Master of HIS domain

Ben Starr, the recently out Dallas cheftestant on Fox’s ‘MasterChef,’ camps it up on Gordon Ramsay’s cooking competition series

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

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MASTERCHEF
Airs Tuesdays on Fox (Ch. 4) at 8 p.m.

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When Lewisville-based travel writer Ben Starr auditioned for Fox’s MasterChef, he doubted they’d be interested in his style of home cooking. But not only did he make the cut, he’s been one of the more memorable cheftestants — just this week, he had the judge’s favorite dish.

The series is only halfway through, but for Starr, it’s already made a huge difference in his life: It forced him to come out to his parents just last month. We talked to him about the experience and his favorite meals.

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You’ve been struggling since you wowed the judges at your audition. The audition kinda set me up to expect that I would do well in the competition, but we spun pretty quickly into an emphasis on gourmet cuisine, which is not my thing at all. My street tacos were a little bit spiffy, and I am extremely well traveled, but I tend to eat peasant food even when I travel. I was seeing all these people around me making restaurant quality cuisine and trying to compete on their level. Nice to make a good ol’ catfish in a skillet.

What was the hardest challenge for you? The biggest challenge has definitely been psychological. I’m competitive by nature and I want to feel like I’m competition, but I was surrounded by chefs that were a little more connected to the Food Network that I am. They’d use words like umami [a Japanese word for a savory flavor] and I had to go look it up. There was a common lexicon among the contestants about what these famous chefs I’ve never heard of are doing in their restaurants. I felt like an idiot stumbling around in the dark. That started to leak into my cooking and I began to question, “Is this sophisticated enough? Is this even sophisticated?” The episode this week was a turning point. I felt like for the first time I’m back in my own element.

You certainly have made an impression with your outfits. I don’t wear those hats at home, though I do wear an apron, just for practicality. But [the show] has started this storytelling legacy — people expect me to wear them when they come over. My mom made me the pumpkin hat and apron. Actually, she made me five or six pairs to wear. That’s why you always see a different one on me each episode. I was going through them.

Was wearing them part of a conscious effort to stand during the auditions? I am fairly myself, though I had to set myself apart that wasn’t just about food. I needed to be someone [the judges] remember when they go home at night. That’s why I talked about my rural upbringing, because I thought it would generate a memory.

Had you watched the show before? Did you know what to expect? I don’t watch much TV, but this is not my first time being on TV, which is ironic because I abhor reality television —it brings out the worst in our culture. But I did Rachael Ray’s So You Think You Can Cook in 2007. The audience there was much more caring and nurturing than the machine on MasterChef, but I was a little bit prepared for the frank judgment.

I did not watch the first season of MasterChef, but my friend Karen Rutherford said, “I’ll never speak to you again if you don’t audition [for season 2].” So I watched them all on Hulu. I just sweated my way through them. I knew how intense and stressful it is to cook on TV, and saw how brutal Joe Bastianich and Gordon Ramsay were with the contestants. I thought: Screw this. Then a few weeks passed and the terror faded [and I went through the lengthy audition process]. It was a lot of work — the most difficult full-time job I’ve ever had that doesn’t pay.

What’s your favorite kind of cuisine? While my DNA wants to say Mexican food — I had it in the womb six times a week — I am most intrigued by Thai food. It is so complex, yet so much of it is cooked on the street in a tiny little cart. From the richest to the poorest, everybody eats on the street.

How about a favorite meal? One of the most memorable meals I’ve ever had was in Egypt on New Year’s Eve in 2001. I spent it on Mount Sinai and hiked eight miles back down to the car for the drive back to our resort. [The driver] fell asleep at the wheel and we plummeted into a canyon. Eventually a camel train of Bedouins came by the bottom of this canyon. They took us onto the camels and rode four or five miles to their camp. All the women came out, killed a goat and started cooking while the men tried to pull our car out of the canyon.

It was a humble meal — just a goat stew and some flat bread — but the flavors were really intense and felt they came right out of the desert. I could not even communicate with these people who live in abject poverty, but still they were willing to kill one of their last goats and throw a big feast for us because it’s in their nature to be hospitable. I realized it was important to me to use food to nurture people in my life — I could never be a chef and be in the back. I need to be with the people. My partner is one of the main reasons I cook — we’ve been together eight years and I want to marry him one day.

