Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Mississippi's Empty Defense 

Yesterday I posted on the OUTLaws blog about the recent Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network's (GLSEN) first annual report on the safety of schools, particularly for GLBT students. The state of Mississippi fell last in the rankings, actually receiving a score of -3, the only sub-zero grade.

Today CNSNews (an "other side" website I actually enjoy reading, because while they definitely put their conservative and anti-gay spin on their news stories, they put effort into not engaging in inflammatory rhetoric and they do make the original sources available through links. Many of these sites don't provide direct access to the source material for their readers, lest they see a different point of view) announced that they had received a response letter from Dr. Henry L. Johnson, State Superintendant of Education for Mississippi.

The strongest defense presented by the Superintendant, and touted by CSNNews, is that Mississippi has strong anti-bullying laws, regardless of the reason. From his statement:

"Bullying for any reason is unacceptable. Mississippi has one of the statistically safest school systems in the U.S. Mississippi does, in fact, have some of the strongest school safety and anti-bullying laws in the US. In fact, it is a misdemeanor to bully a student to the point that student is afraid to attend class for any reason. We have had 6 prosecutions under this law in the last 3 years."

Let's take a closer look at the statute in question, which is listed in Sec. 37-11-20 of the Mississippi Dept. of Education School Safety Manual along with their own translation of the statute:

"SEC. 37-11-20. Intimidation, threatening or coercion of students for purpose of interfering with attendance of classes.

It shall be unlawful for any person to intimidate, threaten or coerce, or attempt to intimidate, threaten or coerce, whether by illegal force, threats of force or by the distribution of intimidating, threatening or coercive material, any person enrolled in any school for the purpose of interfering with the right of that person to attend school classes or of causing him not to attend such classes.

Upon conviction of violation of any provision of this section, such individual shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be subject to a fine of not to exceed five hundred dollars ($500.00), imprisonment in jail for a period not to exceed six (6) months, or both. Any person under the age of seventeen (17) years who violates any provision of this section shall be treated as a delinquent within the jurisdiction of the youth court.

TRANSLATION: It is illegal to intimidate or use threats or distribute material calculated to prevent a person from enrolling or attending school or classes. This is legislation from the "civil rights" era that is highly applicable to policies regarding bullying, protests, boycotts, and student walkouts. You can charge a bully under this statute if the victim is afraid to come to school.

Note the inclusion of the condition "for the purpose of interfering with the right of that person to attend school classes or of causing him not to attend such classes." So just picking on a kid because he or she is perceived to be gay would not be sufficient for prosecution under this law. The actors would have to be specifically attempting to prevent the target from coming to school.

I also find it interesting how the translation describes the origin of the statute, setting of the phrase "civil rights" in quotations, and making a specific attempt to link the targeted behavior to protests, boycotts and student walkouts. Do the quotes somehow indicate that the civil rights era was not valid? Does it not count as bullying if it is not done as a mass protest, boycott or walkout? This doesn't really sound like the appropriate statute to be pulling out in defense of protecting gay kids from daily harrassment from fellow students and/or teachers.

The phrasing of the next statute would work much better, but it applies to the protection of superintendants, principals, teachers and bus drivers.

"SEC. 37-11-21. Abuse of superintendent, principal, teacher, or bus driver.

If any parent, guardian or other person, shall abuse any superintendent, principal, teacher or school bus driver while school is in session or at a school-related activity, in the presence of school pupils, such person shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, shall be punished by a fine of not less than Ten Dollars ($10.00) nor more than Fifty Dollars ($50.00).

TRANSLATION: It is illegal to abuse (physically or verbally), administrators, faculty or bus drivers in the presence of students at a school related activity. Policies regarding conduct at events, and other activities are supported by this statute. It doesn’t have a lot of power since the fine is only $10-$50. It can, however, be added to other charges.

I'm wondering why they don't make an equivalent statute for students. They don't have to specify sexual orientation or gender identity. Just all students. Something like: "If any parent, guardian, student or other person, shall abuse any superintendent, principal, teacher, school bus driver or student while school is in session or at a school-related activity, in the presence of school pupils or staff, such person shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, shall be punished by a fine of not less than Ten Dollars ($10.00) nor more than Fifty Dollars ($50.00)."

Now that would be a statute designed to protect students and staff from abuse at the hands of bullies.

Posted by Beth Henderson at 2:02 PM

She's A Wonder, Wonder Woman 

Attention anyone who loved, loved, loved Wonder Woman in the 70's as much as I did (FMB, I'm talking to you): you can now get the first season (of three) on DVD! Theme song here (via Comic Book Resources), lyrics here.

But what was up with the Invisible Airplane? What good is it for the plane to be invisible when you could see the pilot? Look - there's a person floating above us, high in the clouds. Oh, don't worry - at least she doesn't have a plane!

But that's part of what made the adventure so much fun to watch. An ass-kicking Amazon whose secret identity was a woman in uniform. Brains and braun, all in one.

When will the movie remake happen? And who will it be? My picks: Charisma Carpenter, Sandra Bullock, Angelina Jolie (of course I'd pick her for just about anything).

Amazon (no pun intended) link: Wonder Woman Season 1

Posted by Beth Henderson at 10:20 AM
Tuesday, June 29, 2004

U-Haul Sucks, Seconded! 

I posted yesterday a reference to my excruciatingly bad experience with U-Haul this past weekend. In my current blog surfing, I discovered that another Boston area blogger had a similarly agonizing U-Haul trial this weekend. Her details are freakishly akin to my own, although after I managed to track down an available trailer (no truck was available anywhere in New England, apparently), my ordeal continued in person at the U-Haul center, where I was actually put on hold in person!

Then, once the U-Haul guy handed me my paperwork and visually indicated that I was all set (he was still on the phone handling some other, more important customer's call - I got put on hold every time I called but this was the third call he handled while making me wait), he stared at me like, "What's your problem? Get out of here!" I pointed out that "I need my stuff?" he mumbled "Oh yeah," which made the couple behind us in line who were freaking out because their actual cost was going to be $200 more than was quoted to them online, which the counter guy tried to explain in an incredibly ineffectual way, crack up in disbelief. He then walked us back to the garage area, pointed to a pile of furniture blankets and indicated that we should dig up the 12 we had paid for, pointed out an appliance dolly (I had paid for a furniture dolly), then started to walk away. Thinking there might be one more important thing, I asked where I might locate the trailer I had just rented. "It's outside. Let me know if you need help." He then went back to the front room. There were many, many trailers outside.

Fuck it - we took more blankets than we had paid for, hooked up the nearest trailer without worrying about the light hookups which we didn't have, and left.

Posted by Beth Henderson at 3:57 PM

Martina Rocks! has excerpts from Newsweek's Ginanne Brownell's interview with Martina Navratilova. The interview was in the players' lounge at Wimbledon. Among the topics: sexism in sports, political opinions and aspirations, and marriage. I assume a more complete article will be coming out soon. Can't wait!

