Thursday, June 30, 2011

Fewer People Married in Iowa in 2010 Compared to 2009

Fewer people in Iowa married in 2010 when compared to 2009, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

Gay and lesbian couples (including my husband and I) accounted for 7.6% of the 20,880 marriage licenses filed in 2010.

About 3.9% of the marriages in Iowa were not clearly "het marriages" or "gay marriages".

Church Refuses Funeral for Deceased Gay Church Member

This is one of those stories that I wish I knew more about.  John Sanfilippo died last week.  Here are some of the things that I know about his life.  He was a member of Our Lady of the Rosary in Little Italy "for decades".  He is survived by, among other people, his partner of 28 years.  He loved his church enough to leave "a large sum of money in his will".  Lastly, the church felt so connected to its longtime member that it canceled his funeral:
A funeral service for a gay parishioner that was canceled by a Catholic church will be allowed to take place, according to the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego. The church, however, has not communicated the decision change to either the family of the deceased man or the media...

This past weekend, Sanfilippo's partner of 28 years and Sanfilippo's family were notified that the church canceled the funeral because Sanfilippo was gay. Friend Patrick Cannon told 10News, "The fact that they're now turning their backs on him is a… sad thing."

He led a small group in prayer outside the Our Lady of the Rosary on Monday and taped a letter addressed to Brom to the front door of the church. Ramirez said the letter asks the bishop to clarify the church's position on funerals for gay parishioners. "Are there going to be others that are going to be denied in the future? Will we have to go through this again?" asked Ramirez...

In an email, Rodrigo Valdivia, the chancellor of the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego, told 10News, "The Diocesan office was notified about this situation earlier today... Diocesan Authorities have concluded that the funeral as scheduled at Our Lady of the Rosary Parish may take place. Plans for the ritual are yet to be made."

Ramirez said the statement was proof the parish was acting alone and the diocese needs a diocese-wide policy so a similar situation does not happen again.

But after a hurtful rejection, it appears Sanfilippo's family has moved on. "From what I'm told, they don't want it there now," said Thomas. Ramirez said Sanfilippo's family had already found another Catholic church for the funeral. Ramirez said the family would not feel comfortable going back to Our Lady of the Rosary after what happened.

No one from Our Lady of the Rosary was available for comment.
This is what I don't get.  1. What kind of decades-long relationship did this man have with his church that they would cancel his funeral in the midst of planning?  2. What kind of decades-long relationship did this man have with his church that he would feel called to leave money to them in his will, but they would still cancel his funeral in the midst of planning?  3. What kind of church is this that would accept a cash donation from a man and yet they'd cancel his funeral in the midst of planning?  4. Lastly, will the church give back the donation?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

If Someone Refuses To Do Her Job, You Need To Wonder Why She's At Work

I read a story tonight about a 75-year-old town clerk in Volney, New York, named Barbara MacEwen.  Part of the responsibilities that she was elected to perform in her community is to sign off on all of the local marriage licenses.  MacEwen has announced that she will refuse to do her job for certain residents of her community.  The problem?  She is morally opposed to gay and lesbian families and our marriages:
“If there’s any possible way to not do it legally, then yes, I would not want to put my name on any of those certificates or papers,” MacEwen told POLITICO. “That’s their life, they can do it, but I don’t feel I should be forced into something that’s against my morals and my God.”

MacEwen said she’s written her state senator — Republican Patty Ritchie, who voted against legalizing gay weddings — to determine her legal options. While the legislation Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed late Friday night includes exemptions for religious organizations that disapprove of same-sex couples, it does not extend such protections to public officials.
I don't understand people who accept a job that serves the public and then refuse to actually serve the public.  I can't imagine telling my own supervisor that I refuse to work with certain clients or potential clients because I disagree with some aspect of their lives.  Frankly, if I refused to do my job, I would quickly find myself without a job.

Of course, it's different with gay people.  Town clerks like MacEwen feel like they can't treat gay and lesbian people like actual constituents without feeling like their forced into endorsing everything about their lives.  Which is bull.  MacEwen wasn't elected to vouch for each and every family in Volney.  She was elected to serve the public and sign off the stupid marriage licenses of everyone who legally qualifies for marriage licenses.

MacEwen is on the ballot this fall for another term as town clerk.  She has already gone public with the voters about her unwillingness to do the job that she is running for.  This seems like the perfect opportunity for someone else to step up and run for the position of town clerk.  Hopefully, this person will be someone who's actually willing to do his or her job.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Gay Marriage & Religious Liberty: If Gays Can't Figure It Out, Why Should I Expect that Anyone Else Can?

I go through spurts where I hang out over at the Gay Christian Network (GCN).  This is one of those spurty moments.  I got into a discussion with a bisexual woman who says that she is against marriage equality, but remains "pro-choice" on the subject of gays marrying as long as the religious liberties of Christians and other religious folks who disagree with marriage equality are respected.  An opinion was expressed that "same sex marriage should be a matter of conscience... (R)eligious groups who disagree should not be forced to perform marriages with which they disagree."

This was my response:
Nobody is compelled to officiate at the weddings of anyone. Churches can set whatever wedding policies that they want. Clergy can refuse to marry anyone they want. That was true before the first legal marriage ceremony involving a gay couple in Massachusetts back in 2004 and it's been the case ever since.
My bisexual friend replied:
Some more liberal same sex couples might target churches that do not believe in same sex marriage for potential lawsuits. These couples might try to lie and say that they were the victim of discrimination when churches have the right to discriminate if that is what they believe.
Which prompted the following response from me:
There is no legal basis for such a lawsuit. Churches and private religious groups (including private religious schools) have the legal right to discriminate against gay people. This has been upheld over and over and over.
Why is it so easy for people to believe -- even GLBT people -- that clergy and churches are going to be forced to perform weddings?  Here's the sad truth.  Most gay people want nothing to do with the Church.  They have either been too hurt by the Church or they've moved beyond the Church. 

And frankly, there's no incentive for gay or lesbian couples to attempt to force priests or pastors to officiate at their weddings.  Imagine that Sue and Margie want Pastor Tim to marry them at Fifth United Methodist Church in Anywhere, USA.  Pastor Tim believes that lesbian families are sinful unions and Fifth United Methodist has a policy that only allows members and/or their families to use the facility for weddings.  Sue and Margie threaten a lawsuit because they really like that church and Pastor Tim -- not understanding his rights -- caves before consulting with an attorney or considering that he's not a slave to others' wants.  Is Pastor Tim going to go out of his way to make this the most special occasion for Margie and Sue?  Will this church go above and beyond to welcome these blushing brides and their friends and family to their facility.  No.  It's going to be a miserable day for the unhappy church people, who will in turn make it a miserable day for this sapphic pair and their guests.

Hypothetical story aside, there is no reason for any church to be forced to host a wedding for a gay couple.  Churches aren't public accommodations and they are protected by the First Amendment to the US Constitution.

My bisexual friend listened to my explanation about why churches can't be successfully sued for refusing to perform gay wedding and came up with the following response:
I am just concerned because I have heard horror stories.
And that is the basis for this whole debate: Fear.  Are there real horror stories about churches being taken down by gay activists or are these just baseless assertions of "This will happen if..."?

