Friday, September 29, 2006

Ugly Betty: The good, the bad and the ugly

With so much advance critical praise and positive word-of-mouth, Thursday night's premiere of Ugly Betty brought beautiful rating numbers for ABC. It drew 16.1 million people without piggy-backing on a big hit (though it was followed by the blockbuster "Grey's Anatomy") which made it the top rated debut series so far this season (I wonder what the demographic breakdown was).

In the age of YouTube, ABC is trying a new approach this year and allowing potential viewers who might have missed episodes of some of their shows like "Lost" and "Grey's Anatomy" (my current favorite) to watch them online - but only for a week after they have aired. This includes "Ugly Betty" so if you missed the first episode (or any future episodes) just go here a couple of days after that week's episode airs.

We certainly fretted about the debut in a previous post and expected to be let down (at first because we thought it would be impossible to translate Betty from its original Colombian television soap incarnation and then after the overwhelming advance praise since it was hard to believe the show would live up to the hype). So, how did it fare?

The good: America Ferrera is amazing! She IS the show and carries the true spirit of the original Betty. Also, most of the exteriors were actually shot in New York City (and Queens) instead of a make-up "NYC world" (see "Friends"). I also loved the character of Justin, Betty's 12 year-old nephew, who knows more about fashion and couture than any 12 year-old boy should truly know, unless... And then there are the telenovelas within the show which Betty's family always seems to be watching on their television set with producer Selma Hayeck vamping it up for laughs. Good stuff.

The bad: Vanessa Williams: I hate that the show has chosen to make one of the most beautiful and talented women in the United States such a hateful and bitchy villain. I also thought that it was a mistake to turn everyone else at the office into truly unlikable foes when, in the original, even the bad folks had a sweetness to them. Actress Lorna Paz (pictured above), for example, played a hilarious ladder-climbing "dyed-blond" secretary who would flip her long hair and have men fall at her feet (she can be seen flipping her hair here). She would splurge on high-commodity items such as a BMW and wear top-line clothing to make sure that she would look stunning and make people think she was high-class. But she'd always be borrowing money and, secretly, she wouldn't even pay her electricity bills (when inviting someone over, she'd light up a bunch of candles purportedly to 'set the mood' though the audience knew that without them her place would be dark).

We previously had said that some of the Betty re-makes lost something in painting their characters too broadly and robbing them of complex character traits and, at least in the pilot, the US version seems to have done this as well with the exception of Betty and, perhaps, her nephew.

The ugly: The humiliating scene in which Betty is asked to dress up for a fashion shoot was cruel, humiliating and unduly harsh. Gina Gershon's poodle-totting, silicon-lipped Italian caricature was humorless and distracting. The concept of a Mexican-family in Queens didn't quite congeal into a whole, and the actors playing them seem to be channeling members of totally different families. And, judging by previews of the next episode, they already will be cashing in on the popularity of "The Devil Wears Prada" with a storyline that seems directly lifted from the film.

OK, maybe some of that is not quite ugly but it certainly is somewhat disappointing. I'll keep watching thanks to America Ferrera and hope that, this being the pilot, future episodes will allow the other characters to breathe a little and hopefully become the great show that was promised. If only there was a little more Lorna Paz-ness.

A whole different take on the show at Miss Wild Thing's.

Other assorted takes:
  • Pop culture junkies ruminates even longer than I do here
  • I seem to have channeled some Good Nonsense here
  • TMZ has a video capture of the telenovela within the show here
  • TV Squad gets it right, right here

Update: I *heart* puppies

An update of sorts:

El Mackin boy a/k/a Steven Mackin (pictured right kissing puppies) escaped a potentially devastating cancer surgery yesterday but still has some additional tests to go through as well as chemo-therapy sessions, which he has already endured in the past and is definitely NOT looking forward to.

Steven is posing with puppies because he can (and because it makes him look cute even if the pups are not his).

Steven is grateful for all the well-wishes he has gotten since we wrote about his predicament over the weekend.

We have spoken to Steven and realized that even if there's a long road ahead, it's a blessing that he didn't have to have major surgery yesterday.

Please keep hoping for the best in Steven's recuperation.


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

We love Steven Mackin

So if you've visited Blabbeando over the past week, you might have noticed the "Photo of the Moment" has featured a hottie with the caption "Mackin on my mind."

If you have been a loyal Blabbeando reader you might also know that we have previously featured Steven Mackin (above) in the past when he daringly questioned P. Diddy's credentials last year and then again this year when he expressed his embarrassment when his mom told him that the sex scenes in "Brokeback Mountan" were kinda "hot."

As some of my friends have commented, we rarely get personal in this blog but today we are making an exception. Turns out that on Saturday I got a call from Steven and I initially thought he was going to tell me about his escapades in Las Vegas, where he'd been spending a few days. So when he first said "It's back" I didn't fully capture what he was saying. "What?" I asked. "I'm in Nashville at the Hospital Center, it's back," he said.

My stomach dropped. You see, back in 2003 Steven (a/k/a coolukman) was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in tissues surrounding his lower spine for which he had to get surgery and chemo-therapy. Recent check-ups seemed to indicate that he had beaten it but, as of late, Steven had complained about stomach pains. Last week they got so bad upon his return to Kentucky that his family decided to take him to the doctor. The news was that the cancer was back and that he unfortunately had to have another operation as soon as possible.

