Saturday, November 29, 2008

Blasphemy on Several Different Levels

Wow, here's maybe the worst idea anyone's ever had. Paul McCartney and Jesus are both spinning in their graves.

I Thought I'd Seen Everything

You know, I feel like more than 13 years of living in Manhattan allows me to be pretty jaded about quite a lot of stuff.

Nonetheless, when I was strolling around downtown Portland this morning and witnessed a man with his pants down around his ankles humping a trashcan, I have to say I was surprised.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Continuing Saga of the iTunes Genius Sidebar FAIL

I know I have taste in music that runs outside the mainstream, but seriously...what's going on at iTunes? Why is it that when my selection is "Il segreto per esser felice" from Donizetti's Lucrezia Borgia sung by Marilyn Horne that the iTunes "Genius" recommendation is "Con te partiro" as "sung" by Andrea Boccelli? This would be like me going into a restaurant and remarking that I like Veuve Clicquot and having the sommelier respond by suggesting a glass of Diet Pepsi. WTF, people?

Monday, November 24, 2008

My New Mantra

So, I was just thumbing through a new book my therapist -- oh, yes, NEWSFLASH!, I am crazy -- anyway, my therapist recommended, and I was browsing through a page of affirmations. I misread "I am prosperous" as "I am preposterous."

I think I like that better.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

iTunes Genius Sidebar FAIL

Currently playing: the Benedictus from Mozart's Great Mass in C Minor.

iTunes: "We currently have no matches for this selection. Recommended: "Single Ladies" - Beyonce Knowles."


Is Anybody Home at CNN?

Here's a lame-ass headline from "Obama's Vetting Could Chase Away Candidates."

Yes, you morons. THAT IS THE POINT. Sheesh!

Sarah Palin's Secret Gay Son

So, I had this very odd dream last night.

My father was reading to me out of The National Enquirer -- so, already you know we are in some kind of alternate-reality here -- an article claiming that Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (you might remember her from such political disasters as "The Turkey Slaughter that Upstaged My Press Conference" and "The Couric Interviews") had a secret son named Brian no one knew about, who had been disowned and exiled because of his homosexuality.

Well, I had to find out if this was true, so immediately I set out to investigate. And then, well, this being a dream, suddenly I was no longer with my father, I was entering a building that appeared to be a library. A vaguely cherubic, slightly pudgy, rosy-cheeked teenager passed me and said, "Hello, Andy."

"Wait -- how do you know my name?" I inquired of the stranger. He winked at me, and then presto we were in some kind of underground lair where he revealed his identity to me.

"You know who I am," he said -- and I did! -- "but I no longer use the name that was given to me. I am now called Shhhhhh." When he pronounced his name, it echoed around the subterranean cavern with terrible authority.

He then explained that during his years of exile he had come in contact with a master race of alien homosexuals and had become their military commander. He was right this moment in the process of initiating an intergalactic invasion that would wipe out fundygelicals once and for all and then said, "But I am looking for a pastry chef. Are you interested in the job?"

Even though I am not a pastry chef, naturally I accepted. Then I woke up.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

This Opera Rated PG-13

This afternoon I was chatting with a friend of the family who casually mentioned that she was thinking of taking her nine year-old daughter to see an opera, and asked if there was anything coming up soon in Portland that I could recommend.

"Well," I said hesitantly, "there are only two more productions left in the season. In February there's The Turn of the Screw by Benjamin Britten, which is about two ghosts who sexually abuse children, and then there's Rigoletto, which is about a teenage girl who gets abducted, raped, stabbed and stuffed in a sack."

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Opera Review: Fidelio in Portland

It seems odd that it took seventeen years for an avid opera goer like myself to make it to a performance of Beethoven's only opera, Fidelio, but that's how it turned out.

I confess, Fidelio is not one I'd really been dying to see. The Met had a new production with Ben Heppner and Karita Mattila when I was still in New York, and even though it was a hot ticket, I imagine I could have gotten in if I'd summoned a little effort. I just wasn't that interested; in college, while I was busily devouring every recording I could get my hands on, I borrowed Fidelio from the library -- admittedly, the messy Behrens/Hofmann recording which, to put it nicely, doesn't capture either of them at their best -- and just wasn't that impressed. I don't know it nearly as well as the rest of the standard canon.

