Tuesday, May 31, 2005

 

The New Opera Theater, Copenhagen Posted by Hello

The glittering building above is the newly completed opera theater in Copenhagen, Denmark. It provides the newest in stage technology and public comforts, complementing the city’s classic Beaux-Arts style opera house that will remain in active use. With any luck we may get to tour the new building in early July during the week in Denmark that begins our vacation in Europe. Fritz and I both enjoy touring theaters even though he would probably rather undergo root canal than attend another opera.

Like a MacLuhanesque unit of fame, sun and warmth had their fifteen minutes over the holiday weekend and are gone. Boston awoke to cold and fog this morning. I headed off to Jury Duty.

West Roxbury District Court is a compact, utilitarian building of red brick that stubbornly avoids looking classic or picturesque as it ages, jazzed up a little by a “new” 1980s entrance in neo-Bauhaus style. The jury rooms are plain and small, but there are several of them, one a bit too cold and the others overpoweringly hot. I went for the chilly one. Someone had the pleasant idea of removing the over-glossy “inspirational/motivational” art with sayings I had seen there last time i did JD, replacing them with unframed canvasses by (local?) artist Nelson DaCosta. These consisted of eight or nine cubist-style portraits of women that were offered for sale, see the Bailiff if interested, all of which were routine except for one in African style and colors that was boldly patterned and decorative.

The orientation video was hosted by Chief Justice Margaret Marshall of the State Supreme Judicial Court, aka “devil woman” to the radical religious right for decreeing gay marriage in Massachusetts. A handsome woman with a surprising South African accent and no ability to pronounce the consonant “r” whatsoever, Madam Justice Marshall welcomed us and laid down the terms of our service. Maggie Marshall’s my heroine; because of her, I’m the married gay man I am today. As the court house is in an area totally devoid of any fast food, cafes or other sources of caffeine, the state provides the services of a retired man who brings in bottled juices, coffee in carafes and doughnuts at ridiculously low prices. We reported at 8AM and at 11:45 were informed that all six cases on the docket, faced with jury trials, had decided to plea bargain--and we were dismissed.

Today was also my fifth day not shaving. I’ve been without a goatee or beard for a couple of years now, and I tend to change my facial hair every 18 months or so, according to current fashion or simply what I’ve never done with my face before and always wanted to try. Recently, I’ve been avoiding shaving when I go up to Fritz’s because he likes the feeling of stubble . I grow in very fast and by this morning I was able to start shaping it. Fritz has wanted me to do a beard again for some while, but I’m not sure summer’s the best time—we’ll see how it goes (right now it’s in the very itchy phase and is driving me nuts).

Monday, May 30, 2005

 

Sunlit lavender flowers at Fritz's Posted by Hello

It was a lovely weekend, schizoid weather and all. How bad can it be when you can sit naked with thirteen other men for half an hour or so in a sweat lodge, chanting, remembering men we have lost over the years, sweating out the toxins and reaffirming our belief in the special bond among gay men? Afterwards, pot luck dinner with so much laughter, catching up with each others’ lives, heads on shoulders, arms around waists; then the good-byes, hugs, kisses, the warmth of shared experiences and affections. It happens once a month and is always a renewing, joyful ritual.

Yellow season (forsythia, the thousands of daffodils) is over and now it's blue/purple season—irises in three varieties, myrtle making a lush carpet everywhere, flowers whose names I have forgotten like those seen above in a sunlight so brilliant this morning that they burned out almost white in the camera. Fritz and I got a lot done this weekend in spite of lengthy rains. He got a half dozen tomato plants in and I laid waste to some overgrown, badly entangled lilac and forsythia bushes. Inside, over tea, he sat needling me mercilessly on the latest book for the gay book group meeting here in Boston that he has agreed to come to this month for the first time.

The book is Colm Toibin’s novel “The Master,” which is not about S&M but Henry James, or at least Henry James as Toibin imagines this enigmatic, reclusive man to have been. Fritz hated every page but was discreet enough to say little until I had gotten deeply into it and could talk from a position of knowledge. Toibin’s James is almost completely unavailable emotionally, repressed sexually and, if not socially, personally. His life is spent in avoidance of crowds, of too much intimacy with friends and family when it may lead to knowledge of his inner self, of his friends’ lives when he is needed in them most. Three hundred and thirty eight pages of a man who never gives of himself, or who gives with a sense of having been maneuvered into it and is therefore resentful and withdrawn, is a rough go. Along the way either James or Toibin makes the startling discovery that an author can take from his personal life and place what he finds into his writing. Even leaving aside the Deconstructionists, just how great a revelation IS this?

It's the kind of book that causes you to wonder why it can have been written, other than as a piece of showmanship, a kind brilliant but cold technical exercise. James is so in his head that he cannot allow himself a dalliance with one or the other of the highly presentable, obviously available and interested young men he encounters at intervals throughout the book. You find yourself thinking, "just touch the boy, for god's sake. Just get laid once and for all." You think perhaps he might be a tragic figure but even there is frustration as you realize you don't care about this man Toibin has created, you have no way of identifying with his condition.

We’ll gather at my house on Thursday night and see what the rest of the boys think.

Friday, May 27, 2005

 

Fritz, on the right, and I. Posted by Hello

At 9:05am, just after I pulled away from my house on my way up to MIT, the sun came out for the first time in a week. The sodden lawns and wet pavements suddenly looked warm and bright. And that lasted all the way until 9:08am--three whole minutes!--at which point the clouds blocked it out again for the rest of the day. But it didn’t rain, and the temperature got above 50 degrees. It’s a start.

