Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Marriage Equality Fight
Comes to Maryland

Looks like the marriage equality fight will be taking center stage in Maryland very soon and with the prospect looming in the State House, the hate groups are already gearing up to let Maryland's residents know that equality is against the laws of God. Protect Maryland Marriage has a website in development, but in the meantime they have helpfully placed some information on their temp page to "support" their beliefs … except none of what they have to say holds any water. For instance, Protect Maryland Marriage points out in the current Maryland marriage law that:

"A man may not marry his: grandmother; mother; daughter; sister; or granddaughter," and that "A woman may not marry her: grandfather; father; son; brother; or grandson" and adds "nor may they marry their in-laws, nieces, nephews, or similar family relations by marriage. All of this will be threatened if the marriage law is changed to benefit one small but vocal and well-funded sexual minority."

Exactly how would this be "threatened" by allowing marriage equality? I'm sure that new wording will be put into place that would state no one can marry anyone of familial relations. This is similar to the same argument that marriage equality would allow people to marry animals and inanimate objects. Only problem with this argument is that marriage is a contract which requires the legal signatures of the people being married in order for it to be valid. Neither animals nor inanimate objects can provide a legal and valid signature. Plus, there's nothing in the current law that prevents anyone from marrying their couch, cat or coffee pot, so to assume marriage equality would suddenly allow everyone in the state to marry anyone and anything they want is ludicrous.

Protect Maryland Marriage group goes on to state: "We believe there is value in preserving the traditional definition of marriage, and that efforts to change this definition do violence to the family structure and the reality that children do best when raised in a stable family with the love, attention, and physical presence of their biological mother and father." Okay, so then why isn't there a movement to make divorce illegal? Divorce, I believe, is the most violent thing that can destroy a family so then why is this still legal if children need the nurturing of both parents working together as a family unit?

Protect Maryland Marriage covers their butts with: "While some families may not always be able to provide such opportunities to every child, keeping the current law is the best way to respect the natural family, the rights of a biological mother and father to be able to raise their own children, to educate their children and teach them their own religious values--not the religious values of the state--and to provide the model for an ideal family for children to be raised in." Except what about those teen-aged biological parents that have absolutely no facilities to care for a child … a child that they most likely didn't want in the first place? Protect Maryland Marriage simply ignores the fact that young girls are recklessly engaging in sexual activity which produces a child that they are too young to care for, so it either ends up stuck in a home that can't (or doesn't want) to take on that responsibility, or it is placed in an adoption facility where only a legally married couple, or in some cases a well-to-do single parent, is afforded the opportunity to raise the child as their own, instilling in them their own values (P.S. not all of these adoptive families share the same moral and religious values as the PMM, so I would assume Protect Maryland Marriage does not advocate allowing adoption to anyone who doesn't fall in line with their beliefs).

Procreation is also a reason given for only allowing a man and woman to marry, suggesting that is the only reason for people to get married. If this is the case, shouldn't there be some requirement on the marriage license application stating children must be produced within a certain amount of time or the marriage will be deemed invalid? Or a couple should be asked if they intend to have children right up front. A lot of people go into marriage with absolutely no intention of having children, so their marriage application should be denied. Some people can't biologically produce children either, so they also should not be allowed to marry if they can't fulfill the one basic function of a marriage. Right?

Again, Protect Maryland Marriage states: "We are a non-partisan group composed of many faiths, different races, and all types of citizens who are concerned for the future of our state, our country, and our world being threatened by those who seek to force moral, law-abiding citizens to embrace or accept behavior that most of us find contrary to the tenets of our deepest religious & philosophical beliefs." Protect Maryland Marriage assumes (or expects) everyone in Maryland has the same religious and philosophical beliefs as they and if you don't, well then, you're just part of the problem and have no right to an opinion on this matter.

