Saturday, November 29, 2008

Roger Ebert gets it right on "Milk" even if "politically incorrect"

In reviewing Gus Van Sant’s film “Milk”, about Harvey Milk, the San Francisco City Supervisor who met a tragic end with mayor Moscone in 1978, film critic Roger Ebert writes “I am openly heterosexual, but this is the first time I have ever said so. Why can't we all be what we prefer?”.

Interesting. Ebert sidesteps the politically correct notion of immutability and gets back to what sounds like fundamental rights, especially when he says “prefer”.

That’s been the question for the past six decades, as far as I am concerned (and even before that). The straight world often looks at the “family” as something everyone must belong to, and pay allegiance to, perhaps because no one can be completely responsible for the self in a world with so many externally imposed uncertainties. The heterosexual marital relationship, to be dependable and stable, needs the social approbation it gets, and the power it gets to control those who don’t create a lineage of their own. Even the “Milk” film seemed to echo that, as when the homophobic Dan White says to Milk, “society can’t exist without the family. Can gays reproduce?”

To accept what Roger Ebert says, you have to embrace the concepts of karma and personal responsibility, and all that they logically imply. But it’s logical consequences that so many people want protection from.

Friday, November 28, 2008

NJ, CA: eHarmony pressured to offer dating services to gays: is government going way too far?

The online dating service eHarmony has drawn media attention, particularly from libertarian as well as traditionally conservative sources, because of legal efforts against it in both New Jersey and California to pressure it to offer online dating for gays.

The Washington Times lead editorial on Friday Nov. 28 is titled “Judicial Imperialism” and the link is here with some emphasis on actions by a New Jersey attorney general. PC Magazine (which we expect to be libertarian in stance) also reports “eHarmony Dispute heads for Mediation,” article Nov. 21, 2008 by Chloe Albanesius, link here, about actions take in California. The Times points out that the service was apparently started by an evangelical Christian to promote dating according to a particular set of values.

These sort of scenarios can be argued to their “logical extremes”. For example, ENDA-like legislation has been opposed because it would force gay bars to hire straights. In fact, straight people do work in gay establishments with absolutely no issues. And there are plenty of small companies and entrepreneurs setting up gay dating services.

Or consider Net Neutrality. Some people fear that ISP’s would get set up that would only accept “certain” content. So far, with large corporations this has not happened. But there is no reason why individual site owners should not be allowed to accept or refuse content according to their own tastes, even if that taste is prejudices. (Bloggers are absolute monarchs when it comes to accepting or rejecting comments on their own sites.) At some level, freedom of expression and freedom of choice can conflict with more egalitarian ideas about social justice.

Some of these kinds of problems stem from looking a LGBT people as a “minority” or as a people with immutable traits, rather than looking at what kind of freedom belongs within the “fundamental rights” umbrella and what kind of responsibilities go with that freedom.

Today, at least on the eHarmony matter, I have to side with the Washington Times (and eHarmony). I feel that New Jersey and California are setting dangerous examples for now completely unrelated areas. But I won’t be using eHarmony myself.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Was parental lineage a "fundamental right" before Lawrence v. Texas?

One of the processes that explains “homophobia” is, I think, the “idea” that married and committed parents are entitled to a biological lineage as a reward for their commitment (and “opportunity cost”). If the world has finite resources, then at least one should have children or at least raise children or take care of other people somehow to “justify” his full-portion slice of the resource pie.

As I indicated on my main blog (Nov. 12) I was led to feel, because of bullying, that I was less “worthy” of having children than other male competitors. That gave me a psychological incentive to “enjoy” the idea that others could be shown less worthy. None of this is nice or pretty to admit, but it is nevertheless true, and one of the reasons why bullying (and hate crimes) are so particularly repugnant in a society that has embraced human rights. "Right wing" author George Gilder ("Sexual Suicide" [1973] and "Men and Marriage" [1986]) picked up on this idea by claiming that gay men want to capitalize on their own sense of (competitive) "abasement".

