Saturday, December 30, 2006

It's been busy. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday morning we had what remains of my extended family at Fritz's for a delayed Christmas gathering. Stars of the show were definitely my second cousins, five year old P and her younger brother, eighteen month old or so N. N is Mr. Personality, an extremely bright, confident, seemingly low-maintenance young man who's a total charmer. P, herself, is a sweatheart, bright and great company. Their ease and adaptablity to being with adults in social settings says volumes about how their parents are raising them. We even managed to get my cousin R down from Montreal, the first Christmas in decades that he's joined the rest of the family for the holidays.

I'm over the pneumonia--at least I'm over the terrible and uncontrollable coughing and the fatigue. My energy came back the day after the first antibiotic pill, and I'm feeling great again.

And that's good because "the boys" started to arrive Friday night. We're a dozen so far, and more are expected today. Among the first things we did was set up the swap table, which has become an annual event. Guys bring the porn novels, gay fiction anthologies, magazines, DVDs and videos they're finished with and put them out. Everyone then takes what catches his fancy. It's a great way to stock up for the next year at no cost and there are always some gems that appear unexpectedly in the middle of all the shaved twink tapes--they make it all worthwhile.

So, I'll be posting updates to this entry at intervals. The weekend is a combination of scheduled and spontaneous activities punctuated at intervals by great food prepared by various of the guests in rotation. Last night was a movie night, featuring "A Mighty Wind." The climax, or one of them at least, will be the "fancy dress" dinner on New Years Eve followed by dancing and other revelry until midnight and beyond.

Oh, and "spontaneous activities" means just about what you'd expect it to mean when a group of gay men who are all good friends of long standing get together. Which means it's a great way to see in the New Year.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

We got a major, unexpected Christmas gift this year. "We" are those of us who are involved with Intermezzo, the New England Chamber Opera. Lloyd Schwartz, the Pulitzer Prize-winning music critic of The Boston Phoenix named our recent production of Benjamin Britten's "Curlew River" the best fully staged opera production of the year:

Intermezzo Chamber Opera has been specializing in brand new work, but its most successful efforts have been revivals of neglected 20th-century masterpieces. This year, my favorite fully staged opera was Intermezzo's elegant low-budget version of Benjamin Britten's Curlew River.

For a small company, particularly one that presents only modern work much of which is brand new material with no proven track record, this is huge. There was a real feeling of elation in the message that J, company founder, artistic director and leading baritone, sent out to all of us. "Curlew River" represented a big risk -- larger in cast and orchestra than anything we'd ever attempted, difficult if gorgeous music in a highly individual style, presented in a new and unfamiliar venue (a cathedral-type church as dictated by the score). We're all pretty euphoric.

On a less exalted note, my cold that wouldn't go away passed the two week mark on Christmas Eve. I said to Fritz that I was pretty sure it had developed into pneumonia because of the uncontrollable coughing spasms at night and in the early morning hours. After everyone went home today from our close family Christmas, I went to my HMO and found out that I was right. A chest x-ray revealed a spot on my left lung, lower lobe, pretty much where I had told the doctor I thought it would be. She said, "You certainly know your own body," and a little further into the conversation she commented very favorably on my tattoos. We got on well.

I'm on a short-course but powerful antibiotic, a strong cough suppressant liquid, and the latest form of dispensing a powdered antibiotic directly into the lungs that replaces the old gas canister inhalers whose propellants are now recognized to be harmful. Oh, the radiologist said the titanium curved barbell through my left nipple came out looking really great on the film.

The connection between architecture and sexual imagery goes way back. From the ziggurats of Mesopotamia to the skyscrapers of New York and Singapore, putting great towers up into the sky has been understood as a demonstration of civic or personal power on the part of the building's owner and/or architect, the vast majority of whom, historically, have been men bent on exhibiting strength and dominance.
Architecture critics and commentators haven't been slow to recognize phallic symbols when they see them rising in the streets. Other members of the architecture community haven't been slow to join in the fun; several companies in the Boston area that put up the steelwork for new buildings advertise themselves as "erection specialists."

Traditionally, the architectural phallic symbol has risen straight up. Any deviation (the Leaning Tower of Pisa, for example) hints at erectile dysfunction. But in the engineering-driven architecture that's becoming the standard today, architects are freed to explore the phallus that stands straight out at a ninety degree angle to the mass, instead of sticking straight up.
The new phallic building is likely to feature a daring cantilever rather than a tower -- trembling, tumescent or otherwise.

