The 2013 Gay Pride: Supreme Court’s Historic Rulings Support Gay Marriage

The 2013 Gay Pride: Supreme Court’s Historic Rulings Support Gay Marriage

In major victories for the human rights movement, the Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that married same-sex couples were entitled to federal benefits and, by declining to decide a case on Prop 8 from California, effectively allowed same-sex marriages there. By clearing the way for same-sex marriage in California, the nation’s most populous state, the court effectively increased to 13 the number of states that allow it.

In the hushed courtroom Wednesday morning, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy announced the majority opinion that struck down the federal law in a stately tone indicating he was delivering a civil rights landmark. The vote in the case striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act was 5 to 4, and Justice Kennedy was joined by the four members of the court’s liberal wing. The ruling will immediately extend many benefits to couples married in the states that allow such unions, and it will allow the Obama administration to broaden other benefits through executive actions.

The case concerning California’s ban on same-sex marriage, enacted in a ballot initiative known as Proposition 8, was decided on technical grounds, with the majority saying that it was not properly before the court. Because officials in California had declined to appeal a trial court’s decision against them, and because the proponents of the ban were not entitled to step into the state’s shoes to appeal the decision, the court said, it was powerless to issue a decision. That left in place a trial court victory for two same-sex couples who had sought to marry.

Read more about the Supreme Court’s decisions in the New York Times here.

Read more about the Supreme Court’s Prop 8 decision in the Los Angeles Times here.

Supreme Court Bolsters Gay Marriage Rights

Supreme Court Rulings Spur Celebrations Among Gay Marriage Supporters

Gay Pride Month: Celebrating Loving Feelings for Others

It’s the Dream Afraid of Waking,
That Never Takes a Chance
.”

Harvey Milk: You’ve Got to Give Them Hope

Before there was this year’s Academy Awards celebrated Milk, there was the widely acclaimed The Times of Harvey Milk, which won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature Film in 1984, and was awarded The Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, among other awards. The documentary chronicles the political career of Harvey Milk, who was San Francisco’s first openly gay elected Board Supervisor. The film, at times humorous, at times nostalgic, and at other times quite tragic, tells the story of Harvey Milk’s rise to political power and emergence as a symbol of gay political achievement.

The Times of Harvey Milk documents through assembled historic film clips the tumultuous story of Milk’s grass-roots political organizing and election, through the shocking murders and their repercussions. It takes the film’s viewers along with the eloquent candle-light memorial joined by tens of thousands of San Franciscans on the evening of the assassinations, to the scenes of angry crowds who stormed San Francisco’s City Hall in the aftermath of the lenient sentence that Dan White received at his murder trial.

This Academy Award-winning documentary feature film depicts not only Harvey Milk himself, but also the political and social milieu of the era in which he lived. From this perspective, the film continues to have significant relevance for our nation today, standing as a classic portrait of communities and cultural values in severe conflict. The film was produced subsequent to Harvey Milk’s death using archival footage, so that Milk is credited posthumously as the lead actor. Other politicians, including San Francisco’s then-mayor George Moscone (who was assassinated along with Milk) and Moscone’s successor and now United States Senator Dianne Feinstein, also appear in the archival footage. Also featured in the film is then-schoolteacher Tom Ammiano, who has been a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors since 1994, and was elected to the California State Assembly. The film’s outstanding narration is provided by the acclaimed stage and screen actor Harvey Fierstein, who at that time had just achieved great success with his own Tony Award-winning Broadway play Torch Song Trilogy.

The Times of Harvey Milk: The Full Version of the Documentary

Slide Show:The Life and Times of Harvey Milk

(Please Click on Image Above to View Slide Show)

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Those Crazy Coney Island Dayze: The Sexy Mermaid Parade Celebration

Those Crazy Coney Island Dayze: The Sexy Mermaid Parade Celebration

Today, Coney Island again burst forth with New Yorkers in outrageous mermaid and King Neptune costumes, a display of topless women in pasties and colorfully clad drag queens making their way down the boardwalk among a swarm of arts-and-crafts floats. The beautiful zaniness is all part of the annual Mermaid Parade, which for 30 years has celebrated the first weekend of summer.

