LGBT Weekly » Latest Issue Sat, 28 Nov 2015 00:30:31 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Danny Pintauro: Rethinking HIV Wed, 25 Nov 2015 22:05:01 +0000

Danny Pintauro

The last twelve months have seen some of the most public and progressive steps in the now decades-long battle against AIDS and the virus which causes it, HIV. This includes the mainstream and open discussion of PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) in culture with television programs like How to Get Away with Murder (ABC), a call to action by both medical professionals and AIDS activists for TasP (Treatment as Protection), and public figures such as actors Danny Pintauro (Who’s the Boss, Cujo) and Charlie Sheen (Two and a Half Men, Major League), as well as locally with the director of events at The San Diego LGBT Community Center, Ian Johnson ‘coming out’ to erase the misplaced stigma of the disease.

Now in its 27th year, World AIDS Day was first designated Dec. 1, 1988 by the World Health Organization (WHO) which is an agency of the United Nations. This year WHO continues with the theme “Getting to Zero” and throughout the world leading AIDS organizations challenge us to “Rethink HIV” and better understand the disease to help eradicate stigma. HIV patients struggle with being open about their condition for fear of being ostracized socially, loss of professional opportunities and even rejection in romantic relationships. While terms like T-cells may be familiar to some, others like ‘undetectable’ viral load (which is when there is fewer than 20 copies of the virus in a sample of blood) remain elusive and even confusing.

Child actor Danny Pintauro came out as openly gay in 1999 in an interview with the National Inquirer. This fall, Pintauro found himself ‘coming out’ again when he publically revealed on Oprah: Where Are They Now that he has been living with HIV since 2003. He now finds himself as an activist sharing his story and helping others live their truth as a person with HIV.

“One of my goals is to make everyone who is positive more comfortable talking about it. Someone who is healthy, taking care of themselves and undetectable should be proud of that,” Pintauro shares.

He adds, “You can’t get people to come out and talk about it until there are people they can look up to where they can say ‘ya know he is just like me and he has done it, so I too can live my truth’ (about living with HIV).”

Ian Johnson, who recently came out as HIV+, is grateful to Pintauro for helping to end the stigma of HIV. “I applaud Danny on the strength it took for him to come out about living with HIV. Many of us living with HIV remain in the “closet” because of the stigma we have faced. After we experience the challenges of dating, the negative attitudes and the shunning from our own community, many remain living in silence … afraid of how others will perceive them, not wanting to be labeled only as the person with HIV.”

Johnson adds, “It takes strength to live out, live proud and live unafraid. The hardest part about all this isn’t actually living with HIV, it’s living with the stigma associated with HIV.”

Ian Johnson

Pintauro is a huge proponent of HIV testing. He shared his opinion that if everyone knows their current status, there would be far fewer, if any, new transmissions. In reality a test is only relative to when it’s taken and an individual’s last sexual encounter. He says, “As a community (LGBT) who wants to take care of one another, then we are going to learn our status so that we can take care of each other.”

Testing remains the No. 1 way to reduce HIV transmission. However, testing also plays a key role in a new approach toward the battle against HIV/AIDS called PrEP.

Dr. Gary Blick of World Health Clinicians, one of the leading specialists and doctors focused on HIV/AIDS and co-founder of HIV EQUAL, an anti-stigma campaign says, “Bottomline, PrEP (which is the single-pill medication known as Truvada) has positively impacted the LGBT community knowing it can protect against HIV by reducing the chances of contracting HIV somewhere between 92-99 percent. While nothing is 100 percent, there are not yet any known cases of people taking PrEP daily who contracted HIV.”

He adds, “An HIV+ individual’s chances of giving someone HIV is reduced by 96 percent + just by knowing their status, getting into or back into care, taking much safer antiretroviral medications, and getting one’s viral load to undetectable. This is called TasP.”

As an HIV+ gay man, Pintauro comments on PrEP and TasP with enthusiasm. While he is thrilled that the conversation has been elevated to a national level with PrEP being on prime time television, he added it is important to understand what it really is. “People are realizing this is a godsend, being able to protect yourself in more than just one way from HIV.” Adding, “If you’re diligent about taking PrEP, transmission can be reduced by up to 99 percent. That’s amazing! There is a whole conversation that has to happen when you’re talking about PrEP. You have to go see a doctor to go on it. You can’t just go get it (from a store). Plus, you have to get tested on a regular basis. Further, in order to continue receiving your prescription, doctors require the test, so the patient is continuously monitored. Additionally, the tests also monitor other STIs (sexually transmitted infections).”

PrEP and TasP combined make for some of the most promising outlooks on reductions in transmission. “You have someone not only preventing getting HIV with PrEP, but you also have them going to a doctor on a regular basis being tested for HIV,” says Pintauro.

However, he challenges the notion that PrEP is the end answer and that guys can freely engage in unprotected sex. “There are those Web sites that are geared toward having unprotected sex and you see profiles that say ‘negative but on PrEP.’ That’s not the solution. Number one, you are opening yourself up to all of those other STIs, some of which are becoming untreatable such as the rare drug-resistant gonorrhea.”

Dr. Blick, an out gay doctor adds, “Our LGBT community needs to understand risks versus benefits and make informed decisions. Sex and intimacy may feel much better, but getting infected with an STI for life, like genitorectal herpes (HSV-2) or human papillomavirus (HPV) which causes anal cancer, needs to be considered, as does the rare drug-resistant gonorrhea. With the Hepatitis C virus now an increasing STI in our community, a person needs to first get the necessary knowledge to make an informed decision and think with one’s brain.”

As Dec. 1 approaches, Danny Pintauro’s message for others encompasses so much of the theme this year as well as the progress made in the last 12 months. He says, “While World Aids Day is a day to remember the millions of people we’ve lost to this disease, it is also a day to look ahead. We can beat HIV! Live life to the fullest by getting tested regularly. Cherish your life by doing everything you can to protect yourself. And love those you care about by getting on treatment!”

As Danny Pintauro, Ian Johnson and many of those living with HIV here in San Diego will attest, while the disease may have at one point felt like and even been a stigma in their lives, today they can be proud of their undetectable viral load and healthy lifestyle, all of which has been liberating while being life sustaining. World AIDS Day is Dec. 1.

Danny Pintauro can be followed on Twitter at @dannypintauro.

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Rent or buy, part 2: Doing the numbers Wed, 25 Nov 2015 22:04:56 +0000


Let’s make up a hypothetical choice for this experiment. Let us compare the purchase of a home for $500,000 with an annual real estate tax of $3,000 and insurance bill of $1,500, to the rental of a luxury apartment for $2,500 a month. Let us say you live in the home for a period of five years and you sell it at a 10 percent increase in equity. In the case of the apartment, let’s say the rent goes up 5 percent every year. Utilities, for arguments sake, are the same, with the exception of insurance, taxes and gardening expenses on the house.

Let’s tackle the purchase first. You are putting down 20 percent or $100,000, and your mortgage is $400,000. Your buyer’s closing costs which include appraisal, credit report, title insurance, post inspections, flood certs and the like will run about $10,000. So you are investing a total of $110,000 in the purchase.

At 4.5 percent interest on a 30 year fixed rate loan, your payment, which includes taxes and insurance, will run about $2,400. Add to that $300 for extra house expenses, like repairs, and regular gardening and we have $2,700. For the five years you live in the house, you have spent $162,000.

Let’s say you sell the house five years later at a 10 percent increase, or $550,000. Closing costs and commission will run about $38,500, leaving you a balance of $511,500. You have about $364,000 left on your mortgage so after you pay that off, you will have a gain of $147,500 less your original investment of $110,000, leaving you with a net gain of $37,500. You have also enjoyed some income tax advantages over the five year period you owned the house, so all in all, you did well.

Now turning to that rental. If your initial rent of $2,500 goes up 5 percent a year, your total outlay in rent over the five years was $165,756. You got to keep that $110,000 you would have invested in a down payment on the house plus closing costs, and let’s say you invested that money conservatively, and made a five percent return. Remember, this is all hypothetical, and conditions in the financial marketplace are always fluctuating. That $110,000 you kept would return about $41,169 in interest income, but of course you did not have the tax advantages the homeowner enjoyed during those five years.

So the bottom line, after reviewing this example, is that the comparison is pretty much a wash, and doesn’t help you make a decision whether to rent or buy. The truth is we cannot prognosticate on the future, and interest rates and returns are not something to be sure about. Instead, we must turn to the intangibles. Did we have a sense of control and satisfaction owning the home? Did the freedom not to worry about caring for or preparing the rental for resale, make our lives that much more enjoyable?

Whether you are an owner or a renter is clearly a matter of lifestyle and personality. Worriers should probably rent, and confidant trailblazers buy. People who enjoy change and like to move around are renters; stay-at-home types will trade in freedom for comfort. Luckily, we have plenty of choices, and a little self-analysis will help you select the best route for you. Happy hunting!

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Caitlyn Jenner plans to vote for oppression Wed, 25 Nov 2015 22:04:53 +0000

Caitlyn Jenner

In the past, a transgender voter interested in ordinary equality and civil rights for transgender people could have found reasons to vote against a Democrat and for a Republican.

Such as in 2002, when then Assemblymember Judy Chu introduced AB 2651, the Nondiscrimination in Foster Care bill, in the California State Assembly. AB 2651 would’ve provided explicit protections of the rights of youth in foster care, including LGBT youth. The religious right labeled the bill the “Transsexual Foster Care Bill,” and vigorously campaigned against it. When the bill got to his desk, Gov. Gray Davis (D-CA) vetoed it. Then California Assemblymember John Perez (D-Los Angeles) told Californians at the 2009 EQCA awards dinner that the reason the bill was vetoed was because now Rep. Chu wouldn’t remove transgender youth from that LGBT inclusive bill. Gov. Davis would have signed the bill if it had protected only lesbian, gay and bisexual youth.

On the other hand, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) signed the Gwen Araujo Justice for Victims Act (AB 1160) in 2006. AB 1160 sought to curtail the use of panic strategies widely used in criminal cases involving bias based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

I voted against Gray Davis; I voted for Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Caitlyn Jenner is arguably the most famous transgender woman in the U.S. and has identified herself as a Republican. She represents the transgender community to the general public whether the transgender community likes it or not, and I’m seeing in social media where a lot of the transgender community is falling into the “or not” side of the divide in significant part because of Jenner’s public politics.

As reported by the Los Angeles Times, Jenner asked for a ticket to the Nov. 14 Democratic primary debate. There were no tickets available, but she did report to the Times that she did watch the debate with students on the Drake University campus. Quoting the Times after viewing the Democratic debate, “[Jenner] said she still planned to vote Republican. ‘They didn’t convince me,’ she said.”

Frankly, I’m not sure what Democrats running for president are supposed to convince Jenner of, but I know how Republicans should have impressed her to vote against them. With regards to transgender Americans, the first and second tier Republican presidential candidates have spoken in terms of disrespect and/or of oppressing her and her transgender peers.

In the first tier, Jenner should be familiar with what Trump said about her personally: he referred to Jenner by her former first name after she announced her new name preference, and used the wrong pronouns to refer to her.

The other top tier candidate is far worse. Dr. Ben Carson has proposed separate-but-equal transgender bathroom use, saying “How about we have a transgender bathroom?” and “It is not fair for them to make everybody else uncomfortable.”

In the second tier, Sen. Marco Rubio in 2013 came out against the Employment Nondiscrimination Act as a “special rights” bill for LGBT Americans. That’s opposed to it being an equal rights bill.

And Sen. Ted Cruz, speaking in Iowa about transgender service members serving openly stated, “How about having the military focusing on hunting down and killing the bad guys … instead of treating it as this crucible for social justice innovations.” And, “We shouldn’t view the military as a cauldron for social experiments.”

Jenner isn’t convinced by Democrats to vote for them, but Jenner should be convinced by Republicans to vote against them.

In 2016 presidential politics, a vote for a Republican looks to be a vote for transgender community oppression. And as of this moment, Caitlyn Jenner is planning to vote for just that sort of oppression.

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Reap the benefits of gratitude Wed, 25 Nov 2015 22:04:51 +0000


As a progressive Christian, I believe there are many names for God and many ways to a loving God; this article reflects one of those ways. Take from here what works for you. Celebrate life with joy and peace!

What do you think of when you think of Thanksgiving? Family and friends. Macy’s Day Parade. Turkey and pumpkin pie. Football. Fall weather. Christmas shopping.

So many things and so many feelings fill our hearts and minds this time of the year. My prayer is that you’ll know you’re loved, just as you are, and that you’ll have an opportunity to share that love with someone.

You know, there are benefits of being grateful. And I’d like to suggest that we don’t limit cultivating an attitude of gratitude just on the fourth Thursday of November once a year – but that it becomes part of your life every day of the year! As we express gratitude every day we will reap the benefits. Here are some benefits of expressing gratitude year round that were recently shared with me.

Building stronger relationships

When we are expressing gratitude to a stranger or a loved one, it builds a fabric that is foundational for a stronger relationship. A simple, ‘thank you’ goes a long way. Or, sending a thank you note can really brighten someone’s day. And the more we acknowledge people for their help or kind deed or presence in our lives it encourages them to feel special. Who doesn’t like that?

Encouraging physical health

There is a strong correlation between gratitude and health which has been proven by studies from Forbes Magazine (11-23-14). People who have an attitude of gratitude tend to be healthier. Not only that, they exercise more frequently, visit their doctor for annual checkups and report feeling healthier as well.

Improving your attitude

As we express gratitude it makes us feel more optimistic and positive. This will also help reduce stress and help us improve our attitude. Thank you God, for this!

Boosting your self-esteem

When we have a healthier self-esteem, we are less likely to compare ourselves to other people. And as we keep tabs of all of our blessings and all we have to be grateful for, it helps us maintain this positive perspective.

Improving your mental health

This same study from Forbes Magazine shows that as we express gratitude, it helps us deal better with our emotions and may even help reduce depression. Why not consider keeping a gratitude journal? Try it, you might like it!

Increasing your empathy for others

As we cultivate an attitude of gratitude, we may be less likely to let the negativity from others affect us. Gratitude might make us more sensitive toward other people’s feelings, increasing our empathy for them.

Promoting better sleep

As you’re falling asleep, either write down things you’re grateful for that day, or go over them in your mind as you’re drifting off. This may boost your mood, reduce your stress and help you get a better night’s sleep. Sweet dreams!

Spreading happiness

Being grateful has the power to positively impact your overall feeling of well-being, resulting in you feeling more satisfied with your life and ultimately making you happier. And when you’re happy, it can spread to others.

Let’s make a difference in San Diego! Let’s share love and gratitude to our friends and to the most marginalized in our community.

Happy Thanksgiving! ’Tis the season … to be grateful.

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No easy closure for ‘The Hunger Games’ franchise Wed, 25 Nov 2015 21:57:59 +0000

Mahershala Ali, Jennifer Lawrence and Liam Hemsworth in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2

Just in time for Thanksgiving, the capstone of The Hunger Games series has arrived to give us the dark, bleak and oddly satisfying ending we may not want but do deserve. Mockingjay – Part 2 has continued the regrettable trend of splitting franchise finale films into two, ostensibly to give space for the whole story, but in reality to milk as much money from audiences. While Part 1 seemed to end abruptly and frustratingly, Part 2 works well as a single film. It brings us the end of the revolution that was sparked in the first film when Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) inspired the oppressed people of Panem by winning the nation’s annual battle royale known as The Hunger Games without killing her partner Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson). A number of things happened between then and Part 2, but the key plot points to know are that Katniss is the star of the propaganda campaign of the revolution being run by the cynical Alma Coin (Julianne Moore), and Katniss is torn between her love for childhood best friend Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth) and for Peeta, who had been kidnapped and brainwashed to hate Katniss by the evil President Snow (Donald Sutherland).