It sounds like this says, I’ve admitted that I’m not “worthy” and relish the belief that many others are not. Is this how I “became gay” as a teen? It would seem to suggest I resources that would ordinarily be my property could be expropriated and given to those more “worthy” if I’ve made such an admission. That is a premise of many totalitarian or authoritarian societies in their treatment of homosexuality.

But that’s not quite what happened, at least in my case. I imagined a progeny based on “work”: cultural creativity. In my case, music was to be part of this. There were simply too many other expressions to explore. The idea of an “obligation” to reproduce seemed, say during high school, to be infinitely far away into the future. It was a problem that, if necessary, could be resolved “later.” In the meantime, I became determined and fixed on what I had chosen to be my own goals, and would not tolerate the interference from others in this choice. But relative to this cultural “choice”, sexual orientation came to seem fixed and immutable.

While someone like me defends my “right” to pursue my own chosen goals, a typical married couple may feel the same way, but about their “biological” goals to express their marriage. If neither partner has any special cultural “talents” both may feel cheated or violated if their offspring do not continue the family (particularly if there is only one male heir). Their sense of “loss” or even “family death” is just as great. That’s why openness to procreation (and all its uncertainties as well as responsibilities) used to be viewed as a moral prerequisite for any experience of sexuality at all.

Of course, the law does not support this idea of a parental birthright (except in a few areas like the military’s “sole survivor”). However, in the past, the presence of “sodomy laws” and a prohibitionistic view of homosexuality may have constituted an indirect attempt to protect such a “fundamental right” as bizarre as the concept would sound today, especially after Lawrence v. Texas.

Also, I suppose that the modern possibility of surrogate parenthood (for potential fathers who can afford it) throws a new wrinkle into this chain of old thinking.

Monday, November 24, 2008

CA: bus driver turned in for bigoted remark when passing Proposition 8 demonstration

Southern California writer Dan Wentzel probably got a Los Angeles bus driver disciplined or fired by turning the driver in for shouting the “s” word (based on Genesis) while driving a bus (in or to Santa Monica) past a demonstration protesting the passage of California’s Proposition 8. The Washington Post ran his column this morning Nov. 24 (on p. A17), titled “Bigotry on the Bus” with the obvious implicit reference to Rosa Parks. The link is here.

Wentzel says he stood up and challenged the driver immediately, screaming that he was, well, “one of them”. He writes “In a post-Proposition 8 world, it is not OK to enable anyone’s bigotry with my silence.” What if the driver gets fired in a tough economy? Well, he couldn’t have used the “n” or “k” words (or “f” word for that matter).

Free speech? Well, the bus driver is a uniformed public employee, spearking on the public dime.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Rown Scarborough, of the Washington Times, reports Obama will delay addressing military ban until 2010

Rowan Scarborough, of the Washington Times, reports in an Exclusive story today that Barack Obama probably will not attempt to repeal of substantially replace “don’t ask don’t tell” until 2010. The conservative newspaper made this story a banner headline, “Obama to delay repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’: Advisers see consensus building before lifting the ban on gays,” link here. Curiously, I could not get this story to come up by the writer’s name on the newspaper’s search box and had to find it by hand.

The article summarizes the history of President Clinton’s flawed approach in 1993, leading to the “compromise” now known as the notorious “don’t ask don’t tell.” The story admits that the public as a whole is much more receptive to lifting the ban than it was in 1993, but that conservatives don’t realize that this sleeper issue, now not discussed as often as gay marriage but at one time much more prominent, will come back.

As I’ve noted elsewhere on my blogs, the issue (predicated on situations of “forced intimacy”) can still spill into other issues for gay civilians, like teaching.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

CA: Proposition 8 result will be reviewed by state supreme court

Jesse KcKinley writes on p A20, “National”, of the Nov. 20 New York Times, “Top Court In California Will Review Proposition 8.” As expected, the constitutionality of amending the constitution on an issue that affects “equal protection” will itself be tested before the state supreme court. The link is here. The reflexive (or recursive) constitutional challenge was expected.

