05.06.16 / v.9 – i.51 It’s On The Qt!
One of my pleasures is reading LGBTQ centric news from around the world. This week I ran across an article about World Press Freedom Day, held on May 2, and Google’s dealing with Kenyan authorities over their “efforts to censor a music video promoting gay rights, a Kenyan remix of the Macklemore song Same Love” posted on YouTube.
The head of the Kenya Film Classification Board, Ezekiel Mutua, said, “We are happy that the music video has been pulled down following a request we made to Google . . . This is part of making sure that content is healthy for all.”
All film and broadcast content is required by law to conform to national moral values.
However, the video has not been “pulled down,” rather Google has agreed to post a warning for Kenyan viewers before they watch the video that reads that the video is “potentially inappropriate.”
Lily Kuo writes that the KFCB, which is charged with regulating all visual content in the country, banned the song back in February for advocating LGBTQ rights and depicting sex scenes between same-sex couples.
The board said the production threatens to turn the country into “Sodom and Gomorrah.”
The KFCB had demanded that the video, made by a Kenyan hip hop group called Art Attack, be taken down, but stood its ground and Google refused.
Google and Kenyan authorities reached a compromise. Users in Kenya that come across the video will see that it has been flagged for viewer discretion, but it can still be played. It is not being taken down, according to Google Kenya. “It doesn’t mean the video isn’t available for viewing in Kenya,” a Google Kenya representative in Nairobi said.
Kuo reminds us that “in Kenya, homosexuality is a criminal act, punishable by up to 14 years in prison.” But ‘the ban actually may have brought more attention to Kenya’s nascent gay rights movement. Since February, the video has doubled in views to more than 200,000, helped by the KFCB when the regulator posted a link to the song in a tweet cautioning users not to circulate the video.”
While the KFCB claims a win over Google . . . Mutua has been posting images of a local news headline that says “Google bows to film board” . . . But the truth is this a victory in a country that successfully demanded that Coca-Cola remove a same-sex kiss from a commercial airing in that country. This beautiful video celebrating our love and liberation is still available to any Kenyan who wishes to view it . . . just click past the warning.
What It Looks Like From Here
A Bound Press
We’re living in a “global village.” Remember that phrase that was bandied about for quite some time and then ultimately abandoned. But it’s perhaps never been truer than with our international communications networks provided by the internet highway.
And, yes, indeed, it matters now more than ever that what happens on one spot on the map of the world may have a serious and profound impact upon what’s happening right here at home.
It’s more than trade agreements and arms sales and the oil cartel and the drugs wars and human trafficking and misplaced immigrants.
Now is the time that the flow of information, reportage, and images in photographs relate and tell the true story of what’s happening honestly and without bias or filtering of the actual news.
That’s why it’s essential to our freedom and integrity and safety that the world press be appreciated, supported and protected when necessary.
Last month according to the Non Profit News (NPQ) the United Nations designated April 26 as “World Press Freedom Day” as reported in The New York Times in an article that caught my eye and should cause you to stand up and be on alert. Staffer Ruth Cambridge in her news feature, “World Press Freedom Day Finds Journalists and Civil Liberties Under Siege.” In a nutshell, Cambridge’s title pretty much sums up the foreboding and sad and dangerous news.
Media outlets, even ones like NPQ, have been on defensive alert, writing “extensively about Subscribe to independent journalismthe critical role of independent journalism in civil society and the necessity of speaking out in defense of journalists when they are being threatened, imprisoned, and killed to keep them silent.”
Unfortunately, Freedom House delivered an unhappy and depressing report on the current state of the world press. It cited these main points:
- Press freedom declined to its lowest point in 12 years, as political, criminal, and terrorist forces sought to co-opt or silence the media in their broader struggle for power.
- Only 13 percent of the world’s population enjoys a free press-that is, where coverage of political news is robust, the safety of journalists is guaranteed, state intrusion in media affairs is minimal, and the press is not subject to onerous legal or economic pressures.
