…when you’re right, you’re right…

The BBC reported today that in the small town of Den Bosch in the Netherlands, the local priest at Sint-Jan church decided not to give communion to anyone in anticipation of a protest by gay-rights activists who were planning to stage a walk-out over the Roman Catholic Church’s policy of denying communion to practicing gay men and women.  The protest was the result of a priest in a nearby town refusing communion to an openly gay man earlier in the month.  In his defense, the man denied the Holy wafer argued that if he were not allowed to receive holy communion, then it would make sense to deny everyone else since they too were sinners.  For those of us who are Catholic, that makes sense, especially since most of us forget or choose to not confess our sins before pacing down the aisle to take part in the body of Christ.

There is no question that the Church has changed its practices over the past 1,600 years.  We’ve even had pope’s take on lovers while in office.  Surely there is room in the Church’s heart to allow God’s gay children to take part in the holy sacrament. It would be easy to justify this by listing the many contradictions in scripture and practice but why is that even needed.  I mean, doesn’t the fact that our gay brothers and sisters believe and support the Church enough of a reason to let them be part of the family?  In a country that made history by becoming the first nation on Earth to accept gay marriage, this violation of a person’s right to express love towards God only taints any effort for equality in the Netherlands.  It’s true that the Church is losing members. And from the looks of things, the new Pontiff doesn’t seem to care at all about practicing what his clergy seem to be preaching — tolerance, forgiveness and acceptance.  Should this and other trends continue, the Catholic Church may find itself some day without parishioners or priests, leaving behind empty temples to be filled by congregants willing to start a new tradition of teaching what Christ Himself taught — loving one another as He would have loved them, gay or straight.  Come to think of it, wouldn’t this be the greater outcome.

…it’s a funny thing…

I have been watching the Olympic Games in Vancouver and I must admit, I wish I had planned it better and had cable to see more events than those broadcast on NBC during prime time.  I am fascinated by curling, but did not see a single game.  I was even curious to see a sport called “skeleton” but again, that was not possible.  At a time when technology and the internet are connecting the world ever so closer, I am surprised that NBC broadcast the games in a time delay.  I understand that NBC has to make it’s money by airing programing all day, but would it have killed them to postpone daytime soaps, talk shows or whatever else it broadcasts by showing some events live? Are they not confident in their commentators ability to deliver play by play reporting?

A friend of mine commented to me about the lack of people of color at the Winter Olympics.  We all know this is a geographic sport.  Until recently, I can’t remember the last time 6 inches of snow fell in Africa, South America or Mexico.  This is why the Jamaican bobsled team was such a wonderful story.  I am usually critical when there isn’t enough representation by minorities in certain professions.  But when it comes to sports, I can’t complain.  People of color excel more so than their white brethren during the Summer Olympic games.  Let them  race down mountains at neck-breaking speeds, dance on shoes balanced on blades, do acrobatics in the air on a half-pipe of snow or drive down a concrete trail on a plastic go-cart if they want.  I suspect that even if those sports were done on grass and in the Summer, chances are we would never attempt to do that.  So let them have their 2 weeks in Winter, we’ll enjoy our own in Summer.

Having said that, I will comment on one important aspect of the Olympics — the commercials.  During the Beijing Olympics, Morgan Freeman provided the voice to a beautiful series of commercials for Timex — the official time keeper for those Olympics.  This Winter, Proctor & Gamble stole the show with their ‘Thank You Mom’ commercials.  I am a sucker for great movies, so long as they have a great story to tell.  But these commercials, each filled with vignettes of mothers sacrificing their time and energy to take their kids to learn a sport from their infancy until their appearance at the Olympics are both entertaining and moving.  Some have criticized them for not showing fathers supporting the athletes but I’m okay with that.  In a world where women are rarely credited with making this world go round, I’m glad someone thought about honoring them and their sacrifices.  Yes, most P&G’s products are gender biased but there are some that only men use.

I hope that when the Summer games come around in 2012, P&G continues with this tradition and produces commercials with mothers in Third World countries.  It is from those countries that most of the athletes in those games originate.  And it is in those countries that most women are repressed, oppressed and ostercized.  If mothers from the North find it hard to support a child’s dream of reaching Olympic glory, imagine how much harder it is for a mother from the South?  We are 10 years into a new millennium and there is still much work to be done when it comes to women’s rights.  If it’s true that over 1 billion people watch these sporting events, lets do what we can to empower those unable to speak up or do much feel a little gratitude for their sacrifice too.

…when will they learn…

At a press conference today, Sea World CEO announced that the theme park will continue to use its killer whales in shows, only no trainer will be allowed to set foot inside the water.

What?! What will it take for these parks to realize than no living animal likes captivity and that whenever possible, whenever confined, animals, like humans, will seek a way to escape. 

