Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Prayer on Christmas Eve

The snow began falling around noon. By nightfall the cold, lifeless remains of fall lay silent under a shimmering fresh sheen of white. The little church sat off the town square, not far from the bandstand, draped in Christmas lights and the multicolored "Holiday Greetings" and "Happy Birthday Jesus" signs next to the life-sized nativity.

A family, or at least the small core of it able to be together this night, parked in front of the square and walked on the un-shoveled sidewalk to the little church. A husband and wife, soon to begin their 50th year together, their middle aged son. Christmas Eve, snow, family, the church, stained glass windows, heavy wooden doors, candles.

As in many other churches in many other small towns the service begins with the familiar carols. Almost all the women sing, the men stand, silent. These are Midwestern men. And Methodists, at that.

Then the children march haphazardly with miniature statues of the nativity, handing them to the preacher who arranges them on a table in front of the altar. Chaotic and cute. The four Advent candles, already burning, are joined by the final 5th candle for the birth of Christ, ignited by a long-handled Bic lighter, the kind you use to start your grill. Still effective, though, the 5th candle proclaiming, Christ, at last, is here. Darkness pierced by hope.

More singing, this time, soloists off-key to the pre-recorded music and contemporary songs about how Jesus is the reason for the season.

Next, bible verses, the prophecy of the birth of Christ. The immaculate conception. Then, strangely, we skip the story of His birth and jump to His death. Luke, chapter 20 something. No! Read the Linus chapter. You know: "For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord." Okay, it's the blood and the death and the sacrifice which saves. But on this eve of hope and renewal, as snow replaces the ashes of November, a little "born unto you" would be welcome.

Communion now, and yet more gore: the blood and body of Christ.

The congregants line up like sheep, making real the allegory. But it's an effective and comforting ritual. The husband and wife take their place and their son, who doesn't really believe but wants to, follows along.

They each receive the Host. The mother, who is first, then kneels and prays at the altar. The son follows her back to the pew. The father heads back to the pew but then stops and kneels at the end of the altar.

And prays. For life. For the defeat of the cancer that is destroying his body. For strength to fight the effects of the chemicals the doctors are pumping into him. For hope that the dire statistics the doctor has told him won't include him. For forgiveness for sins the son can't imagine. For renewal. For a second chance. For a cure that medical science says doesn't exist. For, perhaps, a miracle.

The son sees, hesitates. Then goes to his father, kneels. Arm across his shoulders. I pray, too, Dad. I hope too, Dad. I will believe too.

The father rises, silent, followed by the son, wondering about this very improbable public display of emotion that he couldn't have imagined happening in private.

More singing. Silent Night. Candle lighting. A benediction, greetings, hugs. The father laughs, son stands awkwardly but grateful among strangers who love his parents. Pausing at the church door, the son tells a story he remembers from a Christmas Eve church service long ago when his Dad made him laugh, one of those forbidden-in-church laughs that just can't be stopped. A laugh that still echoes.

The family leaves the little church and walks back into the hopeful night. Back to the warming car, the familiar home, the uncertain dawn. And the hopeful prayer.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Choi Asked. Reid Tweeted.

This Tweet image via JMG.


At first I thought it was merely touching, especially given the news earlier this week that Choi was in the hospital. And then I thought it was telling. That Reid would send a message specifically to Dan today speaks volumes to the impact the Lieutenant had on the Senate Majority Leader and the ultimate outcome of today's vote.

I don't know if Reid gave a shout out like this to anyone else prior to the vote today. I would rather doubt it. It would seem a man with the passion for justice and the willingness to demand that a wrong be righted, spare me your excuses, made a bigger difference than the polite lobbyists and party loyalists.

In the end, Reid remembered his personal promise to Choi. A promise that Choi refused to let him forget.

Proud to Serve

Today's historic vote wouldn't have happened if a few brave individuals like Sgt. Leonard Matlovich hadn't come out of the closet. It was unthinkable to publish this cover 30 years ago, just it was almost unthinkable that the Congress would finally, finally, remove the special right that only allowed straight people to serve honestly and openly in America's armed forces.

It's important to remember that today's vote is just yet in another step -- though a mighty big step -- in the process to put DADT on the ash heap of history. Mullen, Gates and Obama have final say on the if and when. But I have no doubt we'll get there, and sooner rather than later.

My hope is that today's landmark vote is also a step closer to the day when we won't need more magazine covers like this one, that gay folk will be part of the ordinary fabric of American life, no better or no worse than anyone else, with the same rights and obligations as every other citizen. In that day we won't need to proclaim that "I Am a Homosexual," rather, simply, "I am American."

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Christian, Filled with the Christmas Spirit

A friend from back "home" (rural, Southern Illinois) posted this message on her Facebook page today:

"We can't say Merry Christmas anymore. Now we have to say Happy Holidays, We can't call it a Christmas Tree, it is now called a Holiday Tree!!, because it might offend someone, They call it customs and WE HAVE OUR TRADITIONS! Screw them this is our country and our traditions YOU DON'T LIKE IT GO BACK HOME!If you agree with this PLEASE post this to your status. Oh yeah and by the way. "MERRY CHRISTMAS!!"

She could have added "Fuck You," but I guess that wouldn't have been Christ-like.

I resisted my urge to ask her just who was included in the "our" of "our country" and "our traditions." And exactly who is telling her she can't say "Merry Christmas" or "Christmas tree." Sure, a retailer may decide to avoid the use of the word "Christmas" so as to broaden its appeal to a wider community of consumers which probably includes Jews, Muslims and heathens, but that's their choice. Why does Jesus need an endorsement from Target?

And why are so many Christians in this country so fragile in their beliefs that they seemingly require the backing of their government and merchants to prop them up?

May the universal love of Jesus Christ be with you all this blessed season.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Can GOProud Do Something Meaningful in the DADT Debacle?

Like lobby and call on it's members to call Sen. Scott Brown's office to urge his vote for the stand alone DADT repeal? Since he didn't actually, you know, vote FOR DADT repeal like he -- and GOProud -- said he would.

Or will they continue to just take useless potshots meant to do nothing more than stick a finger in the eye of gay progressives?

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Obama's Compromise

Before I pass personal judgment whether Obama's deal on taxes was a strategic compromise or a craven sell-out, I want to see what happens next.

If Obama and the Dems can get DADT repeal and START passed, and perhaps the DREAM act, I will be inclined to think the former. If not, more the latter.

Meanwhile, some see his performance at his presser yesterday a turning point for the Prez.

And Jonathan Capehart feels all-a-tingle, like he's been taken to the woodshed and spanked by the president and he wants more spanking, please. This is the type of insightful analysis that gets you a blog on the WaPo website.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Perfect Day

Every once in a great while you experience a perfect day that you know you'll remember the rest of your life.It can be the first time you realized you were in love, a special night with friends or a family event. For me, I remember a camping trip with my best friend in high school right before graduation, the first time I saw Star Wars (the original, in 1977), the last night all my buddies were together in college, my first kiss and of course that first time.

Adding to those memories was a day with my six-year-old son. I've spent many days with him, but what made this particular day special is that I lived it on his time.

Usually when he visits I can't quite shed my agenda. I still have to work (albeit can do it from home, with him present). I have a schedule. Places to be and things to do. It's no surprise that after one trip his mothers reported he'd learned a new phrase from me: "I'm busy." Ouch.

