June 30, 2012

Gay Web Series ‘Husbands’ is Backkkk

Gay web series Husbands will be back for a second season thanks to donations from fans
Gay web series Husbands will be back for another season, premiering 15 August. 
The series, headed up by Buffy the Vampire Slayer writer Jane Espenson and Brad Bell, describes itself as the world’s first marriage equality comedy.
Set in a fictional America where every state has legalized gay marriage, two celebrities accidentally do a ‘Britney’ and get drunkenly hitched in Las Vegas.
One is an out-and-proud actor, and the other is a baseball player who has just come out as gay, and they have only been dating six weeks.
For fear of scandal, public opinion, and disgracing the idea of gays getting married, the two keep it a secret and try and make their marriage work.
The hilarious series, which first aired on YouTube in September 2011, has already got a famous fan; Joss Whedon.
Director of The Avengers and creator of Buffy, Angel, Dollhouse and Firefly, Whedon said: ‘Husbands is full of the kind of whip-smart remarks you wish you'd written yourself.’
The series is directed by Jeff Greenstein who produced episodes of Friends and Will & Grace, and stars Brad Bell as Cheeks and Sean Hemeon as Brady.
You can watch episodes at husbandstheseries.com or check out the first episode here: 

Breast Milk Kills HIV ( I think is only a Woman’s Milk)

Still image from monstersandcritics’ video, “Sexy Times: Adult Breastfeeding on TLC’s Strange Sex (VIDEO).” (©TLC / monstersandcritics / http://bit.ly/KNqgrQ )

More than 15 percent of new HIV infections occur in children. Without treatment, only 65 percent of HIV-infected children will live until their first birthday, and fewer than half will make it to the age of two. Although breastfeeding is attributed to a significant number of these infections, most breastfed infants are not infected with HIV, despite prolonged and repeated exposure.
HIV researchers have been left with a conundrum: does breast milk transmit the virusor protect against it?
New research from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine explores this paradox in a humanized mouse model, demonstrating that breast milk has a strong virus killing effect and protects against oral transmission of HIV.
"This study provides significant insight into the amazing ability of breast milk to destroy HIV and prevent its transmission," said J. Victor Garcia, PhD, senior author on the study and professor of medicine in the UNC Center for Infectious Diseases and the UNC Center for AIDS Research. "It also provides new leads for the isolation of natural products that could be used to combat the virus."
Garcia and colleagues pioneered the humanized "BLT" mouse model, which is created by introducing human bone marrow, liver and thymus tissues into animals without an immune system of their own. Humanized BLT mice have a fully functioning human immune system and can be infected with HIV in the same manner as humans.
In the study, the researchers first determined that the oral cavity and upper digestive tract of BLT mice have the same cells that affect oral transmission of HIV in humans and then successfully transmitted the virus to the mice through these pathways. When the mice were given virus in whole breast milk from HIV-negative women, however, the virus could not be transmitted.
"These results are highly significant because they show that breast milk can completely block oral transmission of both forms of HIV that are found in the breast milk of HIV-infected mothers: virus particles and virus-infected cells," said Angela Wahl, PhD, a post-doctoral researcher in Garcia's lab and lead author on the paper. "This refutes the 'Trojan horse' hypothesis which says that HIV in cells is more stubborn against the body's own innate defenses than HIV in virus particles."
Finally, the researchers studied the effectiveness of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) with antiretroviral medication for oral transmission of HIV. Garcia and his team have previously shown that PrEP is effective against intravenous, vaginal and rectal transmission of HIV in humanized BLT mice. In this study, they gave the mice antiretroviral drugs for seven days (3 days before and 4 days after exposing them to the virus) and found 100 percent protection against virus transmission.
These latest findings provide important leads to alternative treatments that could be used to prevent transmission.
"No child should ever be infected with HIV because it is breastfedBreastfeedingprovides critical nutrition and protection from other infections, especially where clean water for infant formula is scarce," Garcia said. "Understanding how HIV is transmitted to infants and children despite the protective effects of milk will help us close this important door to the spread of AIDS."
The study appears in the June 14, 2012 issue of the online journal PLoS Pathogens.
Source University of North Carolina School of Medicine.

