Wednesday, March 31, 2004

A gay Catholic priest and good friend of Fritz's and mine sent this quote to all of us on his list. From my point of view, it perfectly captures what so many religions have become today: not agents for bringing people together and creating peace, but petty hate and warmongers, spreading discrimination and exclusion:

"If you today want to hate somebody, want to be vicious or vengeful or cruel or vindictive, I can tell you a way to do it without feeling one ounce of guilt. Do it for religious reasons. Do it thinking you’re obeying the law. Do it thinking you’re following some commandment or some verse from the Bible. And you will be able to remain a totally hateful and vindictive person without an ounce of guilt."
Richard Rohr, OFM (From New Great Themes of Scripture)

To the best of my recollection, the OFM indicates that the author is himself in the Franciscan order of either priests or brothers.

Fritz and I attended one of the most satisfying concerts of recent years at the Boston Symphony last night. Paavo Berglund, a quiet and completely self-effacing, but dynamic, musical intelligence led a most interesting program:

The Minuet from Gustav Mahler's Symphony #3 as orchestrated by Benjamin Britten
Britten's Violin Concerto as played spectacularly by Frank Peter Zimmermann
Symphony #6 and, without pause, Symphony #7 by Jan Sibelius.

There were many stylistic connections between the Britten/Mahler and the Sibelius #6. The Sibelius #6 and #7 were in composition simultaneously and made a great pairing. Rhythmic underpinnings of the Violin Concerto related to every other work on the program.
I love it when programs are structured like that. Berglund, an old Finnish gentleman who walks with some difficulty but becomes fully engaged and alive when he sits down to conduct, was treated at the end by the orchestra with utmost respect and affection.

Zimmermann was so successful with the Concerto, a huge work and a real bear to play, that he was called back four times for ovations. I mentioned to Fritz, "I bet this young man can play just about anything he sets his mind to." Which he then did. He announced an encore, the "God Save the King" variations by Paganini. These are fiendishly difficult and the kind of thing that had the 19th century believing that the only way Paganini could play such music was if he had sold his soul to the devil. Zimmermann's level of virtuosity was such that the audience was gasping and even laughing in appreciation and disbelief at the ease with which he dispatched the most difficult passages.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

OK, so they voted for the anti-gay marriage, pro-civil unions amendment. It was probably inevitable. There has to be another vote next year at this time before it can go to the public for a vote in November of 2006 and there are major elections in the meanwhile, so the legislature could go either more or less liberal on this issue. That isn't the interesting news.

The interesting news is that Attorney General Tom Reilly, who has been quite demure during all this, has taken a stand. Governor Romney (AKA in this house The Mormon moron), who could hardly keep from smirking in glee, announced immediately that he will present a request to the Supreme Judicial Court that it stay its mandate of gay marriage from this May 17 until after the presumed public vote on the amendment in 2006--to avoid "confusion" in the intervening two and a half years. Nobody expects the Court to do this as there was little "confusion" in its decree. But the route by which such requests go to the Court is through the state's Attorney General and Reilly announced immediately after Romney's announcement that he will NOT put Romney's proposal before the Court. He says it's time now for him as the ultimate enforcer of the law in Masachusetts to implement the Court's decree and he says there WILL be gay marriage in this state as of May 17.

It's a nice little political melodrama. Reilly has never been one of the more high-profile Attorneys General (like Scott Harshbarger was), cutting a quiet figure and not going for the spotlight. But he's got convictions and the courage to stand for them and as of this morning, he's my boy.

Monday, March 29, 2004

From the Gay Book of Days:
Q: Which Christian denomination was the first to unequivocally assert that homosexuality was no more or less a sin than heterosexuality?
A: The Quakers, who published an official document in 1963 stating that society "should no more deplore homosexuality than lefthandedness . . . Homosexual affection can be as selfless as heterosexual affection and therfore we cannot see that it is in any way morally worse."

Although this statement was made only in 1963, it seems pretty obvious that the Friends (the actual name of the group that has come to be known as Quakers) have been accepting of gays for a considerable period of time. I don't like the term tolerant which always seems to me to mean that one group or person condescendingly agrees to put up with another group or person. There's a wonderful line in Sondheim's musical A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC: "As I have often stated, it is intolerable being tolerated."

