Monday, December 31, 2007

 

Wishing everyone a healthy, happy New Year

New Year's Eve morning and we awoke to a new snowfall of five to six inches. We're in a "snow corridor" this year. The picture is of the area behind the center leading up to the woods. It could almost be an opera or ballet set--the bleak scene in Eugene Onegin where Onegin shoots his friend Lenski dead in the idiotic duel they rush into over petty annoyances, or the Nutcracker snowflake scene before the lights come up fully to bring sparkle to the entrance of the dancers.


*******

Two excerpts from a report on Queen Elizabeth’s New Years Honors:

Sir Ian McKellen joins the exclusive Order of the Companion of Honour, which is restricted to 65 members, including the Queen.

Actor Sir Ian McKellen, 68, who also campaigns for gay rights, said after finding out that he was becoming a Companion of Honour: "It is particularly pleasing that 'equality' is included in my citation."

*******

This recipe is for Lewis in Portland OR (Spirit of Saint Lewis) and for anyone else who might like to try a great vegetarian dish from Fritz’s own cookbook:

Majadra
1 cup uncooked lentils
½ cup uncooked rice
I large onion, chopped
½ cup olive oil
½ to I teaspoon ground cumin, to taste
¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
salt to taste
4 cups water

Boil lentils in the water for 25 minutes over medium heat. Do not drain.

Sauté the chopped onion in the olive oil with the cumin, salt and pepper.

Combine onion and rice with the lentils (for variety, add raisins, sultanas, chopped walnuts and/or chopped dried apricots—use your imagination). Cover and cook over low heat for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

*******


We’re right in the middle of our four day New Years House Party. So far there’s been great food, fellowship, a couple of Body Electric School rituals performed naked, a Sweat Lodge gathering, and much catching up among old friends, one of whom brought a handsome and charming new boyfriend.

I also learned that one of our oldest friends, a man of many talents, has a new website for his photography, all landscape work from around the world and all strikingly beautiful. The image from his home page appears above. The site is Christopher Morgan Photography and you can access it at http://christophermorganphotography.com There’s also a link to the left under the rubric The Art of Photography.

*******

The Concord [NH] Monitor made headlines and created quite a stir locally by taking a firm editorial stand against Mitt Romney for President. The word “phony” was deployed. Here’s the anti-endorsement editorial:

Editorial
Romney should not be the next president
Monitor staff
December 22. 2007 3:00PM


If you were building a Republican presidential candidate from a kit, imagine what pieces you might use: an athletic build, ramrod posture, Reaganesque hair, a charismatic speaking style and a crisp dark suit. You'd add a beautiful wife and family, a wildly successful business career and just enough executive government experience. You'd pour in some old GOP bromides - spending cuts and lower taxes - plus some new positions for 2008: anti-immigrant rhetoric and a focus on faith.

Add it all up and you get Mitt Romney, a disquieting figure who sure looks like the next president and most surely must be stopped.

Romney's main business experience is as a management consultant, a field in which smart, fast-moving specialists often advise corporations on how to reinvent themselves. His memoir is called Turnaround - the story of his successful rescue of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City - but the most stunning turnaround he has engineered is his own political career.

If you followed only his tenure as governor of Massachusetts, you might imagine Romney as a pragmatic moderate with liberal positions on numerous social issues and an ability to work well with Democrats. If you followed only his campaign for president, you'd swear he was a red-meat conservative, pandering to the religious right, whatever the cost. Pay attention to both, and you're left to wonder if there's anything at all at his core.

As a candidate for the U.S. Senate in 1994, he boasted that he would be a stronger advocate of gay rights than his opponent, Ted Kennedy. These days, he makes a point of his opposition to gay marriage and adoption.

There was a time that he said he wanted to make contraception more available - and a time that he vetoed a bill to sell it over-the-counter.

The old Romney assured voters he was pro-choice on abortion. "You will not see me wavering on that," he said in 1994, and he cited the tragedy of a relative's botched illegal abortion as the reason to keep abortions safe and legal. These days, he describes himself as pro-life.

There was a time that he supported stem-cell research and cited his own wife's multiple sclerosis in explaining his thinking; such research, he reasoned, could help families like his. These days, he largely opposes it. As a candidate for governor, Romney dismissed an anti-tax pledge as a gimmick. In this race, he was the first to sign.

People can change, and intransigence is not necessarily a virtue. But Romney has yet to explain this particular set of turnarounds in a way that convinces voters they are based on anything other than his own ambition.

In the 2008 campaign for president, there are numerous issues on which Romney has no record, and so voters must take him at his word. On these issues, those words are often chilling. While other candidates of both parties speak of restoring America's moral leadership in the world, Romney has said he'd like to "double" the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, where inmates have been held for years without formal charge or access to the courts. He dodges the issue of torture - unable to say, simply, that waterboarding is torture and America won't do it.

When New Hampshire partisans are asked to defend the state's first-in-the-nation primary, we talk about our ability to see the candidates up close, ask tough questions and see through the baloney. If a candidate is a phony we assure ourselves, and the rest of the world, we'll know it.

Mitt Romney is such a candidate. New Hampshire Republicans and independents must vote no.

Perhaps even more significantly, the ultra-conservative Manchester Union-Leader also roundly rejected Romney in the following (excerpted) editorial. In this case, the question is his place on the liberal/conservative scale, but the core issue is Romney’s honesty on ANY topic:

The Romney backlash: Conservatives are coming home
Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2007

There is a reason Mitt Romney has not received a single newspaper endorsement in New Hampshire. It's the same reason his poll numbers are dropping. He has not been able to convince the people of this state that he's the conservative he says he is.

Like a lot of people in New Hampshire, we wanted to believe Romney. We gave him the benefit of the doubt. We listened very carefully to his expertly rehearsed sales pitch. But in the end he didn't close the deal for us. Now, two weeks before the primary, the same is happening with voters.

How could that be? Romney has all the advantages: money, organization, geographic proximity, statesman-like hair, etc.

Last week Romney was reduced to debating what the meaning of [the word] "saw" is. It was only the latest in a string of demonstrably false claims -- he'd been a hunter "pretty much" all his life, he'd had the NRA's endorsement, he marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. -- that call into question the veracity of his justifications for switching sides on immigration, abortion, taxes and his affection for Ronald Reagan.

In this primary, the more Mitt Romney speaks, the less believable he becomes. That is why Granite Staters who have listened attentively are now returning to John McCain. They might not agree with McCain on everything, as we don't, but like us, they judge him to be a man of integrity and conviction, a man who won't sell them out, who won't break his promises, and who won't lie to get elected.

Voters can see that John McCain is trustworthy. Mitt Romney has spent a year trying to convince Granite Staters that he is as well. It looks like they aren't buying it. And for good reason.

This is the first time that I've seen influential print media get beyond the Mormon issue and call to task Romney on his single greatest negative personal quality—that he’ll lie out of both sides of his mouth whoring for votes, blatantly picking up and then ditching beliefs and policies depending on the market he's carpetbagging into at any given moment. These newspaper editors have finally come right out and nailed him on it.

Friday, December 28, 2007

 

Our Christmas Dinner Recipes

I thought that recipes for the tagine I made for Christmas dinner and the maple mousse Fritz made for dessert might be of interest to those of you who like to cook, so here they are.

Don’t be put off by the tagine—it’s really pretty simple to make and after the initial preparation, it has the good manners to cook itself for an hour or so until it’s dinner time.