Perhaps the earliest and most daring cantilevers, in this country at least, were the unsupported terraces on Frank Lloyd Wright's iconic Fallingwater, the private country house for a powerful Pittsburgh business man. Extremely daring structurally for the 1930s, the cantilevered terraces began to go flaccid after age 50, which can happen even to recognized studs like Mr. Wright. Quickie fixes like jacking the terraces back up were rejected; a much more permanent and aesthetic solution to the problem was applied in the form of stretched cables hidden in the terrace floors that counteracted downward droop, like structural viagra.

As I featured recently, the New Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston is built specifically to showcase a massive cantilever that reaches out to the harbor and the ocean beyond, like the Venetian Doge tossing a wedding ring into the lagoon each year to symbolize a male Venice's marriage to the female sea. Now in Minneapolis, the new building for the Guthrie Theater, perhaps the U.S.'s premiere regional theater, has taken a Minneapolis symbol -- the elevated walkway -- and turned it into a dramatic cantilever, a theatrical gesture that boldly declares horizontal to be the new vertical.
The architect is the French Jean Nouvel who has made theaters and conference halls a specialty in a distinguished career that's been notable for inventive textures and surfaces. His great library building for the Arab Institute in Paris takes traditional Islamic tile designs and transforms them into pierced metal panels that allow light, dappled into patterns, to reach far into the building without blinding or overheating anyone. He's certainly no stranger to the traditional vertical phallus (this one perhaps a bit more blatant than most), but it hasn't been an obsession to him.

The old Guthrie was a stodgy, motionless 1960s–style building. In the years since it's opening, the original stage and back-stage areas that were not considered particularly successful, were ripped out and reconfigured, but were still found
wanting. This new Guthrie is far more involved with curves and architectural drama, including the cantilever that reaches out toward the Mississippi, on whose banks it stands, and to St. Paul on the opposite bank as if wishing that one of those Minneapolis walkways could span the Father of Waters and link the two cities with a new and very different kind of bridge.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

I'm gradually getting a houseful of daughters, one son-in-law, my husband, my cat and my younger daughter's dog. I will be cooking and celebrating straight through Monday night and will probably not be posting again until Tuesday.

I wish you all the very best for a lovely Christmas and end of Hanukkah! Thank you all for reading DesignerBlog and especially for commenting and offering your wit and wisdom. You are what makes this all worthwhile.



Christmas Eve Dinner: Tagine of chicken, preserved lemon and green olive served over barley pilaf; green beans; Merlot Domaine de St. Esteve, 1995; Greek pastries

Christmas Morning Breakfast: Mimosas, traditional German Christmas Stolen with marzipan, clementines, coffee

Christmas Dinner: Roast Cornish Game hen with curried fruit/Grand Marnier stuffing, curried summer squash, rice, Flag Hill Winery's Niagara wine, and home-made pumpkin pie.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The sex scandals just keep coming from those Colorado Evangelical churches. Christopher Beard, an executive staff member from Ted Haggard's old church in Colorado Springs, has stepped down after revealing "a series of decisions displaying poor judgment, including one incident of sexual misconduct several years ago," in the words of a church spokesman.

Beard is currently married but wasn't at the time of his admitted sexual infraction. He and the spokesman, assistant pastor Rob Brendle, are both remaining mum about the gender of Beard's sex partner. The only details given were that Beard had sex with another unmarried adult, who was NOT Ted Haggard. Beyond that, nothing.

The incident came out during an investigation into the moral purity of the church's staff in the wake of Haggard's shocking and very public fall from grace. We're supposed to believe that Beard's resignation was voluntary, but Rob Brendle's statement that it was another step in seeing that "disordered moral life . . . [is] excised from the church" hints otherwise.

On a totally different but related note, the clerical staff of the church seems to have been made up totally of cute or otherwise good looking men. From Haggard himself on down through the ranks, all the faces on the church's site have bright smiles, hair you'd like to run your fingers through, and that clean, chiseled mid-western look that hints at cowboys together up in the hills.

I finished the drawings for "Imperceptible Mutabilities in the Third Kingdom" yesterday day and I think I like the design. It's one of those productions where all the actors are on stage all the time, each in his or her own little lair around the stage which contains everything they need to reveal character and let them play the scenes required of them without having to leave the stage for costume changes or to bring on new props.

