Monday, December 31, 2007

2007: Andy's Year in Review

JANUARY: Pat Robertson predicts a major terrorist strike on the United States toward the end of 2007. "I'm not necessarily saying it's going to be nuclear. The Lord didn't say nuclear. But I do believe it will be something like that."

FEBRUARY: Mary Cheney announces she's carrying a baby, not a prop. The Primates of the Anglican Communion issue a "communiqué" to the Episcopal Church: discriminate or get out. Andy is a guest on The Colbert Report. (Okay, fine, I was in the audience.)

MARCH: Rocky & Starbuck make their YouTube debut. General Peter Pace testifies before Congress in favor of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." The Episcopal Church's House of Bishops responds to the Primates: "Get Bent." Four of Final Five Cylons revealed! And, who could forget Bong Hits 4 Jesus?

APRIL: Andy says goodbye to New York; The Cats Across America Tour.

MAY: The Oregon Legislature passes a bill establishing statewide domestic partnership registration for same-sex couples. (The law was set to go into effect tomorrow, but a judge halted it on December 29, saying opponents should get another shot at putting the civil rights of lesbian and gay Oregonians up for a vote). Andy, Rocky & Starbuck find a new home. The Rapture Index approaches "Fasten Your Seatbelts!"

JUNE: The Preznit pardons Scooter Libby. Andy turns 29 (again).

JULY: Heaven gets a new angel. Britney takes up method acting.

AUGUST: I receive the ugliest flower arrangement in the history of the universe. Mabel the Sable has a breakdown. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert go on vacation for two weeks, during which thankfully nothing newsworthy happens, except Michael Vick is arrested for dogfighting, Alberto "I Can't Answer That Question" Gonzales abruptly resigns, and Larry "I am Not Gay" Craig takes a wide stance for civil rights.

SEPTEMBER: Cancer claims Pavarotti. The President addresses the You-Night-Ed Nay-Shunz. Portland Opera opens with Carmen.

OCTOBER: Starbuck's modeling debut. Andy gets a job. Andy switches to FOX News. Andy gets fan mail. Andy makes a Cat-o-Lantern.

NOVEMBER: Andy (accidentally) goes undercover at a Catholic Church. Revealed!: Admiral Cain eats out (at Quiznos?).

DECEMBER: Hurricane-force winds strike Oregon. 60 Minutes airs a story about openly gay servicemen and women, prompting Concerned Woman J. Matt Barber to cry, "Put a cork in it!" Portland gets its first white Christmas since 1937. Andy makes a New Year's resolution.

To my readers: best wishes for a happy, healthy, successful 2007!

UPDATE: Erm, I meant 2008.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Sex and the Kitty

So, I'm feeling a little nostalgic for New York. After spending a wonderful afternoon with long-time friends, I came home, mixed up a batch of cosmopolitans, and popped in my Sex and the City DVD's.

Picture it: I'm in the club chair with my feet on the ottoman, sipping my cocktail, with Starbuck in my lap. Rocky is curled up, as is his wont, in front of the fire. We're watching the episode "Great Sexpectations" from Season 6, when Samantha and Smith have sex for the first time. Samantha is hooting and squawking in ecstasy. Rocky wakes up, trots over to the TV, looks at me, meows, and then runs away.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Bach to the Future

I just did something I haven't done in five years: I ordered some music.

With New Year's Eve just around the corner, I've been spending some time pondering just what the hell I am doing with my life. For 2007, I established some specific goals -- big ones -- and met them. So, now what?

I mean, fine. I have the kind of apartment I wanted in the neighborhood I like, and I have a good job with the salary I needed. But these are all external, meaningless things. Who am I? Where am I going in life? How am I getting there?

Okay, maybe I'm not ready to answer all those questions in detail, but if right now my response is, "I'm an administrative assistant going nowhere in my '93 Mercury Sable," that's fairly unsatisfactory.

Earlier this month I went to an extraordinary concert of baroque holiday music by the Trinity Consort. It was the finest performance I had heard -- by a longshot -- since leaving New York. It wasn't long before I began to ache with envy for the performers and I thought, "Damnit, I'm not a secretary. I am a musician."

There is a passage in the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas that reads, "If you bring forth what is within you, it will set you free. If you do not bring forth what is within you, it will destroy you." And I am afraid that is true.

So, I'm going to sing again. There, I said it.

Now, wait, just a moment. This is not me re-launching my singing career. Uh-uh. Now that I live in the realm of steady paychecks and benefits, I'm not ready to turn around and go back to poverty and uncertainty and auditions and all that. I don't have time for that kind of dedication. This is merely me deciding that all that time and effort -- literal blood, sweat and tears -- is not going to go to waste while I quietly disappear into my cubicle in Beaverton, with a few fading photographs and wrinkled posters on my walls.

Actually, I have already been singing a little bit. I warm up every now and then and sing through my old repertoire, just for fun. But it's become clear to me that without goals, it's only so much yodeling.

So here's the deal: I've picked a piece to learn (the aria "Mache dich, mein Herze, rein" from JS Bach's St. Matthew Passion) and I'm going to ask the music director at my church if I can sing it at a service either for Lent or Easter.

There. It's in writing. I expect you to hold me to it.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Meowing in a Winter Wonderland


For the record, according to Wikipedia, the chance of snow on Christmas Day in Portland is 0%.

Merry Christmas.

And me with no Golden Griddle.

The First LOL

I volunteered to help with the Christmas Pageant this year.

All went well until, for some reason, one "sheep" decided to punch another "sheep" right in front of the whole congregation. Fortunately the father of the dominant male rose from his pew, leaped to the altar, swept his child under his arm and strode out the door.

I guess this is what the narrator meant when he said the Wise People (one of ours was a girl) brought gifts of gold, frankincense and mirth.

Monday, December 24, 2007

That's the Spirit

So I'm driving home from a pleasant, delicious Christmas Eve dinner at my father's house, and I'm in the right lane because I know I have a right turn coming up in a bit. The car in the left lane -- hi, welcome to Oregon -- is going about 7 miles under the speed limit, for no apparent reason. He signals that he's going to move into my lane, and while my initial reaction was, "Oh, no, Pokey, you're not getting in front of me," and move into the left lane to pass him, I decide, no, it's Christmas, let it be. So I ease up on the pedal to give him room to come over.

