Friday, April 30, 2004

Boston's Archbishop Sean O'Malley, always the perfect party-line bigot and mysogenist, has been forced to apologize to the public for a speech in which he included feminism in a laundry list of ills and evils that threaten society. He also apologized for refusing to wash the feet of women during the annual Holy Week ceremonies this year. Personally, I cannot imagine why a woman would want to be included in such ceremonies or even be a member of a religion that so blatantly and contemptuously denies the equality of women. But there may well be some satisfaction for a woman to be seated while one of her persecutors has to kneel in front of her and recreate a custom that in ancient days was performed by slaves and servants. Don't these neanderthals ever learn? I hope I live long enough to see an apology to gays and lesbians for centuries of Church-sponsored persecution, demonization and murder.

On a trip down to New York with a friend recently I mentioned the progress of the gay marriage drama in Massachusetts when he suddenly lashed out in a tirade that marriage is against everything being gay stands for. He went on for some time and when he calmed down a bit I diplomatically changed the subject. He's well acquainted with gay couples who have been together for years, several decades in some instances; he knows Fritz and me as a couple and knows our plans. I had no idea he felt this way and will not venture the subject again.

I am well aware that there are huge political and philosophical differences in the gay community (ANY community on any subject) on the idea of marriage. No movement, minority, racial or ethnic group is ever monolithic in its lifestyle or thinking. It's the very richness and diversity of gay life that is so fascinating and welcoming to me. But I maintain that the essential purpose of any liberation movement is freedom to live as one pleases, not as one is dictated to by any of the group's factions.

Governor Romney has sent a letter to his fellow forty-nine governors stating that we have the infamous 1913 law here and passing on his legal team's finding that gay marriage is not legal in any state in the Union at this time. He therefore concludes that no couples from other states should come to Massachusetts to marry because our law forbids issuing licenses to couples from a state that will not recognize the Massachusetts marriage. Now at this time, Oregon DOES have gay marriage in the sense that couples who married before the ban was put into effect have had their unions upheld by Oregon's courts. In any event, Romney says out of state couples who want to marry here will have to come equipped with a letter guaranteeing the marriage will be recognized back home.

Another bubble has popped up--with the coming of gay marriage here in mid-May, many employers are looking to withdraw domestic partnership benefits to save money. It has been
pointed out that most of these partnership benefits plans were instituted for the benefit of gay couples who could not legally marry. The logic is that if they can marry then the partnership plans are obsolete. BUT hundreds and hundreds of heterosexual couples with no intention to marry filed and are now covered by these same plans, so there should be a huge outcry if any attempt is made to withdraw coverage. And there is no OBLIGATION for gays and lesbians to marry, just at long last, the opportunity.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Seen on a bumper sticker: "Warning: Dates on the calendar are closer than they appear."

Fritz and I woke up last Sunday early as we always do, sometimes as early as 5:45 or 6AM. We like staying in bed, cuddling and talking for an hour or so on weekends. It was quiet. Very quiet and we couldn't figure it out. I finally asked him to check out the time and it was 6:45, well after dawn. Then I realized--the windows weren't being attacked. For the first day in just about a year the cardinal (and, recently, his buddy the robin) wasn't crashing into the windows. After a year of having this ritual as part of our lives, we suddenly got worried that something might have happened to him. As of this morning, neither one of them has returned.

So, what's going on? I figure since it's mating season they're off nest building and finding mates if they don't already have them. Actually, a female was with the cardinal for at least the last month, not joining in but sitting on a branch or on the feeder, watching patiently for a while and then losing interest and flying off. It's been a fascinating study in animal behavior.

I put the news on this morning just seconds too late to get the name of it, but there is a town in Massachusetts that's celebrating the arrival of same-sex marriage by offering gay and lesbian couples free blood tests.

Two weeks to the day before the end of classes at MIT. There's a mass of end of term, end of year paperwork. I'm also anxious to get out into the garden for a full day and get the outside of the house into shape for the summer.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

So, the same sex marriage license applications issued by the state will have address sections that must be filled out with proof of address provided. Word is that even if only one partner is from out of state, the license will be denied. Unless the infamous 1913 law gets repealed before too much longer (legislation to repeal it is supposedly before the legislature now) we may not get a legal marriage in Massachusetts, although we'll go ahead with the Quaker ceremony in August anyway.

