Wednesday, December 2, 2015

14 Killed. Shot. Murdered.

Today, December 20, 2015 at least 14 people were killed at a place that helps handicapped people.  Last Friday was the day 3 people were killed at the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic by a US terrorist who is a self-proclaimed xn.  Several other people wounded in both shoot-ups.

Today I wrote this on our local paper's website:
What bothers me most about this is that I'm no longer shocked by mass murders.  I wish I were, and maybe if it involved someone I know or a family member I would be.  This?  Just another day in the US of A.  Nothing will be done, as usual, and before a couple of days are over, we'll hear about another shooting, mass murder, and the freedom the 2nd Amendment grants. 
I really do wish I weren't so numb to what I should see as a horror beyond words.  We're under siege by the American terrorists, and the people who can do something about it won't.  The best government money can buy.
There's a huge sadness on my part that I feel like this.  It would be such a relief to see the flag and feel a sense of pride that I live in that country or to hear the national anthem and not be embarrassed by it.  
After the American xn terrorist struck in Colorado Springs, I wondered what was the difference between the US and Canada in the days of settling the west.  Someone suggested that the Canadians had the Mounties policing the territories, upholding the law and tracking down criminals.  We had an Army that was busier killing Native Americans and buffalo, so gun justice took over.  It's an explanation I readily accept.  
This country has glorified the old west to the extent that guns, rifles, fire arms of any kind settle any argument and justify any prejudice.  We have a gun culture allegedly protected in the Bill of Rights.  Of course, those who praise the Second Amendment tend to ignore the First Amendment.  Every self-respecting thug has a gun of one sort or another; our terrorists have much bigger fire power.  The thugs tend to kill their fellow but rival thugs; our terrorists prefer to kill those they disagree with, usually because their god told them to, or, as in the case of the Colorado Springs nut job, they believe their god has forgiven them, that they are doing that god's work, and their god has forgiven them forever.  God's forgiveness is their "Get out of jail free" card.
Some people are still upset that LGBTQ people are their equal.  Unfortunately, they also the people with fire arms and who feel justified to use them.  Earlier this fall, there was a white xn terrorist who charmed his way into an African American church and, at the bend of the bible study, killed 9 people.  How can I be proud to live in a country in which this happens almost weekly and those who can make rules are beholden to the gun lobby.  
This country is not a Christian, christian, nor xn nation.  But there's a segment that thinks this is a country that must follow their god, which becomes interesting when one compares the "purity" of the various sects.  There's a segment that feels they are superior to other races.  They also seem to be the xns who thinks this needs to be a godly nation.  They also still feel not only superior to LGBTQ people but also that they have their god's blessing to kill says so in their bible, but guns are more handy than stones/rocks. Plus there's a segment of the non-white population that also feels safe and religiously justified in hating us.
This is what passes as a xn country.  It's not supposed to be, but the people who prefer to reinterpret the First Amendment to say their religion rules are also those who contend the Second Amendment lets everyone carry a gun and buy as many as they want.  They want to carry their guns in the open and go anywhere, including bars.  What could possibly go wrong with drunks "packing heat" at the watering hole?
Friday, 3 killed because the murderer didn't like Planned Parenthood, believing the lies he was told about the health organization.  Today, 14 killed by perhaps 3 murderers, and no reason given yet.  All of the republican presidential candidates said we should pray for the dead and wounded; none of them suggest something needs to be done to our gun laws.
I'm so fucking disgusted.  In the next few days, more people will be killed and no one who can do anything will.  And it doesn't matter to me.  It would be a good thing if guns were controlled better than they are now.  A segment of society is certain the President Obama, among other paranoid beliefs, is determined to take away all their guns.  He's not, but I don't see how that would be a bad thing.  "When guns are criminalized," reads one bumper sticker, "only criminals will have guns."
A large part of the population is paranoid, fearful of their countrymen, in need of feeling superior to someone, and that their version of xnty is the only version that passes whatever tests their preachers think should be the real, true religion.
There is so much hatred and unwillingness to cooperate (or, in the case of legislators, compromise) in this country.  How can I be proud to be a citizen of this country?  And how can I can be shocked and horrified when death by bullets has become commonplace?

Monday, October 19, 2015

Finally, Today

Today it finally happened.  It's happened before, but staff was on duty.  Today, one was on vacation and the other was meeting with people outside the building.