Posted by Beth Henderson at 3:10 PM

Goodridge Stands 

The last of the lawsuits filed in an effort to block Goodridge, the case that cleared the way for same sex marriage in Massachusetts, has been rejected by the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals. The suit was filed by the Liberty Counsel, argued that the decision violated the United States Constitution, and sought temporary and permanent injunction against enforcement of Goodridge (i.e. please stop issuing marriage licenses to gay couples). From the opinion:

"The resolution of the same-sex marriage issue by the judicial branch of the Massachusetts government, subject to override by the voters through the state constitutional amendment process, does not plausibly constitute a threat to a republican form of government. Absent such a threat, our federal constitutional system simply does not permit a federal court to intervene in the arrangement of state government under the guise of a federal Guarantee Clause question. Such an intervention would itself threaten federal court interference with the very form of government that the people of Massachusetts have chosen for themselves."

Links to the other documents related to the case can be found here, here and here.

Posted by Beth Henderson at 2:07 PM

Clear Vision 

A couple of months ago I posted about not having had an eye exam in some time, and how The Girl was hoping I'd need reading glasses so she wouldn't be alone in that facet of the aging process. I assured her I did not.

Well, I had a full eye exam this morning, and as predicted, everything is A-Okay. I got a renewed prescription for the exact same strength contact lenses as before, and the doctor said I could get slightly stronger lenses for my glasses if I felt like getting new ones anyway, but that it certainly wasn't necessary. My exam included the pupil dilation for a retinal exam, since I have a high level of myopia and am thus at risk for retinal problems, but none have appeared yet.

Unfortunately, I forgot about the side effects of dilation until I walked out of the office building into the literally blinding sunlight. I scurried back inside faster than Spike at high noon. I put on a pair of contacts they had given me, then my sunglasses, and braved my way back to my office. Now I'm sitting in my darkened office with the blinds closed. Much better. I think this will have worn off by the time I go home later on. I'll be staying inside at lunchtime.

Amazon link: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Posted by Beth Henderson at 12:05 PM
Monday, June 28, 2004

Nonbillable, Nonentity 

My non-law-related day job has one thing in common with law firms. There are two classes of employees: billable and nonbillable. I'm a tech writer, and I'm nonbillable. There - I've said it. I'm overhead, but the customers want what the department produces, so they keep us around. However, our needs aren't high on the corporate priority scale, and we don't wield much power in the structure.

But this knowledge did not prepare me for what just happened. Two of the folks who work directly with clients (and are therefore quite billable) walked into my office while carrying on a conversation. After stepping in, one of them briefly looked at me and said, "Sorry, we're just going to borrow your window," then continued the apparently private conversation which involved something about which tree outside would be the same distance as the tree in need of a trim in the yard of one of the interlopers. No effort was made to explain the conversation to me even in passing, or in any way to mitigate the fact that they walked into my office, ignored me and chatted about the view from my window. They then turned around and walked out. No further comment to the office occupant - me.

Ah well, such is life. At my previous job, I was #2 in the company (about 100 employees total). I hired, I fired, I planned and implemented the growth of the company, I was the miracle worker who could solve the problems that had stumped all others. People feared me.

But it was my sad discovery of this last fact, combined with the increasing issues I had with the principles of the company owner, that led me to leave that job for something a little less pressured. I'm a nice person. I don't want people to fear me without a good reason. Apparently I was intimidating to people who didn't even know me.

The current job did allow me to decompress from the combat duty that was the previous job, but then after recovery I realized that I missed the day to day action, and the feeling that I was making a contribution. So I entered law school. For the next phase of my professional life (to commence in approximately 3 more years, since I'm an evening student), I'm hoping I can retain the lessons of both these experiences and maintain a balance among fear, respect, drudgery and interesting work. Too much of any of these is definitely not a good thing.

Posted by Beth Henderson at 2:51 PM

Bad Slayer, No TV! 

Actually, it's more like busy, busy Slayer, no TV.

The Girl and I now have FOUR tv sets in the house, and at this moment nary a one is actually connected to the cable. Even the Tivo is sitting alone, powerless and unwired.

Yesterday was spent in a massive furnishings overhaul, with inherited items coming in from The Girl's mom's house, and replaced items moving on to their next life with my nephews. One of the incoming items was an enormous tv, and the equally enormous entertainment center in which it lives. So the living room tv went to the bedroom, and the bedroom tv went to the guest room (previusly media-less). The fourth tv remained in its place in the basement drumming studio, but it's never been hooked up to the cable, as it is solely used for viewing drumming videos and DVDs.

Of course, when you replace an entertainment center, all the electronics must be detached and removed. Given that we didn't finish the moving, returning of the U-Haul trailer (and U-Haul was an epic adventure on its own, complete with periods in which I was alternating between swearing like a misanthropic teenager and crying like someone in need of a truck and who'd been put on hold and given the phone runaround for two hours - which I was), eating and returning home until 11:30 pm, no reconnecting of electronics items occurred last night. We did apply the first round of Febreze onto the fabric items (couch, rug, etc.), as The Girl's mom was unfortunately an avid smoker.

The Boys (my nephews - both of whom exceed 6 feet tall, thus dwarfing my 5'3" frame) turned down the dining room set we were replacing, but instead accepted the butcherblock table, which was originally an MIT lab table top, then a kitchen table for some time and most recently my desk. It sits atop two adjustable trestle legs, and they found this to be a more acceptable and manly piece of furniture. Geez - when I was 22 years old the only criteria were cost and odor. If it was free and didn't smell bad, it was perfect.

So we put the rejected set out on the curb with a FREE sign on it, and I alerted our rather trashy next door neighbor that it was there, in case she knew anyone who could use it. Within 5 minutes she had another neighbor over, checking it out. It met her approval and the next few minutes were a parade of people hauling it over to their house. The trashy neighbor's trashy friend's trashy husband came to get the table itself, so I was showing him how the leaves extend for the main tabletop to drop down in between them. He started to pick it up but the top piece started to come off, then I pointed out that he could take the top off entirely for easy transport, but he started lining up the pegs to return it to the table, and said, "No, I'll leave it on. I just need to find the hole. Ha - that's the story of my life!"

Yes, he really said this to me. And we hadn't even been introduced. We're not even "Hey" neighbors. The Girl and I are really looking forward to the day we can buy a house and leave the rental neighborhood.

Posted by Beth Henderson at 1:20 PM
Friday, June 25, 2004

J.A. Bowden, The Army Years 

I dug a little more and found this paper written by Mr. Bowden while he was still Major Bowden. It's from 1985, and is a historical look at the U.S. Army's reorganization of 1973. For some reason he finds it necessary to point out that the Petronius Arbiter, author of a quote that was widely popular among Army officers during periods of reorganizations, was actually "the chronicler of the pornographic carryings on of the court of the Emperorer Nero."

No further explanation given for why he found this relevant or important to this paper. But certainly a taste of things to come.

Posted by Beth Henderson at 4:42 PM

Google News Alerts 

I periodically do news searches for "gay lesbian" on both Yahoo! and Google. The interesting difference between the news gathering services is that Google tends to pick up on some of the articles originating from the fringes of the political spectrum. It's interesting to read the stuff that's being distributed by the various anti-gay organizations, but I also subscribe to the Google news alerts and it can be disturbing to have these articles which condemn me and my life delivered right into my mailbox.

