Wednesday, November 26, 2003
Fortunately, I have a dear and generous friend who had talked me through saving to disc my address books and bookmarks and I saved all my personal files as well just after the original deletion of the sub file. I had a gut feeling that I should protect myself as much as possible. If I had waited a second longer, the desktop would have become inaccessible and I would have lost everything when the hard drive was erased. But the reinstall CD for the operating system (Windows xp) failed to work and was declared defective by the tech. A new one was sent and we went through elaborate and ultimately unsuccessfully debugging procedures three times last night. Then the attempt to reinstall Windows failed twice, ending in the Blue Screen of Death and another in the inteminable chain of error messages that there was a fatal system error and my system had been shut down to prevent damage to the computer. Well, it couldn't have been any more damaged than it already is. The tech declared my hard drive damaged. I told him in no uncertain terms that a Dell technician with all his tools and resources has to come to my house and put the machine in full working condition. He agreed and said he would call back in ten minutes with all the info to facilitate the service call. It was 11PM and we had been working on the machine since 8:30.
So after forty five minutes, no call. I called tech support, got a technician, told him the story briefly and demanded he arrange all the details then and there, which he did. I got to bed just after midnight and at quarter to one the first tech called, waking me out of a deep sleep cycle with the info on the service call--an hour and a half or so after he was supposed to have been back to me. He was quite put out that I had gotten the information through other channels--apparently Dell expects us to hang onto their every delay with gratitude. I now have to wait until a day when I can take off from work--it should be at least two weeks--and then begin the process of recovering the use of my computer. If you are thinking of getting a Dell, be warned.
Tuesday, November 25, 2003
So my partner and I have been joking about the eventual ceremony and where we should be registered. We tossed around the idea of Home (aka Homo) Depot because we both get involved in renovation projects (and it's a great place to scope out guys) but finally decided on Cardullo's Gourmet Shop. Actually, neither one of us wants anything that smacks of straight middle class kitch. The actual ceremony will be private with his sister and my younger daughter as our witnesses. Then we'll have a Quaker Marriage at the old Meeting House in Epping, New Hampshire with all our family and friends. My partner is a lifelong atheistic Quaker and while I have no interest in organized religion of any kind, I have come to respect the inclusiveness and the early date at which gays were welcomed into all aspects of the Friends' activities, including marriage. The reception will be at his Center. The hot tub will be open for business.
Monday, November 24, 2003
But something--either the full same-sex marriage that the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has mandated, or the watered down civil union the Governor and state Attorney General will try to get away with, will come into being next May. My partner feels strongly that we, with our strong gay rights activism and the large gay community that we host at his place, must make the political stand and have the ceremony. There are several reasons: to demonstrate that gay and lesbian people WANT and need these legal rights and protections, and to help fill up the numbers of those who have married to the point that any proposed state or national Constitutional ammendment defining marriage as ONLY between one man and one woman would be made difficult if not impossible to support.
So I said yes and we will be married, or at least civilly united next spring. In the meanwhile, we will join the fight full tilt to make the state legislature and the elected officials of Massachusetts bring about what the Court has mandated and the electorate says it wants in all the recent polls: nothing less than marriage with all its rights and possibilities--the first state in the Union to offer this to its gay and lesbian citizens.
Thursday, November 20, 2003
onto the back burner for about 45 of the 180 days mandated to facilitate the Supreme Judicial Court's ruling. Holiday recess. Presumeably, at least some of our elected legislators will avail themselves of a little down time to consult their constituents as to their views on the matter. Said constituents are reported in the polls to be 54% for gay marriage and 35% opposed, with the remainder in the gray area of indecision. So if put to a popular vote right now, gay marriage would pass without problem.
The destabilization of the Near East caused by our invasion of Iraq continues with a cluster of serious bombings in Istanbul following the big one in Saudi Arabia. I stand
firm in my belief that our government has no in-depth understanding of Muslim culture, history and belief. During some of our Democratic administrations, most notably Jimmy Carter's, there was some productive interaction with the Muslim world. But I now fear
we are hastening the progress to a major conflict, and we are perhaps even crystalizing the process by which many Muslim countries could be transformed into theocratic Islamic Republics.
