Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Without announcing why, the Supreme Court of the United States refused yesterday to hear challenges to the same-sex marriage ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. Legal analysts here say that the anti-gay amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution, believed to have a doubtful chance of passage already, now looks even more ripe for defeat. The Bush-supported amendment to the U.S. Constitution, also doubtful of passage in the Congress, and a decade or more at best before it could go to the electorate for a vote, hasn't exactly been helped by this ruling either according to the legal commentators.

All of which is pretty good news. Here in the rogue state, we have frequent ads on the radio by two anti-gay activists, suburbanites Sally and Ed Pawlick. The Pawlick agenda centers around having state Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Margaret Marshall "and her friends" removed by executive order (if not by the legislative process) because her ruling was supposedly delivered after promising gay groups that if they petitioned the Court, they'd get what they wanted from her. This removal is the proper thing to do in "a civilized society" according to Sally as she opens the radio ads with a tone of righteous urgency in her voice.

Ed then chimes in with a cheery, "Hello, I'm attorney Ed Pawlick and I'm greeted warmly whereEVER I go because of my opposition to homosexual marriage." Given this state's politics, good ol' Ed obviously has a rather small group of contacts and doesn't travel to Provincetown, Northampton (aka Lesbianville) or Boston's South End and Jamaica Plain neighborhoods very often if at all. HIS conspiracy theory (and you can buy his book on Amazon.com!) is that Margaret Marshall and the publisher of the New York Times teamed up to force gay marriage on the entire nation. Now just how one east coast newspaper and state Supreme Court Chief Justice could strong arm gay marriage on, say, Wyoming is never made clear. I notice that these charges are NEVER made clear--they're just made. In any event, Wyoming seems to be getting the point clearly all by itself. The city of Casper--not far from where Matt Shepherd was murdered in Laramie--just elected its first openly gay mayor. And maybe, just maybe in ten or so years when the U.S. Constitutional amendment to ban gay rights nationally comes before the Congress, that gay mayor will be a Senator or Representative. A new generation of legislators will be on the national scene by that time.

For me, this is one of those hell weeks that are inevitible in theater--technical and dress rehearsal week. The days begin around 8 or 8:30am and go after 11pm. Every light cue, every sound cue, set change, costume change, entrance of an actor, etc. has to be rehearsed, repeated until the timing and volume or light level is absolutely perfect, and then the next one gets the same treatment. You learn how to survive these events--the process is essential but can be mind-numbing--by keeping your attention on the ultimate goal of a smoothly-running, perfectly coordinated performance. I'm going off to perfectly coordinate something right now.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

It's Sunday night, raw cold with a driving rain, and the Thanksgiving Weekend is almost over. Fritz and I had a wonderful time, together every minute, and packing a huge amount into four days.

The big dinner was actually small, a quiet, intimate meal with our friend A. the ceramist. Fritz's property is full of fine dried wildflower stalks and seed pods, hydrangeas, and late fall berries, bittersweet in particular. I decorated the dining area with them. He made a roast capon with potatoes, brussels sprouts and baked acorn squash. A. brought a home-made pumpkin pie and we opened a bottle of hearty red from our local winery. Afterwards, we relaxed in the hot tub, then talked for some time. Finally we said our good nights. An ideal way to spend Thanksgiving.

On Friday I persuaded Fritz to give Christmas shopping a try. We've never gone out on the reputedly busiest shopping day of the year but it really wasn't that frenzied, at least not in southern New Hampshire. We went out again on Saturday and wound up getting a lot of our shopping done. We also did some work around the house, getting up into the attic, which was an adventure with promise of a lot of interesting finds to come. While not up ther long, we unearthed some treasures including a very old family Bible with documentation of ancestors going back to the 1660s.

Today was the capstone. K. and G. were married at the high Victorian Old South Church in Boston's Copley Square. These guys have been together for 30 years, been through everything you could imagine and are still in love and full of positive energy. They brought some personal ritual to the ceremony, lighting a dozen candles in a Circle of Light. Each candle represented a powerful part of their experience, with a great and very moving surprise being that one of the candles was for Fritz's place and the role it played in the lives of so many gay men. We sang three of the new-style hymns that celebrate alternative views of deity and gender. There was laughter and then extended cheering for the vows and the line that they were joined "by God--and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts."

