Down and Out in Denver

Take that, Buck!

Posted in denver, gays, politics by Blake on November 3, 2010

Alastair and I hunkered down last night in front of the TV with a bottle of wine, bread and cheese, a lovely caesar salad (anchovies aplenty!), and some pizza.  The occasion — yesterday’s midterm election — was considerably less jovial than our usual get-togethers: Project Runway, Top Chef, Glee.  And while it wasn’t good news for the Dems, it could have been a lot worse, especially here in Colorado.  We don’t often get political at DOD — this may be the first time we’ve used the “politics” tag– but we can’t help ourselves right now.

As of this writing — 11:15 AM on Wednesday — the Denver Post has called the election for Michael Bennet; both CNN and the Times have him up by more than 10,000 votes over the odious Ken Buck, though have not made it official on their websites. Bennet is also giving a victory speech today at noon.  Do we love Michael Bennet?  Not so much.  The appointed Senator had never run for office when he was selected by Bill Ritter in some old-boys-backroom deal to fill the seat vacated by Ken Salazar.  Strange as it may seem, we do have various elected representatives in Colorado he could have selected, people with experience in electoral politics.  But no.  Combine this with the fact that Bennet is not exactly a charmer and we remain skeptical: about his record, about his abilities.

But Ken Buck.  Come on Colorado!  He was a garden variety Tea Party wing-nut until he made it personal for your DOD boys, comparing homosexuality to alcoholism.  According to Buck, both might have some basis in biology, but that homosexuality is a choice.  Really?!?  (And does this apply to alcoholism as well?  A choice?) Combine this with his anti-amnesty, anti-choice, anti-separation-of-church-and-state crazy conservatism, and we were downright embarrassed for lil’ ol’ Colorado. Until that embarrassment was trumped by anger that he was so popular.  So we’re pleased that Colorado voters seem to have preferred Bennet to Buck — barely — and that they rejected all the crazy amendments and that they turned their backs on Tom Tancredo as well.  We can hold our heads up reasonably high — at least not duck them down — when we leave the Centennial State, knowing that, like Nevada and Delaware, we didn’t send the Tea Party to the Senate.  Our condolences to the gays and progressives of Florida and Kentucky.


Blake’s Book Nook, Vol. III

Posted in books, gays, politics by Blake on September 20, 2010

Following the positive review of her new book in the Sunday Times book review, yesterday I picked up a copy of Rebecca Traister’s Big Girls Don’t Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women.  And I read the whole thing pretty much in one sitting last night. I did pause for dinner.

Traister’s book is an account of how gender politics played out in the 2008 election and what this meant for women then and means for them now and in future elections.  Traister covered the election for Salon and saw many of the candidates in action.  But more than what the candidates themselves said, this book is about how Americans — and the media especially — reacted to what they said, didn’t say, and what some believed they said even when they didn’t really.  It’s about how the media dealt with the issue of gender: with the fact of a woman running for president, the first woman in the history of the United States to win a primary election; with a Republican vice-presidential nominee who claimed to be a feminist but was rejected by most others who claim that name; with the potential of the first African American first lady who happened to be as accomplished as her husband.  It’s about sexism and sexist expectations for female politicians. And it’s a really good read.

Traister is open about her politics.  She is a progressive feminist who votes for Democrats.  At the beginning of the primary season she supported John Edwards, who, she rightly points out, had an agenda further to the left than either Clinton or Obama. As she also points out, he is a white guy, and could probably get away with being further to the left than the black guy or the white woman.  That said, Edwards could not garner enough votes and dropped out of the race. Traister ends up voting for Clinton in the Super Tuesday primary.  But she did so reluctantly, acknowledging that Obama and Clinton actually agreed on much but also that for almost all voters some form of identity politics was at play.  One of Traister’s greatest arguments is about the way that those who might not have supported Clinton initially — in part because of her decision on the Iraq war, her being a Clinton, and her increasing centrism — came to do so precisely because of how horribly everyone was treating her.  And on this count, Traister provides unassailable evidence.  It makes you mad all over again.

And so the book is not an homage to Clinton, who, like all politicians, Traister sees as flawed in certain ways; instead it is an exploration of how Clinton was treated by the media as well as by all kinds of supposedly progressive white men whose vitriol for her struck Traister as pretty misogynist. Hear, hear!  But Traister doesn’t stop there; she also looks at the reaction to Sarah Palin, a polarizing figure in all kinds of other ways.  And to Michelle Obama, who was required — in the tradition of First Lady HRC — to tone down her own individuality and play up her wife- and motherhood in order to meet with much acceptance. Traister is also interested in the role of women in pop culture: feminist bloggers, feminist activists, newscasters, comediennes. The book includes excerpts from her interviews with Gloria Steinem, Shelby Knox, Katie Couric, Rachel Maddow, Samantha Bee, Amy Poehler, and many others.

