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

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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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Toy Stories: Home Is Where We Start From

Maud: Kalulushi, Zambia

Julia: Tirana, Albania

Tangwizi: Keekorok, Kenya

Reanya: Sepang, Malaysia

Stella: Montecchio, Italy

Chiwa: Mchinji, Malawi

Toy Stories: Home Is Where We Start From

Photography by: Gabriele Galimbert

Toy Stories, by Italian photographer Gabriele Galimberti, captures a number of young children’s lives through their prized toys, artfully arranged around them in the homes where they live. It’s an intimate and revealing look at the world’s diverse cultures as experienced by children.

Toy Stories is the kind of work that traverses many levels: it’s a study in photography, socio-economic situations, anthropology and finally, childhood. To the extent that a child’s toys are viewed in terms of a means of play, their use as transitional objects opens pathways to the capacity to be alone and distinctions between “me” and “not-me,” as well as the use of illusion, symbols and objects later in life.

Years later, they will walk out from home looking for the world. For many, an optimistic idealism will witness the real world’s cruelties and heartbreaks, and yet some will find much room for hope.

Toy Story 3: Trailer

Toy Story 3: Partysaurus Rex

Photo-Gallery: Toy Stories: Home Is Where We Start From

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W. H. Auden: Tell Me the Truth About Love

W. H. Auden: Tell Me the Truth About Love

Biographic Notes

Wystan Hugh Auden (1907-1973) was born in York, England. He moved to Birmingham during childhood and was educated at Christ Church, Oxford. At Oxford his precocity as a poet was immediately apparent, and he formed lifelong friendships with two fellow writers, Stephen Spender and Christopher Isherwood.

As a young man, he traveled through Germany, Iceland, and China, served in the Spanish Civil war and in 1939 moved to the United States, where he met his lover, Chester Kallman, and became an American citizen. A prolific writer, Auden was also a noted playwright, librettist, editor, and essayist. Considered by some to be the greatest English poet of the twentieth century, his work has exerted a major influence on succeeding generations of poets on both sides of the Atlantic.

Dark Night of the Soul

In 1952, Auden and his life-long companion moved to an apartment at 77 St. Marks Place in New York’s East Village. It was, more or less, Auden’s permanent home for the rest of his life. During the initial years, Auden lived, however ambivalently, actively engaged in social and political interests, as well as enjoying his status as an internationally renowned poet. In his later years, Auden became increasingly withdrawn and lonely.

This was profoundly reflected in his writings, through which he deliberately attempted to discard much of his own public dignity, a significant sign that indicated the painful depth of his feelings of personal isolation. Many of his last poems spoke to, rather than about, silent objects and people who were either absent or dead. Ruminations about “night” (the darkness and ending of one’s day/life) dominated his writings in 1972, and particularly in his poem Lullaby that was addressed to himself. In that poem, writing about sleep was framed by the language of finality: “Let your last thinks all be thanks,” anticipating a time of final endings, completions and a state surpassing all feelings of resentment.

On another note, Auden’s life-long anxieties about his seemingly paradoxical wishes to maintain a clear sense of autonomy, versus his strong needs for attachment, were perhaps no more clearly presented than in his book of poems, About the House, inspired by various rooms in his home. Writing about groups of people visiting in the “living room”, Auden’s thoughts turned to the impact of the size of such rooms upon the internal experiences of psychological boundaries versus a lack of boundaries.

If the room was too small, he believed that, “…people can’t forget at will that they’re not alone.” In other words, they can’t remember that while together (or part of a “we”), they are also alone, instead drowning in a sense of enmeshment, lack of personal identity, autonomy and achievement.

At another extreme, if the room was too large, it would encourage people to engage in ever-more strong efforts to make contact with each other, with intensively forceful attempts to achieve a sense of attachment, along with heightened wishes and strivings for nurturing dependency.

Near the very end of his life, Auden’s poem entitled Loneliness purported to convey his prediction that his intense feelings of solitude would be relieved on the following day, when his companion, Chester Kallman, was to return. In fact, the poem only addresses in the first person his own terrifying image of Loneliness itself, the “Gate-crashing ghost, aggressive / invisible visitor.”

Concluding this brief commentary, we return to Auden’s feelings of the dark night of his soul as the end of life approached, best captured in his poem entitled Lullaby

Lullaby

First stanza
W. H. Auden (1907-1973)

Lay your sleeping head, my love,
Human on my faithless arm;
Time and fevers burn away
Individual beauty from
Thoughtful children, and the grave
Proves the child ephemeral:
But in my arms till break of day
Let the living creature lie,
Mortal, guilty, but to me
The entirely beautiful.

Kenneth Granham Reads W. H. Auden’s Lullaby

W. H. Auden: Tell Me the Truth About Love

Tell Me the Truth About Love is a BBC documentary film looking at the poetry of W. H. Auden, revealing how it came not just from inspiration but from a rigorous personal analysis of love itself. When he died in 1973, he left behind some of the greatest love poems of the 20th century. Most of his unpublished material was destroyed, apart from two short journals and a series of jottings, containing diagrams and notes about the nature of love.

