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 (joemygod.blogspot.com).  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."