Did you plan to be “the gay guy” on the show? When I was on [Rachael Ray] it was not addressed and I didn’t talk about it openly. At that point my family didn’t know I was gay — in fact, I didn’t come out to my parents until about five weeks ago. They were totally shell-shocked — they didn’t have a clue.

Maybe mom should have guessed since she made you all those hats. Ha! Maybe.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 8, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Starvoice • 05.27.11

By Jack Fertig

CELEBRITY BIRTHDAY

Heidi Klum turns 38 on Wednesday. The model turned TV host and producer changed the way we look at the fashion world with her very popular Project Runway. Because of the show, some gay designers have gone to be stars of their own like Austin Scarlett, Santino Rice and season four winner Christian Siriano. A Runway all-stars is apparently in the works.

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THIS WEEK

Mercury squaring Neptune in Pisces while entering Gemini inflates wonderfully imaginative notions. Jupiter entering Taurus could ground them and find profitable applications. Jupiter in Taurus for the next year should_ be good for the economy. It will be good for bankers at least.

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GEMINI May 21-Jun 20
Get creative. You have big challenges in the next year. Your intuition is now unusually sharp to see how you can turn those into opportunities. Spiritual guidance can be especially helpful now.

CANCER Jun 21-Jul 22
Dreams lure you too easily into never-never-lands of fantasy and escape. Sharing some of those phantasmagorical reveries with friends can help you find some practical outlet for them.

LEO Jul 23-Aug 22
Remember the difference between dreams and goals. Friends encouraging you to chase after your dreams offer helpful inspiration, but don’t let them distract you from practical aims.

VIRGO Aug 23-Sep 22
Your brain is buzzing with schemes for success. Your partner encourages all your wildest ideas. Not. You need a leveler head with a bit of critical distance to give you pragmatic advice.

LIBRA Sep 23-Oct 22
Expansive, fortunate Jupiter is starting a year in your house of sex. The deeper you go the greater the rewards. Don’t be shy. Neither is without risks, but Jupiter is good to have on your side.

SCORPIO Oct 23-Nov 21
You and your sweetie are due for some frolic. That could open up some questions and confusion. Keeping communications clear is a small challenge. The rewards are well worth it.

SAGITTARIUS Nov 22-Dec 20
Job opportunities open up for you. Have faith in yourself. If familial encouragement is unrealistic, don’t worry about letting them down for what’s in the real world. If you’re happy, they are too.

CAPRICORN Dec 21-Jan 19
You’re way too open to distractions and thus, accidents. Mediation, poetry, music or art will get you back in balance. Take classes in any of those . You need new ways of seeing the world.

AQUARIUS Jan 20-Feb 18
Struggle between your deepest desires and economic necessity feels brutal. A light, playful conversation with your partner  can help you find a way to afford your dreams, or find reconciliation.

PISCES Feb 19-Mar 19
Whatever you have to offer, make it heard and known. Your family will back you up in your endeavors, but you really need to be very clear on who you are and what it is you’ve got.
ARIES  Mar 20-Apr 19
Your recent lucky spree will focus more on financial fortune. Mad dreams and inspirations offer some clues. Talk out your crazy notions with friends and find a way to bring them to the bank.

TAURUS Apr 20-May 20
Recent hard times turn around. Cash in on your good fortune. Turn your friends’ suggestions into practical ideas. Inspirations now point the way to future fulfillment of your dreams.

Jack Fertig can be reached at 415-864-8302 or Starjack.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 27, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

PHOTO: Sen. Reid returns West Point ring to Lt. Dan Choi

Update From Autumn: Video from Senate Democrats that folows a timeline: From Dan Choi giving Sen. Harry Reid his West Point class ring at Netroots Nation to keep until DADT was repealed — to video from today when the ring was returned to Lt. Choi.




