Sunday, May 22, 2011

H8 Comes to Minnesota

It is just after 4:00AM Central Time on a rainy Sunday morning and I am awake, for now. I wake to the news that the final vote on the proposed Constitutional Amendment to ban same-gender marriages once and for all in the state of Minnesota will be on the November, 2012 ballot. This will be on the same voter's sheet alongside President Barack Obama's re-election bid and the challenge to U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar's (D-MN) seat.

Frankly, I am bitterly disappointed - as are a majority of you. It simply appears that our state's budget and economic recovery are meaningless next to sending this shit to our ballot boxes. It does not ensure confidence that I will be able to be a contributing taxpayer in this state, unless a job comes along that keeps me employed and my debt under control. I'm hopeful for the latter, yet it seems the game has changed now. 

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Advocating for The Arts

Originally Posted on March 19, 2011

I felt like the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland a couple of Tuesdays ago. I was late. I forgot that it was Arts Advocacy day in every state of the union.

The Minnesota Citizens for the Arts facilitated this particular lobbying event in St. Paul at the State Capitol building. The main gist of this event was to lobby members of legislature to ensure that state continues their support for the arts. Part of this support is slated to come from the new sales tax addendum voted in 2008 known as the Legacy Amendment. As stated in this new state constitutional amendment, certain percentage of the sales tax revenue is supposed to go directly to fund the State Arts Board and the regional arts councils.

Of the additional sales tax revenue, the MCA was advocating that the legislature earmark 50% of those funds to the State Arts Board and the regional arts councils. That way, the funds go towards building the infrastructure for these creative communities to continue providing an integral piece of culture in every county of the state.

A Victory - On the Home Front

Originally Posted on December 23, 2010

There was a time when serving in the military was not in the cards. Being gay and serving your country in peacetime meant sacrifices to the integrity of a solider, sailor or Marine. Our lives went against the Uniformed Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) – as it is as legislated in a majority of the states of this union.

Then, our window of hope soon became available. To fulfill his promise of equality for GLBT persons per his election in 1992, then-President Bill Clinton wanted to eliminate the barriers for openly gay active duty personnel in the Department of Defense (DOD) to serve on an equal basis than their heterosexual counterparts. The precedence was there – when President Harry S. Truman integrated the armed forced in the aftermath of World War II.

Unfortunately, the promise never was fulfilled. Instead, in 1993, Clinton compromised into a policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT). It gave GLBT uniformed personnel the ability to serve their country by compromising their integrity – to stay quiet about their sexual orientation. Since the implementation of that policy, over 13,000 active duty personnel were discharged for being out and proud.

Snowmaggedon...Snowpacalypse...or, Just a Big Ol' Blizzard

Originally Posted on December 13, 2010

It certainly was bad, but it really wasn’t.

On Saturday, December 11, 2010, the Twin Cities experienced a major snow storm. Some may call it a blizzard. To some extent, it was. In all, the region had over a foot of snow accumulation that created havoc at every turn.

In Justin's Name

Originally Posted on September 29, 2010

Justin Aaberg was 15 years old when he ended his life. One must ask why would a young man do such an act.

Aaberg came out when he was 13 to his parents. He seemed like a normal boy, but he was a gay man wanting to be out and proud in his suburban Anoka County, Minnesota community.

To put this perspective, the community Aaberg lived in is part of the Sixth Congressional District – represented by Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.). Her supporters completely agree with one thing: GLBT people should not be equal in citizenship than the status quo (i.e, the majority of people in her district).

This fervor for homophobia extended to Aaberg’s peers. This young man was bullied because he was gay – and nothing more. Aaberg bore the brunt of bullying by his peers while gaining traction at Anoka High School. He suffered more than enough to end his life. His pain was too much to bear.

Yet, Aaberg was shy, but very intelligent and highly talented. Still, we ask why did he take his life? Why succumb to the prevailing hatred and ignorance in his community? Why did the school district and community allow conditions to become unsafe for GLBT students?

Remembering Tim

Originally Posted on September 9, 2010

Two months ago, we lost a dear friend, Tim Morrison. Since his death, he had been memorialized and remembered as a kind-hearted, caring friend by his partner of 10 years, Steve Remer, his family and his friends across the country. On Friday evening, our local community will celebrate his life over a meal as a way to give thanks to the friendship Tim gave us during his time in the Twin Cities.

We have plenty of memories of Tim. I know we will share those memories tonight. I’m sure that are stories of Tim that will be bantered about the dinner table – too numerous to recount on here.

Clarity Up Ahead

Originally Posted on September 9, 2010

Well, I figured it out – my plans after graduating Saint Mary’s. Getting there, however, will be half the fun.

So far, I am learning a lot from my Residency with the One Voice Mixed Chorus. Doing Social Media is not as easy as one might think. For one, using an “organizational voice” helps keep some continuity in relaying instant information to an organization’s “fans” on Facebook or followers on Twitter. Secondly, the challenge is to not only keep engaging with those watching the page, but to have them engage with the organization at the same time. Sometimes, it is like pulling teeth – but the payoff is still eminent.

The Residency is still young. I have yet to do any of the videos One Voice asked me to do for the audience development project for the first concert. This should hopefully take place by the end of the month. I am also ramping up for my first on-site marketing effort in two weeks. Once I get things going, hopefully I will be to yield good results for One Voice by the time the January concert is over.

Making Sense of Social Media and Activism

Originally Posted on August 17, 2010. WARNING: The following post has strong politically-based opinions not normally expressed on this blog. If you do not wish to read such material, you are free to skip this post. Otherwise, please read with care. Thank you!

Pride 2010 - A Renewed Sense of Purpose

Originally Posted on June  24, 2010

Pride? I thought that was last weekend…

Seriously, this weekend is the traditional LGBT Pride commemoration, now going on 41 years after the Stonewall Riots. Among the Pride celebrations this weekend will be the one right here in Minneapolis with the traditional weekend festival at Loring Park and the parade down Hennepin Avenue downtown.

The reason for my quip about “last weekend” (that’s if you haven’t checked out these photos) was that I was down in Iowa City attending their Pride. Why Iowa City? I figured if I was heading down to Des Moines anyway – why not? And, I’m glad I did!

