Wednesday, July 31, 2013

"Life With Archie" #31: Gun Control and Relationship Woes!

I just finished reading LIFE WITH ARCHIE. It's a split title. Each half explores how life might have turned out differently had he married Veronica or had he married Betty. It's fairly unique for an Archie Comics book. It's magazine formatted. It's serialized. The main characters are in their mid-twenties. And while there is humor, there are also difficulties: marital strife, cancer, death, politics, etc.

I thought I should check in with my favorite Archie Comics title and share some of the aspects of issue 31 that interested me most:

* Senator Kevin Keller: Several issues ago, Dr. Clay Walker (Kevin Keller's husband) got shot while jogging. It was some stupid random shooting. He survived, but has spent the subsequent issues healing himself. Meanwhile, Kevin decided to do something about out-of-control societal gun violence and ran for Congress. And he won!

Now he's leaving for Washington DC and Clay is returning to work at the local medical clinic. This is one of his first patients upon returning to work:

This guy Ruben showed up at the clinic to check out Clay and obviously took off within seconds. Kind of creepy. What's more creepy is this scene from last issue:

It appears that Ruben is the shadowy gun-wielder from LIFE WITH ARCHIE #30. But who's he gunning for? Kevin or anyone connected to Kevin? Does it have to do with Kevin's gun control policies or is Ruben connected to the recent mass shooting at Riverdale's mall?

* Gun Control Discussions: Skipping over to the "Archie Marries Betty" universe, we are treated to ongoing discussions about the politics of gun ownership, gun control, and responsible back-ground checks. Everyone is talking about it. There's Archie, Jughead, and Ambrose:

And there's Kevin and Reggie:

Kevin and Reggie actually delve into Kevin's thoughts on responsible gun ownership and public policy quite a lot in this issue. Who knew that we'd hear some much about the politics of gun violence in an Archie Comics comic book?

* Jellybean: LIFE WITH ARCHIE #31 wasn't all about gun politics. Last issue, Jellybean learned that her boyfriend Davey was burglarizing all of the local businesses and had saved Jughead's diner for last. And he tried recruiting Jellybean for this final task. She ratted him out to the police and Davey found himself arrested. Now she's being cheered on by the adults in her life while feeling really rotted about having to betray the man she loves:

It's interesting that Jellybean ends up confiding to Midge. Let's face it. Jellybean was in an emotionally abusive -- at least exploitative -- relationship with Davey. After years of dating Moose Mason, Midge knows all about controlling and emotionally manipulative boyfriends!

I really like LIFE WITH ARCHIE's Jellybean. If Archie Comics ever did a LWA spin-off comic book, they'd be crazy to ignore Jellybean's potential.

* Betty and Archie on the rocks?: Lastly, things aren't looking too good these days for Archie and Betty. Betty is drowning herself in work and Archie's growing increasingly dissatisfied. The sad part is that Betty is completely oblivious to this problem.

Archie spends the entire "Archie Marries Betty" storyline moping around and feeling sorry for himself. He ends up going by himself to a movie: "Mighty Crusaders"! These guys look familiar!:

More seriously, we are reintroduced in this issue to the vampish Bella Beazley. She unsuccessfully tried seducing Archie a year or so ago. She wasn't very successful, but that was before Archie began feeling neglected by his wife. Now she's focused her attention on him and he's a bit more receptive to her attentions these days! By the way, check out that wedding ring!:

I'm curious if Archie and Betty will get their marriage back on-track soon. Archie and Veronica nearly saw their own marriage destroyed a while back and they managed to salvage things. But there wasn't any adultery at that time. I'm not saying that Archie will actually cheat on Betty, but he seems much more ambivalent about the state of his relationship with Betty right now than he did back when Veronica left him in 2011!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Man Eggs UCC Church Over Gay Marriage

I wrote earlier this month about Pilgrims United Church of Christ in Maple Grove, MN. The church has been repeatedly vandalized throughout the summer because of its gay-affirming beliefs. The local police installed cameras around the church in anticipation of the date when same-sex couples will begin legally marrying in that state. Those cameras caught this man egging Pilgrims UCC from his wheelchair. Now he is facing criminal charges. It is unclear if he is the one responsible for the earlier acts of vandalism at the church. Check out this screen shot of him tossing an egg at the church!:

This latest act of vandalism took place this past Sunday morning. The police had responded to new reports of eggs thrown at the church's front door and additional bits of written graffiti against homosexuality on the church building's siding.

What the following news footage for images of the suspect tossing eggs at the church. He's in a wheelchair, though police noted that he might be in the wheelchair in order to disguise his true identity and abilities:

Monday, July 29, 2013

"It's Archie" Cartoon Being Produced!

Last October, Archie Comics announced at the New York Comic Con that they were working on a new cartoon series featuring Little Archie. Earlier today, Archie Comics and Moonscoop LLC officially announced this new animation project: "It's Archie:"
It’s Archie features Archie and pals as 12-year olds at Riverdale Junior High. Like most tweens, the group struggles with everyday issues like peer pressure, boy vs. girl competition, pie eating contests, chores and homework. However in this world they encounter loopy capers involving mad scientists, aliens in the janitor’s closet, pirates, lake monsters and more.
There has been a lot of discussion over on the Archie Comics Fan Forum about the artwork and the young ages of the characters. Personally, I'm glad to see the product out there for new viewers to enjoy.

No clue when It's Archie will air, though it's apparently debuting at Cannes this fall.

Green Party Annual National Convention Held in Iowa City this Past Weekend

The Green Party held its annual national convention here in Iowa City this past weekend. Among those at the event included the 2012 Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein. There were local and statewide Democratic leaders scheduled to appear at this weekend's convention also, including Representative Mary Mascher and Senator Rob Hogg who were hosting a seminar on environmental policy.

The Green Party's message to progressives? Leave the Democratic Party and join a real progressive party:
The Green Party started as a collection of state organizations in the mid-1980s, aiming to promote progressive positions, especially on the environment, labor and foreign policy. The party got a boon in 2000 when candidate Ralph Nader earned almost 3 percent nationally in the presidential election, but the party hasn’t posted such high numbers in a national election since.