Marriage equality has been legal in at least one corner of the US since May 2004.  Longer if you count Vermont's experience with civil unions back in July 2000.  Since then, we've seen marriage equality and statewide civil unions and domestic partnerships pop up in California and New Jersey and all around New England and Iowa and Illinois and now New York.  People have predicted that group marriages would be inevitable.  Or that incest will become legal.  Or that people will marry their pets and livestock. Or that God will destroy those communities that honor and protect all of their families.  Or that pastors will be locked up for preaching against gay families or that churches will be shut down for committing hate crimes against gay people.  And yet the slope hasn't yet slipped.

I can't help but wonder why it is so easy to fear the worst.  Even for those who should know better.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Thoughts on "X-Men: First Class"

Mark, D'Angelo, and I finally went to see "X-Men: First Class" at the movie theater today.  I'll be honest with you.  I've been extremely hesitant about watching X-Men: First Class.  The prequel premise seemed promising, but the characters seemed oddly mixed together.  I mean, you have young Xavier and young Magneto hanging out with Mystique and Riptide and Darwin and Emma Frost and Azazel.  It's just an odd mix and didn't make a lot of sense to me from the outside looking in.  This is the reason I pushed to watch Green Lantern yesterday.  In the end, there was no comparison.  X-Men: First Class was the better film.

X-Men: First Class tells the story of Charles Xavier's and Erik Lensherr's young adult years and of the public emergence of mutantkind.  They find themselves teaming up against Sebastian Shaw and the Hellfire Club.  Shaw is shaking things up and plotting a nuclear battle between the USA and the USSR in an effort to devastate humanity and to seed a new generation of mutants.  I don't think it's spoiling too much to reveal that Shaw's plans are defeated and ideological differences between Professor X and Magneto ultimately split mutantdom.

I really enjoyed this version of the Hellfire Club.  Shaw and Frost were originally introduced to the X-Men comics as Hellfire Club members.  Riptide added a unique range attack power to the team and Azurza (whose name I still can't pronounce even after watching the film) was fun to see in the movie -- though I hope to never seen him again in the comic books.  To be honest, I thought that Kevin Bacon was originally playing the part of Mister Sinister, but I'm really glad that they went with Shaw instead.

I also really enjoyed seeing a younger version of Mystique in this movie.  The earlier X-Men movies didn't reveal much about her.  She was a sneaky inflitrator and a kick-ass fighter, but that was pretty much it.  X-Men: First Class introduced her as Xavier's foster sister and ultimately created some interesting tension as she struggled between her loyalty towards Xavier and her growing support for Lensherr's beliefs.

If I'd been creating Xavier's team of mutant students, I think I would have chosen some other characters.  I liked Angel and Banshee, but Havok is supposed to be younger than Cyclops and Darwin shouldn't have been the fodder that he ultimately became.  Lastly, it was fun to see Xavier and Lensherr very ineffectively attempt to recruit Wolverine (with an uncredited cameo by actor Hugh Jackman).

I'm glad I finally gave X-Men: First Class the chance it deserves.  It was fun and the storyline was sufficiently complex and the special effects were out of this world.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Thoughts on "Green Lantern"

Mark and I decided to head to the movie theater today to check out something.  We went back and forth between "Green Lantern" and "X-Men: First Class".  Ultimately, we decided to go with Green Lantern.  I'm still not sure how that worked out.  Neither of us are DC Comics readers.  In fact, we pretty much live on a weekly diet of X-Men and X-Men-related comic books.  I think the assumption was that Green Lantern primarily focuses on the one hero, which would make things a bit simpler for our sleepy minds.  I'm still not sure that it was the best choice.

Green Lantern stars Ryan Reynolds as newly chosen Green Lantern Hal Jordan.  Jordan is a bit of a loose cannon.  He constantly lives under his deceased father's shadow.  He has little direction and even less discipline.  Everyone thinks that his magic green ring screwed up to replace his dying predecessor.  The movie is primarily about Hal Jordan's efforts to overcome his fear and become the courageous Green Lantern that everyone knows about in the comic books.  In the process, he finds himself going up against the demonic fear-based menace named Parallax and the telekinetically powerful villain Hector Hammond.

The movie was okay.  There were a couple groaners in this movie, like when Hal Jordan froze during a test flight, paralyzed by memories of his father's dying mission.  That scene was way too cheesey for either of us.  Additionally, Parallax's ultimate defeat seemed to be too quick and too easy.  Especially after he'd been built up so much throughout the movie and after he'd defeated so many other Green Lanterns.  I felt a little like Peggy Lee: "Is That All There Is?

It was fun catching glimpses of the various Green Lantern Corps members.  That said, they totally ignored my favorite Green Lantern: G'nort.  G'nort is a dog-like Lantern and isn't very effective with his super-heroics, but he's the coolest Green Lantern out there.  I'll totally show up for opening night of Green Lantern 2 if they ever make a sequel and team Hal Jordan up with G'nort.  I'm totally there.

So, I wasn't uber-excited about Green Lantern, but I'm also not terribly underwhelmed.  It was humorous and the special effects (even in 2D) were fabulous.  I'm just not sure that I'll be there if a sequel ever spawns from this movie -- barring appearance of G'nort, of course.

Marriage Equality Continues to Spread: Congrats New York!

New York Marriage Equality Bill Signed into Law
Yesterday, while I was watching cars smash into each other repeatedly, the New York State Senate finally -- after much teasing -- passed a marriage equality bill:
The New York bill cleared the Republican-controlled state Senate on a 33-29 vote. The Democrat-led Assembly, which passed a different version last week, is expected to pass the new version with stronger religious exemptions and Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who campaigned on the issue last year, has promised to sign it. Same-sex couples can begin marrying begin 30 days after that...

While court challenges in New York are all but certain, the state — unlike California — makes it difficult for the voters to repeal laws at the ballot box. Changing the law would require a constitutional convention, a long, drawn-out process.

The sticking point over the past few days: Republican demands for stronger legal protections for religious groups that fear they will be hit with discrimination lawsuits if they refuse to allow their facilities to be used for gay weddings.
Congrats to New York!

Regarding those religious protections, here is the wording:
Religious Exception.

1. Notwithstanding any state, local or municipal law, rule, regulation, ordinance, or other provision of law to the contrary, a religious entity as defined under the education law or section two of the religious corporations law, or a corporation incorporated under the benevolent orders law or described in the benevolent orders law but formed under any other law of this state, or a not-for-profit corporation operated, supervised, or controlled by a religious corporation, or any employee thereof, being managed, directed, or supervised by or in conjunction with a religious corporation, benevolent order, or a not-for-profit corporation as described in this subdivision, shall not be required to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges for the solemnization or celebration of a marriage. Any such refusal to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges shall not create any civil claim or cause of action or result in any state or local government action to penalize, withhold benefits, or discriminate against such religious corporation, benevolent order, a not-for-profit corporation operated, supervised, or controlled by a religious corporation, or any employee thereof being managed, directed, or supervised by or in conjunction with a religious corporation, benevolent order, or a not-for-profit corporation.