Therefore, I was surprised and pleased this week to be invited to attend a lunch by MIT's Arab Student Organization. The teaching I do summers in connection with the travel/study program that includes the topic of the Muslim/Jewish/Christian collaboration in Medieval Spain apparently has gotten me on the ASO's list of friends of the MIT Arab community. They have also asked me to give a talk during the January term (our IAP or Independent Activities Period) on what I teach and how I structure the program. It consists of core lectures, visits to historical sites relevant to the study, and a Practicum (hands-on art studio) where students explore classic Islamic arts like calligraphy, text illumination and mosaic. The lectures focus on various aspects of the history, music, arts, the incredibly advanced science (much of which was later appropriated by "western" scientists without attribution), medecine and quality of life in Moorish Spain that never gets taught in our schools. One example: while Christian Europe lived in disease and squalor, Moorish Spain provided subsidized pharmacy services and advanced hospital care for its population.
I think people need to know this. I think they need to know what Islam has actually stood for in history and why the ultra-fundamentalist factions are really a perversion
of the basic message of the Qoran. The Muslim world and we need to stop knee-jerk
demomization of each other if we are to create any safety and peace for ourselves..
Wednesday, November 19, 2003
President Bush, as expected, said the prevention of gay marriage is a priority and gives his strong support to the effort. His political star isn't too bright right now but he has announced that American control of Iraq will be passed to the native population by the end of next June. Just SO coincidentally, that's six weeks or so before the Republican and Democratic nominating conventions. Whether the passing of power (that will NOT be accompanied by "bringing the boys and girls home"--they are to remain as "peace keepers," a role at which we have failed catastrophically so far) will give him a bounce with the voters remains to be seen. Turning him out of office is MY priority. His most viable Democratic opponent thus far is Governor Dean of Vermont with its gay-friendly civil unions.
WBZ radio this AM featured commentary by its major legal analyst who says he doesn't see how the governor and legislature can stop gay marriage in the near term but did say that he thinks the legislature may try to sleaze out of gay marriage by coming up with laws creating civil unions here, something the governor is willing to support. Of course it is NOT the same thing, and the Court was clear about the enablement of gay MARRIAGE.
This is why I think we are in for a contentious time. The Court could come down on the legislature for evading its ruling and then we would have a brawl among the various branches of state government.
Interestingly, however, WBZ commentator John Keller came out strongly in favor of the Court ruling this morning on the unconventional but quite logical grounds that it is a socially conservative decree. Keller is an intelligent and highly articulate observer who is on the conservative side politically but surprisingly liberal and balanced socially. He has spoken in favor of gay and lesbian civil rights with some frequency. He pulls out of various parts of the state and national Constitutions the notion that marriage is based on love and commitment rather than procreation. He adds that the moral lives of the "founding fathers" don't bear too much scrutiny in the marriage department. He maintains that stabilizing the lives and relationshops of people who want to settle down and who want to adopt--and who just happen to be of the same sex--would be an reaffirmation and expansion of family life in the U.S. And he urges everybody involved to remember that ww live in a secular society, not a theocracy. Let's hope people are listening and open to that kind of level-headed viewpoint.
Tuesday, November 18, 2003
The movement to create a state constitutional ammendment defining marriage in Massachusetts as a union between one man and one woman is still ongoing--probably a multi-year process. My big concern now is that in not going all the way on this, the Court may well have created a mess that will be with us for years.
Today is the day: CBS Radio News announced this morning that some time before noon the Massachusetts legislature is going to announce its decision on same-sex marriage. If it passes, we will be the first state (we're a Commonwealth actually, but who's counting?) in the United States to have fully legalized gay and lesbian marriage.
I really don't know how to predict this one. There are states with larger gay populations and states that have made bolder pro-gay moves. But California also has a very large constituency of extreme conservatives, and New Hampshire, in spite of the Gene Robinson installation, is still dominated by the rabidly reactionary and bigoted Manchester Union Leader. That newspaper is actually getting worse, something I did not think possible in the years after the demise of the infamous William Loeb and his widow who kept the status quo. But the paper is hopeless except as a mouthpiece for the rantings of the most extreme Right. It seems to me that here in highly- to ultra-liberal Massachusetts, same-sex marriage has the best shot at the moment of any state in the country.
The home computer is down, and I mean down all the way. It became unstable about a month ago and, very thankful that I had gone ahead and purchased an extended warranty, I began a series of calls to Dell technicians that led to multi-hour sessions repairing this or deleting that. After each session the machine might or might not worrk somewhat normally for a day or so but then it crashed worse than before. I had been warned both by a friend who is my salvation on matters computorial and by the Dell boys
that the ultimate fix would be to wipe the hard drive clean and start all over. To that end, said dear friend helped me download all my files, address book and bookmarks to floppys
(floppies?--spelling is changing so fast now). So last night the latest of the Dell techs had me wipe the hard drive clean only to discover that the Windows xp restore disc provided with the machine at purchase is completely defective. So there will be another delay while a new disc is sent and we will try to rebuild the system. Each of these calls has taken a whole evening between waiting for the Dell tech to become available (up to 35 minutes) and doing the work. I am very much on the verge of demanding that a Dell technician come to the house and do the work to restore the mess the others seem to have made of things while I do something productive with my time.