The previous film had ended with Katniss and Gale, among others, rescuing Peeta. Katniss is mortified by Peeta’s state and disturbed by Gale’s transformation into a soldier willing to kill some in order to save more, a moral position not unlike that of Coin and her propaganda master Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman, who died while filming the movie). Coin and Heavensbee want Katniss, also known as the Mockingjay, to remain far from the war’s front lines and star in propaganda films. But Katniss wants to kill Snow, so she sneaks off to the front, where she is quickly noticed. Coin teams her up with the most famous of the rebellion’s warriors, including Gale, Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin), Boggs (Mahershala Ali), Jackson (Michelle Forbes) and Heavensbee’s film crew, led by Cressida (Natalie Dormer).

Katniss is irritated to discover that this unit is to follow behind the main forces and be filmed only acting out the roles of soldiers. She and Gale make a pact to break away from the group and assassinate Snow. But then Peeta is dropped into the unit barely in control of his emotions, and booby traps set up by the game makers who designed The Hunger Games wreak havoc on the group. One horrifying event after another follows, directed with efficiency by director Francis Lawrence, and the ending of the film is perhaps more disturbing than any of the other deeply disturbing plot points of the previous three films. Lawrence’s fierce charisma and her character’s deep morality anchor the movie, helped by Hutcherson’s fraught fragility and Sutherland’s magnificent despotism.

I must give credit to the producers of The Hunger Games for not removing the trenchant social commentary from the story, though by marketing the franchise as action and adventure with a bonus love triangle, they baited the PG-13 audiences and switched them rather sadistically. But considering our culture’s carelessness involving war, penchant for believing official lies and easy attraction to populism, we deserve the kind of ending Mockingjay provides. Because for most of us, no matter how often we’re told justice and good will prevail, the odds are never in our favor.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2

Directed by Francis Lawrence

Written by Peter Craig and Danny Strong

Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth

Rated PG-13

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Civic Theatre enchants with Disney’s ‘Beast’ Wed, 25 Nov 2015 21:56:04 +0000

Sam Hartley as the Beast and Brooke Quintana as Belle | PHOTOs: MATTHEW MURPHY

What can be said about Walt Disney’s Beauty and the Beast that is now on the road with a scheduled San Diego engagement that you may not know already?

Did you know it’s the fifth top grossing animated film in Disney history and it’s the seventh top grossing Broadway musical?

It was also nominated for nine Tony Awards with one win for best costume design in 1994. The show was composed by three of Broadways most notable composers. Tim Rice, (Evita, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar with Andrew Lloyd Webber), the late Howard Ashman (Little Shop of Horrors, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin) and Alan Menken (Little Shop of Horrors, Newsies, Sister Act).

The show opened on Broadway in April of 1994 and ran for 14 years. It was the first Disney musical that transferred from film to stage. Beauty and the Beast has also been seen by more than 30 million people and it has played in 13 countries. It is also the ninth longest running show on Broadway.

Along the way well-known performers like Hugh Jackman (Gaston), Nick Jonas (Chip), Donny Osmond (Gaston), Debbie Gibson (Belle), Andrea McCardle (Belle), Tom Bosley (Maurice) and Beth Fowler (Mrs. Potts), all graced the stage in Disney’s beloved musical.

Now, after three national tours, the original Broadway team has returned to take the show out on its fourth U.S. national tour stopping here in San Diego at the Civic Theatre downtown through Nov. 29.

Brooke Quintana as Belle and the cast of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast

Filling the enormous shoes of the beast on this tour is Sam Hartley who is making his national tour debut with Beast. In fact it’s safe to say that not only is this his first foray into tour life but it was also the first time the actor experienced a full 8-hour rehearsal day six days a week.

Oddly enough the actor only knew the film version of the show before he took on the role of the Beast.

“To be honest, I wasn’t terribly familiar with the musical,” Hartley said. “I had only seen a local high school production of it, back home in Lincoln, Neb. That has ultimately been the biggest blessing for me, since I was able to approach the role in a very clean way. What an incredible role!”

Hartley’s journey to being cast in the well-known musical came very quickly after the actor graduated from college. He only had the chance to get a handful of roles under his belt before the offer to do Beast came in. The actor explains that while talent has a part in the process, there are a few other things that helped him get the role.

“Timing is everything,” Hartley confessed. “I taught at a theater camp this summer with a casting associate on the production. Since moving to New York City two years ago, I had been lucky enough to find consistent work, but had also missed the two opportunities to audition for the previous seasons. I went in around the end of July, and was cast by August. The process was so fast, I’m still pinching myself that I get to share this gorgeous production around the country.”

And, like most of his castmates, this will be the first time any of them have worked together.

Christiaan Smith-Kotlarek as Gaston and the cast of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast

“First day of rehearsal was very much a first day of school”, Hartley said. “Everyone so excited to get started. That energy is still so palpable. It’s such a generous, supporting group. It’s a dream to be a part of.”

Now that he’s completed a quick two and a half week rehearsal process and has had the chance to get the show and the role into his blood the actor admits that getting the chance to play the iconic, and title role of the show was everything he’d hoped for.

“And more!” Hartley exclaimed. “Not only are audiences getting to see their favorite Disney movie live on stage, but we’re lucky enough to live in it.”

One might think that playing the role of the Beast would not only be a challenge vocally but also having to do most of the show in a costume that covers your entire face. Hartley confessed that the process of getting used to the costume in rehearsals and how long it takes to get into the costume for the show isn’t as daunting a task as one might think.

“The enchantress transforms a young prince in a matter of seconds”, Hartley said. “The costume is designed in such a brilliant way. It’s truly become a second skin. The only addition in rehearsal was my tail. Disney magic is very efficient.”

The tour will hit 38 cities in eight months. Most of those appearances will be for one or two nights, then it’s back on a bus to the next city. A schedule like that can be tough on anyone, even more so for someone who’s never experienced being on the road before. Hartley’s preparation for tour life was modest and straight forward.

Sam Hartley as the Beast and Brooke Quintana as Belle

“I’m not sure there is a way to properly prepare,” Hartley shared. “I had talked with several close friends about what it might be like, and the answer is always the same: be present. Of course moving an epically sized musical from one city to another in 24 hours can be complicated. But the minute we step on stage, it’s all worth it. We’ve had the most incredible audience response.”

Sounds like Hartley, along with cast and crew, will have a lot to do over the next eight months, but even with all of that on his plate Hartley has a few things that he’s looking forward to when he’s not performing or sleeping.

“Seeing this beautiful country,” Hartley said. “And playing such renowned venues, while finding the hidden gems along the way.”

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast sits here in San Diego for five days with eight shows. The schedule is a little different than most shows that come into the Civic due to Thanksgiving. So, visit before heading down to the theater. This schedule will not have a Thursday performance. Instead they will do two shows, a matinee and evening show, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

For more information and tickets visit or call 619-570-1100.

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Connecting people in need with tomorrow’s technology Wed, 25 Nov 2015 19:58:20 +0000

shutterstock_110678570.jpg we areLook around, everyone you see is tapping on a smart phone, checking Facebook, posting pictures on Instagram, answering emails, composing documents or looking for new employment and business opportunities. The phenomenon that is the smartphone, tablet or computer is everywhere. Or is it?

To many in our underserved communities using a computer, connecting with friends and relatives on Facebook or finding information online is out of reach. Disabled individuals, seniors and those living on the poverty line may not have access to technology that most take for granted. Enter a company that aims to put that right – The Gadget Guys Foundation (GGF).

Gadget Guys Foundation logoFounded by the former executive director of San Diego based non-profit Canvass for a Cause Tres Watson and LGBT and autism community activist Christina MacNeal, GGF is a national organization whose mission is to use technology resources, training, programs and education to help undeserved communities gain social mobility and empowerment. GGF is headquartered in San Diego and is a federally recognized 501c (3) public charity.

San Diego LGBT Weekly caught up with Watson and MacNeal to find out a bit more about their latest venture.

San Diego LGBT Weekly: How did The Gadget Guys get started?


Tres Watson

Tres: The concept of the Gadget Guys echoes that of our sister company, Consider it Done and that is to help people. Consider it Done offers technology access and support on a fee-paying basis. However, within underserved communities access to technology is often hampered by the inability to pay. This is where the Gadget Guys Foundation steps in to break down the socio-economic barrier to accessing today’s technology by providing these services to those communities at no charge.


Tell us a bit about the markets you serve?

Tres: We target four sectors that we believe will benefit the most from accessing and learning about technology. They are underserved seniors, veterans in need particularly those who have just come home from war, differently-abled people such as those on the autism spectrum and those who are physically disabled and families who have fallen below the poverty line.


What programs and services does the Foundation offer?

Christina MacNeal

Christina MacNeal

Christina: We offer a wide variety of custom tailored programs and services all of which are based on the specific needs of the individuals that we serve. Our programs are built and designed to set our clients up for success and to give them the tools they need to have a better quality of life and to provide opportunities they might not otherwise have access to. We create a well-rounded curriculum that serves as a vehicle to get an individual to where they would like to go in life through technology. One example would be an individual who has autism, or who is physically disabled who would like to learn how to start an online business. We would put together a plan that is specific to that individual. They would learn how to build their own Web site and properly manage it and market it and the Foundation would provide them with the training and skill sets needed to accomplish their goals.

Another example would be a struggling family who needs a computer and Internet access to help their children keep up with their peers and complete homework assignments. Or the veteran who needs assistance transitioning from military life to civilian life and not only requires the technology to do so, but also requires the skills needed for job readiness. Those are just a few examples of what our programs provide and the services that we offer.


How much does it cost clients to access these programs?

Tres: It costs nothing as we are a foundation. Our funding comes through grants, donations and the general public.


How can the LGBT community benefit from GGF?

Christina: Well, as you can see from the testimonials, the LGBT community is already benefiting from our services. Both Tres and myself, being part of our vibrant San Diego LGBT community, are dedicated to not only assisting LGBT individuals who need our programs and services but also our LGBT community institutions.


If a business, organization or an individual wants to get involved with GGF what can they do?

Tres: Just call me! With many businesses we have found that they really have stepped up to help and are glad to be affiliated with an organization that is doing good in the community; they also get the benefit of exposure on our Web site.

Let me add that we are always looking for volunteers as we have tons of work to do and not enough people to do it, so if someone wants to get involved with the cause they can also shoot us an email and we can put their time to good use!


To learn more about how The Gadget Guys Foundation could help you or if you would like to donate, or give equipment and services please call (619) 663-7316 or visit


The Gadget Guys are dedicated to assisting individuals and institutions throughout the LGBT and other communities:


Walter Meyer

“Lambda Archives appreciates the work Gadget Guys does for the community. It is great for a small nonprofit to be able to call on them for assistance with little IT tasks including updating software and they are going to get all of the information off the hard drives of old computers going back for years–some of which belonged to the Gay and Lesbian Times.”

Walter Meyer, manager, Lambda Archives


Rich Grousset

Rich Grousset

“The Hillcrest Town Council is so grateful that the Gadget Guys stepped up to help us make important audio/visual upgrades to the Joyce Beers Community Center. We didn’t know what equipment to purchase or how we were going to pay for installation. The Gadget Guys knew exactly what we needed, how to install it, and offered to do so for free. Not only did they save us a lot of time and grief, but also provided a valuable service to the Hillcrest community. We can’t thank them enough.”

Rich Grousset, Hillcrest Town Council


“The Gadget Guys has left a digital foot print for the club that has moved us into the current times, we are beyond very grateful. You guys have come in and rescued us and I am so excited to see the club return to its glory days through the technology that has been implemented and that has been provided to us.”

Ed Board, Treasurer of The Bankers Hill Social Club Formerly known as The San Diego Indoor


“As someone with autism technology drives my life and it is how I connect with the world around me. Without it I would feel disconnected and without a way to express myself and an outlet. It also is the way I communicate with my peers, family and friends. The programs the Gadget Guys offer for those with autism is invaluable.”

Megan, San Diego




“The Gadget Guys taught me how to use and connect with technology and to not be afraid of it.”

Bernard, senior, San Diego


Tim Holmberg

Tim Holmberg

“I have lived through the craftsmanship and care I put into the work I do. When I was hit with psoriatic arthritis, I was afraid I would lose my dream of restoring my vintage yacht. But my friends stepped in and became my hands, my back – they have been amazing. The Gadget Guys were one of those friends installing Apple TV on my yacht for all my future customers to enjoy.”

Tim Holmberg, disabled veteran, San Diego

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Afloat Wed, 25 Nov 2015 19:58:12 +0000

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The power of the LGBT dollar! Wed, 25 Nov 2015 19:58:11 +0000

Every study has shown the major influence of LGBT spending power and the impact of LGBT Americans. A recent Nielson Study showed 10 percent more shopping trips are made by gay consumers than straight customers; 48 percent more money is spent by gay households on wine than straight households; 31 percent more money is spent on candles and incense by gays than straights; 43 percent more money is spent on computer and electronic products by gays than straight households; 27 percent more money is spent on fresheners and deodorizers by LGBT households than straights; 32 percent more money is spent on men’s toiletries by gay men than straight; 19 percent more money is spent on coffee by LGBT people than straights. $4,135 is the additional amount of money on average that LGBT households spend at retail stores over their straight peers in 2014. That is 7 percent more.

Alano Club vs. “Pot Store”

When I heard that a marijuana store had opened up right on top of The Alano Club (an LGBT alcohol and drug recovery organization) I thought that the person who told me this story had just smoked a joint himself, but sure enough when I drove by The Alano Club there now on the second floor was a newly minted marijuana store!

Sure enough, soon I got a call from some understandably upset club board members who asked for my help and of course I met with them one afternoon at the club. And yes, at times you could smell the scent of marijuana coming down from upstairs. There have also been reports of some unsavory people beginning to hang around.

First of all, what a jerk could the buildings landlord be to rent out the top floor to a weed business knowing that their long time tenants were The Alano Club. What a complete ***hole! Well, of course our hard working councilman Todd Gloria was on this case immediately as was our police chief, Shelly Zimmerman.

It took some months, but finally the pot shop was closed down because of some shady doings and very warranted police citations and yes some arrests.

Let me make it very clear, I support the legalization of marijuana (2016 State ballot) but now even more clearly I understand the concerns of some neighborhood leaders and schools, etc. This should have never happened. The Alano Club and pot shops should all be in a totally different business area. A big thank you to Todd Gloria and Chief Zimmerman and when it came down to The Alano Club vs. the Pot Store … Thank goodness the club one!

Mayor Kevin Faulconer presents 28 turkeys for the Scott Carlson Community Thanksgiving Dinner at The Center

Mayor Kevin Faulconer presents 28 turkeys for the Scott Carlson Community Thanksgiving Dinner at The Center

Boston strong

This year I have travelled to Houston, Denver, San Francisco (three times), New York, Phoenix, Corpus Christi, Surrey (Canada), Salt Lake City, New Mexico, Kentucky, Boise, Hamilton, Ontario (Canada), Indiana, Portland, Washington, D.C. (five times) and numerous cities in California. This past weekend I returned to the beautiful and historic city of Boston. The end of my travels and speech making for the year. I have always loved Boston, it’s the home of the Kennedy Presidential Library and such historic sites as The Boston Tea Party! And of course some of the best seafood in the country – Legal Seafood and B&G Oyster I highly recommend.

I had the honor of presenting awards to Councilwoman Michelle Wu, former Councilman Carl Sciortino, Jonathan Scott of Boston’s own Victory Programs and Scott Gortikov (Freedom to Marry). My host was local top fashion designer and businessman, Daniel Faucher.

I always love taking in Boston’s many grand historic buildings and churches, especially the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, home of Cardinal O’Malley.