The mousse is very, very good and not something you’re going to encounter unless you make it yourself.

Fritz’s MAPLE MOUSSE

1 cup real, 100% maple syrup (NOT Vermont Maid or any of the other flavored sugar syrups).
6 egg yolks
1 tablespoon gelatin soaked in ¾ cup warm milk
1 pint heavy whipping cream (whipped)

In the top of a double-boiler over medium heat, soak the gelatin until thickened, and mix in the egg yolk/syrup mixture. Beat until thick (about 20 minutes by hand). Let the mix cool.

Fold the whipped cream into the cooled maple mixture, pour into a ring mold and refrigerate until firm. To unmold, dip the ring mold into warm water, put a plate or platter on top, and invert, allowing the mousse to drop onto the plate, and serve.


CHICKEN TAGINE with preserved lemon and olives
Tagine is the name of the dish and of the traditional ceramic vessel it’s cooked in. You can substitute a heavy iron dutch oven or pot roast pot successfully.

2 to 3 pounds chicken, breasts and/or thighs cut up into chunks
2 tablespoons tagine spice (available pre-mixed from Williams-Sonoma and other
gourmet stores, on line, or use recipe below)
2 bay leaves
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1 large yellow onion, chopped
½ cup chopped flat leaf parsley
½ cup chopped cilantro
¼ cup lemon juice
6 preserved lemon wedges (recipe below), rinsed with water. Include the pulp in the tagine or not as you prefer—I use it with seeds removed. I julienne the lemon peel to distribute it throughout the dish.
1 cup cured green or black olives (not the canned bland kind)
ground fresh pepper and salt
Cooked basmati rice, cous cous, or barley for serving. Barley’s my favorite.

In a small saucepan, toast the spices over medium heat, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes until very fragrant. Transfer to a big bowl, add 2 tablespoons olive oil, bay leaves, and salt and pepper to taste. Add the chicken, stir to coat thoroughly, and marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

When ready to cook, place the rest of the olive oil in either a traditional tagine or a covered dutch oven and, over medium-high heat, brown the chicken on all sides. Add the onion and stir frequently until it begins to become transparent. Add the parsley, cilantro, lemon juice, preserved lemon and olives. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer until the chicken is very tender, about one hour to an hour and fifteen minutes. Serve over rice, cous cous, or barley.


TAGINE SPICES (generally 1 teaspoon of each ground spice, not this whole list in any one tagine, but a grouping of five or six).
Ginger
Cumin
Saffron
Cinnamon
Coriander
Tumeric
Madras Curry (always optional)
Cayenne pepper or hot paprika or freshly ground white pepper
Tagines and tagine spice mixes can be purchased on line.


PRESERVED LEMON
4 good-sized fresh lemons
salt
2 bay leaves
a cinnamon stick
water and olive oil

Hold each lemon upright on one pointed end and cut down into quarters, stopping ¼ inch short of separating the slices. Spread open and salt liberally, placing each lemon into a wide glass jar, salt on the bottom, one lemon pressed into or next to another. Pour extra salt onto the top lemon, drop the bay leaves and cinnamon stick into the jar, and fill with water until all lemons are covered. Float a layer of olive oil onto the water to seal it. Screw the top on the jar and let cure in a cool place. After one month, the lemons are ready to use. A jar of preserved lemons will remain edible for a year, but use them up and enjoy them long before that..

Preserved lemon can also be purchased at gourmet stores like Dean & Deluca at Broadway and Prince St., or at Kalustyan’s on Lexington Ave. and 28th Street, both in New York City.

Google “tagine recipes” for a wide variety of lamb (traditional), chicken, beef, fish and vegetarian tagines.

*******

We went up to the house yesterday morning to find the plumber and the technician from the propane company getting the heating system going. There was some water on the floor—the wallboard guys had nicked one of the plastic water tubes with a dry wall screw. That section of tube had been replaced and it looked as if everything was going OK. The tubes had still to be bled of all the air in them. Our plumber, who has a wicked dry wit, was in high spirits. With the heat going, the plaster work can begin. The blueboard hanging crew was down to detail finishing work around the windows.

Plastering began today; looks like it's going well, and surprisingly quickly.

Scooby, and anyone else who's curious about our use of blueboard and plaster, just about everybody connected with the project shares a real dislike for standard wallboard. Blueboard is thicker, firmer, more stable altogether. I suspect we'll also get better sound insulation out of it from room to room and that it won't deteriorate the way wallboard can as time goes on. The skim coat of plaster will take paint better as well.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

 
Blueboard is going up all over the house—in fact, a good 80% of the place has ceilings and walls up at this time. It looks a little grim because of the institutional slate blue color, much darker than the facing on traditional facing on wallboard. Blueboard is made especially to be the base for a coat of plaster. If all goes well, within ten days, the entire house will have smooth, sparkling white walls and ceilings and once again be filled with light reflecting off all surfaces.




*******

We had a lovely Christmas with my younger daughter and Fritz’s younger sister joining us from New York City and Cambridge, MA respectively. Breakfast was Christmas stollen and coffee that’s a tradition in Fritz’s family, and then we unwrapped presents. There were lots of gourmet treats, some of them Fritz’s home-grown and home-made jams, and CDs, clothing items, books, games, and a brand new outfit for my daughter’s loveable, totally air-headed little poodle.

I splurged this year for Fritz. I found a mirror, hand-carved and painted, in a shop called The Artful Hand in the Copley Place shopping mall in Boston. It was totally by chance that I was even in Copley Place, whose prices are usually well beyond me, but I was early for a production meeting in the South End for an opera I was designing and wandered into the mall just for fun. There were many pieces by this particular artist: mirrors, furniture, wall art. The one that grabbed my attention had a frame set up to be a calendar, with pegs topped by a star, a moon to indicate the month and day, and a third one with a cake on it to mark a birthday.

But it was the motto on top that that made it special for Fritz: “Go out for Adventure, come home for love.” When I was in the process of actually and finally moving in up here in July, I told Fritz that I would still be going out to New York or Glimmerglass or maybe even Chicago occasionally for opera or whatever, but that I would always, always come home to him.

For dinner I made a chicken tagine with onions, garlic, chickpeas, cilantro, and parsley served over barley. Fritz made a cucumber in dilled sour cream salad that worked very well with the tagine spices (saffron, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, etc), and a maple mousse from syrup made from his own maple trees for dessert. My daughter had brought a crisp cabernet sauvignon to complete a great dinner.

*******

We’re beginning preparations for our big four-day New Years party. We’re expecting to be 23 altogether, although not everybody will be here all the time. This party is one of the great highlights of our year and a perfect way to end one year and see in a new one. IF the heat is functional tomorrow, as we are told it should be, we’ll have everybody up to the house for one of the activities over the weekend—a great way to inaugurate the place!

Monday, December 24, 2007

 

A very happy Christmas to everyone!

From a friend. He sent it with the wistful comment, "If only!"
"I keep thinking we should include something in the Constitution in case the people elect a fucking moron."

*******

When we last left Will, he was preparing to take Fritz out on a test drive to the local bank to see how he’d do with the skiboot air cast off and a comfortable moccasin on his right foot to operate the gas peddle, always keeping in mind that he had to brake with his left foot. Will had a thoroughly ulterior motive in mind that Fritz knew about—and wasn’t crazy for by a long shot. But Will is a resourceful and determined lad--how would our hero do?