The combined amendment that bans gay marriage but establishes fully empowered state civil unions (with the caveat that the state will not compensate gay couples for any loss of rights due to Federal Defense of Marriage acts) has passed the first of three votes it must survive before going on to another vote in the legislature next year and then going to the voters in November 2006.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Seen on the sign in front of a Baptist Church in Derry, New Hampshire: "Jesus: Not just a nice guy"

Fritz and I got back from our Spring Break trip to North Carolina today, via friends and family up and back. The centerpiece of the week was a meeting with his nephew in Ashville, NC, the nephew who is an art jeweler and who's making our rings for the wedding. Really nice guy, highly intelligent and interested in who we are as a couple so he can get more of a feeling of what to design. I'd never met him before (we had talked on the phone) but had no trouble speaking very candidly (he's straight) about the depth and meaning of our relationship as gay men. Fritz's entire family is really incredible--totally gay inclusive. So I told him we feel very strongly that we don't want to dictate the design to him but really want to be surprised by what he devises. The one thing we did do was choose a combination of silver and white gold (which turn out to have quite distinct colors) with a fairly prominent texture.

The gay marriage debate resumes again tomorrow with the reconvening of the Constitutional Convention. The main amendement on the agenda is one that would describe marriage in heterosexual terms but establish civil unions with all the possible rights and privileges that a state can grant--federal tax, inheritance, Social Security etc. rights would still not be available, of course. If that amendment fails to pass, there are something like a dozen more waiting in the wings that could drag out the debate for days and days. The Catholic Church is circulating a particularly vile video claiming that gay marriage will corrupt children by luring them into experimenting with homosexuality, etc. Business as usual.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

MIT goes on Spring Break today for a week--many colleges and universities get two weeks but we're Iron Men at MIT--so the blog will probably have no new entries until the 28th, just in time for the next round of debate on gay marriage in the Massachusetts legislature.

Fritz and I are getting out of town, the ultimate destination being a visit with his sister in North Carolina. She's a very dear lady I met for the first time three months after Fritz and I got together. Her welcome to me was warm and unconditional and began what quickly became a complete adoption of me by his family. A couple of months ago she began to look on our coming wedding as a kind of cottage industry, sending Fritz all kinds of organizational lists, helpful hints, etc. As it happens we have the style and details of the day well in hand, and one of the things we want to discuss with her is the role we would like each member of our families to play in the event. Not to mention our "secret weapon"--about forty gay men.

I've read that Bobby Gant from "Queer As Folk" is currently involved with Kyan Douglas of "Queer Eye." THAT'S a good looking couple. "It's All Relative" disappeared from Wednesday nights recently. I checked out the web site and found only a simple note that "the next episode of "It's All Relative" has yet to be scheduled." As the producers have spoken publicly that ratings were good and signals had been positive from the network, I'm wondering what's going on. I've enjoyed watching Chris Sieber a lot, one of the few gay men who's actually playing a gay character on mainstream network TV.

I also follow "Law and Order: SVU" for Chris Meloni. He pushes lots of my buttons. Some long, rainy summer day I've got to rent the Oz" seasons. I don't get a lot of cable channels and the extensive picture galleries from Chris's website ( confirm everything I've heard about the hot and sexy nature of the series. Also, the extremely good looking young classical cellist Zuill Baily is in "Oz" playing a cellist who got enraged with an orchestra violinist and speared him with the long steel spike that supports the instrument. Just when you thought writers might have run out of ideas on how to kill people on TV!

MIT goes on Spring Break today for a week--many colleges and universities get two weeks but we're Iron Men at MIT--so the blog will probably have no new entries until the 28th, just in time for the next round of debate on gay marriage in the Massachusetts legislature.

Fritz and I are getting out of town, the ultimate destination being a visit with his sister in North Carolina. She's a very dear lady I met for the first time three months after Fritz and I got together. Her welcome to me was warm and unconditional and began what quickly became a complete adoption of me by his family. A couple of months ago she began to look on our coming wedding as a kind of cottage industry, sending Fritz all kinds of organizational lists, helpful hints, etc. As it happens we have the style and details of the day well in hand, and one of the things we want to discuss with her is the role we would like each member of our families to play in the event. Not to mention our "secret weapon"--about forty gay men.

