Monday, December 29, 2008
I took a picture of this family heirloom while down at my cousin's home in New Jersey a week ago. It is one of the many, many pieces carved by my grandfather Alessandro, the marble sculptor from Carrara in northwest Italy.
I had a second meeting today in Boston with the director of the next opera production I'm designing, Riders to the Sea by Ralph Vaughn Williams. It's a short one act piece based on a play by Irish author J.M.Synge that takes place on one of the Aran Islands. It's filled with fatalism, and is in one of the many styles that grew up following--and in opposition to--realism.
The "action" takes place in a peasant cottage where Maurya, who has lost her husband, her husband's father and four of her sons to the sea, finds out that her missing fifth son who has vanished has been identified by pieces of clothing floating in the sea. The body of her sixth and last is borne in near the end of the work, which she ends with a powerful incantation-like elegy over the body while declaring that it is over for her, the sea having taken all it can from her and she is now at rest.
It must sound appallingly grim in that telling but in point of fact there's something powerfully cathartic in it. The director and I discussed from the beginning of our very first meeting that there are huge, mythic aspects to the piece and that it relates closely to Greek Tragedy (a fact that has been long since recognized by critics and dramaturgs. As she puts it, most audiences who go to it expect a "little play" in one realistic set, with a small cast and one basic mood and neither of us feels that is what it's about.
I designed Riders a couple of decades ago and the set I designed in response to that director's concept used elements of realism but the general feeling is almost of Japanese Noh drama with that massive beam hanging oppressively over everyone. I'll be posting the new designs in about two weeks and they will be totally removed from anything approaching realism and will investigate pre-Christian Celtic ritual, which is what is really going on in the deceptively simple written text. Vaughn Williams's powerful score also supports such an interpretation, we feel. Watch this space.
A few of us who were particular admirers of the recently deceased Eartha Kitt have been in contact after seeing each others' blog tributes, but there is one important piece of Ms Kitt's early work that I remember vividly but have not seen mentioned in any obituary or tribute in any medium. After digging through various searches, I finally came up with the following:
Best known in 1955 as a sultry singer, Eartha Kitt returned to her dancing roots in this hour-long TV adaptation of Oscar Wilde's one-act play Salome. In one of his earliest TV appearance, Martin Landau costars as the prophet Jokanaan, better known as John the Baptist. When he denounces King Herod (Leo Genn) for marrying his brother's divorced wife Herodias (Patricia Neal), Jokanaan is thrown into prison on Herodias' orders.
By chance, Jokanaan's incarceration coincides with a visit from Salome (Eartha Kitt), Herodias' daughter from her earlier marriage. Attracted to the charismatic prophet, Salome is outraged when Jokanaan spurns her. Small wonder, then, that Salome agrees to perform the celebrated Dance of the Seven Veils for her uncle Herod if he will grant her one little request: The head of Jokanaan, served on a platter. Forsaking the familiar music from Richard Strauss' opera version of Salome, this production offers a newly orchestrated score.
A live presentation of the prestigious Sunday-afternoon NBC anthology Omnibus (where it originally shared the bill with a concert by musical satirist Anna Russell), Salome exists today in kinescope form in a handful of private collections. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide
Some of you may recognize the names of actors who were, or who were to become, very prominent among the supporting cast. Eartha, of course did her own dance of the Seven Veils and was quite sensational in the part. I was young and had never heard of Wilde before, but while watching Kitt, I realized I was experiencing something extraordinary. Omnibus was hosted by Alistair Cooke and was up for just about any subject in the arts, history, culture in general--and all broadcast live, as was a lot of other drama at the time.
One cast member Mr. Erickson doesn't mention I found in another source, and it came as quite a jolt. In a relatively small role was the very young--just sixteen--and beautiful Sal Mineo (credited then as Salvatore Mineo). This means that his performance on this major national live telecast came just six years after the New York City Police had picked him up in the Bronx in a sweep of notorious gang members.
Because he was so young, the Judge who must have been extremely prescient, read the riot act to the boy and then offered him a choice between juvenile prison or probation if he joined a very demanding theater program in acting and dance. Although only ten years old, he made the right choice.
