Thursday, November 30, 2006
Mitt Romney goes before the State Supreme Judicial Court today to request the dreaded "activist judges" to rule on his attempt to ban gay marriage in Massachusetts. He'll be out of the state two years when the issue comes to a vote here IF he gets the ruling he seeks, and the result won't be known until the day after the coming presidential election, so it can't help him at the polls.
But Romney's ultra-conservative voter base must be thrown a bone every now and then; since he's not going to walk out of this state with any major conservative accomplishments under his belt, he's desperate to look like The Heterosexual Avenger to the 'phobes and bigots out there who he hopes will make him #44.
Two things are worth noting. One, he's really NOT leaving Massachusetts. He has designs on taking over a building in the North End of Boston, very close apparently to where our Karl from Adventures in Gastronomy has settled, as his campaign headquarters. So he's linking himself with Massachusetts rather than with, say, Utah where he originated, and where the seat of Mormon power is located. This may be because I keep hearing constant reaffirmation of the point that among the Republican hierarchy, which is predominantly Baptist, the Church of the Latter Day Saints is considered barely Christian, a cult instead of a religion, and unacceptable. For their sake, he may feel he'd be better off de-emphasizing the Mormon link and going with exclusion, divisiveness and bigotry, qualities long espoused by the radical religious right.
The second point is that his appeal to the very Court he has so insulted and condemned, is not to end gay marriage. It is to put the anti-gay marriage amendment on the ballot in 2008, and the appeal is to a single judge on the Court rather than to The Nine. I'm not sure whether or not he gets to pick his judge; I don't think so, but it doesn’t matter in any event. Legally, the ISN'T about gay marriage but a legal procedure -- the issue could be registered sex offender residence restrictions or any other issue the Legislature has declined to send to a public vote. Whether the decision comes down today or some time in the future, Romney won't give up. He sent a package to each member of the Legislature a while ago containing a letter giving them a good tongue lashing, a copy of the state's Constitution, and other items meant to demonstrate his moral superiority and their laxness in enforcing the law. The anti-gay amendment to the Constitution is expected to be voted down by the public if they DO get to vote, but this whole charade is really meant only to boost Romney the Presidential Candidate.
Fritz and I met with our building designer who's taken my concept drawings on the new house and is turning them into construction drawings. We find ourselves in a good place. The preliminary estimate on construction costs is a good deal lower than we had been projecting. We went up to the site and paced off the placement of the solar array versus the location of the mechanical room within the house. The array appears to be safely within the 100’ "limit" for use of inexpensive small gauge cable rather than the heavier, much more costly cable required to transfer electricity from the cells without resistance causing a lot of power loss. Several other issues are under control. Exact placemnent of the kitchen versus the mechanical room is still being worked out but I proposed a December 31 cut-off point on any design changes and that bit of discipline was accepted as reasonable.
The big job at the moment is to get the proposed general contractor to agree to accept the project. He just landed another job and we'll need to get him signed on pretty quickly if we're to begin construction when we'd like, which is April 1. I realized over the Thanksgiving weekend that this date is just FOUR MONTHS AWAY. At one time it seemed an impossible dream somewhere far in the future -- now it's at our throats!
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
I was replying this morning to an email from one of my colleagues in the Boston professional theater whose email address is aol.com. I don't type that address anywhere near as much as I used to a couple of years ago, and I realized this morning that it's been quite a while since I regularly got AOL discs offering me hundreds or even thousands of free hours for opening an AOL account. The ads on TV with overweight older women giggling as they chanted "You’ve got mail!"? Not on MY television. What happened?
I take it that while I wasn't looking, the internet giant has shrunk. I do remember that while my younger daughter was working for AOL Time-Warner, AOL was spun off. She herself has left for a big step up in position and joined ABC-TV working with the evening national news. I remember also that even during its glory days, AOL wasn't held in very high regard by people who were serious about using the internet, and in the last year or so I've had to change almost all of the aol email addresses on our Sweat Lodge list to something like comcast or gmail.
In about a year, a lot's going to change for me in terms of my web access. I understand that a year or somewhat less after leaving MIT, I'll lose the use of an MIT email address. I'll have to explore ways of getting high speed internet up there on the hillside where the new house is going to go. The dial-up that's the only option down at Fritz's offices is frustratingly slow, and I don't want to go back to that. Cell phone service is also an issue--it's spotty in the area via my current Sprint service. It works OK up near the top of the hill at the house site, but it's almost impossible to get a signal down at Fritz’s house or along the local roads. I'll be researching a new carrier.
And a question for all of you: does anyone know of any gay bloggers in New Hampshire? Other than our own Chris, and now Steve, in Newcastle near Portsmouth, I've had no luck finding any in spite of searches on blog directories. I can't believe that there's nobody else in the state. If you know of anyone, please let me know as I'd like to check out their blogs.
There's good news about the house. The test pits were dug last week for the septic system's leaching field, and drainage was pronounced "good—VERY good" by the guy who did the testing. If the area drains very well for the septic system, it's good news for a house that's dependent on water draining quickly and easily from three of its walls that have earth bermed up around them.
I realized over the holiday weekend that as of this coming Friday, it's exactly four months to the target date for ground breaking and the beginning of construction on April 1. This year that date wouldn't have been possible because of monsoon-like rains that saturated the ground to the point that water was spurting up in fountain-like springs at the foot of the hillside. We're hoping for a drier, more normal spring this year.
Lastly, gaytwogether.com ran a photo series on Rusty Joiner; I'm closing with this, for no other reason than it's nice to realize every now and then that something so beautiful exists in the world.
Friday, November 24, 2006
We were ten for dinner, eight adults, a two and a half year old and a six week old baby. Fritz had come down from New Hampshire on Tuesday night to help get the place ready. A lot of what we did involved taking all the piles of books, clothing, various kinds of luggage and bags, household items, etc. that I'd been culling out of the house in preparation for the eventual move and getting them into marked cartons as to what's going to charity, to be saved for yard sales, or put into MIT's prop and costume stock.