Still, Green Party organizers predict more voters will grow too frustrated with both major parties in coming years.

“As we know from the major dominant parties that are running the country, there’s very little difference between the politics of what one hand is doing and what another hand is doing,” said Darryl Moch, national co-chair of the Green Party. “What we’ve found, is all the people between those two hands are struggling and they’re suffering.”

The party’s name reflects its emphasis on environmental issues, but the Green Party has a broad platform on a slew of political and social issues. For instance, the party opposes the United States’ global military reach, supports broader rights for women and minorities, and pushes for harsher punishments against financial sector workers mixed up in potentially dangerous trading.  
The party also uses its network to advocate on local issues — even things like agricultural zoning changes.
I'm actually quite supportive to the Green Party and it's policy statements. I just don't know how to make the leap from the established party that actually has the power in this state to protect families like mine. Suggestions?

Saturday, July 27, 2013

"Young Avengers #8": Gay Love Triangle

I've written a handful of times about one of my favorite comics coming out of Marvel Comics these days: YOUNG AVENGERS! (here, here, and here) Back in early 2012, I noted that Marvel was hinting at the gay wedding of its top gay teens, Hulkling and Wiccan. One of the underlying sources of dramatic tension within the new YOUNG AVENGERS book centers around Hulkling's worrisome fear that Wiccan is subconsciously using magic to trick them into loving each other. It's one of those thoughts that Loki snuck into Hulkling's head and now it won't go away.

During the last couple issues, the Young Avengers and their new teammate Prodigy have been dimension-hopping in search of Wiccan's missing brother and a phantom thief who looks like one of the former Young Avengers. An unexpected hiccup at the end of YOUNG AVENGERS #8 left Hulkling and Prodigy stranded alone in a hostile dimension where the unexpected happened:

This is a shocking development! I never knew that Prodigy was gay or bi or ever sexually interested in guys. But I guess he has a thing for hulkish green brutes. I can see the allure!

Maybe this is true love. Maybe it's temporary lust. Maybe it's the result of mind-altering magic coming out of Wiccan or the evil Mother. Either way, this was a truly unexpected ending to an energetic issue! I can't wait to see what happens next!

Iowa Court of Appeals: Man Did Not Turture Puppy When He Beat It To Death With Bat // Update: Iowa's Attorney General Plans to Appeal this Decision

(Originally written on 07/10/13): Back in 2011, Zachary Meerdink of Muscatine, IA, became upset with his 7-month-old Boston terrier struggled with nipping and toilet training. So he took it outside and beat the dog to death with a baseball bat. He was subsequently convicted of animal torture and sentenced to two years in prison.

Earlier today, the Iowa Court of Appeals overruled that conviction and acquitted him of this charge in a 2-1 decision. They ruled that prosecutors failed to show enough evidence of depravity when Meerdink beat his puppy to death:
Chief Judge Larry Eisenhauer said prosecutors must prove the defendant acted with "depraved" or "sadistic" intent to support an animal torture conviction. He said that standard wasn't met because no one witnessed the killing, it's unclear how many times the dog was struck and Meerdink didn't appear to be happy or eager before and after the killing. What's more, Meerdink killed the dog after it demonstrated aggressive behavior that was getting worse, including biting a 9-year-old child, Eisenhauer wrote in a ruling joined by Judge Nancy Tabor...

Meerdink was living with his girlfriend in 2011, and she bought him the puppy. The girlfriend, Jamie Holladay, testified that the puppy had accidents in the home because of a weak stomach, often jumped on people, had bitten her and her three sons, and wasn't responding to coaching.

Holladay said she was running an errand when Meerdink called to ask where the Lysol spray was because the dog had an accident. When she returned, Meerdink walked out of the house with the dog under his arm. He came back minutes later carrying a baseball bat, saying the animal was dead.
I get that people don't like dealing with puppies who struggle with biting. I also get that people get upset with puppies bite their kids... even puppy bites. And it is terribly frustrating to house train one's dog.

But there are animal shelters. There is re-homing. There is euthanasia with the help of a veterinarian, in worst case scenarios. You don't bash in the puppy's head with a bat. There is always a better choice.

Meerdink has been paroled since April 2013. As noted above, he has been retroactively acquitted of the earlier charge and the conviction stricken from his criminal record.

Updated on 07/27/13: I learned yesterday that Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller asked the Iowa Supreme Court this past Thursday to reinstate Zachary Meerdink's animal torture conviction and to clarify Iowa's animal torture law:
Miller's brief says the Court of Appeals erred last month in a 2-1 ruling that concluded Meerdink didn't act with "depraved intent" when he killed the 7-month-old Boston terrier outside a Davenport apartment and suggested the killing was justified. Miller says the court's definition of depraved intent has created uncertainty for law enforcement and should be changed.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Is the Iowa Department of Public Health Still Discriminating Against Married Lesbian Moms? // Update: IDPH Responds

(Originally written on 07/24/13): Ever since gay and lesbian couples began marrying here in Iowa, there have been problems with the State of Iowa treating our families equally. Probably the biggest problem area has involved the Iowa Department of Public Health and their refusal to list both married lesbian moms on the birth certificates of their children. One lesbian couple took the IDPH to court back in 2011 over this issue. In January 2012, a Polk County district court ruled that the IDPH cannot discriminate against married lesbian couples when it comes to birth certificates and this decision was unanimously affirmed by the Iowa Supreme Court back in early May 2013.

I learned last night that the IDPH is allegedly still making it difficult for married lesbian mothers to list both parents on the birth certificates of their children. Janelle Rettig, the current chair of the Johnson County Board of Supervisors shared the following story on her Facebook page. It was told to her by a local lesbian couple with a newborn baby. Rettig gave me permission to pass along this story:
Since the Iowa Supreme Court had heard this case, and made the decision in early May, we felt as though this would be a breeze. No needed changes to the birth certificate, I completed it as "spouse". We had even contacted our lawyer prior to the birth to make sure we did not have to go through any legal paperwork this time around.

