Thursday, April 19, 2007

Back to School

I had to take a few days off from posting because my new school term began this week. My new full-time schedule leaves little time for anything else but today I wanted to write about college life. Given the tragic events this week on the campus of Virginia Tech, I felt compelled to write. While I was on my way to class on Monday, 32 lives (including one Holocaust survivor from this area) were lost in Virginia. I feel so sad for those parents and family members who lost their loved ones. Now after hearing about the gunman’s life prior to the shooting, I feel sorry for his family too. It’s very clear that the young man was severely mentally ill. If only somebody had taken the boy to get evaluated sooner, maybe this tragedy could have been avoided.

The sad fact is there are many students who are walking around many campuses in this country who may be depressed or “walking time bombs”. I know a lot about depression from having gone through a spell or two in my life. But I sought help and got it. (Thanks Dr. Murray!) And as irony would have it, I recently did a paper for my final for my psychology class on the subject of “Depression and the College Student.” What I learned in my research is that 35% of college students will at some point in their college life will suffer some level of depression. Now they may not all be as severe as the gunman, but just the same it’s a problem that should be dealt with. Many students may resort to drugs and alcohol abuse as a way to cope instead of seeking help at an on-campus counseling center. It’s unfortunate that the counseling center at Virginia Tech may now be overflowing with students there since this incident. Hopefully the students there with seek help in learning how to cope with life on campus since all of this happening. My thoughts and prayers are with all the students there and the injured students as well. May God bless them all.

My college life in film school looks like it will be an interesting and challenging quarter for me. I’m enrolled in 3 classes in my program and 2 required general education courses. Of the program courses I’m taking “Multimedia for the Web” (a/k/a Macromedia Flash) with Professor MacGillivray, “Composition and Special Effects” (a/k/a Advance Adobe After Effects) with Professor Byrne and Editing II (a/k/a AVID) with Professor Trice. The general education courses are English Composition and Critical Thinking. I have 3 professors that I’ve studied before for the film/multimedia classes which is always a great thing because fortunately they are all really cool and really passionate about their subject matter. I know I will learn a lot from these men because they are consummate professionals and have a respect for film and editing that makes learning from them very stimulating. Both my general education professors are new to me but both have taught their subjects for years and really seem to enjoy it. I think I will learn a lot from these 2 women. I look forward to those classes as much as I look forward to the film classes.

The project this quarter will be a music video. This time we have to find an artist (singer or band) and produce, write, direct and edit a music video for them. Now before I get inundated with emails, I have already committed to produce a music video for my good friend Daphne Shawn [left]. If you haven’t heard of her yet, you will! The sistah has got PIPES! I’m sure she is destined to become a star one day. Ironically, I discussed making a video for her over a year ago (even before I decided to go to film school) when she told me she was working on her second CD. Her first CD is called “What It’s All About” and it is PHENOMENAL and I’m not just saying that because she is my friend, I’m saying that because it is a statement of FACT! Anyway as the weeks move on to the end of the quarter, I will probably have a lot to add here about my progress with this project. More than likely I will have another casting call for dancers this time. I’m really forward to it.

It’s going to be a fun quarter!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

But Will Names Never Hurt?

Recently very good friend who happens to be an educator in the New York City public school system sent me this article and I was blown away. This further reiterates the point I was trying to make in my previous post regarding the Imus/Scarlet Knights Women's Basketball Team remarks. This has got to stop! The fact that it was a 7-year-old child that found this is unacceptable. When will people learn that racial epithets can harm! Of course the bigger question is really who is a fault? Do other countries describe people of color in terms like this? If we, living in the United States (or all of North America for that matter), don't stop using language such as this, how can we expect people on the other side of the world to stop using it too?

Twenty years ago I traveled to Italy and was amazed at the depiction of African-Americans on television there. Now I don't want you think that I went to Italy to watch television the entire time I was there! No I didn't! It was a rainy day and my host and I had just gotten back from a long trip on a train from Venice, but I digress. The dubbed voices used for African-Americans sounded like they came from the "Amos N Andy" shows. It was totally degrading and, in my eyes (and ears), disrespectful. I don't know what its like today in Italy, but if anybody does know please comment to this post and share your opinions. But the underlying thought at the time was:
is this how the rest of the world sees me? Needless to say I was determined to prove any native Italian I met during my stay in their country WRONG! I learned as much of the language I could while there to keep me from sounding like a total tourist. (When in Rome...) I had hoped that by the time I left the country, the people I came into contact with over there, had a different perception of African-Americans just by my actions and speech. I certainly didn't go there with the perception that everyone I came across there was "connected", "made" or any of the other stereotypes that American television and film have portrayed Italian-Americans to be like.