Sal would live to appear in a number of very important movies, and would die in Hollywood way too young at the hands of a knife-wielding mugger.
Friday, December 26, 2008
17 January, 1927--25 December, 2008
This is a "favorite things" meme. I promise there are no whiskers on kittens or brown paper packages tied up with string anywhere in the answers. It comes, with thanks, from Yves Paul's Melodramatic Diary of a Cynic:
Fill in your favorite for each of the following:
1. Political show: Washington Week in Review. Runner up: The Colbert Report
2. Picnic food: Chicken Salad, with really good deviled eggs coming in a close second.
3. Mixed drink: Gin & Tonic, extremely cold
4. U.S. President: J.F.K.
5. Kind of student to teach: One who values knowledge for itself, not just as a stepping stone to the kind of job to which it might lead.
6. Hobby you do or wish you still did: Gardening (do); building scale models of historic buildings out of toothpicks (did)
7. Sports commentator: None—they scream at the top of their voices. It's exhausting and totally unnecessary.
8. Sport to watch on TV: Ice dancing. Yes, I’m that gay.
9. Animal to have as a pet: Cats, always and forever.
10. Halloween costume you have worn: This year, Vlad Dracul—yes, Dracula himself.
11. Kind of dessert: Fruit pies, but I can always be seued by chocolate.
12. Comic strip: Dilbert.
13. Ice cream flavor: Cookie dough.
14. News source: BBC International Service.
15. Vacation spot: Europe.
16. Wine: Dry whites (Pinot Grigio).
17. Way to waste time instead of working: Answering memes on my blog :-)
18. Reality show: I hate them all. Boy Meets Boy was tolerable for all the handsome half-naked men, but it was gay, so it was dropped very fast.
19. Children's movie: The Little Mermaid—for Pat Carroll’s Ursula the Sea Witch above and beyond anything else.
20. Celebrity you wish would retire: Brittney Spears, Paris Hilton, et al.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Happy Christmas, Happy Hannukah! To all of you who’ve ever read DesignerBlog, who’ve left comments, who’ve become friends, who’ve gotten together with me for lunch or dinner, visited my home, shared something of your lives and inner selves with me—you have made blogging a fun, always surprising, rich and deeply rewarding experience. Thank you, and my best wishes for the holidays and the coming new year.
The house after the back-to-back storms of last weekend
Speaking of blogging surprises, I got an email last week from fellow blogger David Castle, an artist who works in the Denver area. He told me he’s been particularly interested in the development of the new house and asked if I’d accept one of his hand-made ornaments for Christmas, one of a series he’d made to thank people who’d inspired him in some way. I wrote back to thank him and accept with gratitude.
The ornament was waiting for me in the mailbox when Fritz and I got back from New Jersey on Tuesday. It’s now on our Christmas Tree. David’s work reflects textures of the land and water, including New England colors. The URL for his site is http://www.davidcastleart.com/
and his own blog is at http://davidcastleart.wordpress.com/ Thank you, David!
George Bush, as has been widely reported, is now deeply concerned about how his legacy will be perceived and is working hard to come up with something—anything—he might have done that could remotely be seen as positive for the country. Well, he’s done one thing, albeit inadvertently: in this time of economic crisis and massive unemployment, the good news is that Bush was involved in the creation of 100 new jobs--the bad news is that they’re all in Turkey. The story:
Stampede for 'Bush shoe' creates 100 new jobs
Robert Tait in Istanbul
The Guardian, Monday 22 December 2008
Their deployment as a makeshift missile robbed President George Bush of his dignity and landed their owner in jail. But the world's most notorious pair of shoes has yielded an unexpected bonanza for a Turkish shoemaker.
Ramazan Baydan, owner of the Istanbul-based Baydan Shoe Company [http://www.baydanshoes.com], has been swamped with orders from across the world, after insisting that his company produced the black leather shoes that the Iraqi journalist Muntazar al-Zaidi threw at Bush during a press conference in Baghdad last Sunday.
