Tuesday, September 24, 2013

eating in San Francisco

My food choices are decidedly un-geeky: no canned caffeine-laden drinks, no fast food, and no processed snacks for me. I lean toward the freshest kill you can get, unless it's dry cured meats or aged cheese. I also think the best food in the world can be found in France, Italy, coastal Mexico, New Orleans, New York City (Manhattan/Brooklyn and Northern California. The best dishes use the fewest number of ingredients and require highly skilled techniques to pull the right combination of flavor, aroma, and presentation from those ingredients. I'm not a big fan of overly seasoned food; anyone can add spices, the test of a fine chef is to do so with a careful hand.

Several times each week I'm asked what restaurants in San Francisco I frequent, and for some reason, I often feel like a Portola Valley Deer stunned by headlights from a Range Rover. I've been eating out so often and for so long that I really have a hard time picking out my favorites when I'm put on the spot. The problem is... there's just so many good ones that new ones are added to my list almost weekly and recently, many of my favorite old ones have had to be dropped off my list because of repeated mediocre or bad experiences. For instance, Anchor Oyster Bar has been one of my most favorite hangouts since the late eighties, but over the last two years, it's gone steadily downhill. And though one of their best chefs, Jon Hearnsberger has opened Fable, across the street, it still hasn't made it onto my favorites list because it can be tough to get in, it's so popular.

This morning, I was requested to type of a list for some visiting friends and before I knew it, I had a pretty good list. Here it is:

(Note: Edited the list further 04/01/2014)

Saturday or Sunday brunch
Foreign Cinema - my favorite overall rest. in the city. 
Mission Beach Cafe - excellent pastry chef also
Le Zinc (do the pre-fixe) 
Brenda's French Soul Food (everyday brekkie)
Boogaloos (everyday brekkie dive that is ultra clean,  arrive before ten to avoid the line)
Slow Club
The Ramp (great dive outside on the water, best on warm days)
Garden Court at the Palace (for the atmosphere mostly)
Elite Cafe

Foreign Cinema (great for events, great for 
Boulevard (if no reservation, eat at the bar overlooking food prep for drop in)
Frances (reserve well in advance or call for late cancellations, drop in for dessert after 9!)
Ichi Sushi
Chez Papa
Garcon! (Charlounet is my favorite waiter on the planet, love the staff, chef, gets better each year)
Fable (The every talented chef Jon Hearnsberg is destined for greatness)
Fifth Floor

Casual Dinner:
Abbot's Cellar
Mission Bowl
Mission Chinese
Chez Maman
Blue Plate
Locals Corner (Lunch also!)
Lupa (real Roman italian)
La Ciccia (mostly stick to the pasta and fish dishes and don't order pizza here, it's AWFUL!)
Front Porch (pretty good fried chic)
Baby Blues BBQ
Manora's Thai
Amber Dhara (indian)
Contigo (tapas)

Lunch (any of these work for dinner as well):
Delfina Pizzeria (if you like true Neapolitan style pizza, great wine and side dishes - try the Napolitana Pizza! You'll crave it forever...and the fried fish is simple and amazing!)
Tacolicious (on Valencia) (huge margarita menu and the bar next door has great Tacos al Pastor at night and more types of tequilas)
Cityview (dim sum)
SuperDuper (best burgers, fries and shakes)
Hog Island Oyster Co. (ferry building - they are expanding, so expect great things to come!))
Ferry Building Restaurants
Chez Maman (it's a counter, related to Chez Papa, but it't true French Bistro and the show is the staff - who I love)
Sandwiches from Bi-Rite Market or Ike's and then hang out at Dolores Park
Hamano (sushi that's excellent and not overly seasoned nigiri)
La Taqueria (order Tacos Dorado with cheese and avocado and mild salsa, the rest of the menu is as good as any taqueria in town. Note: add heat form the green bottle at your table)
El Techo de Lolinda (rooftop dining and bar in the Mission)
Marcello's (to grab a slice, New York Style)
K-Pop (straightforward Korean - great sticky fried chicken)
Mau (vietnamese)

Decent Tourist Traps: (Staff doesn't care because tourists don't tip like locals do, so expect lackluster service, but a non-obsequiously friendly patient, friendly attitude can make a big difference and make up your mind quickly, donlt ask too many questions if the place is busy)
The Franciscan
Slanted Door
Boulette's Larder
Swan Oyster Depot
Yank Sing
Waterfront (big bar also with excellent bay view )
Epic Roadhouse (good bar, also good bay view)

Best Sweets:
Noe Valley Bakery (try a snickers bomb or any of the stuffed cupcakes like mostess or fleur d'sel - you'll never want a dry overly sweet frosted cupcake again)
Dandelion Chocolate
BiRite Creamery (if the line is too long - go to the softserve window get soft serve and/or the ice cream sandwich with roasted banana ice cream covered with salty oat walnut cookies)
Dianda's (italian pastries)
Stella Pastry & Cafe (Sacripantina is vanilla cake and whipped cream - you have to try it's subtle wonderousness)
Tartine (is very popular but I think overrated - their bread is to die for)

Ritual Roasters
Blue Bottle
Four Barrel

My new favorite brews their own beer and makes the best BBQ I've had outside of Texas:
Southpaw BBQ (Mission Street near 17th) added 02/05/2014
Blondie's Bar and No Grill
Luna Park (good food too)
El Techo de Lolinda (rooftop)
Bar Agricole (good brunch too)
Pedro's (across from AT&T Park - Giants games are a blast here)
Gitane (high quality food, too)
Fifth Floor (great bar and their cheese options are fantastic)

On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays the Ferry Building hosts a Farmer Market
that has restaurants on the street that serve up some of the best food you can imagine.

