Sean Penn Wins Best Actor and Dustin Lance Black Wins for Best Screenwriting for MILK; Watch Their Moving Acceptance Speeches at the Oscars

I only watched bits and pieces of the the Oscar Awards Show last night.  I hardly ever watch it all the way through; I’m too much of a remote control channel flipper.  Even more, I hardly ever know many of the movies up for the awards because I’m just not a big movie fan.  It takes a lot of recommendations from friends to get me to go see almost any movie.  I suppose it’s because at the movie theater, I miss being able to have that remote in hand in order to flip the channel when a dull moment comes along.

So to tell the truth, I haven’t seen MILK yet, even though it’s been playing at the River Oaks Theatre since it came out.  Now I think I’ll go.  Mostly because of Sean Penn.  Not because Sean Penn plays Harvey Milk and got the Oscar for doing so.  No, it’s because I was fortunate to be watching last night when he accepted his award (luckily, I hadn’t flipped to another channel).  I was definitely touched and choked up by what he said.  Last night, I thought someone might be very quick and get the clip up somewhere on the net, but no one had.  Tonight I found it, watched it, and was very impressed once again.  Take a look.  It’s worth it.

I guess my flippting channels caused me to miss out on another great acceptance speech by the winner of the writer of MILK, Dustin Lance Black, who won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.  I don’t know much about this guy, but from hearing a bit of his own story in his speech, Black himself might be worthy of having his own story told in a book, or perhaps even on the big screen.  Watch his moving acceptance speech; this guy is the real deal.

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Christmas in February? Or Maybe Even March? How About April? These Blossoms Bring Out the Spirit Even If They Are A Bit Confused

March 8th--The first of the yellow buds to open.  It's just the palest of yellow with a bright pink stamen.  The pinks are still going.  Their flowers seem to last a long time.

March 8th--The first of the yellow buds to open. It's just the palest of yellow with a bright pink stamen. The pinks are still going. Their flowers seem to last a long time.

April 1st--And it's no April Fool's joke.  This is a single blossom on a plant that was in full bloom before Christmas.

April 1st--And it's no April Fool's joke. This is a single blossom on a plant that was in full bloom before Christmas.

It’s just the most pleasant Saturday morning. It’s crazy, but every weekday morning when I have to pull myself out of bed, I tell myself, “Wait ’til Saturday,” knowing that I’ll be able to take Annie out for her morning “ablutions” (damn, I thought that word was spelled with an ‘O’, I guess I got it confused with “abolition”, ha) and crawl back into bed for another round of sleep. However, it seems that each week, by Friday, I’m ready to get myself into bed at a normal person’s bedtime, so Saturday morning, no matter the weather, I’m fairly awake and the warm bed doesn’t pull me back in.

There are never enough pictures of Annie!  She "sits" with the Christmas cactus.

Feb. 28th--There are never enough pictures of Annie! She "sits" with the Christmas cactus.

This Saturday morning is no exception. It’s quite pleasant outside, not warm at all but fresh feeling and fresh smelling (the air, not me–yet), but there are some clouds in the north that look as if they might bring some showers or, perhaps, keep the day on the grey-side. However, even the prospect of rain didn’t push me back under the covers, so while my coffee was brewing (Saturdays and Sundays only), I got all my plants–inside and out–watered.

Most of the time I have no plants inside, but late in December, because I was going out of town for the holidays, I brought in my Christmas cactuses, most of which were already in full bloom, although the flowers in each pot were in varying stages of being at their peak: the nearly white one had already passed its best moments; the fuschia had many blooms but some had already dropped off; the new yellow one, which I had just bought at the Farmer’s Market, was completely aglow; the true red one, which may be my favorite as a Christmas plant, had buds that were just starting to open; the smallest one, which comes from pieces that have dropped from the others, had the tiniest of buds on the ends of its leaves.

One gorgeous, but lone blossom.  This red plant was in full bloom right after Christmas.  This one came back out of jealousy, I think, because of the pink.

Feb. 28th--One gorgeous, but lone blossom. This red plant was in full bloom right after Christmas. This one came back out of jealousy, I think, because of the pink.

When I returned home ten days later, the Christmas cactuses looked a sad lot sitting there on the window sill, except for the red one, which is perhaps the hardiest; there were just a lot of dried-up blossoms hanging from the plants or already dropped onto the sill and floor. Even the little one had lost its buds, the ones I had been so curious to know what color (or wishful thinking–what colors) they would be. After about a week, even the Christmasy red had finished its blooming. “So that was that,” I said to myself, thinking that I would have to wait another year for the colorful show that these small plants make just once a year.

