Saturday, May 30, 2009

 
So, what do you want to bet Nancy Pelosi sent Sonia Sotomayor a humongous bouquet of flowers and a heartfelt note thanking her for taking all the media attention away from Pelosi’s “what did you know and when did you know it” problem? Ever since the president’s nomination of Sotomayor for the Supreme Court, there hasn’t been so much as a whisper of Pelosi in any of the media I monitor.

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The stage is set for another vote on gay marriage in the New Hampshire Legislature. A little over a week after the House rejected language Gov. John Lynch had demanded, House and Senate negotiators agreed to a compromise Friday that added one sentence and changed one word in the Senate-passed bill. Negotiators planned to sign off on the final language by Monday, allowing for a vote by the full House and Senate on Wednesday.

It’s going to be a tense wait this coming week to see 1) if both houses of the Legislature approve this newly worked-out compromise, and 2) if the governor signs, vetos or allows the bill to become law without his signature. It’s a case of déjà vu all over again as we were in this same spot a couple of weeks ago.

Lynch has said he’d sign the bill if he got the new language he wanted, but earlier in the marriage equality debate, he said he’d veto a gay marriage bill if it came before him. He now has conflicting obligations—signing the bill is owed to the gay, lesbian and increasingly liberal New Hampshire citizenry; vetoing the bill is being demanded by the diminishing but still strident Right Wing here that will pounce if he fails to “keep his promise” to defend traditional marriage.

Drama much?

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Fritz and I have a joke between us: whenever we start out on a road trip we lay out our route and schedule and add, “but if there’s a sign ‘See the Two-headed Calf,’ we’ll stop and see the two-headed calf.” It all comes from an incident during his early adulthood when he and his mother were on a trip, saw such a sign, and did indeed go off-route to see the two-headed calf.

Well, we’ve never seen such a sign during our years together, although we have stopped to check out some unexpected and interesting things. This, however, is truly one for the books:

Cat in China grows a pair of wings

Feline was born normal but developed appendages at age 1, family says
Wed., May 27, 2009


A kitty in Chongqing, China, is getting some extra-special attention these days: The furry feline has developed wings! Though born looking completely normal, once the cat hit the age of 1, he began growing wing-shaped appendages on either side of his spine, the U.K.'s Daily Mail reports.

While some think the bony limbs may be a mutation of some kind — or even a Siamese twin growing inside the cat — others speculate it's a genetic change perhaps caused by chemicals ingested by the kitty's mother while she was pregnant.

Although the growths appear fluffy, they contain bone. But veterinary experts say that despite the hard inner core, the flaps do not harm the cat's quality of life or safety.


And that cat is not the only one--several animals were photographed with the furry protuberances by a local newspaper photographer.

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This is one of two rock gardens on the property—actually a retaining wall for the berm that runs around three sides of the house. The plant in the left foreground is catnip. The dense flat beds top center and lower right are two varieties of the herb thyme. Marigolds and other flowers grow out of pockets among the rocks.


This is a new activity for Starr—she’s never wanted to sleep in a cat bed before. However Fritz lined this one with a bit of faux fur fabric and dropped in a couple of leaves from the catnip plant and she decided cat beds weren’t such a bad idea after all.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

 
It was an “interesting” day on my Facebook page. I put this comment on the top as my daily status:

“William isn't surprised but is disgusted at Conservative attacks on Sonia Sotomayor as lacking intelligence and real experience.”

I have for a long time been deeply unhappy with the attack and insult culture that has become typical of our political process in the last two or three decades. Virtually the moment that Judge Sotomayor was nominated by the president, the word was being put out that she was deficient in intelligence and lacked experience for the position. By any standards, both contentions are ridiculous. But personal attack has become a common tool in our debased public “discourse” these days--a cheap and easy way to score points instead of engaging in reasoned debate over the real issues.

How has this come about? How have we lost the civility to discuss, to engage in productive debate and to respect each other even while maintaining divergent opinions? It wasn’t always thus. I’m just old enough to remember political debate where policies and proposals were the target, not the personal traits of the other candidate. It’s about attacking the identity of the person on the other side (Liberal! Homosexual! Muslim! Foreigner! Woman!) It’s unacceptably ugly now.