Saturday, November 15, 2003
The wind storm, a huge one to judge from the TV radar and satellite shots, is gone leaving behind a lot of downed trees, spotty power outages and a disastrous mill fire that spread to destroy a neighborhood in Rhode Island. I know I shouldn't be attached to "things" but I have lived in this house for thirty one years and raised my daughters here. I have entertained lovers here during long, sexy, lazy afternoons when we were both supposed to be doing other things but wanted only to work out our desire for each other. I've worked my way through it, modernizing and redecorating it for so long that if I were to come home some day to find it burned and gone I would feel like a part of me had been destroyed. The only thing that will get me out of it will be when I retire and move up to join my partner at his place. That is how much I love the man and am invested in our mutual happiness: when the time comes to go, I will be able to leave the embrace of this wonderfully honest old New England house for his embrace that makes me forget everything but him.
Thursday, November 13, 2003
We are now retaliating against Iraqis in Baghdad, resuming our attacks on neighborhood sites or anywhere else we suspect those Iraquis might lurk who refuse to greet us as beloved heros for invading their country and destroying the economy and infastructure.
No, it doesn't feel any better that the last group of soldiers to be slaughtered were Italian instead of American. We seem to be sliding back into chaos and what have we achieved?
Rumors abound. I have heard talk of reviving the draft. If that happens, I think this time around women have to be included. Supposedly this society has made huge strides in achieving gender equality but that seems to stop at the battle lines. That women cannot be sent into battle is one of the last hold overs from the old Chivalric Code, along with the old saying "Women and children first" in the event of a shipwreck or other situation in which people have to be rescued. Feminists have denounced most practices of the Code as condescending, disenfranchising and paternalistic and I see no reason why the whole thing shouldn't be scrapped NOW. The message of it seems to be that women and the young must be protected as special, helpless, precious beings but that it is just fine to slaughter men.
I will certainly buy the idea of protecting children, something that actually isn't being done in this country as universally as it should. But the modern woman is hardly helpless, unskilled, weak or unintelligent. Certainly a great part of my militancy on this point grows out of my identity as a man who loves men. And I do love men: appreciatively, dearly, affectionately, romantically, sometimes passionately, and always with honor and respect as valuable human beings. As valuable as any woman or child. Not cannon fodder, not a nameless resource to be exploited. We are supposedly an advanced, enlightened society. Why does the slaughter continue? And why is it always the men?
Wednesday, November 12, 2003
"Is it true you were on some t.v. game show as a kid? if so, what show?"
I had such fun recalling the details of an incident from the early days of TV that I thought I'd post my complete reply:
Where did you hear this? I ask because it's absolutely true. We were on
"Beat the Clock." It was a half hour stunt show on Saturday nights. They chose
three families that they featured on each show, with commercial breaks to
separate them and allow set-up of the props, etc. This was live television--
what happened on stage, including commercials, is what you saw at home
without any editing.
We got tickets to be in the audience and filled out the form as a lark, never
thinking we would be selected. We were picked as the back-up family to the
chosen three and thought we would never get on. But the son of one of the
families, a cub scout in full uniform (talk about trying to brown nose your way
onto television!) froze solid with stage fright and we were on. You had to do
three stunts--one that involved manipulating things physically with various body
parts, one that involved whipped cream or other substances being shot at you,
and the magnetic board that had scrambled sayings you had to unscramble.
Every stunt had a strictly timed deadline. As it was very close to Christmas,
some of the stunts had holiday themes that night.
First stunt: Three flat cardboard Christmas wreaths were on pegs sticking out
from a panel. I was on my father's shoulders and had to hook the wreaths on my nose one by one without dropping any. I wore glasses so I had no trouble at all hooking and holding them.
Second stunt: My father was outfitted with a rubber sheet and cap and had to hold a miniature Christmas tree in front of his face. My mother was given a high pressure whipped cream siphon and had to shoot the ornaments out of the tree. She aced that one.
No, I am NOT making this up.