I am asuming that the way the license application form is now constructed shuts down the civil disobediance planned by Provincetown and Worcester (ie. grant the licenses without asking for proof of Massachusetts residence because both towns thought that discriminatory). After I thought about it for a day or two, it struck me what strange bedfellows Provincetown and Worcester are--one of the premiere hot and hip gay gathering places of the nation, and a working class city that has had temendous economic difficulties with the collapse of domestic manufacturing and that has reinvented itself step by painful step using all the strength it could muster from a traditional family, political and religious heritage. Bless them both, they were willing to try.

And so are Fritz and I. We will go ahead and seek a license. Should all else fail, I plan to fall back on my wits and smart-ass sensibility that have served me so well all my life; I will simply say, "Of course we aren't at the same address now--I was born and raised strictly Catholic. You don't imagine we would live together and have sex BEFORE the wedding, do you?"

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Cool, gray and rainy here, very typical of late April in New England. If the rain cranks up just a bit more or keeps coming down all day, we will break the record and this month will become the rainiest April on record.

I'm worried about John Kerry. I will vote for virtually any Democrat in the cause of throwing Bush out of office but now, as the situation in Iraq descends further and faster into chaos, Kerry is mired in wriggling out of contradictory statements he has made that are documentable and that are beginning to look like outright lies. There's been a lot of that kind of thing and as a result, Bush's numbers rise in the poles when by any normal logic voters should be thinking twice about him. The very last thing I want to see is a second term for Bush, particularly if this time he were to win by actually being elected, which he would of course take as a huge mandate in favor of his noxious policies and attitudes.

Fritz and I discovered a delightful museum in Dover, New Hampshire on Saturday, The Woodman Institute (link at right). It's not as wonderfully off the wall as the Sequim Museum in Washington state, but has its own quirky charm and a most important historical house as part of its holdings. The William Damm house dates to 1675, plus or minus) and is the oldest surviving garrison home in the state. It's constructed of squared oak logs six inches thick, about a foot high and a good twenty feet long. As the Dover area was considered dangerously isolated at the time and vulnerable to atttack from many quarters, the original windows were only about ten inches square (one survives, the rest were replaced in the 18th century) and all the original musket gunholes in the walls survive for defending the house when under attack.

Inside, the house is considerably more spacious, has higher ceilings and more rooms than most houses of the period. The Damms clearly had status and money. The fireplaces are small by early colonial standards, even the kitchen fireplace, and I think it's because six inches of solid oak provided far better insulation than the post and beam with clapboard construction otherwise in use throughout New England. The house is in superb condition, largely because it passed down through a limited number of related families who never installed plumbing or electricity or modernized it, but realized what a gem they had and did their best to preserve it "as was."

The Institute received the house as a gift from the last owner who lived next to it and allowed the public to visit for a small fee applied to its upkeep. It was moved from its location atop a small rise with the use of log rollers and a one-horse powered capstain system that pulled it along across town in the space of a week. The Damm Garrison, as it is now called, sits on a new foundation and is enclosed by a handsome shed made to look like a large nineteenth century garden pavilion so as to blend in with the neighborhood. Light and air enter but the house is fully protected from rain, snow and ice.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Startling--in the good way--news today about Governor Romney and gay marriage. Dan Winslow, legal counsel to the governor, issued a statement to Justices of the Peace throughout Massachusetts on behalf of the Romney Administration. In it, they were told to perform marriages for same sex couples when they become legal on May 17, no matter what their personal feelings, or submit their resignations.

Not alone that, Winslow's statement went on to say that Romney intends to support the law as of May 17 despite his own personal feelings and that JPs will render themselves liable to discrimination prosecution and dismissal if they fail to marry any gay or lesbian couple who comes before them requesting to be married.

Whether Romney is still planning to seek a stay of the Supreme Judicial Court's ruling is not mentioned by Winslow. He could still do that, certainly. But the fact that this statement has been made now and that it comes from the Governor's own legal advisor as opposed to, say, the Attorney General whose opinion is already firmly in the public record, could be significant.

Fritz and I did a lot of yard and garden work today, having spent yesterday travelling around the area doing business and visiting a wonderful museum in Dover, NH. He planted day lillies and hosta while I did what amounted to an archaeological dig to find and uncover two lovely sets of granite steps between the house and the last remaining barn on the property. The daffodils--well in excess of 10,000 of them--are approaching peak blossom; We even had a couple of ladies drive onto the property just to see them close up.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Theater Department annual retreat today. Six hours in a windowless room on a cold, raw day in boston. The room wasn't supposed to be windowless but the date got changed because so many of our faculty will be leaving a week or two before the end of term to start directing or researching or just being in places like Europe and Australia.