If you walk Valencia Street between 16th and 24th Streets) there are so many new, hot restaurants opening that I can't begin to keep track of them. If you love Chocolate check out Dandelion Chocolate. Now considered some of the best Chocolate in the world by those in the know. They make all the chocolate there from the beans, while you watch. Great pastries and hot chocolate, too.

This list is not exhaustive, there are so many excellent restaurants that it's almost impossible to include every excellent or very good resto in the city, but these will get you a sense of where a native San Franciscan eats regularly.


#dining #san francisco #local #favorite #best #rich #mccracken #lunch #dinner #bar #hangout

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Putin saving the day?

My response to Vladimir Putin's Op-Ed piece in the New York Times:

Mr. Putin, you writing about dangerous exceptionalism is priceless, coming from one of the most dangerously unexceptional leaders on the planet. Time and again Mr. Putin, you have proven yourself to be nothing more than a thug. Your recent campaign of hatred launched against your own gay and lesbian citizens is more revealing of your true nature and motives than this duplicitous attempt to manipulate the very exceptionally hopeful, kind, and generous Americans whom you disparage as "dangerous". You are very clever to use this line of reasoning to speak to us at this time when we are tired of standing up to despots like you who seek nothing but the power to dominate all. I for one, am not fooled. Not one bit.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

the roots of this summer's epidemic of hate crimes

Islan Nettles, a beautiful 21 year old student who was pursuing her dream of becoming a successful fashion designer, was out for a walk with friends when Paris Wilson and a group of angry young men shouted homophobic slurs and began beating her into a coma. She died from those injuries last Thursday.

Michael Felenchak and Peter Nortman had gone out to the movies and were leaving the multiplex holding hands when a group of six young men brutally beat them while shouting homophobic slurs. The two men were hospitalized, suffering broken bones and needing stitches.

Mark Carson, a frozen yogurt store manager, was heading home with a friend just after midnight on a Saturday night in May when he was accosted by Elliot Morales, who taunted him with homophobic slurs and then shot him in the face, killing him.

These victims are not alone. There has been a rising epidemic of bashings and killings all over America this summer. In New York City alone, once thought to be a safe haven for gays and lesbians, hate crimes doubled over a six month period when compared to last year's total. What has caused this dramatic change? As gay men and women have begun, for the first time, a long, steady streak of huge gains in public opinion polls, at the ballot box, and in the courts, Christian Evangelicals have exponentially increased their hate-filled rhetoric, using lies and propaganda to incite a violent and murderous holy war against them.

Pat Robertson, founder and Chairman of the Christian Broadcast Network (CBN), rules over an influential and successful multi-billion dollar media empire that claims to reach half a billion viewers, through its programs and preaches its beliefs to billions further through it's ministries in countries all over the planet. Robertson and the CBN were instrumental in convincing Uganda to adopt a "kill the gays" law that requires the death penalty for convicted homosexuals of the growing African nation where CBN has provided tens of millions in aid.

Yesterday, after steadily increasing his anti-gay rhetoric all summer, Mr. Robertson claimed to hundreds of millions of viewers that gay men with AIDS (HIV) wear sharp rings to purposely infect innocent people with the virus by shaking hands and cutting them:
You know what they do in San Francisco? Some in the gay community there, they want to get people. So if they got the stuff (HIV) they’ll have a ring, you shake hands and the ring’s got a little thing where you cut your finger. Really. It’s that kind of vicious stuff, which would be the equivalent of murder.
Robertson also recently claimed that gay men are bent on the destruction of the church, the military, marriage, businesses, and all of society, saying homosexuals are possessed by demons, are equivalent to rapists,murderers, and pedophiles.

Robertson hasn't been working alone, Bryan Fischer broadcasts his anti-gay rhetoric for two hours each day reaching tens of millions of listeners through the American Family Association's 180 radio stations in over 40 states. Two days ago, Fischer lauded Russia's recent criminalization of gay men and women, who have begun to be rounded and up and brutalized, under a false propaganda law. Fischer states, "this is the sort of public policy that we've been advocating" but, he says, "the law doesn't go far enough." In the past, Fischer has promoted the murdering of gay men and lesbians through a "kill the gays bill."

Bradlee Dean, a recovering drug addict and convicted criminal, hosts "The Sons of Liberty Radio" Show broadcast and webcast to millions of American homes weekly. On their show this weekend, Dean's co-host Jake McMillan stated, “half of the murders in large cities were committed by homosexuals; thirty-three percent of child abuse cases were committed by homosexuals; half of the foster children molestations were done by homosexuals.”

There is no evidence to support any of these statistics, so one need hardly guess at the purposes of disseminating these lies.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, has listed Robertson, Fischer, Dean and McMillan as members of anti-gay hate groups whose soul purpose is create a hostile environment for gays and lesbians, with their stated ultimate goal of incarceration followed by the death penalty.

With hate crimes against gays and lesbians rising to record levels this year, it appears these hate groups have begun to achieve their goals. With the gay rights movement being the longest and most peaceful the world has ever seen, the question is, how long before gay men and lesbians begin to fight back preemptively? Will they fight for their lives when their government offers no protection from harm?