To our dismay, last Thursday we received the birth certificate with only Joanne's name listed. No information was given as to why mine was not listed as the parent. I immediately called the Iowa Dept. of Public Health and asked why as a legally married lesbian couple, both of our names were not listed on the birth certificate as the court ruling in early May stated must happen.

The woman I talked to, and she confirmed it with another woman above her in the office, stated that this did not happen because a cover letter has not been completed and approved. Not only this, but they wanted Joanne's name & address so they could send an affidavit to fill out and return. She didn't know if I needed to send the original birth certificate back at that time, nor did she know how long this process would take.

I was appalled and infuriated! This has been decided for nearly 3 months, and we are being discriminated against because of a cover letter! I know we are not the only couple in Iowa that this has happened to over the past couple of months, but we want what has been decided to be enforced. To know that I am not legally recognized as a parent to my child because of this is infuriating and very sad. Please feel free to pass this along to anyone you feel can help remedy this situation.
Rettig noted that another county official heard a similar story from another married lesbian couple with a newborn baby a few weeks ago.

Rettig is encouraging any other married female same-sex couple who is experiencing similar troubles with getting accurate birth certificates for their newborn babies to contact the Lambda Legal help-line at 312-663-4413.

Updated on 07/25/13: KCRG reported today on this story. The mothers involved in this case are Lindsey Clark and Joanne Abbas of Iowa City. It was noted again that there have been other married lesbian moms who have experienced similar difficulties with obtaining birth certificates that include both mothers on the birth certificates of their newborn babies.

KCRG reports that the IDPH has responded to this situation:
Polly Carver-Kimm, spokesperson for the Iowa Department of Public Health, said in an email the state recently finalized a new birth sheet to improve the application process for same-sex couples.

“The District Court decision in the Gartner case [May ruling] included a stay preventing any changes for any other child’s birth certificate pending the Supreme Court appeal of the case. On July 8 the District Court issued the order lifting the stay. We have been working on processes for hospitals and the development of a birth work sheet for lesbian couples when one of the parties to the marriage is the birth mother. The new birth worksheet and the instructions were sent to the hospitals via e-mail [Wednesday],” she wrote.
It looks like the Clark/Abbas family won't be included in this new streamlined birth certificate process given the timeline listed above, though I'm guessing they could get this administratively waived with a little help from an attorney. It will be interesting if it continues to be difficult for married lesbians to obtain birth certificates for their newborn babies in the future.

Nero at the Hospital -- 07/24/13

Shortly after posting my previous blog article, I took Nero out for his evening walk. We were crossing at the intersection back home when a car made a right turn directly at us. He was at a stop light and paying attention to the traffic to his left instead of focusing on the pedestrians to his immediate right who were crossing with the "walk" light. Anyway, I barely missed getting hit. Nero wasn't so lucky.

Nero was fortunate (outside of the obvious). He didn't get run over. He just got sideswiped by the car. He had no broken bones. His back legs just got all torn up.

I rushed him to the emergency animal hospital. They cleaned out his injuries and gave us instructions for his aftercare. He's sore, but doing okay. He can walk. It's difficult for him to stand up right now. It's also hard to walk up the stairs. I'll probably need to get one of those neck-cones to stop him from licking at his sores. I'll need to have him checked out again today, but I'm hoping to see our regular vet for that.

So, no more daycare for at least a couple weeks. No more dog park. But lots of rest and gratitude that it didn't turn out worse for either of us.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Gay Marriage Updates Across the Nation -- 07/24/13

I found myself kind of burned out from all of these "Gay Marriage Updates Across the Nation" posts. As a result, I'm really behind the times. But there have been a few different developments in recent weeks that I really shouldn't ignore. Check out the following links (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here) for past updates:

New Mexico: Back in March 2013, several gay and lesbian couples filed a lawsuit against the state of New Mexico so that they can legally marry. New Mexico's state constitution maintains a gender neutral definition of marriage and neither recognizes nor prohibits recognition of same-sex marriages. These couples are being recognized by the New Mexico chapter of the ACLU and their motion has been joined by the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

Earlier this week, New Mexico Attorney General Gary King informed the New Mexico Supreme Court that he believes it is unconstitutional to prohibit gay couples from marrying. “New Mexico's guarantee of equal protection to its citizens demands that same-sex couples be permitted to enjoy the benefits of marriage in the same way and to the same extent as other New Mexico citizens." That said, King requested that the New Mexico Supreme Court deny the couples' request because he believes that the lawsuit was improperly filed. In other words, they should have started their lawsuit with a lower court and worked their way up to the Supreme Court.

Pennsylvania: Earlier this month, the ACLU filed lawsuits in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and North Carolina to invalidate constitutional amendments prohibiting recognition of same-sex marriages in those states. Here is the reason I've highlighted Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced two weeks ago that she cannot and will not defend her state's ban on gay marriage.

Then earlier this week, officials in Montgomery County, PA, decided to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The first married pair of lesbians in Pennsylvania is Alicia Terrizzi and Loreen Bloodgood of Pottstown, PA, and the second married pairs of lesbians is Sasha Ballen and Diana Spagnuolo of Wynnewood, PA. These marriages will likely be challenged by the state of Pennsylvania. The two couples are being represented by the ACLU.

Additionally... There have been major developments in Ohio when it comes to same-sex marriage, but I really want to write up an article specific to that situation.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Des Moines Woman Charged With Bigamy

A woman from Des Moines, Iowa, has been arrested and charged with bigamy after her new husband complained to Polk County officials that his new bride was already married to somebody else:
Maxie Smith told police he married Christie Lea Thomas on May 28 at the Polk County Courthouse. He later found out Thomas was already married to another man. Smith told police he was attempting to kick Thomas out of his house for using drugs. According to police, Smith said the witness to their wedding also knew Thomas was already married.
Bigamy is a serious misdemeanor. If convicted, Thomas faces a fine of between $350-1,800 and up to one year in prison.