The Why of Tom Cruise and Katie Homes Divorce

When you put infidelity aside on any divorce you usually have more than one reason; But then you have the camel’s back breaker. With Tom and Katie, they had many ways in which Tom came out short of Katie’s desires. This was the marriage that was supposed to help both careers. I can imagine Katie not knowing that they were going to have a child together or may through Tom she understood what this religion is all about. It looks like she did not Suri to be part of this ever controlling religion. I had no proof of that until TMZ talked with people that knew:

Katie Holmes filed for divorce primarily over Tom Cruise's fierce ties to Scientology, fearing that Tom would drag Suri deep into the church ... sources connected with the couple tell TMZ.

Our sources say ... Katie has never been fully committed to Scientology, even though she has had ties with the church.  We're told the couple had been arguing over Suri -- that she's now of the age where Scientology becomes a significant part of her life.

Sources familiar with the split tell us Katie is filing for sole legal custody -- as we first reported -- specifically because she does not want Tom to control decisions relating to religion.

Sources have told us that the divorce is NOT about money -- we're told Katie doesn't need Tom's money ... because she has plenty of it ... and will be well taken care of under the terms of the prenup. 

To give you an idea of how fierce Tom's ties to the Church are -- a video featuring the actor discussing what Scientology means to him leaked onto YouTube in 2008. You gotta watch the whole thing.


Northern Ireland Gay Blood Scares End in Sight

Blood bagEdwin Poots has maintained the ban on gay men giving blood in Northern Ireland


A gay man has won the first stage in a legal challenge to a lifetime ban on homosexuals giving blood in Northern Ireland.
The High Court ruled he had established an arguable case that Health Minister Edwin Poots' stance was irrational and unlawful.
A judge granted leave to seek a judicial review and listed the case for a full hearing later in the year.
The man has been granted anonymity due to his perceived vulnerability.
His lawyers are seeking a ruling that would force Mr Poots to bring his policy into line with the rest of the UK.
The complete prohibition, put in place during the 1980s AIDS threat, was lifted in England, Scotland and Wales last November.
It was replaced by new rules that permit donations from men whose last sexual contact with another man was more than a year ago.
The 12-month deferral was left in place following a Government Advisory Committee report.
It identified a much shorter window period during which infection with blood-borne viruses could not be detected.
But Mr Poots has so far maintained the ban in Northern Ireland, declaring it was to ensure public safety.
It was argued that the health minister has no legal authority for his position.
The blood donation issue should be taken by the secretary of state for health, rather than devolved to Stormont, it was claimed.
Mr Justice Treacy was also told the ban was irrational because Northern Ireland takes blood supplies from the rest of the UK which could have been donated by gay men.
Legal papers submitted on support of the judicial review challenge also claimed Mr Poots position was infected by apparent bias.
Attorney General John Larkin QC, responding on behalf of the minister and department, argued that he was entitled to act as he has.
He stressed: "It's the respondent's case that no definitive decision has been taken."
The court was told the applicant would not even be eligible under the 12-month rule because he has not remained celibate.
It emerged in his records that he previously received money for sex.
According to his affidavit, however, he has since undergone a religious conversion and tried to abstain from sex.
Mr Justice Treacy ruled that leave to seek a judicial review should be granted on points about alleged irrationality and compliance with EU law.
He threw out another ground of challenge, based on human rights legislation, which claimed the applicant was a victim.
The case was listed for a full two-day hearing in December.

GOP’rs Cubans in South Florida only Want More Barricades to Cuba

Map of CubaMen repair bicycles in Havana
{HAVANA} The question most asked by people that believe in fairness and proportion it’s been what good does it do for the United States, Democracy or human rights,  to have no leverage on it’s small relations with Cuba? We have relations with governments with both past and present bad track records and through trading and talking we sometimes accomplished what we can’t even accomplish by invasion.  What ever advances Cuba is made on gay rights and human rights, have more to do on a lesbian born to the family than any pressure from the embargo.

You will think that for a government so close to our shores we would have a better relationship that we have places across the globe with the same population or less than Cuba

But the main opposition comes from well to do rich republicans down south, which care very little about gay rights or human rights. What they have always wanted and expected was for a revolution in Cuba, for the government to fall and for the ‘government in exile’ to take over and probably go back to the good old days in Cuba.