I got a grant from one of the "cookie jars" that exist around campus, wonderful little endowed funds dedicated to the furtherance of Women's Studies, creativity in engineering design, ethnic studies, public art on campus, etc. or, in the case of the fund I tapped into, bringing humor in all its many forms to MIT. We need big video monitors, image control software and lots and lots of control cable to bring off the design. Our budgets aren't all that large, and they need help in the face of such a media-rich production.

The fund was endowed by Peter de Florez an alumnus from the class of 1938 who worked with a variety of companies in the aircraft industry, eventually taking over a family business founded by his father. He guided it into a highly successful operation, sold it for a good many millions of dollars, and ran off to do what he'd really wanted to do all along – study clowning at the Ringling Brothers Clown College in Florida.

He was a very generous man. In addition to the humor fund, he endowed a writing prize (MIT students are notoriously afraid of writing and need all the encouragement/strong arm tactics we can provide), a full professorship, and he beefed up the endowment left by his own father (MIT, 1911) in a fund to promote "outstanding ingenuity and creative development."

So, with the show designed, I get some time to actually prepare for Christmas. I'm in pretty good shape for presents, the cards are out (a few stragglers will hit the post office chute today), and I'm working on getting the house ready for its last family Christmas (Fritz, the girls, my son-in-law and me).

But work also has to go on with the new house. Yesterday I made contact with the Public Service of New Hampshire to arrange for a site visit early in the new year and start coordinating the solar energy engineers with the electric utility company.

Because we're so serious about making the house very "green," we're eligible for certain discounts and rebates on things like insulation, home appliances, the photovoltaic system and the geo-thermal heat pump. If I were building within something like 20 miles of MIT, I could get a lot of money from the Institute, but I'm not so I can't. However, I got a really cordial and supportive response today to my call, along with a lot of useful vendor contacts, and I'm officially on PSNH's radar.

It's three and a half months to the projected ground-breaking date.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Every Christmas I get a card from A, an extremely old lady now living in a retirement home in New Jersey. Until her husband's death several years ago, they lived there together. She has to be in her nineties now and she's gotten frail. She signs her cards and letters in a shaky hand, the actual writing having been done by a staff member of the home who takes dictation. Many years ago when I lived in Rego Park, Queens, New York, she and her husband owned a card and gift shop. For three of my high school years I had a part time job there afternoons and weekends as stock boy, occasionally working the counter and ringing up sales.

They had no children. The official story that it was by choice never quite washed with me, because I was pretty certain he was gay. They more or less "adopted" me during the years that I worked for them, turning my earnings into tickets for Broadway plays and musicals and the Metropolitan Opera. As time went on, I was trusted with the cash register during peak seasons so they could both work the sales floor. They also let me design and build some displays of china and glassware, and sit with them as they chose items from the wholesale catalogs. Working for them was an important phase of my early development.

A couple of years ago I received a letter privately from the young woman who helps A with things, reads to her and writes her correspondence. She explained to me that A had no friends or relatives left and how important my Christmas cards and occasional notes were to her. Each year, I wonder if I'll get a card or if she won't have made it to another Christmas. But A's card arrived again this year with her usual request for information about how my daughters and I are doing. My card to her with news of my leaving MIT and building the new house had already gone out. There'll be others, too, probably more than usual in 2007 -- the signature on her card is visibly weaker this year.

The State Supreme Judicial Court will announce its decision on one of the challenges to same-sex marriage in Massachusetts tomorrow. I don't know how to call this one; I don't have the slightest idea.

Signs that there are a few pockets of sanity remaining in our educational system showed themselves this week in Providence, Rhode Island. The state's education commissioner, alarmed at the decline in the city's standing against the rest of the country, has mandated the return of art and music to Providence's schools. Art and music are usually the first things to go when a school system hits the ropes financially, but it's a case of false economy and a major mistake.

Although many school administrators have bought into the myth that the arts are an elitist, expensive refuge for loners and trouble-makers, there are now an abundance of studies that prove just the opposite. Schools that have music see elevated math scores, for one thing. And students who have the arts in their schools, performing arts in particular, do considerably better on the SAT tests in preparation for college applications.

Rhode Island's Commissioner isn't just grandstanding for effect, either. Art and music have to be up and running in Providence in one month.

Thanks to a comment from JJ over at A Reason A Season A Lifetime, I found the website for Hans Sfiligoi's art. Hans was a true Viennese. His work shows influences from two of the greatest, Gustave Klimt and Egon Schiele, but his style is ultimately very much his own. The painting here is titled "Narkissos," and depicts the mythical Greek Narcissus, a boy of great beauty who looked into a pond and was transfixed by the reflection his own image.

