Tuesday, May 31, 2005
Monday, May 30, 2005
I had a great time! I stayed out all night. Seriously! Left my apartment at like 9:15 and got home at 6 a.m. I haven't done something like that since...well, I honestly can't remember. Even back in the day when I was a little twink and I'd go to Limelight, Palladium and Tunnel, I usually left around midnight; my friends called me Cinderella. I just never enjoyed staying out very late.
I met my friends at XL, then we went to Park, got irritated with the long lines at the bar, went back to XL, got irritated with Jessye Normous and the long lines at the bar, went to Gym, got bored, went back to Park, stayed there until 4:00, then went to a diner for burgers and drama.
What was that about anyway?
Here are some random thoughts about last night, in no particular order:
Every atheist I meet went to Catholic school. Why is that?
Back-hair stubble: not okay.
Adult-baby/diaper fetish: I don't care how cute you are, that's a deal breaker. I'm sorry if that makes me judgmental.
Chicken soup, banana creme pie and diet Coke. At 4 a.m.?
I guess that guy thought that by fondling my butt in line at the bar that I wouldn't mind when he cut in front of me.
Best back-rub I've ever gotten in a bar. Hands down.
Is it "Park" or "The Park"? I know someone is particular on this subject, but I heard people saying both. I have to know so that when I talk about this night later in German I can use the correct form of the article.
Zum Beispiel: Ich habe sehr Park genossen. Ich habe sehr den Park genossen.
Sunday, May 29, 2005
I have just finished literally two full hours of rather punishing yoga, so I feel unusually enlightened right at the moment. As I was reading Paul's comment, an idea popped into my head.
I think God is a lot smarter than the fundamentalists give Him credit for.
One of the great things about God is that you can't fool Him. He knows exactly what is in your mind and in your heart.
Where lies sin? I think it's in the intention, not in the doing.
So here's the thing: are scientists trying to kill human embryos? Is that their intention? Is there any malice in their hearts as they harvest these cells for research? Or are they using their God-given talents to do something that they believe will ultimately have a great benefit for mankind? Are they wounding and torturing blastocysts, or relieving widespread human suffering?
This is exactly the same dilemma with Terri Schiavo. The fundamentalists accused the "activist liberal judiciary" of "murdering" her. But was that their intention? Is there really a "liberal" movement to destroy disabled people, as some blatantly argued? No. No one wanted Terri dead; many saw it as an act of compassion. Can God -- does God -- hold you accountable for an act of compassion if it is misguided?
Saturday, May 28, 2005
Does Bush have any idea what it means to sit down and think something through? Does he understand what consistency means?
Here is a recent brilliant piece by William Saletan on Slate comparing recent statements by Bush on stem cell research and on the death penalty.
His belief that the death penalty deters crime just shows that he hasn't seen any research at all on that issue. (I know, I write like I'm assuming facts ever trump ideology for this guy.)
Really look at what Bush says about the death penalty. He doesn't say criminals should die because they deserve it, he says they should die because it saves the lives of others. Contrast that with what he says about stem cells -- that life should never be abused or destroyed for the sake of others -- and you have to wonder just what is wrong with this man's brain that he can't detect his own inconsistency?
And why don't his supporters hear it? Are they all this stupid?
Perhaps it's something that could be cured with stem cell therapy.
I confess I have not fully thought out the potential implications and ramifications of stem cell research. I'm still pondering it. Which is an okay place to be, I think. But here's what else I think:
Yes, stem cells are harvested from human embryos. Okay, that's a little discomforting. But we're talking tiny little blastocysts here. There is "life" in that little clump of cells. But is it really alive, and what does being alive mean?
This little clump of biological matter -- made up, as it is, from human DNA -- is not a human being. It is certainly not a conscious organism. It's not going to suffer. And harvesting these cells, which couldn't possibly cause pain, has the potential to relieve suffering for millions of human beings.
But the fundies come out screaming, "All life is sacred!" Well...okay, but the flu virus is alive. The bacteria that cause strep throat are alive. Cancer cells are alive. I mean, if "all life is sacred," then why must we strive to protect a microscopic clump of cells and yet find no sin in killing a chicken, which is at least a sentient being? (Sentient being? I guess I could have picked a better example than a chicken.)
