Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Amazing video of San Francsico

(hat tip to the Huffington Post)
Seriously cool video taken from a remote control model helicopter.   I'm not homesick.. really...  (sigh...)

Weekend in SF from robert mcintosh on Vimeo.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Remembering Steve Walker

(hat tip to Xtra)
Canadian-born painter Steve Walker died at his home in Costa Rica on Jan 4, 2012. He was 50.  Walker was a self-taught artist who began painting after an inspirational trip to Europe when he was 25.   For his subjects, he chose to paint gay men, depicting the struggles and joys the gay community lived through in his lifetime, from the ongoing struggle for sexual liberation to the devastation wrought by HIV and AIDS. But he believed his subjects were universal, touching on themes of love, hate, pain, joy, beauty, loneliness, attraction, hope, despair, life and death.

"As a homosexual, I have been moved, educated and inspired by works that deal with a heterosexual context. Why would I assume that a heterosexual would be incapable of appreciating work that speaks to common themes in life, as seen through my eyes as a gay man? If the heterosexual population is unable to do this, then the loss is theirs, not mine,” Walker once said.

Walker was always grateful for the support he received from the gay community for his work. In recent years, his work has been exhibited in galleries in Toronto, Montreal, Los Angeles, Fort Lauderdale, Key West and Provincetown.   "Any minority wants and needs to find artistic voices that reflect their own personal situations, and, in doing so, validate and record their lives and cultures for themselves and for the larger world," he said.
I can't say I knew Steve. But I am very proud to say we were acquaintances.  I had the great good fortune to have met him three times. Always in Chicago. He would come and sign prints of his work at the North Halsted Market Days street festival on Chicago's Northside. I have one of those signed prints. It is his work entitled "Telling Him."

Like many people, during my own coming out process as a young Gay man, I found inspiration in Steve's work. In a way his work was the first "It Gets Better" message  I ever saw.  His depictions of Gay men just living their lives. Lives depicted with all the ups, downs and events that every life has. It was the first time I ever saw artwork that depicted that for people like... well... for people like me.

For Steve, like for so many Gays and Lesbians, coming to terms with his sexuality was an evolutionary process as opposed to a revelation—a not uncommon occurrence.

“I remember feeling a strange sense of elation upon having survived childhood, a rural environment, education, and the knowledge that my sexual orientation, (which was never a mystery or problem to me personally), would forever cause some people who never met me and would never know me, to hate me and others like me.” 

When I became involved in the San Francisco Pride Celebration I started using images of Steve's work in the promo videos we would show at volunteer trainings. When Eric and I were doing our long distance relationship, between San Francisco and  London, I created a video for a face book group of  bi-national same sex couples who were in the same situation. 

I posted a few of them on YouTube and was delighted to find out Steve saw them. This let to an exchange of emails over the next three years where he would share stories about the history of a particular painting that I had used in the videos.

With his passing, I am very grateful to have had the chance to tell him about the tremendous impact  his artwork had  on me.  Not just because it showed the commonalities of life and love that all people hope for. But because his work does so from an unapologetically Gay perspective.

Something that in a world overwhelmed with images of "Boy meets Girl", gave a young gay man growing up in South Central Wisconsin, hope that the world had room in it for me too.  Where the story could be one where "Boy meets Boy".

A funeral will be held at Our Lady of the Visitation Parish (5338 Bank St) in Ottawa on Feb 25 at 11am. It is anticipated that a memorial celebrating the life of Walker will be held in Toronto at a date still to be determined.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

25 Years Ago...

Back in June of 1987, I visited Berlin for the first time.  Standing in  front of the Wall  at  Brandenburg Gate, I  listened to President Ronald Reagan say "Mister Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"  

I remember at the time  thinking,  that was a nice sentiment, but never in my lifetime would I know what it was like to walk through Brandenburg Gate.   I have travelled to Berlin a couple of times since then, most recently in 1989, when the wall fell.  But I had yet to visit Berlin as a truly unified city.

Today... nearly twenty five years after that first visit,  I returned to Berlin, and  walked through that gate.