Heres the link and it's definitely worth a visit:

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Something strange is going on with Blogger. I know, I know – when ISN'T something strange going on with Blogger? But this involves more and more blogs from which I seem to be blocked from commenting. And I'm not the only one. In several blogs from which I have been blocked, there are others who can't comment except by going on as "anonymous" and giving their identities in the comment. I just got through to Cooper's Corridor that way and I guess I'll have to do that more and more. [P.S. since I wrote this I've been told that "new" blogger, the beta version, will not accept comments from people who have "old" blogger. But I hear bad things about Beta Blogger and wonder if I should switch or not.]

Thursday at about 11:45 I was on my way up to MIT and remembered that I'd finished all my cough suppressant. I took a quick detour to a Rite-Aid on Boylston Street near the Back Bay Fens, got a bottle and took the short cut back to my bank that goes right by Fenway Park. Suddenly I was in the midst of a huge crowd, TV and press everywhere, hundreds and hundreds of Japanese on all sides, and a helicopter overhead.
I had strayed unknowingly into Boston's huge new sports story, the triumphal entry of pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka into Fenway Park to be introduced to the public.

Truth to tell, I got myself out of there as quickly as possible before the streets could get closed off or become completely blocked with people. He's already hugely popular in Boston without ever having thrown a pitch, something that was corrected on the mound at Fenway later in the afternoon when he threw a pitch to the Red Sox owner and nearly beaned him. Matsuzaka has a cute, infectious smile and an outgoing personality. He charmed everyone at Boston Garden for Thursday night's Bruins game when he did the ritual puck drop to start things off. He then sat through much of the game, not in press or celebrity boxes but among regular Burins fans, albeit ones with enough money to get seats down front. This man may not speak much English but he's a natural communicator who knows how to reach out and make connections

Boston, in return, has gone bonkers over him. Bars are now selling several grades of sake, and the food joints around Fenway were selling franks streamed in sake accompanied by wasabi mustard. Sports reporters and news anchors are learning fast to pronounce his name -- DICE-kay is the universally adopted pronunciation. Through it all, he just stands there looking adorable as he's showered with team jerseys, attention and money. Lots and lots and lots of money. So much money that nobody's sure exactly how much it really is.

The Red Sox are reputedly offering him something like $60 million, but maybe more, in a package that includes salary and a whole slew of bonuses for everything from signing his name to promising not to fart on camera, for all I know. On top of that, there’s the $51 million the Sox paid Matsuzaka’s home team back in Japan just for the rights to talk to him. OK, I know it’s a dreadful cliché, but In a world so crushed by poverty and misery, isn’t there something better that could be done with close to $115 million dollars than to buy a baseball player, no matter how good, for a period of five years? Somehow along the way, we seem in this country to have slid into an obscene lack of perspective and values.

The vest pocket park next to our building has almost been finished. Last weekend Fritz and I walked by to see four roughly 14’ high dogwood trees had been planted at each of the corners and that the flagstone walk and seating area had been almost finished. The dogwoods are mature trees with huge soil balls that we learned had been rescued from the excavation for new Sloan School of Management buildings. The wildly successful Sloan is another manifestation of the Institute's continuing move more and more into "civilian" science and research. We were told that in a week—meaning today—the final two trees, thirty foot tall oaks, would be dug up with enormous soil balls weighting 20 tons each and dropped into huge holes waiting to receive them.

I saw them today and they look splendid. The crew was just cleaning up after the flatbed that delivered them had gone. It was quite a feat of engineering -- the trees had to be transported upright and the route getting them to the park was tortured due to the fact that trucks aren't allowed on the major road in the area (Memorial Drive) and that Sloan is connected to other buildings by bridges that won't allow thirty vertical feet on a flatbed truck to pass under. But they managed it and now there are just the finishing details left.

The Endless Autumn continues. Temperatures in the Northeast are in the mid to upper 50s by day and mid to low 40s at night. It's strange and a little unsettling. My heating bill is going to be something to treasure, but the long-term implications are more than a little unsettling.

Thanks for the nice notes and comments on the passing of Hans in Vienna. There are tributes on some other blogs that make it more and more apparent what a generous and caring man he was.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

I'm getting over a bad cold. I'm rarely sick but once every couple of years I come down with a big one. Because I have a slight asthma, colds get into my chest fairly quickly and then sit there for up to a week. I don't really feel all that badly off but I sound radically different – my voice has lowered several notes and I'm speaking in a deep bass.