The dinner went very well. A, Fritz's Dutch nephew-in-law, had requested a traditional American thanks giving and, with his usual enthusiasm, had researched one via Martha Stewart. So his contribution was an escalloped potato and caramelized onion fritter, baked with lots of rosemary in muffin tins. I don't think anything like these things had ever come within a country mile of the Pilgrims, but they were delicious and anything with rosemary is popular with Fritz and me. They also brought a quinoa and butternut squash upside-down cake, and a cauliflower and cheese dish. Fritz and I made the turkey with his apple, bread and herb stuffing, Brussels sprouts and two pies--homemade pumpkin and homemade, homegrown raspberry. We went through three bottles of wine that Fritz had bought at our favorite winery in Lee, New Hampshire.
As the day was raw cold and very dark with pouring rain, I lit all the candles in the chandelier and on the table at 3pm and we ate by candlelight, the baby sleeping across her father (Fritz's nephew B)'s lap, little G in a booster chair, my daughter's dog sequestered in the guest room and my cat confined to the attic. It's been a long time since a young family--in this case two young families, actually--have been here for the holidays and it was nice to have the excitement and activity back. Tiring, but fun.
Today we did a little Christmas shopping together, mainly some gourmet food items. And I visited an Ikea for the very first time. I thought that while Fritz was down here, we should check out Ikea's kitchen cabinet line and options for closet organization. We're not going to have closets as such in the new house, but a very large room that will serve as closet/dressing/exercise space adjacent to the sauna and showers. We liked what we saw. I think we'll maintain an open mind on the kitchen cabinetry for a while, but we were both very taken with a totally flexible pole and accessory system that will allow us to put together any combination of hanging poles, shelves with woven basket bins, shoe racks, and open shelves we want. We can design and install it ourselves and the cost should be extremely reasonable.
Tomorrow we'll drive up to Fritz's for the November Sweat Lodge gathering. Warm weather has returned. A couple of wild flowers have blossomed on my property, we saw an mailman making his rounds in shorts, and a guy who was driving his convertible with the top down on route 24 on our way to Ikea.
My cousin in Montreal sent this array of pictures of various parts of the solar system and universe, with the comment that studying it will help keep things in perspective. I hope they'll reproduce big enough to read all the print. If not, I suspect they'll enlarge in size if they're clicked.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
We woke up this morning to continuous TV coverage of an enormous chemical blast in the Danversport area of the northshore town of Danvers. The shock waves were felt into New Hampshire and buildings as much as a quarter of a mile away sustained damage.
The ink and solvent plant that exploded did so at 3am, thereby sparing large numbers of people who would normally be in a mixed residential/commercial area from being killed outright, or being trapped and crushed in demolished buildings.
Astoundingly, there have been no deaths and only ten non-life threatening injuries. Damages may reach $100 million, probably more. Houses in the immediate vicinity were blown off their foundations and there is serious destruction. Much damage and most of the injuries were due to flying glass--all windows and doors in the immediate vicinity were blown in. Astounding also is the fact that there has been no general fire in the blast zone. Only the plant itself burned.
Governor Romney staged a blatantly manipulistic public rally a couple of days ago to promote his "Let the People Vote" campaign to get her anti-gay marriage amendment on the 2008 ballot. It was such a phony, managed, and mean-spirited event that absolutely nobody was fooled. I placed this comment on two Boston gay blogs in response to their reports of this event:
Most of us in Massachusetts can't WAIT to see the last of Romney when he leaves the governorship in January. He's done nothing but insult us and ridicule Massachusetts when he goes around the country whoring for presidential votes.
Throughout the entire history of gay marriage here, he's been like a dog with a bone, calling for "the popular vote" when the popular sentiment is as clear as the hair grease in his over slicked-back "do."
Other than to use us as a springboard to national office, I have no idea why being governor here appealed to him in the slightest. He clearly has contempt for Massachusetts and all it stands for, and he refuses to accept that his obsessive campaign to turn this state into a Mormon fundamentalist theocracy has been resoundingly rejected by people with more brains, heart and ethics than he'll ever have.
The Boston Globe has just undergone an upheaval in its entire arts reporting and reviewing line-up. Perhaps that accounts for the fact that the Globe completely dropped the ball on covering the "Curlew River" production. It was left to Pulitzer Prize-winning Lloyd Schwartz of the Boston Phoenix to recognize the importance of Intermezzo's bringing back this important Benjamin Britten score after a 35 year absence from Boston. Here's his review:
The BSO’s Beethoven, Schoenberg, Bartók, and Brahms; Intermezzo’s Britten; Zander’s Mahler
By: LLOYD SCHWARTZ
The chamber-opera group Intermezzo is in its fourth season and has already commissioned five new operas. The only one I've caught, Verlaine & Rimbaud, was ambitious but disappointing. But last year's Kurt Weill, "Seven Deadly Sins," was a knockout. Intermezzo's latest was the first Boston revival in more than three decades of Benjamin Britten's "Curlew River," the first of his three "parables for church performance."
William Plomer's libretto is based on a Japanese Noh play Britten had been struck by but changes the setting to mediæval Anglia. An Abbott (bass-baritone Paul Guttry, in one of his finest performances) presents the parable, in which the acolytes act out the tale of a Ferryman (superb baritone Sumner Thompson) who takes pilgrims across the river including a weary traveler (Intermezzo founder and artistic director — and baritone — John Whittlesey) and a woman driven mad looking for her lost child (heartbreaking tenor Jason McStoots). As the Ferryman tells of an abused boy who died the year before, the Madwoman realizes that this abducted child was her son. At the end, the spirit of the dead child (the extraordinary boy soprano Jake Wilder-Smith) sings from his grave to console his mother. It's one of Britten's most austere and moving works, and both the performance and the production lived up to it.
Music director James Busby led the excellent male chorus and seven-member ensemble (he himself played organ) with telling and magical detail. Veteran designer William Fregosi's intricate but spartan platforms made a striking contrast to the Baroque splendor of the Jesuit Urban Center. And young stage director Andrew Ryker blocked the action with hieratic simplicity, even managing to suggest the opera's Japanese origins.
The company had advice from a superior source: director Colin Graham (in town for Boston Lyric Opera's Madama Butterfly), who staged the world premiere of Curlew River in 1964. Intermezzo wisely based this just-about-flawless production on Graham's original. The company will soon be rising to another challenge, the Boston stage premiere of Janácek's "The Diary of One Who Vanished," January 12-14 at Berklee College of Music.