- Forty-one percent of the world’s population has a partly free press, and 46 percent live in media environments that are not free.
- Among the countries that suffered the largest declines in press freedom in 2015 were Bangladesh, Turkey, Burundi, France, Serbia, Yemen, Egypt, Macedonia, and Zimbabwe.
A report released by The Committee to Protect Journalists “focused on gender-based repressive attacks on journalists, and the Human Rights Watch released one covering attacks in Somalia where 589 journalists have been killed outright since 1992, after the collapse of the central government.
Cambridge reminded us all that 2015 “began with the murder of eight cartoonists and editors at the Paris offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, but elsewhere, pressure backed by imprisonment, threats, and violence is a consistent presence, shutting down outlets and intimidating, arresting, and sometimes ‘disappearing’ reporters when their reporting contradicts officially sanctioned messages.”
In Israel, according to The Guardian, Cambridge noted, “the military has announced it would detain Palestinian journalist Omar Nazzal for four months on suspicion of “unlawful activity.” Under administrative detention, without charges or trial, the defense is not entitled to see the evidence against the detainee.”
The United Nations pointed out that “Nazzal is a leading member of the Palestinian journalists’ union, and he is also politically active. Israel is also detaining another 19 Palestinian journalists and students of journalism-one of them for more than 20 years, according to the Journalists’ Union.”
Other worldwide incidents last month included a protest of hundreds who gathered in Hong Kong, over the firing of Keung Kwok-yuen, an editor with the Ming Pao newspaper, after the paper published a report on the Panama Papers.
In Egypt, the Journalists’ Syndicate, a union, called for the dismissal of the interior minister as they staged a sit-in to protest the raid on their headquarters and the arrest of two journalists, Amr Badr and Mahmoud el-Sakka, on its premises that night last month, Cambridge reminded us.
Cambridge described the situation thusly: “The Syndicate described the incident as a ‘raid by security forces whose blatant barbarism and aggression on the dignity of the press and journalists and their syndicate has surprised the journalistic community and the Egyptian people.’ The government issued arrest warrants for the two journalists, critics of the government, who have been charged with organizing protests to destabilize the country. Rallies in general must be pre-approved by the government and are rarely allowed unless they are pro-government.”
The bottom line warned Cambridge that: “It is important to read these reports as indicators of how much further we have to go in protecting one of the most core functions of civil society,” a free press.
Art on the Qt
For the experimental art connoisseur, The James Oliver Gallery of 723 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, is in the middle of hosting an exhibit for the ages. Featuring a first time collaboration between Richard Wexler, a hip, rising star of the Philadelphia cultural scene, and noted fashionista Conrad Booker, this selection, dubbed Plastic Circus, has been open to the public since April 9th, 2016 and will culminate with a patron friendly closing night reception held at the gallery on Saturday, May 14th, 2016 from 5 p.m. – 9 p.m.
The exhibit, which demands that nearly every square-inch of the gallery’s already snowball white interior be garbed in wedding wear, is a nifty nod to the city’s more present than ever congregation of counter cultural artists. To the tandem, it is also a reminder of their own pseudo marriage as colleagues.
“This is, in some ways, a wedding of our art”, Wexler said, before sheepishly maintaining that their divorce would be on closing night, and that the closing event would feature free wine and PBR beer for attendees.
For Wexler, a northeastern Philadelphia native photographer, educator and documentarian who graduated from Temple and lists The Kuchar Bothers and John Waters among his greatest influences, Plastic Circus allows Wexler to expose attendees to art pieced together with his prized “View Master,” an iconic (but now primitive) viewing device which first gained popularity with American families in the early 1950’s. He sandwiches past and present together by producing 3-D images on the View Master reels, which he states allow approximately seven images per disk and create stirring visuals only enhanced by the 3-D component. Hundreds of Polaroid photos which have been uniquely altered by Wexler are available for purchase at the exhibit, and range in price from $25 to more than $50. Patrons are also welcomed by the artist to purchase the dozens of Viewfinders on sale, which include unique 3-D models.