Last Friday was the opening of a large collaborative exhibit with Historic Harrisburg.  The LGBT Center's part of the exhibit is a series of black-and-white photos of men getting into drag.  They were part of a troupe known as Lily White and Company, which was started by my friend Paul Foltz.  Lily White presented staged, rehearsed shows back in the '80s and '90s, performing benefits to raise money for various AIDS organizations in the area. Paul is also staff costume designer for the local community theater and other theaters, too.  A few of his costumes are on display at the HHA Resource Center.  They are spectacular.  Collaborations don't happen very often here, so it was a big deal Friday and will continue to be a big deal for the next month.

We had a few people come in to look at the pictures today.  We also had a woman visitor who looked like she had to screw up her courage to come in.  I'm told I have a good welcoming smile, so I flashed that and asked if I could help her.  She told me her 13-year-old son came out to her over the weekend and she wanted information on what she and her husband should do.

This has happened before, but I could ask one of the staff to talk to the person.  I couldn't beg it off on anyone today.  It occurred to me that it might be wise to try to collect my thoughts, but I also thought I shouldn't not talk.  First I congratulated her on being a good mother...her son obviously trusted her well enough to drop The News on her.

She was surprised by The News, but she was also smart enough to seek out groups for him, information for her and the father.  During the conversation, she told me the son was autistic.  That threw me...what should I say to that? I gave her information on the Center, told her about the youth group, for which her son is one year too young, and I also gave her our Executive Director's card.

We have a reasonably large book and DVD library.  I offered her the DVD White Frog which deals with a boy with Asperger's Syndrome, now part of the general umbrella of autism.  I figured he'd like some of the teen heartthrobs in it and the parents could get some information.  She asked me about Wise Kids, about three kids in a fundamentalist church...the boy is gay, the preacher's kid is full of biblical doubt, and the other girl looks forward to going to a xn college.  The mom thought that might be interesting.  Then I thought about the old reliable Loving Someone Gay and found a copy for her. 

I still have a buzz of having done something important, something good.  It's not what I usually do.  That I had to do it reminded me that each gay person is a surprise to her/his parents, and that it takes a lot of trust to tell anyone, especially one's parents.  I did OK on the information, but I think I'm most happy that I thought to compliment her on being a good, trusted mother.  She may or may not know the problems some gay kids face when they tell their parents.  Throwing a child out of the house because s/he is gay is truly screwed up.  Wanting to understand is just so incredibly cool.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Spawn of "'23 Revue"

Is it going to be the never ending project?  I know, I understand, I accept, and I fully don't expect it to be produced.  Ever.  Still, now that I've been away from it for a couple of months, this is the report from the latest meeting of "the production staff."

I've become dissatisfied with the order of a couple of the songs, with a couple of the songs themselves, and in the age of one of the songs.  "When It's Sleepy Time Down South" was published in 1928, thus still potentially having a copyright in effect and therefore needing a royalty for use.  Plus it pretty much flies in the face of the 1923 cut-off, which is the "'23" in the title.  This bothers me because I apparently read the copyright date as 1923 when I chose it, and it has a really nice early jazz small combo accompaniment, though I say it who shouldn't.  I also gave it a couple of down-right excellent piano riffs.  And it's the slow middle section of the Song and Dance sequence in Act 1.  Perhaps the middle section doesn't have to be that slow, though.  It needs to be danced/sung by a woman and nothing presents itself as a possibility so far.

I think I need to change my Fanny Brice song.  Act 2 closes with a 15 minute tribute to show music.  I lead up to that with an Al Jolson solo ("Swanee"), Fanny Brice ("Palesteena"), and Julian Eltinge, the world's greatest female impressionist ("Ragtime College Girl").  "Palesteena" is a fun song, but I'm not Jewish and, while it was funny in the Ziegfeld Follies, it may not be quite as fun today.  Plus, I've already done "Rose of Washington Square" earlier in Act 2, just as a solo between the Prohibition and the Blues sets, so that's just a matter of deleting "Palesteena" and inserting "Rose."  "Palesteena," however, doesn't really fit where "Rose" was, so I need to find a "new" song.  I started working on "I'm Just Wild About Harry" last night and it would work very well in that spot.

Also as a song in that single song section is "The Sheik of Araby."  No problem.  It represents a very popular style of the early 1920s, but it needs something.  I think I could open it up and make a duet out of it by adding "The Vamp," one of the most popular songs about that character and the dance.  I have one vamp number in the Song and Dance section in Act 1, but it was so popular that a second song could easily pair with "Sheik."  There's also the possibility of putting "The Vamp" and "I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate" together.  I think, though, that the Vamp/Sheik combo will win.