In case anyone was wondering where the warmth of spring had gone, Steph and Alek from Oh la la, Paris have supplied the answer—-it got on a plane and headed to France. Paris has been in the mid-90s with strong sun this week so Parisians are complaining, as we are here in the northeast, of highly unusual weather for the end of May. It’s probably just about right in Iceland.

I stopped off at my bank’s ATM after the sun’s very brief appearance to get some money for the weekend. For some reason, something that I have seen at every ATM I have ever used struck me this morning. When you insert your card, you’re asked for your PIN. After you’ve entered it, you’re asked if it’s correct. How the hell are you supposed to know?—-you don’t see the number you’ve entered on the screen, just a row of Xs.

The Big Dig has sprung another Big Leak, this time way below ground where the southbound tunnel passes under the Massachusetts Turnpike tunnel in the heavily waterlogged Fort Point Channel area. The flow this time is estimated at thirty gallons a minute. For this we (and all of you) paid fourteen billion dollars.

Fritz has decided to come down to Boston this year for Gay Pride (June 11th), something we haven’t done together for five or six years. Today I got an invitation from Theater Offensive to ride on their fabulous (of course) float in the parade. I’m going up to his place for the weekend very early tomorrow morning (avoiding the huge traffic jams trying to get out of town tonight) and will see if this is an idea that appeals to him. It could be a lot of fun.

The mocking birds are back. They sing beginning around 11pm and go for a couple of hours. There’s one who operates near my house or actually on my roof, and another about a block away. They sing continuously once they start and are very loud—you can hear their songs clearly through double pane windows. What’s strange is that you see one bird, but you hear five or six, depending on how many other birdcalls the mocking bird has memorized. As they sing, they occasionally flutter straight up a couple of feet, hover for an instant, and then flutter straight back down.

I wish everybody a happy Memorial Day holiday weekend.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

 

A dear friend on stage in New York City Posted by Hello

Since I'm doing theater today, I thought I'd post this picture of D, a great guy and good friend of ours whose theatrical career in New York City has taken off in the last couple of years. He's passed through our lives in several ways, including designing a good looking and easily navigable web site for Fritz's business, and showing up unexpectedly on a gay men's white water rafting trip we took to Taos, New Mexico several years ago. Lucky for him we were there--and sitting directly behind him--as he had no ability to stay in the raft at all. With every rapid we hit, D was over the side on the first bounce and Fritz and I were hauling him back in from certain disaster. I have no idea what the play is (no, it WASN'T "Angels in America") but I love the picture since it shows off his antic side which is one of his most endearing qualities.

I'm in the middle of designing the first production of the season to be done next fall at MIT. We're trying an experimental schedule next year with a major production during the first term which we don't usually do. The play is "Leocadia," also known in English as "Time Remembered" by Jean Anouilh. We realized that since construction would have to begin as soon as classes started, we'd need all the designs and technical drawings completed before scattering for the summer.

There was a whole generation of outstanding writers in France from the 1930s through 60s who wrote beautiful, witty, lyrical plays--often bittersweet romantic comedies-- that are rewarding to produce and a great gift to designers. They're also very French, subtle, literate, amused at and sympathetic to the human condition.

The plot of this one concerns an aged French Duchess in the early 1950s who regards the unfortunate events of 1789 to have been a regrettable inconvenience that members of the great families like hers can get around by manipulating the modern world to their needs. She has a young nephew who loved for three intense days a great opera singer named Leocadia, a diva given to draping lengthy diaphanous scarves around her neck, who carelessly knotted one rather too tightly one day and died in his arms. The young man was devastated and went into a deep depression. The Duchess took him on a round the world cruise that did no good at all and, on returning to France, bought up a couple of locations, a taxi and an ice cream stand that had figured in their brief if passionate romance and had them reassembled on her estate, along with the people who staffed them. When the play begins, the young prince has been living amid this artificially preserved memoryscape for two years.

The play deals with her last strategy which has led her to find a young woman as identical as possible to the deceased and introduce her into the illusion. Amanda turns out to be either more than the Duchess bargained for--or exactly what she intended. Young, fresh, enchanting and very much her own woman, Amanda plays by her own rules. The Prince eventually falls in love not with a recreation of his old love but with an entirely new young woman for who she is herself. It's quite lovely, not overly sentimentalized but extremely romantic.

I'll be finding or doing construction drawings for everything from neoclassic statuary, an 18th century salon, and a Hungarian gypsy cafe to a late 1940s Citroen or Peugeot with trees growing through it. Set designers just lie in wait for projects like this.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

 

John Beresford community memorial Posted by Hello

Here's the picture I had planned to post along with my Obituary of John Beresford last week. At the time my program to post pictures was down. To the best of my knowledge there has still not been an arrest in the case, nor any announcement of significant leads.

So, it appears my original comment service has gone belly up. I say this because all the proper html is on the template and I've done no editing anywhere near it. Tonight I went into settings and enabled what I assume is Blogger's default comment program. Of course, all my old comments are gone, which is a shame, and the Blogger program involves clicking on a very small link at the bottom of the post, waiting for a new page to come up and then clicking again to get to the actual comment screen. It's cumbersome to get to but seemingly easier to use than my old comment screen, so please don't be put off by it and give it a try. I like hearing from you all.

Thanks to all of you who left comments congratulating Fritz and me on our anniversary. I probably didn't get to see them all but they are much appreciated nevertheless. The same-sex marriages here in Massachusetts continue and with the number increasing steadily, public opinion leaning toward it being a benign social development, and an increasingly liberal, Democrat-controlled legislature, I suspect the proposed anti-gay constitutional amendment will be defeated.