And then after 45 more seconds or so he's still in the left lane, so I muttered, to no one in particular, "Come on, dickwad." Then, this being Christmas, I felt ashamed.

Then after another block or so, as he still hasn't moved over, I conclude that he is a moron and I accelerate to the speed limit. As I get to about six inches from his bumper, he suddenly moves into my lane.

"JESUS FUCKING CHRIST!!!!" I shouted.

: (

Merry Christmas from Andy & the Cats


Well, it's Christmas Eve and the tree is still standing, so...hurray for that.

Starbuck decided she could be helpful while I was decorating by making sure that the tissue paper didn't blow away.

Here she is supervising the preparations for my dinner party.

Package inspection.

This picture has nothing to do with Christmas, but I couldn't help myself.

Last night I curled up on the sofa by the fire with A Christmas Carol; it's been a long time since I actually read it. I'd forgotten how amazing it is. The movie versions all leave out the most inflammatory stuff. Dickens is truly kicking it Old Testament Prophet style.

And then I decided that it was so nice and comfortable in the living room that I would have a camp-out. I pulled the blankets off the bed, curled up by the fire, and read 2 Peter by the light of the tree. Rocky slept on a pillow next to my head, and Starbuck, as is her new custom, crawled under the blankets and curled up next to my tummy and did that paw-kneading thing.

Best wishes to everyone for a very Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

A Christmas Meditation

"There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say," returned the nephew. "Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round -- apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that -- as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!"

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Name the Opera

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

Back to Health



The cold is over. Yay! Here I am at a little dinner party I had at my apartment last night.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Good Thing All Those States Banned Gay Marriage

First thing to say: I can't even believe that this is "news," let alone currently CNN.com's top story.

Second thing to say: "It was a shock for both of us, so unexpected," said Jamie Lynn Spears of her pregnancy. "I was in complete and total shock and so was he." Well, when you have sex and don't use birth control, this tends to happen. (See Spears, Britney.) For real? A shock?!?!? Please.

Third thing to say: Jamie Lynn Spears Pregnancy Raises Legal Questions. Here's a legal question: what is the point of these laws? It takes (at least) two to tango. If you prosecute the gander, you should prosecute the goose.

Fourth thing to say: Thank God we keep banning gay marriage all over the country, in order to steer procreation into marriage. It's working swell.

Fifth thing to say: If you Google "steer procreation into marriage," The Last Debate is the top result. Cool.

Little House in the Big Suburb

One of my favorite books as a kid -- which I think probably was some sort of sign -- was Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House in the Big Woods.

I found the recollection of her time as a young girl living deep in the Wisconsin frontier in a log home built with her father's own hands fascinating; I read it several times over. I loved the detailed descriptions of the daily life, which was one of endless hard work, where every member of the family -- even young children -- had important responsibilities necessary to survival. Yet this hard work didn't seem like drudgery to me; I would set the book down, close my eyes, and indulge in reveries about what those tasks would be like. (In reality, my parents eventually gave up trying to get me to do anything resembling a chore; I was fairly undisciplined, in that regard.)

The highlight of the book was the Christmas celebration; relatives arrived from far away loaded in a sleigh which came gliding across the snow through the woods, with everybody wrapped in thick blankets. Children got handmade toys and adults got more practical gifts, like tools and clothing. They all went together to a big party at a neighboring farm and danced by candlelight, with the snow falling thickly all around.

This seemed like real Christmas, to me.

I liked the book so much that I even tried to replicate one of the experiences. Wilder recalled how she would go outside with a little bit of maple syrup, which she would pour in squiggles in the snow, and after a time it would harden into "candy." So of course the next time there was about an eighth of an inch of snow in the backyard (which counts as a major front-page blizzard in Portland) I took our plastic bottle of Golden Griddle and squirted some on the ground.

Now, I'm guessing the Wisconsin woods get a sight colder than western Oregon. Also it probably helps to use real, homemade maple syrup rather than...well, Golden Griddle. I waited patiently for about five minutes, but it hadn't really set up. I went back inside for a bit, but when I came back out to check, nothing really had happened. I grew impatient and decided to go ahead and taste it. Basically I had made sweet brown snow, with a little bit of dirt for texture.

Mmm.

Monday, December 17, 2007

I am Concerned About this Woman

Meet J. Matt Barber, the Policy Director for Cultural Issues at Concerned Women for America, which seeks "to protect and promote Biblical values among all citizens - first through prayer, then education, and finally by influencing our society - thereby reversing the decline in moral values in our nation."

In response to yesterday's edition of 60 Minutes on CBS, in which Lesley Stahl interviewed openly gay current and former servicemen
who claimed their colleagues and superiors knew and didn't care that they were gay, Barber had this to say to Cybercast News Service: "The military is no place for such radical San Francisco-style social experimentation, especially during a time of war."

That's a difficult argument to sustain, since according to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, 22 nations with troops currently fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan allow gay and lesbian soldiers to serve openly:
Australia, Austria,Belgium, Britain, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. Israel and South Africa also allow gay soldiers. Maybe the better argument is that in a time of war, when the military is desperately trying to maintain recruitment goals by admitting felons and lowering standards for physical and intellectual competence while doubling and tripling enlistment bonuses, we shouldn't be clinging to discredited Colorado Springs-style notions about sexual orientation.

But do let's give Ms. Barber a little credit for personal experience:
"I served 12 years in the military. During basic training, one of my fellow recruits was sent home for soliciting sex from other male recruits. The incident was an enormous distraction from our task at hand, which was to learn how to be good soldiers. Instead, recruits were violated, complaints were filed, and our command was forced to conduct a thorough investigation. It was an incredible waste of time and resources, and it definitely harmed troop morale and unit cohesion."

So, let's get this straight. (I do love that phrase.) Girlfriend here served twelve years in the military and once some gay soldier made unwelcome sexual advances. Wow, that does sound like a great reason to disqualify thousands of uniquely skilled, hardworking Americans willing to put their lives on the line for our nation's safety. You wouldn't want to have to put some poor heterosexual schmo in the awkward position of having to say, "Umm...no thanks, I'm not interested." Heavens, no. (Because female service members never have to deal with unwelcome advances.)