The trip to and from the bank went off without a hitch. Will remembered in each and every instance to use his left foot and showed real control with it, having practiced for two days using his left foot on the control pedal of his sewing machine (sometimes it’s SO useful being gay). When they got back home and Will had parked in his characteristic fashion buy backing neatly into the space, he looked at Fritz and said, “I can do this—I’m good to go to New York.”

Whoa!—out of the hard cast and into the air cast just one day and he’s driving to NEW (about 250 miles) York (on the road-jammed weekend before Christmas) CITY (all by himself)? Yes, that was Will’s plan. How the bloody hell did he think up this one?

It all goes back to Will’s life-long obsession with opera as an art form, a vital part of his personal life and professional career. Will goes to literally dozens of performances a year, scheduling carefully to get as many performances into each trip down to New York as possible. When he broke his ankle and couldn’t drive, he lost one trip completely but looked carefully at his tickets and the doctor’s landmark dates to see what could be salvaged.

December 9 was out of the question for the new production at the Metropolitan Opera of Gluck’s Iphigenie en Tauride for which he had a matinee ticket, but the last performance in the run was on Saturday night the 22nd—and Will’s cast was scheduled to come off on the morning of the 21st. An eternal optimist, Will is a very confident and energetic man, who’s sometimes just plain pig-headedly stubborn--a combination that’s allowed him to accomplish a lot in life.

Our Will called up the MET Ticket Service and got a nice young man who was bright as a new penny, almost certainly gay, and eager to help. Will said he knew the official policy was that tickets, once purchased, couldn’t be refunded or exchanged but . . . . The bright young man looked at Will’s account and said, hey you’ve been buying tickets and coming here on your own since you were like three and a half [OK, I was eleven], you’re a subscriber, AND you wrote a letter to the director saying how great we’ve all been helping you all these years. You can have anything you want.

For one giddy moment, Will contemplated asking if he could have Nathan Gunn for a day, but figured the MET wasn’t into that sort of thing. However the bright young man who was almost certainly gay sounded like he was dying to become Will’s enabler (which is really part of his job when you think about it, but still) and he quickly arranged the whole thing.

Everything was in place. It just depended on whether or not Will could drive safely, and the drive to the bank had proved that. The trip down went well on a day filled with traffic jams around any highway exit anywhere near a mall. What should have been a four hour fifteen minute trip took six but as Will told a seriously relieved told Fritz when he got back, no pedestrians, personal property or vehicles were harmed in any way on this trip to New York. Fritz gave will lots and lots of kisses to welcome him home.


The performance was superb with memorable work by the great Susan Graham, six feet tall, with a voice like molten honey and great intelligence as Iphegenie. The ageless Placido Domingo, now 66 and still sounding like men half his age in their prime, played her brother Oreste.


The production, set in a claustrophobic temple to the goddedss Diana (Artemis) explored some of the complex psychology of the tormented House of Atrius via flashbacks of its violent past that were mimed as characters sang of half-remembered events or recurring nightmares. In theatrical terms it was compelling.

In personal terms it was a liberating experience. Will's back!

*******

Thank you all for your supportive and encouraging comments on my injury and the recent improvement that's allowed me to reclaim a lot of my mobility. With luck and sufficient new bone growth, I'll be close to or at normal (that is my bones will--I'm not personally seeking to be normal on any level) by mid-January. It's great to have so many of you leaving comments, and in regard to that, welcome to Emma from London!

I wish you all a very happy Christmas wherever you are and whatever you have planned.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

 
Friday morning was brilliant with light sparkling off the snow with which the trees were lined. My appointment with the orthopedic specialist was for 8am. We like them early because the doctors aren’t all backed up at that hour. By 8:15 the cast had been sawed off with a nifty little mini-circular saw/vacuum device. I was looking at some really gross skin conditions all over my leg below the knee and particularly on the ball and heel of my foot. The itching that I hadn’t experienced in the cast came on with a rush as my skin began to dry out. I didn’t care—-my lower leg felt about ten pounds lighter and the air against my skin felt great.

I went right over to x-ray, then back to the doctor who said the magic words: no walking cast, but the boot. Here it is:



She ran me through the relatively simple procedure for getting it on and inflating the built in air cells that expand to cushion and support the ankle. She asked how it felt and I said it was if the boot and embraced my ankle. She loved that and I suspect that she'll be telling apprehensive future patients that the boot is engineered to embrace their ankles and speed their recovery.

It looks big and clumsy (my younger daughter comments that I look ready for Darth Vader's army) but is considerably lighter than the cast and, still with the crutches for support, allows me to walk with both feet on the ground. For six more days, I’m not allowed to put more than 25 to 30 pounds of pressure on the ankle (as measured by pushing down on a bathroom scale until I see what 30 pounds of pressure feels like). Being able to put my right foot down on the heel of the boot and roll it forward to the toe as part of a coordinated walk with use of the crutches is very easy to get used to and gives me much more confidence moving through snow and on uneven surfaces.

On the day after Christmas, I can ditch the right crutch and walk with only the left one. The right ankle and the crutch will work together and the ankle will start taking up to 80 pounds of pressure each time I take a step.

The boot can be taken off for any activity that doesn’t require putting weight on the ankle, including bathing, sleeping, and driving, as long as I operate the brake with my left foot. I'm going to take myself out for a test drive this morning. I expect everything will be OK.

*******

A friend sent a 35 item list of procedures titled “Wrapping Presents with Dogs”. I wrote back and said that if there were one about cats, it would certainly go higher than 35—and it did, as she also had the cat version and sent it to me immediately. As those of you who’ve ever made a garment or anything that requires cutting and laying out pieces of a pattern, the process of wrapping presents with a cat around is markedly similar.

Wrapping Presents with a Cat


1. Clear large space on table for wrapping present.

2. Go to closet and collect bag in which present is contained, and shut door.

3. Open door and remove cat from closet.

4. Go to cupboard and retrieve rolls of wrapping paper.

5. Go back and remove cat from cupboard.

6. Go to drawer, and collect transparent sticky tape, ribbons, scissors, labels, etc. . .
7. Lay out presents and wrapping materials on table, to enable wrapping strategy to be formed.

8. Go back to drawer to get string, remove cat that has been in the drawer since last visit and collect string.

9. Remove present from bag.

10. Remove cat from bag.

11. Open box to check present, remove cat from box, replace present.

12. Lay out paper to enable cutting to size.

13. Try and smooth out paper, realize cat is underneath and remove cat.

14. Cut the paper to size, keeping the cutting line straight.

15. Throw away first sheet as cat chased the scissors, and tore the paper.

16. Cut second sheet of paper to size - by putting cat in the bag the present came in.

17. Place present on paper.

18. Lift up edges of paper to seal in present. Wonder why edges don't reach. Realize cat is between present and paper. Remove cat.

19. Place object on paper, to hold in place while tearing transparent sticky tape.

20. Spend 20 minutes carefully trying to remove transparent sticky tape from cat with pair of nail scissors.

21. Seal paper with sticky tape, making corners as neat as possible.

22. Look for roll of ribbon. Chase cat down hall in order to retrieve ribbon.

23. Try to wrap present with ribbon in a two-directional turn.

24. Re-roll ribbon and remove paper, which is now torn due to cat's enthusiastic ribbon chase.

25. Repeat steps 13-20 until you reach last sheet of paper.

26. Decide to skip steps 13-17 in order to save time and reduce risk of losing last sheet of paper. Retrieve old cardboard box that is the right size for sheet of paper.