#gay #hate #crime #new york #city #christian #epidemic #crime #bashing #death #fundamentalist #group #robertson #fischer #dean #mcmillan #lesbians #lgbt #marriage #equality

Friday, August 23, 2013

a star being born

I'm an amateur astronomer and own a relatively small 8" Schmidt Cassegrain telescope that allows views of the rings on Saturn, the giant red spot and four largest moons of Jupiter, the Ring nebula, and other deep sky objects from the comfort of home. Imagine then, an array of 66 radio telescopes, each the size of a house, linked together to provide 5 times the resolution of the Hubble Space Telescope.

The Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) sits on a high mountaintop plateau in Chile. Located in one of the driest, and most isolated places on earth, ALMA has a clear, highly-detailed view into the universe. Becoming fully operational in March, one of ALMA's first observations is of a dense star -forming cloud of gas and dust located 1400 light years from Earth. On the edge of that cloud a star is forming and ALMA is giving us a ring-side view of the process.
Jets of hot gas shoot out from the igniting star at 1million kph
As the massive, dense cloud of gas and dust begins to collapse under gravity, the protostar begins to accrete a disc of that gas and dust which begins to spin and as the disc feeds the protostar, it ignites, sending jets of hot gas out into space at speeds up to one million kilometers per hour.

It's hard to conceptualize how far away the baby star is, so the staff at ALMA has provided us with a short video to make understanding easier.

The process of star formation has been theorized for quite some time, but only in the last few decades with more powerful telescopes like Hubble and ALMA to aid us, have we become able to observe the actual birth process of stars. 

Using time-lapse imaging from Hubble observations over a 14 year period we're able to see the process in action from a few different star forming regions.

One day it may be possible for humans to visit these star forming regions of space and view the process with our own own eyes. Until then,  ALMA and even more powerful telescopes that are planned or under construction will be the eyes to our dreams and the fuel for our aspirations.

Friday, August 2, 2013

watching movies on the big screen.

Movies were NOT meant to be watched on a smart phone, an iPad, an airplane/jet, a television set, or any other small screen. They weren't meant to compete with the phone ringing or pressing pause to take out the recycling. They are meant to be larger than life with big image and big sound, with the audience isolated from the real world.

I'm a movie geek. The first film I saw at a theater was "The Ten Commandments." The entire family was at the drive-in, the screen was enormous, and so was the scope of the movie. I was transported out of the family car and into a vast, vivid world, filled with more variety than I had previously imagined. I laughed at the things my parents laughed at and I cried when Moses' mother was almost crushed under a rolling stone block. My teeth almost dropped out of my jaw when the Red Sea parted, and I shivered with a weird combo of fright and exhilaration when ghostly death took the lives of Egypt's first-born.

A few years later, when I was taken on a school outing to see 2001: a Space Odyssey, I began to see that movies could be a door to the future as well as the past, and with Star Wars, as I was journeying off to University, I travelled to fight the evil Empire with two droids and Luke Skywalker on a fairytale-western adventure in Space. Anything was possible, and I embraced movie going with a passion that has yet to diminish.

As home video took off, I purchased a Betamax VCR and suddenly, I could watch any movie at home, at anytime. The novelty and instant gratification was so satisfying, I didn't notice that I was only seeing one-half, or less, of the image, and the sound was only in mono. Over time, as Dolby Surround became available, Laserdisc increased the resolution and added letter-boxing or widescreen, I upgraded my system and my screen size to accommodate the new technologies. The one thing I was missing: A projected image on a big screen in a cinema-like room.

One night, after enduring yet another rowdy crowd and a broken sound system at a local cinema, I vowed to start improving my system at home, so that I wouldn't be stuck paying twenty bucks for a drink and popcorn and $7.50 for a ticket to a theater owned by folks who didn't care about me.

The screen slid down from the drapes above the fireplace
In 1995, Michael and I finally bought a LCD projector and a 100" screen at our favorite retailer, LaserCity.  I designed some draperies to surround the screen and blackout our windows, installed some CineLoungers just like I'd sat in at Skywalker Ranch, painted the room a dark, non-reflecting color, installed a THX 5.1 surround sound system, and wow!  I had a theater at home to rival the best in San Francisco.
CineLoungers: the Lazyboy of Home Theater

The image wasn't quite there yet, but in 2005, with Blu-ray and the Sony Pearl, it was hard to tell the difference.

When we were able to finally remodel our 1870's Victorian, we decided to put in a dedicated room. We were able to get Russ Berger and Associates' Chuck Chile to design a perfect viewing space with an image that is like IMAX at home and the sound is perfection.

There is so much engineering involved in creating a perfect cinema space that I've now far surpassed anything a local Cinema can offer except one thing: a big noisy crowd of strangers. When I want that, I can still go out, pay the 15 to 25 bucks and watch the current blockbuster. Thankfully, the local Cineplexes, fighting for the customers that they once took for granted, now offer a better experience. Although a night out with a reserved seat and expensive, mediocre food will set you back fifty to a hundred bucks. There is still something special about an enthusiastic opening night crowd at a summer blockbuster, but there's also something to be said for watching 2001: A Space Odyssey or The Godfather at 2 AM when I can't sleep.

The other night, I popped in a Blu-ray of the Ten Commandments. Even though I've seen the movie a bunch of times on TV, I hadn't seen it on the big screen since I was a little kid. Once again, I was transported out of my body and into the biblical world created by Cecil B. DeMille fifty-six years ago. The movie, though a little overacted and stagey for my modern tastes, was wonderful. It was better than I remembered.

