Tuesday, January 30, 2007
In any event, at the end of the day as Jamie is beginning dinner she turns to Paul and with quiet affection in her voice says, "Thank you for a perfect day." Paul has no particular idea what he may or may not have done to create or facilitate the perfection of the day but he's happy to take his compliments where he finds them. Last Sunday was that perfect day for Fritz and me.
I drove up to his place from Boston after an exhaustively complete concert performance of Handel's great opera "Ariodante" given by Emmanuel Music. Emmanuel opted to play every note of the score, including both the ballet and masque sequences that are rarely if ever done even in staged performances, let alone concert ones. I pulled into Fritz's drive on Sunday morning and slipped into bed with him somewhat after Midnight.
We woke before seven, cuddled a long while and had sex. He went up to the Center to make coffee for the group renting the facility for the weekend and later we had breakfast and watched Charles Osgood's show that included a nice piece on the welcome return of Bob Seger to performing after a lengthy absence to be a full-time father.
We did some planning for our trip to western North Carolina via Atlanta for a family (his) wedding in June, including ordering the airline tickets and rental car on line. We retrieved the Wildview camera, but it hadnt caught any new wildlife roaming the property, and we reset it on another tree in a different location. There haven't been any new deer or moose tracks lately, so perhaps the bigger animals have retreated deeper into the woods for the winter. We had a light lunch, unloaded my Jeep of a load of books and vinyl records from the studio at my house in Boston (more "thinning out" to get the house ready to sell in March), took a short nap, had sex--part deux, and a lovely afternoon tea.
At 5pm, we drove to Portsmouth, a beautifully preserved largely eighteenth century maritime city. The purpose was to see the movie "The Queen" at 7:30 in the progressively restored Music Hall. We had time to explore a contemporary art gallery that had been a fixture on Congress Street for years but somehow always escaped our notice, and a lighting and sculptural chandelier shop where a married man with his family in another part of the store made an unmistakable pass at us. Then dinner at one of our favorite places, Sake Japanese Restaurant where I ordered--surprise--the Ahiru or duck with scallions. We talked and laughed and treated ourselves to ice cream--he the ginger, I the red bean--for dessert.
We enjoyed "The Queen" immensely. All the buzz has been about Helen Mirren, and with the greatest of justification, but I was particularly impressed by the script, especially an incident where Elizabeth is able to mourn the death of a great stag shot by a tourist hunter in the midst of not being able to grieve or even sympathetically relate to the death of her former daughter-in-law, Diana.
When it ended, I drove Fritz back to his house, kissed him good-bye and headed back to Boston to begin painting the stage floor for our current production at 7:30 Monday morning. Just before I left we embraced and thanked each other for a perfect day.
Sunday, January 28, 2007
New Hampshire, some wry remarks by one or two friends notwithstanding, is neither the End of the Earth nor The Boonies. There are several big and highly sophisticated institutions of higher education (UNH, Dartmouth, et al) as well as prominent private residential secondary schools (Phillips Exeter Academy), some excellent museums, a regional opera company (Granite State Opera) and symphony orchestras, thriving art associations (The Deerfield Art Association 20 minutes away from where I’ll be living) that foster and exhibit the work of some excellent artists. Portsmouth and Manchester are fine cities with a great deal to offer. There are also some highly respectable and respected medical facilities such as the one I came to know inside out during the week when Fritz was rushed into coronary surgery and his excellently managed recovery.
So let’s review: academia, the fine and performing arts, major health care institutions, urban centers, all present and accounted for and just the places to find gay men and lesbians. Toss into the mix a lot of our close friends, the gay guys who showed up with chainsaws to assist with the clearing of the road to the new house and to help in many other ways, and it all spells a thriving gay population. But where, other than the estimable Steve and Chris on the east coast near Portsmouth, are the gay bloggers?
I've looked. I've checked the link lists of gay New Hampshire sites. I've combed the link lists of gay bloggers late at night when I should have been asleep or doing something for work. I actually found the blog of a gay Vermonter but he didn't link to anybody and his blog was all about a lot of other stuff than gay issues, private or public. I can't believe that there are no gay bloggers in New Hampshire other than Steve and Chris--that's the long and the short of it (I am SO going to get hit when I next see those two).
Does it matter? Well yes, to me. I've been working to set roots in the area from almost as soon as Fritz and I stopped trying to analyze what was happening to us and just accepted that somehow we had become ludicrously lucky (or had been guided by an irresistible force intent on bringing us together, which is another story I'll tell some day if pleaded with sufficiently). It's not as if I haven't tapped into gay life in southern New Hampshire--I have and it’s alive and well, thank you very much. But there is another dimension, the gay blog community that has been a most enjoyable part of my life here in Boston and that I would be very interested in connecting with in my new home--if indeed a gay blog community exists in New Hampshire. I can't believe it doesn't, but I’ve been unable to find it so far.
So, if any of you links to or otherwise knows of any gay bloggers in New Hampshire, I would be delighted to know who they are and have an address. Many thanks.
Friday, January 26, 2007
For nine of those fourteen years, I've gone on my annual pilgrimage with J, good friend and opera-going buddy, single gay man hoping eventually to find the man of his dreams. And he did. He moved away to be with him, far enough away that he's not going to Glimmerglass with me anymore. I went alone last summer, which was OK but not as much fun as having someone to go with, talk about the performances and singers with, and explore the countryside and antique barns with. Fritz is a great theater and classical concert man but NOT an opera man, most particularly not a four or five operas in three days man. So I was wondering if anyone among my readers might like to go out to Glimmerglass with me this summer.
Here are the particulars: I have tickets for the 17th, 18th and 19th of August. My route out to Cooperstown is west via the Massachusetts Turnpike, up the Northway to Albany, west via the New York State Throughway (briefly), then west on Route 20, a really lovely road, into the Cooperstown area. If you don't have a car, I could pick you up if you live close to that route. I've already reserved accommodations at my usual place in a comfortable room above the carriage barn of a farmhouse with twin beds, a kitchenette, excellent and generous breakfasts. Before making any commitments, interested parties should call the Festival box office (607) 547-2255 to see if tickets are available for the dates in question.