My piano duet arrangement of "Bohemia Rag" is presently right after Song and Dance.  I think I did a good job with it.  It was put there to give singers, dancers, and pit a break and to show off the two pianists.  However, I suspect the idea of a stage pianist and pit pianist no longer works.  I've been thinking of putting "For Me and My Gal," "Ain't We Got Fun," and "Love Nest" together.  It would make some sense...marriage, hard times, better times...and I have "Gal" done, so it would just be a matter of orchestrating the other two. Strictly sung, by the way.  We've just come out of Song and Dance and are about to get into "Avalon," a female dance number.

And while the rag I have for the Bows and Exit Music is a good one, I think maybe I should use music that's already in the revue.  That tends to be the way things are done.

So there we are.  Notes for a non-existent show.  Back to my "knitting."

Deference Due Religion? I Think Not

Owing to the bad behavior of The Truly Religious, they are frequently the topic of derision on Joe My God (  I've been reading a lot of books lately on the topic of god, morality, religion, and such.  I have not practiced a religion for decades.  As Del Shores wrote in Southern Baptist Sissies, "How can I embrace a religion that doesn't embrace me?"  Even my time at a Unitarian Universalist church was due to being choir director, not for spiritual guidance.  Nevertheless, there was a lingering something or other that kept me from completely writing off the haters, the baiters, and the fear mongers.  I didn't like how they used religion to beat me up and make money off me at the same time.  This is something I didn't start but find myself very much a part of.

I've read Richard Dawkins' 2006 The God Delusion and Christopher Hitchens' 2007 God is not Great.  Currently, I'm reading Sam Harris' 2010 The Moral Landscape.and his 2006 Letter to a Christian Nation.  They have clarified some ideas, challenged me, and I feel free to disagree.  However, what stands out to me is the permission not just to question religion but to question why a religious person is treated with deference.  Just because a person is religious doesn't give that person a free pass.

Another "religious" person did something despicable the other day and it was reported on JMG.  Many people rightfully piled on him, but for whatever reason the "religious" person's stupidity crystallized the deference argument.

Me:  One of the most freeing things I've experienced is realizing that I was, in fact,
giving deference to religious people simply because it was expected.  Richard
Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens have disabused me of the feeling that
deference was due, that someone had to be tolerated because of their religion.
That was very fucked up thinking on my part, and understanding why I was
holding back is both embarrassing and enlightening. Deference is due to no
one and respect must be earned, not demanded.

Another commenter:  I would like to get to where you are. I constantly hold back, in person, on social media, etc., because I have religious friends and family. I don't want to "offend" them, but find myself offended by them regularly.

Me:  It's not the easiest thing, believe me. I still have no idea what I believe and what I don't, but I DO know that no one should be given a pass just because s/he is religious. I haven't been invited to a family gathering in years, and that's OK. Except for my sister, I've had it with them.  When my father died, we were not speaking and I don't regret that.  I'm ignored because not only am I gay but I've had a partner for coming up on 37 years. I got tired of, as you say, being "offended by them regularly." Why should I bother being offended by them at all? Their choice of religion in no way trumps the way I was born. One day I realized what it meant that I have more days behind me than before me.  It dawned on me that I am responsible for my life, including the happiness and pain associated with it.  I respect and enjoy the people who deserve it.  Life is just too fucking short to put up with their bullshit. People don't deserve deference just because of the religion they choose.  People do not gain respect because of their title or because they assume they should be respected.  As Aunt Eller sings in Oklahoma, "I ain't sayin' I'm better than anybody else, but I'll be damned if I ain't jest as good."

My second paragraph has been edited, but it remains pretty much the same.  And it's kind of embarrassing that I so frequently quote a song lyric, especially a Broadway song lyric, to make a point.  It's the Broadway gene.  Nonetheless, Hammerstein got it right, just as he did in South Pacific with "You've got to be taught to be afraid of people whose eyes are oddly made and people whose skin is a different shade.  You've got to be carefully taught."  And people who love differently than you, too.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

My First 4th

Today is the 4th of July, traditionally the most important holiday in the United States.  Lots of blowhard speechifying, lots of hot dogs and hamburgers and iced tea and beer and wine and tequila.  And at night the sky wll be filled with fireworks of unbelievable sudden beauty.  I like to think of it as "sky art" and, frankly, I always find the programs too short.

June 26, 2015, just a week and a day ago, has made today actually mean something to me.  Although not fully achieved, United States' LGBTQ citizens are damned-near equal.  The Supreme Court said that we also have the "unalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," that we are indeed equal under law, and that "all" in the various governmental pronouncements finally means all.