If you do a Google news search now, the most recent story (29 minutes ago at this point) is a column from American Daily, a very conservative news and commentary site. The article is titled "Homosexual Marriage is Abortion to Marriage," and it pulls out all the stops of rhetoric and scare tactics. The author refers to judges as "black-robed priest kings," and lashes out at gay citizens, those who support diversity, abortion rights activists, and even his fellow Christians who aren't enough in agreement with him:

"The pretty people who take the most pride in their sin – the abortion and homosexual lobbyists, politicians, and media advocates – act like they’re in a hometown parade in Sodom or Gomorrah. Indeed they are. Satan, himself, could ride on the first float in a Women’s Reproductive Rights/Gay and Lesbian Day parade and Christian clergy would march behind. The same apostate church that dismisses the Bible in the arrogant pride of their inclusiveness, diversity, welcoming, and progressiveness proclaims itself as the ‘Christian’ voice for abortion and homosexuality. These sissy Christians spread dissent and provide cover for anti-Christian laws and politicians."

And who is this man? Some sheltered fellow from the backwoods who has never ventured from his hometown? Nope. According to his bio:

James Atticus Bowden has worked as a Defense Department consultant specializing in inter-disciplinary long range 'futures' studies for over a decade. He retired from the United States Army after 20 years of service as an Infantry Officer. He is a 1972 graduate of the United States Military Academy and earned graduate degrees from Harvard University and Columbia University. He resides in Virginia.

He is highly educated, with a good deal of that education coming in fairly liberal and diverse institutions, and now works advising the Defense Department on planning for the future. But I'm sure he doesn't let his religious views influence the recommendations he makes to his governmental clients. I'd love to read some of his official policy papers to compare his writing style to that of his column.

I did a little digging to find some of his other columns and found this one from last December. In Happy Thanksgiving, Now Leave, he expresses his opinions on immigration, legal and illegal. He sums it up with this suggestion:

It’s time to say, "Happy Thanksgiving, illegal immigrants, now leave. This is our American home, not a whorehouse. We will invite some people in and defend to keep uninvited strangers out."

The DOD pays this man to provide them with his insights on the world.

Posted by Beth Henderson at 3:53 PM

The Guyfriend Rides 

Good luck to The Guyfriend and the Biogen Rolling Clones on this weekend's big bike event, the MS Society's Great Mass Getaway, from Quincy to Provincetown. Two days, two wheels, 150 miles. I'll save you a standing spot at the fireplace...

Posted by Beth Henderson at 3:17 PM

Espenson Joins Tru Calling Team 

Okay, I'm a little behind on this one, but at the end of May came the announcement that Jane Espenson is joining Tru Calling. Espenson was a writer and producer for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, as well as a number of other projects including Angel, Firefly, Gilmore Girls, Ellen, Ripper and DS9. She has a two-year deal with 20th Century Fox TV which includes co-executive producing Tru Calling as well as new project development, probably of sci-fi projects.

Among the Buffy episodes she wrote are: Storyteller, First Date, Conversations With Dead People, Life Serial, After Life, Intervention, Triangle, Superstar, and A New Man.

I'm hoping this bodes well for the continuing improvement of the show I love to dis. Maybe they could also spruce up the official website a bit. The intro is way to slow and long, the music is too new age-y, and the whole thing is just clunky and unappealing. Sounds kind of like my opinion of some of the episodes. But I keep hoping. I saw glimmers toward the end of the season. Please don't let me down!

Amazon links: Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Deep Space 9, Gilmore Girls

Posted by Beth Henderson at 12:15 PM

Sky Captain - New Trailer 

The new trailer is available for Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, which will be hitting your local cineplex September 17! In this trailer, Angelina Jolie's Capt. Franky Cook tells Gwyneth Paltrow's Polly Perkins, "Leave that to me," in her best Lara Croft "Absolutely" voice. Not a problem. We'll leave everything in your capable hands.

Amazon links: Tomb Raider, Cradle of Life

Posted by Beth Henderson at 10:26 AM

Oklahoma Judge Under Investigation 

Sapulpa County District Judge Donald D. Thompson is being investigated by the state's Attorney General, who is seeking to have him removed from office. According to

Thompson has a reputation for being a tough law and order judge, strong on family morals. He once tried to send a man to prison for life for spitting on a police officer. Prior to becoming a judge Thompson served six years in the state House of Representatives starting in 1975.

So where's the beef? Under the bench, apparently. Judge Thompson has allegedly been utilizing a penis pump to his own satisfaction during trials, and the activity has been spotted by court personnel, witnesses and perhaps juries. He admits having the pump under his bench but denies using it, and claims it was simply a gag gift from a friend. And it would be acceptable even to store this gift under the bench why?

Posted by Beth Henderson at 9:13 AM

Martina's Out at Wimbledon 

Yeah, I know. Of course she's out. But she lost her second round match, so she's also out of the single's competition.

Posted by Beth Henderson at 9:07 AM

Hell in a Handbag (But No Backpacks) 

"Let's Work Around It" my ass. Let's do everything to prevent you from working around it is more like it. today has the latest twist in the DNC security measures. Now that they're shutting down the roads and North Station, thus forcing north of Boston commuters to take the Orange Line or buses, and requesting that riders on any branch of the T try not to bring bags of any sort during the convention days, they've now announced that there will be mandatory bag restrictions on the Orange Line and those buses that go near the Fleet Center. For the lines with these "special restrictions," NO BAG will be allowed that is larger than a briefcase or handbag, and ALL BAGS will be searched. Passengers on lines without the special restrictions will be subject to random searches.

The special restrictions will apply to the Orange Line between Haymarket and Community College stations, to bus routes 325, 326, 352 and 354, and to the shuttle buses taking Lowell commuter line riders from the transfer point in Woburn into Boston on I-93. The measures will affect 160,000 Orange Line riders, 1,340 riders on the four bus routes that use I-93, and 6,400 passengers on the Lowell commuter line.

Included in the passengers the T is "discouraging" from bringing large bags are those heading to or from the airport on the Blue Line. That's convenient. I guess if you're traveling with luggage you should take a cab from the airport. But then there are those road closures to deal with, which is why they're encouraging people to take the T.

The random searches will begin on a smaller scale next week, just so we can all get used to the routine.

Posted by Beth Henderson at 8:06 AM
Thursday, June 24, 2004

Low Impact DNC - Like Blizzard of '78 

Boston's Mayor Thomas Menino yesterday tried to perk up Boston area residents and workers who are feeling a bit down about the impact of the Democratic National Convention. In a televised event, he announced a DNC hotline and website where people can get up to date information. I see from some of the documents on the website that they've come up with the fabulously inspiring slogan, "Let's Work Around It." I suppose that's better than, "Quit Whining and Suck It Up," but not by much.

In his efforts to rally the troops, the mayor brought out two area business leaders, Massachusetts General Hospital's Bonnie Michelman, and Gillette's Eric Klaus, both of whom compared dealing with the convention to dealing with a snowstorm. Gillette's been making razorblades for 100 years without missing a day, and they won't miss a day in what they're considering the equivalent of a "four-day snowstorm." MGH deals with large volume crowds and traffic issues all the time, such as during the annual July 4th celebrations, and Michelman pointed out that people are still talking about how they dealt with the Blizzard of '78.