What does Ms. Barber recommend?
"If the bleeding-heart lefties over at CBS News and the SLDN really want to do something to support our troops and help the military, they should abandon their attempts to radically alter and undermine the armed forces, pipe down, put a cork in it and let our brave fighting men and women win this war on terror."

That's right. Leave the fighting up to "brave men and women," i.e. those who through an accident of genetics find themselves hopelessly heterosexual, instead of risking our national security by allowing prancing nellies like these guys (and gal) to serve their country.

* Copying the texts from these websites seems to have resulted in some irreconcilable font-size issues. But in the interests of diversity, I decided not to impose my personal preference for unity. Actually I tried, but failed.

What Did I Smoke Last Night?

Well, nothing, of course. But good grief I had some weird dreams.

One dream I had three times -- in the same night! And it was always the same. I was running through the forest being chased by a pack of wolves. They would corner me in a cave, standing at the mouth snarling at me, and then I'd wake up drenched in sweat. Yes, this happened three lovely times.

But that's not all. I had the dream again with a variation: the last time I was being chased by a gorilla.

I've had gorilla dreams ever since I was a child. Almost always I'm in my house and the gorilla is looking through the windows trying to see me, and I'm hiding behind a wall. But he's never chased me through a forest before.

Interpretation courtesy Dreammoods.com:

Wolf

To see a wolf in your dream, symbolizes beauty, solitude, mystery, self-confidence and pride. You are a loner by choice. Negatively, it represents hostility and aggression. It may also reflect an uncontrollable force or situation in your life. In particular, if the wolf is white, then it signifies valor and victory. [Andy: no, they were dark gray, all three times.] You have the ability to see the light even in your darkest hours.

Gorilla

To see a gorilla in your dream, suggests that you may be too "over the top" in your behavior. Perhaps you are compensating for your rigidity and stiffness in your waking life. Alternatively, the gorilla symbolizes your primitive impulses, wild nature and repressed sexual energy. [Andy: Well, duh.]

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Saturday, December 15, 2007

But Not Nice Manager

Sick and stuffed up as I am, I thought Vietnamese for dinner sounded like a brilliant idea. I stopped in at the place around the corner to see if I could get a take-out menu.

"No take out," the manager said to me. "This nice restaurant."

Well, all righty then.

And a Partridge on the Bird Feeder

I am sick.

UGH.

I woke up early Thursday morning with a painful sore throat and a clogged head, and had to stay home from work, which meant I missed the department holiday party. (I guess maybe not such a bad thing, but still.) I went in yesterday and banged out everything that absolutely had to be done and then skedaddled at two. I have canceled all my weekend plans, including seeing this morning's live Hi-Def broadcast of the Metropolitan Opera's matinee performance of Gounod's Romeo et Juliette (instead I'm listening to it on the radio) with Anna Netrebko, Roberto Alagna, Nathan Gunn, and Placido Domingo in the pit (yes, he conducts, too). One of the smaller roles is being taken by someone I went to school with, one of those singers who had an unbelievable instrument but was a complete putz of a person. Argh. I'm also missing a parishioner's funeral and a concert I was supposed to attend with new friends. Rats.

It hasn't been all bad, though. I've been running around like an administrative assistant with his head cut off for the last many weeks, and so some enforced laziness has been something of a treat. I've been spending some time lying on the couch admiring the tree and reading, something I haven't done in forever. The cats seem happy to have me home, and so usually as soon as I get on the couch, I've got Starbuck curled up on my chest and Rocky in my lap. Of course since I'm also drinking gallons of fluids right now, they give me lots of lip when I have to get up to pee. Still, it's nice to be loved. Plus, I was wondering when I'd have time to do Christmas cards.

[OOOOF...Netrebko is off to a rough start. She just completely cracked her opening cadenza. Easy, girl. It's not Isolde.]

Earlier in the year I was regularly visited by a variety of cute little finches who came to hang out at my bird feeder. Alas, I guess they migrated and my feeder had been so long neglected that I had to throw it out; the seeds sprouted and I couldn't get the thing clean.

This morning, as I was reading The New York Times and having my coffee, I was distracted by a familiar noise: Rocky's whining and Starbuck's squawking that indicates birds are around. I went to the window to have a look: goodness me, it was a regular aviary out there. Ravens, grackles, bluejays, starlings, robins, juncos, hummingbirds and a whole gaggle of red-winged blackbirds.

Anyway, if anyone needs me, I'll be on the couch with my book.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Misunderestimating Huckabee

The mainstream media seems to think it has uncovered dirt on “surprise” Republican contender Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas. This only helps to highlight how profoundly out of touch beltway conventional wisdom is with political reality in the heartland.

Slate posts Huckabee’s 1992 responses to a political questionnaire under their “Hot Document” column, with the subheadline, “A homophobic comment comes back to haunt him.”

CNN.com’s “Political Ticker” reports that “Huckabee takes fire for Mormon comment.”

USAToday rapped him last week for not keeping abreast of major U.S. foreign policy developments.

But this is not evidence that the governor’s “come from nowhere” meteoric rise in the polls is going to quickly fizzle once people know him better. Quite the contrary.

First, Huckabee didn’t come from “nowhere.” It was the media that picked the early front-runners based on name recognition: McCain, Giuliani, Romney, and, later, Thompson. But anyone really in touch with the political dynamics in this country had to know that the evangelical base the Republican Party has been working so hard to cultivate for the last decade was not going to be able to fall in lock-step behind any of these guys. The open question for them has been, “For which lesser evil shall we settle?”

When you have a group that deals primarily in non-negotiable moral absolutes, this is not an easy decision. Hence, you get Pat Robertson on the one hand endorsing thrice-married, pro-gay, pro-choice, anti-gun Rudy Giuliani, while James Dobson issues a fatwa against his candidacy. Those who feel that defeating Hillary* is objective #1 and are willing to make the necessary political calculations can’t rally support from fellow partisans who are unwilling to compromise on abortion and gay rights.

I’ve been waiting for a long time for Huckabee to get the national attention I knew was coming. He’s folksy and plainspoken without effort; this already sets him widely apart from the rest of the pack, especially high-strung, urban Giuliani and robotic, aloof Romney.

