Thursday, September 25, 2008


Bon Voyage to us!

This is it--later today we're off to Logan Airport in Boston to begin our European trip. After a day in Marseilles to get a taste of the historic city founded by ancient Phoenecians and later a major Roman port, we travel just a bit north along the river to see Avignon and board the Viking Burgundy that will be our floating hotel for eight days as we travel

from Avignon on the Rhone,

to Chalons and Baune in the heart of Burgundy wine country. A few days each in Denmark and Amsterdam, then back home. I'll report on the trip when and if we encounter internet along the way--the Viking cruiser is supposed to have internet and a computer on board for passengers to use.


The New Yorker magazine's invaluable music critic Alex Ross has just been awarded one of THE great honors, a MacArthur Fellowship, popularly known as "the genius grant". There is an unrestricted award of $500,000 paid out over five years, to be used at the honoree's discretion.

An out gay man married to a New York actor and film-maker, Ross has been the New Yorker's music critic--one of the very few top prestige music criticism positions left in this country's print media--for 13 years, since age 27. At home in a jazz club or rock concert as well as Carnegie Hall, he's the author of an astonishing thing, a deep and probing book on music history, "The Rest is Noise," that has appeared on popular best seller lists and is now being prepared for translation into several languages.

Here's the MacArthur citation:

Alex Ross is a critic whose writing captures the often-elusive aesthetic and technical aspects of classical and contemporary music with clarity, grace, and wit. A staff writer for the New Yorker, his frequent essays display an expansive knowledge of music and a facility for guiding his readers, who range from professional musicians to scholars to the general public alike, to a richer experience of the complex pieces and artists he explores. With a finely tuned grasp of a full spectrum of styles, he places works by a broad variety of artists – from Mozart to Schoenberg to Bob Dylan – within a continuum and sets aside categories and classifications that impede the appreciation of works on their own terms.

In each article, Ross strives to demonstrate how a specific piece of music, be it centuries or months old, conveys meaning and feeling in the present. In addition to his work in essay form, he recently published the book The Rest Is Noise (2007), a cultural history of 20th-century music that journeys through pre-World War I Vienna, Paris of the 1920s, Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia, and New York of the 1960s and 1970s.

Through a widely read blog of the same title (, he further expands the reach of his interpretive skills and enthusiasm for championing overlooked composers and out-of-the-way ensembles. In an era when many proclaim the imminent demise of concert halls due to waning attendance, Ross offers both highly specialized and casual readers new ways of thinking about the music of the past and its place in our future.


The Wit and wisdom of George W. Bush AND Dan Quayle

<- If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator.

-> I believe we are on an irreversible trend toward more freedom and democracy--but that could change.

Monday, September 22, 2008

We packed our bags today for our Thursday departure. A couple of years ago Fritz, who’s a very savvy traveler, introduced us to Pack-it clothing compressors. The idea is to fold your clothes, place them in the plastic bag and seal it with the zip lock closure. You then roll the bag or, in my case, place it flat on the floor and kneel on it. All the air is expelled through the one-way air valves at the other end. The compacted clothing takes up considerably less space in a suitcase than, ahh, undeflated clothing.

We’ve been using the compactors for all our plane travel. Since the airlines have a really bad record with lost luggage, we like to travel without checking any baggage at all. Each of us has a rolling suitcase approved to fit in an overhead bin, and we take one other bag, usually a backpack, for under the seat. It contains things we’ll want on the plane—books (Sudoku for Fritz, a history of some arcane period or other for me), travel-sized games, our tickets and other documentation, etc.

And that’s it. I do our laundry in hotel rooms or in our river cruiser’s cabin bathroom. We pack for maximum flexibility of clothing, making sure we can interchange any shirt with any pair of trousers and layer things for cooler weather and still look good. It takes a bit of discipline and it does help that neither of us is a fashion queen, although I’m much more involved in coordination of colors and accessories than Fritz. Still, I make it all work in the one bag so that when we land we’re not stuck by a baggage carousel while everybody else’s luggage but ours appears on the belt. We’re on our way and off to our latest adventure.


Old joke: How many heterosexual church organists/choir directors in the Unite States does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: both of them.

