Monday, October 30, 2006

 
The first day of the weekend was given over mostly to work. Saturday night I went to a concert performance of Handel's opera "Orlando" given at the Emmanuel Church on Newbury Street in the heart of Boston's fashionable townhouse, shopping and hotel district.

Emmanuel is one of many Back Bay churches that lost its congregation over the years as the old Boston Brahmin families dwindled away or left the city to be replaced by moneyed young professionals and by groups of students who don't mind overcrowding apartments made out of the gracious mid 19th century townhouses that line Back Bay streets, just so they can be in the heart of the city. An age of faith is been replaced by an age of fast food. As congregations shrank to nothing, money to maintain buildings that are architectural and artistic treasures evaporated as well. Churches were closed, others hung on by taking in day care centers, renting out function space, inviting other congregations to bunk in with them or, as did Emmanuel, by hosting major cultural organizations.

Emmanuel Music is one of Boston's great musical groups, one that specializes in the 17th and 18th centuries with excursions wherever the rich imaginations of its composers, music director, instrumentalists and vocalists take it. This year they're doing the three great Handel operas based on Ariosto's Renaissance epic poem "Orlando Furioso"—"The Insane Roland" or perhaps "Roland Driven Mad." The Roland in question is the same one who defeated a Muslim expeditionary force from the court of the Emir of Cordoba, marking the end of any thought of further Moorish incursion into Western Europe.

Ariosto's poem was the "Star Wars" of its day, its hundreds of verses filled with wizards, magic transformations created by African sorceresses, and heroes who lead armies being themselves led astray by powerful seductresses in their magic gardens. After the performance which was one of the strongest Emmanuel has put on recently, I drove up to Fritz's and slipped into bed next to him.

Sunday dawned brilliantly on the back end of a terrific storm that had brought heavy rains and howling winds. We took the chain saw up the hillside and began clearing the actual house site. Down on the ground we were sheltered by the low hemlocks and the crest of the hill behind us. But forty feet up, the tops of trees that still had their leaves were being whipped around in a literally roaring wind. It was a fierce-beautiful day, the kind that made me love New England in the first place, and that keep me in love with the countryside, the unpredictable weather and the resilience of the people.

Sunday evening was the October Sweat gathering. We were just eight this time, a serene and intimate group inside the Sweat Lodge, a bit more raucous and fun during dinner. I drove back to Boston after we'd said good-bye to everyone because I had to be in and working early on Monday. The weekends are never long enough.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

 
You scored as atheism. You are... an atheist, though you probably already knew this. Also, you probably have several people praying daily for your soul.

Instead of simply being "nonreligious," atheists strongly believe in the lack of existence of a higher being, or God.

atheism

96%

Paganism

83%

Satanism

75%

agnosticism

58%

Buddhism

38%

Judaism

33%

Hinduism

29%

Islam

29%

Christianity

17%

Which religion is the right one for you? (new version)
created with QuizFarm.com


I placed this survey result first today because it relates in a prime way to the next item. My feelings on religion should be pretty well known here, but of particular interest to me is not only the overwhelming percentage of my responses that indicated atheism, but that Paganism came in a relatively close second which is right on the mark (on the other hand I'm not sure why Satan crops up so high on the list because I don't believe in him either, but a lot of fundamentalist Christians would surely think I know him extremely well). Christianity comes in dead last which is absolutely correct. Now continue on to:

Earlier this month Sandouri Dean Bey invited me to compose an entry in his long running series, Göz Lokumu ("eye candy" in Turkish. I had asked if only beautiful young men qualified as göz lokumu, because early in life I developed a major attraction to handsome, powerful men older than I. I used as an example a magnificent, larger than life sized Greek bronze statue of the god Poseidon. Dean replied with the invitation that I was delighted to accept. The result was posted on his blog, Aman Yala, tonight. Here's the link: http://amanyala.blogspot.com

I've enjoyed this week but I'm really tired and glad it's over. We had the Visiting Committee on the Arts with us on Wednesday and Thursday. They're a group of men and women distinguished in Industry, Academia, Business and the Arts. Whatever their occupations, all must have actual experience in the arts and humanities. They meet with us for two intense days of interviews and reports, after which they draft their own report and deliver it in person to the president of the Institute. The Committee acts as an advisory resource to the president and provost, advocating for us to the highest levels of the MIT administration (different Visiting Committees exist for at least a dozen other departments).

This year was especially important for us because it was the first Visiting Committee for the Arts during the presidency of our first female and first non-scientist president, Susan Hockfield (she's a neuro-biologist). Almost two years into her presidency, her commitment to the Arts--even her grasp of the importance of the Arts at MIT--was still somewhat unclear.

Over the years, I've developed some close and rewarding friendships among many of the long-standing members of the Committee. Aside from saying good-bye as this is the last time I'll sit with them, at my Section Chair's request I reported from the vantage point of my three decade plus experience of the growth and health of the Arts at the Institute. The Committee's final report to the president was a glowing endorsement of us and what we do.

