The Blade Runner: Oscar Pistorius Makes Olympic History, Advances to 400m Semifinals

The Blade Runner: Oscar Pistorius Makes Olympic History, Advances to 400m Semifinals

Oscar Pistorius of South Africa made history on Saturday morning, becoming the first double-amputee runner to compete in the Olympics when he lined up for a first-round heat in the men’s 400 meters at London’s Olympic Stadium. The crowd saluted Pistorius with roars of encouragement; he sprinted to a second place finish in his heat in 45.46 seconds, a season-best time, and advanced to Sunday’s semifinals.

Pistorius reached the finish line after six lomg years of yearning to achieve a qualifying time and five years of scientific and legal arguments about whether his prosthetic legs gave him an unfair advantage over sprinters using their natural legs.

Read more about the amazing achievements of Oscar Pistorius in the New York Times here.

Oscar Pistorius Makes Olympic History, Advances to 400m Semifinals

The Blade Runner: South Africa’s Amazing Oscar Pistorius

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Jeff Buckley and Rufus Wainwright: Songs of Measured Lament

Jeff Buckley and Rufus Wainwright: Songs of Measured Lament

Jeff Buckley was born in California in 1966 and died at the young age of 31 in a tragic drowning accident in Memphis, Tennessee. He had emerged in New York City’s Lower East Side avant-garde club scene during the early-1990’s as one of the most remarkable musical artists of his generation, acclaimed by audiences, critics,and fellow musicians alike. Buckley performed a version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah on his 1994 debut album Grace. By 1997, Buckley had moved from New York City and settled in Memphis, where he continued to work on what would have been his newest album. His last public show was a solo performance at a small club named Barrister’s in Memphis on May 26, 1997. Buckley died three days later, drowning in Memphis in the Wolf River on May 29, 1997.

Everybody Here Wants You: A Documentary of Buckley’s Life

Jeff Buckley: Halleluja

Rufus Wainwright met Jeff Buckley in the 1990s when Wainwright was an up-and-coming act. By then, Buckley had already released his first album (Grace), and was well on his way to stardom. Wainwright is said to have felt somewhat exasperated that Buckley often played at Sin-é, a café on New York’s Lower East Side, while he had been rejected three times by the club. The two met several months before Buckley’s drowning, during a show that Wainwright was playing. Buckley supposedly helped out with some technical problems, and the two talked over beers for a few hours.

In Wainwright’s 2004 album Want Two, his song Memphis Skyline was written as a tribute to Buckley, a loving elegy for another beautiful boy blessed with more than mere attitude and exhibitionism. “Always hated him for the way he looked/in the gaslight of the morning,” Rufus sings about Buckley, for whom this is a sweetly homoerotic tribute: “So kiss me, my darling, stay with me till morning…” That song also mentions Hallelujah, the Leonard Cohen song that Buckley had notably covered, and which Wainwright later did likewise.

Rufus Wainwright: Hallelujah

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The Blade Runner: Oscar Pistorius Wins Olympics Appeal

The Blade Runner: South Africa’s Amazing Oscar Pistorius Wins Olympics Appeal

Oscar Pistorius, the double-amputee South African sprinter, will be allowed to compete for a place on South Africa’s Olympic team after an international sports regulatory body ruled today that his carbon-fiber prosthetic limbs do not give him an advantage over other runners. The Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport, which has the final say over legal issues in sports, has overturned an earlier ruling against Pistorius, which had been made in January by the International Association of Athletics Federations. The IAAF had declared Pistorius ineligible for able-bodied competition, despite originally clearing him to compete last spring, pending further investigation. Pistorius will be allowed to resume his efforts immediately. The Court of Arbitration for Sport was established in 1984 to resolve disputes involving international sports organizations and athletes.

In an interview with Bloomberg News, Dick Traum, who is the head of a group of disabled endurance runners named the Achilles Track Club, claimed that the ruling marks a major advance in the promise for athletes with disabilities of being able to compete against athletes without them. “It is absolutely the most exciting thing that has ever happened in terms of the way the sport has turned,” Traum said. “Over the past generation the way people look at amputees has changed dramatically. People like this man are admired instead of ushered to one side.”

The earlier IAAF ruling against Pistorius had concluded that his blade-like “Cheetah” running prosthetics amounted to a technical device that gave him a demonstrable mechanical advantage, because they worked more efficiently than the human ankle and allowed the user to consume less energy than an able-bodied athlete running at the same speed. However, upon reviewing arguments contained in the appeal filed by Pistorius, the Swiss Court of Arbitration said that it was not convinced that the device gave Pistorius an overall “metabolic advantage” and ruled that he should be allowed to compete for the 2008 Beijing games. The new ruling came as a a very happy surprise for the 21-year-old South African, who had already shifted his vision to competing in the 2012 Olympic games in London.

Oscar Pistorius, who is a sports celebrity in South Africa where he is designated “The Blade Runner”, commented that the ruling by one of sport’s highest bodies verified the arguments that his defense team had assembled with the help of a group of Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers. Although the earlier IAAF decision had focused upon the efficiency of the blades, Pistorius’s defense team argued in its appeal that, overall, he had no advantage over runners with both of their legs.

I have been struggling to hide my smile for the last half an hour,” Pistorius said in an interview in Milan. “The truth has come out. We have the opportunity once again to chase my dream of participating in an Olympics.” Pistorius would not be the first athlete with a disability to earn an Olympic spot. Neroli Fairhall, an archer from New Zealand, competed in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic games from a wheelchair, and runner Marla Runyan, who is legally blind, was a member of the 2000 U.S. Olympic team in Sydney, Australia.