While progressives often support referendums, the idea that one can deny others rights this way with a simple majority is dangerous.

On Nov. 15, Mc McKinley had written a Times story about the role of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, from stakes all over the country, in getting Proposition 8 passed.

Dr. Phil will take up gay marriage on his Nov. 21 show.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Over 100 retired military officers support repeal of "don't ask don't tell"

The Associated Press has obtained a statement from over 100 retired generals and admirals calling for repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell” and the ability of gays and lesbians to serve openly, with appropriate rules for professional conduct. The story is by Brian White and the link is here.

The story by Brian White is here.

As I noted previously, the incoming Obama administration is playing this issue carefully, even though the president-elect says he wants to lift the ban, because of the enormous backlash that happened in 1993.

Tim Stalling has an editorial “Everyone should have the right to serve his country,” from the Connecticut Post, on the SLDN website, Nov. 10, 2008, here.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

HIV treated by bone marrow transplant; study people with genetic resistance to HIV

The AP has a story by Patrick McGroarty giving the medical chronicle of an American living in Germany who has been cured of HIV infection with a bone marrow transplant. The patient also had (possibly unrelated) leukemia. But there had been two reported “cures” before 1996.

The link for the story is here. The story also appeared this morning on AOL.

But no one is suggesting that bone marrow transplants would ever become practical treatment for most HIV infection. But research associated with the transplant could lead to effective gene therapy, the report said.

Apparently some people inherit a gene that blocks the CCR5 receptor on their T4 cells that makes them resistant to HIV infection. Or, genetic markers may inhibit HIV replication even if one is "infected." It would be logical for genetic resistance to HIV to develop in nature eventually through natural selection, especially in Africa or in areas with high HIV prevelance.

I knew of a gay male whose partner had died in 1982 in Texas but who said he had normal blood counts as late mid 1990s. Natural resistance to infection and resistance to progression ("long term non-progressors") has been reported before. For example, NIH has a 2002 paper on the topic here.

The study of long term non-progressors could hold major clues to much more effective HIV management.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Gay veterans have a commemeration at Arlington Cemetery, near stone for Leonard Matlovich

A small gathering of celebrants gathered near the tombstone of Tech Sgt. Leonard Matlovich in Arlington Cemetery Veterans Day. Matlovich, the subject of a 1979 NBC television movie (“Sargeant Matlovich vs. The U.S. Air Force”) directed by Paul Leaf, was expelled from the Air Force under old rules in 1975 after telling the brass that he was gay, and would die of AIDS in 1988. It was organized by the Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance which also organized and election night party at Rhodes on Election Day.

The Washington Post story, by Neely Tucker, “Gay Veterans Gather to Honor their Own: Military’s Outsiders Commend the Fallen for Sacrifice, Service”, story Nov. 12 appears in Style, p C1, link here.

American Veterans for Equal Rights, and Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Veterans of America have a page of an commemoration of a Palm Springs CA memorial, here. There is another Gay Veterans site here.

On June 8, 2008 Texas Gov. Rick Perry made an offensive remark to the effect that gay veterans opposed to the anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment should leave the state. The Washington Blade story by Steve Koval, “Texas governor suggests gay veterans should leave state; Gay groups demand Perry apologize” is here.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Obama should work carefully to repeal "Don't Ask Don't Tell"

How should the new present Obama deal with “don’t ask don’t tell”?

I would say, carefully. He should be pragmatic. It should not be the first issue on day one of his presidency, as it practically was with Bill Clinton.

However, Obama should follow a consistent course toward repeal. First, he should quietly support Marty Meehan’s military readiness bill (HR 1246, The Military Readiness Enhancement Act of 2007, here. The trouble is, it will have to be re-introduced and revised in the 111th Congress.

