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12/28/2012

Should Maurizio Cattelan's Hitler Pray In Warsaw Ghetto?

HimItalian artist Maurizio Cattelan's 'HIM,' a 2001 sculpture of Adolf Hitler praying on his knees, has shown all over the world, including New York City's Guggenheim and Venice's Palazzo Grassi, eliciting emotions everywhere it appears. And that's precisely the point.

Cattelan, also infamous for creating a sculpture of Pope John Paul II getting hit by a meteor, deceives the viewer into believing the small body, typically approached from the back, is a school boy.

When they approach and see the big reveal, they're jolted.

"When people see this piece, they react with gasps, tears, disbelief. The impact is stunning," collector and Holocaust survivor Stefan Edlis told The Economist in 2009. "Politics aside, that is how you judge art.”

But should the likeness of the most vile anti-Semite be placed at the site of Poland's Warsaw Ghetto, home to so many Jewish people killed by Hitler's Nazi armies?

Vanessa Gera offers details:

The Warsaw ghetto was an area of the city which the Nazis sealed off after they invaded Poland. They forced Jews to live in cramped, inhuman conditions there as they awaited deportation to death camps. Many died from hunger or disease or were shot by the Germans before they could be transported to the camps.

The Hitler representation is visible from a hole in a wooden gate across town on Prozna Street. Viewers only see the back of the small figure praying in a courtyard. Because of its small size, it appears to be a harmless schoolboy.

"Every criminal was once a tender, innocent and defenseless child," the center said in a commentary on the work.

HIM was installed there by Warsaw's Center for Contemporary Art last month, but growing outrage is gaining traction this week.

"As far as the Jews were concerned, Hitler's only 'prayer' was that they be wiped off the face of the earth," said Efraim Zuroff, director of US-based Jewish rights group The Simon Weisenthal Center's Israeli outpost. Zuroff described the installation as "a senseless provocation which insults the memory of the Nazis' Jewish victims."

CCA's director, Fabio Cavallucci, insists HIM isn't mean to insult the memory of the dead. Rather, it's a reminder of "hidden evil" everywhere.

"There is no intention from the side of the artist or the center to insult Jewish memory," he said. "It's an artwork that tries to speak about the situation of hidden evil everywhere."

Michael Shudrich, Poland's chief rabbi, supports HIM, and even wrote an introduction to the exhibition's catalogue. Art "force[s] us to face the evil of the world," he wrote, according to the AP. He also said, "I felt there could be educational value to it."

Do you agree?

HitlerWarSaw

Posted Dec. 28,2012 at 12:48 PM EST by in Art and Design, News, Poland, Warsaw | Permalink | Comments (32)


A New Year's Reflection on the Fight for Full Equality

BY DAVID MIXNER

GuestbloggerOver the holidays while attending a dinner party, I met a young guest about 25-years-old. As on most occasions, the dinner table conversation consisted of the enormous progress around marriage equality. The young man passionately spoke up and said, "You know if the Supreme Court rules that marriage is a constitutional right then most of our fight is over."

My head jerked up at this statement (and while there will still be much more to do) it was like hearing someone proclaim, "the war is over!"

Couldn't quite shake his statement out of my head because for me 'the war' has raged brutally for my 66 years of life.

MixnerIn my youth, the stories were of police raids on gay bars, community leaders being disgraced and arrested in parks, LGBT political events broken up by police and families forcing their children to have lobotomies to cure them of being gay. My friend Freddy Davies committed suicide at 16 and my Dad said his family was better off because of it.

It was a time of shame, fear and self hatred. Every institution in our lives — from family to church — thought we were so bad they urged us to lie to them and stay in the closet. Forget the virtue of truth and honesty that was so revered in America. They begged us to keep our shameful secret to ourselves and not visit it on the community or family.

Then, as some of us slowly began to come out in the 1970's and form new community organizations to give us safe places to express ourselves, we found that because of it many of us lost our families, jobs and place in the community. Anita Bryant launched her hate campaign on the ballots in 1977 and 1978 which was stopped by the defeat of Proposition Six (the Briggs Initiative) in California.

When I came out in 1976 people in the Democratic Party mostly abandoned me. Candidates to whom I had contributed returned checks and refused to allow me to endorse them. I helped form the first political PAC called MECLA and we raised a grand total of $40,000 in the first year. When I would ask for a check for the PAC often it would be for $99 because anything $100 or above would have to be reported. Nevertheless, the late 1970's was for the community and me a time of great progress.

The AIDS epidemic stopped us in our tracks.