Hard not to get emotional about this. Via Sen. Reid’s Twitpic account:


Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  admin

Obama: ‘At This Point’ He’s Ready To Let Gays Die For America, But Not Marry

Barack Obama said yesterday, before signing the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, that he was "not going to make more news" by trumping this week's big gay news by stating he was suddenly going to back same-sex marriage, an issue on which he's said his views are "evolving." Asked about that position again at Wednesday's post-repeal presser, Obama repeated that his "feelings are constantly evolving" — but still believes is between a man and a woman. Which means, for the time being, Obama publicly supports gay men and women who want to die for their county, but not gay men and women who want to marry the ones they love.


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Queerty

—  admin

Nice try, Thomas Peters. But you’re only highlighting Sullivan’s point

Catholic blogger Thomas Peters is accusing Andrew Sullivan of being disingenuous. But in truth, it’s Peters who’s far more clearly bending toward the side of deliberate deception in order to provide cover for crude Catholic condemnations.

Let’s begin here: The following is how Peters quotes an exchange had by Sullivan and Maggie Gallagher at Wednesday night’s debate on same-sex marriage:

Sullivan: In a 1986 letter the current pope wrote [as Cardinal Ratzinger] he said that we should not be surprised – I’m paraphrasing – we should not be surprised that violence is waged against homosexuals given their desire to change society to conform to what they believe, one of the consequences – unfortunate consequences nonetheless of the push for gay equality will be violence against gay people. Which I felt and I think most normal readers of that sentence would agree was a kind of warning that if we do start standing up for ourselves we deserve violence.

Maggie Gallagher: I’m sure that wasn’t what was meant. I don’t know the sentence so we’ll have to go and get the quote if we want to debate that.

Andrew Sullivan: Well, you can find it but it was definitely at the time very disturbing to hear.

One of Sullivan’s lies about the pope [Catholic Vote]

Okay, so Sullivan’s paraphrase charges the current Pope of once claiming that an increase of gay rights will lead to an increase in violence. Sullivan also admits that the Pope saw these supposed consequences as unfortunate, but saw them as consequences nonetheless. So that’s what Andrew, from his admittedly incomplete memory, put on the table. That’s exactly what a paraphrase is: A summation with a built-in caveat that there is more “there” there.

But Peters is all kinds of fed up, saying that Sullivan trafficked in “deliberate misrepresentation of the Church’s position,” and was bent on “maligning the Church” of which Andrew is a part. And to “prove” Sullivan wrong, Peters hauls out the 1986 letter (titled “On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons“) and presents a verbatim transcript of the claims in question:

RATZINGER WROTE: 10. It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church’s pastors wherever it occurs. It reveals a kind of disregard for others which endangers the most fundamental principles of a healthy society. The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law.

But the proper reaction to crimes committed against homosexual persons should not be to claim that the homosexual condition is not disordered. When such a claim is made and when homosexual activity is consequently condoned, or when civil legislation is introduced to protect behavior to which no one has any conceivable right, neither the Church nor society at large should be surprised when other distorted notions and practices gain ground, and irrational and violent reactions increase.

One of Sullivan’s lies about the pope [Catholic Vote]

Peters then goes on to further accuse Sullivan of lies and misrepresentations and oversights, even going so far as to say that Andrew “owes Catholics and everyone an apology”:

Notice, especially, the fact that Sullivan completely avoids any mention of Cardinal Ratzinger’s strong and unequivocal condemnation of all violence against homosexual persons. There cannot be any doubt about the fact that Ratzinger is a model of respect, someone who upholds the dignity and rights of all persons, regardless of their orientation.

Sullivan read what Cardinal Ratzinger wrote and now goes around claiming that the cardinal said, “gays deserve violence.” Nothing, nothing, could be farther from the truth.

Sullivan owes Catholics and everyone an apology. Why?

Because he wasn’t paraphrasing, he was deliberately misrepresenting the Church.

One of Sullivan’s lies about the pope [Catholic Vote]

Peters’ outrage is certainly novel. But now go back and read what Andrew claimed versus what the Pope actually said when he was but a Cardinal. Yes, Ratzinger deplored the violence, Popeand Andrew, in his paraphrase, hinted to as much when he alluded to the Pope’s belief that the supposed consequences would be unfortunate. But Ratzinger absolutely did say that violence would increase, and the then-Cardinal directly laid that violence at the feet of gay activists rather than those who might actually bring the brutality to bear!