A few years ago, the main bigot in the Pennsylvania House of Reps, who is also in charge of the committee that decides what can go to the floor for debate, decided to start consideration for the amendment to enshrine his bigotry into the Constitution.  It had failed, rightly ignobly, before.  For some reason he thought the times were right to try it again.  Few citizens show up for his meetings, but word was leaked that he intended to rush it to the floor and at that meeting the place was full of LGBTQ people and our allies.  He, of course,started the proceedings with the Pledge of Allegiance and, if he wasn't aware of his audience before, he got the drift when the volume and emphasis rose when we got to "with liberty and for ALL."  Maybe he never understood the definition of that last word.  The quick shocked expression on his face was seen by all of us as we directed that to him.  He made up an excuse for not getting to the amendment that day, and it was not proposed for the rest of the session.

He is also in charge of the bill that would allow LGBTQ citizens to be part of the non-discrimination low.  He has vowed it will never see the House floor.  I may have given you my story about this, but it's the summer and that's a time for re-runs.  My love and I can be legally married in Pennsylvania which we can pay for from our shared bank account.  However, we can be denied the services of bakers, photographers, wedding planners, and clothiers because, in their now-polluted minds, they don't want to participate in our civilly legal wedding.  Our civil marriage takes place in a friend's lawn by an officiant friend.  Off we go to the reception hall, where we are told that the owner didn't know we were gay when he rented the space; he doesn't serve gays and the contract is void.  The caterer overhears the conversation and refuses to serve us, even in the parking lot, because he won't serve fags on account of his deeply held religious beliefs.  Off we go to a small hotel with a wedding suite.  We are thrown out after getting ready for bed because the hotel because homosexuality is a sin and the owner cannot condone it.  Apparently, she's down with divorcees, adulterers, non-Christians, and Pharisees, but she cannot bring herself to public accommodations for "you people."  We go back to apartment and discover we've been thrown out.  The landlord didn't realize, after all these years of two guys living together, that we were queers; he doesn't have to put up with that.  We spend another night in the car and, in the morning, I go to work.  One of the first things I do is go to HR to change my marital status.  A half hour later, I'm called into the boss's office and am fired because I'm gay and he doesn't have to have "that kind of pervert" on his staff...because, you know, Jesus.

It's all true, yet "the Honorable Representative" Metcalfe doesn't have any problem with it.

But I still have a joy, a sense of belonging, a sense of citizenship on this 4th of July that I never felt before.  I never thought I'd live to see the day that my partner and I could get married.  Maybe I'll live to see the day we both have the rights that all straight citizens take for granted.  Still, the hamburgers will taste a little bit better and the sky art will be more stunning.  We're on our way.

Ignorant Is Not The Same As Stupid

Recently, the Washington Post published an op-ed by a Peter Waskowitz.  Among other things, he excoriated straight people for using the rainbow flag app on FaceBook and wondering why those he never came out to didn't phone their congratulations when they heard the SCOTUS marriage equality ruling.  He also thought newcomer straights and corporations had no business waving the rainbow flag...and maybe even no straight person should has a right to wave that flag.

I am a JoeMyGod addict, a blog also here on Blogspot.  Like the comments on the WaPo site, Pete received very few positive comments on JMG.  I was particularly impressed by a comment written by Steven Leahy:

"RIGHT. This kid has enjoyed living most of his non-childhood life in an era of great LGBT rights momentum and progress. Allies like SG advocating loudly and proudly on our behalf had EVERYTHING to do with the gains we've made and will continue to make.
"I remember when people openly tossed round the word "faggot" much like the N-word was used in much of Am. society casually and freely, and people were openly disparaging and contempt-filled around anything having anything to do with us.
"I can only imagine what those now in their 60's, 70's and 80's dealt with.
"This kid has likely never known the fear of not being able to show the slightest affection towards a partner, openly acknowledging who they were at work, being fearful of being seen walking into a gay club, never being able to imagine non-discrimination laws, social security, partner/spouse hospitalization and inheritance benefits, etc etc etc.
"I look back in awe about the whole thing. We still have issues to resolve but generally most gay people especially in cities live, in relative terms, without the fear and hate coming at them from every angle that their forebears suffered."

