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Bill Black, Apostle to LGBTs in Cincinnati, Now Rises to Glory

BishopBlack.7.7.13

William Grant Black, 7th Bishop of Southern Ohio, died July 7 of complications of Parkinson’s disease. He was 93.

You can read a fine obituary about him here. It was apparently written or commissioned by the family and first ran in the Athens, Ohio newspaper before being reprinted online by the Episcopal News Service.

He served as rector of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Athens for 11 years in the ’60s and ’70s, prior to his election as bishop.

Athens is a college town, the home of Ohio University, and the parish is right across the street from the campus. I guess the Black children remember Athens fondly, and consider his ministry there a highlight of his career.

But the obituary they published left out half the story; so I’m going to fill you in.

I left this comment (slightly edited) on the ENS site.

This wonderfully detailed biography of the great Bishop and pastor Bill Black somehow fails to mention the thing he was most famous for in Cincinnati: he opened Church of Our Saviour, Mt. Auburn, to Gay people, decades before the rest of the Episcopal Church got its act together.

Starting in the 1970s, Our Saviour hosted a fledgling MCC congregation, which met there every Sunday night despite the opposition of some in the parish and the reluctant acceptance of others. Some people were members of both churches, and both grew as a result. For years, every time the local LGBT community had a crisis (and they often did, thanks to homophobic politicians and police), someone would call a community meeting at Our Saviour and the place would be packed.

Unless you’ve experienced discrimination, you can’t know how important it is to a stigmatized group just to have a place to go. Every other church in town was closed to us – but not Fr. Black’s church; he welcomed us. How many lives did his hospitality save? How many souls were brought to Christ because of him?

That’s what made his election as Bishop so amazing; “My God, they’ve elected the friend of the queers.” No one expected him to win – but he did. And he used his office to further the inclusion of women and LGBTs in the city, the diocese and the national Church.

I should know; I was one of the Gay leaders he embraced. When the city and the Church went through excruciating Gay turmoils – including the Disease of the Century and a billionaire’s successful campaign to write homophobic discrimination into the city charter – he put us front and center. And where were those later meetings held? In Bill Black’s old church – which to this day remains, under the leadership of Mother Paula Jackson, the capital of Gay Cincinnati.

We revered him. You know that word “reverend” that clergy routinely get appended to their names? It means “revered one.” I have to tell you, I’ve met a lot of reverends in my time, but not so many revered ones.

Bill Black was one – and on his death the heavenly choirs burst into song.

“Forasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my family…” – and that’s what we were, the very least, not even human to some people – “you did it to me.” Hallelujah!

I moved to Cincinnati in 1976, having been fired from my church job in Charlotte, North Carolina for being Gay. I wanted to be back in the Midwest, closer to my mother, and a convent in the Cincinnati suburbs hired me for a year. The next spring I founded a chapter of Integrity, the LGBT caucus in the Episcopal Church; a core group of our chapter members belonged to Bill Black’s church, Our Saviour in Mt. Auburn.

The MCC congregation in town had already started meeting there, and they soon hired their own pastor, a dynamic young man named Howard Gaass, who had an M.Div. from New Brunswick Theological Seminary in New Jersey. His was a remarkable hire, because in those days many MCC pastors did not have much theological education, and his call meant that MCC Cincinnati, though small, was moving up in the world.

Within a short time, Howard and I became the first Gay people in town to use our full, real names in the newspaper. The Cincinnati Enquirer was doing a pull-out section on “Gays in Cincinnati,” which they published on Palm Sunday. Naturally the reporting team contacted all the semi-out people they could find, like “the Gay minister” and “the Gay Episcopalian,” as if there were only one.

Howard and I helped lead many events, then he left town shortly afterwards. I believe he’s now an Episcopalian in the Diocese of Los Angeles, while I got appointed to the Diocesan Committee on Sexism and Sexuality by then-Bishop John Krumm, Bill Black’s predecessor.

This committee produced our report, which was viciously attacked at diocesan convention, until… I finally stood up when I couldn’t take it anymore, gave a two-minute speech and turned the tide, followed immediately by a supportive priest who was Gay but closeted, and translated my emotional speech into intellect.

I made the front page of the Enquirer the next day, by speaking out “for my people.” It was a sensation. Shortly afterward, Bill Black got elected bishop in that amazing election.