On Sunday, he told me he was blogging about it. "Are you crazy?!" I said, "You need some privacy! Not to have everyone calling you day or night to know what is going on!"

So why are we writing about it today? Well, Steven reminded me that one of the reasons why he began to write on his LiveJournal blog was to share his experience dealing with cancer so that it might help others in a similar circumstance and that he was not about to back down. As a matter of fact, he made me promise that I would blog about him this week. Hence the "Photo of the Moment" - and this post.

Today, Steven posted his thoughts on the latest developments on his LiveJournal and other friends are keeping up on the latest as well.

Surgery is tentatively scheduled for tomorrow though it's a long-ass 8 to 12 hour stint which might be postponed a day or two. It's tough to provide support from afar but we've tried to make sure that Steven knows that we love him and that we hope for the best possible outcome tomorrow.

Please join me in whishing the Mackin boy the best!


Tanya Stephens' Rebelution: Best CD of the year?

Over on her blog, Jasmyne Cannick has been following ongoing protests against homophobic dancehall reggae singers currently touring the United States. Most recently we reported on efforts by Chicago's Gay Liberation Network to shut down a performance by Buju Banton in Chicago which followed our coverage of this summer's protest against LIFEbeat for hiring some of the same singers for a NYC concert to raise money for HIV services in Jamaica (a mind boggling and wrong-headed move as any).

Previously, we also suggested that LIFEbeat consider holding a concert featuring singer Tanya Stephens although I admit the suggestion was based on an amazing interview that ran in the European Riddim Magazine and an amazing track from her (then) unreleased CD "Rebelution" (currently only $12.97 at called "These Streets" which was featured on their cover-mount CD.

I finally got my hands on a copy (which includes a DVD with a documentary and Tanya performing some acoustic versions of some of the songs on the CD) and I just have to say that I am blown away. It's a warm, emotional, stunningly beautiful album that might just be my favorite CD of the year.

The article mentioned that the album would deal directly with issues related to homophobia in Jamaica and it certainly does. Below you will find excerpted lyrics from the song "Do You Still Care" which Riddim called the track that might draw the most controversy. It's just one amazing track.

People, please support Tanya! And I'm not just saying this because she is gay-friendly but rather because the album is so great!
Excerpt from Tanya Stephen's "Do You Still Care?"
Where Bigga grew up boys were supposed to be tough

Girls were trophies every man always kept a few of

When he was hurt and the tears would sting at his eyes

His mother said, "Stop the noise, yuh a girl? Real boys don't cry"

He learned in order to be a man he had to know how to fight

And had some very definitive rules bout what's wrong or right

He never had the luxury of being able to choose
So to him for being different there was no excuse
Bigga was hustling on the corner, making some cash
When he bumped into some beef that he had from the past

He watched the guns raise and the bullets fly

In disbelief as his friends all jumped in their rides

Left him in the gutter didn't care if he died

He was rescued by a care with plates that said "Gay Pride"

It would have been fatal, the shot in your head
They saved your life though you always said chi-chi fi dead

Monday, September 25, 2006

Hispanic Jews in Miami vs. El Vacilon de La Mañana

In previous posts, we have mentioned past efforts in New York to address the rampant homo- phobia (as well as misogyny and racism) in what is often the top-rated local radio shows in the mornings: La Mega 97.7 FM's "El Vacilon de la Mañana."

This has gone on for most of the decade and, so far, it's been a losing battle between a handful of LGBT activists working from their boot-straps and a radio show that brings millions in advertising for the Spanish-language radio station on which it is broadcast.

They have gotten away with it mostly because they use the good ol' "we don't just insult gays, we insult everybody" excuse and because the show is in Spanish which means that most media observers do not know just how offensive it is (more insidiously, they have also usually offered AIDS organizations a space for their public service announcements or bought promotional opportunities at LGBT events just to cover their asses).

Not surprisingly, during the last few years, Spanish-language radio stations have taken notice of its success and have adopted their format and even given it the same name to their morning shows.

Case in point: Today, the South Florida Sentinel reports on the formation of the Hispanic Jewsish Initiative in the wake of similarly offensive shenaningans by Enrique Santos and Joe Ferrero, the Cuban-American crew that steers the Miami version of "El Vacilon" on 95.7 FM's El Zol.

Members of the initiative, which was created under the Florida chapter of the Anti-Defamation League, claim that a recurring skit features a character named David Goldstein who represents some of the worst Jewish stereotypes and is presented as rabidly anti-immigrant.

The paper also reports that to the radio show
not only features an image of a Nazi eagle and swastika under the character's "profile" but also takes note of "Al Jackson," an African-American character in some of the skits, whose "profile" shows a "manipulated mug shot of a man whose lips balloon from his face" (as you can see above as lifted from here).

The stations that run the separate versions of "El Vacilon" are both owned by the giant Spanish Broadcastring System but neither SBS nor the Miami show producers returned calls from the paper.

RE-EDITED: When I first checked the show's website I was suprised to notice that their web addy is At first I thought it might be a homophobic pun ("Maricon son" literally translates into "Fags they are") but a blog reader has pointed out that this might not be the case.

Back in 2004, Miami's "El Vacilon" drew international attention for prank calling Cuban president Fidel Castro and passing themselves as Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. (they were later fined $4,000 by the FCC).