The reception was upstairs in the Church, a really nice spread and blessedly informal. The wedding cake was by B. the chef, who had also done ours, and it was just as good, really flavorful and moist with a rich butter cream frosting.

So now it's all over. He's back home and I'm back home, but it was a great holiday weekend.

When I went through my email tonight, there was a notice to all of Sebastian's readers that the news of his being severely injured was a hoax perpetrated by hackers who had hijacked his blog and spread false reports. He expressed his regrets that this had happened and said he may withdraw the blog for good, feeling that they have destroyed his credibility in the process. Clicking on the link to the blog takes you to the same message. This is the second time Sebastian has had to close down when the blog has been discovered by anti-gays or whoever it is who's after him. Of course, at this point one doesn't know if this notice may be part of the hacker-controlled hoax or not.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

I didn't plan on being silent here for so long. I tried to post for two days running but Blogger simply ate my entries. That's happened before and it gets annoying really quickly.

There's disturbing news about a fellow blogger, Sebastian, who writes Holding the Man blog. He lives in Darwin in the far north of Australia and has had trouble on and off with some anti-gays who've been harrasing him. He was purposely run down by a car and is in very serious condition in hospital, originally in a coma that he fortunately seems to becoming out of after two days. There's a lot of lower body damage in terms of broken bones, and it was dicey for one of his kidneys for a while as well. The police are on the case and making progress, having located the stolen car used against him.

There's no certainty yet that it was a hate crime. But in the wake of the Bush election and the fundamentalist churches' demands that they get exactly what they want now as payback for their role in electing him, I've worried that we may start seeing this sort of thing here in the U.S. There's been so much inflamatory rhetoric and the backlash is so strong that I think some kind of violence against gays may be coming.


The Library people decided on Fritz to portray MIT founder William Barton Rogers for the 200th birthday party. I'll get his measurements down over Thanksgiving and our costume designer is pretty sure she can dress him out of the costume stock without having to make anything except possibly the long black silk bow tie that was current in the 1850s. We both think this will be a lot of fun, but recently Fritz has become very serious about it all after seeing a photo of Rogers. Should he have a wig to match Barton's longish hair? Should he shave his beard? (Rogers was clean-shaven), etc. I've never seen him without the beard, so I'm a little intrigued.

I asked him if he ever thought he'd ever get involved in anything like this seven and a half years ago when we met. We've introduced each other to a lot of new experiences over the years and we plan to keep on exploring and doing as much new and interesting stuff as we can. Travel is one of our big interests. I met with our travel agent this afternoon to start planning for next summer. What we'd like to do is spend one week with friends in Denmark, one week with members of his family in Amsterdam, and then take a riverboat cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest.

Tomorrow, I'll work just the morning and then come back home to pack up my cat and head up to Fritz's for Thanksgiving and the weekend. I'm going to try to get on the road as early as possible since traveling anywhere in the Northeast is pretty insane on Wednesday before the holiday. He's going to roast a capon and we'll have acorn squash roasted with his home-made maple syrup, potatoes, Brussels sprouts and champagne. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

Thursday, November 18, 2004

In Massachusetts we celebrate today the first anniversary of the Supreme Judicial Court ruling that allowed same-sex marriage, while yesterday was the six month anniversary of the first marriages. In that half-year period, approximately 3000 gay weddings have been performed, roughly two thirds of them for lesbian couples. The dire prediction of "chaos" in the state by Governer Romney has not taken place. The dire predictions of social unrest, harm to children and damage to hetereosexual marriage by Romney and the (dying, scandal-ridden) Catholic Church have also not come to pass. The governor, instead, was slammed in the recent elections, finding himself facing a legislature even more Democratic, even more gay-friendly than before. And polls show that citizens of good will have rallied impressively in support of same-sex marriage with soaring approval ratings.