WARNING: Leadership and Humor Might Not Mix Well Together

Originally Posted on June 22, 2010

The following was written as an assignment for my Leadership and Decision Making course at Saint Mary's University of Minnesota that recently finished. This is a reflection on one of the leadership issues brought up in class in terms of "wedges" against the success of a team and its leader. Since I've experienced this first hand on various fronts, I figured I'd share with my professor my interpretation of this issue. 

Now, I share this with you. Enjoy!

Whip It - With a Twist

Originally Posted on March 28, 2010

When I was a kid, Saturday morning television offered up alternatives to the run-of-the-mill cartoon programming. Get away from the three networks and you will find sporting matches that were pure schlock and entertainment. Yes, they had pre-World Wrestling Entertainment professional wrestling, but I think that was on some UHF channel that took some effort to tune in at times. The one such sport that did come in clear on a VHF channel down the dial was roller derby.

Back then, in Los Angeles in particular, they staged bouts between teams of men and women inside the old Olympic Auditorium and were broadcast on KTLA-TV (and, later, on channel 52 out of Corona, California). The Thunderbirds were the premier roller derby club in the country (from a L.A. perspective, of course) and provided some interesting times to behold on television.

I never quite understood the attraction to roller derby, as much as I abhor the attraction to professional wrestling. It wasn’t until some of my former co-workers began to promote their participation in a local all-women roller derby club that it all came back to me. The Thunderbirds aren’t dead (actually, they’re still going and doing their matches at the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds in Pomona), they happen to be rolling along inside the Minneapolis Convention Center almost every month.

Today, you will find roller derby teams everywhere, mainly thanks to a movie called Whip It. All-women teams showing they can kick butt on a short, flat oval track temporarily set up on convention center floors for the entertainment of hipsters all over. From what I gather, they’re attracting plenty of fans.

Of Community Through The Voices and Images of Others

Originally Posted on March 7, 2010

I wasn’t there – but, weeks later, I’m getting a full picture of what went down in San Francisco over President’s Day Weekend.

International Bear Rendezvous, for the uninitiated, is one of the biggest confabs for the aforementioned gay male subculture. It was 1996 when I popped my head into this run – seeing a plethora of guys who took what was considered a fetish into a viable community of like-minded gentlemen celebrating their humanity with the world. These were men who walked the line between masculinity and sexual orientation. It was a place where I found my identity without reprisal.

It has worked out for the most part. There is also delicate balance when I talk about the people from my past and the people I associate with (lately – sometimes begrudgingly).

Still, IBR remains a magnet for the stories that continue to be told. Through technology, these stories are brought to wanting ears. Granted, these are stories you’d rather not tell your grandchildren, but they do whet the appetite of those far from the scene confirm either positive or negative feelings about their ilk.

Sticker Shock

Originally Posted February 20, 2010

Sticker shock. It exists in spectator sports, too!

Here’s a question: How much are you willing to pay for a hockey game? What if you’re in a market where ticket promotions for your local hockey franchise are as rare as the elusive great pair of seats at the same arena?

The Minnesota Wild is the answer to these questions. Our less-than-ten-year-old National Hockey League franchise has been the bane of my frustration lately. The problem is not the team, but the arena. The Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul would be a wonderful place if the seats in the upper deck didn’t feel so tight and on top of each other. I’d rather have vertigo than sit in the third tier. Otherwise, I would have to cough up money I truly do not have for a pair of great and comfortable seats in the lower bowl (or, maybe, the second level). I simply could not justify a two-ticket bill of $170.00 or more for a team that appears to be rebuilding under a new coach and general manager.

Thankfully, the NHL is on vacation in Vancouver as their best play for their respective native countries. What is left is a plethora of hockey options ranging from the minor leagues, junior leagues and collegiate conferences. In the Twin Cities, the best alternative to the Wild is one of the most prestigious collegiate hockey programs in the country: The University of Minnesota. I must point out, however, that the Golden Gophers held court in the state’s game longer than the first NHL franchise that graced this community: The Minnesota North Stars (now the Dallas Stars). Being a long-standing tradition, there is a price one pays for admission. At $35.00, I had to rethink whether I’d like to attend my first Gopher’s Men’s hockey game before I can justify affording it.

An Open Letter Regarding the Earthquake in Haiti

Originally Posted on January 15, 2010

Dear Reader,

By now, everyone in the world knows the unbelievable catastrophe the capital of Haiti is going through. A city of three million inhabitants and countless other visitors saw the mass burial of 40,000 of their own so far. Other bodies have been laid out on the streets waiting for processing before burial. There are many others trapped underneath the rubble either alive or dead.

This catastrophe did not just affect the Haitian people. This was a disaster with a multinational affect. The United Nations suffered the most losses in their history when their peace keeping and humanitarian mission collapsed. Virtually every country is reporting the status of their own people, alive, missing or confirmed dead in Port-au-Prince.

Social Networking or Real Friendships - You Decide!

Originally Posted December 9, 2009

Maybe I should be thankful for fat fingers - or, for not being overly popular.

I get it, really. Social networking and media is the wave of the future. It builds communities through technology unlike anytime in our history. It also breaks down barricades between us and expands the possibilities of human connectivity.

However, can social networking sites replace real honest-to-God friendship? How much of it can imitate life?

Putting Serious Play Into Action

Originally Posted on November 12, 2009

Whenever you come to a person’s desk, there’s always some form of curious items out there for view. We’re not just talking about pictures of family and other fun things around the desk. There are maybe some toys and items of interest that reflect the person behind the desk. The rule of thumb is to never invade a person’s desk unless you have permission. Sadly, even the most creative people have this rule.

One of the things I’ve learned through the Creative Leadership Development course is the concept of Serious Play. As interpreted, it engages others through utilizing play to connect leaders with others on their team. In my case, it would more of an individual artist making a connection with another person, or, rather, a creative leader of some form or another.

In the past, I would be protective of another touching something special of mine. This class opened the lid off that notion.

The Pioneers are Back!

Originally Posted on November 8, 2009

This is really tough to say, but I believe I’m too old for collegiate sports.

Let me explore this for a moment, when I finishing up my undergraduate studies, the university I attended just cut millions of dollars form their budget. The axe fell on varsity intercollegiate sports. The President of the university justified these cuts as to concentrate on the core competencies of the institution – it’s business school.