The LGBT community of Boston is a very large one and well organized. I was truly humbled and surprised with two very special honors. The Town Council of Braintree, Mass. gave me a city proclamation making me an “Honorary Citizen” (thank you President Thomas Bowes) and The Imperial Court of Massachusetts named their LGBT Student Scholarship after me. For once, I was speechless!

Christmas Wreath Auction

The biggest fun and fabulous holiday charity event is coming up Monday, Dec. 7. Yes, the annual Christmas Wreath Auction at the award winning Martini’s on Fourth restaurant and nightclub.

It’s always a great event with 100 percent of the proceeds benefiting the Eddie Conlon GLBT Youth Fund that makes such a difference in the lives of our young people in need. Thank you Martini’s on Fourth and see you all there Dec. 7!

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Tangerine Wed, 25 Nov 2015 19:58:09 +0000

Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor in Tangerine

dvd of the week

Tangerine, a masterpiece of LGBT cinema, is about one day in the lives of two transgender prostitutes in Hollywood. Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) and Alexandra (Mya Taylor) are about to share a celebratory donut – it’s Christmas Eve, and Sin-Dee has just gotten out of jail – when Alexandra accidentally blurts out that Sin-Dee’s boyfriend and pimp Chester (James Ransone) has been cheating on her while she was away. Sean Baker, who conceived the film with Taylor and writer Chris Bergoch, is an auteur. He and his co-cinematographer Radium Cheung shot the whole film on iPhones, and while this is an amazing technical feat in and of itself, it’s the stunning compositions, saturated light and editing of the shots that are so gorgeous and innovative. Baker also directed trans newcomers Rodriguez and Taylor to award-worthy performances. The film is blisteringly funny and foul, but it is also moving, a paean to friendship and pride.

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Jessica Jones Wed, 25 Nov 2015 19:58:08 +0000

Krysten Ritter in Jessica Jones

dvr this

Streaming on Netflix

Marvel’s team up with Netflix produced last winter’s Daredevil, easily the best television show about a superhero ever made, and now they’ve given us the remarkable Jessica Jones. Jessica (Krysten Ritter) is a private investigator living and working in the same New York neighborhood as Daredevil and his alter ego Matt Murdock. She was once a superhero, but after a disastrous run-in with a mind-controlling sadistic sociopath named Kilgrave (David Tennant), she became an uncostumed PI. Jessica is a near-perfect noir heroine, and Ritter plays her with wonderful snark and just enough vulnerability. While Marvel has a lot to make up for in regards to their treatment of female characters, Jessica Jones is a major step in the right direction.

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A mouthful of man candy in every bite! Wed, 25 Nov 2015 19:58:06 +0000

Maple bacon donuts | PHOTO: GREAT MAPLE

“Would you please put your phone away?”

“What? I can multi-task.”

“Yes, but could you try single-tasking while we enjoy dinner?”

“Pierce” acquiesced and put his phone away. We were seated in a quiet corner beneath the high exposed-beam ceiling at Great Maple, a perfect table for catching up on recent events. Pierce was excited to tell me about his new information technology job. He’s not only tall and handsome, he’s smart, too. Oscar, our upbeat and knowledgeable server, walked us through the menu, introduced the evening’s specials, then left to retrieve our craft cocktails.

Oscar presented the appetizers, Steak Tartare ($17) and Nantucket Nuggets ($15). The Tartare is a blend of raw finely chopped steak, spices and uncooked egg served with nutty arugula greens and a Dijon-horseradish sauce. While nicely prepared and presented, the flavor of the tender beef did not stand up to the piquant accompaniment. The nuggets, however, were “the bomb” according to Pierce. Six golden brown deep-fried hush-puppies, chock full of sweet lobster, are served with a sublime dipping sauce of spring corn bisque flirting with mustard and bourbon. Mmm mmm good!

Our entrées, Mushroom Pasta ($16) and Grilled Sea Bream ($25), arrived in due time. Sea bream is considered one of the best white-meat fish, renowned for its mild flavor and firm texture. The herb stuffed deboned fish is served whole with a slaw of jicama and red onion and then garnished with sprigs of cilantro and a mild chimichurri sauce. The mushroom pasta is perfectly simple and simply perfect. Housemade fettuccine noodles are tossed with truffle oil and a medley of earthy lightly sautéed fresh mushrooms, then topped by a poached egg and shaved hard Pecorino cheese. A drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette reduction completes the presentation.

Oscar was surprised when we ordered two desserts and we soon understood why. Pierce described the Apple Pie ($11) as “sex on a plate”, and with good reason. The large softball-sized puff of flakey pastry dough is filled with piping hot spiced apples then served with salted caramel sauce, spiced pecans and light-as-air whipped cream. The sticky sweet Maple Bacon Donuts ($9) are served warm and come three to the stack, each cake donut generously drizzled with maple sauce and smokey bacon bits. A mouthful of man candy in every bite.

Don’t feel like cooking for your holiday guests? Great Maple offers a Prix Fixe Thanksgiving menu. The three-course meal ($48) includes a choice of starters, entrées and desserts.

Eat this, hungry readers. You’ll be glad you did.

Great Maple

1451 Washington St.


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Todd Bosnich ordered to perform 240 hours of community service Wed, 25 Nov 2015 19:45:18 +0000

Todd Bosnich

Receives no jail time

Todd Bosnich, the ex- policy director for Carl DeMaio’s 52nd Congressional District campaign in 2014, was ordered Monday to perform 240 hours of community service for obstruction of justice when he repeatedly lied by falsely claiming DeMaio had threatened him.

Bosnich, 30, of Del Mar, was fined $2,600 and was placed on five years probation by U.S. District Court Judge Larry Burns, who imposed no jail time as Assistant U.S. Attorney Phil Halpern did not recommend it.

Burns ordered Bosnich to continue his mental health treatment program. His attorney, Frank Vecchione, said he had been receiving psychological treatment for six months for severe depression and had urged a sentence with community service.

“There is no way of knowing how much (Bosnich’s accusations) affected voters’ minds,” said the judge. “The victim is Mr. DeMaio, DeMaio’s campaign or the democratic process. Once the arrow leaves the bow, there is no retrieving it.”

Bosnich was hired by DeMaio in Oct. 2013 when the gay Republican was challenging Rep. Scott Peters (D-San Diego) for Congress. In May, 2014, Bosnich was fired. Bosnich made a number of accusations against DeMaio that included threats and alleged sexual harassment.

Bosnich set up a dummy Yahoo account with a false name, date of birth and gender, and then sent a threatening email to himself in which the sender told him he would never be employed again in politics. Bosnich lied to FBI agents and the U.S. Attorney’s office when he stated he received this threat that he claimed was from DeMaio or someone close to him.

Afterwards, DeMaio issued this statement: “Todd Bosnich’s lies were incredible, painful, smeared my reputation and ultimately derailed our congressional campaign.

“Although no length of sentence can ever undo the damage he has done, what matters is that Bosnich was unmasked as a liar and is now a convicted felon,” said DeMaio, who thanked the FBI and U.S. Attorney “for exposing Bosnich’s lies and seeking justice in this manner.”

Carl DeMaio

This was Bosnich’s first criminal conviction and he will have to disclose to any employer that he pleaded guilty to a felony charge of obstruction of justice.

Halpern said he wasn’t asking for jail time because “the humiliation he has received is sufficient deterrence.”

“Whatever his grievance, he didn’t handle it the right way. I think he acted vindictively,” said Burns. “He perpetuated this (lie) by repeating it to the police department, FBI and U.S. Attorney.”

“I don’t see much point in putting him in jail. He’s a convicted felon – that will affect him the rest of his life,” said Burns.

Burns said he did not understand why Bosnich approached Mary Ann Pintar, who is the chief of staff for Peters and told her about the threat. Burns said Pintar is not an attorney and she would not be able to help him.

Pintar sent the judge a letter stating that she called the police after getting several emails from Bosnich May 29, 2014 in which he claimed he had been threatened.

When asked if he had a statement, Bosnich said, “I take full responsibility for my actions. I’m very sorry.”

U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy issued this statement afterwards: “The integrity of the American electoral process is the very bedrock of our democracy. Bosnich’s criminal act had the very real possibility of improperly tipping the scale toward a particular candidate. This was far from a harmless prank.”

Bosnich served as a volunteer intern for former Congressman Brian Bilbray and Sen. John McCain. He also worked in the Meg Whitman campaign for governor from 2009-2010. He also worked as a political analyst for the Jon Huntsman presidential campaign in Washington, D.C., according to defense court documents.

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Gobbling the goodies Wed, 25 Nov 2015 19:45:14 +0000


The decorations of ghosts, goblins and plastic turkeys will soon be replaced by Santa and his elves as is befitting the celebration of the all-important December shopping season. Meanwhile, I hope Thanksgiving Day and its significance will be celebrated among family and friends.

Despite a setback or two, the LGBT community should acknowledge and give thanks for several recent victories. Particularly note that among the people gathered around were our actual, legal, in-your-face spouses and children. Furthermore, before digging in, I trust a pause was taken to remember those in our hearts forever, our absent friends. Their love and friendship will never be forgotten.

I always remember my fellow students in New York and my first holiday there as we shared a new, gay/lesbian life so many years ago. About 20 of us fashioned a T-Day dinner in my cramped apartment, sitting on the floor with our paper plates, lots of cheap wine and homemade cigarettes. As the time passed, we slowly separated into two groups. The guys jammed into the kitchen to watch the parade on the tiny TV and critique the costumes and make unprintable comments about the male marchers while the gals commandeered the living room TV to watch and dissect the football game. Thanks to a few heavy duty cigarettes I declared this sexual partition as “un-unificationary.” I straddled the adjoining doorway to show my impartiality and harangued all with charges of “un-unificationaryism.” Both sides were highly amused.

Now, as then, the day is about being grateful amidst fun and togetherness topped off by the special array of goodies. Enjoy and give thanks.

Nap time

I was please to read a newspaper article the other day about the importance of a mid-afternoon nap. 20 minute duration seems to be very beneficial to health and productivity. Longer than that, however, leads to sloth which we certainly wouldn’t want.

The older we get the more unscheduled our naps become. They seem to happen at the strangest times. In fact, I usually don’t even plan on having a little lie-down. The most frequent time for an unannounced siesta seems to be when I close my eyes for second to picture the spacing and letters of a crossword puzzle clue. When I open them again, my paper and pen are on the floor and it is 10 to 30 minutes later. I can’t understand how that happens. I can now empathize with my grandmother. I remember how often she would complain about a TV show she was enjoying and would rest her eyes just for a moment (“I wasn’t sleeping”). After a few (or more) minutes, she’d angrily comment something like, “What happened to the blond girl? Mercy sakes! A body can’t turn around before the plot changes. Who can understand these modern plays?”

On one occasion when I worked in an office, I fell asleep with my head on the desk unknowingly resting my forehead on a document with a newly stamped “STOP PAYMENT” on it. The first part transferred to my forehead. At a quick glance the reversed image seemed to spell POTS. No one told me about it for the entire afternoon. You can imagine how we laughed.

On another tangent, I seem to remember once upon a time “afternoon delight” was used to imply a nap of some sort, but it was so long ago, I can’t remember why.

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Judged by the actions of a few Wed, 25 Nov 2015 19:30:05 +0000


The terrorist attacks in Paris have alarmed people all across the world including the United States. Understandably, many have questioned the logic of allowing Syrian refugees into our country because the extremists of ISIS use Syria as a home base.

Many Republicans and Democrats suggest that Syrian extremists will be able to come into our country by posing as refugees and do harm on American soil. Sure that is a possibility, but that possibility is based upon religious stereotyping, plain and simple.

It is always interesting how racial, and some religious groups, are discriminated against based upon the actions of a few. Historically one of the worse periods in American history was when people of Japanese heritage were put in internment camps during World War II. American history also includes slavery, anti-Semitism and the infamous Operation Wetback by President Eisenhower that moved illegal Mexican immigrants back to their home country, often accompanied by civil rights violations and physical abuse.

In retrospect, all of the events where America has tried to control the movement, access and liberty of a particular group, based upon religion or race, are always looked upon with embarrassment. All of these horrible events were driven by powerful white men. Yet we do not stereotype all white men as evil. At least I don’t, I have spent my life with one.

It is the divine irony that white men who stereotype other groups and take actions to limit that group’s liberty are never stereotyped in the same way. Most mass shootings not involving family members; white males. White inmates are three times more likely to have abused a child than black inmates. Remember Timothy McVeigh who killed 168 at the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City? We don’t stereotype white men as pedophiles and sociopaths; and rightfully so.

I watch the fear mongering about Muslims take hold with many of our presidential candidates, particularly Republicans, as they trot out soundbite solutions to an audience desperate for reassurance that these atrocities won’t happen on American soil. Unlike these seekers of high office, I think in 20 years this will just be another embarrassment in American history.

I can only hope that as Martin Luther King famously said that people be judged by the “content of their character.” It is what we all hope, including the LGBT community. You do not want to be judged by the actions of a few in the LGBT community. How many of you have complained that XYZ in the Pride Parade does not represent me? Muslims deserve no less, they are individuals and judging them as a group by the actions of a few is simply unfair. Let’s ensure that America lives up to its creed and shows the true essence of its character; freedom and equality.



San Diego LGBT Weekly

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The City: Top to Bottom Wed, 25 Nov 2015 19:04:54 +0000

Scott Carlson Thanksgiving Dinner | istock

thursday, nov. 26

Scott Carlson Thanksgiving Dinner

The Imperial Court de San Diego will once again host the 27th annual Scott Carlson Dinner at The LGBT Center. Everyone is welcomed, especially those living with HIV-AIDS, cancer, seniors, the homeless, families, youth and those finding themselves alone on this special day.

The San Diego LGBT Community Center, 3909 Centre Street in San Diego, 11:30 a.m. – 3 p.m., 619-862-8654,

Last Comic Standing

friday, nov. 27

Last Comic Standing

You’ve seen them on TV, you voted for them, now see them live! An evening of great stand-up comedy featuring finalists from NBC’s laughfest Last Comic Standing. Catch these rising stars as they ignite the stage with the jokes and laughter that made them the finalists in America’s funniest show. Scheduled performers at this live tour event are Ian Bragg, Dominique, Clayton English, Andy Erickson and Michael Palascak.

Balboa Theatre, 868 Fourth Ave. in San Diego, 7 p.m., tickets from $26, 619-570-1100,

Allen Stone

saturday, nov. 28

Allen Stone

Allen Stone is an American soul musician from Chewelah, Wash. On his third full-length album, Stone proves himself deeply devoted to making uncompromisingly soulful music that transcends all pop convention. Stone’s debut for Capitol Records, Radius marks the follow-up to his self-released and self-titled sophomore effort, a 2011 album that climbed to the top 10 on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart.

House of Blues San Diego, 1055 Fifth Ave. in San Diego, 7 p.m., tickets from $34, 619-299-2583,

Carlos Miguel Prieto

sunday, nov. 29

Dance Rhythms: Music of Mexico, Argentina, Spain

This fascinating Jacobs Masterworks program is enriched by portrayals of rancho life on two different continents. The rhythmically rich, innocent courting rituals of Alberto Ginastera’s charming and blazing Estancia Dances from the Argentinian pampas is contrasted with a more worldly Spanish village love triangle in Manuel de Falla’s El sombrero de tres picos. This Jacobs Masterworks Concert is led by conductor Carlos Miguel Prieto.

Copley Symphony Hall, 750 B Street in San Diego, 2 p.m., tickets from $20, 619-235-0804,

John Waters

monday, nov. 30

A John Waters Christmas

John Waters is an American filmmaker, actor, writer and visual artist best known for his cult films, including Hag in a Black Leather Jacket, Roman Candles and Eat Your Makeup. Waters is an accomplished writer and photographer. He has published two volumes of his journalistic exploits, one screenplay collection and a great big book of pictures he took of his television.