So, the week before Thanksgiving, with things quiet for once at work, I took time off. And on Monday afternoon my son and I ventured down to the Sculpture Garden Ice Rink to ice skate, at his request.

We had pizza for lunch, I attempted to teach him to ice skate (something of the blind leading the blind) and then we explored the sculpture garden, taking time to play on a park bench and to horse around the park. That one of the security guards admonished us at one point gave us the feeling of co-conspirators, two kids in adult-land. On the way back to the car we stopped at a food vendor cart and got snacks and sat together people-watching.

The thing that made all this so magical was not just spending time with my boy, but doing it without deference to the clock. There was no need to hurry, and we lingered in each spot as long as we simply felt like it and the enjoyment of it sustained us. That afternoon, my son showed me what it is like to live in the moment. It was magical. I will remember it for the rest of my life.

The picture of him above was taken that day. The joy in his face was mirrored in my own.

GOPricks

The boys at GOProud have endorsed the Senate Republican strategy of blocking action on anything other than the Bush tax cuts -- including repeal of DADT.

Do we really need another "gay" organization that puts political party interests ahead of our equal rights? The left has HRC, the right now has GOProud.

Of course, the real mission of GOProud isn't to advance gay rights. And perhaps not even to advance conservative causes. I think their real mission is to piss off gay liberals.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

What Happens When You Procrastinate?

Important things don't get done:

"But senior Democratic aides in the Senate concede a vote this year to end [DADT] is growing highly unlikely because it is part of a massive defense policy bill that requires weeks of debate. With three weeks left before Christmas, senators are expected to consider tax cuts, a government spending plan and possibly a nuclear disarmament treaty with Russia, leaving little time for other legislation. The aides asked their names be withheld because they were not authorized to speak on the record."

Republican obstructionism doesn't help either. Nor does John McCain's flip flopping.

Christmas Flashmob in a Mall

I love that the initial soprano stayed "on the phone" the whole time.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Oh No He Didn't Say That

Quote of the Day:

"I do have the luxury that I can be the last man to file if I choose to, and still have the name ID."

-- Former U.S. Rep. Mark Foley, commenting on a possible decision he is considering to run for Mayor of West Palm Beach.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Grope Me for Safety

The family's Thanksgiving consensus was that it's a-okay for the TSA to grope them and see them naked, because it will make them safer.

I refrained from pointing out that this is the same federal government most of them do not trust on the science of climate change and the same government they don't trust with grandma's health care. And yet they are willing to trust that same government to put its hands on their privates and to take naked pics of them. It's "Socialist Security!" Don't they realize?

When Grandma Texts

Texting isn't just for the young anymore. Senior citizens are texting each other increasingly. The meanings behind the common acronyms are slightly different, though. For example, when a senior texts that he has a "FWB" he doesn't mean "Friend With Benefits." It's "Friend With Betablockers." And ROFL has an extension: ROFL...CGU. Which means, "Rolling On The Floor Laughing...and Can't Get Up!"

More of these, where I got them, from Car Talk.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Bike vs. Car

As someone who bikes to work on a regular basis, I constantly encounter the naked sense of entitlement that motorists have about "their" road. We cyclists are trespassing on their turf.

This was evident in a recent letter published in a "Dr. Gridlock" column in the WaPo. The writer was commenting on the story of a cyclist who complained about a car behind him on the service road along K street who honked her horn at him for five blocks. The letter writer wrote:

"Surely the cyclist must share some of the blame for not yielding the right of way to the motorist who was legally using the service road. The cyclists actions were not only selfish, but even dangerous." Emphasis added.

Did the car have the right of way?

Not necessarily. While the law calls for the cyclist to ride to the right in the lane, there are exceptions when the cyclist can move away from the side, spelled out in DC Municipal Regulations. These exceptions include when the lane is narrow (11 feet wide or less) or when necessary for the cyclists safety.

The service road along K street is narrow, though I don't know whether it is 11 feet wide or less. But I doubt there is enough room for a cyclist to maintain enough distance to protect him from getting "doored" (when someone in a parked car swings his door open in front of an oncoming cyclist) and for a car to safely pass.

There was no "right of way" for the car here. Just a sense of entitlement.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

TSA Smackdown

Two op-eds in today's WaPo take on the TSA.

George Will makes the point today that the TSA is "disproportionate:"

"But enough, already. Enough trivializing important values - e.g., air safety -
by monomaniacal attempts to maximize them. Disproportion is the common
denominator of almost all of life's absurdities. Automobile safety is important.
But attempting to maximize it would begin (but by no means end) with forbidding
left turns."

But if we outlaw left turns where would senior citizens drive to?

Kathleen Parker weighs in as well. She worries out the incremental giving up of rights:

"Incrementally, we adapt to the stripping of civil liberties until, with the
passage of time and the blinkering of generational memory, we no longer remember
when things were otherwise."

I'll add the voice of James Madison:

"Let [the people of the United States] exert the same wisdom in watching against every evil lurking under plausible disguises and growing up from small beginings."


Keeping us safe is certainly a "plausible" goal of government. And a lot has been done in the name of keeping us "safe." And without a doubt some of it, in Madison's word, "evil."

Friday, November 19, 2010

TSA Offers New Children's Book

First, They Came for the Bicycles

I missed this until now, but bikes were an issue in the recent gubernatorial race in Colorado:

"At a rally in Colorado, Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes claimed that the pro-bike policies of Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper are the results of a U.N. plot to 'rein in American cities.'...Maes...said programs such as bike sharing 'could be a threaten our personal freedoms.'" (Bicycling magazine, page 24).

Fortunately for socialist cyclists plotting the ruin of urban America, he lost to Hickenlooper.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The DADT Debacle

I suppose I should be most pissed off at Sen. John McCain, but I take some comfort from the fact that he will be remembered by history for his craven bigotry.

But it's our "friends" who deserve the most of our ire, from Sen. Harry Reid for sabotaging the earlier effort to repeal DADT, to gay rights groups splitting over DADT repeal, to Barack Obama for never intending to do anything to advance gay equality, despite his promises, posturing and posing with gay advocates in the East Room.

This passage, from "The Promise," by Jonathan Alter, makes it clear that President Fierce Advocate never intended to do anything. At an transition meeting before the inauguration, Alter tells how Rahm Emanuel laid out the administrations priorities and instructed that there were to be "no distractions:"

"The 'no distractions' theme would be critical to shaping 2009. It meant that divisive issues requiring the approval of Congress like...repealing the ban on gays in the military would all be set aside temporarily while Democrats focused on Obama's first tier agenda." (Page 79)

Got that LGBT folk? We're a "distraction," and on the back burner. Gay equality? Sorry, the prez has more important things to do. He can't be bothered.

And now, with more Republicans in Congress, Obama will never get to this "second tier" or "third tier" or wherever we fall in importance on Obama's priority list.

I'm looking forward to the 2012 Democratic primaries.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Leaders We Deserve?

Here's one to watch.

Freshman Rep. Allen West (R-FL) has hired conservative talk show host Joyce Kaufman to be his chief of staff. She's notable for saying things like this about illegal immigrants:

"If you commit a crime while you're here, we should hang you and send your body back to where you came from, and your family should pay for it."

And this (speaking about Allen West's family):

"I looked at this family and [told] myself, how do you not fight and put them up on the pedestal when we've got this garbage up on the pedestal now, people like Nancy Pelosi?"

This is all okay with the West campaign. Cut to the campaign manager, defending the choice of hiring Kaufman:

"What's been working in Washington has not been working," he said. "Things need to be different."