Fortunately, there will be decent food provided all day. I fight mightly, but I'm the guy who never met a carbohydrate he didn't like. Unfortunately we will be making ANOTHER stab at redefining our Mission Statement. The last time we did this, two of our acting teachers got into a 20 minute squabble about where to place a comma versus a semi-colon. I'm NOT making this up. When the agenda was announced this year I reminded my dear colleagues of that incident (that gave Mission Statement discussions a bad name for at least a decade) and reminded them it should be about content, not punctuation. They swore they wouldn't do that again. We'll see.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

At 2PM today, state representative Spillaine from Worcester will introduce legislation to repeal the 1913 law originally intended to stop inter-racial couples from out of state coming to Massachusetts to marry. This law may never actually have been broadly enforced, but it has become Governor Romney's favorite tool in his crusade to prevent as many gay marriages as possible from happening here after May 17. Spillaine's argument for passage of his bill is that it is shameful to have a discriminatory law on the books in Massachusetts and that it should be repealed.

I suspect Spillaine's bill will pass, particularly if he and others keep the anti-miscegenation aspect of the 1913 law before the public. Romney will probably veto it, unless he realizes that to do so could be highly problematic politically on racial grounds. If he DOES veto it, I think there is a good chance the veto would be over-ridden back in the legislature.

However, Massachusetts has lost the possibility of being the first state in the U.S. to have legal same-sex marraiges. The courts in Oregon have stopped any further gay and lesbian marriages but upheld the legality of those marriages performed in good faith before the ban. This ruling could be a very important precedent. Eventually this entire issue will, I am sure, arrive in the lap of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Fritz sent out the wedding invitations the other day and it was pretty powerful for him. As those of you who read me regularly know, it has been an emotional roller coaster here in Massachusetts and it is likely to be so for some time.

The guy who left the automated voicemail at my house turns out to be a state representative from Fitchburg. What he proposes is a Letter of Address and it sounds very much like a citizen-generated impeachment movement. The legislature has to create proper legislation and approve it, and then the Governor has to sign the legislation. All of this sounds highly unlikely to happen--we're talking about gutting the State Supreme Judicial Court for god's sake. Nothing daunted, he says that if his Letter of Address move doesn't manage to unseat the "activist, renegade" judges, then he will "go after their pay." How he proposes to do that is something he has not yet revealed. I might be tempted to refer to him as a contemptible little shit-head homophobic asshole, but I think I'm probably far too polite to do so.

Has it ever occurred to any of these free-lance loonies that if they took the energy and passion they put into denying people their rights
or excluding people from society and put them to work solving the world's GENUINE problems, the quality of life could improve to a startling degree?

I went to visit friends in Connecticut last night. He's leaving for Lima, Peru tonight to do some research and make contacts for his business (author/translator) while she's handling my father's records and memorabilia for inclusion in Connecticut College's archive of New London-connected soldiers and airmen from World War II. My father was pretty highly decorated, a bombardier whose bombing runs were written up for their precision and effectiveness. In the decades before guidance systems and "smart bombs," that was quite an achievement. And WWII was one of our very last wars not tainted by real moral questions.

Anyway, after dinner, she and I looked at each other and almost simultaneously said "gelato!" So we went looking for a place. We didn't find gelato, but we did find a pretty good gourmet ice cream place and I let myself go with chocolate chip cookie dough. The evening was just lovely and walking around with the scent of spring flowers and trees combining with the taste of sugar, cream and chocolate in the warm night air was invigorating.

Monday, April 19, 2004

It's Patriots Day in Massachusetts, a holiday that begins just after dawn with the ceremonial re-enactment of "the shot heard round the world" out in Lexington and Concord as local citizens dress in 18th century garb as British red coats to get driven off according to the script by hardy American colonists.

Then once the fake gunpowder smoke has cleared, it's time for the Boston Marathon. I fear I lost interest in this annual (now the 108th running) tradition many years ago when it was relentlessly and crassly commecialized. When I first came to Boston as a student, the Marathon was a quirky event, completely in sync with the local character and the eccentricity of Bostonian culture. Five hundred or so hardy individuals in what often looked like their underwear competed with their fellow citizens for a laurel wreath to become a piece of local history.

For whatever reason, in all likelihood that other cities were making a great deal of money from international corporations pushing everything from running shoes to sports drinks, the powers that be sold out and the Marathon became a showcase for a handfull of international runners and international corporations. With Saucony or Nike or the latest trendy running shoe brand supporting them, they use Boston as just one more resume entry on the Marathon circuit to collect cash and gifts. The local media sometimes take the time in the midst of all the hype to interview some of the actual Boston-area people who used to be able to win this race, now all more or less aged and full of nostalgia for the days when the Marathon was run for love--the people's race, and not just another corporate conglomerate promotional opportunity.