And actually, it’s not just motivated gay activists who the Pope blamed, but rather anyone who makes a “claim that the homosexual condition is not disordered,” condones their homosexual neighbor, or drafts/passes/supports legislation granting basic civil rights to LGBT people (what with their “distorted notions and practices” and all). Translation: Standing up for gay people’s worth as part of human principle will lead to a natural flow of violent behavior. If anything, Ratzinger’s actual words went even further than Andrew remembered! Because while he didn’t explicitly say that the violence was deserved (and this writer personally wouldn’t use the word “deserved” in describing it), it’s plain to see that Ratzinger did paint extreme aggression as the earned effect of the inclusive human rights cause!

Then if one goes the next step and pulls out some other pertinent passages from this same Pope John Paul era document, he or she will see even more offense. “Intrinsic moral evil.” “Objective disorder.” A “condition” that’s not a “morally acceptable option.” “Contrary to the creative wisdom of God.” An “evil” that should be converted or abandoned with the help of “God’s liberating grace.” Those are just some of the notions that Ratzinger circa 1986 wanted (and presumably still wants) people to support, so as to stave off “irrational and violent reactions“:



Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.

Therefore special concern and pastoral attention should be directed toward those who have this condition, lest they be led to believe that the living out of this orientation in homosexual activity is a morally acceptable option. It is not.



As in every moral disorder, homosexual activity prevents one’s own fulfillment and happiness by acting contrary to the creative wisdom of God. The Church, in rejecting erroneous opinions regarding homosexuality, does not limit but rather defends personal freedom and dignity realistically and authentically understood.



It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church’s pastors wherever it occurs. It reveals a kind of disregard for others which endangers the most fundamental principles of a healthy society. The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law.

But the proper reaction to crimes committed against homosexual persons should not be to claim that the homosexual condition is not disordered. When such a claim is made and when homosexual activity is consequently condoned, or when civil legislation is introduced to protect behavior to which no one has any conceivable right, neither the Church nor society at large should be surprised when other distorted notions and practices gain ground, and irrational and violent reactions increase.



It has been argued that the homosexual orientation in certain cases is not the result of deliberate choice; and so the homosexual person would then have no choice but to behave in a homosexual fashion. Lacking freedom, such a person, even if engaged in homosexual activity, would not be culpable.

Here, the Church’s wise moral tradition is necessary since it warns against generalizations in judging individual cases. In fact, circumstances may exist, or may have existed in the past, which would reduce or remove the culpability of the individual in a given instance; or other circumstances may increase it. What is at all costs to be avoided is the unfounded and demeaning assumption that the sexual behaviour of homosexual persons is always and totally compulsive and therefore inculpable. What is essential is that the fundamental liberty which characterizes the human person and gives him his dignity be recognized as belonging to the homosexual person as well. As in every conversion from evil, the abandonment of homosexual activity will require a profound collaboration of the individual with God’s liberating grace.

LETTER TO THE BISHOPS OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH ON THE PASTORAL CARE OF HOMOSEXUAL PERSONS [Vatican]

So yeah, okay: Thomas Peters can support this 1986 document all he wants. The National Organization can support Peters with however many links they want to offer. But it is simply undeniable that this document was hellbent on painting self-accepting gays as completely outside of God’s purview, and laying more responsibility for potential violence at the feet of those same gay people who are being shunned by this document, not those who might see the document’s crude language as giving them a godly pass to turn hostile words into hostile action.

They can support it — they just need to own it! Just like Andrew has had to own it and look past it in order to reconcile his faith commitment with his church’s faithful commitment to driving him away.




Good As You

—  admin

Will West Point Take Lesbian Cadet Katherine Miller Back If DADT Is Repealed?

Katherine Miller, the lesbian West Point cadet who quit in August over Don't Ask Don't Tell just one week before she would have to sign on to two more years at the academy and five years of military service, found life back home in Ohio was also a pretty miserable experience. So now she wants back into the military. If Congress successfully repeals the law that forced her to lie to brass, she's ready to serve her country. I guess the only question, then, is whether West Point wants her back.