The artistic direction of Glimmerglass recently changed hands and an interesting experiment in programming is planned for this summer--every work in the repertory is based on the myth of the legendary Greek musician Orpheus. It's all Orpheus all the time, although the individual works span three centuries and are radically different in style one from another. August 17th is the earliest of them all, Monteverdi's "L'Orfeo" from the early seventeenth century, followed on Saturday afternoon the 18th by the newest, Philip Glass's "Orphee" in a double bill with Jean Cocteau's surrealist movie of the same name that inspired it. That night comes Jacques Offenbach's sparkling and irreverent Second Empire send-up of all the others, "Orpheus in the Underworld" which includes the classic can-can. Sunday the 19th in the late morning there's a concert performance of Haydn's "L'Anima del Filosofo; Orfeo ed Euridice" followed at 3pm by Gluck's famous classical era "Orphee et Eurydice," probably the best-known of all. I'm seeing everything, because I'm THAT kind of opera fanatic, but you could see as few or as many as you like.
We had another meeting up at Fritz's this morning, this time with the excavator who's going to do the grading and gravelling of the road we cut up to the house site. He turned out to be a delightful and very well informed man. Fritz had told me he was kind of hot and I must say I agree--but when he began an explanation of the relative water table levels in the area from 1983 to the present based on drought/recovery cycles and how that affects the size of gravel he has to use for the underlayment of any new road, I realized that he's not just a hunky guy but an artisan. For a while I'm going to have to be doing the up and back at odd times for meetings like this. I left Boston at 6:15 this morning, was back at MIT at 11:30. After the meeting on the road, I also introduced myself to the town's Building Inspector and gave him the preliminary plans for the house. The actual construction drawings will come back from the structural engineer's review in about a month, at which time I get to apply for a building permit. If by then we've been able to find a general contractor who's got the chops to build a house of this kind, we'll be able to start before too late in the spring.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
I can think of two reasons for this: 1) perhaps you have not yet switched to the new Blogger and your accounts are not recognized or, 2) that the old comments did not translate well, but perhaps when you post a comment under the new system your names WILL appear properly, which is what I hope will happen.
SO, if you comment and find you are listed as anonymous, PLEASE sign your comments in future with your name and your blog's name. I realize it'll be an annoyance but I can't tell you how much I'll appreciate knowing who you are and being able to communicate back with you.
An informal poll yesterday among my friends and colleagues revealed that none of them, not one, was going to watch the State of the Union Speech. In all cases the issue was failure to stomach some aspect of George W. Bush. I heard "I can't stand looking at him," "Listening to him makes me physically ill," "I hate his voice and what he says," etc. etc. One just spewed unvarnished hatred for about four minutes. I was the only one who planned to watch/listen (it turned into more of the latter as I worked at thinning out my LP record collection in preparation for the coming sale of the house and move) because I loathe him so much I'm unwilling to let him slip anything by me.
The thing that was most obvious about this SOTU in comparison to the previous six, concerned the striking lack of applause. I estimate there was less than half of what we heard erupt so loudly and so often in previous years as Republicans and even a few Democrats leapt to their feet in prolonged, sycophantic standing ovations. What a difference a year--and a catastrophic election for the Republican Party--has made. Bozo was subdued, and seemed almost contemplative. There was none of the usual empty, arrogant swagger, and the smirk seems to have been permanently decommissioned. There was a new and very different attitude for him: plaintive, as he appealed to the Congress to "give it a chance," it being his "new" Iraq policy. I frankly don't think it has much of a chance; Congress is close to overwhelming in its lack of support and the American people seem--finally!-- have given up on Bush almost completely.
I got a surprise when it was all over when Fritz called to talk about it. He avoids Bozo on TV like the plague and I was amazed that he went with the speech right through to the end. We compared notes (good job on recognizing Nancy Pelosi’s breakthrough as first female Speaker; very subdued manner in general; must realize his power is virtually gone).
Noting that this inept and pig-headed president has now sent more Americans to their deaths than Osama bin Laden did on 9/11/01, I wonder if we shouldn't send out troops to capture Bush since he's been completely incapable of capturing bin Laden and has created more widows, widowers and parentless children than bin Laden ever has.
And let's not forget the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi men, women and children who have died and been maimed in this illegal, insane vanity war. These are ordinary people who are no more responsible for Saddam Hussein's actions than we are for George Bush's. They go off to work in the morning and return to destroyed homes and find the pieces of their children's bodies; they send a husband or wife off to work or the market and never see them in any recognizable form again. All this, all the deaths, all the misery, the lack of respect to which he has subjected the United States in the international community, the vast outlay of money that's been siphoned off by graft, corruption and profiteering, the worsening of the situation in the entire near- and mid-east--all this will be the Bush legacy for decades to come.
Monday, January 22, 2007
Today, White House Press secretary Tony Snow announced that already there are signs of the success of Bozo's "new wave" plan. Are we therefore to assume that one of Bozo's goals is the wholesale slaughter of the Iraqi people?
Today, three more Republican Senators threw their support behind the resolution to condemn the "Surge." Tomorrow's State of the Union Speech is going to be very interesting political theater.
Today Bozo's approval rating with the American public finally dropped below the 30% floor on which it has precariously balanced for so long and settled at a miserable 28%.
Yesterday afternoon there was a superb recital of French songs from the 19th and 20th centuries by Susan Graham at Jordan Hall. The tall (6'-1"), always elegant mezzo soprano had selected a program embracing 24 songs by 22 French composers, the songs picked specifically to highlight the variety and range of French vocal writing.
The lady has the chops, having been named Commander of the Institute of Arts and Letters by the French government for her service to French music. She was in full, warm, soaring voice as she both acted and sang stories as diverse as a that of medieval noblewoman waiting in progressively greater and greater dread for a husband lost to war who will never come home; an English mouse who stows away on a ship to France, takes over the attic of an inn and laughs at all attempts to lure her into traps with brie, camembert and swiss cheeses--until the innkeeper places Cheshire Cheese in a trap et fini!; and the mini-drama of a financially desperate, aging widow who takes to the roulette wheel at Monte Carlo, is thrown out when her little secret strategy is discovered, and ends the evening going head first off the pier into the Mediterranean.
