The power of free speech

I love Super Bowl Sunday. And not for the game itself. Or the parties. Or the commercials. But it’s a wonderful to actually be able to get a table with an outlet at whichever coffee shop your heart desires on State Street.

So, I’m taking advantage of this rare opportunity by stepping back for a moment and acknowledging the privilege that I am taking advantage of by publishing this blog. Over 200 years ago, our forefathers codified into this nation to a series of unalienable rights, including the freedom for all to speak without risk of government intervention, welcoming (at least in theory) differing opinions and views: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Our nation experiences such a degree of freedom that Tori Amos can go on a diva-rant about what a twat-hater the writer of Britney Spears’ Toxic is, in this November 2007 Blender.com interview. (As a sidebar: I would have to agree with her reasoning here. I mean, toxic shock syndrome is nothing to toy around with.)

As Americans, we eat this stuff up. It’s suddenly front-page news with Diane Keaton says “fuck” on Good Morning America, Amy Winehouse snorts up, or Brit-Brit continues her near-tragic plight — all of which I have, for the most part avoided covering in this blog. Granted, I am not innocent from feeling a certain degree of curiosity with these events, but in many ways, I am distubed to see what democracy has created in this country.

This is far from the case in other nations.

In China, blogger-activist Hu Jia was arrested in December for “subverting state power,” joining the ranks of at least 50 other online dissidents. His wife and two-month-old daughter have now been placed under house arrest and barred from accessing the Internet. Similarly, in Havana, Cuba, Yoani Sanchez continues to blog about life under stifling communist rule, using Internet cafes, alias and disguises in order to skirt the surveillance efforts of their government. And why does she continue to do it, constantly risking arrest, or perhaps even her life?

Yoani Sanchez, blogging from her Havana, Cuba apartment.

“The latest reflections of Fidel Castro have ended my patience,” Sanchez wrote on her blog, ‘Generacion Y’. “To try to evade or distance oneself from our problems and theorize about things that occurred thousands of kilometers away, or many years ago, is to multiply by zero the demands of a population that is tired, disenchanted and in need today of measures that alleviate its precariousness.”

The written word still has incredible power. Let’s not take that power for granted. It has the power to inform, to persuade and maybe even the power to change. Complacency? Apathy? Defeated. Let’s give the generations to follow something to talk about.

Download: Rage Against the Machine ‘Calm Like a Bomb’

Don’t you know that you’re toxic?

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As I’m sure you are all aware, Britney Spears has started out 2008 as the focus of much controversy, due to a chaos-filled child-handoff with K-Fed last Wednesday evening that culminated in Spears being wrestled into the back of an ambulance to spend two nights under observation at LA’s Cedar-Sinai Medical Center. Having tested negative for illegal drugs and alcohol, Spears checked herself out of the hospital on Saturday. No one seems to know at this point what caused the complete breakdown of the teen-star-turned-trailer-mama-slut, with hypotheses ranging from People Magazine’s Britney’s Bipolar Theory to the well-known Selfish Diva Theory.

When it comes down to it, I honestly couldn’t care one way or another about what “caused” Spears’ apparent meltdown. What really concerns me about the whole situation is rarely being discussed in any of the zillions of articles that have sprang up across the Internet on the incident: How the hell are those damn kids supposed to have any shot at this point to become well-adjusted adults at any point in the future? Brit-Brit has completely fucked these kids over, and even though her custody has been completely taken away, the damage has already been done. Not letting Spears see her children is likely going to cause them more harm than good, though it could be the lesser of two evils, given that it would allow for the kids to be distanced from the traveling tabloid military that have been hounding Spears for years.

I enjoy celebrity gossip as much as the next gay boy, but enough is enough. Hollywood wannabes: Give this girl some space and let her sort this stuff out — she is clearly on the brink of sheer insanity.

In other news, Brit-Brit popped up in an unexpected place, at the sold-out Dresden Dolls concert at the Vic Theatre that I was lucky enough to attend on Saturday night. Prior to the fantastic show, which included a number of new songs in addition to fabulous standards (‘Coin-Operated Boy’, ‘Missed Me’, ‘Girl Anachronism’) all performed with unbridled panache, a troupe of interpretive dancers took to the stage to perform a three-minute dance telling the story of Romeo and Juliet. Nothing too groundbreaking, I suppose — except that they were both lesbians. And performed to ‘Toxic.’ Check out the video below.

The show was just one of many highlights from a fantastic weekend adventure in Chicago. Sylvia and I started Saturday on Michigan Avenue, so that I could stock up on underoos from H&M, and before long, we made it up to Lakeview, the site of the night’s show and the center of Boystown. Even though I had one too many vodka tonics at Roscoe’s, the night taken as a whole was incredible, and I’m looking forward to my August move now more than ever. Sunday morning, we traveled up the Red Line for brunch at an adorable restaurant in Andersonville, where I ate the best crepe EVER — filled with caramelized onions and feta cheese.