(Havana) It’s been a rough stretch for the few companies that dare to do business on both sides of the Florida Straits.
Though US officials sometimes play down the economic impact of American trade sanctions against Cuba, several multinational firms in recent weeks have seen their commercial ties to Havana bring new headaches, political heat and hefty legal fees.
Odebrecht, the Brazilian engineering and construction conglomerate, is now in litigation with the state of Florida over a new law that essentially bars the state and local governments from doing business with companies that have commercial ties to Cuba or Syria.
Pernod Ricard, the French global beverage distributor that partners with the Cuban government to distribute Havana Club rum, is on the verge of losing the brand’s trademark in US federal courts to rival Bacardi Corp.
And Spanish oil giant Repsol appears to be walking away from Cuba after sinking hundreds of millions into an unsuccessful bid to strike undersea crude — while fending off attacks from anti-Castro lawmakers in the US, where the company also has drilling leases.
Large global companies that operate in Cuba often maneuver around US trade restrictions by setting up subsidiary firms that don’t run afoul of the 1962 US Trading with the Enemy Act, the 1992 Torricelli Act or the 1996 Helms Burton Act, pillars of the longest-running economic sanctions in the world.
European companies like Nestle (Switzerland), Adidas (Germany) and Virgin Atlantic (UK) are some of the global brands that manage to do business in Cuba without running into trouble in the US, since Washington’s sanctions generally don’t apply to foreign firms that simply sell consumer goods and services in Cuba.
But other companies that have formed strategic partnerships with the Cuban government for major industrial projects have run into trouble under US laws like Helms-Burton, which punishes foreign businesses whose Cuba operations involve property that was nationalized after the 1959 Cuban Revolution.
That has been the case of the Canadian mining company Sherritt International, whose top executives are banned from traveling to the US because the firm processes nickel ore in Cuban facilities that were once US property.
Florida’s new law is a fresh attempt to add yet another disincentive for global companies that might want to work in Cuba. Though it does not specifically name Brazil’s Odebrecht, the legislation appears to be directly aimed at the company.
Odebrecht’s Florida-based subsidiary Odebrecht USA, Inc has earned nearly $4 billion since 1990 on public works projects in the state, according to The Miami Herald, completing landmark structures like the American Airlines Arena and a new terminal at the Miami International Airport.
Meanwhile, another Odebrecht subsidiary, COI Overseas Ltd, is the lead contractor on an $800 million project to overhaul the Cuban port of Mariel, with financial backing from the Brazilian government, which maintains friendly ties to Havana.
That attempt to make money across the Cuban ideological divide appears to have made Odebrecht a target for anti-Castro lawmakers in Florida, which is home to more than 1 million Cuban exiles and immigrants.
Florida lawmakers passed a bill in April barring local governments or the state of Florida from awarding public contracts worth more than $1 million to any firm that conducts business with Cuba or Syria. Singed by Gov. Rick Scott last month, the law is set to take effect on July 1.
That law aims to reach farther than the federal government's Helms Burton Act by targeting subsidiary companies of foreign firms and placing new powers in state hands.
Last week, Odebrecht filed suit against Florida arguing that only the US government — not individual states — has the right to set foreign trade policy or enforce sanctions.
It also insisted that Odebrecht USA and COI Overseas Ltd are distinct entities. Odebrecht USA “does not engage, and never has engaged, in business operations in Cuba,” the company said in a statement.

It noted that the new law had placed the company in the awkward position of having to sue Florida’s Department of Transportation — the same agency it is trying to win contracts from for highway construction and other infrastructure projects.
Attorneys in Florida have indicated that legal precedence is on Odebrecht’s side. Even if the company wins in court, it will end up paying a political price that could hurt its chances at winning future contracts in the state.
It’s the same type of subtle pressure that may have contributed to Respol’s announcement last month that it is likely to withdraw from future oil exploration in Cuba. The company spent more than $100 million to drill in Cuban waters, hiring a state-of-the-art oil rig specifically designed to comply with US trade sanctions against Cuba.
As for Pernod Ricard, the US Supreme Court’s decision to uphold a judgment against the company ended a costly, 18-year court battle, and drew a harsh warning last week from the Cuban government, which threatened retaliation against US intellectual property.
"The disrespectful attitude of the United States against the rightful owners of Cuban brand Havana Club could endanger the rights of 6,000 trademarks and 800 patents of the US registered in our country," said Maria de los Angeles Sanchez, director of Cuba's Industrial Property Office.
Pernod Ricard will instead register a new trademark under the brand name “Havanista,” in case the embargo is ever lifted and Americans can once again buy Cuban rum.