Does the fact that these little cells are made from human DNA make that big a difference? (If your answer is, "Yes!," then...okay.)
I guess I just don't understand -- at least, not yet -- what's so wrong about taking senseless, identity-less cells and doing something with them that could be so helpful to so many people; I especially don't understand when ideologues rush to the defense of non-beings and yet somehow manage to justify war and the death penalty.
Thursday, May 26, 2005
David Brooks wrote a coherent, interesting column today.
My only quibble is that he still seems locked in the belief that evangelical Christians and progressive liberals are mutually exclusive groups. It's not necessarily that liberals and conservatives are working together -- although in many instances, that is no doubt exactly what is happening -- but I would wager that the progressive evangelical base is larger than most people suspect. Also, not all social conservatives are anti-tax zealots losing sleep over gay marriage.
While it's true that most self-identified evangelicals say they support President Bush, let us remember that the President we got is not the President he promised he'd be. His actions haven't matched his rhetoric. (Remember when he decried nation-building? And why is it that multilateral diplomacy was "useless" with Iraq but the only option for North Korea?) While abortion and gay issues are still the hot-buttons for many evangelicals, a lot of conservatives are deeply worried about the nation's financial health, the way the war has been prosecuted, the shifting rationales for the war as well as the ill-defined and elusive ultimate goals, the environment, health care and poverty. Additionally, academic research conducted just prior to the 2004 election showed that most self-described Bush supporters had fundamental misunderstandings of the President's actual positions on issues such has nuclear weapon and landmine treaties, the environment and social security.
Doubtless, our government is infested with power-hungry ideologues who want to impose their morality on the rest of us. But it shouldn't really be a surprise that social conservatives are concerned about poverty.
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
I ended up sitting next to a real New York character, an older gentleman in a rumpled suit with wild, unkempt salt and pepper hair sticking out in every direction from underneath a Yankees’ cap. I guess he was really enjoying the performance, as he quite literally bounced in his seat through the opening number, the overture from Rossini’s Semiramide, which he managed to pronounce in a way that rhymed with “comedy.” Maestro Joseph Colaneri gave a vigorous reading to this pet favorite of mine, but Avery Fisher Hall’s famously muddy acoustics dulled the effect somewhat.
Rising star Jossie Perez, an unfairly attractive young lady with a warm, creamy mezzo, started off the evening with a rousing rendition of the Habañera from Carmen; it’s exceptionally difficult to put your own mark on a piece that’s so familiar, but Perez brought original colors to several places in the text. One complaint: her embouchure is so visibly tight that it’s quite distracting. Honey: your voice is completely aligned, and the Habañera isn’t exactly hard. Relax and just let your voice go, it will sound even better! You don’t need to focus the tone so much.
The evening’s host was the traumatic soprano Vera Galupe-Borszkh, who did a wonderful job introducing each artist and giving just enough background on the music being performed, managing to tastefully balance respect for the great masterpieces on parade while affectionately poking fun at the whole affair. For example, before Aprile Millo graced us with a fantastic “L’altra notte” from Boïto’s Mefistofele, Madame Vera set the scene for us of the poor, deranged heroine huddling in her cold prison cell, and managed to get off a hilarious joke about “frozen Margherita.”
Angela Brown is not a rising star. She is a comet. May she burn brightly for many years to come. I’m delighted to say that the recent ecstatic reviews of her unheralded Met debut were not exaggerations: she is the real deal. Not only does she have the voice – and boy, does she – she has the radiance, presence and personality to go with it. She made the great “Pace, pace” from Verdi’s La Forza del Destino seem positively easy. Whereas most sopranos gasp in desperation for the final climactic B-flat on “Maledizione!,” where they seem to be cursing the composer, Brown reveled in the chance to show her glorious, blooming and powerful top. (And at the risk of sounding like a complete queen, her silk brocade stole was gorgeous!)