There is a reason why keeping a killer whale in an over sized swimming pool is dangerous.  It’s a wild animal.  And while I would be the first to argue that protecting endangered species is our responsibility, I would certainly object to anyone who feels that keeping them in petting zoos is a way to go.  Am I the only one worried that several generations of animals in captivity will develop new traits and behaviors that their counterparts in the wild not?  How many freed animals have died waiting around for a trainer to arrive with a bucket of food?

Killer whales, dolphins, giraffes, lions, hippos, monkeys, even snakes are beautiful animals that deserve to be freed.  Yes its sad when we see a lion eating a small gazelle or an orca eating a sea lion that could, if trained properly, balance a ball on its nose and learn to clap.  But this is what natural selection is all about.  This is the circle of life.  If we really want to protect endangered species from extinction, then we must do what we can to prevent it by staying clear of their natural habitat.  We are responsible for their demise, so we must show a new responsibility in their survival.

I feel sad for the woman who drowned.  Strangely enough, she did not die because the orca chewed her to pieces or tried to eat her.  The animal simply dragged her to the bottom of the pool in the same manner as it was trained to do for the show.  This time around, the animal kept her a bit longer, though I suspect that the trainer panicked and did not take a long enough breath when she was caught off guard.  My sympathies are with her family and friends.  But my outrage is with Sea World, its share holders, sponsors and the general public who continue to show up in droves to see these behemoths of the sea swim in circles.

It’s been reported by many nature and animal shows that the orca has a beautiful mode of communication.  But like many other animals who are imprisoned in cramped spaces, their spirit ceases to sing.  I was hoping this incident would incite a global calling to free not just this orca, but all other animals.  Unfortunately, that is not to be, perhaps ever.

That said, I wonder: if at this press conference the orca would have broken the plexy glass and swallowed the CEO whole in front of reporters, would Sea World and other theme parks still see this as just an isolated incident not worthy of reconsideration?  Money will always talk.  I just hope the day does not come when an orca jumps so high in the air that it lands on audience members.  Maybe a lawsuit of that magnitude will shut down such theme parks for good.  As terrible as that sounds, let us not forget that even such an incident is nature’s way of saying enough.

Hollywood’s Cinderellas: How Vanity Fair’s Photo Spread Got It Right — Unfortunately.

Ok, so I’m a bit upset.  Wait. No. I changed my mind. I’m livid at the new Vanity Fair cover featuring the latest young actresses.  Ordinarily, I never bother to think about who’s on the cover of what magazine.  For me, it’s always been about what is in vogue.  George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Aniston and all the other celebrities headlining a magazine, even a tabloid, don’t mind the limelight.  They may say they value their privacy.  But at the end of the day, when a celebrities ‘star power’ in Hollywood is calculated, the number of times they’ve appeared on the cover of a magazine, on gossip television shows or even the tabloids adds up.  The more exposure, the higher your worth.  And for sponsors and advertisers, exposure means money.  So why am I so angry about this Vanity Fair cover?
Look at it!  Is it me or do they all appear to be born from the same mother.  If these actresses were part of a film’s ensemble, then my anger would have been annoyance that they could not find an actress of color.  Even as an activist I would not have minded seeing a Latina holding a broom in the background so long as there was some representation.  But in this case, for this particular spread, Vanity Fair selected the crème de la white crème and called the issue “A New Decade. A New Hollywood: Starring the Fresh Faces of 2010”.  Let me repeat that in case you also missed the whole point of this rant: A New Decade. A New Hollywood. Starring the Fresh Faces of 2010.
Can someone explain to me how a photo of nine white women represents an ever-changing society in a new decade.  And is this really representative of a new Hollywood?  Is this the future editors at Vanity Fair know Hollywood is headed towards or is it wishful thinking?
I suppose I should not be that upset about this whole thing.  Perhaps my cinematically-challenged friends are right and I should just ignore the piece.  Most of them are immigrant rights activists and so to them, this just proves that we still live in a country that discriminates openly, especially so in the entertainment industry.  In hindsight, they’re right.  I’m not naive nor do I live in some fantasy world where all I see on my television set are the kinds of shows I saw growing up like “The Cosby Show”, “227”, “American Family”, “L.A. Law”, “Hill Street Blues”, “A Different World”, “Different Strokes” or “Alf” — you know, shows with people that looked like me with lives similar to mine.  I know Hollywood is still an all ‘white’ club, and this spread is a true reflection of the status quo.  But when considering the great level of talent by talent of color, especially this year, I am left wondering if the system will ever change.
Yes it’s a new decade.  But no, it’s still very much the old Hollywood.  And the women on this cover may be fresh faces of 2010, but they are certainly not from the world I live in, especially in the world of entertainment that I naively continue to love.

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