Somehow, somebody at St. Andrew’s Church wasn’t with the program. Story from and WKOW, Madison Wisconsin:

After decades of honing his musical skills, Charles Philyaw landed his dream job in 2004 as the full-time director of music liturgy at St. Andrew Catholic Church in Verona.

The church, with 1,643 adult members, was more than just a place to work for Philyaw. He and his partner, James Mulder-Philyaw, joined the parish and participated fully in the religious community.

Then in June, it all collapsed. Philyaw said he was told by the parish priest, the Rev. Dave Timmerman, that he would no longer be retained because he was living an openly gay life. He was given two weeks' notice. "He said having an openly gay male employed at the Church is a scandal," said Philyaw, recounting the conversation. "I felt betrayed. But I'm not bitter."

The Madison Catholic Diocese declined an interview request citing their policy of not discussing personnel issues.

Philyaw says he's never had any problems at work before and claims the Church knew he was gay when they hired him. Still, employment lawyers there's nothing illegal about what happened.
"The Church is not supposed to have the state sticking its nose in its ecclesiastical positions," said employment lawyer Tamara Packard.

Packard says religious institutions are exempt from anti-discrimination laws so long as the affected employee holds a ministerial or ecclesiastical position. She says it's unclear whether music director qualifies, and it's yet to be tested in Wisconsin courts.

Philyaw says he has no plans for a lawsuit. He's just disappointed. "I don't understand why they pretended to be our friends," he said. Philyaw is now working in night clubs.

Madison is a major university town and reputedly of a liberal-intellectual bent. If it can happen there, it can happen anywhere.

John McCain and his kind feel that including gays and lesbians in anti-discrimination and anti-hate laws is unnecessary and wrong.


But then again, it depends on who’s doing the employing. From Michelangelo Signorile’s blog:

Over the past month I’ve been contacted by three different individuals (two of them members of the Log Cabin Republicans) claiming that McCain’s Senate chief of staff, Mark Buse, is gay. None of these individuals would be quoted by name, though each described Buse as being rather “open” to those around him and to his family – in a “glass closet” rather than deeply undercover or trying to appear heterosexual.

Then I was contacted in recent weeks by 46-year-old Brian Davis, an Arizona resident, who told me about his intimate relationship with Mark Buse (confirmed by his mother, as well as by a long-time friend), and who decided he needed to tell the truth about Buse, on the record, in light of John McCain’s dramatic shift to the ideological religious right in this election and his choice of Sarah Palin, starlet of the evangelical movement, as a running mate. (Repeated calls to Mark Buse's office and calls and email to McCain's communications office in the Senate regarding this story were unreturned. Mike Rogers, the blogger and activist who revealed the truth about Senator Larry Craig and others in politics, today reports this same reality about Mark Buse that I report here, with separate, independent sourcing.) [Signorile posted a video of Buse taken by an ex-boyfriend at their apartment in 2000.]

John McCain is opposed to every single gay rights measure of recent years –- from a hate crimes bill, to an anti-discrimination bill to an attempt to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays in the military –- and is publicly on record supporting a ballot measure in California this November to strip gays and lesbians there of their legally-won right to marry in that state. If that isn’t enough to make it relevant to report on his 20-year-relationship with a close aide and chief of staff who is gay, the fact that Sarah Palin is now on the ticket -- garnering support for McCain from previously reticent antigay leaders like James Dobson of Focus on the Family –- surely does.

Mark Buse, after all, is a public figure in his own right. His role as chief of staff to a man running for president has elevated him and certainly his controversial former role as a prominent lobbyist has brought media scrutiny to him. And he is running the Senate office of a 72-year-old presidential candidate who has had recurrent cancer and who might well usher into the White House as president a woman who, by what evidence we have, has melded her politics with her evangelical religious beliefs.

Mark Buse is not just a Chief of Staff for a homophobic United States Senator, but he is helping that Senator get elected to the White House.

Does Mark Buse fit the Barney Frank rule? Without a doubt. While McCain voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment, he supports amending state constitutions defining marriage as between a man and a woman. McCain knows our country needs everyone who wants to serve in the military and he knows that DADT is wrong, yet he swings to the right on repealing it.