I've read that Bobby Gant from "Queer As Folk" is currently involved with Kyan Douglas of "Queer Eye." THAT'S a good looking couple. "It's All Relative" disappeared from Wednesday nights recently. I checked out the web site and found only a simple note that "the next episode of "It's All Relative" has yet to be scheduled." As the producers had spoken publicly that the ratings were good and the signals had been positive from the network, I'm wondering what's going on. I've enjoyed watching Chris Sieber a lot, one of the few gay men who's actually playing a gay character on mainstream network TV.

I also follow "Law and Order: SVU" for Chris Meloni in particular. He pushes lots of my buttons. Some long, rainy summer day I've got to rent the Oz" seasons. I don't get a lot of cable channels and the extensive picture galleries from Chris's website ( confirm everything I've heard about the hot and sexy nature of the series.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Our gay/lesbian mailing list featured the following Associated Press item this morning. The current backlash against civil rights for gays and lesbians is no laughting matter, but this is so bizarre that it's almost funny.

"Wednesday, March 17, 2004

"DAYTON, Tenn. — Rhea County (search) commissioners unanimously voted to ask state lawmakers to introduce legislation amending Tennessee's criminal code so the county can charge homosexuals (search) with crimes against nature.

"We need to keep them out of here," said Commissioner J.C. Fugate, who introduced the motion.
County Attorney Gary Fritts also was asked by Fugate to find the best way to enact a local law banning homosexuals from living in Rhea County.

"The Rhea County action came after the Senate Judiciary Committee (search) voted 7-1 Tuesday for a bill that would prohibit legal recognition of civil unions and domestic partnerships among homosexuals in Tennessee. Gay marriages already are prohibited in the state. The state senator who represents Rhea County, Tommy Kilby, D-Wartburg, said Wednesday he hadn't seen the resolution and couldn't comment on it until he did. "Yesterday in Judiciary Committee, they passed out a bill basically saying we will not recognize same-sex partnerships or civil unions from other states or foreign countries. I voted for that, and that's my position on that issue," Kilby said. State Rep. Jim Vincent couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday.

"Rhea County, about 30 miles north of Chattanooga, is among the most conservative in Tennessee. It holds an annual festival commemorating the 1925 trial that convicted John T. Scopes on charges of teaching evolution, a verdict thrown out by the Tennessee Supreme Court on a technicality. The trial later became the subject of the play and movie, "Inherit the Wind."

In 2002, a federal judge ruled unconstitutional the Rhea County school board's Bible Education Ministry, a class taught in the public schools by students from a Christian college."

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

I'm fighting a strange malaise at work. It isn't just me, either, since three of my colleagues, the costume and lighting designers and the technical director, are all in much the same frame of mind. We're involved in a production of Tolstoy's THE POWER OF DARKNESS. It's a very Russian story set out in some agricultural backwater: greed, moral depravity, infidelity, murder for an inheritance followed by obsessive guilt, nervous breakdown, an illegitimate birth and infanticide, the body in the basement, a breast-beating public confession and emotional chaos. It's way over the top and great stuff in its way.

So, what's going wrong? We have a new director on our faculty, something of a rising star. He's obsessively intelligent, his highly volatile mind runs at top speed and somehow none of us has managed to connect with him and his directoral process--nor he with us. We can't hold onto his concept for the production, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that his concept changes and contradicts itself sometimes on a daily basis. We're all professionals with lengthy experience working with directors of all sorts, but we feel as if we're in some suspended state, separated from our own work by a huge disconnect between our process and his.

When a production is working well, it assumes a life of its own. It develops a personality and begins to make its own demands. It becomes an invisible but powerful presence at production meetings. When there's a healthy process going on, the production draws the truth from everyone and points out poor decisions. But when the process isn't working all the participants are isolated and the production is oninously uncommunicative. There's an unsettling feeling that people are speaking past each other rather than to or with each other. That's where we are now and it feels just awful.

Fortunately, next week is spring break. Fritz and I are heading out of town to North Carolina to visit his sister and his nephew, a highly talented and artistic jewelry maker who (literally) wrote the book on mokume. That's the Japanese art (descended from the technique for making Samurai swords) of laminating precious metals of different colors together. The result in his hands is beautiful and extremely striking. He's making our rings for the wedding.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Here's an interesting little piece about the theft of some art work that might have offended people who are in denial about the fact that there are gay men and lesbians throughout society, not just in certain urban centers or a few "gay professions."