Baydan has recruited an extra 100 staff to meet orders for 300,000 pairs of Model 271 - more than four times the shoe's normal annual sale - following an outpouring of support for Zaidi's act, which was intended as a protest, but led to his arrest by Iraqi security forces.
Orders have come mainly from the US and Britain, and from neighbouring Muslim countries, he said.
Around 120,000 pairs have been ordered from Iraq, while a US company has placed a request for 18,000. A British firm is understood to have offered to serve as European distributor for the shoes, which have been on the market since 1999 and sell at around £28 in Turkey. A sharp rise in orders has been recorded in Syria, Egypt and Iran, where the main shoemaker's federation has offered to provide Zaidi and his family with a lifetime's supply of shoes.
To meet the mood of the marketplace, Baydan is planning to rename the model "the Bush Shoe" or "Bye-Bye Bush". "We've been selling these shoes for years but, thanks to Bush, orders are flying in like crazy. I've even hired an agency to look at television advertising," he said.
But wait—there’s more. Americans have been taking old shoes, putting them in boxes and padded shipping envelopes addressed to George W. Bush, and flooding the White House mailroom with them. I wonder : does the mailroom staff take them up to the president’s West Wing office and throw them at him?
Some things never change; some people insist on remaining mired in ignorance and and stupidity. Excerpted from a BBC News item:
-In a speech Monday, Pope Benedict XVI asserted that saving mankind from gays and transgenderism was as important as saving the rainforest.
“We need something like human ecology, meant in the right way,” said the pontiff. “The Church speaks of human nature as ‘man’ or ‘woman’ and asks that this order is respected… The rain forests deserve our protection, but man as a creature indeed deserves no less.”
The Rev. Sharon Ferguson of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement took the Pope to task for his comments: “It is more the case that we need to be saved from his comments. It is comments like that that justify homophobic bullying that goes on in schools and it is comments like that that justify gay bashing.
“There are still so many instances of people being killed around the world, including in western society, purely and simply because of their sexual orientation or their gender identity.
“When you have religious leaders like that making that sort of statement then followers feel they are justified in behaving in an aggressive and violent way because they feel that they are doing God’s work in ridding the world of these people.”
Sunday, December 21, 2008
They are completely and utterly disingenuous. They don't mean a word of it. They don't give a damn what the Bible says. They just want to use it as an instrument of hate.
The Bible says eating shellfish is an abomination. Yet there are no Red Lobster Amendments. The Bible says you shall not wear two different types of cloths at the same time. Yet there are no Propositions against cotton and wool combos.
The Bible says you should leave your family and join Jesus Christ. The religious right pretends that Jesus was about family values. He wanted you to abandon your family. Read the Bible.
The religious right pretends that the Bible says marriage is between one man and one woman. But that is a bald faced lie. Have any of these people ever read the Bible? The Bible is full of men taking on second wives, servants, prostitutes and concubines. And all the while, God heartily approves. How many wives did King David have? Eight? Twelve? Let alone his possibly gay lover, Jonathan.
Now the Bible says that a man shall not lie with another man. That is true. But it also says, in the same exact book, that adultery is an abomination. And the just punishment for this sin is execution. So, who will execute the first adulterer? Please step on up. May the one without any Biblical sin cast the first stone.
Here is a question no one can answer -- and lucky for the right wing, the media never bothers to ask -- why do you only focus on the part of the Bible against homosexuality but not on the part against adultery? It's one thing to say you're against adultery; it's another to take away their rights. How come no religious figure in this country has mounted a campaign to take away the rights of adulterers? Let alone execute them.
I'll tell you why. Because there are too many of them. Their followers are adulterers. They don't make for good scapegoats. They are not an easy target to ostracize and focus your hatred on. Gays are perfect. They are a small enough percentage of the population and different enough from the rest of us to be able to get people to focus their negative, barbaric instincts on them. The Bible is only a tool for this tribal, ugly tactic.