Proof, if there ever was,  that nothing is impossible.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

More Seriously Cool Footage from the ISS

Recent solar flare activity has resulted in spectacular  Northern Lights  this year.  Now thanks to  NASA  we all get to see what it looks like from above.  Amazing video from the International Space Station  (ISS)

and more...

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Today's 9th Circuit Court Decision on CA Prop 8.

Here is the full court decision upholding the original decision that ruled  California's  Proposition 8, (the ban of same sex marriage) to be unconstitutional

Ninth Circuit Prop. 8 decision

So what does this mean exactly?  Is same sex marriage now legal (again...) in  California?   Well, no.  Or more accurately , not yet.   There is still a Stay of the ruling in place  pending an appeal by  the proponents of Prop 8.  That means same sex marriages  cannot yet  resume in California.   This decision also, only applies to  Proposition 8 in California, and has no effect on laws in any other state or on any federal laws  (i.e. the Defense of Marriage Act).

So yes,  today's court ruling is  good news. But  nothing has actually changed  yet as a result of it.

There is a lot to take in when you read the actual text of the  2-1 court ruling but  here is  a passage that stands out:

"Although the Constitution permits communities to enact most laws they believe to be desirable, it requires that there be at least a legitimate reason for the passage of a law that treats different classes of people differently. There was no such reason that Proposition 8 could have been enacted."

So just  to be clear,   the 9th Circuit Appeals Court today ruled that Prop 8 served no other purpose than to discriminate against Gays and Lesbians. This is significant,  in so much that it highlights the weakness of the one dissenting opinion in the 2-1 ruling.   The voice of dissent belongs to Judge N. Randy Smith.  Smith is a former head of the Idaho Republican Party, and was the lone vote in favor to uphold Prop 8.

Smith,  in his dissenting opinion could only raise the completely unrelated issue of parenting. Suggesting that if Gays and Lesbians can get married,  it somehow would mean fewer children would have Parents.. uh... huh?   How does that work exactly? (Smith didn't offer any explanation.)   It is also interesting to note that  Smith is also a Mormon.

Why is that relevant?  The opponents of Marriage Equality claimed that  the original 2009 ruling by   Judge Vaughn R. Walker  was invalid because Walker was Gay.   It is interesting to note  the plaintiffs in this case made no such similar  accusations against Smith, even though  The  Mormon Church was the single largest backer of Proposition 8.

So what happens next? That's a good question. The proponents of Prop 8 will undoubtedly appeal, so  they could go one of two ways. They could make a motion for rehearing in front of the broader Ninth Circuit (11 judges). If a majority of the circuit judges agree to rehear the case, the case would stay at this appellate level and go through  same process all over again in front of a larger panel. Or the Proponents could skip that step and decide to appeal directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the meantime we can all enjoy the reaction on the  WingNut Bigoted Right as the American Taliban has pretty much lost their minds over today's ruling.  Shrieking hysterically about  "Activist Judges".  Everyone's favorite white supremacist nutcase,  Tony Perkins.  Head of the ridiculously  mis-named hate group  the "Family Research Council" pretty much soiled his adult diaper riding the  Waaaa-mbulance with rage after today's decision.

"This ruling substitutes judicial tyranny for the will of the people, who in the majority of states have amended their constitutions, as California did, to preserve marriage as the union of one man and one woman. However, we remain confident that in the end, the Supreme Court will reject the absurd argument that the authors of our Constitution created or even implied a 'right' to homosexual 'marriage,' and will instead uphold the right of the people to govern themselves.   

Yeah, because we have always allowed people to vote on the civil rights of other Americans.... right?

If the United States Supreme Court were to uphold the original Walker ruling, then like in the case of  Lawrence v. Texas,  suddenly ALL bans on same sex marriage across the United States would be unconstitutional.   This would also overturn the Defence of Marriage Act. (DOMA).  The  federal law banning recognition of same sex marriages.

That my friends,  is the endgame.    So while today's ruling is nice,  it is still only one more step on a very long road.  Albeit, a step in the right direction.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Welcome to Anoka MN....Now go Kill Yourself.