2. Notwithstanding any state, local or municipal law or rule, regulation, ordinance, or other provision of law to the contrary, nothing in this article shall limit or diminish the right, pursuant to subdivision eleven of section two hundred ninety-six of the executive law, of any religious or denominational institution or organization, or any organization operated for charitable or educational purposes, which is operated, supervised or controlled by or in connection with a religious organization, to limit employment or sales or rental of housing accommodations or admission to or give preference to persons of the same religion or denomination or from taking such action as is calculated by such organization to promote the religious principles for which it is established or maintained.

3. Nothing in this section shall be deemed or construed to limit the protections and exemptions otherwise provided to religious organizations under section three of article one of the constitution of the state of New York.
Personally, I wasn't aware that churches and clergy were forced to perform the weddings of anyone who walked through their doors.  Thank goodness that this religious exemption statement protects the clergy from something they were already protected from.  On the other hand, the religious exemption also appears to make it so that private businesses can refuse to serve gay families.  That's troubling, but life will go on.  Those businesses might be legally protected from serving gay families, but that won't stop gay families and our friends from spreading the word about gay unfriendly businesses.

One of the more popular posts on this blog compares the Number of States that Allow Gays to Marry Vs. the Number of State that Allow First Cousins to Marry.  With last night's passage, it appears that we need an updated listing of marriage equality states (Note: This list only includes marriage equality states/communities, not civil union or domestic partnership states/communities):

Massachusetts:  Legal since May 17, 2004.
Connecticut:  Legal since November 12, 2008.
Iowa:  Legal since April 3, 2009.
Coquille Tribe:  Legal since May 2009.
Washington D.C.:  Legal since December 18, 2009.
New Hampshire:  Legal since January 1, 2010 (automatically converting previous civil unions into marriage licenses).
Vermont:  Legal since September 1, 2010 (presumably converting previous civil unions into marriage licenses).
New York:  Bill passed by the New York state legislature on June 24, 2011, and signed into law by the governor shortly before midnight on the same date.  The law will go into effect in 30 days.

Additionally:
California:  Marriage equality was legal in California from June 16, 2008 through November 5, 2008.  That's when voters approved a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to one man/one woman (AKA Proposition 8).  As of this date, all gay couples who legally married in California between 06/16/08-11/05/08 continue to be legally valid.  The state also recognizes the marriages of gay couples who legally married outside of California before 11/05/08.  (In other words, they don't recognize my marriage.)
Maryland:  While marriage equality is not legal in Maryland, the state has recognized the marriages of gay couples who legally married in other U.S. states since February 24, 2010.  This recognition includes Washington D.C. marriages.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Going to TrekFest 2011 (or watching a bunch of cars totally cream each other!)

I indicated last night that I was going to check out TrekFest down south in Riverside, Iowa, this weekend.  After reviewing the schedule and conferring with the kids, I decided to make the journey this evening so that I could show the boys how much fun a Demolition Derby could be.  Leslie didn't believe me and ultimately stayed home with Mark.  But I managed to talk D'Angelo into giving it a chance.  But more on that later...

First things first.  D'Angelo and I missed the Kid's Parade, so we decided to waste time before the Demolition Derby to check out the Voyage Home Museum/Riverside History Center.  It's a quaint little place, filled with an odd mix of t-shirts, stuffed tribbles, and Star Trek memorabilia.  I ended getting myself a new t-shirt and key chain.

We then trekked across the street to watching the first 15-20 minutes of the Trek Trivia Contest.  I'm not 100% certain about how it goes, but I'm pretty certain it goes like this.  Groups of four Trekkies test their Trek cred against each other and ultimately earn points for each answered question.  They get more points for correctly answering more difficult questions.  Trivia questions are ranked from Cadet to Lieutenant to Captain to Admiral.  I'm not sure if there are prizes or not.  I was impressed how many of the questions I knew the answers to.  That said, I'm not a good person for recalling the names of episodes.  I'm also not as good with trivia related to the original series, as compared to the later series.  We stuck around to watch the Trek Trivia Contact until it was time to walk over to the Demolition Derby.

If D'Angelo had doubts about coming back tomorrow for additional TrekFest activities, they were totally demolished after going to the Demolition Derby.  There were tons of people at that event.  We got there at just the right time.  Basically, we got fairly good seats in the bleachers but we didn't have to sit around forever waiting for the event to begin.  There was mud everywhere and, trust me, I'm not looking forward to cleaning off our shoes tomorrow AM.  Then again, Demolition Derby folks love their mud.  In fact, they purposely hose down the car pit so that there's more opportunities for huge chunks of mud to fly out of the pit and splatter all over the crowd.

It was a heck of a lot of fun watching those old cars smash into each other over and over and over until one of them stops running and/or burst into flames -- and, yes, one of them did indeed shoot flames right before it finally died.  Check out these pics from the Derby:

The Fire Department Hosing Down the Pit for Maximum Mud Splattering

The First Match is About to Begin!

The first three-away competition of the evening.

Check out the fiery sparks flying off from this collision!

Smash!

Did I mention that it was loud?  Like stomach-churning loud.  It was awesome.
We decided to sneak out following the completion of the three-way competition.

As of this writing, the plan is to check out the parade tomorrow morning at 10:00 AM.  There's a ton of other stuff throughout the day.  Unfortunately, I have some work to do and Mark really wants to see a movie with me.  The one thing I'm really not looking forward to missing is the 5:30 PM performance of 5 Year Mission.  They're a Star Trek-themed rock band and were highly recommended by the guy working at the Trek museum.

Ultimately, it was a really fun night and I'm really glad that I made myself make the trek down to Riverside to participate in this unique local event.  Hopefully, I'll make it tomorrow.  And hopefully you'll make it tomorrow, too, if you're not too far away from Riverside.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

TrekFest 2011 Schedule

I've written quite a bit this spring about the fall and resuscitation of TrekFest over in nearby Riverside, IA.  TrekFest is the annual celebration of Captain James T. Kirk's official future birthplace.  The program nearly didn't happen this summer due to lack of funds, but TrekFest's fans stepped up and the celebration was saved!  And it begin tomorrow!

The schedule of events for TREKFEST XXVII: "Assignment Earth" is posted here.  These are some of the highlights:

June 24-25, 2011 HALL PARK Visit The Voyage Home Museum/Riverside History Center, Free will donation
Location 361 East 1st Street, Suite 2 Riverside, Iowa

Friday, June 24, 2011 5:00 PM CARNIVAL RIDES, GAMES AND FOOD by D & B Shows, Inc.
6:30 PM KID'S PARADE
7:00 PM PET SHOW - Main Stage - Hall Park
7:00 PM Star Trek Trivia Railroad Park Pavilion located across from the Voyage Home Museum - Free event, but donations to the History Center are accepted.
7:30 PM WELCOME DEMOLITION DERBY FANS! Bring the whole family!
9:00 PM - Dusk Sky -Watching with The Cedar Amateur Astronomers, Inc.
Location: Riverside Elementary School - north side - Schnoebelen Street

Saturday, June 25 10:00 AM PARADE - Theme "Assignment Earth "
12: 00 p.m.-5 p.m. - STAR TREK EPISODES / INVASION IOWA - Hall Park
Screening in Red Barn Free Admission

12:00 PM FEDERATION GAMES -near Tennis court area - Hall Park - free admission Edosian Race (three-legged race); Tribble Wack; Star Trek PiƱatas; Horta Egg toss; Pin the Lobes on the "Ferengi"!