After the generous two hour program showcasing (in order) Bizet, Franck, Fauré, Lalo, Gounod, Saint-Saëns, Chabrier, Paladilhe, Debussy, Chausson, Bachelet, Duparc, Ravel, Caplet, Roussel, Messiaen, Hahn, Satie, Honneger, Sauguet, Rosenthal and Poulenc, Ms Graham ended the afternoon with the witty Noel Coward song "There's always something fishy about the French." The audience went nuts.
This morning there was a meeting up at Fritz's Center and on the building site. Participants were my right hand who's preparing the construction drawings and many other details, the [very cute] field representative from Public Service of New Hampshire—the power company, and the designer of the all-important septic system, a perfect, bearded junior bear with heavy curved barbell earrings in both ears. When you're not only the prospective home owner but also a gay man, you just naturally notice these things about the men who are doing the work for you. Large amounts were accomplished.
With the invaluable help of our administrative assistant at work, I was able to get the house drawings put out as jpegs and here they are:
The heavily glazed South Façade of the house. All materials are to be either completely natural, with rock taken from the hillside or, in the case of the roof shingles, of a color to match the golden tan color of the woods floor. The photovoltaic arrays will be mounted on a rack about seventy five feet further uphill behind the left corner of the house.
The First Floor. The generously sized Great Room (18' x 24') will rise up through the trusses to a cathedral ceiling. Our Master Suite consists of the bedroom itself; a closet/exercise room that will contain a stationery bicycle, weight bench, possibly a treadmill, and a massage table; our bathroom; a sauna and small shower "room" that will accommodate four to six men.
Behind the Great Room is the Kitchen, the Utility or Mechanical Room, and a small room for a deep freeze, washer and dryer.
The Second Floor will have its own exterior entrance via a small bridge to the hillside behind the house, a large office/studio, and a guest bedroom with its own bathroom.
Saturday, January 20, 2007
SO, I guess I'll take some digital pictures of the drawings and upload them. They'll probably not have quite as much sharpness of detail as the scanned images, but I know the computer will deal with them without having a spasm.
I'm working on my current house this morning and am about to go out and do some yard work. It's very cold but a brilliant day and the sun's out so it shouldn't be too unpleasant. I have to take down the deteriorated cedar picket fence I put around the little playhouse I built for my daughters and their friends when they were kids. The cedar pickets and posts will work well for the Sweat Lodge fire at Fritz's. The house itself is in pretty decent shape and the realtor thought it charming and something a potential buyer might like.
Speaking of the Sweat Lodge, I'm going up this afternoon because we're having the boys in for a Sweat tonight. From the replies I've gotten we should have a nice crowd. We'll be celebrating especially the new job of one of our friends which will allow him to stay in the area rather than having to relocate away from his boyfriend. They're a super couple and it was killing us to think they might have to be separated geographically.
One of the things I had hinted pretty heavily to my daughters that I would just love to have for Christmas was Sting's new CD of songs by Elizabethan composer John Dowland. But I didn't get itso I ordered it from amazon.com ASAP. I've loved Sting and his voice since the earliest days of The Police. As the years have gone by, he's branched out and tried any number of things, generally with great success.
One of the nicest stories concerns his starring in "The Threepenny Opera" by Kurt Weill and Bertoldt Brecht in New York some years ago. The production's well-known and influential director was known for being a difficult, to be polite, personality. Sting was the Actor's Equity representative in the cast as well as its star. In a note session after one of the late rehearsals, a well-known Broadway singer/actress in the cast asked a question or made an observation and the director shot back "Judy, stop being such a cunt." Sting immediately protested and said if there was't an immediate apology and promise of no more such insults, he'd leave the production then and there. There was an apology and a promise.
The CD is titled "Songs from the Labyrinth." Dowland wrote very intimate and personal songs, many of them dealing with love in its many aspects, particularly frustrated love or unfulfilled longing. Sting accompanies himself on an archlute, also called a theorbo, and is joined on some numbers by lutenist Edin Karamazov. Here and there between the songs, Sting reads excerpts from letters by Dowland to family or noble patrons to give a context to some of the subject matter. At the height of his career, Dowland felt compelled by the Catholic/Protestant conflict in England to relocate to Germany where he was very well received.
The songs are usually sung by classically trained concert singers. I've always loved the slightly foggy, sexy sound of Sting's voice. And I think the guy's incredibly hot. He knows his way around the kind of erotic longing that's a subtext or even THE text of many of these songs and has a sure sense of the style without ever becoming mannered or any less than his warm earthy self. He also plays the long-necked archlute beautifully. The CD is on the Deutche Grammophone label and has gotten very good reviews from the classical music press, including a rave from Opera News.
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Now the question I would love to have answered is why this man, properly valued for his particular skills, can be courted by one branch of the government to serve in a foreign country that the U.S. currently occupies, while hundreds of equally skilled young Americans (including, reportedly, the majority of our desperately needed Arabic speakers in Iraq) have been thrown out of the military for being gay? Can anyone find the slightest thread of logic here?
MISSOULA TO AFGHANISTAN / Protect, serve abroad
By TRISTAN SCOTT of the Missoulian
Missoula Police Officer Scott Oak turns in his motorcycle Thursday morning as he prepares to leave the force and travel to Afghanistan to help train the Afghan National Police force for one year. Oak leaves Missoula on Saturday.
Photo by KURT WILSON/Missoulian
Scott Oak enjoys a challenge, especially if it means putting his neck on the line.
In November 2005, that mentality gave Oak cause to volunteer as the liaison officer between Missoula's police department and the local gay community. It's also the reason he became a police officer and, before that, the impetus for his military service and commitment to the U.S. Air Force.
On Saturday, Oak will embark on yet another selfless venture by traveling to Afghanistan, where he'll help train the Afghan National Police force for one year.