This year, however, the parade faced its demise after its sponsor, Coney Island USA, had its headquarters damaged by Hurricane Sandy. Combined with rising insurance premiums, the costs of crowd control and Porta-Potties for several hundred thousand people, the parade needed an infusion of an additional $100,000, or it wouldn’t have lived to see its 31st edition.

The Mermaid Parade is an annual event that first took place at Coney Island in 1983 and has been a very popular attraction ever since. The Mermaid Parade draws a huge crowd of celebrators, who don wild and outrageous costumes, with the parade’s naughty marchers wearing sea-themed outfits that often leave little to the imagination.

This year, clad in costumes that combined seashells and glitter, scores of exuberant revelers gyrated through Coney Island on Saturday. An estimated half-million people lined the sunny streets to watch ogle Brooklyn’s version of Mardi Gras. The flamboyant marchers, many of whom wore their costumes on the subway out to Coney Island, much to the amusement of their fellow riders, walked on the boardwalk alongside colorful floats and danced to several live bands blaring out top 40 hits and old-time standards.

The Coney Island Mermaid Parade

The 2011 Coney Island Mermaid Parade

Slide Show: The Coney Island Mermaid Parade

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Down on the Bowery: A Fairytale of New York

Down on the Bowery: A Fairytale of New York

The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl: Fairy Tale of New York

Some people feel that The Pogues’ Fairytale of New York is the best Christmas song ever, and not just one of the best, but a gorgeous song no matter why or how you observe Christmas. Fairytale of New York isn’t exactly the epitome of restraint, with Shane MacGowan and the sadly departed Kirsty MacColl singing all over each other, slurring words and tossing all kinds of insults at each other.

The song starts out tenderly, with MacGowan recounting Christmas Eve spent in a Bowery drunk tank, but also his recent gambling win and dreams for the future. MacColl lets us know, as the tempo picks up, that they met on a Christmas Eve, and after some light banter they really get into it, blaming each other for anything they can get their hands on, MacColl ending with “Happy Christmas your arse / I pray God it’s our last.

But then they sing the chorus again, and a string section that actually sounds like it belongs in a Christmas song begins to take over. And it all feels, in spite of itself, grand and sweeping and even a little touching. They squabble a little more, the same as every Christmas, but they’re losing steam; finally MacColl accuses MacGowan of stealing her dreams when they met. This is a terribly poetic way to depict the deadening of expectations in terrible lives. But MacGowan’s voice turns gentle, even though it’s still rough, and he responds: “I kept them with me babe, I put them with my own, Can’t make it all alone, I’ve built my dreams around you.”

It’s a tough old life, and Fairytale of New York practically oozes with the gritty spirit of urban decay, poverty, alcoholism and general dysfunction. But as the sounds of those strings float off and out of sight, it doesn’t seem to matter. Not to them and not to us, because it’s the day to sigh and give in to our better inclinations and hold each other and admit there’s still something there. Christmas is the arbitrary day of the year that purely through willpower and tradition we’ve turned into the day where we all try just a little bit harder at being better than we thought we could be.

The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl: Fairy Tale of New York

Slide Show: Down on the Bowery

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Those Crazy Coney Island Dayze: The Sexy Mermaid Parade

Those Crazy Coney Island Dayze: The Sexy Mermaid Parade

The Mermaid Parade is an annual event that first took place at Coney Island in 1983 and has been a very popular attraction ever since. The Mermaid Parade draws a huge crowd of celebrators, who don wild and outrageous costumes, with the parade’s naughty marchers wearing sea-themed outfits that often leave little to the imagination.