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Queerty

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Lesbian Cadet Wants Back Into West Point

KATHERINE MILLER X390 (POINT) | ADVOCATE.COMKatherine Miller, a top 10–ranked West Point cadet who resigned earlier
this year after deciding a life in the closet was not for her, says she
is now trying to get back into the military.
Advocate.com: Daily News

—  admin

Katherine Miller, Lesbian West Point Cadet, Can’t Go Home Again

I was shocked that I didn't receive more support than that from my hometown. I think the Findlay area has been especially harsh on me – just really wary of what my intentions were. These are the people I spent most of my childhood growing up with … so I was hoping that Findlay would be able to accept me as one of their own and to support me in this. But I ended up getting some of my toughest critics from my hometown, and that personally disturbed me.

—Katherine Miller, the West Point cadet who quit over Don't Ask Don't Tell, saying the only place she didn't find an outpouring of support was from her hometown, where she graduated from high school just two years ago [via]


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Queerty

—  John Wright

West Point Cadet Let Down by Hometown

KATHERINE MILLER X390 (POINT) | ADVOCATE.COMFormer West Point cadet Katie Miller said that she is surprised by the lack of support for her coming out from her Ohio hometown.
Advocate.com: Daily News

—  John Wright

Liveblog tonight at 7:30 PM ET: former West Point Cadet Katherine Miller

PHB live chat link: http://tinyurl.com/phbmiller

We’re pleased to bring former West Point Cadet Katherine Miller to the Blend for a liveblog. Miller resigned last week, stating that she was unwilling to ‘compromise her Integrity’ under the discriminatory policy of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

In her resignation letter, she cites the kinds of experiences she is unwilling to continue to endure:

I have created a heterosexual dating history to recite to fellow cadets when they inquire. I have endured unwanted approaches by male cadets for fear of being accused as a lesbian by rejecting or reporting these events. I have been coerced into ignoring derogatory comments towards homosexuals for fear of being alienated for my viewpoint.  In short, I have lied to my classmates and compromised my integrity and my identity by adhering to existing military policy.

While at the academy, I have made a deliberate effort to develop myself academically, physically, and militarily, but in terms of holistic personal growth I have reached a plateau. I am unwilling to suppress an entire portion of my identity any longer because it has taken a significant personal, mental, and social toll on me and detrimentally affected my professional development. I have experienced a relentless cognitive dissonance by attempting to adhere to ?654 [colloquially known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"] and retain my integrity, and I am retrospectively convinced that I am unable to live up to the Army Values as long as the policy remains in place.

Miller will be transferring to Yale University this fall on a Point Foundation Scholarship.

Here is a video of Miller discussing her decision to resign from West Point:

While at West Point Miller blogged under the pseudonym Private Second Class Citizen at Velvetpark. Check out a snippet below the fold.
Miller:

I kept busy by applying to other colleges and applying for LGBTQ scholarships. The one I pursued particularly aggressively required me to submit letters of recommendation within a week of being notified as a semifinalist. I saw the word “congratulations” in my inbox, confirmed my assumptions with a glance at the email, and picked up my hat and gloves before I headed out of my barracks room. I didn’t even have to think about it; I couldn’t pursue my activism any longer without help.

Five minutes later I rushed haphazardly into my professor’s office. I was sweating in my shiny, plastic Chorofram shoes, and after feeling my pulse my throat I became aware of how tight my collar was around my neck. “Ma’am, do you have a second,” as I closed her office door behind me, consciously worsening the stuffiness in the room and in my heavy wool uniform. Without waiting for a response, I seated myself. “Ma’am I’m transferring next semester. And I need a leader of recommendation in three days. For a scholarship for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students.”

“So does that mean you’re-?”

“Yes.”

“And you’re leaving because of Don’t Ask, Don’t-”

“Yes.”

She studied me for a second, asked a series of questions for clarification, and agreed to write me a letter of recommendation.

As soon as I was out of her sight, I did a little Jersey Shore fist pump in the air.

We hope to have a lively discussion about West Point, t he atmosphere there and Miller’s decision to come out.



Thanks to Sue Fulton at Knights Out for partnering with us this evening.
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  John Wright