But I am tired of hearing people saying that homosexuality is a sin in the Bible when they never quote the rest of the Bible (probably because a great majority of church goers have never independently read the Bible or they have built up a reservoir of excuses for the parts they find inconvenient). So, from now, I would like to tell the Rick Warrens of the world, you are perfectly allowed to say how much you would like to take gay people's rights away from them based on the Bible so long as you agree to do one thing first -- execute an adulterer.
If you can do that for me, then I'll believe that you actually believe in the Bible literally and will accept your literal argument against homosexuality. Fair is fair. Step on up.
PS -- In case anyone is a maniacal literalist, please do not actually attempt to execute any adulterers or anyone else. Check yourself into a mental hospital instead because the seven-headed dragon in Revelations could be out to get you.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
The following speaks for itself. I posted it this afternoon on the site specifically set up to contact Barack Obama with comments on his soon-to-be Presidency. The URL, should you wish to add your own comment, is: http://change.gov/page/content/contact/
Dear Mr. President-elect:
I am writing out of feelings of extreme disappointment, concern and betrayal over the invitation to Reverend Rick Warren to be a highly visible and approved voice at your inauguration.
I voted enthusiastically for you and co-hosted an event in support of your election to the Presidency, which I felt was essential to returning this country to sane and responsible government. As a legally married (Commonwealth of Massachusetts) gay man, I understood that you do not support gay marriage but you did not seem to be overtly homophobic and, in fact, appeared to support gay rights in general. I understand completely that one can be against gay marriage and NOT be a hate-monger.
However, Reverend Rick Warren IS a hate-monger and his very recent comments informing me that my marriage is down there with incest, pedophilia and polygamy are a gut punch insult of a kind I voted for you to end forever. I have read and tried to accept your public comments this morning that we must have inclusion and dialog again in this country, and I couldn't agree more. BUT, are you inviting the Klan to march in your Inaugural parade?--the Neo-Nazi skinheads?--Aryan Nation? I thought not.
However, Reverend Warren's presence at the lectern on January 20th reinforces the sad truth with which gay men and lesbians still live in the United States: that we are the last minority it is not only acceptable, but perhaps even respectable, to hate and discriminate against.
I must respectfully but urgently recommend that the invitation to Reverend Warren be withdrawn and that your long hoped-for Inauguration will not be tainted by bigotry and anti-gay rhetoric.
William A. F______
Faculty of Music and Theater Arts (retired)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
In the media frenzy over the shoe-throwing incident during Bozo’s appearance with the President of Iraq, I became aware of the depiction in mosaic of Bozo’s father President George H. W. Bush on the floor of the Al-Rashid Hotel's lobby. All visitors entering the hotel are forced to walk on Bush's face to enter the hotel.
If anyone still doesn’t know it, throwing shoes at someone or even revealing the soles of the shoes to someone, is considered a major expression of contempt in Islamic culture
A slightly belated Happy 100th Birthday (December 12) to American Composer Elliot Carter! Mr. Carter celebrated in Boston and New York City as the Boston Symphony presented a new horn concerto by the astonishingly vigorous and mentally acute composer, as well as other very recent compositions by this major musician in an unprecedentedly prolific extended Indian summer to a very distinguished career. Mr. Carter continues to write as he enters his 101st year.
A huge number of musical compositions in many genres have been inspired by paintings, sculpture and other arts. Moussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition (paintings by Victor Hartmen); Resphigi's Church Windows and Botticelli Trilogy; Henze's cantata after Gericault's Raft of the Frigate Medusa; Rachmaninoff's Isle of the Dead from Bocklin's famous painting; Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with George (Seurat); Stravinski's The rake's Progress (after Hogarth); Benvenuto Cellini by Berlioz (statue of Perseus)--these are just off the top of my head.
From the New York Times, here's the latest entry in a crowded, very rich field:
Music Review: 'Later the Same Evening'
If Hopper’s Freeze-Frame Magic Sprang to Life
By VIVIEN SCHWEITZER
Edward Hopper’s cityscapes evoke many possible narratives of loneliness and solitude, some of which are imaginatively brought to life by “Later the Same Evening,” a one-act opera inspired by five of his paintings.