Fortunately, I was able to attend both the opening and closing performances of Portland Opera's recent run, which ended last night. The PO folks should be extremely proud of the first-rate roster they were able to field of this extraordinarily difficult-to-cast opera. It was the best all-around singing I have heard there, and would have impressed audiences at any of the great houses in the world.

In the title role, soprano Lori Phillips tackled the often awkward vocal line with gusto, especially on closing night, in which she and the rest of the cast were infinitely more confident and committed. Her voice is strongly reminiscent of Leonie Rysanek's. Tenor Jay Hunter Morris may not have the most appealing tone quality, but he has the technique and stamina to get through some of the least gracious vocal lines ever set to paper, plowing heroically through the ridiculous -- and yet, emotionally powerful -- "In des Lebens."

Deeper voices were gloriously represented by Greer Grimsley as Don Pizarro, Arthur Woodley as Rocco and Clayton Brainerd as Don Fernando. Grimsley has one of my absolute favorite voices; his incredible power and infinitely rich tone more than compensated for the handicap of being stuck with a one-dimensional role and school-pageant style dialogue. Mr. Woodley has an especially appealing voice; a wonderful basso cantabile, I hope he comes back to Portland soon and would love to hear him in a lieder recital. In Don Fernando's brief outing, Clayton Brainerd nearly stole the show just by virtue of his incredibly imposing presence and classically handsome face. That he can sing -- and sing very well! -- was just icing on the cake.

In the smaller roles, Portland Opera studio artist Brendan Tuohy gave an affecting account of the first prisoner's solo. Tenor Jonathan Boyd sang prettily as the oaf Jacquino. The best singing of the evening came from soprano Jennifer Welch-Babidge in the role of Marzelline; she has an extremely beautiful voice and is charismatic and comfortable onstage. I hope to see her return in a meatier role.

Under the baton of Arthur Fagen, I would say that perhaps Beethoven's score would fare better with a slightly more polished orchestra, except that they played so well in Aida and Traviata. It just didn't seem to me to be a particularly passionate, imaginative rendering. The augmented chorus was impressive.

I would complain that the updated, modernized production gave no hint of the story's Iberian setting, except Beethoven's music has about as much Spanish flavor as knockwurst and sauerkraut. I remain unconvinced as to the wisdom of producing operas sung in the original language but with English dialogue; it seems hopelessly schizophrenic. The supertitles aided and abetted the contemporary setting in questionable fashion; I am pretty certain that Jacquino does not actually sing, "Damn that telephone!"

I'm afraid it's 0-2 for director Helena Binder at Portland Opera, whose debut was last season's trainwreck Rodelinda. True, she has taken on difficult assignments. Rodelinda makes no sense at all, so Fidelio -- which starts out as a quirky romantic comedy and then abruptly makes a 90-degree turn to populist political thriller -- seems like Shakespeare in comparison. Still, there is no evidence that she has any clue what to do with a singing actor. Ms. Phillips, in particular, would have benefited from a better director. Having not seen this production's original incarnation under Chris Alexander at Seattle Opera, I cannot say what Ms. Binder's innovations, if any, were. Overall, the stage action was limp at best; the choral finale, while vocally thrilling, lamely consisted of a casual semi-circle and unconvincing, synchronized fist-waving. God only knows why a prisoner would attempt to scale a barbed-wire fence under the watchful eyes of six automatic-rifle-armed guards two feet away, but if Ms. Binder was just being faithful to the original production, perhaps she might have selected a chorister for the job who looked less like he was barely able to hop the curb, let alone a fence.

Join the Impact: Photos from Across the Country

Wow, is all I can say.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Join the Impact: Prop 8 Rally in Portland!

In which it is revealed that I suck at community organizing.

In the wake of the passage of California's Proposition 8, which took away the right of same-sex couples to marry in that state, a national day of protest was organized by a group called "Join the Impact," with simultaneous rallies in every state in the country.

I decided this would be a boffo opportunity for the recently resurrected Oregon chapter of Integrity. The local network coordinator could not attend (Ducks game!), but he gave me his email password and on Thursday I sent out an email blast to basically the entire Diocese inviting them to the protest.

I know it was short notice -- the whole event was planned over the internet in just a couple of days -- but I confess I'd hoped for slightly better Episcopal representation. Only one other member of Integrity showed up -- and he hadn't gotten the email, he was just there by coincidence. So it was me, him, his straight roommate, and one very nice, very supportive lady from my church. Oh well.