Worst of all, and a demonstration of his inability to act rationally and with the country's best interests at heart, he picked someone who, if she becomes president (very likely), will be the most homophobic in American history.
With that in mind, and after confirming the information with two other sources, I decided it was time to present Buse the Roy Cohn Award for working against the interests of the lesbian and gay community while living as a gay man.

[The Daily Kos is also giving major coverage to this story.]


The Wit and Wisdom of George W. Bush AND Dan Quayle

<- I'm also not very analytical. You know I don't spend a lot of time thinking about myself, about why I do things. —aboard Air Force One, June 4, 2003

-> I am not part of the problem. I am a Republican.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Fall in New England. We’ve seen the first color here in southern New Hampshire as leaves on the swamp maples are turning deep red and orange. At farm stands the corn is piled high and, after this summer of heavy rain, the ears are long and fat. The other day Fritz said it was time to make New England Succotash.

Eleven years ago when he first told me he made succotash I was polite but wary. Remember always that my mother and her family were English and turned out of their kitchens some of the worst food in the world. Succotash to them was a can of cream-style corn combined with tasteless, cardboardy, canned lima beans. I dreaded their occasional appearance on the dinner table.

Well, Fritz’s succotash turned out to be a magnitude different from what I’d grown up with. To begin, all the ingredients are fresh—corn picked the same day as purchased, ditto the shell beans, combined with sweet cream, salt and pepper and flavored slightly with salt pork. He made up a big batch, some for right away, a lot to freeze for the future. The stuff is addictive—I look forward to it every year.


Now that the paved road and parking turnouts are fully settled, I was told I would have to fill the areas next to the pavement up to the top of it’s surface with hard rammed earth. Otherwise rain running off the hill, all the way down to the bottom of the road, will wash out the crushed rock base and undermine the edges of the road, which will begin to collapse. I’ve been working for about a week.

At five hundred feet in length, with two parking areas, the amount of road edge to be filled is probably 1250 feet. The earth is coming from a big pile that was dumped along the route that would become my road a couple of years ago after it had been excavated out of a field that was to become a parking area for Fritz’s Center. It’s a dense, part clay soil that packs very hard and should resist washing out.

My process is to dig earth out of the pile with a pick ax, shovel it into nine five gallon plastic buckets, load them (estimated weight fifty pounds each) into the jeep, pour them into the trough by the side of the road, stomp it down hard: approximate length of road edged 25 feet. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Yesterday as I was stomping, the sailors’ clomp dance from Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman was going through my head, which should give my friend Jim a smile and maybe convince my beloved that opera does have its uses.

I’m trying to do 100 feet, minimum, each day. I don’t think it’ll all be finished before we leave on vacation, but most of it should be, including all sections most vulnerable to erosion.


A sign of good common sense out there, somewhere. Would that there were more of it.


Starr, nested in Fritz’s T-Shirt basket.


The Wit and Wisdom of George W. Bush AND Dan Quayle

<- I promise you I will listen to what has been said here, even though I wasn't here.

-> Mars is essentially in the same orbit . . . Mars is somewhat the same distance from the Sun, which is very important. We have seen pictures where there are canals, we believe, and water. If there is water, that means there is oxygen. If oxygen, that means we can breathe.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


This story somehow didn’t get the national coverage it might have, so individual activists, bloggers and my elder daughter’s mother in law among them, are circulating the story and the pictures. One big newspaper, the Washington Post, published this account of the Alaska Women’s Anti-Sarah Palin Rally [additional info from other sources in brackets]:

In Anchorage, an Anti-Palin Protest
By Karl Vick

ANCHORAGE -- A couple of hours after Gov. Sarah Palin returned to the Outside, as Alaskans call the Lower 48, her local critics swarmed an Anchorage intersection to correct the widespread impression that the whole of the Last Frontier endorses her candidacy.

The midday protest outside a city library drew a crowd in the high hundreds -- perhaps surging past a thousand [reliably estimated to be between 1300 and 1400 and called unquestionably Alaska’s biggest political rally ever]-- from the city's relatively liberal environs, who seemed very happy to see one another and be reminded that they are not alone.

"The whole thing grew out of frustration," said Charla Sterne, one of the organizers, who like several people at the rally declined to say where they worked (several said they were state employees and feared retribution). "Last week this was just ten women sitting around talking about this perception that all of Alaska supports Sarah Palin. We apparently hit a nerve and started a movement," Sterne said.