My reply:

"Thank you, Steven. I am, as Hedwig might say, in my middle-upper-60s. My partner (we WILL marry, not just yet) and I have been verbally abused, had beer cans thrown at us, an attempt at humiliation from the fucking minister at my mother's funeral (and god love my sister for making a VERY pointed remark to the scumbag that Jack WAS part of the family and would sit in the family row), screams of rather vile bile from both a nurse and a nun at a Catholic hospital refusing to let me go with Jack to the morgue to see his dead mother (happily, Jack yelled loudest), but we've never encountered anything hateful or even threatening in this small town where we've lived our 36 years together. And when he or I or we went to the store or the beer guy or the drugstore last weekend, everyone who waited on us congratulated us on The Decision. That, to me, is an ally. Maybe a little tenuous, but they are allies, people who know us and felt that they wanted to offer their support.

"We are both the same age range, although he is in his lower-early-60s. We've always held hands at movies and plays. But we are still reluctant to hold hands in public, although we're getting braver at physical contact. Straight PDAs can be off-putting, but they get to do it. I don't know if we'll ever feel comfortable. But when I see a gay or lesbian couple walking on a sidewalk in Harrisburg, holding hands as if it were the most natural thing in the world, I think how truly happy I am for them. And then I hope that they're careful in what they do.

"If Mr. Moskowitz has someone to love, I would hope they hold hands in public and that straight people see them and that maybe, by showing that love, the straight will understand. Straights who understand are allies, too. If they want to wave our flag, please, please do. To me, there's no time limit to 'getting it,' although the sooner the better."

Friday, May 15, 2015

Two B. B. King Stories

1970 or 1971, the public TV station I worked at got a grant to produce folk music shows in various locations from Maine to Virginia. We did a coal mining-themed concert (locals were always invited) in Eckley, PA, where "The Molly Maguires" was shot. B. B. King was one of the singers and he was a delight to work with. Merle Travis was also on the roster to sing his "16 Tons" and some other songs. Problem was, his guitar was damaged in transit. B. B. said, "Here. Take Lucille." TAKE LUCILLE!?! You don't lend Lucille. Travis was hesitant, but B. B. assured him she worked like any other guitar. That was an act of sharing, graciousness, and trust that I obviously have never forgotten. Travis was an OK guitarist...mostly he was known for his songs. Lucille brought him up a notch...and she sounded very happy back in the hands of Mr. King.

Many years later an associate producer for that series, Joyce Keener, was invited to be the featured reader at a Paper Sword poetry reading in Harrisburg.  She had moved to California by then but returned to the area from time to time to visit her family.  My partner, Jack, produced the readings and invited her to read next time she was here.   the three of us knew each other for quite some time.  Joyce wrote good poetry, but she wasn't used to reading in public.  She started coughing and couldn't stop and finally lost her voice.  I volunteered to read for her.  I was an announcer and trained myself to read ahead so I wouldn't make a lot of mistakes.  I apparently read her work very much to her approval.  She wrote to us shortly thereafter.  She said that while I was reading for her, she thought about that concert when B. B. King gave Merle Travis Lucille.

Funny.  I read professionally, I was a friend, and it was the most natural thing in the world to offer to read for her "until she got her voice back."  B. B. King and Merle Travis were musicians and Merle ran into a severe problem...his guitar wasn't playable.  B. B. King offered Lucille.  I'm sure that offering Lucille to Merle and offering to read for Joyce were pretty much the same thing.  It's what you do.  If someone needs help, you help.  It shouldn't be noteworthy, yet it is.  Sad.

Thinking It Through

One of the on-going conversations on JoeMyGod (also on blogspot) is about how unlike Christians the bigots are while wildly professing their Truly Religious status. Many of the JMG readers are atheists; some are Christian despite what other xns are up to.  I really haven't a clue what I am.  I've said before that I don't believe in coincidence, and that means something or Some Thing is putting helping me.  I also differentiate between a Christian (one who's trying her/his best to follow Christ's teachings), a christian (one who says s/he's trying), and a xn (one who couldn't care less what the bible says and succeeds in instilling hate and fear in others).
It came around again the other day, after a particularly despicable pronouncement by one of The Truly Religious.  Someone asked "exactly what is a 'real' Christian?"  It made me think, because there are people I know whom I consider to be Christians.  But why?  I tend to think best at a keyboard and wrote this:
"Yeah, I'm trying to figure that out, too.  I think it's possible to try one's best to live one's life according to what Jesus said, or at least as it was recorded.  There are great challenges in those 4 books, and I think 'real' Christians try to live by those challenges.  You don't give up thinking, you don't give up your intellect, you don't give up science or art.
"After Luke's recounting of the story of the good Samaritan, the exchange between Jesus reads: "'Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell in the hands of the robbers?'  The expert in the law replied, 'The one who had mercy on him.'  Jesus told him, 'Go and do likewise.'"
"I think that's what 'real' Christians try to do  I realize that this is also not only open to debate and can be generally disregarded.  I do not profess to be a Christian or a christian or a xn.  Still, I do give credit to someone who tries to live by Jesus' teachings and who does not then say, 'Hey!  Look at me!  I'm just like Jesus!'"
I don't know why I want to defend Christians, except that I think there are those who sincerely believe in what Jesus taught and try to live their lives accordingly, and that doesn't include condemning, hating, and excluding their fellow humans. Actually, I tend to admire someone who sees all of us as children of their god. Their teacher said that the first great commandment was to love their god completely, and that the second great commandment was to love the other people on the planet, too.  I don't place myself above Christians (I do find xns as a despicable, hateful lot, however).  
Am I thinking about this because there are more days and years behind me than there are before me?  I don't know.  It could be.  It takes way too much time and energy to hate, so maybe I'm trying to hone my love or acceptance skills. Whatever it is, it's an interesting exploration.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Lilac Time Again