Criminal Charges Pending Over Satanic Same-Sex Weddings

This past weekend, I wrote about a group of people from the New York-based Satanic Temple over their "Pink Mass" same-sex wedding ceremonies. They performed their "Pink Mass" wedding ceremonies over the grave of Catherine Johnston. She was the mother of Fred Phelps, the infamous anti-gay/anti-American founder of Westboro Baptist Church. They posted pictures of the ceremonies and posted instructions for how others can perform their own Pink Mass ceremonies.

Unfortunately, not everyone got the point of these wedding protests. Bill Arlinghaus, owner of Magnolia Cemetery, has filed a complaint with the Meridian Police Department:
"Meridian Police have reached out and spoken to Mr. Arlinghaus of Magnolia Cemetery," says Captain Dean Harper of the Meridian Police Department. "We are in the process now of constructing affidavits and warrants against these individuals, and we will have them arrested as soon as we can... It is an unusual crime that we haven't come across to my knowledge in awhile," says Harper. "Not only does it violate a state and city ordinance, but it also violates the moral decency of a human being."
The article states that Satanic Temple members face charges of trespassing, indecent exposure, and malicious mischief. (It should be noted that one of the Temple members rubbed his exposed penis over Johnston's grave, hence the indecent exposure charge.)

Monday, July 22, 2013

Wait a Minute!!! Archie Comics Already has a Lesbian Character!

It's ironic that I wrote this blog post earlier today speculating about the future identity of Archie Comics' first lesbian character. In that post, I noted that Archie Comics co-CEO Jon Goldwater had answered affirmatively this past weekend at the San Diego Comic Con when asked if there would be a gay female character. I thought it would be fun if Pepper from It's Josie! became a retro-gay character.

And then I took off for an important meeting. I got to where my meeting was supposed to occur. And I waited. And waited. And waited. There was no public wifi and no phone signal, so I couldn't distract myself with my phone. So I eventually dug through my work-tote and noticed JINX: LITTLE MISS STEPS, which is the second in a series of graphic novels featuring Archie Comics' Li'l Jinx during her freshman year in high school. I totally forgotten that I'd purchased the book earlier this summer and decided today to take advantage of my hour-plus lull to read this book.

(Incidentally, it's a great book. If you haven't read it yet, head over to your local book seller or library and get a copy. You won't regret it!)

Which brings me back to Pepper and Jon Goldwater and lesbian comic book characters. I learned this morning that Archie Comics already has a lesbian comic book and she made her retro-gay premier a couple months ago in JINX: LITTLE MISS STEPS!

One of the major struggles that Jinx contended with in LITTLE MISS STEPS was her absentee mother. They kept making appointments for lunch or visits or shopping trips and then her mother would make an excuse and cancel at the last minute. It was extremely vexing for our title character.

Turns out that Mery Holliday (what a name!) has been struggling with sexual identity issues for a while. Turns out that she burying herself in sports and then college and then work to avoid those issues. Turns out she finally stopped hiding from herself after the break-up of her family. Turns out that Mery Holliday -- Jinx's mom -- is a lesbian. And she has a girlfriend named Maritess.

Of course, nothing is easy. Jinx is still reeling from this big revelation. There is no neat patch-up at the end of this story. The journey of Jinx's acceptance of and reconciliation with her mother (assuming this eventually happens) won't occur until future chapters of the ongoing JINX graphic novel series.

However this finishes up, Archie Comics now has its first lesbian characters -- and that's a pretty exciting bridge to have crossed!

Archie Comics to Create Lesbian Character?

I really haven't heard too much about Archie Comics coming out of this past weekend's San Diego Comic Con, but this tweet managed to catch my attention:
Keep in mind that this was not an official announcement and I've learned over the years to take some of these answers with a grain of salt.

Here is my pick for a retro-gay character, assuming that they do indeed introduce a lesbian character: Pepper!:

Pepper's smart and practical and she's been out of circulation (outside of digest reprints) for most of my life. It's been argued to me that she's a bit of a stereotype. But most comic book characters are. And I think Pepper is a mixed bag of cliché and interesting personality quirks.

Plus, I keep hearing that Kevin Keller (Riverdale's resident gay guy) is bland and boring. Well, Pepper isn't bland or boring. She is smart and opinionated and she has a sharp temper. Think about the fun...

How about you? What character traits would you like to see in a Riverdale lesbian? Would you rather see an old character re-done or would you rather see a brand new character? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Satanic Same-Sex Weddings Held Over Gravesite of Fred Phelps' Dead Mother

A group of people from the Satanic Temple traveled to the grave of Fred Phelps's dead mother in Meridian, MS. Fred Phelps is the leader/founder of Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, KS, which is best known for its never-ending string of protests at funerals, churches, etc. Their message? God hates fags and God hates America because of its fags and fag-enablers -- their language; not mine.

Which brings me back to the Satanic Temple. They traveled to Phelps' mom's grave last weekend and performed "Pink Mass" same-sex marriage ceremonies. And they encourage you to perform your own Pink Mass over the Phelps grave, too:
After a Pink Mass has been performed, every time a same sex couple kisses over the gravesite, the now-gay deceased is said to be pleasured in the afterlife.
Satanic Temple spokesman Lucien Greaves -- who officiated at these two commitment ceremonies -- explained in a press release why they decided to perform the Pink Masses:
The Westboro Baptists, famed for their bombastic "God Hates Fags" anti-homosexual activism, raised the ire of the Satanic Temple months previous. "The idea for the Pink Mass ceremony and website came during the aftermath of the tragic Boston Marathon bombings, during which time the WBC were threatening to protest the funerals of the bombing victims," explains Greaves. “Members of The Satanic Temple were in Boston, waiting for them, but they failed to show. Later, the WBC issued a statement that they had been present 'in spirit'. We decided that a same-sex couple celebrating ceremony at the grave-site of Fred Phelps's mother was an appropriate way to meet the Westboro Baptists, 'in spirit', but this time on our terms."

Explaining the ceremony itself, Greaves continues, "The Satanic Temple now believes that Fred Phelps must believe that his mother is now gay, in the afterlife, due to our Pink Mass... And nobody can challenge our right to our beliefs."
A commenter in this post further spelled out why this type of protest is appropriate, especially given the target:
I think some of y'all have totally missed the point here. The WBC aims to offend and shock people and they don't care who they hurt in the process. They openly practice their beliefs at people's funerals. They give no respect to the families of others who are in deep mourning. Well, what goes around comes around.