A sense of festival obtained. There was a woman in a polar bear suit representing "Polar Bear Moms Say: No Palin." Drivers on 36th Avenue saw a little girl waving a sign "Don't Ban My Books."

There were also a few score Palin supporters in the mix, most of them alerted to the event by a conservative talk show host [on his show he called the protesters “baby-killing maggots.” Don’t you love the intelligent tone of discourse favored by Republicans?]. Eddie Burke of KBYR-AM showed up in person, but while there was no evident friction between the two camps, cheerful chants of "O-bam-ah" effectively drowned out whatever he was saying to the cameras in the center of a mini-media scrum.

The din did not prevent reading the protest signs:
Bush In A Skirt
Palin: She Be Failin'
Jesus Was a Community Organizer
Palin: Thanks But No Thanks
Smearing Alaska's Good Name One Scandal @ a Time
Candidate To Nowhere
Rape Kits Should Be Free
Voted For Her Once: Never Again!
Community Organizers are the Real Patriots
I Shall Not Be Pandered To
Give Palin Your Vote AND Your Draft Age Child
Sarah Palin: So Far Right She's Wrong
Coat Hangers for McCain
Sarah Palin, Undoing 150 Years of American Feminism
Hockey Mama for Obama (on a hockey stick)

Here are some images from the protest:


My friend Atari of Ready, Reset, Go posted this video and asked for it to be spread around, which it is my pleasure to do.

McCain and Palin are in full lie & dodge mode on the issues. This AM on Good Morning America, Cindy McCain dodged a simple yes or no question on Roe v. Wade (declaring it of no interest to the American people!) while McCain himself spouted tired boilerplate in response to the current economic/financial meltdown, the economy being an issue he has already said he doesn’t know much about.

As Jonathan and Alex on Wellsung wrote a couple of months ago, “in what kind of universe does [Obama] not totally slaughter McCain in November?” Sadly, it could very well be the American universe if people don’t wake up to the reality of what’s going on, abandon stupid non-issues, and focus on the core problems in this country and-- most importantly--on WHO CAUSED THEM.


The Wit and Wisdom of George W. Bush AND Dan Quayle

<- If you choose to do so, when Iraq is liberated, you will be treated, tried and persecuted as a war criminal.

-> When I have been asked during these last weeks who caused the riots and the killing in L.A., my answer has been direct and simple: Who is to blame for the riots? The rioters are to blame. Who is to blame for the killings? The killers are to blame.

Monday, September 15, 2008


This delightful photo was sent by the founder of my gay book reading group in Boston.


Are you aware that these waffle packages were recently circulated at a big Republican rally/fund raising event? Among the bottom feeders spewing their bile there was the Great Sleaze himself, Mitt Romney.

These scabrous Aunt Jemima-inspired images were circulated for the Republicans by two young advertising guys who, when the whole business was made public, immediately hid behind the "social commentary" defense and purged their site. Racism lives, is promoted, and is used as a political weapon by the Bush/McCain/Cheney/Palin-led Republican Party.

England is noted for its early music ensembles, many of which claim that they know definitively just how music was sung and played two or three hundred years ago. I could do 45 minutes on why that simply isn’t possible, but something none of us wants right now.

However, one thing I do say to people who make that claim is that even if one COULD make an exact recreation of a period performance, 50% of the performance equation that can never be reproduced is the audience. If an authentic period performance isn’t experienced by an authentic period audience, but by an audience that’s heard everything that came after and lives with art, philosophy, politics, spirituality, science and society thoroughly alien to the era supposedly being exactly recreated, then what you have is a museum exhibit rather than a living dialog between the stage and the concert-goer.

Recently there was a report on a music blog of one conductor rebuking an audience for talking and making other noise while his ensemble was playing. To me, this attitude sent up a big red flag signaling hypocrisy.

Until the last quarter of the 19th century, audiences went to theater, concerts and opera in a very casual way, eating dinner in the boxes, wandering around the auditorium to greet friends, talking at will, etc. etc. Most or all the auditorium lights were on during the entire performance so this social activity could go on unimpeded. When England’s Prince Albert went to the theater, a platform was put up over the front rows of the stalls (orchestra seats) with a table and chairs so he and his friends could play cards while watching the play and, very importantly, so that the entire audience could see HIM. Anyone sitting in the center orchestra seats could see nothing else in any event.