The blog reader says that "Maricon son" is what Fidel actually called the DJ's after he was told that the call was a prank.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Update: Green light for civil union legislation debate in Puerto Rico

Over at Puerto Rico Para Tod@s there's the good news that a legislative commission set up to study changes to the Puerto Rican Civil Code - which dates back to 1930 - has finally given the green light for the Senate to debate language that would regulate partnerships other than those sanctioned by a Catholic Church (at the moment Puerto Rico does not even recognize civil unions or domestic partnerships for heterosexual couples).

Just on September 12th, El Vocero had reported that efforts to grant rights to unmarried couples were pretty much dead after Senator Jorge de Castro Font, the President of all senatorial commissions, declared that he would not allow debate on the issue as long as rights for same-sex couples were in play ("Never!" were his exact words to the paper).

Well, it might still be "never" but "never" just got to "sooner" today. Today's El Vocero reports that, despite de Castro Font's objections, the legislative committee was able to secure enough votes to endorse a Senate debate on the issue.

"As a legislator, I understand that I cannot run away from my responsibility of discussing and making decisions on situations that arise in the daily life of Puerto Ricans, and if civil unions is what we will have to discuss, we will discuss it," said Senator Carmelo Rios in a press release as one of two deciding votes (the other one being Senate President Kenneth McClintock who introduced the language in the first place).

Senator Rios' statement echoed a letter we sent to the Senators this week in which close to 35 Latino LGBT organizations throughout the United States and Latin America demanded an open debate after the outrageous indications that de Castro Font planned to block any Senate dialogue on the issue (and years of advocacy by LGBT leaders and organizations in the island as well as their allies). There is still the full legislative vote.

And there is also the fact that there is also an sexual orientation anti-discriminationn bill that has yet to be addressed.

Still, today was a good day and hopefully it foreshadows that sooner than later, the full Puerto Rican legislative body will endorse equality for all.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Thank you, Pedro Julio!

Puerto Rican newspaper Primera Hora had the news about 35 Latino LGBT organizations throughout the United States and Latin America supporting LGBT rights in Puerto Rico as their lead story on their web portal for most of the morning. Over on his blog, Pedro Julio Serrano has some kind words to say about me (and this blog as well - yay!). But you better learn some Spanish fast to understand what it says (or the note that I left on PJ's website). Should there be additional media coverage, you'll find it in this post as I will update it as merited.

LGBT Latinos for equal rights in Puerto Rico

So many a time, I've wanted to blog about the great work my friend (and President of Puerto Rico Para Tod@s) Pedro Julio Serrano has been doing to secure LGBT rights in the island. We profiled him back in October of 2005 just as he had came to New York City to live. He is now working at the National Lesbian and Gay Task Force.

Anyway, recently things in the island had been heating up as a sexual orientation non-discrimination bill started making its way to the Senate and details emerged about a possible revision to Puerto Rico's Civil Code that would allow same-sex couples to get the same rights as couples who enter civil unions (read more below) and when a leading Senator threatened to use his power last week to prevent the anti-discrimination bill from even being debated, well, let's say it made the blood boil.

So, on Saturday I asked Pedro Julio if he thought it would be good if Latino LGBT communities outside Puerto Rico expressed their support. Lo and behold, between Saturday and yesterday more than 35 organizations from Mexico, Argentina, Ecuador, Brazil, El Salvador, Peru, as well as Latino LGBT organizations in the United States, expressed their support. Pretty amazing. Let's hope it helps to move these legislative measures in a path towards approval!


Media Contacts:

Pedro Julio Serrano
Andrés Duque

“Latino lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) organizations support legislative measures that would guarantee equal rights for all in Puerto Rico”

September 21, 2006 – In a statement sent to members of the Puerto Rican Senate today, more than 30 Latino organizations that work on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities throughout Latin America and the United States, expressed their support for legislative measures awaiting consideration in the island’s Legislature in favor of equal rights for LGBT communities in Puerto Rico. The measures endorsed by these Latino LGBT organizations are Senate Bill 1585 which would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and a revision of the Civil Code which would allow a same-sex couple the same benefits granted to a heterosexual couple in a civil union.

“This declaration of solidarity from Latino LGBT communities in the United States and Latin America is a powerful message of support for the fight for equal rights in which our Puerto Rican sisters and brothers are engaged. Today we wholeheartedly assume the call to action, with the hope that Puerto Rico becomes a model of justice and equality for all other Latin American countries and the Latino communities in the United States,” said Andrés Duque, a New York-based advocate for LGBT rights in Latino communities.