If I were straight, I'd apparently be a huge chick magnet. Women as diverse as a full professor who's head of Music and Theater Arts and the receptionist over at one of the big offices I deal with all the time, both commented on how sexy I sound. "I mean really GOOD," one of them said. I even heard my voice on my home voice mail (I sometimes leave myself messages during the day reminding myself to do important things when I get home) and thought "I'd do me in a heartbeat." It's a dark, rich animal rumble that I like a lot better than my normal voice.

I've got a design for our next production, my final MIT production. It's the Suzan-Lori Parks play with the wonderful title "Imperceptible Mutabilities in the Third Kingdom." The play's funny but has layers that peel back to reveal a deeper, possibly very bleak look at the place of African America within the greater society of the United States. There are parts of it that we agreed at our last design meeting may not be fully revealed to us until rehearsals begin in January. We've got some help, a young woman who's a scholar at Harvard and who joined the production team as dramaturg.

I built a model of my proposed set that was well received at Tuesday's design meeting and began groundplan and section drawings yesterday. A revised model will come after that. I like it. I was a little scared of the project in some ways because as a white American my knowledge of the depth and richness of African-American culture is superficial at best. But it turned out that the major issues of the play have to do with cultural alienation in general, a concept that's pretty universal and that got me into the material in some visceral ways as a gay man, as a recovering Catholic, and as a staunch liberal in a nation that's gone conservative-fundamental.

We will soon be doing even more Suzan-Lori Parks. A couple of years ago she began her 365 Days, 365 Plays project. She decided to write a play a day over a full year, a kind of performable journal of where her head was over the course of a full year. Most of the plays are ten to twenty minutes in length although some last only a minute and one or two are wordless. Ms Parks is a delightful young woman, a dynamo of ideas and energy whose distinctions include a Pulitzer Prize and a McArthur Fellowship aka, popularly, McArthur genius grant. When she was with us earlier this term, she told us about the evening she conceived of the project. Totally wired, she told her husband she was going to write 365 plays in the next year. He smiled patiently and said, "Hey, baby, thass COOL," and went back to what he was doing. Clearly a man who knows how to deal with a hyperactive genius.

A plan to organize performances of the entire cycle of plays on the appropriate dates (alternate possibility: performing all seven of one week's plays on one night during the appropriate week) is now forming nationwide with professional, academic and even semi professional community theaters signing on by region. Ms Parks's agency has divided the country into seventeen regions and is getting the project underway by signing each producing company up to a particular week until all fifty-two weeks are covered. Our two flagship regional repertory theater companies here in the Boston area (American Repertory Theater and The Huntington Theater) have passed on the project, but many of Boston's excellent resident theater companies like The New Repertory Company and The Lyric Stage are signing on. Yesterday at our monthly meeting, our students brought us a proposal to do a week at MIT, which we happily approved. We'll be either in March/April or some time in September.

Otherwise, I'm probably behind on Christmas shopping but much further ahead of the game on Christmas cards than usual. I'm including a holiday letter this year, something I don't usually do, to inform everyone of the big changes that are coming up in my life during what's going to be a very interesting 2007

*********************************************************** ADDENDUM

The long silence of Hans Sfiligoi, Castor of Castor's Diary, was explained today in a simple message signed Johannes Sfiligoi and family. Hans died on the 28th of November of lung cancer. He was an accomplished artist, and great friend to many bloggers, in particular young gay men all over the world, many of whom referred to him as "uncle." His site is still up and even a brief search through the archives will reveal the wealth of his drawings and paintings.

In the summer of 2005, Hans met Fritz and me near the Vienna State Opera House and asked what we'd like to see on our free afternoon in Vienna before returning to the rivercruiser taking us up the Danube. I said that he knew the city and we didn't -- what would he like to show us? Knowing our interests, he said the Theater Museum! I had no idea there was one in Vienna and it turned out to be filled with treasures.

On our way back to meeting our group, he insisted we had to spend at least a quick quarter hour in The American Bar, designed by Adolf Loos in 1910 and unchanged since. Over our beers we realized that the seemingly extensive bar rich in tortoise shell panels lit from behind and other art nouveau ornamentation was really a tiny, cosy hole in the wall visually expanded by the clever deployment of mirrors and soft lighting. We'd never have found it without Hans. He was very knowledgable and also warm, enthusiastic and welcoming. Farewell and and may the light there always be perfect for painting and drawing!