Referring to himself as “a sensitive Jewish kid, straight-but culturally identifiable as queer, “Wexler cited a muse for his work, Tasker Morris, a mainstay of the Philadelphia drag troupe known as The Dumpsta Playas. Morris is just one of many versatile models that the artist includes in his images. He’s also greatly looking forward to giving a lecture to attendees of the exhibit interested in 3-D Stereo gram, from 2 pm- 4 pm on the last day of the exhibit.
Booker, Wexler’s co-conspirator for Plastic Circus, is no stranger to eclectic exhibits. He’s an interior design demigod, a local legend in Philadelphia, and has been awarded more accolades than he knows what to do with. Approach the Macy’s on Chestnut Street and one might just stumble on a window design done by Conrad.
His contribution to Plastic Circus? Conrad incorporates mannequins dressed in full wedding garb, but with an unusual twist: The dresses are made of straws, rubber, and essentially items that one might find easily crawling through the shelves of their local Home Depot.
“These materials allow for the innovation and thought process (for attendees),” Booker said. “We are stripping away the intended purpose of these items.” He also noted that he hopes to see people using straws in their latest art concepts.
It was Conrad who realized from the get-go in the collaboration that “Rich’s work can be used as part of my story” (and vice-versa). While both men had never worked together before, it has become especially clear to audiences who have viewed the project that this, Plastic Circus, is in fact a very special one.
For more information, click HERE.
Tommy Tune is coming to town!
A little bit of Broadway, much of it American musical theater history and a unique multi-talented legend in his own right, his is a career that expands decades.
And actually, let’s correct that statement, and note that it’s a lot of Broadway, as Tune, a nine-time winner of the Tony Award as well as a Broadway icon, he was a recipient of the “Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre,” presented by the Tony Awards Administration Committee, The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing. How impressive is that!
So now you have the opportunity to see this megastar in his new one-man show, Taps, Tunes and Tall Tales in the intimate cabaret setting of the RazzRoom at the Prince Theater, 1412 Chestnut Street, Second Floor, off the Avenue of the Arts in Center City Philadelphia, with shows on May 6 at 8 pm and May 7 at 6 pm and 9 pm.
Recognized as “one of our country’s most prolific performer, director and choreographers, Tune is currently celebrating “his golden decade on the great American stage.”
He’s a recipient of numerous other awards, including The National Medal of Arts, 8 Drama Desk Awards, 3 Astaire Awards, and multiple Life Time Achievement Awards including the Society of Directors and Choreographers’ George Abbott Award for Lifetime Achievement.
A tall native of Texas, the young Tune started his stage career with dance on Broadway in shows such as Baker Street, A Joyful Noise and How Now Dow Jones. He was sensational on screen with Barbra Striesand in Hello,Dolly. Tune has several other film credits to his name, including The Boy Friend, and Mimi Bluette . . . fiore del mio giardino.
Did we mention that Tune was a legend? Well, he demonstrated that fact again when in 1999, he made his Las Vegas debut as the star of EFX at the MGM Grand Hotel.
More honors? Most definitely, Tune is the recipient of the National Medal Of Arts award, the highest honor for artistic achievement given by the President of the United States, and he has been honored with his own star on the legendary Hollywood Walk of Fame and was inducted into The Theater Hall of Fame by Gwen Verdon.
In 2009 the New York Landmarks Conservancy designated Mr. Tune as a Living Landmark.
In early 2015, Tune received rave reviews for his tap dancing and singing role in the Encores! production of Lady, Be Good! at New York City Center.
Tune is currently touring the country with Taps, Tunes and Tall Tales, making his Philadelphia debut at this weekend. It’s a must-see show and a quite memorable and entertaining experience.