27. Put present in box, and tie down with string.

28. Remove string, open box and remove cat.

29. Put all packing materials in bag with present and head for locked room.

30. Once inside lockable room, lock door and start to relay out paper and materials.

31. Remove cat from box, unlock door, put cat outside door, close and relock.

32. Repeat previous step as often as is necessary (until you can hear cat from outside door)

33. Lay out last sheet of paper. (This will be difficult in the small area of the toilet, but do your best)

34. Discover cat has already torn paper. Unlock door go out and hunt through various cupboards, looking for sheet of last year's paper. Remember that you haven't got any left because cat helped with this last year as well.

35. Return to lockable room, lock door, and sit on toilet and try to make torn sheet of paper look presentable.

36. Seal box, wrap with paper and repair by very carefully sealing with sticky tape. Tie up with ribbon and decorate with bows to hide worst areas.

37. Label. Sit back and admire your handiwork, congratulate yourself on completing a difficult job.

38. Unlock door, and go to kitchen to make drink and feed cat.

39. Spend 15 minutes looking for cat until coming to obvious conclusion.

40. Unwrap present, untie box and remove cat.

41. Go to store and buy gift bags.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

 
Some domestic details:

Another snowstorm today—-six to ten inches expected by the time it ends this evening. We’re averaging two to two and a half snowfalls a week and we’ve got a goodly depth of standing snow on the ground. Unfortunately, I’m unable to be of any assistance to Fritz (seen here using the new snowthrower to clear the Center’s parking lot) because I’m still not authorized to put any weight on my right ankle. There seems to be no end to the storms coming regularly from the west coast via the great lakes where the clouds tank up on moisture to freeze and dump on us. Until and unless there’s a major shift in the jet stream, this pattern looks to continue indefinitely. If we weren’t involved in building a new house up a hillside, there would be much less pressure on us to have everything plowed/snowblown/sanded early each day—-but we are and we have to.

I’m counting down the hours until the cast comes off—8am on Friday! I’m thoroughly sick of the thing, even though itching and other internal inconveniences I’d been afraid of really haven’t been too bad. Some of the layers of cotton wrapping that went on before the fiberglass have shifted just a bit so I can feel lumps here and there, but nothing that chafes. It’s just that it feels like dragging a boat anchor around.

Fritz did the spice quiz and wound up being saffron as well. Lewis (Spirit of St. Lewis) took it and turned out to be an uber-hot pepper. Such a sweet guy—who knew the torrid depths within? GO LEWIS!

Yesterday I began the construction of two big drapery panels for my younger daughter’s New York apartment as a Christmas gift. You may remember I posted a picture of the striped dupioni silk I had some difficulty finding given her very specific color and pattern requirements. Well, she saw the bolt of silk at Thanksgiving and said I’d found exactly what she’d wanted, which was a huge relief. Now I have to see if my old cast, or whichever type of new cast I get on Friday, will allow me to operate a sewing machine with any degree of control—I’m in the cutting and pinning phase of things right now.


I didn’t mention Monday that when we went to Home Goods for the Christmas stollen, we also browsed the gift food aisles and then came across a selection of Chinese woodenware carved from the roots of trees. The stuff was wonderfully textured with not only the wood’s natural grain but also with all the gnarled individuality of roots and burls. Some shaping had been done and the insides of the pieces had been carved out to make them into vases, umbrella stands, serving pieces; but mostly they were a kind of natural sculpture no matter what form or function they’d been adapted to.

The tag accompanying the bowl indicates that this is a newish industry in China and has positive ecological benefits. Large trees can be felled in half an hour, and logging is big business in China as everywhere. But stump and root removal, without which reforestation is very difficult, can take three or four days with the equipment at hand. Making the removal viable economically by providing village artisans with the raw materials for a marketable product, fosters complete clearing of the clear-cut land and speeds the planting of new trees with all the associated environmental benefits.

We were fascinated and I picked this large bowl to stand centered on a long parson’s table that’s going to be in our great room. Its blond wood and very clean, Shaker-like lines will be the perfect base for the baroque swirls and three-dimensionality of the bowl, that may be filled with fruit or an arrangement of dried florals and grasses from the property, depending on the season.

*******

I’m a huge fan of Scott (Bill in Exile), a proud member of the big subculture of gay Marines. Scott’s always uncompromisingly himself, honest and possessed of an unerring bullshit detector. Also, he hates Mitt Romney every bit as much as I do, so what’s not to love? Scott published the following the other day and it bears serious consideration, particularly as Mitt has a very well documented history of saying whatever he has to say and temporarily espousing any belief he has to adopt in any given election to whore for votes:

"And I beheld, after they had dwindled in unbelief they became a dark and loathsome and a filthy people, full of idleness and all manner of abominations." The Book of Mormon as translated by Joseph Smith — using the Urim and the Thummim to allow him to understand the Reformed Egyptian Hieroglyphics the book is written in — and which explains that black men and women became black because they fell away from God and thus carried the mark of Cain.

This belief prevented blacks from joining the LDS Church until 1978 when the church finally opened its doors to them in response to a threat by the federal government to revoke the church's not for profit status.

"Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so." Brigham Young — Second Mormon Prophet.

This Mormon tenet has never been repealed because it actually forms the very basis of one of the most important scriptural beliefs of Mormonism. And that is that the curse of Cain upon the black man will be lifted only through revelation from God to the Prophet and only then to mark the advent of the second coming of Christ.

Additionally, readers should realize that when a prophet of the church speaks his word carries the same authority as God speaking.

So, the question here is—are Romney’s racial politics as antiquated and vile as his sexual politics?

*******

Yesterday, just after 5am. The cast is Fritz, myself, and Starr, my cat. There’s also a non-speaking character. The material is an improvisational scene on the theme, “The Drama of Life and Death”

S: (a series of low, protracted yowls from somewhere deep inside the apartment)
F: (waking) We’re in here, Starr.
W: That’s not her normal “where are you?” call, I wonder if she’s OK.
F: (turning on light) I don’t see her. Starr!
S: (appears at door, with a low, soulful yowl)
W: Sweetie, are you OK?
F: She’s got something.
W: A mouse?
F: I’m not sure.
S: (advances into the room and toward Fritz’s side of the bed)
W: It’s a mouse. I see the tail wagging.
S: (drops mouse which briefly lies still, then suddenly bolts for under the bed. Much scrambling)
W: We’re into drop, pounce, repeat. This could be a long siege.
F: (turning off he light) Let me know where the carnage is in the morning.
W: I just don’t want her to bring it up onto the bed. Once in Boston she tried to bring a mouse up onto the bed so we could all play together. I let her know that was NOT going to happen.
F: (silence) (sounds of scrambling at frequent intervals for about twenty minutes)

Segue to 7:15am

S: (leaps onto bed and stands on Will’s chest)
W: (checking to make sure she’s not carrying anything in her mouth) Hi, sweetie.
F: So where’s the carnage?
W: On the floor, your side of the bed, about two feet out from the big Japanese hanging knot.
S: (purrs loudly and does a flop-and-roll to have her tummy tickled and accept praise for her hunting skills)
F: Hello, Mousebreath!



The great huntress at rest

Monday, December 17, 2007

 
One of the things we want to do when we’re finally in the house, even if it’s not completely finished but after all the essential systems are working, is host a series of open house receptions for friends, colleagues, family, and a special one for all the major players in its development and construction. Aside from Fritz and me, the person who has been most involved in the project is M, the architectural designer who took my groundplans and concept sketches and turned them into a buildable house.