1:00 PM  COSTUME CONTEST - Main Stage - Hall Park
Three Categories: "Federation", "Supporting Cast" & "Miscellaneous Sci-Fi"
There's actually a lot more fun stuff, but the other activities were the ones that interested me personally the most.  That's said, I'm curious to hear some of the listed bands.

The boys and I (and maybe Mark) are hoping to make it tomorrow night and for certain will be there Saturday AM.  I really want to check out the "Voyage Home Museum".  I've never been there and it's about time I made the journey.

Nero at Daycare -- 06/23/11

Daycare is always more fun when you have four legs.  Check it out:

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

By the Numbers (Plus an Ego Rub)

4 -- The number of prosthetic legs worn by wonder dog Naki'o.  His original owners abandoned this poor pup after their house got foreclosed on.  He wandered the streets of Nebraska and eventually became the victim of frostbite, which led to the amputation of all four legs.  Naki'o's new owner successfully secured the four bionic limbs and this lucky dog appears to be adapting wonderfully to his new feet.  Check this out:


10 -- Number of insights shared by gay dads Mark Bromley and David Salie this past Father's Day on the CBS website.  Their Top Ten list is humorous and yet very much spot on.  My favorite piece of insight is Number 1 on their list: "No matter what people say, there are in fact some skills you learn as dog owners that transfer to parenthood.  For example, even if they can't talk, they understand a lot more than you think."  Truer words were never spoken.

25 -- The Number of book sculptures scattered around Iowa City this summer.  You can vote for your favorite book sculpture every day at this link.  I strongly encourage everyone to vote for my favorite book sculpture, Clifford Goes to Dog Daycare, which is located outside Lucky Pawz.  I remember when I first saw that particular book sculpture.  It is posted right outside the front door.  I asked the receptionist if they were gently preparing their customers for a new -- and extremely large -- dog at the daycare program.  Fortunately, there are no plans for any big red dogs to romp around the facility, but the sculpture is still pretty cool.

32 -- Number of votes needed in the New York State Senate to move along legislation legalizing marriage rights and responsibilities for gay and lesbian couples.  As of this morning, they had 31 secured votes.  One of the things holding this up is negotiations regarding religious exemptions for pastors and churches so that they don't get in trouble for not recognizing the marriages of gay couples or for refusing to officiate at our weddings.  They already have the right to refuse, but that's beside the point, I guess.  There have been rumors circulating that the 32nd vote has been secured, but nothing's been confirmed as of this writing.

Lastly, I want to thank Kittredge Cherry for including an image of my family and links to a couple of my blog articles on the Father's Day edition of her Jesus in Love Blog.  Outside of having our story shared as part of her Reimagining of God the Father, it was good to read about another set of gay dads -- this one from South Africa.  I was also particularly glad to see her inclusion of the hymn "Bring Many Names".  We sing this hymn periodically at my church.  We're all made in God's image and this song does a great job of highlighting different examples of God's images among us:
Bring many names, beautiful and good,
Celebrate, in parable and story,
Holiness in glory, living, loving God.
Hail and Hosanna! Bring many names!

Strong mother God, working night and day,
Planning all the wonders of creation,
Setting each equation, genius at play:
Hail and Hosanna, strong mother God!

Warm father God, hugging every child,
Feeling all the strains of human living,
Caring and forgiving, till we’re reconciled:
Hail and Hosanna, warm father God!

Old, aching God, grey with endless care,
Calmly piercing evil’s new disguises,
Glad of good surprises, wiser than despair:
Hail and Hosanna, old, aching God!

Young, growing God, eager, on the move,
Saying no to falsehood and unkindness,
Crying out for justice, giving all you have:
Hail and Hosanna, young, growing God!

Great, living God, never fully known,
Joyful darkness far beyond our seeing,
Closer yet than breathing, everlasting home:
Hail and Hosanna, great, living God!
Thanks again, Kitt, for including us in your blog article!

Nero at Daycare -- 06/21/11

Nero spent another fun-filled day at Lucky Pawz yesterday playing with the other dogs despite the wicked heat.  He always has a good time there.  Check it out:



Monday, June 20, 2011

Enough with the Glitter-Bombs

There's a new trend these days for activists to toss glitter in the face of gay rights opponents.  Newt Gingrich was glitter-bombed late last month.  Then Tim Pawlenty was glitter-bombed.  Then someone attempted to glitter-bomb Michelle Bachmann a few days ago (just not very well).  A couple of the glitter-bombers attempted to justify their actions in the following clip:


It has something to do with Bachmann's support of anti-gay preacher Bradlee Dean. Somehow. Even though he didn't pray before the Minnesota House until 2-3 days after Newt was glitter-bombed.

It's bad enough that this is happening on the national stage. Now I find out that not even Iowa City is safe from the glitterazzi:
An Iowa City man was cited for assault at the annual Iowa City Pride Parade. Police were dispatched to the corner of Washington and Dubuque streets at 11:33 a.m. for a subject yelling at protesters. Officers said they saw 24-year-old Dominique J. Conway in a “heated argument” with another man. While officers were walking toward Conway and the other man, they saw him throw confetti in the man’s face.

The other man said he was offended by the contact. Conway allegedly told officers he threw the confetti because he didn’t agree with the man’s anti-gay statements. Conway was cited with assault, which is defined as an act that is or intended to be “painful, injurious, insulting or offensive.”
I understand that GLBT people don't like reading huge signs that read stuff like "OUTLAW HOMOSEXUAL ACTS" or "Sodomy is Abominable Sin" at Gay Pride events.  But, so what?  They stand there with their signs between Rapture warnings and attempt to make a spectacle of themselves and then they run away as soon as the parade is over.  You feed their egos each time you try to argue with them and especially when you let yourself get so wound up by them that you toss confetti in their face.  Meanwhile, Conway ended up in jail and the protester got to stick around and protest the parade.  What was accomplished outside of making gay people look bad?

Glitter-bombing is kind of like binging on a box of donuts.  You might feel really good while in the moment, but all you're left with afterwards is a powdery mess.  It's an empty effort that only sets us back from our goal of equality.  In other words, leave the glitter and the confetti at home next time and come up with a more effective and grown-up form of GLBT advocacy.  For all our sake.

Edited to Add: In retrospect, it doesn't look like Conway was arrested.  He was charged and released:
BLK MALE WEARING TIE DIE SHIRT WAS YELLING AT A MAN HOLDING A JESUS POSTER BLK MALE IS STANDING IN FRONT OF HERTEEN NOW THIS WAS CALLED IN BY AN EMPLOYEE AT HERTEEN.
I guess everyone got to watch the parade after all.  People still need to leave their glitter and confetti at home.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Iowa City Celebrates 41 Years of Pride

(source)
Today was Iowa City's Pride 2011 ParadeLast year, I manned the booth for my church during the Pride festival.  This year, Mark worked the JCLC Visibility Action Team's booth for a few years, giving out informational packets and soliciting people to complete questionnaires.  D' and I stopped by for the parade and to chat with Mark, but only stayed for 45 minutes or so.