I know that not everyone is as fortunate as I am, but you can go out to the movies or to an exhibition at the local restored movie palace to see a movie in all it's glory. Just maybe, the reason you didn't like a given movie like 2001? You didn't see it on the big screen.

The Shawshank Redemption never looked or sounded better

A lobby area with pinballs and movie posters help to set the mood

A beer with your popcorn?Light or Dark?

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

being a Geek (or Nerd)

Yesterday, I posted about why the world needs Star Trek. I'm going to need to add a part two because there's so much that I left out. In lieu of doing that today, I have a related short video that I'd like to share. It's from a guy named Wil Wheaton (the H is silent in Wil - if you don't get it, you are not a geek, yet!). Wil played Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation. At a Star Trek convention in April, he was asked a question about being a geek/nerd. Click on the YouTube vid to see what he awesomely said:

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Why the world needs Star Trek

I originally wrote this article sometime in 2005 after the movie Star Trek: Nemesis had underperformed at the box office and Paramount was considering pulling the plug on the series, Star Trek: Enterprise.

It's hard for me to imagine a world without Star Trek since the show and movies have always been there, touching my life in one way or another. Now that production of new shows (and movies) has come to an end, I wonder: What will the world be like without Star Trek?

Avery Brooks, "Captain Sisko" was my teacher and mentor at Rutgers.  His Alternate Styles (of acting) class was my favorite class, and I still draw on what he taught me when I need to create anything. He's a gifted musician and spiritual seeker, and when someone like Avery touches your life, you grow in many unforseen ways. The man is a nexus.

Gates (Cheryl) McFadden "Beverly Crusher" and Steven Culp "Major Hayes" were friends and roommates of my husband's when they were all at Brandeis. I don't know Gates, but Steven is one of my favorite people on the planet. He's one of the smartest, hard-working, talented, generous, kind-hearted and funny humans I've ever known, and if we didn't live so far away, I have no doubt that he and his wife would be among our closest friends. Another link has come from my screenwriters' group here in Los Angeles where some of the writers from Star Trek: The Next Generation and other series are members. It's a strange coincidence that these writers, actors and I have even connected. I've never been to a Star Trek convention and other than my fascination with the original series when I was a young boy, there is no reason I should have met anyone connected to Star Trek other than fellow fans.

It's 1966 and I'm a good-looking, outgoing eight-year old boy, who is not unhappy, exactly, but I feel like I just don't fit in. I'm too smart for my age and not athletic enough because I have no father in my life to teach me the things a boy needs to know to play sports. I'm too sensitive and empathetic, too curious, too visible to escape the fact that everyone can tell that there is something unusual, or alien about me. My eyes are way too blue and piercing, I keep hearing the adults whisper behind my back, and my mom doesn't help matters when she reminds our relatives and close friends that I was born with an lacy cowl or fatty membrane protecting me. From what I don't know. The biting sarcasm of demons perhaps?

It doesn't help that I used words that were too big for normal adult conversation, was constantly reading anything I could get my hands on, and whenever anything about the Space Program was on TV, it was like I was in my own impenetrable bubble, or the cone of silence from Get Smart. My first grade report card says something like "Richard is exceeding all expectations but when he gets up from his nap he sometimes wakes with a sadness, and hides the fact that he has tears in his eyes. When I ask him what is wrong, he says that the other kids are mean. When I ask him who is being mean to him, he corrects me and says, "they are mean to each other.""

One other thing you should also know is that I didn't speak for several months when I was five. Someone turned on the evening news with Walter Cronkite one May night in 1963 and as usual, I had my eyes glued to the TV when I saw young children being propelled on their backs with water from a firehose, and giant dogs were ripping and biting them. I loved dogs. I loved water! How could this be? It was horrific and I remember crying as if the world had just come to an end. To me it had. Those children from Birmingham, Alabama were being treated in a way that I found so monstrous that I believe all my nightmares for the rest of my life would come from those unspeakably heartbreaking images. I wouldn't be able to speak for the rest of the summer as I began to learn the long sad history of racism in America. I learned about the methodologies of meanness and cruelty that humans have perpetrated on each other since time began. I didn't belong on this planet. There must be some mistake.

So you can imagine what it was like for me, a few years later when a new color television broadcast the first episodes of Star Trek. Here was a world, a galaxy that I could relate to. Captain James T. Kirk was the father figure that I had hungered for all my childhood: he was clever, funny, strong, handsome, and the absolute embodiment of good. His crew was made up of all those lovely people that didn't look exactly like me but we were the same. They worked together to solve problems, stay alive, and explore strange new worlds. They did this without resorting to firehoses or police dogs. They were respectful, kind and helpful to each other. I was in heaven.

I knew that as long as there was a TV show like Star Trek, there were other people like me in the world. I would be OK. We would be OK as long as we continued to reach out, explore strange new worlds and seek out new civilizations. As long as we boldly went where none of us had gone before, we would not stagnate. We would not turn on each other as the world would get smaller and smaller.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Ender's Game and my thoughts on the boycott

My first blog for Geek Out On... , way back in June of last year, was about the film, Ender's Game, based on the novel by Orson Scott Card. If you read the blog entry here, you'll see that I was very excited about the cast and crew finally completing principle photography. I had been waiting since the award winning book was published in 1985 for the movie to be made, and my hope was in turns, renewed and dashed as rumors of the film project's development started and sputtered many times over the next 20 years.