The Observatory North Park, 2891 University Ave. in San Diego, 9 p.m., tickets from $45, 619-239-8836,

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! | PHOTO: JIM COX

tuesday, dec. 1

Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

A wonderful, whimsical musical based upon the classic Dr. Seuss book. Back for its 18th incredible year, the family favorite features the songs “This Time of Year,” “Santa for a Day” and “Fah Who Doraze,” the delightful carol from the popular animated version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas! Celebrate the holidays as the Old Globe Theatre is once again transformed into the snow-covered Whoville, right down to the last can of Who-hash.

Donald and Darlene Shiley Stage, The Old Globe Theatre, 1363 Old Globe Way in Balboa Park, 7 p.m., tickets from $36, 619-234-5623,


wednesday, dec. 2


From sharpening their live show, to sending a demo to Emblem Music Group owner Matt Serletic (who signed them), to moving in together and secluding themselves for a month to put their stamp on the stellar songs that appear on their 2009 debut album, everything the members of Gloriana have done has been about their passion for creating music.

Sycuan Casino, 5485 Casino Way in El Cajon, 8 p.m., tickets from $55, 1-800-2-SYCUAN,

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San Diego election 2016 preview: City Council Wed, 25 Nov 2015 19:00:57 +0000

Anthony Bernal

In presidential election years, the five odd-numbered City Council districts are up for election. As with the California legislative elections, they can be dull because the incumbent wins easily or the general election features two candidates from the same party. 2016 looks to be a bit more interesting than most, with three open seats and an incumbent who could face a stiff challenge.

That leaves one safe seat: Mark Kersey, District 5. Kersey has the conservative bona fides to keep his district happy, but clearly wants to be a problem solver in City Council. He hasn’t drawn a significant Democratic challenger and probably won’t. The question isn’t whether he can keep his seat, but how far his star will rise.

District 1. In 2012, this was the swing City Council district, and showed the importance of Democrats making it to November. Ray Ellis beat incumbent Sherri Lightener in the June primary but failed to reach 50 percent, allowing Lightener to come back and beat him in November. Combined with Bob Filner’s victory, it was supposed to give Democrats four years of unfettered control of City Hall; now, it is all that keeps Democrats in charge of City Council.

Chris Ward

Council President Lightener is termed out, but Ellis is back. At this point, he is facing Barbara Bry and Joe LaCava. The former seems to be the favorite of big money Democrats, while the latter is trying to solidify the grass roots support. Expect Democrats to pull out all the stops to keep Ellis below 50 percent in June, and then unify to get the surviving Democrat across the finish line in November.

District 3. Through 2013 and 2014, it seemed like this race could be a progressive bloodbath, with a number of candidates rivaling the current Republican presidential field. Somehow, it narrowed to two candidates: Anthony Bernal and Chris Ward. Ward is drawing strong support from the LGBT community and establishment with both his boss, State Sen. Marty Block and Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins supporting him despite running against each other. Bernal works for Councilmember Gloria and has some LGBT support, but may need a surge from downtown voters to replace LGBT voters who want to keep their seat at the table.

District 7. Councilmember Scott Sherman could have a much tougher road than fellow incumbent Kersey. District 7 isn’t as red as District 5, but Sherman managed to tie up the election in June 2012, coming in a hair over 50 percent. Two Democratic candidates are trying to ensure it doesn’t happen again: Jose Caballero and Justin DeCesare. If one of them can make it to November, Sherman could face a tough test. Democrats would love to keep this seat in play rather than letting District 1 decide the fate of the Council.

District 9. Incumbent Marti Emerald decided not to run for re-election, leaving the seat open. It will likely stay in Democratic hands, but it will be a battle between money, organizing and endorsements. The current slate includes Ricardo Flores, Georgette Gomez, Araceli Martinez and Sarah Saez, but this race feels the least developed, and more candidates could be coming.

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Two teens admit robbing nine pedestrians Wed, 25 Nov 2015 19:00:17 +0000

Two teenagers who held up nine pedestrians in a crime spree that began in Hillcrest face long potential prison terms after pleading guilty to all charges

Victor Ledesma, 19, and Jonah Michael Ledesma, 18, will be sentenced Dec. 10 by San Diego Superior Court Judge Timothy Walsh. Victor Ledesma faces 42 years while Jonah Ledesma faces a maximum 24 years and eight months.

Although they have the same last name, neither teen are related. They admitted to holding up people either at gunpoint or knifepoint Jan. 23. They also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit robbery.

The spree started in Hillcrest at First and Pennsylvania Avenues at 12:30 a.m. when a man was robbed at knifepoint and also at gunpoint. Two 15-year-old boys also participated.

Victor and Jonah Ledesma later robbed people on La Jolla Boulevard near Nautilus and Neptune Place in La Jolla, according to court records.

The bandits also robbed people near the Ingraham Street Bridge. Police officers chased them in Mission Beach to the Point Loma area where they and two minors were arrested. Jonah Ledesma was 17 when the robberies occurred, but has since turned 18. He was ordered to stand trial as an adult, but two 15-year-olds were prosecuted in Juvenile Court.

Walsh indicated that he would consider 13 years for Jonah Ledesma, which would be “the lowest possible term,” according to court documents. They also pleaded guilty to evading police officers and auto theft.

Both Victor and Jonah Ledesma remain in jail without bail.

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City’s Clean Syringe Exchange Program reviewed Wed, 25 Nov 2015 18:58:15 +0000


“Can you imagine a 2.8 million pile of dirty syringes?”

That’s the image Dr. James Dunford, the city of San Diego’s emergency medical services director, suggested to a San Diego City Council committee Nov. 12 when he reviewed the city’s Clean Syringe Exchange Program for fiscal year 2015.

Dunford said those dirty needles were safely and discretely exchanged by IV users at two mobile units instead of dumpsters, beaches, parks, trash cans or playgrounds. The purpose is to stop HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C infections.

“Preventing the spread of HIV is so important,” said Third District Councilmember Todd Gloria. “People just don’t have a way to (dispose) of dirty needles.”

Dunford told the Public Safety & Livable Neighborhoods Committee that San Diego is the third highest city in the state with HIV infections. Injection drug use is the highest cause of Hepatitis C infections and the second highest cause of AIDS.

People must turn in dirty needles in order to get up to 30 clean needles which are distributed by the program’s sponsor, the Family Health Centers of San Diego. In 2016, the program will increase to 50 clean needles to clients.

It is not just addicts who turn in dirty needles. Sometimes relatives of addicts turn in large amounts of used syringes, often after a death. Occasionally diabetics have turned in needles.

The city does not pay for the program other than awarding $75,000 in a community development block grant. Previous private funders include the Human Dignity Foundation, AIDS United, Comer Foundation and MAC AIDS Foundation.

In 2015, 376,417 dirty syringes were turned in and 306,074 clean ones were exchanged, leaving a difference of 70,343. The 2.8 million figure Dunford cited is the amount received since the program began in 2002.

The mobile unit collects syringes Thursday evening for three hours downtown and also on Friday mornings in North Park for three hours. Gloria said some residents complained years ago, but “we don’t have those complaints anymore.”

Dunford’s report said there was 100 percent increase in referrals to a wide variety of services from other agencies, such as detoxification, mental health, substance abuse, HIV, STD, Hepatitis C testing, Medi-Cal, food, housing and clothing.

There were 12,765 client visits, with 12,145 being repeat clients with an identification card in 2015. There were 28,162 referrals because many were given multiple agency referrals. They were also given harm reduction and health kits.

Dunford pointed out how the County Board of Supervisors do not support the program or give any funding, saying AIDS “doesn’t stop at the city limits.”

“I don’t understand why the County refuses to be involved,” said Chairperson Marti Emerald.

Dunford brought up the change of policy that occurred March 25 when Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, a Republican, overrode his own state law when he declared a public health emergency in Scott County after 79 new cases of AIDS were confirmed.

Pence authorized a short term needle exchange program after 71 new cases of AIDS were attributed to IV use of a prescription painkiller in which users shared their needles. Pence told reporters the county usually experiences five new cases of AIDS per year.

“He politically changed his mind,” said Dunford.

Client demographics in 2015 include:

75% male (less than 1% transgender in all of the last five years)

67% white, 15% Hispanic, 6% African American, 12% other

70% unemployed

41% owns/rents; 29% stay at friends; 22% homeless; 8% other

34 is Median age

71% never married; 19% widowed/separated; 9% married; 1% domestic partner

79% high school graduate or more

“Thank you for your dedication to this program,” said Emerald to Dunford and to Tim Fraser of Family Health Centers.

Also present for the report were Councilmembers Myrtle Cole and Chris Cate. There was no vote as this report is a program requirement.

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Election 2016 preview: State Senate, Assembly and US Congress Thu, 19 Nov 2015 17:57:12 +0000

Toni Atkins and Marty Block

Local races for the California legislature are often a snooze fest. Incumbents rarely lose, and the districts have a sufficient partisan lean that successors are anointed by the party or chosen in the primary.

Those trends appear likely to hold for incumbent Assemblymembers Marie Waldron (R-75), Brian Maienschein (R-77), Shirley Weber (D-79) and Lorena Gonzalez (D- 80). Councilmember Todd Gloria is poised to claim Speaker Toni Atkins’ (D-78) seat by the anointment route, but is working hard and taking no chances.

Assemblymember Rocky Chavez (R-76) is running for U.S. Senate, leaving an open seat. The race currently features two Republicans, Oceanside Councilmember Jerry Kern and businessman Phil Graham, but the right Democrat could have a chance. Republicans have a registration advantage, but there are enough Democrats and Decline to State voters to make it a contest.

The truly unusual race is for the 39th Senate District, where termed-out Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins is challenging incumbent Marty Block, a fellow Democrat. Some believe Block promised not to run for a second term, and so should make way for Atkins. Some think Atkins should stand down for Block, because any promises made were the unenforceable political kind. Some wish Atkins would run for mayor instead. The only things everyone seems to agree on is that this race that shouldn’t have happened, is going to happen, and is going to be expensive financially and politically.

Expect the race to be covered ad nauseam, because it provides an embarrassment of plot lines: Democrat vs. Democrat, incumbent vs. challenger, man vs. woman, lesbian vs straight, Assembly vs. Senate. Assuming Block and Atkins are the top two candidates in June; their face-off will run through to November.

(Note: State Senator Joel Anderson (R-38) is running for County Supervisor, but is not up for election and can retain his Senate seat if he loses.)

U.S Congress

Representative Susan Davis (D-53), Juan Vargas (D-51) and Duncan D. Hunter (R- 50) should cruise to re-election. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-49) is also a favorite to retain his seat, but his challenger, retired Marine Col. Doug Applegate could make things interesting if the election turns on security issues or the Republican presidential candidate is a particularly poor fit for California.

As in 2012 and 2014, most of the action will be in the 52nd District, where Democratic Rep. Scott Peters is running for a third term. Republicans appeared united around Marine Veteran Jacquie Atkinson, but the recent entry of Denise Gitsham suggests some dissent in the GOP ranks. Progressive Democrats weren’t happy with Peters’ support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but it fits both his image as a business-minded Democrat and his swing district, which is split nearly evenly between Democrats, Republicans and Decline to State voters. Having beaten an incumbent in 2012 and a high profile challenger in the Republican wave of 2014, Peters’ toughest elections may be behind him. Unless Democrats implode nationally, Peters has a good chance to win with his largest margin yet and still be one of the closer races of the night.

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The City: Top to Bottom Thu, 19 Nov 2015 17:57:10 +0000

The Cult

thursday, nov. 19

The Cult and Primal Scream

The Cult is a British hard rock band formed in 1983. They gained a dedicated following in the UK in the mid-1980s as a post-punk/gothic rock band with singles such as “She Sells Sanctuary”, before breaking mainstream in the US in the late 1980s. Primal Scream is a Scottish rock band originally formed in 1982 in Glasgow by Bobby Gillespie and Jim Beattie.

House of Blues San Diego, 1055 Fifth Ave. in San Diego, 7 p.m., tickets from $45, 619-299-2583,

Lil Duval

friday, nov. 20

Lil Duval

Proclaiming himself “Lil Duval” after the county from which he hails, he has literally put his home turf on his back as he touches every nook and cranny available with his special brand of humor. Some comedians work at making people laugh. Others just do. Born with the gift to make people laugh, Lil Duval explains that, for him, “comedy was a natural thing. People always found me funny. It wasn’t that I was trying to be funny; they just found me funny.” Participating in pep rallies in high school and other activities where all eyes were on him really kicked Lil Duval into high gear.

The American Comedy Company, 818B Sixth Ave. in San Diego, 7:30 and 9:30 p.m., tickets $18, 619-795-3858,

Charles McPherson

saturday, nov. 21

Living Jazz Legends plus The Young Lions

The San Diego Symphony’s brand new “Jazz @ The Jacobs” series gets off to an auspicious start with a concert featuring some of the most experienced and beloved working jazz musicians in America today. Appearing onstage together for the first time anywhere will be: alto saxophonist and Jazz Suite for Orchestra composer Charles McPherson, tenor saxophonist and film and TV music legend Tom Scott (in a very rare San Diego appearance), San Diego-based pianist and music director (for Sarah Vaughn and Ella Fitzgerald) Mike Wofford, studio veteran bassist Henry “The Skipper” Franklin, Cannonball Adderley drummer Roy McCurdy and – straight from LA – the great Barbara Morrison, a favorite vocalist for Count Basie, Doc Severinsen and many others.

Copley Symphony Hall, 750 B Street in San Diego, 8 p.m., tickets from $20, 619-235-0804,

David Sedaris

sunday, nov. 22

An Evening with David Sedaris

With sardonic wit and incisive social critiques, David Sedaris has become one of America’s preeminent humor writers. The great skill with which he slices through cultural euphemisms and political correctness proves that Sedaris is a master of satire and one of the most observant writers addressing the human condition today.

Balboa Theatre, 868 Fourth Ave. in San Diego, 7 p.m., tickets from $42, 619-570-1100,

JJ Sansaverino

monday, nov. 23

JJ Sansaverino

Guitarist JJ Sansaverino is an outstanding performer who has a “take no prisoners” performance attitude. His musical style is a mix of Smooth Jazz, R&B, World Music, and Fusion, “a la Santana meets Benson.” He has reached millions with his music, touring the world for the past 25 years. He has worked with the best in the business in a wide range of idioms, including live and in the studio appearing on hundreds of recordings. Now with the release of his sophomore CD, Waiting For You, from Innervision Records, JJ puts forward a stunning selection of original compositions.

Humphreys Backstage Live, 2241 Shelter Island Drive in San Diego, 8 p.m., $12 cover, 619-224-3577,

Fantasy on Ice

tuesday, nov. 24

Fantasy on Ice

Ice skating? Outside? In San Diego? Yes! Sycuan and Rady Children’s Hospital Auxiliary are teaming up to present Fantasy on Ice with support from SENTRE Partners, NBC 7 San Diego, Liberty Station and many Friends of Rady Children’s. The festivities begin in November, when the NEW ice rink at Liberty Station, opens for the first skating season. Every day, throughout the holidays, come back to enjoy special holiday events and activities, including our own televised special sponsored by NBC 7 San Diego.

Liberty Station, 2690 Historic Decatur Road in San Diego, through January 2016, cost adult $14, child $12, 619-222-1970,

Pat Dowling

wednesday, nov. 25

Pat Dowling

Dowling grew up in Fairfield, Conn. He took piano and drum lessons throughout elementary school and middle school. He started playing the guitar in the sixth grade. His major musical influences are Ben Harper, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Weezer and Jack Johnson.