Well, at least that’s how I saw it. I was in the Arts Letters and Social Studies school at California State University, Hayward (now East Bay). Obviously, we never benefitted from the budget shuffle which intercollegiate sports made way for other programs across campus. After all, they were completing their then-new satellite campus tucked away between Concord and Walnut Creek.

That was in 1993 – when I finally received my Bachelor’s in History. Joys of joys – right?

A week ago, I learned that my undergraduate alma mater is back in the NCAA this season. Yep, Cal State East Bay is now a Division II school participating in men's and women's basketball, baseball and a few other sports in the California Collegiate Athletics Association (CCAA).

Reflections of an Off-Year Election

Originally Posted on November 4, 2009

Considering today’s implosion of social networking site frustration over Maine’s Question 1. I need to evoke an old high school teacher of mine to follow through the process of “the next step.” I’ll get to Alan Benson in a moment…

In a previous posting, I offered up the suggestion of lobbying instead of rallying for rights on a Federal level. Good idea, right? It still is – but yesterday’s polls mean more to localized issued issues that have an impact on Federal ones.

We get frustrated because it seems we do little to further our cause. It is convenient  to post our frustration online as opposed to doing something about it. I’m certain we all do things to help further the cause of societal equity and improving our quality of life in our own way. We always promote our nation as a polyglot of cultures as opposed to one that employs a form of institutional apartheid. We’ve gone too far as a culture/community to find ourselves on the wrong side of history by the virtue of rants without action.

Halloween...I Get It, Now!

Originally Posted on October 30, 2009

Let me set the record straight: I am not a Halloween person.

The reasons are simple: I don’t like dressing up unless I’m going to a job interview, a sporting event and the rare fancy dinner party. Oh, wait, you meant costumes? No thanks! I’d rather go to a Halloween party in my street clothes.

C’mon, how many people can be Star Wars characters, superheroes, Presidents, priests, drag queens and soldiers on one evening? Che Guevara, anyone? Why not German Chancellor Angela Merkel? Just dress up as something that doesn’t insult someone’s intelligence!

On Halloween night, kids do their Trick-or-Treat thing and go door-to-door. I’m not into that, either. You may never know with kids today! Have you been seeing YouTube or listening to some of the podcasts? Kids lack the discipline I had when I was a child. But, that’s another contentious debate I’ll keep to myself…

Then, there’s the matter of the Horror/Suspense genre. Ghosts, ghouls, vampires, werewolves, spiders, and various other ugly monsters all scare the living daylights out of me. I’m just not into them, sorry. Sure, I watched Jennifer’s Body and Where the Wild Things Are recently. C’mon, Diablo Cody and Spike Jonze are not Brian De Palma, Rod Zombie or Wes Craven. Now, those three guys make seriously scary cinema!

Why the lame excuses? Not because I’m lame –fine, I’ll own that part! Nor is it due to some religious concepts – though I haven’t been religious in a while.

Of Rallies, Marches, Banquets - and Civil Rights

Originally Posted on October 20, 2009

Let’s be honest here: Do rallies, marches and speeches do anything to change the way things are now?

I wanted to take a week or so to absorb all of the activities from the weekend of October 10-11. Between the activities in Washington and throughout North America in support of the National Equality March and National Coming Out Day, I came away with several observations.

• It just seems pretty convenient to march, rally, cheer and make speeches anytime we feel compelled to do so.

• We also expect President Barack Obama to deliver our rights to us. Even the President understands that certain policies need to go through Congress to draft before it reaches his desk for enactment. We argue otherwise without understanding the actual processes of the Federal Government.

• Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) has a point: Instead of just marching and rallying, try lobbying instead! It’s more effective that way.

• We are still a divided people. We not only disagree with either targeting the Federal Government or each individual state house; we often disagree on the actual methodology to do so. Furthermore, we’re still divided in terms of gender, actual sexual orientation, generation and subcultural identity 40 years after Stonewall.

• We’re still afraid of those who would rather see us either repent our sexual orientation or gender identity…or see us shoved into an untouchable class in American society.

What has the events of that weekend truly accomplished? I’m waiting for an answer…or, should I just listen to the continued debate as spurned on by the media?

Taking Adversity as it Comes

Originally Posted on August 25, 2009

After about four years of gainful employment, I was laid off a week ago on Tuesday. Considering the battering this economy has taken for over a year, I’ve actually seen this one coming.

Initially, it was a tough pill to swallow. What threw me off for a loop was the fact that I found myself in a strange space in my life. My regular routines of commuting by bus to work and settling into an office no longer existed.

Lives Stolen by Hate

Originally Posted on August 4, 2009

“Violence against anyone is evil, but violence against our youth generation is especially sinister.”

This came in a Facebook message from the local GLBT youth organization, District 202, as a statement of condolence for an atrocious act committed over the weekend in Tel Aviv. A gunman dressed in black walked into Café Noir and opened fire on a gay youth meeting held at this popular hangout for the city’s GLBT community. Three people were killed, with about eleven wounded. One of the killed was a counselor for the group.

Earlier this year, the Long Island Gay and Lesbian Center near New York City was the target of vandalism. This included a passenger van for the local youth organization, whose windows were smashed in.

For years, GLBT adults and institutions were targets of anti-gay violence. We often try our best to protect our youth from the hate and the end result of said hatred. Individual acts of violence were as random and far between over the years. Attacks against institutions charged with giving GLBT youth a safe space are relatively new.

The first question we often ask of these incidents is “why.” Why attack youth? I can assume the reasons why, but how can anyone be motivated to destroy a culture’s future before they can realize their potential on this Earth? This is just GLBT youth, but any community’s youth!

bTalk Signs Off

Originally Posted on July 30, 2009

Can a cultural phenomenon end? Would you call a comedy podcast from a gay subculture a cultural phenomenon to begin with?

Before bTalk recorded their first episode, there were a few podcasts based in the Bear community. The one gaining prominence at the time was the Bear Podcast. “The Nard,” a Filipino chaser based in Houston, hosted the podcast on such frequency to cover practically everything that was going on with clubs and individuals. Where bTalk broke with these podcasts was an emphasis on humor and putting mirrors on both the local Bear community and society-at-large. Sometimes, they dabbled in serious subjects as well as entertainment subjects that were of interest the hosts and the producer.