The organizations that signed this declaration of solidarity in favor of the Puerto Rican LGBT community are: ALLGO, Organización Estatal LGBT de Color, Asociación Brasileña de Gays, Lesbianas y Travestis, Asociación de Derechos Humanos "Entre Amigos", ATTTA Asociación Travestis Transexuales Transgeneros Argentinas, BIENESTAR, Brazilian Rainbow Group, Las Buenas Amigas, Colombian Lesbian and Gay Association (COLEGA), Comunidad Homosexual Argentina (CHA), Encuentros: Instituto para la Promoción de la Diversidad y la Cultura, Federación Argentina de Lesbianas Gays Bisexuales y Trans, Federacion Mexicana de Educacion Sexual y Sexologia (A.C FEMESS), Shalom Amigos, Asociacion Nacional de grupos de padres de hijos/as LGBT Mexico, La Fulana - Centro Comunitario para mujeres lesbianas y bisexuales, Grupo CD4, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA), National Latino Coalition for Justice, Latino Commission on AIDS, Latino Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (Latino PFLAG - NYC) & PFLAG for Families of Color and Allies – NYC, Latitud 0: Movimiento LGBT Ecuatoriano, Love Sees No Borders, MATEANDO: 1er grupo Argentino y Uruguayo en Nueva York, Organizacion Ecuatoriana de Mujeres Lesbianas (OEML), Primer Movimiento Peruano LGBT NY, Puerto Rican Initiative to Develop Empowerment (PRIDE), RED_LACTRANS: Red Latinoamericana y del Caribe de personas trans, Somos Latin@s LGBT Coalition of Massachusetts & Latino Pride of New England, S.O.S. Discriminación Internacional, Venezuelan & American Lesbian, Gay Organization (VALGO), Venezuela Gay United.

“We extend our deep gratitude for this gesture of solidarity and love by our sister organizations in Latin America and from the Latino LGBT community in the United States. With these new voices joining our fight, we are motivated to fight more forcefully so that Puerto Rico can truly belong to everyone,” concluded Pedro Julio Serrano, a human rights activist and President of Puerto Rico Para Tod@s.

Declaration of support for the LGBT community in Puerto Rico

Honorable members of the Puerto Rican Senate:

We, as members of the Latino lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community join our Puerto Rican sisters and brothers and call on the legislative powers to honor their sworn responsibility to protect its citizens and eliminate any discriminatory barriers that prevents the free development of all its citizens.

In a Democracy, it is imperative that the Senate allow open debate on legislative measures which include Senate Bill 1585, which would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, and a revision of the Civil Code which would allow a same-sex couple the same benefits granted to a heterosexual couple in a civil union.

We appeal to you highest sense of justice to validate the demand for equal rights for LGBT communities throughout Puerto Rico.
We are hopeful that Puerto Rico will take the leadership in the Caribbean region and not only allow a debate on these measures but also vote for their passage in order to protect members from the LGBT community from unjust and immoral discrimination and protect the rights of couples who love each other, including same-sex couples, as has been already done by communities in Argentina, Brazil and, in the near future by Uruguay and possibly Colombia.


Jesús Ortega

Director, Community Development

ALLGO, Organización Estatal LGBT de Personas de Color
Austin, TX, USA

Toni Reis

Secretary General

Asociación Brasileña de Gays, Lesbianas y Travestis

Curitiba, Paraná, Brazil

William Vladimir Hernandez Valenzuela

Asociación de Derechos Humanos "Entre Amigos"

San Salvador, El Salvador, Central America

Marcela Romero
Coordinator and Representative

ATTTA Asociación Travestis Transexuales Transgéneros Argentinas
Buenos Aires, Argentina

Oscar De La O

President & CEO

Southern California, CA, USA

Steven A. Toledo

Associate Director

Brazilian Rainbow Group

New York, NY, USA

Cathy Chang
Las Buenas Amigas

New York, NY, USA

Andrés Duque

Colombian Lesbian and Gay Association (COLEGA)

New York, NY, USA

Cesar Cigliutti


Comunidad Homosexual Argentina (CHA)

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Alejandro Merino Rosas


Encuentros: Instituto para la Promoción de la Diversidad y la Cultura

Lima, Perú

María Rachid


Federación Argentina de Lesbianas Gays Bisexuales y Trans

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Luis Perelman
Federacion Mexicana de Educacion Sexual y Sexologia (A.C FEMESS); Shalom Amigos (Mexican LGBT Jewish Group); and Asociacion Nacional de grupos de padres de hijos/as LGBT
Ciudad de México, DF, México

Claudia Castro


La Fulana - Centro Comunitario para mujeres lesbianas y bisexuales

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Antonio Ortega


Grupo CD4

Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico

Marcelo Ernesto Ferreyra

Coordinator, Latin American and Caribbean Program

International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC)

Stephen Barris


International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA)

Brussels, Belgium

Sandra Telep

National Latino Coalition for Justice

Washington, DC, USA

Dennis deLeon

Latino Commission on AIDS
New York, NY , USA

Nila Marrone


Latino Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (Latino PFLAG - NYC) & PFLAG for Families of Color and Allies - NYC

New York, NY, USA

Bolívar Nieto

Representative, Board of Directors

Latitud 0: Movimiento LGBT Ecuatoriano
New York, NY, USA

Marta Donayre y Leslie Bulbuk


Love Sees No Borders

San Francisco, CA, USA

Hugo Ovejero
María Berrio

María Belén Correa


MATEANDO: 1er grupo Argentino y Uruguayo en Nueva York

New York, NY, USA

Sandra Álvarez Monsalve

Executive Director

Organizacion Ecuatoriana de Mujeres Lesbianas (OEML)

Quito, Ecuador

José Sánchez


Primer Movimiento Peruano LGBT NY

New York, NY, USA

Luis A. Robles

President & Chairman

Puerto Rican Initiative to Develop Empowerment (PRIDE)

New York, NY, USA

María Belén Correa
Administrator & Founder
RED_LACTRANS: Red Latinoamericana y del Caribe de personas trans