There was a constant buzz in the audience; in fact, when audiences fell silent, it frequently meant that they were unhappy and that the performance, and/or the work being performed, was in serious trouble.

In opera, Richard Wagner led the reform movement with the way his operas were performed at Bayreuth. In spoken theater, one of the great leaders was playwright August Strindberg who blithely appropriated all of Wagner's reforms and published them as his own in the famous Preface to his play Miss Julie, a dozen years after the opening of the Bayreuth Festival with the Ring of the Nibelung in 1876.

I've seen signs that the Wagnerian discipline has been relaxing for years in our theaters--everything from bringing babies to the theater; through the whole cell phone thing (including taking and making calls in the Metropolitan Opera during the performance); to bringing food into the auditorium. In several cases that I've personally experienced, food in the auditorium has been with the permission and even encouragement of the theater management. We won't even speak of the frequent/constant talking during performances.

So, ironically, the authentic performance specialists may soon see the ultimate in authentic performance, where their 18th century singing and playing style is viewed by people on their feet, talking, eating and drinking, doing business, and phoning the baby sitter. One wonders if they'll welcome the “authentic” competition!


Here are a couple of pictures of the finished paving. Above, the house with parking off the mechanical room entrance on the west side.

South and below the house, the garden shed will be dropped onto the square "pad" of gray crushed rock at the back of the parking turnout. The shed will match the house with cedar wood siding topped by the same red roof shingles. Installation date is October 28.


The Wit and Wisdom of George W. Bush AND Dan Quayle

<- Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.

-> We have a firm commitment to NATO, we are a part of NATO. We have a firm commitment to Europe. We are a part of Europe

Friday, September 12, 2008


I’ve been checking out the Sarah Palin interview, because most thinking people say she did fine at the convention with a hoard of speech writers and a teleprompter for support, but that the real test would come when she was on her own.

She folded like a cheap card table.

The interview was conducted by Charlie Gibson. I thought he did a very good job. He wouldn’t let her get away without actually answering the questions, was himself always calm and focused, and was sometimes relentless in pursuit of a straight answer, which wasn't always easy to get.

She’s ignorant as swans.

She had no idea what The Bush Doctrine on Iraq was, although it was a specific foreign policy landmark delivered in public on a specific date about a country with which we are at war. She got all deer-in-the-headlights and stammered, “In relation to what?” After some helpful coaching from Gibson failed utterly to ignite a spark of recognition, she drifted into irrelevant sycophantic praise of Bush’s “life teachings.” Oh, she’s another one who pronounces the word “nucular.”

Dumb as a post.

She declared that lots of vice-presidents had never met any foreign leaders before taking office, a lie that several news shows have neatly blown out of the water. But according to her, she is truly qualified to deal with a newly bellicose Russia because you can "see Russia from land in Alaska." In other words, because a god-forsaken piece of rock far of the west coast of Alaska can see a god-forsaken rock at the outer limits of Russia's far eastern islands, she'll be able to handle Vladimir Putin in an international crisis just fine.

When challenged on this and how it would help her deal with the situation in Georgia and Ossetia, she said that she only mentioned the fact to show how small the world is.

What does this mean about China, India, the Islamic world, the United Kingdom, Germany, South America, Africa-- none of which is visible from Alaska?

When asked about national security, she said she’d be fine because she has an energy policy, energy being so important to defense. True enough, but there’s a massive amount more involved, with no hint from Palin that she knows any of it exists. When challenged on this or any other question she immediately changed the subject and began quoting boilerplate from her speeches and press releases on other topics.

Standard sleazy politician stuff.

She also tried to backpedal hard when confronted by statements she had made in her church and elsewhere about god’s plan for the war in Iraq, etc. in which she’d done everything but use the actual word jihad.

Mainline Rabid-Right Christian Fundamentalist-speak.

She and McCain claim they’re going to change Washington DC. The best those two could manage would be to change their underwear.

Big Diomede Island (also called Ratmanov and Imaqliq) on the left; American Little Diomede Island (also Krusenstern and Inaliq) on the right, on either side of the border between Russia and Alaska, and the International Date Line. Sarah Palin’s entire foreign policy expertise rests on the fact that on a clear day she has seen one from the other.