The rally consisted of a series of speakers. For the first 20 minutes, they had no amplification whatsoever. Then someone brought a bull-horn, but the speakers were in the center of the crowd, so if the bullhorn wasn't pointed right at you, you couldn't hear what was being said. Eventually we moved away from the main part of the crowd since we realized no one could see our banner, and took up a spot on the steps of the PSU library. I think people maybe thought we were crazy Christian counter-protesters.

Sam Adams, the openly gay mayor-elect of Portland, gave a barnstormer of a speech. At least, I'm guessing he did. We heard the crowd roar repeatedly with approval, but I didn't hear a single word. Next time some AMPLIFICATION might be in order, folks.

At least I got this cute new profile pic of me and some other guy's dog. How gay is this?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Random Memories from Hell

When I was in kindergarten, I had a horrible teacher.

Students were required to bring something in for Show & Tell. I decided I'd bring in my stuffed elephant, Bart. (Technically, BART, named after the Bay Area Rapid Transit.)

Ms. Kusmal asked me what Bart ate.

I thought I would play along and cheerfully responded, "Peanut butter!"

Then Ms. Kusmal made me stay in at recess for "being silly."

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Bumpersticker of the Day

"If We Ignore the Environment, It Will Go Away."

Friday, November 07, 2008

Thought for the Day

Those who hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of my head;
my lying foes who would destroy me are mighty.
Must I then give back what I never stole?

Psalm 69:5

Thursday, November 06, 2008

She Thought Africa Was a Country

FOX News doesn't just throw Sarah Palin under the bus, they tie her to the bumper and hit the gas.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Sign of the Apocalypse

Perusing the Google searches that are leading folks to my blog 1 day after the election, "Obama Antichrist" and variations seem to be winning.

For the curious, here's every post I've written that contains "antichrist."

Whoops, I Was Wrong

I predicted Obama would get 355 electoral votes.

Looks like he's headed for 364. My bad!

CA Prop 8 to Face Court Challenge

Opponents of Proposition 8 in California have refused to concede the election, citing the approximately 4 million absentee ballots that have yet to be counted. That's probably a long shot, but apparently we have another ace up our sleeve.

Originally I believed there would be no recourse in the courts; after all, Proposition 8 amends the state constitution, which the state supreme court must uphold and enforce. However, an emergency appeal was filed today by Lambda Legal, the ACLU and the National Center for Lesbian Rights urging the invalidation of Proposition 8.

Here's the argument: in May, the court cited numerous precedents and reiterated that marriage is a fundamental right. Proposition 8 improperly eliminates access to a fundamental right by targeting a specific group. To put that another way, it's as if California voters had passed an amendment to deny the right of free speech only to women, or the right to vote to non-whites. According to the brief filed today, "any measure that would change the underlying principles of the constitution must first be approved by the legislature before being submitted to the voters. That didn’t happen with Proposition 8, and that’s why it’s invalid."

There's even a precedent for this. In 1990, the state supreme court reversed an initiative that "improperly attempted to strip California’s courts of their role as independent interpreters of the state’s constitution. "

The state legislature voted twice to legalize same-sex marriage in the state, and the supreme court ruled 4-3* back in May in favor of marriage. Proposition 8 may yet fall.

The bigots will scream bloody judicial activism, but we have to win this. Proposition 8 is a manifest injustice. Under the banner of righteousness, these people campaigned on fear and deception to villainize and victimize thousands of their fellow citizens. Prop 8 protects nothing -- least of all children or the free expression of religion -- and serves only to deny thousands of Americans their fundamental rights for the sake of outright prejudice.

In yet more reassuring news, the California Attorney General issued a statement today that the 18,000 same-sex marriages that have already taken place will continue to be honored.

This is not over!

* In the original version of this post, I inadvertently wrote that the supreme court ruled "unanimously" in favor of marriage; I was thinking of New Jersey's Lewis v. Harris. In the California case, three justices concurred and dissented in part.

Mixed Blessings

Right now, my relief and joy that Barack Obama was elected president has been momentarily supplanted by distress that Proposition 8 in California appears to be passing. This country took one giant leap forward for civil rights last night, and one step back.