Controversial artwork stolen from school

By Christy Karras
The Salt Lake Tribune

A group of photographs depicting purportedly homosexual Mormon missionaries was stolen Thursday from Salt Lake Community College, where they were the cause of fierce debate and near violence since going on display earlier this week. The three silver gelatin prints by Don Farmer, part of a larger exhibit, show young men dressed in missionary garb in intimate situations.

"Certainly, we are treating this as a theft," said Doug McCleve of the Utah Highway Patrol, which handles police duties for the school. The pictures were reported missing at about 8 a.m. Thursday. There was no damage to the building or the remaining pieces in the show, McCleve said.

For now, police have no idea who stole the photographs. Some students, offended by what they considered disrespect to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, tried to take the pictures down Tuesday when they were first put on display.

The thief could be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the value of the pieces, McCleve said. College spokesman Joy Tlou said SLCC officials are "distressed" about the theft. After a shouting match erupted Tuesday in the lobby where the show was hung, students worked out a compromise to move it to a classroom, and most people on both sides seemed satisfied, he said.

For Farmer, who took the photographs to document his feelings about growing up Mormon with homosexual leanings, the past few days have been "quite the shock . . .. For someone to take action through a crime to say what they need to say is not the way to go about it," he said. "I would never have fathomed that sort of action against art." The photos are selenium toned gelatin prints on museum-quality archival paper -- they were not easy to make and would be nearly impossible to reprint the same way, Farmer said. "They are invaluable."

Art dealer Jim Debakis went to look at the photographs, but they were gone when he arrived at the campus. "I was very disappointed. I think it takes a certain kind of arrogance on the part of an individual or group who thinks they're offended by it, therefore nobody else should see it," he said. "The world is a little blacker when some people presume to edit what anyone else should see or shouldn't see." Gordon Storrs, who advises the student gay/lesbian/transgender group at SLCC, originally asked Farmer to submit the photos. He thought they reflected many students' struggles with homosexuality. "I thought it would provoke discussion," he said. "Colleges are a place where we can have discussions about issues, and being gay is a big discussion."

Instead, Storrs said, some people called him derogatory names at the opening reception for the exhibition. Now, he is saddened that the photographs are gone and may never be returned. The value of the photographs would typically be determined by the price fetched by other photographs by Farmer. Ironically, Debakis theorized, the furor over the photographs might have made them more valuable -- and thus earn the thief a more serious criminal charge.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

The surest sign that spring is here is not the temperature--you NEVER trust the weather in New England to tell you anything relaiable--but the return of the birds. I have a four perch bird feeder and in the last three days the crowds coming to feed have been building rapidly.

A few hardy souls stuck it out all winter--a smattering of sparrows, junckos, and chickadees, an occasional blue jay, a very faithful pair of downy woodpeckers and a nuthatch or two. Now there are purple and gold finches, a pair of mocking birds (like the jays, really too big for my kind of feeder but they go into contortions and make do) and at least one titmouse. They're lined up on the railing of my deck waiting not terribly patiently for a turn, and fights are breaking out constantly. It's a LONG flight up from Central America and the American South and these guys are really hungry.

NIXON IN CHINA turned out to be a smart, stylish and beautifully performed production. Now that most of the principal characters are dead and gone it was interesting to experience them all over via Alice Goodman's witty, literate libretto. Political satire, per se, is not the point of the piece, although it is there, sometimes affectionate and sometimes very barbed (mostly as regards Henry Kissinger). I was reminded strongly at one point of the number "Something in a tree" from Stephen Sondheim's PACIFIC OVERTURES, another retelling of a different but equally momentous intersection of east and west across seemingly impenetrable barriers. In the Sondheim, three people involved in very different ways with Admiral Perry's meeting with the Japanese at Kanagawa remember what they can but it remains disjointed as if the event was so huge that there was no way of any one person encompassing it. The same happens in NIXON, the entire third act of which is involved with private ruminations by the group of culture-shocked Chinese and American leaders, unable fully to process the historic event they themselves have just made happen.