A joint production of the University of Maryland and the National Gallery of Art in Washington (which hosted a Hopper exhibition last year), the work, which has a score by John Musto, received its New York premiere last week at the Manhattan School of Music.
In Erhard Rom’s simple, elegant set, five Hopper paintings are hung on a gallery wall. The opera unfolds over one evening in New York in 1932, with each scene a vignette involving people in Hopper’s cityscapes — whose lives then intermingle with the figures in the other pictures. There were additional characters in the plot not taken from any of the paintings.
The clever concept, the brainchild of Leon Major, is vividly realized by his intelligent directing and Mark Campbell’s witty libretto. David O. Roberts’s costumes and Scott Bolman’s lighting evocatively recreate the ambience of each painting.
The opera begins with Elaine and Gus O’Neill, a dysfunctional couple inspired by Hopper’s “Room in New York.” During their scene of marital discontent (in which Elaine picks out Broadway tunes on an imaginary piano) Estelle Oglethorpe, a newly widowed woman waiting for her date, perches on a sofa at the side of the stage — the very image of the solitary lady in Hopper’s “Hotel Window.”
The young woman in “Hotel Room” becomes Ruth Baldwin, writing a letter to her boyfriend, Joe, explaining that she is leaving the city.
Mr. Musto’s musical-theater-like score, which features recurring marimba riffs, chromatic interludes, fugal passages and hints of blues and jazz, was effectively conducted by Michael Barrett. The promising young cast on Sunday from the Manhattan School of Music’s Opera Theater included Jaclyn Bermudez as Elaine and Min Won Shin as Ruth.
Thelma, the woman from Hopper’s “Automat,” becomes the usher in a particularly effective scene (inspired by his “Two on the Aisle”) in which most of the characters (including Estelle and her date) watch a Broadway show. In the final scene a dejected Joe (devastated that Ruth has stood him up) walks into a cafe and encounters Thelma: hints of a future love affair that could allow Hopper’s solitary characters to escape the lonely destiny he imposed on them.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Others here in New Hampshire will not be so fortunate. Public Service of NH estimates that some customers will not have their electricity restored until Thursday or, perhaps, Friday.
When got back here from New York on Friday early in the afternoon, I had to pick my way around road closures due to fallen trees, utility poles and live wires. Signs of ice on trees and bushes began with a light coating in northern Connecticut that was pretty but not dangerous. As I passed through Worcester, MA, radio news was speaking of how hard the city had been hit by the ice storm, with no electricity anywhere. As I got further north into Massachusetts along route 495, shattered and downed trees became common.
When I pulled off route 93 in Derry, NH, there was no power anywhere. Amazingly, the big Shaw's supermarket was operating with emergency lights, so I stopped in to buy a twelve pack of one-liter bottles of water. From there I had to pick my way around police barricades closing roads for power lines and trees across the roads on route 102 toward home. And when I got there, this is what I saw:
The sun was out, brilliantly illuminating the ice-glazed trees. This is the road up to the house.
There was one heart-breaking loss. One of the more than hundred year old sugar maples that surround Fritz's parking lot, from which we get sap for boiling down into syrup, lay shattered on the ground, having taken two picnic tables out with it. When the weather moderates next week, we'll get the chain saws out and begin cutting and stacking it to season for next winter's firewood.
We were luckier than many households, as we have the Aga stove centrally placed in the house: 1400 pounds of cast iron gently radiating heat like a Russian stove and still in operation because the propane tank doesn't require electricity to supply the stove. The house is super-insulated and built for maximum solar gain. We also have a wood-burning stove in the great room. Heat and cooking weren't a problem, but the pump in the well was non-functional. We set buckets under the eaves to catch water melting off the roof to use for flushing our toilets (we later realized we could bail some water out of the hot tub to do this, as well). We broke out the oil lamps and candles and settled in for the duration.
By this morning, I remembered that a couple of aluminum pie tins were in the recycling bin and rigged up some reflectors for one of the lamps and a candle. This was our dinner table this evening--very Little House on the Prairie, no? Shortly thereafter, the power came back. I celebrated by running two loads of laundry and and a dishwasher load. And tonight before bed--a hot shower!
