One of the most interesting panels at SXSW Interactive 2006 was The Future of Darknets, moderated by JD Lasica. And while the concept of Darknets - communities using private subnetworks to communicate and collaborate out of view of the larger internet - is indeed fascinating, the panel was not interesting because of the intended topic. In fact, we never actually got to hear much about DarkNets, much to my disappointment, because the panel was hijacked the moment one panelist said, "Hello, my name is Kori Bernards, and I'm from the Motion Picture Association of America."
What followed was an hour-long firing squad as one audience member after another directed angry questions her way. The feeling of pent-up frustrations with the movie biz was palpable, especially as her claims of flexibility and excitement within the MPAA to find "creative new solutions" to the problems raised by the audience rang more and more hollow, the more times she repeated them.
I do not hate Christmas. I do not hate hearing Christmas songs in every store I go into. I do not hate the expectation that most people have around this time of year that everyone around them should be filled with "Christmas Cheer." I do not hate the presents - buying them, wrapping them, standing in long lines to mail them to every cousin I can manage to remember.
I do not hate that every show I watch has to have a Very Special Christmas Episode. I do not hate that every newspaper and magazine I pick up has something about Christmas - how I should celebrate it, how I should believe in it, how I should care about how other people celebrate and believe in it.
I do not hate the candy canes and Christmas trees that adorn every storefront in town. I do not hate the candy cane stripes on the parking meters, the city-owned and operated meters, that appeared just after Thanksgiving. I do not hate the slowly dying pine trees that sprang up overnight where empty lots used to be. I do not hate the expectation everyone has that I'm going to buy one.
Yesterday San Francisco Superior Court judge Richard Kramer ruled that California's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. He said: "No rational purpose exists for limiting marriage in this state to opposite-sex partners."
This week we'll see a flood of media on this across the country. And all the stories will say how "gay activists" are thrilled and "religious conservatives" are angry. But the real story will be lost.
I'm a 31 year-old married guy. I am not, by any measure, a gay activist. And I am thrilled by Judge Kramer's ruling. Why? Because I believe in equal rights.
This is a very simple equation: The California constitution says that the state cannot discriminate. And marriage, for better or worse, is a state-sanctioned practice. So for the state to say that one group of people cannot participate because of who they are, that's discriminatory. Period.
California's ban on same-sex marriage is no different than the old laws that said that men could own property and women couldn't. Or that blacks and whites couldn't marry. Those laws had tradition and religion on their side, too, and how do they look today?
And this is not only a symbolic issue, it's a legal one. There are over a thousand legal rights given to married people. Why should some people have access to those legal protections while others can't? Judge Kramer answered that question: There is "no rational purpose."
The more this story pits "gay activists" against "religious conservatives," the more it leaves out the vast majority of Americans - people like me that believe in equality and are against discrimination. If you believe that all people should have the same constitutionally-protected rights, then you should be in favor of equal marriage rights for all, too.
I shared a lovely meal with some friends last week at a swanky new restaurant. Early in the meal, I overheard two waiters talking. Something about having to make room for the mayor. I thought they were joking.
Later, someone said, "Well there he is." And over my shoulder I saw that familiar gelled 'do. It was Mayor Gavin Newsom.
It's not the first time I've been near the man. I saw him onstage at the Autumn Moon Festival in Chinatown last year. Then again in October stumping for some D5 candidates. But this time was different.
Maybe it was the recent one year anniversary of the gay marriages he enabled. Maybe it was learning more about the man and his life-long passionate support of the less fortunate. Or maybe it was seeing the recent headlines about his divorce, about fellow democrats blaming him for their failures, and worse.
I don't know what it was, but this time, I wanted to reach out to him. To say thanks for being the one politician I can respect lately. Thanks for caring about San Francisco in such a deep and personal way.
I didn't. He was eating and I didn't want to interrupt. But if I had, this is what I would have said:
"Someday, sir, it will be my pleasure to vote for you for president."
Selected post-election depression thoughts:
Song of the day: God's Away On Business, Tom Waits. "There's a leak, there's a leak in the boiler room. The poor, the lame, the blind. Who are the ones that we kept in charge? Killers, thieves and lawyers."
C-SPAN is trying to make me feel better. After the Kerry concession broadcast, they showed Bush Sr.'s concession speech from 1996, then Clinton's acceptance. Thanks, C-SPAN.
The sky is all thunder and lightning here in San Francisco. The Gods are angry, too.
Fuck the "don't mourn, organize" noise. Mourn AND organize. Be sad AND angry. Both are great creative fuel.
Only 1,462 days until Election 2008.