W. H. Auden: Tell Me the Truth About Love

Photo-Gallery: W. H. Auden Through the Years

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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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Remembering Hurricane Katrina: Portraits of Tragic Loss

Remembering Hurricane Katrina: Portraits of Tragic Loss

Photography by: Chris Jordan

Today, the mayors and governors along the Gulf Coast issued dire warnings about Hurricane Isaac. Seven years ago, Katrina slammed into New Orleans on Aug. 29, 2005, as a strong Category 3 hurricane with sustained winds of 125 mph. More than 1,800 people were killed, most of them in Louisiana. On Tuesday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Isaac had become a Category 1 hurricane with winds of 75 mph, which could get stronger by the time it’s expected to reach the swampy coast of southeast Louisiana. The latest projections showed Isaac making landfall at or near New Orleans late Tuesday or early Wednesday.

This week marks the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s ravages of New Orleans, a city that not long ago appeared to be completely lost. Only seven years have passed since rotting corpses were floating through the city’s streets, since hundreds of thousands of survivors sat in hotel rooms and shelters and the homes of relatives, finding out from news coverage that they had been forced to join the ranks of the homeless. The unbelievable devastation of New Orleans is almost beyond human comprehension. The virtually complete destruction of the entire city by Hurricane Katrina, the loss of huge numbers of lives, the ruination of the property and lives of so many, especially the poor and disadvantaged, is a tragedy of historically monumental proportions.

Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast with devastating force at daybreak on Aug. 29, 2005, pounding an area that included the fabled city of New Orleans and wreaking large-scale damages on neighboring Mississippi. In all, more than 1,700 people were killed and hundreds of thousands of others were displaced. Packing a terrifying punch of 145-mile-an-hour winds when it made landfall, the category-4 storm left more than a million people in three states without power and submerged highways even hundreds of miles from its center. The hurricane’s storm surge pushed a 29-foot wall of water ashore when the hurricane struck the Gulf Coast, which was the highest level ever measured in the United States. Levees failed in New Orleans, resulting in political and social upheavals that continue a half decade later.

Damage, costing billions of dollars, has made Katrina one of the costliest storms on record. In New Orleans, floodwaters from the breached levee rose to rooftops in the poorest neighborhoods, and in many areas residents were rescued from roofs of homes that had become uninhabitable. The hurricane’s roaring winds stripped 15-foot sections off the roof of the Superdome, where as many as 10,000 city residents had been forced to take shelter. An exodus of hundreds of thousands left the city, many becoming refugees, finding shelter with nearby relatives or restarting their lives in states as far away as Massachusetts and Utah.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune newspaper is maintaining detailed Hurricane Katrina Anniversary coverage, as well as an extensive archive of historical news coverage and photographs about Katrina, which can be accessed here.

After Hurricane Katrina: The Ghost Town

A Photographic Essay: In the Wake of Katrina

Slide Show: A Remembrance of Katrina’s Wake/Portraits of Tragic Loss

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On the Road with The Kills: Dream and Drive

On the Road with The Kills: Dream and Drive

The Kills just celebrated their ten-year anniversary as a band, but it feels like they’re just getting started. Singer Alison Mosshart and guitarist Jamie Hince have taken their time on their rise from anonymous newcomers to veritable rock stars. Last year they put out their fourth album, Blood Pressures, and played some of the biggest venues of their career. Now, on September 4th, they’ll release a book of photographs, Dream and Drive, taken by their longtime friend Kenneth Cappello.

Photographer Cappello has gotten to know Mosshart and Hince pretty well over the last 10 years. Through lonely deserts and stages crawling with fans and sweat, Cappello captured many of the band’s most public and private moments. “He’s seen it all, the good and the bad, the broken down and the weird,” says Mosshart in the forward to Dream and Drive, Cappello’s collection of photographs of life on the road with The Kills.

The Kills: Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” (2012)

The Kills: The Last Goodbye

The Last Goodbye is a powerfully emotive music video portrait of the rock duo Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince, directed by the Oscar nominated actress Samantha Morton. The Kills celebrate ten years of musical partnership with this poignant and captivating video. The melancholic song The Last Goodbye offsets the usually hard-edged sound that Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince are known for, with haunting vocals and a nostalgic piano loop. Shot in monochrome on crisp, silvery 35mm film, the video reflects the beautiful simplicity of the track, while using an old-school photo-booth to provide an intimate backdrop for Mosshart’s intense and heart-warming opening performance. Her introduction is followed by a series of touching poses that casts a tender light on the musicians’longstanding and spirited friendship, as Mosshart and Hince share memories of their first meeting and a decade of collaboration.

The Kills: The Last Goodbye

(Best Viewed in HD Full-Screen Mode)

Photo-Gallery: The Kills: Dream and Drive

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