The reason I tell this story is because I believe that perception breeds ignorance. The way to break that chain of ignorance from spiraling out of control is to promote positivity and to educate that this type of language is not acceptable! I'm sure the person or persons in China who were responsible for deciding to call the color on the label in question by this name, only did it because that was his or her perception of the color brown. Maybe no one ever told them that this word is a extremely offensive term used to describe people of color? Who knows? Maybe they heard the name used in American Hip-hop lyrics? Who's to say for sure. But we do know one thing for sure: They heard it spoken somewhere.

Any thoughts?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Stop the Madness!

Okay the whole entire country is talking about the fallout from the Imus incident involving his racist and sexist remarks about the Rutgers University Women’s Basketball team, the Scarlet Knights. I just wanted to put my two cents in on the matter. As of this posting it has just been released that Imus has been FIRED by CBS who carries his radio program. I guess that in the end it just goes to show that when the advertisers start pulling out, it’s a big concern for CBS. But where do you think Imus heard these nasty words from in the first place? Where does it begin?

First of all, I’m always for free speech! That is a right as an Americans that I have come to cherish! I also believe that if something offends someone, than that individual (or individuals) have the CHOICE not to listen, watch or read the offenders ramblings. But whatever happened to using a public forum to promote goodness? And it just doesn’t start with Imus either.

The hip-hop culture has popularized the trend of using sexist, racist and homophobic lyrics for years! Even as much as I dislike connecting the word “hate” to anything, I make the exception when hearing the “N” word! It’s a word that is rooted in hate. Somehow today's young people think it’s a “term of endearment” to refer to each other as “my n***a”. True Imus is a white man who referred to a predominately African-American squad as group of "nappy headed hos". All of a sudden he is the "Michael Richards du jour!" All apologies aside, the genie is out of the bottle and it too late to undo the harm. But when are we [and I’m talking about all my people of color] going to stop calling ourselves by these hateful words? When I hear Kanye West rapping about a gold digger who doesn’t go for “a broke n***a” or Snoop Dogg rapping about “those hos” it makes me wonder: are lyrics such as this giving White America license to refer to us in these terms too? I know rappers like these guys (and many others) can articulate themselves better than that and STILL sell records!

While I’m on the subject of hateful words: I don’t’ think Isaiah Washington (Dr. Preston Burke on Grey’s Anatomy) should get a slap on the wrist and go to “rehab” for referring to his co-star T. R. Knight (Dr. George O’Malley on Grey’s Anatomy) by the “F” word. I can’t tell you how many times I hear gay men refer to each other by this hateful word also. I never liked being called it growing up and I’m sure if you ask ANY gay person if they hated hearing it growing up they will tell you the same. Does that give license for straight people to call it to us because we [and now I'm speaking to my gay brothers out there] call ourselves that too? No, it doesn’t!

To the women out there, think about this the next time you say "yo bitch" to your best girlfriend: Don't you hate it when a man calls you that in anger? Stop calling it to each other even as a "joke". I'm a man and I'm offended by it! Don't give that word any power in the universe.

I watched the team today on Oprah with their head coach, C. Virginia Stringer. They were very posed and dignified young women. I applaud their courage for withstanding the controversy. I am sure, we haven't heard the last from these young women. Beyond basketball, they will all one day be our nations leaders.

Either way you look at it has to stop SOMEWHERE! I have always believed that the goodness you put out into the world will come back to you. If people continue to spew hateful words out into the world about and against their fellow man, then what do you think it going to come back? If anything we have to think about the next generation of children that are coming up behind us. What will their world be like?