It was important that I find someone who was with me aesthetically as well as skilled in the realization of the whole sustainable “green” house technology. It was A, the potter and ceramicist, who introduced me to M, who had designed or consulted on several “green” houses, including building his own home, and who was deeply involved in the sustainability ethic.

As Fritz and I went through M’s house, I saw use of materials, handsome proportions, an elegant simplicity throughout that seemed very right to me. It was when we went into his kitchen that I got a pleasant surprise. I had an antique soapstone double sink in the basement of my house in Roslindale and wanted it to be the sink in the new house. Right there in M’s kitchen was an identical soapstone sink—I turned to Fritz and quietly said, “I can work with this man.”

As the house passed from the development and design phase into construction, M has been less involved but has still kept his finger on the pulse of the project, checking to make sure that important finishing details and other “grace notes” are being done properly and calling quick conferences on site when he finds problems. Throughout, we’ve found that our design and aesthetic senses are very well aligned; I decided that in addition to paying him (rather handsomely), I wanted to give him some gift that was both very personal to him and that would have a connection to this particular project.

I spent a day going through my mind for all sorts of things an architect might like and then remembered that A, the potter/ceramicist, had been the original contact who brought us together. As it happens, the ¾ of a mile drive through the woods to A’s home, garden, studio and kiln is lined by pieces he’s made and fired, many of them astonishingly beautiful or fanciful three-dimensional miniature terra cotta houses. And I said, of course!—I want to commission A to do the house in clay as a piece of wall art.

I called him and proposed the commission, which he enthusiastically accepted, telling me that M had already bought an abstract piece from him, so I’m assured that M knows and appreciates A’s work.

I sent A a copy of M’s original elevation drawing of the south façade, and here is the finished piece, which I’m looking forward to giving him over good food and good wine in the house when it’s finished:



*******

Fritz and I drove the 14 miles between Raymond and Londonderry today to get to a Home Goods store that had a stock of Christmas stollen ad decent prices. Stollen is a big Christmas tradition with him, one I was very happy to buy into the first Christmas we were together and then ever since.

On the way back, I began to check out the big lawn signs we passed for the various presidential candidates—the New Hampshire primary is coming up fast on January 8th.

The results didn’t warm the heart of a liberal, at least not this particular liberal. Of all the signs we passed on route 102 between Londonderry and Raymond, only two were for a Democratic candidate—both were for John Edwards. No Hilary, no Barack.

There were perhaps sixteen signs for Republican candidates—one for Giuliani (a striking bright red sign with RUDY! in big block capitals), two for Ron Paul (you have to keep your eyes open, they’re about 1/6 the size of everybody else’s signs), two or three for Mike Huckabee (his name in candy-stripe colors of_surprise!-red, white and blue). Overwhelmingly, the signs were for Mitt Romney--lots of them.

So, that’s an unofficial, unscientific—and unwelcome—impression of the preferences of the Body Politic along one road in southern New Hampshire.

*******

Another one of these little quizzes comes to me via Scott of Bill in Exile. As I love making paella, I think my spice is quite appropriate:

Which Spice Are You?
Your Score: Saffron
You scored 75% intoxication, 50% hotness, 75% complexity, and 25% craziness!
You are Saffron!

Those other spices have nothing on you! You're warm, smart, and you make people feel really good (and with no side-effects!). You can be difficult to get to know and require a lot of those who try, but you're so totally worth it. *Sigh*

Link: The Which Spice Are You Test written by jodiesattva on OkCupid, home of the The Dating Persona Test

Saturday, December 15, 2007

 
We're enjoying a brilliant winter morning after yesterday's fast moving, intense storm. Some views from Fritz's house:



Out our bedroom window



Out the kitchen window looking up at the Center



Out the dining area window looking at the barn

We're in expectation of getting slammed again later today and all day Sunday with as much as twelve inches of snow and icy sleet. We’ve reluctantly canceled the Sweat gathering for tomorrow in concern for the safety of our guys on the highways (the conditions of which were horrific on Wednesday and Thursday). In consolation for losing the Sweat, we think that A the ceramicist and B the chef (still very much an item) will come over for supper if the roads are passable, which they tend to be up here because maintenance of the local town roads is of a pretty high order.

Plowing and sanding were uppermost on my mind yesterday because a huge load of blueboard for our walls and ceilings was to be delivered. Our general contractor was not happy with the ability of the guy we currently call on to prepare the road up to the new house for big trucks. Fritz knew of an alternate, who performed up to the GC’s expectations, and we now have him on call, particularly for early Monday morning when the blueboarding and plastering is scheduled to begin.

The inside of the house has been cleaned and neatened. Finishing details were going on during the latter part of the week and the in-corner shower enclosure for the upstairs bathroom was in place. We have somewhat sadly but necessarily accepted the fact that the photovoltaic system for generating our own electricity cannot be installed on the hillside above the house until the spring. A drilling machine has to be gotten up the hillside to bore postholes in the ledge for 18 pressure-treated 6x6 posts on which the panels will be supported; it won’t make it up the hill in ice and snow.

*******

Thanks to Matt at Matterdays for this Meme:

1. When you were born, how much did you weigh?
7-1/2 pounds. I was actually a double seven-and-a-halfer, as I was born art 7:30 in the morning.

2. What's you're sugar poison? Iced coffee in the summer. I’m slowly weaning myself off sugar wherever possible, although oatmeal cookies with raisins are going to be hard to completely give up.

3. If you had to choose between meat and cheese for the rest of your life, which would you choose? Then be specific.

Cheese—I love the stuff. Particular favorites: blue cheeses (stilton, gorgonzola), extremely sharp cheddars, manchego, havarti, tomme de savoie, camembert and brie.

4. What, is your opinion, is the worst song ever? The Little Drummer Boy—there you get my least favorite song and my Grinch moment all in the same answer.

5. Who was your favorite teacher growing up and why? In grammar school, Mrs. Bowler, a lively and very kind woman who was a rare “lay teacher” in the Catholic school my parents sent me to and a welcome relief for one year from the strict, totally humorless nuns.
In high school, Brother Francis. He was a tall, handsome S&P-haired southerner on whom I most definitely had a crush. I think he knew it, too, and was not displeased, although nothing ever happened.

6. What personal activity, when performed in public, bothers you the most? Smoking and littering. I know smokers have nowhere else to go than outside these days but as a mild asthmatic, the smoke still affects me outdoors. Littering just seems like pollution to me.


7. Ok, there's a $50 bill lying on the ground. You pick it up. Dumbfounded by your incredible luck, what do you selfishly purchase? MORE opera CDs.

8. Do you have a recurring nightmare?
Sometimes it’s a nightmare and sometimes a benign dream, but I often find myself dreaming of being in a huge, very complex building with long, winding hallways and many cul-de-sacs. I try to find my way out of it and have many adventures along the way but I never get out of it. This has been going on for years. Any theories on the meaning?

9. Name one place on Earth you've never been, but vow to visit at least once. Northern Italy, with a stop at the Church of Sant’Anastasia in Verona where my family’s ancestors are buried in the first chapel on the right after you enter the church.

Students of mine went there once and brought back some pictures for which I was very grateful, but I want to go myself. It's the oldest surviving church in Verona, having been started in the mid 13th century and completed in 1481. Photos of the exterior and the interior looking toward the apse and the high altar.