So, yeah. Let's murder immigrants who commit petty theft and name call anyone we disagree with politically. That should help things around here.

Please keep her away from Michelle Bachmann.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Post 2010 Election: Five Things that Aren't True

Seems to me the following are a list of things that aren't true, in the aftermath of the 2010 wave election:

  1. Republicans will shrink the budget deficit significantly
  2. The Democrats' losses can be explained by a failure to communicate their policy choices effectively
  3. Nancy Pelosi is a good choice for continued leadership in the Democratic party
  4. Obama will be a one-term president
  5. Keith Olberman was suspended because MSNBC is worried about appearing "biased"

Friday, November 05, 2010

Rapture: Timelapse of the American Southwest

Via Laughing Squid.

TimeScapes: Rapture from Tom Lowe @ Timescapes on Vimeo.

The President's India Trip

Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Batshit Crazy) says the President is taking a 2,000 person "entourage" to India and that they are taking 870 rooms at the five-star Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. I guess they're doubling up -- with 2,000 people and 870 rooms that's 2.3 persons per room. I wonder who gets to bunk with Hillary? Wouldn't it be kind of fun to have your cell phone ring at 3 a.m. ?"Hillary, wake up! It's for you!"

Since the right is relying on "Internet sources" to spread this BS, I'll respond with a fact from Wikipedia:

The Taj has only 565 rooms.

3.5 people a room?

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Toast from the CEO

The LTR is at a business retreat at a beautiful resort in the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania and I'm along for the ride as significant others are welcome. The fact that the world has evolved enough so that the LTR could bring his same sex partner to a business function is remarkable in and of itself. But, it gets better.

At the opening reception the LTR and I were talking with a clutch of his colleagues that included his CEO. Someone asked us how long we'd been together. When we answered 23 years, the CEO proclaimed it remarkable and made a toast to us. This boggles my mind: my partner's employer, openly celebrating our same sex relationship at a business function.


It wasn't like that 23 years ago. Then, we, like most gay professionals, carefully hid everything about our relationship. We scrubbed our casual talk of pronouns like "we" lest we invite scrutiny into who "we" was. When we moved in together we carefully constructed the fiction of being "roommates." When family would visit one bedroom was set up as a decoy to show we weren't more than the fiction of platonic roomies. We would carefully clean the house of any pictures or mementos that might have suggested something more intimate was going on. Like many other gay couples going through the same thing, we called this "straightening up" the house (and I know some gay couples still go through the same thing). Such paranoia was born out of the fear that we could be fired or disowned if the truth came out. Hiding our relationship required a great deal of emotional energy and thought. If it sounds like we lived in fear, it's true. We did.


Now, nearly a quarter of a century later, we're no longer hiding. We're attending a company function as a couple and the CEO is raising his glass to our relationship.


And that's a whole lot better than the way it used to be.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Where'd All the Good People Go?

I've been wondering this since the 2008 election of Barack Obama.

Mythological Washington Post

Duh. It's on the opinion page. But you would expect a series titled "Five Myths about _____" to have some objectivity.

My naivete was shattered with last Sunday's "Five Myths about Sarah Palin" which was written, not by an objective analyst, but by the partisan Palin hagiographer Matthew Continetti. The piece should be called Five Spins about Sarah Palin. Can you expect straight talk from a guy whose book about the half-term governor is titled: The Persecution of Sarah Palin: How the Elite Media Tried to Bring Down a Rising Star?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

American Culture and the Promise of Living

One of my friends is from Brazil and his take on American culture is that it's too focused on money. He makes his viewpoint known in little jokes and asides. I don't take offense, because I largely agree with him. But recently I was reminded that this view of America is too shallow. That's not all there is to us.

I happened to be driving through rural Illinois and Indiana between rolling farmland and forest on a sun-soaked fall afternoon. My iPod was on random, and Aaron Copland's "The Promise of Living" from his opera The Tender Land began playing over my rental car's speakers. In the song, the characters celebrate these values:


The promise of living with hope and thanksgiving is born of our loving our
friends and our labor.

It continues with an ode to neighborliness, shared labor and shared blessings, optimism and love. This is surely part of our culture too, though I think it's harder to see in urban America with the relentless drive for money and celebrity that obscure these values.

And I don't think these values are dead. I've seen it recently, in the way my parents' community has embraced them, literally and figuratively, as my father continues his battle with cancer.

The promise of growing with faith and with knowing Is born of our sharing our
love with our neighbor.

What challenges these values now is the notion that in a much smaller world our neighbors no longer look very much like us. Our neighbors are black, they are gay, they are Muslim. It's harder to share love with those who are different. But if we're going to honor our American values, that's exactly what we must do.

I've added two clips of the song here. One is from the opera, so you can hear how Copland
originally envisioned it. The performance of the bass and soprano are fine here, but I can't quite figure out what is going on with that background.

And in case you still don't get it from the Berkley Opera's more subtle version, John Williams and the Boston Pops will hit you over the head with it in their version. I was initially annoyed by Williams' slower tempo, but like it better on second hearing.



And the Boston Pops version:

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Log Cabin Republicans 1; Obama, 0 in DADT Repeal

In this topsy-turvey political season, things just got a little topsy-turveyer. The Log Cabin Republicans have succesffuly (for now) ended DADT while the Obama Fierce Advocate Administration will apparently fight that decision.

When justice rolls down like waters Obama wants to build a dam.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Ken Mehlman

It's naive to think that Ken Mehlman's outing himself will change the GOP. I know some are worked up about Mehlman's closeted aiding and abetting our enemies in the past but the only thing that would have changed had an openly gay Mehlman pushing back against anti-gay policies of the GOP in 2004 is that he would have been looking for a new job.

The thing that gets me mad is the very real cynicism and hypocrisy of the right on gay issues. As Mehlman states in the Atlantic article about him, many of his current and former colleagues have been "supportive." I believe that, and, I believe Mehlman will continue to break bread with many in the GOP leadership. These people will continue to be okay with having a personal and professional relationship with a gay man and yet feel no shame in promoting anti-gay policy because they think it will help them win elections.

And they're not even reticent about it. Republican strategist Rich Galen, for example, wrote several years back that denying the existence of homosexuality was "foolhardy" and that gay marriage might help encourage stable relationships and help reduce HIV/AIDS, but the hell with the public good if being against gay marriage would help him achieve partisan political gain.

There's a whole thread about Galen and the hypocrisy of the right that includes Newt Gingrich, John McCain, George W. Bush. You can find it here.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Buses Behaving Badly: Incident at 14th and Irving

I was walking to the gym in Columbia Heights at 6:30 a.m. when I witnessed an out-of-service DC Metrobus honking at a cyclist in the bike lane heading northbound on 14th Street. When they got to the intersection with Irving and were stopped by a red light, the bus driver opened his door, stood on the step of the bus and started yelling at the cyclist.

Having been the target of aggressive Metrobus drivers while commuting my way around the city on bike, I decided to see if I could help. The cyclist was asking why the bus driver was honking at him when he didn't need to pull over to the curb (no passengers -- out of service) and could have easily moved to the other north bound lane. The bus driver responded by yelling at the guy. I interjected, "Hey man, can't you be respectful?"

He answered my question at once. "Fuck you" he said. My fault -- I hadn't realized we were dealing with one of DC Metro's ambassadors for public safety awareness.

The light changed and he charged off with his anger management issues back behind the wheel of a multi-ton bus the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority has deemed him fit to drive. I snapped the picture as he drove away.