I think one of my favorite filmmakers, Spike Lee said it best in the last line of his film "School Daze" and in the very first line of his masterpiece "Do the Right Thing":

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Sibling Story - I Heart Huckabys

Today is National Sibling Day! Actually only in 27 states this happens, considering that I didn't even know that the holiday even existed until I saw it on Oprah today. On her show today her entire audience was filled with siblings. Her guests on the show today included stories of twins, triplets, sextuplets, formerly conjoined twins, and then she had the Huckaby siblings. Although no multiple births in this family, they are unique in that of the eight siblings, four of them are gay. They all grew up in a very conservative Catholic family and no one knew who was gay growing up because it was never spoken about. It wasn't until the first son came out in 1985 did the doors open for the rest to follow. Oprah spoke with 3 of the four gay brothers and 2 of the straight siblings. One of the gay brothers, Jody, is now the Executive Director of PFLAG.

This story hit home for me because of my relationship with my only sibling. I have a sister who is a year and half younger than me and we have always had a rocky relationship. Over the years our relationship gets better as we get older but in the beginning it was horrible. We fought constantly and it was the often the cause of much stress for my parents. Although my coming out has always been a sore subject in my relationship with my sister. Even though we were raised in a very tolerant household, I think somewhere along the line my sister harbors some resentment that I turned out the way I am. I try to ignore it, but she is my family and I do truly love her. And as much as I hate to admit it, I care about what she thinks about me.

From as far back as I can remember my sister has never taken any interest in any of my artistic pursuits. I can count on one hand how many plays she has actually come to see me in (without having to be dragged by another family member). When asked why it was always “because I don’t care about what you do!” When I lost my job last year and decided to go to film school, she never once said “good for you” or “good luck”. It was more like “what are you going to do for money?” or “why are you going to do that?” I think most of the time she simply ignores the fact that I’m gay. She never acknowledges any of my relationships with men (even if they are just friends). Or if I want to tell her about someone I met, she finds a reason to change the subject. I used to think that she doesn’t want me to be happy, but I think now it’s just she wants me to be happy in her way (i.e. straight, married to a woman, with children). So for the time being my being gay is usually the “pink elephant” in the room that she refuses to talk about.

That’s why this story about the Huckaby family hit home for me because it reminded me of the relationship I wish I could have with my one sibling. The straight sister who appeared with her straight brother and 3 gay brothers said that she at first had a hard time accepting her gay brothers, but realized that it wasn’t a choice and that it was just the way they were born. Even though deeply religious, she prayed to find love instead of judgment in her heart for her brothers. Eventually she let love take over unconditionally.

Surprisingly it’s my sister’s daughter, aged 16, who is totally accepting of my being gay more than her mother has ever been. My niece will often ask me if I met any nice guys lately. She congratulated me when I got an “A” for my documentary and told me how proud she was of me. When I broke up with my partner of four years, it was my niece, then age 11, who offered a kind word of hope and encouragement. She is very wise beyond her young years and I am blessed to have her in my life. That’s not to say that I’m not blessed to have my sister, but I wish she could love me unconditionally like my niece.

I know that she will never read this posting. She's going through a lot at the moment. She hasn’t even seen my documentary yet, even though my mother and niece have watched it. I love and support my dear sister, warts and all. I hope that one day it can be reciprocal. Who knows maybe one day she will see the light and join a PFLAG chapter in her state of residence? I love her, but I'm not going to hold my breath for that to happen.

In any case, Happy Sibling Day Monica. I Love you for better or for worse!

Friday, April 6, 2007

T.G.I. Good Friday

Well today is Good Friday. That doesn't mean much to me nowadays. But when I was a kid it meant that I had off from school. I went to Catholic school from First grade until I graduated High School. I was even an altar boy for a couple of years. Despite all the nasty things people say about Catholic priests now, I was never molested by any of them. I guess they were too drunk to bother. Just kidding! (sort of). They were good priests in my parish. Needless to say, I survived my time as a altar boy, untouched. I made it to the Vatican in 1987. I was dating someone who was going to med school in Rome at the time. But I digress. All the money and riches that the Vatican oozes made me a little sick to my stomach. Especially when there were so many poor "pilgrims" outside the place. It was more like a opulent kingdom. It was the Las Vegas of Catholicism. With the exception of my dad's funeral in 1988, I haven't gone back to a Catholic mass ever since. That plus how the Catholic church feels about gays, it made me not want to go back. There was a time when I loved the pageantry of the Catholic church. But that was then, this is now. I think I'm what is commonly known now as a "fallen Catholic". I'm not an atheist, but I am spiritual. I've been exploring different places of worship where I feel like I can be accepted unconditionally. But more on that in another post at another time. Anyhoo....