This is supposed to be reassuring? Most schools and businesses were closed for a week, power was out for days, thousands of cars were abandoned on the highways, only emergency personnel were allowed on the roads, 99 people died and damages totalled over $2.3 billion.

But you know what? We'll work around it. From home. Or the beach.

Posted by Beth Henderson at 8:31 AM

Copley Showers 

The sprinklers at Copley Square were very enthusiastic this morning. Not only were they hydrating the green, green grass but also the sidewalks and a bit of the streets. The area of overspray included the entire bus stop area. I made it high and dry onto the bus, but then noticed that a water jet was working its way along the side of the bus, heading directly toward the open window by my seat. I tried to close the window, but of course it was jammed, and the water struck before I could relocate. I'm now sitting at my desk looking like I got dressed first, then took a shower this morning.

Posted by Beth Henderson at 8:00 AM
Wednesday, June 23, 2004

DNC Woes 

Oh, the continuing joys of the upcoming Democratic National Convention here in Boston. First there was the announcement that the commuter rail trains would not be allowed to enter North Station (the terminus for the North Shore lines). They will stop at outlying stations and the passengers will have to transfer to the Orange or Blue Lines, or buses (or a combination in some cases). Never mind that the Blue Line is the smallest capacity line and the commuters being shifted onto it are coming from the highest volume commuter line. Or that the buses will be travelling on roads that are already jammed at rush hours.

Then they announced that I-93 would be closed during the evening rush hour each day, so people were encouraged to take public transportation (see above) or seek alternate routes. Some of the areas traffic is being fed into, such as Medford Square, aren't large enough to handle the traffic they get under normal conditions. The mayors of Medford and Somerville have announced that they are keeping open the option of closing their streets completely if the traffic is overwhelming safety concerns.

Then came the announcement that traffic reporting helicopters will not be allowed in the airspace over much of the Boston area. So much for trying to keep track of the alternate routes.

The MBTA then announced that their largest-in-the-nation random search program will be in place in time for the DNC. Yes, all the passengers that are being jammed into the T and buses will also be subject to random searches.

But the latest kicker is today. reports that:

"Subway and commuter rail riders will be discouraged from bringing briefcases or backpacks on board during the week of the Democratic National Convention, and any passenger who does have a bag or parcel may be subject to having it searched, MBTA officials said yesterday."

The article concluded in a rather understated fashion that:

"The policy could complicate the commute for residents that week, especially with the city and the T encouraging people to ride the trains, rather than drive into Boston."

Posted by Beth Henderson at 10:15 AM

True Start of Summer 

The tortured wait is over - grades have arrived. Now we can all stop worrying about them and get on with enjoying the summer. My gut feelings upon leaving each exam were fairly accurate predictors on the grades. I felt good about Criminal Law, but that was the one I was least confident about, and that turned out to be my lowest grade. Civil Procedure and Legal Research & Writing fell in the middle of both my confidence levels and my grades, while I left the 4 hour Contracts exam feeling really good, and that ended up being my best grade. I'm glad to know I was able to keep an accurate internal gauge of how I was doing.

Among the classmates I've heard from, directly or indirectly, it appears that Criminal Law was the kicker for many of us.

So 1L is officially completed. Let the summer games begin!

Posted by Beth Henderson at 8:44 AM
Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Romney Speaks 

Gov. Romney's office has published the written version of his statement to the U.S. Judiciary Committee today, on the prospect of a Federal Marriage Amendment.

Same old stuff. Leaps of illogic. Unsubstantiated conclusions. Unanswered questions that invite the reader to come to a conclusion that could not be supported if it were presented as a statement. Outright misstatements regarding separation of church and state. Couched in a pleasant buffer of stated anti-bigotry. He doesn't hate gay men and lesbians, he wants to protect our individual rights, but our relationships just don't have the same value as those of heterosexual couples, and marriage isn't an individual right since it is entered into by two persons.

But this is the statement that strikes me most strongly:

"Of course, even today, circumstances can take a parent from the home, but the child still has a mother and a father. If the parents are divorced, the child can visit each of them. If a mother or father is deceased, the child can learn about the qualities of the departed. His or her psychological development can still be influenced by the contrasting features of both genders."

At least he's now said it. He feels a child of opposite sex but divorced parents, or a child in a single parent home due to the death of the opposite sex parent, is better off than a child of a stable, caring same-sex couple. and have more information about the committee hearings. The Committee's web page for the hearing is here. According to the conservative site HumanEventsOnline, Gov. Romney followed his testimony by stating personally during an interview his opinion that John Kerry should resign his Senate seat due to the time pressures of his campaign.

The text of the statements Gov. Romney actually made before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary is posted on the Committee's website. It is quite a change from the written statement posted by the governor's office (see above). I've got to examine and compare these two versions more thoroughly, but even at first glance it's an interesting contrast.

Posted by Beth Henderson at 2:13 PM
Monday, June 21, 2004

Works In Progress 

Martina Navratilova has won her first round Wimbledon singles match after 10 years away from the singles competition at the event. Apparently she appears to be in a good a form as ever. From AP coverage:

Serving and volleying in classic grass-court style, the 47-year-old Navratilova crushed Colombia's Catalina Castano 6-0, 6-1 in 46 minutes in a rain-interrupted early match on the opening day of the 118th edition of the Grand Slam tournament.

Full stats of the match can be found here. Navratilova will be playing either Jelena Dokic or Gisela Dulko in the next round.

In other news, the White Knight has lifted off carrying SpaceShipOne, the craft attempting today to be the first privately funded human flight into space by reaching an altitude of 62 miles. This a test run for SpaceShipOne's predicted attempt at the X Prize later this year, which is a $10 million prize for the team who:

-Privately finances, builds & launches a spaceship, able to carry three people to 100 kilometers (62.5 miles)
-Returns safely to Earth
-Repeats the launch with the same ship within 2 weeks.

White Knight is scheduled to carry SpaceShipOne for an hour, releasing it at an altitude of 50,000 feet. SpaceShipOne will then ignite its own rocket motor and continue the ascent.

UPDATE: SpaceShipOne has completed its flight from the Mojave Desert to space, and returned safely to earth at Mojave Airport. Radar confirmation of the exact altitude reached has not yet been released.

Posted by Beth Henderson at 10:23 AM
Saturday, June 19, 2004

PTA and All 

Today's Advocate headlines includes news that the Colorado Springs (where I lived for a while in my 20s) school board will be discussing a resolution that it should have a goal of promoting "stable, heterosexual, two-parent families." At least one board member, Karen Teja, objected to the inclusion of the resolution on the agenda, and speculated that it might violate state and federal antidiscrimination laws. The author of the resolution, Willie Breazell, defends the goal as important to education:

Breazell said Thursday he believes families are better off if parents stay together. "The single-parent household is at a tremendous disadvantage in our society," he said. "You need someone available for PTA meetings and all."

Apparently Breazell can't visualize that there are two parents in a gay couple, or that for many single parent families there are much greater concerns than whether or not that parent will be able to make it to the PTA. Or that in these single parent families, the parent often does make it to the meeting, just like that parent manages the rest of the requirements of daily living.