Alexander's back! Just as the Needham company that cleaned him up promised, Alexander the Great was safely back on his plinth but looking strangely pale. Cleaning him up has apparently involved losing the warm bronzy patina that was so attractive (Alexander was a hot man, after all) and has left him looking rather as if he had been cast out of common lead. Oh well, he'll probably warm up again with time. You can't keep a good man down.
And ending with some operatic eye candy, here's British barihunk Simon Keenlyside in full leather at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in London. Nice boots.
I've seen Simon on stage twice and can testify that he's one charismatic and totally committed performer.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING to everybody!
Monday, November 20, 2006
Where’s Alexander? “The Great” Goes AWOL
Alexander arrived in Roslindale in 1997, a gift of the city of Athens, Greece to Boston, long known as "the Athens of America," (although Athens, Georgia and Athens, Ohio just for two might have a word or two to say about that). We didn't get all of Alexander, just a bronze head and upper torso weighing either 300 pounds (according to WBZ TV news) or 500 pounds (The Boston Globe). Alexander settled in a nicely designed vest pocket park created on a sliver of land opposite the Greek Orthodox Church of St. Nectarios on Belgrade Avenue in Roslindale.
The Church had been created by and for a burgeoning Greek population (we also have a lovely Russian Orthodox Church a few blocks away) by converting an old commercial building with the addition of a bell tower, dome and complete exterior makeover. None of this prevented local wags from referring to it as the Allen Furniture Church for many years afterwards. But things settled down, annual Hellenic Festivals bonded people together, and when Alexander arrived in the U.S. he wasn't placed at the big Greek Orthodox Cathedral near Northeastern University but here in Roslindale on a handsome plinth, with tall lamps on either side of him, and a nice iron fence enclosing "Alexander the Great Park."
Until last Monday, which is when Alexander vanished. Just like that. Just as dramatically as Alexander's own death at the shockingly early age of 33 after he had conquered his way to an empire from Egypt to the borders of Afghanistan. Police spokesman John Boyle commented that the statue had disappeared without anyone observing its removal, which had to be by a large group of thieves because of its great weight, "unless Hercules stole it." Always a quick man with an appropriate classical reference, that Officer Boyle. As it happens, Hercules wasn't one of Alexander's male lovers, but that's another story for another time.
As a symbol, Alexander's presence within the grouping of church, park and several Greek-owned businesses in the Roslindale Square area, was significant. Eleni Vidalis who co-hosts "The Greek Program" on our local access cable network called Alexander's arrival ". . . the first time that there was something to acknowledge the contributions of the Greek community." Her family had been involved in funding the statue and the handsome little enclosure in which it stood until recently, and she had hard words for the thieves. "I hope it was just some kids thinking it was funny. I hope it wasn't anything against the Greek community. I mean what is this world coming to? Why? Of what use is a statue of Alexander the Great to anyone?"
Officer Boyle's concern was that the statue might have been of use for its raw material--bronze--rather than for its cultural or aesthetic appeal. A 500 pound bronze sculpture had recently been stolen from the Melrose Library, and some surrounding communities have reported the theft of Bronze plaques that are feared to have been sold for scrap metal. Could Alexander have already been melted down? Was he gone forever?
Happily, no. It was reported Saturday night that Alexander had retired without telling anyone, to engage in an old and honorable practice of the ancients--he was taking a bath, although not with a coterie of handsome, naked young warriors as during his glory years. Officials of St. Nectarios had noticed Alexander looking the worse for almost ten years of exposure to the elements and had contacted Olympia Marble and Granite Co. of Needham to arrange for a cleaning and firming up of his connection to the plinth. A crew came out to evaluate and prepare an estimate for the work, but decided then and there to take Alexander back to Needham to get him out of strong winds and rain. They couldn't reach Church officials but did inform the building’s custodian, who failed to pass the message on to anyone. Thus the church called Boston Police and reported the disappearance as theft.
Newly fresh, polished and strengthened, Alexander should be back in his park before Thanksgiving. The custodian, looking somewhat abashed over all the upset and concern, was seen on a video clip Saturday night admitting, "I should have told the priest." You think?
|What American accent do you have? |
Your Result: The Northeast
Judging by how you talk you are probably from north Jersey, New York City, Connecticut or Rhode Island. Chances are, if you are from New York City (and not those other places) people would probably be able to tell if they actually heard you speak.
|The Inland North|
|What American accent do you have?|
Take More Quizzes
They got it exactly right. My father was born in New York City, my mother in Hartford, Connecticut. My Father's sister spent much of her life in northern New Jersey. I was born and raised in the City until I left for Boston to attend college.
Interestingly, Bostonians had as narrow a view of what a New York accent is as the rest of the country has of Boston. I was told here that I didn't have a New York accent, the only indication being that I said scallops (with the a as in the name Al) instead of "scollops" with the a as in the word ball, which is the old New England way.
I want to thank those of you who've written to welcome or congratulate me on being invited to join the group blog Gay Men Rule. I'll be making an inaugural post some time this week, but it may not be for a day or so. I'm giving a Thanksgiving dinner for eight adults, a toddler and a new baby, so I'm going to be otherwise occupied for a couple of days.
Saturday, November 18, 2006
We had a good house. Lloyd Schwartz, Pulitzer Prize-winning classical music critic from the Boston Phoenix was there, as were the director of the Boston University Opera Institute and several of the top vocal teachers in the city. A couple of the cast members had supercute boyfriends in attendance (I TOLD you it wasn’t all high art last time).
It's been 35 years since "Curlew River" was last performed in Boston. By a wide margin, it's the single biggest, most challenging work and production Intermezzo has ever attempted. Late in the performance, as the boy singing the spirit of the Madwoman's son walked down the aisle in a sheer white organza costume, a strong, low-mounted backlight making him glow as if lit internally, I teared up a little. I've been extremely fortunate in my career to have designed several pieces of outstanding material in productions that involved tremendous group effort by wonderful, talented colleagues working at the top of their game. This was one of those occasions and it felt incredibly good to be a part of it.
We have one more performance, on Sunday afternoon at 4pm, and it's going to be hard to say good-bye to this one.
It also feels good to be invited into a group blog by and for gay men. This is one of those stories that really makes you wonder about psychic communication.