These recent “exposures” of Huckabee’s views from 17 years ago – of which he said, "I'm not going to recant or retract from the statement that I did make” – are not a collective bucket of water about to douse his sudden campaign fire. It’s lighter fluid.

While those of us in the reality-based community might react in horror at the prospect of a president who wants to isolate people with HIV and find it appallingly irresponsible that someone running for the White House didn’t even know about the NIE that completely reversed the Bush Administration’s assertions about Iran, this is music to evangelical ears. This is what they’ve been waiting to hear. It’s Huckabee’s frankness on issues where the frontrunners have been transparently calculating that is propelling him to the front of the pack.

To the Rovian base, homosexuality is a national health risk, Mormons aren’t Christians, and any foreign-policy related news that seems to contradict the End Times Countdown to Armageddon is to be ignored or openly challenged. Huckabee’s comments aren’t gaffes; they reflect the views of millions of Americans. And they’re going to vote for him.

*To defeat Hillary, you simply have to nominate her. Polls indicate she’s likely to lose against any of the Republican frontrunners; Edwards and Obama can win.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Visit from Dad

My dad came over after work tonight to drop off my Christmas presents. He's a Southern Baptist who attends a church that believes in the literal inerrancy of Scripture and I'm...well, I'm a fag, so our relationship is, shall we say, delicate? We actually get along just fine, but there are certain things We Do Not Discuss.

Even though we live just about 8 miles apart, we don't see each other very often. Tonight was only the second time he's been in my apartment and the first time he's seen it with furniture.

"Hmm, you're a better housekeeper now than when you were ten," he said.

It was pleasant enough. He rode his bike here in the 30 degree weather so I offered him a cup of hot tea and we talked about a problem I was having with a spreadsheet at work (he's an accountant), played with the cats and made other banal small talk while sitting in the living room with the tree and listening to my Christmas mix on the iPod.

He did comment on my rather well-stocked bar, but I just said I like to entertain. Which is true. No one ever comes over, but I like to entertain.

About this time the iPod shuffled to "Hard Candy Christmas."

"Is that Dolly Parton?" my dad asked, with a combination of surprise and distaste.

"Yup. I love Dolly," I said. He looked at me skeptically.

"I met her once," he said.

Okay, time out. I am not really someone who's into celebrities, but Dolly Parton is on my very short list of people I would kill to meet. I just have a sense that she is an amazing human being. She is an incredibly compelling artist, both as a musician and an actress; she just seems to radiate warmth. I am mad about Dolly Parton.

Now, my father is the kind of guy who can't remember that he's told you a story before, so I've heard every story he has to tell about a hundred times each. Except this one.

"Wait, you met Dolly Parton?"

"Yeah, she came into the restaurant in Pleasant Hill."

"And...?"

He shrugged. "Mostly I remember the gazongas."

Yes. He said, gazongas.

Monday, December 10, 2007

A "Family" Classic

I hadn't seen White Christmas since I was a kid, but it was on TV tonight and I thought it would be a perfectly schmaltzy, relaxing end to another frantic day.

Ummm...I didn't remember this scene.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Miracle on Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway

I put up the tree today. (It's awesome...pics to come.)

This meant that I officially opened the last box from my move from New York: the ornaments, which I rather stupidly sent parcel post via the US Post Office.

Not a single ornament broke.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Because Christmas is a Time of Sharing...

...I had to pass along some spectacular idiocy.

O Holy Rant

After working late tonight, I decided I would take advantage of my overtime money and treat myself to dinner at one of Beaverton's finer establishments.

This being the holiday season, they were playing Christmas pop music. Yes, I'm something of a junior curmudgeon, but I'm okay with lighter fare in public. Some of it I even like, such as Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas (is You)." Tonight, however, I heard absolutely the most wretched attempt at "O Holy Night."

I don't know who sang it. It's probably better that way; I can be meaner.

This song isn't for everyone; most people have less business attempting it than I would 50 Cent's "Wanksta." It is a true operatic aria, even if it doesn't belong to a larger theatrical work. It's operatic in scope not just because of the vocal range and volume required, but because of its drama. The lyrics cry out for a many-hued voice in the service of an artist who can deeply connect with the words and imbue them with passion and fire. It doesn't even have to be a real opera singer in classical style (Thomas Hampson and Leontyne Price are two of my favorite versions); I think Celine Dion's is pretty inspirational. It has to be a voice that can glow, float and thunder. Fall on your knees, the text commands.

Whatever gifts this young woman may possess, they aren't vocal. Transposing the key to a comfortable crooning range robs Adam's inspired melody of the thrill of a voice in full, ardent, ecstatic cry for which it was composed. One might as well kazoo it.

Even if we allow for the unnecessary accommodation of an un-special voice, there is zero excuse for the gutless, automatonic way in which this artless tartlet rendered the text. "O night divine" should conjure images of a black, star-speckled night that suddenly explodes in the silvery brilliance of a host of angels magnificently proclaiming peace and joy in awesome, celestial harmony. We're talking about nothing less than the sudden manifestation of God in human, infant flesh. This is the night the world changed. It wasn't just that her interpretive powers weren't up to the demands; it was that she sounded detached, unaware and bored.

This is not some sweet, toothless seasonal bromide that we trot out because its pretty; it's a triumphant hymn to social justice. Have you ever noticed the final stanza?
Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Hearing these powerful words "sung" by a monochromatic, adolescent choirgirl wheezing into a microphone two inches from her face filled me with rage. To think she was probably paid thousands of dollars, presumably more because she looks good on an album cover than because she has anything to say, for minimal effort and zero intellectual or emotional engagement, made me seethe with indignation.
Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
When this is the text that you're given, I don't think it's too much to ask for a voice to be, well, powerful and glorious. Proclaim it! Sing it! Power and glory! ARGH!!!!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Overheard in Beaverton

Woman: "I think that's the first time I've heard someone sing about underwear in church."

Monday, December 03, 2007

Toasty?

Kinda Like Losing a Friend

Overnight we had a tremendous storm slam into the Northwest, with winds at the coast gusting up to 120 miles an hour. Unfortunately, one of the casualties was the largest Sitka Spruce in the US, which snapped and came down.

I visited the tree back in August, on the day my transmission died.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Sunday Photo Blogging: Advent 1

Let us then cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.