Bus 6500, northbound, 14th street on 8.25.10 at 6:30 a.m. Jim Graham, do you care?


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Beethoven: 9th Symphony

Any list of choral works I favor would have to include the final movement of Beethoven's 9th. If there ever was a piece of music that made you feel that humankind might be worth something after all, this is it.

A couple of notes about this performance, conducted by Lorin Maazel (and fair warning, it's an excerpt, which starts and ends abruptly). Maazel seems to a bit non-chalent, at least at first. Hey dude, you're conducting one of the greatest works ever composed. Wake up. However, someone must have slipped him a Red Bull before the fugue section, where he perks up considerably. He manages to get a great deal of discord out of the final tutti orchestral chord before the first soloist entrance than is usually heard. And the molto ritard he takes in the transition from the orchestral fugue back into the choral recapitulation of the Joy theme is powerful and unexpected-- and I don't remember that being in the score. I'll have to pull my copy down and take a look.

The second chair flute player is cute. I wonder what cracked him up at the end of the fugue? Watch for the over-enunciating tenor. And I hope someone remembered to wake up the bass drummer before the Turkish march.

Enjoy.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Time-Out

Curtis calls for a 24 hour break from the sound and fury.

Morten Lauridsen -- Les Chansons des Roses

Continuing our choral series, I present a movement from Morten Lauridsen's Les Chansons des Roses.
You may also know this composer by a work for which he is most famous, O Magnum Mysterium. That piece has a powerful and beautiful intensity, but I like the understated emotion that makes this movement lovely and moving. I couldn't find a concert video that was as high quality as this recording, so forgive the static picture. The music's the thing, anyway.

He Truly Jumped the Shark

Is anyone else of my generation depressed to see the Fonz doing retirement commercials?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Persichetti: Celebrations

My posting a clip of a John Rutter work over the weekend sparked a raucous response from my two readers, so I thought I'd declare this "Choral Works Week" on the Take and highlight some choral works I like or have come across. I urge my two readers to submit pieces as well and I'll feature them here.

Here's one that's dramatically different from the Rutter piece, by Vincent Persichetti, (1915-1987), a prolific 20th century American composer, probably known to most for his writing for band. In today's featured piece, we hear his "Celebrations," a work written for SATB chorus and wind ensemble, using selections of Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass" as his text.

Enjoy.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Training for the Nation's Triathlon

I'm participating in the Nation's Triathlon in September. Note I said "participating," as opposed to "competing" as my goal is to make it out alive. This is an olympic distance tri, which means a .9 mile swim (in the Potomac), nearly 25 mile bike ride and a 6.2 mile run.

My training hasn't had too much method to it, due to all the travel I've been doing, but I'm trying to alternate interval training for speed with long distance runs and swims.

Today I ran the competition length for the first time, 6.2 miles. My time sucked, but I felt good about completing it without stopping. It's the furthest I've run off a treadmill in some time.

In my 30s I used to jog regularly untill knee and foot pain made me stop. I started running again (mostly on treadmills) about a year ago and have so far avoided any knee and injury pain. My problem has been my hamstrings, particularly on my right leg. It gets so tight during the run and then hurts for a day or so after. And the pain radiates up and down my leg and into my more personal areas. I saw my doctor about it, and he thought I may have the problem backward -- maybe I had a hernia and the pain was shooting from there. Well, saw the surgeon this past week, and no hernia. Which is great news, but doesn't solve the pain. No amount of stretching seems to help.

I can deal with the pain, but the tightness in my leg slows me down. And takes some of the enjoyment out of the run.

But I did enjoy the run. It got me outdoor time, through Rock Creek Park. Even though it was raining I enjoyed the experience. I felt very alive.

The Staggaring Incompetence of Dish Network, Part II

Well, progress. The HD dish is up and working and is awesome. In the process, the receiver in the basement apartment is not working (even though it's hooked up to the old dish) properly. And Mr. Tech left his trash behind him.

Cordoba House -- a Fitting Tribute?

The wife of the Inman who wants to build Islamic Cultural Center near the World Trade Center site had this to say about the Center's purpose, according to NPR:

"Our religion has been hijacked by the extremists," she says. "This center will create this kind of counter momentum which will amplify the voices of the moderate Muslims. If we have to defeat the extremists, Muslims have to be leading that effort."

If the Cordoba Center achieves any degree of success in "amplifying the voices of the moderate Muslims," denying the extremists' perceived grip on Islam, wouldn't that be the most fitting monument to the victims of the 911 attack?

Meanwhile, the fear stoked by the attack continues to devour our values and even our decency. Also in the NPR story:

Speaking in support of the project, one man held up his American passport to prove his citizenship. Zead Ramadan, a Muslim who said his wife and brother were first responders after Sept. 11, said a lot of the rhetoric was simply Islamophobia. He was shouted down.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

John Rutter's Requiem

If you hear angels when you die I hope it sounds like the sopranos singing the main theme of Rutter's Requiem (at about the 2:10 mark).

The Staggaring Incompetence of Dish Network

The LTR and I upgraded to a high-def flat screen TV, Blu-Ray DVD and wanted to include a new high-def satellite receiver.

If only Dish Network would get on board with that plan we'd be set.

A week ago I took the afternoon off so the Dish Network technician could install the new dish on my roof. He arrived sometime in the middle of his 12-5 "window" and we went out on the roof.

"Oh, you have a flat roof. I don't have the right equipment for a flat roof."

In a city where every house is a row house with a flat roof, this is about as dumb as saying "Oh, your walls are vertical. I didn't bring the right tools."

"Of course we have a flat roof, everyone has a flat roof!" I then said, "If knowing what type of roof I have is so important, why didn't they ask me that when we set up the appointment?"

Dish tech shrugged and said, "that's just poor customer service."

No. Kidding.

But wait. There's more.

We rescheduled, which involved getting the LTR involved since I couldn't be home when the tech wanted to come back.

Cut to Thursday, LTR is home, waiting. Tech calls with one hour left in his "window." He says, "Sorry, I don't have a part I need, can you take Friday off and be home then?"

The LTR says, "What alternative universe do you live on to think that I can just keep taking days off from work in hopes that you'll actually show up and have what you need?" More words like that followed.

So, it's Saturday, and we have another 12-5 "window." I hope the tech hasn't forgotten we have a flat roof.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Conversation with Eli

Eli: It's fun being sick. You get to stay home and play and watch movies and stuff.

Me: But you're sick. You feel yucky.

Eli (matter-of-factly): And I'm okay with that.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Speak a Little Spanish

And so, the LTR and I are studying Spanish, each of us working through Pimsleur's audio course on our iPods. I'm on lesson 8.

So far they are fixated on teaching me how to ask where the restaurant and hotel are. Over and over, "Donde esta el restaurante Colon?" And to ask for money: Quiero muchas dollares!

So when we are in Honduras in December, if I ever find someone who knows where the damn hotel and restaurant are I can beg for enough pesos to eat and stay there.

The title of this post comes from Steve Martin's act, in the late 70s. He tells how a couple invite him to an S&M party, which he thinks means Spaniards and Mexicans. So after the show he says he will go to their house and "speak a little Spanish." A little precursor to today's "Hike the Appalachian Trail." I tried to find a clip of this on Youtube but it's not there.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Freakshow

I guess the self parody started with the name of the band.



