It was a horrible nightmare. Freedom of speech was curtailed. National leaders iconized and demonized in the winks of eyes. History was treated as flexibly as a fairy tale or a make-believe Sunday matinee. I watched in terror as sweet hoi polloi exploded into a fire-burning pitchforkwielding lynch-mob ready to shred the very same being they had wooed just moments ago.
Meanwhile, those who would speak out have been locked up. The military has been beefed up. And the rest of you had better shut up!
It truly makes the heart and stomach plunge to witness from a comfortably velvetized balcony just how US people … oops, I mean OZ people … were manipulated by the sham wizard. “The people need an enemy” he explains.
And so he and his complicitous media hack turn reality into a twister, obscuring the truth and downright lying about the guilt of those currently filling the glittery shoes of leadership.
How far can this go? How long can this metaphor, this nightmare, continue? Clearly, nobody is encouraged or taught how to think in this world. The few who refuse to go along nicely are either corrupted or destroyed.
And what about you, reader? Do you think? Are you thinking that this is no longer a theatre review and has become a political editorial? Perhaps that is because Oz, Baum and especially the Wizard have always been vehicles for sociopolitical commentary. Novelist Gregory Maguire and playwrights Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman were stepping into rich and dangerous territory when they braved the likes of Dorothy, Boq and the other denizens of Gilliken, Winkie and Quadlinglands.

What’s that? The stage show doesn’t match the movie? Or the books? Or even the novel **Wicked,** upon which it is based? Don’t worry. None of it is really true! It’s all merely pop fiction. And even it weren’t just a uniquely American fantasy metaphor, who decides Witch history is the correct one? Ding Dong!
Regarding Elphaba of the West, the baddest bitch of the silver age screen, well, we are told the secret story of her hideous birth, emerald florescence and enviable end. Forget the “official” version and leave your childhood beliefs behind. We are let in on the true story, if truth really
exists. Wicked suggests, and I agree, that truth is malleable and entirely subjective. Given only a few, spectacularly-lit-yetflimsy gowns of evidence, the smallest fear can billow into a beautiful banshee, filling the stage with amorphous black evil, diaphanous and eerie, truly Defying Gravity and sanity.
The real terror in this world is when people buy into the idea of 100% good or 100% evil. When there is no room for gray (or green), decisions can be hasty and deceptively clear. But in fact, says Wicked, clarity is just another malleable tool, used by the media/reality wizards. Is that so
surprising? Your own Mom probably used the line “Because I said so” to instantly and irrevocably shape your reality with mere verboserocity. Just put on your green glasses and play nicelike … or else!

The language used by these Ozites, especially Goofalinda and Madame Morrible, is delightable and quirkacious, and entirely Baumian; contemporary-ish to the Bowery Boys and certainly a welcome delight when so much theatre seems to go for guttural grit over mental grist.
The costumes in this production were obsessively superb, honoring the cinematic and literarily established flavor of Oz garb — a sort of baroque anything goes formality — and the men dancing in dresses almost make up for the lackluster score. Perhaps if the chorus were more goodly elocuted and audibillable over the underwhelming  orchestration they would stand out better. Or maybe the tunification was a bit unispirable. Oh sure, it was all Wonderful (and yes, I cried at the end, ok?) but the real strength of this particular production was not musical. It was verbal and philosophical.
Stephanie J. Block is a splendid icky-witch, instantly endearing us all to the Scourge of Munchkinland. Margaret Hamilton would no doubt be delighted that her character has been repainted as an odd beauty with a honorable soul and the “hottest” of boyfriends, would-be Winkie King Sebastian Arcelus. Perfect Kendra Kassebaum no doubt fabulously glistens even out of costume, and somehow outrageously lampoons Glinda the Good without actually destroying the fragile eggshell of confidence and security that we remember so well from Billy Burke’s twittering blip. One thing is for sure, after this, watching Judy’s slippered sachet down the golden lane will never be the same.