The single most lovely scent in my world is the lilac.  Whether lilac or white, they smell about the same...which is nothing short of intoxicating, almost like ragtime for my nose.

Although it's not my most favorite of the seasons (that goes to summer), I admire spring.  I enjoy the first gradual change on the ground from Andrew Wyeth browns to patches of green.  One day all the crocuses spring up and bloom.  Forsythia, no longer fooled by the odd warm day, blossoms and little blue-and-white flowers appear on the fringes of grass. Daffodils, hyacinths, and other early bulbs arise and the upward migration begins,..the migration from green grass to budding bushes to flowering trees to buds pushing the petals off the branches to make way for the leaves.  The green keeps rising until the leaves explode out on the trees.  Along the way, the dandelions' green leaves get greener and one day their unique yellow dots the landscape.  Look a little close and the yellow is accented by the beautiful violets.  And then the dandelion seeds sprout and beg to be whooshed into flight.

Sounds change, too.  Along with the sparrows and wrens, winter is the time for the crows to be songbirds, as well as the geese that now stay through the winter honking on their morning and evening exercise flights.  I don't know why I think they sound mournful or melancholy; a flock ten or twelve nevertheless is a welcome change from the winter stillness.  One morning, however, I hear the wonderful, welcome, and somehow weird sound of a huge flock of geese following the Susquehanna River north.  Later that morning, I hear another flock.  Geese tend not to get it wrong, and a throng of geese flying north has no melancholy attachment.  It is, rather, joy and hopefulness.

Then, one morning, there's a different sound. I can't differentiate among birds, but it's a sound I haven't heard since September or October.  Another morning I awake to see a mob of robins in the old cemetery across the street...robins feeding and -- who knows? -- making plans for who gets which tree and which mate they'll have.  That congregation of robins won't happen again until next year, but it's a definite sign:  There may be another snow or two, but the robins are here.

An afternoon's walk to the library brings with it more birdsong.  The morning walk to the bus stop is accompanied by the music that I've missed.  Our forsythia bush is fully green and may host a nest.
Other flowering trees bloom, the dogwoods display their off-pink and beautiful white flowers.

And then comes the scent, the scent that here in central Pennsylvania means it's the end of April and the beginning of May.  As I awaited the green migration from the ground to the top of the trees, as I've enjoyed the return of bird music, as I enjoyed the burst of colors around me, the lilac crowns it all, it is the grand finale, it is what I've been waiting for...and it's right on time.

Ahead, I hope, are languorous warm and even hot summer days, dark evenings pierced by lightning bug flashes, the incredible smell of new-mown hay and the refreshment of warmish water, the power of thunderstorms and the peace after them (cleaning up after them, not so much).

My favorite season, which will come along in a couple of weeks, is heralded by the most lovely scent in the world.  The lilacs are in bloom again.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Todd Starnes: Opportunist, Liar, Fear Monger

In response to “Todd Starnes: Christians Are The Face Of The Modern Civil Rights Movement” on JoeMyGod 5/1/15