Iowa City's Pride events are usually small, but family friendly.  Outside of one woman wearing nothing above the waste besides a pair of pastees (and I question how terribly inappropriate such an outfit truly is), this year's Pride continued our tradition of being pretty tame:
Saturday was the 41st annual Iowa City Pride Parade, celebrating gay and lesbian pride in Iowa City. According to Pride Parade coordinator Bridget Malone, the city’s gay and lesbian population first marched in the University of Iowa homecoming parade in 1970 shortly after the Stonewall riots in 1969 in New York that launched the gay rights movement.

Since then, the event has grown more into a celebration in Iowa City, she said. “It’s fun,” Malone said. “It’s still necessary, we feel, because in 45 states, our rights aren’t respected. There’s still discrimination. It’s to remind the community we’re still here. We love it here.”

The parade, which coincided with a Gay Pride Festival on the downtown pedestrian mall, was a relatively short affair, ending with about 200 participants after about 15 minutes.

Malone said it was more family-friendly than the pride parades that take place in places such as San Francisco and Chicago, but it featured plenty of rainbow flags, two truckloads of men dressed in drag and one unidentified woman who walked topless save for two pasties.
(source)
 The parade also featured the University of Iowa's GLBTAU organization, the Old Capitol City Roller Girls, the local Unitarian church, a group called the I.C. Kings, and the Johnson County Democratic Party (featuring several state and county supervisors, house representatives, and senators).

Edited to Add:  I was bopping about in Facebook and came across a picture of Mark sitting at the JCLC Visibility Action Team booth:

Father's Day Etiquette When You Have Two Moms

I read the following "Ask the Expert" question last night on 365gay.com:
Our son, who has two moms and no dad, came home from school this week and said that his fourth-grade class will spend an hour making Father’s Day cards. He didn’t know what to say to the teacher. How can we help him here
First of all, I feel bad for the kid that he has school during the summer months.  I understand that more and more school districts are doing year round schooling, but it just doesn't seem right to me.  I guess I'm a traditionalist in that regard.

As to the question itself, the columnist noted that many schools understand that not all kids have a dad (or conversely, not every child has a mom when it's time to write up their Mother's Day card) and are flexible in coming up with some sort of alternative project.  The columnist discouraged these moms from having the child self-advocate and encouraged them to speak to the teacher about coming up with some sort of compromise.

Our school district does not have year round classes, so we never get Father's Day projects.  But we do run into Mother's Day every May.  This has never been a big problem for Leslie, given that he still has frequent contact with his mom.  On the other hand, these types of Mother Day projects are always potentially problematic for D', who has very little ongoing contact with his mom.  Fortunately, we've never run into problems with teachers who've forced him to come up with a painful Mother's Day project for a mother who isn't involved in his life.  Instead, we've experienced two different approaches:

1. We usually encourage his teachers to come up with cards or presents for his grandmothers.  They love getting stuff for Mother's Day and they love getting stuff from the boys.  Either way, it's a winning solution.

2. Despite our suggestions, teachers often have D' create two cards or projects for both me and Mark.  Instead of celebrating Mother's Day, they encourage D' to come up with language that works for him and he seems to enjoy presenting these gifts to us.

In other words, -- unless a teacher or a school district has an agenda to promote and/or totally lacks empathy -- most of the time teachers are willing and excited to come up with a positive compromise for kids who don't fit in the mold.  This is how they do it at Mother's Day for this two-dad household, but I'm sure they also do it for kids raised by grandparents or who don't have a mom.  It seems to me that some similar compromise could be easily suggested to the teacher of this lesbian couples' son.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Zombies Attack Cedar Rapids; Invade Local Pubs

Zombies Swarm Downtown Cedar Rapids (06/16/11)
It's scary how effective the zombies are getting these days at organizing events.  It was bad enough when they would rise up and try to eat people.  Then all of the sudden, they began organizing.  Over the past six months, I've seen evidence of choreographed dance performances by zombies.  They have tried toppling Wisconsin's state legislature.  They even made plans to overwhelm and take over a prom.  Now I'm hearing conflicting news of a "Zombie Pub Crawl" organized by, of all groups, the Undead Protection Agency.

I'm still trying to figure out the UPA.  According to The Gazette, their motto is "Don't be a meal":
The event was sponsored by the Undead Protection Agency, a Cedar Rapids-based group formed to educate the public about the “threat that zombies pose to humanity so that people don’t end up as meals,” said Charlie Barnes, one of the group’s organizers.
Frankly, I don't get it.  If they're trying to protect people from the threat of zombies, then how was it that zombies managed to infiltrate this event and invade six local bars?  Unfortunately, there are two approaches to managing the zombie menace that are usually tried and both sides usually end in failure.  Either people try befriending the undead and get bitten or they try acquiring the undead to use as weapons against enemies and end up getting bitten.  I suspect that the UPA tried the first approach and the people of downtown Cedar Rapids are the ones left coping with the aftermath.

Despite the fact that a half-dozen drinking establishments found themselves swarmed by undead drunks, the UPA continues plans aimed at bridging the gap between the living and the unliving (presumably without they themselves becoming lunch).  They are planning a "Zombie Film Festival" for sometime in October.  They never learn...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Lesbian Couple Violates the 10 Commandments of Baseball

Here's an interesting story coming out of Minneapolis involving the Minnesota Twins, Target Field, a couple lesbians, and a busybody security guard.  Back in late May, the Twins were playing a home game against the L.A. Angels.  A lesbian couple kissed each other and were pretty quickly accosted by a security guard who told them that lesbians aren't allowed to kiss at Target Field:
After seeing the quick peck on the lips, the guard told the women that "we don't play grab ass here" and that they must "adhere to the 10 Commandments" while at the stadium.

"That ruined our entire evening," says Campione. "We were super upset, we felt super uncomfortable."

The security guard has since been reprimanded, but continues to work at the stadium, says Kevin Smith, a spokesman for the Twins.

"That behavior just is unacceptable," Smith says of the biblical put-down. "That security guard has received both a verbal and written reprimand that will be put in his personnel file, and he understands that that is not an acceptable behavior."
I'm still scratching my head after reading this article.

First of all, which of the ten commandments were violated by this kiss?  It's not really adultery.  They're not coveting anything with that kiss.  Maybe he thought that one of them stole a kiss from the other.

