Sunday, March 30, 2008


Deja-vu all over again!

What was supposed to be a one to two inch snow changing to rain with higher temperatures that would wash it all away, changed, on Friday, into a five to eight inch heavy, damp snow that shoveled like cement and seemed unending. I am so tired of this winter!

Fortunately, it all began in the wee small hours, because Thursday we had to spend most of the day in Boston, partly on business for me, and partly to see a new Terrence McNally play, “Some Men.”

I measured the stage and hanging pipes of the Massachusetts College of Art theater for the opera production in May, and then inventoried the light hang and platform stock backstage. From there, we headed over to MIT where I put a reserve on all the furniture, props and portable lighting trees that I’ll need.

I enjoy checking back with my former colleagues. We were friends as well as co-workers and we made a very tight ensemble. And after I’ve talked with them and caught up on the latest, I’m very happy to leave it all behind. I don’t have any pangs about having “changed careers” and lifestyle, because I’m as busy as ever and enjoying it all immensely.


I don’t know the political columnist Maureen Dowd but the following two letters were sent to the NY Times in answer to a somewhat bizarre comparison she seems to have made between the elegant, multi-talented Gene Kelly (“Singing in the Rain,” among many, many other starring roles) and Bozo.

New York Times - March 19, 2008
LETTERS; I Knew Gene Kelly. The President Is No Gene Kelly.

To the Editor:

Re ''Soft Shoe in Hard Times'' (column, March 16):

Surely it must have been a slip for Maureen Dowd to align the artistry of my late husband, Gene Kelly, with the president's clumsy performances. To suggest that ''George Bush has turned into Gene Kelly'' represents not only an implausible transformation but a considerable slight. If Gene were in a grave, he would have turned over in it.

When Gene was compared to the grace and agility of Jack Dempsey, Wayne Gretzky and Willie Mays, he was delighted. But to be linked with a clunker -- particularly one he would consider inept and demoralizing -- would have sent him reeling.

Graduated with a degree in economics from Pitt, Gene was not only a gifted dancer, director and choreographer, he was also a most civilized man. He spoke multiple languages; wrote poetry; studied history; understood the projections of Adam Smith and John Maynard Keynes. He did the Sunday Times crossword in ink. Exceedingly articulate, Gene often conveyed more through movement than others manage with words.

Sadly, President Bush fails to communicate meaningfully with either. For George Bush to become Gene Kelly would require impossible leaps in creativity, erudition and humility.

Patricia Ward Kelly
Los Angeles, March 16, 2008

To the Editor:

Maureen Dowd wonders how it is possible that George W. Bush can continue to put a positive spin on various dismal facts associated with his administration.

The answer is simple: from the beginning of his tenure, he was, continues to be and always will be the most incompetent president in modern American history.

Alan A. Preti
Fort Washington, Pa., March 17, 2008


This meme appeared on at least two blogs and I decided to have a go at it--surprise, huh? Most of you know that I can't resist theses things (actually, I have resisted several but love them in general):

The house I grew up in…was a two and a half room apartment on West 72nd Street in Manhattan until I was four, and a cramped, boxy four room apartment in a housing project in Queens that was about as inviting as an underground bunker. It was a disastrous move for my family on several levels, and I couldn’t wait to get out of it.

When I was a child I wanted to be…a carpenter or a painter (art, not house). I became a theatrical designer, uniting both skills and many more besides.

The moment that changed me forever…Coming out to myself and taking complete control of my life in 1980.

My greatest inspiration… the arts: fine, performing, industrial, architectural, popular—all of them.

My real-life villain… Hmmmm—probably the Catholic Church but, in reality, any person or institution that promotes hate, divisiveness, and bigotry. Oh yeah-and George W. Bush.

If I could change one thing about myself…I’d be taller and have a narrower pelvis. I was born with birthing hips and never been happy with them.

At night I dream of… very frequently, enormous, very complex buildings through which I wander having many different encounters and adventures, but which I can never seem to get out of. I also dream of having good sex with a lot of men.

What I see when I look in the mirror… somebody I’ve gradually, but successfully, come to like over the years.

My style icon… probably Frank Lloyd Wright. He created a totally American style of architecture from a fusion Japanese style with a stylized take on American landscape, refined it to a state of elegant simplicity, and managed to build an extensive body of work playing with endless variations of it in a great many contexts. His work is honored in the design of my new house.

My favorite item of clothing…vests. Vests of all kinds and many different materials from leather to silk tapestry and Chinese quilting, just so long they’re interesting and don’t look like what everybody else is wearing. Of course, the very fact that they’re vests gives me a leg up on that last one.

I wish I’d never worn…hats. Hats of almost any kind.

It’s not fashionable but I like…ethnic clothing.

You wouldn’t know it but I’m very good at…being patient.

You may not know it but I’m no good at…dancing or anything that requires a lot of physical coordination. I’m a klutz and not very graceful. I don’t think I’ve ever had a total grasp on where my body is in space. This is a gross motor problem; interestingly, I have very strong fine motor skills in model making, drafting and precise work.

All my money goes on… life and experiences rather than things, particularly flashy electronics. My TVs and sound system are all around twenty years old, or more, and work just fine. I don’t feel any urgency to get flat panel TVs, 150 thousand song iPods or high definition everything—why throw out something that’s working well? The culture of disposable everything is destroying our environment.

