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.


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Thursday, August 19, 2010


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.


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.