I hadn't heard of Orson Scott Card's political views when I wrote my blog post, but I did become aware of them after my good friend, Stan Heller, having read my post, told me about Mr. Card's affiliation with the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), a well known anti-gay hate group. Mr. Card serves on the board of NOM and has donated substantial money and time to keep people like me from enjoying the rights and privileges that he enjoys.

Deeply crushed by the news that one of my favorite writers had done and written some pretty hurtful things about me, it took me some time to shake off the damage, but I did... mostly. When you look up to someone and then find out that they're not who you thought they were, it hurts, no matter how old you get, it hurts. Granted, I'd been in a similar position before when I found out that Thomas Jefferson had slaves when he wrote the phrase "all men are equal" and Richard Wagner was a notorious anti-semite when he wrote his opus Ring Cycle; All heroes are human and full of inconsistencies. "I'm no longer a child," I thought, "why am I so upset about this?"

Though I don't think we've ever met, Mr. Card and I consider ourselves Christians (I'm not a Mormon, but I've had many friends who are, and my Jewish grandfather married a Mormon woman whom I loved very much), we've worked in theater for much our younger lives, we're writers, we love reading history and speculative fiction. Mr. Card is the same age as my eldest sister and he could probably pass as my older brother; I certainly looked up to him like a younger brother would. Maybe that explains some of the hurt. Emotions are funny things, illogical, trouble inducing, and the cause of all human suffering. Mr. Spock (Gene Roddenberry) was right.

A year had gone by and I hadn't made up my mind about whether I was going to go see the movie or not. It doesn't open until November 1, so like all clever humans, I defer difficult decisions until I absolutely need to act. A few weeks ago, I look at my blog stats and they're through the roof! Oh boy, my usually sluggish blog site that I've been barely posting to over the past year has much more interest. Why? I start searching around and the answer is clear: a boycott of the film has been called from a website called Geeks Out.

My first reaction was one of solidarity, but as time has worn on and I've reflected on how I feel, I'm not so sure. I've been able to rationalize buying very expensive CDs of Wagner's Ring, I am still a fan of Thomas Jefferson and his writings. I buy things all the time from those I don't agree with. I don't agree with anyone about everything. Who does?

The difference, though is Mr. Card gives his money and time to a group that actively seeks to reduce me to a second class citizen by keeping me from enjoying the same rights that he enjoys. He does this, even though he knows that he is wrong. He continues doing so because he is part of a group who has benefitted from scapegoating my group to gain money and power. If you don't believe me, then I dare you to read my blog post on the subject several times with an open mind.

At the prompting of the film studio who is backing Ender's Game, and fearful that a boycott of the movie would jeopardize box-office receipts, Mr. Card wrote a short-sighted non-apology in Entertainment Weekly stating that "With the recent Supreme Court ruling, the gay marriage issue becomes moot." He then cleverly taunts,"Now it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute."

Orson Scott Card is asking me to turn the other cheek and forgive him. As a life-long follower of Christ, I'm inclined to do so.

#ender #boycott #movie #card #orson #mormon #anti-gay #gay #marriage #hate #christian

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Gays Winning, Christians Losing in America’s Marketplace of Ideas

Two recent Supreme Court rulings in favor of same-sex marriage highlight fast and steady progress gays and lesbians are making over long-held Christian ideas of morality. Decades of polling show that the gay perspective continues to gain favorably in the court of public opinion, while the Christian perspective continues to decline. Why is a forty-five year old newcomer supplanting a two thousand year old movement?