Second, he should quietly request an update to the 1993 report issued by the National Defense Research Institute of the Rand Corporation published "Sexual Orientation and U.S. Military Personnel Policy: Options and Assessment" (available on Amazon, although expensive). One major concern would be to update the proposed “Code of Military Professional Conduct” to allow for the Internet, the effects of which were hardly understood in 1993 when this study was written.

A goal of the policy would be removal of the current law from United States Code, because, for one thing, having such a law on the books can have a malignant effect on gays in other areas. While lifting the ban, the military will need an internal administrative (non-statutory) policy with regard to conduct that might occur in circumstances more intimate than those encountered by most civilians, although these circumstances can exist in the civilian world (as with firemen, law enforcement, intelligence, or even teachers). It’s significant that intimate living circumstances can occur with some civilian forms of national service, like the Peace Corps, which Obama wants to expand.

Third, he should look at the experience with foreign militaries, especially in NATO, when they have lifted the ban. The UK Guardian has a story on Feb. 21, 2005 about the British Navy: “Navy's new message: your country needs you, especially if you are gay: Admirals shed centuries of repression with pink press adverts”, link here to a story by Patrick Barkham. Aaron Belkin, of the Palm Center (formerly the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military, and now running a "Don't Ask Don't Tell" project) at the University of California at Santa Barbara has published a lot of material about foreign militaries, especially Israel, as in this Ynet News story by Itamar Eichner, “Follow Israel's example on gays in the military, US study says; California University study concludes America needs to learn from 'tolerant Israeli model' regarding homosexual soldiers, officers; 'you can be a very brave, creative officer and be gay at the same time,' former IDF officer quoted as saying”, link here

During the coming weeks, hopefully we’ll see more thought-provoking pieces in mainstream literary and policy means discussing how, in the United States, the ban would be lifted.

This would be the appropriate time for Hollywood to jump in. There have been several television of cable films on the ban (“Serving in Silence”, “Soldier’s Girl”, "Any Mother's Son," and recently the independent documentary “Ask Not” by Jonny Simons). There is another project “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” from a group called Dream Out Loud films (blog: ). But I think it is time that “real money” from some of the more liberal-minded players in the film and television production and distribution world ought to be forthcoming, with A-list stars and directors. I don’t need to “name names” but we all know whom in the media Barack Obama listens to.

It bears mention again, that in these perilous times (a new Al Qaeda threat appeared in the news this morning as I wrote this) we need to keep every language translator we can.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

After the Proposition 8 loss: recapping issues on "equality"

Although the LGBT community shows justified outrage at the behavior of the religious right in lobbying for Proposition 8 in California, it’s important to keep the concept of “equality” in a certain perspective. Recently, on the books blog, I reviewed law professor Daniel Solove’s book on privacy, and I think equality is in a sense somewhat like privacy: it is a pragmatic concept that gets expressed in different ways in different cultural circumstances. Even so, HRC (Human Rights Campaign) has practically trademarked its blue and yellow equality symbol.

Two broad observations strike me.

One observation is to consider an unpleasant thought experiment. Imagine a world in which no one (an adult over a certain age) can have a good job, own his or her own home, or speak out on his own publicly on issues (as on the Internet) unless he or she is responsible for supporting others. In some ways, that was the world we had a half century ago, when I was a teenager entering high school. The way a grown-up took responsibility for others was to marry and have children. That reinforced a chain of loyalty and socialization for the extended family which took care of the elderly, who at the time did not live that long past retirement.

In that environment, I was not allowed just to live the life I wanted, and I did not have the freedom that modern liberal ideas of freedom say I should have had. I clawed out to a life of relative freedom in the early and mid 1970s with my “second coming.” I had to put a great deal of attention to my own needs. But I had my own life, and did well enough, I thought, just taking care of myself, working as an individual contributor in computer programming, planning ideas of a future second career as a writer or some kind of novel journalist.