Today I am officially becoming a member of my new church. (I still won't "officially" be an Episcopalian; confirmation is scheduled for the Easter Vigil.) I've never actually been a "member" anywhere before.

I attended a church in Manhattan for about 12 years and never became a member. I think that's largely because in those dozen years, I can't recall a single moment when someone said "hello" or introduced themselves...which actually was fine, because for most of those years I wasn't interested in anything resembling obligation or commitment or community. I was comfortable being anonymous, and I found a congregation that (rather sadly) enabled that behavior.

I switched to St. Bart's on Park Avenue, mostly because suddenly what I wanted was a community and opportunities to learn and to offer my time and talents. I intended to become a member there, but this was also at the same time that my decision to leave New York was crystallizing in my heart, and so it never happened.

When I arrived in Portland, I started visiting various churches; I went to nearly every Episcopal parish on the west side. I had pretty much decided on Trinity Cathedral downtown, but then one day when I was driving back to my new apartment I noticed a little blue, white and red sign (no bigger than your standard "No Parking" sign) on a nearby road that said "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You" with an arrow pointing down the street. It was so close to my new home I figured I at least had to check it out, even though I felt ready to commit to Trinity. I showed up one Sunday in early June, and haven't been anywhere else since. It is the right place for me.

* * * * *

In other news, Rocky is still using Starbuck for a pillow.

Starbuck was so curious about all the racket while I was mixing up the batter for some banana bread that I offered to let her lick the beaters.

And then Rocky had to come see what all the excitement was about. (No, they're not spoiled. Why do you ask?)

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The 90 Days of Christmas

Ho, ho, hold on.

Last year a priest gently admonished me for having my Christmas tree up during Advent. “It’s a season of waiting and anticipation,” he explained, encouraging me to observe Anglican custom and decorate the tree on Christmas Eve. (Maybe that’s why the cats pulled it down: they’re traditionalists.)

I like Christmas. A lot. But this year, it has been made abundantly clear to me that there can definitely be too much of a good thing.

When I was 19, I took a semester off from college to earn money for my imminent transfer to New York, and spent the holiday season working at the Williams-Sonoma at Pioneer Place in downtown Portland. I recall that I had to work late on Thanksgiving in order to decorate the store in holiday fashion for Black Friday. That’s right, not a garland or bow or bauble or twinkly light or treacly carol until The Day After Thanksgiving, when suddenly the mall burst into yuletide splendor.

This year, the retail holiday season seems to have started around October 1. That’s about the time I noticed that my local Fred Meyer store had cleared out the patio furniture and replaced the tables and lounges with pre-lit trees, ornaments, and inflatable Santas. Seriously, October.

I recognize that this is largely due to the retail world’s anxiety about the economy. As I now work for a giant apparel company and my bonus next year depends on our sales figures, I’m not unsympathetic. It’s even worked to my advantage because I bought my new tree (7.5 feet! Yes, I am a Christmas Size Queen, which can be sung nicely to the tune of “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer”) at a great price at the pre-season sale.

Still, it seems to me that the magic of the season is muted, and I suspect that’s largely because I’ve been seeing holiday displays in the stores for two months now. I thought stores changed from “Merry Christmas” to “Seasons’ Greetings” as an act of sensitivity, but now it’s appropriate because Christmas literally lasts for three months.

I am reminded of the exchange between Ebenezer Scrooge and his nephew: “You keep Christmas in your way, and let me keep it in mine.” “Keep it? But you don’t keep it!”

Exactly.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Iran's Minimal Influence

With the boss traveling on business to Asia it was atypically quiet at work today, and I actually had a chance to catch up with the news. I was reading up on the Israel-Palestine summit that the President is hosting (Hal Lindsey's head must be ready to explode), and came across this piece in The Washington Post: "Iran: The Uninvited Wildcard in Mideast Talks."

Quote: "Iran will be the 5,000-pound elephant in the room, even though it's not present," said former U.S. peace negotiator Aaron David Miller.

Now, as regular readers of my blog know, I am a big fan of Animal Planet. I may not be a pachydermatologist, or whatever they're called, but I thought, "Hmmm." So I did a little research.

It turns out an adult male African elephant can weigh around 14,000 pounds.

Just thought I'd point that out. Elephants, yeah!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Shocked, Shocked!

So...Admiral Cain was a lesbian, huh?

That was supposed to be a surprise?

Pfffft. I'm going to bed.

(PS, if you think this was a spoiler, you need your GAYDIS checked.)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Oh, FOX

So I was huffing away on the treadmill this morning in the fitness center. Creepy old shoeless vampire guy was watching FOX News.

The main discussion, facilitated by my old boss Neil Cavuto (I temped as his assistant during the summer of 1997), was this: "OIL PRICES NEAR RECORD HIGH: BLAME ENVIRONMENTALISTS?"

Can we please get Jon Stewart back?

Friday, November 23, 2007

What I Really Need to Complete the Project is a Nuclear Warhead

Bring on the toasters.

The wait is over.

After -- how long has it been now? I can't even remember when the end of Season 3 was, and where are the DVD's?!?!?!? -- Battlestar Galactica returns to the airwaves tomorrow with a two-hour special, Razor.

I was going to link to a short interview with BSG star Katee Sackhoff from last month's Portland Monthly magazine, but they don't make their articles available online. Frackin' cylons.

So instead I thought I'd take this opportunity to give a shout-out to the coolest school on earth: Sunset High. Not only is yours truly an alumnus, but so are awesome bloggers Quinn, Jade, Scott, KR (who doesn't actually have a blog, but whatever) and N, who I think doesn't like to have her blog linked to. Who else went to Sunset? Why, Katee Sackhoff.

Oh, and our mascot?

Apollo.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Double Dipping

The Episcopal parishes of western Portland get together and share a Eucharist every Thanksgiving, rotating the service between the various participating churches. This year, the service was held at Christ Church in Lake Oswego.

I like to get to church at least 10 minutes before the start, so that I have time to breathe and collect myself and get in the right frame of mind. I was running a little bit behind and didn't really know where I was going, anyway. It was almost 10 o'clock and I was driving down Country Club Road, looking for 10th Street. I passed 9th Street, and on the next block saw a large gray stone gothicky-looking church with immaculate grounds. "Yup, that's it," I thought. I parked on the street and dashed in, with five minutes to spare.

