aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
The pot calls the kettle black
Alan Wexelblat comments on two “independent music promoters” who have filed suit against Universal Music Group alleging they were forced to submit false invoices:
So the problem, guys, is not that you were part of the payola racket, but that you got fired and blacklisted for refusing to pad your payola records? Excuse me while I cry a crocodile tear river here. The whole system is rotten to the core. Promoters don’t promote. Artists get ripped off. Producers get bullied. And the Cartel hollers “piracy” when you and I share songs? What a hypocritical bunch of hooey. How about we put the entire bunch of ‘em out to pasture and actually let artists promote and sell their music to consumers without this blood-sucking mass of sanctimonious double-dealing? [B mine]
The flawed iPod
I’ve always agreed with the received wisdom that the iPod is great design (even though all white doesn’t really work for me, most especially in the iMac). Today Virginia Postrel changed my mind:
It’s gorgeous and tactile, and the software interface is excellent--aesthetic and functional qualities lacking in most electronic products--but Apple has never been much good at the physical side of design. If only they didn’t have to actually make things. In this case, the batteries are the problem. They’re beyond terrible, and Apple won’t replace them. My original iPod lasted about a year before the battery died and I had to throw it out. Worse, my iPod Mini has never really held a charge, except for the day it spent in the Apple Store.
The Mayor of Brooklyn
Shortly before leaving New York I worked with Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz’s Cultural Transition Committee. I met Marty only a few times but became close to some on his staff and had
I stayed, might well have ended up working even more closely with them. So it was that reading last week’s dead-on New Yorker profile of Marty brought pangs of homesickness:
Markowitz’s office, like that of New York’s other borough presidents, combines a grand governmental title with a slight portfolio and a very modest budget. (This year, Markowitz has an operating budget of five million dollars; the city’s over-all budget was fifty-one billion dollars)...The Times, in endorsing Markowitz against his two primary contestants in August, 2001, acknowledged the comparative impotence of the office that he was seeking. Indeed, that was what made Markowitz, whom the paper described as “an ebullient public servant who could provide a refreshing boosterism for the sometimes beleaguered borough,” the right man for the job.
Markowitz’s ebullience is such that, among other city officials, he tends to be treated less as a political peer than as a cheery mascot for his borough. In mid-December, Markowitz shared a platform with Mayor Bloomberg at an event announcing an investment in the neglected Restoration Plaza, on Fulton Street in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn, and the Mayor introduced him with an air of amused condescension.
Marty is a showman. A Brooklyn booster. With a Fiorello LaGuardia-like flair. He loves Brooklyn and it shows. His office “looks less like a sober place of government than like Santa’s workshop. On every surface-shelves, tables, window ledges, and cluttering the desk-there are Teddy bears and toy trucks, balls and bats, dolls dressed in the regalia of the Caribbean parade that takes place on Eastern Parkway every Labor Day.”
Markowitz has made an art of trading in a familiar nostalgia for better times as a means of promoting the future of what he usually refers to as “the city of Brooklyn.” Ken Fisher, a former City Council member who was another of Markowitz’s opponents, says, “Marty can make people nostalgic for the Dodgers who weren’t even born when they left Brooklyn.” Since his election, Markowitz has attained a degree of omnipresence in the seventy-two-and-a-half-square-mile borough: if there’s a parade, he’ll be marching in it; if there’s a street fair, he’ll be eating at it. If there are Brooklynites to be honored-such as Cake Man Raven, a Fort Greene confectioner who replicated Borough Hall in sponge cake and frosting for Markowitz’s inauguration-Markowitz will be there, issuing a proclamation or a citation printed with gilded, archaic lettering.
I love Brooklyn too. After living in Manhattan for 25 years, most of it on the Upper West Side, I moved to Brooklyn. (Doug kids that the BIG move was to Brooklyn, and says compared to that Georgia was a cakewalk.)
An egregious, ugly and brazen expression of our homophobic culture
On Feb. 16, 2000, Matthew Limon gave his boyfriend a blow job and got himself a 17-year prison sentence. The boys were residents at the Lakemary Center, a school for developmentally delayed youngsters in Paola, Kan. It’s generous, perhaps, to call them boyfriends. What they did was more akin to sexual experimentation, two boys in a dormitory at night, messing around. Matthew had just turned 18 the week before, and his partner was just shy of his 15th birthday. The younger boy, identified only as M.A.R., consented to the sex, but changed his mind. As soon as he asked Matthew to stop, Matthew did, and M.A.R. has always been steadfast in his statement that what happened was consensual. How the police were brought in, why they were called, isn’t clear. Someone from the center complained and the trial was based on stipulated facts—one paragraph stating that on that night in February, the boys engaged in consensual oral sex. That single paragraph was the basis for the 17-year sentence.
Kansas’ statutory rape law prohibits “criminal sodomy” (including oral sex) with teenagers younger than 16. If the object of Matthew’s affection had been female, however, Kansas would have afforded him the benefit of its romantically named “Romeo and Juliet” statute, designed precisely for kids like him, kids who have consensual sex with other kids. In Kansas, and in many other states, when two teenagers have heterosexual sex, even the dreaded sodomy, the penalties are relatively mild. If Matthew had had consensual sex with a girl, and the state had prosecuted him at all, the longest sentence they could have given him was 15 months. Instead, because Matthew had sex with another boy, and only because he had sex with another boy, he has spent the past five years in Ellsworth Correctional Facility in central Kansas.
One can only imagine what life is like for him in there. Young men like Matthew are prime targets in jail. Gay prisoners are more than twice as likely to be the victims of rape in prison, and young gay men are particularly vulnerable. Worse, the rate of HIV infection among the prison population is higher than in the general population, so prison rape carries with it the added risk of HIV transmission.
The case of Matthew Limon exemplifies the ugliness and brazenness of American homophobia, but while that may be the most important strand here, it’s interwoven with adult discomfort with children’s and teenagers’ sexuality. The first strand is easy to untangle and resolve. The State of Kansas’ justification for the horrifying disparity between its treatment of Matthew and that of his heterosexual counterparts comes down to this: Boys who get blow jobs from other boys are so impressionable that they might “turn gay.”