I also have to attend at least one performance in the legendary La Scala opera house in Milan, and there 's also Firenze (Florence) and Venice that we'd have to see.



10. You notice that question #9 wasn't really a question. You feel smart for catching such a small detail. What else can you do really well that reminds you how smart you are? This question invites a somewhat arrogant answer, but I believe I put together really excellent lecture programs with good visual and audio support and deliver them in an interesting, entertaining and informative manner.

I will not tag anyone in particular; feel free to pick up on this, and please let me know if you do.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

 
Yesterday was doctor day. Fritz and I got to the orthopedist at 8am (I prefer going early as it avoids the horrid back-ups as the day goes by and appointment after appointment takes longer than was scheduled). We began with the x-ray and the doctor says things continue to look good. She did say that taking the pictures through the cast does degrade the image somewhat and she isn’t sure exactly how much new bone growth there is. I ran down my typical diet and she said I’m taking in more than sufficient calcium to insure healthy bones.

The next appointment is on the 21st, at which time this cast will be cut off (I CAN’T WAIT!) and x-rays taken without it. I will have to have a walking cast or some other cast device put on at that time for an extra four weeks—a lot longer than I’d been hoping for. I told her I was going to lobby hard for the ski boot device because it can be removed for bathing, other activities that do not require any weight to be put on the ankle—and will allow me to drive as long as I can retrain myself to brake with my left foot. Since I’m very comfortable driving a stick shift and using a clutch with the left foot in that context, I think I should be able to manage with my automatic Jeep. In any event, the ski boot is the one she said is most likely for me, which will make spending the rest of December and at least two weeks of January still somewhat constrained much more bearable.

Getting around has been tricky here lately because we’ve had messy little snow/sleet events move through the area every two or three days. Mostly when we go up the hill to talk with the various subcontractors, I stay in the Jeep and don’t attempt the snowy/icy last rise on my crutches. Today when we drove up, the in-ground propane tank was being installed, and the plumber is scheduled to be on the premises later hooking up the gas supply to the boiler. This will lead at some point to heating up the radiant heat system in the slab, and all future work inside the house will go on under much better working conditions.

*******

Everybody has little quirks. Here are a couple of ours:

I’ve learned not to pour tea for Fritz at breakfast or when we have afternoon tea until he’s put milk into his cup. I really don’t see how it can make any difference, but he swears the tea tastes better if it’s poured into the milk rather than if the milk is poured into the tea.

I’ve always looked forward to getting mail with great anticipation, and check a couple of times during the day to see if it’s been delivered. I love getting things, hearing from people, even getting bills so I can pay them and get them out of the way. Fritz, on the other hand, is extremely casual about the whole thing and will let a day go by without going down to the mailboxes on the street—he feels it’s waiting there for him to get eventually, what’s the rush? Now that I’m not able to go down the hill myself, he’s being a real sweetheart about making sure he brings my mail up to me every afternoon (and you’ll do it again this afternoon, love, yes? YES?!!.

I’m a compulsive archivist and file-keeper. At the end of the day, for instance, I empty my wallet of all the receipts I’ve accumulated during the day into accordion-pleated files with tabs corresponding to all the IRS deduction or required information categories. When I sit down to do my taxes each year, all the material I need is pre-sorted. Fritz says I’m not only a J on the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator, I’m a very strong J.

Fritz keeps socks in only two colors—black and white. He says it makes doing the laundry much easier and he never has to be concerned with fashion coordination issues. I, on the other hand have a sock drawer full of just about every color going so I can coordinate my daily look in all details.

I'm very cheap. Not only do I pick up pennies and other change I find lying in the street, I soak uncanceled stamps off mail I get and reuse them. If we get a barbecued chicken, I simmer the bones for stock and the last of the chicken meat and make a soup. I reuse padded mailer envelopes by cleaning them up and putting new address labels on them. I flatten, clean and reuse aluminum foil. But I don't throw things out until I make sure that I've gotten every possible use out of them and I think that if more people did this, we might not be drowning in the mass of waste that's become such a problem.

*******

You know I can’t resist these things, so here’s the What Superhero Would You Be? quiz—except it turns out I may be more of a superheroine:

Your Superpower Should Be Mind Reading

You are brilliant, insightful, and intuitive.
You understand people better than they would like to be understood.
Highly sensitive, you are good at putting together seemingly irrelevant details.
You figure out what's going on before anyone knows that anything is going on!

Why you would be a good superhero: You don't care what people think, and you'd do whatever needed to be done

Your biggest problem as a superhero: Feeling even more isolated than you do now
What Should Your Superpower Be?


*******

At first I looked at Mike Huckabee as someone who might just be able to knock Mitt Romney out of contention for the Republican nomination. The more I’ve learned about him, however, the more concerned I am that either one of them might become the candidate. In the event that anyone’s unaware of Huckabee’s attitude toward gays and lesbians, and particularly toward people who are HIV+, here’s some disturbing info (excerpted from today's Boston Globe; thanks to Scott of Bill in Exile for the graphic):

Huckabee's views on gays under greater scrutiny
Old statements resurface as he rises in Iowa

By Michael Kranish, Globe Staff / December 12, 2007

WASHINGTON - Shortly before announcing his White House bid, Mike Huckabee told a gathering of Christian conservatives that he had the toughest position against gay marriage of any Republican candidate. "Unless Moses comes down with two stone tablets from Brokeback Mountain to tell us something different, we need to keep that understanding of marriage," Huckabee said, referring to the movie about two gay cowboys.


Now, as Huckabee seeks to solidify his front-runner status in Iowa and his climb in national polls, the former Arkansas governor is coming under greater scrutiny for his views about gays and lesbians. He has sought to defend comments he made in 1992 that gays lived "an aberrant, unnatural, and sinful lifestyle" and that gays with AIDS should be isolated, even though the federal government by that time had said AIDS was not spread by casual contact.

Huckabee is continuing to focus on the matter as a presidential candidate, saying on his website that "no other candidate has supported traditional marriage more consistently and steadfastly than I have. While Massachusetts was allowing homosexuals to marry, I got a constitutional amendment passed in Arkansas in 2002 defining marriage as between one man and one woman."


In an interview with the Globe earlier this month, Huckabee said he opposes civil unions because he views them as legitimizing same-sex relationships in the eyes of the state. "When you create a validity and actually put a sort of government approval on the behavior, I think that is a different set of rules than, say, a person makes a lifestyle decision, and that's choice," Huckabee said.

Yesterday, after enduring several days of criticism for his 1992 comments about isolating gays with AIDS, Huckabee said in a statement to the Associated Press that he would have "great regret and anxiety if I thought my comments were hurtful or in any way added to the already incredible pain that families have felt regardless of how they contracted AIDS."

He said he would be willing to meet with the family of Ryan White, an Indiana teenager who died of AIDS and whose family has objected to Huckabee's comments about AIDS. The statement stopped short of an apology sought by some AIDS activists.


The AP provided further details on Huckabee's responses to its 1992 survey, including his belief that allowing gays in the military would be "a disgraceful act of government." Huckabee also expressed his opposition to heterosexual couples living together, calling it "demeaning. . . . I reject it as an alternate lifestyle."

Arkansas state Representative Kathy Webb, a Little Rock Democrat who last November was elected as the first openly gay legislator in the state's history, said Huckabee "doesn't seem to have a whole lot of tolerance and good will toward gay people." She traced it to Huckabee's religious background and his effort to appeal to conservative voters.