Thursday and today the annual meeting of the Council for the Arts overlapped with the Visiting Committee which meant that we were running here and there to try to cover all the events and panels that were going on simultaneously.

Today at lunch the Council gave its McDermot Award for distinction in the Arts to one of THE hot playwrights in the world today, Suzan-Lori Parks. Part of the Award is that she'll come into residence with us in mid-winter to work with student writers, work with some classes and make a public lecture appearance. She's a petite dynamo with an irrepressible sense of humor, delightfully unaffected despite a MacArthur Genius Award, two Obie Awards, and a Pulitzer Prize. We're producing a play of hers, "Imperceptible Mutabilities in the Third Kingdom" in mid-winter. I just got the script to read and begin to analyze, but after meeting her today, I can't wait.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

 
I thought I'd do a little thing on Dolce & Gabbana because their work and their story have caught my interest. They're Italian designers, so I feel a certain kindred to them even if we do work on radically different levels of public visibility. For one thing their work, particularly their interior design, can be WAY over the top. I was once taken to task by the then rather staid (pre-Tina Brown) New Yorker magazine for too much vivid color in my designs for the Boston Early Music Festival's production of Monteverdi's "The Coronation of Poppea." Apparently the reviewer had never heard of a whole school of Italian Renaissance colorists with names like Paolo Veronese, Raphael, Michangelo and Titian to say nothing of all the Venetians who were color mad just on general principal.

What, in any event, can you expect of two gay men who openly credit the visual world of the American TV shows "Dallas," "Dynasty" and especially "Falcon Crest" as their inspiration? Combine that with the fact that Italians going back to the Roman Republic have always known exactly how to unleash spectacle in dazzling ways. The result may be overwhelming and even gauche in its vigor, untrammeled invention, and embrace of its own exuberance but it will never, ever, commit the sin of being dull.

Domenico Dolce was born in 1958 in a small Sicilian town, not on the face it a promising beginning for an international fashion designer. He apprenticed at his parents' clothing business. Stefano Gabbana, on the other hand, was born in 1962 in the worldly decadence of La Serenissima herself--Venice, home of the renowned pre-Lenten Carnival--and trained as a graphic artist before branching out into fashion design. They met in 1980 when they were both working as assistants in a Milan fashion studio and became lovers, striking out on their own and opening a free-lance design business together in 1982. By 1985 they dared a first women's fashion collection that was a big international hit and backed it up four years later by showing a line of men's clothes and accessories.

A couple of years later they had established themselves in Japan and were pulling down major international design awards on a regular basis. Their clientele includes Sophia Loren, Madonna, Kylie Minogue, Becks and Posh aka David Beckham and his wife Victoria. They maintain boutiques everywhere (Paris, Milan--their business's home base--LA, Vegas, Tokyo, Venice New York, etc.) and homes on both the French and Italian Rivieras, Milan, Rome, and elsewhere.

Dolce and Gabbana's ads have never pulled any punches in terms of open eroticism, especially homoeroticism. Their technique, refined over the years, has been to present an ambiguous scene open to a variety of interpretations and let the viewer create his or her own scenario. That all the couture on display could shortly be on the floor while the impossibly sexy and desirable models engage in orgiastic sex is always a distinct possibility in a D & G ad.

One of the things I always admired about them is their extremely open public acknowledgement of their homosexuality and their personal relationship. When the romance ended, there was a public announcement of their separation in 2005 after a year of troubles in 2004. They were quick to reassure everyone that they would remain partners professionally even if the personal partnership was at an end. Not only do they still design together, they entertain, renovate houses, design new houses and travel together frequently.

Their design philosophy was nailed by Domenico with the statement that they are not minimalists. "We are really maximalist!" One of their newly redone properties in the elite enclave of Portofino includes a guest room whose walls, floor and ceiling are sheathed in mosaic tiles finished in gold leaf.
The head and foot boards of the king sized bed and the night tables are gold plated, as is the sculpture of a group of three palm trees that serves as a standing lamp. The window curtains that cascade from the high ceiling to the floor are made of gold chain. The room shimmers like a chamber on the sun.

Apparently everything they've touched has turned to gold, too. They own several boats in various sizes and travel around the Mediterranean to their many homes often. They are avid gardeners and cooks, the two going hand in hand. They press oil from their own olive trees for their own kitchens in their own houses that, post-separation, may stand next to each other or at least near each other on the same property. It's probably one of the closest separations in history.

And no end is in sight. The line of children's wear they began now sells more garments than their men's and women's lines put together and is raking in big profits. The eyeglass frames sell briskly. If their love has faded, the design talent and business savvy they share remains at fever pitch. D & G should be a force far into the future.