Once I stepped through the doors, however, it was clear that the mass was well underway. In fact, they were lining up for communion. "Yipes, I thought it started at ten," I apologized to the usher. He smiled and said, "No, nine...but you're just in time for communion." So I went straight through the doors and got in line, and after receiving the sacrament retreated to the last pew in the back to kneel for the post-communion prayer.

Now, we always say the same thing after communion: "Eternal God, heavenly Father, you have graciously accepted us yadda, yadda, yadda." So I was maybe a little surprised that this prayer was different, but not particularly perturbed. This being Thanksgiving, I figured perhaps for whatever reason they were using some alternate form. That is until I heard, "...and our Holy Father, Pope Benedict...".

Oh, crap. I was at the wrong church.

I managed to flee during the recessional and arrived at Christ Church in time for the collect.

And forgive us for accidentally infiltrating a Catholic mass, as we forgive those Catholics who shot us dirty looks for arriving late and leaving early. Amen.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

TGI...Oh.

Today really felt like a Friday.

So much so that around 1:00 I was wondering just where in the hell Slacktivist's weekly "Left Behind" post was.

Silly me.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Hope It Doesn't Get Me Fired


I was at work jotting off a quick email to my dad about the plans for Thanksgiving, and I realized I wasn't sure whether my aunt's name was spelled with one "t" or two. I decided to Google her to see what came up, and sure enough she had left a comment on a customer satisfaction page for a company that sells Picasso prints. Out of curiosity, I clicked on the link.

FORBIDDEN: NUDITY

was the message on the screen.

I mean, come on.

* * * * *

Sometimes The Oregonian bites. Check out this gem of ace reporting: "Results from an autopsy by the state's medical examiner should shed light on how Bogdanov died."

You think?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Why I Oppose the "War on Terror"

Merely to resist evil with evil by hating those who hate us and seeking to destroy them, is actually no resistance at all. It is active and purposeful collaboration in evil that brings the Christian into direct and intimate contact with the same source of evil and hatred which inspires the acts of his enemy. It leads in practice to a denial of Christ and to the service of hatred rather than love.

- Thomas Merton
from Passion For Peace

* Hat tip: Sojourner's

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

My Life on the E-List

The polling company Zogby regularly sends me its surveys; usually it's of a political nature, asking me questions like, "If the election for President were held today and the choices were between Rudy Giuliani and suicide, which would you choose?" They always ask me to rate President Bush, too, and I'm dying to ask them if they can come up with an option beyond "poor." My digital camera performs "poorly"; President Bush is a catastrophe.

Anyway, in the most recent survey, they asked some interesting questions about my attitudes toward romantic relationships and morality, e.g., "Do you consider swinging cheating?" Then -- I suppose to put my answers in some kind of context -- they asked, "What is your current relationship status?"

a) married and monogamous
b) married, but multiple sexual partners
c) single, but monogamously dating
d) single, with multiple sexual partners
e) I have no sexual partners right now

Sigh.

Okay, so, I've been in Oregon now for seven months. I have a job and an apartment. Is it just me, or is it about time I went on a date?

I'm not necessarily talking about "Mr. Right," here -- though I'm definitely not talking about "Mr. Right Now Please Send Photo of Your Wang w/Stats," either. I'm looking for "Mr. Coffee or Cocktail and Maybe a Movie and then Maybe...".

The question is: how to meet such a person?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Onward Christian Nutjobs

At the risk of ticking off "S.S." and receiving another grammatically challenged email (I'll take that chance, since she swore that "I will not allow you s--- th go any further on my computer ever again"), I feel the need once more to state that Hal Lindsey is a lunatic.

In this week's edition of The Hal Lindsey Report, we were treated to an extended defense of Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf. As Lindsey sees it, Musharraf is the sole barrier to a Taliban-led Pakistan and the annihilation of Israel.

According to Lindsey, in Pakistan we either have Musharraf (who even by Lindsey's admission is not perfect), or we have raving hordes of Islamofascists. Lindsey applauds Musharraf's decision to suspend the Pakistani constitution and illegally remain both president and head of the military, in defiance of the country's supreme court. (Musharraf has fired the judges and arrested the chief justice.) He argues that if Musharraf were to remain president but resign his post as commander in chief, he would be merely "an empty suit." It is essential, in Lindsey's view, that Musharraf maintain total control of the country.

Yes, it's an open hymn to military dictatorship. Free and democratic elections in Pakistan, predicts Lindsey, would result in putting the terrorists in charge, as in Palestine. He neglects to mention that Musharraf's main rival for power in Pakistan is Benazir Bhutto, who as a woman is hardly representing the "Islamofascists."

He makes this claim despite having argued just moments earlier, as an attempt to legitimize the presidency, that Musharraf won a decisive electoral victory in October. He only neglected to mention there were no other candidates and the supreme court was about to invalidate the results. And here I thought "the liberals" were the moral relativists: yay Democracy!, but only as long as our guy wins, and if that means throwing out the constitution and invoking martial law, so be it. (Here's an idea: let's invoke our Constitution and throw out Bush.)

If Musharraf falls, warns Lindsey, a nuclear confrontation with India is inevitable. They'll bomb Israel, too, because that's what Muslims do. The regional conflict will engulf China, and then Iran, and then it will be Armageddon, unless Musharraf controls Pakistan. (But since, according to this "theology," Jesus' return is tied to this final cataclysmic global conflict, I am unclear as to why we should support averting it. But then again, nothing else he's said makes any sense, so I guess I'm holding him to unrealistic expectations.)

Speaking of Jesus, what the hell? At the end of his half-hour program, after showing video clips of Mahmoud Ahmedinejad furiously shaking hands with Hugo Chavez, reporting on the results of a Gallup poll that shows 1 in 10 Democrats rate the U.S. as the greatest threat to global security (compared to 1 in 99 Republicans) and then claiming that China has completely infiltrated the entire U.S. with spies, he remembers that he's there to talk about the Bible.

But he doesn't, really. He offers up one verse, Matthew 24:8 -- "all this is but the beginning of the birth pangs."