The evenings honorees were Judith and Samuel Peabody and Stan Herman; the speeches and tributes were elegant and moving, and it was clear these awards were well-deserved and long overdue. Bravo to them all.
Musically, the second half of the program opened with a choral arrangement of “Nessun dorma” from Puccini’s Turandot for the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus, that went off better than I expected.
Maureen O’Flynn, a soprano I first heard back in 1993, has gained power and warmth over the years. She offered a wonderfully phrased Mimi from La Boheme, and also partnered Ms. Perez in the Flower Duet from Lakme. Ms. Brown came back with “Dich teure Halle” from Wagner’s Tannhäuser, but sounded as if she came not to praise the hall, but to punch a hole in the back wall. (Her German diction wasn't on par with her Italian, however.)
Galupe-Borszkh thoughtfully helped us out with Ms. Perez’ second aria, from Luna’s El Niño Judio, by translating it as “The Nice Jewish Boy,” and added that it was made famous by the great Spanish soprano Victoria de los Angeles, which she translated as “Vicki from L.A.”
Aprile Millo returned to enthusiastic applause, and then addressed the audience, asking for their moral support, as she announced that her mother is in the terminal stages of cancer.
She then sang the aria “La mamma morta” – “My Mother’s Dead” – from Giordano’s Andrea Chenier. Seriously.
As a person of faith, I was touched that the Yankees/Rossini fan in the seat next to me bowed his head in prayer in solidarity with Madame Millo during the aria.
As an audience member, I was irked that he prayed aloud.
Signora Galupe-Borszkh overstayed her welcome by about two musical numbers, in my opinion, but overall the evening was outstanding. Bass-baritone Richard Bernstein also contributed a solid if stiff Toreador Song, and filled in for the ailing no-show tenor in the finale from Candide.
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
The "bipartisan" members of the panel that met to hammer out this "compromise" claim that the result is that the Senate has maintained its integrity.
I didn't realize that "integrity" meant a political spin job on giving a pass to three radical, unethical judges.
Sunday, May 22, 2005
The New York Times today published a series of letters to the editor regarding the ongoing debate over the teaching of evolution in public schools. The obvious hostility in some of the letters was as astounding as the hypocrisy.
There are many people who do not believe in God, or, to put it another way, they believe that God does not exist. Is that a testable idea? Do atheists have libraries of data, or even a single verifiable fact? No.
Fundamentalism is dangerous. But fundamentalism is not confined to established religions. You see, there is such a thing as secular fundamentalism: that is, the belief that religion is fraud and that all people of faith are either sadly duped morons or have willfully deceived themselves. The very things that secularists despise most about religious fundamentalists -- arrogance, self-righteousness, judgmental attitudes and a stubborn unwillingness to consider new ideas -- are their own hallmarks.
One letter in today's Times lamented "this sad turn toward anti-intellectualism that is infecting our educational system." You know the nation is in trouble when a presidential candidate can be accused of being a member of the "intellectual elite" and vast swaths of America nod their collective heads, instead of laughing uncontrollably. I mean, of all the jobs in the world for an "intellectual" to have, don't you think President of the United States is a good one? Without an intellectual in charge, you get food on your family and increasing amounts of imports coming from overseas.
The cause of anti-intellectualism is fundamentalism. Fundamentalism is the fear of new ideas. People who have been "educated" with a narrow, highly-selective range of information and indoctrinated into belief systems of incontrovertible truths are easily manipulated. It is not a coincidence that the Republican party leadership, increasingly indistinguishable from radical religious fundamentalists, dismisses even the most timid questions about policy as "un-patriotic." In America, patriotism is becoming orthodoxy, as evidenced by the recent "filibuster against faith" nonsense.
The result is that radical secularists become even more entrenched in their "religion = bad" beliefs. Secular fundamentalists are every bit as paranoid that their children might be exposed to ideas that would lead them to become Baptists as Baptists are that their children might become Unitarian.
Secularists are often so ignorant of religious beliefs and ideas that they make outrageous statements like this letter writer: "Buried in the faulty rhetoric of intelligent design theory is the presumption that the human mind should be able to comprehend everything about the world." Actually, just the opposite: science seeks to provide an explanation for all things, while proponents of intelligent design are comfortable with the idea that some things are beyond knowing or explaining.