On a recent New Hampshire campaign swing, Huckabee said that he would support the Bush administration's proposal to double funding for AIDS but said that he didn't want to shortchange other diseases that kill more people.

"I want to make sure that when we look at a disease, whether it is AIDS, diabetes, or cancer, we look at it from the macro perspective, and we don't just single out one thing that affects, in America, you know, about 5,000 people a year," Huckabee said.

The Centers for Disease Control reported that there were 42,514 new AIDS cases and 13,064 deaths from the disease in 2004, the most recent year for which it provided data. About 1.5 million people in the United States have been infected with the AIDS virus since 1981, resulting in more than 500,000 deaths.

Monday, December 10, 2007

 
Fritz taught all weekend while I set myself up in one of the offices at the Center and got lots of work and writing done. I was just down the hall from the room where the class of 17 teachers worked through various arts and projects relevant to a study of three different world cultures—Maori (New Zealand), Northwest native-American (U.S. and Canada) and Aboriginal (Australia). I sat in on the final presentation on the Maori because the preparations (including a thunderous rehearsal session for the traditional Haka greeting/warning dance on the floor directly above me) seemed particularly detailed and careful.

Part of the genius of the Masters degree program that Fritz puts on here for primary school teachers is that it teaches how to integrate the arts into all the subjects they teach. In a way it’s very subversive—at a time when school systems are ruthlessly eliminating music, and art from their curricula, teachers who come out of this program will bring them right back in and their students will benefit enormously from that. Each class (there are seventeen in the one that met this weekend) gathers for one weekend a month for 22 months for an intensive Friday afternoon to Sunday night experience of topics including, curriculum development, music, poetry, storytelling, art, drama, movement, etc. etc.

There are major final project presentations at the end, as well as creative assignments along the way—this weekend began with an exhibit of wind chimes made from found objects. Some of the degree candidates teach art or music but most don’t, so they learn new techniques here by doing, and then take their experience to their students.

Another thing that I love about it is seeing Fritz in action. He’s a born teacher and much of his effectiveness, I am convinced, comes not only from his deeply held and passionately expressed belief in what he’s doing, but also from his background in theater. This is something we share and that has informed how we approached our students through the years. We both know how to play off the energy we get back from our “audience,” and how to ignite response and enthusiasm when it’s lacking. We also know when and how to introduce a diversion, employ humor, make a dramatic pause, drop a particularly visceral image. He absolutely blossoms when he gets in front of a group, puts out a lot of energy, and makes a lot of personal contact with his students. The bulletin board in the lobby of the Center always features several newspaper articles about teachers from his program who get named their school district’s Teacher of the Year.



Speaking about things subversive, I got a Northern Sun catalog in the mail for the first time this year and liked their signature T-shirt, which is also available as a poster and as cards with envelopes, all of which I ordered. Their merchandise has an extremely liberal bias and a lot of it is blatantly anti-Bush. Here’s the T-shirt:



On Sunday morning, Fritz was able to take a short break while his students were preparing their presentations that were the culmination of the weekend’s work. We got in the Jeep and he drove up to the new house, now free for the first time in months of the barrier of trucks and excavation machines across it’s façade. It would have been lovely if there had been sun, but I didn’t much care; here’s a complete, unblocked view of our very photogenic new house:



The exterior is finished except for the stone on the cement piers (dark gray in the photo), which will happen next spring.

We went in and checked out the latest work. Some cleaning has been done but a lot of trash and dust remain. Still, it was much easier for me to negotiate the downstairs on the crutches and get through the various spaces. The boiler for the hot water and the heat, an amazingly small, on-demand system, has been installed although not yet hooked up to the in-slab radiant system. The general contractor says there should be heat in the house by the end of the week.

Jean, the genial, highly extroverted head of the framing crew, stopped by Saturday evening to say good-bye and leave us his business card. He and his crew (one of whom returned today to finish window details and clean up tools, etc.) have done a superb job.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

 
Conversation overheard at the new house between Paul the plasterer/wallboarder and Bob, one of the siding crew:

Paul: So, you doing any real work these days?
Bob: Yes, building a house north of here.
Paul: You have a wallboarder?
Bob: You interested?
Paul: Do accordionists wear pinky rings?

At the end of the workday yesterday, here’s where things stood: the house is completely insulated; the siding crew is working today and should be finished by the time they leave. The main thing they have to do is install the louvers in the cupola at the top of the main roof Plastering of the concrete shell walls began in the mechanical room, which will allow the boiler to be installed, and THAT will lead to hooking up the pipes in the slab to the boiler so the house will have heat for all the work that still has to be done.

The general contractor wrote me this morning that next week will be filled with finishing details to get the house completely ready for the major work of wallboard and plaster to begin on the 17th. There will also be a major clean-up of sawdust and dust from the blown-in insulation to make the place ready for the wall and plaster work. I was told it will take two weeks and I doubt it will be finished completely by the end of December because of the holidays, but maybe. We’re still hoping to have some sort of pot-luck dinner or picnic lunch up at the house for all the boys when we have our four day New Year’s house party.

*******


I’ve contacted Comcast and told them they have the contract to put in wireless high-speed internet, phone and cable TV. People tell me that Comcast is trouble but I really have no choice. The only alternative—Verizon—doesn’t offer high speed and/or wireless internet in this area in any form; going back to dial-up isn’t remotely an option I would consider. Also, Verizon’s TV is only via dish, and sticking a dish on the house isn’t going to happen.

**

Rick at Bandit Talks posted the link to this little quiz on which candidate for the presidency most closely represents your beliefs and concerns:

It questions you about the major issues facing the country, then analyzes the answers and ranks the candidates, both Republican and Democrat, on how they coordinate with your own beliefs.

Not surprisingly, my results placed all Democrats over all Republicans. Chris Dodd and Joe Biden came in #1 and #2, followed by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama (which is the position on the ticket I would like to see them run). I like both Dodd and Biden but wouldn’t vote for either, as I don’t believe they’re electable--and I feel it’s imperative a Democrat be elected next year.

On the bottom end of my list were Romney, Huckabee and Thompson in that order, which is OK except I’d have put Romney at the very bottom since I can’t stand the sleaze. He isn’t at the very bottom of the list in the latest national poll of Republicans, but he does come in a reassuringly poor fourth: Giuliani leads with 26%, then Huckabee with 18%, McCain with 13% and Romney with 12%.

*******

One thing that having broken my ankle has introduced me to in a major way is Christmas shopping via the internet. I've been buying fairly regularly from amazon.com over the years (books and CDs) for myself and the occasional gift, but this year I got into wishlists and serious on line shopping in a big way. I think I still prefer checking out merchandise myself and establishing an in person buyer-seller contact with a merchant, but aside from the occasional concern when packages seem to be overdue, everything's worked very well.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

 
Thanks to blog-buddy Michael of “Blurt” for the piece he wrote and that I have copied below. I found it not only very interesting, but totally in line with something I'd blogged about a long time ago—that in our culture, any oppressed group pushing for its civil rights will succeed when and only when it becomes an economic force without which the general population cannot operate in the manner to which it has become dependent:

Gay marriage in Oklahoma
I was talking with this guy at a bar in OKC who is from OK but now lives in San Francisco. He told me that when gays started pushing for marriage the Christians in Oklahoma like many other states managed to get an amendment passed banning same sex marriage.