Disregarding the Golden Rule
“You should treat everyone as you would hope to be treated by everyone” is a concept as old as ancient Babylon, though it’s often attributed to the founder of Christianity, Jesus Christ, and is the basis on which the government of the United States of America was founded, a belief that all men are created equal.
The idea of basic fairness is so strongly held as an American ideal, that any movement seeking to supplant it is deservedly doomed to eventual failure.  In 1977, Anita Bryant, a popular Evangelical Christian role model and spokesperson for Florida Orange Juice, launched a demonizing campaign against the gay community that eventually allowed for gays to be persecuted across the entire country by taking away their right to housing and employment. Bryant founded Save Our Children, using the historically effective defaming tactic of protecting children from sexual predation to further marginalize gays worked: Laws allowing discrimination were quickly passed in nearly every state and locality, making it nearly impossible for gays and lesbians to exist at all, for without a home or job, how can one exist? How can the golden rule exist with such punitive and unfair laws?
The overreaching cruelty of these laws is slowly causing a backlash of compassion and rationality across the country. Seventeen states have banned housing discrimination, while twenty-one states prohibit workplace discrimination. Though recent polls suggest that between 52% and 73% of Americans (depending on the state) believe these practices of discrimination already are, or should be, illegal, attempts to pass a federal law protecting these basic rights has yet to succeed, mainly due to opposition by Evangelical Christians in Congress who increasingly look out of step with the rest of America.
Unfair and Inconsistent Interpretation of Biblical Texts
Evangelical Christians argue that they are following God's laws when explaining why it is their moral obligation to deny gays and lesbians basic rights. We would assume then, that Christians would follow all of God’s laws equally.  Let’s take one of those laws, “Keeping the Sabbath holy”, as an example. This law is elevated to being one of the Ten Commandments, so one would think that all Evangelicals would follow it to the absolute letter.
Since the laws were given to Moses, Sabbath began on Friday night and continued until sundown on Saturday. No work of any kind was to be performed, in keeping with God’s law, and no machine or tool was to be used.
What’s the first thing the Evangelical Christians do to God’s law? They change it to Sunday. Then they fool with the sundown-to-sundown part of the rule and ignore the machines and tools part to make it more convenient.
Nor do Evangelicals adhere to the Old Testament laws of Kashrut proscribing the eating, wearing, or touching of any part of a pig, or eating shellfish. Nor is there slavish adherence to Biblical laws concerning beards, covering one’s head, women speaking in church, women as property, divorce, slavery, polygamy (which is allowed), treatment of the poor, rape, allowable child and spousal abuse. These and many, many other laws clearly specified in scripture are equivocated or completely ignored by all Christians who state that they are “free from the law.” This is very strange in light of Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount, in which Christ states that he did not come to abolish the law, but fulfill it.
Modern Evangelicals proclaim that loving and building a life with someone of the same sex is an unforgivable sin, though that actual “sin” is never mentioned negatively in the bible, and is often equated by Christians as equal to sex with animals, stealing, pedophilia, and murder. Abusive and predatory same-sex acts, or same-sex acts done in pagan ritual are listed as an abomination, as are eating shellfish and having sex with your wife around or during menstruation, as are all sex acts done outside of marriage.
Loving, committed same-sex relations are only mentioned in a favorable light. In 1, 2 Samuel, the highly regarded (King) David and Jonathan’s special love was so intense that they “became one”, and their love was  “more wonderful than what a man feels for a woman.” It’s perplexing that this clear example of same-sex love is completely ignored by most Christians, Evangelical or not. When asked why, you;; hear the same disingenuous answer. “hey, they were just best friends, not homos!”
Fred Phelps of the “God Hate’s Fags” movement is not an anomaly among Evangelical Christians. Michelle Bachman, Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, Marco Rubio and every Evangelical Christian Republican leader has made statements equating gay people with alcoholism, drug-addiction, child-molestation, bestiality, and murder.
Why does the sin of same-sex love become a “deal-breaker” sin, when no such sin exists in the laws of God and if it were a sin, why is it one so heinous when, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:23?
Singling gay people out for bullying with the bible makes Evangelical Christians look like mean-spirited hypocrites who use gay people as scapegoats to gain power and wealth.
Demanding Impossible Change
Evangelical Christians believe that same–sex attraction is caused by turning one’s soul away from God, the result of being a deeply sinful person. Once a homosexual submits to God and admits his sin, healing can begin and eventually heterosexual attraction will replace the “warped sexuality” of the sinner through reparative therapy. The American Psychiatric Association, American Medical Association, and every respected scholarly study done since the 1950’s concludes that same-sex attraction is as immutable as opposite-sex attraction, and there is no compelling evidence that either attraction can be changed.

Evidence confirms that attempts to change often end in life-long depression and suicide, and as a result, many of those who were once in favor of reparative therapy have since apologized for the damage they have caused and now denounce its practice. They have been joined by parents who have seen the damage caused by this so-called therapy first-hand.  They now blame themselves and church leadership for their children’s now foreseeable suicides, and have begun to speak out against the practice.  Entrenched Christian leadership has responded to these parents and ex-leaders of reparative therapy by denouncing them, calling them traitors and liars.

History of Racism
We’ve seen this parade of righteous hatred before when verses were plucked out of scripture to legitimize slavery, white supremacy, prohibitions against interracial marriage, the right to vote, and the rights to work, sit, eat, drink and live wherever one wishes.

Catholic, Mormon, and non-African American Protestant Churches never stood up to the obvious immoral and heinous acts of cruelty visited on fellow human beings. These leaders preached from the pulpit that it was the mark of Cain (skin color) that legitimized their evil practice of bigotry. Some in the Deep South continue to preach this today.

Gay people have correctly pointed out that Evangelical Christians are just repeating the same song and dance, creating fear of them to gain power, money and influence.

Likability Factor
If you had to make a choice between Ellen DeGeneres and Sarah Palin, whom would you rather have at a dinner party? Ellen is fun, witty, intelligent, has a sense of humor, is kind, and generous. Sarah Palin ludicrously insists that we should trust her knowledge of foreign policy because she could once see Russia from her house in Alaska. Sarah is self-righteous, has absolutely no sense of humor and is just generally tiresome. I can see Ms. Palin arguing some point that no one cares about, to the point where everyone wishes she would just shut up. Thankfully, Ellen would make some funny, self-deprecating comment to take Sarah off the hot seat, have everyone laughing, including Sarah, and thereby save the entire evening from disaster.

Other possible match-ups: Elton John or Rick Santorum? David Geffen or Donald Trump? Anderson Cooper or Mitt Romney? Neil Patrick Harris or Kirk Cameron?

There’s something telling about Evangelical Christian Republican Mark Sanford’s belief that, after lying to everyone and cheating on his wife and then marrying the woman he cheated on her with, God has forgiven him so everything is okay. He was disgraced enough to step down from the Senate, but Evangelical Christian voters from his district overwhelmingly voted him back into Congress. The mindset here is, “Mark sinned and asked for our forgiveness. Since he is now washed clean by the blood of Christ, he’s good. We can trust him to not lie and cheat again.” Though the Christian penchant for forgiveness is admirable here, it looks foolish and premature. The guy continues to live with the woman he cheated with, so what about his wife? She was cast aside for a younger woman and that’s acceptable for a role model to our children?