However, both Pistorius’s disability and the adaptive prosthetic equipment that he uses are uniquely connected to his specific athletic sport. Using the blades, Pistorius has broken Paralympic records in the 100, 200 and 400 meter events. Pistorius also ran in som
e able-bodied competition last spring, running in a race at The Golden Gala meet in Rome and then at a Grand Prix meet in Sheffield, England. While he did not meet the Olympic qualifying times for those races, last year Pistorius finished second in the 400 meter event at the 2007 South African National Championships. Many sports observers think that Oscar Pistorius now has a good chance to earn an invitation to join the South African Olympic 4×400 meter relay team, which will take a squad of six sprinters to Beijing.

The Blade Runner: South Africa’s Amazing Oscar Pistorius

The Blade Runner: Oscar Pistorius Runs

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National Geographic’s Battle at Kruger: The Story of All Africa

The Battle at Kruger: The Story of All of Africa

The video that is presented for you below received a 2008 YouTube Video Award, winning as the best video in the Eyewitness Category. Battle at Kruger is an absolutely thrilling documentary that was captured on film while a tourist was on a safari in South Africa’s Kruger National Park. The spine-tingling, astonishing documentary shows a pride of lions attacking a baby wild buffalo, and the entire ensuing breathtaking battle that then took place between the group of lions, the buffalo herd and two crocodiles at a watering hole in Kruger National Park. After the pride of lions and crocodiles had pinned down the cape buffalo calf, the angry herd of buffalo was prompted by the attack to fight off the predators and it eventually saved the babe.

The Battle at Kruger

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In the Name of Faith and Love: For The Bible Tells Me So

In the Name of Faith and Love: For The Bible Tells Me So

An NPR Audio Discussion of For The Bible Tells Me So:

The Bible is the word of God through the word of human beings, speaking in the idiom of their time, and the richness of the Bible comes from the fact that we don’t take it as literally so that it was dictated by God,” Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.

Can the love between two people ever truly be an abomination? Is the schism that separates gay and lesbian persons from Christianity destined to be always too wide to cross? How can the Bible be used to justify hatred? These are the questions that are at the heart of For The Bible Tells Me So, an exploration of the religious right’s use of the Bible to justify shutting gay and lesbian people out of the faiths into which they’ve been born and in which they’ve grown up. One of the central figures in For The Bible Tells Me So is Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, the first-ever openly gay man to be elected a Bishop of the Episcopalian Church. Robinson’s consecration in 2003 (at which he had to wear a bullet-proof vest due to death threats against him) was a historical occasion, but also one that caused a rift within the Episcopal church. On a more personal level, the consecration was the quintessential moment of the path on which Robinson had first embarked some 20 years earlier when, with the support of his then-wife, Isabella, he came out of the closet after years of attempting to live as a straight man and seeking counseling to rid himself of his “gay feelings.”

The film explores, with various historians and religious figures, including Robinson and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the use of the Bible in the religous right’s attempts to portray gay and lesbian people as being abominations against God and nature. The film seeks to both put a face on the issue of religion and gay life, and to give people dealing with family and friends who rely upon the same old Bible verses about gays a Biblical perspective of their own from which to respond. But at its heart this is a film not about historical Biblical theory, but about the real lives of families with gay and lesbian sons and daughters, and how they have reconciled their faith with their love for their children.

It also narrates the story of Chrissy Gephardt, who finally came out as a lesbian to her family just as her father, former House minority leader Richard Gephardt, was about to embark on his campaign for the Presidency. Chrissy talks about enduring a sexless marriage to a man before falling in love with a lesbian friend, admitting the truth about herself, coming out and eventually joining her father on the campaign trail, with his support and encouragement.

The film also introduces the Poteats, an African-American family in which both parents are preachers still struggling to accept that their daughter, Tonia, is a lesbian. David Poteat, Tonia’s father, says in the film that when his children (a son and a daughter) were growing up, “I said God, please don’t let my son grow up to be a faggot and my daughter a slut.” He chuckles ironically and adds, “And he did not. He did not do that. He reversed it.” The Poteat family story resonates with the unmistakable sounds of truth, love, and pain. These are parents who have struggled to accept their daughter as a lesbian, but still love her immensely and have never cut off their relationship with her. But the Poteats aren’t all the way there yet. Tonia speaks longingly of a day when her parents would willingly and gladly come to her wedding with her partner. But at least they are working on it, and they haven’t rejected their daughter.

The film avoids demonizing the religious right, instead simply holding up the families who are at the heart of the story and saying: Here they are. These are the gay people you so fear, and they are your sons and daughters, your brothers and sisters, the neighbors you’ve known for years. It speaks to the central point of the religious right’s objection to homosexuality without attacking those who hold those beliefs.

For The Bible Tells Me So made its world premiere in competition at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. The film was also honored with Audience Awards at the 2007 Seattle and Provincetown International Film Festivals and The Kathleen Bryan Edwards Award for Human Rights at the 2007 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival. This provocative, entertaining film concisely reconciles homosexuality and a literal interpretation of Biblical scripture. It offers healing, clarity and understanding to anyone who desperately feels caught in the crosshairs of scripture and sexual identity.

For The Bible Tells Me So

There were many responses to the classroom killing of Larry King in Oxnard, California, and the ongoing violence against gay people that it so tragically represented, which included the now well-known statement that was made by Ellen DeGeneres on her television program. Be A Voice Against Violence is a Public Service Announcement video calling for all of us to take a stand against violence. The video includes appearances by Ashanti, Andre 3000, TR Knight, and Janet Jackson and was also created in response to the Larry King murder:

Be A Voice Against Violence

Remember The National Day of Silence on April 25, 2008. This year, The National Day of Silence is dedicated to the memory of Lawrence King:

The Day of Silence: Dedicated to the Memory of Lawrence King

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