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?