This morning I followed a couple of links from blog to blog and wound up at a gay group blog that I hadn't heard of before. I read through some of it but thought to myself, the group blog I would really love to get invited into isn't this one, but Gay Men Rule. About two hours later I checked my email, and there was an invitation by one of GMR's members to join. I'm neither inventing nor exaggerating--this is just how it happened, and when I read the hour that Joshua had posted his invitation to me, it was very close to the time I had my wishful thought.
As I've always admired the writing on Gay Men Rule, being invited to be part of it is an honor. Josh has me linked up throughout their template, and my link to GNR is at the left under blogs I read daily.
Friday, November 17, 2006
In the midst of the clean-up after the rehearsal, as the guys were getting out of their costumes, the stage director and I looked at each other and recognized a common appreciation for men with well-developed soccer legs. It isn't ALL high art, you know!
When I'd given my notes to the light board operator and checked in with all departments, I hopped the Massachusetts Avenue bus back to MIT in time to preside over the opening night of the student-written one act play production. Three scripts this year, all at least interesting and one very impressive. After the performance I hosted a Q&A between the audience and the authors, directors and actors.
Student writing has come a long way at the Institute since I began, when almost all the scripts submitted took place in some version of an MIT dorm room or student apartment. The range of topics and writing styles has exploded. Post-performance discussions are lively and give the audience a look into the creative process that's not much understood even by frequent theater-goers.
Several years ago Fritz and I went to the annual Labor Day weekend for gay men at Rowe Camp in western Massachusetts. We met a lot of men from New York City, one of whom was involved with a Wall Street firm within which he had to be completely closeted. The culture throughout the financial world in the City, he said, would absolutely not accept openly gay men. He eventually left the city, moved to the town of Rheinbeck on the shore of the Hudson River and began working in real estate. When I last had contact with him, he was happily settled in with a boyfriend and assisting in the migration of gay men out of the city and into old, established Hudson Valley communities with good commuter rail connections to New York. And he was totally, joyously out.
I thought of him when I came across a November 1st article from the Bloomberg News about the total transformation of the financial industry into a leadership role on gay and lesbian workplace rights and partner benefits. One thing they indicate is that Wall Street changed largely because of the great number of gays with large amounts of disposable income just waiting to be invested and managed. It’s proof, if proof be needed, that it’s essential for gay men and lesbians to walk firmly out of the closet and let their numbers be known to the world. Here are some excerpts:
"After decades in which discrimination and harassment were routine, U.S. financial firms have become more gay-friendly than those in any other industry, according to the Human Rights Campaign, based in Washington, which compiles an annual ranking.
"Nineteen financial companies received scores of 100 percent in September based on policies aimed at creating equitable rules for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered employees. Four years ago, only one, J.P. Morgan Chase, got top marks. The only U.S. securities firm among the top five by market value that did not score 100 this year was Bear Stearns, which did not participate in the survey.
"The biggest New York investment banks, including Goldman Sachs Group, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley, have expanded benefits for same-sex couples, from time off for adoptive parents to help getting a work visa for a domestic partner when an employee is transferred abroad.
"Credit Suisse Group and Lehman Brothers Holdings have medical plans covering the cost of sex-change surgery.
"The firms are also financing internal networks for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered employees that draw dozens of new members every month. And they are supporting gay causes with millions of dollars in donations, from the Gay Men's Health Crisis to Reaching Out MBA, an annual conference to connect gay business school students with potential employers.
" 'The banking and financial services industry has moved well out in front of the others,' said Daryl Herrschaft, director of the Human Rights Campaign Workplace Project, which does the study.
"The changes follow the so-called boom-boom room lawsuit by Wall Street women in the 1990s, which struck down legal barriers to securities industry workers' taking their employers to court in cases of discrimination and harassment. 'That case was a strong, defining moment for us,' said Ana Duarte McCarthy, chief diversity officer at Citigroup, which has 300,000 employees. 'It was an opportunity to put some new practices in place.'
"A new generation of Wall Street chief executive officers has taken over in the past five years, among them Jamie Dimon at J.P. Morgan Chase, Brady Dougan at Credit Suisse, Stanley O'Neal at Merrill Lynch and Charles Prince at Citigroup. They said gay-friendly policies help them recruit the best talent in a competitive marketplace.
" 'We serve a lot of people in different cultures and locations, and we need to reach out to all of them,' Dimon said.
"Welcoming gay employees may also help banks with huge brokerage networks appeal to the community as customers. About 6.8 percent of people in the general population are gay or lesbian, according to Witeck-Combs Communications, a marketing firm based in Washington that focuses on gay and lesbian issues. In the United States, gays and lesbians will have about $675 billion in disposable personal income in 2007."
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
A madwoman comes to a ferry seeking to cross a river in search of her missing son. She is at first repulsed by the ferryman but is later allowed to take a seat in the boat when other travelers plead for her. During the trip across, the ferryman tells the story of a lost child who had traveled with him a year previously. Ill and fleeing abductors, the child was taken in by kindly villagers on the other side but soon died despite their tenderest ministrations. They gave him a special tomb, and he has come to be regarded as a saint. The madwoman recognizes that this was her child. On the other side of the river, she's supported by her fellow travelers as she approaches the tomb. The spirit of her child appears to her and her madness is cured.
“Curlew River” takes about 70 to 75 minutes to perform. All singers, including the madwoman are men in a tradition held jointly by the medieval English and the Japanese. The music is lovely and ethereal, played by a chamber consort that prominently includes a portatif, a small reedy-sounding organ, and percussion. The music was planned specifically to be played and sung inside a large church, the resonance of the acoustic giving it a radiant halo.
I wasn’t looking forward to our schedule yesterday at all. It was supposed to rain heavily all day; only two of us, J (the company founder and leading baritone) and I were available to load the platforming and step units out of our design and production building here at MIT and into the Jesuit Urban Center's church, where there is neither parking nor a proper loading entrance; the five platforms, which I painted as weathered wood, were pulled from our stock and are both clumsy and heavy at something over a hundred pounds each; we had exactly four hours to assemble the set, and to hang, focus, and set cues for the lights.