Sunday, October 22, 2006

 
It's late Sunday night and I'm home from a full weekend (beginning Friday night) co-hosting with Fritz "Celebrating the Body Erotic," the basic first workshop program for gay men given by The Body Electric School. We had twenty-two guests this time, 17 participants and 5 old and dear friends in the presenting staff.

Twenty-two isn't a terribly difficult number to cook for, particularly since Fritz and I are old hands at it together now. We've had as many as 36--now THAT'S difficult, the clean-up most of all. The participants tended to be younger on average than many of our past groups, which means that somebody at Body Electric is marketing smartly in terms of keeping the business going healthily into the future.

There was one wonderful moment on Saturday night that Fritz and I caught sight of as we were getting the big dinner cleared. We make it special, with Fritz's old family candelabra out, the electric lights kept very low so that the long table is illuminated mainly by candles. He served his baked chicken in a rosemary sour cream sauce, along with salad, rice, mixed vegetables, homemade pickled homegrown cucumbers and a ricotta cake for dessert. When it was all over, we saw two of the boys standing in the coffee area, facing each other and listening to an ipod together. They shared one set of earpieces, the wire from which hung from their ears and connected them in a Y formation. They were absorbed not as much in the music as in each other. Moments like that are beyond price. By this morning it was obvious that a sweet romance was beginning.

During breaks between meals we picked the last of the raspberries. A deep frost is predicted for tonight. We removed some more of the cut tree trunks from the road leading to the new house site and did bits of maintenance here and there. We talked a lot, had tea, watched some television, played together and, when we slept, did so spooned tightly against each other. Those moments are beyond price, too.


*************************************************************************

Thanks to the Silent Songster at Secret Songs of Silence for alerting me to the fact that Keith Adams has returned to blogging. The Songster remembered that some time ago I wrote about a couple of early bloggers whose work had influenced my writing and, in fact, had actually inspired me to start my own blog.

Keith, an ex-patriot Brit with a dizzying array of skills and interests, closed down a big, many-faceted blog called Keithlife when he met a man who turned out to be THE man and moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles so they could be together. But the story was just beginning and he's back to tell it in a completely new format under the name Broken Whole at http://brokenwholeblog.blogspot.com/

Keith is a gifted, searingly honest writer, no more so than when writing about himself. He's also a strikingly good looking man with few inhibitions about showing the fact. He's looking for some readers and I'm delighted to help. If you didn't follow Keithlife, I recommend going all the way back in the archives of Broken Whole and starting from the beginning to get a foothold on where in his life he is now.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

 
I've had a fun couple of weeks. In the late spring I got an invitation from Greenfield Community College to give a two session program in their Senior Symposium Program. The way it works is members of the program decide in the spring what topics they want to explore the following academic year. For several years in a row they'd listed opera as one of the topics but the Symposium director had never been able to find someone to give it. She turned to her brother who attends opera regularly and asked if he knew someone qualified. As he just happened to be my opera-going buddy, the one who recently moved to Florida to be with the man of his dreams, he told her to call me.

So, she called and it took me about three and a half seconds to say yes. I picked two consecutive Wednesdays in October and proposed the history and traditions of Opera under the title "The Ultimate Art." I put together a program supported by slides, videos, sound clips, and scale models.

Greenfield is in the center of the state, or just a bit west of center, in beautiful countryside on the western side of the Connecticut River valley. It's about two hours out of Boston via Route 2, an old-fashioned road that's mostly parkway. It crosses the Connecticut just south of French King Rock over the lovely French King Bridge, built in 1932 and renovated in the 1990s. When I drove out there this summer on my way to the Glimmerglass Opera Festival, it was to check out the Community College's seminar room and make sure they had all the AV equipment I'd need.

You come upon the bridge unexpectedly, around a curve and up a slight incline. It's elegant with its white marble pylons and black iron columns, each topped by an eagle and twin lanterns. I had no idea what it was called then, but my first thought was, "how French--it looks like it should be crossing the Seine in Paris."

Yesterday, Fritz came with me to sit in on the final session. He'd known about the bridge for years, so I asked if he knew why it was called French King Bridge, why so many things in the area were French King this and French King that--and which French King, for heaven's sake. He didn't know, beyond a speculation about the close proximity of Montreal and the large French Canadian population that reaches down from French Canada all the way into northern Massachusetts. We decided to ask the Symposium director since she passes across the bridge from her home every time she goes to work.

Well, she didn't know, and the seminar members had some theories but nothing concrete. My personal speculation was that it had to do with the French and Indian War that was fought right in the middle of the 18th century. As we drove back to Boston over the bridge and commented on its beauty amid the even greater beauty of color-drenched autumn foliage in the Connecticut River Gorge, I told Fritz I'd Google the bridge and see what information, if any, there was to be found on line.

The story is that during the French and Indian War, a French lieutenant is reputed to have camped his troops by a great rock on the Connecticut River which he named for King Louis XV. Louis's name didn't stick in the popular American mind at the time, but the fact that he was the French King did. Thus the spate of place and road names and the name of the bridge honored for its beauty by an award the year it was built.