What would’ve happened if Mark Sanford cheated with a man and later asked forgiveness and stayed with his wife? Well, Ted Haggard, the charismatic former leader of the once largest Evangelical Church in America is a pariah to most Evangelicals, living what appears to be a Christ-like life with his understanding, faithful and devoted wife, preaching a humble and true gospel, while hypocritical Evangelicals like Mark Sanford and Newt Gingrich are made leaders in our mainstream Christian Churches and society. Haggard’s homosexual fling is an unforgivable sin as judged by the community he formally served.

Gay people have a reputation for being fun, spontaneous, kind yet dishy, real, generous, open, fair, supportive, unpredictable, stylish, irreverent and are great for improving property values. Evangelical Christians have a reputation for yearning for the apocalypse (decidedly not fun), and for being self-righteous, predictable, judgmental, 1950’s hair, stingy (not good tippers), hypocritical, and tiresome. Evangelical talk about loving the sinner and hating the sin is pure nonsense. You can’t hate the deepest, most intimate expression of love that people have for each other, call it perverted, or worse, and still say you love them.

(Note: 03/38/2014 When I wrote this article back in July 2013, I had no idea that a study would back up my opinion. Here is a Huffington Post article about the study. Links to the data can be found here.

How to Behave When Tragedy Happens
Not a week goes by without Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Rick Warren, Archbishop Dolan or some other ultra-rich-mega-church leader blaming terrorist attacks, hurricanes, floods, mass shootings, or some other tragedy on gay people. They’ve learned that donations go up when you combine fear of gays and tragedy. It works every time and no matter how often you do it, some sweet little old lady living on a pension can be counted on to write a check or drop a few notes into the basket on Sunday whenever the words homosexual and destruction are uttered in the same sentence. When the heart of the homophobic Oklahoma Bible Belt is destroyed by one of the largest tornados ever seen and no gays are killed, it’s still “God’s Wrath on Gays”, according to Fred Phelps, pastor of Westboro Baptist Church.

When tragedy struck the gay community, gay men and lesbians responded, showing the world the depth of our love for each other. While the government did nothing, gay men and lesbians cared for the sick and dying, organized to help a few noble doctors find a cause, taught the world how to stem the tide of infection, pushed and prodded the slow and entrenched pharmaceutical industry to find therapies that would extend lives. We offered ourselves up as guinea pigs, sacrificing our own lives for the hope of saving others. This was all done while Evangelicals called AIDS, “Gods Judgment on the Homosexuals,” and shouted out from the pulpit, “What does Gay stand for? Got AIDS Yet?”

Though the virus is not easily transmitted and requires intimate sexual contact to spread, calls by Evangelicals Lyndon LaRouche and Mike Huckabee to round up and quarantine all gay people were seen as a fascist tactic. Since the virus that causes AIDS (HIV) has been traced to origins in Africa, where the disease had been propagating among heterosexuals for years, isolation of gay men was and is perceived as just another attempt by “Compassionate” Conservative Evangelicals to get rid of gay people.

We are Family
Gay people are members of everyone’s family. They are sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, grandchildren, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, mothers and fathers. Every family in America, in the entire world for that matter, has a gay person in it. If you condemn someone’s family member, you are doing damage to that entire family. You insult everyone and make everyone your enemy. Maybe not at first, but families reconcile and love wins over fear. Blood should be thicker than hate.

Shame on Evangelical groups like Focus on the Family for teaching the false and damaging message of “tough love, my way or the highway, you are dead to me, get out”, to parents of gay and lesbian children. The rising numbers of hopeless and homeless boys and girls who have fallen prey to drug abuse, prostitution, and suicides are the fruit of their form of Christianity. Abandoning your children is deadly wrong.

Science vs. Opinion
Christian churches have a history of persecuting, imprisoning, torturing, and killing scientists. In 1952, the creator of the first digital computer, Allen Turing, was imprisoned and then castrated for being a homosexual. Albert Einstein was demonized by the German Catholic Church and fled to the United States for his life. The Pope imprisoned Galileo for life, and Copernicus, fearing he would be burned at the stake (a common practice for those who disagreed with church doctrine) did not allow his theories to be published until after he was dead. The last Pope finally pardoned Galileo for being correct, but the poor guy has been dead for 400 years, so what’s the point?

The insistence on a literal translation of the bible for some passages and not for others creates a weird belief system that is hard to follow, is arbitrary, and shrinks God down to some kind of super-magician. For example: Radiometric dating of samples taken from the Earth, Moon and meteors places the Earth at 4.54 billion years old. Most Evangelicals, believing their currently popular (only among themselves) and newly created Intelligent Design theory, place the Earth’s age at 5,700 to 10,000 years, based on a formula derived from opinion. There is no way to test that opinion as it is based on an interpretation of language written in the book of Genesis.

Scientific Theory is a system that requires repeatable, empirical evidence to support its claims. Religion supports current popular opinion of like-minded individuals as fact. This belief says that the Creator didn’t have the skill or knowledge necessary to create subatomic particles that gave rise to a vast universe that is so big; it would take billions of years to cross just a small part of it --if you could travel at the speed of light. No, their puny god (I should say, “idol”) is like some kind of creepy Steven King character who can create something by simply thinking about it on the fly, but it still took him six days, not segments of time, but days; literally 6 – twenty-four hour days. Why is it so important to limit God?