He also told me that the native-American tribes in Oklahoma acknowledge/ accept and perform same sex marriages and that Oklahoma government has to acknowledge and accept native American customs and laws.




Native-American same-sex couples: Men (Klamath and Blackfoot) from today (above), Crow women from 1928 (below)

Apparently Oklahoma government tried to fight this but a lot of the money that maintains the bridges and helps schools in the state comes from the casinos owned by the native Americans. All they had to do was threaten to stop their donations and Oklahoma government backed down immediately.

So, my question is this: same sex marriage now exists in Oklahoma for SOME Oklahomans. How long will it be before a group of plaintiffs from off the reservations gets some savvy legal representation, and sues for the same rights based on discrimination? For that matter, I wonder how many other well-organized native-American populations also recognize and perform same-sex marriages and have managed to keep their state governments’ hands off them? The “two-spirit” tradition has been cited frequently when discussing native-American tribal cultures. Does anybody out there have any info on this?

*******

We just came down off the hillside and here’s what the house looks like in the snow. Siding continues, the insulators will return this afternoon to resume their work, which I’m told will be finished by the end of day on Friday. Excavation for the propane tank began while Fritz and I were there.



With snow and some ice on the ground, I don’t go up into the house on these visits. The last rise up to the house is a bit steep, too irregular and frequently clogged with trucks and pick-ups. Fritz drives my Jeep and if I get out at all, I stand by the car and observe, ready to answer any questions that may have come up.



I’m doing a lot of technical drawing these days. For one thing, it became obvious that the wall studs were not placed on ordinary 16” centers. Because it isn’t a standard tract house, studs are where the demands of the design require them to be, not regularly spaced as you can see from this old picture of the end wall of my studio upstairs. As there’s to be shelving on some walls, or anything else that needs to be tied into something solid, I have to be able to locate the framing members.

I’ve already drawn the base on which the Aga will stand in the kitchen and am starting the bases for the lower cabinets as soon as I’ve posted this entry to the blog. Fritz and I want the counters and the stove a couple of inches higher than normal, which is easier on the back when working for long periods of time.

*******

We’re not traveling for Christmas this year. Normally if we’re not hosting family here, we go to my cousin and his wife in New Jersey, which is a kind of central gathering place for us from New England and their son and his family from Pennsylvania just north of Pittsburgh. But this year, they’re traveling to Pittsburgh. We won’t know whether or not I’ll be able to drive at least until the 21st when the cast comes off, new x-rays are taken and another cast or one of the removable ski-boot casts is put on. Fritz doesn’t want to face the entire round trip without a second driver, which I can well understand, so we’ll have a small, intimate gathering here as we did for Thanksgiving and ship our presents to Pennsylvania via UPS.

Next year, we hope to host the whole family in the new house.

Monday, December 03, 2007

 
I’m indebted for this item to the noted American soprano Aprile Millo who posted it on her blog. It’s a guide from 52 years ago instructing the American wife on how to serve and please her husband. It shows just how different America was half a century ago when post-World War II society was all about reverting to the way things were “before.” In the decade following its publication, Feminism would begin a frontal assault on everything these instructions stand for.



If the picture doesn't enlarge when clicked to make reading the text easier, I'll try to transcribe and post it on the blog. It’s almost unbelievable to read this document today, but it happens that its spirit is still alive and well in certain sections of the culture.

Three years ago, I was installing a production I had designed for Intermezzo Chamber Opera for a three-night stand at the Hackmatack Playhouse in South Berwick, Maine. Members of the company were put up in the summer homes of its supporters in Ogunquit. Late at night as I made the half hour drive, I found myself listening to an AM radio station from somewhere in the Heartland, on which an Evangelical preacher was discussing family life in the U.S. “Men,” he said at one point, “let me tell you how to make your wives happy, what they want from you, what they need from you.”

What women need, it turned out, is for men to take complete command in running every aspect of family life, from dictating how the children are to be raised to choosing where the family will go on vacation. Furthermore, their wives are thirsting to be corrected when they do things their husbands don’t like or when they do them in a manner that in some way displeases them. In terms of their inner lives, their spiritual lives, these wives are anxiously waiting for orders to be passed down from their husbands (who are, we were told, the deputy of Jesus in the home), and will feel incomplete and dissatisfied if they aren’t directed how they’re to live and what they’re to think.

People who advocate these things will try to increase their hold on the White House in next year’s election.

*******

The wedding was enjoyable. The service was held at St. Cecilia’ Church, a “very Boston” church that was built at the special request of the Irish Catholic chamber maids, chauffeurs, footmen, cooks, butlers, nannies, valets and stable boys who served the great Back Bay mansions that lined Beacon Street and Commonwealth Avenue, as well as Marlboro, Newbury and all the “alphabet streets” from Arlington to Hereford. There was an army of them. They got permission and a piece of land from the Boston Archdiocese, and raised the money among themselves to put up a working class red brick basilica with a colorful, almost exuberant interior.



The stained glass windows are in a style that can be described only as Celtic Byzantine.
The murals on the life of Saint Patrick (far more prominent in the church than St. Cecilia herself—this IS Boston, after all) and of Pope Pius X are standard late 19th century religious kitsch. A half dome lined with gilded molded plaster rosettes, each with a small light bulb in its center, tops the reproduction of da Vinci’s The Last Supper that backs the altar and is pure theater. Liberally filled with white roses, it was a great setting for the marriage.

The priest, a nice-looking, young[ish] man, kept repeating that even though he himself couldn’t marry, he had advice to give those who were doing so. The groom, one of Fritz’s nephews, runs marathons; he and his best men (his two brothers) wore streamlined tuxes with handsome burgundy vests and ties. The bride, who does triathelons as well as marathons, had chosen a strikingly simple, truly elegant gown that perfectly complimented her slender, athletic figure. I don't expect her to be waiting for orders from her new husband similar to the above anytime soon.

When the full nuptial mass was over, we all repaired to The Harvard Club on Commonwealth Avenue, which is filled with acres of dark, carved walnut paneling; large, dark portraits of departed Harvard faculty, administration and alumni luminaries--a vestige of the “Old Boston” style and service. In spite of its reputation and the cost of accommodations there, the room Fritz’s North Carolina sister had reserved for herself was largely non-functional. Large and nicely appointed, it was also glacially cold with no thermostat in sight. The TV remote didn’t work and when we tried to phone the front desk to report these problems, the phone didn’t work (later in the day it was discovered that the light in the walk-in closet wasn’t working either).

Housekeeping operated a valve on the bottom of the radiator, provided a new TV because the problem was there rather than with the remote, and a new phone. We thought it all a bit strange but settled in to fill the time until the reception with reading, talk and a bit of rest.



Cocktails and dinner were downstairs, the former with decent wine and passed hors d’oeuvres, the latter in the great hall whose thirty-five foot high ceiling was an impressive if not particularly warm or intimate setting for a gathering of family and friends. The eight-piece band played throughout most of dinner, at decibel levels that turned chit-chat into shouting matches, but we managed as best we could. The menu was lobster bisque; salad of field greens, mushrooms and onion strings; filet mignon with a side of grilled halibut, butternut squash risotto, gingered carrots and asparagus; ending with wedding cake with chocolate-dipped strawberries added.

All in all, enjoyable. We met some very nice people, Fritz got back together with some family and some old family friends from the past, and I made it through on my crutches without incident. A small brunch Sunday morning was much less formal and a nice end to the wedding events.

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