And they finish up with: "The first Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees that Congress will not violate our FREEDOM OF RELIGION. We firmly believe that as citizens of Maryland, our state legislature should do the same." The caps are theirs and again supports their belief that THEIR religion is the only one that matters, so any of you don't conform to their beliefs are out of luck. Protect Maryland Marriage overlooks the whole issue of separation of church and state by making marriage equality a religious issue that the legislature is trying to regulate. This is NOT a religious issue, it is a rights issue. It is the legislature's job to NOT discriminate against any of its legal, TAXPAYING citizens (whatever happened to "no taxation without representation?"). If people from the LGBT community are not allowed the same legal rights as heterosexual people, they why should they have to pay taxes into a system that will turn around and use that tax money to give benefits to "legally married" couples? It makes no sense. I know same-sex couples who have been together for 20+ years, and I know heterosexual couples who have been married and divorced in much less time, and we all know of people who have been legally married more than once, twice or five times. Doesn't THAT make a mockery of marriage more than a committed, loving couple of the same sex seeking the same legal and protective rights as that person who strolls down the aisle a multitude of times (in a church, no less!).

People have to stop thinking of marriage as a religious matter. Marriage is a legal contract approved by the state and federal government which allows a couple over a thousand rights including tax breaks and such personal matters as hospital visitation rights, inheritance and the like. Legal marriage also allows a U.S. citizen to wed a non-citizen, giving that person legal U.S. citizenship. A bi-national same-sex couple has no such protections, often resulting in the non-citizens being deported back to their country, sometimes tearing apart a couple that has been together for several years. How is this fair?

Marriage equality is simply a legal means for people to enjoy a life together while being protected by the law. There is nothing religious about it. No church is going to be forced to perform a same-sex marriage if they don't want to. No heterosexual marriages are going to be torn apart by the law. Nothing is going to be taken away from anyone by allowing two people of the same sex to marry. It's time for people to wake up and realize that we are in the 21st century now, to realize that ALL men (and women) are created equal and deserve the same rights across the board. Anything less is discrimination, plain and simple.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Worth the Commitment

No Strings Attached
Cast: Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher, Greta Gerwig, Lake Bell, Cary Elwes, Kevin Kline
Director: Ivan Reitman


Emma (Portman) and Adam (Kutcher) are long-time friends who almost ruin everything by having sex one morning. In order to protect their friendship, they make a pact to keep their relationship strictly "no strings attached." "No strings" means no jealousy, no expectations, no fighting, no flowers, no baby voices. It means they can do whatever they want, whenever they want, in whatever public place they want, as long as they don't fall in love. The question becomes - who's going to fall first? And can their friendship survive?

No Strings Attached is another in a long line of romantic comedies that are all pretty much interchangeable, and if you don't know that the two leads will be together by the end of the movie then you haven't seen many movies. So what's the point in seeing this movie if you know how it's going to end even before you buy a ticket? One little twist on the genre that sets this film apart is that Portman's character is the one who wants to keep things strictly on a friends with benefits basis while Kutcher's character is the sensitive, relationship-oriented one. It's usually the guy in these movies that can't commit so it was nice to see this little flip-flop. Another reason to see No Strings Attached is simply for Kutcher and Portman. They have some great screen chemistry and you can really believe in the characters and you actually root for them to get together in the end (even when you already know they will). Portman shows that she can handle light comedy after her dramatic turn in Black Swan, and she really sells Emma's change from her commitment phobia to really loving Adam. Kutcher is basically playing the same character he always plays, but he still gives Adam a lot more charm because the character does have a heart and isn't just the overgrown college frat dude he is when we first meet him.

Beyond the two leads, the filmmakers have done what is probably one of the best jobs ever of casting the supporting characters, from Greta Gerwig as Emma's friend Patrice to Jake Johnson as Adam's friend Eli and all of the other peripheral characters in their lives. Each and every one of these actors is committed to their characters and they really bring them to life. These are people that you would actually want to spend time with, and when it comes to supporting characters that is not always something you can say. Kudos to the casting directors and the actors for doing such a great job.