Yes, I suspect we did lose the White House in the recent election over gay marriage, the thousand pound gorilla in the room, the issue that neither candidate dared really mention because both were scared stiff of having to become involved. Yes, there was a backlash among voters but so was there a backlash when the civil rights for Black Americans movement started and look what that activism eventually achieved. It won't be a triumphal march, but I have confidence that we will prevail on this and that yet one more layer of discrimination will eventually be destroyed.

The Big Dig leak and shoddy workmanship scandal spirals ever more out of containment as more information is revealed about who knew what and when. As I believe the BD is actually the largest public works project in U.S. history, the fall-out is going to be huge, and part of the fallout already is that some 70% of Massachusetts citizens believe the tunnels are unsafe. Many are considering traveling via alternate routes if at all possible.

November is the month of the least sunlight here, a combination of the solar cycle and the notorious local weather. I normally don't get the blahs, but I had to use all my skills yesterday to remain awake and coherent in the single most boring and unproductive production meeting I think I've ever attended. Things here are generally pretty "up" right now, particularly as I'm trying to broker Fritz's return to acting in an event the Library System is putting on early next month.

December 7th is the 200th birthday of William Barton Rogers, founder of M.I.T. The event is a one hour public birthday party for Rogers in Lobby 7 (we're a technical institute here--things have numbers rather than names) at the main entrance to the central building complex. The new President of the Institute, first woman ever to hold the post, will be there for the cake-cutting. The actor portraying Rogers will need to know some background material but will mainly be expected to meet and greet in character, and particularly to talk with students.

So why did I think of Fritz right away? (OK, OK, I know what you're thinking.) He spent a couple of decades acting, directing and teaching same; more to the point, the Library people said Rogers was an outgoing, jocular man who was adored by his students. And THAT describes Fritz perfectly.

Monday, November 15, 2004

The spam seems to be coming faster than ever these days but today I saw evidence that at least I'm getting a classier brand of spam. The standard Nigerian scam (God bless you, I am ----------------------, widow of the son of the oil minister of Upper Volta.....") this time came from an Ivory Coast address and was IN FRENCH! How suave and continental--and so much more credible, n'est-ce pas, is that?

Many years ago there was a series of ads on billboards and the radio from a language school called Academia in the Harvard Square area of Cambridge. The ads would depict some schlumph being browbeaten by his wife/girlfriend/significant other to take out the garbage. In English, it all looked and sounded so tawdry. But then she switched to the Language of Love and the scene replayed as a kind of seduction where you just knew he'd return from the trash can to find her in black fishnet stockings with her hair down and the scent of jasmine in the air. The tag line was "Whatever it is, it sounds better in French."

But not this stuff; spam is spam.

Things are finally easing off at work. The new administrative assistant has accepted our offer and is training to take over next Monday, so all the time spent on the search and interviews is at an end. The student-written one-act play production closed last Saturday, so I'm only working on two productions simultaneously now instead of three. And the Thanksgiving break is at hand.

Fritz and I will entertain one or two, of our close friends who have no other place to go for the day for dinner. We haven't planned a menu yet. I absolutely adore roast duck but I know that's not going to sell too well, since duck seems not to be universally popular. I turned out a really great duck several years ago for my girls and me. There was a spiced fruit and cornbread stuffing and I got the skin to just the right level of crispiness with an orange and Grand Marnier glaze. They very sweetly ate it and then my older daughter, always the charming diplomat, said, "Dad, this was really a once in a lifetime treat. I don't suppose you could ever top this so we think you should go back to turkey and let this remain a unique memory." I just looked at her and broke up laughing. I've always valued life's smart-asses and she had turned into one right before me.

I can't believe he's decided to put Condoleezza Rice in as Secretary of State to replace Colin Powell. Powell was the one small vestige of sanity in the Bush Cabinet, someone who at least dared to urge a little caution or rethinking a plan before rushing off to combat. Rice is impresses me as a follower, a little sycophant who'll say whatever she's told and and let her boss do just exactly whatever he wants. Just what we DON'T need in our chief foreign policy officer at this time in U.S. history.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

We're having our first snow storm of the season. It wasn't supposed to be much. But this is Boston. These cute little systems come up the coast (thanks Billy on the Rock!) or over from Chicago (much obliged, Jake and Tony!), pick up damp ocean air, and become all that they can be. Circulating half over the Atlantic and half over the city (including "the normally colder northern and western suburbs"), they turn into regular little snow pumps, frequently JUST in time to create havoc with the morning commute.