Feb. 28th--The yellow one has some buds too.  They are much slower to open than the others.

Feb. 28th--The yellow one has some buds too. They are much slower to open than the others.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, as I was watering them, I noticed something on the small plant that hadn’t bloomed. “Were those little nubbins on the ends of some of the leaves buds?” I hoped. “Or maybe just new little leaves.” But in a day or so, I could see for sure. Buds! So thinking what else I could do for good measure, I stuck in about half of one of the Miracle Grow fertilizer sticks that I had found hidden away. And just to be fair, each of the other plants got a piece too.

christmas-cactus-bloom2

Feb. 21st--Taken with the still setting on my Everio Camcorder because my digital camera has decided to go retro and take pictures like it's the 60s on LSD--not bad quality for a camcorder still, huh?

Now here we are, February 21st, and this small Christmas cactus is giving out its happy show of color! Theses are just the first blooms, there are at least 10 more buds in varying stages, that will be opening in the weeks to come. And as if not to be outdone, both the yellow plant and the red on either side of this one have buds, though just a few. I’m anxious to see the yellow blossoms again, because I never really had time to appreciate them in December.

It’s amazing really, how nature will surprise us, and give us so much joy.

It’s these surprises and differences in nature that always seem to wow us. Why is it when it comes to people, so many of us search for those that are familiar and those who are most like we are, and tend to push away the ones who are different?

Why is it that we don’t find joy in the amazing differences that others have?

Feb. 28th--This bright pink Christmas cactus is just going strong.  No blossom has even dropped off since they started opening more than a week ago.

Feb. 28th--This bright pink Christmas cactus is just going strong. No blossom has even dropped off since they started opening more than a week ago.

Matthew Mitcham Signs With the Aussie Telecommunication Giant, Telstra for a Year-Long Sponsorship

mitcham-in-pool1After a long wait, Australian Olympic gold medal winner in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and out gay guy Matthew Mitcham, has received a sponsorship deal. Telstra, the largest telecom company in Australia, has inked a deal with the young diver through the end of the year 2009.

As part of his sponsorship by the big Aussie phone company, Mitcham will appear in advertising, open stores, and keep a weekly blog.

See more about the Mitcham and Telstar deal in Andrew M. Potts’ article in the Sydney Star Observer.

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Check out more posts and photos of Matthew Mitcham: (A), (B), (C),(D), and (E).

Typical Small-Minded Thinking and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Get Kansas National Guard Member Kicked Out of the Military

Amy Brian During Active Duty       (Photo-CJOnline)

Amy Brian During Active Duty (Photo-CJOnline)

This morning when I read about the Kansas National Guard discharging one of its members for being gay based on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, I was once again launched into the “push-pull” relationship that I have had for a long tim2  with my home state, Kansas, and some of its people. (Though I have lived in Texas for many years and probably will continue to do so, I never have considered myself a Texan, nor do I care to.)

Kansas always tugs at me because it holds so many things that are dear to me: my family, for sure; old schoolmates, with whom close friendships are easily rekindled after many years without contact; a rich history, which started prior to but was molded by the Civil War; and, not least of all, the land itself, where in late spring, section after section of waving green wheat can be seen from a passenger seat of an airliner coming in for a landing, a sight that cannot be fully appreciated down on the ground.

Kansas is the kind of place where a neighbor roto-tills your garden plot out of sheer goodness because he knows that, otherwise, you’d be doing all that digging by hand with a garden fork. Kansas is the kind of place where the cashier at the magazine counter in the Wichita Airport chats with you and asks you if you’re looking for anything else, not to push sales, but just because she’s truly interested. It’s small and generally has a slower pace of life, so people have time to be kind and helpful.

Some of the actions and beliefs push me away, though, because this slower pace of life leads to a great deal of “small-thinking”. People with too much time on their hands and no respect for personal boundaries break into your house, not to steal anything, but just out of curiosity of knowing what kind of stuff you have and what kinds of magazines you might be reading, or drive by the capital city’s only gay bar to try to figure out whose cars are parked outside and what they might do with that information.

Therefore, it’s no surprise to hear that someone “had it in for” Amy Brian, a member of the Kansas National Guard, who had served honorably in Iraq. A co-worker at her civilian job reported her to the Kansas Adjutant General for kissing a woman at Wal-Mart. Subsequently, she lost her regular job, was kicked out of the guard because of the DODT policy, and lost all of her benefits from having served her country in the military. Read the Topeka Capitol-Journal’s article by Jan Biles; it’s well worth it. If you read the comments attached to the article, you’ll get an idea about this “smallness” (both the positive and the negative) to which I have been referring. You can also read Amy’s own comment on the thread under “ProudTBMe” at 6:45 AM, Feb. 9th.