Friend and highly accomplished director Scott Edmiston worked hand-in-glove with the score's constantly shifting rhythms to create beautiful stage pictures and develop compelling personal characterizations with his cast. This was contemporary opera, usually box office poison with the standard "let them go mad and die, singing beautifully all the while" crowd, but the packed audience loved it.

Tomorrow I drive down to NYC and back again for the premiere of Richard Strauss's perennial shocker, SALOME. Yes, it's exactly what it looks like--I am a case of a completely obsessed opera lover. I signed on at about age seven via the radio broadcasts, started going to live performances just before my eleventh birthday and have made a career designing and writing about opera.

Friday, March 12, 2004

The situation in the Massachusetts same-sex marriage saga is as follows: yesterday the amendment that bans same-sex marriage but allows civil unions passed the first three of four votes it has to pass this spring. The Constitutional Convention is in recess now until March 29 when three days of debate are scheduled. On the surface, the situation doesn't look promising but it happens that a certain strategy may be afoot.

The word is that many pro-gay marriage people voted FOR this paticular amendment just to get the others (reputedly a good deal MORE homophobic) swept off the table, which is what happened after the third successful vote. It seems there's a great deal of oppositiion to this amendment from BOTH sides. In the next session, after considerably more politicing and public relations campaigning, the pro-gay marriage people will presumably vote their beliefs rather than their strategy, joined by sympathetic members who support banning gay marriage but who hate the current amendment for inclusion of civil unions. There may then be enough votes to kill the thing, at least for this year. It would come up again next spring by which time there will have been general elections in the state and the balance in both the Senate and the House could be considerably different.

The Governor will make a statement on the situation this afternoon. Whether he will tip his hand on what he might do to prevent marriage licenses from being issued as of May 17 is not known. He IS known to favor asking the State Supreme Judicial Court to delay implementation of its mandate to allow gay marriage until after the popular vote on the amendment in November 2006. The Court is universally expected to reject out of hand any delay.

Tonight I go to the Boston Premiere of John Adams's opera NIXON IN CHINA. I have seen several operas of Philip Glass but none by Adams and I will be interested to hear how minimalism holds up now that we seem to be in the midst of a neo-Romantic revival.
Long term, I think Adams's operas are staying at least on the fringes of the repertory more successfully than Glass's, with the exception of AKENATEN, which is maintaining a genuine if infrequent presence in opera houses here and in Europe.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Boston radio has just announced that the "Leadership" Amendment that defines marriage as heterosexual but that establishes civil unions has passed by a 2 to 1 margin on the first vote. It isn't yet a done deal but with a margin like that I suspect it will eventually pass without difficulty. Almost simultaneously comes word that the California Supreme Court has ordered a halt to gay marriages in San Francisco. Not a lot of good news.

The gay marriage debate starts all over again today. Three different amendments are before the Massachusetts Legislature, all of them banning gay marriage, each with different codicils that will either allow or not allow civil unions. The House Speaker, Tom Finneran, was live on WBZ radio this morning trying to sound ever SO genial, talking about how hard everyone is trying to be concerned for the rights and opinions of all interested parties. He even admitted that some of his own supporters disagree with the amendment he is co-sponsoring with the Senate President and that it's going to be a long, tough day.

Where I really bristled is when he said that there would be a fair compromise if at all possible and that there would be no "winners" or "losers." Of course if any of those amendments passes, we know all too well who the losers will be. And if anyone thinks the homophobes won't strut around acting like winners and protectors of sacred morality, think again.

Fritz and I are in the process of planning our big trip this summer and my Jeep has passed the inspection I asked my mechanic to give it before deciding to take out on a three or four thousand mile trip across country and back again. We'll go out through the Hudson Valley, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois (couple of days in Chicago) then westward from there through some combination of Iowa, maybe Minnesota and/or South Dakota, Nebraska and then to Colorado with a couple of days in Colorado Springs with my elder daughter and and son-in-law. The homeward trip will be more southerly, through Kansas, Missouri, maybe Tennessee, certainly Kentucky and Virginia, then up through Delaware, Jersey and on home.