Which witch are you with? Wicked asks: when you to look into the mirror do you find the protector of free speech with a beryl pallor, or do you see the bubble-wrapped fuchsia bimbo of Popular-ity? Doors open, doors close, people change and make decisions that may or may not be good. It just depends on how you look at it. Life and love are complex, and you are in big bad trouble if you don’t try to see things from many different points of view.

There’s also this curious Miss Piggy/Kermit lesbian love undercurrent that runs through the musical production of Wicked. The sweetest ballad by far is “For Good” sung not between hetero love interests but by Gay-Linda and the Wicked One herself, proving beyond dispute that pink and green are complimentary polarities just as black/white, good/evil, truth/whatever.
Wicked exonerates Elphaba, sort of. In the end she becomes obsessed with power and those fabulous shoes.
More importantly Wicked also implicates Galinda, and her gaggle of ignoramus sycophants, Dancing Through Life and willingly accepting pablum, coverups and happy untruths as the price of “party-on” simplicity. Could they have it any other way?
It is a fabulous, exotic and terrifying dream to be stuck in. We’re not in Kansas anymore, Dodo, and if only I could just wake up with Dorothy, everything would be Wonderful.

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Is this the Age of a New Big Brother

History should remind gays and lesbians about the dangers of
the government’s secret spying on American citizens.
By Mubarak Dahir
THERE WAS A LOT OF nervous energy around the military recruiting
tables at the University of California at Santa Cruz last April.
About 300 students from the campus group, Students Against
War, had shown up as part of a protest to focus attention on the
military’s discriminatory policies against gay and lesbian soldiers.
That day, the students, many of whom were gay or lesbian, had
gathered in hopes of highlighting the military’s unfair rule about gay and
lesbian military personnel, and thus preventing other students from
talking to or signing up with Pentagon representatives.
Those gathered that day began by circling the tables occupied
by the military recruiters. They conducted what they called
an “anti-military teach-in,” handing out information on topics
ranging from the detrimental effects of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,”
to their opposition to the war in Iraq.
According to the protestors, they succeeded in blocking
virtually any enlisting efforts by the Pentagon, and the military
recruiters left in frustration.
About six months later, in October 2005, tensions on
campus were running much higher. Members of Students
Against War had gathered to stage yet another rally against
military recruiters on campus. This time, in order to draw specific
attention to the unfairness of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” about two
dozen students had entered the building where military recruiters
were set up, and held a same-sex kiss-in. An additional 200
students gathered in a rally outside the building.
But due to all the attention and success of the previous
protest, the university deployed heavy security to the site, and
barred cameras and signs from inside the building. The administration
explained it wanted to carefully monitor the event.
They weren’t the only ones with watchful eyes. As first
reported by NBC, it turns out that the Pentagon was involved in
secretly spying on the student protestors at Santa Cruz. Press
reports have revealed that military documents describe the
protests as a “credible threat” of terrorism that could compromise
national security.
And the Santa Cruz protestors aren’t the only ones under the
Pentagon’s Big Brother gaze.
IN FEBRUARY 2005, ABOUT 60 people gathered to protest
military recruitment at New York University law school. For years,
students had opposed military recruiters on campus, specifically
because of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. The protests were
organized by the gay and lesbian student law group, OUTLaw.
Though no OUTLaw protest has ever resulted in harm or
injury to anyone, or even an arrest, the secret Pentagon report
on the incident classified the group as “possibly violent.”
Add to the list of government terror suspects worshippers at
a Quaker meeting house in Lake Worth, Fla.; demonstrators from
the Broward Anti-War Coalition who assembled outside a military
recruiting office at a strip mall in Lauderhill, Fla.; protestors
handing out peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in front of a
Halliburton office in Houston as a way of highlighting what they
say is the company’s “war profiteering” from food contracts to
the military in Iraq; members of People for the Ethical Treatment
of Animals, who were organizing a vegan conference by distributing
vegetarian starter kits at the University of Indiana; the
Catholic Workers Group, a Los Angeles-based organization that
believes in civil disobedience and protest through prayer; and
people involved in the political party, Greenpeace.
All of these people have ended up on what only recently
became disclosed as the Pentagon’s secret spying program,
known by operation code name TALON, short for Threat and
Local Observation Notice. What’s more frightening is that a list of
probably unknown thousands of other innocent and peaceful
Americans are also on the list. It’s part of a larger, alarming pattern
of secret spying on American citizens by our own government.
heels of a report by the New York Times that revealed another
domestic espionage program: Since 2002, President Bush has
authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on phone
calls and e-mails of American citizens in the United States
without obtaining a warrant from a special surveillance court.
This order was given despite a law that specifically prohibits the
government from taking such action.
In 1978, Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance
Act, which prohibits the government from spying on Americans
without obtaining a warrant from a special secret court.
It’s not difficult to get the needed warrant: In the history of FISA,
only five requests for domestic spying have ever been denied.
Under FISA, the government is allowed to conduct warrantless
surveillance of Americans within the first 15 days of a war. It
can even go ahead and immediately start spying on suspected
terrorists, and file for the warrant afterwards.
So there is no acceptable rationale for the government to be
engaged in illegal spying on American citizens. It is a grave threat
to our political freedoms and the freedom of speech that most
of us take for granted.
people, we would do well to remember just why FISA was enacted.
In the McCarthy era, the government kept long lists of “suspected
Communists,” and used that information (much of it
erroneous) as a way to manipulate and control political dissenters.
In the 1960s, political protestors, including civil rights leader
Martin Luther King, Jr., were routinely under surveillance. The
government at times tried to use this information in a game of
political blackmail, threatening to disclose personal details collected
from spying on activists as a way to dissuade them from
their political activity.
And during the Vietnam War, the government routinely
collected information against American anti-war protestors who
were deemed “un-American” and “un-patriotic.”
The government has a long history of spying on gay and
lesbian political activists, too.
In 1961, the FBI investigated meetings of the Mattachine
Society, one of the country’s first organized gay rights groups. In
1965, government agents took photos of protestors at the first public
demonstration of gay and lesbian people in front of the White House.
And old-time activists still remember the days when the FBI
routinely followed them around.