A self-styled "80s hair band" that is, who performed at my campground last weekend. Okay, seriously, we left the city to get away from crowds and noise, to find that our cabin was on the perimeter of the camp's outdoor "stage" and the band Saturday night was this freak show.

I mean Freakshow. That was the name of the band. To give you an idea, here's a video I took with my iPhone. The lead singer thought I was snapping pix so he gave me some quality poses.



Now, I was in high school and college when 80s Hair Bands were not nostalgia but the thing. And I suppose in each generation some of the girls go dance together while we guys watch. Almost 30 years later it's still happening that way, except the girls are 75 pounds heavier. As in the tail end of this video:

I Don't Think July 4th is Supposed to be about the Military

Is it just me, or is the Fourth getting to be a bit jingoistic?

I camped at a public campground this weekend and was struck by how many patriotic displays had a military theme. In fact, the camp decoration contest was won by a trailer that looked like a shrine to the U.S. Marines. Perhaps this is natural in war time, but it doesn't seem to me like the Fourth was always this bombs-bursting-in-airish.

Don't get me wrong, I don't slight the men and women who sacrifce for our freedoms. It just seems to me the Fourth of July is about something bigger. It's one thing to die for your country. It's another to have a country worth dying for.

The words of the Declaration of Independence are still revolutionary: All men are created equal. We still haven't delivered on the "all" part of that equation and in fact our history is the tale of trying to live up to that revolutionary "all." Talking about the Declaration on July 4 may seem quaint but when you consider the current struggle for LGBT equality or the popularity of certain politicians who proclaim America as a Christain nation who's laws, presumably, favor only Christians, then the words "All men are created equal" retain their revolutionary power.

It's hard standing up for equal treatment for people who aren't like us, and our nation and even we as individuals have failed at times living up to that principle. But it's our nation's founding principle. As long as we don't abandon that principle in favor of security alone or the rights of the majority, our nation will be worth fighting and dying for.

That's what we should celebrate on July 4th. Yes, we should honor the men and women in uniform who died in defense of our founding principle, but to stop there and not get to the Declaration is to forget what it means to be American.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Other Trial Winding Down Today

Lots of attention on the Prop 8 Trial today, which is winding down today.

Another trial I've been following with rapt (obsessive?) attention is the conspiracy/obstruction of justice trial of the three men who are alleged to have tampered with evidence after Robert Wone was murdered in their home.

If you're unfamiliar with the case, the basics are that Robert Wone, a straight lawyer, worked late one night and crashed at his college buddy's Joe Price's house on Swann Street. Joe shared his house with domestic partner Victor Zaborsky and Dylan Ward (who was having a S/M sexual relationship with Price). Robert is murdered. Police never charged anyone for the murder, but claim the trio (or "trouple" as they are called by the Who Murdered Robert Wone community) tampered with the crime scene (the knife found there does not match the wounds, there was little blood present and it appeared someone had wiped the knife of blood as well as cleaned Robert's body).

Add the fact that there was no signs of forced entry (the trouple advance the theory that an intruder did the deed) and that the autopsy found no signs that Robert struggled or reacted defensively when stabbed, had several needle marks on his body from injections occurring before death and that he had been sexually assaulted (his own semen was found in , among other places, his rectum), this is one interesting case.

And it only gets more bizarre from there.

At any rate, prosecution rests today and the judge will consider motions by defense for acquittal, which many expect Ward, if not all three, have a decent shot of getting.

You can read all about it at the Web site Who Murdered Robert Wone. There is going to be a movie about this one day, trust me.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Park as I Say, Not as I Park

The car driven by a DC parking officer (what are they called nowadays) can usually be found most mornings illegally parked on the corner of 13th and Fairmont (the picture at left was taken around 6:45 a.m.). I assume the officer lives in the neighborhood and yes, street parking is tough.


Unless you're a privileged taxpayer-paid DC employee. How proud I am as a taxpayer to see this official taxpayer paid-for vehicle emblazoned with the DC flag gleefully violating DC traffic law making it easier for the DC officer who drives the car to write more tickets on DC citizens (like the ticketed car in the last picture that is parked exactly as the officer is, a block away on Euclid and 13th).


Or, perhaps I'm naive and DC public officials aren't expected or required to actually obey the law?

The license plate number on the officer's car is DC 9229.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Don't Blink

As if it weren't bad enough that I turned 46 this weekend (the 30th, if you want to mark it on your calendar so you can remember next year), I stumbled upon a facebook page for my high school graduating class to find that 10 members of my class have died. One I knew about. The rest were a shock.

Okay, so maybe turning 46 isn't so bad after all.

(And yes, I know I need to update my profile!)

Unlucky Sunbather

Not only run over, but dragged off to boot.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Tea Party/Republican Budget Cutting Fun

A group with the oxymoronic sounding name of The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has come up with a budget cutting calculator you can use to figure out where to slash our enourmous debt. The goal is to get the federal debt to 60% of GDP by 2018, which the group says is necessary to stabilize the debt crisis. Currently, the debt is expected to be 85% of GDP by 2018.

The calculator works by having you make choices of where to raise revenue (pronounced "taxes") and where to wield your budget cutting axe.

I decided to give it a whirl, from a tea bagger/Republican perspective.

So. I cut taxes every opportunity I had. Bush tax cuts of 2001/20003? Kept 'em. Lowered tax rates on corporations. Refused all options to raise taxes or fees.

And based on the Republican position during the recent health care debacle debate, I didn't touch Medicare or Social Security. I repealed Obamacare. And I passed medical tort reform.

My tea bags were on fire! I killed the remnants of TARP and rescinded any unspent money from the stimulus. Ha! Goodbye, socialism!

I left current defense spending stand. I cut foreign aid. I cut every education program I was offered. I cut earmarks. And the federal workforce. I increased veterans benefits. Cut missions to Mars and the Moon (which hurt, having grown up in the glorious Apollo era).

Having done my tea-baggerish best, I hit the "done" button. Uh-oh! The debt in 2018 with my GOP cuts was 81 percent of GDP. Fiscal crisis! Quick, let's talk about Islamic extremism! Besides, Dick Cheney said deficits don't matter, right? Look over there, Obama's giving Miranda rights to terrorists!

After calming down, I decided to take another stab. I reduced troop levels in Iraq and Afghanistan. I cancelled missile defense and downscaled the budget for big navy ships. And I cut foreign aid (for kicks and giggles).

I reduced the size of the 2001/2003 tax cuts (but didn't eliminate them entirely). I did eliminate corporate tax cuts and itemized deductions for the wealthy. I raised user fees.

I didn't cut Medicare or Social Security benefits, but did raise the age of eligibility (to 67). I cut earmarks and farm subsidies. Kept education expenditures. Kept TARP and Recovery funds. I did cut the size of the federal workforce.

I passed cap and trade.

And (dammit!) I kept the Moon and Mars missions. We've got to have some vision beyond this horizon, yes?

I hit the "done" button and DING DING DING I achieved the 60% of GDP needed to save the free world.

Now, I'm not a fiscal expert and maybe a real tea bagger would make different choices that would somehow get to the magic 60%. But the Republicans (and the general public) don't seem to want to touch defense, Medicare or Social Security which taken together accounts for about 60% of the federal budget. You take that and a refusal to raise taxes or fees and you have mammoth debts. Refusal to acknowledge that is refusal to be serious.

But you try. And let me know how it goes.