"It's just the way I'm hardwired," Oak said. "I come from a background in service with the military and law enforcement. I'm sort of set on offering those services wherever they're needed." So it's no surprise that when the U.S. State Department contacted him about an International Police Mission six months ago, Oak displayed the same mettle he's come to exhibit whenever a situation looks dire. In this case, Oak hopes his work will lead to a speedy acclimation for a country struggling with the concept of an independent democracy.
Oak says he was contacted by officials with the State Department because of the high volume of publicity he received after taking on the responsibility as Missoula's first gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and intersex - or GLBTI - liaison. Oak was asked to carry that expertise abroad and conduct training in human and civil rights, ethics, diversity and basic police operations.
"I could be training police on everything from human rights to building searches," Oak said. "But I think, because of my experience as the GLBTI liaison officer, I'll be helping to enlighten them about cultural diversity.
Meanwhile, Oak hopes Missoula will continue on its own path to enlightenment with the aid of interim GLBTI Officer Nicole Pifari. "She and the chief have both pledged their support to keeping the position, so I have no doubt it will be waiting for me when I return," Oak said.
Although Oak frets some about the risks he knows exist in Afghanistan, his biggest concern is leaving his family and friends. Oak, who is gay, is raising a teenage foster son with his partner of 12 years. "In all that time, the longest we've been apart is 12 months," Oak said. "They'll both receive a lot of support through the foster program and from our families, but it's still going to be difficult on us."
So then why, save for personal resolve and civic responsibility, has Oak chosen to leave his position at the Missoula Police Department and travel to a country at war?
"A lot of people think I'm crazy," Oak said, "but for me it's just another challenge and an opportunity to help people in need."
I had the pleasure of meeting Matt Vant of the blog Die Fledermaus and Jason Tarvin of Let's Say You're Right . . . yesterday afternoon. Matt had come to Boston due to the passing of his father and Jason followed to support him. Before heading back home, they're spending a couple of days seeing the city as Jason had never been here before. While we didn't have too much time together, I did get a chance to show them around our design and production building, which I think they enjoyed as both are interested in theater and Matt's an actor/singer with a local company in Cincinnati. Hopefully they'll be back at some point as they're very nice guys and great company.
I'm off to New York City later today for a concert performance at Carnegie Hall of Rossini's opera "Otello" adapted from Shakespeare's "Othello." Giuseppe Verdi's version of the same plot, from later in the 19th century, more or less swept Rossini's opera out of the repertory. But on its own terms, the earlier work is quite lovely (I know it only from recordings) and is actually closer in structure and plot detail to the original play than is Verdi's treatment. I'll be back in town tomorrow.
Monday, January 15, 2007
Six weird things about me
1) I pick up pennies from the sidewalk, the streets, at gas stations, in stores, anywhere people drop them and move on. I pick up any coin or paper money I find that obviously has no owner near by. The big one was the windy day I was crossing the parking lot on my way to Sears at the Dedham Mall and two ten dollar bills blew by me. I caught them. Nothing like that ever happened again.
To me it's a kind of game - thrill of the chase, perhaps. Fritz thinks it's a bit strange and, when we're walking together, if he catches sight of a penny I don't see first, he takes great pleasure in pocketing it ostentatiously right in front of me.
2) I have an unlimited capacity for opera. I'm happiest when they top three hours of music, when I can do a matinee and an evening performance on the same day or, like next summer at the Glimmerglass Festival, when I can see five operas in three days.
3) I am not always the neatest person in the world but I have a need for order in life. When things are going seriously wrong or in crisis emotionally, I clean. I jokingly call this getting in touch with my inner Jewish Mother. In the face of chaos, somehow life is made bearable and controllable for me if all the dishes are stacked properly, the rugs are vacuumed, and the laundry is folded and put away.
4) Back when I was tricking, getting my feet (and other body parts) wet in the gay world, I discovered that many men were out to give service orally but wanted - demanded, even – absolutely no reciprocation or interaction of any kind. This completely didn't work for me.
Sexually, I enjoy taking pleasure but I also need to give. The issue wasn't the anonymity or the fact of a one shot hook-up – that was fine if we were working together and getting off on each other. It was just lying there while someone else did all the work that was almost repellent to me. I NEVER felt cheap or dirty after sex except on the two occasions when I fell in with men who were into that, and I soon learned to read ads so as to avoid such experiences in the future.
Sex for me is sharing, joining in the heat, the sensuality, the fun of being with another man, passing the lead back and forth - a full partnership. Years later when Fritz did the Meyers-Briggs personality type indicator for me he explained that part of my personality to me and it all made sense.
5) I think I’m a pretty good team player but I don't react well to being ordered around. I know absolutely where this comes from. My parents insisted on twelve years of Catholic school for me. Being ordered around like an object by a bunch of people who had no idea who I really was - and could have cared less – toughened my independent, rebellious streak. Include me in the planning and use “please” here and there and I'm your man down to the last detail and the final clean-up. Bark orders at me and you can go fuck yourself.
6) I will do whatever it takes to not wear a business suit, ever. In fact, that's one of the reasons I wound up in the profession I'm in. I saw what my father went through to truss himself up everyday into one of those things. I saw the confining discomfort of them, the dry cleaning bills, the trips to the men's store when fashion dictated the width of the lapels change to buy a couple of new suits for virtually the equivalent of a month's salary.
Then there were all the unspoken "rules": you couldn't under any circumstances wear a brown suit (excuse me, warm earth tones are MY colors) -- it had to be blue, grey or black. You had to wear a freshly laundered and STARCHED (oy!) white shirt every day. You had to wear a tie of whatever the fashionable width of the year was, not one centimeter wider or narrower; the tie had to be an ultra-conservative diagonal stripe, club emblem or college shield pattern in subdued colors. When you were finished dressing in all that, you went out into the streets where you looked exactly like every other man who was going to work in New York City.
I didn't get it. I read an article in a women's fashion magazine when I was around ten or eleven (yeah, all the signs were there already) about the "uniform" for men which stated -- I remember the exact words across the years -- "what men lose in individuality, they gain as a group in tone." Why, I wondered, would any man want to ditch his individuality? Was faceless uniformity really a tone? And excuse me, was that tone or clone? (When the gay clone “uniform” came in, I wouldn't have anything to do with that either, although I did have a few things to do with a couple of guys who looked hot wearing it. Or not wearing it).