We're having a second night of intense storm tonight--gusts in Boston to fifty miles an hour with torrential rain and serious damage throughout the region. Sea walls are collapsing and being shorn up wherever possible with boulders dropped from earth movers. A huge tree went over at the edge of the Public Gardens last night and crushed a couple of parked cars; another one went down tonight by the big Ritz Carleton Hotel; the nightly news just announced that another came down on a womanin her car as she was driving through Brookline just west of the city. It's also very cold and people are beginning to become depressed. This rain started a month ago, rained out the last four weekends as well as parts of the business weeks, and isn't predicted to end until at least Saturday or maybe as late as Monday. One woman interviewed on the TV news echoed the thoughts of many of us: where's global warming when you really need it?

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

 

My daughters and I when they were very young Posted by Hello

 
I've mentioned my daughters every now and then, so I thought I'd post a picture of us during one of our very happiest times. They were about five and three here. My older daughter on the left was born in Wonju, Korea and came here when she was six months old. My younger daughter was born in Seoul and arrived at three and a half months. Raising them was one of the most incredible and beautiful experiences of my life.

I guess Blogger's going through one of its periodic melt-downs. I was away for the weekend up at Fritz's and came back to discover that my comments had all disappeared. They came back very briefly this morning, but only when I went to the blog via Safari, and now they're gone again. I'm not exactly a comments whore (more like a comments groupie) but I enjoy very much hearing from any of you who have been kind enough to comment. Please email me via the new link at the top right
if you have anything you'd like to say.

I left MIT for Fritz's in the middle of the afternoon yesterday and got to his place just in time to catch most of "Young Frankenstein" on AMC. During one of the commercial breaks I mentioned that we had never decided where we were going to go for our anniversary dinner. He immediately suggested one of our favorite places and site of two previous anniversary dinners, Saunders at Rye Harbor which is a really lovely place overlooking a small, very picturesque inlet on the New Hampshire coast.

We left his place in the cold and damp that is pervasive here now and that we're told will last at least through Friday (tomorrow Boston is to have a temperature that matches the usual average temperature for March 11th). As we got nearer to the coast, the wind picked up. When we arrived at Saunders, the American flag was flying straight out and stiff as a board. The wind was so strong and so steady that the flag was neither fluttering nor sagging. We got inside to a window table where we could watch the storm and hear the wind whistle in warmth and shelter--and got a glass of wine into us as soon as possible. We had a good dinner (feta-crusted salmon for me, baked scallops for him) and when we got home, Fritz made apples sauteed in butter and maple syrup with a shot of Jim Beam, served with a dollop of sour cream. Wonderful stuff. I popped a bottle of champagne. We kissed a lot.

And so to bed, where Fritz dreamed about being on our trip to Europe this summer and eating something delicious the name of which could be spelled either gurst or gerst. Neither of us had ever heard of gu/erst before in any context. We kidded about it but when I got to MIT today I googled "gurst." A bunch of people with the last name Gurst came up. I went back and hit "gerst" and a bunch of articles in Dutch appeared about--gerst. Now I have a fair amount of French and Italian and can read rather more German than I can speak, if it's simple enough. But Dutch is another matter entirely. Still, I could make out that gerst is rich in vitamin B-12, is used to make whiskey, and is available in super markets. So gerst most probably was a food item. I copied the article and pasted into an email, sent it to Fritz and suggested he pass it on to his neice who lives with her Dutch husband in Amsterdam. She wrote back that gerst is barley.

I love the stuff and use it as the base for stir-fries instead of rice sometimes, or herbed as a kind of pilaf, but barley isn't a frequent item if Fritz's diet. So we wind up with the question, how did he invent in his dream a delicious food named gerst, a word which he has never known and which he would never have had any reason to connect with barley, a food he rarely eats? This is one of those woo-woo moments.

Monday, May 23, 2005

 
Fritz and I met eight years ago today and married legally in Massachusetts one year ago today. It's only gotten better and deeper as time has gone on. I'll be back up with him tonight after work and we'll have our usual quiet nice dinner out to celebrate. Knowing what we have and what so many gay and lesbian couples have, whether legally married or not, makes me all the angrier and more frustrated with those who deny the validity of same-sex relationships, but I know that in line with the old saying "there are none so blind as those who WILL NOT see." I have some real faith that as the generation currently running things passes away and a younger crowd begins to take over, some sanity may--MAY--begin to make its influence felt.

The weekend went nicely. We hosted 23 men in all (eighteen participants, five in the presentation crew), cooked five meals and got the whole thing knocked down and put away in about an hour and a half last evening. The group leader was a good old friend of ours, a big, warm, outgoing Atlantan and three of four assistants are members of our own circle. The weather was chilly and damp (as it apparetly will remain for the entire week) so the participants didn't see the property at its spring best. Two or three hours of sunlight and the beds lavender iris would have sprung open but they're remaining tightly coiled in the gloomy, raw air.

This came in today from oue of our lesbian colleagues at MIT:

Psychiatrists May Push for Gay Marriage OK
May 22, 2005

ATLANTA - Representatives of the nation's top psychiatric group approved a statement Sunday urging legal recognition of gay marriage. If approved by the association's directors in July, the measure would make the American Psychiatric Association the first major medical group to take such a stance.

The statement supports same-sex marriage "in the interest of maintaining and promoting mental health."
It follows a similar measure by the American Psychological Association last year, little more than three decades after that group removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.