Here I come to my second “big” observation. What I thought I had achieved was individual sovereignty. In a sense, I perceived it as a kind of equality. It was tied to an older notion of “privacy” that Solove discusses in his book. But there were subtle problems. I was interested in my own world, and advancement according to conventional norms was not an objective. The biggest threat to our “way of life” was AIDS, which we had to learn to manage (and fend off the religious right).

The idea of a more modern kind of equality came about in the 1990s. I started first with the debate over gays in the military, and was followed quickly by debates over gay civil unions and marriages. (In fact, the 1993 “don’t ask don’t tell” law mentions the possibility of gay marriage in the service.) That has progressed to the court rulings (on gay marriage) and backlash referendums of today. All of the ideas like military service, marriage and adoption (as in the Arkansas referendum) reflect a belief that equal rights ought to be accompanies by equal responsibilities and equal sharing of common uncertainties and risks. But it is no accident that these ideas came to be debated about the time that the Internet and World Wide Web were becoming accessible and even cheap for members of the general public to use and self-publish on. The meaning equal “personhood” was no longer just a manner of independent life in a relatively covert or separated world (like urban “gay paradise ghettos”). It meant openness and expressiveness, public pride in who one was. In some cultural areas, this became threatening to people who found meaning in the more collective ideas of family and who perceived it (and the structured privilege it could confer) as part of marriage.

With more media coverage and more lively discussions on the Internet, the adaptive problems of traditional families also became more visible. In the civilian workplace, especially salaried positions with on-call duty, tension developed over who should make the personal sacrifices. More public attention came to be focused on other inequities in areas of family responsibility. But one of the biggest problems was that life spans were getting longer, without corresponding extension of vitality and ability to continue working. People who had never married and had children of their own might face heavy eldercare burdens and family responsibility despite not having created it with procreation. The financial crisis could lead states with filial responsibility laws to start enforcing them, and hitting childless and lgbt people particularly hard. (See the “Bill retires blog, July 2007 archives, particularly.)

Hence, we get to a “third observation”: that the open flow of information inherent in the Internet might bring back more of the social mentality of previous generations. Not only is it important to own up to one’s choices, it is also necessary to be accountable to someone, before one’s own expressive life means anything. “Find a need and fill it.” That doesn’t logically follow from the first statement (and the law no longer says that), but pastors say it all the time.

In a practical sense, there are things a single person (gay or not) can do to control the situation, which include planning for it, doing well enough in life competitively, and being able to provide for others in one’s own home. The kind of world we face tomorrow, with longer life spans, reduced government benefits, and decentralization associated with global warming or fuel scarcity could amplify these problems and the need to plan for them. Without planning, the “singleton” who tries to maintain his public life could be chased into dead-ended existential questions. “Equal responsibility” would have fangs, but it would need equal authority and resources.

Many of the common arguments for equality in marriage focus on benefits that are necessary when one partner needs to depend on the other. The straight world is used to this kind of “complementarity” and used to view it as biologically driven. In the gay world it is sometimes driven by psychological polarities. But in many adult gay relationships, both partners are self-sufficient most of the time and don’t perceive a burden from marriage laws. It is when one depends on the other, or when they have other dependents (it could be an eldercare issue as well as adopted or previous children) that the equality issues, as they are usually posed, become more pressing. And the world that is coming may place more emphasis on personal interdependence than the once we have gotten used to now does.

A particularly upsetting situation occurs when gay men are “accommodated” by being asked to “pretend” to be "protective" heterosexual male role models to appease traditional communal norms. That is sometimes offered as a kind of “pseudo-equality.” I expect to say more about this in time.