Luckily, at least one gay group realizes the gravity of being
spied on by the government, and how it can cast a chilling
effect on free speech and political activity.
The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a Washington
D.C.-based group that fights the military’s ban on gay soldiers,
has filed a Freedom of Information Act request to learn if it or other
gay groups are being spied on by the Bush administration.
The president and his apologists already have come up
with all kinds of convoluted excuses for why he is flaunting the
law and ordering illegal spying on Americans. But we should see
through this dangerous power play and insist that our government
stop undermining the Constitution. The government has
no legitimate reason to spy on citizens without court approval.
Secretive surveillance is a dangerous tool that can too easily lead
to squashing political dissent and unpopular political speech.
Santa Cruz students kissing members of the same sex in
front of military recruiters is no threat to our security or
freedoms. But a government that spies secretly on such
displays of political protest certainly is.

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Joe Redner Comes Out In Defense of Gay Rights

It’s a question for our times: How do we challenge stupid laws? Joe Redner knows all about stupid laws and he can be quick to action when he sees them. Redner, an infamous political
gadfly, nudie nightclub owner and free speech vigilante recently “came out” in opposition to June’s legislative fiasco barring “Hillsbilly” county officials from acknowledging or participating in gay events.
“I sued them because they incensed me with their inhumanity,” fumed Redner. “Singling out a group of people for no reason whatsoever for disparate treatment and taking them out of the normal realm of County business is wrong. That they cannot be treated with dignity and respect by the County — it incensed me for that to happen to me and my fellow human beings.” So Redner went to the Hillsborough Circuit Court seeking an injunction against the policy for violating constitutional free speech and equal protection rights.
“The first thing you must understand is that when a law is challenged in court they have to give a reason for it,” says Redner. Laws can be passed for no reason, but they must be defended in court if they want to withstand a challenge. Redner is attempting to make a challenge.