If Fred Phelps had any love for his own mother, at all (which is questionable), hopefully he is now as offended, deeply hurt, and scarred as other people have been because of his church's actions.

He and his church have shown great disrespect for many upon many who have passed away. It was only a matter of time before someone decided to be just as offensive as him.
I actually get the point and find it ingenious, to a point. I'm just not sure that Phelps cares or that I like the idea of same-sex commitment ceremonies being used as weapons against anyone, much less the WBC.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Big Brother 15 News: Aaryn Gries' Mom Hires a PR Firm

I've written over the past month about the racist slurs that have been bandied about on Big Brother 15 this summer. CBS initially pretended that it wasn't going on, but has really embraced the racism storyline over the past week or so on its network programming.

Houseguest Aaryn in particular has been singled out as the villain in this particular situation, but if you read this thread you will note that she hasn't been the only Houseguest in the Big Brother House making racist, sexist, and heterosexist slurs. As recently as this past weekend, Houseguest GinaMarie said that Candice should go back to Africa. That was after she got into an argument with Candice and threatened to let "the black" out.

Anyway, I learned yesterday that a professional PR firm has been hired to help Aaryn out when she eventually leaves the reality TV show and learns that she has inadvertently cast herself as the racist villain of the Big Brother House:
Sources for the series said the mother of Gries, who lives in San Angelo, Texas, has already hired a publicist for the 22-year-old college student, making Gries perhaps the first contestant in “Big Brother” history to get representation while still living in the house.

Gries has already lost her job at a modeling agency as a result of the remarks. While she is still isolated and unaware of her dismissal, her mother is aware of the firing and is taking steps to redeem her daughter’s reputation.
I'm really interested how they will spin Aaryn's tale to try to make this all look less bad. My guess? They will point out incidents of other Houseguests' racism and say that she was afraid that she would be targeted for eviction if she didn't make similar comments, which "of course" she totally does not agree with!

It should be interesting...

Nero at Daycare -- 07/18/13

It was a long, hot, and muggy day yesterday at doggy daycare and unfortunately Nero was feeling the heat! Look at that poor baby in the pic below. Despite the heat, Nero still managed to have a fun time with his four-legged friends. Check it out:

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Creepy "Afterlife With Archie" Trailer

Archie Comics released a trailer for their new AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE comic book series. It's pretty creepy! Check this out:

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

NOM's Thomas Peters in Critical Condition Following Swimming Accident

Here is some scary news regarding the National Organization for Marriage's Thomas Peters. I know him mostly for his daily blogs and tweets on behalf of NOM and other organizations against same-sex marriage.

Peters was apparently in a swimming accident yesterday afternoon, which has resulted in a serious neck injury. It looks like he has broken his neck. He remains in critical condition at this time. His father posted the following message on Facebook earlier today regarding Peters' medical condition:

Box Turtle Bulletin posted an additional update, indicating additional complications from this injury:
Thom can move his arms, docs are discussing the best treatment for his neck injury. Immediate concern is for the considerable water in his lungs. We are astounded at the expressions of prayers and support. Thom & Nat know about it. Please keep them up. Love from us all, EdP
Obviously, I'm not privy to the details of Peters' swimming accident. But his accident vividly reminds me of a swimming situation from when I was younger. I don't even think I told my parents about this one. We were staying in a hotel while vacationing at some point in my childhood. I ran to the interior pool and fully planned to dive into the water. At the very last minute, I changed my mind and jumped into the water feet first. The water was terribly shallow -- maybe up to my shins.
I can still feel the jarring pain caused by my feet absorbing that much kinetic energy. Even at that young age, I recognized that I would have either died or broken my neck had I dived into that pool. It still freaks me out to this day.
Tragedy can happen so quickly and so unexpectedly. I will keep Thomas Peters and his family in my prayers and urge you to do the same.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

"Glee" Actor Cory Monteith Dead at Age 31 // Update: Cause of Death Determined

(Originally written on 07/14/13): Actor Cory Monteith was found dead this weekend in his Vancouver, Canada, hotel room after he'd missed his checkout time. CNN reports that the 31-year-old actor had been hanging out with several people at his room this past Friday night, but was seen later on hotel surveillance video returning to his room by himself in the early Saturday morning. Police have ruled out four play. An autopsy will be conducted tomorrow. Monteith had received substance abuse treatment earlier this year, but it's unclear at this time that drugs or alcohol had anything to do with his death.

Cory Monteith is probably best known for his starring role at Finn Hudson on Glee. He had a great singing voice and a handsome face. His character graduated from high school one season ago, though he played a recurring role during this latest season.

My first -- and favorite -- exposure to Monteith was when he played a "younger, edgier" version of Colonel Cameron Mitchell on Stargate: SG1. Check out this video:

This death has really bummed me out. My prayers reach out to Monteith's friends and family.

Updated on 07/16/13: An autopsy was performed yesterday and Cory Monteith's cause of death has been determined. The British Columbia Coroners Service has reports Monteith death came as a result of "a mixed drug toxicity, involving heroin and alcohol."

Hi Five!

For myriad unspoken reasons, it's been a terribly stressful few months. That's why it was very touching that I found the following sign hanging next to my office doorway:

It was a great way to start off this weeks. Thanks Team!

Nero at Daycare -- 07/16/13

Nero spent one of the muggiest days this summer at doggy daycare today. It looks like he got some outside time judging from these pics, but he was playing inside when I picked him up this afternoon. Either way, he's been bone-tired all evening! Check it out:


Monday, July 15, 2013

Local Residents Rally at "Justice for Trayvon"

A group of people from and around Iowa City gathered last night to protest the not guilty verdict in the 2nd degree murder trial against Florida's George Zimmerman against Trayvon Martin. You can read about it here. There is also a video of some reactions to the verdict immediately below:

Saturday, July 13, 2013

New Poll: Support for Gay Marriage in Iowa Continues to Rise Slightly

Public Policy Polling released a new poll this week that asked Iowans about their support/lack of support for same-sex marriage. According to their latest polling data, the PPP found that Iowans now support same-sex marriage by a margin of 47/44. That's compared to a 41/48 support margin back in October 2011 and 46/43 support back in February 2013.