Friday, December 12, 2008
Coming back after the performance was worse. To get from Manhattan to the Riverdale section of the Bronx via the West Side Highway--normally twenty minutes--took one hour forty-five. I woke up this morning unable to call Fritz because the phones appear to be out in southern New Hampshire. From what I gather there was a big storm there and if power and phones are out, they could be out for a couple of days, and internet would be gone, too. I hope you'll hear from me soon, but if it doesn't happen, that will be why.
Monday, December 08, 2008
Flag Hill, our local winery that makes a superb white from the Cayuga grape and a lovely smooth liqueur from maple syrup, for the first shopping season I can remember is now closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. A new stove shop that had a big “open 12/6” turned out to be full of carpenters and is definitely not going to be in a position to make its first sale until the new year.
WalMart’s garden section had been converted into a Christmas shop with only its birdseed stock out for the public to buy. But Lowe’s had its full garden shop in full swing and I did find one item that would work for a friend who both gardens and loves tchotchkes. This was a small steel rod trellis set with bells that will ring gently in the wind, in a verdigris finish and decidedly non-tacky. But the tag had a big surprise: CLEARANCE $25.96 WAS $25.97!
The only gift I scored today--and I saved a whole penny!
Your result for What Your Taste in Art Says About You Test...
Traditional, Vibrant, and TastefulPeople that like Islamic art tend to be more traditional people that appreciate keeping patterns that they learned and experienced from their past. It is not to say that they are not innovative personalities, they just do not like to let go of their roots. They like to put new ideas into details and make certain that they will work before sharing them with others. Failure is not something they like to think about because they are more interested in being successful and appreciated for their intelligence. These people can also be or like elaborate things in their life as long as they are tasteful. They tend to prefer geometric patterns and vibrant colors.
COMPARED TO OTHER TAKERS
You scored -2 on Impressionist, higher than 35% of your peers.
You scored 21 on Islamic, higher than 94% of your peers.
You scored 7 on Ukiyo-e, higher than 59% of your peers.
You scored 9 on Cubist, higher than 88% of your peers.
You scored -18 on Abstract, higher than 32% of your peers.
You scored -6 on Renaissance, higher than 38% of your peers.
I’m still wondering if I believe this analysis or not, but there’s no question that I’ve been studying Islamic art and Asian art in general-- and been influenced by them--for many, many years (Fritz refers to my studio/office upstairs as “The Casbah”). Whether I’m as “traditional” as the survey says I’m not so sure, but the survey's all visual and fun to take.
This came from one of my friends:
When a man is quiet… millions of things are running in his mind
When a man is not arguing… he is thinking deeply
When a man looks at you with eyes full of questions… he is wondering how long you will be around
When a man answers “I’m fine” after a few seconds… he is not at all fine
When a man stares at you… he is wondering why you are lying
When a man lets you lay on his chest… he is wishing for you to be his forever
When a man wants to see you everyday… he wants to be yours forever
When a man says “I love you”… he means it
When a man says “I miss you”… no one in this world can miss you more than that
Life only comes around once; make sure you spend it with the right person
Find a guy:
Who calls you beautiful instead of hot,
Who calls you back when you hang up on him,
Who will stay awake just to watch you sleep,
Wait for the guy:
Who kisses your forehead,
Who wants to show you off to the world when you are in sweats,
Who holds your hand in front of his friends,
Who is constantly reminding you of how much he cares about you and how lucky he is to have you.
A couple of weeks ago I got an email from one of Fritz's former students, a west coaster who I had the pleasure of meeting the last time he came east, saying all excitedly that he had sent us a package in which was something just perfect for us. It came, we opened it and broke out laughing. It's called The Ex and we particularly loved the description in the lower left hand corner: with unique Cathartic Knife Holder.
The knives themselves are one-piece stainless steel and are of excellent quality. The unique Cathartic Knife Holder is priceless!