He says “You are not free if the government can pass a law with no justification and then defend it in court by saying ‘We have the right to do it.’ It would be like Hitler. How do we challenge stupid laws? We go to court and make them prove the restriction serves the intent. I say it’s unjustifiable!”
Redner points out that in 1996 the Supreme Court settled a very closely related case. Justice Kennedy delivered the opinion of the Court. “One century ago, the first Justice Harlan admonished this Court  that the Constitution ‘neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens.’ (Plessy v. Ferguson). Unheeded then, those words now are understood to state a commitment to the law’s neutrality where the rights of persons are at stake.  The Equal Protection Clause enforces this principle and today requires us to hold invalid a provision of Colorado’s Constitution.”
Romer v Evans effectively shot down a statewide amendment to the Colorado State Constitution. After various Colorado cities banned discrimination based on sexual orientation, Colorado voted on and passed referendum “Amendment 2” which was supposed to cancel and ban all legislation designed to protect the status of persons based on their “homosexual, lesbian or bisexual orientation, conduct, practices or relationships.”
But it didn’t hold up to Supreme scrutiny. “The State’s principal argument that Amendment 2 puts gays and lesbians in the same position as all other persons by denying them special
rights is rejected as implausible” wrote the Court. Furthermore “The amendment is at once too narrow and too broad, identifying persons by a single trait and then denying them
the possibility of protection across the board. It imposes a broad disability upon those persons alone, forbidding them, but no others, to seek specific legal protection from injuries
caused by discrimination in a wide range of both public and private transactions.”
Justice Kennedy wrote “The Amendment raises the inevitable inference that it is born of animosity toward the class that it affects.” It also raises the question, should “hate legislation” be considered a crime?
Redner remains incensed. “There is no justification, there is no reference. They haven’t given a reason. The law cannot advance the reason or serve the reason if there is no reason!” Redner says the only reason ever given is in the record of the County Commissioner meetings. “The only justification on record is that Ronda Storms didn’t want to have to explain to her children, as she walked by the display, what homosexual meant. I cut that down to meaning she doesn’t want her child to know that there are homosexuals in the world. And that is no justification at all. Here we have a law that cannot be justified.”
So Redner sued the commissioners individually, and was rebuffed at first. County attorneys tried to get Redner’s case dismissed by arguing Redner isn’t personally affected by the ordinance, implying in veiled legalese that Redner isn’t gay. “In fact, there is no allegation that Plaintiff has any concrete or particularized interest at all in gay pride recognition and events,”’ said the county attorneys. So Redner decided it was time to tell the world he is queer as folk.

Whether or not Joe Redner really is light in the loafers may be impossible for the court to officially determine. He says he is currently single, “Free as a breeze,” and experts in First Amendment law suggest it will be difficult to prove anything more than what Redner asserts about his sexuality.
He says so — isn’t that proof enough? What else would you have to do to prove you are gay? “I don’t know if it actually needs an act to be completed,” said First Amendment lawyer Luke
Lirot. “I guess that’s why they call it sexual orientation and not sexual activity.”
Redner says he is ready to take the stand and testify, if that is what will take to get the court to look at this case. He has already attended a party at a local gay nightclub to accept
several awards for coming out.
What’s that you ask: you never got an award for coming out? Joe would laugh at you and say “You never did it for altruistic reasons: to help humanity. Whether I am gay or not, that is what I did it for. It’s not about whether I am a homosexual, because I could have done it for altruistic reasons. When people are persecuted in my fucking name I get upset. This is my country.”