I didn’t cause it, he did. He fit the times we were in; that’s what wins elections, not five-foot-five-inch flamethrowers.

But the bottom line was clear: my church did right by me, and by all of us. That’s one of many reasons I’m an Episcopalian.

But this didn’t end homophobia and discrimination, of course, in the city or the church. Our enemies mobilized, inside and out. In a couple of years somebody invited a nationally-known lay theologian named Ruth Tiffany Barnhouse, who was going to set us all straight on allowing queers in church.

I was also on the program, held at Church of Our Saviour, the Bishop’s former parish. He’s the one who put me on the program, part of the local “B” team, I guess. Paid me a hundred bucks; I wonder how much she got.

I destroyed her with a single remark. It was easy to do; she turned out to be a polysyllabic windbag, trying to win the debate with a snowjob. I still have photos of that day, and the shock on her face is priceless.

She finally left in a giant huff, Bill gathered all the clergy around and dedicated the mass to me. Greatest honor I ever got.

Concerning his obituary, I don’t know or care why his family had it written the way they did. It honors him greatly, as he deserved.

Now I have tried to do the same. Because when a man or woman touches the untouchables, like Bill Black did to us, angels rejoice. He didn’t get the acclaim Mother Teresa did, but it was the same Christian act for the same Christian reason. And while it’s obvious to all that India’s Dalits do not deserve their outcast status, LGBTs are still “controversial” in this country and around the world.

So the truth must be spoken still. Bill Black was one of the greats.++

The capital of Gay Cincinnati. (panoramio.com)

Church of Our Saviour, the capital of Gay Cincinnati. (panoramio.com)

Do we need a Christian Left political action committee?

One of the elders, watching over his fields.

One of the elders, watching over his fields.

There’s a story in today’s New York Times, interviewing historians about 20th century mainline Protestantism, which the reporter (wrongly) equates with the Christian Left.

See it here: A Religious Legacy, With its Leftward Tilt, Is Reconsidered.

I think she’s wrong that Methodists, Episcopalians, Disciples, Presbyterians and UCC/Congregationalists always or even mostly have a leftward tilt, and that the Christian Left doesn’t also include, say, the Baptist Jimmy Carter and most U.S. Catholic nuns. But disputing the article is not my point; the piece is fine as far as it goes. The questions it raises for people of faith are more important than what she chose to include or leave out.

Namely, where are we today as progressive Christians? What more should we be doing to assert our Christian values into the public dialogue?

This morning, dailyoffice.org ran this photo and caption:

Bring the DREAMers Home: demonstrators for U.S. immigration reform Monday on Fountain Square, Cincinnati, Ohio included Manuel Perez and the Rev. Paula M. Jackson, rector of Church of Our Saviour/La Iglesia de Nuestro Salvador, Mt. Auburn. (Alejandra Pimentel)

Bring the DREAMers Home: demonstrators for U.S. immigration reform Monday on Fountain Square, Cincinnati, Ohio included Manuel Perez and the Rev. Paula M. Jackson, rector of Church of Our Saviour/La Iglesia de Nuestro Salvador, Mt. Auburn. (Alejandra Pimentel)

The demonstration, and the photo of it I was able to obtain, are well-timed; the House of Representatives is taking up immigration reform today. Most people don’t really expect it to pass without another avalanche of draconian punishments for “illegal aliens,” but we’ll see.

What bothers me about the debate around this issue is that a Christian interpretation of it is completely lacking. The so-called “illegals” are “strangers and sojourners” in Old Testament parlance, and “neighbors” in Jesus-speak – as in “Love thy neighbor.”

They are also scapegoats, just as Christ was, for the real problems of the nation – financial collapse, unemployment, and the replacement of democracy with oligarchy.

William Holman Hunt: The Scapegoat, turned out and left to die.

William Holman Hunt: The Scapegoat, turned out and left to die.

Scapegoats are not allowed, Christians; you know that. There can be no question that the racism and prejudice against Latinos must stop at once.

And while there are plenty of U.S. Christians saying these very things, we get consistently drowned out by shock jocks and their imitators in Congress.

I suppose if we were equally shocking we’d get on the teevee too. But there has to be another way.