Several years ago it occurred to me that Don Rickles may have had something to do with a major shift in the way we treat each other. He may have been part of the cause, a symptom of the situation, or perhaps a product of it, but his brutal insult “humor” seemed to me both unfunny and unhealthy even as audiences were roaring laughing at the abuse he heaped on people--including some of them. Throughout society, put-downs and outright invective began to replace basic politeness. Rodney Dangerfield may have been the comic who got no respect, but Rickles was the one who gave none.

At any rate, the “conversation" on my page quickly escalated out of control. I eventually rejoined and pointed out that all the issues that were being thrown about were irrelevant to my point, which was that the substantive topics—a judge’s legal philosophy and record of decisions--are matters that should be examined seriously, and with dignity, but that personal attacks and vicious insults should have no place in the debate.

Yeah, I know I’m living in the past here, but I think it’s time to reintroduce civility into American life.

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Whether it’s a coincidence or a direct result of the enormous presence of Christian denominations in the political process these days, three bloggers recently researched and posted quotes by major figures in the founding and early history of this country that throw a strongly revealing light on the claims that the USA is a “Christian nation.” Please remember that the majority of the “Founding Fathers” were Freemasons, a secret society that was both politically progressive and anti-clerical.

With thanks to Alexander of Voenix Rising:

“The Bible is not my book nor Christianity my profession. I could never give assent to the long, complicated statements of Christian dogma.”
- Abraham Lincoln, American president (1809-1865).

“I have found Christian dogma unintelligible. Early in life, I absenteed myself from Christian assemblies.”
“Lighthouses are more helpful then churches.”
-Benjamin Franklin, American Founding Father


“Where do we find a precept in the Bible for Creeds, Confessions, Doctrines and Oaths, and whole carloads of other trumpery that we find religion encumbered with in these days?”
“The divinity of Jesus is made a convenient cover for absurdity.”
“This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it.”
-John Adams, U.S. President, Founding Father of the United States

With thanks to Scott at Bill in Exile for the next three:

“As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility {sic}, of Mussulmen {Muslims}; and, as the said States never have entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”
-This is from the Treaty of Tripoli, 1797


“The United States have adventured upon a great and noble experiment, which is believed to have been hazarded in the absence of all previous precedent — that of total separation of Church and State. No religious establishment by law exists among us. The conscience is left free from all restraint and each is permitted to worship his Maker after his own judgment. The offices of the Government are open alike to all. No tithes are levied to support an established Hierarchy, nor is the fallible judgment of man set up as the sure and infallible creed of faith. The Mohammedan, if he will to come among us would have the privilege guaranteed to him by the constitution to worship according to the Koran; and the East Indian might erect a shrine to Brahma, if it so pleased him. Such is the spirit of toleration inculcated by our political Institutions.”
-John Tyler, tenth President of the United States

“The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy — a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support … May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants — while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.”
-George Washington, first President and Father of the Country

I blush to admit that I’ve lost track of the blogger who posted this:

“Religion [which] I found to be without any tendency to inspire, promote, or confirm morality, serves principally to divide us and make us unfriendly to one another.”
Benjamin Franklin, Founding Father of the USA

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

 
We're getting ready for our big yard sale this coming Sunday. This is the one we could/ should/might have had last summer if we weren't so busy moving in and doing finishing details on the house.

Many of you have been in the same situation, I'm sure: you've been living alone for some years, you're gay, you entertain--dinner parties, out of town friends and family, the boys over for drinks, post-production cast parties (for those of you in the performing arts as I am), or gentlemen invited to stay the night--so you have dishes, linens and bedding of various kinds, glassware, lots of cookware, lots of stuff. Then you move in together and there's immense amounts of overlap.

In my case I also had everything my daughters grew up with and everything they went to college with, ALL of which they swore faithfully they would come and take within a year or two of graduation. They LIED to me! Also, I was transitioning from a very busy and demanding career to a much more relaxed lifestyle and divesting myself of not one but two two offices--one at home, one at MIT.