I have one quibble with the book, or at least one that won’t be too much of a spoiler.  Traister writes about the people who tended to support the different candidates she discusses (by age, sex, race, etc.) and, as I noted, pays particular attention to the ire that many supposedly liberal white dudes had for HRC (also noted by others at the time, including our blogging gal pal Historiann, to whom I will be lending this book). Traister characterizes them, in passing, as straight, but doesn’t delve into that so much.  I would have liked to hear more about that, as it was always my impression at the time that many gay men were pretty enthusiastic about Hillary, even if they also had some of the misgivings that I have already mentioned (I’ll go on record, albeit pseudonymously, and put myself in this camp).  So what might this have to do with being a straight guy?  Why might some otherwise progressive straight dudes have found HRC so threatening, whereas their queer brethren did not? What might this have to do with the ways that straight men and gay men differently interact with (straight) women? I’ve got my theories but I would have loved to have heard Traister’s.

In sum, for those of us who are progressive and feminist, the book is pretty absorbing.  For those of us who hope to see the day when a woman sits in the Oval Office, particularly a feminist woman, it’s a must-read. Traister believes that the 2008 elections actually got us closer to that goal.  I sure hope she’s right.

Christian Radio Road Trip

Posted in politics, travel by Blake on August 21, 2010

My regular driving pals: Renée and Steve

I recently completed a little road trip all by my lonesome: San Francisco to D-Town.  Before leaving I dutifully printed out my NPR map (courtesy of  I can hardly stand to be in my car without Steve & Renée; Robert, Melissa, and Michele. What I had forgotten, however, was that good portions of the drive through Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming on I-80 leave you out of range of local NPR stations.  I did have some CDs with me but for whatever reason I ended up just flipping through various radio stations until NPR came back to me.  And guess what I found?  Christian radio.  Lots and lots of Christian radio.

I don’t want to get into a long discussion here about religion. This post is meant to be about Christian radio specifically, not Christianity as a whole.  Here’s my beef: no matter the subject up for discussion the answer to every single question, problem, conundrum, or mystery is the same on Christian radio: God.  Why did it happen? God.  Who made it happen? God. How did it happen? God. When did it happen?  Whenever God felt like it should.  To whom did it happen? Whomever God chose. This may well be the party line in certain Christian denominations but it makes for incredibly boring radio.  In under an hour you quickly realize that there are not going to be any surprises coming your way.

Until I realized that there were indeed surprises, and not particularly pleasant ones either.  In one segment the host was interviewing Lynn Cherry, co-author (with her daughter) of Kalyn’s Secret, the story of Kalyn’s abuse by an older member of the Cherrys’ church.  While this is clearly a serious issue, it quickly spiraled into a condemnation of the “teaching” of homosexuality in schools, and of Islam, as the host trotted out the specter of the prophet Mohammed’s child bride.  But Kalyn, of course, was abused by a male fellow parishioner in the church where her father was pastor.  In other words, not a lesbian or a Muslim.  I was flabbergasted.  How on earth could these things be related? Was no one else stunned by these leaps?

And that’s just the news and “debate” portion of the show (the latter in quotation because there never really is any debate). The music, too, is all about God (or his kid).  Almost every singer either praises the Lord or hopes desperately that s/he could return to properly loving God.  While secular music tends to dwell on one theme (love and sex) a little more than most others, at least other themes do exist (revenge, sadness, joy, depression, California gurls being unforgettable).  Not so much on Christian radio.

Driving through Eastern Nevada (surely one of the ugliest places in this great nation of ours) I heard an interview with Cathy Liggett, author of Beaded Hope, a novel about four Ohio women who embark on a mission to South Africa to help AIDS patients. While Liggett was extremely articulate about South Africa, AIDS, and the novel’s theme of female friendship across racial and national divides, she also fell back into the same old rhetoric when explaining how she came to write the book. Why did it take her so long to finish the novel after she’d started it?  God’s plan.  How did she come to have the money to journey to South Africa to do the research for the novel?  Once again, the Big G.

I tune in to the radio either for music or to learn something new about the world, something that I didn’t know before.  It became clear to me that Christian radio might offer the former but not so much on the latter.  It simply confirmed — over and over and over again — what listeners presumably believed already.  It also offered up passivity and abnegation of responsibility as a strategy for living. If everything is God’s plan, what decisions do we actually make for ourselves?  Who is responsible for his or her life?  Most of the people on Christian radio seemed to think that God was.  And that left me a wee bit scared.

Church Equals State

Posted in politics by Alastair on February 25, 2010

This post via The Denver Egotist. Sarcasm or not, I’m glad I live in Denver…                                           and NOT in Colorado Springs.

White Fence Farm! (Part Two)

Posted in food, politics by Blake on November 23, 2009

Loyal readers of DaOiD will recall that this weekend my gentleman friend (GF) from out of town and I ventured out to the White Fence Farm (WFF) in Lakewood so that we might relive some of GF’s childhood memories.  And eat fried chicken, ‘cause we are two homos who don’t shun the fatty foods.  (See Part One of this scintillating two-part epic for the back story.)