But it turned out to be one of these “state of grace” situations where everything falls almost effortlessly (except for shlepping those platforms) into place. By five o’clock, when we had scheduled a two hour break, it was all done, and everyone was extremely happy with the look and form of the set. J (who always puts his heart, soul and back into every production we do), our music director, and I were able go out to a quiet little Italian bistro dinner and unwind for an hour or so before returning for our first technical rehearsal which coordinated music, singers, lights, stage management, costumes and sets for the first time. Barring only a couple of memory lapses by the singer playing the ferryman, everything went remarkably smoothly and climaxed when the boy singing the spirit of the son, walked slowly down the aisle from the back of the church, singing on pitch and perfectly in time to the music in a sweet, clear voice that positively shimmered in the big Roman baroque-style space. We have one tech-dress rehearsal with orchestra tomorrow and one final dress rehearsal on Thursday.
Performances are Friday night and Sunday afternoon. And when the Sunday matinee is over, there will be the muscle of eighteen good-looking men to help break down and load out the set and lighting equipment into a rental truck and my Jeep Cherokee.
That’s a schedule I AM looking forward to.
Sunday, November 12, 2006
Here's how it may happen: there's a citizen group that wants to put a proposed amendment to the state constitution on the ballot in 2008 concerning universal health care in Massachusetts. The Legislature has apparently either voted it down or let it die, one or the other. But there is a mechanism by which one can appeal to the state's Supreme Judicial Court to have the Court put a proposed amendment on the ballot without legislative approval, and this citizen group is going to make the appeal.
The anti-gay marriage crowd has heard of this strategy and may well go the same route, begging Chief Justice Margaret Marshall (whose impeachment or dismissal they demanded for ruling in favor of creating gay marriage, along with that of three other Justices) to hear their case. One would just LOVE to be a fly on the wall during some of the conversations among Justice Marshall and her colleagues over THAT appeal!
I have no idea if Ed and Sally Pawlick are behind this new initiative to get the gay marriage ban on the ballot, but it seems to have their paw prints (pun intended) all over it. While they haven't been on Boston Radio lately with one or another of their appeals to get rid of gay and lesbian rights, I'm sure they're still active in trying to keep us as second-class citizens, all the while protesting that they CAN'T be homophobes because they actually employ gay people who just LOVE them! Uh-huh.
All indications are that if the issue were to go on the ballot, it would be voted down decisively by the electorate of this state, and I'm beginning to think that is the way we should go. We might finally be able to get these pests out of our hair and go on to other issues if all of us in this state "just said no."
There are signs that wildlife is moving into populated areas in greater and greater numbers as their natural habitats are shrinking to industrial and residential development. At Fritz's place, he's been observing animal tracks and damage to his plantings as never before. We've both seen deer on the property but they've remained pretty much in the woods. Not so this year when their tracks are clearly seen crossing from the wooded areas of the property to the new orchard and Christmas Tree plantings of three years ago. The bark of young balsams is particularly tasty to deer and they've done quite a job on a couple of roughly four foot tall trees, breaking off branches and gnawing off the bark, which will eventually kill the tree.
However, on two occasions, he's shown me tracks that are three or four times the size of deer tracks--moose! I couldn't believe it. You think of moose in Maine and far northern New Hampshire or Vermont, not in a southern New Hampshire town that's rapidly expanding with condo colonies sprouting up all over the place (current saying in the area: "Support your local farmer or watch the condos grow").
What to do to protect the trees? On Saturday we went to a local garden center so that Fritz could buy some paper-white narcissus bulbs for winter indoor forcing to give as Christmas gifts. While we were there I saw some sprays to repel deer from trees and shrubs. Since we weren't sure which was the most effective, we had as long a talk as we could decently manage with the hot, handsome and very friendly young man at the check-out. He suggested another effective and much cheaper way of managing the problem, a product called Milorganite that's a fertilizer with an extra dimension.
We asked what it was and how it worked. From what he told us, I'm going to guess that the Mil in Milorganite refers to the city of Milwaukee, because the product--and I’m NOT making this up--is made from Milwaukee's sewage. He said that there's such a strong human scent about the stuff that if you scatter it around your trees, the deer and other animals will stay away. We bought two 40 pound bags and scattered it liberally around all the Christmas and fruit trees in our little orchard. Fritz will monitor the situation and if it seems to be effective, we'll get a couple of more bags every now and then to keep up the protection.
I'm going to close with a delightful bit of inspired lunacy I got from Joe Jervis of the great blog Joe.My.God. It's obviously meant to be sung to the melody of a song from the movie "Mary Poppins."
SUPERTELEVANGELISTIC SEX-AND-DRUGS PSYCHOSIS
(Lyrics by M. Spaff Sumsion)
I used to be a master of the anti-gay crusade
Until a butch disaster blew my pastor masquerade
But if it's true I'm pounding more than pulpits, don't blame me
It's 'cause I caught my hooker-tweaker-stud's infirmity
Supertelevangelistic sex-and-drugs psychosis
Worse than plague and bird flu crossed with osteoporosis
We were playing doctor and he gave this diagnosis:
Supertelevangelistic sex-and-drugs psychosis
Umm Haggard Bakker Swaggart umm Tammy Faye
Umm Haggard Bakker Swaggart umm Tammy Faye
I found the perfect therapist - the kind that gives massage
I like to drive my Escort and I park in his garage
I swear he only serves me crank when all his coke is gone
And then he helps me straighten out my Peter, James, and John
Supertelevangelistic sex-and-drugs psychosis
That's my greatest guilty pleasure next to Guns N' Roses
Good thing there's no ban on it in all the books of Moses
Supertelevangelistic sex-and-drugs psychosis
Umm Haggard Bakker Swaggart umm Tammy Faye
Umm Haggard Bakker Swaggart umm Tammy Faye
It seems all pious public figures bugger on the sly
But Jesus loved republicans and sinners; so must I
Say "Holy moley, Mister Foley! That boy's underage!"
But I believe the congressman has turned another page
Supertelevangelistic sex-and-drugs psychosis
Next time, better cut me off at handshakes and Mimosas
No more meth or men for me (at least in overdoses)!
Supertelevangelistic sex-and-drugs psychosis!