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Ford Reaffirms Support for the LGBT Community, Denies Deal with AFA

WASHINGTON — In a statement released Dec. 14, Ford
Motor Company reaffirmed its commitment to its progressive
workplace policies, said it would place corporate
advertising in LGBT publications on behalf of all of its
brands, including Jaguar and Land Rover, and would
continue financial support for LGBT organizations and
events consistent with its business condition. In response,
a broad coalition of LGBT organizations issued a statement
commending Ford for its actions. Visit www.media.ford.com
to read Ford’s statement.
“We applaud Ford Motor for taking such a firm stand on
behalf of our community — pledging to continue support
for our community’s organizations and events, and increasing
— not decreasing — its advertising in our community’s
publications to include all Ford brands. This is a very
positive, welcome outcome,” said Matt Foreman, Executive
Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
The coalition, comprised of more than twenty LGBT
organizations, issued the following statement: “We welcome
today’s statement from Ford Motor Company and
commend their firm stance in support of inclusion. It is an
unequivocal reaffirmation of Ford’s historic commitment
to our community and the core American values of fairness
and equality. Moreover, it is conclusive proof of what Ford
leaders have repeatedly assured us — that there never was
any deal with anti-LGBT organizations concerning Ford’s
support for our community.
We are proud to be back in gear with Ford and look
forward to working with them in the years ahead.”
The controversy erupted on Dec. 1, 2005, when the
American Family Association (AFA) officially announced it
was dropping its threat of a boycott, saying Ford “heard our
concerns; they are acting on our concerns. We are pleased
with where we are.” According to the AFA and media
reports, in order to avoid a boycott, Ford allegedly agreed
to no longer run ads promoting Jaguar or Land Rover in the
gay press and no longer support gay events or organizations.
According to the AFA, Ford could continue running
Volvo ads in the gay press, but no longer tailor those ads to
the gay community (i.e., in the future such ads would be the
same ads that are run in the mainstream media, rather than
the crafting the ads to appeal to a gay readership).The next
day, a Ford spokesperson appeared to confirm an agreement
by saying the company would stop advertising its Jaguar and
Land Rover brands in gay publications. The AFA is an extremist
anti-LGBT organization that routinely threatens boycotts
against LGBT-supportive companies, television programs it
does not like, and even cartoon characters such as SpongeBob.
On Dec. 5, 18 leading LGBT organizations issued a
statement calling upon Ford to disavow any agreement with
AFA, to reaffirm its commitment to the LGBT community
and to meet with the LGBT community and resolve the
issue. As a result of that statement, Ford Motor executives
met with LGBT community representatives, including Task
Force Executive Director Matt Foreman, in Washington,
D.C., on Dec. 12. There, Ford said it would issue a statement
based on the topics discussed, and the comprehensive
statement released today was the result.

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Mraz the Spaz

Story and photo by John Chambrone
ST. PETERSBURG—Singer Jason Mraz is not one to shy away from his self-described geekiness. He actually embraces it. “Here I am, this skinny little white kid wearing this
pink polo shirt, just feeling totally awkward. I probably looked like the biggest nerd.” The former cheerleading camper even penned the tune ‘Geek in the Pink,’ describing the colored shirt he bares no shame wearing in public. Leaving the pink shirt behind at a recent Janus Landing
performance, Mraz’s fifteen-song performance drew heavily from his sophmore release, Mr. A-Z. “I get to meet a lot of awkward teenagers, and right now they’re kind of feeling like they’re not cool, but it’s usually the geeks that are the cool people, and the people who think they’re really cool are usually the geeks,” he said. “But the bottom line is we’re all the same people. We’re all just a bunch of geeks trying to make it up as we go along.”
One can see that Mraz is passionate about his music, but maybe he should leave the rapping to the professionals. He is at his best when he just sings. Case in point, Mraz opened the show with his single “Life Is Wonderful.” It is a beautiful song with a ‘la la la la’ type chorus. His ‘rhyme,’
two songs later, just wasn’t as impressive. Sure, the guy can master the mike, but I think he is selling himself short. Mraz is the geeky, sensitive, artist type, and the rapping just clashed with what he is perceived to be. Midway through his performance, opening act Tristan Prettyman came onstage and they dueted his song “Shy That Way.”
Mraz has been busy on the concert circuit recently, opening for acts like Liz Phair, Alanis Morissette and the Rolling Stones. Relishing his time on the road with Mick Jagger and the Stones was an experience he will never forget. Not only did he get to watch them perform nightly, but he got a few chances to talk to the members of the band. His biggest moment came, however, when he got his mom backstage to meet them. Mraz joked that it was fun
seeing his mother acting like a teenager when she got to meet the legendary Rolling Stones.