Brand Bombed Badly on Brand X

He's weathered his fair share of adversity... but even Russell Brand can't have been preparing for the drubbing his new show has received. 
But what kind of advise did he get to go from a comic with bad taste to a talk show host? 

The talking heads are aging and fast. Between an old Letterman which gets to his show out of air every night, to the newest on the block on the late night NBC slot,  Jimmy Fallen; He has by the way come in tops in all categories for the early June ratings sweepstakes and he is not new anymore.   The one doing something a little bit different is Connan. He is liked and he is funny so who cares if he is not on top!
 Now you throw in Alsenio and Russel to the mix??? Alsenio might still change his mind like the last time and run….We'r not counting the old and stablished comedic-talk host shows in Comedy Central. They are the tried and good, established at what they do.

But Russel 37, who is experienced on heroin addiction, Sachsgate scandal and the marriage to Kathy Perry tried a doomed from the start FX, Brand X.  Even the tittle is stupid and stupid is not funny and funny does not get interesting people every night to tell you interesting things.

Brand's admirable  but failed attempt to raise political consciousness by way of a bawdy joke or two it might be brave but is not certainly not stylish. Risky yes, so he should not be surprised that he is not a home runner. The pilot last thursday bombed.
Poor reviews: Brand's last movie Arthur also bombed
Poor reviews: Brand's last movie Arthur also bombed 

Noble: Russell has tried to create something different and he has succeeded, but is it funny? Whereas the LA Times wrote: 'Brand has overestimated his own ability to riff on the news, or rather the audience's interest in his riff. 
'More experienced "talk show" stars, from Leno to Colbert, approach the half-hour with a bit more humility; they do not try to sustain it with monologue alone.'
However, the Hollywood Reporter sounded a more positive note, insisting: '
Judge Brand on his talent, smarts and humor, which combine into nothing less than a tour de force of brilliance when he’s on -- and he always seems to be on.' 
Crest of a wave: Katy Perry, meanwhile, continued her global lap of honour in Sydney 


Gay Senior Centers Are Here, In Spain First Retirement Home

Gay Retirement Spain

 A group of friends and acquaintances, most of them getting up in years, sit around a long table, drinking coffee, eating cookies and chatting.
It could be the scene at any senior center — which is exactly what the Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley was going for last month when it opened its gay senior center, one of a growing number of such centers opening across the USA .
"We knew there was a need," said Gay Alliance interim Executive Director Anne Wakeman. As the U.S. population ages, "we've got senior programs in every town and this huge shift in our population," she says. "These services are absolutely necessary."
The White House in May convened in Miami a first-ever conference on aging in the gay community. New York City-based SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders), an advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender older adults, earlier this year opened the nation's only full-time gay senior center.
And Chicago's gay social service agency Center on Halstead earlier this year unveiled plans to renovate an old police station in Chicago and create the nation's first affordable housing complex for older gay adults. The 79-unit complex, the second such housing project in the nation (the first is in Los Angeles) is due for completion by late 2013.
SAGE estimates the number of gay Americans who are 65 and over at between 1.8 million and 4 million today. That population is expected to range from 2.2 million to 5.8 million by 2030.
The needs of older gay adults long have been overshadowed by a focus on younger gay people and a general distaste in the world at large, says Britta Larson, Center on Halstead senior services director.
"Our society doesn't like to think of any older adults being sexually active or having a sexual identity," she says. "Now we're getting to see LGBT adults who have fought hard to come out of the closet and don't want to move back when they move into a nursing home."
Older gay adults have issues distinct from those of the population at large, says Catherine Thurston, SAGE's senior director of programs. " Older LGBT people are four times more likely to be aging without benefit of having adult children in their lives and adult children are the No. 1 source of unpaid care giving. They're twice as likely to be aging alone as their heterosexual counterparts."
After years of focusing on AIDS-related services, Tulsa-based Oklahomans for Equality recently has made greater efforts to provide programs for gay seniors, says Executive Director Toby Jenkins. It also is reaching out to the region's senior citizen service providers.
"Every week, we try to follow up with one more group," Jenkins says. "We have more nursing homes and home health care providers than we can get to (because) they know this is a target audience and we have a lot of older gay people in Oklahoma. This part of the country is known as a nice retirement area."
Existing social service providers for seniors often don't know how to deal with the gay population, says Scott Fearing, education director for the Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley. Along with the new center, the Alliance has been offering training to those service providers.
"We want to break the silence, break the invisibility," Fearing says. "With the aging Baby Boomers — people like myself who came out in 1980 — are going to want to be sure I can come there honest about who I am. You've got people who worked 20, 30 years in their professional capacity out and now testing the waters all over again and no (human resources department) to back them up."
Assisted living communities catering to a gay clientele have had a tougher time finding tenants than some other niche communities for seniors, such as those targeting particular faiths or languages, says Jamison Gosselin, spokesman for the Virginia-based Assisted Living Federation of America. "A lot of older Americans haven't come out of the closet necessarily or told their families," Gosselin says.
But Gosselin says most mainstream senior living facilities try to be as accepting as possible, from anti-discrimination policies to staff training. "If you built a business on core values of quality of life, choice, diginity, etc., you have a responsibility to maintain those values no matter who the person is — Christian or Muslim or Hindu or straight or gay," he says.
Tom Yoki, 67, of Henrietta, N.Y., a recent transplant from Southern California, walked into the Genesee Valley senior center looking for information on gay-friendly Rochester neighborhoods and to make acquaintances.
"It's a birds-of-a-feather kind of thing," Yoki says. "The mainstream senior centers — I don't want to be negative — but I don't think they'd be quite as welcoming."
In Spain
A group of elderly Spanish gay men are rebelling against the homophobia of their generation by setting up what will be the country's first gay and lesbian retirement home.
"Homosexuals who go into homes often also have to go straight back into the closet," said Federico Armenteros, the man behind the scheme. "This will be a place that is open to everyone and where no one will have to hide their sexuality."