What about a political action committee that’s specifically organized by and for the Christian Left?

There are many vehicles for the Secular Left and they all do good work. But so much of the vitriolic right-wing opposition claims Christ that I think we should take him back again and set him free from his fundamentalist captors.

The basic reason fundamentalist Christianity exists is to promote racism, sexism, homophobia and war. The Southern Baptist Convention is the proof of this in its very existence; it was founded to defend slavery.

As I look around the Episcopal Church, I see several manifestations of firm belief in Christ and in God’s liberating mission to save humanity. For heaven’s sake he parted the Red Sea a long time ago, to free the Jews from slavery.

That act is still God’s template. So is the Crucifixion, which set us free from sin.

By Luiz Coelho, Jr., an ordained deacon in the Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil. A Gay guy, too.

By Luiz Coelho, Jr., an ordained deacon in the Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil. A Gay guy, too.

At 62 I don’t feel like I’m the person to organize the Christian Left PAC (nor that that’s necessarily the best name for it; we’re talking mainstream Christianity here). It’s something younger activists ought to do.

But they’re not, so I keep thinking about it.

What do you think? Do you not find, faithful ones, that nearly every public policy question on the American agenda is spoken of in the Bible?

Republicans in the House want to end Food Stamps, while Christ told Peter, “Feed my sheep.”

We cannot let this impasse go on, because people suffer horribly from our inaction.

I do know this: we have to take on Christian fundamentalism full in the face. That’s something we’ve never been willing to do before, which I think is probably mainstream Christianity’s biggest mistake in the last 100 years.

But from 9/11 to the shooting of Malala, the Pakistani schoolgirl who advocates for universal education, we’ve seen what fundamentalist violence is like. We’ve seen it when so-called Christians bomb abortion clinics, assassinate doctors, bomb Gay bars in Atlanta, send Orthodox priests to beat up Gay people in Russia; we see it in Israel, in Hasidic communities in New York. We’re even seeing it lately among Buddhists in Myanmar!

Slavery. Scapegoats. Patriarchy. Homophobia. Attacking the poor. Trayvon Martin. The Military-Industrial-Religious Complex, in case you’ve forgotten George W. Bush and the “Left Behind” series. None of the enemies of Christ are going away anytime soon, there’s too much money and power in sin.

We’ve lacked nerve; we’ve been unwilling to endure persecution. So we kind of nibble around the edges of theology and politics, not wanting to mix them up too much, even though half of what Jesus said was directly “political” as we understand it today.

“Feed my sheep,” don’t cut Food Stamps.

Strap your sword upon your thigh, O mighty warrior, *
in your pride and in your majesty.
Ride out and conquer in the cause of truth *
and for the sake of justice.

— Psalm 45

I know we’re lovers, not fighters – but we’re fighters too.++

First same-sex wedding on a U.S. military base.

First same-sex wedding on a U.S. military base.

Have you seen NOM’s “massive public revolt”? I haven’t either.

One of the new tactics the National Organization for Marriage (& Against Gay People) has been forced to develop lately is “claim we’re really winning. Or will soon. Or you should be afraid we will.”

Here’s an example of the latest bombast out of Frank Schubert, NOM’s political director, when asked by The New York Times about today’s new ACLU lawsuit on behalf of a Lesbian family in Pennsylvania:

“Our challenge is to let the court see they’re not going to get away with this without a massive public revolt,” said Mr. Schubert of the National Organization for Marriage.

So I ask you: was there a big fundamentalist march in Chicago and I missed it? Maybe D.C. or Birmingham, Alabama?

Where is this “massive revolt”? It’s strictly in the mouth of Frank Schubert.

angry-man-shaved-head-shouting-pointing-20160814

After a huge string of losses (6 states, 2 Supreme Court cases), he had to come up with something. Lying isn’t working as well as it used to, so now he’s adding more intimidation.

Or did I miss that Catholic uprising in the streets?

Or that hurricane that destroyed the Castro, Greenwich Village and Boyztown?

There were big Catholic protests in France months ago, once the ultra-nationalists, skinheads, racists and punks saw their chance to join up and commit violence; but yes, there were nuns and priests too. There, not here; it won’t work here. U.S. Catholics favor Gay and Lesbian marriage.

Anti-Gay marriage violence in France, April 23, 2013.