The "stars" are placed right at the front of all the other runners so they never have to compete fairly with the locals for breakout positions, and I have to wonder if the Kenyans, Nigerians, Germans and others who routinely win the race on their way to the NYC Marathon or the Tokyo Marathon (or wherever else they're on their way to on the professional Marathon Curcuit) actually have any knowledge of or interest in Boston--the real Boston--beyond the route of the race and the chance to turn a fast dollar.

There, I've said it and I'm glad. I know I'm a seriously minority opinion on this subject but I wonder when and where or even IF we can stop the march of Globalization and preserve some of the characteristic local customs and cultures that are being paved over or covered with glitzy plastic facades or bulldozed flat to make way for one more junky clone mall everywhere you look.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

I'm back from New York City after the kind of weekend I love--three operas in two days interspersed with brunches and dinners with friends and family. The weather was perfect and once I crossed the border between Connecticut and New York, everything was in bloom--forsythias, magnolias, dogwood and some spectacular weeping cherries. The city itself looked great and several of the streets around Lincoln Center had planted the open earth patches around their trees with big, showy hydrangias.

I found a surprise when I got home, a recorded message on my phone machine from some homophobic group assuring me that there WAS something one could do to stop gay marriage in accordance with god's will. There is to be a rally at the State House on Thursday to demand the removal of all five judges on the state's Supreme Judicial Court who found in favor of same-sex unions. Once they have been removed, I was assured that the decree would be voided so that holy marriage and children could be saved and god's holy will upheld.

Now, I'm not quite sure if the geniuses behind this rally have the slightest idea of how judges are chosen and, once installed, of how they can be removed from office. I think there is a lot of
denial and self-deception going on. My one serious concern, however, is that some of these nut cases may resort ot violence in order to impose their will on others. We do have a sad history of that in this area, most recently in murders that took place in two abortion clinics a couple of years ago. The purpetrators are now doing god's will behind bars, but the dead are still gone forever and I would not like to see an outbreak of gay bashing all done in the name of "holy" religion.

Friday, April 16, 2004

It's getting really strange and much too much like living in the second reel of Hitchcock'e "The Birds" for comfort. It is now one full year since the crazed cardinal began attacking the windows in Fritz's house. He has now been joined by a robin, newly migrated into the area for the spring. The attacks begin just after sunrise--just after these birds have filled up on the seed that Fritz puts out at his own expense--and continue at intervals until mid-afternoon, with some of the attack episodes lasting for up to an hour each.

The cardinal began with one window and now pretty much hits them all, sometimes flying rapidly back and forth among them to make sure he doesn't neglect any. The robin isn't as bold yet. He doesn't stare boldly in the windows the way the cardinal does, holding his ground even if we move very close to the glass. He flees if either of us moves while he is peering in from a branch outside. But if Fritz holds still and just watches, he zeros right in.

I asked Fritz if anything like this had ever happened before. He said that some while before we met, a bird--another cardinal, interestingly--had attacked one of the windows of the conference center building for a couple of weeks but had given up when it became obvious he wasn't accomplishing anything much. What's going on now is a whole different level of behavior.

The comment against our Governor from among the highest state officials is becoming deafening. The senate President says he will not advance Romney's request for a special counsel to go before the State Supreme Judicial Court on behalf of delaying gay marriage. The Attorney General is holding fast and the legal people are saying none of this has a chance of coming to pass. With any luck Romney will destroy his political credibility even as he attacks gay and lesbian rights with ever greater obsession. May it happen soon!

Thursday, April 15, 2004

The Boston Globe reports that as of now, Governor Mitt Romney stands alone among the major political figures on Beacon Hill in his opposition to gay marriage. Attorney General Reilly, putting aside his personal opposition to same-sex marriages, is working like a true professional with the licensing clerks in the state to make sure everything is ready on May 17 to issue licenses to gay and lesbian couples. He has also, of course, firmly refused to act as intermediary between the Governor and the Supreme Judicial Court in presenting Romney's request for a stay of the Court's order mandating gay marriage this May.

The surprise today is that House Majority Leader Tom Finneran has declared his withdrawal from further efforts to block the onset of same-sex marriage. The reason may not be any (unlikely) enlightenment on his part but the fact that he's in very hot water right now and has to attend to his survival on another issue. He's a major target of a Grand Jury investigation of the gerrymandering of voting districts in such a way as to reduce as much as possible the ability of the city's minority voters to elect state reps and senators. Finneran has officially denied any responsibility but the Globe reports that the only computer software in the State House intended to deal with the redistricting is in Finneran's office, and there are other indications he was in it up to his neck. It would be wonderful to see the little homophobe brought down, and seeing Romney isolated on this issue isn't exactly unpleasant either.