Mormons Pissed at Cher Re: Magic Underwear

Celestial Moon and Stars Boxer Shorts

Cher has upset leading Mormons by using a derogatory term 

in a Twitter.com attack on U.S. presidential hopeful Mitt Romney.
The pop superstar, who is a supporting Democrat, sent out a tweet on Friday, urging President Barack Obama and his aides to get organised or risk losing November's election to Republican Romney, who is a Mormon.
Cher wrote, "I Feel if he (Obama) doesn't get all his DUCKS IN A ROW we'll b forced 2 listen 2Uncaring Richy Rich! The whitest man in MAGIC UNDERWEAR in the WH (White House)."
Her remarks have upset prominent members of the Mormon church, who wear formal garments known as "celestial underwear." The term "magic underwear" is considered offensive.
Mormons took to Twitter.com in droves to take aim at Cher, with one calling her an "anti-Mormon bigot", and another stating, "I guess she is another example of a celebrity who surrounds themselves with people who always tell them what they want to hear so that they don't have to think before they speak or tweet in this case."

Homeless Gay Man Killed

Police are investigating an attack on an openly gay homeless man in Hancock Park as a hate crime.
As of Friday evening, the victim was in critical condition after a man reportedly attacked him on a sidewalk in the 100 block of North Mansfield Avenue early Friday morning.
The incident went down at about 12:50 a.m., when the victim told his aggressor that he was gay, homeless and had AIDS, said Richard French with LAPD.
That’s when the man, who police say they do not have a description of, uttered gay slurs and struck the victim, punching and kicking him, French told NBC4 News.
This is all that is known outside of the LAPD. Will post as anything else comes out. Wether the man is homeless or coming home from work, the fact that he might be gay and may be with AIDS does not give anyone the right to kill that person.  The hate crimes laws applies to this case as to any other involving hate crime.

Queer Activism Before Gay Inc Bought it Off, A Movie

I think the review by Steven Thrasher is accurate and fair to the movie.  Therefore I’m posting his article as it appeared on the Village Voice.