Secondly, I've never been to Target Field, but I love going to Veterans Memorial Stadium to watch the Cedar Rapids Kernels play.  One of the fun things they do at every game -- and this is something that I see at other stadiums -- is a kiss cam.  People see themselves up on the giant TV screen and are encouraged to kiss each other.  I'm assuming that Target Field has a kiss cam.  Are those folks violating the 10 commandments when they kiss each other in plain view of hundreds of strangers?  Or are the commandments only violated when lesbians kiss?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Thoughts on "Stephen Sondheim's COMPANY"

In anticipation of Father's Day, Mark and I decided to arrange a date night.  The principle goal was to get away from the kids and the pets and everyday stresses of work that we all bring home from the office and do something different.  The timing couldn't have been better.  I'd been seeing previews for months of a limited cinema showing of Stephen Sondheim's COMPANY and was interested in checking it out.  It is a series of vignettes featuring Neil Patrick Harris as Bobby, a single thirtysomething man who cannot commit to a steady relationship or marriage, and five married couples who struggle with their own collective demons while worried about their bachelor buddy.

Firstly, I've always been curious about theatrical performances that are produced with big stars in big cities and in turn shown in smaller cities like mine.  Let's face it.  Englert Theater isn't likely to pull in Neil Patrick Harris, Patti LuPone, Stephen Colbert, Christina Hendricks, and the rest of the big names who were seen in tonight's production of COMPANY.  So this is a nice compromise for people like us who live nowhere near them.

Secondly, I'd never seen COMPANY before.  I'd heard several of the songs before, but still wasn't familiar with the story and it was good to finally get the chance to check it out.

I really liked COMPANY.  It offered a good mix of laughter and depression.  Mark thought it made marriage come off as being a little bleak.  I didn't get that message -- or not entirely.  You get what you make of it, y'know?

My favorite performance was "Not Getting Married Today" by Katie Finneran.  It was hilarious.  Mark really got into the choreography in "Tick-Tock".  It's a sensuous dance featuring one of Bobby's girlfriends and several of the stagehands that occurs while Bobby and another of his girlfriends is making love.  The audience got increasingly into the songs as the play progressed, often breaking out into rounds of applause.  The applause seemed odd to me given that it wasn't live and the performers certainly weren't experiencing it, but that's me.

One last thing, I haven't been in a room with so many elderly people and gay men in a long time.  There were a few younger heterosexual couples in the audience (younger equalling 50 and below), but they were few and far between.  I'm just sayin'...

TrekFest 2011: William Shatner and Fans Saved TrekFest

The following press release just showed up in my e-mailbox:

Riverside, IA (June 15, 2011) - The Riverside Area Community Club (RACC) in Riverside, Iowa (the small town known worldwide as The Future Birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk) almost canceled TrekFest XXVII due to lack of funding. The news hit the media and then local businesses, organizations and fans worldwide stepped up with donations allowing TrekFest to take place this June 24th to 25th.

The amount needed was at minimum $10,000. Mindbridge Foundation graciously donated $5,000, the Riverside Casino and Golf Resort $3,000 and The River Products Company of Iowa City gave $1,500. Several contributions from local businesses and residents flowed in along with online donations from people worldwide (as far as Australia) to help save the event. The Iowa City Yaht Club opened its doors for a special concert performed by local bands to raise money. Actor William Shatner also playing a part in keeping TrekFest alive.

In 2004, William Shatner (who played Star Trek's Captain Kirk in the 1960's TV series) filmed INVASION IOWA in Riverside, IA (a Spike-TV reality show). He developed a bond with the local townspeople and promised he would one day come back to Riverside for TrekFest after the casino was built. Since then, RACC invited Shatner to attend each year, and each time he has declined due to his busy schedule. This prompted a Star Trek fan from Kansas to start a Facebook page called “William Shatner should keep his promise and come to TrekFest.” Members of this page and other online fans worldwide ended up donating over $700.

Shatner responded to this year's invitation in a letter to RACC, “Once again I have to tell you that I'm not able to make it to Riverside. I certainly remember you all fondly and hope everyone is in good health and happy. If there is something I can send for you to auction off to help with your community fund, I'd be delighted to do so.”

RACC accepted and Shatner sent two items to be auctioned off and will be announced in the near future.

Bands performing in Hall Park will be Friday: INSECTOID (9pm). Saturday: SYNTHAHOLICS BAND (11:15am); FIVE YEAR MISSION (9:30pm) is a band based out Indiana who offered to come to TrekFest to keep the event alive. Their Mission: Our goal is to take every episode of the original Star Trek, write a song about it, record it, and play it. In the end, there will be five full-length CDs full of Star Trek goodness for all to enjoy. The popular WHO'Z PLAY'IN will take stage at 9pm.

TrekFest highlights include a Demo Derby (Fri, 7:30pm), Saturday Parade at 10am (theme “Assignment Earth” - candy will be tossed to the kids), a Sci-Fi Swap Meet (11am), Costume Contest (1pm). BBQ meals and carnival rides. The event will end with a fireworks show (paid for by the City of Riverside) at 10pm. For an extensive list of TrekFest's family-friendly events, visit www.trekfest.com.

The Riverside Area Community Club is grateful to all their fans (local and worldwide) for keeping TrekFest alive. Ken McCracken (president of RACC) said, “Without the fans, there would literally be no TrekFest.”

TrekFest hopes to continue to live long and prosper. And who knows, maybe one day in the near future William Shatner will accept RACC's invitation to TrekFest and once again come home to The Future Birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

UCC Church Banished from Baptist Convention Center

A few years ago, the United Church of Christ produced a 30-second commercial that lots of people hated.  The commercial featured a couple of bouncers turning people away from a church before Sunday worship.  Among those turned away from the bouncers were a gay couple, a couple different non-Caucasians, and a person in a wheelchair.  The networks hated the ad because it promoted gay marriage, which then-president George W. Bush hated.  I don't follow the logic, but whatever...  And church people (including some within the UCC itself) hated the ad because they felt like the UCC was pointing fingers at them.  The problem with their complaints is that church bouncers really do exist, whether they like it or not.  I have no problem if they want to be bouncers.  I just wish they would own it.

Tonight I learned of a new Bouncer.  It's called the Lake Yale Baptist Conference Center and it's in Leesburg, FL.  According to the report I read, Lake Yale Baptist Conference Center has terminated its 28 year relationship with a UCC church called United Church of Gainsville because the UCC church promotes homosexuality.  It's an Open & Affirming (ONA) church, which means it's gone through a formal discernment process to welcome GLBT people in all levels of the church.  United Church of Gainsville has been ONA for two twenty years, which means the two programs coexisted amicably for most of their relationship.  The only thing that changed is that a few people from the UCC church wore some sort of ONA t-shirt to one of their retreats and a few staff members from the Baptist conference center realized was ONA meant.  The conference center began doing some digging and decided that the UCC church is not Closed & Unaffirming (CNU) and as a result they are no longer welcome at the conference center:
Congregation members plan to send a letter to John Sullivan, executive director of the Florida Baptist Convention, said (Rev. Sandy Reimer, co-pastor of Gainesville UCC). "We are asking that they give us, and, in the future, give all groups that rent their facility, written notice of their policy not to allow groups with gay/lesbian/bi members to use their conference center."

Don Hepburn, public relations director for the Florida Baptist Convention, said the retreat center has a "long-standing policy that groups that use our facility must be in conformity with our biblical faith. This particular group has used the facility for the past 30 years, and at no time have they ever forthrightly said to us, 'We're an alternative lifes [sic] group.' That is, 'We promote homosexual behavior.' Therefore, we've been unaware all these years of that particular perspective. Certainly, that is a conflict with our understanding of the Bible," Hepburn said.
And Christians wonder why GLBT people think that the Church hates them...