One reason I was attracted to the arts and to academia is that the dress code was lax to non-existent. Sure, there was fun dress-up, the odd rented tux for a special event (usually with a red or gold tie or a piece of jewelry at the neck of the shirt if I could manage it). I eventually developed my own look based on vests, some of which I made myself, in various interesting ethnic or art fabrics. Or leather. Worn with good trousers and matched with a wide variety of shirts (some also of a non-western cut), I had a wardrobe that was comfortable on me and for me.
The one suit I own is a Polo Ralph Lauren unconstructed cotton searsucker summer suit. It's terrific for outdoor weddings and similar events. With the right shirt and a retro Liberty of London print tie in splashy colors, it's a very cocktails-on-the-croquet-lawn sort of ensemble, and cool and comfortable into the bargain.Fritz and I once kidded around about starting a men's clothing company called "Not Just Gray" or something like that. It would obviously be a niche operation because if you go into a Gap or a other chain men's store, everything's conservative with as little color as possible, and BLAND. And that stuff sells like crazy. Just not to me.
Now if you really want to see a brave gay man who dares to wear color, check out Devious Steve O's January 11th post. Orange is SUCH an under-rated color!
But wait -- that's not all!! If you read this blog in the next two minutes, you get a seventh weird thing about me at no extra charge!
7) I always back into parking spaces in parking lots, particularly crowded ones. This is considered weird by many, many people, most recently Scott over at Bill in Exile, and an op/ed piece on CBS radio. My reason, which nobody else seems to appreciate, is that I think it's vastly safer than heading in and then having to back out with no idea what cars may or may not be approaching from either side, and a poor view of any kids who may be running around behind the car. When you back in, you're backing into a totally empty space and then leaving with a full view because you're at the front of the parking space and front of the car, looking right at everything that's moving around the lot.
I do it differently, but I suspect you've come to expect that.
Saturday, January 13, 2007
It's all about men!
It began as I left my Jeep in the parking garage in the Frank Gehry-designed Stata Center and began walking toward our design and production building. Every man I passed, no matter his age or physical type, was somewhere on the cute-pretty-beautiful-handsome-hunky-striking scale. Perhaps my receptors were especially open, and I know that there's a wide variety of types that I find attractive, but from students to the construction workers renovating our Medical Building, from the Japanese men on campus for a conference to our own staff and faculty, all the men I passed or held a door for or shared an elevator with, were real lookers.
It continued at mid-day as I hopped the red line to Boylston Street and met J, artistic director of the opera company I design for, who registers half way between beautiful and handsome on the scale himself. We were there to check out three of the black box theaters that have been built in theater district and South End in the last couple of years. At Emerson College's new building a rehearsal was in progress in one of the black boxes that involved people in groups of two - one blindfolded, one guiding – who were moving through the space sensing and feeling objects and surfaces. Lovely boys leading each other around was a startlingly attractive sight. In the South End we encountered the hunky friend who runs one of the local theater companies, and the Garden of Eden restaurant at lunch was filled with gay guys who just glowed.
But the grand finale had yet to happen. My toaster died the other morning and I remembered that my elder daughter, as she so often does, had given me a Williams-Sonoma gift card for Christmas. I drove from MIT to the Atrium Mall and found one I liked, but it was only the demo model, not the one I would buy. There was a young man crouching in front of a new a display, tying and retying the bow on an apron with elegant, long-fingered, hands until he got it just the way he wanted. As I approached from behind to ask for his assistance I could tell he was tall and dark. When I asked if I could interrupt him to help with a purchase, he stood and turned – and there was a gorgeous Mediterranean face with big, almost black eyes, a cherub's cheeks provocatively five o'clock shadowed and a sensuous mouth. Yes, he would be delighted to help me and no, it would be no trouble at all. He was stunning. I focused on his face and it wasn't until he came back with my boxed toaster that I saw his name tag. He was Greek and his name was Adonis. It was the perfect end to an extraordinary day – after ten hours of being surrounded some of the best looking guys I had ever encountered in a rather limited space in a fairly concentrated period I was standing before Adonis himself – and the reality perfectly fulfilled the myth.
Speaking of great guys, I've been pruning and adding to the blog list recently, recognizing the shut-down of several blogs and adding some great new finds. They're all well written and reveal strongly individual personalities. Several of the men are excellent artists and/or photographers. The first two are Bostonians.
I've been reading Eric Scott Matthews on and off for years and enjoying his take on the standard urban gay male dilemmas. It's long past time he was on the list.
Johnny at Beantown Cuban, one of the few but proud is a professional writer. I've been actively seeking out gay Boston bloggers - how could I have missed him for so long? He radiates energy and enthusiasm.
Alan Bennett Ilagan doesn't live here but has strong Boston connections. A writer and journalist, he also explored in photography a while ago the incredibly obvious interaction (except to the Catholic establishment) of Catholic religious art and imagery with homoeroticism.
Mike in D.C. writes Angst in the MIDDLE AGES, which refers to the historical period and also to his time in life. It all works just fine.
Optimystic Bloghead, who signs himself Bold Oy!, (the y in Optimystic is a strong clue to the content) is mentally and artistically vigorous and powerful as he looks back on a long life of devotion to the love of young men.
Cooper's Corridor is the blog of Dominic in the wilds of western Canada. His writing on the nature around him is as sensitive and radiant as anything you'll ever encounter.
IMNOT2BZY is Todd in Indianapolis. He's another blogger I've been reading at intervals for a long time. I finally realized he's someone I want to read regularly.
The Search for Love in Manhattan is a delight from beginning to end. Joel is a step aerobics and body sculpting instructor who's also published a very funny collection of Gay Haiku. His approach to life's disappointments and frustrations is to skewer them with sly humor and that most elusive of qualities, genuine wit.