How To Survive a Plague: Queer Activism Before Gay Inc Bought it Off

Sundance Selects
Peter Staley in David France's How To Survive A Plague

Two things starkly colored my experience as I went to a screening of David France's fascinating documentary How to Survive a Plague, about the heyday of ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), earlier this week.The first was seeing the film through the prism of my feature article in last week's Voice Pride issue, "Does 'Gay Inc.' Believe in Free Speech?" The correlations between the questions the film explored and my article raised of queer activism (and, in a few cases, the actual same activists) were for me many.
I've also never had such a strong experience of feeling like I was watching my current day to day life replicated onscreen, although experienced in a different era and under different circumstances (like in a sci-fi, parallel universe) as when I was watching How to Survive A Plague. Part of this is because David France wrote the first articles in the Voice about ACT UP 25 years ago and my reporting, on similar topics, owes a great deal to his legacy at this publication. Most eerily, I'd spent the day before I saw the film at the Pride march talking for a good thirty minutes to State Senator Tom Duane. The loquacious politician was waxing especially freely as he contemplated his last Pride before leaving the Senate and reflected on his life in politics as the parade passed by. We stood talking about the fights for gay marriage in New York and the right to be able to openly serve in the military in the past tense. To see him the next day in the film at least 20 year earlier, young and lithe (and long before drug cocktails gave any hope to those with HIV), was startling.
For me, the first half of the film was a fascinating exploration of this thought: Aha! This is what queer activism looked like before we were bought off. It's 1987, and gay men were inflicted with a disease that by now had a name (even though it wasn't mentioned much by President Reagan). The answer, the young, tough activists seemed to conjure up, was the educate themselves. Their empowerment was not, unlike today's LGBT movement, to host a gala, go shopping or stand up for Ellen on twiter. Queer people were not yet seen as consumers, even by their (few) advocates. They were largely considered untouchable, and to many Americans, they were willfully deemed invisible.
The response to this leper status in the activist communities portrayed in the film was astounding: to educate and empower queers by understanding science, understanding politics, and becoming so fucking knowledgeable about substantial, intellectually rigorous concepts that they could walk into (by force when needed) drug companies, Congress, the National Institute of Health or the Federal Drug Administration armed with knowledge. And when they did, they knew so fucking much, they could participate in and influence conversations with the world's top scientists and policy makers.
Can you imagine any such thing today? A gay group telling gay people to educate themselves in medicine rather than to go shopping? Afraid of rabble rousing, the line from Gay Inc.'s main lobbyists these days is usually, Don't worry your pretty little head. Leave everything to us. When Queer Rising took to the streets (à la ACT UP) last year demanding marriage equality, the main lobbyists were not pleased. Today's major gay activist groups were nowhere to be found in Zuccotti Park, as Occupy Wall Street staged a descendant protest owing much to forefathers and mothers like ACT UP.
Of course, LGBT people today are in such a different space in 2012 than in 1987, and for those of us who came of age after that era, it's hard to imagine where things were during the heyday of ACT UP. We have a president who supports equal rights for queer people, and who has reversed the U.S.'s policy of denying entry visas to people with HIV. [Note:Jeremy Sapienza points out that the HIV travel ban lift process started under George W. Bush.] (There is a great scene about this policy in the film.) It's a sign of progress that we can entertain other thoughts as an LGBT community other than attempting to stave off the existential demise of all gay men.
But there is still work to be done here. HIV infections have reached a plateau of about 50,000 new infections a year; this number stubbornly refuses to go down (and rates in some populations are even going up). There are serious health risks for people with proper medication for HIV/AIDS (like, as the Times reported last week, an increased rate of heart attacks). But for those who don't get proper medication because of the prohibitive costs (according to the film, about two million human beings a year globally), HIV is still a death sentence.
How to Survive a Plague treats AIDS as a plague, an onslaught demanding the most urgent attention as an entire generation of gay men faced an abyss. Although there is humor in the film (more on that later), there are no corporate tie-ins with the activism, nor anything cutesy about what's happening. In my reporting, I've found that there is little of that same sense of urgency on a large scale in queer activism today; gay people have become consumers, encouraged to think everything is alright, and (largely in the United States) have been led to believe that popping some pills will make everything OK on the HIV front. Fervency about the worldwide epidemic is largely absent in our nation, economic barriers for queer people are too often ignored and, with a few notable exceptionsorganized political life in the queer community focuses on the one percent as much as politics in general. But in the 1980s, there was a creative, dynamic, utterly brave and totally in your face attempt to make gays snap the hell out of any kind of complacency.