Well, today's RockyMountainNews reports that Mr. Breazell has withdrawn the resolution, because it was "drawing too much heat." He still claims, however, that he did not mean to insult gay or single parents, but that:

His intent, he said, was to state that students from single-parent families seem at a disadvantage, and the board's goal should be to encourage a family environment beneficial to its students.

"There's an attitude in the district that if you come from a single-parent family that you might not be as prepared to learn as the child from a two-parent family with a greater income, who probably had eaten breakfast that morning and had a jacket to wear," Breazell said.

Then do something to improve the resources available to students and families, help to raise the citizenry out of poverty and low-income levels, provide information about the importance of a healthy breakfast and make that meal available for students who need it, and come to terms with the fact that a gay couple is not a single parent, and their home is not a broken home. While you're at it, figure out that not all single parents are poor, not all heterosexual couples can afford to provide nutritious meals and warm jackets, and that not everyone who can afford to eat breakfast actually eats breakfast.

He did make another attempt to explain why he felt it was important to state that the goal should be heterosexual parents:

Breazell said he referred to "heterosexual parents" in his resolution because a student's attitude could be affected if he "might not want his friends to know his parents are gay."

What? I really don't see how an attempt to state an offical goal of giving married heterosexual parents the status of Most Favored Family will help out the kid who is already feeling pressure to hide his gay parents. Perhaps a resolution to embrace diversity might be more helpful toward that end.

Posted by Beth Henderson at 4:57 AM
Friday, June 18, 2004

Melissa In Concert 

The Girl and I made the trek to Hyannis last night for the Melissa Etheridge concert at the Cape Cod Melody Tent. It was a rocking evening, with the added bonus of Kate Clinton being the opening act! She was her usual sharp-witted and sharp-tongued self, with fabulous impersonations of President Bush and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. The joke that got me roaring, though, was during her discussion of people who criticize The L Word (and these people do not rank high on her list). To the folks who complain that the characters don't represent ALL lesbians, she has "four words: tel e vi sion." She further pointed out that the show takes place in West Hollywood, and LA lesbians just aren't like other lesbians. She thinks that none of them do butch-femme. "They do Hepburn. Are you Katharine or Audrey?" I am adamantly Katharine.

Back to the main event. The Melody Tent is literally a tent - one of those huge circus type tents with two main support poles. The stage is in the center and revolves, and the audience sits all around. We had 9th row seats and it was great! Plus, during the "quiet the audience down" section when the band leaves and she sings a quieter number ("Meet Me In The Dark"), she sat at an electronic keyboard. The keyboard was hard-wired to a spot off-stage, so they had to temporarily halt the motion. It just happened that she was directly in front of our seats when they stopped the stage. So cool.

The Girl was quite excited because she could totally check out her drum god, Kenny Aronoff, in action. With the rotating stage, she could study his technique from all angles, plus she brought sport binoculars, which combined with our being so close enabled her both to analyze his grip and to read his set list!

We saw Melissa last year at the Melody Tent, and I was a little disappointed. Her energy level seemed rather low for most of the show. I thought perhaps it was just a small venue kind of vibe, since she's always been so up and energetic at the large venues. But it must have just been an off night, because last night she just seemed so full of joy and life. She was moving all around the stage, climbing up on the elevated platforms, and smiling that electric mischief smile.

She did a mix of old and new, as always. "Like the Way I Do" was absent (which I found disappointing), but she revived "Sleep While I Drive." Before she played this song from her second album, she shared with us that sometimes when she's feeling down, insecure or lonely she'll go online and check e-bay to see what's selling that's connected to her (and being astonished at what people will pay for stuff), or check i-tunes to see how her tracks are doing in the download statistics. She was surprised that lately "Sleep While I Drive" had been in the top 10 frequently, so she decided people would likely enjoy hearing it live. Years ago she had a VH1 Duets show on which she sang this with Jewel, which was good, but not nearly as good as "Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover" with Sophie B. Hawkins. But years before that, she performed at a televised AIDS benefit and performed "Sleep While I Drive" with k.d. lang. That was the bomb!

During "If You Want To" (you can call me on the phone), she borrowed a cell phone from an audience member (named Laura) and, after getting permission, re-called the last dialed number and gave Laura's friend Jenny a little phone concert.

She did a blues rock combo with "Bring Me Some Water" segueing directly into "I'm The Only One" and brought down the house. Later she did a sort of lost souls tribute, starting with "Silent Legacy," followed by "Scarecrow" and moving right into "Tuesday Morning." I don't know about anyone else, but neither The Girl nor I had dry eyes after that.

The most powerful performance of "Scarecrow" that I've seen had to be at the Equality Rocks! concert at RFK Stadium in D.C. during the weekend of the March For Equality in April 2000. Matthew Shepard's parents had just spoken, the stage went dark and Melissa came out in a lone spotlight. The emotion just built as the song moved along, and at one point she choked up to the point that she had to stop singing. The audience filled in until composure returned.

At last night's show, Kenny Aronoff on drums and Mark Brown on bass were fabulous as usual. The guitar player, Philip Sayce was extremely talented but a bit distracting. He looked like a Swedish porn actor (turns out he's Canadian), and had heavy metal mannerisms. During the introductions, his solo and the audience response reminded me of when Marty McFly launched into Van Halen during Johnny B. Good at the Serenity Under the Sea dance. But the music was excellent and the band and the audience all seemed to enjoy the show.

Amazon links: Lucky, Kate Clinton, The L Word, Back to the Future, Jewel, Sophie B. Hawkins, k.d. lang

Posted by Beth Henderson at 10:39 AM
Thursday, June 17, 2004

Because He Said So 

AKA That's his story and he's sticking to it.

I heard a sound clip on NPR of statements made by President Bush after today's cabinet meeting, and I was surprised that even he would have made one particular statement. So I went to the White House website and found a transcript of the entire set of remarks. Yes, I heard it correctly.

In response to a question of why the administration maintains that there was a relationship between Iraq/Saddam Hussein and al-Quaeda, even in the face of the 9/11 commission's determination that while there were inquiries by al-Quaeda for support from Iraq, no such relationship came out of these contacts, the president had this to say:

"The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and al Qaeda, because there was a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda. This administration never said that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated between Saddam and al Qaeda. We did say there were numerous contacts between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. For example, Iraqi intelligence officers met with bin Laden, the head of al Qaeda, in the Sudan. There's numerous contacts between the two.

I always said that Saddam Hussein was a threat. He was a threat because he had used weapons of mass destruction against his own people. He was a threat because he was a sworn enemy to the United States of America, just like al Qaeda. He was a threat because he had terrorist connections -- not only al Qaeda connections, but other connections to terrorist organizations; Abu Nidal was one. He was a threat because he provided safe-haven for a terrorist like Zarqawi, who is still killing innocent inside of Iraq.

No, he was a threat, and the world is better off and America is more secure without Saddam Hussein in power."

Excuse me? Yes, the commission also said that there were contacts. Contacts that did not result in a working relationship. Hussein's use of WMD against his own people, his support of any other terrorist group, the fact that the world is a better place without him in power all have nothing to do with supporting the White House's insistence that Saddam Hussein was working with and supporting al-Quaeda. The administration's never having stated that Hussein specifically helped orchestrate the 9/11 attacks doesn't diminish the perception of a connection promoted by the White House to the American people and the world in an effort to justify the war in Iraq.