Thursday, January 11, 2007
I had a good trip down to New York Tuesday, did a little shopping at the Himalayan Crafts store on Broadway in the upper 60s (a handsome vest that will be perfect to wear at the wedding in June) and had a leisurely dinner at Ollie's Noodle House near Lincoln Center with my daughter. We finished just at 7pm which gave us time for her to show me her new digs over at ABC News. I got just a little teary-eyed seeing her in her new situation, a spacious thirteenth floor office with a view over the Hudson to the New Jersey shore, handsomely furnished and neat as a pin. Next time I'm down in the City, she's going to arrange a tour so I can see the ABC Nightly News set and control room.
So, "The Last Emperor." The opera deals with the second century B.C. Chinese King who brutally united the country, declared himself the first Emperor of the nation, built the first version of the Great Wall with slave labor, and planned his own tomb to be covered by a vast artificial mountain in which he would be surrounded by a topographic plan of China with mercury representing the rivers and seas, all protected by the vast terra cotta army we now know so well. How could this story NOT be a subject for an opera?
It's a much more interesting work than the critics let on in their coverage, but I remember always that we're experiencing hard times here in the U.S. in terms of thoughtful, informed arts criticism. For one thing, no print critic I've yet read discusses the political message of the opera. I know that a large portion of the audience in this country believes firmly that there's no place for politics in the arts, that the arts are meant to be affirming, entertaining and not make waves. That's nonsense, of course. From the days of the first written dramas that have survived, the arts have criticized, questioned and been involved in the rise and fall of governments.
The opera begins as King Qin sends a great general off to war to consolidate all the kingdoms of China under his rule and, not incidentally, to capture a childhood friend, a superb musician, and bring him back to court so that he might write an anthem that will become the symbol of Qin's new empire. The strategy fails – the armies conquer but the countryside, its villages and people are destroyed, and an old woman dear to both the composer and the king – the composer’s mother – is killed. Qin says that these things happen in war and have to be accepted; the composer begins a plot to humiliate the King;
Now let's review. A ruler sends off an army to invade a group of independent, non-threatening kingdoms and plans to subjugate and control art as well so that it will only sing his praises. But his hastily implemented plan fails, even leads to disaster and the ruler says something analogous to - let's just pick a phrase at random here - "Stuff happens." You want me to believe that you're going to put that on a stage in the U.S. at this time in our history and it's NOT a political statement? "The First Emperor" is filled with politics. How could it not be? Its composer grew up in China during Mao's cultural revolution, and has become an international figure in music working in many media.
As the plot progresses, Qin is challenged by his daughter and eventually defied by the composer who provides an anthem — but NOT the anthem Qin wants. Instead, the anthem is a cry for liberation from slavery, after which the composer bites off his own tongue and hurls it at Qin, preferring self-imposed silence to seeing his art forced to do a tyrant's bidding. Qin declares himself Emperor and ascends the steps to his new throne, challenged by the ghosts of those he has destroyed to get there.
The score is monumental, exotic - and inconsistent. When working on huge forms based on ritual, Tan Dun's music is riveting and impressive. But during conversational moments, bland pseudo-impressionist music takes over and the opera wanders. So does the libretto. The Princess is a complex character, unquestionably the most interesting in the opera, a woman crippled early in life by a fall from her father's arms while they were on horseback. She became literally an object for him to move around and dispose of for his own convenience, immobile unless carried about by servants. But when the composer first defies her father she is deeply stirred and makes a bargain that if she can make the composer cooperate, she will "own" him. Qin agrees. She seduces the composer forthwith, after which she's able to walk again. It's all deeply symbolic: the woman who had been a powerless toy takes her own life in her hands, makes a choice to express her sexuality in a certain direction and is liberated to act on her own for the rest of her life. But the libretto is heavy and obvious at this point and forces the stage action to be realistic and clumsy. Or as one of the three young women seated behind me put it at intermission, "OK, so she's paralyzed, then she gets laid and suddenly she can get up and walk again? - I don't buy it."
The music itself is colored by many Chinese instruments including an enormous bronze temple bell that sits at the house right end of the orchestra pit over the percussion section. Whenever it was struck, the vast 3800 seat opera house vibrated viscerally with the deep sound. A floor-mounted plucked string instrument, the zheng, was located on the stage apron and took part in many scenes. Most impressively, the waterphones I mentioned last time provided a high, sweetly piercing bell-like sound as they accompanied Princess Yueyang's seduction of the composer. The spherical metal instrument, filled with water, is held by its neck while the metal rods rising from its edge are played with a violin bow. Three were used in the opera and played onstage.
The house was full—the entire run was sold out and is being taped for a later telecast. A few people left during the intermission but the majority of the audience stayed and gave the cast and Mr. Tan a big ovation at the end. I think it’s too flawed to be considered an untroubled success, but "Last Emperor" is an ambitious and interesting work that I hope will be revised. I had a very good time – sometimes you learn more from the problems than from the triumphs.
Last night I watched Bozo pitch his supposedly new approach to the chaos, suffering, social, political and human disaster he's visited on the people of Iraq, on American soldiers and their families, and the entire Middle East. His manner was startlingly and infuriatingly different. Gone was the arrogant, know-it-all swagger, the faux-jock posturing, the good ol' boy manner. The "new" Bozo spoke simply and in a measured, explanatory tone to the American people. He admitted to having made a mistake. He proposed a new policy. He was calm and read whole, grammatically correct sentences carefully written out for him in advance. He tried with all his might not to look or sound like the real George W. Bush.
Big effing deal. His mistake turns out to be that he hadn't been a bigger swaggering faux-jock know-it-all earlier by making an even bigger war with a larger American presence. The "new policy" is more of the failed old policy, just delivered by a supposedly kinder, gentler, compassionately conservative good ol’ boy. Against all reason, against all the advice he's been given, against the clear wishes of the American people as expressed in the late fall elections, the pig-headed screw up is sending more troops to Iraq. There will be more of an occupation imposed on the country, there will be more deaths, more provocation to the resistance that wasn't part of Al Qaeda until we meddled in their weapons-free country. As the old expression has it, same old fecal matter in a different but maddeningly familiar package. It stunk the day he went into Iraq and it stinks now.