About his time at cheerleader camp, he confesses there were a few reasons behind attending it. Screaming into a megaphone during rallies may up your geek factor tenfold, but Mraz says he milked every second of the opportunity.
“There were three guys and like 400 beautiful cheerleaders,” the singer joked. “It’s like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ I don’t know why guys get flack for being a cheerleader, because it’s the best gig you could ask for.” While in high school, Mraz was also involved with choir, drama, and spent many a Friday night at Skate America.

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Brokeback is a Hit!

TAMPA—The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation was among the organizations lauding the opening weekend success of Ang Lee’s long-awaited gay cowboy flick, Brokeback
Mountain. Opening in just five theaters in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, the film took in a record three-day box office total of $544,549, or an average of $109,000 per screen — both the highest per-screen average for any film release in 2005 and the highest per-screen average ever for an adult drama, according to Exhibitor Relations Co, Inc.
Not only does Brokeback seem to be a commercial hit, but it is a critical success, as well. When the Golden Globe nominations were announced, the film lead the pack with seven, including Best Picture, a Best Director nod for Ang Lee and Best Actor for Heath Ledger, making it a leading contender for the Oscars.
Brokeback Mountain opened in limited release in December, and will expand to more theaters in January. Check local listings for a theater near you.

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Sexology is the scientific study of sexual interests, behavior, and function.[1][2] In modern sexology, researchers apply tools from several academic fields, including biology, medicine, psychology, statistics, epidemiology, sociology, anthropology, and criminology. It studies sexual development and the development of sexual relationships as well as the mechanics of sexual intercourse. It also documents the sexualities of special groups, such as the disabled handicapped, children, and the elderly. Sexologists study sexual dysfunctions, disorders, and variations, such as erectile dysfunction, pedophilia, and sexual orientation. Sexological findings can become controversial when they contradict mainstream, religious, or political beliefs.

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Elton John Named Gay Games Ambassador

By Sara O’Brien
Keeping music at the center of the Gay Games has been a long standing tradition for many years. That is why it comes as no surprise that the Federation of Gay Games
has announced that Sir Elton John has become a Gay Games Ambassador.
“Thousands of musicians have participated in the cultural festivals of the Gay Games,” said Sir Elton. “I’m proud of them and what they have accomplished at the Games Elton John Named Gay Games Ambassador and in their home communities. Along with the athletic participants, they challenge the stereotypes from which
oppression grows and consequently bring the world closer together.”
The Gay Games Ambassador program began prior to the 2002 Gay Games VI in Sydney. An International group of prominent individuals make up these Ambassadors.
Charter members included actor Judith Light, Olymipic gold medal swimmer Bruce Hayes, former U.S. Ambassador James Hormel, and photographer Tom Bianchi. Since the 2002 Gay Games the list has become more colorful and diverse with an array of Olympic champions, professional athletes, celebrities, actors and musicians.
“We feel truly honored that Sir Elton John has accepted our invitation to become an Ambassador for the Gay Games,” said Roberto Mantaci, Co-President of the Federation of Gay Games. “For many years, he has been an ‘ambassador’ for the entire LGBT community, particularly through his charitable work, and his contribution has been immense.”
Over the years, music has become the focal point of the Gay Games. The opening and closing ceremonies include pop, classical, jazz, R & B, country and many other styles of music, and that’s just the beginning. In addition to those ceremonies, many memorable performances throughout the week will take place, as well as daily band and choral performances.
“I am thrilled to be involved with the Gay Games. For more than two decades the Gay Games have turned a welldeserved spotlight on athletic and cultural performances by members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and their friends from around the world,” expressed Sir Elton.
Gay Games VII takes place in Chicago from July 15-22, 2006.

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"It's not the men in your life, but the life in your men." – Mae West