We often throw around the phrase “second class citizen”. In the past, the concept related to being born into servitude in some way. Now, curiously, with the “meaning” of the nuclear family diluted by individualism, the concept may apply to gays (or many singles) if their individual interests can be sacrificed to the needs of those who do commit themselves to a “gender complemented” intimate relationship, and accept the responsibilities and priorities that such a relationship creates.

In sum, it is true, that legal affirmation of equal marriage rights would “cover” these issues (particularly of how “sacrifice” or unchosen family responsibility is shared), even for people who do not want to get married.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

CA: Proposition 8 is immediately challenged in court, could be overturned

There is a possibility that Proposition 8 in California is itself unconstitutional. Gay activists are developing arguments to the effect that the original equal protection clause in the California state constitution (as it was interpreted by judges in striking down the anti-gay marriage law) prohibits an override with another amendment passed by a simple majority.

To a novice, it sounds dangerous that a state constitutional amendment like this could be passed by a simple majority introduced as an initiative and voted on in a referendum. Yet, progressive writer Naomi Wolf, in her recent book “Give Me Liberty” encourages more direct democracy and referendums. But this process is dangerous when dealing with minorities.

Karen Ocamb has a story on Alternet, “Gay Marriage Ban Looks to Have Passed, But Is It Legal?” here.

Wednesday two lawsuits were filed to invalidate Proposition 8, within the California judicial system. One was filed by Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund (LLDEF) and the other was filed by Rocky Delgadillo joined yet another lawsuit filed by San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera and Santa Clara County Counsel Anne C. Ravel.

In the 1990s, Colorado’s state constitution “Amendment 2” was overturned by the United States Supreme Court (Evans v. Romer). A very negative amendment in Oregon was turned down by voters in 1992.

California Attorney General (and former iconoclastic governor) Jerry Brown says that the 18000 or so gay marriages performed in California such June will stand (this includes Ellen DeGeneres), but Jeffrey Toobin, on CNN, says that whether the amendment invalidates these marriages is still a legal condundrum.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

CA Prop 8 to ban gay marriage appears to be passing; Arkansas tries to ban gay adoption and foster parents; Obama is positive in speech;CA ban passes

At 20:38 PM PST the San Francisco Chronicle (in an article by John Wildermuth) reported that California Proposition 8 was leading 55-45 with 11% of the votes in. That makes it highly probably that the Proposition will pass. The link is here.

Tonight, besides the contentious California Proposition 8 vote, there are other anti-gay initiatives around the country.

In Arkansas, early results indicate that voters will pass a law preventing gays and other unmarrieds adopting children or serving as foster parents. The bill is apparently SB959, link here.

In October 2008, the state of Arkansas had put plans in place to drop its “unmarried” foster parents ban, AP story here (on "365 News") .

Update (Nov 5): Jon Gambrell of the AP reports that the Arkansas ban on unmarried couples becoming adoptive or foster parents passed, story here. The AP link is here.

And the gay marriage ban amendment in Florida appears to be passing. Ditto for Arizona. Florida added a Virginia-like (Marshall-Newman) provision that seems to target civil unions, too: "No other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized."

The Arkansas and Florida situations are outlined in a story in “Hot Topics”: “The early news is bad for equality,” link here.

However, in his acceptance speech in Grant Park in Chicago this evening, President Elect Barack Obama mentioned "gays and straights" as being included in an American rebirth, very early in his speech (which started just before midnight EST). That could be taken as a hint that he will pursue lifting "don't ask don't tell" very early in his administration.

UPDATE: Nov. 5, 2008 1:45 PM EST

The California gay marriage ban has passed, 52.2%-47.8%. The San Francisco Chronicle story by Wildermuth is here.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Alternate families and personal sovereignty: could same-sex marriage affect "singles" in unexpected ways?

On the night before California Proposition 8 votes – and I add that I don’t live or vote in CA – I just have one “devil’s advocate” thought.