It's a bridge I will be crossing again. The reaction to "The Ultimate Art: the History and Traditions of Opera" was highly favorable. During the break between the two hours of the presentation yesterday, the program director was approached by several of the members asking "can we have him back next year to do a program just on Wagner?" ". . . a program just on Mozart?" etc. They're talking about a several year association and I couldn't be happier--it's just the kind of thing I want to be doing once I've left MIT and am free to explore new things. I thought it was a good excuse to celebrate, so I told Fritz I wanted to go out to dinner instead of cooking when we got back to Boston.

We decided on Apollonia, the Albanian restaurant with Greek and Balkan cuisine where we went to celebrate the night we got our marriage license two and a half years ago. We split a half carafe of wine and shared orders of lamb shanks and Moussaka. We ended with Greek pastries. And we sat and looked at each other, laughed and smiled and said we loved each other as if we'd just met and were still in the euphoria phase of our relationship. Because we still are.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

 
I got a strange invoice in the mail the other day in a package that arrived from a gay adult video service. Yeah, porn--I do stuff other than opera, OK? Inside the package was my exact order (the 2007 Testosterone calendar was back ordered but properly noted on the invoice, which is good because it looks HOT). My name and address was listed in the "ship to:" box. However in the "bill to:" box there was the name of a completely different man, first named William who also lives in Roslindale, MA although all the way over on the other side of town. Call me crazy but this seemed odd. At a bar someone buys you a drink with the hope of getting in your pants. In a catalog sale, a guy doesn't pick up the tab for your porn if he doesn't even know what you look like.

What to do? My first thought was that somebody at the porn palace had mixed up two guys named William and that his order had been billed to me. That would be an attractive option, perhaps, if he'd ordered one item that came in below my $37 total—but not if he'd bought out all the uncut bear DVDs in the place, and it was all charged to me. Should I call him? Tricky--I know nothing about him. What if someone he wasn't out to should answer?

"Hello."

"Good evening, Is William D______ there?"

"No, he's out. This is his wife, can I take a message?"

"Oh, OK, thanks. Please tell him that I got my gay porn shipment from Cocks-R-Us but they accidentally charged it to your husband's account. I'm concerned that there's been a mix-up, and that maybe HIS gay porn shipment has accidentally been charged to me. Hello. Hello?!"

Probably not the best idea. So I called the gay porn company and got a mostly satisfactory answer. Yes, somebody had mixed up the two Williams of Roslindale, MA, although he hadn't ordered anything so I don't know and they don't know how his name and address would have come up in the computer. They simply sent my order to him. When sharper eyes caught the mistake, they sent me a duplicate shipment, charged my account properly and credited his. The guy on the other end and I had a good laugh over the fact that William D______ hasn't sent back any of what he got by mistake.

Thanks to Alex Ross, music critic of The New Yorker and author of the blog "The Rest Is Noise" for this:

From Andrew Sullivan: "Earlier this week, secretary of state Condi Rice and First Lady Laura Bush attended a State Department ceremony for the new global AIDS coordinator. His name is Mark Dybul. Money quote from USA Today: 'At a State Department ceremony this week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warmly acknowledged the family members of Mark Dybul, whom she was swearing in as the nation's new global AIDS coordinator. As first lady Laura Bush looked on, Rice singled out his partner, Jason Claire, and Claire's mother. Rice referred to her as Dybul's mother-in-law.'

"There you have it. Among decent elite Republicans, there is often great acceptance of gay people as individuals, and of their families and spouses. 'Mother-in-law' is itself an affirmation of marriage for gay couples; and the secretary of state just used those words. And yet her party officially regards gay unions as, in James Dobson's words, a prelude to the 'destruction of the earth'. So which is it, guys? Let us know some time, will you?"


I'm just back from the latest QBB (Queer Boston Blogger) gathering for Sunday dinner at Jason and Bryan's new place, their first together. The standing "members" were there--Karl, Atari, Chris and I along with Anthony (GayProf), Steve and Jim (The Persian) who were with us for the first time for a pot luck and over five hours of talk, laughter and good food.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

 
I thought it might be time for another dose of Classical Music eye candy--I haven't posted any for a while--but there don’t seem to be any new shots of Nathan Gunn without benefit of clothing to be found. However, an exhaustive search turned up the delightful Cédric Tiberghien, a French pianist who's just emerging as a major international artist.

Cédric's site lists the usual credits of the modern superstar instrumentalist: serious study begun at age five; advanced study at a prestigious music conservatory completed by age seventeen with an award of the grand prize; many victories on the international competition circuit; appearances with the big orchestras and most prominent conductors; recitals at the most famous halls; the recording contract. He's currently 31 years old and looks what? maybe 25?. He loves performing in the U.K. None of the various bios of him mentions anything about a wife, or girlfriends, boyfriends, etc. He spends a lot of time hanging out with other young musicians playing chamber music. And getting his hair done, by the look of things. Not that I'm complaining, given the results.