The same PPP poll found that 26% of Iowa voters believe that same-sex marriage has had a negative impact on their lives (an increase from 24% back in February 2013) compared to 74% of Iowans who've suffered no negative impact. I'm still left wondering what kinds of negative experiences those folks have suffered due to marriages like mine!

PPP noted that most of the opposition to marriage equality came from Iowa's senior citizens. We're talking 36% in favor compared to 57% opposed to same-sex marriages. The rest of Iowa supports same-sex marriage by a margin of 50/41.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Big Changes at The Marin Foundation

A few weeks ago, I received a call from my friend Andrew Marin informing me of some major life changes. These changes will affect not only the lives of Andrew and his wife Brenda, but also the larger Marin Foundation. He finally publicly announced this big change earlier today on his blog. The news? He and Brenda are moving to Scotland!

Check this out:
My wife Brenda and I, along with the Foundation team about a year ago, began discussing the requests and needs we were receiving from our friends across the pond (the United Kingdom) and throughout Europe. As my involvement with the United Nations has increased over the past three years there were many organizations, people, institutions and churches asking for the assistance of The Marin Foundation. We have had the privilege of doing some work throughout the UK and Europe and have seen incredible responses—including the launch of almost ten Living in the Tension groups abroad. It is humbling to see this work spread across the globe.

It was last summer when I was approached by the University of St. Andrews (in St. Andrews, Scotland) with an opportunity to complete my PhD in Cultural Theology; studying under some of the world’s foremost living theologians—including Steve Holmes, NT Wright and John Webster.

Brenda and I, along with our team at the Foundation began prayerfully reflecting and discussing if this was an opportunity that would be appropriate for both me, and for the sustainability of The Marin Foundation. During this discernment time we met with, among many others, our dear friend and pastor Michael Kimpan, and his fiancĂ©e Katie. Together we discussed and dreamed about what it would look like if Michael came on board with the Foundation to be my right hand man. Brenda and I also shared with them the potential opportunity of us going to Scotland and what that would mean for Michael’s future responsibilities for The Marin Foundation.

After a quick few discussions Michael’s excitement overflowed for this opportunity, and we hired him as The Marin Foundation’s Associate Director. Michael was a very successful businessperson who left for the pastorate, and now we are fortunate enough to have him in Chicago since January. Michael has been an incredible asset and is already showing to be not only very capable, but a compassionate and productive leader for our team. He has seamlessly transitioned into Boystown, living just a few blocks away from where I live. I have enjoyed introducing him to all of our neighborhood’s leadership and he has already done multiple speaking engagements for us across the country, to rave reviews...

Michael was the answer; the final piece that we were looking for regarding the leadership and potential transition for the Foundation to this new opportunity that opened up in St. Andrews. As I completed the forms letting the University of St. Andrews know that I am accepting their offer, my excitement grew thinking of what the next few years will bring. I can’t wait to see what doors will open for The Marin Foundation, and personally, through this decision.

For the next three years I will split time between St. Andrews, Scotland and Boystown, focusing on my PhD and handling all of the international work; and Michael will be based in Boystown, handling all of the domestic work. We now have an opportunity to uniquely concentrate on spreading this bridge building message more thoroughly across the globe. Our new situation will not only enhance our impact as cutting-edge practitioners, but also our credibility as thought leaders via this educational opportunity.

I will be a major part in our new live interactive video lectures, called The Tension Series. Stay tuned for more information regarding this next-level continuing education launching this Fall! However, the day to day leadership of The Marin Foundation will be Michael’s responsibility.

Finally, it is important that each of you know that my commitment is to reconciliation, bringing Kingdom to earth as it is in Heaven. As I follow the example of Jesus my goal is to continue to learn how to live and love in real time. My prayer is that this time investing in my PhD will only enhance our reach and ability to bring reconciliation to contentious areas at home and around the world.
I remember discussing the possibility of Andrew studying at the University of St. Andrews last summer when visiting him and his wife last summer. It was an exciting opportunity and I'm glad they decided to go for it. In fact, I'm envious!

I really wish both Andrew and Brenda well with their new journey!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

More KKK Fliers in Iowa. This Time in Davis & Wapello Counties

Authorities report that the Ku Klux Klan is recruiting again in Iowa -- this time in Davis County and Wapello County. Numerous KKK recruiting fliers were found outside numerous residences and businesses earlier today in Agency, Bloomfield, and Eldon, IA.

As in previous KKK incidents in the recent past (here and here), the fliers were discovered in plastic bags that were weighted down with rocks:
The fliers refer to the "Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan" and list a 24-hour "klanline." Wapello County Sheriff Mark Miller says many people find the fliers offensive, but they contain protected speech. He says someone distributing the items could possibly be charged with littering.
Both Davis and Wapello Counties are located in the southeast corner of Iowa. These counties are most likely being targeted by KKK groups in nearby Missouri. Both counties are primarily white (98% in Davis County and 96% in Wapello County).

"Navajo Star Wars" Debuts

"Navajo Star Wars" (AKA Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope dubbed into Navajo language/Dine) made its official debut this past July 3rd in Window Rock, AZ. I learned of this project several months ago when they were recruiting voice actors to translate this classic sci-fi movie into the Navajo language:
"Navajo Star Wars," as it's been called, was a partnership between Lucasfilm and the Navajo people, and is part of the effort to get current and future generations interested in the Navajo language. Judging by the reactions, it seems to have worked -- the roughly 200 people who filled a rodeo stadium that night erupted in cheers and screams when they heard familiar characters like C-3PO and Darth Vader delivering classic dialogue in their beloved Dine' language.
It sounds like the dubbed movie was well received by its audience. You can learn more about it by watching this clip:

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Nero at Daycare -- 07/09/13

It was another hot one for Nero and the other dogs at daycare today, but he had fun! Check this out:

Kevin Keller: "It Gets Better!"