I will confess to  living, to a certain extent in a bubble.   London is a wonderfully diverse, cosmopolitan and progressive  city.    Before moving here I of course,  lived  in San Francisco.  Which is  largely its own planet, much to the pride and delight of residents there.   Prior to SF I lived on the North Side  of Chicago, the liberal bastion  of  Lakeview  (aka 'Boystown').   On top of that  I grew up in Madison, Wisconsin.  Hardly  a conservative enclave by any means.

So it's easy to forget  how  insane  some places are.  Places like  Anoka, Minnesota.

I have blogged in the past  about the epidemic of  teen deaths in  Anoka. How  in a space of less than two years nine young people  at  Anoka middle and high school were  bullied to death.  All because they were either Gay or Lesbian, or  were perceived to be Lesbian or Gay.    And the good  Christian conservatives response to  this epidemic of suicides?   Blame the victims, and  do everything they can to prevent  ANY effort to  address the real cause or issues that  drove nine young people in their town to end their own lives. MSNBC  profiled the issue, back last Fall

The current  issue of  Rolling Stone Magazine  takes a clear,  brutally honest look at  Anoka, and how the intolerance of  one town is killing their own kids.   The article is very hard to read, but I encourage everyone to try to get through it. 

The Anoka-Hennepin County  School District,  is  in the Congressional district of none other than GOP/Tebagger bigoted whackjob  Michelle Bachmann.  When she was a Minnesota State Senator, Bachmann vigorously  opposed  anti-bullying programs.  Citing her concerns that telling kids they shouldn't terrorize and torment classmates who they think might be Gay or Lesbian, telling them they should just go kill themselves,  is somehow a violation of the right to free speech.  (Hat tip to  the Huffington Post)   

Bachmann said, "I think for all us our experience in public schools is there have always been bullies, always have been always will be," according to a recording posted by the Dump Bachmann blog.  
"Will it get to the point where we are completely stifling free speech and expression? Will it mean that what form of behavior will there be, will we be expecting boys to be girls?" She asks. "I just don't know how we can realistically expect a zero tolerance of bullying behavior."
Yeah,  because  to expect educators to make school a safe space for all  kids,  is just so irrational right?    On his program "The Last Word" , Lawrence O'Donnell highlighted  the issue.

The article in Rolling Stone explores how hate groups like the  insanely mis-named "Minnesota Family Council" have mobilized  full force to defend what they believe is their right to  bully LGBT kids to death.

It is people like the Minnesota Family Council, who have smiled approvingly as the climate they created resulted in the bullying of   nine young people to death, and then  claim any effort to stop them from killing even more, is somehow a violation of their rights,  who truly make me hope that  atheists are wrong,  and there really is a Hell.   Because,  I dearly want  the bigots and bullies of Anoka,  Minnesota  to spend eternity there.

Friday, February 03, 2012

My Country Tis of ..... Who?

I just returned  to London from a two week business trip back to the  United States.  I was in  New York,  Los Angeles  and then  took a couple days off and went up to San Francisco  to see  friends and family.  It was  an interesting trip.

New York was great,  my company's offices are  in Lower Manhattan, right near Wall Street.    Also  the trip was even more special because it was Eric's and my first wedding anniversary.  His present was I got him a ticket to fly over and spend the week with me .   So  when I wasn't working we got to explore New York, and  hangout with our  dear friends Daniel and Gerardo.

It was during our week in NYC  President Obama gave his State of the Union Address.   Many people applauded  progressive vim and verve in the speech.  I found myself thinking... "okay, sounds great but where have you been for the past  3 years?".    I obviously will vote for  President Obama come November, but  I am still not  excited about it.  After watching  the seemingly endless string of  GOP Presidential debates. it is now even more clear that  the 2012 Presidential election will essentially be  a choice between an marginally effective democratic President, and whichever bat sh*t crazy  Republican survives the circular firing squad that is this years' primary process.