The psychiatric association's statement, approved by voice vote on the first day of its weeklong annual meeting in Atlanta, cites the "positive influence of a stable, adult partnership on the health of all family members." The resolution recognizes "that gay men and lesbians are full human beings who should be afforded the same human and civil rights," said Margery Sved, a Raleigh, N.C., psychiatrist and member of the assembly's committee on gay and lesbian issues.

The document clarifies that the association is addressing same-sex civil marriage, not religious marriages. It takes no position on any religion's views on marriage. Massachusetts is the only state that allows same-sex marriage. Eighteen states have passed constitutional amendments outlawing same-sex marriage.

----
On The Net:
American Psychiatric Association: http://www.psych.org
Copyright 2005 Associated Press.

Friday, May 20, 2005

 

Welsh Dragon by Fritz Posted by Hello

Fritz and I spent a week in Wales a couple of summers ago and had a wonderful time. Lovely countryside, great people and lots of history to visit. I have a thing about T-shirts with graphics. I love them, but don’t like the screen printed type, especially the rubbery ones. What I go after are the Ts with embroidered art. They’re all machine done, but they have a feel and depth of color that are what I want on my body. They’re also hard to find. We traveled in a big circle around Wales following the coast west from Cardiff, then north, east and finally south along the border with England and back to Cardiff again. There wasn't a single embroidered T to be found anywhere in the whole country.

The following Christmas, this striking Welsh Dragon on a black T was wrapped up under the tree for me. I was delighted and asked Fritz where he’d found it. He hadn’t—he had tried his first piece of embroidery (well, OK, the second--the first one had been a disaster but he moved on to another shirt and got it right) out of love for me.

This weekend we’re doing something we both believe in completely. The Body Electric School is holding one of its weekend programs at Fritz’s; we’ll be hosting twenty one or more gay men. They start arriving this afternoon and stay in residence until early Sunday evening. We cook and clean for them. Body Electric helps gay and lesbian people explore mind/body/spirit connections and the healing power of erotic energy. We’ve seen it’s work first-hand by experiencing it ourselves, and then in the profound effect it has had on people in transition in their lives, or seeking deeper levels in their relationships or personal spirituality. Fritz's center is one of the few places in the country where weekends like these can be held in a gay-owned facility with kitchen, dining room and a residence floor attached.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

 

Gay Life at MIT Exhibit Team Posted by Hello

Wonder of wonders, my photo program has begun to work again.

This picture, a favorite of mine, was taken a year and a half ago at the opening of an exhibit on gay life at MIT. The team that made it happen were, from the left, our LGBT Coordinator from the Dean of Residential Life's office who produced
the whole thing, myself in the plaid shirt who designed and built the exhibit, our photographer who shot well over a hundred members of gay/lesbian/bi/trans community, and the grad student who did all the layout and type for the text panels and captions.

The important job of LGBT Coordinator was never part of anyone's job description at MIT. It was taken on strictly as a volunteer responsibility by anyone willing to shoulder the time commitment. The guy so delightfully draped over my shoulders did a tremendous job with the position but left the Institute a year ago to become Dean of Students at a very major university south of Boston. Ever since his departure, nobody has had the time to give the job and it has remained empty.

About a month ago J, a very good friend of Fritz's and mine, emailed to say that he had applied for the newly created job of LGBT Coordinator, asking if he could use me as his referral contact. I was delighted to do so, particularly as his background in psychology, event organization and gay spirituality are ideal for the position. He's also got a manner of dealing with people that should be ideal for students and faculty alike. But in addition to the exciting possibility of having J move from Maine to the Boston area and much closer to Fritz and me is the fact that the gay community at MIT is finally going to be represented by a dedicated member of the administrative staff.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

 
Today is the first anniversary of gay/lesbian marriage in Massachusetts. In the afternoon of May 17 last year, Fritz and I got our marriage license in Brookline Town Hall for our marriage the next week on our 7th anniversary.

The fundamentalist religious fanatics are at it again. A twelve year old girl from a middle school in Danvers, MA wrote an essay on Ellen DeGeneris. Some totally bigoted and fanatical group from a heartland red state found out about this and immediately declared the people running the school to be Homosexual Fascists who were leading innocent little children straight to hell. This group plans to come to Danvers next week en masse to demonstrate, pray, and create whatever disruption thay can. The school and the parents are bracing for their onslaught. I do so think this country is in in serious trouble and that it's getting worse and worse by the day.

Monday, May 16, 2005

 
I guess it was too good to be true--I had finally mastered the program (Hello from Picasa) that put pictures onto the blog when suddenly without warning it stopped working. I had wanted to post a picture of the community memorial that has grown up where John Beresford died as part of that day's post, but neither that picture, nor any other picture since, has published. It goes through all the motions as it always did, and when I click the "publish" button it says it's sending the chosen shot to the blog. But nothing I've sent actually posts. I uninstalled the program and reinstalled it--no change. A message into the Hello help people hasn't been answered.

We've held our last classes and had all the student work presented. My colleagues and I held one session to decide on grades today and will do a follow-up tomorrow. The rest is all bureaucracy, really, but does include something interesting. For the past two years, we've hosted a touring production from Cambridge University in England every fall. They always do a Shakespeare, tour it in Europe during the summer and then to America in the fall. It's been very pleasant for us--our technical director and I are the ones who have the responsibility for supervising them in our theater and we've always enjoyed working with them enormously. Our students and they get along really well and everybody gets to see an acting style not current in the U.S., which is all to the good.