Religion should be taught in the public schools. Secular fundamentalists who would decry this as a form of Constitutional heresy aren't any more enlightened than religious fundamentalists who deprive their children of basic information about sex and sexuality. I can guarantee that Jesus never said, “Blessed are the willfully ignorant.”
There is a way, believe it or not, to teach religion without preaching or proselytizing. You just do it the same way you'd teach a philosophy course. Make students read a little of this, a little of that, have an in-class discussion, assign a paper. Done. Sure, those discussions might get a little heated. But honestly, what is wrong with that? America was founded as a place for people to discuss various ideas.
When a teacher or professor assigns Macchiavelli or Adam Smith or Hobbes, no one expects everyone in the class to agree with the material. Some students will strongly identify with it, and others will reject it wholesale. Most will be somewhere in between. But that open exchange of ideas is a component that has all but been eradicated from American public education, as we strive to water down the curriculum to appease the P.C. police and get students to pass the standardized tests. I'm all for standardized testing as a general diagnostic, but life is not a standardized test.
Just as secularists think religious people should study science, secularists should study religion. The Bible is, after all, the most widely read book in the history of mankind. Some people might scoff at anyone who hasn’t read Virginia Woolf, but they think people who are wholly ignorant of religion have made good use of their time. You cannot hope to understand western art, culture and history in any substantive way unless you also understand the role that religion has played. You don’t have to believe it, but you’ve got to understand it.
Having an understanding of and appreciation for religion is also a crucial skill in today’s ever-shrinking world. There are no permanent or long-term or even temporarily tenable solutions to ancient conflicts in the middle east and south Asia to be found that aren’t sensitive to the religious needs of the cultures involved.
In order to solve the great problems facing our planet, we have all got to be open to new ideas. That’s a lesson fundamentalists of every stripe are reluctant to learn.
Saturday, May 21, 2005
Friday, May 20, 2005
Listen not to vain words of empty tongue. Exactly. Into the garbage with you.
Topic 2: My New Downstairs Neighbor
She came up earlier this evening to complain that my television was too loud.
It wasn't on.
Topic 3: National Treasure
Okay, I knew this was a dumb movie when I rented it. I wasn't expecting Oscar material. But sheesh, for all the thought that went in to linking all these clues and coming up with Masonic symbolism blah blah blah, they sure left some gaping huge holes.
Like, take this set-up: the location of one of the clues is hidden somewhere in Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Are you with me so far? Good. The location can be identified when the shadow from the tower that used to house the Liberty Bell crosses over it at a specific time. What time? Why, 2:22, the time the clock shows on the engraving on the back of a US $100 bill. (If I had a hundred-dollar bill, I'd check.) What time was it when our heroes discovered this part of the puzzle? 3:00 p.m. Well, shit.
But wait! Don't despair. Hot computer geek Riley (who should have got the girl, I'm sorry) remembers that in Benjamin Franklin's day they didn't have daylight savings time, so right now it would only be 2:00 if it weren't for DST! That gives them 22 minutes to get to the top of Independence Hall to see where the shadow falls.
Okay, clever. Sort of.
Why do we have daylight savings time? Because the sun changes position, hello. (Okay, okay, I know, it's the earth that moves, I'm sorry.) Nowhere in this conversation did a date enter into the picture. I mean, the shadow from the bell tower isn't going to fall in the same place on December 12 that it does on July 7. Actually, they'll be pretty far off. But never mind. On whatever random stupid day it was, Nicolas Cage was able to spot the exact brick (from 100 yards off) inside which was hidden a secret pair of 3-D glasses designed by Franklin.
Also, like...I'm sorry, did it bother anyone else that during a gala event in the National Archives, they'd have exactly one guard watching over the room containing the Declaration of Independence? Of course, maybe thanks to Bush's tax cuts that was an accurate depiction of the current state of security in America.
Who thought that was a good idea?