Selma should have reminded you how many of your fellow travelers have insulted, threatened, assaulted, maimed, and killed countless numbers of my tribe. The asshole conservative whites were assaulting the African Americans then and the AAs won. Now you feel you must declare war on us...apparently because you need to feel superior to someone. Discovering that the US actually means it when its hallowed documents say things like "ALL men," "We the people," "liberty and justice for ALL, rather than "some" or "a lot of" is scary. But it's the ideal and there a lot people who want to see that "ALL" mean "all law abiding citizens."
I watched We Were Here last night and have been stewing ever since. First, the xn response was that AIDS was god's punishment for homosexuals. The xn response was hate, fear, and utter, unabashed ugliness. Who responded with love, caring, compassion? We did...gays and lesbians. Thank god for the lesbians. Who sought and demanded cures? Not the government, not Big Pharma, not the xns, who discovered that AIDS as god's punishment was an incredibly successful money maker. And even now, in the clip at the top, you mention "my new book."
When did we say we were martyrs? Despite the death, the pain, the illness, the sickness, the loss of so many friends and lovers, I don't know that "martyr" ever became part of the lexicon. We were, even more than usual, discriminated against by The Truly Religious. We were the ones dropping dead and being laughed at. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, we were the Samaritan...The Truly Religious were the ones walking around on the other side of the road.
And you say you are being discriminated against, you are the martyrs. Not even close. I will concede one thing: Hate is a horrible thing to be afflicted with. However, you hate by choice, so that's not really martyrdom, is it? You have been shits for decades. You have abnegated your deity's commands for decades, centuries, and yet you are the martyrs, you are being wronged.

I think not.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Son of ''23 Revue"

As I've noted elsewhere, I've finished my revue of popular American music from 1905 to 1923.  I emailed a friend today to see if she'd like to read through and listen to it.

Dear Ms. A:

Since you have been connected with countless hit musicals (among them "Angels in America: The All Day All Night Musical," "The Cripple of Innishman: The Musical [choreographed, if I recall correctly, by St. Vitus himself], "Doubt: The Gregorian Musical," "Lips Together, Teeth Apart Cha Cha Cha," "Anne Frank: A Musical Tragedy," "The Perfect Ganesh: A Tuskan Musical," "Who's Afraid of Stephen Sondheim?" and the adaptation of Albee's two one-acts, "The Box of Sand and Me" and "The Roaring Zoo Story," to name a few), I was wondering if you would mind reading through my first endeavor at revue writing.  "'23 Revue" is a celebration (or at least a presentation) of music from 1905 to 1923, currently the last year for music being in the public domain so I don't have to pay anything, a necessary consideration.

Obviously, "'23 Revue" is a play on the witty catchphrase "23 Skidoo," which, according to Wikipedia, the world's most infallible information source, was an "American slang phrase popularized during the early 20th century. It generally refers to leaving quickly, being forced to leave quickly by someone else, or taking advantage of a propitious opportunity to leave, that is, 'getting [out] while the getting's good.' The exact origin of the phrase is uncertain."  The title of the revue may also refer to the hasty retreat from the Levittown, NJ Bijou, where the revue was first staged, as well as The Orange Bagel, a cabaret/coffeehouse in Soggy Bottom, MD where our second performance fared no better.  I'm not sure what either audience found distasteful, as we had to leave before we could collect the comments cards.

With this ominous puzzle hanging heavily overhead, I was wondering if I could burden you with reading/listening to it and offering your comments.  I've made two CDs, one for each act.  The sound card my music program records on sounds like various flying insects, but they are true to beat, melody, and pitch.  Because you probably wouldn't recognize much of the music (or guess what it was from the various buzzings), I have a lyric book.  If you'd rather, I have the full orchestration.  The two CDs work with that, too, only the lyrics are smaller.  The revue itself lasts approximately two hours and twenty minutes, if one honors the suggested 15 minute interval.  I say approximately because we were unable to successfully finish either the Bijou or Orange Bagel performance.

If you care to waste an evening, I can drop off the CDs and lyric book or full score at [a certain theater] Mondays, Tuesdays, or Thursdays around 4.  If you prefer, and if you don't mind being in a homosexualist environment, you could pick up the materials Mondays, Tuesdays, or Thursdays at the LGBT Center, opposite a really nice, well tended vacant lot.  Thank you for your time and consideration.

David Walker

Thursday, March 12, 2015

"23 Revue" Reaches First Plateau

After dinner this evening, I opened a fortune cookie.  "Take the first step today."  As it happens, I did.  I've got "23 Revue" to the point that it could, if anyone had the bucks to throw away, be ready for a workshop.  Last week I finished the lyric book and today I saw the first act orchestrations on paper.   I've seen my choral arrangements printed out.  I've hardly ever done orchestrations, never had them printed out, and today I saw the first 360 pages of the 702 page score.  It's on 8-1/2 by 11 and clearly needs to be on bigger paper, but it's there and it's just flipping amazing to see.  I've recorded the show from my computer and the revue times out to 2 hours and 10 minutes.