Castor's diary at

Monday, December 11, 2006

Here's proof positive that when it comes to presidents, they really don't make them like they used to:

"To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American Public." --President Theodore Roosevelt

I am becoming more and more disenchanted with the conduct of news anchors. There was a time when standards of good journalism dictated that the news be reported in as unbiased a manner as possible, giving the public the facts and allowing them to make up their own minds. More and more, however, I hear editorializing rather than simple reporting. Some examples that stick in my mind:

A female anchor on morning news after reporting on a story that involved a nudict resort: "Euwwwww! Naked beople -- what's THAT all about?"

A famed local male anchor after reporting on the day's developments at the trial of an accused (NOT convicted -- accused) sex offender: "What a SICKO!"

A male-female morning team on a vandalism story: "Who would do a terrible thing like that?" "There's no respect these days."

The English language is taking a big hit these days on TV news as well. Concerning the recent chemical company explosion that decimated a neighborhood in Danvers, MA, "As many as twenty-five buildings will have to be demolitioned." How do you "demolition" a building? Demolish, yes; but while nouns are being turned into verbs at an unprecedented rate, I've yet to hear of the verb "to demolition."

Another fundamentalist minister's career has collapsed over homosex. Paul Barnes, a Denver-area pastor confessed to his parish that he had had sex with men, and resigned. But Barnes made an interesting statement, "I have struggled with homosexuality since I was a 5-year-old boy... I can't tell you the number of nights I have cried myself to sleep, begging God to take this away."

So -- he knew since he was 5 years old, he obviously didn't choose it, and God won't take it away. If he acknowledges that God won't take it away, doesn't that mean that God must have wanted him to be homosexual? Doesn't that mean God had MADE him homosexual?

Yesterday Fritz and I attended what may have been the most beautiful dance performance I've seen in the recent past. The Pilobolus Dance Company has made an art of the support and balance of human bodies in seemingly impossible combinations. While the stills may make what they do look like some sort of gymnastics, the fluid grace, style, wit and astonishing [seeming] ease with which they perform to music by everyone from Debussy and Mozart to Bjork and Radiohead raises everything they do into the realm of great dance. Enjoy:

Saturday, December 09, 2006


DesignerBlog named to Top Five Boston Gay Blogs

When I got back to the office from lunch Yesterday, I found this email from a friend:

"Congratulations on your new accolade. Your blog made it into the top five in Boston Spirit magazine. Very complimentary review."

I admit to being elated. Boston Spirit is a well designed and turned-out give away magazine aimed at up-scale gays and lesbians that I assume is funded totally through advertising. Subscriptions for mail delivery are free. It's distributed at only three locations in the city, the famed Fenway Community Health Center and two food stores in the South End. It used to appear regularly at the MIT Press book store but stopped a while ago. My friend is holding a copy for me, but I got one myself at Fenway Health last night.

A nice surprise was to see that I wasn't the only one from the QBB (the Queer Boston Bloggers, a loose assemblage of guys –- an assemblage of loose guys? -- who get together for dinners in restaurants or various of our homes). GayProf is also on the the list, along with two blogs by lesbians and an activist group blog, Queer Today. There were complimentary write-ups about each and here's the one for me:

Theme: "A Blog for the Arts and Gay Issues."
Written by a self-described "extremely active middle-aged gay man, theatrical designer, teacher and arts administrator working and teaching at MIT," DesignerBlog is an educated and informative look at all things theater, including the theater of life. Blogger Will expounds on everything from opera and ancient art to a funny little mail mix-up with his DVD porn. One of DesignerBlog's best extras is its listing of tons of performing art and gay blogs, along with a near-exhaustive list of links to the best local, regional and international art institutions."

The comment on GayProf's Center of Gravitas was especially appreciative of his use of satire, and it was SO refreshing to realize that the article's author, Jeannie Greeley, actually knows what satire is. Most people don't these days – well, except for my readers, of course. Thank you, Boston Spirit!

We had some excitement in the Kendall Square area near our building yesterday when a big electric power transformer exploded as two NSTAR technicians were running routine maintenance on it. One of the men was killed, the other is seriously injured. One Broadway, the seventeen story building which housed the transformer, was built in 1970 and was bought a while ago by MIT (in the model, it's the tall blue structure in the upperleft hand corner of the picture). It houses some Institute offices but is mostly rented out to commercial customers.