The dance goes on. The president's steps are: stick to your story, sidestep the issue, state unrelated facts and leap to a conclusion that has no connection to the start of the dance.

Posted by Beth Henderson at 2:06 PM

Anti-FMA Website 

The Campaign to Protect the Constitution has launched a website dedicated to preventing the Federal Marriage Amendment from coming to pass. They provide information on the reasons behind their campaign, an extensive listing of organizations taking part, and ways you can help. It's well designed, intelligent, and non-inflammatory.

This approach is a nice change to some of the pro-FMA websites, such as and

These sites tend to use scare tactics, big splashy headlines (often in red), and provide limited actual information, or partial/outdated/disproved information. Some have more intelligent designs, such as However, the information the AFM provides is helpful for anyone with a family (such as info on family-friendly workplaces, information on adoption, and the adverse effects on children of broken homes), but they fail to indicate why heterosexual families are "better" than same sex families. Gay couples with children also deal with workplace issues, taxes, adoption, and relationship stress.

Some of the sites are both well-designed AND inflammatory, such as, which provides a page of "debate-tested sound bites [sic] on defending marriage."

I'd rather stick to facts and intelligent discussion. The pro-FMA side, no matter how dressed up and polished, always falls back on groundless scare tactics.

Posted by Beth Henderson at 11:03 AM
Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Kill Bill, Vol. 2 

This movie freaking rocks! If you've yet to see Vol. 1, rent it. It's also very good, and is necessary to fully appreciate Vol. 2, but they are two distinct movies.

If you've already seen Vol. 1 and liked it, you're probably already planning on seeing Vol. 2. If you saw Vol. 1 and didn't really like it because there was too much graphic violence, bloodshed and gore, or because the constant fighty-fights wore you out, fear not! Vol. 2 is much more dialogue and storyline driven. There are plenty of action sequences and bloodshed if that's your thing, but they're interwoven with the plot and used to great effect. The fighting and bloodletting in Vol. 1 was so over the top that I found myself immune to it after a while. In Vol. 2, one particular swordfighting sequence left me literally holding my breath then transitioning to the longest held grimace I've experienced, longer even than the time I inadvertently chomped down on a mouthful of shaved beets that had been tossed atop my salad in a fine Provincetown restaurant. You'll know the scene when you see it. Incidents of pain and bleeding in Vol. 2 are such that they make you wince and feel sympathy pain.

Vol. 2 gets underway with a bit of a time jump, as Uma Thurman's character is on her way to carrying out another task on her list, having already accomplished others that we'll see later in the movie. Vol. 1 used this same technique. While Vol. 1 opened with a slow, methodical ballad uncovering a gruesome scene, Vol. 2's opening is more snappy and jaunty. Then it moves into a grainy, scratchy-soundtrack retro scene in which was see the lead up to the Vol. 1 wedding carnage. Throughout Vol. 2, the imagery and cinematography are outstanding, the music is perfect, and the acting is perfect. I thought Lucy Liu was the biggest badass of them all after seeing Vol. 1, until I saw Darryl Hannah in action in Vol. 2 (she has a much bigger role in this volume). And I love her boots!

Vol. 2 takes us on The Bride's continuing quest of revenge, but this time we see more of the internal struggles going on for the main characters. We also get to see the arduous training she and other members of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad underwent, enabling a good number of classic training scenes and a somewhat amusing/somewhat annoying beard stroking/flipping action. Michael Masden excels as assassin Budd, who even while leading a rotten existence as a strip bar bouncer and living in a empty bottle-ridden trailer in the desert still manages to exude the vulnerability that made Louise love him so.

David Carradine's Bill is prone to lengthy soliloquies delivered in a Master-Grasshopper style. At one point I found myself wondering if this is what Quentin Tarantino sounds like. Just then Bill launched into a lecture on the lore and mythology of classic comic books, and I knew I was right.

The Bride proved herself a talented warrior in Vol. 1, but in Vol. 2 she must battle her strongest foes and fight a struggle against obstacles of her own creation.

See this movie. And stay for the credits.

Amazon links: Kill Bill Vol. 1, Kill Bill Vol. 2, Thelma and Louise, Quentin Tarantino

Posted by Beth Henderson at 2:21 PM
Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Free and Open Debate, Anyone? reports that a California based group called Move America Forward is encouraging theater owners not to show, and movie-goers not to see, Michael Moore's controversial but Palme d'Or winning film, Fahrenheit 9/11.

The page dedicated to preventing the public from seeing the film includes many quotes by and about Moore and his movie. While the group goes to extremes to point out their view that the message of the film is not supportive of President Bush or his foreign policy and is skewed by Moore's political views, and the website in general decries the "constant stream of America-bashing from the shamelessly liberal news media," the group seems to have no problem skewing information towards their own points of view. That's all well and good, since this is how issues are supposed to be worked through in our society. Everyone presents their own views and has the opportunity to hear the views of the opposing side. Hopefully both sides will listen and engage in the discussion. Knowledge does not "move forward" through censorship and refusing to listen to, and preventing others from hearing, views other than your own.

Ironically, one of the quotes Move Forward America included in its sampling of statements aimed at demonstrating why Fahrenheit 9/11 should be boycotted sounds more like a neutral description of the movie, listing some of Moore's accusations. Accusations, I might add, which are neither new to the arena of political debate nor totally lacking in credibility:

"With Moore's customary blend of humor and horror, "Fahrenheit 9/11" accuses the Bush camp of stealing the 2000 election, overlooking terrorism warnings before September 11 and fanning fears of more attacks to secure Americans' support for the Iraq war."

-- From the cable television network, CNN

See it or don't see it. Discuss it afterwards or don't. But please don't claim to be defending the American way by stifling the artistic expression of ideas, whether they are political or purely entertaining.

Amazon link: Fahrenheit 9/11

Posted by Beth Henderson at 2:29 PM

Public Disservice 

Lt. Governor Kerry Healey, who stated she was acting on behalf of Governor Romney, has called upon John Kerry to resign his senate seat. This request is based on the amount of time Kerry has been absent from Senate votes during his presidential campaign.

"It's not fair, it's not right and the public is not being well-served," said Healey, who said she was acting on behalf of Gov. Mitt Romney. "I'm calling on John Kerry to resign so that we can fill that office with someone who is 100 percent devoted to the job of representing the people of Massachusetts."

I'm so glad that the governor's office continues the long-standing support of adequately representing the interests of the people of Massachusetts. And I'm sure it has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that should Kerry resign, Gov. Romney (a Republican) would then appoint the replacement, who would serve until 2008.

Posted by Beth Henderson at 1:56 PM
Monday, June 14, 2004

Pledging on Flag Day 

The Supreme Court chose Flag Day to announce that they were dismissing Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow on the grounds that Michael Newdow had no standing to bring suit. While the court did not pass on the question of the constitutionality of the phrase "under God" which was added to the pledge of allegiance during the McCarthy-era efforts to root out and isolate "godless communists," Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote a separate concurrence, joined by Justices O'Connor and Thomas, to state the nonbinding opinion that the added phrase does not violate constitutional separation of church and state.