(Originally written on 07/08/13): I learned this afternoon that tomorrow is "Kevin Keller Day." I'm not fully certain what that means at the moment, but it's connected to Dan Savage's "It Gets Better" anti-bullying/anti-suicide program. Check it out:

Updated on 07/09/13: Check out this "It Gets Better" video by Kevin Keller's creator, Dan Parent:

U.S. Federal Gov't: Civil Unions/Domestic Partnerships are Powdered Milk

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act last month, paving the way for federal recognition of America's legally married gay and lesbian citizens. Since then, the Office of Personnel Management has been rolling out blue-prints for how married same-sex spouses and their children should be treated by employers, insurers, and the federal government itself. One thing that was unclear before was just clarified by the OPM. This only applies to legally married same-sex couples. Civil unions and domestic partnerships don't apply to these post-DOMA changes:
The Obama administration will not extend federal-worker benefits to domestic partners under the Supreme Court ruling that overturned part of the Defense of Marriage Act, meaning the government will treat civil unions differently than legal same-sex marriages.

The Office of Personnel Management made that announcement in a series of memos to federal benefits administrators and insurance carriers, saying couples who are not legally married “will remain ineligible for most federal benefits programs.” However, any existing benefits provided to domestic partners will remain intact, OPM said.
Currently, there are four states that offer civil unions to gay and lesbian couples: Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, and New Jersey. (Rhode Island is technically a fifth "civil union" state, but that state will become a marriage equality state in August 2013.) How long will the civilly unionized residents of those states tolerate their "powdered milk" marriages? Especially when some gay & lesbian couples within those states (federal employees who got married in an actual marriage equality state, for example) will have full marital recognition while most others' relationships will be legally invisible under federal law.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Pilgrims UCC Church in Maple Grove, MN, Vandalized Over Gay Rights

Pilgrims United Church of Christ of Maple Grove, MN, was vandalized this past weekend over its support for LGBT rights and gay marriage rights. This is the third incident of anti-gay vandalism within the past two months:
Pilgrims United Church of Christ was the apparent victim of vandalism... and it’s believed the motive is that the church is supportive of same-sex marriage. Maple Grove Police said church-goers spotted graffiti on the building, handcuffs on the front door and that the building had been egged again when they arrived for services on Sunday. There was also the message “Gay pride, No.” on the exterior walls of the building.

Back in June, police said someone threw eggs at the windows and wrote “church of Sodom and Gomorrah” on the exterior walls. Authorities said more vandalism took place just a day later.

Now, the Maple Grove Police Department is trying to figure out who is responsible. Authorities said it’s clear that there’s a motive since the church supports same-sex marriage, but wouldn’t go so far as to call it a hate crime. “We are investigating this crime as a bias motivated crime. A hate crime is not necessarily a word we use in law enforcement, but we are investigating this as a bias motivated crime,” said Maple Grove Police Captain Keith Terlinden.
A church member in the comments section of this article indicates that there was one other act of vandalism against Pilgrims UCC that was not reported to the police. Most of the other commenters are debating whether or not Pilgrims UCC is really a Christian church or not.

I'm not saying it had never happened, but can you remember a situation where a church of vandalized for opposing LGBT rights or same-sex marriage? I can't. Protests, yes. Vandalism, no. I guess the religious liberties that culture warriors were fretting about before Minnesota voted marriage equality into law are less important when it comes to the religious liberties of Christians who support all of Minnesota's families, including the gay and lesbian families.

Pilgrims UCC is an Open & Affirming, Just Peace, and Earthwise Church.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Des Moines "Hit & Run" Victim Told to Get a Job

I don't get people sometimes. Iowa is known for it's "Iowa Nice" interactions with others. And then you here about stories like this.

A guy was walking to work yesterday in Des Moines. A vehicle approach him and yelled at the pedestrian to "Get a job!" The driver then physically sideswipes the walker, which knocks him down and causes injury to his leg. The driver then drives off, leaving his victim to lie in a puddle on the edge of the street.

What kind of miserable person thinks that this is a good thing to do?

AVENGERS A.I. #1: Protecting Humanity from Technology

Marvel Comics just finished it's latest Big Event called "Age of Ultron". This was the nutshell: Ultron (an evil robot created long ago by founding Avenger Dr. Hank Pym AKA/FKA: Ant-Man, Giant-Man, Goliath, Yellowjacket, and Wasp) finally managed to conquer the planet and destroy most of humanity. Wolverine and the Invisible Woman decided to save humanity by traveling back in time to kill Dr. Pym before he created Ultron and managed to create another timeline where humanity was being destroyed by another menace. So Wolverine went back again and had Dr. Pym create Ultron, but with a special weakness that they could exploit back in the present. Dr. Pym created a super-computer virus right before the Age of Ultron could begin and everything is back to normal.

Except that it's not.

Because the computer virus that Dr. Pym created to wipe out Ultron has become sentient and has begun causing trouble for humanity. Now SHIELD is pissed at Dr. Pym for averting an apocalypse that they themselves couldn't avert. They are upset that he didn't think through every possible consequence that might arise when he whipped up a last minute super-computer virus. As a result, SHIELD A.I. Division Chief Monica Chang decides to kidnap, torture, and permanently imprison one of Marvel's founding Avengers.

Because he saved humanity from Ultron...

Anyway, Captain America steps in and recruits Dr. Pym to create a team of robotic Avengers consisting of Vision, Victor Mancha (from the Runaways), and a Doombot to stand up against this newly evolved A.I. menace. This menace is named Dimitrios and it has corrupted a bunch of SHIELD drones, which it uses to attack a Georgia-based hospital for some unclear reason.

This new team of Avengers quickly saves the hospital but not before discovering a new puzzle. Namely, who is that blond-haired black woman floating over her hospital bed? Something tells me that she's a newly created robotic Avenger, but what to I know?

AVENGERS A.I. is an interesting concept. It's filled with robots, androids, and A.I. specialists who are tasked with protecting humanity from evil A.I.s. Somehow thought, I can't help but wonder if this type of battle wouldn't be more effectively fought over a keyboard and monitor than on the streets of America.