Where did bTalk come from? A group of friends that have been hanging out for a while decided to get together and talk about anything and everything using a hot technology: Podcasting. Soon after, Shannon, Jason, Kurt, Joel and Jeff recorded their shows from the Zinn13 Revolution Studios in Minneapolis.

Along the way, bTalk crafted a standard for other self-produced podcasts featuring ensemble hosts. One might compare the show to Howard Stern or Jamie Foxx’s radio programs, except for a few minor details with a smidgen of anarchy on the side. Yet, if you ask the guys, they would probably say it was nothing. If you produced about 200 episodes on a weekly basis with a loyal audience that cared about the hosts, it wouldn’t be just “nothing.”

A Night with the WNBA

Originally Posted on July 10, 2009

For once, we may have achieved gender equality somewhere where it was needed.

After three decades of Title IX and the rollercoaster rides of both LPGA and the WTA Tour, there is a sense that there has been progress in equalizing the genders in the field of professional athletics. The introduction of the WNBA under the guise of the National Basketball Association helped to bring professional women’s hoops to this country. It wasn’t the first attempt to do so, but it was unprecedented as it had the machine of the NBA behind it.

For the most part, it survived over ten seasons. In the meantime, teams came and went, but a core of clubs still play today. Still, the question remains whether the league can still survive by playing in less-than-half packed arenas, especially the ones run by their NBA counterparts.

My first WNBA game in 2000 was proof that the league can pack the fans in. This is why the Washington Mystics are still in business. To my disappointment, the lower bowl of the Target Center in Minneapolis simply looked half-filled for the Lynx.

You May Now Call Him Senator Franken

Originally Posted on July 7, 2009

Who knew he would become a United States Senator?

When I was a kid, Al Franken was one half of the comedy duo with Tom Davis. They appeared regularly on “Saturday Night Live” for extra comedy context in their skits. I thought they weren’t funny. Perhaps I never got their humor.

Franken continued doing solo comedy gigs on television, film and in print. Then, he turned his comedy into serious political discussion from the left side of the spectrum. This turned into more books and the prime spot on the Air America radio network. While he was going toe-to-toe with Bill O’Reilly, many of his listeners and fans wondered whether Franken would consider running for political office.

After a year’s worth of campaigning, a close Election Day tally and a prolonged legal challenge to the vote itself, Alan Stuart Franken was sworn in as Minnesota’s junior member of the United States Senate.

Since Election Day, the United States Senate had 99 of its 100 seats occupied. They also had to deal with another contentious seating of a senator in President Barack Obama’s old place on the floor. Yet, the Democratic majority held onto 59 seats waiting for the outcome from Minnesota’s electoral challenge. The Democrats needed 60 members to stop a filibuster; however, it would still be not enough votes to pass legislation requiring two-thirds of the votes inside the Senate.

Remembering The Time

Originally Posted on June 28, 2009

When I was about six or seven, my father asked me to pick out an album as the first one I ever owned. I looked around and saw the “Greatest Hits” collection of the Jackson 5. It seemed so appropriate a starting place for someone so rooted in R&B music to embrace the five eldest sons of Joe and Katherine Jackson.

From there, it all fell into place. For another decade or so, the music of the second youngest son, Michael, was the foundation for every form of music I listened to then and now.  From “I’ll Be There” to “Scream” (the duet with his sister Janet – and the last Michael song I truly enjoyed), that voice defied convention and rose above the music behind it.

This weekend, a few days after the pronouncement of Michael Jackson’s death, I soaked in my fill of tributes to the “King of Pop.” An old Jamie Foxx radio show had super-producer Teddy Riley talking about the backstory of recording “Remember The Time.” Between the words and the groove, Michael came up with Riley’s biggest hit.

This weekend’s Foxx show, live from BET Music Awards Press Day, had the crew, their guests and Foxx reminisce over moments with Michael. Foxx recalled attending the Jacksons’ “Victory” tour at Texas Stadium in Irving from eleven rows from the stage. The experience of watching Michael influenced Foxx in his endeavors. You can hear the admiration for Jackson in the voices of Keith Sweat, Lyfe Jennings and football great Doug Williams, among others.

The Poetess was right on one point: “(Jackson) belong to us…to the world.”

Pride 2009: Coming Full Circle

Originally Posted on June 25, 2009

“Being gay has taught be tolerance, compassion, and humility, It has shown me the limitless possibilities of living. It has given me people whose passion and kindness and sensitivity have provided a constant source of strength. 

“It has brought me into the family of man, Mama, and I like it here. I like it."

- Armistead Maupin through the voice of Michael Tolliver from More Tales of the City

Since my initial coming out process, this quote from Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City series provided a center for my soul. Through the pen of Michael Tolliver, the primary gay character in his books, Maupin expressed the thoughts that would otherwise take more eloquent and oblique wording on my part to explain to my mother and everyone I grew up with about my sexual orientation.

This passage also serves to signify my existence within the Bear culture. The idea of a subculture as a family is something of an anomaly in mainstream society. As far removed as we are from our birth relatives, we often search for a sense of “family.” Once we find it, it is through the closest friends and confidants whether they are in a particular neighborhood or across state and national borders. Within this “family,” you are free to express yourself without reprisal and recourse.

Then, something happened in the process. Over years of establishing a life within the context of sexual orientation and cultural identity, one wants to ensure there is constant contact with the past. One wants to understand where they stand with the people they grew up and were fond of during one’s formidable years. Clearly, the paths taken by each of us were different, but with similar traits that are unique to a person’s experience during those younger times.

Was it About Marriage or Democracy?

Originally Posted on May 26, 2009

Well, they decided.

In the case of the challenge to the passing of Proposition 8 in California, the state Supreme Court upheld the vote today in a 6-1 decision. To be clear, the decision was not made on the basis of the question itself, but rather the use of the voter initiative process to make changes to the state’s Constitution.

There is good news among the bad. The state Supreme Court did not revert the 18,000 marriages of same-gender couples.

I'm not thrilled with most of the ruling. While most of my friends concentrate on the issue of same-gender marriage itself, I take exception to making a mockery of the laws a particular government institutes to uphold the ideals of modern democracy. There are far-reaching implications in regards to the temper of the ruling as California’s initiative process could possibly dictate the state’s Constitutional process, which is already is full of Swiss cheese. This looms as a potential backlash for the state, despite the court’s majority opinion restating that the power for voters to amend the Constitution is limited.