I did another one, this time thanks to Steve aka the Devious Steve-O. I think it's pretty much right on target, and I'm just enough of a Nerd to have noticed that the percentages below add up to 103% which either isn't possible, or which explains that little bit of extra weight I can't seem to get off me. Oh, and just for the record, when I was in college "dork" meant penis, as in "he's got the biggest dork I've ever seen." How the word got demoted to mean someone who's inept socially (and probably has impossible hair and a hopeless wardrobe to boot) I have no idea, because during my college years the really big dorks were extremely popular!

Pure Nerd
73 % Nerd, 13% Geek, 17% Dork

For The Record:

A Nerd is someone who is passionate about learning/being smart/academia.
A Geek is someone who is passionate about some particular area or subject, often an obscure or difficult one.
A Dork is someone who has difficulty with common social expectations/interactions.

You scored better than half in Nerd, earning you the title of: Pure Nerd.

The times, they are a-changing. It used to be that being exceptionally smart led to being unpopular, which would ultimately lead to picking up all of the traits and tendencies associated with the "dork." No-longer. Being smart isn't as socially crippling as it once was, and even more so as you get older: eventually being a Pure Nerd will likely be replaced with the following label: Purely Successful. Congratulations!

Here are excerpts from an article in the Seattle Times that mention the discovery of the burial place of an ancient colleague of mine:

Clues to Romans' Lives and Deaths
by FRANCES D'EMILIO
The Associated Press

VATICAN CITY — Visitors to the Vatican soon will be able to descend into an ancient world of the dead, a newly unveiled necropolis that was a burial place for the rich and not-so-affluent during Roman imperial rule.

The necropolis, which was unearthed three years ago during construction of a parking lot, will open to the public this week. Giandomenico Spinola, a head of the Vatican Museum's classical antiquities department, said Monday that sculptures, engravings and other objects found entombed with the dead made the find a "little Pompeii of funeral" life. "We have had the mausoleums of Hadrian and Augustus," Spinola said, referring to majestic monuments along the Tiber in Rome, "but we were short on these middle- and lower-class" burial places. "You don't construct history with only generals and kings."


The burial sites, ranging from simple terra-cotta funerary urns with ashes still inside to ornately sculpted sarcophagi, date from between the era of Augustus (23 B.C. to 14 A.D.) to that of Constantine in the first part of the fourth century. Buried there were upper-class Romans as well as simple artisans, with symbols of their trade.

Among those buried in the necropolis was a set designer for Pompey's Theater, notorious for being near the spot where Julius Caesar was stabbed to death. Decorating the designer's tomb were some symbols of his trade — a compass and a T-square. An archivist for Emperor Nero's private property and mailmen also were buried in the necropolis

Monday, October 09, 2006

 
There's ALWAYS no place like New York City, but this weekend with temperatures maintaining close to a constant seventy degrees, and the sky resplendent with what a favorite poem of Fritz's from his school days calls "October's Bright Blue Weather," it was spectacular. I drove down on Saturday afternoon through brilliant New England foliage and met my daughter at our favorite little restaurant near Lincoln Center. Chic in black and white finished off by a Dolce & Gabbana belt with initial DG buckle, she gave me all the details on her new job over pinot grigio and good northern Italian.

She'll be working less than two blocks away, in sight of Lincoln Center. Her actual employer will be the ABC network; Disney owns it and does all the hiring. She'll start October 30th, just under the wire to qualify for this year's annual bonus. She's very excited and has already met several of the people with whom she'll be working, including her actual boss who she says is gay and extremely nice.
I'd gotten a six o'clock reservation so we could have at least an hour and a half before I had to walk the two short blocks to my performance of Donizetti's "L'Elisir d’Amore" at the New York City Opera in Jonathan Miller's new production.

Miller's one of the original Beyond the Fringe boys along with Peter Cook, the late Dudley Moore and Alan Bennett. They're credited with setting the style of British satire in the 1960s and their style eventually begat Monty Python. They were very young and just finishing college in the U.K. when they hit big. Miller studied medicine and became a doctor but directing for theater and opera won out in the end.

He's an "interesting" personality, meaning that he's persona non grata with some producers, and his deeply scholarly nature can sometimes lead him into oddly irrelevant byways when putting a show together. Example: in one English Restoration Comedy, the servants staggered and bumbled around bizarrely because he'd researched that they lived on the top floors of the homes of the wealthy and used water collected in a cistern that had drained off the roofs that were made of lead. Ergo, they all had lead poisoning, no matter that it contributed nothing to the script and the audience was largely aware why it was being done.