The film is directed by veteran comedy director Ivan Reitman (Stripes, Ghostbusters, Kindergarten Cop) and he manages to stay true to his style while bringing it up to date with the addition of more R-rated language, partial nudity (mostly Kutcher) and a lot of sex. In one real modern spin, Adam's friend Eli proudly tells anyone who will listen that he has two dads and that they're great people (he also quickly adds that he's totally heterosexual) and no one reacts negatively. In our current landscape, it was nice to have this moment however brief it was … and then Reitman goes and ruins it all by finally showing the dads during the film's end credits as two stereotypically, over-the-top flaming queens (think two Zaza's from La Cage Aux Folles). I know this is a comedy and this gets a huge laugh from most audiences, unfortunately this just reinforces the belief that all gay men are basically one step away from a drag queen. It was a very disappointing moment in an otherwise good film. That being said, No Strings Attached is a funny, charming romantic comedy worth seeing mainly for the stars and the supporting cast.

Rated R for sexual content, language and some drug material.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Civilization is doomed?



A quick thought for the evening ... I was just watching Anderson Cooper's show and the topic was the new MTV series Skins. Apparently there is a huge controversy surrounding the show with its frank depiction of teenagers and sexual activity. The Parents Television Council has asked for some kind of federal investigation of the show to see if the producers and MTV are in violation of child pornography laws (apparently the actors are actual teenagers, unlike the "teenagers" on Glee who had their own controversy over a racy photo spread not too long ago), Taco Bell and other sponsors are pulling their ads, Viacom has asked MTV to tone down some of the more explicit aspects of the show, and people are basically blaming MTV now for influencing teenagers to emulate the actions of the characters on the show.

Which begs the question - if MTV is responsible for the behavior of viewers of Skins, why aren't Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Fox News and any other person who has used some form of violent language or imagery responsible for the actions of Jared Loughner? Skins has been on for ONE WEEK (P.S. the original British version has been airing on BBC America for quite some time to little to no fanfare) yet it is now responsible for the complete and utter downfall of society, while years and years of the rhetoric from the right has absolutely nothing to do with Loughner's anti-government feelings? Why is one episode of one TV show responsible for the downfall of civilization while no one but Loughner is responsible for his actions and for also making victims out of Palin, et al?

Teenagers have been doing things they shouldn't be doing for, well, centuries. How about parents start taking some responsibility for the actions of their children and stop blaming society for everything that's wrong with them. Skins is rated TV-MA which means for mature audiences over the age of 17. Kids under 17 aren't supposed to be getting into R-rated movies without an adult - but they do. Try some actual parenting for a change and stop dumping your kids on the rest of us and expecting us to raise them. I know, I know, it takes a village to raise a child, however, the foundation has to be set by the parents in the home.

BOY GEORGE
& THE STOLEN ICON

In the cupcake world of celebrities there are some that just cannot keep their names out of the press. Events occur over behaviors deemed unsuitable, adding more luggage to their already long list of shenanigans. They may try to change their tunes but we all know the media loves to milk a good story even if it's a total fabrication. But I say for the sake of this article let's give the boy/girl/it a well deserved break.

I will try not to get vaklempt and end up in a crying game but we simply must reveal the once wholesome drag queen superstar who basically threw his career away after years of drug addiction, Boy George, has returned a religious artifact that he has owned for more than 26 years to its rightful owner. This artifact - a prized treasure of his personal collection - a Christ icon originally belonging to the Church of Cyprus was gracefully returned by Boy George upon his learning that it was actually stolen.

A British music magazine, New Music Express, claims he bought the icon in 1985 from a London art dealer, unaware of its origins. This artifact, along with thousands of other religious items, was stolen from the Church of Cyprus in the Cypriot village of New Choria-Kythrea, which in turn gave evidence to the Boy proving the icon's true ownership. The items were stolen from northern Cyprus following a 1974 Turkish invasion.

"I have always been a friend of Cyprus and have looked after the icon for 26 years," George told BBC News on Wednesday. "I look forward to seeing the icon on display in Cyprus for the moment and finally to the Church of Saint Charalambos from where it was illegally stolen."