The title comes from the most recent year for almost all music to be in the public domain. That's rags, George Cohan's music, Jerome Kern's "Princess Theater" music, songs for the Great War, lamenting prohibition, some excellent song-and-dance numbers, and blues.  This is music I love, and I didn't have to pay for the right to use it.

"23 Revue" (23 skiddoo sound alike) is now the biggest thing I've done.  I've written two novels and several documentary scripts, but they didn't take 2+ years to do.  First I arranged the sheet music for a better sounding piano.  Then I scored it for a 17- to 20-piece pit band and for solo voice, duet, up to a full 12- or 16-voice ensemble.  I arranged the dance breaks.  And while I've been making "23 Revue" grow for the last two years, today I saw the hard copy.  The lyric book (script) was one thing, but it also looks like a book of poetry.  Today I saw the notes, those black marks on the page that bring the songs to life.  Somehow that made it real.

There are still things to be done.  I've changed some of the lyrics to try to make them not be be offensive, but I'm white and I don't know what would be considered offensive to people of color, aside from the really obvious.  I want to use "Darktown Strutter's Ball," for example, but I don't know what ought to be changed and re-worded, and the same goes for other songs.  And how do I ask people if the words are offensive or troubling without sounding like the whitest guy in the world?

I know I'll never hear it beyond the strange electronic sounds from the computer.  I never expected it to see the light of a stage.  Now, however, I can follow the score away from the computer, turn pages, feel it and hear it.  So, yeah...the culmination of more than 2 years' work turns into taking the first step.

If this were The Producers, it's where Max would tell Leo that Max is now going into "Little Old Lady Land."  It's not, it won't happen, but what a feeling of accomplishment!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


Lots of movies deserve second viewings.  My list of them is long.  "Steel Magnolias" is one of them.  "The Birds" is another, as are "The Maltese Falcon," "42nd Street," "East of Eden," "The Pawnbroker," "The Producers," "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," and others.  I like to take them off the shelf from time to time and appreciate them once again.

Gay movies are in this arena, too.  "Big Eden," "Latter Days," "Broken Hearts Club," "Torch Song Trilogy," "Breakfast with Scot," "The Big Gay Musical," and so on are movies that deserve an annual view.

Other movies I'm unapologetically addicted to.  I never tire of watching "Casablanca," "Psycho," "Singing in the Rain," "To Kill a Mockingbird," "Mysterious Skin," and a few others.  I'm addicted to both the book and movie version of "The Help."  There is a perfection about these and some other movies, a uniqueness in the storytelling or presentation.

"Cloudburst" joined the group last year.  Two old lesbians in Maine take off for Canada to get married, and they pick up a drool-worthy young dancer along the way.  I've watched it any number of times and it has yet to get tired.

They are like favorite rides in an amusement park.  You've been on it before, loved it, and even though you know every hill on the roller coaster or how to make the car spin on the Tilt-a-Whirl, you don't get tired of it.  The ride starts and you relax and enjoy it.

And now "Pride," based on the true story of a small group of lesbians and gay men who raised money for striking miners during Thatcher's reign of terror.  It's a joy to watch and a treat to see several generations of British actors work together.  I am constantly touched by the humanity shown by the characters, how the small town miners learn to accept, respect, even love the gays and lesbians from London.  The gays and lesbians also grow and mature and come to grips with themselves and the miners.  Imagine a young miner asking a gay man to teach him to dance because he wants to be "a woman magnet."  And I have yet to watch the scene with "Bread and Roses" without needing a tissue.

Such a loving, inclusive, powerful movie...sold, at least in the US...with no mention of "gay" or "lesbian" in the blurb on the DVD cover and a Photoshopped picture that took out the "Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners" banner behind the marchers.  You want to be Dai, you want to emulate Sian, but to do that you have to buy a cover that Maureen would approve of.  "'Pride' is inspired by an extraordinary true story," but the copy doesn't tell us why.  "A group of London-based activists" is as close as it comes to indicating the dichotomy.

One young man returns to his mother without knowing if she has changed her mind about gays; another leaves home having encountered his parents' bigotry.  One of the Welsh women is happy to meet the group because "I do have some questions about the lesbians."  An older miner finally comes out to a woman friend.  The Welsh women (and a few men) want to see London's gay nightlife.  The lesbians and gays come to understand and love the people for whom they raise money.

Selling points that Sony chose to ignore.  They don't make the movie seem bland, but they are less-than-honest in terms of what it is.