Anti-Gay marriage violence in France, April 23, 2013.

This Schubert fella’s looking more and more like Harold Stassen, a 1940s politician who kept announcing he was running for president every four years, for decades after Americans forgot him. At one time he was on the cover of national magazines. Then he became a joke; he made himself a joke.

Nice toupee, Harold. They on sale this week at the five and dime?

Nice toupee, Harold. They on sale this week at the five and dime?

Never forget: while your Aunt Frieda may be a harmless bigot, what drives anti-Gay campaigns is a lust for power and money.++

FrankSchubert_blog

Steve Grand Finds the Star Machine

Cute kid; better as a video than a song. Hits most of the buttons on the dial, including the flag and a big-ass Pontiac. But —-

If he’d ever learn to sexualize Gay guys instead of Straight ones, he might have something to sing about. Are we really this backward in 2013 that being honestly Gay is considered a noteworthy advance?

I wish him well. That brief flash of nudity was slightly courageous. But the story is 1953, and I’m not impressed that another one’s come out.

What we do after we’re out is what matters. As for the hide-bound country audience, who gives a damn.

The Point: the same things that make this performer desirable – handsome, muscled, talented, smart, nice and above all *male* – make other Gay men desirable too. So don’t throw yourself after the unlikely ones – in their rented Pontiacs, they mostly turn out to be jerks.++

Liberal Naiveté Never Ceases to Amaze

That Maddow grrl is eloquent, a genius; but she still strikes me as naive half the time. (Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

That Maddow grrl is eloquent, a genius; but she still strikes me as naive half the time. (Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

I like liberals; I’m one of them. But they do amaze me with their inability to understand good and evil.

They don’t see political issues in those terms – which might be a helpful way to prevent yourself from falling into the intellectual trap of thinking “My side’s good and their side’s evil,” just because you’re on one side.

– But not if you’re actually confronting evil.

Let me define some terms here: preventing the poor from getting health care from Medicaid – as scores of un-United States are doing, thanks to Republican governors and legislative supermajorities – is evil. The Federal government’s paying 100% of the costs for three years, which will save the states big money, but no dice.

Throwing the poor off Food Stamps, as John Boehner’s House Republicans have tried to do – that’s evil. Their Farm Bill tried to cut $20 billion from Food Stamps, while the Senate’s comprehensive immigration bill adds $40 billion for border security.

We’re going to secure our borders by starving people? That’s fiscal responsibility?

Meanwhile legislatures in North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and elsewhere are taking advantage of a holiday weekend by passing draconian anti-abortion bills, knowing full well that the public favors the status quo on abortion and Democrats are unprepared to defeat them.

It’s the unprepared part that bothers me.

A Texas state senator, Wendy Davis, has become a political star by waging an 11-hour filibuster against a close-the-clinics bill. She was prepared; the rest of the Democrats largely were not, which made her instantly amazing.

Texas State Senator Wendy Davis, at a rally at the state Capitol July 1. I'm glad she's being acclaimed, but she wasn't that coherent on the Maddow Show.

Texas State Senator Wendy Davis, at a rally at the state Capitol July 1. I’m glad she’s being acclaimed, but she wasn’t that coherent on the Maddow Show. If you think she’s ready to be governor, you might find yourself muttering “Oops.”

In North Carolina they’re bellyaching about a bill that purported to ban Sharia law but was suddenly turned into an anti-abortion measure and passed as lawmakers headed out of town.

But what did those Dems expect? This is what Republican majorities do.

No one’s really surprised; Republicans understand the human vagina about as well as they do a foreign religion – it’s all the same to them, they don’t need to read the bill – but now Democrats are running around saying they done us wrong, when all they did was act on the power voters gave them – since Democrats can’t be bothered to vote for a mere governor or legislator, while Republicans do turn out. All these folks were lawfully elected, because progressives really don’t give a damn. If there isn’t a Barack or a Hillary at the top of the ballot, they don’t show up. They just complain mightily afterward, while Republicans couldn’t care less.

The Democrats’ naiveté troubles me, because it’s not like you can’t learn all there is to know about good and evil if you’d just pick up your Bible.

It’s all there, because human motivations haven’t changed in 10,000 years.

There are seven deadly sins, uhkay? Let us start with Greed and Pride. They’re all over the pages of that book.