It will be a ramble. We'll visit friends, family and anything that catches our eye on the way. If there are county fairs or signs for the two-headed calf or an historic site (homes of American Presidents are a special interest) we'll stop and explore. Yes, this will be our "honeymoon" before the wedding in August, but, hey, we're gay and we can do it any way we want!

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

The Portland (Maine) Press Herald reports on an initiative by the Christian Civic League of Maine to out and probably spread some dirt on gay and lesbian and gay-lesbian-friendly state leaders and legislators. The full article can be accessed at:

Here's the text from the Christian Civic League of Maine's Web site:

“A popular metaphor with the social left in recent decades is "coming out of the closet." It seems to have fallen out of use in recent years.

“We are going to resurrect it, and see if we can help our friends in the State House. In this age of "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" and "Sex in the City," it is only appropriate that all of us here in Maine understand the "sexual orientation" of our leaders. Since this matter of "sexual orientation" is of such fundamental importance that we must turn civilization on its head to accommodate it, we feel duty-bound to help you gain a better understanding.

“We will therefore be writing about state leaders in coming months regarding their "sexual orientation." We are, of course, most interested in the leaders among us who want to overturn marriage, eliminate the mother/father family as the ideal, etc. The list is long, so we won't lack for material.

“If you can help us, please do. E-mail us tips, rumors, speculation and facts. The more information we have the better. We will respect and honor confidentiality. Help the League stand for righteousness.”

We always knew this was going to be a particular dirty campaign season but this is well over the top. The spectre of McCarthyism is visible behind every word. Note that informers will be protected by confidentiality but those reported on will be smeared with "rumors" and "speculation," much of it undoubtedly unfounded and undocumentable or just plain private business. These people are thoroughly disgusting.

An internationally known star soprano recently had her contract bought out by the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in London on the basis that she was too overweight for the director's desire to have the character in a little black cocktail dress. Leave aside that the lady was hired three years before the director and that everybody has known of her Junoesque (as we used to say) but hardly unattractive figure for the last decade and a half. She retorted in public that the issue of women's weight seems to be the last socially acceptable form of discrimination. Much as I admire her and especially seek out her performances, she's not even close on this one. Homophobia in its most virulent forms is alive, well, and being practiced by a deeply unsettling percentage of the population.

I have sent the following to the Christian Civic League:
"I am writing to protest your proposed smear campaign against legislators and government officers in Maine who are gay, lesbian, or gay-lesbian friendly. The campaign smacks of McCarthyism behind every word, offering confidentiality to informers and spies while smearing public figures with "rumors," "speculation," and "tips." I have an item for you and your kind: The Christian Civic League is a despicable organization that traffics in character assassination, demagoguery and lies. You are a disgrace to whatever little dignity is left in organized Christian religion."

The gay marriage debate resumes tomorrow in the Massachusetts Legislature. Word is being spread that the Senate President and the House Speaker (the unspeakable Tom Finneran) have arrived at a compromise that would ban same sex marriage while establishing civil unions. The claim is that the votes have been lined up to make this one carry, but already voices are being raised to split the two issues into separate amendments. And a small sub-group has formed to fight civil unions on the basis that they are marriage in all but name only (except for tons of rights and protections, of course) and should be banned as well. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Good word from Oregon--the legality of issuing marriage licenses to gay couples there has been upheld. For the moment there is no impediment to the marriages continuing. Although the numbers are nothing like San Francisco, something like 1200 licences have been issued so far.

Rites of Passage last night for my family: the last remaining member of the family's oldest generation died peacefully in her sleep just shy of age 94. Almost to the end she had been a vibrant, highly individualistic and extremely loving woman. A series of small strokes in November slowed her down somewhat and then a slow but unstoppable decline set in after New Years. She followed what is something of a family tradition by willing her body to a medical school to benefit the studies of new young doctors. Then her remains will be cremated and placed in an urn along with some small items of her late husband's that she had carefully kept for the purpose. Joined together forever that way, the urn will be placed somewhere important to them both during an intimate family memorial service. She will be much missed.

Monday, March 08, 2004

The current issue of The Advocate has a sidebar to its Massachusetts same-sex marriage story that is a small but real red flag. It seems that there is a law on the books that may not ever have been widely enforced but that our Governor and his homophobic gang are well aware of. Marriages are not to be performed in this state to any out-of-state couple that cannot prove their home state will recognize the marriage. WBZ radio in Boston picked up this story on Saturday.