The fireproof stair wells began to fill immediately with acrid, dense black smoke from the fire that followed the blast. Workers seeking to evacuate were driven back up by the toxic smoke and fumes; several were hospitalized for smoke inhalation. Others in the building ran down to the sixth floor, smashed windows with office furniture, and dropped onto the roof of the adjoining building five story building to get air.

All of Kendall Square was blacked out, the subway stopped, and the bridge over the Charles that ramps down right at the explosion site was closed, as were many main streets leading into the area. Emergency vehicles gathered from several communities and things were a mess throughout the area into the middle afternoon. The investigation of the accident will focus particularly on those stairwells; were designed specifically NOT to allow smoke to collect in them when needed for evacuation.

The day had begun with an 8am meeting at the house with a Re/Max real estate broker who came highly recommended. I'd been concerned about putting my house on the market in the middle -- just about the bottom -- of the current housing sales slump but he was surprisingly upbeat. He had a sheaf of reports on houses within a quarter of a mile of mine that had sold within the last six months. Info included the asking price, selling price, length of time it took to sell, amount of property tax, and specs on the size, age and condition of the dwelling so I could see how mine fits into the market.

The big surprise to me was the selling prices. Even as things are currently, houses are still actually selling for decent prices, and he told me that he would recommend an asking price considerably higher than I had feared. We'll be meeting again next week and go into more detail. For now, he likes the house, thinks it shouldn't have problems on the market, and he passed my white glove test on gay-friendliness. He suggests showing it starting some time in early-mid March. I felt a huge relief -- the process has begun.

Continuing with the Boston Gay/Lesbian press, Bay Windows is out with a lead article blowing Mitt Romney's cover concerning an interview he gave to the paper in 1994 and a letter he wrote to the Massachusetts Log Cabin Club in which "he pledged to be a more ardent advocate for gay rights than U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy." If you catch the huge disconnect between that sentiment and the way Romney has governed this state for the last four years, read on.

While we're thrilled here that we'll soon be seeing Mitt's back as he walks out of the governor's office, the downside is that he's being unleashed on the national political scene as he heads to a run for the presidency in 2008. For any of you who may be unfamiliar with the level of sleaze within which he operates and the lies he tells as he whores for votes, please be aware that this is a dangerous man whose agenda is nothing less than to turn this country into a Christian fundamentalist nation.

According to Bay Windows, in 1994 when Romney was running for the U.S. Senate against Ted Kennedy and socially liberal Republican Bill Weld was governor of Massachusetts, Romney was all about civil rights and respect for gays and lesbians in the work place, including partner benefits. He spoke a lot about the Mormon concept of "free agency," meaning that "our society should allow people to make their own choices and live by their own beliefs," he said. And then, the almost unbelievable "People of integrity don't force their beliefs on others, they make sure others can live by different beliefs they may have."

Romney went on to stress his dedication to fighting discrimination, his belief that the military would adapt to the presence of gays and lesbians, and his opposition to the Jesse Helms amendment to a 1994 education bill that would ban any portrayal of homosexuality in the classroom as "a positive lifestyle alternative." "I would have opposed that," said the oh, so gay-friendly and inclusive Romney of 1994, "It also grossly misunderstands the gay community by insinuating that there's an attempt to proselytize for a gay lifestyle on the part of the gay community." For the record, Romney is now fighting the presence of gay-themed books like "King and King" in Massachusetts classrooms. Ladies and gentlemen, oppose this man with everything you’ve got. He must never succeed to the presidency of the United States of America.

On a more pleasant note, here’s a new print ad from Domenico and Stefano:

Friday, December 08, 2006

CBS radio announced the other day that 10% of the world's population controls 90% or more of the world's wealth. Also--and this is really frightening--if you make more than $2,300 per year, you're in the top 50 of wage earners in the world, which means that half the world's wage earners make LESS than that paltry sum.

Mitt Romney has much less than a month to be our governor but is relentlessly ramming the ultra-conservative agenda down our throats. He readily admits that much of what he's doing can easily be reversed--and certainly will be--by incoming governor Deval Patrick. Here are a few examples:

1. He continues his obsessive campaign to get gay marriage outlawed because "it's the children who suffer." Huh? Can ANYONE explain this oneto me?