Considering George O'Dowd's shady past it appears that this is one scandal that will be downplayed by holy intervention! No, George.....we don't really want to crucify you!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Using Language as a Weapon

The day of the shootings in Tucson, many people - including myself - jumped on the "this is all the fault of the right wing, gun-loving Republicans and Tea Partiers" before really knowing any of the facts about the shooter. There are still a lot of questions about his motives, but in the meantime there has been a lot of discussion about the vitriolic rhetoric that comes, predominantly, from the right. That's not to say that the left doesn't have a few choice words for the right from time to time, but if you watch any of the news shows on TV or read the news online or in the papers, it's hard to deny that most of the inflammatory, violently worded speechifying is coming from people like Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and their ilk.

I say it's hard to deny but in fact there are some people out there who do try to deny it by pointing out any one-time instance of a Democrat or left-leaning journalist using similar language. One of the main reasons this blog came into being was because of a heated argument I was having with someone on Facebook that I consider a good friend. This is someone I know personally, so it's not just an internet friendship. The argument got started AFTER I took a step back from pointing fingers at one side and admitted that both sides use language that could be interpreted by a mentally deranged person as a call to action. I was trying to make a point that the right seems to take every opportunity they can to get on TV, the radio or the internet to manipulate their viewers and listeners into a sense of outrage with their histrionic, usually violently-tinged messages, but EVERYONE needs to take a step back and think before they speak because, even if the Arizona shooter wasn't pushed into action by Palin's crosshair - I mean surveyor's marks - map or any of Glenn Beck's ridiculous rants, there are people out there who very well could take those words and images as a call to action to "take out" a politician the right doesn't like. My friend didn't seem to understand or want to hear what I was saying because no matter how many times I said that everyone needed to think before they spoke, my comments were met with yet another obscure remark made by someone on the left.

So, before things got to a point that I ended up posting something I would regret and end up losing a friend, or two (and these are people I've known for years), I put an end to the discussion, deleted all of the political posts on my page and decided to post my thoughts here. Strangely enough, on the January 17th edition of Countdown with Keith Olbermann, he - and John McCain of all people - pretty much delivered the same message that I was trying to impart to my friend.


I hope that my friend and others understand now what I was trying to say. Whether or not the shooter in Arizona was influenced by political rhetoric, anyone who uses the media to deliver a message to the masses should take a lesson away from this incident and just think before they speak. I may just be living in a fantasy world where people can learn from this tragedy, because a lot of the people who had fingers pointing at them are now calling themselves victims and blaming the Congresswoman for being shot because she didn't have any security or because she wasn't carrying a gun herself. Funny, but I don't hear anyone on the left blaming Giffords for allowing herself to get shot in the head.

RUDENESS …
IS IN THE EAR
OF THE BEHOLDER

The Golden Globes 2011. The poor man's Oscar celebration that usually predicts Oscar winners based on past Globe winners. This year's ceremony was hosted by British comedian Ricky Gervais. Who? OK, so I am not up to par with the celebs like I used to be. I certainly know who he is now. The host that ripped the ceremony to shreds. He took the liberty to bash top notchers like Angelina Jolie, Charlie Sheen, Mel Gibson, Tom Cruise and even the almighty GOD! Bad taste? I LOVED IT!

The real kicker at this years ceremony was Gervais' stab at Phil Berk, the current head of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. A bit daring considering that HFPA are The Golden Globe Awards organization. A unofficial 'roast' of his employer. That takes balls. Poor Ricky's head is rolling as if he were sent to the gallows. It's even been said Kathy Griffin would have been a safer choice to host this sloppy, predictable, and possibly corrupt version of the only real award ceremony that honors the many talented people in the industry.

As if I care......more importantly, five time nominee Dianne Warren, a super famous songwriter who has broken records across the globe, finally won a Globe for Best Original Song - Motion Picture. That song was You Haven't Seen The Last Of Me, performed by the one and only Cher in the recent so-so musical Burlesque. She is also responsible for Cher's 1980s comeback as a questionable vocalist when she penned If I Could Turn Back Time, specifically for her to record. If you visit her web site, www.realsongs.com, you may understand what idiots HFPA truly are. I was so happy for her but at the same time I thought to myself - and I am a self admitted Cher zombie - what is so damn special about that song? Cher's big comeback to the land of film and music? Cher couldn't be at the awards because she was saying farewell for the millionth time at her Sunday night show in Las Vegas. Congratulations Dianne, but take a Valium at the next award show when you are nominated. I have seen crack-heads keep their cool better than her. I can't remember much of what she was ranting about but she was sincere. She thanked Cher for being a bad ass and getting the song and keeping the song in the film (which would have been intolerable without it.)


