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12/15/2012

Spanish Scientists Show How Limbs Evolved From Fins: VIDEO

ZebrafishNew research from the Spanish National Research Council provides more information about how our arms and legs developed from fins.

Basically, tetrapods like humans and cows have a gene, called the hoxd13 gene, that produces a protein that leads to the growth of limbs, something they proved by using not guinea pigs, but zebrafish embryos.

From New Scientist:

Fernando Casares of the Spanish National Research Council and his colleagues injected zebrafish with the hoxd13 gene from a mouse.

...Casares and his colleagues hoped that by injecting extra copies of the gene into the zebrafish embryos, some of their cells would make more of the protein.

One full day later, all of those fish whose cells had taken up the gene began to develop autopods instead of fins. They carried on growing for four days but then died.

Zebrafish are a common test animal in such procedures. They're also being used by doctors at Duke University Medical Center for stem cell research on how to regenerate heart and brain tissue. They posted a video about it on YouTube last week.

Check it out AFTER THE JUMP.

Posted Dec. 15,2012 at 6:33 PM EST by in News, Science | Permalink | Comments (4)


News: Hillary Clinton, Francois Hollande, Connecticut, Australia

1NewsIcon Hoorah! The Michigan legislature put the kibosh on a plan that would have allowed adoption agencies and health officials to forbid same-sex couples from adopting.

Affleckdamon1NewsIcon Matt Damon explains why he never denied rumors about him and Ben Affleck being an item. "I never denied those rumors because I was offended and didn’t want to offend my friends who were gay, as if being gay were some kind of f--king disease. It put me in a weird position in that sense," he told the New York Daily News.

1NewsIcon James Badge Dale covers Glow.

1NewsIcon Dido and Kendrick Lamar make beautiful music, "Let Us Move On."

1NewsIcon Neil Patrick Harris steps out to step into Barney's.

1NewsIcon Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is recovering at home after fainting and suffering a concussion early last week. "At their recommendation, she will continue to work from home next week, staying in regular contact with Department and other officials. She is looking forward to being back in the office soon," said Deputy Secretary of State Philippe Reines The Secretary of State, who also said she will miss a Senate Foreign Relations Committee testimony next week.

Donaldduck1NewsIcon Another fun reason to visit New York City: the just-opened National Museum of Mathematics (MoMath).

1NewsIcon Actress Amanda Seyfried is moving to New York with a gay pal Alex Nesbitt and they plan on opening an antiques shop. "We're planning on opening an antiques and curiosities home store, which we want to call Mr. and Mrs. Nesbitt," said the Les Misérables star. "I'm worried that I'll lose my career one day, and I'll need something I can contribute to creatively."

1NewsIcon Reed Gusciora, a freshly elected gay New Jersey Assemblyman, talks to Michelangelo Signorile about bringing marriage equality to the Garden State, where he says activists and allies need a fresh approach. "The Human Rights [Campaign], the national groups, they need to talk to other gays in the state instead of one person, who everyone seems to talk about [Steven Goldstein, at Garden State Equality]. They're not even talking to legislators. It's short-sighted not to talk to openly gay legislators in the state," he said.

1NewsIcon Heroes large and small of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

1NewsIcon Local sources say that the Connecticut shooter, Adam Lanza, tried to buy a rifle mere days before the shooting but said he didn't want to wait two-weeks for a background check.

1NewsIcon His motive is still unknown.

BritneyAOL1NewsIcon Remember those once-ubiquitous AOL CD-ROMs?

1NewsIcon Anglican leaders in England are threatening to derail marriage equality legislation there.

1NewsIcon And religious and conservatives leaders are still protesting French President Francois Hollande's plans to legalize same-sex nuptials.

1NewsIcon Inspired by the American Tea Party, which is never a good thing, a group of Australian lawmakers recently formed an organization called CANdo, which among other things is warning that gay marriage down under will lead to Muslim polygamy. "All he was saying was that if you open up marriage to a wider group, then there will be calls for more... Muslim people are allowed polygamous marriage, but there will no doubt be calls for recognition, such as through the welfare system," said one of CANdo's founders, David Flint, the former Australian Broadcasting Authority chair.

Posted Dec. 15,2012 at 4:47 PM EST by in Australia, Ben Affleck, Connecticut, Film and TV, France, Gay Adoption, Gay Marriage, Hillary Clinton, Matt Damon, Michigan, Neil Patrick Harris, New Jersey, News, Science, Tea Party | Permalink | Comments (7)


Interview: Alan Cumming on love at first sight and "Any Day Now"

Alan-garrett
Alan Cumming & Garrett Dillahunt celebrating ANY DAY NOW last spring. Now it's in theaters!