(Email your appreciation to the author: Spaff@spaff.com)
Thursday, November 09, 2006
A Potentially Happy Day
Here's how it works: the proposed amendment has to pass with at least 25 percent of the legislators voting for it. Then it has to pass again at another Convention in the future for it to get on the 2008 ballot. Polls indicate that an overwhelming number of voters here would vote to kill the amendment and preserve gay marriage if it did come to a public vote, BUT:
1) that's two years off and who knows what will happen in those two years;
2) there's a very valid arguement to be made that civil rights matters shouldn't be put before a public vote possibly tainted by bigotry, but brought into law by the government to protect ALL citizens;
3) a certain number of our legislators are scared stiff to have their names put on the public record as either for or against such a loaded, super-sensitive question.
So, they're putting any bit of business they can before the anti-gay marriage amendment while feverishly trying to get enough support together to declare the Convention adjourned. That way, they can duck the whole thing, allowing the amendment to die a natural death. How would this be bad?
Well, for one thing there's a counter arguement being made that having the public vote would be the utimate verification of such an issue, one way or the other, in our democracy. However if the Legislature "votes" by not voting but killing the amendment, that would be a demonstration that the Legislature had made the decision, which is what other voices are calling for, rather than have the issue decided by "activist judges."
So, there the issue sits. After all the politicing is over, I rather expect to hear this evening that the Convention voted to adjourn, allowing the anti-gay marriage amendment to slip safely through the cracks and disappear . . . and preserving the cover of every member of the Massachusetts Legislature.
END OF DAY UPDATE: Well, as they used to say, you heard it here first.
The legislature filled its day with everything it could find, including an amendment proposal that would ban the recognition of gay marriages from anywhere out of state. They voted that one down resoundingly. Then when they'd run the clock out as much as they could, they took a vote to adjourn--that passed.
To get on the ballot in 2008, the amendment has to have a passing vote in this session of the Legislature (last day of the session: January 2, 2007) and a passing vote in 2008. So, part of the adjournment vote was to reschedule the next consideration of the anti-marriage amendment for January 2, 2007 at some time after 2pm. Effectively, it's dead--they'll run the clock out again before a vote can be taken, the session will end , and that will be that.
By the way, were the amendment ever to have reached the voters and passed, existing same-sex marriages would not have been voided out. The 8000+ gay and lesbian marriages would stand, but no more would have been legally possible.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Oh, Happy, Happy Day!
Right now I'm listening to Bozo address reporters to say that Donald Rumsfeld's gone!
We won the house of Representatives, so Dennis Hastert's gone as Speaker!
The Senate's now balanced since Montana has been declared to have gone Democratic!
We've increased the number of Governors who are Democrats significantly.
Virginia hasn't been resolved, but the Democrat is leading by a slim margin; if his lead holds, we'll have won the Senate also. Here in Massachusetts, we elected the Democrat Deval Patrick our first African-American Governer--he's also only the second Black governor in the Nation's history.
Fritz tells me the New Hampshire Senate is controlled by the Democrats for the first time . . . since 1911!
Life is GOOD.
UPDATE: As I was leaving a dress rehearsal at MIT last night, Boston's CBS Radio outlet was announcing that Virginia's Senatorial race had gone to the Democrat. We had WON THE SENATE, too! It isn't completely official until tomorrow (Friday) when all Virginia voting districts will be canvassed for their latest numbers. The Republican incumbent is, more or less properly, refusing to concede the race until after the final figures are in.
I imagine (pray) that the Democrats have observers watching the vote count. The Bush Republican elections have been filled with bizarre, probably illegal vote counts and other election irregularities--too many to be coincidence, and we need to be very sure we keep an eye on this one.
I listened to Bozo give his 1pm press conference yesterday. I'll give him credit, he stood before the press and took it like a man, even injecting some rueful humor into a situation that has to be humiliating and galling for someone so arrogant and pig-headedly stubborn about listining to anyone but himself and a coterie of of power-hungry arch-conservative bigots.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
They're both in the same branch of medicine but actually didn't meet each other through their shared profession. They have a super-friendly, very cuddly little Pug named Fidel. He was all over both of us, especially Fritz, who would love to have a little dog again. I keep pointing out that we love to travel and that you can't leave a dog even for a weekend the way you can with a cat. He knows that, of course. But I have to admit that Fidel is a real charmer.
The New York Times, for the first time in its history, released a slate of endorsements for the congressional races that includes no Republicans. Stating that the paper's only political agenda has been to support the two party system, the Editorial says that preventing the Bush administration from maintaining its strangle hold on all branches of the government is vital for the survival of our rights under the U.S. Constitution. The final line is: "It is frightening to contemplate the new excesses he could concoct if he woke up next Wednesday and found that his party had maintained its hold on the House and Senate."
As I was driving home tonight from a Board of Directors meeting at Fritz's, National Public Radio had an interesting program about all the highly negative campaigning that's been going on during this particular election. It began by revealing that negative campaigns are nothing new in this country, going back to the 18th century, in fact. They pointed out that both John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams were hit by extremely negative campaigns from their opponents, and that some of the things said in trying to derail Thomas Jefferson's candidacy couldn't be repeated on either radio or TV today.
When they started playing the sound portion of several major advertisements, it was a bit of a shock to realize that some of the Republican-oriented ads from the mid-west managed to make the scabrous Kerry Healey publicity look almost jolly. The point did get made, however, that majorly negative ads can turn around and bite the candidate on the ass. The now infamous "garage ad" by Healey's campaign, in which Deval Patrick was [fraudulently] identified with a notorious rapist, was identified as the turning point in the campaign, after which Healey’s fortunes just sank lower and lower.
Blessedly, tomorrow in the early evening, it all ends. And we'll know what our situation will be for the final two years of Bozo's presidency.
Sunday, November 05, 2006
At the same time, three members of iconic political families here in Massachusetts, all elder statesmen of great honor and respect in the Republican Party, have jointly announced their defection to the Democrats in protest against the way Republicans are currently doing business.
The Three are George Lodge, scion of generations of politically powerful Lodges, and former Senators Christopher Phillips and William Saltonstall. Speaking for them all, Phillips declared themselves "tired with what the Republican Party has become today" as well as stating their "opposition to the war in Iraq and the state Republican Party's positions on social issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage." All three have thrown their support behind Deval Patrick for Governor of Massachusetts.
