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


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?


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


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.


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


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.



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.


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!

Friday, November 02, 2007

On Second Thought

After a long, busy (but good!) week at work, I decided I wanted to just pick up some take-out on the way home, plop down in front of the TV and space out.

So at 4:55, as I was preparing to leave, I called a local restaurant to place my order. "Hello," I said, "I'd like to place an order for take-out."

"Call back at five," said the voice. And then they hung up.

So I went to Fred Meyer and got pasta.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Bottom of the 7th and these Phrases are Loaded

From last night's interview with NY Mets' third baseman David Wright on The Daily Show:

On rumors that the Mets might make an offer to A-Rod:
"So, am I saying I would change positions for a guy like Alex Rodriguez?" (shrugs)

On how the Mets could improve:
"We could use another big bat."