About a month ago, we got word that Cambridge thought it was time for MIT to send a production of some sort to their spring arts festival next June. There was a lot of enthusiasm and I've gotten the go-ahead to start the plans. I began setting up the files today for a fairly big enterprise, beginning with raising the money to send a group of a dozen or so and maintaining them while there.

Today ended with the annual ceremony honoring students for outstanding achievement within Music and Theater Arts. The fact that performing arts even exist at MIT is not well known, much less that some of our students are highly talented musicians, actors, composers and playwrights. One of the young women wasn't there to recieve her award because she was in Prague, having just won first place at an international harpsichord competition, topped off by getting an award from the Bohuslav Martinu Foundation for her playing of that composer's concerto for harpsichord and chamber orchestra. Given the incredible load our students have to carry, the fact that they have the time and endurance to get in all the practrice necessary for this level of musical accomplishment is astounding.

Fritz and I had a nice weekend and even got intothe hot tub under a starry sky on Saturday night. Otherwise, the weather here has become the "endless March." It's cold and damp and there was a hard freeze in southern New Hampshire the other night. Everyone's ready for spring but spring just doesn't come. They're not going to sell global warming to me if things continue as they are too much longer.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

 
Scott the Sardonic tagged me for this meme: (“Now this is the part where I'm supposed to pass it on. I'm trying to torture three different people every time I get one of these things: who should it be this time? I pick_____, _____, and Will, because I think his back is hot.”):

“Said meme* takes its name from Mel Brooks' A History of the World (Part I), and, upon receiving it, one is supposed to list five things that one's circle of friends or peer group is wild about, but that one can’t really understand the fuss over.”

So, here are my five:
Bottled Water—In my opinion, one of the greatest scams the American public has ever let itself get suckered into. An analysis I saw published a year or so ago even confirmed that several leading brands of bottled water are simply tap water packaged, distributed, and sold for a handsome profit to people who think they’re getting smart water, designer water, spring water or sports water just because they have to pay for it. Last month, even my supremely rational friends in Chicago tried to push a bottle of water on me as I left for a performance of Wagner’s opera GOTTERDAMMERUNG on the premise that act one lasts two hours and I would need water. Actually, the last thing I want when confined for two hours away from plumbing is to tank up on liquids of any kind, let alone something I can take from my own tap for free.

Tom Cruise—I raised two daughters through their teen years, so every Tom Cruise movie ever made hit my VCR at one time or another. Has there ever been such a wretched actor? The scene where he first meets Demi Moore in “A Few Good Men” and has to hide his delivery of the dialog behind eating an apple would alone have gotten a non-name actor bounced from Hollywood forever. Also, if sex were as incredibly boring and dull as he makes it out to be on screen, we’d all be celibate.

Eat-out, take-out, delivered, frozen microwavable—every now and then, fine. I love a nice dinner out with friends, and some nights when I was hammered at work and my daughters had late athletics at school we’d get Dragon Chef’s really great Mu shu. But I know people who live this way every night, whose refrigerators contain nothing much beyond . . . bottled water! I come from an Italian family on my father’s side—authentic home-made food was used to seduce, to bring people together, to celebrate life’s great events, to console in difficult times. Fritz and I grow our own whenever possible. Food should bring people together, not isolate them away each in his or her own little living unit night after night.

Organized Religion—General Disclaimer #1: I do not mock or deny the validity of anyone’s personal faith. General Disclaimer #2: Organized Religion and Spirituality are two different things--and the way Organized Religion seems to be operated these days, they may even be mutually exclusive. People seem to have bought into the myth that you can’t have a value system or morals of any kind without belonging to a religion. Then, what to make of that obscene oxymoron “religious war?” How to justify religions that discriminate, condemn people for the way they were born, spread hatred and divisiveness? If a religion doesn’t help all people, show them a way to live and work together productively and in peace, what possible use is it?

Partisan Politics—The country’s going wild with it. In Washington, the government’s now in serious danger of grinding completely to a halt because of it. The two-party system has never looked more problematical. The idea that two points of view can operate in a civil manner and accomplish something together seems to have been totally forgotten in a mindless quest to bash the others side at all costs. And an unacceptable number of our leaders have scandalously forgotten that they are in office to protect, govern and serve all the people, not just those whose opinions and sexuality they personally approve of.

Now I’m supposed to tag three other bloggers. I nominate Karl (Adventures in Gastronomy), Jeff (Esoteric Diversions) and Jess (Splenda in the Grass).


Friday, May 13, 2005

 
In Memoriam: John Beresford

I had been planning to write about something else tonight but something’s happened here in Boston this week that I need to write about instead.

John Beresford, a forty year old gay massage therapist and singing actor, had spent years working to improve his neighborhood in Dorchester—with special emphasis on Ronan Park opposite his house. Drug dealers had been chased away, he had arranged sports facilities, night time activities like concerts and theater in the park, and pushed the City of Boston to renovate walks, fences and lighting. On Wednesday, Mayor Tom Menino was scheduled to tour the park with Beresford, his partner of eight years Adam Greenfield, and their fellow activist neighbor Larissa Kulynych. But when Menino came to the park in Dorchester, it was to give comfort and sympathy to the neighborhood—Beresford had been stabbed to death the previous evening in the very park he had done so much to restore and make safe.

As Greenfield and Kulynych were coming home through the park from work, two thugs snatched her purse and ran. Greenfield called Beresford at home and told him to watch out for them as they were heading toward the house. A big, bear of a man over six feet tall, Beresford rushed out, confronted the thieves and was struck down. The murderers disappeared; no arrests have yet been made and the police have little evidence at this time.