BY NATHANIEL ROGERS

SPECIAL "ANY DAY NOW" EDITION OF THE MOVIE COLUMN


Anydaynow-posterAny Day Now, a new 70s based gay drama from director Travis Fine, has just dropped into the super-crowded holiday movie marketplace. Consider it counter-programming to the wealth of glitzy Oscar contenders and big budget blockbusters. Alan Cumming plays Rudy Donatello, an outspoken performer who impulsively takes in a neglected teenager with Down Syndrome (played by Isaac Levya) when the boy's mother abandons him. Rudy attempts to keep the child, fighting the discriminatory legal system with the help of his lawyer boyfriend (Garret Dillahunt). This sad and moving story (inspired by true events) is at once enraging and comforting since these same issues are still very much with us but we've made numerous legal and societal strides since then.

Any Day Now has already won several audience awards on the festival circuit but it's just now hitting movie theaters. I sat down with Alan Cumming last week to discuss the film and his eclectic career. 

TOWLEROAD: How did Any Day Now come to you. Did they seek you out?

ALAN CUMMING: Yes, they asked me. One of my agents and one of my managers said "You should read this right now." I did so it happened very quickly. It was lovely. There were several versions of the script before it was finished, before the one we shot. It was great to be part of that process and talk to Travis about each version. It changed really radically, actually. The ending was very different.

I'm guessing happier. 

Yeah, I remember saying to him 'this is a little upbeat, isn't it?' The next one... [edited for spoilers] Whoops.

I wasn't expecting it to go there!

But it had to end that way! It couldn't have ended another way and been honest. It could easily have been cloying and manipulative but it's genuine. 

Did they specifically want a gay actor for the role?

Anydaynow-court

[Cumming on love at first sight, looking terrible in drag, and The Good Wife ...AFTER THE JUMP]

ALAN CUMMING: That wasn't an issue. You didn't have to prove it. 

TOWLEROAD: Part of the audition. Okay, Prove you're gay! [Laughter]

Someone was telling me at some bar or club in New York a few years ago the bouncer would make you make out with another boy to prove you were gay. That's pervy!

They probably get really bored in those lines.

Probably. 'Let's just get boys to make out!' 

How did you build the relationship with Garret onscreen. One of the most interesting things about the movie is how instant and potent their relationship is. Do you believe in love at first sight?

Uhhh... [Long Pause] I believe in… actually I believe in chemical reactions. I believe that overwhelming chemistry cannot be denied. That's maybe not love but it feels like it. You know what I mean? I do think that can happen. I've been a victim of chemical attack [Laughter]

With Garret we met at our wig fittings and this is two days before we started shooting and we just got on. I love Garret. If I had a love scene with an actress, we would definitely have said parameters, 'I'm going to touch you here, I'm going to put my tongue in your mouth. I'm going to...' You just do. With him it was never an issue. We never said anything like 'I'm going to kiss you. I'm going to touch you here...' That's how easy it was and how comfortable he was as an evolved man. It was great.

He's really an amazing actor. He's always popping up with completely different characters and it takes me a second -- Oh, that's Dillahunt again. 

He's such a darling, a real hoot as well.

Will you be going back to Broadway. Or doing another musical?

I'm sort of talking about it, yeah. I might do Macbeth again in my gap off The Good Wife season. I won't do matinees so that's throwing the producers into apoplectic --- but i'm not going to! I'm not going to be manipulated into killing myself. I think I'd like to do that again one more time. I might do another musical. I've been doing cabaret and that sort of fills my theatrical needs quite well. You know I did that show with Liza on Fire Island? 

Oh my god.

ALAN-LIZA

We're doing it again. One night in Town Hall in March.

Can't wait. How do you feel about the advance of gay outspokenness within celebrity culture. It's changed so much.

I don't always think that quantity means quality. Sometimes more gay characters on tv or whatever aren't necessarily positive things. There can be... I just think it's bad that certain characters reinforce stereotypes that allow the rest of the world to think in the same way about us. That's my worry.

But it's an exciting time because it is changing. You've got the President of the United States being very vocal in his support for equality. Until we are not considered second class citizens --and we are, we are -- until that changes people will be prejudiced against us because society is telling them to be.

That begs the question then of why play a drag queen in this movie?

