Saturday, January 14, 2006


This blog had its 3,000th visit earlier this evening. Thanks to all of you--especially those who keep coming back for more (while I can't identify my visitors totally from the log, I get enough information to recognize repeaters). I just wish more of you would leave comments.

I guess maybe it's time to install a visible visit counter. But not tonight. Right now I'm going to go watch the Wisconsin-Northwestern basketball game I recorded earlier.

Thanks again.


At CSI: FACT OR FICTION I wrote about a panel discussion I attended where they talked about the effect TV shows like CSI have on real-life trials. The Associated Press has more on the subject here: Legal TV Dramas Influence Real Jurors.


Computer Movie Camviewer Dating?
Computer Movie Camviewer Hookup
Computer Tele Cam Meeting?
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Computer TV Cam Dating?
Computer TV Cam Meeting
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Electronic Movie Camera Meeting
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TV Camcorder Dating?
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Web Cam Hookup
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New York City requires landlords to provide heat to apartments. Sometimes. The rules basically say:
Between October 1st and May 31st, a period designated as "Heat Season," building owners are required to provide tenants with heat under the following conditions:
Between the hours of 6:00 AM and 10:00 PM, if the outside temperature falls below 55 degrees, the inside temperature is required to be at least 68 degrees Fahrenheit;

Between the hours of 10:00 PM and 6:00 AM, if the temperature outside falls below 40 degrees, the inside temperature is required to be at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
So at night, as long as it's 40 degrees outside, landlords have no obligation to provide any heat at all.

Forty degrees is COLD!

Of course, by 6:00am they are required to get the apartments up to 68 degrees--unless it's 55 or more outside.

The whole thing is ridiculous. What difference does it make what the temperature is outside? What's important is what the temperature is inside.

I suppose there is a tiny justification for the start and end dates--it gives the landlords a definite point when they can shut down the heating systems. But frankly that is little comfort in late September, when the daytime temperatures can slip well below 55.

Who thought up this idiocy anyhow?

Friday, January 13, 2006


There wasn't much in this year's Lincoln Center Film Society's 15th Annual New York Jewish Film Festival that particularly attracted me, at least at times I didn't have a conflict. I'm only going twice. The first time was last night, for a pair of 52 minute documentaries.

The first shown (contrary to the schedule) was Keep Not Silent: Orthodykes. Things got off to a rocky start when they started showing the film without sound--rather ironic, given its title. After a few minutes of yelling and clapping by the full-house audience the projectionist restarted with the soundtrack on.

It is the stories of three Jerusalem women who are both observant Orthodox Jews, and lesbian. How they reconcile these two seemingly contradictory aspects of their lives was the subject of director Ilil Alexander's first film. Though Keep Not Silent does suffer here and there because of her inexperience, it is still a powerful documentary.

Alexander had to overcome the needs of her subjects to remain anonymous. Pseudonyms were used. Only one would let her face be seen. Alexander used a blurred webcam picture for one, and just shot the last from the rear. There were a lot of scenes shot through curtains, which became kind of symbolic of the basic contradiction--a little light could get through, giving a hazy image, but there was no way for the two sides to really see each other.

It was the two older women who needed complete anonymity. They were both married, one with ten children, one with six, and it was the danger to their children that was the women's biggest concern. Quite simply, if it were known that their mother was lesbian, their opportunity for "good" marriages would be destroyed. In fact, no parents would even permit their children to enter her home.

"Miriam-Esther," the mother of ten, is totally in the closet. Not even her husband knows she is lesbian. She has suppressed her sexuality for twenty years, consciously avoiding becoming friends with any woman she thought she might become attracted to. "Ruth" leads a double life, with both a husband and a woman partner. But her husband discovered the secret, and came to the conclusion that it was better to keep the family intact, even if he had to tolerate his wife having a couple evenings a week with her lover. Finally there is "Yehudit," younger and single, who decides to openly enter into a commitment ceremony with her partner--while still planning on raising children in an Orthodox home.