Phillips also had this to say about the president: "On the area of foreign policy, he's managed to turn a good part of the world against the US because of his ineptitude and poor decisions." Saltonstall, whose daughter is lesbian, has been an activist for gay rights and supporter of gay marriage.He also hosted a Deval Patrick fund-raising event. Of particular interest is that the anti-Bush statements and actions by the three aged giants of old-time Republican politics in Massachusetts have not drawn hostile reactions from the Party, but candid admissions from a number of current Republican office holders that the Party needs to revisit the issue of what it is and who Republicans are supposed to be.
Former Head pastor, former President of the National Association of Evangelicals Ted Haggard is beginning to cave. He's admitted buying crack from his hustler-of-choice, Mike Jones (although he says he says he threw it away--he seems to have forgotten that the "I didn't inhale" defense didn't go over all that well even when a very popular President Bill Clinton used it). He's now admitted that he booked a massage from his hustler but still claims he never had sex with him. Sooner rather than later that half-truth will probably be blown away, if for no reason than that the voice on Jones's phone recordings has been positively verified by authorities to be that of Ted Haggard in the guise of "Art," his nom-de-down low.
I feel genuinely sorry for Haggard's family. I probably wouldn't choose to socialize with them because of their christian fundamentalist beliefs, but they're victims of this bigoted hypocrite's lies as he attacked and attempted to disinfranchise the gay community while feeding off us for his own personal gratification. I don't think I'm much of a vengeful person, but watching his fall has been genuinely gratifying.
Last night I drove out to the National Heritage Museum in Lexington for a concert given by the Lexington Symphony. There was an intriguingly programmed presentation under the direction of the Jonathan McPhee, otherwise the permanent conductor for the Boston Ballet. Three works for string chamber orchestra were on formal concert program, Dvorak's lovely and lyrical Serenade for Strings, and the majestically calm Adagietto for Strings from Gustav Mahler's Symphony #5 (said to have been the marriage proposal from Mahlet to his fiance Alma Schindler) which made a perfect intro to the main work after intermission.
English composer Gustav Holst learned Sanskrit in order to adapt an episode from the great Hindu epic "Mahabharata" into a one act opera "Savitri" whose story is roughly analogous to the Greek Orpheus myth except with the genders reversed. In the Hindu, it's the husband who dies and the radiant wife who bargains with Death to bring him back to earthly life. A couple of woodwinds joined the strings along with a wordless women's chorus for the opera. If you know Holst's mighty orchestral suite "The Planets” (whose "Mars" movement--how shall I put this discretely--"inspired" John Williams's Imperial March from "Star Wars"), you will have no idea of the delicate and personal beauty of the music for "Savitri." Veteran Boston baritone Robert Honeysucker, now well into the fourth decade of a magnificent career, sang Death with handsome, solid tone; sweet-voiced young soprano Valerie Nicolosi gave an unaffected, completely sincere performance as Savitri.
When the opera ended, we adjourned to the Museum's atrium where four Indian musicians (tabla drum, narrator and finger percussionist, singer, and violin) were installed on a carpet and a dance performance area had been defined. Ranjani Saigal, choreographer and founder of a school that teaches the ancient Indian style of dance called Bharatanatyam, had created the story of Savitri in the classic style, and it was performed for us is it would have been danced in a Temple courtyard, in twenty five dazzling minutes of virtuosic and expressive performance by the radiant sixteen year old Amudha Pazhanisamy who vividly portrayed all three characters.
The Lexington Symphony isn't the Boston Symphony or even the Boston Ballet's highly accomplished pit orchestra. But if programs this inventive and rewarding are the norm for them, I'll be driving west of Boston a little more frequently in the future.
Friday, November 03, 2006
The Great Boston Fire of 1872
H is a local architect whose position on the Cambridge Planning Board made him a special guest at this event--he was the first person to be introduced to the audience by Twickler in his remarks before the showing. I had gratefully accepted H's invitation immediately, and we met over fruit and cheese plates outside the hall last night to catch each other up on the latest in our lives. In his place on the Board, he's involved with making sure that projects proposed for construction within the city conform to the latest fire codes, a concern that would not exist had it not been for the documentary's subject, John S. Damrell, Chief Engineer of the City of Boston Fire Department from 1866 to 1873.
Damrell wasn't the original subject of the documentary--the Great Fire of Boston that raged November 9th and 10th, 1872 was. But as Twickler and his crew investigated deeper and deeper into the history of the conflagration, Damrell began to dominate as its obvious hero. He was in many ways the first modern Fire Chief in the nation's history, one who applied a rational approach to urban planning with gut instinct when in crisis situations at major fires, after which he pursued what might be called a forensic analysis of the fire's genesis, spread and eventual containment to learn how to prevent disasters in the future.
Damrell visited the site of the Great Chicago Fire (October 1871--just 13 months before Boston's) and came away disturbed by its implications for his own city. Chicago burned for three days, October 8, 9, and 10, with a loss of over 300 lives, destroying an area measured in square miles. Most of what burned was wooden in construction and much of the terror of the fire was caused by the firestorm conditions that rendered most firefighting effort useless.
Boston, dangerously, lived in false confidence that it was essentially fireproof. The inner city was built of brick and granite, with everyone ignoring the reality that its mansard roofs were all framed and sheathed in wood. Worse, the city administration's leaders were from the Boston Brahmin class who looked [down] on Damrell as a blue collar worker who should be taking their orders rather than suggesting they follow his directions. Worst of all, the inner city's infrastructure was woefully inadequate as to street width, fire hydrant water pressure, and access to alarm boxes that were kept locked to prevent the public from making false alarms—only the police had the keys. For six years Damrell, who knew and understood the implications of all of this, had reported to city authorities that major reforms were urgently needed, particularly after the destruction of Chicago. For six years his reports were summarily dismissed.
At approximately 7:00pm on November 9, 1872, fire broke out in the basement of a commercial building in the downtown business district. Local residents saw it but couldn't register an alarm at the locked box--it took 45 minutes for them to attract police attention by which time the building was fully engaged with windows blowing out and flaming debris falling into the street. Fire stations were slow to respond because an epidemic of a debilitating equine disease had killed or sidelined all the city's horses--firemen had to drag their engines through the streets themselves. By the time they arrived on the scene, the fire had leapt from roof to roof and the streets were filled with spectators and business owners trying to empty their shops of as much merchandise as possible. When hydrants were tapped, water pressure was insufficient to put a stream of water as high as the roof of most buildings. It wasn't long before the fire began to create its own "weather," convection causing great tongues of flame to leap-frog from block to block.