So we have a GOP contest essentially between Mitt Romney  and Newt Gingrich?  Seriously??  It's like the  Republican Party has  decided to double down on  their quest for total irrelevance.   The good news is,  either one is a losing proposition for the  GOP.  The  wingnutty base will never support Mitt "the Mormon", who  once boasted he was more pro-LGBT rights than Ted Kennedy.

As far as Newt "Swingrich" goes, (his three wives,  affinity for adultery and open marriages aside..)  it is safe to say that Newt  is just wayyyyy too crazy  for  vast majority of  Americans.    So  I think President Obama can safely  keep  the moving boxes stored away for another four years.  Yet the question is not who will be President  come January 20th, 2013, but rather who will control Congress.

After NYC  it was on to  Los Angeles for  more meetings for work, and some warmer California  weather.  I will admit it was nice to be back in the U.S. for a while  It's always nice  to  be able to drive on the  right side of the road in a car with the steering wheel on the left side of the driver's seat.   I will confess that I have never really cared for L.A., but   this time  I actually found myself  not minding the gridlock on the  405.

I guess it is a result of just missing  California.  This was even more evident when last weekend I took a couple days off, and  flew up to San Francisco.

It's  always  odd  the first time you return to  a city you used to live in , after moving away.   You feel like you live  there, but don't live there.   It's kind of  weird.   I wandered  down  past my old apartment building  in the SOMA (South of Market)  neighbourhood. of  San Francisco.  Standing outside, it  felt like  I had just forgotten my keys and was locked out of my own flat.

Then you see somebody else's name on  your mailbox and it all kicks in... Oh yeah, I don't live here any more.

While in SF I had the great good fortune to get to see my friend  Rudy in his current run with  the Word For Word Theatre Company.   He is in  the play  "Food Stories", and as always,  was amazing in it.   I also was able to spend some time with my Sister, her husband and my   glorious, brilliant, and perfect (can you tell I'm a  proud uncle?), nieces and nephew.  For the most part it was nice just to spend time revisiting my old stomping grounds.  I even was able to poke my head in at my old offices at  Kaiser Permanente  in San Bruno, and in Oakland,  and catch up with some of  my former co-workers.

All of which,  I will confess had a bitter-sweet  feel to it.    Friends and co-workers here in London often ask me if I  "miss"  San Francisco.  That is a complicated question.  Obviously there are  lots of things  and people I miss.  My friends, my family, and  the weather. (It is a balmy 28 degrees Fahrenheit here in  London today.)  But the question implies  that if I say  "yes"  I  miss SF, it means I  somehow regret moving here,  and if I say "no"  then  it feels like I am trivializing the people and things I left behind.  

Obviously  I don't for one minute  regret the decisions  that  resulted in my moving here, and  if  time were turned back,  I would  make the exact same decisions again, without a moments hesitation.  What  I do regret is the fact that  Eric and I  didn't  really have a choice..  Moving to London was the only way we could be together.  Living together in the United States was not even an option for us.    Not because of money, or distance. But simply because of bigotry and stupidity.  

The United States Government, which I support with my taxes,  forced me to move,   and yes,  that fact still makes me angry.

Well meaning friends,  for whom the reality of  DOMA ( the ridiculously mis-named "Defense of  Marriage Act"),  doesn't apply;  will often  say;   "Nobody forced you move Dave.  You could always have just stayed here."    The  sheer idiocy of  that statement  is  mind-boggling.   Of course I could have stayed in the U.S., but  without the person I am married to.   It is hard for these people to imagine  having to  choose between your Spouse and your Country.   Yet  that is exactly the choice thousands of bi-national same sex couples are forced to make every day.

How would you feel if, in  order to even be with, let alone marry the person you love, you had to move overseas.  All for no other reason, than the basic legal protections other married couples enjoy, we are denied, because the Republican Party needs to keep Gay and Lesbian Americans as the one group they can still legally hate, and discriminate against.

London is a fantastic city, and  I am  fortunate to have a great job,  and  Eric and I have wonderful friends and family here.  So what is the problem?   The fact  we didn't have a choice.  The basic rights given to other tax-paying Americans  to have the option to live together and build a life in the United States  we were denied, for no other reason than  bigotry and discrimination codified into law by DOMA.