Now I am going to spontaneously combust over the following news ... Cher has lost her damn mind. As reports of her latest and last stint of concerts at The Colosseum in Caesars Palace came in from irate fans, I just sat and wondered why I even like this egomaniac. She traveled the globe to promote the movie (and boy did it need it) but has NOT performed the song in her show. When I found out I turned to my imaginary friend and said, "This has got to be a joke, right?" Would she? Could she possibly be so self-centered and so selfish as to deprive fans who paid up to $277 a pop to watch Cher walk back and forth and occasionally shake a hip that could easily break? I have seen this show 6 times - I take the blame - and there have been occasional low key changes but I have heard the same opening monologue each and every time. How hard is it to be clever? I just wish Bette Midler gave a course about being funny and intelligent at the drop of a hat. Enough about what is right or wrong about the bulk of Cher's post farewell farce of a concert that has more outfit changes than it does songs. For someone who is planning to start a world tour beginning in October 2011, and finally has a song that has charted for the first time in close to ten years, I cannot comprehend which body crevice she is singing from....BUTT it's pretty obvious. Sorry Cher, but if giving your fans what they want....wait, WHAT THEY DESERVE, is not on your agenda then say I hope I see the last of you!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

SCAN IT!

As I get older, I'm starting to feel like the old folk who yells at the kids to get off of their grass.  Not sure why this is, but sometime the smallest incidents will set me off.  I recently went to the local Giant Food supermarket.  They have this system called Scan It that allows the shopper to take a personal scanner with them while they shop.  You scan the item's bar code (or weigh your own produce and print out a bar code for that item), place the item in a bag (preferably a reusable one), and then go to the specially marked register when you're done for a quick and easy check out, usually without waiting in a long line.

Giant used to let you go to the self-serve check out but they found that too many people would just walk out without paying so they put a stop to that little perk almost immediately.  Now they randomly audit the Scan It users, and I seem to get an audit every third visit - and usually on less than five items.  But I like using the Scan It because there are also extra value coupons included on select items, so you can actually save even more when you use the Scan It.


Unfortunately, some people just aren't ready for college when it comes to using this system.  On my most recent visit, a woman in front of me had a Scan It device, but none of her items were bagged.  She just had that look about her that she was above bagging her own items.  The cashier, resigned to the fact that no one can see the gigantic sign at the front of the conveyor stating this line is for Scan It customers only, asked the woman if she had scanned her items.  Her answer was no.  She thought HE was supposed to scan the items with her Scan It and then bag everything for her.  I'm surprised she didn't hear my eyes rolling around in my head.  Really, lady???  There are a dozen other check out lines for that!  Why on earth would you pick up a Scan It and think the cashier had to use it?!?!?  Poor guy did all of her work for her, then she looked at my cart and noticed all of my items were bagged and I had place my Scan It on the belt.  Meanwhile, another woman (wearing pajama pants and slippers!) came up behind me and proceeded to put her items on the belt even though she was standing right next to the "Scan It customers only" sign!  I even pointed it out to her and she STILL didn't see it, nor did the woman behind her.

And I wonder why I don't like leaving the house very much.

Miss America 2011

So the 2011 Miss America Pageant was held on January 15th, and I just had to make a few observations.



Seriously, girl, it's called a comb!



Graphics guy: "There's an L in Ashleigh? Well, no one will notice, right?"



Miss Arizona looks different on tape (left) than she does live (right).



And then someone let this demon spring forth from Hell.



Really, it's called a COMB!



Umm, is anyone actually directing this show?



What the?!?!



This is just nightmare inducing.



Not really sure what look Miss Arkansas was going for here.



And then they cut to a revival meeting. Hallelujah!