But show me an exotic place to go, or a performance of something I’ve never seen on a stage before, and I’m out the door.

If I have time to myself…I read obsessively and spend time with my husband and cat.

I drive/ride… a 1999 Jeep Cherokee with 176,000 miles on it. It’s also working very well.

My house/flat is… nearing completion rapidly and I can’t wait!

My most valuable possession is... my health.

My favorite building(s)… The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. I taught the design, engineering, cultural significance, and decorative arts of this incredible structure to my design students every year.

Also: the festival theater at Bayreuth, Germany and the Cathedral at Laon, France, the only one of the great medieval cathedrals that actually built all seven towers that they were supposed to have to resemble “The City of God.” Five were completed and the other two were finished up to the top of the nave.

Another reason I love Laon is the amazing story of its construction. The town stands on a high mesa off in the plains east of Paris. The entire community and many teams of oxen had to haul tons of cut and dressed stone up to the heights on a daily basis for decades to construct the cathedral. Because at least five towers soar above the roof line of the nave, Laon has a profile unlike any other cathedral in Europe.

Movie heaven…no explosions, gratuitous violence, or sell-out “feel-good” endings. Mostly foreign and indie films. I’ve come to believe that Hollywood is the most toxic kind of whore.

A book that changed me… several books I read on history as a child that exposed the lies we were being taught in Catholic school. The most influential was probably C.W. Ceram’s “Gods, Graves and Scholars” that opened my eyes to the fact that the murder of vast numbers of Inca and Aztec native Americans and the ruthless destruction of their culture wasn’t “God’s work” but genocide and a crime against humanity. Ever thereafter, I haven’t been able to stomach the whole concept of Missionaries

My favorite work of art… There are so many! If I absolutely had to name one, it would be the great bronze statue of Poseidon in the National museum in Athens, Greece

The last album I bought/downloaded… “I Quatro Rusteghi” by Italian-German composer Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari, based on a Venetian commedia dell’arte by Carlo Goldoni.

The person who really makes me laugh… the boys on the new sitcom “The Big Bang Theory.”

The shop I can’t walk past… any antique shop.

The best invention ever… books.

In ten years time, I hope to be… doing good art in the studio of the new house and taking a break every afternoon around three o’clock for tea with Fritz.

My greatest regret… that I didn’t have the guts to come out eons earlier. But we all do it when we can and how we can, so I've stopped beating myself up about it.

My life in seven words or less… is where I want it to be.

You know, just when you think you know somebody sort of well, something like this comes along! And I love your last sentence. It gets no better than that. Many of us are envious!
i am listening to a course on the history of the early middle ages. Therein the professor said the dome of the hagia sophia remains a mystery as to why it doesn't fall down. Is this so?
Lewis--thanks. During this hard winter with all the frustrations and delays getting the house finished, nevertheless I've been extremely happy. And I think it will only get better.

Michael, it is and it isn't a mystery. There have been earthquakes. The first dome was too shallow and came down very early in the building's history. The present dome has a chain welded around its base that prevents it from settling as it ages or when it's under stress.

Also--and I can't check books and notes that are in cartons awaiting the final move into the new house--I believe this dome sits on top of the structure but isn't connected to it. That way, when quakes occur, it can slip back and forth as a whole unit but not be vibrated to bits. This is a very advanced concept for so old a building (Roman engineering was highly advanced) and one that has recently been applied to many skyscrapers and other buildings in seismically active areas to save them when the earth moves.
Maureen Dowd is an idiot. But so, I believe, are most political columnists.

The Hagia Sophia really is impressive looking. I would like to see it in person some day, but I don't think I can ever go to Istanbul, just because any time anyone mentions Istanbul, I immediately begin to sing, whistle or hum, "Istanbul was Constantinople, now it's Istanbul not Constantinople..." (I'm sure you know the rest), and I would be doing that for the whole trip. For similar reasons, I fear that I shall never be able to travel to Argentina, but I don't want anyone to cry for me over it.
Ted, Fritz and I have an informal vaudeville act around the Constantinople song (Why did Constantinople get the works? That's nobody's business but the Turks'!).

I've stood in the building. It's astonishing the illusion that masses of masonry are suspended above you with no obvious means of support.
You do make it sound very attractive. Maybe I'll get there someday, after all. How are the acoustics? If I'm going to be singing, I want to make sure I'm heard, you know.
I hope to visit Bayreuth someday. This must be like visiting Mecca for an theatrical designer!
inter g: if and when you do go, make sure to take the backstage tour. It's fascinating, particularly the lighting installation and the trip down into "the mystic abyss" aka the orchestra pit.

Haus Wanfried in town features a comprehensive collection of stage models of scenery from the beginning of the Festival through the Wieland/Wolfgang years. It's a great way to follow the development of set design from the 19th into the 20th century.
I'm stealing your photo of Poseidon. Is it wrong to find a mythical pagan god attractive?
Mike, take him with my blessings--he's certainly big enough to share! Just stunning, isn't he?
Thank god it was rain down here! I'm so waiting for spring to finally get here and it keeps seeming to take a few days off.
We are experiencing the exact same deja-vu here. Bleah.

Your posts are so rich, it is difficult to know what to comment on. Like choosing just one entree from a feast of fat things. Thanks for sharing, Will.
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