On this occasion, however, he was working at the top of his game, having updated a charming and musically gorgeous little Italian countryside romantic comedy to rural Texas in the 1950s. Boys in greased-up hair and girls in bobby sox struck all the right body attitudes and had perfectly internalized the look and gestures of the era. The quack doctor selling the bogus "Elixir of Love" of the title arrived driving a maroon and cream 50s convertible Cadillac, and even the supertitles were translated into 50s speak without changing their meaning one bit ("Chicks dig a guy in uniform, daddy-o. When Elvis got drafted into the army they all flipped."). Singing was good to excellent and what radiated from the stage was the joy of performing and an immense amount of fun.

Sunday morning was so gorgeous that I decided to walk the approximately two miles from the west side to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, entering Central Park at 60th Street and snaking northeast along its paths and under its bridges. The park filled with people and energy. I exited onto Fifth Avenue at 69th and walked up to the Museum at 81st past blocks of stalls and tents where vendors and artisans were selling everything from faux designer sunglasses to hand-made art of very high quality. One photographer was selling his own prints of iconic New York buildings and scenes, nicely matted for $5 each or three for $10--I grabbed three to give as stocking stuffers.

At the Museum I visited the exhibit area on the roof for the first time for three sculptures by Cai Guo-Qiang whose work Fritz had seen and loved out at MassMOCA a couple of years ago. The space itself is very nice with spectacular views in three directions (except north) of Central Park and the rest of the city. Inside the Museum, the best thing I saw was "New Orleans After the Flood," very large color photographs of some street scenes, but mostly wrecked interiors looking both mournful but also strangely beautiful. Photographer Robert Polidori has no people in any shot, which heightens the sense of isolation and abandonment. As I moved around the two rooms of this exhibit, I suddenly realized that the opera I was going to Sunday afternoon was titled, "Die Tote Stadt"--The Dead City.

My favorite picture was of a room with cream-colored walls and a wallpaper cornice of a folk art Noah's Ark in shades of garnet, bottle green, pearl gray and gold. Growing down the wall from the cornice were many colonies of mold in virtually the same colors, as if all the ink in the art work was draining down the wall. I would have bought the book of the exhibit in a minute--if it wasn't selling for $90.00. I wanted to see the Art of Cyprus galleries and crossed a sculpture area where I ran up against this lovely young man--Antonio Canova's "Perseus." Dean, how's THIS for Göz Lokumu?

I was unfamiliar with Cypriot art. It turned out to be an interesting amalgam of Greek, Egyptian and Assyrian, but in the final analysis, it really has its own personal style. The prize piece in the Museum was this Sarcophagus of Amathus from the 5th century B.C., in beautiful condition and with many traces of the original multi-color paint.

As I walked back through central park I called Fritz who told me he'd received a call that at 7:30 that morning his niece-in-law had given birth to a healthy seven pound plus baby girl. Everybody was doing fine. As I walked out of the park on 79th Street there was a whole other area of the city full of vendor tents. At one there were baby clothes that had hand embroidery on them. I bought a little leotard in rich chocolate brown with a cat in orange across the chest. I got the three to six month size instead of new-born because the baby's father is around six feet six inches tall and I figured she may grow very fast. After Fritz gets a chance to see it, we'll package it up and send it down to the newly enlarged little family in D.C.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

 
The land subdivision part of the new house process is finished! Thursday night Fritz and I went to the final Town Planning Board meeting necessary to report out an approval. We arrived for a 7:30 meeting, having been sent notice that we were to be case #1.

As everyone gathered it became obvious that we were actually case #3, but the Board's Chairman said he was going to shuffle the order around because some things were simple and we thought that meant us. No such luck. One case was a no-show that had to have a simple vote for continuance. A second case was continued because the petitioners needed to do further research and development of their proposal. Our case wasn't taken next.

Instead a large and highly problematic sub-division that would have serious impact on an existing village-within-the-town was seeking waivers of all kinds of road planning regulations with strong (if not always coherent) opposition from abutters, who weren't actually supposed to have been heard at this meeting in the first place. We sat, having not brought any reading material or work to do quietly, for just over one and three quarter hours until the whole thing ran out of steam and the Chairman mercifully said that they had done all they could on it for the night.

I then sat before the Board with the representative of the surveyor and in three and a half minutes we had final approval, I learned of a couple of stipulations (like buried utility lines, which I want anyway--no WAY I'd run a row of ugly poles across the property) and I learned that my fees for the subdivision will total $4,200 payable to the town.

The next phase is nailing down the estimated electrical load the house will draw for a meeting with a solar/alternative energy company on Monday the 16th. They're in Nashua, New Hampshire and their name is KW Engineering. I haven't done it yet, but I just KNOW that at some time I'm going to refer to them as KY Engineering.

I'm off to New York City again this weekend. I've got performances at the New York City Opera tonight and Sunday afternoon, and I'll be checking out the latest exhibits at the Metropolitan Museum on Sunday morning. Tonight I'm also taking my younger daughter out to dinner to celebrate her new job, just offered yesterday. Sometime later this month or in early November, she'll be joining the Disney people at their New York offices as a senior recruiter. It's a huge step up for her in several ways and a cause for great joy.