God help us.


The Wit and Wisdom of George W. Bush AND Dan Quayle

<- He can't have it both ways. He can't take the high horse and then claim the low road. -> It is wonderful to be here today in the great state of Chicago.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

California's top Episcopal bishops oppose gay marriage ban
The state's six highest bishops go on the record against Prop. 8, the fall ballot measure that would reverse the California Supreme Court's decision to allow same-sex couples to marry.
By Duke Helfand, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
September 11, 2008

California's six most senior Episcopal bishops Wednesday unanimously declared their opposition to a constitutional amendment on the statewide November ballot that would ban same-sex marriage.

The bishops argued that preserving the right of gays and lesbians to marry would enhance the "Christian values" of monogamy, love and commitment. "We believe that continued access to civil marriage for all, regardless of sexual orientation, is consistent with the best principles of our constitutional rights," said the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.

Bruno, flanked at a news conference by fellow clergy members and gay and straight couples, added: "We do not believe that marriage of heterosexuals is threatened by same-sex marriage." By going on the record against Proposition 8, which would reverse the California Supreme Court's decision in May to legalize same-sex marriage, the bishops waded into a volatile political and religious controversy.

Gay marriage has strained the Episcopalians' international body, the Anglican Communion, with hundreds of bishops from Africa and elsewhere threatening to break away over attempts to change church doctrine and practice. The issue has created theological fissures in other Protestant denominations, including Presbyterians and United Methodists, with some Methodist ministers in California pledging to perform wedding ceremonies in defiance of their national church.

Proposition 8 supporters, intent on protecting what they call a 5,000-year-old tradition codified in the Bible, are mobilizing forces across several religious groups. The Protect Marriage Coalition announced plans last month for 1 million Catholics, Mormons, Jews, Muslims, evangelical Christians, Sikhs and Hindus to plant 1 million "Yes on Proposition 8" lawn signs in their frontyards. In addition, the coalition is sending volunteers door to door to speak with voters and planning an advertising campaign, to begin as early as the end of this month.

But in a joint statement, issued Wednesday at the diocesan headquarters in Echo Park, the six bishops said that "society is strengthened when two people who love each other choose to enter into marriage, engaged in a lifetime of disciplined relationship building that serves as a witness to the importance of love and commitment."

The statement was signed by Bruno and Bishops
Marc Handley Andrus, Barry L. Beisner, Mary Gray-Reeves, Jerry A. Lamb and James R. Mathes. (Three assistant bishops -- Chester L. Talton, Sergio Carranza and Steven Charleston -- also signed.)

The bishops concluded: "We believe that this continued access [to marriage] promotes Jesus' ethic of love, giving and hope."
Their work is designed to counter the huge organizational and financial push the amendment is receiving from leaders of the Roman Catholic and Mormon faiths.


You may remember this very talented young man, Canadian singer Daniel Okulitch, from some rehearsal pictures I posted for the new opera based on the horror movie, The Fly. Well, it’s finally opened in Los Angeles and has proved a disappointment except for the production and performance. Here are some excerpts from Anthony Tomassini’s New York Times review:

The latest manifestation of that effort came on Sunday afternoon, when Los Angeles Opera presented the American premiere of “The Fly” by the Oscar-winning composer Howard Shore, best known for his scores for the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy [and “Silence of the Lambs”]. With a libretto by the playwright David Henry Hwang, the opera is based on the director David Cronenberg’s 1986 film, for which Mr. Shore wrote the music. Mr. Cronenberg, working closely with Mr. Shore, directed this opera, a co-production with the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, where the work had its world premiere in July.

But despite the inventive staging and all-out efforts of an admirable cast — especially the courageous performance of the Canadian bass-baritone Daniel Okulitch as Seth Brundle, the obsessed scientist who morphs into the hideous creature he calls Brundlefly — “The Fly” is a ponderous and enervating opera, and the problem is Mr. Shore’s music.

At one point in Act II, Mr. Okulitch, his skin now covered in hideous scales, is suspended by wires. He enters his studio upside down, crawling along a ceiling crossbeam and then slithering head-first down a metal column, singing all the while. This is something voice students are not prepared for in conservatory training.

