Saturday, June 03, 2006

The sheep need the bears' PR people

Bears' Return to Pyrenees Cheered
Some marchers chanted "Bears, shepherds, sheepdogs - let's live together."
Notice they didn't include the sheep.
After brown bears disappeared from the Pyrenees in the 1980s, authorities released three bears in the region in 1996, and one of them killed 165 sheep last year.

Why democracy doesn't work in the Arab countries

The AP is running an article outlining the setbacks the Arab reformers have been experiencing in trying to liberalize their governments. Basically, the US has let up on pressuring the governments to change, because we're bogged down in Iraq.

The article goes on, though, with some comments from Arab liberals that confirm exactly what I've been thinking for quite a while: most Arabs are just not ready for democracy, especially Western-style democracy that values individual liberty so highly. When they do get a chance to choose their governments, they tend to vote for conservative religion-based parties that want to restrict their liberties, not enhance and protect them.

I think this first became known in Algeria a number of years ago. As I remember it, the people were about to or had just voted for a party whose platform called for the institution of religious law. The military would have no part of it, and executed a coup d'état. There was great debate about whether we should support such a non-democratic action--shouldn't we support a democratically elected government over a miltary dictatorship? No, I thought. Not this time. We should not support a government that will not protect individual human rights, regardless how it comes to power--the tyranny of the majority is still tyranny.

The AP article quotes Arab reformers echoing my thoughts: until there is a large middle class, democracy won't work there. They also point out that many Arabs are more concerned with settling scores with the West, from the Israel/Palestine question all the way back to the Crusades. I think they left out the problems of intra-Arab ethnic and religious clashes. The Sunni insurgents in Iraq aren't fighting to return Saddam Hussein to power, but they are fighting to keep the majority Shiites out of power--something they had under him.

But I think the biggest thing is the lack of a large, well-educated middle class, people who will expect their government to protect what they do have, not to give them what they don't have. Bush's attempt to impose democracy on Iraq will fail because of it. In fact, a great many of the small Iraqi middle class are leaving. They know what will happen when, sooner or later, the U.S. leaves.

Plat du jour: She's a real doll

Am I showing my age with this one?

Friday, June 02, 2006

Guns kill people. Sometimes people you know.

I've heard the arguments of NRA-types how letting people carry guns makes things safer. Bullshit. Maybe it's true out in the wide open spaces, but in crowded cities it's an unnecessary, dangerous hazard.

Clyde Haberman's column in today's New York Times, "Statistics, Ballistics and Lunacy" (subscription necessary), tells of the death of a woman in upper Manhattan due to a stray bullet, fired by a guy in an argument. (news story) Two groups of three men decided to end their sidewalk dispute with pistols, in the middle of a crowded shopping district, firing three or four shots. None hit their intended targets. (This assumes that any of the shooters did intend to hit a target--maybe they were just trying to scare off their opponents, or to make a statement. Could they all have been such bad shots that they couldn't hit someone a few feet away?) But one bullet traveled on and hit a woman walking along, minding her own business, a block away.

I knew the woman, at least I did twenty years ago. She wasn't a close friend even then, but I knew her. We had some friends in common, and eventually she joined my group of people who liked to end the work week with a nice TGIF dinner. We'd eat and drink and talk and wind down. She had some, er, unusual ideas about certain things (e.g. wearing a blazer over a lacey dress made it businesswear), but as eccentricites go, she was about par for the course for our ensemble.

But people started getting interested in other things, and the dinners petered out. I last ran into her on a subway platform maybe 15 years ago. We had a very brief conversation and went our different ways. Since then I had no contact with her--though a couple of the friends-in-common did mention her once in a while.

Now she's dead, and though she hasn't been even a small part of my life for a long time, I feel a loss--more of a loss than I would feel if she had just died from natural causes. It's not just the loss of someone from my past. It's the loss of someone, not too unlike myself, who died doing something in my city that I do all the time: she was just walking down the street, at 1:15 in the afternoon, in a crowded shopping area. I feel the loss of my own personal safety.