Out gay twin brothers Aaron and Austin Rhodes have become something of celebrities on YouTube video when they both came out to their accepting father. In fact, the trio even appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Though they’ve continued to share many additional videos, until recently they never posted the one about how the brothers actually came out to each other. While both only seniors in high school, according to GayStarNews, “Aaron fell in love and decided to tell his brother: ‘I’m seeing somebody and it may or may not be a girl … so obviously I’m gay and I’m dating a guy.” During their conversations about Aaron’s “new” boyfriend, Austin confessed to his unsuspecting brother: “I like guys too.” Recalls Aaron at the revelation about Austin: “It was one of those moments – and I’ll never forget it – where we just finally caught up with each other. … It ended up with two little gay best friends who happen to be brothers.” Before that moment, the twins had never really talked much about their sexual identities, Austin says “there were signs. I kind of had an idea and he had an idea. We never really talked about it – that was always like a taboo subject.” On the other hand, “Aaron says he also was not eager to talk about it earlier because he was daunted by the idea of coming out to the family and if his twin was also gay, both of them coming out.” It “just scared me so much so I would just try not to think about it.” Convincing himself that he’s never come out like Aaron, “Austin used to think he would never come out and spend his life living a lie.” He recalls: “Hey, I’m going to have to marry some girl and just pretend my entire life.”
From Attitude, the long-standing British gay male lifestyle magazine, it was reported from The List “that Shawn Ashmore, 36, who plays Iceman in the X-Men movie franchise would like to play him as a gay character.” (In April 2015, Icemen came out in issue 40 of Marvel’s All New X-Men comic book.) Having played superhero Bobby Drake in four films since the age of 19, Ashmore is eager to play the character as gay because it would send a positive message to LGBTQ people. He told BANG Showbiz: “I’m always interested in X-Men, it’s always been such a huge part of my career and life to be honest.” Ashmore continued: “What I think is interesting is that the X-Men have always been about diversity, it’s the key message of the film. For the X-Men, what makes us different is what makes us great, so if Iceman or Bobby came out in a film I think it would stay very much on point and on message about what films are about.” Having previously had romantic relationships with Rogue and Kitty Pryde, (Shadowcat) “it would have to be handled well to have that shift in his sexuality work for viewers. I think it could be really interesting” for the script writing team. Ashmore concluded: “I’ve grown up playing this character and what’s great about the series is that traditionally every four or five years we’ve made a movie so it’s been so nice to have distance from the character and go away and grow and mature as a person.”
No matter what anyone thinks, says or does, Anderson Cooper keeps coming further and further out of his closet and has dropped much of his privacy the past two years. Now from HarperCollins, The Rainbow Comes and Goes, comes, according to the publisher’s press release, “a charming and intimate collection of correspondence between the #1 New York Times bestselling author Anderson Cooper and his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, that offers timeless wisdom and a revealing glimpse into their lives.” Career-driven Cooper as a journalist for CNN and CBS’ 60 Minutes afforded him little personal life even to spend with his ninety-one-year-old mother. Once Gloria became ill, she and Cooper began a conversation through e-mail unlike any they had ever had before – “a correspondence of surprising honesty and depth in which they discussed their lives, the things that matter to them, and what they still want to learn about each other.” This the core of the memoir, The Rainbow Comes and Goes, packed a son’s love letters to his mother in her final years and, in turn, “an unconventional mother’s life lessons for her grown son.” As one might expect, there are a wide variety of exchanges, observations, and confessions that are both “hilarious and touching” moments. Most entertaining and informative, The Rainbow Comes and Goes allows both of their distinctive personalities to shine through-“Anderson’s darker outlook on the world is a brilliant contrast to his mother’s idealism and unwavering optimism.”
James Duggan Thom Cardwell
John Adam Di Pietro Michael Feighan
David Schellenberg Matthew Paterno
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