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
Im going down to New York City today, leaving just after noon for the brand new opera by Tan Dun at the Metropolitan called "The First Emperor." My younger daughter, she of the ABC nightly news group, and I will have dinner at Ollie's Noodle House near Lincoln Center--a Chinese Restaurant, appropriately enough--before an opera about China's first emperor, who built the Great Wall and who had the massive terra cotta warrior army created to guard his tomb..
The title role is being sung by Placido Domingo who is now in the forty-first year of his New York City career. He made his New York City Opera debut in March of 1966 in the title role of Alberto Ginastera's "Don Roderigo" and had a huge hit that put him on the map. Now, in his middle 60s, he's still singing like men half his age, and actually better than many of them.
The opera itself hasn't gotten the greatest press. Tan Dun has written for movies and other popular art forms, and has at least three other operas under his belt. I saw one at New York City Opera ten years ago and it was interesting but never quite took off. Opinion on "First Emperor" is that it is a thing of many striking, even gorgeous, moments but that it lacks a consistent theatrical structure and that it's too long.
Of course, you have to see these things for yourself and I'm looking forward to it. Tan is the first Asian composer to have an opera done at the MET, his orchestration being filled with Chinese instruments of many types including a "waterphone" in which sound resonates off water rather than a hollow resonating chamber like a western stringed instrument.
Whether or not Tan has done anything to revise or edit the score since the premiere, I don't know. But it's good that the MET is doing new work, because any art form that becomes only a museum without moving forward inevitable begins to decline.
Fritz and I are going to be doing some traveling this June. One of his great nephews is going to be married in Highlands, North Carolina on June 9th so we're flying to Atlanta on Friday the 8th, getting a rental car and driving up to Highlands for the weekend. We discovered that the round trip air fare was six hundred fifty dollars each if we come home on Sunday but only two hundred eighty if we come home Monday--so we'll go back to Atlanta Sunday morning, hopefully to see a dear friend, J, who's been to Fritz's often as leader of the Body Electric School weekends for gay men. Neither of us has ever been to Atlanta so learning a bit about a new city will be something to look forward to and we hope J will be in town and free to give us a tour of the sights.
Sunday, January 07, 2007
One of his gifts this year is an ideal thing for me, particularly with the new house being developed. It's called a Wildview, a weatherproof, motion-activated outdoor digital camera. It takes four C-sized batteries and straps onto any tree trunk big enough to hold it. You can set it to take pictures once a minute, once every ten minutes or once every twenty minutes. It has a certain amount of built-in memory but takes a large variety of memory chips to increase its capacity. We put it up today and, for the first trial, I set the limit to one picture every ten minutes.
The directions recommend not setting it in any position where it will have the rising or setting sun in its field of vision as that can trigger pictures that are severely over-exposed. Wildview has a pretty decent range, focus five feet to infinity, and at thirty feet away from the lens it captures a twenty-six foot wide vista. It's extremely simple to use and plugs directly into a PC's USB port to put pictures onto the hard drive (it’s not MAC compatible). If you're running Windows 2000 or later, you don't even have to use the enclosed CD to install a driver.
We went up to the top of the new road this afternoon, found a sturdy pine that hasn't yet been cut down and aimed the Wildview north by northeast so that it takes in the cleared turnaround at the end of the road and the house site just beyond. I'll be back up there next weekend and we'll see if we have anything. We know there are deer that roam the property and Fritz has seen a couple of sets of moose prints in the crushed rock surface of the Center's new parking area. We'll find out just how sensitive the motion detector is: will small birds flying by trigger it, or only larger animals? If the tree trunks sway a bit in the wind, will that do it? We were like a couple of kids with a new toy today and can't wait to find out what images we capture. Anything of interest will, of course, be posted here.
Via Towleroad, Alex Ross's The Rest is Noise and Sogalnito comes this wonderful piece from the Wall Street Journal about Tim England and Rob Kent, a gay couple together for nearly 20 years, who bought Gerald Ford's childhood home in 1991 and restored it. In the process, they caught the attention of the late former president who chose to befriend them and maintain a correspondence.
"After moving in, Messrs. Kent and England painted walls and did a lot of patching. They replaced all 36 windows and the three outside doors. They scoured yard sales for antique clocks, lamps, chairs and bookcases to give the house a vintage feel. Mr. England bought an old chandelier and restored each of its 500 crystals by hand. The two men planted a garden in the barren backyard. The restoration, and others like it, helped improve the neighborhood.
"Then in 1992, a letter arrived from President Ford out of the blue. 'Mrs. Ford and I are very pleased and honored that you have done such a wonderful restoration of my family home,' he wrote. Excited that the former president had taken an interest, the two men tried to have the house designated as a historical landmark and sought public funds to help with the restoration.
"Ford later paid a visit to the couple and they began corresponding. News of Ford's death was poignant for the couple.
"Just past midnight on Wednesday morning, after Messrs. England and Kent went to bed, a friend called and told them to turn on their television. Watching the report of Mr. Ford's death, Mr. England says he felt sick to his stomach. A few minutes later, a local news crew pulled up in front of the home in the darkness. Mr. England went outside and pleaded with them to wait before they started shooting. He brought out the big American flag and draped it over the front porch. Then he told them they could start their cameras."
Ford is being remembered in death rather more warmly than during his presidency, when there was widespread public belief that he had been picked as vice-president solely because he'd made a deal to pardon the disgraced Nixon. Ford always maintained firmly that there had been no deal.
Now here's another reason to respect him -- he had no obligaton to seek out a couple he knew to be gay, visit and befriend them, and maintain a correspondence unless he genuinely respected what they had done and, more importantly, liked them as people. How refreshing to find a Republican without homophobia. We can only hope that this story travels in circles wider than the gay blog community, and that Ford can become a role model and inspiration for his fellow Republicans who need this kind of example desperately.
Saturday, January 06, 2007
But as soon as I caught sight of all those green 2007 and orange 2008 tags (I should have had one of the latter), I became hyperaware that MY car still had a yellow 2006 tag four days into 2007--and no current registration in the vehicle. I had one of those weird attacks where I saw police cars everywhere--and when I really DID see police cars, I was certain they were scouring everyone on the road to make sure they had current stickers.