The film gets confusing here and there. At the beginning there is talk of two women agreeing to participate in the film, yet there are three. The young couple are seen planning their commitment ceremony, yet they did not follow those plans. No explanation is given. My other major complaint is the inclusion of a series of lengthy landscape shots, that I suppose were intended to set a somber mood, which was not the least bit necessary--even the most joyful scene, the commitment ceremony, was saddened by a cellphone call to Yehudit's parents.

The film has been around since 2004. In fact, it was shown here last summer by NewFest, the New York LGBT film organization. It has been in various film festivals all over the world, and has won a number of awards. While I don't think it is quite as well-made as Trembling Before G-d, which focuses more on gay and lesbian Orthodox Americans, it is a bit better in explaining how some people are handling their duality.


I posted my comments on the film that followed here.


I have been getting a catalog called Healthy Living for some time now. It targets the mature (OK, I'll say it, the older) market, featuring things like folding canes, anti-wrinkle creams and denture cushions. But there's another category that has been slowly making its way into the catalog over the years: "sexual health" supplies.

It started very discreetly, with a plain, tapered cylindrical "massager," which they showed being used by a woman on her neck. (Yeah, right.) Now there's 4½ pages of merchandise, including a "Dual Pleasure Vibrator" ("Stimulates both pleasure zones at once"), the "Love Pill" ("Safe for those with high blood pressure or diabetes"), and the "Dual Pleasure Ring" (a vibrator which "sensuously grips both the penis and testicles"). There are videos, too. There's even more stuff on their website.

I'm guessing it won't be long before they start selling vibrator-equipped incontinence panties--a waterproof vibrator, of course.


Town May Make Carrying Condoms Mandatory


Automobile safety researchers have just noticed that female bodies are different from male bodies, so they are now developing female crash test dummies.

I think they need to get out of the lab more often.


There's a story on the radio about how NY mayor Mike Bloomberg has promoted healthy habits, such as nutritious school lunches and anti-smoking measures. One thing in it caught my eye:
Bloomberg's weaknesses are red wine, hot dogs and the occasional hamburger. If he overindulges, there's a price to pay: He has a weight-loss wager with longtime friend Peter Grauer, the CEO of Bloomberg LP. They weigh in every six weeks, and whoever is over his goal weight _ Bloomberg's is 169 _ must fork over cash to charity.
Now Mayor Bloomberg is listed in the Forbes 400 as having a net worth of $5.1 billion. How much of a wager does he have to make so that he would really care if he lost? A million? Ten million? More?


Well it still seems to be having problems, but not as bad as yesterday. Consider this a test.

Was it the old Pogo comic strip that always pointed out when "Fri13" came on a Friday? Anyhow, that's today.


You may have noticed some difficulty viewing this blog the last couple days. I sure have. I had even more difficulty updating it. One article went in three times, because I got a screen telling me it hadn't gone in. So I tried it again. Twice. When I finally got in and saw the triplication, it took about two hours to delete a copy. That was two hours each. The one post I got in after that took about an hour and a half.

But everything is functioning normally now. If it remains so tomorrow, expect a bunch of snarky little articles on some news stories I've come across, and some comments on a couple of movies I've just seen at the NY Jewish Film Festival. But I'm going to bed now.

Thursday, January 12, 2006


In my continuing effort to put the "T" in LGBT, last night I was appointed to the board of directors of the LeGaL Foundation, the educational/charitable arm of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Lawyers Assn. of Greater New York. Assuming I want to continue with this next year, I'll probably run for the main board in the fall.

I believe I'm the only trans member in the whole organization.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


The great Swedish opera soprano Birgit Nilsson has died at the age of 87. I think I only heard her sing once, maybe twice, at the tail end of her career, but she was still magnificent. She was reknowned for singing the great Wagnerian heroines, but her most frequent role at the Metropolitan Opera was as Turandot.

She was known for her tremendous sense of humor. My favorite Nilsson story was when she was singing a love duet with a tenor, and held on to a high note longer than he could. He got so angry that instead of kissing her, as the script required, he bit her on the neck. She cancelled her next performance, on the grounds that she had contracted rabies.


Over on the (en)gender message boards, my friend Betty thought someone was neglecting her and her wife Helen, and replied, "What are we, chopped liver?"