Now I think it's a "Good Friday" when something "Good" happens at the end of the week. Well the Yankees lost last night to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. But they only lost by 1 point. I guess that makes it a "Bad Thursday" for me. The score was 7-6. But in their defense, it was very un-spring-like weather. Snow flurries were even coming down at Yankee Stadium yesterday. But I'm sure Tampa Bay aren't used to playing in that kind of weather on their home turf either. I don't know why the Yankee lost. But they gave it their best despite Derek Jeter's errors and Posada's flubs. And I still LOVE the Yankee's for better or worse. Also Andy Pettitte was back on the mound.

But getting back to why today was "Good" for me. I finally got my grades from school. I was totally shocked! I didn't think I would made the President's List this time like I did last quarter. Last quarter I made a 4.0 (or all A's). This time I got an A in every subject except my Psychology class which I got a A-. THAT was a big shock for me too. I thought I would have at least gotten a B+ in that class. Oh well. So now that I got an A in the following classes:
  • College Mathematics
  • Information Architecture (a/k/a Web Design-Dreamweaver)
  • Motion Graphics and Title Design (a/k/a Adobe After Effects)
  • Digital Video Production
Now all I need is a JOB! Seriously I really, REALLY, REALLY need a JOB! My phones have been "temporarily suspended" so I need $$ to turn them back on. I'm also really depressed because I haven't worked in over a year. Thank God for public assistance and food stamps. It's funny (in a way) but since I lost my job and had to go on welfare, some of my friends have sort of "disappeared". I know I've been really busy in school, but I think people tend to be less responsive to someone who isn't working like them. I don't know. That's not to say that all of my friends have vanished, just a few. The ones that stayed around, I feel incredibly blessed to have in my life. For the ones that have slowly disappeared, it saddens me to think that the reasons behind it have anything to do with my present financial status. I don't know I could just be paranoid too. I told you I'm depressed. Thank God for good anti-depressants too! Otherwise I probably would have put my head in the oven a long time ago. Which reminds me: did I pay the gas bill yet?

Yeah, it's "good" Friday!

Monday, April 2, 2007

Latin Fever!

Yesterday was opening day for my favorite baseball team in the world. They have some of the most cutest players in the entire league. The Yankees are GOLDEN! They beat the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 9-5. Washington Heights favorite son, ARod proved his worth yesterday with a two-run home run in the eighth inning! I didn't have a opportunity to attended, but I was there in spirit supporting my boys! I heard they started the day with a moment to remember Cory Lidel who was killed tragically last year in a horrendous plane accident on the Upper East Side. That was I day I will never forget. It was very scary hearing about how his plane had crashed into a high rise building in Manhattan. Initially, hearing about planes crashing into buildings have made me very skittish since 9/11. I don't think I'll ever recover from that. But I digress... Bobby Murcer also resurfaced after his recent battle with brain cancer. He looked great too! God bless him! Yankees kicked ass yesterday! I just hope this will be the trend for the rest of the season. John Damon's haircut looks good on him today.

Also last night the season finale of "Prison Break" was on. I have always been attracted to "Men Behind Bars" stories, but once I saw " Prison Break" I've been hooked. It's sort of like the "24" of prison stories. Wentworth Miller (as inmate Michael Scofield) is not normally my "type" but he is one VERY HOT Guy! Rockmond Dunbar (as inmate Franklin) AND my favorite "papi chulo", Amaury Nolasco (as inmate Sucre) make the show all the more worth watching for the "eye candy" aspect. The cliffhanger was a quite startling one as Scofield was put into a Panamanian prison with the man (Mahone) who had been trying to catch him while he was on the run with his brother Lincoln. I am happy that Lincoln Burrows and Sara Tancredi were both exonerated. I hope Kellerman wasn't killed either, but it looks like he was. He did a very brave thing by speaking up for Sara and exposing the truth behind the conspiracy and the President's involvement (that evil witch). I was most upset that Sucre was left for dead in the middle of the hot street as he passed out chasing after Bellick who was being taken away by the police. I felt so sorry for Sucre. I hope he finds his love, Maricruz. I hope he's not dead. I just hope Amaury Nolasco comes back next season. I read that he was about to go to medical school before the acting bug bit him. Medical science lost is televisions gain! He is one VERY STEAMING HOT Puerto Rican man (see photo)! Ay Papi!