Blame It On...

Originally Posted on May 7, 2009. WARNING: The following post uses language, situations and concepts that are not suitable for all readers. Reader discretion is advised.

So, Jamie, what did Myley Cyrus do to you?

A Tale of Two NHL Games

Originally Posted on February 13, 2009

For an occasionally frustrating game to follow, why do I end up loving it so much?

Last season, I walked away from a few professional hockey games scratching my head. Granted, this game was embedded in my psyche as early as 1972, as the Los Angeles Kings began their seventh season inside the Fabulous Forum. The game wasn’t completely sold on my family, my mother in particular, but I stuck with it until I was able to attend a game at the Kings’ former home down in Inglewood, California a few years after I left high school.

Since my relocation to Minnesota in 2004, my hockey attendance picked up significantly. Even with all of the games I attended, I never made it to the end of the third period. At my only visit to the Washington Capitals in 2000, I had to leave after the first period due to my own ignorance with my diabetes medication. Aside from my previous visits in Los Angeles and Washington, I attended National Hockey League games in Detroit, Chicago and St. Paul along with an American Hockey League tilt in Des Moines.

Other than health reasons, my early exits were due to a larger issue: A lack of competence in understanding the game of hockey.

This season was different. So far I took in two NHL games in two different cities and stayed through each entire game. This is an accomplishment, nonetheless, but significant as I have been trying to wrap my head around the game beloved in my state of residence.

"Change" Has Arrived

Originally Posted January 19, 2009

Change. You can feel it in the air.

On Tuesday, January 20, we will witness history. Not just in terms of the President in the guise of Hawai’ian native Barack Hussein Obama II, but of a call to change the course of this nation. Obama is a beacon for change. This is why the majority of voters elected this gentleman, the former junior United States Senator from Illinois, to the highest post of this nation.

But, what exactly is change? Why is so much pressure put upon a thin, astute, Harvard-educated gentleman? Why have we chosen to further the cause of honoring diversity by voting in a man of African heritage to one of the most powerful positions on this planet? Why does it all matter what our nation’s leader look like if he, his administration and a newly sworn Congress are tasked to solve the issues of a slumping economy, a massive national debt and a world on the verge of imploding into various pieces.

A man who lives above hate is walking into a world where division stagnates progress.

Reflections of a Hero Portrayed on Film

Originally Posted on December 3, 2008

Rarely do I attend films at the cinema anymore. It takes something that captures my interest and attention that will draw me to the screen.

It has been 30 years since Harvey Milk, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, was murdered alongside Mayor George Moscone. This is a story that was crying to be told on screen. The late author Randy Shilts wrote an excellent biography of Milk probing into his childhood and life before and through his relocation to San Francisco. There was an opera performed based on the political life of Milk, considering that one of his passions was the opera.

This past weekend, a new biopic by filmmaker Gus Van Sant based on the political life of Harvey Milk opened in limited release. I was a part of a group from the Minneapolis Movie Bears that viewed the film on Tuesday. There were 82 people amongst the group to watch history captured on film. A few watched the film in advance over the weekend, but felt compelled to share the experience with the larger group.

When I first thought about the film Milk, I thought of films that impact certain groups of people with the telling of their stories. When I think of the Apartheid struggle in South Africa, I point to Sir Richard Attenborough’s Cry Freedom, the story of the friendship between martyred activist Steven Biko and journalist Donald Woods. When I think of the holocaust during World War II, I consider Stephen Spielberg’s Schindler’s List. Of course, when I want a different point-of-view of the Civil Rights struggle of the 1960’s, Spike Lee’s Malcolm X comes to mind.

Being a Facebook Friend

Originally Posted on November 30, 2008

I’m 44 years old and I have a Facebook page.

By now, everyone knows what Facebook is as it is the hottest social networking site on the Internet. Originally designed for traditional undergraduate college-aged folks to network and keep up with their lives, it is no longer for 20-year-olds anymore.

It seems that everyone is using Facebook. Certainly the bulk of Facebook users are individuals like you and me, you can also find celebrities, organizations, sports leagues, television programs, media outlets and causes with their own Facebook pages. They’ve taken social networking beyond anyone’s imagination.

The Flip Side of "Change" and "Hope"

Originally Posted on November 6, 2008

The election was mainly about President-elect Barack Obama. Though history was made, there were some drawbacks to discuss. After all, this election was not perfect.

For example, I wasn’t thrilled to find out that the voters in California amended the state Constitution be reverting 18,000 marriages in the process. Granted the state Supreme Court reversed an earlier proposition by granting these licenses to same-gender couples, it seems that the majority of Californians aren’t ready to co-exist with the married gay couple next door.

A New Dawn in America

Originally Posted on November 5, 2008

Today, I have faith in my country again.

The election of the junior Senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, reigns in a new era for this nation. One that will transition this country from an era of dubious leadership and agendas to one that is proactive and engaging with its citizens and the world. There is a lot of work to do and the Obama administration knows what lies ahead with a potential recession and continuing military actions in the Middle East. We need to give this administration time as it goes through the motions of setting forth a new agenda for this country.

Clean Water...and The Arts, too!

Originally Posted on August 4, 2008

For those of us in the USA, November 4, 2008 couldn’t come any sooner…

Not only will the voters in this country decide the next President on that date, we will be inundated with many other choices pertinent to the future of our lives. Besides, the ballot does not stop with choosing between Senator Barack Obama, Senator John McCain and everyone else on the Presidential column. Some places have United States Senators, Members of Congress, state and local officials and many questions to ponder.

Yes, our brains will hurt at the end of the balloting experience, but that’s democracy, folks!

Here in Minnesota, we will also ponder questions on our ballot aside from whether we want Norm Coleman to go back to Washington as the state’s senior Senator or send Al Franken or anyone else instead. One such question was actually pitched in class by an alumna of my Saint Mary’s (MN) program.

Mapplethorpe Redux

Originally Posted on June 24, 2008

Remember Robert Mapplethorpe? Boy, did he cause a stir!