Media coverage has been intense. One big feature of it has been unquestioned recognition and acceptance of Beresford and Greenfield’s relationship. Adam Greenfield, 37, is an administrator at Emerson College. Anyone who dismisses the depth and authenticity of gay love should be made to watch the news coverage. Greenfield is clearly going through a hellish time but he has declared his intention to remain in the home the two men renovated, pushing for the city’s full attention to the neighborhood’s safety and maintenance.

I didn’t know John Beresford, but he was important to two good friends. Two other Boston actors, J my closest friend from college, and D who runs a small acting group at Boston’s Museum of Science where Beresford performed, shared Santa Claus duties last Christmas—three big, bearded, outgoing men with warm and generous personalities. D has been at the house in Dorchester helping Adam Greenfield deal with the media and the sudden reality of life without John. J and I spoke this afternoon about the great sadness of his loss. If any good can come from such a thing, perhaps some people will see what the enterprise and devotion of two men who dearly loved each other has meant to one neighborhood and, now, to an entire city.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

 
Korean Dragon Jacket Posted by Hello


In the highly unlikely event that any of you has been wondering what I do with my spare time, one of the answers is that I like to embroider. I started six or seven years ago when it occurred to me that I could be doing something while watching television other than just staring at the screen. I’d never done fabric art of any kind and figured it was something I might like.

I had a white denim jacket and decided to put a Korean dragon on it in honor of my adopted daughters, both of whom came from Korea—Wonju and Seoul respectively. He didn’t turn out too badly, so I tried something different on a vest. I try to avoid suit jackets at all costs but I love vests and have a decently sized collection. Somewhere along the way I discovered another thing, among many, that Fritz and I have in common—he had been doing needlework on canvas mesh for years. He loves bargello and geometric patterns. Recently I turned three of his pieces into pillows for his newly reupholstered sofa.


We're having some fun at MIT planning for the 50th anniversary of theater at the Institute. I should say "organized theater" because there had been many student extra-curricular groups over the years. But in 1955, the Literature Section hired a director who had New York theater credits and made him an assistant professor. He taught a course and directed one play each term, and supervised student-directed projects as well. The design staff were all part-timers in those days and still were when I joined the program. We all went full time in the very late 1980s when a formal Theater Arts Section was called into being.

We left Literature at that time and migrated to Music, becoming Music and Theater Arts, a much more logical arrangement and one that has allowed me to work extensively with the music faculty, which I enjoy enormously. I've designed small operas for them, guest taught in the "Shakespeare and Opera" class and was called in to design the interior of the World Music Room when the donors weren't happy with the original plans.

The anniversary event will be a lunch for alumni in theater and dance (there's a huge amount of dance at MIT), followed by a matinee performance of our fall play. We haven't had a lot of contact with our theater graduates (we lack a large enough administrative structure in Theater Arts) and are hoping to start regaining their interest and--surprise, surprise--perhaps a little of their money towards a desperately needed performing arts facility.

 
Art Deco Icon Vest Posted by Hello

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

 
My Backpiece  Posted by Hello

 
Right Upper Arm Posted by Hello


A while ago and long before I got my act together about posting pictures on the blog, I mentioned my tattoos and what they represent to me. Here are a couple of shots--I'll put some more on before the end of the week.

I prepare all my own artwork, sized exactly as I want it, and the majority of it comes from native American sources (as long as you include the Maya, Aztec and Inca in that term--pre-Columbian, perhaps more accurately. I reworked many motifs, combining them as I needed, as in the "pedestal" for the Aztec sun turtle.
The lower part of the backpiece (apologies for the break between photos of the top and bottom--just try to bleep over it) is a departure from the general style. I was at a point in my life when I wanted and needed very deeply to express what I felt about men, particularly the men in my personal life. The strongest statement I could think of at the time was to combine Leonardo's iconic figure of the perfectly proportioned man with the "What a piece of work is man" passage from Shakespeare's HAMLET:

"What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! how infinite in faculties! in form and moving how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension, how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals!"

To me, it seemed an appropriate combination of art in two different forms, one from the Northern and the other from the Southern European Renaissance. My tattoo artist loved it, although he told me I had given him the two hardest things for a tattoo artist to do--long straight lines and big circles. But he did a fantastic job.

The tribal "wings" across my shoulder blades are the only art on me that I haven't prepared myself. I asked him to do it and I was very happy with what he designed. The one change I asked for was for him to extend the long "fingers" so that they crested over my shoulders. So, he prepared the line art for transfer and placed it on me and then with both of us standing, he put his left arm around my torso and pulled me in firmly while he drew the extensions free-hand right on me. It was an almost erotic experience in a process that tends to be pretty sensual anyway with one man working on, holding, and decorating another man's naked body parts.

WBZ (CBS) radio in Boston discussed today the reports coming out of McMaster University in Canada documenting that straight and gay men have different mechanical functions in their brains. When exposed to male scents, essentially testosterone, gay mens' brains react the way women's brains do rather than as straight men's brains. There are further differences in how gays perceive and process sound versus straights. I imagine these test results will be interpreted in very different ways politically depending on the standing agendas of various commentators--but so far I haven't heard of anyone asking the "Chicken or the Egg" question that I think looms over this entire matter.

The tests apparently indicate THAT the reactions in gay brains are different, but not WHY, and most importantly, not WHEN these differences came into being. In other words, were the differences present in the developing fetus or did they come into existence years later as the brain adapted to the sexual orientation and needs of a gay man. The answer to that question could go a long way to supporting or contradicting the other current research that indicates we're gay from the very beginning.