Why? Because someone was carrying a gun, and used it. Was it carried just for protection? Did the shooter have more sinister motives? We don't know. He hasn't been caught. Haberman listed a number of similar, recent deaths here due to "idiots" with guns. But he also points out the nice, level police statistics on shootings here in New York. Which seems to indicate one thing to me--a higher proportion of the shootings are from stray bullets. Which makes me feel a loss of personal safety even more. There are things I can do to decrease the chances of getting shot by someone shooting at me, but what can I do to minimize the chance of getting shot by someone not shooting at me?

The more guns there are, the easier it is for idiots to get their hands on them. The more idiots have guns, the more stray bullets there will be flying around, killing law-abiding people. Guns don't make things safer for law-abiding people, not in a crowded city. They just kill people.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Neat freak? Me?

I took the Sesame Street Personality test (link below). They think I'm Bert. I think their test is a little off (I had to correct a misspelling in the results, besides.) Take it at your own risk.
You Are Bert

Extremely serious and a little eccentric, people find you loveable - even if you don't love them!

You are usually feeling: Logical - you rarely let your emotions rule you

You are famous for: Being smart, a total neat freak, and maybe just a little evil

How you live your life: With passion, even if your odd passions (like bottle caps and pigeons) are baffling to others

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Plat du jour

Is Luda an animal lover? Or are we just being told to find a luda and pet it?

Monday, May 29, 2006

Oh, no! Not that! Please, anything but that!

Paris Hilton Plans Reggae, Hip Hop Album

I've been busy II

5/19: New York City Ballet. This was actually a fundraiser/development program, "An Evening With Friends at the Ballet," put on by their Business and Professional Committee--though I don't think it raised very much money: Admission was just $19 per person over the cost of the ticket (I did buy a raffle ticket for $5 more). It consisted of a backstage tour, a talk by a couple of the dancers, and a buffet dinner, before the performance. We went to one of these last winter (though I don't think I got around to blogging about it). The tour was better this time--the tour leader was more knowledgable, and the group was smaller, so we could go the costuming area, instead of just the wings. The dancers' talk was OK--things like how the dancers (both male this time) got into ballet (they tagged along with their sisters to dance class). The real reason I wanted to go to this again was to see Christopher Wheeldon's American in Paris, set to Gershwin's music. I really liked it, with its colorful portrayal of Paris in the 50's. The first two ballets, by Balanchine, I slept through. I'm just not terribly fond of ballets where there is no story, just people dancing to the music. This was similar to my experience at the one last winter, where the attraction was composer Igor Stravinsky's Firebird, with costumes and sets by artist Marc Chagall.

5/20: Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris: We went to this off-Broadway production with three French couples--though only two of the songs are sung in French. I liked it immensely. Brel's bitter songs of love gone wrong and the waste of war are still relevent. I never saw the legendary cabaret production back in the late 60's (it was before I moved to New York), but I have seen a filmed performance, and one they did in Town Hall nearly 20 years ago, featuring Karen Akers. The current production is actually staged, and this works better than just having the performers standing and singing. Curiously, one of the performers, Gay Marshall, is someone I saw back in high school 40 years ago (gulp)--she is the younger sister of one of my classmates, whom I knew only slightly. Afterwards all four couples went next door for a very nice dinner at Caminosur.

5/22: After a conference call of the steering committee of the NYS GENDA Coalition, where we mapped out our strategy for the final month of the state legislature's session, I went down to Arlene's Grocery for a performance by Lisa Jackson + Girl Friday. They've been doing a series of free shows there every Monday this month (you can still catch her tonight). They were great, and the packed house loved it. Lisa has toned down her performance just a touch from February--it still shows her personality, without falling into rock performer clichés. The band is soooo together. The only thing I would have liked was a bit more solo work by the band--those guys are good! Afterwards I hung around to say hello to Lisa (and I did talk with drummer Freddie "Boom Boom" Sanchez briefly), and had another drink which I shouldn't have had. Then I went up to the O.W. Bar to catch drag queen Kenny Dash's Bingorama. Actually, what I went for was a supposedly surprise birthday party for her. I did manage to stay for that (instead of a cake they passed out tiny White Castle hamburgers!) and one game of bingo, but I knew I had drunk too much so I called it a night.