Still, there are reasons to be encouraged. That fully 48% of California voters said they were okay with same-sex marriage is a huge milestone and shows just how far the gay rights movement has come. Younger voters overwhelmingly opposed it. Our day will come.

More on this later.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Mac is Back

John McCain -- your concession speech was amazing. That was the John McCain I thought I knew. Where have you been?

Too little, too late.

Dodged That Bullet

Sayonara, Sarah!

It's Over

Going out on a limb, but with MSNBC calling Ohio for Obama, it's over. According to my projections, Obama did not need Ohio to win. This clinches it.

Ready for Tonight

Which will it be?

And, a propos of nothing, a gratuitous picture of the kids enjoying the last nice weather of 2008.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Confession (2)

I am freakin' NERVOUS!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

2008 Election Predictions

Because I am so good at this, I'm going to go ahead and offer up my predictions for election night: Barack Obama will win with 355 electoral votes.

What to Watch For on Tuesday Night

Despite John McCain's claims that they are making a last minute national surge -- his campaign manager, Rick Davis, argued that Barack Obama is advertising in Arizona, Montana and Georgia in a desperate last-ditch attempt to broaden his territory to eke out a win -- there are hardly any scenarios in which McCain pulls this off.

McCain's one hope is to win Pennsylvania, but poll guru Nate Silver has said that Obama has a better chance of winning Arizona than losing the Keystone, not great odds for McCain. As I said last week, I think Obama's electoral floor is 272, and that's without Ohio, Florida, Nevada, Missouri, Colorado, New Mexico, Indiana and North Carolina. Barack Obama doesn't need any of those states to win, but McCain needs them all, plus PA.

Once Virginia and Pennsylvania are called for Obama, we can start popping the champagne. (Nonetheless, I also have a bottle of Jack Daniel's on hand, just in case.)

Other Races

Oh, I am looking forward to cleaning house in a big way. Buh-bye, Senator Stevens and Senator Dole. Sayonara, Michelle Bachman. I am also crossing my fingers for the end of Ohio's crazy congresswoman Jean Schmidt. My wish list includes victories for Al Franken in Minnesota and incumbent governor Chris Gregoire in Washington, but those are too close to call.

Proposition 8 in California...we just have to hope.

In Oregon, it appears the bell will toll for Senator Gordon Smith. I struggled with my vote on this one. I don't have any particular issue with Sen. Smith; I think he's one of the few congressional Republicans with any integrity, and he's been a faithful steward for the state of Oregon. That was almost enough for me to vote for him, right there. His challenger, Jeff Merkley, ran some dispiriting ads, and Smith responded in kind, which has been very disappointing. Nonetheless, when it came right down to it, I couldn't deny that Merkley is going to be the more reliable vote on issues that are important to me.

The Future of the Republican Party

Civil war's a-brewin'.

Many Republicans will chuck Sarah Palin under the bus as the albatross that sank the USS McCain; others will hold her up as a martyr. McCain will be marginalized, blamed by the economic conservatives for selling out to the fundamentalists, and villainized by social conservatives for being too soft on Obama.

There is no "Republican Party," and hasn't been for a long time. The leading lights of the party, such as it is, are Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee. John McCain was the sorry compromise that emerged from the inability of the two wings of the party to agree. Romney is the standard-bearer for the small-government, big-business neocons who are far more concerned about the capital gains and inheritance taxes than they are about gay marriage. Many of those Republicans, despite their philosophical differences with the Democrats, will vote for Obama this year because he's the lone voice of sanity on the ballot. (Hence the rash of recent endorsements.)

What's left is the loony right. They will be convinced that they lost because they weren't right-wing enough. These are the folks who live in the fantasy universe where Barack Obama is a socialist radical Islamist whose friends are PLO spokesmen and domestic terrorists, who will ban the Bible, prohibit religious speech and force gay marriage on the country while taxing us all into poverty. Their new heroes are Sarah Palin and, yes, Joe the Plumber.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Department of Unintentional Irony

Anyone who knows me knows that I can't stand scary movies. My imagination is waaaayyyy too suggestive. Sometimes I had to turn off "The X-Files." I didn't sleep for a week after Congo.

And yet...? I looooooove The Shining.

So, Starbuck and I are watching it right now on A&E. (Rocky is cowering under the bed.)

Twice now, there's been a commercial for Pella Windows featuring a young boy riding around the house on a tricycle.