Croce’s Park West, 2760 Fifth Ave. in San Diego, 6p.m., 619-233-4355,

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Let go of the past Thu, 19 Nov 2015 17:57:09 +0000


As a progressive Christian, I believe there are many names for God and many ways to a loving God; this article reflects one of those ways. Take from here what works for you. Celebrate life with joy and peace!

Since we’ve started this series of living Your Best Life Now based on the book by Rev. Joel Osteen, we’ve talked about enlarging our vision of compassion, seeing ourselves as God sees us, discovering the power of our thoughts and words, and this article, let’s look at the importance of letting go of the past.

I’m not talking about all of the past – I have so many happy memories of so many friends and loved ones. Great trips and experiences. Romantic times and belly laughs. I cherish those memories – I’m not talking about letting go of those memories, I’m talking about letting go of the painful hurts of the past.

We’ve all had negative things happen to us. We can easily find reasons to have a chip on our shoulder, or blame the past for our bad attitude, poor choices or even anger today.

Most of the time we have valid reasons for feeling the way we do. You may have gone through things that nobody deserves to experience. Perhaps you were physically, verbally, sexually or emotionally abused. Maybe you’ve struggled with a chronic illness or some other inoperable physical problem. Perhaps somebody took advantage of you in business and you lost your life savings as well as your self-esteem.

I don’t mean to minimize those experiences at all. They are real. However, if you want to live your best life now, you cannot use past emotional wounds as an excuse for making poor choices today. Now is the time to allow emotional wounds to heal.

Nobody, not even God, ever promised that life would be fair.

Instead, of living in the hurts of the past, take what God has given you and make the most of it. You may have suffered much, endured great hardships or been though a lot of negative things. You may have deep scars from emotional wounds, but don’t let your past determine your future.

You can’t do anything about what’s already happened to you, but you can choose how you will face what’s in front of you. If you hold on to feelings of bitterness and resentment, they could poison your future. As hard as it is to do, let go of those hurts and pains. Forgive the people who did you wrong. Forgive yourself for the mistakes you’ve made.

You may even need to forgive God. Perhaps you’ve been blaming God for taking your loved ones. Maybe you’re angry at God because your prayers weren’t answered, or some situation didn’t work out the way you had hoped.

Whatever it is, you will never be truly happy as long as you harbor bitterness and unforgiveness in your heart. It’s so important to let go of those negative attitudes and anger. Change the channel and start focusing on the goodness of God.

How many of you are channel flippers – if we see something we don’t like, no big deal – we just change channels. We need to learn how to mentally change channels when negative images of the past pop up in our minds.

Unfortunately, when some people see those negative experiences on their minds’ “screens,” instead of quickly changing channels, they pull up a chair, and get some popcorn, as though they’re going to watch a good movie! They willingly allow themselves to relive all of those hurts and pains. And then they wonder why they are depressed, upset or discouraged.

Learn now to change the channel on negativity; be a channel flipper for positivity. If you’ve had something painful happen to you, don’t let that negative experience define your life. We have to let go of the painful past to bring in the new.

If you’re serious about being well, if you really want to be made whole, don’t stay in your negative situation, get up and move on with your life. Stop making excuses, stop blaming others. Instead, start forgiving the people that hurt you.

Today can be a turning point in your life, a time of new beginnings. Why not begin living your best life now?

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Newsroom drama at its best Thu, 12 Nov 2015 21:26:05 +0000

Michael Keaton, Billy Crudup, Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams in Spotlight

It is now taken for granted that the Catholic Church’s priests sexually abused thousands, if not tens of thousands, of children over the last 50 years and that the Church hierarchy covered it up, quietly settling lawsuits, moving abusers from parish to parish, and doing very little to stop the abuse from happening or occurring again. The scandal that began it all occurred in Boston in 2002, when intrepid reporters in the Spotlight investigative unit of The Boston Globe uncovered the Boston church’s extensive role in covering up abuses by numerous priests in the diocese. The Boston scandal led Boston Cardinal Bernard Law to resign, $100 million in settlements and a Pulitzer Prize for The Globe and its Spotlight reporters. Tom McCarthy’s nearly perfect film depicting the reporters’ investigation is easily the best film about journalism since 1976’s classic Watergate thriller All the President’s Men, and it will feature heavily on the awards circuit this year.

The film begins with the arrival of a new editor at The Globe in 2001. Marty Baron (a perfectly subdued Liev Schreiber) encourages the Spotlight team to dig into the case of a priest recently convicted of sexual abuse. There is some resistance by other editors, who think it’s already been reported enough, that there’s nothing there, but Spotlight’s editor Robby Robinson (Michael Keaton) thinks Baron is right – there’s more to this than a few isolated cases. Robinson sticks his reporters Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) and Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James) on the story, and they start digging into both the publicized cases and the ones settled out of court. They meet with victims, sleazy lawyers and not-so-sleazy lawyers. Mitchell Garabedian (Stanley Tucci) is the latter, and through his interactions with the Columbo-esque Rezendes, we learn that the problem isn’t just bad eggs and the Church hiding them in the back of the henhouse. It’s the cloistered culture of Catholic Boston.

The publicists are referring to Spotlight as a thriller, which seems to be an exaggeration. Yes, the excitement is heightened artificially by characters unnecessarily running or speeding, but Spotlight doesn’t have anything resembling the tension of All the President’s Men, in which Woodward and Bernstein had good reason to fear for their lives. The film is suspenseful both because of Tom McCarthy’s taut and trick-less direction and his and Josh Singer’s efficient screenplay, which seamlessly merges a complicated mystery with an indictment of a culture of secrecy, silence and deference to power. Most of the film’s major characters are occasional or lapsed Catholics, and their personal angst over what their faith has done shows the toll this kind of reporting can take. The film is as much about how these reporters got the story as it is about how the story got them.

McCarthy’s ensemble is the best on film this year. Keaton’s Robinson is the film’s linchpin, acting as the liaison between Baron and skeptical deputy editor Ben Bradlee Jr. (the always-great John Slattery) with his reporters while also pushing major sources to come forward. Keaton is so believable, so heroic as the smart and deeply ethical Robinson, he makes Ruffalo’s fantastic Rezendes seem overly mannered. McAdams is good in the least flashy role, while Tucci keeps up his streak of stealing scenes, this time as a wise and frustrated Armenian-American perplexed by Boston.


Directed by Tom McCarthy

Written by Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer

Starring Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton and Rachel McAdams

Rated R

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San Diego Human Dignity Foundation honors three LGBT advocates Thu, 12 Nov 2015 21:25:10 +0000

Photo: Victor Hoff

Rev. Carl Bean, Kurt Cunningham and Wilson Cruz

Lincoln Aston did not go quietly into the night. He did not fall asleep one night never to awake. He was not surrounded by loved ones in his final hours. And his sudden death actually did come as a surprise. Lincoln, 61, was also tragically one of three gay men brutally murdered in San Diego that May of 1995, pre-Cunanan but post-Dahmer. But it was Lincoln’s death, perhaps because of his star turn as noted and respected architect, which would lead one day to a gala being named, in part, after him.

Hattie “Sunshine” Brooks couldn’t have been more different. Her presence wasn’t just more public, it was far more obviously civic-minded in nature and she was as much a part of San Diego’s DNA as anyone. She was a founding member of Price Club – later Costco – and created a scholarship for their employees and their children to attend college with a $1,500 grant to an accredited college or university. She was committed to the arts and owned a theater in Oceanside and left a $40 million dollar trust to some 15 San Diego charities including the San Diego AIDS Foundation.

Sunshine Brooks, who was described at birth as a ray of ‘sunshine,’ died after an extended illness in December of 1999. She was 91. Saturday, Nov. 7 at the San Diego Hilton Resort & Spa on Mission Bay some 400 friends, board members and supporters of the San Diego Human Dignity Foundation (SDHDF) gathered among rivulets of hand-passed canapes and a tsunami of free alcohol to celebrate the Aston-Brooks Awards Gala. The SDHDF, whose members recognize excellence in and among the LGBT community will be celebrating their 20th anniversary next year.

Wilson Cruz and Kevin Beiser | Photo: Pro Motion Entertainment

The event – which sparkled that night in hundred dollar plus haircuts, fine silk shirts and brilliant smiles – serves as a platform to donate funds to people and organizations who then further spread the largesse through, in many times, community-based projects. To date, SDHDF clarified at the dinner, they have already dispersed $750,000 in funds this year alone.

That’s a lot of outreach.

Saturday night, three awards were handed out. The first, The Sunshine Brooks HIV/AIDS Advocacy Award went to the Rev. Carl Bean, known as much for his musical talents as well as his founding of the Unity Fellowship Church of Christ, which in 1982, was groundbreaking. “Archbishop Bean has taken adversity and created inspiration for the disenfranchised,” said John L. Brown, executive director, SDHDF. “He knows first-hand the struggle and heartache people of color who live with HIV/AIDS experience and has created a safe, welcoming religious space so they feel loved and accepted.”

Honored for the memory and life of this generous philanthropist whose multimillion dollar legacy gift has benefitted HIV/AIDS charities in San Diego County for the last decade, Bean was being recognized with the award that honors an individual whose efforts have improved the lives of those living with HIV/AIDS. The Rev. Gerald Green and the Rev. Romie Wilford accepted the award on behalf of Archbishop Bean.

Rev. Gerald Green with Rev. Ronnie Wilford | Photo: Victor Hoff

The next award to be presented was the Richard Geyser Community Leadership Award which is given to the person who best demonstrates ethics in community outreach and volunteerism. City Council Member Todd Gloria introduced self-described ‘Mayor of Hillcrest’ Nicole Murray Ramirez who spoke tearfully of Kurt Cunningham’s contributions. Although he was an avid advocate of mental health, Mr. Cunningham, unfortunately succumbed to his own mental health issues and took his own life Oct. 12.

Then Wilson Cruz, who looked flawless in a tweed jacket and low-cut sweater vest which accentuated his white shirt and black tie, spoke. With amazing force, rapidity and insight, brimming with intensity behind his black, horn-rimmed glasses, he blended a tale of quick success followed by long stretches of little-to-no work, which cast his fate as activist. “I’ve been so fortunate to have been of service to a community that I love. Early on, when I was a young person myself, it was really important to me to give voice to the concerns and fears of LGBT youth by speaking about my own experience as a young gay man of color. I never saw anyone like me on TV. It made me feel invisible and misunderstood. I longed to see someone with whom I could relate. When I was given the opportunity, I wanted to be that person for someone else. So many young people, to this day, are bullied into silence and shame. Back then, I wanted to give them hope and give them a sense of what was possible. Now, in my 40s, I’m no longer a young person, but I want to continue to empower them to use their own voices and encourage them to demand to be heard. We need them and their energy. We need to be listening to them so that we can assist them in making the world they want.”

San Diego LGBT Weekly caught up with Cruz prior to the event to talk about his career and what messages he has for today’s LGBTQ community. “In my work as an actor, I have never been happier than when my art can be an opportunity to shed light on our community and our issues in an authentic and entertaining way,” said Cruz. “I’ve always believed that when you know someone who is LGBT and you understand us for who we actually are – and not the lies told about us by anti-LGBT forces – it’s more difficult to stand against us or vote against us. I’ve seen the power of the stories told on television, film and theatrical stages and the effect they’ve had on a generation that were invited to experience our lives and empathize with our experience. I feel it’s been a great honor to have played a few of those roles. And I feel great pride in being the first gay person some young people ever knew. I like to think they carried those stories and those characters with them when they’ve walked into a voting booth or when someone in their own family, possibly their own child, came out to them.”

And for the next generation of LGBTQ members, Cruz had this to say: “My message to LGBT youth today is that, though we’ve experienced success, recently, in terms of marriage equality, this is no time for complacency. There is still so much work to be done in order to realize true equality. The work is not done. This is especially true if you are a person of color or if you are a trans person. And even more work to be done if you happen to be both! The world that my generation is handing over to them is one in which they’ll be called on to not only continue that work, but also to do two other things simultaneously. First, they will have to remain vigilante and safeguard against the attacks on the rights and protections we’ve gained, here, at home. Like abortion rights and voting rights, LGBT rights are surely to be attacked. We need only to look to Houston this past week, and to claims of so-called “religious freedom” for proof of what’s to come. Secondly, they must not turn their backs on our LGBT brothers and sisters around the world. The lives of LGBT people in places like Russia, China and the Middle East, just to name a few, are frightening. In these places, and in many more, you are faced with a VERY real threat to your life just because of who you love or your gender identity. It will be their generation that will be called on to share the lessons learned here and to act as allies by shining a bright light on the tragedies and injustices endured by LGBT people everywhere.”

Andrea McArdle and Wilson Cruz | Photo: Pro Motion Entertainment

The night’s entertainment was provided by Tony Houck on piano, Rae K. Henderson, Melissa Fernandes and Luke Jacobs. Broadway legend Andrea McArdle (Annie, Starlight Express) ended the night on a hopeful note.

“The individuals we honored at our gala event embody the mission of the San Diego Human Dignity Foundation,” said Brown. “Their work and dedication to equality, tolerance, wellness, well-being and human dignity transcends the LGBTQ communities, striving to bridge understanding throughout San Diego and beyond.”

Moving forward, 2016 promises to be another banner year for the San Diego Human Dignity Foundation as they progress with their ParkArts campaign to improve the facility that houses Diversionary Theatre and Lambda Archives, and work with their grant making partners to end new HIV infections throughout San Diego County. All this while they continue to sponsor and support the many wonderful LGBTQ Charities in the community.

For more information visit

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Patricia Velasquez Thu, 12 Nov 2015 21:20:14 +0000

Patricia Velasquez

LGBT Weekly talks to the world’s first openly lesbian supermodel and star of the Caribbean-set lesbian Spanish language movie Liz in September

Ask a gay man over a certain age about the play or movie Boys in The Band and you’re likely to illicit a reaction. Maybe it’s ‘groundbreaking’ or ‘game-changing’ or even ‘sad.’ But whatever it is, it is. Now, ask that same generation of its lesbian equivalent? You wait. But the truth is most couldn’t name an iconic lesbian period piece. And why should we be able to? The answer didn’t debut for another eleven years; Hollywood had no interest at the time in exploiting its salaciousness in a way that they did with BITB and, besides, The Last Summer at Bluefish Cove was so narratively different from BITB (aka – the characters weren’t little more than self-hating queens) that to suggest another perspective should and could be told by a group of woman was almost as radical at the time.

But after 80 performances, it closed March 1, 1981 at The Actors Playhouse and remains a perennial favorite in regional theaters across the globe. And why shouldn’t it? It has multiple layers of dramatic richness among its generationally different characters, someone is dying, and some are in the closet. Its emotions are current, not that that would necessarily matter anyway.

But it’s still a mystery to a lot of people who consider themselves literary.

That’s why Liz in September, the movie version of this lesbian classic drama holds enormous potential and has Patricia Velasquez starring in the title role. Velasquez, who is probably most famous for any of her enormous show gigs as arguably the world’s most pre-eminent lesbian Latina supermodel, Sandra Bernhard love interest for almost two years, a successful businessperson who has managed to exploit renewable sources without sounding like a Johnny-come-lately and a motivational speaker whose book, Straight Talk has been an inspiration to thousands of teenagers across her native Venezuela and the world for giving a voice to the downtrodden, the hopeless and LGBTQ youth community.

San Diego LGBT Weekly had the pleasure to speak to the star about her role in the updated version from acclaimed Venezuelan director Fina Torres.

Danay Garcia (far left), Mimi Lazo (left), Arlette Torres (right) and Maria Luisa Flores (far right)

San Diego LGBT Weekly: How did the part of Liz find you?