On the subject of OUR same-sex marriage, Fritz and I have arranged just about eveything we should have been planning and attending to except the issue of what we are going to wear. I know, I know, what kind of homos are we anyway? Neither one of us has ever been a fashion victim, and having the celebratory service at an exquisitely simple antique Quaker Meeting House dictates a certain restraint. At the moment we are thinking of simple pure silk shirts and classically cut slacks.

In other settings, however, we both favor far more adventurous and interesting clothes than the mens' clothing industry believes we should. I do a lot of shopping through ethnic clothing sites on the web and stores when I'm lucky enough to find them. And I often adapt things I find in thrift stores or even make pieces for myself when I have the time. I do not like suit jackets and for formal occasions I wear vests I have either made myself or, in the case of my elder daughter's wedding, had made for me in a truly gorgeous piece of Thai silk brocade. Life is too short to wear drab clothes identical to everybody else's drab clothes.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

I was down in NYC last night for Wagner's DIE WALKURE at the Metropolitan Opera and I'll be back down there this coming weekend for three operas between New York City Opera and the Brooklyn Academy of Music. I got hooked VERY early, a little gay boy into opera at age 8, LONG before he knew what gay was let alone that he was gay himself. A lot of ink has been spilled over the connection between gay men and opera--well, to the arts in general, but opera seems to be a particularly gay-intensive art form. Much of the attention is academic and theory-based, the rest is anecdotal and/or socially observed and speculated on (authors like Ethan Mordden and James McCourt).

Opera has welcomed me warmly. As I had no singing voice worth listening to and musical training of any kind was never made available to me in school or at home, I didn't have a chance at entering opera through music. But stage design turned out to be my career and I have not only designed but, more recently, written and spoken about opera extensively. I've had a long series of reviews published in The Opera Quarterly and my next speaking engagement is in San Francisco in mid-June. Every now and again I realize that I never really thought about why I took to opera so quickly; the moment I was exposed, I allowed myself to be absorbed by it completely and never looked back.

If you know the musical, A CHORUS LINE, there's a song "But everything was beautiful at the ballet." That was a big part of it for me. Things were not great at home--pretty bleak sometimes, actually. But here was a world that was so vastly larger than life, a synthesis of all the visual and performing arts, with an emotional gesture that could just sweep you away. I never read music but I memorized dozens of operas and can still go through them from beginning to end in my head if there's no CD player available. Everything WAS beautiful at the opera; it gave me things and allowed me to feel things that could never be expressed or experienced at home.

Monday, April 12, 2004

I spent a very pleasant Easter with Fritz in New Hampshire. We had desinged our own wedding invitations and his sister came to help us get them ready for mailing this week. We worked like an assembly line, cutting, stacking. fixing the end and then adding varioius touches. They are a small booklet, Japanese style, with a Japanese "three dimensional" paper in lapis blue as the backing and spine, grommeted together and then tied with silver cord. In between are sandwiched a cream-colored base page that has directions and a schedule of the day's events, a silver page that has the actual invitation, and a transparent vellum cover sheet on which is my Chinese signature chop in rich chinese red. The whole thing looks really kick-ass, if I do say so myself. JUST the thing that a couple of gay men let loose in an art paper store could be expected to concoct.

The report on gay marriage from wbz radio this AM is that licensing clerks are working with the state's Attorney General to iron out the kinks in the licensing process for same-sex couples so that everything will be ready to go on May 17. And officials in Provincetown have said they will NOT observe the 1913 law--not enforced until now--on issuing marriage licenses to out of state couples (Bill and Kent take note). The word from them is that they do not check for in-state or out-of-state residency with heterosexual couples and they will not do so with same-sex couples. The quote was something to the effect that they are not in the business of being wedding police and will not treat gay couples differently.

Saturday, April 10, 2004

The changes in MIT's basic character in the almost thirty years I have been there have been enormous. When I began, there was something like 3% female enrollment and around 20% of the student body were foreign students sent by their governments to prepare for national defense positions in either the government or the military of their homelands. Military terminology was the common jargon of the entire institution and student groups who needed space for an activity in a school that is notoriously space-poor could be heard to say things like "we should make a pre-emptive strike and occupy lecture hall 10-250 before the Chinese Student Association establishs a beach head."