Oh, do we have STUFF!



So, promptly at 9am Sunday morning we open our yard sale in the Center's lower parking lot. It's primarily household items and furniture but there are a lot of books, cartons and cartons of children's books, and art and theater books (the ones Pinkerton Academy in Derry, NH didn't want. There are also a Franklin stove from my Boston house, Fritz's Valiant wood stove, and a clothes dryer. Everything's priced to sell--I want it all gone, taken away, off my hands. If it rains, which I'm praying it doesn't, we can have it inside--but that means carrying everything uphill to the Center's big function room rather than downhill to the lower parking lot.

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Intermezzo, the New England Chamber Opera Series is the Boston-based opera company I design for. I've mentioned before, I know, how much I love working with Intermezzo. It's a highly collaborative group of musicians, singers, directors and designer (yours truly) who work only with contemporary material, only in English, and approached in the belief that opera is theater. Almost exactly 1/3 of what we've done over the years is newly commissioned work, so I've gotten to work closely with composers and librettists. Intermezzo is very much the model for what I think producing in the performing arts should be.

Fortunately, in this awful economy for theaters, orchestras, opera companies, etc., we're not going under--but the fall production has had to be canceled. Grants applied for either didn't come in or came at a fraction of the amount applied for. We were going to do Benjamin Britten's The Prodigal Son in the Church of St. John the Evangelist on Beacon Hill but it is not to be.

Our ability to simply go on hiatus rather than completely closing down comes from the fact that we're essentially what's often called a guerrilla theater group. We don't own a lot of stuff that requires rented storage, we don't own any space that has to be rented or maintained, we don't have a chorus and orchestra on long-term contracts. We're light-weight and flexible; with luck and some careful planning, we'll come back to life in 2010.

Friday, May 22, 2009

 

***Will & Fritz, May 23, 1997, Twelve Years*****Married, May 23, 2004, Five Years***

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This handsome drawing currently hangs on one wall of our dining nook in the kitchen. It's the landscaping plan that was my Christmas gift from Fritz and its going to be a four or five year plan. This year we're going to concentrate on the big English garden, the densely planted area directly in front of the biggest room of the house, the great room; and we'll also put in any fruit trees and berry bushes that are called for.


This is The Triangle--the English garden with about half of the good loam in place. A second big load was delivered today.


All week as I've been building rock walls and digging in various parts of the property,
I've had little toads like the cute guy above popping out of rock piles and holes in the ground, keeping me company. Despite using insect repellent, I've also had the black flies at me constantly, and they aren't welcome at all.

Fritz has the vegetable garden plots planted and a lot of the seed has already sprouted. He put the seed potatoes in today. We're using Milorganite, a fertilizer made from the City of Milwaukee's sewage (it's perfectly safe, an excellent soil nutrient, and because it retains a scent of humans as far as animals are concerned, it should protect the gardens from deer and woodchucks).


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Here's a meme come to me from Dr. Michael, Spo of Spo Reflections:

1. What is your current obsession?
Exterior landscaping

2. What do you see outside your window?
Birches, shagbark hickories, and white pines gently swaying in the breeze.

3. If you could have any super power what would it be?
The ability to end the hatred and bigotry coming from the radical Right and Christian sects in this country.

4. What is your favorite color?
Orange—-a rich, dark orange tinged with gold

5. Who was the last person you hugged?
Fritz—are we all surprised?

6. Which animal w-ould you be?
Some kind of cat—possibly a leopard.

7. What’s for dinner?
Baked haddock, Fordhook lima beans, whole wheat rotini, and Fritz’s maple syrup and walnut pie, accompanied by a bottle of a good New York State champagne.

8. What’s the last thing you bought?
Eggs and an iced coffee

9. What are you listening to right now?
The Colbert Report, preceded by Haydn string quartets

10. What are your current favorite films?
The Leopard (do we see a pattern here?), The Queen of Spades, anything with Helen Mirren

11. What’s on your bedside table?
A couple of issues of Opera News, my alarm clock and two books: Lost History--The enduring legacy of Muslim scientists, thinkers and artists; and God’s Crucible—-Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215.