Along with all the advantages that Kansas has of being a place where life is slower and people are kind, there’s another side, a side that includes Amy’s co-worker and other small-minded people, who not only want to “get in your business”, but want to control “your business”.

Picnik and FotoFlexer–Cool Photo-Editing Sites; But What’s the Difference?

With Additional FotoFlexer Effects, Text, and Frame

Top: Original Photo; Center: With FotoFlexer Twirl; Bottom: With Additional FotoFlexer Color Effects, Text, and Frame

Soon after I started this, my first blog, I discovered that I would need some kind of photo-editing tools. I stumbled onto Picnik, and until very recently have been using it and like it alot.

Picnik is easy to use, and it works efficiently. Choose a photo, do your editing, and save it back to your own photo files in no time. Mostly I’ve cropped and re-sized photos so that I can get them to fit in the posts here in WordPress, and when it comes to placing photos in the sidebars, they have to be sized (usually smaller) to fit. Sometimes it takes a littlef trial and error just to get the fit that you need, but even so, you can do it quickly.

I also like working with the text option on Picnik. There are lots of different fonts, and after using it just a couple of times, adding text of whatever color and size you want is a no-brainer.

There are some special effects choices as well, but the creative possibilities with these will take you only so far. Using Picnik is a bit like going to a McDonald’s; you’re in and out in no time, and the Big Mac and fries that you order today will be identical to the Big Mac and fries that you ordered the last time you were there.

FotoFlexer, on the other hand, is more like one of those restaurants where they serve wine and you might have to wear a jacket. There are more options when using this photo-editing site, so you have more possibilities of being creative, but with these options, there is more to learn and more to play with.

With some of the twirl and stretch choices, you can almost become an artist. I just have started to work with my photos on Fotoflexer, and I know that I’ll continue to do so. Along with a variety of effects, you can add some nifty animation, which I have done, but haven’t been able to make work after I downloaded the photos with the animation to my files. The animated images are on the photo, they just aren’t animated anymore. (If somebody reads this and knows how to remedy this, I’d appreciate your leaving a comment.)

Also FotoFlexer has some of the correction tools that PhotoShop has so that you can erase, draw, and do that color-dipping with that cute little eye-dropper. You can also reverse the image. This is definitely a fun photo-editing site, but something that will take a bit of learning. In comparison to Picnik, I found working with text and re-sizing somewhat more complicated. However, FotoFlexer allows you to butt photos together, do overlays, and even make montages.

One thing both of these editing sites seems to be missing is the ability to re-size photos into inches or centimeters; there’s only the pixel option. I wanted to re-size some photos for some postcards I’m trying to print on my new HP Photosmart C5580 (my barely-more-than-a-year-old Lexmart died of a paper jam that I wasn’t able to fix, and I reckoned it wasn’t worth trying to get it repaired), but I couldn’t re-size to the size necessary because I could only use the pixel dimensions.

Until recently, most all of the photo-editing I’ve done for my blog has been done with Picnik; however, the banner is one place where I have utilized both FotoFlexer and Picnik. First, I used FotoFlexer to repair some of the blemishes in the old photo and added the sepia coloration; the I cropped the photo, added and colored the text, and re-sized it to fit my banner space with Picnik.

Both of these photo-editing sites are good: Picnik is great for novices and for saving time, while FotoFlexer requires a bit more practice to use but has the capability to advance your creativity.

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See also: Picnik: A Cool Photo-Editing Site

Happy News from Asia: China Allows Gay Marriage

(My animation--just trying to make it "festive")

Even if it is a penguin marriage. According to reports in the Brit paper, The Sun, a pair of gay penguins, who had previously been banished from the colony for trying to steal eggs from the heterosexual paired penguins, have now become the pride and glory of Polarland, a zoo in Harbin, China.

Urged by zoo visitors to give the gay penguins a chance at parenting, the zookeepers let them have eggs that had been rejected by straight penguin mothers. (Sort of reminds you of that case in Great Britain, where the gay couple adopted the two children left abandoned by their mother, doesn’t it?)

In honor of the success of these two gay daddies, the zoo has thrown them a wedding, with red outfits (red is the traditional wedding color) , a march down the aisle, and a feast of fish.

There’s no word of what happened at the bachelor party the night before. “What happens in Harbin–stays in Harbin!”