Wilfred Labiosa and the Board of Directors

Somos Latin@s LGBT Coalition of Massachusetts & Latino Pride of New England

Boston, MA, USA

Manuel Edmundo Ramos Gutiérrez


S.O.S. Discriminación Internacional

Querétaro, México

José Tineo


Venezuelan & American Lesbian, Gay Organization (VALGO)

New York, NY, USA

Gerardo Pineda


Venezuela Gay United

New York, NY, USA

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Rev. Fernando Frontan: Uruguay, New York, Spain

I met Fernando Frontan a couple of years ago. He was visiting New York City from Uruguay where I knew he'd enjoyed a tremendous reputation as an advocate for LGBT rights but - at the time - he had already been distancing himself from activism and receiving some criticism for the path he had chosen instead: He wanted to devote himself to a spiritual life and become a priest.

Though I had known about his activism and admired from afar, I personally met Fernando Frontan through Nila Marrone, a straight married woman born in Bolivia (she currently is the coordinator of the New York chapters of Latino Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays a/k/a Latino PFLAG and PFLAG for Families of Color and Allies). You see, Nila considers Fernando to be one of her adopted sons and was the one to introduce him to some of us here in New York.

In the meantime, even before Spain allowed marriage for same-sex couples, a minor scandal erupted when a Catholic priest decided to come out on the cover of ZERO magazine (Spain's answer to Out magazine, except it's much better) to counter some of the Catholic church's opposition to granting equal rights to the LGBT community, including the right to marry. The Reverend Jose Mantero has since rallied against ZERO accusing them of becoming a bastion for wealthy gays in Spain (and gained some enemies in the gay press) but, in the meantime, the influential Spanish journalist website Periodista Digital has granted a blog space to Mantero since last year which he has used to spread the word of God's love to the gay community.

How does all this come together? Over the last week Rev. Mantero has profiled Rev. Frontan which is how I know that Fernando's dream finally came through: Over the weekend, he finally became an ordained minister for the world-wide Metropolitan Community Church, which is accepting of the LGBT community. A fact celebrated in Uruguay, New York and Spain and probably elsewhere.

In the meantime, Rev. Mantero has launched a new initiative for Spanish-speaking gay Christians in the form of an MSN group. So, if you somehow find yourself reading these words, speak Spanish, consider yourself a Christian as well as gay, please join this group and you will find that there are others like you.

Another Latino gay man murdered in New York City

Both Hoy and El Diario La Prensa are reporting today that a Latino gay man was found stabbed to death at his Riverside Drive apartment in Washington Heights. Ismael Cortes, born in Puerto Rico, was found on Sunday morning by his partner of eight years, Oscar.

Jose Feliciano, the building superintendent, tells Hoy that that he last saw Cortes alive on the previous night when he got out of a taxi cab in the company of two other men. "They called me around 4:30am to let me know that Oscar had gone out to knock on every neighbor's doors to announce that he had found Ismael's body," he says.

Police have arrested John Brandt, 51, and said he appeared to know the victim. According to the police, Brandt has a long criminal record that includes rape, sexual abuse, criminal behavior, arson and vehicular burglary. Police are seeking a second suspect.

A neighbor, Patricia Moore, tells Hoy that she has lost a great friend and says that Cortes had been working in the dining room of the Barnard College for women at Columbia University.

Francisco Alvarado, the superintendent's assistant at the Riverside Drive building, tells El Diario "He was a very happy person, healthy, and never did a bad thing to anyone."

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Blogger diversity

Over the past few months we have seen a few instances where bloggers of color have been able to use the new medium to highlight issues or actions outside the radar of mainstream media or, in the case of queer bloggers of color, outside gay media as well. Some recent examples:
These unrelated events, among others, have galvanized some in the queer POC blogospehere long before they have reached coverage in other media. It goes to show how essential blogs might just be in providing information that might not be available anywhere else.

I have had some lingering questions about these occurrences. In some of these cases, and particularly the LIFEbeat protest, there was some limited strategic planning before the protest went 'on-line' but most of the bloggers who joined the effort found out about it after it was launched, possibly from some of those involved from the outset who knew which other bloggers to contact (and later from people who read different posts by these bloggers and decided to join).

It's fascinating to watch a certain issue catch fire and spread from a disorganized entity into a focused action, sometimes without participants even knowing each other. But there was also a small number of those involved in the LIFEbeat protest that had direct access to mainstream media and were able to channel some of the responses once they picked up on it. Of course, other things also come into play, including whether it was a slow news day, if the story had a 'sexy' angle, if it had legs, etc.

Now, most bloggers who responded to the LIFEbeat protest were African-American though off-line there were some gay Jamaican leaders and organizations that were involved. If I remember correctly, Emanuel Xavier and yours truly were the Latino representation blog-wise. And I have often wondered since then if a similar 'blogger activation campaign' on an issue related to LGBT Latinos could take place (my gut feeling is that it might take a couple of years for LGBT Latinos to catch up to blogger-fever, particularly those who are interested in politics and advocacy).

'tis why this particular story caught my eye last week and why it seems to be still reverberating among blogger circles. Which brings to mind this Newsweek article from back in March.