Blessedly, that's all ended. We now have around 46-47% of female enrollment, ROTC is still present but vastly reduced and not in favor because it's unfriendly to gay students, and there are major academic reforms that now require the arts, social sciences and humanities for every student. The big shift happened as the cold war ended and we made a transition to more civilian-based research and development, establishing a business school that is now one of the leaders in the nation and became huge in robitics, media development and artificial intelligence, among other emerging disciplines.

Well, now we have our first major league baseball player! That's right--MIT has sent Jason Szuminski, class of 2000, to the San Diego Padres. We now have actors and directors with engineering degrees who are performing in good regional theaters all over the country, poets and playwrights, musicians and composers. The modern MIT student has a vastly wider frame of reference than ever before and is exploring how to integrate math and science with the arts and letters and other activities in new and creative ways. And this season, we have an aerospace engineering alumnus stepping up to the plate
in baseball.

Friday, April 09, 2004

Assorted trivia today:

A good friend of Fritz's and mine, a gay New York actor who has had a most heartening surge in his career in the last couple of years has been cast in the New York City version of ComedySportz, an improv comedy group that plays every Wednesday through the rest of the spring and that has units all over the country. He's also been getting good off-Broadway work and has had one of the great career opportunities of being an actor in NYC these days: a role on "Law and Order." With actor bravado in the very best tradition, Dan sent us notice of the episode with the comment, "I only have only one line, but it's PIVOTAL!"

Just a personal note on yesterday's public testimony by Kondoleezza Rice and the private appearance by the president and vice-president: I doubt anything truly useful got said but at least the principle has been upheld that these officials ARE accountable to the people. This administration is so secretive and self-protective that it is important they had to submit to the will of the Congress. And Senator Bob Kerry rocks.

I have a lifelong habit of scanning the ground regularly as I walk along, checking for any stray pennies or other coinage that people have dropped. There's a surprising amount of it on the ground in the U.S., but almost none in Europe, interestingly. At the end of the day, I unload all pennies into a caraffe on my dresser and several times a year I take between six and ten dollars in penny rolls to my bank and deposit the amount in savings. This drove my daughters nuts because I never failed to talk about thrift, making the most of one's resources, and all the stuff kids would rather die than hear. But I had two children to clothe, feed and put through college and I believed in doing everything possible to keep expenses in line. For me it's become a kind of game. Fritz regards it all with tolerant amusement and has great fun on those occasions when he spots a nickle or whatever before I do--and pockets it.

I've had some banner days. One day near MIT there was something like a dollar seventeen just lying in the street in everything from quarters to pennies. There was a one dollar coin down the side of the pillow in a chair in our faculty lounge several months ago.
The best I ever did was in the parking lot of a Sears about ten years ago. There was a light but steady wind blowing and two ten dollar bills flew by down low just over the pavement as I was on my way back to my car. I got in and circled around several times looking for someone looking for money on the ground, but nobody was. We ate very well that night.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Excerpts from a Boston Globe article on the rejection of two gay candidates for a high-visibility position at Boston College, a prestigious Catholic institution with a highly respecteds law school:

BC seen rejecting 2 gay men for post
By Alex Beam, Globe Staff, 4/8/2004

A three-year effort to hire a professor for a prestigious endowed chair at Boston College has again ended in failure, this time amid charges that the Rev. William Leahy, BC's president, rejected the leading candidates because they are gay.

Mark Doty, a poet who lives in New York City and Provincetown, was the English department's top choice for the Rattigan Professorship, but he said that department members told him that his selection "had been undercut" by Leahy and that the chair would not be filled.
"The final candidates were gay men, and I was told that this was an issue," Doty said. "The process has imploded."

The department's second choice for the chairman -- Carl Phillips, a professor of English, African, and Afro-American studies at Washington University in St. Louis who is also gay -- said the chairman of BC's English department, Paul Lewis, called him last week to say "there were problems at the level of the president. This somehow had to do with the complicated issue of gay marriage and civil unions," Phillips said. "I called him and said: `Are you saying I didn't get this job because I am gay and have a domestic partner? That's as if this happened 40 years ago, and I didn't get the job because I am African-American.' He said it was like that."

Lewis indicated that his remarks might have been misconstrued. "We never suggested that the president acted out of bias," Lewis said of BC's English department. "We only asked questions about whether this might be going on."

Boston College is a Jesuit, Catholic college. Leahy has been a vocal opponent of gay marriage. Last year, he granted official recognition to a gay-straight student alliance, which had unsuccessfully sought official status three times previously. BC officials point to an increased number of gay faculty and to the recent hiring of a professor who teaches so-called queer theory in the English department as evidence that BC is evolving institutionally.

Both Doty and Phillips expressed surprise and regret at the outcome of the search.