Remember my book review blog (Sept 21, 2008) about a book on “Valuing all Families under the Law” by Nancy Polikoff. I was particularly shocked by her proposition of asking a gay man with no partner to be selected, among siblings, to move in with an aging parent or grandparent for caregiving. If someone does that, others may want to view the resulting arrangement as a “family.” The caregiver, however, wants to keep a degree of personal sovereignty not normally found in marriage (at least marriage as in the movie “Fireproof”).

A culture that tries to mimic “marriage” wherever a quasi-forced personal interdependence exists (however desirable socially) might deny the person his sovereignty, and make an essentially compulsory or coerced relationship his highest priority.

So it may be important to accept the idea that domestic arrangements exist that require some support in some areas but that are not “marriages”.

Furthermore, some gay couples want to keep more autonomy. They may not want “marriages.”

I thought I heard McCain articulate this point somehow on a TV interview. He tried to make it sound that gay marriage could be used to undermine personal freedom for people who expected to keep it. He tried to put it in “libertarian” terms.

But libertarians, in fact, generally want marriage to be a civil contract, with the psychological bonding left to churches or the culture of the couple’s choice. Remember that 1996 essay “License Expired” by Gene Cisewski in GLIL newsletter “The Quill”?

All of this might sound like a pail of red herrings from some Minnesota ice fishing hut. Don’t get me wrong. Same-sex couples and their children need the same benefits as straight couples. What we have here is a problem of “reflexivity” (George Soros's buzzword). Like it or not, we’re heading for a world where people may have to accept more interdependence and take care of one another more. Once we accept that, it seems we can’t accept the idea of separate classes of people. Because then someone will go to the back of the bus.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Clubs have Halloween parties on "All Saints Day"; "Michael Phelps II" wins a costume contest at CobaltDC

Since Halloween occurred on Friday this year and daylight savings time ended Sunday morning Nov. 2, a lot of clubs had a second Halloween Party on “All Saints Day” Nov. 1.

Remember that, “For All the Saints” is always the first hymn in Church following Halloween, in almost any protestant denomination.

Last night, CobaltDC held a small costume contest at about 12:45 AM EDT. Just nine contestants. No, I didn’t carry my Samsung so I have only the outdoor picture of the place from 2007.

The upstairs disco has had trouble building up a crowd Saturday nights since the TownDC got started in Shaw, still only a 15 minute walk away. In the earlier days, when the “Big Disco” was Velvet Nation (or even earlier, Tracks, complete with sand volleyball court, which I miss) near the site of the now floundering Nationals Park (at least the floundering baseball team), Cobalt would be packed by at least midnight. Last night the disco floor seemed only half full even by 1 AM (EDT).

So the club removed a lot of furniture and remodeled, and essentially simplified, the upstairs disco. But I think it was better the way it was before, with some nooks and crannies (like Fenway Park) and seats and couches.

The contest had nine entrants. Two of them merged to produce a winner. There was “Michael Phelps” (slender and maybe four inches shorter than the “real” person), sandwiched between Arthur and Lancelot. (That is, all three contestants shared first place.) The Phelps costume was complete with speedo and hairnet cap reading “Phelps”, and some model medals. There some other subtle differences. The contestant did not have to “peak” before a real swim, or worry about fluid resistance. Oh well, a lot of gay men (at least in terms of surface features) don't survive Halloween at all.

Other finalists included Batman and Robin, and a workup of one of the "Pirates of the Caribbean," with implements right out of "Deliverance."

I actually talked to him. He is a medical student at Georgetown, and he hadn’t heard about the “JuicyCampus” "online reputation" controversy among the undergrads, which I wrote about Thursday on my main blog. It seems that med students have to be ready for a scantron multiple choice test in every course at least every other week. It’s tough. One good exam question is based on something like this: how can an RNA virus (like H5N1) still not be a retrovirus (like HIV). [As an aside, I note that Wikipedia tells us that the 1918 Spanish flu was not caused by H5N1, but by H1N1.) Our community still has plenty of psychological incentive to go into medicine.