In the early years, society completed abandoned us and we died in the tens of thousands. Few politicians (Ted Kennedy, Phil Burton, Henry Waxman, etc) spoke up and fought by our side. ACT-UP and new national organizations were formed to fight back and attempt to save our gay brothers' lives. Personally, it was a time of horror as over 300 friends died and I gave at least 90 eulogies. I'd go to funerals of young men on Saturday morning or afternoon and then dancing Saturday night. A good part of my middle age was totally dominated by HIV/AIDS. It was a darkness that is still hard for me to discuss or think about even decades later.

In 1988, Randy Klose, Duke Comegys, David Wexler and I decided we had to elect a Democrat for President. With our friends' contacts and our own, we figured we could bundle over a million dollars for Governor Dukakis which would be a historical first for the LGBT community. We were told by his staff point-blank that they could not accept such a large amount of LGBT-identified money and they turned the donation down.

3_mixnerIn 1992, the LGBT delegates had to threaten a public walkout at the Convention just to force Bill Clinton to include the word 'gay' in his acceptance speech. It took every political chip we had to have him speak at the Hollywood Palace to an all LGBT audience and the staff opposed it to the end. Ironically, it was a turning point for him. His "I Have A Vision" Speech" generated thousands of volunteers and millions of dollars from the community for his campaign.

While in the end 1992 was an incredible political year for LGBT Americans, we would still face great obstacles even from a LGBT-friendly President. While he made a number of key appointments, President Clinton was also responsible for two of the most horrible pieces of legislation directed at the LGBT community. His team was the architect of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell' (DADT) which ended up destroying over 14,000 careers. He followed that with the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which we are currently fighting in the courts and is a major barrier to marriage equality today.

Wh_mixnerOutraged over DADT, a group of us were arrested in front of the White House to protest the coming horror of the policy. While the President received a stunning amount of support from the community, those arrested were shunned by the Democratic Party. In fact, I was personally attacked by many for getting arrested. However, as the Quakers say, we have to give witness to great evil even if that evil is supported by popular opinion.

Even in the past 10 years, some top level LGBT activists were urging candidates to exercise caution on supporting marriage equality. Some of our national organizations and many leaders, into 2012, were urging President Obama to not take a stance on same-sex marriage until after the election. It was very frustrating to be fighting the battle for marriage equality and to hear other leaders urge him to take a pass.

During this time I personally realized that the community could never make progress if we gave our allies permission to not support us. Even if our friends became uncomfortable for advocating for full equality, it was not our job to make them comfortable as a criteria for our freedom. A true representative can never advocate partial freedom, separate but equal, or counsel patience in the face of horrific oppression.

Over a lifetime, I have lived in fear as a gay man, survived a horror and darkness that I never dreamed could exist, found the strength to stand with my community, learned not to live to please others, and witnessed great progress.

Who knows? 'The war' might soon be over!

What I do know personally is we have already won in so many ways. There are LGBT dances in high school and college, we are getting married, we are creating families, there are weddings at West Point, soldiers serving their country openly, fewer people dying of AIDS, and our young will be mostly be spared a tough, bitter and at times brutal journey that had to be taken to get to this moment in our history.

That is a good reason for me to celebrate and say to you all with deep passion, tears and joy - Happy New Year.

You can visit David Mixner online at his blog at DavidMixner.com.

Posted Dec. 28,2012 at 10:47 AM EST by in David Mixner, News | Permalink | Comments (38)


Brendon Ayanbadejo: Only 3% Of NFL Is Gay

BrendonBrendon Ayanbadejo, the Baltimore Ravens linebacker who became one of the sport's most vocal supporters of marriage equality this year, was asked by Fox Sport's Alex Marvez whether when he thinks an NFL player will come out while still playing the field.

Basically, Ayanbadejo's not sure, mostly because he thinks there's a far lower percentage of gay people among players than among the general population.

Regardless of when this hypothetical player comes out, though, Ayanbadejo's convinced he'll be able to make some serious cash selling his story.

The transcript, via Outsports:

Marvez: ...How long do you think it will be until the first active gay NFL player emerges?

Ayanbadejo: That's a good question. I don't know. I have a whole theory that some people would believe is kind of counterintuitive to a lot of stuff that I preach about LGBT rights. In no way am I trying to offend the LGBT community. But my theory after playing in the NFL for so long is that there are certain traits NFL players have and don’t have.

Now, if there's a negative thing about NFL players, we tend to be angrier (than non-players). We clearly have higher testosterone because you have to genetically to play this game. With that comes bipolar (disorder), split personality and certain negative things. That’s not everybody, but I think the rate is higher than the general population.

I believe that there are not as many gay people in the NFL as in the regular population. This is a discussion I’ve been having on Twitter for quite some time now. Some people say, "You're stupid." But even though there is not yet a proven gay gene, I believe people are born gay. It is a natural phenomenon.