And who buys them? Probably some un-hygienic freak who's never washed his hands in his life so he never considered how frickin' inconvenient and illogical such a retarded-ass sink is.
It's cold and raining today. My umbrella is broken. I don't know what it is. I lived in Oregon for 12 years and I don't remember ever having to deal with a broken umbrella. In Manhattan, I buy about one umbrella a month.
Question for the ages: when it's raining, how do you stop at the coffee cart and manage to pick up your breakfast, take out your wallet and pay for it while holding your umbrella? And now that you're holding a bag containing coffee and a donut, how do you get your wallet out again to show the security guy your building pass?
Easy. You put the umbrella down. It's so windy it'll just rip apart anyway.
So I was a little wet when I got to work. So was my paper bag. So was my donut.
The coffee guy -- he's so adorably cute, so I'll let it go -- put my Friday Boston Creme in the bag with the chocolate side facing the coffee cup. Also the coffee cup lid leaked. So when I got to my cubicle and set the bag down, a chocolate/coffee/rainwater puddle immediately started spreading across my desk. Fortunately I had napkins on hand.
I reached into the bag to take out the coffee, and all the chocolate frosting from the donut has melted and stuck to the cup. The cup has more frosting than my donut.
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
If you didn't click on the link in the post below to the "special" photos of Dom, I recommend taking a peek. Potentially NSFW. Perhaps I misled when I said they were "clean" photos. By "clean," I meant they were taken in the shower.
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
Monday, May 16, 2005
I happen to be a Tolkien fan, it's true, and I'm also a fan of Peter Jackson's movies. But this pervasive belief that I have a thing for three-foot seven curly-headed guys with size 15 hairy feet is not really accurate. It's just that the actors who played the four principal hobbits in the films are all so darn cute.
First there's the adorable Billy Boyd. Even if you're not necessarily into the slight build and the thinning hair, there's his infectious smile and hypnotic Scottish accent.
Do you think Billy's sexy? You can vote your opinion on this site. If this pic doesn't do it for you, the one on the link might change your mind. Sign me up for second breakfast please. Also elevensies, lunch, dinner, supper and afternoon tea.
He looks like a dirty boy, doesn't he? Personally, I also like him when he's nice and clean, like in these pics here.
Everyone who knows me knows that my favorite is cuddly-looking Sean Astin. I know most people don't get this, but to me he just seems like such a sweet, mellow all-around good guy. Plus we all know I'm not really into skinny boys. And he's a Democratic activist!
Sigh. He wasn't always a portly hobbit, you know. Need proof?
So lastly that brings us to Elijah Wood. Nothing against Elijah. I mean, he's just kind of petite; not just short, but "small." Also he is what I would call "pretty." And I'm not really into "pretty." But then I discovered this picture:
Hello. Yes, he's still petite and pretty, but...this pic has some attitude. Mmmm. And then I discovered a website devoted to evidence that Elijah Wood is Very, Very Gay.
If you'll excuse me, I'm going to go watch a few selected scenes from Return of the King now.
Sunday, May 15, 2005
Apparently an "investigation" is under way, but given the Abu Ghraib whitewash, I don't have a lot of confidence that we will ever hear anything resembling truth. It doesn't matter, though. Like the little boy who cried wolf, we haven't a shred of credibility left anyway. An official assurance from the U.S. government isn't worth one Italian lira on the Arab street today, or anywhere else, for that matter.
True or not, this allegation so perfectly fits the pattern of documented abuses coming out of Cuba, Iraq and elsewhere that its mere plausibility should strike fear and shame into the hearts of Americans everywhere. Who are we? What have we become?
Apparently we've become a country with a government that thinks it's okay to take a devoutly religious prisoner and allow him to be smeared across the face with what he is told is menstrual blood. Your tax dollars paid for that, by the way.
What sickens me the most is the broad, if quiet, support for these kinds of tactics in the conservative Christian community. There are actually folks out there, like Lt. General William Boykin, who argue that we can only defeat the terrorists "if we come against them in the name of Jesus." To my way of thinking, that means with a smile on your face and your arms open, not in a tank or a Black Hawk.