Patricia Velasquez: Well, Fina Torres is a very well-known director who comes from my country, Venezuela. It was expected that at some point we would join forces and do something together. I saw her in Los Angeles and I said we should sit down and talk. And when we talked, she brought a project, a really beautiful project to me. She asked me if I was interested in working in this project and I said, you know, why don’t you come to my master class in Los Angeles with a teacher named Ivana Chubbuck. One of things about Fina is that she really listens which is the sign of a great director. I was about to go out and put on a scene; it was a scene from the original play of this film which is called, The Last Summer at Bluefish Cove. And she said, ‘I can’t believe you’re doing this scene. I was offered the rights to this play and I couldn’t get it off the ground about six years ago.’ So I came out, did this scene and people went crazy. And once it was done, Fina said, ‘I think this is what we need to do. We need to focus on this.’ It’s very admirable what she did because she could have taken the rights to do the film and then turn it into a film for the Americans, shoot it in English and use straight actors. But she decided to do it in Spanish.

Eloisa Maturen

How close did you keep to the original part of Liz from Last Summer at Bluefish Cove and how did you make it your own.

I think the main quality that I identify with in Liz is her stubbornness. But, honestly, as an actor, you try to find elements of a character without judging your character that you can find in yourself. We are all parts of different characters no matter what, no matter what we play so I connected to that. Parts of fear, you know, fear of being loved, fear of commitment, loneliness, do you value your friendship, your yearning for love. So those are the parts of the play which I probably connected to the most. And then I believe that when a script comes to you, it come to you for a reason.

Arlette Torres (left) and Mimi Lazo (right)

Would you have taken the part of Liz had you not come out or (even) concluded you were lesbian?

Oh, absolutely. I already came out years ago. But I’ve always had the belief that the less people know about you, the better because you’re supposed to be an actress (famous?) It’s very hard to look at actors when you know so much about their personal life. So I try to stay away a little bit so I can be not understood. What I didn’t know was that I was hurting myself along the way because I wasn’t really being true to myself. But I probably would have taken the part, for sure.

Patricia Velasquez

You have a very nice, a very touching story about you coming out to your mom. You know, and I’m paraphrasing here, you came out to your mom and she was very generous and she said, “It must have been so hard for you.” And she was putting your feelings ahead of hers. Do you think, though, she knew?

I think she knew. I think she knew, yes. I think parents do know. You know, you have to put yourself in the shoes of other people. For example, where was my mom? This was not something she was very used to seeing and it’s not a part of society that she’s normally in touch with. The feeling of it, she couldn’t quite figure out what it was because it’s not something she was exposed to. I think it’s more the not being able to understand that world. And also, like the case of my mom, thinking how hard it must have been for you all of these years, and also … of myself like am I being open enough to create a space for my daughter to be able to talk to me about who she is.

I’m a young girl. I live in a rural part of the world that doesn’t look favorably on my being a member of the LGTBQ community. I have parents I can’t come out to and I’m starting to lose hope. What advice would you give me?

I would advise this person to read my book, Straight Talk. It’s so wonderful because ever since my book has come out it has spoken to a lot of these girls and boys. You have no idea how many letters I get every single day. I would just say if they have access to this book, because it’s a very long journey, read it. If you don’t have access to my book, I would just say, you are born in a family, and you are born in the family you were supposed to be born into. That’s the number one thing I would say. And the number two thing I would say is, sometimes, when we want people to understand us, we forget to realize we both need the space to allow people to go through the process. Just give people the space to understand their new reality.

Liz In September is available on VOD from Wolfe On Demand and Vimeo On Demand and from 12/1 from iTunes, Amazon and others.

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On the patio at Fig Tree Cafe Thu, 12 Nov 2015 21:15:17 +0000

Meat and cheese board | PHOTO: FIG TREE CAFÉ

“Come with me to Las Vegas,” he said.

“Pierce”, wearing a tight T-shirt and ripped jeans, had another video shoot coming up and needed a travel companion; somebody who knew their way around Sin City. I’ve always wanted to go behind the scenes on a porn set, so his invitation was a dream come true. With too much time on my hands and too little self-restraint, I said, “Of course.”

We were seated on the patio at Fig Tree Café one pleasant autumn evening. Pierce sipped a Goose Island Nut Brown Ale ($5.50) and I a glass of Canyon Country 2014 Pinot Noir ($8.50). The Nut Brown Ale (5.4 percent ABV) combines a variety of malts to produce a complex chestnut-hued brew with notes of chocolate, honey and fine tobacco, and a full “nutty” finish. The medium-bodied wine introduces rich fruity cherry flavors with soft tannins, then retreats with a smooth velvety finish.

Our friendly server Gina informed us the Monday Night Special was a BOGO on appetizers. We took advantage of the deal and ordered the Crispy Eggplant ($8) and Jars of Avocado Chutney and Jalapeno Cilantro Hummus. The jars of smooth mildly spicy hummus and fresh guacamole are accompanied by slabs of airy yeasty bread with a good crust. The thick slices of eggplant are dusted with panko crumbs then quickly fried to a delicate crunch and served with arugula greens, goat cheese crumbles, an assortment of Mediterranean olives and a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette.

The main course choices range from Tequila Lobster Ravioli, to Short Ribs, to Ricotta Cavatelli with Wild Boar Sausage. Pierce ordered the Pork Belly ($21.95) special, and I the Flat Iron Steak ($21.95) for our entrées. The large portion of tender perfectly prepared pork belly is served with fingerling potatoes, crisp broccoli and a sweet reduction of red grapes and wine. I ordered the flat iron steak rare and the succulent juicy meat had a good sear. The steak is served with fingerling potatoes, grilled asparagus spears and a dreamy bleu cheese sauce.

I complimented the chef and asked how he created such an incredible accompaniment. Chef Giampiero told me the bleu cheese sauce begins with sweet onions and garlic sautéed in butter, a little heavy cream stirred in, then white wine and lots of pungent cheese. Everything combines for a rich savory sauce which divinely compliments the lean steak.

The dessert menu includes temptations such as chocolate stuffed French toast, lava molten cake, berry tart with creamy ricotta filling and fig bread pudding served with vanilla ice cream. Sated, we declined the sweet enticements and paid our bill.

Fig Tree Café, with locations in Pacific Beach and Liberty Station, is the brainchild of owner Johan Engman and Executive Chef Alberto Morreale. The menu focuses on California cuisine using locally sourced ingredients, and offers mouthwatering dishes at a neighborly price point. They also have a good selection of craft beers as well as domestic and imported wines. The Hillcrest location, an eclectic open kitchen concept which allows patrons to observe the action, is the perfect setting for daytime dining or a romantic dinner after sunset.

Fig Tree Café is open daily and serves breakfast and lunch, too. Eat this, hungry readers. You’ll be glad you did.

Fig Tree Café

416 University Ave.

Open 8 a.m.-3 p.m.; 4:30-10 p.m.

619-298-2010 locations/hillcrest/

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Rent or buy? Another look at a much posed question Thu, 12 Nov 2015 20:27:13 +0000


If you have been fortunate to have selected a slump time in the market to buy a house, and then sell when the curve swung upward, you are likely a fan of buying a house. If, on the other hand, you bought at a high and were forced to take a loss, you might regret not having just rented for all your trouble.

Real estate is a chancy investment, risky and often disappointing if your timing is off. That is because houses depreciate; they wear out, lose their charm as trends change, and require regular investments of capital. Buyers take into account the cash down payment and real estate taxes when they buy, as well as major capital repairs, like old plumbing and leaky roofs, but they may not concentrate on the other regular expenses like gardening, utilities and the like, nor figure in the cost to prepare a house for sale and to actually sell it. If all this was fully contemplated, many more buyers might pass on the experience.

On the other side, of course, a house is not just an investment. It is often part of our identity, and we enjoy having complete sway over how we decorate it and make it ours; this is not always possible in a rental. To many as well, the idea of having a landlord, just does not sit well.

Looking at the question from just a dollars and cents point of view, there are some good questions you can ask yourself in weighing this decision.

1. Do you have a stable job? If you might look for a new one soon, renting would be wise.

2. Are there other changes on the horizon, like starting a family? You don’t want to be hit by the huge outlay a new home purchase requires, with other big costs looming.

3. Do you love the community you’re looking in and what’s the state of the market there? This is a biggie. Buying may be just the thing to do if the neighborhood is on the way up and you’ve tried it out and like it. On the contrary, if prices are inflated, you might think about looking elsewhere, or renting, if fairly affordable rentals are available.

4. How’s your credit? If it’s not the greatest, it might be wise to rent and improve your credit score so you can take advantage of the best interest rates when you do decide to buy.

5. Do you have the time and disposable income a home purchase requires? If you are so busy, there’s no way you can mow the lawn on Saturdays and if you’re not inclined to pay for a landscaper, owning a home may not be for you. Owning a home is supposed to be fun, but your fun may be renting a great apartment and calling the maintenance department when you need a repair.

The decision to rent is predicated on the availability of suitable units in your chosen community, of course, but rentals afford many pluses. Most significant of these is your freedom to change your mind and move if you are not entirely happy, or have other opportunities elsewhere. How you invest the money you are not putting into a down payment, of course, is an entirely different question. We will compare investments in a subsequent article. The question of whether to own or rent is a complex one, and a very personal decision. What’s right for you is totally wrong for your neighbor, and each real estate market tells a different story. Wish I could give you a solid answer, but this question will not allow. Stay tuned.

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Fry, bake, broil, zap Thu, 12 Nov 2015 20:26:24 +0000

We had activities and clubs, yet were home for dinner together. With occasional spats and tears, the conversation and sharing of the day’s events strengthened the family bond. For LGBT seniors without their own family, the chance for such an experience has passed along with Father Knows Best (ask a senior).

One aspect of that era, however, has benefited those of us who can’t or don’t want to cook and who admit defeat in attempting to recreate the sumptuous fare of the cooking programs. We have delved into memories of mom, our beloved homemaker (for a time a much maligned career) who through the ’50s and ‘60s began to rely on canned goods, powdered sauces, frozen everything and finally the miraculous microwave.

Armed with a fry-pan and toaster oven, we follow her lead and avoid the nuisance and cost of going to a restaurant and, for me, the unpleasantness of publicly dining alone. Keeping the TV dinners to a minimum, we supplement our efforts by resorting to the ready-cooked offerings of the deli counter or shameful recourse to the plethora of fast food joints.

Meals at home can be easy and with conscientious planning healthy. Due to the fact many senior men and women are alone too much, I suggest an enhancement. Don’t be shy; occasionally share your lunch or dinner. The socializing can be more important than the meal itself. Better yet, cook it together. The comic and relaxing camaraderie and bantering between two non-cooks will be well worth it.

Try something like, “The game’s tonight. Come on over. I’ve got stuff in the fridge and we’ll throw something together. Bring ice cream.”

Flip-phone farewell

My neighbor just bought an iPod (pad? phone? – something) six and casually mentioned his “four” was about worthless and he couldn’t give it away. I ventured to disagree and, as a favor, took the antique. And lo, my trusty flip-phone is closed forever. He told me the phone was easy to use and he would teach me the basics in a few minutes. When I asked something about a floppy disc, he blanched and re-estimated the timetable.

I first had to get an Apple account, but my computer somehow hooked me up with iTunes, a music site, which asked about an iCloud something. My friend remained calm, but I was beyond befuddled.

Then came a slew of password requests for Wi-Fi, Apple, Yahoo, my computer and the new machine. Some demanded case sensitive, some not. My head was reeling. We then tackled some of the apps he was going to leave. All appeared to accomplish wonders which I will be able to do once I conquer the hurdle of typing with those itsy-bitsy letter keys.

Kids’ fingers fly through messages with the speed of lightning, but I could be beaten by molasses (ask a senior).

Some of the programs hold particular promise. For example, my first instructions dealt with “Grindr,” an app rumored to be obligatory in Hillcrest. It reveals on screen which members of a friendship club are nearby. Helpful I’m sure, although somehow we seniors managed without it.

I eagerly anticipated the novelty of questioning the lady in the phone, but so far I’ve been disenchanted. My friend demonstrated with no trouble yesterday, but today I have asked Sheri countless questions, but she hasn’t answered once. My edification continues.

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Chief Kolender: A friend of our community Thu, 12 Nov 2015 20:26:22 +0000

Bill Kolender

Bill Kolender followed a police chief who was known to be racist, sexist and homophobic. Bill changed the police force toward what it is today. Chief Kolender was the first to reach out to our community and appoint a “Gay Liaison.” I attended the first meeting of a police chief and gay and lesbian activists and soon we became friends. I asked him once why he seemed to understand discrimination and bias and he laughed and said, “You do know I’m Jewish.”

We established a good relationship from around 1976 to his retirement as sheriff, and a few years ago he was honored at the Nicky Awards.

I will never forget a crazy incident with the son of the then publisher of the Union Tribune … yes, David Copley, that I helped him with, but that’s for my book!

Chief Kolender made the first real police outreach to the Latino, gay and black communities. He was a good man and a true leader of people. Susan Jester and I attended his memorial.

LGBT veterans honored

Five years ago I went to The Center and Dr. Delores Jacobs and asked them to support my project for a wall honoring LGBT San Diego veterans, and the rest is history. The fifth annual presentation of the 2015 inductees on the Benjamin F. Dillingham III and Bridget Wilson LGBT Veterans Wall of Honor drew the biggest crowd ever. Congratulations to the co-chairs of the Veterans Advisory Council, Evelyn Thomas and Jacqueline Atkinson, who along with their hard-working council members did an outstanding job. Keynote Speaker Kathleen Hansen, USN (Ret.) really moved all of us in attendance and Sen. Chris Kehoe was also a special guest of honor.

Congratulations to the 2015 inductees: Mitchel Cantell, USA; Diane M. “Semo” Cimochowicz, USN; Alberto Cortez, USN; Phyllis A. Daugherty, USAF; Camille Emily Davidson, USAF; Jackie K. Jackson, USN; Lester Lefkowitz, USA; Trent Lozano-Osier, USN; Gordon K. Wahl, USAF; and Donna F. Walker, USN. They also gave some of the most moving remarks and shared their personal histories. It was one of the most prideful events I’ve ever attended.

Thank you to the staff of The Center, especially Benny, Amber, Carolina and Rebekah.

LGBT Democrats celebrate 40 years of activism

San Diego Democrats for Equality (formerly the San Diego Democratic Club) celebrated their 40th anniversary at the Prado Ballroom with a Saturday brunch. For over four decades this club has been greatly responsible for our LGBT community’s civil rights and equality advances in San Diego.

I may not always agree with this club’s political stands, but they very much have earned and deserve our respect and admiration for their leadership and activism. Long-time community activist Maureen Steiner was rightly honored. Special guests were three speakers of the California State Assembly (past and present) Antonio Villaraigosa, John A. Perez, and of course our current speaker and future state senator, Toni Atkins. Congratulations to all the members and President David Warmoth, Will Rodriguez Kennedy, Craig Roberts and all of the current officers.

Sitting at my table were long-time friends, past club Presidents Doug Case, Larry Baza and Stephen Whitburn. Laura Finks looked smashing by the way.

S.D.H.D.F. Awards Gala a five-star event!

The 2015 Aston-Brooks Awards Gala put on by the San Diego Human Dignity Foundation was most certainly the event of the year… fabulous and flawless! Outstanding live entertainment, great honorees: Wilson Cruz, Kurt Cunningham and Bishop Carol Bean. Cruz gave the best acceptance speech! (Well, he is one of my sons.) The food was absolutely the best I’ve had all year and let me tell you I’ve been to countless gala dinners.

Take a bow San Diego Hilton Resort and Spa. Bravo to James Vasquez, Jerry Strayve, Drew Liam Jack, John Brown and all of the S.D.H.D.F leadership board and wonderful volunteers.