"I would describe my response as more bewildered than anything else," Doty said. "I was invited to apply for the position, as I am sure the others were, as well. I had a very rewarding experience on campus. I got no signal that sexual orientation might be an issue." "It's an outrageous case of discrimination," Phillips said. "It would be sickening to be working at a place where this could happen. I don't think the president's actions are reflective of the BC community in general. I have sort of a helpless feeling about it.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

With what is looking more and more like the beginning of a general insurrection in Iraq, an American helicopter took out an entire mosque this morning with rockets, destroying the building and all the faithful inside it. The purpose of this completely escapes me unless it is our intent to give absolute proof to the Iraqis and all Muslims that we really ARE at war with Islam itself. The slaughter of Americans, Iraqis who are working with us, and non-combattant Iraqi citizens seems to be accelerating out of control. Administration types are all over the news programs assuring us that Iraq is NOT Bush's Viet-nam. Viet-nam, they are at pains to remind us, went on for nine years and took around 59,000 lives. Iraq, they say, isn't even close. Then they assure us that these outrages will be punished, that all the guilty will be hunted down and killed, etc. etc. Yeah, guys--how did Viet-Nam START? Think a moment on your own for a change, instead of mindlessly spouting party line.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

This is verbatim from the Toronto Star. I am way too much of a romantic to have passed it by or to have not wanted to pass it on. I am indebted to Ryan Monceaux for pointing the way to this story:

Military cadet makes history with wedding
19-year-old first armed forces gay to take a husband
Couple celebrates with front-row concert tickets


As far as his fiancé was concerned, Officer Cadet Jason Stewart was planning a simple weekend getaway to Toronto. But when a white stretch limo rolled up outside Joey Schwehr's Kingston, Ont., home Friday afternoon, he realized it was much more than that. It became the much-anticipated weekend they would say their vows, making Stewart, who attends Kingston's Royal Military College, the first man in the military to marry another man.

"The first time we went on a date, [Joey] said he wanted to be picked up in a white stretch limo with white roses in the back and be surprised," said Stewart, 19, from the Fairmont Royal York hotel yesterday afternoon, just hours after they were wed.

Accompanied by a few close friends, the two were married at city hall. Last night, they celebrated at the Britney Spears concert after finding front-row tickets for $150 apiece.

While neither of their families attended the wedding, Stewart said both groups are happy for them. "They knew we were engaged and going to get married. (Joey's) father took it well. I think his mother was a little upset that she wasn't going to be there for it," Stewart said. But both of their parents, as well as about 300 friends and family, will be present when the two reaffirm their vows at the military college in October.

"Everyone's always been really supportive," said Stewart of his peers and teachers at the college. "I've never gotten any flack about it. Everybody's just gung-ho and most of my superiors are more worried about me getting married at a young age than who I'm getting married to."

Stewart and Schwehr, 20, dated for a little over four months after being set up on a blind date. They said their connection was instant. "It was so special. I just knew ... it's hard to explain, but I just knew. Every moment right from there, it was great," said Schwehr, who works at a clothing store in Kingston. Since they met, Stewart said the two have spent every day together. He proposed to Schwehr at work about a month ago.

"Since I started dating when I was about 16, I probably hadn't really been in love before until I met Joey," Stewart said. "We definitely wouldn't have gotten married if we didn't think we were perfect for each other."

When he told his mother last month that he was gay and he was getting married, she wasn't surprised. Unsure of how his father, a lobster fisherman in Nova Scotia, would react, she offered to tell him when he got home from work. A few hours later, Stewart got a phone call. "My dad called me up and the only thing he said was, `Just tell Joey he's gotta look after us when we get older,'" said Stewart. "So they took it very well."

So I'm asking myself how come an invisible line that marks the divide between the USA and Canada can also divide such radically different points of view among people who live, in some instances, a few feet from each other. It really seems inconceivable. Where
the hell did we go so very wrong in this country when--just across the border--family, friends and the military can facilitate and celebrate two young men falling in love and getting together in marriage. Here, federal and state governments are falling all over each other to ban gay marriages and civil unions while bigots shout insults at gay men and lesbians who demonstrate for civil rights. It is to weep.

Monday, April 05, 2004

I got away from the technical put-in marathon for our current production on Saturday night and drove up to Fritz's for a quiet dinner (he cooks fish superbly, especially swordfish that is never dry, always butter tender and extremely flavorful--except that we had his excellent salmon on Saturday), a soak in the hot tub and a rented movie--"Lost in Translation." I hadn't seen it before and had no particular expectations as to what it might be. Except, I certainly wasn't prepared for what it actually was.