This year, clad in costumes that combined seashells and glitter, scores of exuberant revelers gyrated through Coney Island on Saturday. An estimated half-million people lined the sunny streets to watch ogle Brooklyn’s version of Mardi Gras. The flamboyant marchers, many of whom wore their costumes on the subway out to Coney Island, much to the amusement of their fellow riders, walked on the boardwalk alongside colorful floats and danced to several live bands blaring out top 40 hits and old-time standards.

The Coney Island Mermaid Parade

The 2011 Coney Island Mermaid Parade

Slide Show: The Coney Island Mermaid Parade

(Please Click Image to View Slide Show)

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Gay Pride Month: Celebrating Loving Feelings for Others

Gay Pride Month: Celebrating Loving Feelings for Others

It’s the Dream Afraid of Waking,
That Never Takes a Chance
.”

On What We Need: First Day of My Life

For all of us, there are genuine needs and wishes, deep longings for human warmth, empathic responsiveness, trust, mutual recognition and creative playfulness. These are many of the ingredients that we think of when we speak of love, or the loving feelings we have for the cherished other person.

Of such feelings about a beloved, one might quietly reflect that, “I’m so glad I didn’t die before I met you.”

Bright Eyes: First Day of My Life

The Times of Harvey Milk: A Documentary Portrait

Before there was this year’s Academy Awards celebrated Milk, there was the widely acclaimed The Times of Harvey Milk, which won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature Film in 1984, and was awarded The Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, among other awards. The documentary chronicles the political career of Harvey Milk, who was San Francisco’s first openly gay elected Board Supervisor. The film, at times humorous, at times nostalgic, and at other times quite tragic, tells the story of Harvey Milk’s rise to political power and emergence as a symbol of gay political achievement.

The Times of Harvey Milk documents through assembled historic film clips the tumultuous story of Milk’s grass-roots political organizing and election, through the shocking murders and their repercussions. It takes the film’s viewers along with the eloquent candle-light memorial joined by tens of thousands of San Franciscans on the evening of the assassinations, to the scenes of angry crowds who stormed San Francisco’s City Hall in the aftermath of the lenient sentence that Dan White received at his murder trial.

This Academy Award-winning documentary feature film depicts not only Harvey Milk himself, but also the political and social milieu of the era in which he lived. From this perspective, the film continues to have significant relevance for our nation today, standing as a classic portrait of communities and cultural values in severe conflict. The film was produced subsequent to Harvey Milk’s death using archival footage, so that Milk is credited posthumously as the lead actor. Other politicians, including San Francisco’s then-mayor George Moscone (who was assassinated along with Milk) and Moscone’s successor and now United States Senator Dianne Feinstein, also appear in the archival footage. Also featured in the film is then-schoolteacher Tom Ammiano, who has been a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors since 1994, and was elected to the California State Assembly. The film’s outstanding narration is provided by the acclaimed stage and screen actor Harvey Fierstein, who at that time had just achieved great success with his own Tony Award-winning Broadway play Torch Song Trilogy.

The Times of Harvey Milk: The Full Version of the Documentary

Slide Show:The Life and Times of Harvey Milk

(Please Click on Image Above to View Slide Show)

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The Walk of Death: Nik Wallenda Walks Across Niagara Falls

The Walk of Death: Nik Wallenda Walks Across Niagara Falls

The Wallenda family likes challenges, and Nik Wallenda had plenty of them tonight when he attempted to do what nobody had ever done before: A high wire walk directly over the precipice at Niagara Falls and 190 feet above the churning torrent below. Although he was tethered to the wire to prevent falling to a near-certain death, the seventh-generation funambulist still had to contend with wind, water and an unfamiliar wire when he attempted the high-wire walk from the U.S. to Canada.

In 2008, Wallenda broke a high-wire record when he walked and bicycled on a tightrope high above the buildings in Newark, New Jersey. Today he embarked on a far more arduous trek: walking across a tightrope over Niagara Falls. Confronted by all these life-threatening perils, Nik Wallenda, descendant of the legendary circus act The Flying Wallendas, successfully tightroped 1,800 feet in the dark of night over treacherous waters and rocks across Niagara Falls and managed to make it all the way across.