27th annual Scott Carlson Thanksgiving Dinner

The Imperial Court de San Diego will once again host the 27th annual Scott Carlson Dinner at The LGBT Center. Everyone is welcomed, especially those living with HIV-AIDS, cancer, seniors, the homeless, families, youth and those finding themselves alone on this special day. A big thank you to Ben Dillingham, The Rob Benzon Foundation, Hillcrest Pharmacy, Sarah and the staff at the Redwing, Human Dignity Foundation, S.D.B.G.A., Mayor Faulconer, One San Diego, Robert Gleason, A.M.F, Nick Moede of Rich’s and Todd Gloria. Donations and volunteers are still needed. For more information, please call: 619-862-8654.

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Amy Thu, 12 Nov 2015 20:26:21 +0000

Amy Winehouse

dvd of the week

Amy, Asif Kapadia’s excellent and disturbing documentary about Amy Winehouse’s life, is composed entirely of home movies, television video and voice-over of interviewed friends and family. Chronically depressed as a teenager, which she blames on her parents’ divorce, she became bulimic and then self-medicated with alcohol and pot; when she was with eventual husband Blake Fielder, she added powder and crack cocaine, as well as heroin. Kapadia’s argument seems to be that the pressure of fame, along with the pressures of her parasitic father Mitch, profit-focused second manager Raye Cosbert and codependent husband Fielder, drew out the worst of Winehouse’s dark impulses. Kapadia skillfully edits the footage and the interviews, which include extensive commentary from her friends, compatriots and Fielder. Most of this is done without trickery, except for how he washes out the video of the paparazzi swarms to turn the camera flashes into near-white outs. The effect is haunting.

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Flesh and Bone Thu, 12 Nov 2015 20:26:19 +0000

dvr this

Starz, Sundays, 8 p.m.

One of the writers of Breaking Bad decided to make a dark drama about ballet dancers, and the comparison to Black Swan are obvious. But Flesh and Blood is not about madness; it’s about struggle and ego. Sarah Hay plays Claire, destined for greatness on stage but harboring a very dark past, and Ben Daniels is megalomaniacal and gay artistic director Paul Grayon. Their desire to get what they want, whether it’s success or power, envelopes the ensemble around them. The show is pulpy and clichéd, but also well-acted and, because they cast dancers who could act and not the other way around, beautifully danced. It has the potential to be great, sick fun.

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Just desserts Thu, 12 Nov 2015 20:26:16 +0000

Prop 1Everyone is up in arms about the recent defeat of a pro-LGBT law in Houston called the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance or HERO for short. The issue, known as Proposition 1, was intended to ban discrimination based upon sexual orientation and gender identity by city and private employers, as well as in public accommodations. The ordinance would have also made prohibitions against discrimination based on sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, genetic information and pregnancy explicit in the city’s code. Easy to support, right? Not so fast.

While LGBT advocates nationwide are pointing fingers at those who they perceive to be involved with the defeat of the legislation, and looking to build bridges with allies to pass similar legislation in the future, they seem to be holding everyone accountable except LGBT people themselves.

257,309 people voted on the HERO proposition; dismal turnout. The Houston adult population is roughly 1.6 million adults. Let’s assume that the LGBT population is 10 percent because the LGBT population density in Texas is 3.3 percent for the entire state and most LGBT people are located in the population centers of Houston, Austin, San Antonio and Dallas. That means there are 160,000 LGBT adults in Houston; why did they not turn out? Houston is a city which elected Annise Parker the openly lesbian mayor – three times! There is simply no excuse why LGBT voters didn’t turn out.

Only 100,000 people voted to support the HERO proposition. Even if you assume a 5 percent Houston adult LGBT population that would be 80,000 LGBT people. Yet the HERO proposition only got 100,000 votes. The national average for voters who self-identify as LGBT when asked is 5 percent, which means only about 13,000 LGBT people voted for HERO; the rest stayed home. LGBT voters in Houston did not care enough about their own civil rights to vote. Sound familiar? It should. That is exactly what happened in California with Proposition 8 in 2008.

I really don’t understand why our community does not turnout in droves when our rights are put on the ballot. Why isn’t the LGBT turnout 95 percent or 98 percent in these situations? How many times does a defeat like HERO and Prop. 8 have to happen before those in our community get that voting matters?

As we look to 2016 and the presidential election, it is this type of voter apathy that could deliver the Democratic nominee a defeat and put all of the gains the LGBT community has garnered over the last seven years at risk.

Unfortunately, if we lose our rights due to LGBT voter apathy we will be getting our just desserts. I pray that doesn’t happen in the 2016 presidential election, but to be honest, I am afraid.



San Diego LGBT Weekly

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Shopping for labels of love with jewelry this holiday season Thu, 12 Nov 2015 20:26:12 +0000

Now that the holidays are just around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about gifts for those we love. In the spirit of making the holidays as blissful as possible, a gift guide is in order. What’s one gift that symbolizes emotion and love? Jewelry. In many different forms, the possibilities are endless when it comes to jewelry, watches and accessories as gifts.

But, where to begin when it comes to relationships and holiday giving? We’ve put together a guide of the greatest holiday gifts fit for any stage of a relationship.

For the new couple

When it comes to a new relationship, the beginning is always hard to navigate. The initial gift sets the tone for the rest of the gifting afterward. It’s important to pay close attention to your partner’s personal style. If they normally wear bold pieces, opt for a bold statement piece to add to their collection. If they wear more delicate pieces of jewelry, a bracelet or earrings are great options.

Fred Nasseri, local jewelry expert and owner of Unicorn Jewelry and Watch Boutique in Rancho Bernardo says, “If your partner is into leather accessories, a money clip, wallet or belt is a simple and classic choice.”

For the ready to wed

Now that you’ve found your match, it’s time to find the perfect ring, whether it’s vintage, classic or modern. Since a ring is a symbol of eternity, it is also a natural expression of never-ending love, so make sure your ring will last a lifetime. With options ranging from yellow to white gold or platinum, and diamonds or colored gemstones, it’s important to get a ring that is representative of your partner’s style and also your relationship.

The first step is to learn the five C’s: cut, clarity, color, carat and certificate. Take note of your partner’s personality and individual style. Pay attention to the little things like whether they prefer gold or silver, if they like simple, understated pieces or more flashy ones. After all, the engagement ring is the first chapter of the story that couples will create when they decide to spend their lives together.

For those who are ready to tie the knot, picking out the engagement ring can be a stressful process, but the end result will be far worth it. “When shopping for a ring or wedding band, it’s important to know how things can be customized to fit your taste, style and personality, as a symbol of your love. There is no reason that someone should settle for anything less than the ring of their dreams,” says Nasseri.

For the lasting lovers

For those who have been together for a while, a fancier gift is in order. This is the time to give the gift that your partner is going to remember and cherish for years to come. It could be the nice watch they’ve had their eye on or those silver cuff links they’ve been talking about for a while. Cuff links are an incredible choice for those who want to put the finishing touch on their ensemble, from business to evening wear. With such a large selection from silver to gold, diamonds and gemstones, cuff links are sure to dazzle. There is also a world of options when it comes to timepieces. Watches are beautiful, elegant and durable, so find the timepiece to make your partner’s wrist stand out among the crowd.

“At this point in a relationship, a matching jewelry set is a nice and classic touch for those couples who have given several gifts each holiday season. Tie it all together with cuff links that complement a watch, or a necklace and bracelet pair. Make them feel like they’re getting something like never before. Something they will keep forever,” Nasseri shares.

Local jewelry store, Unicorn Jewelry & Watch Boutique in Rancho Bernardo is the perfect place to find all of your holiday gifts for your loved ones this season, for any relationship and any budget. With a friendly and knowledgeable approach, owner Fred Nasseri and his family offer variety and service that is unmatched.

“Every person who walks through our doors will always be treated like family. We want to create a unique relationship and experience here at Unicorn Jewelry & Watch Boutique, one that is eternal like each couple’s love,” says Nasseri.

For over 34 years, Unicorn Jewelry has been the largest independent family-owned jewelry store, with the biggest and most magnificent collection of designer jewelry, high-quality certified loose diamonds, watches and more. Not only will these gifts be suited for who’s on your list, but you’ll be ready to find just what you’re looking for with Unicorn Jewelry. Aside from the sparkling selection of many known brands, they offer the option of custom-designed pieces to make your dream jewelry come to life.

Unicorn Jewelry strives to give the highest level of service to guests when helping them to select and create pieces that truly shine. Keep in mind this holiday season that gifts for your partner should be meaningful.

Visit Unicorn Jewelry & Watch Boutique in Rancho Bernardo to find the perfect gift they’ll always remember.

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A season of healthy change Thu, 12 Nov 2015 20:26:09 +0000


It’s officially autumn! Our ongoing warm weather may attempt to trick us to believe in perpetual summer, yet we are all aware of the subtle differences of our shorter days and cooler evenings. Seasons change and so do we as individuals in our life journeys. Due to the nature of my work, I meet many people who have made powerful, courageous changes in their lives. They have decided to turn from lifestyles which pulled them way off course and brought harm to themselves and others, and they turned instead toward living healthy, balanced lives, putting addictive behaviors behind them once and for all! As our natural environment is driven forward through the seasons by the laws of nature, the individual who has chosen a life free of substances drives herself into a season of healthy change.

My role as the director of outpatient services at Foundations San Diego allows me to interact with many inspiring people who have chosen this new season of positive change. One particular story I would like to tell today belongs to Chris Thomas, one of our therapists on staff. Chris holds a master’s degree in counseling and a bachelor’s degree in psychology. He has extensive experience working in addiction treatment as a residential counselor, outreach coordinator and director of support services. He has been a health educator and has worked in the participant accrual and retention department at UCSD HIV Neurobehavioral Research Center.

I am fortunate to have a compassionate professional team of licensed clinicians with whom I work who labor daily to provide treatment services to individuals in early recovery. Many individuals who have dedicated their entire professional careers to helping others have themselves been on a journey of returning to their authentic self. Chris Thomas has graciously agreed to contribute his story to this month’s column. You may be struggling with your own secrets, and you may well know how those secrets are major roadblocks to living a balanced healthy life.

From the desk of Chris Thomas: As a gay man who has been sober since Sept. 13, 1994, I understand the unique challenges to recovery such as HIV, Hepatitis B and C and co-occurring mental health disorders. I understand the high addiction rates in the LGBT community. There is an increased amount of shame and guilt that stems from the coming out process. Many of our LGBT patients have experienced abandonment from their families, intolerance within their religion and a loss of identity. I believe that struggling with secrets, which becomes a way of life for many in an effort to stay safe in society, perpetuates shame and guilt. The shame and guilt an addict or alcoholic experiences is very similar. So in a way, many LGBT addicts and alcoholics are recreating the same pattern they lived while trying to hide their sexuality as they try to hide their addictions.

For many there is a sex-drug link. The Internet age has opened up immediate access to ways for individuals to connect quickly and often in unhealthy behaviors. Many in early recovery fall into Internet addictions and sexual compulsivity, which are cross-addictive. It can be very tough to stay sober while acting out sexually. There is a strong sex-drug link for many gay men. For example, recovering from methamphetamine addiction requires increased caution in the area of sexual compulsivity due to the sex-drug link. I guide all my patients around the ideas of establishing and setting realistic boundaries around sober sex. I encourage and teach about intimacy and courtship.

My work as a therapist at Foundations San Diego integrates its program with the best of the Hillcrest neighborhood. We are a resource for the LGBT community. If you or someone you know needs help and has a willingness to change, please reach out to us. We are dedicated to helping you from the moment you call, and we welcome you to join the recovery journey. Our staff is top notch. After my first week at our facility, I recall coming home, thinking, “Everyone is in the perfect position for his or her talents and abilities. They all work together so nicely, and I’m blessed to be part of this organization.” If you want to meet people you can trust – people who understand where you are and how to help you move forward in life – consider coming to see us at Foundations San Diego. You are safe with us.

Patricia Bathurst, LMFT, is the director of Foundations San Diego, an outpatient recovery facility located in Hillcrest at 3930 Fourth Ave., Suite 301, San Diego, CA 92103. Ms. Bathurst is a certified advanced addiction counselor as well as a licensed marriage and family therapist. Questions for Pat? Contact Foundations San Diego at 619-321-1575.

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Letters Thu, 12 Nov 2015 20:26:07 +0000

New GOP embraces gays

Dear Editor:

As a dedicated reader of GLBT online newspapers, including yours, I’m amazed by how endlessly hateful and intolerant the reporting is on the Republican Party.

There is a new day for gay people in the GOP.

Consider this:

The Republican National Committee has removed all anti-gay planks from their 2016 national platform.

The lead attorney, who won the California and USSC cases that declared bans on same-sex marriages unconstitutional, was George W. Bush’s former evangelical right-wing Solicitor General Ted Olsen. Yet, Mr. Olsen’s name is never mentioned in the gay press.

GOP senators from Illinois, West Virginia, Ohio and New Hampshire, as well as the Koch brothers, signed amicus briefs to the USSC in support of gay marriage. So did over 300 other influential conservative Republicans, former cabinet members, and senior staffers to GOP senators and U.S. representatives, as well as those serving powerful Republican state legislators, according to Time magazine.

GOP Govs. Rick Snyder (MI) and Chris Christie (NJ) dropped their opposition to gay marriage. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman supported legal same-sex marriage. Tennessee Gov. and chair of the Republican Governors Association Bill Haslam, now supports marriage for us, and so does Gov. John Kasich of Ohio.

Sen. Rand Paul has advocated for estate rights for gay couples.

Tammy Bruce, an avowed lesbian and top ranked conservative talk show host for Los Angeles KABC-AM, is also the deputy editor of the conservative Washington Times, as well as a regular panel host for women of the televised Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

No GOP Congress has ever cut AIDS funding.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott selected an openly gay man as his chief economic development adviser. Mr. Scott also appointed the president of the Log Cabin Republicans of Miami to the Florida Commission on the Status of Women.

And Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner joined New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in banning conversion therapy.

When the light is shining in, the gay press should not keep their readers in the dark.



Orlando, Fla.

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San Diego election 2016 preview: mayor and city attorney Thu, 12 Nov 2015 20:26:04 +0000

Gretchen Newsom

With Election Day 2016 now less than a year away, it is time to take a break from presidential debate analysis and focus the next few columns on San Diego contests. In the past few weeks, new candidates have emerged in races that had been static for months. There will no doubt be a few minor additions to the slates, and perhaps a bombshell or two, but there is enough information to discuss the basic dynamics of most races. As in the past, I will use party affiliations though the races are technically non-partisan.

Mayor of San Diego

For most of 2015, it appeared that Mayor Faulconer would coast to a second term without significant opposition. Then Ocean Beach Town Council President Gretchen Newsom announced her candidacy. Newsom will need to increase her name recognition, but was labelled a “formidable challenger” by County Democratic Party Chair Francine Busby.

As or more significant than Newsom’s own campaign is the possibility that it will open the door for others. One of the alleged rationales for Democrats staying out of the race was that it would take at least two candidates to keep Faulconer from winning outright in the June primary. With Newsom in, will others reconsider their decision to stay out? A slate of candidates designed to engage various Democratic constituencies may be the best way to get someone through to the more progressive November electorate — a similar strategy got Stephen Whitburn to the general against Supervisor Ron Roberts in 2010. (Bombshell watch: Councilmember David Alvarez? Former Assemblymember Nathan Fletcher? Almost-mayor Donna Frye?)

Another wild-card is the fate of the Chargers. Voters who don’t want the city to pay for a new stadium shouldn’t take it out on the mayor when their team bolts, but they probably will. Candidates who were against public financing plans shouldn’t run on a “bring back the NFL platform,” but they can. Should the Chargers stay, the mayor probably deserves credit, but won’t get much. It’s totally unfair, but this is politics.