Fritz and I talk every morning when we're not together. Seven AM is the customary time and I had set the alarm last night for ten of. I always wake up naturally between five and six no matter when I go to bed the night before, which I wish weren't the case. But I'm an early riser--yes, in both senses of the word. When I was younger I'd get up pretty much when I woke up, but I've learned to savor the langorous, half-awake state and do that voodoo that men do so well first thing off the (my) bat in the morning. Today was no different. When the alarm finally went off, I reached for my cell and began the day proper hearing his lovely rolling baritone voice in my ear. THEN, I got up and looked out--easily four inches deep and snowing steadily. From the look of it, it's a wet, cement-heavy blanket that isn't going to be a great deal of fun to shovel.

On the weekend if I'm at home in Boston I like to spend an hour or so in the morning on line, contacting friends, checking out all of you guys, and doing just a bit of exploring new blogs or new sites. Andy Towle (towleroad) and Ron (Ron's Log) are great sources of interesting and/or esoteric links and Andy posted one today, 10 x10. http://www.tenbyten.org This service scans major news media for the most significant pictures published in the previous hour on a 100 square grid. Moving the cursor over the grid activates an entension on the list of photos at the right to identify the location, etc. where the image originated. Clicking on the image enlarges it and provides even more information. You can't save the images--copyright protection, of course--which is a shame. But you can access previous hours easily and catch any important news images you may have missed on TV news or in print.

10 x 10 links to a related site, WordCount. http://www.wordcount.org where you can track the most used words in the English language. They appear in a seemingly endless line of just under 87,000 entries, the size with which the word is typeset indicating its frequency of use in English. The related link to QueryCount allows you to track what words site users most frequently explore and will constantly change depending on world events, etc. Site design is clean, very minimalist and uncomplicated. A nice place to visit when you're putting off shoveling cement-heavy snow for a while.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Even those of you who do not live in the New England area have proably heard about the Big Dig and are aware of the massive cost over-runs, delays, and problems of all kinds that have resulted from this massive project to sink a major urban thoroughfare into the high water table and mucky filled land only a hundred and fifty years old that is downtown Boston. If you haven't heard of it, you should know that you're at least partially paying for it, as massive amounts of tax-payer money went into financing it by the Feds. So, listen up because you've been swindled.

Engineering miracle it may be, but the Big Dig is apparently awash--literally--in faulty construction. A couple of months ago the main tunnel that carries I-93 through Boston sprang a leak--a big one. Lots of water, emergency flood control, and the discovery that a large pocket of improperly mixed sand and concrete that had never properly hardened in the tunnel wall ensued. There was a huge dust-up in the media and the major contractor came on TV to assure Boston that the damage would be repaird quickly and at the contractor's expense. But that "little" leak has now been revealed to be the tip of the iceburg.

Our evening news last night was full of the revelation that the walls of the tunnel are riddled with perhaps hundreds of these pockets of badly mixed and poured concrete, all nicely hidden behind acres of neatly set pure white tile--leaks, perhaps even more serious than the one we've already experienced, just waiting to happen. On top of the decade or more we have endured of having the heart of the city torn apart with resulting traffic chaos, the staggering cost and almost monthly scandals about contractor profiteering and corruption, we now face a year--or years--of closing parts of the tunnel to repair shoddy workmanship and dangerous conditions.

My own personal traffic problem should be repaired by late this afternoon. I guess in one essential way I'm a true American.--when my car goes down I feel isolated, claustrophobic and very uneasy. I'm one of those true "freedom of the road" guys and being without wheels makes me just a bit crazy.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

My Jeep Cherokee celebrated passing the 107,000 mile mark today by suddenly going completely dead. This is my second Cherokee and I've loved them both. The first one made it to almost 170,000 miles before anything went seriously wrong and fetched $1500 as a trade-in for its perfect body--just like mine! :-) --and made it that far with its original clutch. Nobody had any idea how that happened. The first Jeep did have a few quirks in its electrical system--the dashboard display would sometimes fail to activate when I started the car but if I shut it off and started up again, the guages would spring right into action and they never caused any real problem.