Monday, May 09, 2005

 
My cat Posted by Hello


Having put up a picture of my daughter's dog, I thought I should show you guys a REAL companion animal, my cat Starr. I hasten to add that the name didn't come from me. She had it at the animal shelter when I got her and I was planning to change it until I discovered that she knew it, responded to it and apparently liked it.
So Starr she remained. As you can probably tell, she isn't shy around a camera; what you can't tell is that she talks constantly, probably the most vocal cat I have ever shared my house with.

For me there are two associations for the name with two Rs--Ken Starr the sleazebag persecutor of Bill and Hilary Clinton during the Whitewater investigation, and Brenda Starr, the sexy and sophisticated newspaper reporter cartoon character who got made into a forgettable movie.

Starr is extremely companionable and affectionate although she can be noticeably cool toward Fritz. I keep telling her he takes extremely good care of me but it doesn't cut any ice. When the three of us are all together either here in Boston or at his place in New Hampshire, he feeds her, talks to her and cuddles her when she'll allow it but progress, if any, is slow. He said to me once that she's a one-person cat.

That makes a certain amount of sense as it's just the two of us here in Boston, and I have a knack for bonding with my cats in very strong ways. Several of them have turned into one-person cats, beginning with the very intelligent Cornface (so named because her three-color tabby markings made her look like a cob of Indian Corn) and proceeding through Bertie (a magnificent Maine Coon Cat) and Sugar. I often communicate and play with my cats on their terms, lying on the floorwith them, picking up on the signals they give on what kind of games they like to play, etc. At least three of my cats have invented chase games and Cornface began a fetch game by walking up to me one day out of the blue with a rolled up aluminum foil ball in her mouth that she dropped at my feet.

Cornface was also a real smart-ass which endeared her to me enormously. Going into the kitchen cabinets was forbidden and she knew it. At one point when she was about eight years old another cat, a honey-colored Manx kitten, came into the household. The Manx was NOT intelligent. She really hadn't a thought in her head but she was all affection and fun. There were three days of ritual spitting and hissing after which Cornface came off it and decided I needed to be taught a lesson for bringing another animal into her house. As I was sitting having lunch one day, she walked purposefully into the room with the little one bouncing along behind her. She went up to the first cabinet, hooked a claw under the door and popped it open. Then she turned around to look at the little one as if to say, "now do you understand how this is done?" This was repeated around the room until all the cabinet doors were wide open. Then she calmly walked past me and out through the hall into the living room where the two of them curled up to nap--and make plans.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

 
German bass Rene Pape Posted by Hello

 
My daughter and her dog Posted by Hello


I had lunch in New York City with my younger daughter yesterday before my matinee opera. She had sent me this picture after a Dog Walk for Cancer that she and her Poopsie (that's actually the dog's name), had just finished--they raised over $300. This dog is just incredible--yes, it's alive and not stuffed--and it loves her beyond all reason. My daughter rescued her from an animal shelter. The Poopster (my rather less sentimental nickname for the dog) had apparently belonged to an older lady who had either died or was no longer able to care for it.

So, the goods on the naked operatic bass--yes, he was and no, he wasn't. What early reports failed to mention was that it was a moulded suit replicating what he might have looked like if his skin had been removed. The Metropolitan Opera's costume department clearly feels that this Devil has killer pecs and abs. It's actually very much in line with Medieval and early Renaissance depictions in paintings and engravings of a human body without skin, merged with the Church's traditional depiction of the Devil. The opera FAUST deals with the semi-legendary German philosopher/magician/alchemist Johann Faustus and a pact he makes with the Devil for knowledge, which became the restoration of his youth as the story progressed through history.

So, we have Rene Pape, who's handsome, well over six feet tall, trim and athletic, in his late 30s or very early 40s, with a gorgeous, suave voice that he uses magnificently--and who oozes sex appeal. This man's charisma just comes roaring up off the stage. He moves with all the grace and insinuation of a panther and is completely in command of every scene he enters. The director and costume designer gave him a complete change of costume every time he enters--black tie formal wear, a traditional red Renaissance nobleman's costume, the "naked" suit, a military uniform, and full black leather--in which he looks like the Hell's Angel of ones dreams. He appeared to be having the time of his life on stage and wore all those clothes from all those different periods splendidly.

His musical range is interesting--last year he released here in the U.S. a CD of songs by the German rock group Rammstein that hit the classical best seller charts. I probably shouldn't mention this because it falls into the realm of speculation, but he is one of the most popular and most interviewed singers of his generation, and in none of the print pieces I have ever seen on him is there any mention of a wife or girlfriends.

Friday, May 06, 2005

 
Chipmunk at Fritz's Posted by Hello


I thought I'd leave you with this for the weekend. These little guys are all over Fritz's property, among the many species of wildlife that I've seen there, including deer, skunk, porcupine, woodchuck and a dazzling variety of birds. Chipmunks love the firewood stacks that work like apartment houses for them. One of the stacks is right next to a blueberry bush--we provide room and board for our little friends! (For our big friends too, sometimes, but that's another story).

I'm off to NYC tomorrow for a couple of performances at the Metropolitan Opera--Mozart's LA CLEMENZA DI TITO and a brand new production of Gounod's FAUST that is reportedto have the extremely tall, extremely hunky German bass Rene Pape as Mefistopheles just about naked in one scene, with slightly enhanced abs and a Devil's tail as he tempts the young and innocent Marguerite into perdition. Can't wait.

Good weekend, Everyone!