Nero at Daycare -- 06/16/11

Nero really needed to go to doggy daycare today.  He was bouncing off the walls all day yesterday.  It's nice to see him napping so soon after returning from daycare.  Check it out:

Monday, June 13, 2011

W.H.E.A.T.: Learning the Art of Small Talk

If you know me in real life (or possibly even in cyber-life), then you know that I am socially awkward.  When in a group, I often don't know what to say.  So I don't say anything.  Or I stammer.  I even stutter at my worst.  I do better when I have a purpose, like when I'm interacting with a potential client about accessing services.  And sometimes I successfully force myself to step up and do sustained chats.  But it's hard for me and I often feel a bit jealous of those who seemingly have no difficulty chatting up random folks about pretty much anything.

Which brings me to my point.  I wrote earlier about attending the UCC's Iowa Conference annual business meeting in Ames.  One of the ice-breaker activities early on was the introduction of W.H.E.A.T., which is an instrument for... well, for breaking the ice.  This is what W.H.E.A.T. stands for:

Where -- As in, where are you from or where did you buy that loaf of bread?
Hobbies -- As in, what do you like to do in your free time or I enjoy blogging; how about you?
Events -- As in, did you learn anything from that workshop or do you remember the Great Flood of 2008?
Activities -- As in, what did you do last weekend or did you see the Kernels play baseball last night?
Trips -- As in, I heard you went to Morocco last summer; did you see those crazy RHONYC while there?

I used W.H.E.A.T. during the conference with varying levels of success and plan to purposefully implement it in the neighborhood, at work, and around town.  My goal is to train myself to become the most skilled Agent of W.H.E.A.T. you've ever seen.  Or at least, become more natural with my attempts at W.H.E.A.T.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Thoughts on "Kung Fu Panda 2"

I went to watch "Kung Fu Panda 2" at the theater today with D'Angelo and one of his friends.  Keep in mind that I really preferred to watch the new "X-Men: First Class" movie and also that I never saw the original "Kung Fu Panda" movie.  I kind of get the premise (oddball panda becomes kung fu master), but it's all new to me.  As it is, it was pretty easy to catch up with the premise and to get a feel for all of the major characters in this film.  The panda character, Po (voice acted by Jack Black), finds his quest for inner peace interrupted by a nasty peacock by the name of Lord Chen (voice acted by Gary Oldman).  Lord Chen has invented scores of powerful cannons and is threatening to take over all of China.  We quickly learn that the only think standing between Chen and his domination of China is a prophesy of his defeat at the hands of a "warrior of black and white".

So here are my takeaways:

1. I liked the repeated concept of "you don't need to let your past define you; you need to define yourself."  It was a little more refined than that, but that's essentially it.

2. The artwork was beautiful.  We watched in 2D.  I could see myself really digging this movie in 3D.  As it is, the 2D art was rich and textured and brightly colorful.  Very nice.

3. I hadn't realized that Kung Fu Panda and its sequel had an adoption angle.  Po had been hidden away by his birth parents in a radish crate when their people were being slaughtered by Lord Chen's forces.  Po was found by Mr. Ping -- a goose -- and eventually adopted.  For whatever reason, Po didn't realize that he was adopted by Ping.  Maybe he realized it in the earlier movie, but remained silent so that he didn't upset his father.  I don't know.  The relationship between the two creatures was very touching and almost made you want to cry when they were reunited at the very end.  I anticipate that we will witness some emotional pushing and pulling between Po's adoptive family and his birth family if there's ever a second sequel.  As it is, it's very clear from their words and actions that Po and Ping love each other very much despite their differences.

I definitely recommend "Kung Fu Panda 2".  It has an excellent mix of action and character development and paces quite well.

GLBT Teens and Homelessness -- Iowa Edition

I visited Chicago a few weeks back and got into a discussion with some friends there about the plight of homeless GLBT teens.  According to materials published back in 2009 by the National Coalition for the Homeless, 20% of homeless youth are GLBT.  Most of these kids are homeless due to family conflict.  Once homeless, GLBT homeless youth are nearly 25% more likely than their heterosexual peers to become sexually victimized and 7.4% more likely to experience acts of sexual violence.  To top all that off, GLBT homeless youth commit suicide at higher rates than their homeless het peers (62% vs. 29%).

I bring all this up because I don't always think of teen homelessness as a big problem here in Iowa, which is stupid because I interact with homeless adults usually at least once weekly.  I came across a Des Moines Register piece from a few days ago written by columnist Rekha Basu about a young man named Ben Alley who was abandoned by his Southern Baptist parents back when he was 16-years-old after he came out to them.  Since then, he's been forced to go to school and work full-time.  He still has no contact with his family:
They're not dead; he's dead to them. In sophomore year, Ben informed his parents that he is gay. They informed him he wouldn't be coming home after school the next day -- or ever again.

"I do miss them... But I've learned to cope with that because there's really nothing I can do." His parents have since moved back South.
Fortunately for Alley, he was eventually taken in by a friend's parents.  Additionally, he received emotional support from a gay friend and an adult lesbian mentor.  Additionally, he has the opportunity to attend the University of Iowa this fall due to assistance from the Matthew Shepard Scholarship.  Without these supports, Alley very easily could have dropped out of school and found himself as best living in the economic margins of our society.  At worst, he could have found himself representing the darker aspects of homeless GLBT statistics (i.e., sexually victimized and suicidal).

There are nine other recipients of the Matthew Shepard Scholarship this year.  I read their stories and was intrigued at the number of difficulties that many of the more urban GLBT teens experienced versus those in more rural settings.  It wasn't universal across the board, but it was definitely trending that way.  Something to mull over, anyway.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Ann Coulter: What Not to Say If Your Kid Comes Out to You

A few months ago, Carlos Whittaker presented the following hypothetical on his blog:
We see it on tv all the time. On talk shows, sitcoms, dramas, documentaries.
We always sigh and think...
“I’d handle it perfectly”.
The truth is, you have no idea how you would handle those words...

I try and imagine the first few sentences I would say.
So I ask you.
Your kid comes up to you at 15, 16, 25 and says...
“Dad, Mom, Just wanted you to know, I’m gay.”
You have one shot.
And the next few sentences out of your mouth are...
What followed were 223 (as of this moment) responses and responses to responses.  Many of the people said something like "I love you. Let's have cake", which sounds like no actual coming out response that I've ever heard from a parent. 

Anyway, I bring this up four months after the fact because I came across a 28 second interview between Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter.  Earlier in the week, a CNN host had asked what she'd do if her hypothetical child came out to her.  At the time, Coulter was flummoxed and didn't have an answer.  A few days later, Hannity brought up the same question (as a joke).  Coulter had the perfect response: "Obviously, I'd tell him he's adopted":


She said that she'd then asked for decorating tips.

As Carlos observed, you only get one initial reaction.