Which then brings us to Bloggasm and an informal poll conducted by media critic Simon Owens. He asked 1,000 bloggers the following questions:

1. What niche does your blog fall into (Examples: Political, gadget, movie, etc…If more than one, please list)?
2. What are the genders of all the bloggers who write for your site?
3. What are the races for all the bloggers who write for your site (if there are any that you’re not sure about, just indicate that you don’t know)?
4. What do you think of the diversity of the blogosphere, both in your niche and as a whole?

The results? At least when it comes to Latino bloggers, mostly dismal (even if it's not a scientific survey). But it does reflect some of my own perceptions since I started blogging more than a year ago.

In a couple of days, if not sooner, I'll be announcing a nifty international effort to support gay rights in a Caribbean island - but it was done in old-skool fashion (through the internet) rather than the blogospehere.

Let's hope that this focus on diversity in the blogosphere can change some of these dynamics.

(Thanks to Streetforce1 at GreasyGuide for guiding us to the Bloggasm entry)

[Additional Reading: The Republic of T. - Blogs, Diversity & Moving Forward: A Proposal]

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Cultural benchmark: Ugly Betty on ABC

As someone who was born in Colombia, South America, it's difficult to explain why a Colombian television soap opera should be the source of so much pride - but it is. In it's original incarnation "Yo Soy Betty La Fea" (which debuted in Colombia in 1,999) broke television rating records in Colombia (as it would when it was re-broadcast in the United States on Telemundo as "Betty La Fea") and marked the culmination of a period in which Colombian television was producing some of the best and most original television fare in Latin America with the exception, perhaps, of Brazil.

What distinguished Betty from the rest was the fact that it up-ended the usual Latin American television soap tropes, at least for a while, by being razor-sharp in lambasting the vacuous, greedy and self-involved world of the wealthy while making its nerdy and prat-fall prone heroine, her co-worker secretaries and her low-income family the moral center of the story. That the show did it with panache, incredible amounts of humor and a focus on narrative and character development added to its sweetness (lead writer Fernando Gaitán had to do a lot with this). Incidentally, it was also one of a number of Colombian television shows that had a leading gay character shown in a positive light despite the fact that as the lead designer for the fashion firm in which the show takes place, the character makes life hell for Betty.

The casting of beautiful actress Ana Maria Orosco as Betty betrayed an original intent of eventually succumbing to genre and making "Betty La Fea" conform to an ugly-duckling narrative and, to their credit, once the soap became as popular as it did, the writer and the producers did their best to delay the "transformation," despite polls that showed that viewers wanted Betty to remain ugly (for Halloween, little girls went out trick-or-treating dressed up as little Ugly Betties). Unfortunately, by then it was obvious that the story-lines were being stretched (possibly to cash-in to Telemundo's demands for more and more "Betty" since episodes were being shown in the United States before the soap came to an end in Colombia). In any case, a classic had been born.

Following the success of Betty, Univision stole the characters from Telemundo an produced a sequel that flopped big time. They bowdlerized the characterizations, broadened the humor by stripping away any complexity and went for the easy laugh, which included turning the gay character into a stereotypically bitchy queen stick-figure bordering on homophobic. It also began the unfortunate trend in Spanish-language television of training actors to lose their regional accents purportedly in order to appeal to a larger viewership and of drawing some of the best acting talent from Latin America to take part in mega-soap productions that draw on the worst aspects of Latin American soap operas (take the trashy but dramatically limp "Pasion de Gavilanes" on Telemundo which creates a bizarro-world cowboy environment for actors from different countries to play related family members in the middle of an overwrought feud between dynasties).

Recent re-incarnations of "Betty" haven't fared better, at least the Spanish language ones. Univision is currently showing "La Fea Mas Bella" ("The Most Beautiful Ugly One") produced by Mexico's Televisa which amps up the caricature factor and loses out on subtle humor. Though I hear that there's a version of Betty in Germany played for drama rather than humor that has been well-received. Online you can even compare the opening credits and segments of the original here (with a handy Hebrew translation), to those of the version from Spain here, Mexico here, Russia here and here, India here and here, Germany here (yes, the phenomenon is THAT wide-sperad and why the show, just like the singer Shakira, has been embraced as some sort of national symbol in Colombia).

So excuse me if I cringed when I first heard that Selma Hayek had bought rights to the soap and was producing a pilot for ABC. And things didn't necessarily look spectacular when ABC released its pilot promo reel with a crass poncho joke and with news of changes to the script that do away with Betty's camaraderie with her co-workers (even though I LOVE America Ferrera who will be playing Betty).

Surprisingly, though, the promo reel might not be all there is to it. Recently, it was announced that the first episode of "Ugly Betty" would be moved to Thursdays at 8pm (EST), just before the ABC jugger-naut "Grey's Anatomy" - based on advance buzz at pilot screenings. The show won't be debuting until September 28th but today it just got a huge advance push from the Los Angeles Times ("Ugly never looked so good" - Sept. 16, 2006) which quotes anonymous producers who have seen it as being "faithful to the original."

The Houston Voice says "The ugly news is that 'Ugly Betty' is coming, and gay viewers will love her."

The Washington Post says "A scream, a howl, a hoot and a joy, this buoyant, poignant series about a less than gorgeous young woman working for a fashion mag is the season's best and most beguiling new comedy" (they also say that ABC plans to show the debut episode online after Sept. 29th, should anyone miss it).

