Saturday, October 17, 2009

National Zoo

On the morning before I was to leave, I decided to visit the Smithsonian National Zoological Park. It was nearby and FREE! Plus, I had been visiting zoos every place else in the world! So, why not in Washington, DC? It was only one stop away on the Metro.

To my mind, what makes the National Zoo famous is the pandas! Now, since the birth of Tai Shan, there are three pandas. I have no idea who is who so I just numbered them 1 through 3. They were all housed separately when I visited. It is quite exciting to see them in person and each one drew a crowd of their own.

Panda 1
After taking ten shots of this one eating at a distance, he got up and moved closer!!!
Then he sat back down and resumed eating.

Panda 1

This panda was comtemplating.

Panda 2

And this panda never moved at all.

Panda 3

The red pandas were up in trees. One was galvating around, just out of sight, but this one was cat napping well within camera range.

One thing I really love about the National Zoo, is that they manage to have unobstructed areas where camera shots of the animals can be taken. In otherwords, there is only air between you and the animal, so your camera does not focus on chain link or flash is not reflected back on glass. So, here is a really great photo close up of the fishing cat. One place where I really had a difficult time with getting photographs of animals because of poor animal housing planning as far as photography concerns was the Columbus Zoo.

But here again, the animal housing is a problem with the clouded leopard, illustrating that not all zoos are perfect. This cat was so beautiful, but I just could not get a shot. It is my fault.

These parents were facsinated that the sloth bear was keen on their toddler.

The cheetah housing was again, perfect for photography! But, they moved quickly!

Kandula, an Asian elephant, was born in the zoo in 2001 and seemed to be just wandering around his enclosure. Then, suddenly, he turned and lifted a car tire off of a pole and tossed up showing that he is intelligent. We hoped he would play more, so that I could get a photo, but he just decided to munch on some left over rye grass instead.

This is a closeup of a large catfish in the underwater tank section of Amazonia.

This is a roseated spoonbill that landed very quietly. They are rather tall birds, almost as tall as a great blue heron.

Roseated Spoonbill

These are fresh water stingrays swimming in the tanks in Amazonia. We then went to the lower level, where we could see them from the side.

Fresh Water Stingrays

We could hear tropical song birds above us, and I caught a glimpse of a blue one, but I was not quick enough to get a photo. But I did catch this little red hooded bird. I don’t know the name of it, and there was no signage saying what it was. There were quite a number of them flitting around the trees. They were very pretty to hear.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

200,000 at National Equality March: Where was the news coverage?

My friend and I got to the rally site at 1:30 PM and went right to the front. We were right behind the fence constructed to keep the crowd away from the press risers in front of the podium, which was dead center in front of us. We had the best seats in the house, if you ask me. I was wearing a bright red t-shirt and you can see me on the Daily Show, when the camera scans the NEM audience in the beginning of the piece on the bad coverage of the NEM rally. The big white building in the background is the United States Capitol building.
Many people spoke, but I only photographed some of them.

The program opened with a medley of songs performed expertly by the Gay Mens’ Chorous of Washington, DC. We sang along to two anthems, Somewhere Over the Rainbow and The Star Spangled Banner. Next up, Toby Madigan sang his runner up song, Stand for Love.

Then, little Mario Nguyen gave his runner up Idol speech that I really liked and he had lots of pep. He told a story about coming out to his sister and how she told him his marriage would never be as real as her’s was. His plea to the audience was “make my marriage not just a fairy tale!”

Judy Shepard held up a camera and asked everybody to smile! Then said that she was there because she lost her son to hate. Sigh.

Cynthia Nixon spoke and looked fabulous.

David Mixner pointed out how wrong everybody was about the turnout. I have to agree with him there. It was quite a crowd. Even I was surprised. The place was mobbed!

Then, my favorite speaker of the day, Lt. Dan Choi came to the podium.

Here is the video of what he said:

I was very moved by this speech and it confirmed for me that he really didn’t need to hear my little story at all. He knows everything he needs to know already.

So, I ask you, where was the press coverage of this event? When is the equality of a segment of society so unimportant to our nation that it ranks little to no press whatsoever? Imagine any other segment of society marching on Washington in numbers of 200,000 or more and being totally ignored. Unimaginable, isn’t it? Infuriating too.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Wreath Laying at the Tomb of the Unknown Was Mobbed

It was a gray and misty day for the wreath laying as I headed for the Tomb of the Unknown. I had another reason to visit Arlington that day, my father is there in the columbarium as he was a WWII veteran. I got there early, as is usual for me, and got the very best spot. The guard paced his route back and forth in front of the marble coffin so precisely, that deviance seemed impossible. At noon, the bell chimed the hour. A small ceremony of changing the guard took place and then another guard came out and announced “Ladies and Gentlemen, you are about to witness a wreath laying ceremony sponsored by “Knights Out” GLBT graduates of West Point. Please stand and remain standing.. Those of you in uniform please render proper salute those not please place your hands over your heart during the playing of taps.”

Above, the outgoing wreath from the Battle of the Bulge Veterans and the incoming wreath from Knight's Out are held by the Tomb of the Unknown guards.

Lt. Dan Choi and Capt., MC USNR (Ret.) Michael Rankin flanked by two guards marched out to place the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. Above and below, you can see them doing just that.

Bill Wilson Photo

You can see me in the photo above, in my gray sweater, second from the left, holding up my camera.

This event was literally mobbed. Even tour guides said that this many people were rare for the Tomb of the Unknown. It was packed. So where was the press coverage?

I found it encouraging that the military allowed the event to take place at all.

Then I wanted to meet Lt. Dan Choi. So I raced up through the crowd and into the museum building, and he wasn’t there. So I headed over to the other side and almost bumped into him. He was surrounded by paparazzi and fans. Everybody wanted their photos with him! It was as if he was Elvis!

I had literally two seconds with him. I said that I was honored to meet him and asked if he was out of the military. He replied that he wasn’t taking questions.

What I wanted to tell him, if I had had the time, was that my father who was a WWII veteran, POW and hero, would have thought it a terrible waste and crime that gays were not allowed in the military. He had always been extremely open minded and raised me to be the same way. But then looking at Dan and seeing him with his supporters, I got the feeling that he already knew everything he needed to know. He didn’t need to hear my story to buoy his confidence; he knew he was right. I could feel it just meeting him. It shone out of him like a beacon. His confidence in his mission and goal is very strong. He will win this battle; just watch him!