Jesus rebuked, but he never insulted. If he embarrassed anyone, it was because he demonstrated to them the folly and hypocrisy of their own words and actions. He did not go around ranting and raving about the evils of other religions, but he did spend a lot of time criticizing the leaders of his own faith. Jesus, who endured the ultimate torture of the cross and days in hell, is not someone who would have paraded naked prisoners around at the end of a leash, even as it was done to him. For Jesus, the end doesn't justify the means; right action and moral clarity were everything.
If we are in fact a "Christian" nation, as Boykin and others have asserted, where is our righteous indignation? Are we seriously more concerned that Janet Jackson bared a breast than that thousands of prisoners are being held and tortured in this manner without being charged with any crime, without access to counsel and without hope of a fair trial? Would Jesus travel halfway across the country to fight the "homosexual agenda" by picketing a high school graduation? Or would he have used those resources to help people in need? Where are our priorities?
In the toilet.
Saturday, May 14, 2005
I had this dream that I was at a large dinner reception hosted by my mother's friend's T & V. In reality, they own a beautiful Victorian-era farmhouse out in the middle of nowhere Oregon, but in my dream their dining room looked like the multi-purpose room of some suburban church. Yeah, I know. Ew.
Anyway, at one point part of the brick wall began to glow a bright blue, and something that everyone called a "wormhole" began to open up and this thing started to slowly extract itself from the wall and then drop onto the floor as the hole closed up.
It was a long carved piece of wood, like a walking stick of some kind, and it was beautifully decorated with Japanese writing. They decided to give it to me. I guess because it was my dream.
My dad was in this one, too. He was setting up a tent -- like, you know, for camping -- in the corner of the dining room and refusing to join the rest of us.
Friday, May 13, 2005
So I just had this dream that I was driving around with my dad talking about what a great movie Whatever Happened to Baby Jane was. He particularly liked my impersonation of Bette Davis doing Joan Crawford ordering liquor over the phone. (Which in my dream was almost as impressive as knowing the recipe for glue.)
On a roll as Bette Davis, I gargled out, "Drink your drink."
"Ha, that was a good one," said Dad.
My father is a teetotaling southern baptist.
Thursday, May 12, 2005
I could only muster sympathy for the sad-looking woman on the A-train this morning who was reading this.
Monday, May 09, 2005
Of course you all know that I've begun a new career at the forefront of office-management activism, and I'm loving it! I've been in a real emotional limbo for the past couple of years, feeling very much without purpose or direction. For the time being, that problem has been solved.
I haven't been alone in this, however. Several of my friends have also been treading water, as it were, trying to keep from drowning but not really getting anywhere. But in recent weeks, JWC got into grad school; FS got exactly the job he was going after; MG got into the NYPD academy; and just today JPV was hired by a big law firm.
It looks like things are finally turning around for us. And not a moment too soon! Hurray!
Thursday, May 05, 2005
And also I guess I'm in one of those rare periods where I just don't have all that much to say.
The new job is going great! My office is cozy and friendly and everyone seems really nice. It is such a relief to be out of the corporate environment, where people feel free to talk like...well, like people. Oh, and I can wear jeans to work. It's like some kind of beautiful dream!
As for what I do, well...there isn't really much to tell you. I'm the human resources/administration/finance administrative assistant. I basically do everything for everyone, and none of it is particularly exciting or glamorous. You know, I order supplies, I collect timesheets, I distribute memos, I load paper into copiers, blah blah blah. Fine. I'm at the bottom of the totem pole. But seriously, folks, when we finally get you the right to get married, I want you all to stop and remember that it might not have happened if Andy hadn't kept the toner supply stocked.
A big, big thank you to all my many wonderful friends who came out for happy hour on Tuesday to celebrate. It was great to see you and I had a lot of fun. I thought I'd be there for a couple of hours tops, then go home and be bored. I was astonished at one point to look down at my watch and discover it was 11 p.m.
Wednesday, May 04, 2005
I'm officially employed now, and so far it's going great! I think this is going to be a great fit for me, and I'm really excited. I'll write in more detail -- not that you were worried -- soon.