The Hollywood Reporter says "At first blush, it seems as if there's too much going on in 'Betty' -- the pilot plants the seeds of everything from a murder-mystery plot to a hint at a developing love triangle for Betty -- but it helps to remember that it's inspired by a telenovela, something the show does subtly by showing Betty and her family frequently watching over-the-top Spanish-language serials at their home in Queens."

Ok, so the show that was originally set in Bogota, Colombia, is now set in Queens, New York, and who can argue with that?

With so much advance praise, it's easy to set "Ugly Betty" as a show that won't live up to expectations but I really hope that it's as good as it's been reported. I also hope that the ABC version, if successful, won't jump the shark and offer a very special 'transformation' episode. America Ferrera is one beautiful woman, but PLEASE ABC, keep Betty ugly!!

UPDATE: The good, the bad and the ugly (September 29, 2006)

Friday, September 15, 2006

Colombia: TV PSA on behalf of same-sex couples

TO VIEW FULL VIDEO CLIP CLICK HERE (courtesy of Colombia Diversa)

[TRANSLATION - PSA: Vivieron en pareja 30 anos]

They lived as a couple for thirty years

They bought their home
They paid for their daily meals
They paid for their television set, their clothes, their stereo system
They paid for some books in monthly installments and some vacation evenings were put on credit

And now, she's been left alone
And the only thing she inherited were those vacation evenings for which she still owes the credit cards
And that's because her partner was another woman

The law does not recognize any of her rights
There is no right!

[CM& Television, for people's rights]

Back in March, we said that Colombia was poised to become the first nation in South America to extend some legal rights to same-sex couples on a national scale after conservative president Alvaro Uribe made a surprise announcement that, while he wouldn't support marriage for gay couples, he would back legislation to protect their inheritance rights and social security benefits. His remarks came during his re-election campaign at a time where some presidential candidates were backing full marriage rights for gays.

With the sudden announcement, a little-known bill that had been languishing in the Colombian Senate was brought back to life and almost reached the Senate floor for approval earlier this week. Though it's not the first time that a bill such as this has been drafted or reached the Colombian Senate floor (the last one, presented by Senator Piedad Cordoba reached the Senate floor but was thrown out on a technicality before debate even began), it would be the first time that such a bill enjoys the backing of a sitting Colombian president. Senate debate on the bill is now scheduled as the first order of business this coming Tuesday, September 19th.

Editorially, the major newspapers and television news opinion leaders in Colombia have always been progressive on this issue, with El Tiempo being the first major newspaper in South America to editorialize in favor of full marriage rights years ago (not surprisingly, they are urging passage of this bill as well).

Still, when the producers of "CM& News" launched a new public service campaign earlier this week to promote human rights in Colombia, it surprised me that they chose to do so with an amazing clip on behalf of legal rights for same-sex couples (apparently to coincide with the Senate debate). We'll have to wait to see if the bill becomes law.

As for the potential of Colombia becoming the first South American nation to pass nation-wide legal recognition to same-sex couples (some municipalities and districts in Argentina and Brazil already do but not nationally), that will probably not be the case as Uruguay seems poised to pass a national civil union bill in the next few days which seems to be even more comprehensive than the limited rights being debated in Colombia.

In the news: Buju Banton show cancelled, SF court rules against Latino gay man, Latina lesbian sheriff criticized, prejudice in the LGBT community

Stories you might have missed:

In Chicago, the Gay Liberation Network staged protests outside the House of Blues where homophobic dance-hall reggae singer Buju Banton was set to perform, as the Chicago Tribune reported on Tuesday. The event went ahead as scheduled but the Gay Liberation Network claimed later in the week that their protest led a Bloomington, Indiana club to cancel Banton's scheduled appearance, according to an article in yesterday's the Indiana Daily Student.

On Thursday, the Bay Area Reporter said that the San Francisco Civil Service Commission "denied claims of anti-gay harassment and retaliation brought by a San Francisco General Hospital worker, maintaining that the alleged incidents were neither pervasive nor intentionally" even if witnesses corroborated that homophobic comments were made and the city acknowledged that supervisors took questionable steps in addressing the claims. In the suit, Frank Valdez, a licenced psychiatric technician and allegedly the only gay Latino man assigned "at the African American focused wing of the hospital's psychiatric facility" claimed that the harassment created anxiety and fear although an internal report indicated that Valdez and the man he accused often engaged each other in mutual banter with racial and homophobic undertones in a joking manner. Mr. Valdez hopes to take the case to civil court.

In Dallas, Sheriff Lupe Valdez (pictured) has come under some criticism for her decision to appoint her top deputy as the liaison officer to the LGBT community, according to today's Dallas Voice. The Voice points to an opinion piece by Dallas Morning News columnist James Ragland (Is the Sheriff Reaching Out or Pandering? printed on Sept. 8) in which Ragland accuses Valdez of "shooting blanks" by not addressing other issues that he deems more pressing and implies that it's nothing but an "ill-conceived PR stunt." The Voice says that the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance contacted the Dallas Morning News to complain about what it called an "irresponsible" column which also contained unflattering quotes from Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price and excerpts from homophobic anonymous comments posted on a chat-room frequently used by Dallas police department employees. In 2004, Valdez made history by becoming the first Hispanic, the first woman and the first openly gay person to be elected to the Dallas County Sheriff's Office.