San Diego city attorney

When Faulconer was unopposed, the race for city attorney was shaping up as the top local contest for 2016. By summer 2015, the four major candidates had already announced: former Ethics Commission Chair Gil Cabrera, Port Commissioner Rafael Castellanos, Chief Deputy City Attorney Mara Elliott and Deputy District Attorney Robert Hickey.

As the lone Republican, Hickey has solidified his party’s support with endorsements from Mayor Faulconer and Councilmembers Zapf, Cate, Kersey and Sherman. Democratic Councilmembers are more split with Todd Gloria endorsing Cabrera, David Alvarez backing Castellanos and Marti Emerald supporting Mara Elliott. The Democratic dance will be interesting to watch in spring 2016, with the party wanting to ensure that a Democrat makes it to November and each candidate wanting to ensure that it is he or she. If recent revelations are any indication, this may be a battle of leaked opposition research.

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The City: Top to Bottom Thu, 12 Nov 2015 20:26:00 +0000

Zubin Mehta

thursday nov. 12

The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra

La Jolla Music Society opens the Celebrity Orchestra series with one of the world’s premier symphonic ensembles, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra lead by their music director, Maestro Zubin Mehta. The evening will feature A Journey to the End of the Millennium by the Georgian-born Israeli composer Josef Bardanashvili, Ravel’s La valse, poème chorégraphique and Beethoven’s grand and revolutionary Symphony No. 3, Eroica.

Civic Theatre, 1100 third Ave. in San Diego, 8 p.m., tickets from $30, 619-570-1100,

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

friday, nov. 13

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial: Film screening with live orchestra

Bring your entire family to this extraordinary live orchestra performance and screening of Steven Spielberg’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Filled with unparalleled magic and imagination, this heartwarming masterpiece is one of the brightest stars in motion picture history. The San Diego Symphony Orchestra performs John Williams’ entire Academy Award-winning score live while this beloved film is shown in HD on the big screen.

Copley Symphony Hall, 750 B Street in San Diego, 8 p.m., tickets from $20, 619-235-0804,

David Benoit

saturday, nov. 14

David Benoit

For three decades, the Grammy-nominated pianist/composer/ arranger David Benoit has reigned supreme as one the founding fathers of contemporary jazz. But, like an actor who has been known primarily for one role, he wanted to show other dimensions of his artistry, influenced by Stephen Sondheim, Burt Bacharach, Dave Grusin and Leonard Bernstein.

Humphreys Backstage Live, 2241 Shelter Island Drive in San Diego, 7:30 and 9:30 p.m., $33 cover, 619-224-3577,


sunday, nov. 15


Indecent is a world-premiere play with music inspired by the true events surrounding the controversial 1922 Broadway debut of God of Vengeance – a work considered by many to be a seminal work of Jewish culture, by others, a work of traitorous libel. Alive with popular songs of the era, this deeply-moving piece charts the history of an incendiary work, the artists who risked their careers and lives to perform it, and the evolving identity of the culturally-rich community that inspired its creation.

La Jolla Playhouse, Weiss Theatre, 2910 La Jolla Village Dr. in La Jolla, 8 p.m., tickets from $41, 858-550-1010,

Dallas Green City and Colour

monday, nov. 16

City and Colour

City and Colour is the recording alias for Canadian singer-songwriter Dallas Green. He plays melodic acoustic and folk music and is often accompanied by a rotating number of Canadian indie rock musicians, such as Daniel Romano and Spencer Burton.

House of Blues San Diego, 1055 Fifth Ave. in San Diego, 7 p.m., tickets from $91, 619-299-2583,

James Hubbell. Untitled, 2004

tuesday, nov. 17

James Hubbell: California Wildfire Watercolors

Artist and architect James Hubbell has been a creative force in Southern California since the 1950s. An accomplished artist whose work can be seen internationally, Hubbell moved to California in 1958, and began building the home that he and his wife still occupy near Julian. Hubbell’s influence on the artistic culture of San Diego transcends his work as a painter, sculptor and designer. For Hubbell, all art is dynamic: a passionate engagement with life and nature.

The San Diego Museum of Art, 1450 El Prado in Balboa Park, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., adult admission $12, 619-232-7931,

San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival

wednesday, nov. 18

San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival

As one of the largest wine and food festivals in the nation, the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival has helped shine the light on San Diego’s thriving food scene. The magnitude of culinary talent in San Diego combined with an international showcase of the world’s premiere wines and spirits, and the nation’s trendsetting culinary masters, makes attendance at the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival a mouthwatering feast and precursor to the Thanksgiving holiday. Through Nov. 22.

Embarcadero Marina Park North, 400 Kettner Blvd. in San Diego, for more information on events and tickets visit

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Keeping the names of those killed due to anti-trans hate takes a toll Thu, 12 Nov 2015 20:25:59 +0000

Gwen Smith

Every Nov. 20, here in San Diego we memorialize those people who’ve been killed due to anti-transgender hate. The day we do this is called the International Transgender Day of Remembrance, often referred to by the acronym TDOR.

Originally, the list of the dead was Americentric as Gwen Smith, who is credited with beginning that day of memorial and the starting of the list of the transgender dead, began by combing newspaper archives across the U.S. for murdered transgender people. Within a few years, people began finding murders of transgender people in other countries, as well as people who were killed for gender nonconformity – especially in English language news publications. The list began to be international.

Then, transgender people in other nations began holding TDORs, and began submitting names from their nations to the list Gwen started.

Maintaining the list takes an emotional toll; however, and after a few years of maintaining the original, official list Gwen passed the maintaining of the list to Ethan St. Pierre, who assisted Gwen with the list. Not only is Ethan a trans man, but he has a transgender aunt on the list. For him, maintaining the list had immense, personal importance.

Ethan too felt that emotional toll after a number of years maintaining the list, and four years ago he passed the maintenance of the list to Marti Abernathey, who was at that point assisting Ethan with the list. The official list is currently maintained on

“People would ask me ‘How do you decide what goes in and what doesn’t?’ Part of it definitely is, you know, because of the brutality,” Marti said in an LGBT Weekly interview with me. “Part of it is because the crimes are so horrific.”

“That’s just part of it, but it’s a component. It’s not something that’s easy to do,” she added referring to maintaining the list.

I asked Marti how she could maintain the list. “I’ve been conditioned to do this in a way. I’ve worked in healthcare for going on a quarter century, and there’s a similarity between the trauma and finding ways to cope with it that aren’t destructive.”

TDORs, as time went on, began being held in countries outside of the United States. And, with those names came stories that weren’t in English, and weren’t necessarily in keeping with the original framework of what names were to be recorded.

And as time has gone on, a number of trans people have wanted to expand the scope of the list.

“I kind of try to stick to the framework that Gwen and Ethan followed,” Marti said. “People who record names will include domestic violence and suicides, and generally we don’t include either. I feel, let me put it to you this way, I see both sides in inclusion and not inclusion, but when I think of why the list was started and why it’s needed today, it’s still to me … there’s a difference between someone who takes their own life because of discrimination and someone who was simply murdered because they were living their life and their lives were taken.

“I frequently get emails from people who say ‘This person should be on the list,’ and generally what I’ll say is ‘If that’s what you think, this is just a list. You can add to it or subtract to your event as you see fit.’ I’m just trying to get through [maintaining the list] in the framework of the original intent.

“When this started, you have to think about the people who were being murdered – Rita Hester and Channel Picket. These were people who were murdered and no one cared. I think you can go to the Web site, and I believe you can see Gwen saying she just wanted somebody to remember them.”

In other words, both kinds of deaths are significant. Which deaths of those killed by anti-transgender hate and violence we memorialize Nov. 20 each year locally is subject to local discussion.

Marti wants to pass the list to a group of people to maintain it. “People think it’s some organization maintaining the list, but right now it’s just me.

“This year has been really busy. Next year my hope is to get The TransAdvocate and TDOR incorporated. I have some ideas about TDOR – my goal for this is for this to be my last year of doing the name collection. That would be my hope and that we could find of a team of … well, a majority [of the names on the list] are people of color. And, everyone who’s maintained the list so far has been Caucasian. But that may be a hard dream to make happen.

“To be honest with you,” Marti added, “I’ll let you in on a secret. Nobody wants to do this. I’ve put out calls multiple times asking people for help, but … I don’t blame them.”

Keeping the names of those killed due to anti-transgender hate takes a toll.

Personally, I used to archive news for transgendernews, but I had to stop after being one who had to forward names of the dead to the TDOR list. I used to participate in organizing the TDOR memorial events in San Diego, but it eventually became too hard to do year after year. It takes a toll.

I can only hope Marti finds a group of people, incorporated under the TransAdvocate/ TDOR collaboration, to maintain the list. I hope too it will include people of color, and I hope the people will rotate through so that none will become too overwhelmed with the burdens of maintaining the list.

But the transgender community needs to know that the list of the dead we read each year isn’t maintained by robots, or even a group of trans people. The official list of the dead is maintained by just one woman. That’s an awful lot of burden for just one woman to carry for the entire trans community.

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The power in your words Thu, 12 Nov 2015 20:25:57 +0000


As a progressive Christian, I believe there are many names for God and many ways to a loving God; this article reflects one of those ways. Take from here what works for you. Celebrate life with joy and peace!

How many of you played on some sort of little league when you were a kid? Picture Sally as a little girl in her backyard going out to practice with a baseball bat and a ball.

Sally says to herself, “I am the best hitter in the world!” Then she throws the ball up in the air and takes a swing at it, but she misses. Without a moment’s hesitation, she picks up the ball and tosses it in the air again, saying as she swings the bat, “I’m the best hitter in the world!” She swings and she misses. Strike two.

She tosses the ball up again, concentrating more intensely, even more determined, saying, “I’m the best hitter in the world!” She swings the bat with all her might. Whiff! Strike three!

Then Sally lays down her bat and smiles real big. “What do you know? I’m the best pitcher in the world!”

Now that’s a great attitude! Sometimes you simply have to choose to see the bright side of situations. When things don’t work out as you planned, rather than complaining, look for something good in your circumstances. Fill your mind with good thoughts.

In Proverbs we read, “As a person thinks in their heart, so they will become.”

When you think positive, excellent thoughts, you will be propelled toward greatness and blessing. We are reminded in Colossians to set our mind on the things which are above.

Notice there is something for us to do; we must continually choose, day in and day out, 24 hours a day, to keep our minds set on the higher things.

In our reading today, the writer to the church in Philippi gives us a great list where we can evaluate our thoughts: “Whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue, if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate (think) on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

Living your best life now, based on the book by Rev. Joel Osteen, talks about discovering the power of our thoughts and words.

Our thoughts determine our actions, attitude and self-image. Almost like a magnet, we attract what we constantly think about. If you’re thinking positive happy, joyful thoughts, you’re going to be a positive, joyful person, and you’ll attract other happy, upbeat, positive people into your life.

If you’re sick, admit it, but keep your thoughts on your healing. If your body is tired and your spirit is weary, that happens to all of us. Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is to get some rest. And focus your thoughts on the promise that “Those who wait on God shall renew their strength!”

I gently remind you, guard against negative attitudes infecting your thinking! Stay focused on the positive things in life.

Romans 12 reminds us that we can be transformed by the renewing of our mind. If you will transform your mind, you will transform your life.

There is power in your words. Many times our words become self-fulfilling prophecies. That’s why we need to be extremely careful of what we think and especially careful about what we say.

Our words have tremendous power and whether we want to or not, we will give life to what we’re saying, either good or bad.

Remember The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz? Agreement #1: Be impeccable with your word. Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the power of your word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

Words are like seeds. By speaking them out loud, they are planted in our subconscious, and they take on a life of their own; they take root, grow and produce fruit of the same kind.

If you are struggling with negative thinking about yourself or your situation, I encourage you to go overboard in speaking positive, faith-filled words about your life. Sometimes you have to “fake it ‘til you make it!”

Get up each morning and look in the mirror and say, “I am valuable. I am loved. God has a great plan for my life. I have favor wherever I go. God’s blessings are mine. I’m excited about my future!”

Try it! What do you have to lose? Try it, and see that there truly is power in your words.

I’d like to speak words of declaration in your life.

I declare that you are blessed with God’s supernatural wisdom, and you have a clear direction in your life.

I declare that you are blessed with creativity, with courage, with ability and with abundance.

I declare that you are blessed with a strong will and with self-discipline.

I declare that you are blessed with a great family (either of origin or choice), with good friends, with good health, with faith and favor.

I declare that you are blessed with success and divine protection.

I declare that you are blessed with a positive outlook on life.

I declare that any negative word that has ever been spoken against you is broken right now!

I declare that you are blessed!

Let these words sink deeply into your spirit and become a reality in your life. And so it is. Amen.

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Firefighters who yelled anti-gay slurs end long-running case with misdemeanor battery Thu, 12 Nov 2015 20:15:26 +0000

The long-running felony case against three San Diego firefighters ended Monday with their guilty pleas to misdemeanor battery of an intoxicated person in 2012 in Normal Heights.

Two brothers who were somewhat intoxicated yelled anti-gay epithets to the off-duty firefighters who also responded with anti-gay slurs even though none of them are gay. It was apparently part of their insult repertoire. The firefighters had also been drinking.

The guilty pleas by Vadid Cisneros, 40, Andrew Brennen, 33, and Gregory Econie, 29, occurred just as their trial was about to start which attorneys had estimated would have lasted 4-6 weeks. The preliminary hearing in 2013 took eight days.

Felony charges of assault, robbery, making a criminal threat and dissuading a witness from testifying were all dismissed by San Diego Judge Michael Smyth after they all pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery.

A felony conviction could have resulted in the loss of their jobs, but attorneys for two firefighters said Monday night they hoped they would be able to keep their jobs. Cisneros is a 15-year veteran, while Brennen has been a firefighter for 14 years and Econie eight years.

Smyth placed the trio on three years probation, and ordered them all to perform 100 hours of volunteer work at a nonprofit organization. They were each fined $655 and given credit for one day in jail spent Feb. 26, 2012.

“Bike fag” was one slur yelled several times along with “faggot” and “bitches,” among others, according to testimony.

Deputy District Attorney Michael Runyon said the guilty pleas were accepted because one of two brothers who were injured had died and his testimony from 2013 would have had to be read back. Defense attorneys had filed a motion seeking to bar the testimony of the late Willie Martinez, 49, from the trial.

Willie Martinez had a fatal heart attack in August, 2014. He had also testified he had used methamphetamine when he encountered the firefighters that night.

“It made a challenging case more so,” said Runyon about the death.

As a probation condition, the firefighters were ordered to stay away from Luis Martinez, the other victim who said his face was bloodied. He said he suffered a concussion and broken ankle.

Ironically, Brennen was part of a paramedic unit that responded to a call about Willie Martinez’s death. His attorney, Gretchen von Helms, said Martinez was already dead when the firefighters pulled up, calling it “a weird twist of fate.”

The robbery stemmed from the firefighters taking identifying items from Martinez’s wallet and keeping them in order to show police who he was. The charge was initially dismissed and reinstated.

“This case was overcharged from the get-go,” said attorney Gretchen von Helms, who represents Brennen, Monday night. “Our guys got kind of beaten up. They defended themselves.”

“I certainly hope the fire department would recognize the valuable (work) by these firefighters,” said von Helms. “I believe the city realizes how valuable these employees are.”

“The District Attorney came to the realization this was an appropriate resolution,” said von Helms.

Judge Fred Link, who heard the preliminary hearing, said at the end that both sides engaged in “mutual combat.”

Attorneys showed Smyth a packet of 75 supporting letters from other firefighters and people in the community. They all work in different fire stations and were free on their own recognizance.

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