I've heard this expression many, many times, but I just don't get it. Why do people think chopped liver is something inferior? There is nothing inferior about chopped liver. I love chopped liver. It's wonderful.

As long as they put in onions.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


Police: Schwarzenegger Riding Illegally
So Arnold never got around to getting a motorcycle endorsement on his driver's license. I realize this is not the same type of Republican lawlessness as I pointed out here and here, but still, he should have known better.

Does this mean the Terminator films were made illegally?


Parents Discover Babies Were Switched
Jan 10, 4:33 PM (ET)

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) - Two babies born on the same day in the same hospital in Thailand were accidentally switched at birth, but nobody knew about it for a decade.

The parents of the children, now 10 years old, learned last month they had been raising children that biologically were not theirs, doctors said Tuesday.

Doctors at the hospital in the southern Thai province of Trang where the children were born said it was still a mystery how the mix-up occurred, but noted that the pair shared certain traits.

"They were (born) in the same room, had the same weight, and were delivered at the same time," said Sinchai Rongdet, the current director of Yantakhao Hospital where both babies were delivered. "The only difference is their gender."

Doctors typically tell a mother her baby's sex as soon as the child is born and tag the baby's wrist with his or her particulars.

The children - Orawan Chanthong, the girl, and, Cherawut Bunyu, the boy - grew up in neighboring villages and went to the same school. Neighbors constantly told the parents that their children bore close resemblance to the other child's family.

To end nagging curiosity, the parents and children went for DNA tests, Sinchai said.

"DNA tests confirmed that the children were switched," he said, adding that the families have not yet decided how to handle the news.

A senior Health Ministry official, Prat Bunyawongwirot, said the ministry was investigating the incident and assigning psychologists to speak with both children.


DeLay Tried, Failed to Aid Abramoff Client
This stuff just keeps coming and coming.


Girl Gets Bird Flu After Kissing Chicken


Father of LSD Celebrating 100th Birthday

Monday, January 09, 2006


Sunday afternoon I finished viewing the Russia! exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum. It only took me three visits to see it all, it was so big. (See my previous article.)

It was the weekend, in particular the last one before the exhibition closes, and the lines were humongous--there was even a short line outside for members, just to get in to the line inside for the members' desk. There was also a line to get an Audioguide, because there were none on hand. As soon as someone turned one in, it went right out again. All of the lines moved fairly quickly, though, so it wasn't that bad. Curiously, there was no line at the coat check--which explains why I kept getting brushed by the coats people were carrying when I got up to the exhibition.

I found the stairs and got a little exercise going up to level five, where I had left off the last time. As I figured, things weren't quite in chronological order, as the annex where I had seen the early Soviet works preceded the turn of the century pieces. There were various examples of works clearly influenced by western styles, and some that were trying to get away from western styles, particularly those employing a sort of primitivism. The former I thought were just pale imitations, and the latter more remarkable for the attempt than the execution.

But here and there I did find I few I did like--none of which seemed to be of any particular style I could identify. For instance, Mikhail Vrubel's 1898 Portrait of Nadezhda Zabela-Vrubel, the Artist's Wife, in an Empire Dress, with its big blotches of color, really stood out.

There was also Piotr Miturich's 1915 Portrait of Arthur LouriƩ. This was tucked away behind a pillar, and from what I can gather it is not a particularly important work in art history. Regardless, I think it was my favorite of this visit. It seemed to portray the man and the mood perfectly, with a minimum of fuss and bother.

There was one painting from the Soviet era that stood out. Even the control exerted by the Soviets over art, with its mandatory "Social Realism," could not totally stop other styles. I really liked the stark figure of a Russian peasant in Kazimir Malevich's Complex Premonition (Torso in a Yellow Shirt), which he did in about 1930. So simple, yet so powerful. It was one of his very late works, after he gave up abstract painting.

The more recent works did little for me. I eventually got to the end, and turned around. Then I walked down the spiral ramp, revisiting all of my favorites. It was getting toward closing time, and the crowd was thinning out, especially at the lower levels, so I could get a good, undisturbed view of almost everything. It was almost peaceful.