5/23: First I attended a Continuing Legal Education class at the City Bar Assn on Employment Discrimination Law: Workplace Rights & Protections Relating to Sexual Orientation & Gender. Then I cabbed it downtown to catch the end of an event of the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club honoring Queer Eye's Kyan Douglas and Scott Stringer, the Manhattan Borough President. Clover Honey was there shooting a segment for Under the Pink Carpet--she even interviewed me, briefly. Mostly I stood talking to Eliyanna Kaiser, just off the plane from Paris--and sporting a new engagement ring. She is an aide to Assembly Member Dick Gottfried, the prime sponsor of the Gender Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA). Sherry Vine, Trai LaTrash and Mimi Imfirst each sang a number--though hardly anyone listened. Afterwards Clover and I went to Foodbar for a late dinner.

there's more

I've been busy I

You may have noticed I haven't blogged very much of substance since I got back from Spain. It's not that I've spent two weeks unpacking, or even going through all the mail, both e- and snail- (though that did take me a lot of time). Mostly it's been because I've been too busy doing stuff to write about it. Here's a quick rundown:

5/13: New York Philharmonic: Cellist Yo-Yo Ma playing Bartók's Rhapsody No. 1, and Brahms' Double Concerto, with Colin Jacobsen on violin, followed by John Adams' Naive and Sentimental Music. With David Zinman conducting, this proved to be quite entertaining despite a bit of jetlag. The Bartók was my favorite--Ma really got into it. But he seemed rather distracted during the Brahms, frequently looking at someone in the violin section. The violinist was one of the young musicians Ma frequently combines with--Jacobsen was quite good. After intermission, most of the audience returned for the Adams piece. I like a couple of his works, Short Ride in a Fast Machine and The Chairman Dances: Foxtrot for Orchestra. This one, however, was not one I'd spend time listening to again.

5/15: Eli R. Green presenting his paper, The Discourse of Trans Identities: Tackling Terminology at Trans NYC. I first met Eli last fall when I spoke at the "Trans* in the City" program, which he runs at the Hetrick-Martin Institute. From a purely academic standpoint I think fellow MHB-er Angus Grieve-Smith's Transgender Verbal Hygiene is a better treatment of the subject. Angus did give a summary of it during the discussion that followed. One idea of Eli's I did really like was his preference for "gender diverse" over "gender variant," as the latter implies the binary gender system. Afterwards some of us adjourned across the street for drinks.

5/16: Tosca at the Metropolitan Opera. After hearing singer/songwriter Grace Millo last winter, I got to hear her more famous sister, Aprile Millo. She was great--and huge. She's put on a lot of weight since the last time I saw her--so much so, that it was difficult to believe her as the supposedly super-attractive Tosca. But her singing was wonderful. James Morris was just as good as the villain Scarpia, though Eduardo Villa's Cavaradossi did not come close to their performances.

5/17: I started with the Crossdressers International open house. Then Clover Honey and I made a quick visit to Will Clark's Porno Bingo. From there we went to the O.W. Bar to see Sherry Vine perform. We got there late (how unusual: a drag performance that starts on time). Sherry's great. She can really sing well. After that we went across the street to the Townhouse Bar. After passing through the front room (and the disapproving looks from some of the older gay guys there) we went to the piano bar in back, where we enjoyed a pleasant hour or so listening to (and singing along with) Michael Ferreri.

to be continued

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Websearch of the day

First someone was looking for pictures of her legs. Now someone is looking for edie falco ass pictures. As I said before, I don't have pictures of any part of her.

But this did cause me to remember that I have seen her ass, and all the (dimly lit) rest of her, in Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune on Broadway.

Plat du jour