Saturday, December 06, 2008
As you can see, there’s fluctuation from day to day depending on the weather. There are blank days throughout the log (as with December 4) because the digital readout goes off some time after the day becomes dark enough to stop power generation. If I’m away in the afternoon or if I misjudge the time, I get to a blank screen and there’s no way, unfortunately, to retrieve the information.
What I do know is that our total electrical production is 674 kw since the system went into operation in late July.
In other energy-related news, Fritz and I got back to the house from an afternoon away last week to discover the house was chilly and the Aga stove had gone almost cold--we had run out of propane. When I signed with the company that supplies us, I told them I had an Aga and was assured that they were familiar with its propane consumption and would schedule tank fillings accordingly. Clearly, they’d miscalculated.
Because we’d gotten home after the end of the business day, it took a while to get a delivery. By the time the talk was full, the Aga needed to go through it’s entire twelve to thirteen hour fire-up procedure which uses up a lot of gas. I was prepared for this the first time we fired it up, but wasn’t expecting to have to do it all over again just four months later.
I spoke with the propane company the next morning and told them I didn’t want this to happen ever again. They were more or less sufficiently apologetic and did promise to shorten the time between fills on my account’s schedule, even to the point of coming way too often. I said that would be preferable to our running out ever again.
The top of the Aga is too hot for a cat but the stone counter is just nicely warm and has become Starr's preferred perch despite the fact that she's not supposed to be up on table tops or counters. She's a cat and she has her own agenda.
This Christmas meme came not from a blogger but from a long-time friend of Fritz’s (and now of mine) who lives with his husband north of San Francisco in a wonderful house they’ve renovated themselves. He reads this blog (Hi, Skip!) so I decided to answer him here and let any of you who like it take a crack at it yourselves.
1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Paper, 99.9% of the time. Occasionally a bottle of wine gets dropped into a bag.
2. Real tree or artificial? Real, always. We grow our own here. Fritz was doing that for years before he and I met and we keep planting new baby trees for the future.
4. When do you take the tree down? Somewhere around a week after New Years.
5. Do you like eggnog? Once a year it’s just fine, particularly if it has a nice shot or rum or brandy in it. Then I’m really happy to build anticipation for another 364 days.
6. Favorite gift received as a child? A continuing one—the complete set of Landmark Books from Random House, world history written for children but not diluted or bowdlerized. They fueled my growing interest in history and established my current reading habits.
7. Hardest person to buy for? Anyone old enough and in a household established for enough years so that they already have EVERYTHING--and are actually trying to get rid of some.
8. Easiest person to buy for? My younger daughter. A gift certificate to Bloomingdale's, some gourmet foodstuffs, some dumb but wonderfully funny garment for her little poodle and we’re done.
9. Do you have a nativity scene? I have a set of hand-carved African wood sculptures that I gathered from various stores, matching the sculpture to a character in the story. I never found a child figure to go with the others so I asked a friend who whittled to make me one, specifying that it had to look like the St. Joseph figure. Joseph is so kicked to the curb in the story that I thought he deserved a little attention even if the baby isn’t his.
It’s purely cultural—I left belief behind long ago.
10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Analog cards, in envelopes, with stamps and hand addressed. 11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? A CD by someone named Paul Potts, a Brit caterwauling opera arias, trying to sound like Andrea Bocelli, which is bad enough to begin with.
12. Favorite Christmas Movie? The Ten Commandments. “Oh, Moses, Moses!” Hollywood Biblical schlock in excelsis. And Ann Baxter is so pretty and evil-vamp. Heston is completely wooden as an actor but looks great when he comes down from the mountain with the tablets of the law and two streaks of Max Factor “I have seen the Lord” gray in his hair. John Derek’s chest isn’t too bad, either.
13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? I do it all throughout the year.
14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? I probably did once but I can’t remember and really wouldn’t want to unless my back was to the wall. Regifting sometimes does happen as a host or hostess gift when going to dinner and only if it wasn’t terminally tacky to begin with.
15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Home-made Scotch shortbread. A woman at my father’s office used to make it and give boxes of it to everybody in their little unit. Vast amounts of butter were involved. Currently, Fritz’s maple syrup and walnut pie that he invented, using our own syrup. Or his maple mousse which is to die for--or from, given the amount of whipped cream involved.