Anyday-dragThat was a huge worry for me just in terms of, I thought 'Oh, of course he's a drag queen!' Then I just... I like that it seguewayed from that into being a singer. He finds his voice. And he does metaphorically as well.

I cringe when I see that in the beginning of the movie. There's Isaac walking around and then the music starts underneath and I think 'oh fuck, it's the bit with me in drag now!' I think I look so awful. I look like a horse with a wig on. I'm not a pretty girl. I can do androgyny pretty well. That works. But going the full hog? NO!

It isn't for you.

unnh-unh. It's kind of funny. Nine months of the year I play a repressed Jew in a suit and this past summer Lady MacBeth, the summer before that I did this, and the summer prior to that I did a miniseries in South Africa where I played a transvestite. So it's like I run screaming from Eli into women's clothing!

But the drag queen bit is such a small part of the movie.

True.

I really admire drag queens. The armor that I think you have to have, the balls you have to have. It made me think about the character. He has to be kind of aggressive and quite cocky, not effeminate. It was written more like that initially in the first draft. I talked to Travis about changing that.

You didn't want to do Nathan Lane in The Birdcage?

You could have I suppose but not in this story.

The film ends with a big solo from you. Did you know it would end that way? 

We didn't know until quite late on which songs we were going to be allowed to sing. I didn't know that song and Travis says 'It's a great Bob Dylan song.' [Remembering his reaction] 'Bob Dylan. Yuck.' I imagined something completely not how this seems. They said 'we'll send it to you so you can hear it.' They sent me a YouTube of Bette Milder singing it in a baths with Barry Manilow playing the piano. The most spine tingling raw interpretation of this song. 'Oh, thank you very much. No pressure!' And I have to close a fucking movie?!? 

I always wonder about finales where you know the performer will have to encapsulate the emotional experience. How difficult that must be. Endings are so important. 

Totally! It was a bit daunting. Also you have to record it in the studio before and then lip-synch on the day. I was so exhausted. I had this monastic life when I made the film. I had my drivers license suspended because i got too many speeding tickets. I couldn't go anywhere and I wasn't drinking and I immersed myself completely in the film. When we came to do the recording, I was so sort of emotionally deranged. I just went for it.

Let it all out.

Poured it all out. And then when we actually shot it, it was the very last thing we shot for the movie.

That never happens.

No, never! Little Isaac... it's lovely, all his emotions are completely on the surface. When I did "I Shall Be Released" he came on the set and he was just weeping and wailing all throughout the thing. 

How many takes?

Oh thousands. It was forever. It was really hard to do that. I find lipsyching quite difficult. Once i did this film of Annie and I could not remember to keep my mouth open. If I sang a long note "Easy Streeeeeeeeeeeeeeet" I'd go "Easy Street" and close my mouth. For once I kept my mouth shut!

[Laughter]

Anyday-singsWe had to do so many takes. I couldn't understand the concept that I had to pretend visually that I was still singing. Luckily I've gotten better at that.

Maybe something like Les Miz would work better for you then?

They sang it live, I heard. I'm fascinated to see it. Have you seen it?

Yes! Loved it. Anne Hathaway is amazing.

Annie Hathaway. She sang in this film Nicholas Nickleby I did years ago. She was fabulous. 

How has The Good Wife affected your creative energy? You do so much but you're on a weekly series!

The thing about the TV show is it's so fast. I tend to go in, work like crazy, and go home. There's no hangin' about. There's so much to pack in that you learn if you're going to do something, do it on the line. Don't do it at the end of the line. It's enabled me to have job security for a few years and to be at home for nine months of the year which has been amazing. It's allowed me the time to go and do my weird arty things. 

Most creative people with so many different ideas and urges don't finish anything. But you do everything: photography, perfumes, plays, tv series, political activism, films, websites.

I follow through, yes. I'm a doer. 

What accounts for it?

I have people to help me -- scheduling is a big part of it. I think it sort of breeds itself, a self fulfilling prophesy. If you are known as someone who is eclectic, people are more likely to fling you curveballs and suggests something that's unusual. If you do the same thing all the time it's easier to be stale. I think it's really valuable that I come back to each thing fresh because I've done something else. And it keeps my enthusiasm going. I'm a kid in a candy shop, that's just my character. 'Ooh, what can I do now with all these things?' 

Alan-goodwife
Gayby premiere in New York

ANY DAY NOW is now playing in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Check your local listings for Q&As with Alan (New York) and the director Travis Fine (Los Angeles) tonight and tomorrow.

