Archive for January, 2013|Monthly archive page

Discovering Through Crime

The story of a former National Football League offensive lineman assaulting his boyfriend caught my eye. As a huge sports fan and gay man, it is always interesting when someone who played at the highest level turns out to be gay. Even after retiring, most former players do not make their sexuality public, even if they self-identify as gay.

As a historian of sexuality I know that criminal proceedings are one of the significant tools that help us find homosexuals and lesbians in the past. Either people were put on trial for their sexual choices, caught in a sting operation, or because they had a fight with their lover, the veil is lifted from who they love or have loved in the past.

It’s terrible that the two men got into a fight and that assault occurred. But it is an interesting window into professional sports and into gay relations.


Museum Shows

One lucky thing about living in Washington, DC is that there are a number of excellent museums. Another is that they are free. Went to the Sackler Gallery on Sunday to see a show about depictions of the Middle East. Iraqi artist Jananne Al-An created videos of the supposed barren landscape of the Middle East. Her point was that to many Europeans and Americans the Middle East is a vast and empty land without people.

Her piece, Shadow Sites II(2011),  is exhibited alongside a selection of extraordinary original prints by renowned archaeologist Ernst Herzfeld (1879–1948). Comparisons about Herzfeld’s manufactured photographs showing empty and barren areas can be made to Al-An’s video from an aircraft that show military installations and manufacturing


I got the point and the show did not hold my interest very long.

One building neighboring the Sackler is the African Art Museum on the Mall. We walked over to see a show there. This show also focused on the Arab world, except on the other side of the African continent.

Lalla Essaydi’s refined work belies its subversive, challenging nature. Moroccan-born, Essaydi became an artist after relocating from Saudi Arabia to the United States. She believes her work, with its intimate portrayal of Moroccan women, would not have been possible without distance from her homeland.

In the last decade, Essaydi has risen to international prominence. Though widely acclaimed as a photographer, few are aware she is accomplished in diverse media. Revisions brings together, for the first time, selections from each photographic series, rarely exhibited paintings, and a multimedia installation. While each work and genre speaks volumes on their own, from the ensemble emerges Essaydi’s personal narrative and critical reflection on her experience as a liberal Moroccan, Arab, African, and Muslim woman living across cultures. She sees her work as “intersecting with the presence and absence of boundaries–of history, gender, architecture, and culture–that mark spaces of possibility and limitation. This is my story as well.”

The best part of the show for me was seeing the art inside a “house” that the exhibitors created. You come to a gate where there is a key hold. You walk through the keyhole and feel like you are inside a house. The photographs hang all over the inside of the house, showing the women in various positions. The section is successful in making you feel like you are in a separate space, a unique look at the Muslim woman’s world.

Hollywood Oscars 2013

Since the nominations for the awards came out, I’ve been trying to see as many of the movies as possible. Last night, Silver Linings Playbook was sold out at the first theater I went to so I rode my bike across the city to a much smaller cinema and had a great time.

The critics and audiences have loved this movie. Stars Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence received nominations. So did Robert De Niro and Jackie Weaver for their supporting roles. David O. Russell got a nod for best director too.  The movie is a romance for our times.

It’s great to see a movie that features working-class people and does not make fun of them. Usually diseases and mental instability are in a Lifetime, movie of the week problem film, or the ill person is a killer or sociopath. This movie tries to deal with the struggles honestly. I don’t think his being bi-polar would have manifested itself as it did in the movie but that’s a minor issue. I also thought Lawrence was a little young for a woman with the amount of experience in life that her character was supposed to have.

What intrigued me the most is how the characters acted out on their issues. Cooper’s character expresses violence, a culturally acceptable behavior for males when expressed in certain environments, like a boxing ring or football field. Lawrence’s character has sex with people, attempting to get them to like or at least accept her. In both cases, the character is acting out of frustration and their actions only enhance their frustration and alienation.


NBA’s David Stern in DC

National Basketball Association’s Commissioner David Stern gave a discussion about the last 30 years of professional basketball on Thursday night at the Native American Museum in Washington, DC. Over 100 people showed up at the Smithsonian Associates event to hear him.

Panelists included the Washington Post sports columnist Mike Wise, the Post’s Wizards’ beat writer Mike Lee and local and NBA lawyer Phil Hochberg. In addition, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, played a basketball superfan. The panelists asked Stern good questions. The Commissioner appeared very relaxed and in great spirits. He seemed to care a great deal about the game and its individual players. Most interesting, he supported the players in their efforts to announce their political perspectives and take part as citizens in the country.

In the final half hour, a number of fans got up to ask questions. Overwhelmingly, most of the questions were very good. They ranged from asking Stern questions about how size of market influences a team’s chance to win to asking him what rule change he thought made the greatest difference.

My co-author and I got the chance to hand out fliers for our book, The Bullets, The Wizards and Washington, DC Basketball.

Progressives Active In US Congress

Yes, the Congress and President Obama barely got a bill enacted that actually lowered all income tax rates. The famous 99% of the population will not pay anywhere near as much in taxes as they were slated to pay after the end of the Bush era tax cuts. Fine.

What about the infamous 1%. Well, let’s see. They get to pay slightly less than 40% on their income. Ok. Sounds good, except that most of these individuals get their income through capital gains. Unfortunately, that income will be taxed at significantly less than the tax rate for the money earned by the 99%. The rate will be a paltry 20%, or a grand increase of 5% over what they paid under the Bush era.

This will certainly hamper the amount of revenue that the federal government will bring in. That might make it harder to run the government in general which raises the next issue to fight over, how much and where will the federal government spend its money. For all the talk about cutting federal spending, when specifics are mentioned, different groups of people start yelling that the cuts will hurt them so go cut somebody else’s because they don’t deserve it like my group supposedly does.

Fortunately, Representative Keith Ellison came on The Young Turks and offered some important specifics of what should be offered up as cuts. How about saving billions from cutting the tax breaks to oil and gas corporations, like ExxonMobil. How about making Medicare D Prescription Drug Plan open to fair market competition and save billions there too.