Now, Matthew 24 is a troubling, complicated chapter, but in it Jesus pointedly cautions us against false prophets and those who would lead us astray. "And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars," says Jesus in verse 6, a phrase which Lindsey also quotes, "but see that you are not alarmed," which naturally Lindsey does not quote. Because alarmed is just what Lindsey wants us to be.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Cenerentola Parmigiana

The verdict on Portland Opera's production of Gioachino Rossini's La Cenerentola?

Pretty much perfect.

The evening got off to a promising start with conductor Christopher Larkin's energetic reading of the overture; the trick to making Rossini's music come alive is to pay extra-careful attention to dynamics, tempi, accents and contrasts; this is music that literally turns on a dime. All night long, the orchestra played with magnificent articulation, flexibility and balance.

The stage direction, by Portland Opera's general director Christopher Mattaliano, was fresh, brilliant, and constantly hilarious. Not a gag fell flat. In between unanimous guffaws, individual chuckles could be heard from audience members who were clearly entranced and delighted.

The men of the Portland Opera chorus are to be congratulated. Though the tenor section wasn't quite up to the demands of Rossini's tessitura, their group energy was palpable as they ran and skipped about the stage in hilarious unity. Their signature entrance -- gaily leaping onto the stage with one arm outstretched and encircling the principals before retreating to formation -- never grew tired. Their purposefully lame choreography was executed with gleeful military precision. (I'm not being misogynistic; there's no women's chorus in Cenerentola.)

The cast of mostly young singers was phenomenal. Portland Opera Studio members Sharin Apostolou and Hannah Sharene Penn as the bitchy stepsisters Clorinda and Tisbe were endearingly obnoxious (they sang well, too). In a weaker cast, Steven Condy as their vulgar jackass of a father, Don Magnifico, might well have stolen the show. His performance was a masterful blend of genuine bel canto buffo singing and comic timing; he understands that the best comic acting is not playing for laughs, but keeping the character deadly serious.

As Alidoro, the prince's wise tutor who takes on the role of the "fairy godmother" in this version, bass Derrick Parker unleashed a sonorous, cavernous tone that soared despite Keller Auditorium's mediocre acoustics. Though the top notes tended to wobble, his tone rings richly, even through impressively agile coloratura.

Morgan Smith's Dandini, I must jealously concede, was pretty awesome. It's a hard role to sing, but you wouldn't know it from the appropriately cavalier way in which he sailed through the coloratura and tossed off countless high F's without a hint of strain or fatigue. It's a pleasant, soft-grained voice that is even-toned throughout, and he was right at home on stage, fully inhabiting the foppish valet without making him nelly.

Somebody should tell tenor Michael Colvin that Prince Ramiro is a hard part. He sang effortlessly through the relentlessly high role, with clean and elegantly phrased coloratura. I guess the high C's in his aria, "Si, ritrovarla, lo giuro" weren't terrifying enough: he tossed in an unwritten high D.

Angela Niederloh's Cenerentola was a triumph; it's just perfect for her. She has a rich, velvety mezzo that soars as easily up to high C as it plunges down into warm chest tones, and the rapid-fire fioritura of the rondo finale "Non piu mesta" held no terrors for her, gleaming high B's and all. She has a stage presence that is as warm as her voice, and her Angelina was perfectly sincere and a touch goofy. The one misstep -- not her fault -- was the gown for the ballroom entrance. She looked like a Victorian dowager at an Ascot funeral. Uuuuggg-ly.

All in all, a deliciously cheesy night at the opera.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sunday Photo Blogging: Home Sweet Home


This being a Sunday, it's time for a confession: I don't like my digital camera. The light meter su-uuu-ucks. You can be outside in the daylight and it will tell you to use the flash; if you're outdoors, the colors turn weird, and if you're inside, everything washes out. If you turn off the flash, the picture is grainy and out of focus. It really only takes decent pictures if you are outside in absolutely perfect lighting conditions taking a picture of something far away. It's an Olympus FE-230, so readers, take note: Andy gives it thumbs-down.

I find it highly irritating because my last digital camera -- which was from 1999 -- used to be able to do stuff like this:

That's actually a nice segue, because my living room has a "Venice" theme to it.

So here's a shot of the main space. See what I mean about the camera, though? With that much light, there's no need for a flash. Yet without a flash, it's out of focus. Just stupid. Anyway, on the left is the medicine cabinet where I keep my liquid Prozac. The console table was a housewarming gift from my new boss (he was getting rid of it). Now, if you look toward the right, you'll see my famously controversial sofa. Originally I had planned to slipcover it, something in a nice solid, like a dark green. But as the living room began to take shape around it I thought, "Hmm. Hmm. Hmmmmm." And it began to kind of grow on me. Friday night was the test: if my A-Gay friends (who have impeccable taste, you should see their places, hello) ran away in terror from the couch or asked me, for the love of God, to cover it with anything, a trash bag, if need be, then I would go back to plan A. So I asked for their honest opinion.

"Oh, I love it," said D. "It's just crazy enough that it's not too grandmother-y." "Funny you should say that, " I said, "since that's my grandmother's old sofa." Anyway, let's move on.

The kitchen.

My desk, where the blogging magic happens.

Here you kind of see where the desk is in relation to the kitchen, along with my CD collection. On the bar there is a Stoli Ohranj and Cranberry with a lime twist. Mmmm.

So now, if I'm not being too forward, shall we move into the bedroom?

Alas, the bedroom is really too small to get any kind of photo that really shows anything, but it's cozy. This is a shot through the hall door showing part of the bed and one of my coolest new acquisitions, an icon of Sts. Sergius and Bacchus.

It's not fancy, but the cats seem to like it.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Let's Hear it for the God of Partial Credit

I was a lousy math student.

Not that I wasn't bright; I was just profoundly disinterested. My disinterest often made me careless, and I would rush through tests and assignments making a lot of silly mistakes. Fortunately, I benefited from some teachers' "partial credit" policy, meaning that they would review my homework and tests and if I had gotten an answer wrong, they would check to see whether I understood how to solve the problem and had just done something dumb in the process. If that were the case, they would only deduct half a point.

So, usually my math scores were around 50%.

Yesterday I got my first full paycheck from the new job, and when I got home I was eager to see what my tax rate would be so that I could finalize my budget. I opened up an Excel spreadsheet, put my monthly post-tax income at the top of a column, listed all my regular expenses, highlighted the column and clicked "sum" to figure out how much money I'd have left over for food, entertainment and other exciting things.