There are definitely gay players in the NFL. I'm not saying that there are not. Some people say the gay guys in the NFL aren't coming out because they're scared and worried about what’s going to happen to their careers. But I think the first person who comes out and says they are gay, everyone is going to write a book and do stories about them. They're going to make a lot more money by saying they're gay than by not saying they’re gay. But are we ready to hear that? Is that person going to be comfortable to do that? I don’t think they are right now because of society and the way things are.

Eventually, I think there will be someone. But the number (of gay players) is so minute. If they say the regular population is 7 to 9 percent (LGBT), in the NFL it might be 3 percent. I could be completely wrong, but I've played for so long and so many others have. When you hear players coming out that are retired, they are few and far between. Why wouldn’t we hear about more players if it's the same percentage like in the regular population?

What I'm saying is controversial. There is no proof. It's just my theory.

Posted Dec. 28,2012 at 9:24 AM EST by in Baltimore, Brendon Ayanbadejo, Maryland, News, Sports | Permalink | Comments (46)


'Rescue Me' Singer Fontella Bass Has Died

Fontella

Many readers may not know her name, but almost all know late singer Fontella Bass' most famous song, "Rescue Me," a track Bass wrote and recorded in 1965 and that would go on to become one of the most famous, beloved tracks of the era. She was 25 at the time and suddenly launched into the upper echelons of the burgeoning R&B scene. Here, the New York Times gives some more background on Bass' start:

Ms. Bass was born in St. Louis on Feb. 3, 1940, and learned gospel at the side of her mother, Martha Bass, a member of one of the era’s major traditional gospel groups, the Ward Singers. From a young age she served as her mother’s pianist, but eventually, as an adolescent, got the itch to sing secular music. By the early 1960s she was playing with Little Milton, a blues guitarist and singer with links to the Chess label in Chicago.

After some early recordings with Little Milton’s Bobbin label in St. Louis, she joined Chess and released her first records on its Checker subsidiary in early 1965. The first two, "Don’t Mess Up a Good Thing" and "You’ll Miss Me (When I’m Gone)," duets with Bobby McClure, had modest success on the rhythm-and-blues charts. But her career was made by "Rescue Me," released later that year.

"When we were recording that, I forgot some of the words," she told The New York Times in 1989. "Back then, you didn’t stop while the tape was running, and I remembered from the church what to do if you forget the words. I sang, 'Ummm, ummm, ummm,' and it worked out just fine."

A major crossover hit, the song reached No. 4 on Billboard’s pop chart and has remained a staple on oldies radio, movie soundtracks and television commercials; Aretha Franklin sang a version of it for a Pizza Hut ad in the early ’90s (as "Deliver Me").

Bass' cause of death was complications from a recent heart attack. She was 72.

AFTER THE JUMP, three videos of Bass working her magic: "Rescue Me," of course; "Don't Mess with a Good Thing," which is lovely though has a pretty bleak romantic message; and a re-recording of her track "All That You Give" with the Cinematic Orchestra.

Posted Dec. 28,2012 at 9:02 AM EST by in Music, Music Video, News | Permalink | Comments (4)


Baltimore Gay Man Suspects Hate In Christmas Attack

Baltimore

Kenni Shaw's Christmas ended on a horrifying note when five men jumped the 30-year old in his East Baltimore neighborhood. Though police have some suspects and leads, they're falling short of a motive. For Shaw, the answer is obvious: homophobia.

From The Baltimore Sun's report:

"I was pinned down by punches," Shaw said of the beating he received Christmas night, outside the East Baltimore liquor store he frequents near his home. "It was so hard that I felt my lip and side face swell up immediately. I was trying to talk to these guys, but they weren't letting me talk."

Instead, they were intent on beating him — simply out of hate, said Shaw, a 30-year-old gay man.

"I was just beaten in my face. Nothing was taken. No words were exchanged before the incident," he said. "So to me, I think it was a hate crime."

He knows he stands out in his Berea neighborhood. His dyed blond hair rests atop a wiry, 6-foot frame. His chosen career path, as a cosmetologist and hairstylist, puts him at odds with the tough mentality of other men in the neighborhood. He's noticed the tension that creates before, in offhand comments muttered by men he doesn't know but recognizes, about them not wanting "faggots living on the block," he said.

As the investigation continues, Shaw, who is recovering at his mother's house, says he intends to use his own experience to help spread the word about anti-gay violence.

"It makes me angry and upset, but at the same time, I am here and I made it through. I just want to stand and make sure I have a voice, so this doesn't happen again to a loved one or anyone," he said. "I'm glad I could be a spokesman, because a lot of people don't make it through situations like this."

And his mother's right there by his side: "As long as my son is willing to stand up, I'm going to back my son 100 percent."

Posted Dec. 28,2012 at 8:38 AM EST by in Baltimore, Crime, Maryland, News | Permalink | Comments (7)



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