Darlene's "Welcome Card"

Aside from the fact that the chicken was delicious – and comes with all-you-can-eat corn fritters sprinkled with sugar (very tasty), choice of potato, and a variety of side salads – the highlight of the entire trip has to have been our waitress, Darlene.  Soon after being seated, Darlene approached our table, introduced herself, and then put a card on our table, explaining,  “I’ll just leave you with my welcome card.”  And indeed Darlene’s card (see above) gave us her name and told us that she would be looking forward to serving us.  I don’t want to dwell too much on this, but we were a little confused by the welcome card. I have never, ever seen such a thing, and I’ve been dining out for some time.  The handwritten note clearly added to the homey atmosphere but the card itself seemed a little redundant; Darlene had, after all, just told us much of what was written on the card.  Was it perhaps for the hearing impaired?  Does every waitress at WFF have these cards or did Darlene have them made up special just for her tables?

Darlene proved to be very chatty throughout our time there so GF took it upon himself to find out a little bit about the history of WFF in Lakewood.  He explained that he was from Chicago and asked Darlene which WFF came first: Chicago or Lakewood?  This may have been our first error, though it was an innocent mistake.  While the answer itself was perfectly innocuous (Chicago), it clearly alerted Darlene to the fact that she had a Chicago native on her hands.  And so the next time she came ‘round to check on us, she launched: “Now I don’t know about which political party this would be” – and yes, it began that confusingly – “but have you ever been to the South Side of Chicago?” she asked GF.  “Because I have a good girlfriend in Chicago” – incidentally, why do straight women, and Darlene was unquestionably a heterosexualist, insist on calling their female friends girlfriends? – “and she told me that even though that’s where Obama said he was a community organizer, it’s still just really awful, just a slum.”  “Slum” was sort of whispered.  In essence what she seemed to be implying was that in talking about his experience as a community organizer she believed Obama was also claiming that he had “fixed” the problem of poverty on Chicago’s South Side.  And yet he hadn’t. Ergo, he was a liar.

We were a bit slow on the uptake, so didn’t react quite as forcefully in the president’s defense as we could have, but we mostly said that we didn’t think any one person could “fix” an entire neighborhood’s poverty and that we didn’t think that’s what he’d claimed, regardless.  And then she started talking about Sarah Palin and how people shouldn’t really criticize her and how she should have attacked Obama more for his character, which, she seemed to be implying, was clearly flawed, as he had misrepresented his experience in Chicago.  She was nothing but friendly the entire time and never in the least aggressive, just chatty.

Several things were a wee bit stunning about this to my gentleman friend and me.  In no particular order, they are:

1. Q: What waitress in her right mind talks politics with her customers?  She is, after all, dependent on tips.

A: The waitress who assumes that all people whom she serves will agree with her politically.             Apparently there is indeed a big difference between Lakewood – or at least the patrons of the               “family-oriented” WFF – and my little cocoon of Denver.

2. Maybe Denver isn’t nearly so bad as I had been thinking it was!  I have a good liberal Democrat as my representative in Congress.  I live surrounded by gays and at least a (small) handful of people of color.  I had always realized that living in my former urban home and working in the field that I do allowed me to surround myself almost exclusively with people with whom I agree politically.  (While I recognize that this makes me insulated and sheltered, I don’t mind, because Republicans make me angry.) I guess most of Denver allows for this as well and it took a trip to Lakewood to remind me of this.  Go Denver!

3. It also reminded me of Elizabeth Kolbert’s recent review of Cass Sunstein’s new book on rumors in The New Yorker and her discussion of the ways that surrounding yourself with people who agree with you – especially on the internets – allows you to keep on believing falsehoods.  Like this one.

4. Of course this cuts both ways.  Leftists can surround themselves with their own ilk, thus reinforcing the beliefs they have already, too.  And apparently that’s what I’ve done in Denver.  But, as Kolbert points out in her review, the right wing has developed a fringe that just makes shit up, like the entire idiotic Obama birther movement.  And then people talk amongst themselves – and only amongst themselves – and the ideas gain traction.

We began, dear readers, eating fried chicken and we ended talking politics.  Maybe you will be reluctant to return to DaOiD because of this.  And maybe I should be reluctant to return to White Fence Farm.

Except that the chicken sure was good, even if it is planted with an American flag, almost like the moon.  And there was a nice selection of knick knacks in the Americana Barn (Christmas is approaching).  And I had a great time petting Tic (or maybe it was Tac).  Finally, and perhaps most importantly, a trip to Lakewood is actually a good reminder that I don’t have it so bad in Denver after all.   Besides, if the GF returns to these parts I have a distinct feeling that I shan’t have much of a choice in the matter; he loves him some corn fritters.