentarians", who argued for the preservation of the established church. Though disestablishment eventually came about in Ireland and in Wales, there remains a formal established church in England and Scotland, although practically all of the more objectionable aspects have been eliminated and mostly what remains are quaint traditional trappings (like the Prime Minister proposing Archbishop nominees to the Queen).
So here we are in 21st century America, where everyone who went through American elementary school (whether they were sesquipedantic or not) knows that the United States has never had an established church, and that we believe in the separation of church and state as one of our founding principles. But lately, we have seen the rise of people who genuinely believe that we ought to be a Christian nation, and that there shouldn't be such a wall between church and state. (Andrew Sullivan has the goods here, here, and here.) Now one might say that these folks are "establishmentarians", since they are seeking to establish a church where there has been none. But one of the more alarming tactics of this pro-Christian-theocracy crowd is their revisionist history. They actually argue not only that the United States ought to be a Christian nation, but that it is and always has been. They reinvent American history such that separation of church and state is some radical left-wing propaganda that only gained any currency with the rise of "activist courts" (that's code for post-Roe-v.-Wade). Thus, in one of history's bizarre twists, it is their own belief in their revisionist history that makes it possible for antidisestablishmentarians to exist in a nation which has never had an established church to disestablish in the first place. I can only hope and pray (privately, thank you) that the future generations of brainy kids will enjoy the academic thrill of spelling neoantidisestablishmentarianism without any worry of being harmed by its effects.
Thursday, May 05, 2005
I certainly agree that these statistics demonstrate an increasing politicization of the judicial nomination process over the last several presidents. To my mind, that is all the more reason that an explicit supermajority rule ought to be established for these nominations. It is precisely where partisanship is most strident that a supermajority mechanism is needed the most.
Wednesday, May 04, 2005
Then there's our second favorite reality show, American Idol. The show really does attract some great talent, and it's (mostly) a pleasure to watch them especially in the final weeks. (Well, okay, there's also a schadenfreude kind of pleasure to be had from watching some of the more pathetic performances in the early weeks.) Not sure what's up with the voting lately. It's amazing to me that Scott lasted this long and that Anthony is still there, while Anwar and Constantine are gone. I think when you get this far in the finals, it's more about who does a better job of telemarketing as much as singing. (Remember Jasmine Trias? I mean she was good, but not top three good, not better than Latoya London good. But she had the whole state of Hawaii working the phones for her. And on some level, both in the contest and in real life, that's what counts.) My money's on Bo, but I'm not giving any long odds.
Oh, and I'm glad that Fox has finally stopped that nasty disrespectful habit of cutting off the dismissed contestant's farewell song.
Tuesday, May 03, 2005
Monday, May 02, 2005
Despite living in Los Angeles for most of our adult lives, neither my husband nor I had ever been to one of those glamorous Hollywood award events like the Academy Awards or the Golden Globes, so when we had an opportunity to attend the GLAAD Media Awards last Saturday courtesy of a friend's friend's corporate sponsor, we jumped at the chance. GLAAD, an organization chartered to promote the fair and inclusive representation of lesbians and gay men in the media, has grown to the point where their annual awards show (actually divided between LA, New York, and San Francisco for the various media, with LA of course being film and television) is a big-time star-studded gala, like a gay version of the Oscars. Like the Oscars, it's in the Kodak Theater in Hollywood. The evening was as fabulous as we'd hoped. It was black-tie optional, and most of the men were in tuxes and the women in gorgeous gowns, although all sorts of fashion statements could be seen. The awards show itself was quite enjoyable. Margaret Cho opened the show and was as funny as ever. (We didn't see them, but apparently the Fred Phelps gang were outside with their usual "God Hates Fags" protest signs. Of them, Margaret Cho said, "You know, I really wish Jesus would come back. He'd come back and see those people and say 'This is NOT what I meant!'") There were a number of fun presenters, including Desperate Housewives Marcia Cross and Felicity Huffman (who staged a dramatic kiss), Jason Alexander flanked by two hot actresses from "The L Word" (and was a good sport about it), Brendan Fraser (who introduced a feature award to Bill Condon), John Stamos (who had been called "hot" by Carson Kressley of Queer Eye, and also by Jason Alexander, and gamely replied "I'm flattered, Carson, but I think Kyan is more my type"), Garry Marshall (who had a great routine about the "gay lingo" he was trying to learn), several of the Queer As Folk boys and girls, and my personal favorite, Jennifer Coolidge who was as funny as ever. (Loved her in Testosterone. And every time she's on "Joey", I'm like "turn up the volume, now's the really good part!") The finale of the award show was Liza Minelli, who graciously received the Vanguard award and sang a number. After the award show there was a VIP dinner (with actually pretty good food) and a live auction with some fun items, including a walk-on part on Desperate Housewives that went for $20K.
This was the 20th anniversary of GLAAD's founding back in 1985 to protest the New York Post's appalling coverage of the AIDS crisis. There were some retrospectives offered during the evening, and it is truly remarkable to reflect on how much things have changed for lesbians and gay men in the last 20 years. While I am not entirely comfortable with some of GLAAD's tactics (I'd prefer to see "bad speech" countered with better speech rather than suppression), it's clear to me that the progress of the last two decades is due to increased gay visibility, both on a personal level and in the media. Our biggest enemy is ignorance, and the way to fight it is with truth, personally, in print, and on the screen and stage.
Sunday, May 01, 2005
The ironic thing is that recently we've been in a bit of an economic eddy where prices have actually been increasing faster than wages. Looking at the recent CPI-U index, it increased 0.4% in February and 0.6% in March with a 4.3% annualized inflation rate based on the first quarter of 2005. Looking at average hourly earnings, on the other hand, they increased an anemic 0.06% in February and 0.25% in March with a 2.3% annualized increase in the first quarter. I'm not sure how long such a state of affairs would or could continue, but I certainly found it ironic that just as proposals are being made based on an assumption of wages increasing faster than prices, that assumption is upside-down, making "progressive" indexing actually regressive.