If you can't tell, I'm not terribly impressed with how the SHIELD agents treat Dr. Pym in this story. Why not just recruit him to help them shut down Dimitrios? Why threaten him with torture? It's not like he's a loose cannon (usually).

Lastly, what's up with Vision? When has he had the ability to deploy tiny nanites? Either I'm out of it or that came right out of left field!

I will stick with AVENGERS A.I. for a few more issues to see what's in store for this bunch of artificial heroes. I haven't liked how Dr. Pym and Division Chief Chang have been portrayed, but I'm anxious to see more of Vision, Victor, and the Doombot in action. And seriously, whose crazy imagination decided to recruit a Doombot for the Avengers??

But I'm not sure if I'll be here for the long haul. AVENGERS A.I.'s tagline is "Bigger. Better. Faster. Stranger." This is the type of specialized book that really needs to hit the ground running. Let's see Dimitrios in action. Does it do much more than randomly attack people with drones and hack computer mainframes? Is there going to be anything unifying this team once Dimitrios is eventually defeated? Will Doombot be the "strangest" A.I. to join the Avengers? And will Division Chief Chang learn that there is more to leading than threatening and saber-rattling?

I guess ultimately I want to see this series live up to its tagline for me to continue reading. Because there's nothing more frustrating than technology (or comic books about technology) when it lags.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Des Moines Woman Sentenced to 2 Years Probation for Hanging Boyfriend's Dog

You might remember an incident from this past April when a Des Moines woman found herself arrested and charged with animal cruelty after she decided to hang her boyfriend's pit bull terrier mix in their garage. The 15-year-old dog was named Lillie and her crime? She was too old and she barked too much. This case got processed pretty quickly as we learned this afternoon that 28-year-old Sheena Cornwell has pleaded guilty and is now facing two years of probation in connection to this act of animal cruelty:
Sheena Ann Cornwell, 28, had pleaded guilty to charges of animal torture, an aggravated misdemeanor. She could have been sentenced to as long as two years in prison and up to $6,250 in fines.

Cornwell was fined $625, plus a surcharge, and sentenced to two years of probation, during which she can’t own pets or reside in their presence. She will also undergo a psychological evaluation and treatment. If Cornwell violates the terms of her probation, she will be imprisoned for the rest of the two-year term.
The Des Moines Register notes that Cornwell was drunk when this incident occurred.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Parents Kill Gay Son's Spirit through Ex-Gay Therapy

There is a story going around the Internet about a Christian couple who spoke at the recent Exodus International conference about how they helped kill their gay teen's faith and spirit through six years of ex-gay materials, therapy, and prayers.

After years of non-stop prayers for Jesus to help pray away the gay, Ryan gave up. He gave up on the Church. He gave up on Christ. He gave up on himself.

And why wouldn't he? He had been told that he would become heterosexual if he prayed enough. And he prayed enough. More than enough. Not only that, but his entire family and faith community was actively praying to deliver him from homosexuality. For years. And it wasn't enough.

Why wouldn't he give up?

What followed was a spiral into out-of control addiction that eventually killed him. You can read about it here, but you can watch the video of their story here:

I know I'm supposed to feel bad for this family, but I can't help but be furious at them for being so instrumental in what became of their son. And where was the beloved gay uncle in all of this?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Nero at Daycare -- 07/02/13

It was a nice day for early July here in Iowa City. You can tell the dogs were active with their playing today at doggy daycare since Nero has pretty much been napping non-stop since arriving home! Check it out:

Monday, July 1, 2013

"Dilton" #1: Dilton Doiley Leaves Riverdale High!

Late last week, I discovered that Archie Comics started a new digital-exclusive mini-series starring Riverdale's resident genius: Dilton Doiley! DILTON #1 sets up a storyline where Dilton questions whether or not his brains are being wasted in Riverdale USA. What follows is a series scenarios where outside influences begin vying for his affiliation.

The story starts off pretty simply with Dilton beginning another week at Riverdale High School. All throughout the day, Dilton's friends turn to him to help them out of jams. He uses a 3-D hologram generator to help Archie avoid detention. He helps a cute girl named Phoebe solve a complicated math problem.

The problem is that Dilton is beginning to feel used by the other kids for his brains and gadgets, as well as under-appreciated. And it's not just him. The school's guidance counselor, Mr. Pigeonhole, notices also and begins pressuring Dilton to look beyond the walls of Riverdale High. Mr. P wants Dilton to enroll at Brainard University, where his genius will be put to good use!

Meanwhile, we also meet a new assistant janitor named Kenny at Riverdale High with connections to a cousin with a mysterious business and a fat pocketbook. It's not completely spelled out, but it looks like Kenny and his cousin will be making a grab for Dilton because of his creative eye for kooky electronic inventions:

Eventually Dilton decides to check out Brainard University. He's excited to show off his work, but soon learns that Brainard expects its students to be serious researchers, devoid of frivolous whimsies. Check out this classroom:

Dilton was about to turn down Brainard University for being too dull until a furious food fight between Archie and Reggie convinces Dilton which school truly represents a student of his smarts:

Except... There's a shadowy figure lurking in the alleyways of Riverdale USA who wants to recruit Dilton away from both Riverdale High and Brainard University and into the Great Unknown! Could this be Kenny's mysterious cousin?

DILTON #1 is a fun series. Not only do we get to see Dilton steering this storyline, but we get to see a lot of faces that we haven't had much chance to see in recent months, such as Reggie, Moose, Mr. Weatherbee, Mr. Svenson, and even Ethel Muggs in the background!

I'm really curious what kinds of twists and turns we can expect to see in this mini-series. I have a feeling that I know where this series is going, but the REGGIE & ME mini-series from 2012 really surprised me with its detours about exotic pet smugglers and pet psychic machines. In other words, Dilton might end up anywhere with this series!

Anyway, check out the Archie Comics App and purchase DILTON #1. Not only are you supporting new original tales featuring the Riverdale Gang, but you can also take the opportunity to purchase DILTON'S DOOFY INVENTIONS, which features over 100 pages of reprint stories about Dilton's wackiest inventions!