2. Huge budget cuts in health and public service funding including, in particular, funds earmarked to help prevent gay teen suicide. He may see this as killing two birds with one stone: in other words, if they commit suicide as kids, they won't grow up and want to get married. So damned clever, that Mitt.

3. A deal he brokered with the Feds to empower an elite corps of Massachusetts State Police to arrest illegal immigrants. Currently, only the Feds can do this. There have been howls of protest that people who look Hispanic or foreign in any way will be stopped and have their identification and proof of citizenship demanded of them again and again. Advocacy groups fear that immigrants will be reluctant to call the police if they're attacked, involved in a car crash (even if there are injuries), come home and find they're victims of a break and entry, all for fear of arrest and deportation.

Now, would it really surprise you to know it's been revealed that for eight years, Mitt's lawn mowing and other landscaping work has been done by undocumented illegal immigrants? To save a buck, this multi-millionaire has no compunctions about paying subsistence--or worse--wages to the people he employs.
We're told he even says a cheery "Buenos dias" to them as he passes by them on his way to the State House where he's now made arrangements to have them all arrested, thrown into jail and then deported. As with closeted homophobes, Mitt eagerly and hypocritically does in secret what he loudly condemns in public.

We're famous down here in the Roslindale area. ABC-TV National News on Wednesday ran a segment on extreme Christmas lighting. One of the houses they profiled is on the border of Jamaica Plain, just north of Roslindale on the Arborway that connects Jamaica Pond with the Arnold Arboretum. The house is an enormous stone, brick and pseudo-Tudor ten bedroom "castle" built in the 1920s and is already completely over the top just on its own merits. Enter Dominic Luberto, an MIT graduate who bought the house a couple of years ago and has been covering it with Christmas lights ever since.

Mrs. Luberto looked like she's just barely tolerating all this during the TV interview. Her husband spent $10,000 on lights just this year. When he has the display burning from 4 in the afternoon to 1:30 the following morning, the electric bill is just under $2000 for the month. Mr. Luberto's ambition is to keep adding more and more lights each year, the goal being 250,000 bulbs, and to start having them lit up progressively earlier each year. This year he started just after Halloween and he'll go to the end of January. He plans to start moving that start date earlier in the autumn (Labor Day should be within his grasp by 2010), and later in the winter (I predict Valentine's day in two years, tops).

I found a couple of photos on the web but I have to tell you that not one of them captures the brightness and sheer impact of lighting this man has installed. The Arborway is arranged as a grande allee, with four lanes of traffic moving in each direction, beautifully treed medians between each group of two lanes. The lanes anywhere near the Luberto house are impassible now for all the cars that are parking and pulling out continuously so that drivers and passengers can get out and look at the display close-up.

Mr. Luberto says he does it "for the kids." He believes that the tradition of Christmas lights is dying and he's out to revive it single-handedly. "They love it" he insists. Not all his neighbors do, however. They complain of not being able to sleep for all the super-bright light pouring in their windows; they complain of not being able to get into or out of their driveways due to the crush of traffic up and down their street all night, they complain that the display is just plain vulgar.

Dominic Luberto is not to be disheartened. His goal is to have a house that can really be seen -- from space.

Mary Cheney (seen here with partner Heather Poe, right) is pregnant. The White House (meaning Bozo) has leaked that it’s officially embarrassed because she’s lesbian and because of her father being so close to the President. Dick and Lynne Cheney, on the other hand, released a statement to the effect that they’re absolutely thrilled and can’t wait to meet the future grandchild. My guess is that Mitt Romney won’t be attending the baby shower.

Fritz had Butch over the other day--no kidding, his real nickname is Butch--and we got the estimate for finishing the road up to the house site. Butch measured it out as 490 feet long from where it springs off Fritz's driveway to the house site. He estimates that it will require 220 tons of gravel. 220 tons! I never dreamed I’d be ordering 220 tons of ANYTHING in my life. I told Fritz it gives me a feeling of giddy power to know that soon I'll be on the phone to the near-by stone, gravel and crushed rock business as I oh, so casually ask them to please send over 220 tons of gravel as soon as possible.

I'm ending with a picture for a good blogger bud of mine. He shut down his own blog earlier this year but emailed me to say that he might start another in which he reviews newly released movies. I'd like that. I think his opinion would be reliable, and reading his reviews might get me out to see more movies than I do. He kiddingly took me to task for mentioning a picture of Adriano Marquez while actually showing modems on the blog. Scoobs, this one's for you, with pleasure:

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