Mr. Okulitch, who has a warm and lyrical voice, sings with conviction, intelligence and volatility. His voice is not large, and he is sometimes drowned out, though that may be the fault of Mr. Shore’s sometimes misgauged orchestration or Mr. ]Placido] Domingo’s conducting.

The lovely Romanian mezzo-soprano Ruxandra Donose sings Veronica, the most dramatically pivotal role, with vulnerability, quiet intensity and lush colorings. She too takes risks with her portrayal. Wearing just a slip in an intimate romantic scene with Mr. Okulitch, she writhes with pleasure as he fondles her breasts and strokes her crotch. It’s hard to imagine even a go-for-broke artist from earlier times, like Teresa Stratas, consenting to such a thing. For better or worse, opera is breaking new ground.


The Wit and Wisdom of George W. Bush AND Dan Quayle

< No, I know all the war rhetoric, but it's all aimed at achieving peace.

> The Holocaust was an obscene period in our nation's history. I mean in this century's history. But we all lived in this century. I didn't live in this century.

Monday, September 08, 2008

All during the long winter of delays on the house due to bad weather; throughout the busy spring of delays on the house due to the bad weather; and into the summer moving in with the hard work on finishing details, I’ve heard you wondering, “Will and Fritz, is your life really all hard labor and NO vacation?” Well now I can reveal that there IS a vacation planned for us and that it’s coming very soon.

Later this month, we fly to Marseilles, France where we spend a day and a night seeing the city a bit and adjusting to European time. The next day, we take a train for about half an hour to
Avignon where we meet out friends from Denmark, and see the town:

The famous Roman Bridge is bottom left and the hulking Papal Palace, the largest surviving complete Gothic palace in the world, is upper right.

The next morning, we board a Viking riverboat and begin an eight day cruise up the Rhône to Lyon, where the boat joins the Saône and takes us into the heart of Burgundy. Among others, we’ll see these towns along the way:

Arles, with it’s famed Roman Arena in virtually perfect condition (center bottom) and theater of which only the seating survives (lower left):

Tournon and unchanged medieval
Viviers, in the foothills of the Alps:

Vienne, with a large Roman district including a complete Roman temple to Augustus and Livia, a forum and a largely intact theater:

Lyon, on a peninsula between the Rhône and the Saône with a famed Gallo-Roman Museum built over the remains of a handful of Roman townhouses and many Carolingian churches and other buildings:

Beaune, with a trip deep into the Burgundy vineyards, and
Chalons-sur-Saône which, among its other distinctions, was the site of the victory by Roman General Aetius that stopped the Huns’ advance and sent them retreating back East:

When the cruise ends, we’ll all fly to Copenhagen for four days at our friends’ place and our favorite activity in Denmark—visiting old historic sites and ancient buildings of which they have a gratifyingly large number. Then we go on to Amsterdam for four days to visit with Fritz’s niece, her husband and children, and then we fly back home.

Since we’ve been working on the house full tilt since June, getting away will be a nice break. There was so much work that summer seemed to race by—Labor Day actually caught me by surprise when it arrived. I’ve been through Provence before and am looking forward to being there again, and to seeing Fritz’s reaction—-this magical region of France will all be new to him.


There was a little talk last week on Ted’s The Neighbors Will Hear about how families deal with telling their children about sex, and about how they treat sex in general. Here’s my contribution to the discussion:

My father kept threatening to have a "heart to heart talk" with me at intervals over a period of about eighteen months. I knew what he was getting at but he, highly decorated WWII bombardier who had taken out oil fields, ball bearing plants and train switching yards from the Netherlands to Roumania that he was, never had the guts to get down to it.

I eventually went into the public library, pulled out the encyclopedia, looked up Reproduction, Human and drank deeply. The next time he said we'd have that heart to heart "next weekend" I told him I had it covered and that he was off the hook. A happier man you never saw.

My mother's big advice when I was packing for college, delivered in grave and very stern tones, was "no decent woman wants a second-hand husband." As this was the 1960s, I was mightily amused--and I was on a different track anyway.


The Wit and Wisdom of George W. Bush AND Dan Quayle

<<>> What a waste it is to lose one's mind. Or not to have a mind is being very wasteful. How true that is.

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