Well, we got to the house without my being pulled over and cited for operating with an expired registration. I had a week's worth of mail waiting for me and asked Fritz to rifle through it for anything from the Registry. But there was nothing.
My bank statement had come and I scanned the cancelled checks, finding the one I'd sent to the Registry, so I knew they'd received it. I then called my insurance company, which made a quick check of the Registry's records, and confirmed that I was properly registered--I just didn't have any of the required documentation.
So yesterday, I went to the Watertown Registry office and after an hour's wait, I got to see a clerk who gave me what I needed in about three minute's time--I'm driving in Boston again without fear.
I was watching the news on Boston's channel 5 this morning and up popped a cute blond weatherman with the wonderful name--wait for it--Mike Wankum. Some things you just couldn't make up.
We took the T up to Symphony Hall on Thursday evening for a concert consisting of a brand new (to the U.S.) work by British composer Mark-Anthony Turnage (whose head shot makes him look startlingly like Sardonic Bomb's Scott Barnes) called "Ceres." It opened the concert, a very short, brutally rhythmic and dissonant piece that sounded a good deal more in context later when the Mars and Saturn movements of the major work, Gustav Holst's "The Planets" brought many of the same orchestral gestures on stage, just in a more traditional harmonic structure. In between, the always cute and boyish (despite turning 40 this year) Joshua Bell gave a fine account of Max Bruch's First Violin Concerto.
On the train, we picked up a copy of the Metro, a free newspaper aimed at the young Boston commuter, and were both very impressed by the following opinion piece by public speaker and freelance journalist, the Reverend Irene Monroe. A lot of opinion in the gay community has been dismissive of Mary Cheney's pregnancy because of her frankly dishonorable service to the homophobic Bush administration. Monroe, however, looks at the Cheney pregnancy in a broader social and political context and makes some telling observations. Here's a lightly edited version of Monroe's piece:
Will Mary's child be left behind?
my view by rev. irene monroe
This Christmas season turned into a holiday embarrassment for the Bush administration with the news that Vice President Dick Cheney's expected grandchild will have two mommies. While Cheney and wife, Lynne, ecstatically welcome the arrival of their sixth grandchild into the family fold, this child's birth comes at a difficult point along the Republican Party's timeline.
With a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage — and with the country's moral values jihadis like Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America campaigning on a one-woman, one-man family values platform — Cheney must now realize how he and his boss will have to play a profound role in both the political disenfranchisement and the social stigmatization of his grandchild.
But the bastardization of this child will go beyond the pejorative sting and social stigmatization of both mother and child; it will be the day-to-day treatment of them as an illegitimate family, a shared guilt and shame imposed on them by their grandfather's government.
There was no room for Mary and Joseph at the inn. Similarly, there is no room for a child like Mary Cheney's baby in the state of Virginia. The laws in that state not only deny same-sex families the right to marry, but also the right to a civil union and shared rights and equal responsibilities for children in their household. With the oldest fundamental right to establish a home and to direct the upbringing of your children denied solely on parents' sexual orientation, it desecrates the wonderfully different and diverse configurations of the human family.
While the news of Mary Cheney's pregnancy is an embarrassment for the GOP, the real embarrassment is themselves. Cheney's pregnancy is — symbolically and in reality — the pregnant pause the Republican Party needs to face.
Thursday, January 04, 2007
For those who are following the Massachusetts anti-gay-marriage amendment drama, here's what has happened--it is an extremely mixed bag:
Of the 200 members of th state legislature, only 50 votes (25%) were needed to put the matter to a public vote in 2008. And those 50 votes probably didn't exist until the State Supreme Judicial Court reacted to a suit brought by Mitt Romney and anti-gay activists that asked the court to order the legislators to vote. The court, as I mentioned earlier, said it had no power to force the legislature to vote but that the existing laws of the Commonwealth did obligate them to do so. Enough members got spooked by this affirmation of obligation, that the vote was taken on January 2nd, and 62 legislators voted in favor of placing the amendment on the public ballot in 2008.
However, another vote must be taken sometime this year and the amandment has to pass a second time or it's dead. Here's what's interesting--all of the anti-gay legislators who were seen in newspaper photos congratulating themselves on having passed the amendment left office the very next day (January 3) as they'd been voted out of office in the November elections. The new legislative session is much more Democratic and liberal. The new Governor, Deval Patrick, is Democratic and liberal and he favors killing the amendment so as not to have any chance of writing discrimination into the state's Constitution. The drama goes on.
And, as expected, Mitt Romney has formed his Presidential campaign team. Do everything you can to stop this campaign dead in its tracks.
Thank heaven and medical science for antibiotics--I feel great, my lungs clear and my energy back with a roar. I have a follow-up visit with my doctor tomorrow but everything seems fine. It's now after midnight and I'm heading to bed, so good night and sweet dreams!
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
The boys left yesterday between breakfast and lunch. We were fourteen in all, a bit down from past years. One or two live wires who had said they'd be with us bowed out at the last moment because of personal reasons, but we were a delightfully lively bunch anyway. Almost everyone was here for the whole long weekend; there was less coming and going than in some other New Years gatherings (well, there WAS coming but not as many arrivals and departures, shall we say?). There was wonderful food, prepared by the guys in rotation so that nobody was stuck in the kitchen all weekend.
When it was all over Fritz and I were pretty much exhausted--we'd staged one minor and two very major gatherings in one week's time and we fell into bed early last night, happy it had all gone so well and happy also that it was over.
Today we're up and preparing to head up to Maine where we 'll be the guests, not the hosts, visiting a former colleague of mine from MIT and his wife for three days. They're planing to greet us with lobster tonight, which is just fine by us. It's a beautiful day for travel and we'll be off in about an hour. We come back Thursday, when we'll be in Boston for a Boston Symphony concert (Bruch's first violin concerto and Gustav Holst's "The Planets," which John Williams rifled pretty heavily for his "Star Wars" music, the Imperial March in particular; it's a close gloss on the Mars movement from "The Planets."
"See" you then!