-$98.

HUH?!?!?!

I was dumbstruck and not a little bit horrified. Okay, I could send SallieMae a little bit less than I had been hoping, and I could be less aggressive about paying down my debt from the move, but that would still only leave me about $100 to live on for the month. How did this happen? While I was looking for work, I had been over these numbers a hundred times trying to figure out my minimum salary requirements, and had held out until I found a job that was safely in the range. My salary isn't extravagant, but I was sure it would be enough to cover the bills and then some. How could I be $98 in the hole without even having bought any food? What now?

But I had to stop worrying about that for the moment and put on my happy face: I'd invited a couple of friends over for pizza and a movie. These guys are my local "A-Gay" connections, and it was imperative to me that my apartment's finished, furnished debut earn their seal of approval. I played the gracious host and eagerly accepted their praise, all the while cringing with fear that I had way over-budgeted myself and was now in debt up to the top of my 9 foot ceilings.

This morning, after an uneasy rest, I came back to my spreadsheet to do the hard work of tweaking the budget around and to start coming to terms with the idea that my lifestyle was going to have to be a lot more modest than I had planned.

And then I decided to re-check my math.

Dumbass, there are 160 hours in a work-month, not 120. I'd left out 25% of my salary.

Phew.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Nacqui a bel canto

I first encountered La Cenerentola in 1993, when, at 19, I was assigned to learn the part of Alidoro in the opening scene of the opera for the closing performance of the Bel Canto Northwest seminar at Portland State University. I was naïve and arrogant, convinced of the wisdom, sophistication and incontestability of my opinions (plus c'est la meme chose, plus ça change), and happy to share them with anyone patient enough not to smack me: I did not like Rossini.

No, I liked Wagner and Strauss. Bellini and Donizetti were growing on me, but Rossini…well, he was just cheesy. It all sounded the same, and I didn’t care for what I heard. Rossini was music for people who preferred sight-gags to twenty minute immolations and forty-five minute unconsummated love duets. As far as I could tell, he could do two things as a composer: repeat a phrase eight times with a crescendo (whoop-te-doo!) and close a finale with sol fa mi re, sol fa mi re, sol fa mi re do. Every time.

Nonetheless in my boundless wisdom I recognized that at my tender age, Wagner, Strauss, Verdi and Puccini would need to wait and in the meantime I’d have to content myself with appropriately juvenile music. Like Rossini.

Into every life – no matter how sophisticated – a little formaggio must fall, and so, despite my initial objections, as the rehearsals progressed I was shocked to discover, and loathe to admit, that I was having fun. Having gotten over my initial Rossinophobia, it wasn’t long before I began to morph into a genuine Rossinophile. I still love Wagner, but you can’t tap your toes to Siegfried (well...okay, I guess the Schmiedelied, sure), and as passionate as I am about Parsifal, “fun” isn’t the first adjective that leaps to mind, unlike with, say, L’Italiana in Algeri.

Rossini became a core component of my repertoire: I sang Raimbaud in Le Comte Ory during grad school and continued to study Cenerentola, moving from Alidoro to the perfectly suited Dandini (friends at Santa Fe called me “Andini”), as well as Guillaume Tell and, of course, The Barber of Seville. During my year in Zurich, Dandini and Figaro were constantly in my concert repertoire.

So it is with mixed feelings that I will attend tomorrow night’s performance of La Cenerentola at Portland Opera; I love this piece and look forward to hearing it, but I won’t be able to avoid wishing it were me up there. Two other coincidences of note conspire to make tomorrow interesting: the acting teacher and stage director from that 1993 seminar was a Juilliard faculty member named Christopher Mattaliano. He’s now the general director at Portland Opera and directed this production; he also directed me in my professional debut in 1999. I returned to PSU’s Bel Canto Northwest in 1998, where I met a delightful and incredibly promising young Portland mezzo named Angela Niederloh.

She’s singing the title role.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Is it Too Late to Get Adopted?

Tonight I took my father and grandfather (*) out to dinner to celebrate my new job. We went to the local Italian restaurant which, in my father's book, counts as "fancy." You know, plastic grapes and empty wine bottles hanging from the ceiling with a steady Dean Martin soundtrack. Very upscale.

When the server came to take our order, my father eyed her suspiciously and said, "What's guh-notchee?"

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Sunday Photo Blogging: Tales from a Bad Blogger

Just about a month ago, when the call came that Nameless Giant Company had revised its initial offer, I decided to celebrate by taking advantage of one of my last days of glorious unemployed freedom with a day trip to the Oregon Coast.

I got up early and drove the back way over the hills to Highway 30, which parallels the Columbia River from Portland to Astoria, where it empties into the Pacific. The leaves were turning and a foggy morning was gradually giving way to gleaming sunshine.

I stopped briefly in Astoria for another cup of coffee, and sat on a bench along a little riverside promenade to watch ocean liners sailing in, cormorants diving, pelicans flying low over the water, and listened to the great raucous chorus of hundreds of sea lions basking on the piers.

Normally I avoid the town of Seaside; it's right at the end of the main highway from Portland to the Coast, so it's usually crowded and incredibly tacky. But this being a weekday in October, it was nearly deserted. The vast wide beach was empty except for a handful of people and small groups of ravens and gulls chasing the waves and pulling up little crabs. The air was calm and the sun was so strong that I was able to sit on the beach in just my shirtsleeves, surrounded by concentric circles of hungry gulls eyeing my sandwich.

So why am I a bad blogger? Oh, well, leaving aside that these pictures are a month old, just on the other side of that giant hill to the south it coincidentally happened that there was another pair of bloggers out for a similar excursion to famous Cannon Beach. That's right, it's been a month and I didn't even mention that Jess and Marc had been in town, visiting from Lon Gisland.

It also happened to be Pony's birthday, so Marc, Jess and I went out to celebrate along with Toddy and Brian (Zeitzeuge's partner). Jess is an amazing photographer; he posted one okay pic with me and Toddy and one hideous pic of me (to which I'm not linking; I look like Quasimodo's cousin). Jess and Marc are two of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet; I hope they come back to visit soon!

Coming soon -- maybe next weekend? -- apartment photos!