The same thing began to happen with the present Jeep a couple of months ago but became a bit more serious. I'd be driving along at 70 or 75 and the guages would all drop to zero. If I tapped the dashboard, they'd pop back on. Then the tapping became more like a firm slam of the hand on the top of the dash to get them going again. On Sunday the turn signals began to cut out after just a blink or two and I made a note to call my mechanics. Today the Jeep started up fine. After an early morning doctor appointment at my HMO, I went to start up to go to work, but the car was dead. I knew the battery was fine because radio and lights worked at peak levels and the battery guage showed a full charge. But the ignition was silent. After five minutes of trying, I went down to the parking guard to ask if I could get a tow truck into the garage. He said sure as long as the truck wasn't higher than seven feet. I went back up to get my cell phone to call AAA and decided to give it one more try. It started and I made it in to my parking space at MIT with no trouble, only to have it die once again.

The guys who service it for me said that Jeeps are known for this sort of thing. Their diagnosis is that the on-board computer is in error mode, telling the car not to start. Great--I've got some spawn of HAL from "2001, A Space Odyssey" under my hood deciding to cut me off whenever it feels like it. Tomorrow I have to get it in for repair by one means or another--if I get lucky again, it MIGHT start and I can simply drive over. Otherwise I get a truck down into my parking garage and go at the end of a hoist. Either way, I'm commuting via Boston's less than ideal public transportation for a couple of days. Time to drive to work: 20 minutes. Time when taking the T: 90 minutes. And they wonder why so many people insist on commuting in their own cars!

Wednesday morning. On the train up to Cambridge this morning I grabbed a copy of the Metro and saw that it's now official: John Ashcroft has resigned from the cabinet, stating that "the objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved." Why is it, then, that I feel safer now from John Ashcrfoft than I do from terrorists? Bush surely has the capability and the will to find someone else equally obnoxious for Attorney General, but at least I won't have to look at that particular arrogant, sneering fascist on TV any more.

I hadn't intended to take almost an entire week off from blogging but I realize that the huge spike in work this fall wasn't the real reason. I wanted to avoid talking about--even thinking about--the election and its immediate fall-out. Now that stories are circulating about depression, anger and emotional upset among so many people in the wake of Bush's election, I realize that I fell prey to it also.

As someone who has been involved in higher education for decades, I've been able to see the consequences--even among students advanced enough to get into schools like MIT and Harvard--of the general dumbing-down that has been going on in this country. Dumbing-down of the media and the coverage of perhaps difficult but essential issues like foreign policy and the national economy; dumbing-down of the programs in our schools. The reading of newspapers has all but been replaced by the quick and largely superficial sound bite culture of TV news that has become so completely corrupted by an entertainment format that very little substance is left. I honestly believe that an educated electorate, one that understood the bigger issues and the long-term consequences of maintaining the current administration in office, could never have voted to keep it in office. But there is no comprehension, no ability to see clearly and to analyze carefully exactly what's going on.

My concern is more for future elections even than for the consequences of this one. If we have lost our ability to elect intelligent, highly qualified leaders, then those who are unqualified, unscrupulous--or both--will have a clear shot at holding what is arguably the most powerful position in world leadership. And we've seen all too clearly where that has led in the past.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

In the wake of the national election, I would like to focus on my home state of Massachusetts, of which I am more and more proud. During Nixon’s election, we were the only state in the nation that didn’t vote for him. We paid for it dearly in the form of defense contracts and other projects that usually came to our high tech and military organizations that were withdrawn or directed to other states. But we kept our integrity and were proved to be right. Bumper stickers read “Don’t blame me—I’m from Massachusetts”