Thursday, May 05, 2005

 
The Internationalist by Naomi Wallace Posted by Hello

 
The Demolition Downtown by Tennessee Williams Posted by Hello


And now for something completely different! The kind of painting that I can do is not always in demand. Every couple of years we do a period piece that calls for trompe l'oeil effects or the kind of painterly work I posted yesterday. Much more current are sets of this type.

The Internationalist went on in February of this year. The look was very cool, very international chic in surfaces and furniture. I found the chairs in a Design Within Reach catalog and they were just affordable, but I wanted them and they looked great on stage. The cafe table in the photo and all the office desks were made in our shop and I spray lacquered the pedestals myself. The tops were solid one inch clear acrylic with rounded edges. For the wall panels I found an opalescent fabric that could go gold or silver depending on the angle from which you looked at it, and the color was changable by back lighting with color filters. In the photo here, patterns are sprayed across the back. The panels were suspended from overhead tracks and could be reconfigured into large or small spaces quickly and easily.

The Demolition Downtown is normally a thirty-five minute one act that takes place in the living room of an upper middle class home. It played in the last two weeks of April. The director is very media-conscious so there were live video feeds to monitors placed across the front of the stage. He also likes the audience to be held at arm's reach away from the action, so I designed a solid plexiglas wall between the actors and the audience--all dialog was picked up by microphones and heard through speakers. This is a post-modern kind of design--many sets these days look like museum installations rather than traditional scenery. He also expanded the action and dialog considerably and created a production that not only presented the text but made a running commentary on it as well.

Next week is the last week of classes, then there's an exam week. I got my grass cut last night--eight inches to a foot may be exciting in some contexts but not for a lawn.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

 

Painted Front Curtain Posted by Hello Clicking these pictures should lead to a larger image.

 

Prison Scene painted backdrop Posted by Hello

Hans asked if I might post some of my work, so here are two examples of my painting. Both are from a play called COMPANY OF ANGELS that I designed eighteen months ago. There were a couple of play-within-a-play scenes in this story of survivors from the ghetto in Lodz, Poland during the Holocaust. They put together a troupe of actors and musicians and did the old Yiddish plays for survivors in the camps who had little to do as they awaited relocation to other countries. In the process they managed to raise spirits and also to spark a revival of Yiddish language and culture. At one point before they themselves get papers to emigrate to the U.S., they're given access to the scenery stock of the Bavarian State Opera by American Occupation forces, and use these two drops for one of their shows.

The very 19th Century prison scene backs parts of a play on the expulsion of Jews from Spain after Ferdinand and Isabella finish the reconquest of the country from the Moors. The front curtain backs a song and dance number. The prison I painted as closely as possible in the style of actual scene painting from the late 1800s, but the composition is my own. The front curtain is a bit more 1910/20 and combines elements from three actual curtains that were photographed. Both were rigged on stage to roll up from the bottom. Here they're still stretched on the paint frame before being taken down and moved into the theater.

As the academic year is ending in about a month, it's all paperwork and clean-up for me now. I have lots of work but make my own schedule for the most part, so I went up to Harvard Square and had a Thai lunch with Karl of Adventures in Gastronomy. It had been a while since our last one; next time he'll come to MIT and I'll be able to take him through our design and production building , which is where the two drops above were painted.

 

Daffodils at Fritz's Posted by Hello
For those of you who wanted to see the look of spring at Fritz's place, this is a very small number of the daffodils that appear in masses each April and early May. This is also my first successful posting of photos to the blog and I'm delighted to finally know how to do it. There will be more.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

 
Nice weekend, two performances, and lots of one on one time with Fritz. Friday night at the opera was fun. Jonathan Dove's FLIGHT isn't a work for the ages, perhaps, but it's a very good evening's entertainment. The music, truth to tell, is quite derivitive. Leonard Bernstein, John Adams, Philip Glass, Benjamin Britten and even Stephen Sondheim put in appearances with some regularity. But the big influence is Daniel Catan, whose FLORENCIA EN EL AMAZONAS I mentioned last time. There was a ton of exotic percussion in the pit and, since Catan is a real neo-romantic composer, FLIGHT was full of melody and orchestral color. I'm not saying Dove doesn't have a voice of his own, but it doesn't seem dominant in this score.

The plot is about the search for love and the abandonment of unrealistic delusions of what love is. Not an unknown theme but well developed by the librettist. The cast of (mostly) young singers was excellent and the production imaginative and well designed. The audience went with it, and took it in stride when two of the young men slipped away from the group, first to get royally stoned and then to strip and have sex (just out of sight, unfortunately, given that both were A+ in the looks and body department).

After the final curtain, I headed for the car, drove up to Fritz's and slipped into bed with him just before midnight. Since heavy rains were expected Saturday afternoon, we dismantled the maple sap boiler and got it into the barn first thing, followed by some tending to the new fruit trees and raspberries. Then we retreated indoors and worked inside as the weather deteriorated.

Today was the press opening for the Boston production of Richard Greenberg's TAKE ME OUT, the excellently written, baseball-oriented play that speculates on what might happen if a major league athlete came out publicly at the height of his career. Yes, it's also the play with full frontal nude shower scenes. It's also witty, extremely funny and, not incidentally, filled with a genuine love and passion for baseball. I had gotten us tickets just in time--the run is almost completely sold out.

Anyone within hailing distance of Boston should see this production. Boston Theater Works and Speakeasy Stage collaborated in putting it on and the cast is excellent. It's going on at the Boston Center for the Arts in one of the two very new theaters. There's not a bad seat in the house.

So he's down here with me for the night and tomorrow morning we'll both be in a meeting with the MIT Museum's exhibit director who wants to consult with us on using theater as part of the museum's activities.

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