Pretty kitty. Pretty kitty. Pretty kitty.
I remember when I first became aware of John Kerry. It was during the Democratic primaries when the field was crowded with hopeful candidates. I was watching the debates on CNN and I pointed at him, tapping my finger on the hollow cathode ray tube of my television set as he was droning on in his eternal monotone, my finger touching his broadcasted wrinkles.
"Anyone," I said, "but that one."
The democrats were damaged by Clinton. He'd embarrassed us in the eyes of the world with a blue dress and a curvy intern. And Gore was just laughable, even before he lost the Electoral College in 2000. So I thought we needed someone to reinvigorate us. Someone young and energetic. Not this walking corpse, this reanimated High School Principal, this Frankenstein without the bolts.
What did I know.
George W. Bush is a liar. He lied to get us into a war in Iraq. He lies every day about the economy. He lied about the tax cuts helping the middle class. And now it seems he lied about a military medal.
In a story that broke in blogs and message boards and has now spread to partisan news sites, a photo that was released earlier this year by the White House shows a younger George W. Bush wearing an Air Force Outstanding Unit Award which he never earned. This is a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, in addition to being yet another lie.
As my own personal/visual protest, I've taken the photo, rasterized it, and slapped the word LIAR over his forehead. I'm making a PDF of it available below. Take it. Put it on signs, flyers, t-shirts, stencils, whatever. Just get it out there. And remember to vote on November 2.
You can almost feel the polarization - thousands on one side, making art, getting dirty, and burning a man in effigy for no good reason ... and thousands on the other side, putting on suits, waving flags, and supporting a man who became president for no good reason.
If it were up to me, I would switch about half the tickets. Let the republicans learn to piss clear and the burners effect the real world for a change. Just imagine the comedy at the ticket counter. "Hey dude, there's no money needed on the playa." "I'm sorry, ma'am, you can't blow bubbles in here."
Somewhere in the Black Rock Desert there's a young republican saying, "Have you ever looked at your hand? I mean really looked?"
What do filmmaker Michael Moore, yuppie icon and conservative republican Donald Trump, forrmer U.N. chief weapons inspector and former Bush voter Scott Ritter, shock jock Howard Stern, liberal funny man Al Franken, and random design nerd yours truly all have in common?
We all want to send our pathetic, warmongering, evildoing president back to Texas on November 2. When a motley group like that all agrees, the time has come. The fat lady is singing, folks.
It's a conundrum. Can I still say "Happy July Fourth" when I'm disgusted by my country? Can I still feel pride in the rebellious spirit of our "more perfect union" when we're torturing people in Abu Ghraib? Can I still ooh and aah at fireworks when we're jailing innocent people in Guantanamo Bay and claiming that they have no right to trial? Can I sing the national anthem for a country who's leader can't pronounce the word "nuclear," but can use it to lie the country into a war?
Happy birthday, America. I hope that, by the next time July 4 rolls around, we'll have more to celebrate.
To: Senator Liz Figueroa <firstname.lastname@example.org>
From: Derek Powazek <[myaccount]@gmail.com>
Subject: You are wrong about Gmail
I've just read about your hopelessly misinformed attack on Google's new product, Gmail. And I can't help wondering, have you even seen the service?
As you can tell from my return address, I am one of Gmail's beta testers. I bet if you actually saw the system, your fears would be eased. There is nothing to worry about here. Yes, on some messages, sometimes, unobtrusive ads are placed on the side. But they are simply text links to websites, separate from the email message, and clearly labeled as ads.
This section is called Just a Thought. It's a blog where I post little pieces of what I'm thinking about at the moment. This page shows thoughts about Politics, including:
SXSW to MPAA: STFU
15 March 2006
A Very Special Christmas Post
18 December 2005
Thank you, Judge Kramer
15 March 2005
Almost Meeting Gavin
21 February 2005
3 November 2004
3 November 2004
Vote for John Kerry
1 November 2004
George W. Liar
2 September 2004
31 August 2004
30 August 2004
Everyone against Bush
11 July 2004
4 July 2004
13 April 2004
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Working the web since 1995, Derek Powazek is the creator of many award-winning websites, a couple of which still exist. Derek is the cofounder of JPG Magazine and the CCO of 8020 Publishing. Derek lives in San Francisco with his wife, two nutty Chihuahuas, a grumpy cat, and a house full of plants named Fred. More »
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SXSW to MPAA: STFU 15 March 2006
A Very Special Christmas Post 18 December 2005
Thank you, Judge Kramer 15 March 2005
Almost Meeting Gavin 21 February 2005
Election Depression 3 November 2004