In this election, Massachusetts sent pro-gay marriage legislators back to office and voted in six more, increasing the number of Democratic senators by one and representatives by two. Mitt Romney had put several millions of dollars on the line to fund campaigns by hand-picked Republicans. He promised victory so enthusiastically that several moved and bought new houses in target districts, uprooting families and lives in the process. His goal was to break Democratic power in Massachusetts and he suffered an enormous, embarrassing failure. Boston papers this morning were full of the stinging defeat and humiliation of Romney before Bush and other major Republican leaders. He was on the radio today saying that he intends to remind Bush of all the time he spent campaigning across the country on his behalf so as to get all kinds of [undefined] benefits. He sounded like an insecure, desperate politician grasping at straws in the face of failure to produce results promised to his higher-ups.

I'd like to say something in appreciation of Marian Walsh, state senator for a group of communities including Roslindale where I live. She’s a devout Catholic. When the Supreme Judicial Court made its historic ruling allowing gay marriage, she had a serious crisis of conscience. Watching her Church demonize gays and become hysterical about [unidentified] threats to the family and to children as a result of gay marriage, she made a search of self, the law, and the history of marriage. She also sought out gays and lesbians and listened. Then she defied the Church and announced her opposition to the anti-gay marriage amendment and her support of gay/lesbian civil rights at a town meeting. There was pandemonium in the hall but she held her ground. She said she was following her conscience, the spirit of the law and, modern research into the nature of sexual orientation. She lost friends, even some relatives, and suffered insult and condemnation.

But Tuesday night she trounced her homophobic Republican opponent by an impressive majority. She’s the darling of her gay and lesbian constituents, while some straights now assume she’s lesbian because of her advocacy. She seems to feel that’s just fine.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

I think the moment when I saw the disaster coming was when Florida dropped into the Bush column. I remembered sadly the days, not so very long ago, when the South was a Democratic Party bastion. It isn't 8am yet and Kerry hasn't conceded, but unless all those Ohio absentee ballots were cast by out of state college students who are 100% liberal, the thing Jess (Splenda in the Grass) calls "this train wreck of an Administration" is a reality for four more years.

The only consolation was to see Mitt Romney pissed as hell on TV lamenting that the Massachusetts Senate and House had become even more Democratic on Kerry's coat tails. The next election here in 2006 will bring the gay marriage ban to the people IF it survives another vote in the legislature this spring which now looks much less certain.

Life goes on, of course but at least metaphorically, it's going to be very dark for a while.

Monday, November 01, 2004

The weekend was the kind I love. Fritz's for the first half, and three operas in two days in the second. Saturday night, Boston University presented two contemporary one act operas in the studio space where I designed my very first production of anything (Arthur Miller's A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE) as a freshman at age seventeen. Both went well but the second, Philip Glass's GALILEO GALILEI, received an extraordinary production. Singers and dancers were integrated by the director into an ensemble that acted out Galileo's inventions with balls of various sizes and lengths of white ribbon, and their own bodies. Everything--the decay rate of the swing of a pendulum, the movement of the solar system, the lunar movement of the tides--was fascinatingly and very theatrically acted out in way that was delightful to watch and crystal clear to understand.

My husband is very kind and indulgent of me--he calls himself an opera widow but understands the place opera has had in my life since I was seven years old.

Sunday I went down to New York City to see the world premiere of HAROUN AND THE SEA OF STORIES, based on a childrens' book by Salman Rushdie. The production again was delightful and the performance excellent but the music by a respected composer of orchestral music, Charles Wuorinen, was no fit with the story at all. Two and a quarter hours of heavy, percussive atonal music for a light as a feather story like one of the Arabian Nights fairy tales.

After so full a weekend and a crazy day today, I spent the evening quietly at home preserving the last tomatoes in the garden. It was so cold when I got to the house I decided to bring in all the remaining green tomatoes, which turned out to be almost fifteen pounds worth, and make green tomato chutney. I sauté two big chopped onions in olive oil with salt, curry powder and crushed walnuts. When the onions are translucent I add the coarsely diced tomatoes and some dried fruit--chopped dried apricots or raisins. I simmer on low, stirring every five minutes or so, and there it is. Karl, do you approve?

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