Newdow, who brought the case on behalf of his daughter, is involved in a long-standing custody dispute and has 10 days per month visitation. The court determined that this was not sufficient custody, and Justice Stevens wrote in the opinion that given the state of flux of the situation it is best for the court to stay out of the constitutional issue.

Posted by Beth Henderson at 11:14 AM
Saturday, June 12, 2004

Facial Characteristics 

Feministe provides a link to the Analogia Star Estimator, which analyzes a photo you submit and compares your facial features to on file photos of famous folk, and show you three people to whom you are facially similar. The program decided I have similar features to Juliette Binoche, Vanessa Mae and Helena Christensen.

I'll take it...

Posted by Beth Henderson at 1:32 PM
Friday, June 11, 2004

New Paltz Mayor Criminal Charges Dropped 

New Paltz Town Court Justice Jonathan Katz has dismissed criminal charges against New Paltz mayor Jason West. News stories at Advocate, Poughkeepsie Journal, and Washington Post.

The charges stemmed from West's having performed marriage ceremonies for 24 gay and lesbian couples who did not have marriage licenses. Justice Katz issued a 5-page ruling (I haven't been able to locate the original text online - if anyone finds it, could you let me know?) on the matter, in which he cited recent New York court actions recognizing the legitimacy of same sex relationships, and concluded that the state law provisions relied upon by the town clerk in denying the licenses are unconstitutional. From the Poughkeepsie Journal article:

"None of the reasons stated in opposition to same-sex marriage is paramount to the equal protection guarantees enshrined in the state and federal constitutions," Katz wrote in his five-page opinion.

Ulster County DA Donald Williams plans to appeal the ruling. Williams denies that the charges are about same sex marriage, but about marrying couples without a marriage license. But if the couples were of opposite sexes, they would have had no problem receiving marriage licenses, so I don't put much stock in this statement. Interestingly, Williams also stated that he felt the forum for the question of same sex marriage is the civil court or the legislature, not criminal court.

"The question of same-sex marriage should not be tested in the criminal forum," he said. "The appropriate remedies should be tested in Supreme Court, through a mandamus impelling clerks to grant licenses, or through the legislature."

This somewhat explains his apparent need to couch the criminal case in a different framework, but doesn't justify it. Given that West is currently involved in a civil case (and is abiding by a court order barring him from performing similar marriages until the case is resolved), and that couples have filed civil suits against the clerks who refused to issue licenses, I'm wondering why the DA felt it was necessary to pursue these criminal charges which at their base stemmed from the very issue he feels strongly should not be determined in criminal courts. Williams is also continuing with the criminal charges against two Unitarian ministers who performed marriages for unlicensed same sex couples.

Posted by Beth Henderson at 9:41 AM
Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Reality Viewing? 

The Girl, The Guyfriend and I have all thus far avoided the various reality shows that have overrun the time slots and the ratings (unless Project Greenlights counts - does it? The participants didn't have to eat bugs or hook up romantically with each other). I might have to stray from the fold, however. Showtime's upcoming American Candidate might be worth a look. Showtime will have 12 finalists who will be running the reality equivalent of presidential campaigns, and will participate in various "challenges" in their efforts to be the last candidate standing. The winner will receive $200,000 plus a "nationwide media appearance" in which to "address the nation." Whether the winner decides to launch an actual campaign after the series wraps in October is up to the individual.

What's caught my attention about this show is the identity of two of the candidates, both gay and both experienced political activists: Chrissy Gephardt and Keith Boykin.

Boykin is a graduate of Harvard Law School and a former staffer for President Clinton. He writes a regular column on

Gephardt is the daughter of Representative and vice-presidential hopeful Dick Gephardt, and worked on his now-abandoned presidential campaign. But she's only 31, so don't look for any actual presidential campaign from this candidate for another few years.

Showtime seems to be a little disorganized about announcing exactly who the 12 finalists are (maybe they're hoping to keep the audience as much in the dark as possible prior to the episode airings), but various news articles have been popping up promoting one or another person who has been notified. Among the articles mentioning finalist selection are for:

-Joyce Riley (candidate page)

-Richard Mack (candidate page)

-Bruce Friedrich (candidate page)

-Malia Lazu (candidate page)

I may be adding this to my list of Tivo Season Passes.

Posted by Beth Henderson at 10:22 AM

Outstanding New Cancelled Show 

Fox TV garnered nine TV Critics Association Award nominations, including one for Wonderfalls as Outstanding New Program of the Year. Too bad Fox execs didn't feel the same way about it.

I'd be more than pleased if the award went to fellow nominee Joan of Arcadia.

Speaking of Joan of Arcadia, whatever happened to I noticed partway through the season that it was down, with just a page linking to the official show site and an offer to sell the domain name. It was a great site, with lots of cast info, photo galleries and synopses, all of which I linked to heavily in my early season posts. I've been putting off finding alternate link sites for those posts, but now that I'm on summer break from classes, perhaps I should do some site cleanup. Sigh - drudge, drudge.

Posted by Beth Henderson at 9:52 AM
Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Random But Maybe Not Fleeting 

We're settling back into life without the pressures of law school or the stress of day to day monitoring of The Girl's mom's health. We both made it to the gym yesterday, and made a healthy dinner which we ate together at the dining room table. So civilized! Of course, I do still have random thoughts popping up and causing me to ponder various aspects of life, such as:

-Waiting seven weeks between the last exam and the expected release of grades really sucks.

-The suckiness of this waiting is compounded by the fact that the first tuition payment for 2004-2005, for those of us spreading the pain over 10 months, is due on June 15 - two weeks before the expected release of grades for 2003-2004.

-Will I never get new contact lenses? My prescription has expired. In fact, it's WAY expired. I didn't realize it had been nearly 3 years since an eye exam. So I called for an appointment back in the first week of May. The appointment keeper told me I could come in "Tuesday at 1:30." So I go in the following "Tuesday" at 1:30, in spite of the fact that I was home with bronchitis. After dragging my hacking, codeine-hazed self in, I'm told by the receptionist that my appointment is for "Tuesday, June 8." She then scolded me for waiting so long before calling for an exam. Fine. I resign myself to a pennance of eyeglasses for my neglect.

Today my wait was to be over!!!! However, upon arrival to work, I get a call informing me that because the doctor had a family emergency, they must reschedule my appointment. The first available opening is July 14. This didn't go over so well with me. After I vocalized my distress over having to wait another 5 weeks through no fault of my own, the woman on the phone got all snippy and said that the only thing she could do would be to give me a time set aside for new patients, on June 29. "Is that what you want me to do?" she asked in a tone that I inferred to mean that expecting her to do so was entirely unreasonable. I of course said that yes, I would take that time. Waiting another 3 weeks isn't great either, but it beats waiting five.

-I miss seeing new episodes of The L Word. But The Girl and I saved all the first season episodes on Tivo, and have been rewatching them. It's interesting to watch the early storylines while knowing what is to come for the characters. Plus we're picking up things we missed the first time around.

-It would be great if the school would make the syllabi for next semester available earlier than 2 weeks before classes. I'd like to spread out the book purchases over the summer. But such is not the way...

-Will the opponents of now legal marriage for same sex couples ever come up with a new argument to present in court? How many times must they be told that the arguments they continually repackage and renew cannot prevail simply because they have been repackaged and renewed?