Device Defused at San Francisco Starbucks
It looks like Starbucks is a dangerous place, along with Wal-Mart. Avoid that one, too.


There is campaign going on to remove the horrendously over-priced British chain Transformation (sort of the Michael Salem of the UK) as the top reference when you Google "transvestite." The idea is to make the Wikipedia entry number one by adding references to it in blogs. Which I've just done.


Pope Baptizes Newborns in Sistine Chapel.

So, what? This doesn't affect anybody--not even his followers. It's just a religious leader performing a normal religious ceremony, reiterating church policy.

If the pope announced that abortion was OK, or women could be priests, that would be news. This is not worth the electrons spent on it.

Sunday, January 08, 2006


This afternoon I went to a program of the New York Times' Arts & Leisure Weekend entitled "Crime Scene Investigation." It was a panel discussion featuring former NYC sex crimes prosecutor turned novelist Linda Fairstein, renowned forensic scientist (an expert witness in the O.J. Simpson trial) Dr. Henry Lee, and the creator of the hit TV series "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" and its spinoffs, Anthony E. Zuiker. The program was described as an examination of "how TV crime solving matches up to real-life investigations."

First, I should say that I haven't watched many of the CSI TV shows, and the few I've seen I didn't particularly like. Even without having the specialized knowledge of the panelists, I knew the shows were far, far from real-life. Real police forensic specialists do not have any contact with suspects--that's the job of the detectives. They're certainly not going to be the ones slapping the cuffs on them.

I had also read a little article in TV Guide after the first show started, where they listed which of the forensic procedures shown on the show could actually be done. Some were accurate, but some were a big stretch--and a few were total fiction, according to the experts quoted. What I also read elsewhere is that no local police forensics lab has all of the fancy equipment shown on the show.

But, my wife likes CSI: Miami especially, and she had had a brief encounter with Linda Fairstein many years ago (she was on a jury in a trial Fairstein prosecuted before she moved to the Sex Crimes Division), and she wanted to go. So I went along, even knowing pretty much what was going to be said.

And they said it. That and a bit more. For instance, while this does vary from locality to locality, the people who gather the evidence at the crime scene generally are not the people processing it in the lab--that's a separate group of people. So on the shows they melded three different units, the detectives, the evidence gatherers, and the lab technicians, into one. And, as one would suspect, the labs don't come up with answers nearly as fast as on the show.

That kind of stuff I expected--it's entertainment, not a documentary, and they have to tell a story in 44 minutes and 15 seconds, as Zuiker explained. They try to keep it as accurate as possible, with experts on their staff, but that's not their highest priority.

What I didn't expect was a discussion of how the TV shows have affected real-life. There is now a huge number of people, the majority women, wanting to get into forensic science. Dr. Lee runs a school for them. But it goes way beyond making an arcane profession suddenly hip. Juries now have to be warned that real life is not like on CSI--they're not going to see the kind of evidence they've seen on TV. Dr. Lee also told us of a police detective who requested Dr. Lee to write to his Chief, because the Chief was demanding results from his CSI people like he saw on television.

It was an entertaining hour-and-a-quarter. They were all good, humorous speakers, though Dr. Lee's accent is still pretty thick despite all the years since he came to America. Clyde Haberman, the New York Times columnist who moderated, asked good questions. There was a Q&A for audience members at the end, and even most of those questions were pretty good.

But the best part of the whole thing was when Haberman allowed Fairstein and Lee a couple of minutes to wander off-topic and discuss the O.J. Simpson case. Dr. Lee had testified for the defense, and said the evidence could not establish Simpson's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Fairstein said that to the contrary, the evidence of past, escalating domestic abuse, coupled with the physical evidence, was enough, and that if the judge and prosecutors had done their jobs right Simpson would have been convicted.

It was Dr. Lee, though, who got the biggest laugh of the program when he said, "At the beginning of the trial, 80% of Caucasians thought O.J. was guilty, and 80% of African-Americans thought he was innocent, and 100% of the Chinese didn't give a shit."