About a dozen other tightrope artists have crossed the Niagara Gorge downstream, dating back to Jean Francois Gravelet, aka The Great Blondin, in 1859. However, no one has walked directly over the falls, and authorities haven’t allowed any tightrope acts in the area since 1896. It took Wallenda two years to persuade U.S. and Canadian authorities to allow it, and many civic leaders hoped to use the publicity to jump=start the region’s struggling economy, particularly on the U.S. side of the falls.

Read more about Nik Wallenda’s daredevil walk in The New York Times here.

The Walk of Death: Nik Wallenda Walks Across Niagara Falls

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Another Freak-Show Big-Money Art Auction: Warhol’s “Double Elvis” Brings $37 Million

Another Freak-Show Big-Money Art Auction: Warhol’s “Double Elvis” Brings

An iconic portrait of Elvis Presley by pop artist Andy Warhol went for $37 Million when it hit the auction block tonight at Sotheby’s. The life-size 1963 silkscreen ink and spray paint piece, Double Elvis (Ferus Type), epitomizes Warhol’s obsessions with fame, stardom and the public image, according to Sotheby’s. Previously estimated to sell for $30 million to $50 million, it was included in the auction house’s May 9th sale of post-war and contemporary art. Art auctions have turned into freak-show casinos, spectacles where the uber-rich can act out as much in public as possible, trying to buy immortality, become a part of art history, make headlines and create big profits. They are despicable for what they do to art, for the bad magic of making mysteriously powerful things turn into numbers.

The silver background of Double Elvis (Ferus Type), along with the subtle variations in tone is said to give the serial imagery a sense of rhythmic variation that recalls the artist’s masterpiece, 200 One Dollar Bills, completed the previous year. That work soared to nearly $44 million or four times its estimate in 2009 and achieved the highest price of any work at the fall auctions. But it was a work from Warhol’s Death and Disaster series that set the artist’s record, which still stands. Green Car Crash (Green Car Burning), also from 1963, more than doubled its estimate and sold for $71.7 million in 2007, at the height of the art market boom.

In the Double Elvis work, Presley is dressed as a cowboy, shooting a gun. Sotheby’s describes him in the work as “a Hollywood icon of the sixties rather than the rebellious singer who shook the world of music in the sixties.” The double in the title refers to a shadowy image of Presley in the same pose that appears next to him in the work.

Bob Dylan Holding “Double Elvis” at The Factory, NYC, 1965

On an eagerly-awaited visit to The Factory in 1965 for one of Warhol’s “Screen Test” sessions, Bob Dylan and his crew, along with their host Andy Warhol, were photographed on the set. At the session, Andy gave Dylan a great double image of Elvis. Dylan departed, having tied the Elvis image to the top of his station wagon, like a deer poached out of season. Much later, Dylan said that he’d traded the “Double Elvis” (now worth millions) to his manager for a couch!

Bob Dylan’s Screen Test, The Factory, NYC, 1965

Andy Warhol’s “Double Elvis (Ferus Type)” at May 9th Sotheby’s Auction

Andy Warhol’s Pop Art: A Documentary (2000)

Andy Warhol (1928-1987) was a leading figure in the visual pop art movement. After a successful career as a commercial illustrator, Warhol became a renowned and sometimes controversial artist. His works explore the relationship between artistic expression, celebrity culture and advertisement. He worked in a range of media, including painting, printmaking, sculpture, film and music. He founded Interview Magazine and was the author of numerous books, including The Philosophy of Andy Warhol and Popism: The Warhol Sixties. Andy Warhol is also notable as a gay man who lived openly as such before the gay liberation movement. His studio in New York City, The Factory, was a famous gathering place that brought together distinguished intellectuals, drag queens, playwrights, Bohemian street people, Hollywood celebrities and wealthy patrons.

Andy Warhol’s Pop Art: A Documentary (2000)

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