Finally, the Dallas Voice also has an opinion piece by Fernie Sanchez, President of the Dallas LGBT Latino organization, Valiente, on "Prejudice in the LGBT community."

Noticed: Missing at Bill Clinton blogger reception in Harlem

A secret: Say whatever you say but I rarely if ever check The Huffington Post, Daily Koss, InstaPundit or any of those top political blogs (ok, I confess, I do check on Andrew Sullivan's blog from time to time). But when The Republic of T. writes about this and I get a call from California from a certain Miss Wild Thing to urge me to read this Pam Spaulding blog post, then there's some sort of weird synergy at play. Go to New York's own Daily Gotham and you also get this in which Liza Sabater writes:
These are the 20 liberal bloggers that met with Bill Clinton in Harlem [on Tuesday]. As you can see, not one of them is black or latino.
There is an argument to be made that bloggers might have been chosen based on popularity and alliegance to the Clintons and, as gay blogger John Aravosis says in his AmericaBlog site, (the source of the photo above), "these kind of get togethers are far more interesting on a personal than a substantive level" but for a meeting held in Harlem, the over-sight is a pretty glaring one.

Further thoughts by Pam Spaulding here, Terrance here (which provides additional information on people of color bloggers that were invited but were either not available of did not accept the invitation).

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Cuban-American journalists on Bush's dole

Remember Armstrong Williams?

Back in January of 2005 a scandal broke out when USA Today ran an article that exposed how
the Bush administration was doling out money to the conservative African-American television commentator as part of a stealth public relations effort to sell its policies on education to a public that never knew that Williams was not only being paid but also being told what to say and how often (the Bush government was also producing pro-government television segments made to look as unbiased 'syndicated' journalist reports that often did not have proper attribution to a production team).

Mr. William's star, as the darling of the right due his conservative credentials for his willingness to say what he was being told to say and his access to a much-desired minority population, was in the stratosphere. But the revelations badly damaged his reputation and he was deplored by many, particularly within the African-American leadership in this country.

Well, it's been a week since The Miami Herald announced that ten Florida journalists, some of whom are well known syndicated columnists for several Spanish-language newspapers, were also on the Bush administration's dole for work done for the anti-Fidel Castro US-based Radio Marti and Marti TV. So far, though, the scandal has remained a mostly local issue and has received minor attention from the national Hispanic organizations or political leadership.

Interestingly, it's other journalists that have kept an eye on this outrage including Bob Norman, who writes for the Broward Palm Beach New Times. On Monday, Mr. Norman wrote about the scorn and abuse that the reporter who broke the story, Oscar Corral, has come under since the expose was published. He says that some of the threats posted on Corral's blog have verged on threatening, and ads:
One thing about real hardliners, their hatred has blurred over to other groups, especially Muslims and gays. The most extreme of them are soldiers for the most vicious and repugnant side of the right wing. So it’s not surprising that Corral’s blog became a vehicle for gay bashers-in-print. You can get a taste of the garbage that’s being spewed in the comments under the August 15 post if you want, I’m not going to dignify it by reproducing it here.
Well, we cover homophobic outbreaks in the Latino community from time to time so let's take a look:
Hey PeeWee, i dont think the Cubans on the island want Maimi Cuban faggots to infest that beautiful island with your HIV filth. No liberal faggots like you will be allowed.
Posted by: the Cuban anti-faggot | August 15, 2006 at 09:54 PM

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Primary Results

Clinton, Spitzer, Cuomo, and most incumbents (except, perhaps, Ada Simth) win.

The closest race in the primaries was actually in my district between incumbent John Sabini and NYC Councilmember Hiram Monserrate. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, Monserrate needed only an additional 109 more votes to win. According to NY1, Sabini won with 6,052 votes (50.9 of the vote) and Monserrate lost with 5,944 votes (49.1 of the vote). It is extremely disappointing but not unexpected. I just hope that Sabini gets the message and does more for immigrant communities.

UPDATE: On the New York 1 website, the margin of victory is reported to be 204 votes and Monserrate has vowed to ask for a recount that would include a tally of absentee votes as well.

My New York: Karizma blows up the joint

If you've been here recently, then you know that I had been plugging Saturday's 13th Annual Clubhouse Jamboree at Prospect Park ever since I had a blast last year at the 12th.

It might not have been as gloriously sunny as last year, but it didn't rain either and the temperature was just right. Diamond Temple and the Temple Dynasty did their soulful choir thing and took the whole throng to the heavens and back and Brooklyn's own Afro Mosaic Soul Dance Company dedicated their dance performance to Willi Ninja and Robert, who they described as an 18 year old dancer who had been following on Willi's steps who had also passed away last week.

DJ Soto did a groovy mix of the current crop of discofied R&B and Carlos Sanchez followed with a funkier groove. DJ Spinna closed the day with his usual uplifting grooves.

Still, the man who stole the show was Baltimore's own Karizma (pictured above) who just blew the place up with his set, which mixed chunky-dubs and extra bass over already pumping tracks and demonstrated his amazing mixing skills. As the organizer, liL Ray said, "hear my words, he's a DJ to watch."

Not that in any way, shape or form does this capture the amazing vibe (the sound quality sucks for one) but I thought some video might show you what I mean. So jump-on over and check these out and tell me that the man was not on fire:
Just simply, magic.