12. If you could have a house totally paid for, and fully furnished, anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Southern Spain (Granada, Ronda, Cordoba) or southern France (Avignon, Arles, Aix-en-Provence)

13. What would you like to have in your hands right now?
(blush) OK, I’m a gay guy, do the math

14. What is your favorite children’s book?
The Bungling Ballerinas--can be enjoyed with no knowledge of ballet, but hysterical as a satire if you know the New York dance scene

15. What is your favorite tea flavor?
Lychee Black Tea

16. What is your favorite article of clothing?
My collection of T-shirts with embroidered Northwest Native American art on them—purchased in Tacoma, WA

17. If you could go anywhere in the world for the next hour, where would you go?
An outdoor café in Aix-en-Provence or Capri

18. What did you want to become as a child?
A painter or an art woodworker. Becoming a scenic designer meant that I essentially became both, and more besides.

19. What posters/pictures do you have on your bedroom wall?
A variety of Chinese paintings on rice paper, hand-colored paper cuts, and wood block prints. Then in oils, two anonymous but lovely 19th century landscapes, a portrait of an ancestor of Fritz’s who was taken prisoner by the British in the War of 1812, and a large genre scene by a late 19th/EARLY 20th century painter over our bed

20. What is your plan for tomorrow?
Work in the front garden, then entertain my oldest friend in the world and his wife for lunch and a tour of the house and property

21. What was your first job?
Stock boy at a card and gift shop

22. Say something to the person/s who tagged you:
Michael, I'd really like to meet you in person sometime in the not too distant future

23. Post a favorite childhood photograph of yourself:


There's no date on this picture. I'm going to guess I was about 18 months old. I was told that as a child I had copper-colored hair but that soon deepened into a standard dark brown. Interestingly, I've always had a thing for red heads.

For the first four and a half years of my life, we lived in Manhattan, on West 72nd Street between Broadway and West End Avenue. I loved it there. A block away there was a park that stretched for miles up and down the bank of the Hudson River. Chasing pigeons was one of my specialties. There were shops and the subway and places to go--and even when we were at home, there was a small terrace overlooking the busy street and it was fun just to observe life going by. There was so much of it.

At four and a half, my family moved out to Queens to a newly built apartment project in Rego Park. I hated it. The neighborhood was dead. Shopping or parks were miles away. Manhattan was an hour away via a long walk or a bus, a local subway changing to express train after three stops for a half hour ride into where it was all really going on. I was bored out of my mind; we were isolated in Nowheresville--stories for posts to come.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

 
Eight days since my last post--I've become a Bad Blogger. Things have been very busy here, with decent weather for outdoor work dominating. It all climaxed today with the delivery of two truckloads of top grade composted topsoil to fill the three garden terraces, and one truckload of a rich if heavy and earthy chicken manure-laced soil for the English garden area in front of the house.


The nurseryman we hired brought the soil loads in a conventional dump truck that dropped the loads in our parking area. He then brought the soil up the fairly steep hillside with this tractor, saving us from having to carry it up in heavy five gallon buckets.


With transfer shovels and metal rakes, Fritz and I got the soil distributed and graded.


Finished! The piles at the ends of the alleys between terraces are wood chips that will eventually cover the walkways.

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From the BBC:


Carol Ann Duffy Becomes UK's First Openly Gay Poet Laureate

The UK has appointed Carol Ann Duffy as its first openly gay poet laureate. She is also the first woman to hold the post.

Duffy, who once said "no self-respecting poet" should have to write verses about the wedding of Queen Elizabeth II's youngest son, will be expected to produce poems for royal weddings, funerals and other state occasions. A witty and popular writer whose work is widely taught in British schools, Duffy is also the first openly gay laureate. Duffy said she had thought "long and hard" before accepting the job, which now has a 10-year term. "I look on it as a recognition of the great woman poets we have writing now," she told the BBC

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One more thing--the beard's back.

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