13 billion years ago, a creative force (God) set up an incredibly complex mix of sub-atomic particles smashed into a space so tiny that they had to explode with a bang so big it created a vast universe that, after billions of years, gave rise to billions of galaxies that are made up of billions of suns and planets, blowing apart, creating new elements in vast clouds of stellar and planetary gas and dust that were pushed ever closer together by the not so gentle stellar winds from nearby stars and the constant force of gravity. This gave birth to new stars and planets, and as the planets cooled, more and more complex chemicals developed into a rich stew of gas and liquid, and after enough time and, much iteration, developed into organic life. After several billions of years, that organic life, surviving and mutating under constant bombardment of radiation from the sun, gave rise to you and me. Now that sounds like Intelligent Design! Evangelicals look silly when they deny science and it takes their organizations four hundred years to catch up.

Head in the Sand about Climate Change
For decades, Evangelical Christians denied any evidence of climate change, but recently, now agree in the face of so much overwhelming evidence, the Earth’s climate is indeed undergoing rapid change. They still maintain that it won’t be catastrophic, is not a problem and believe that man is not the cause. No reputable scientists agree with them.

So the question is, shouldn’t we be hedging our bets by making changes that make sense, like switching to LED bulbs, insulating our homes, making more efficient vehicles, using fuel cell generators, more solar, wind and wave energies? “Waste not, want not” is a very conservative principle, but seems to be abandoned by the “Conservative” Evangelical community. It’s almost like they don’t care if things start going badly for all of us. Is that because they believe that they won’t be around to suffer the consequences of their actions? Yes. That’s actually it. By bringing about a destruction of this Earth, many believe they are hastening the “end times”, when Jesus will come back and lift them up. Not the Gays, though, and not you either, unless you believe exactly what they believe. You’ll just have to suffer through it.

Government is the Boss of Your Body
If you believe public opinion polls touted by Evangelicals, Anti-Choice folks are gaining ground over those who feel that the decision should be left up to the person who is going to carry the developing fetus and give birth. Once people start living with the results of that mindset, blaming Christians is going to become the new National Sport.

Evangelicals are always complaining about big government overreaching into personal affairs except when it comes to deciding one of the most personal and intimate events in a couple’s life. Life is sacred, unless it’s been born. Then parents can pray for miracle healing instead of going to the doctor, teach children at home without any certification or proven ability, kick the child out if he or she is gay, or subject that gay child to damaging conversion therapy. If the child has become an adult and has committed a crime punishable by death, is that life no longer sacred?

The Gay Rights Movement has been one of the most peaceful movements in the history of mankind, but gay people have been and continue to be discriminated against, denied basic rights, beaten and murdered. All this has been prompted by and is the result of the unrelenting and unrepentant hate speech from Evangelical Christians. Thankfully, no Christian has ever been murdered by a gay person due to Christianity’s heinous and unforgivable behavior. Gay men and women continue to turn the other cheek despite a hostile and cruel opposition fueled largely by the Evangelical Christian Church.

You can’t hear my voice, and you can’t see my facial expressions, so you might assume that I don’t like Christians very much. That is not true. I love my Christian brothers and sisters, whether we agree or not. I was once a celebrated youth leader, teacher, choir director, leader and front man for a few Christian Rock bands. I was ostracized for questioning my sexual orientation in the late 1970’s, just when Anita Bryant began her campaign.  I still dream of a day of reconciliation, but that day has yet to come.

I write in desperate hope that the hard, but obvious truth of my words will begin to pierce hardened hearts and seared consciences that have been carefully led astray by lazy, ignorant, or avaricious leadership that will only repent when they are sure to lose power over the flocks whom they have betrayed.

I’ve been silent for far too long, silent when Christians refer to my life style as the “Gay Lifestyle.” What is that? For twenty-six years, my husband and I have gone to work, paid taxes, donated to charity, taken our dogs to the park, shopped, cooked, cleaned our home, gardened, maintain our cars, taken vacations, gone out to dinner or a bar with friends, thrown dinner parties, gone to barbecues, attended firm, lab and company picnics together, laughed and cried at weddings and funerals, and helped each other get over a cold or flu. We’ve lived our lives just like most people do if they’re lucky, and occasionally, when we’re not too busy to forget, we express to each other how much we appreciate and love each other by holding hands, or with a peck on the cheek or lips, a smile, a hug, and even sometimes when we’re not too tired…well that part is none of your business.

A few of my Christian friends believe like I do, that Jesus Christ expressed His most important message to humanity during His sermon on the mount. Bad leadership that began with Paul of Tarsus confused and distorted Jesus’ message, but using the sermon on the mount as a kind of lens, and viewing the Old (Torah) and New Testaments through that lens, we can begin to separate the kernels of wheat from the chaff and come to a more enlightened understanding of the books that became today’s Bible.

I firmly believe that those who’ve become caught up in judgment and hatred deserve our love, understanding, and patient guidance. New believers “reborn” after hearing Christ’s message are most vulnerable to established church authority and have been led astray by the very “wolves in sheep’s clothing” that Jesus warned about at the end of his sermon, knowable by their fruits. Their fruits are destruction of the family, intolerance, hatred for fairness, justice, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and unseemly hatred for those that are slightly different from them.

By their fruits, I can see the wolves. Can you?

Rich McCracken is a composer, writer and screenwriter living in California with his husband and partner of 26 years, celebrated 
intellectual property attorney, Dr. Michael J. Shuster.

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