Given my last article about trying to keep conflict out of the LGBT Center, the raucous scenes in the same building decades ago were thrilling to watch. (Indeed, given how the Center would stop allowing public comments even on its Facebook wall to avoid questions from a member of the press a few days after I saw the film, this was all the more fascinating.) In the Center's only public meeting on its policies last year, board member Tom Kirdahy said he didn't like the idea of a Palestinian sympathetic queer group meeting there because vulnerable people, like those in recovery programs, might feel "unsafe" from conflict and controversy. But there was huge, rousing, roiling conflict documented in How to Survive a Plague. Scores of people of people are passionately debating what should be done about AIDS, often screaming at each other in the Center's first floor meeting room. There are no pre-approved talking points. Unlike at garden parties or black tie fundraisers, almost none of the queers are wearing suits. It's direct democracy in what looks far more like an Occupy Wall Street General Assembly than a Goldman Sachs diversity awards ceremony.
As I watched ACT UP get into board meetings of the FDA and storm the campus of the NIH decades ago in the film, I couldn't help thinking how the Center itself (where ACT UP often debated and plotted its shenanigans) does not hold public meetings of its board in 2012. In the film, Ann Northrop is seen passionately debating as a young woman. Last year,Northtrop moderated that one public meeting on the Center's space policies, which went nowhere and resulted in the Center simply refusing to speak about the issue any further.
And the actions ACT UP engages in are almost unrecognizable in their confrontation, even by the most radical Occupy standards of demonstrating. Without giving away too much, I'll just say this: when I met Lt. Daniel Choi to photograph him in front of the White House two years ago, the Secret Service was on top of us before he'd done anything. Simply having handcuffed himself to the fence previously was reason for them to pounce. Yet there's a scene in this film where hordes of ACT UP queers boldly storm the White House fence and throw something unimaginable onto its pastoral, green lawn. Today, I can't imagine that the Secret Service wouldn't shoot them for such an action (and evacuate the entire First Family from the mansion until terrorism and toxicology sweeps could be performed). I thought I knew something of LGBT activism history, but I wouldn't have believed this if I hadn't seen it in the film.
But if the first half of the film read for me as a mediation on queer activism life before it sold out, the second half made me think, Ah, the age old split has always been there.
There were inevitable charges that some ACT UP member were elites, specifically those on the medical science committee, who broke off to form TAG (Treatment Advisory Group). Resentment brewed that some were too close to the drug companies and the government, and some had forgotten the roots of the movement. In this way,it was humbling to see that my reporting on these fights is nothing new. The dilemma over how close activists should be to power (be that power reside with drug companies and the FDA in 1987, or with the White House, corporations and the DNC in 2012) is as old as queer activism itself. (My favorite moment in the second half is hearing an off-screen voice I am sure belongs to Bill Dobbs, a major source for last week's story, screaming in just as cantankerous a manner decades ago as he is apt to now. And then Larry Kramer, who can now be so mellow he wouldn't speak to me for the 'Gay Inc.' article for fear of making gay organizations look bad in an election year, screamed him down.)
The film is weakest, for me, in exploring the split between ACT UP and TAG. It was unclear to me from How To Survive A Plague if and how these groups interacted over the years after the divorce, how close TAG got to the drug companies, and if the two factions resolved their differences after the worst of the plague (in the United States, anyway) was over.
The film is most successful for me in two ways. As the press packet notes, "It's a quirky, but not inconsequential, fact about HIV that the virus made its hideous debut in medical journals just a few months before the first camcorders" hit the stores. The home video which comprises so much of the film holds up beautifully, the audio is shockingly clear, and there is an unexpected elegance in the way France's camera (through editing archival material, as well as shooting new interview footage) has a surprisingly aesthetic consistency. You'd think he and a director of photography had planned an arc with constructed precision, rather than cobbled together found footage.
The other way it flies is in its use of humor. Like African Americans who can get bogged down with "uplifting the race" pabulum in documenting the civil rights struggle, LGBT history can get whitewashed (especially when corporate sponsorship is involved) and trimmed of the sex, aggressive activism, and comedy. How To Survive A Plague made me laugh out loud more times than sniffle (though it did that, too). There's gallows humor through out, and also a kind of uncomfortable laughter born from the shear audacity of what these men and women of ACT UP dared to do. And the scene with CNN proves that the TV idea of "the left," whose representative on a debate show seems less sympathetic to the tactics of gay men with AIDS than a Reagan/Bush I era Pat Buchanan(!), has been laugh out loud funny for decades.
In a way, the creative, comic elements represent one of the greatest triumphs of what those in ACT UP achieved: a refusal to give up being human, even when society shunned them and death stared an entire gay generation in the eye. They still loved, and fought, and kissed, and laughed.
How To Survive A Plague premiered at Sundance in January and is opening theatrically in September. I'll be checking out United In Anger, the other ACT UP documentary (culled from the group's oral history project) next week when it opens at the Quad. 
 Steven Thrasher


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