It’s about greed and pride – but these liberals are babes in the woods. They heard the Bible was about God, and they don’t believe in God because the Pope and Pat Robertson are batshit crazy, so they don’t bother to read the instruction manual, which leaves them squawking that Republicans done us wrong and they can’t understand it.

Of course many liberals are fervent believers in God And All That; I’m one of them. Chris Matthews, E.J. Dionne, Jr. and Chris Hayes are all semi-public Catholics. I don’t know Joy Reid’s affiliation, but that lady’s grounded in the Black church.

Secular progressives do not see a use for God, and while they’re entitled to their faith or lack of one, they drive me to distraction. They have no grounding in classical justice, which is another thing That Book is about.

See, they think they’re inventing justice here and now, brand-new – which makes them dumb as rocks.

What the Bible does is make you see into the ugly heart of Greed. Do that, and you won’t be surprised by Mitt Romney’s “47%” comment.

Capitalists have to attack the poor. Otherwise voters might decide that Greed is not good and vote it out.

The good news in what we’re seeing now, as the Republicans fall inexorably into their death spiral, is that Romney and Rubio, Ryan and all their lesser lights are out of the closet with their hatred of the poor.

They don’t hate them individually – they don’t think they hate women or Gay people either – but they are forced to hate the poor as a class, because people without money threaten the notion that “the United States is the greatest country on earth” and capitalism is the best economic system ever invented.

It isn”t. Anything-goes Capitalism is one giant Monopoly board. Sponsored by Citibank!

Remember how much you hated your cousin, the ruthless Monopoly player?

In my case it was my brother Steve, and it took me decades to find out he wasn’t a horrible human being. I came to love him dearly; he was only half-horrible.

I believe in regulated capitalism as the best system for creating jobs and a middle class, promoting the work ethic, generating innovation through competition, and keeping the rich from robbing us blind – which they’ll inevitably do if there aren’t cops patrollng your Monopoly board.

MonopolyMan

It’s no accident that the Republican death spiral coincides with the most blatant promotion of “Makers, Not Takers” in today’s political rhetoric.

Even the racism, sexism and homophobia of today’s GOP makes a certain logical sense if you dig deep enough: they think Straight White Males are the ones who got us here, and if we’re to keep prosperity going we have to keep pale men in power.

(Please do not notice they are robbing you blind.)

Jesus knew about greed. His father YHWH wrote the book on it. I am sorry the secular Democrats never read the book.

I do not trouble any woman or man about their religion; freedom of conscience on religious and other matters is what makes us Americans.

The Vatican’s now the House of Crazy and Pat Robertson flies around like an Alzeheimer’d bat. We all know that.

But if you’d like to know about the sins of Pride and Greed, you could try reading the Book just once in your life. It’s a story of heroes and villains, and God comes out even more spectacular than Superman.++

(comicvine.com)

If he’s so Straight, why’s he always showing off his junk? (comicvine.com)

Pride Day Gallery: Bye-Bye DOMA, Hello Equality

You can enlarge these pictures with a click or a touch.

Jim Borgman of The Cincinnati Enqurier won the Pulitzer Prize for this drawing.

Jim Borgman, Pulitzer Prize winner, The Cincinnati Enqurirer.

(The Rev. Deacon Leilani Nelson)

Love and flowers. (The Rev. Deacon Leilani Nelson)

Castro Throng, 6.26.13 (The Rev. Deacon Leilani Nelson)

Castro Throng, 6.26.13 (The Rev. Deacon)

A Tuesday night, not a weekend; 6.26.13. (The Rev. Deacon Leilani Nelson)

A Tuesday night, not a weekend; 6.26.13. (Deacon Leilani)

Cynthia Wides & Elizabeth Carey, trying the knot at SF City Hall.

Cynthia Wides & Elizabeth Carey, trying the knot at SF City Hall. (source unknown)

The Rev. Dr. Thomas W. Ogletree, retired from the Yale Divinity School, is up on charges now for officiating at his son's wedding. (Christopher Capozzelielo/The New York Times)

The Rev. Dr. Thomas W. Ogletree, retired from the Yale Divinity School, is up on charges now in the United Methodist Church for officiating at his son’s wedding. (Christopher Capozzeielo/The New York Times)

The minute Edie Windsor found out she beat the United States government. (Ariel Levy/The New Yorker)

The minute Edie Windsor found out she beat the United States government. (Ariel Levy/The New Yorker)

The most famous building in the world went Gay.