Not only would this be a huge blow to couples who would like to come to Massachusets to get married as virtually no other state recognizes same sex marriages officially, but even Fritz and I might be turned away as I am a Mass. resident but he is from New Hampshire. Unfortunately, I have every confidence that Romney, Finneran and the others who are working so hard against us will use any ploy they can to avoid marrying as many gay and lesbian couples as possible.

The Advocate recommends checking with local gay legal organizations before planning trips into the state to get married. Bill and Kent who live in Connecticut could be affected by this little-known law as could thousands and thousands of others.

I was at a dinner on Saturday night and met a local IRS manager who couldn't believe Martha Stewart got convicted or even that she had been brought to trial. He said that for the tiny amount of money involved, and given the government's flimsy case, it made no sense at all except that he felt she was a target as a celebrity. He said that if we really knew the extent of the tax cheating that goes on that the IRS knows about but cannot get to court (or even find due to their obsolete computer systems), we would be absolutely stunned.

The Constitutional Convention begins again this Thursday and will face anti-gay marriage amendments all over again. Social Justice groups have calmly reasoned public information ads on all the local stations informing people why full rights for gays are essential and how they do not harm the heterosexual world in any way. The Catholic Church in Massachusetts will, of course, come out with guns blazing against us even as it enters what may well be its death throes.

The insurance companies that covered the Church for liability have declined to contribute to the 85 million dollar priest sex abuse settlement. Beset by severely declining numbers in the pews on Sundays on the one hand, and the fact that very few young Catholic men are becoming priests any more on the other, the Diocese is going to close a large number of huge old parish churches. Many are historic buildings with no money for proper repairs that are beginning to fall apart. The Catholic faithful, still punchy and feeling betrayed by the sex scandal and the disastrous cover-up, are up in arms against the new archbishop for taking what seems like their last refuge away. The less emotional of them on the TV interviews admit honestly that the churches are virtually empty on Sundays. That some of these chuches are in what used to be unbelievably active and populous Catholic bastions like South Boston only serves to point up the massive decline of the Catholic Church; truly, part of the very bedrock nature of Boston is fading away fast (and well about time in my personal opinion). Unfortunately, the Church will try to buy a little time for itself by spreading hate and discrimination in an effort to unite what few of its flock are left

Friday, March 05, 2004

My relief of eleven days ago that Dell was sending a new computer in a "system exchange" transaction (recognizing how their tech support guys had destroyed mine) crashed hard yesterday. I called to get tracking info since nothing had arrived. I had been assured that the new machine would be at my door in seven to ten days.

Well, the story now is: 1) no computer has been shipped; 2) no computer has been put together for me; and 3) there will be a further delay as the parts to replicate my October 2002 original Dell 4500 are no longer available. I fear I did not behave well over the phone. An appointment was made for a high level supervisor to call me back in my office during the day. Of course, nobody called. Why they can't just send the march 2004 equivalent to what I had seems not to have occurred to any of the geniuses at Dell.

I don't want to go into this in detail because I cleaned my office yesterday and don't want to start throwing things. Dell's tech support and customer care service operations are largely "chain of computer prompt" operations and when (if, after extensive waiting times) you get a live human being, he/she is invariably in India and reading from a script. My ploy yesterday was to call Dell Sales, where I was sure I could get someone who would be anxious to talk and it worked. I then got from her yet another extension to call that is supposed to get me directly to a live supervisor. I doubt anything of the kind will happen.

Yet another warning to anyone considering a Dell computer: the machines are really OK and the price is good BUT Dell tech support is a nightmare that, in my case, took a perfectly functional computer that had developed some minor instability problems and parlayed it into a piece of junk.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Massachusetts House Speaker Tom Finneran has come up with a new approach to the gay marriage/civil unions issue. This one would split the two topics and propose them inndividually, each in a separate ballot question, to the whole electorate. Presumably the coming presidential election, that itself will be charged with the gay marriage issue, will be the occasion for getting the vote to the public. The Boston Globe reports that the ballot questions will ask whether gay marriage should be banned and gay civil unions established by amending the state's Constitution. The report mentions that no rights and protections of the civil unions would be defined in this ballot question. Whether Finneran will be able to make any meaningful coalitions with the state Senate President or sufficiently large numbers of legislators to get this through when the Constitutional Convention reconvenes next week remains to be seen.