-Will I be one of the lucky winners of the soon to be commenced random searches of T passengers? Will the still being developed system be able to pass constitutional scrutiny in time for the arrival of the Democratic National Convention at the Fleet Center? And now that Fleet has been absorbed by Bank of America, will the former Boston Garden soon be the former Fleet Center?

Posted by Beth Henderson at 10:29 AM
Thursday, June 03, 2004

Angel - Not Fade Away 

Okay, before I get into the rant that I've had building up for a couple of weeks now regarding the series finale, let me just say up front that I thought it rocked! It rolled in references to earlier storylines, to Angel's first appearance on Buffy, the story moved to unexpected places, and it left lots to chew on and ponder.

Let me also say that I love Joss Whedon's work. He creates great characters, maintains storylines, isn't afraid of controversy, and his shows have earned my undying loyalty. But from articles he's written, statements he's made in interviews, and his commentaries on some of the Buffy DVD's, I have long held the opinion that he's a smug, rather obnoxious noodge. I always have the unpleasant feeling that his seemingly modest self-deprecations are masking a self-congratulatory superiority. Personality and product are separate entities, and in general I love Whedon's product.

One of the great attractions of Buffy and then Angel was the empowerment of the female characters in the Buffyverse, be they good or evil. The series finale of Buffy was about girls and women empowering themselves, negating the Watcher-Chosen One paradigm and sharing the wealth instead of letting the Watcher's Council hold the reigns on the guardians of feminine power. Buffy introduced gay characters who were no more freaks than the rest of the characters. Angel could always be counted on to continue the empowered female characters and a good deal of homoeroticism in the stories.

The series finale of Angel, which also marked the end of the era of the Buffyverse, was filled with homophobia and misogyny. As you may guess, I found this a bit disappointing. Examples:

-The episode opens with the group pledging their lives in the ultimate fight against the ultimate evil. This group is a 5-member boys' club: Angel, Wesley, Lorne, Gunn and Spike. They do mention the possibility of enlisting Illyria into their project, and state that "she's been housebroken." How did this training occur? By Wesley using his ray gun to suck out the demon essence from her. The source of her power was physically extracted by the Rogue Demon Hunter / Ex-Watcher. Now she's a safe tool for the boys to use.

-Harmony is brought in early on by Angel, to assist with the big plan. Her role? To be the powerful, file-wielding feminine distraction, betrayer and ultimately a pawn. "But she's evil!" you protest. I counter: she's been presented all season as trying to "be good," just as Spike did on Buffy. Spike went and fought with every fiber of his being to win himself a shiny new soul that would allow him the chance of winning his battle against his own demon. Harmony shrugged and reaffirmed, "I'm evil."

-The scene between Angel and Lindsey was rife with homophobia and the male ego. I did like the word choice in Lindsey's lecture on good and evil - "it's not about coveting your neighbor's ass." That left it open to lots of interpretations. Does that mean that the "neighbor's wife" has been elevated to a personage of her own, rather than the "neighbor's property?" That would be a good thing. Does it mean that Lindsey is referring to the coveting of the male neighbor's ass? That's good, as it acknowledges that sometimes the hero has his eyes on the hunky guy next door instead of the gorgeous chick. Then again, this is being categorized as evil.

Part of Lindsey's speech negated the message that started on Buffy. "It's not about the vampire with the soul. It's about the vampire with the big brass testes." The vampire with the soul could be seen as representing the rampaging male (the demon) in an inner struggle with the sacred feminine (the soul). Lindsey casts this aside, and describes the battle as coming down to Angel having the largest and most invulnerable representations of maleness.

Then it was put right out there with the final lines. "I want you Lindsey...I'm thinking about rephrasing that." "Yeah, I think I'd be more comfortable if you did." 'Cause you wouldn't want anyone to think there was any actual, you know, love in that love-hate relationship they've had over the years.

-Angel: "I have very nice handwriting." Connor: "You girl." How far they've come from the irony of Buffy being called, "Just a girl," to calling someone a girl as the ultimate irony-free insult.

-Lindsey tells Eve to stay away. Because she's a defenseless girl. No more power. Standing in the office, she reminded me of Darla before she was revealed as a vampire in "Welcome to the Hellmouth." But there was no ironic twist. Eve really is defenseless.

-In the scene of Illyria's part in the project, they don't show her wielding her power. First she's standing, bloody and bent, in front of the car. Then she's standing in front of the smouldering wreck. But we don't get to see her in action.

-Lorne has always been the most "feminine" of the male characters. Again, we don't get to see his contribution to the fight, which was the singing of a high note to burst the heads of the demons in question. A very feminine weapon, but all we see is the aftermath. Then he pulls out a handy substitute phallus in the form of a handgun, and unhesitatingly ejects the lethal projectiles into the unsuspecting Lindsey. And Lindsey's big regret is that he was taken out by a flunky instead of the big brass testes guy.

-At Wesley's death, the once powerful Illyria can only provide help and comfort through deception. Lie to me. I do have to give kudos for the following sequence in which Illyria is taunted to do her best, "little girl," and transforms from Fred into Illyria while delivering a punch through the face that takes out the previously unstoppable demon. That was the one scene of feminine empowerment in the episode. But even that was driven by vengeance, not by self-empowerment. And you know the saying about women scorned.

-When Illyria joins the remaining boys in the alley, her leap down from above is very reminiscent of Buffy's leap into the alley upon Angel's first appearance. But unlike Buffy, Illyria is being driven by her emotions - she can't control her grief. "I want to do more violence." She's not using her power for any defined purposes of good OR evil - she's just trying to assuage her uncontrolled emotions. That's how girls are...

But I can't end the post on the season finale without noting some of my favorite lines and events of the episode:

-Angel gets to "kill them all." He gets his wish, as revealed in the alley way back when he was introduced on Buffy. "What do you want?" "To kill them. To kill them all." He was so young, pale, thin, and of questionable acting abilities back then.

-Was Lorne singing a kermit song during his farewell stage performance? I hope so, because that rocks!

-Spike finally figured out the art of poetry recitation. It's all in the delivery.

-Spike doesn't get to betray Angel. "Well, then can I at least deny you three times?"

-When Adam Baldwin stalked in for his final fight, I swear those were Terminator chords playing in the background. That was perfect.

-"Try not to die. You are not unpleasant to my eyes."

-"Goodnight folks." Exit, stage left.

-Angel gets his fuel to defeat the representative of the senior partners by letting out his demon to feed. Give in to the force, Liam.

-"I want to slay the dragon." What an awesome scene to close with - the hopeless battle against infinitely bad odds, but they fight on. We few, we happy few. We band of buggered.

-The closing ensemble shot was a good parting view for a great show.

Posted by Beth Henderson at 6:33 PM

Return of the Rant 

I'm back from the void of a death in the family. After a lengthy battle with emphysema and other ailments, The Girl's mother passed away last week. The time from that day until the interment of the ashes yesterday has been an unwired blur of arrangements, relatives, tears, and a bit of laughter as well. To say she was unique would be an understatement. As her cousin mentioned at the memorial service, "It is said that some people march to the beat of a different drummer. Kay marched to the beat of a different tuba." She will be missed.

Posted by Beth Henderson at 7:15 AM