16. Lights on the tree: Yes, including one or two surviving 1950s lights with the candle shaped glass tubs full of bubbling colored water.
17. Favorite Christmas song? I’ve come to hate most of them but Adolph Adam,’s Cantique du Noel (O, holy night) and the Ukrainian Carol of the Bells are two I actually look forward to hearing.
18. Travel at Christmas or stay at home? Whatever can be arranged with all the members of our far-flung families.
19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeers? Yes, and so can you—just memorize the brief introduction to “Rudolph the red nosed reindeer”—they’re all there, and with the music, they'll stick in your mind. If you want that kind of thing stuck there.
20. Angel on the tree top or a star. Over the years it’s been many things including a lovely white dove of peace that I think is more appropriate than anything else.
21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? One on Christmas eve and the rest the next morning.
22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year? The Little a-rum-pum-pum-pum-pumming Drummer Boy---I loathe it.
23. What theme or color are you using? I’m a theatrical designer and Fritz has designed, so there’s lots of color here always. We use the traditional red and green a lot for Christmas.
24. Favorite for Christmas dinner. Champagne!
25. What do you want for Christmas this year? Gift certificates to a particular nursery here as we have masses of planting and landscaping to do in the spring.
26. Who is most likely to respond to this? To judge by the pattern of response in my comments, I’d guess Lewis, Dr. Michael, and maybe Mark (Romach)—no pressure, guys!
27. Who is least likely to respond to this? Maybe I’ll be surprised, but RG, Karl and Jake.
The following is a comment I left on Mike Hillwig’s blog in response to his thoughts on a boycott against companies that contributed to the campaign to pass the infamous Proposition 8 in California:
Ultimately it all comes down to demographics. Marginalized folks have no clout until they become economically valuable to big mainstream businesses. I think it’s obnoxious but it’s the way of the world: if you’re poor your rights are far from secure.
We know, of course, that not all gay men and lesbians live the gilded lifestyle. Many struggle to get along, but the perception is that we all have the cash for debauched cruises, body waxing and a constantly renewed wardrobe. For this we will be tolerated by corporate America. As the line in the song from Steven Sondheim’s A Little Night Music rightly says: “It’s intolerable being tolerated.” Our rights need to be guaranteed not at the ballot box but by the highest courts in the land.
And, yes, those who are all too anxious to take our money and then contribute some of it to the suppression of our rights need to be punished and punished severely the only way they understand—kill their profits by refusing to take their tainted goods and services and let the scum go bankrupt.
Thursday, December 04, 2008
This is what I see every morning as the sun rises behind the white pines, framed in the window at the foot of our bed.
I’ve been working hard on the low stone wall that will enclose the big garden directly in front of the house. The ground had actually frozen last week but thawed with moderating temperatures after the weekend, allowing me to put the foundation in below ground level. I certainly won’t finish it or even come close before serious winter sets in, but the more I can get done the better.
I discovered that despite several nights in the low 20s, one little petunia has somehow managed to survive and put out new growth in one of the two planting urns in front of the house.
A little surrealism this fall on the Cape:
Mystery Piano Found Deep In Cape Cod Woods
Piano Found In Perfect Working Condition
HARWICH, Mass. -- No one has come forward to explain a musical mystery discovered deep in the woods on Cape Cod. A woman walking in the Bells Neck Woods on Saturday afternoon came upon a piano in perfect working condition.
The Baldwin piano, which had a matching bench, was set up as if someone was about to sit down and play, reported WCVB-TV in Boston. Despite efforts by police to locate its owner, or at least explain how it came to be in a conservation area, police Monday said no one has contacted them.
No more musical instruments have been found, police told the Cape Cod Times. "No flutes, no clarinets. We haven't got a band yet."
The piano is so heavy that it took more than a half-dozen men to load it onto a truck.
Because the piano had not been damaged, it could not have been pushed out of a vehicle, police said. Someone took great care to place it in the conservation area in superb condition. Police have no idea how long it had been in the woods.