John Kerry, meanwhile, has reaffirmed his opposition to gay marriage but has also upheld his support for gay civil unions that would guarantee all the rights and benefits of marriage, including joint filing for Federal Income Tax and inheritance rights. How he would propose to force the IRS to accept an individual state's civil union rights remains to be seen.

Up in New Hampshire, the maple trees have stopped pumping significant amounts of sap. While the days are sufficiently warm, the nights have not been sufficiently cold to keep the sap flowing. Fritz got approximately 90 gallons of sap which is sufficient to produce two gallons or so of syrup--the "official" ratio is 40 gallons to one. Temperatures may become more favorable for sap flow this weekend (some snow is in the forecast).

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

I was hoping Johnny Depp would get the best actor Oscar on Sunday night. No, not for the "gay" thing, even though his characterization is pretty gloriously swish and points up the fact that all those squeeky clean pirate adventure movies of our youth left out one extremely important facet of pirate life that is now fully documented.

No, it is because I have admired the way he runs his career and the risk-taking intelligence of his choice in roles ever since his days on "21 Jump Street." Truth to tell, other than as eye candy I have comparatively little interest in the run of the mill Hollywood leading man. Most are obsessed with personal image and madly afraid of doing anything that will threaten or challenge their fan base. Also, during my years raising my two daughers, I saw just about every Tom Cruise movie ever made--one by one they were brought into the house as videos and I formed a clear picture of just how empty and unskilled an actor he is. (Also, has anyone noticed how dull and lifeless sex is in a Tom Cruise movie? No heat, no excitement. I think it's because he never wanted ratings to jeopardize his massive pre-teen girl audience. But if sex were THAT inert, why bother?)

The guys whose movies I look for are Ed Harris, W.H. Macy, Johnny Depp, Campbell Scott and, quite surprisingly for me, Ethan Hawke. Because of some of the movies my girls rented, I knew him only as a fairly vanilla actor but Fritz and I caught a performance of Tennessee Williams's "Camino Real" at the Williamstown Theater Festival several years ago and were knocked sideways by his work in a long, demanding and difficult role. I realized that what I had seen were the movies that he did to establish a career platform and make enough money to support the less lucrative work he really wanted to do, both on screen and on stage.

I am not a consumer of the current standard in Hollywood movies--I am much happier with independent and foreign films. I think that "Pollock" is a great movie and worth 100 of the type of thing that has people playing humanized cartoon characters in situations where every fender bender turns into a thermonuclear explosion.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Something new this morning as I went to vote in the Massachusetts Primary--the old, traditional voting machines that had been in use for as long as I've voted in Boston were replaced by new voting stations. No more walking up to a wall of little levers, pushing the big handle to close the curtain behind you for privacy, making your choices and then pushing the handle in the other direction to register the vote and open the curtains.

The new stations are similar in size to the four-sided stands used in chain drug stores to send film for processing. Two six foot high, four foot wide partitions are slipped together at right angles and in the four spaces that are created as a result, a shelf is snapped into position--way too low, by the way, for even an average-sized guy like me at 5'-9". You get a paper ballot that looks like a bubble test and a marker pen to record your choices. Instructions are printed on the two sides of your little space in English and Spanish. When you are done, you go over to a machine, lay the ballot face down and feed it in. I handed the pen back to the election worker who thanked me saying that most people just walked away with them.

This system will accomodate far more people at one time than the old machines but the ballots are printed with a strange mix of fonts, point sizes and thickness of the type. Many of the letters were so thin that reading them was a real chore. I asked if these were the arrangements we would have for the coming presidential election and they said yes. I mentioned that the old machines gave you some privacy and the woman supervising the voting area gave a wry smile and replied, "THIS is their idea of privacy." It's the equivalent of going from the old enclosed phone booths to the completely open pay phone stations we now have, but in a culture that has no hesitation about opening up a cell phone on a crowded bus and making an assignation for sex right there in public (as a boy did with a trick on the bus from MIT to the Boston Symphony the other night) I guess privacy has ceased to be a hot button issue.

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