Here are the results of a survey that matches you to your most appropriate city in the U.S. I'm a sucker for these things but I have to admit that several of them have gotten it right. I was quite surprised that I didn't get Boston like Karl did, because I love this city so much, but I'm sure it's because I didn't check lobster in the favorite foods question. They had no option for mussels in garlic and white wine, which I prefer to lobster (along with wonderful bluefish!) any day. However I know Austin is a total renegade among Texas cities with a big, healthy gay scene, liberal politics, and some highly active arts organizations. So, how bad could it be for me?

You Are Austin

A little bit country, a little bit rock and roll.
You're totally weird and very proud of it.
Artistic and freaky, you still seem to fit in... in your own strange way.

Famous Austin residents: Lance Armstrong, Sandra Bullock, Andy Roddick
What American City Are You?


Hey, at least I'm associated with two of the hottest guys out there!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

 
Some time last night DesignerBlog logged its 50,000th visitor. This isn't for the full three years and two months that the blog's been up, but for the roughly eighteen months since I installed the site meter. The lucky 50,000th was from the town of Porow, Western Cape in South Africa, and he or she came to me via the link on Cooper Lowenthal's blog--thank you, Cooper! I realize that hugely popular blogs like Joe.My.God or Zeitzeuge probably log 50,000 hits in three months or less, but I'll take my milestones as they come and be very happy for them.

Yesterday afternoon I drove up to Fritz's and, after picking three quarts of raspberries, we had a little supper and headed out to a birthday party for A, the Ceramicist given by B, the Chef. A and B had known each other for years, meeting regularly at our Sweat Lodges and other gay events when, a little less than a year ago, it became obvious that a little romance had started. It's grown steadily. The party was really sweet--several gay couples, a straight couple, and a stunning lesbian--chic, smart and funny. The birthday boy had specified no gifts, which of course everyone totally ignored, and B had made one of his patented cakes, trimmed beautifully. Lovely evening.

At work, I have a fair amount of money to spend on myself and the lovely thing about it is that it's not my money. A couple of years ago, MIT decided to go with the Open Courseware movement that was becoming popular with colleges across the country. Professors were to put detailed presentations of their classes on the college's site, everything from a syllabus to examples of students'isual or written work, a bibliography, a statement concerning the goals and philosophy of the course, and a lot of other supportive material. The idea, as in a lot of contemporary architecture, was to make the institution transparent to the outside world, giving to
prospective students, and to the world in general, a detailed look at MIT and what it offers (including the fact that many of the great professors at MIT teach introductory courses rather than leaving them to their teaching assistants).

The Open Courseware team rightly anticipated that the whole concept would be seen as a threat by lot of the teaching community. They launched a big informational campaign and announced that to get the program rolling, they had funds to distribute to each teacher who did the work necessary to get his or her courses onto the site. I downloaded the guidelines and wrote up one of our two team-taught design courses, shot examples of student work, got it all in under the deadline to get the first and largest of the pay-outs. I did the same thing for my own personal scenic design course, getting a second, slightly smaller grant. After that I was finally able to interest one of my colleagues in the program and we did the next two together, splitting the proceeds. I prodded the other two into getting their courses submitted, by which time there wasn't a great deal of money left, but they got something.

When the results were tallied up, I had a credit of just under $4000. The funds are available for any legitimate academic use. For example, one language teacher put four courses onto the site during the earliest days of the program. When her sabbatical came up, she got herself an apartment in Paris and supported herself there for a term, airfare included, while she researched and wrote a book which then got published and insured her tenure. So, now I've got this money and I need to spend it before I leave MIT in June.

As I'm writing my own book, I'm going to fund a couple of research trips with the money, but I've decided to get myself a lap top with the bulk of it. It will make taking notes and working while traveling much easier and easily fits into the "legitimate academic" requirement. Of course, if a movie gets played or a blog entry written along the way somewhere, they're not going to send the campus police after me.

So the question is, what to buy? I'll be looking for something reliable, fast, compact and easy to use. I've never had or even used a lap top before, so any suggestions from those of you with experience of them will be greatly appreciated.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

 
So, I'm back from New York and yesterday's performance at the Metropolitan Opera of which more later. On the way down CBS radio reported on the decision by a Superior Court Judge that same sex couples from Rhode Island may legally marry in Massachusetts. A suit had been brought by a lesbian couple from Providence challenging the infamous 1913 law that was actually passed to prevent marriages by bi-racial couples. The law stated that nobody could be married here if their home state specifically forbade their kind of marriage.

Judge Thomas Connolly examined Rhode Island law and its constitution and declared that nothing in either "explicitly deems void or otherwise expressly forbids same-sex marriage." Not only does this ruling now make it legal for gay citizens of two states in the U.S. to marry, the fact that Rhode Island declared some time ago it would recognize Massachusetts marriages means that their marriages remain legal when they return home.