The most famous building in the world went Gay again; it always does, every year, it’s got Pride.

SF 6.26.13. (The Reverend Deacon)

Equal: imagine that. (The Reverend Deacon)

Ernest & Louie, Apostles to the Queers.

Ernest Clay & Louie Crew, Apostles to the Queers. That whiteboy’s gonna be a saint someday, you know he is, so let’s remember the gorgeous guy he takes delight in.

Priests of the Orthodox Church of Georgia beating a man for being Gay. Priests! (Reuters)

Priests of the Orthodox Church in European Georgia beat a man for being Gay as a police officer tried to get him to safety. Priests did this! May they rot in hell. (Reuters)

International Day Against Homophobia, May 17, Cuba. I didn't even know there was such a day, but Castro's daughter got involved. (Ramon Espinosa/Associated Press)

International Day Against Homophobia, May 17, Cuba. I didn’t even know there was such a day, but Castro’s daughter got involved. (Ramon Espinosa/Associated Press)

Jen Rainin and wife Frances: doggy & flags.

Jen Rainin and wife Frances: doggy & flags, nice chair. (Source unknown.)

Keith Ford kisses his fiancé Robert Hart, FDNY, 6.30.13. Watch out, people, the person who saves your life might be a Homo Sexual. (James Estrin/The New York Times)

Keith Ford kisses his fiancé Robert Hart, FDNY, 6.30.13. Watch out, people, the person who saves your life might be a Homo Sexual. (James Estrin/The New York Times)

Prop 8 plaintiffs Kris Perry and Sandy Stier wasted no time; they got married by the Attorney General of California. I think that's their oldest son looking on. (Dustin Lance Black, winner of the Academy Award)

Prop 8 plaintiffs Kris Perry and Sandy Stier wasted no time; they got married by the Attorney General of California. I think that’s their oldest son looking on. (Dustin Lance Black)

San Francisco, 6.26.13. I ran this on my prayer site and escaped unharmed. (Deacon Lani)

San Francisco, 6.26.13. I ran this on my prayer site and escaped unharmed. (Deacon Lani)

Mark Carson murder site, Greenwich Village, New York, May 17.

Mark Carson murder site, Greenwich Village, New York, May 17. (The New York Times)

More American. (Deacon Lani)

More American. (Deacon Lani)

One magazine, June 1963: we've been at this a long time, since before the word Gay was adopted. The editors couldn't conceive of actual legal rights, they wanted to promote relationships. Fifty years later, I believe that marriage equality, more than any other right we still need, is what breaks the back of homophobia. (bluetruckredstate.blogspot.com)

One magazine, June 1963: we’ve been at this a long time, since before the word Gay was adopted. The editors couldn’t conceive of actual legal rights, they wanted to promote relationships. Fifty years later, I believe that marriage equality, more than any other right we still need, is what breaks the back of homophobia. We’ve won, people, you can stick a fork in it. (Russ Manley/bluetruckredstate.blogspot.com)

Paul Katami & Jeffrey Zarrillo. (Patrick Fallon/The New York Times)

Paul Katami & Jeffrey Zarrillo. (Patrick Fallon/The New York Times)

World LGBT acceptance map, according to the Pew polling organization.

World LGBT acceptance map, according to the Pew polling organization.

Where it starte - which is why New York, not San Francisco, will always be the world's Gay capital. We fought back; that never happened before. We fought back. (source unknown)

Where it started – which is why New York, not San Francisco, will always be the world’s Gay capital. We fought back; that never happened before, though there were earlier protests in California and D.C. We fought back in New York, with fists, rocks and bottles flying – and the word spread worldwide. They scared the cops; that’s what made the difference. (source unknown)

Unconstitutional. The Castro, SF, 6.26.13. (Deacon Lani)

Unconstitutional, you mother——: The Castro, SF, 6.26.13.(Deacon Lani)

Butch boys. Let's give that man a Pulitzer Prize. (adamandandy.com)

Butch boys: Give that man a Pulitzer Prize. (adamandandy.com)