For those of you who may have forgotten the late artist/photographer, Mapplethorpe created a huge brouhaha by posting homoerotic photos in public gallery spaces…on the government’s dime. Many court cases, postures by politicos and celebrities later, the face of the art world has changed to a ethical dilemma of global proportions. The quandary of exhibiting or performing “risky” works has inhabited the arts world in force. It still scares the living daylights out of many mainstream arts organizations.

On the second night of the Ethics and Arts Law class, we were presented the case of Robert Mapplethorpe. It still represents the ultimate ethical conundrum of whether a particular piece of work can make or break an artist’s reputation or the reputation of the place of performance or exhibition.

This case also has a contemporary context. In late May, two gallery showings of the works of Australian photographer Bill Henson were taken down in the Sydney area. One of the photos included a young female nude sparked a huge debate between politicians the Australian public. The outrage, led by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, caused the debate to deepen, though gallery owners argued that Henson’s works were “not pornography.” The state government in New South Wales decided not to press charges against Henson, which Arts Minister (and former lead singer of Midnight Oil) Peter Garrett applauded stating that the courts were “not the appropriate forum for resolving strongly held views in a debate which I think is much wider than just the impact or otherwise of works of art.”

It is as Mapplethorpe has risen from the dead.

You May Now Kiss "Party B"

Originally Posted on June 16, 2008

Leave it to the state of my birth to do something to piss off the rest of the country, if not half of its own citizens.

Today, the Registrar offices of all 58 counties throughout California can issue marriage license for couples of the same gender. California joins Massachusetts, Canada, Denmark and a few other places around the world where same-gender couples can legally use the term “married” as their relationship status.

With “marriage,” you get all of the state’s entitlements reserved for that status. Unfortunately, this does not apply for Federal tax laws and other Federal statutes pertaining to their definition of a married couple.

That’s OK. Good thing Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger didn’t challenge the state Supreme Court’s ruling or that the number of signatures appealing to stay the decision was never met. The reason goes back to a problem the Governator pointed out in his “State of the State” speech months ago: The state budget.

If "The Play's The Thing," Then Explain All of This to Me?

Originally Posted on May 31, 2008

When I was younger, we had soundtracks from musicals from Broadway and film at the house. I listened to them. I recalled a few of them. I think the last musical I wanted to see was A Chorus Line at the Schubert Theater in Century City.

That was the early 1980’s.

Today, musical theater is not my forte. Ask me about Wicked and I’ll give you a blank stare. Avenue Q I might see, but I wouldn’t pay Broadway prices to do so. Otherwise, I am disconnected from the world of musical theater.

"Let Get Some Shoes! Let's Party!"

Originally Posted on February 13, 2008

Liam Sullivan is the smartest guy in the entertainment business. This guy from Tarzana (just next to Reseda, BTW) took a comedy act, dressed himself as a nerdy alternagirl and made a video about a shopping addiction to shoes. A million-plus hits later on YouTube and you have a makings of a star! Margaret Cho came knocking…as VH-1 followed along. Millions of fans, including segments of the Bear community, became fans of Kelly and Liam.

Back to that video…shoes. It may be easy for Kelly/Liam to enjoy the rush of buying a $300 pair of them, but not this ordinary guy. You see…it’s not that I can’t justify spending $300 for a pair of shoes, even if it’s my size.

I am a big foot. I wear USA Men’s size 14…regular width. Yeah, you can get shoes my size in most places, but finding one that fits is another issue entirely. Let alone a pair that’s comfortable and provide traction on crappy surfaces.

Frigidity, Glad-Handing and Real Nostalgia

Originally Posted on January 30, 2008

You know, believe a native Minnesotan when they say it’s really cold out there.

Yesterday, it was cold. It was cold in the middle of last week, but not as cold as Tuesday night. We’re talking the coldest wind chill factors I’ve ever faced in my life. I never experienced a wind chill of -35F before. Now, that’s really cold.

This was felt en route from work to school via downtown Minneapolis Tuesday evening. It was certainly felt coming home from school. In fact, our class was cut short because it was -8F outside with a wind chill of possibly -26F. Luckily, we are glad he was concerned for all of us, despite that insipid midterm exam. Yet, we opted out of our presentations that evening. Damn, I was so prepared!

This morning, I took no chances and called a cab. It was truly worth the cab fare to keep myself from that cold. My supervisor showed me how he braved the cold: Wool socks and a thermal coating, along with a vintage tweed jacket and a wool overcoat covering it all. He assured me that this was it for these kinds of temps for this year. I hope so. If he had to dress like this, it was really cold.

The Song That Needs To Go Away

Originally Posted on January 26, 2008

How many of think that Gwen Stefani’s “Sweet Escape” is the most annoying song ever?  At least I think so.

Here’s why: Every Sunday, I listen to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Radio National program “Street Stories” via podcast. There was one episode that I have on a CD about the breakdown of the Gordon Estate in Dubbo, New South Wales. This was mainly a crime-ridden state housing project that was mainly populated with Aboriginal people. A wave of violence on the Estate prompted the state government to forcibly move families residing on the estate into other neighborhoods throughout Dubbo.

Passion for a Semi-Fictional Community Center

Originally Posted on January 23, 2008

I know it’s been 30 years since he’s dead, but somehow I evoked a little Harvey Milk last night in class.

Let me explain: Weekly, we are to make presentations based on the concepts we learned and apply them into our “invented” non-profit organization. This week, we discussed three critical elements in non-profit marketing: Market Research, Target Audience identification and Positioning.

Why are these three critical? In order for a non-profit organization to market themselves, you need to identify the people your organization needs to reach, how to determine the best ways to do so and to identify what you want your target audience to think about your organization.

The Reasons We Talk About The Weather

Originally Posted on January 20, 2008

I do envy the guys attending the Fiesta de Los Osos event in Tucson. Considering that weather is relative, I will take 64F temps in southern Arizona over this morning’s reading of -14F. Their lows have been in the thirties.

Saturday, the high temperature was 2F. There is a wind chill. I’ll stop there.

Psychologically, these temps put a damper on what really looks like a gorgeous day outside. However, this is the reality we live with in Minnesota. It gets cold. If it gets too cold for our tolerances, we stay home.

What happens when you have to fight “cabin fever” with conditions as frigid as yesterday? In my case, it’s a chance to study in my $170 textbook or Tuesday class, prepare for the oral scenario that evening, do laundry and catch up on my podcasts. Luckily, I will have the place to myself as my roommate has the misfortune of commuting across The Cities to work on this frigid day.