Damrell was just beginning to gain the upper hand thanks to a couple of main streets with larger mains and better water pressure when he was forced to knuckle under to Brahmin orders to blow up buildings in order to create a fire break. It was a technique he knew had failed in Chicago and it proved disastrous in Boston. Unsupervised demolition teams, untrained in explosive use, managed to reignite the northwestern edge of the fire, spreading it toward the State House and the iconic Old South Church, meeting house for the eventual leaders of the American Revolution. Damrell saved Old South--clearly visible unharmed beyond the rubble in one period photograph--by having it covered with water-soaked blankets and carpets, then managed to call off the rampaging explosives teams and, by 7am on the 10th, had begun to contain the fire.
Because John Damrell had fought the Boston Fire with the beginnings of modern fire management techniques, aided no end by superbly dedicated and disciplined fire fighters, Boston's fire lasted only twelve hours, destroyed only sixty-five acres and the death toll was held to an astonishing twenty, nine of them firemen.
In future years, Damrell's reputation grew as fire chiefs nationwide recognized his achievement and made him a model to emulate.
Effectively ousted as Chief by his enemies in Boston's city administration a year after he had prevented the fire from invading their city's residential areas, Damrell became Boston's Building Inspector in 1877.. From that position he was able to develop and enforce building standards to eliminate central staircase wells that allowed fire to spread with chimney effect through every floor of a building in seconds. Building materials were regulated and fire escapes mandated. By this time he had been elected leader of a couple of national fire and building safety associations.
Baltimore burned the year after Boston. Other U.S. cities suffered from major fires in the late 19th century, but the era of catastrophic urban conflagrations was nearing its end. John S. Damrell died in 1905 just before the publication of the first nationwide code for fire safety in buildings, a major advance in public safety his career and influence had helped propel into being.
An interesting news item came over with this morning's news. The Reverend Ted Haggard, Senior Pastor of the New Life Church in the Denver area, has abruptly resigned his influential, high visibility position as President of the National Association of Evangelicals. Haggard, who is married and father of five, has been accused of paying a gay man for sex for years by the man himself on a radio talk show.
The unidentified man, a hustler although not referred to as such on CBS TV news, claimed as his motivation anger over Haggard's viscious public opposition to gay marriage and gay rights in general. Among the activities Haggard is alleged to have taken part in during their trysts is smoking crystal meth. His accuser backs up his story with emails and recorded phone messages from Haggard that he says he will make available to the media.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
"Dead in the Water"
A) desperately trying to marshal whatever of the faithful haven't lost the faith (this includes bringing up gay marriage once again as The Great Evil;
B) in serious denial about a coming political calamity of his own making;
C) has some very dirty little surprise cooked up and ready to spring at the last minute.
On the other hand, with John Kerry presenting Bush and his gang with the gilt-edged issue that he dropped on us all yesterday, the Democrats may just be poised to destroy themselves and our hopes of deliverance as they've shown such a talent for doing in the past.
Here in Massachusetts our governor's race has been marked by one of the strongest differences in style of any campaign I can remember. Democrat Deval Patrick has established and maintained a tone of almost saintly calm, reasoned discourse, warmth and personal dignity in the face of the filthy little campaign waged by the present Republican Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey.
Giving Healey her due, she was burdened by a Governor, Mitt Romney, who turned unexpectedly and disastrously into an albatross around the neck. Having sworn to be a two term governor because of all the important work he wanted to accomplish here, Romney dropped Massachusetts like a hot rock several months ago with his [totally expected by most of us] announcement that he would not run for a second term, even as he was traveling around the country delivering speeches insulting and slamming Massachusetts and its citizens in order to appeal to red necks and religious wing nuts nationwide in his bid for the presidential nomination.
For the bulk of Healey's campaign, Romney was totally invisible, unmentioned and never seen in her TV ads. From the beginning she tried to distance herself from Romney as far and as fast as possible. Only when her campaign threatened to collapse in the face of massive public disapproval did Romney make a support speech, but indications are it hasn't helped her one bit.
So what killed her in the people's estimation? Patrick began the official race with an up-beat, positive message and an almost 30 point lead in the polls; from the beginning her ads have been relentlessly negative, employing every dirty tactic up to but blessedly not including the race card against Patrick. The low point, if the entire campaign can't be considered a low point, was an ad that equated Patrick with a brother-in-law of his who had in the past abused and even raped Deval's sister. The couple went through a lot of therapy, and have made a go of their marriage since.
But Healey's been almost paranoid in trying to pin rape on Deval, digging up legal cases in which he acted as defense lawyer for men accused of rape, and shoving them at the public incessantly in several different scenarios. In the end, the National Organization for Women and a couple of national lawyers' associations condemned Healey--a lawyer herself--publicly for spreading irrational fear and for denigrating the Constitutionally guaranteed right to legal representation and due process of law via a trial. Yesterday, members of the Governor's Commission on Sexual and Domestic Violence demanded she step down as Chair because of the ad campaign
While all this was going on, Healey's campaign sent groups of campaign workers in the orange jumpsuits prisoners wear to hold fake rallies in front of the houses of Deval and his campaign manager, urging people to vote for "the inmate's friend," harassing the families of both men in the process. It was the last straw for the public. She appeared on the evening news with her tail firmly between her legs, allowing as how she had to talk to her overenthusiastic campaign workers about not doing that sort of thing any more--as if anyone could believe she hadn't plotted the whole sorry affair herself. And despite her denials that she'd known in advance about the jumpsuited shock troops, she didn't call them off until after they'd shown up in downtown Boston to confront Deval Partick supporters outside a televised candidate debate.
The Patrick campaign got Bill Clinton to come for an appearance in support of his administration's former member, and Patrick continues to state calmly and clearly that he isn't going to play down on Kerry Healey's level. Through it all his lead has remained around 25 points and at times it's approached 30. Even the conservative tabloid Boston Herald that endorsed Kerry Healey, published a full front page picture of her the morning after the last candidate debate with the headline "Dead in the Water."
She ran her campaign in the gutter and her candidacy wound up in the gutter where it belongs.