Third stunt: The magnetic Board. My mother did this as she was very good at cross word puzzles and verbal things. I don't remember the saying but she took one look at it and got it rearranged incredibly fast.
We won a Kodak flash camera, a bicycle for me and a Sylvania 21 inch TV with "halo light," a florescent frame around the picture tube that was supposed to relieve the anxiety of mothers all over America that watching television in a darkened room would destroy their childrens' eyes. Nobody realized then that what it would actually destroy was their brains.
My aunt and grandmother were at home watching the show. When we came on, they were excited, of course, but not prepared for neighbors to come running out of their apartments pounding on the door yelling "They're on TELEVISION! They're on TELEVISION!!!!!" Remember, this was 1952 and our downstairs neighbors still had a huge framed magnifying lens in front of a three inch wide TV screen.
So, that was my fifteen minutes--literally--of fame.
Tuesday, November 11, 2003
I am in a rare period of actually being able to boot up although access to my high speed cable modem-provided email account is being blocked for no reason I can fathom. More calls to the boys at Dell established that one of the two diagnostic CDs that were supposed to have been in the package of support marterial at time of delivery never made the cut--a new one is being sent. Until it arrives, we really aren't going to know anything substantive.
I am not a heavily involved computer user in the sense that I don't run a website or operate a web cam, download huge music files or edit films. I don't use CAD--I design my productions the old fashioned way, drawing and drafting by hand: I call myself a "digital" designer, as in fingers. OK, it gets a laugh if you haven't heard it before.
I word process like crazy, troll the web for visual images that go into production research files (and yes, other images go into personal files devoted to male erotica), keep personal and family records, that sort of thing. I clean out my unused messages and outbox often, defrag the machine regularly and otherwise keep my turf pretty neat and clean. I really think that one year is just a bit soon for this kind of problem to strike but I also thank the gut feeling that advised me to extend the warranty another two years.
Sunday, November 09, 2003
I told him about meeting Ron (Ron's Log) in person for the first time the night before and how Ron knows several of the men closest and dearest to us. The gay community is sometimes very small and highly interconnected.
The news out of Massachusetts government concerning the Gay Marriage Bill is that the Senate President is postponing debate on it until the Supreme Judicial Court of the Commonwealth makes its ruling on the constitutionality of such legislation. That decision is expected soon and local GLBT organizations seem to be understanding of the logic for the delay. The Senate President is known to be opposed to gay marraige but in support of civil unions. Apparently he is also known as a reasonably honest straight shooter in his dealings with people and his relations with the GLBT groups appear to be cordial.
The Gay and Lesbian Review recently featured this issue and one writer noted that in the United States, marriage has been legally separated from procreation the in key court decisions. In point of fact, the reasons for marrying laid out as legitimate in one particular and prominent court finding do not actually include any gender specific functions. Purposes like the providing of companionship and support, the the regulation and dividing of property, raising (but NOT creating) children, etc. all can be invoked as setting the stage for the approval of same sex, non-procreational marriages. Since my own feelings about the forces opposing same-sex marriage appear in an earlier entry, I will not repeat them here. Suffice it to say I am very much in support.
Saturday, November 08, 2003
Ron is actually one of the reasons I got into blogging in the first place as I wanted to become part of the gay web community and that has happened in a modest way. I still don't have too much sense of how many people might or might not be reading me (which is, by the way, a very subtle hint to those of you who are to leave me a comment and introduce yourselves). I'll also be investigating how to get a counter onto the template.
Next week is one of the "bad" weeks at MIT. We put in a production this Sunday and go immediately into technical and dress rehearsals for a Thursday opening. This means getting into work at around 8AM and getting to go home anywhere between 10 and 11PM.
The news was broken to us this week of the somewhat draconian measures the Institute is taking to get us through the current financial crunch. We work on an interesting system whereby the amount of operating expense income from the endowment is based on an average of the dividends from the previous three years. The idea is to cushion the shock if there is a bad year and to evenly distribute the benefit from a single extremely good one. In reality what it means is that if the economy goes into a temporary downturn we won't feel it for at least two years as the better years will be represented in the mix for a while.
That is exactly what has happened--for the last two years, the last of the Clinton boom years remained in the mix but next year's budget is based on an average that has only the recent "Bush recession" years in it. There is a hiring freeze, a salary freeze for anyone making over $55,000 a year and there will be 250 layoffs, as many as possible to be made up through attrition. Grad students will lose a portion of financial aid and there are other small cuts being made anywhere. On the whole, it is a very fair plan and upper administration members have been touring the department monthly meetings to lay out the what and the why of it and to answer questions. It is in something like this that MIT reveals an unexpected populist style. The highest
levels of administration, including the President, come into the trenches to make an account of the Institute's situation and, as I told Ron at dinner, there is also a tradition of the great professors in fields like math, physics, computer science and engineering teaching intro courses instead of fobbing the freshmen off with teaching assistants. MIT may well be academe but it isn't an ivory tower and that's very refreshing.