Sunday, April 1, 2007

My Finals are Over and I'm Back!

Well my 3rd quarter of film school is finally over! It was really a challenge this past quarter. I don't know if I made the President's List this time. (I don't think I will get 4.0 this time) but I think I will be okay if I make the Dean's List. But I did finish the first draft of my website and it is up and running for the time being. I'm not too happy with it but I'm okay with the fact that I didn't use a "cookie cutter" template to create it. I designed it totally in Adobe Photoshop and Dreamweaver. I also screened my PSA for my grade on Wednesday. I think it came off well. However, I don't think it was my best work but it did fall under the parameters that was set by the Professor. It had to be :30 seconds exactly. Which I did. That was the challenge. I do have enough footage to make a :60 sec version. I incorporated the titles that I created in Adobe After Effects all within the constraints of :30 seconds. Pretty soon I will post it on my website once I compress it.

Since the last time I made an entry in my blog, I celebrated my 43rd Birthday. Thank you everyone who remembered my turning another year older. To some people, being gay plus single is equal to being invisible. But I am not that transparent. I'm happy to have reached 43 wonderful years of life. As you can see from the photo (taken on March 3rd) I don't look that bad for my age. Do I? My buddy, Donald, took me to see "300" for my birthday (actually it was both of our birthdays- HAPPY Belated Birthday D-You don't look a day over 24!-Love ya!) and I loved this film. If you haven't seen it, RUN TO THE THEATER! It was a feast for the eyes in terms of cinematography, special effects and half-naked muscle men running around. The story is pretty good too from what I remember.

We also did a "ghetto movie pass" and saw "Tyler Perry's Daddy's Little Girls" starring the very yummy, Idris Elba (the Hottie British actor who stars on HBO's "The Wire") and Gabrielle Union. [Note to Tyler Perry: Sorry about doing the GMP but those people working at the theater are stupid if they can't pay attention to who is going into what theater at the multiplex.] It was a cute film although I keep expecting Madea to pop up in the film because it was dripping with sentiment. Idris definitely is very talented and I hope that he does more films beyond the "thug" roles he's been playing. Gabrielle, well, she is very beautiful and she was playing what she does best: Professional African-American woman who can't find a "decent" Black man. Yawn! Come on Gabby, we know you can act and you proved that in the overlooked film "Running With Scissors" (based on the memoir by one of my favorite authors, Augusten Burroughs). Time to branch out Miss Union! This is definitely a film for the sistah girls! I think Donald and I were the only fellas in there theater who wasn't dragged by females. But it was a nice change from the blood and carnage of "300".

I also saw (on a different day) the new Terrence Howard/Bernie Mac/Kimberly Elise film "Pride" which I thought was really good. As many of you know, I have had a CRAZY, STUPID, MAD CRUSH on Mr. Howard since forever. Yes, I know he's straight. But one can dream, right? [Note to Terrence Howard: if you ever even THINK about "converting": I'm here for you boo! and I make a mean vegetable lasagna] Anyhoo... It was a really good film and Terrence gave a Oscar worthy performance as usual (not to mention looking EXCEPTIONALLY DELICIOUS in his "Speedos") The film was a feel-good story about racism and the power of determination. It's based on the true story of Jim Ellis, a teacher in Philadelphia who turns around an inner-city youth center and the disenfranchised youngsters it serves. I really hope people will go out and support this film. One thing that kinda bugged me was that here again, Tom Arnold is playing the "asshole white guy". All jokes aside, if you ever saw him in the Don Roos film "Happy Endings" you know that the man CAN act and shouldn't be typecast. I've never met the man personally, but I doubt he's really like that.

Okay today is April 1st. Yes it's April Fool's day! But I'm no fool! Tomorrow will be "OPENING DAY" at Yankees Stadium. God how I wish I could go and watch Derek (my other crush) out there on the field! Also I wanted to say to my friends, Lauren and Kevin - HAPPY ANNIVERSARY! Also if anybody has been trying to reach me by telephone, I just found out that my telephone service has been temporarily interrupted. I didn't have the money to pay the bill. It's tough when you are on public assistance and going to school full-time. I NEED A JOB!!!!! Anyone know of anybody who is hiring please email me. I'm on spring break until April 16th. Unless you want to pay my phone bill for me, I really, REALLY need a job! Anybody wanna take me to brunch? Holla!