The Cornyn Defense of Rand Paul

Sen. John Cornyn (R-WTF) offered this defense of KY Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul's statement on Maddow last night the Civil Rights Act went too far and government shouldn't prevent business from discriminating on the basis of color:

“I think it was sort of a gotcha question,” Cornyn said of Maddow’s approach. “If I’m walking down the street minding my own business and somebody sticks a microphone under my nose about a law that was passed 40 years ago, without more detail — I think it probably caught him a little bit by surprise.”

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Why My Coworkers Don't Talk to Me

E-mail from a co-worker to the office:

There is an edible arrangement of cut fruit (some in chocolate) in the kitchen. Please go and eat as much of it as you can right now!


My response:

Thanks, but I'm holding out for the uncut fruit.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Armageddon Predicted for Later Today


UPDATE: We got some rain, a few rumbles of thunder. The giant blue arrow of death never materialized.

Is it me, or are weather graphics getting too dramatic?

Sexuality Not So Private

In its continuing coverage of the "Is Kagan gay?" story, the WaPo opens with this lede:

As long as there has been gossip about people in public life, there has been a debate about the relevance of a very private matter: sexual orientation (emphasis added).


But is sexuality really a private matter? Didn't everyone know that John Roberts and Sam Alito were hets? Was it an invasion of privacy to mention Roberts' wife in the coverage of his confirmation? Is the fact of their sexuality something that was the subject of tawdry gossip and innuendo? John Roberts is straight. Big deal. A lot of people are. If Elena Kagan were a lesbian, again, big deal, a lot of people are.

But here's the difference. For heterosexuals, sexuality is a simple fact of life, as automatic as breathing. That goes for gay men and women who are out and simply living their lives without pretense. The only people for whom sexuality is a "very private matter" are those hidden in the closet. Their sexuality is a carefully guarded secret for which they will expend great personal energy hiding. Openly gay folks, like their straight brothers and sisters, weave their relationships into all the other facets of their lives. They take their significant others to family gatherings, indulge in public displays of affection, recount what they did last weekend together at the office and so on. For the closeted, these relationships are carefully screened off from public view.

This squirreling away of a central component of your life marginalizes and trivializes it. For example, the Post writes about the demand:

that the nominee come forward with details of what goes on, or doesn't, in her bedroom.


And that's wrong. Of course no one should know what goes on in some one else's bedroom. But sexuality is about a lot more than what happens in the bedroom. It's about finding love and companionship with someone and then building your entire life around that someone. It's a key part of one's central humanity. A part of humanity that -- gay and straight -- we share in common. And because it's common it's really not a big deal. Unless we try to hide and deny it.

Then, and only then, does it become, to borrow a phrase from the Vice President, a big fucking deal.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Kagan Gay Question

Andrew asks (repeatedly, ad nauseum) if Kagan is gay.

I can't decide if it's a fair question. And it is bothersome that the White House treated the assertion that she is gay as a "charge."

I tend to think that if she's gay it shouldn't be an issue but if she's in the closet it should be a matter of concern. I have never met someone who has spent their entire adulthood in the closet who hasn't had their psyche stunted in some way. George Rekers, Larry Craig, Ted Haggerd, witnesses for the prosecution.

But I think what bothers me about Sullivan's insistence on the question is his suggestion that her gayness (or, for that matter, her straightness) would have bearing on how she would rule. This coupling of a person's background with their Court decision-making troubles me. It did when Obama made the connection in nominating Sotomayor. Yes, it's obvious that a person's background, ethnicity, sexual orientation, family life, etc would shape their personal thoughts and opinions. But if judicial restraint means anything it should mean the discipline to balance those beliefs against the rule of law and legal precedent.

In short, if Kagan ever rules that DADT or DOMA is unconstitutional, I hope that it would be from her service to the law and not service to her community.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Appreciating Desi

I was sick this weekend and found myself watching I Love Lucy. In one episode Lucy has hired a snooty English professor to give her, Ricky and the Mertz's English lessons. I'm still cracking up over this exchange:

Prof: There are two words you must never use. One is "swell" and the other is "lousy."
Fred: Give us the lousy one first.

Now, we watch this show because of course we love Lucy. But I don't think we love Desi enough. This guy was really talented, as an actor and a musician. Not to mention producer. His innovations for I Love Lucy are now the standard for sit-coms, even to this day.

Here's a clip of him showing his ability to weave music, comedy and romance. And what a dashing guy he was.


Saturday, May 01, 2010

My Kid Eats Better than Your Kid

Eli has returned to the West Coast with Pappa and I am cleaning out the remaining Eli food from the fridge that I know we won't eat. My neighbor who has two kids around Eli's age was in his backyard, so I hollered over, "Hey, I've got two lunchables here left over from Eli's trip, do you want them?"

"No," he replied, "Our kids aren't allowed to eat lunchables."

Well. Um. Well, my kid isn't allowed to eat lunchables either, I just made it sound like that so you wouldn't be embarassed if you took them.

Fully humiliated, I dumped the offensive food in the garbage. I could have left them out for the rats, but was afraid they would be above eating it.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Find Your Military Match (in your local gay paper)

I captured this screen shot of today's DC Agenda (DC's LGBT weekly paper) when I saw the ad on the left. The article is a Kevin Naff editorial on DADT. The Ad says "find your military match today" and shows a picture of a man in uniform in an intimate pose with a woman.

There's something either terribly wrong with this picture or our service members are a lot more progressive (and sexually adventurous) than anyone gives them credit for.

Holy Ghost Hokey Pokey

Somehow in Sunday School, when we learned about the Lord's Prayer, which Jesus told us to use as a model prayer, I missed the part about putting your left foot in.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

How Managing a 5-year-old is Like an International Incident

Sometimes it's like Eli and I are two hostile countries, with me playing the superpower and Eli the upstart nation. Today, for example, we had opposing goals. Negotiations began. We were making progress, but suddenly, Eli broke off diplomatic relations and recalled himself to his room. I responded by imposing sanctions. He retaliated by launching a flurry of tears. This led to an internal peace protest within me, but I stayed the course. Finally, Eli offered reparations. Negotiations resumed and a truce was called.

All of this will be repeated tomorrow.

Republicans will denounce me as weak for not spanking, but I will continue to seek diplomatic solutions.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Leonard Matlovich

Via Good As You, vintage footage of Walter Cronkite interviewing gay pioneer Leonard Matlovich. G.A.Y has more vintage coverage of earlier attempts to end the ban on the rights of gays to serve in the military.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

GOProud. The Gay Republican Hope?

After bemoaning the lack of progress on gay issues from our Democratically controlled federal government, James Kirchick writes:

If liberal gays truly value legal equality over political partisanship,
they will wish groups like the Log Cabin Republicans and GOProud tactical
success in changing the GOP from within.

Well, yes, I wish them well. But I question whether changing the GOP from within is really the goal of GOProud. It seems to me they're more about giving conservative gays a social club from which to bash Obama. That's okay, being gay doesn't mean you're going to be for health reform or against torturing detainees, much less chanting "yes we can" at political rallies.

But providing a safe haven for gay conservatives within the GOP doesn't necessarily translate into working for change from within. A look at GOProud's federal legislative priorities suggests they are not on a mission to do what Kirchick hopes for.

Out of 10 "priorities," two are related to gay issues. One is opposition to a federal constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Well, how very 2004 of them. The fight today is DOMA repeal.