Attractive Shop Clerks and Friends Who are Neighbors

Originally Posted on January 14, 2008

They said it would snow. It did, but would you truly call a dusting “snow?” Also, you’d think that temperatures above freezing would actually dry up the ice from roads? Or, that homeowners would invest in a green-friendly ice melt formula to let pedestrians not worry about slipping and falling…and calling their lawyer.

Yet, the supposed snowstorm did not stop me from slogging a big SUV around for some critical errands this weekend. This is where the MotorGeek work really takes place.

Just Two Doors Away...

Originally Posted on January 2, 2008

What if you woke up one morning and found out that you were just feet away from a major crime scene?  How do you feel when you always believed in being safe and secure in your life to know that this may have happened to you?

About two-and-a-half hours into the New Year, this exact scenario happened. Two houses down from where my roommate/landlord and I lived, two men walked up to the door and rang the bell. Apparently, they were casing the neighborhood, looking for a thrill crime. They noticed that four people just entered into the house after a night of reveling.

One of the owners of the house, a 28-year-old male, came up to the door, only to be greeted by the two men. There were three others in the house, including the owner’s wife. What happened afterwards was unclear.

It is OK to Play?

Originally Posted on November 11, 2007

How did Friday evening’s presentation of the Creative Process interview go? The professor seemed pleased with everyone’s interviews and self-examination. I think I did OK. One never knows how some one grades, really.

One of the observations our professor made as a common thread among the creative process is an artist’s propensity to use play as part of their tools. When we first examined the book Sparks of Genius: The 13 Thinking Tools of the World’s Most Creative People by the Root-Bernsteins, it is confirmed that play is a common and prominent tool among creative and scientific people. This was quite an interesting observation, but it also explains everything about the creative world.

The Legend of "Boomer"

Originally Written in the 1990s - Modified in the 2000s - Last Posted on August 16, 2007

It was one of those picture-postcard afternoons in the San Francisco Bay Area, as I was meandering up and over the Waldo Grade towards the Golden Gate Bridge.  When I reached the top of the bridge, I turned off towards the Marin Headlands and headed for my favorite piece of secluded beach at Point Bonita. I parked my Acura Integra and opened the hatch.  Out of the hatch came a big heavy black bag.  I lugged the monster east across the beach an area where no one from the road can see you because of a bluff that narrows the beach from the water.

As the sun began setting and an orange glow reflected on the city’s skyline, I unloaded the black bag.  Out came a beautiful barrel-shaped wooden stave drum, finished in an elegant wine red color and framed in shining silver steel.  The thick head showed some wear from my huge tender hands, but it begged for more.  I complied as I sat upon a rock, put the drum between my legs, and told a story through my hands a celebration of life, of joy, and of this wondrous place we call our private stage.

I miss those lovely summer days.  I miss being able to play my drum in the natural wonders of California.

For the past nineteen years, I lived out a secret fantasy in my life.  I always known that I am a drummer, but my family never allowed me the opportunity to explore that and other hidden parts of myself.

Are We Connected Yet?

Originally Posted on August 11, 2007

A memo to everyone: I am not as tech savvy as you assumed I am!

Story time: the duplex I live in has wireless Internet. This is courtesy of an old Linksys router given to me by my friend Scott to help make life easier for my iBook. It’s always about the laptop, folks!

The setup was not bad and it worked well with Time Warner Cable (which was taken over by Comcast here in Minneapolis). I did not secure the Wi-Fi, so my neighbors started picking up the signal. One next-door neighbor paid a few bucks to use it, which seems only fair. One of my roommates also shared the Internet through his wireless.

The "Mouse" Roars Again!

Originally Posted on July 14, 2007

When was the first time you read Armistead Maupin? Was it at the time PBS first televised Tales of The City? Or, were you one of the original readers of the newspaper series that first appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle many years ago?

Not everyone have read Maupin, though I would make it required reading for anyone living or visiting San Francisco. I’d give copies of Tales of The City to every GLBT person I know so they can honor one of our finest writers in our community. Maybe they already have a copy?

Why my enthusiasm over Maupin? As a gay man who came out in the San Francisco Bay Area, he was my inspiration to write. Every writer can point to one other person for inspiration. I have two…luckily both icons made their mark in San Francisco. Randy Shilts happens to be the other inspiration.

When I picked up my first Maupin book, I was hooked. There is a singular reason for this: Michael Tolliver.

Another Sappy Pride Story

Originally Posted on June 20, 2007

What’s another semi-lame story of Pride for this month as we count down to the opening of the major GLBT celebrations this weekend…

Chew on this, folks:

“Do I Make You Proud?”

Originally Posted on June 15, 2007

What does Taylor Hicks has to do with Gay Pride? No, it’s not about wishful thinking. I hope that everyone who thought he was hot should’ve been over it by now. Besides, his recordings haven’t been selling well.

This weekend marks the start of our Pride Week here in The Cities. Funny how time flies when you’re busy with other stuff! The good news is that I am not working at any booth at Loring Park. On top of that, I don’t have to work any events like I did last year. A Pride without obligations…finally!

So, I should be relaxing...right?

A Day of Lobbying for Proactive Legislation

Originally Posted on April 19, 2007

I went to the Just Fair Lobby Day at the State Capitol.

What's the big deal? Every year, Outfront Minnesota schedules an entire day for its GLBT citizens to talk to their representatives in the state legislature. The program is capped with a noon rally in front of the steps of the State Capitol in St. Paul. This is a golden opportunity for GLBT citizens to participate in direct democracy as facilitated by the statewide GLBT advocacy organization.

Today, We Are All Hokies!

Originally Posted on April 17, 2007

On Monday, before my class meeting, the press reported a series of shootings on the campus of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg. A 23-year-old English student from South Korea opened fire inside his dorm, then into a classroom killing at least 30 people. In the end, he killed himself. So far, there has been plenty of speculation as to the motivations of this young man.

Before that, Virginia Tech experienced a similar incident at the beginning of the school year when the campus was shut down to locate an escaped prisoner who shot a hospital security guard and a sheriff’s deputy.

