Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Politics + Yankees Win! + Se Pone Blanco + Kessler Lecture, 11/12 + iPhone Drawings

It's been a week since I dropped in here, and every J's Theater reader knows the political business that's occurred since then, so I won't rage. But the results in Maine, which stripped away equal rights and ended Maine's brief experiment with same-sex, i.e., equal marriage, were very disappointing, even though the pre-election polling showed a close contest, and the Roman Catholic Church, among others, poured a great deal of money and energy into overturning the new law. As the chart below (straight from Matthew Yglesias/Think Progress) shows, marriage equality will eventually be part of the American landscape, but it may still be a ways off for most of the country.

Equal Marriage Support in the USA
(Click on table to enlarge)


On Saturday, the House of Representatives made history by passing a Health Care Reform bill by a 220-215 margin. Only one Republican, Anh Joseph Cao (R-LA), who represents convicted Democrat Bill Jefferson's former New Orleans-area district, voted for the bill, while 39 Democrats, most Conservadems, a few ultraprogressives (Dennis Kucinich) voted against it. The historic legislation, ushered through by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and her leadership team, does include some great touches, such as removing the tax penalty for same-sex domestic partners on the same plan and a considerably weakened public option. It also will go a long way towards covering the majority of the 40+ million who do not have and cannot afford health care insurance. But doesn't allow for a single-payer system, and includes extremist anti-abortion language that could conceivably be used by insurance companies to deny coverage to women who have miscarriages. It also does little to address one of the major problems of US health care, which is we spend more than twice, and in some cases three times what nearly every other industrialized nation does on health care. That is to say, it does little to remove the profit incentive from health care insurance, or to help drive down the cost of pharmaceuticals, medical devices, or hospital care. President Barack Obama removed himself from the discussion several weeks back, and seems concerned only with having something to sign, as opposed to the best bill possible. Or perhaps it's Rahm Emanuel whose conservative pragmatism is guiding the White House's approach. It's hard to know, because the White House sends out so many conflicting signals and operates in such a frustrating passive-aggressive manner it's hard to know what the President and his administration really stand for. Such are vicissitudes of 11 months of Obamatude. Well, we did get Sonia Sotomayor, didn't we?

Now the bill heads to the graveyard of the popular will, the US Senate. Republicans are mostly united against anything approximating reform. The Democrats probably have 50 votes, now that Al Franken is finally seated and Teddy Kennedy's replacement, Paul Kirk, also is present, but the main issue is a cloture vote, and it's unclear whether nominal Democrats like Ben Nelson and Blanche Lincoln, or tantrum-throwing neocons like Joe Lieberman, will sustain a filibuster and prevent anything viable from coming to the floor. The Democrats have one of the wettest noodles leading them, if one can use the term, Harry Reid, who seems incapable of exerting any real power whatsoever. Dick Durbin of Illinois, second in command, seems to do little more than whine and beg, to little effect. It's beyond pathetic. In fact, Reid has even spoken recently of not getting anything to the floor before the end of the year! Meanwhile, the GOP, which is now witnessing its lowest level of voter identification in decades, makes threats, commands the media, and continues to draw stricter and stricter lines, all to the end of gumming up the legislative process and destroying our Hamlettian head of government and state. I'll say this: if the Democrats fail to push through a Senate bill, and if they leave in Bart Stupak's toxic anti-abortion amendment, they very well may have their "Waterloo," even if the President hangs on to middling popularity by the skin under his nails. They appear to want to fail, and they're doing nothing to prevent it. Meanwhile, as has been repeatedly noted, 45,000 people die each year from lack of health care insurance or inadequate coverage, and as someone who dealt with the health care industry extensively last year, I can say that the US's system is seriously screwed up and needs help, immediately.


Friday I joined hundreds of thousands (a million?) people who crammed into the narrow streets of lower Manhattan to cheer on the New York Yankees, who won their 27th World Series. Responding to an online query, I predicted that the Yankees would win--against the St. Louis Cardinals, who were out after the first round of the playoffs. The Yankees had everything they needed, on the mound and in the field, including some production from the pulchritudinous but perplexing and scandal-plagued Alex Rodriguez for a change. Last year's champions, the Philadelphia Phillies, just could not crack Andy Pettitte or Mariano Rivera, or keep Hideki Matsui and Derek Jeter off the bases. With the Cardinals out, I followed--and watched, sometimes with C--most of the Yankees' games, and thought they'd pull off a 4-1 series in Philly, but the return to and victory in the Bronx only made the victory sweeter.

The parade was, in my experience, one of those rare times, like last November on Michigan Avenue and in Grant Park in Chicago, when vast throngs of people gather together and, because they're united in a common cause, they behave very well. Just a few days before, I'd told C about a near altercation I witnessed on the 5 train, in which a wacko ranted on about everything nearly bursting his rage-swollen head in support of another nut who ran his bicycle wheel over one woman's foot and into another's leg. On Friday, however, and I don't think it was just the presence of enough New York police officers to form a human bridge to Weehawken, people were acting quite kindly towards each other. I saw this again and again as people were polite when pressing through the dense crowds, and on the subway, there were more "Excuse mes" and "Pardon mes" than I've heard over the last 7 months. One unfortunate thought I had amidst all the good cheer, however, was there might be more people in that narrow corner of Manhattan (and in the tunnels beneath and on the other side of the Hudson trying to get there) than voted last Tuesday. (Michael Bloomberg only won by about 50,000 votes, and only 1.1 million of 4 million or so eligible voters cast ballots; I've so far spoken to at least one who didn't.)

Photos and video below:

At the Yankees parade
At the parade (it looks like I was far away, but not really--not!)
The confetti being dumped from the cornices--it turned out that some of the celebratory paper included people's vital records and bank documents. Oops!
At Broadway Station
New York's finest penning people in like cattle
On the horribly crowded 5 train
On a very crowded train--and the young woman in the middle of the photo was diligently reading and speaking her Hebrew text...only in New York!
Yankees fans
Among the many, the proud, the Yankees boosters

Speaking of baseball, Chicago, blackness, racism, the not-so-proud, and so much more, I'll just present the photos. Ughhh and arrrgghhh. Sad and tragic doesn't barely scratch the surface.

Sammy w/ Mark McGwire
Sammy Whitens Himself
Sammy Whitens Himself

Vitiligo it ain't!


On Thursday, playwright, novelist and activist Sarah Schulman will deliver the 18th Annual David R. Kessler Lecture. Her talk is entitled "Ties That Bind: Familial Homophobia and Its Consequences."

The event takes place at the CUNY Grad Center, at 34th St. and 5th Avenue, in Manhattan, in the
Proshansky Auditorium. It runs from 6:30 to 8:30.

If you're in New York, don't miss it.


The iPhone drawing continues. I'm addicted. I don't think I've drawn--or thumbed/index-fingered?--this much from life in many years. My new approach is to do as quick a sketch as possible, then fill in the details later. I've also been experimenting with different drawing styles, though I seem to be locked into train portraits these days.

I haven't yet figured out all the intricacies of the very popular Brushes program and have instead been using Autodesk Sketchbook for most of these portraits, which now total 23, or about 1 per day, though some days I do 2-3 in one shot. I do want to learn how to use the layers function in the former app, because I love Jorge Colombo's images.

Now if only AT&T would provide service anywhere near equal to the performance of my iPhone's apps, I'd consider the device essentially miraculous.
iPhone drawing - Young man on train
Man on light rail train
iPhone drawing
Woman on PATH
iPhone drawing - PATH conductor
PATH conductor
iPhone drawing
Man on light rail
iPhone drawing
Man on PATH

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