Nathaniel Rogers would live in the movie theater but for the poor internet reception. He blogs daily at the Film Experience. Follow him on Twitter @nathanielr.

Posted Dec. 15,2012 at 2:39 PM EST by in Alan Cumming, Film, Film and TV, Interview, Nathaniel Rogers | Permalink | Comments (5)


Watch The First Episode Of Gay Web Series 'EastSiders:' VIDEO

Eastsiders

We'll have to wait untold months for HBO's gay comedy, and with season one of The Outs behind us, that's out for our viewing pleasure. Never fear, though, because there's still the new gay-themed web series EastSiders to get us through the winter months.

As Andy mentioned, the new project follows a gay couple dealing with infidelity in Los Angeles and co-stars Van Hansis, the actor who played gay character Luke Snyder on As The World Turns, and Kit Williams, known best for his stage work, including Talk Radio with Liev Schreiber. It has been described as "Girls with a bunch of gay guys."

Watch the first episode and describe it for yourself AFTER THE JUMP.

Posted Dec. 15,2012 at 1:48 PM EST by in EastSiders, News, Van Hansis | Permalink | Comments (35)


HBO Orders Comedy Pilot About Gay Pals In San Francisco

HBOHBO, the pay-cable channel that brings us Girls, Boardwalk Empire and LGBT-favorite True Blood, announced yesterday that it has ordered a pilot about the lives of three gay friends living in San Francisco.

From The Hollywood Reporter:

The untitled project hails from Brothers and Sisters' [showrunner] David Marshall Grant and Bored to Death's Sarah Condon and revolves around the thirtysomething trio also grappling with the complexities of life and the modern gay experience.

Michael Lannan (Remember Me) penned the script, which Grant supervised. Andrew Haigh will helm the pilot, which is based on Lannan's feature script Lorimer.

Grant of course had huge success with the iconic series thirtysomething, which broke ground by having two men appear in bed together, so this narrative is probably in good hands. But with news of this project, one can't help but wonder whatever happened to HBO's plan to turn gay-themed movie The Kids Are All Right into an hour-long series.

[Image via Sparklemotion0's Flickr]

Posted Dec. 15,2012 at 12:47 PM EST by in Film and TV, Girls, News, San Francisco, True Blood | Permalink | Comments (18)


Nate Silver: Pro-Gun Side Winning War Of Words

Silvergun1

In the wake of yesterday's shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, a tragedy most of us are still trying to process, statistician Nate Silver decided to look at the use of the terms "gun control," "second amendment," "gun violence" and "gun rights" in news stories over the past three decades.

In 1993 and 1994, when Congress was debating a ban on assault weapons, the phrase “gun control” was used about three times per 1,000 news articles. Use of the term was even higher after the mass shootings in Columbine, Colo., peaking at 3.7 instances per 1,000 articles in 1999. It reached a low point in 2010, when the term “gun control” was used 0.3 times per 1,000 articles — less than one-tenth as often as in the year after the Columbine shootings.

Averaging the frequency of usage over a five-year period reduces the effect of these news-driven fluctuations and reveals a reasonably clear long-term trend. In recent years, the term “gun control” has been used only about half as often as it was in the 1980s and about one-quarter as often as in the 1990s and early 2000s. [See below]

...

The term “Second Amendment” was rarely employed in the 1980s, but it has become much more commonplace since then. (Since 2008, the term “Second Amendment” has been used more often than “gun control.”) A related phrase, “gun rights,” has also come into more common usage.

He concludes that the language game has helped shape the debate: "The polling evidence suggests that the public has gone from tending to back stricter gun control policies to a more ambiguous position in recent years. There may be some voters who think that the Constitution provides broad latitude to own and carry guns – even if the consequences can sometimes be tragic."

Last April, after Trayvon Martin's shooting, Jill Lepore at The New Yorker looked at how the right-wing in the mid-late 20th Century successfully turned the "second amendment" into a political bargaining chip, forever altering the gun control debate in this country.

"The assertion that the Second Amendment protects a person’s right to own and carry a gun for self-defense, rather than the people’s right to form militias for the common defense, first became a feature of American political and legal discourse in the wake of the Gun Control Act of 1968, and only gained prominence in the nineteen-seventies," she wrote.

Silvergun2

Posted Dec. 15,2012 at 11:39 AM EST by in Nate Silver, News | Permalink | Comments (14)



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