I think Fritz was a little culture-shocked by it--certainly a most appropriate reaction--but I was both grateful for and struck by what I perceived as its relationship to a lot of French cinema from the 60s and 70s. Almost nothing actually happens and somebody wanders through the duration of the film initiating no action whatsoever, allowing whatever happens to him to happen. There's a lot less talk than in those French films but the same kind of detached, alienated affect. Now, I'm astonished and actually kind of braced that Hollywood gave something like "Translation" an Oscar. No car crashes or gasoline-fueled explosions, nobody playing a muscle-pumped cartoon character, the older male lead DOESN'T have sex with a woman under age 23 by the end of the first reel and, when he does have sex, it's with a much more mature woman and entirely off-camera. I mean, like, uh, what was, you know, Sophia Coppola, like, thinking?

Saturday, April 03, 2004

Interesting word is beginning to leak that a counter-proposal to the whole heterosexual marriage versus gay civil union mindset is being floated among the politicos on Beacon Hill--and that the governor seems interested. What I have been told is that a new model is being presented in which the state leaves the entire question of marriage to the various religious bodies and instead creates a civil union available from the state for all persons, whether straight or gay, who want a fully enfranchised union that has nothing to do with religion of any kind.

It's an intriguing concept in many ways and I am still working on processing it. Among other things, it is FINALLY a separation of church and state, and high time. Secondly, it would create a fully recognized state-level equivalency between straights and gays joining together in life partnership. So far, so good, BUT . . .

. . . what does this mean nationally? If a couple with a Massachusetts civil union, straight or gay, moves from the Commonwealth to another state, do they have any rights or will they be considered just to be shacked up? Would the IRS consider the civilly united Massachusetts couples, straight or gay, eligible for filing jointly? And would the hard core homophobes who refuse even to consider any hint of marriage equivalency for gays and lesbians let this through? Technically, the church groups would be out of the debate on this, but I know from bitter childhood experience that the Catholic Church, and maybe others as well, consider themselves fully empowered, even obligated, to meddle in affairs that are of no logical concern to them, and they remain a powerful force in this state, errant priests and quickly dwindling numbers of faithful notwithstanding.

Parts of the state remain flooded from what turned out to be record-setting amounts of rain. On the MIT campus, the brand new $300 million Stata Center for robitics, artificial intelligence, computer science, etc. that was designed by contemporary architecture icon Frank Ghery is opening gradually--and the other day it was leaking in many areas along the relatively short walk from the garage elevators to the exterior doors. Today it's still raw cold and damp and snow is again predicted for tomorrow.

Friday, April 02, 2004

I had two choices yesterday aftenoon as work wound down for the day: go home in dreadful weather in the rush hour and get a jump on defrosting my little deep freeze the ice in which was beginning to engulf my frozen food, or head over to the Kendall Square Cinema to catch a gay-themed independent movie. I called Fritz and said, "What should I do?" He said to go for the movie and I'm glad I did.

"Latter Days" is a lovely romance about two boys from polar opposite ends of the gay sprectrum who save each other. There are one or two awkward transitions but if you believe in romance between men and enjoy movies made for adults that don't rely on special effects, car wrecking and explosion sequences, or vast amounts of post production to make lackluster actors look competent, you'll enjoy this one. The boys are lovely together (achingly beautiful in some shots), and there is a serious plot to the movie with some honest nudity and sexual activity fully integrated into it. If you are Mormon or offended by criticism of the Mormon Church, give it a miss because Mormonism is hit pretty hard in the course of the movie.

There is also some enjoyable acting, with Jacqueline Bisset giving a fine performance as a kind of Anna Madrigal (TALES OF THE CITY) character. Another good old actress, Mary Kay Place, plays the conflicted Mormon mother. Steve Sandvoss and Wes Ramsay are just fine as the young lovers. And for the first time in my life I had the experience of sitting completely alone in a movie theater while a film was being played "privately" for me. It pays to see films at dinner hour during weather no sane person would venture out in!

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Sometimes I think that having been here in theater at MIT for as long as I have has its downsides. I have been here longer than anyone else in either theater or music. I've learned better than anyone else--and learned to manipulate--many of the complex, difficult procedures and systems that make this place work, but many people don't know what I've accomplished, couldn't care less and are sometimes downright abusive. This situation gets really bothersome at times. When all else fails I call Fritz. Just hearing his voice makes a lot of things better really fast.

The weather here is awful--raw cold wind with frequent heavy rain passing over the city in waves. At least it isn't like about fifteen years ago when we had an ice storm on April 1st that knocked out power for four days. That's New England weather for you.

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