Of course, Mitt "The Mormon Moron" Romney immediately contacted Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly and asked that Reilly mount a challenge in the courts. But Mitt’s political clout in this state is now down around six percent, if that.
His own lieutenant governor, Kerry Healey, is distancing herself from his policies as fast as she can in the almost certainly vain hope of succeeding him. As for Reilly, he's no longer a candidate to succeed Mitt, so he voted his conscience and told Mitt to stuff it. There will be no challenge--the good Judge's ruling stands.

The same news broadcast brought news of Florida Republican Representative Mark Foley's exposure and disgrace for bombarding teen-aged U.S. House and Senate pages with suggestive, prurient emails. Foley, who was actually on a committee to combat sexual predators who prey on children over the internet, has been singled out especially for his pursuit of a sixteen year old boy who testified before a House investigation committee that Foley "freaked [him] out" by asking what he was wearing, was he hard, how big he was and about his masturbation practices.

The page went on to say that Foley's activities were well-known on the Hill and that all the pages were warned about him during their orientation and training--which means that others in the Congress knew all about it, covered it up and let it go on. On my way home from New York, I stopped off in Manchester, Connecticut for a delightful dinner with my friend and former opera-going buddy, J, and the wonderful man he met, S, for whom he's moved to Florida. Back for a visit and to do some business, they'd caught a bit of the story on the news but asked if I knew more. It turns out that Foley is their Representative and was up for re-election next month. They couldn't have been happier to hear that his career is suddenly over and that the Democrats now have a real chance of capturing his seat.

This morning came the news that students at Shaker Heights High School in Ohio have elected the school's first male Homecoming Queen. Not Homecoming KING, but Queen. The pleasant-looking blond and slightly chubby young man is an out gay teen, ran for Queen, and has been supported as Queen by a big rally of students in the face of criticism from the community. Co-incidentally, the town of Axbridge in the southwest of England was faced with a similar situation this year when auditioning for the Queen of the local Blackberry Carnival. Along with all the girls who showed up was fifteen year old David Birch.

What to do. The good citizens of Axbridge put their heads together and came up with co-Queens, one male and one female. As the Carnival chairman put it, "It was felt we couldn't eliminate him just because he was male. This was the best solution on the day. Some people might be offended but we would rather be inclusive than exclusive." Seems logical and simple, doesn't it? One wonders why people in a country that has some of the most extensive guaranteed freedoms in the world (or HAD until Bozo started steam-rolling them into oblivion) couldn't behave the same way more consistently than they do.

Reading between the lines of the story, young David's had a rough time in life although he's now living with a totally supportive foster parent who had this to say: "He has already experienced discrimination because he's a gay teenager. We told him about the consequences of the media attention because it’s a controversial matter—a man becoming a carnival queen. But he was mature enough to make a decision and he chose to go for it. He is such an extrovert that he just loved it all. We all cheered for him on Saturday but I was scared and apprehensive because it only takes one person to ruin it all. I wasn't scared that David was too young to be pigeonholed at 15 years old. From the moment I met him I had no doubt in my mind that he was sure of his sexuality--he definitely is gay."

Thanks to Andy Towle of the invaluable Towleroad for David's story.

This has nothing to do with anything, really, but am I the only gay man who doesn't find Colin Farrell remotely sexy or attractive? It's probably the incessant smoking, which is a huge turn-off for me, but his frequent if not constant scruffiness without any compensating cuteness or charm or wit just leaves me cold.

The new production of "Madama Butterfly" at the Met is extremely beautiful and the more emotionally powerful for the fact that director Anthony ("The English Patient") Minghella steadfastly refused to play the sentimentality, picturesqueness or cuteness cards. One of his big weapons in keeping the drama simple and honest was the use of many Asian theater techniques, including a bunraku puppet used for Butterfly's little son. The problem with the part is that the child has a lot of stage time and a number of things to do, but is supposed to be only two and a half years old.

I've only seen one production that ventured a really young boy--probably no more than four years old--and the problem was that whenever he did something, you could hear whispers of "oh, isn't he cute," "he's ADORABLE," "I wonder where they found him," etc. The unfolding tragedy could have easily taken a hike right there.
The alternate solution, which I've seen far too often, is the use of a short seven year old boy or girl, that the soprano cannot pick up and sing with easily, and who's far more mature than the child in the story could ever be. Ironically, the puppet acted more like a two and a half year old than any of the above with the halting, awkward walk of a toddler, but under complete control of the veiled puppeteers.

The audience loved it. Soprano Christina Galliardo-Domas is Chilean, a tiny bit of a thing and looked to me very much as if her heritage includes some Inca ancestors. She is a superb actress with an expressive, if not always conventionally beautiful, voice. But together with Minghella (who was directing his first opera ever) and an inventive design team, they made the old warhorse seem fresh and affecting again
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