They also support repeal of DADT, and good for them. However, if they are "working from within" to deliver any Republican votes on DADT repeal I haven't seen any evidence of it. A review of their news releases doesn't reveal any evidence of their having successfully lobbied any GOP support in Congress on DADT repeal. They tout their founding, promote market based health care reform, promote the right to carry concealed weapons and brag about their sponsorship of CPAC.

One could argue -- and Kirchick does -- that their sponsorship and visibility at a prominent conservative gathering is a good thing. Visibility is important and their presence certainly highlighted the generational fissure in the conservative movement on gays. But again, did it result in any additional support in Congress for DADT repeal?

I agree philosophically with Kirchick. I don't think it's wise for gays to blindly support Democrats and see the gay movement as of a piece with the Democratic Party. But as long as the GOP's base of votes and money is southern and evangelical I don't see how it's politically possible for a small group working within to affect real change. And as far as I can see, it doesn't seem like they're trying all that hard.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Conversation with Eli

While sitting at Potbelly's watching (endless) construction at 14th and Irving:

Eli: Construction workers are amazing. They can make so many things.

Me: Yes they can (in my best 2008 campaign spirit).

Eli: They can't make everything, though.

Me: (so much for "yes we can" enthusiasm) Oh? What can't they make?

Eli: (thinking). Humans. God has to make some things.

Me: (thinking this the first time I've heard Eli mention God) What do you know about God?

Eli: (thinks again) Nothing.

Me: Me either. And I've got more than 40 years on you, trying to figure it out.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

I Taught My 5 Year Old that Abe Lincoln Was an Axe Murderer

I'm a geek but not a very imaginative one.

My favorite historical figure is Abraham Lincoln. He's one of the most written-about figures in the English language (I once read second only to Jesus Christ) so I'm hardly alone in my interest in him. But it's not very original.

I blame my maternal grandparents. They were some kind of Lincoln nuts. I first heard about him from them. I can remember my grandfather saying Lincoln was president for only "half of the United States." To which I said, "which half is President Nixon President of?"

Of course, when my grandparents were little, they too were hearing stories about Abe Lincoln. Except they were hearing it from people old enough to have been alive when Lincoln was. Think about that -- it's 2010, and I can say I talked to people who knew other people who lived through the Civil War. See? Geek excitement!

But I digress. So I'm a Lincoln nut too. I've read every bio of him I could. Two cartoons about him from newspapers from his time hang in one of the rooms of my house that contains other Lincoln Administration era artifacts.

So imagine my surprise and interest when I heard about a novel called "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter." It's written by the same guy who wrote "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies."
And I saw it at the airport bookstore in Seattle when I was there fetching my son to bring him back here and of course I picked it up.

So there I am, on the plane, next to Eli, devouring the contents of this book (it is a good book) when out of the corner of my eye I saw him staring. At the cover of the book. Which has a photo. Of President Lincoln, in his long frock coat. As you would expect. Except bloodstained. All over. In one hand the rail splitter held a blood stained axe -- in the other, the decapitated head of a vampire.

"Who's that?" my son asked of my hero.

Oh shit.

One of the hardest parts of being a sometimes parent is the transition from an all adult world to one intended only for general audiences.

Um, that's Abraham Lincoln.

"Is he a bad man? What's that?" he said, pointing to the decapitated vampire head. Oh dear.

I know kids are supposed to be able to distinguish between fantasy and reality. But what do you do with something that purposefully blends reality with fantasy?

I remember seeing the classic Star Trek episode where Kirk and company end up on a planet with historical good guys and bad guys, including Mr. Lincoln. During the episode a Klingon (maybe a Romulan) kills Lincoln with a spear. "oh that's how he died," I remember thinking. It took me a while to sort that out with the whole theater thing.

I took off the Lincoln the Vampire Hunter book cover and wouldn't let Eli see it. He now needs a reintroduction to Mr. Lincoln -- I think I will take him to the Lincoln Memorial sometime during this trip.

And pray he doesn't ask where they keep the vampire heads.

Here's a wicked cool video promoting the book, Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter.

Remember, it's fiction.

Friday, April 09, 2010

President Palin?

Chris Bowers thinks so:

A continually weak economy--which is very possible--could actually make her
President less than three years from now.

I think his reasoning for her getting the GOP nomination is sound. But I don't think the economy will make her president. But a terrorist attack on the scale of 9/11 could.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Dept. of Denying Reality

"I don't agree with homosexuality" wrote a reader of Andrew Sullivan's blog.

That's about as stupid as saying "I don't agree with the Earth revolving around the sun."

Thursday, April 01, 2010

What Congress is Worried About Now with HCR Done

Island capsizing. According to the Hill:

Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) is afraid that the U.S. Territory of Guam is going to "tip over and capsize" due to overpopulation.

You can see it for yourself in this clip. The tipping point is at about 1:20 in. The Congressman's spokesperson later spinned that Johnson was speaking figuratively about the island's infrastructure collapsing from an influx of U.S. Marines.

The Admiral he is questioning deserves an award for not laughing in his face.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Blowhole Jobs

Again, via JMG, New York Times Weekend magazine is exploring homosexuality in the animal world. For instance, the instances of many female albatrosses pairing off together, and this gem:

"Male Amazon River dolphins have been known to penetrate each other in the blowhole."

I guess we now know why they named him "Flipper."

For years, according to the article, scientists ignored or explained away such behavior. For example:

"One primatologist speculated that the real reason two male orangutans were fellating each other was nutritional."

Mmmm....who knew Orangutan spunk could be good for you too? Suddenly the "nutritionist" position at the National Zoo seems more...interesting.

Here's the article. And the Joe My God summary from which I lifted these quotes.

Teabonics

Via JMG, a flickr stream devoted to the misspellings of the Teabaggers.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

New York Times Profiles Some Teabaggers

At least, the masthead said New York Times. Several times I thought I was reading the Onion.

The basic gist of the article was that if you steep a bunch of people who have lost their jobs in a cup full of time you get: Instant Teabagging!

Let's look at a couple of them, shall we?

First, there is Tom Grimes. Tom lost his job and one of the first things he did was call his Democratic Congressman to ask for help keeping his private health insurance access to government-run health care.

Yep, you heard me right. Good old, socialist kill your grandma government run health care.

And then what has he been up to as a Teabagger?

According to the Times, he spent the last month getting other teabaggers to go to the same Congressman's office to protest "the government's takeover of health care."

Then there's Jeff McQueen who lost his job in auto parts sales in Ohio. He became a Teabagger and drove 700 miles to Massachusetts to help Scott Brown win there. He blames Uncle Sam for his job loss: "government is absolutely responsible," he says. No, not because of the bailout, or the stimulus package, or bureaucracy or anything smacking of big government.

Nope. He lost his job because, "the government has allowed free trade and never set up any rules."

Free trade! No government rules! Now there's two things small government activists can be against!

But, who am I to insist on facts and logic and truth when we can make our political decisions based on pure emotion instead.

According to Tom Grimes: "If you don't trust the mindset or the value system of the people running, the system, you can't even look at the facts anymore."

The Rule of Emotion has no room for logic and it's not a big step from that to just do away with the rule of law (except when we want government rules to protect auto parts jobs. I guess laws are okay when we feel like it).

Metro Considers Shortening Yellow Line, Closing Earlier on Weekends

To save money, Metro is considering ending service on the Yellow line to Fort Totten and closing at midnight on the weekends and other changes, according to Midcity.