My experience with the Blacksburg campus is through a close friend who graduated from there in 1998. I visited him on campus a year before and fell in love with the area. The mountains and the setting of the Hokie Stone buildings are breathtaking and peaceful. It was worth the four-and-a-half hour drive from Falls Church to see him. When I attended his graduation, I knew it would be the last time I would experience the beauty of Southwestern Virginia.

In one morning, that peace was shattered by a few rounds of bullets.

To the Virginia Tech family, including its alumni, the families of its students, faculty and staff, I wish to express my condolences to you all on this sad and jarring event. I can only ask for healing and restoration of peace back to the Southwestern Virginia mountains again.

Today, we are all Hokies!

Discourse to Paradigm Change

Originally Posted on April 17, 2007

Homelessness. Not exactly an easy subject to discuss, even in the classroom. However, in our class it is necessary to discuss this, as it is a part of our discovery of the concept of home.

How can one be without a physical home? Why do we have a societal problem where thousands of people are perpetually homeless? Why do we have a severe class divide that has shut out populations from being able to share in parts of this country’s economy?

These are valid questions, and help is on the way. Our class was fortunate to have as a guest Cathy ten Broeke, the Coordinator on Homeless for Minneapolis and Hennepin County. Ten Broeke’s mission was to get our region to stop managing the homeless problem, but to end it altogether in the course of ten years.

Lost in Transcription

Originally Posted on April 5, 2007

Every week, two students head up the class discussion on the readings. Next Monday will be my turn. I’ve taken the liberty to get a jump on the reading and form questions as I go through the book. That way, I will have a final set of questions ready for the class.

My discourse partner for the week, Gini, will be out of town. She agreed to forward her questions to me so I can pose both of ours to the class. The one thing I learned from our group is that we love discourse. The strategy would be to have more than enough questions available for discussion knowing that we will end asking half of them by 8:55PM.

The book, you ask? It is a memoir of a Polish-born writer, Eva Hoffman, called Lost in Translation. However, this book has nothing to do with Bill Murray and Scarlet Johansson’s cinematic misadventures in Tokyo. Nor will this book be turned into another move by Sofia Coppola. It is a fascinating tale of a woman who was transformed by the first decade of Communism in Poland only to face the quandaries of being Jewish after World War II. Her family immigrates to Canada only to find some difficulty in navigating the North American world and its chosen tongue. Hoffman explores her journey from being Jewish in Communist Krakow to adulthood in New York City.

Lost in Two Cities

Originally Posted on April 1, 2007

The class continues our exploration of the issues home surrounding race, ethnicity and language this week. Another book already grabbed my psyche for Monday’s discourse. This time, it is a set of stories set in the 1960’s in Washington, D.C.’s African-American community. Yet, another familiar scenario that I have quite a bit of knowledge about!

One thing that I was looking for was the fact of segregation in the District at that time. One line stood out clearly as the book’s characters mention by crossing a certain city would put them in the predominantly Causcasian neighborhoods. Another fact of segregation came in the form of how the police handled a missing child incident in one of the stories. By telling a concerned father that his child can be considered a missing person after 48 hours, it makes you wonder what if it was a white child that was missing how quickly the Metropolitan Police would fill out a report on her?

The Stories of Obligation

Originally Posted on March 25, 2007

In preparation for the return of the rigors of classroom meetings, the readings become more intriguing. For example, Richard Rodriguez’s Days of Obligation: An Argument with My Mexican Father. The purpose of this reading is to kick off a series of discussions on various issues around ethnicity, language and culture in the context of home.

The reading itself was engaging. The Sacramento-native Rodriguez takes you through a journey of discovery to balance his identity as a basis of a place he calls “home.” On one hand, he is an American of Mexican decent. He questions whether he is Chicano or not. He also questions whether he is indigenous or Hispanic, challenges his Catholicism, and argues between his American self and his Mexican self. He even questions his sexuality.

Many questions lead to not an identity crisis, but a self-actualization this journalist undertakes through his ventures on several continents and communities.

On the Path to a Spiritual Home

Originally Posted on March 8-13, 2007

Alec Mapa has the best perspective on the next discussion for the class. In his stand-up comedy special on the cable channel Logo, Mapa described the “Filipino Catholic household” of his youth in San Francisco. After describing the various symbols and artifacts relating to his family’s faith, Mapa recalled turning to his grandmother and asking the reason for having a multitude of crucifixes, paintings and sculptures of various Catholic symbols around his house. His lala responded with one word: “protection.”

I would describe myself as a spiritual person. However, my spirituality is not one confined to a single house of worship. Also, a house of worship can be confining if you have other beliefs beyond the doctrine dispensed at service.

In Search Of "Home"

Originally Posted on February 27, 2007

This Monday’s class session was a turning point on this journey. After weeks of uncertainty, validation arrived with a grade on my first paper. Let’s just say that the green light blinked on and it’s all “go” from here.

My brother, Matthew, requested a copy of the paper. He will be getting said copy as soon as I make the edits based on my professor’s notes and finalize the draft. She had plenty to say regarding the points I made and encouraged me to further probe and expand on them for other readers. Now, I understand what to expect on my future papers in this program.

For our weekly class discussion, we read Open House: Writers Redefine Home, a collection of essays that explored further the concept of home from a diverse group of writers. Two of the essayists were of particular notice.

Writing About Home and Considering Comfort

Originally Posted on February 20, 2007

This week marked another milestone in the graduate school experience. I have been writing for several years, but I avoided any works that had academic weight. That was until today. My first paper was submitted to my professor closing a 14-year gap between such works.

What was it all about? The assignment asked for a biographical reflection on the home I grew up in. Sounds simple, right? Wrong. The difficulty level was raised as this needs to be of a caliber attuned to the expectations of graduate-level students. Not only that, you also had to cover four areas of discussion: a physical explanation of the best memories of the house, an explanation of the bioregion where the house is located, a study on the attitudes and values of the household and a fourth area of my choosing.

Those Wheels Must Turn

Originally Posted on February 14, 2007

Needless to say, Monday night's class left an indelible impression upon me. Upon the subjects we covered, we delved into National Public Radio host Ray Suarez’s view on suburban migration over the last five decades as written in his book The Old Neighborhood: What We Lost in The Great Suburban Migration: 1966-1999. Though there was a singular reasoning for this suburban migration that Suarez points out, we seem to almost neglect other subsequent trends that occurred in light of it.