Back from 2011 United Church of Christ Annual Meeting

Early this year, my congregation voted for me to serve as our church's delegate at the summer annual business meeting for the Iowa Conference of the United Church of Christ.  I had done it several years ago and thought it time to give the position a chance once again.  My main responsibility was to attend the business meeting, review the proposed 2012 budget as well as some changes to the by-laws, and then vote for or against the budget and those changes.  Beyond that, you get to participate in a couple different workshops and go to a couple different worship sessions and chat up lots of different folks.  At the very least, it's a good excuse for getting away for a couple days.  But mostly, it's a good opportunity to meet other UCCers from around the state and hear about their unique stories, challenges, and accomplishments.

As noted above, I attended a couple different workshops this weekend.  Yesterday, I went to a workshop titled "Crossing Cultural Divides", which was presented by Liz and Doug Searles.  They shared their challenges and struggles as missionaries oversees.  Not only did they work hard to help an Evangelical-Reformed church in Lodz, Poland, to grow in that post-communist society, they also struggled to assist the church with reaching out to the Roma people (gypsies) of Central Europe.

Earlier today, I attended a workshop titled "From Glee-Mail to Spacebook" with Rev. J. Bennett Guess, Minister and Team Leader of the UCC's Local Church Ministries and Office of General Ministries.  Rev. Guess presented ideas for assisting local churches with reaching out more effectively to our communities using websites and social media tools.  Much of his emphasis was on Facebook.

The one thing I observed this year versus the last time I attended one of these meetings was that the business meeting was much more contentious the last time around.  Last time, the conference was struggling with shrinking income and growing debt.  We were struggling to maintain our camp, Pilgrim Heights, and the National Synod had recently passed a resolution urging churches and conferences to support marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples.  Since then, the various UCCers have had time to get over the whole marriage equality issue and Pilgrim Heights has come under the management of a non-profit service called Our Sacred Space, Inc.  Income is still tight, but we're managing spending and debt much more efficiently.  Which translates into a much less contentious annual business meeting.

Anyway, that's what I've been up to during the past couple days.  I'm now looking forward to a few weeks of not traveling and not missing any work.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Bravo Summer Camp: Who's Your Peeps?

I'm a huge fan of Bravo television's reality TV programs.  Originally, my fascination was primarily limited to contests like Project Runway and Top Chef, but also bled into personality-themed shows like Flipping Out and Millionaire Matchmaker.  Eventually, I succumbed to the collective charm of the various Real Housewives shows.  These days, I pretty much watch nothing but Bravo when at the gym.

Anyway, I have totally become obsessed this week with the new "Summer by Bravo" commercial, which features various Bravo reality enjoying themselves at summer camp.  It smooshes two of my favorite things: Bravo TV and summer camp.  Hence my fascination.  Check it out:


After watching this commercial over and over and over, I realized that it might end up being a fun time to spend a week at summer camp with my favorite Bravo reality TV stars.  I began thinking about whom I would like to spend time with and who I would bar from the campgrounds.  I eventually came up for rules for those I could invite and those I couldn't and then I thought it would be fun to share those folks here on the blog followed by an invitation for readers to share their fantasy "Summer by Bravo" camp favorites.  So here the deal

WHICH TEN BRAVO REALITY TV CELEBRITIES WOULD YOU LIKE TO SHARE THE WEEK AT SUMMER CAMP?

Here are the rules.
1. You must choose at least one Housewife (current or former).
2. You must choose at least one contestant.  It doesn't matter if that contestant is a chef or a hair stylist or a model or whatever.
3. You must choose at least one personality and/or career-themed character (Millionaire Matchmaker, Bethenny Ever After..., Flipping Out, Million Dollar Listing, etc.).  This person doesn't have to be the main personality on that show -- it could be an assistant or partner or spouse or whatever.
4. Real celebrities from TV or movies cannot come to "Summer by Bravo" summer camp.  It doesn't matter if Drew Barrymore was interviewed on Inside the Actors Studio or if Tina Fey had a great time on What What Happens Live!  They aren't eligible for this list.  The only exceptions are actual celebrities who have been regulars on one of Bravo's shows (ex, Kathy Griffin from My Life on the D-List or Jaclyn Smith from Shear Genius or Kelsey Grammer from The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.
5. These must be Bravo Reality TV stars.  You will be sent home from summer camp early if you try sneaking in a Dugger or a Pit Boss.  Resist that rebellious urge.
6. Lastly, you are allowed an 11th four-legged Bravo Reality TV celebrity, if you wish.

Here are my choices:

1. Andy Cohen (host of Watch What Happens Live).  He's the consummate host.  He knows everyone and he can schmooze with the best of them.  Plus, he's hilarious and always has some game or gimmick in the works.
2. Tabatha Coffey (host of Tabatha's Salon Takeover and former contestant on Shear Genius).  I love Tabatha.  LOVE HER.  I watch her show over and over and over and every time I find myself watching her show, I want to take up hair styling.  Fortunately, that doesn't happen.  There is absolutely no way I would kick her out of my cabin.
3. Carla Hall (contestant on seasons 5 and 8 of Top Chef).  She is my all-time favorite Top Chef contestant.  She is sweet and funny.  She lives by the motto: "cooking with love".  We could use that in our cabin.
4. Kandi Burruss (Real Housewives of Atlanta).  Kandi has to be one of my all-time favorite of the Housewives.  She's personable, professional, and a great singer.  Plus, she makes great facial reactions to all the craziness going on around her.
5. NeNe Leakes (Real Housewives of Atlanta).  Every summer camp needs drama.  The various Real Housewives programs breed drama so there are lots of women to choose from.  However, I don't know if I would enjoy living with the various pot-stirrers.  I could see myself hanging with NeNe and enjoying myself... as long as I stayed on her good side.  Plus, NeNe is the reason I love the Atlanta version of Real Housewives.
6. Jeana Keough (Real Housewives of Orange County and Thintervention).  I mentioned the need for summer camp drama and -- though I love NeNe and really think she can bring it -- I really think that Jeana is one of the best for packing drama.  I actually like Jeana a lot and wish that she was still a regular on the O.C. version of Real Housewives.  She makes biting comments, but is usually spot-on with her observations.
7. Jeff Lewis (Flipping Out).  I could find myself regretting his inclusion, but Jeff makes me laugh with all of his OCD traits.  Plus he might be able to give me some tips on how to upgrade my house.
8. Jenni Pulos (Flipping Out).  I want Jenni there for two main reasons: to find out how she manages to continue working for Jeff after all these years and to help manage Jeff's craziness if the need arises.  Beyond that, she is funny and and entertaining.
9. Todd Oldham (Host of Top Design).  I find Todd utterly adorable.
10. Gail Simmons (Judge from Top Chef and Host of Top Chef: Just Desserts).  I enjoy watching Gail on the two Top Chef programs and would like to spend time getting to know her.
11. Darla (Bonus 4-legged Bravo star from Million Dollar Listing).  I really couldn't stand her owner, Chad Rogers, but Darla was adorable.  She's welcome to stay at my camp cabin anytime.

So what about you?  You can go co-ed or unisex.  You can aim for peace or major chaotic drama.  Who are your Top 10 Bravo Reality TV Celebs?