I can see the Yellow line "shrinking," but their suggestion to close Metro early on weekends is surely a bluff to get local governments to up Metro's funding. Metro now closes at 3 on the weekends and I can't imagine any local government wanting all those drunks on the road and heading back to the suburbs after the bars close.

Of course, Metro might be able to save money if they'd stop wrecking their trains, running over track workers and plowing their buses into joggers and other pedestrians.

But that might be too much to ask.

Not a Photo Op

I get the sense from this picture that Gen. McChrystal and US Ambassador Eikenberry were having a real, serious discussion with the commander-in-chief. This wasn't a "Heckuva job, McChrystal" event. The adults are in charge. Thank God.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Rhetoric of Obama

Jonathan Bernstein has an interesting analysis of rhetorical themes that have showed up in the president's recent speeches on health care reform (At least, interesting to someone like me who once had aspirations of being a presidential speechwriter. Those aspirations dried up on a November night in 1992).

But it is interesting stuff as Bernstein tries to get a sense of Obama's inner moral and political compass from his rhetoric. And the comments provide some insight, particularly this one from someone from Canada:

Two years ago, I felt that the difference between the three democratic frontrunners could be summed up like this: John Edwards wanted to reform the economy, Hillary Clinton wanted to reform society, and Barak Obama wanted to reform politics. I am still not sure whether people who voted for Obama necessarily understood or supported what he wanted to do, but he took this has a mandate and, inch by inch, he is doing it. He sincerely believes that Americans can do anything they want to do -- "Yes, we can" is the essence of his being. In the end, if he CAN reform American politics, then society and the economy will follow. The Teabaggers who are so opposed to him call him names like fascist and communist because they don't know WHAT to call him, but in some visceral way they recognize what the progressives so far have not -- that Obama actually is aiming to change the way politics is being practiced in America, creating a significant, non-partisan, forward-looking change in how American democracy functions. This is terribly threatening to some on both the right and the left, who are too comfortable with the existing system.

RNC Spends $2,000 at Strip Club

A "lesbian-themed" strip club, no less.

Perhaps they were doing some family values research. Or perhaps promoting equality for women in the workplace?

The RNC is busy denying that the person who went to the club was Chairman Michael Steele. But whether or not Steele attended is not the important question here. The more important question for the party of financial responsibility was why would Steele (or his office) approve an expense by what they are calling "a non-committee staffer" (whatever that is) for $1,946 in "meals" on a single day at a booty club?

No organization I know of would approve such an expense. At least one that was financially well-managed.

I love how the Republicans are for the things they continually fail at: moral values and financial competence.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Dirty Inking

I don't have any problems with tattoos. And I think Patrick Swayze was a fine actor and was sorry about his early demise.

But having Swayze's face tattooed on your calf like the guy in the sauna at the gym today - Dude, too much!

Outing

I'm not in favor of it.

Yesterday, DC gay activist Phil Attey suggested on Facebook that a prominent Bush official had a gay relationship with Jeff Gannon. Chris Crain commented:

"I don't think it serves our cause to traffic in rumor and innuendo, especially about the private sex lives of other people. We ought to be better than that."


To which a chorus of people responded angrily that the enemies of gay people don't deserve to have private sex lives.

Sigh.

First -- we have no need for this tactic. We have the better arguments and the tide of history on our side. We need to be better about applying political pressure, but that pressure does not need to take the form of blackmail.

Second -- who decides who should be outed and for what reason? In other words, if a closeted gay politician votes against gay inclusion in hate crimes, does that justify dragging him out of the closet? Not everyone in the gay community agrees that passing hate crimes was needed. There are those in the community who think fighting for same sex marriage is a waste of time. We are not of one mind about everything, so who plays God and decides whose lives are to be messed with?

Finally -- what good will it do? Attey doesn't say how outing the Bush official or insinusating he is gay will move us closer to passing ENDA or repealing DOMA or DADT. Because it doesn't. Because outing is not about advancing politically. It's about revenge.

Crain is right. We are better than that.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Massa and the Sailors

Apparently he has a history of making passes at subordinates, as this Atlantic piece details. According to the same story, a group of sailors who were victims of these passes considered coming forward during Massa's first unsuccessful run for Congress in '06.

I guess they could have called themselves the "Swift Grope Veterans."

Seriously, there is something sick at the heart of all of this -- and it's the closet.

Google Bicycle Maps

Google adds directions for cyclists. At long last I can find my way home. (via DCist).

Scene from the Commute

Copters on the Potomac.

They must have forgotten something, for a few minutes later they turned around and headed back for the Pentagon.

Friday, February 26, 2010

White House Social Secretary Calls it Quits

This is not that much of a surprise. In a statement, the Obama's said:

"We are enormously grateful to Desiree Rogers for the terrific job she's done as the White House Social Secretary," the president and first lady said in a statement. "When she took this position, we asked Desiree to help make sure that the White House truly is the People's House..."

Mission Accomplished, to borrow a phrase. During her tenure, why, they'd let anybody into the White House

Sea World

The WaPo says they have a PR problem, but one expert said the park may now have an advantage with a new demographic:

Smith said the attack could actually drive up attendance of at least one demographic - teens and young adults.

"It's not going to draw families necessarily or older people who would typically visit there, but there is an age group that gets excited about the risks and the potential for drama and it may attract some of those folks," he said.


Hmm. A new marketing tagline: "Shamu: Who will he eat next?"

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Cheney has Heart Attack

And, according to WaPo, he had a stress test at the hospital.

John Yoo issued a statement saying stress tests do not constitute torture.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Dan Choi Returns to Duty

He refused to shut up, despite DADT. And he's now back with his unit, where he should be.

A gay American stood up for his right to be treated just as every other American. The establishment -- including the gay establishment -- all but told him to stop being patient and wait. But he refused.

He didn't ask. He told.

I am proud of Dan Choi.


Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Sarah Palin -- Tax Cheat?

According to a mystery envelope, she is.

Now that she's qualified, President Obama is trying to find a cabinet position for her.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Avatar

I've seen Avatar twice now, once in regular-D and today in Imax 3D. The difference -- not that much, really. The biggest difference were that the sound effects louder. Still a visually stunning, enjoyable film. For a 3 hour long cliche.

I realized on the second viewing what a cliche this movie is. From the hard-nosed bad ass military shithead, the awe-shucks hero (played by dreamy Sam Worthington), the evil corporation, the Dian Fossey-like scientist fighting the system to save the objects of her study (the casting of Sigourney Weaver was brilliant -- Cameron is relishing this cliche), the tribal dance and chanting...we've seen it all before. The local flora and fauna taking on the powerful military. Ewoks, anyone? May the Eywa be with you.

The movie can be forgiven all of that for it's visual effects. And Sam Worthington.

But what I can't quite forgive is James Horner's uninspired score. Horner has written some fine movie music and if I'm going to be on a boat that hits and iceberg and goes down by the head I can't think of more a more fitting soundtrack than what he composed for Titanic. Likewise if I'm going to take on Khan or blow up the Enterprise.

All composer's borrow from themselves, but really, much of the score for Avatar was Horner's score for Glory with conga drums added. And the Na'vi of Pandora sing in traditional four part harmony?

If you want a creative example of using western music to protray memorably the clash of Western and non-western culture I think the film music of Ennio Morricone in his score for The Mission meets the test. The haunting oboe solo...the floating first "Hallalujah," the unexpected entrance of the drums...yes, it's all western music but much more creatively used than what Horner served up for Avatar. Like the movie, we've heard it all before.

Did I mention Sam Worthington is hot?