Wednesday, November 05, 2003
I actually like working on two or three projects in strongly contrasting styles at the same time. If I go cold on one, I can move right to another that seems fresh, and when I switch back the block is usually gone.
I am joining two good friends tonight for a show on Goya at the Museum of Fine Arts and will be with them again next Saturday morning for the current big Rembrandt exhibition. My design teachers at Boston University Theater School used to send us to the Museum frequently to sketch and research--I feel very much at home there and had the great pleasure of being asked to design the Patrons' Reception for a very important Herb Ritts exhibit at the Museum some time ago. Ritts was highly controversial because many of the Trustees wouldn't recognize photography as an art worthy of "their" Museum, particularly by a photographer who trafficed in--gasp!--male erotica.
Ritts, however, was a real artist and younger voices within the Museum organization prevailed. The entire place has remade itself and is now a far more interesting and stimulating place to encounter a far wider range of art.
Sunday, November 02, 2003
I don't know just how long our President can maintain the fantasy that we are doing well, restoring peace and order and that the Iraqis are just thrilled for us to be there. A couple whose son seems to be missing was on TV tonight speaking bitterly of all the lies we have been told.
It has been admited that Saddam is not only still alive but is in all probability masterminding the increasing pace of attacks on our forces. Maybe it is because I lived through Viet Nam that I have a feeling we are spiraling faster and faster into disaster but I have no confidence in this administration. Even Secretary Rumsfeld
making the announcement on TV today looked for the first time like a shaken man.
On a happier note, Gene Robinson was installed today as the first out gay man ever elected Bishop in the Episcopal Church. There was a determined band of protestors spouting the usual homophobic bigotry. Gene, who has a very simple and direct manner will, I feel confident, prevail. Should the Episcopal Church fragment as some are predicting, maybe it is high time.
Saturday, November 01, 2003
I change my own every six months or so. It's not so much a radical change--although that has happened on some occasions--but a gradual evolution as sideburns lengthen or begin to come forward or beards develop as to shape and
About 18 months ago I took up the soul patch and the variety of shapes and sizes that has developed into have been really amusing, particularly when the partner asked me with a gleam in his eye NOT to get rid of it. He's still so ga-ga over me after more than six years that he is very indulgent about these things, even the tattoos that he really isn't into but accepts for my sake. (He did draw the line at body piercings beyond the nipple ring he has come to enjoy playing with. He said he didn't want any metal in his body and sensed I might be moving toward a Prince Albert. I could certainly understand that --I'm still so ga-ga over him).
Anyway, it turns out that he liked the feel of that little brush of chin hair in certain places during certain activities. He's been hinting strongly that a full beard would be even more enjoyable but I prefer a wider range of styles to choose from. The chin hair, however, pleases us both in visual and tactile ways and has drawn compliments from some unexpected sources.
We were in San Francisco airport during the summer of 2002 on our way back from a superb three weeks in Australia and had reserved a car. A hip, extroveted and completely charming young Asian-American woman was behind the counter and she immediately said, "Oh, I love your gooch." I was stunned. I will gladly--joyously--accept compliments about anything at any time but I had no idea exactly what a gooch was, let alone my personal gooch. "My what?" I had almost blurted out "You mean, as in Agnes Gooch?" but I knew she was eons too young for that "Auntie Mame" reference. So she reached out and lightly touched my chin. "Your gooch, your chin fur--it's really cool."
Now in the months after I had started with an innocent little triangle of stubble just below the center of my lower lip, my gooch had grown downwards into what I had believed was at one time called a skidmark. (I teach university students, so I hear these things. I have even noted that in today's metrosexual climate, student gatherings are full of girls talking about their ice hockey stats and boys trading hair dye and tip frosting advice). The gooch (or skidmark--or maybe skooch?) is of a length and proportion that, in fact, looks very good in combination with my facial structure. And since both the partner and I are inveterate flirters with bright young women who most surely know that we're gay and are having a lot of fun flirting back, we spent a giggly ten minutes or so before getting down to the unlimited mileage, the gas tank refill option and the best route to the Napa Valley.