Sunday, November 30, 2008

Big John is Back

The big Aeolian Skinner organ of St. John the Divine is back after 7 years of silence. Here is a recording of it from the 1950s. The big bass pipes are shaking the paving stones once again.

The organ, and the east end of the cathedral, were rededicated and reopened today after years of repair and restoration work since the 2001 fire. I've never seen the cathedral look so bright and tidy as it did this evening. They cleaned out most of that jarring modern art that either clashed with the setting, or more frequently, was overwhelmed by it. Happily, they kept Keith Haring's triptych, the only work of recent art that took the cathedral setting into consideration.
I was part of my parish's delegation to the rededication service. I got to process around in cassock in surplice beneath soaring ribbed vaults and arches. I had a great time.

Here's an old postcard that shows what the completed cathedral is supposed to look like, according to the design of Ralph Adams Cram.

An old postcard showing the original Heins and LaFarge design. The east end choir survives from this design, though the vaults were rebuilt and a clerestory added by Cram.

Cram's nave under construction in the 1930s. It remains to be seen how the giant crossing arches left over from the Heins and LaFarge design will be incorporated into Cram's vision of the crossing tower.

This is what St. John the Unfinished looks like today. The southwest tower remains unfinished and looking very truncated.

Here's why I think the Cram design is so brilliant and original. It's a huge French Gothic triforium and clerestory articulation screened behind a German hall church nave. It's so odd, and it works so beautifully.

I love Big John, that huge unfinished lummox of a cathedral up there in Morningside Heights. It has been under construction for more than a century; fitfully constructed at one end while being restored at the other. I doubt anyone alive now will see it finished. But remember, it took 600 years to finish Cologne cathedral in Germany. St. John the Divine will be finished before that.

Advent; The Second Coming

Christ of the Apocalypse as seen by the High Middle Ages.

There in Heaven stood a throne, and on the throne sat one whose appearance was like the gleam of jasper and carnelian; and round the throne was a rainbow, bright as an emerald. In a circle about this throne were twenty four other thrones, and on them sat twenty four elders, robed in white and wearing crowns of gold. From the throne went out flashes of lightning and peals of thunder. Burning before the throne were seven flaming torches, the seven spirits of God, and in front of it stretched what seemed to be a sea of glass like a sheet of ice.
In the center round the throne itself were four living creatures, covered with eyes, in front and behind. the first creature was like a lion, the second like an ox, the third had a human face, the fourth was like an eagle in flight. The four living creatures, each of them with six wings, had eyes all over, inside and out; by day and by night without pause they sang:

Holy, holy , holy is God the sovereign Lord of all, who was, and is, and is to come!
--Revelations 4:2-8

From the Saint Sever Apocalypse, ca. 1050-1070

Tympanum, West Portal, St. Pierre, Moissac, ca. 1115-1135

Tympanum, West Portal, Chartres Cathedral, ca. 1145-1155

South Rose Window, Chartres Cathedral

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Oh Crap, It's Christmastime Already!

I've decided that Christmas is really 3 different holidays all rolled into one.

There is Xmas, the accounting event, the retail institution, a commercial outgrowth from a series of dimly remembered winter holidays that involve lots of gift giving, which means lots of shopping. Seasonal music, treacly nostalgia, and enforced good cheer put people in the mood for (or guilt them into) copious amounts of spending. Frequently, economists, statisticians, and political pundits pontificate about the health of the Republic and the Global Economy depending on how much Americans spend at this time of year.

There is the Winter Holiday with long ago roots in the Roman Saturnalia and various pre-Christian solstice rites. This involves little ritual items like Yule logs, holly, Christmas trees, Santa Claus (and related characters) and mistletoe. It also consists of gift giving with lots of eating and drinking. Something of the ancient spirit of chasing away the darkness and scarcity of winter with lots of light and feasting still survives under the heavy crust of commercial Xmas.

Then there is The Feast of Our Lord's Nativity, the only time of year when conventional America rejoices at the birth of a bastard child to an unwed teenage mother in some backwater Roman territory (earlier ages were far less squeamish about the circumstances of Our Lord's birth than we are today; see the cuckolded Joseph weeping in a lot of early Nativities including Giotto's). Ideally, this is a 12 day festival in which every child is the Christ Child. It should be a feast for and about children. In my opinion, the gift giving should be confined to children (under 18, and preferably younger).  It's a sign of hope for us all that the Creator of the Worlds should be born in dire poverty, on the run, with a price on His head; God With Us indeed, a standing rebuke to all our ideas of success, including moral success.

Christmas always brings out the cranky socialist in me, probably because I've had to work on or around Christmas since I was 18. One person's special holiday is someone else's job. Then there were those years when I joined my Jewish friends and went out to eat and to a movie that day (conveniently forgetting that I worked in movie theaters and kitchens on Christmas in younger days).  
And am I still working on the holiday?   Well, not in stores, or theaters, or kitchens anymore thank God, but I'm always working on piles of grading around the holiday. 

Friday, November 28, 2008

Attention Shoppers!

As if it wasn't hard enough being a Wal Mart employee.  An employee was killed in the Christmas shopping stampede at the Valley Stream Long Island Wal Mart.

No one is more sour on the Holiday Season than retail workers, and now you know why.  Cut 'em some slack folks.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Bon Apetit

Just in case you really need a break from the turkey, treacle, and family tension of the holiday, here is Sam Peckinpah's Salad Days as presented by Monty Python:

This is a public service from Counterlight International.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Education of Harvey Milk

The New York Times this morning gives Gus Van Sandt's new movie Milk starring Sean Penn in the title role a rave review. And now, I'm dying to see it. I've always loved that documentary about his life from 1984, The Life and Times of Harvey Milk.

The real Harvey Milk campaigning in San Francisco.

Both the movie and the documentary concentrate, understandably, on Milk's life and pioneering work in San Francisco. But he had a fairly dramatic life before that here in New York. It might even make good material for another movie. While in New York, Milk was a largely closeted gay man working on Wall Street and in the insurance industry who avoided politics. His political education came in the form of a flaming passionate affair with the young Craig Rodwell, a very radically out gay man before the term "out" was invented. Rodwell regularly spent stints in jail and was frequently beat up in police stations because he always talked back to the cops. He stubbornly refused to accept the shame and secrecy that was the common lot of gay men at that time (late 1950s, early 1960s).  Rodwell had little patience for Milk's caution, and Milk sometimes found Rodwell's boldness alarming.  They fought constantly, and eventually broke up.  
Rodwell founded the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookstore in 1967, the first bookstore openly selling gay literature that was not a porn store. Rodwell also campaigned to have the Stonewall Bar closed down. It was mob owned, and stayed open because of police corruption. It was notorious for its filth; hepatitis was common among its regulars. He worked to a get a New York state law that forbade the selling of liquor to known sexual "deviants" repealed, the very law that created the corruption necessary to keep gay bars open in New York. Rodwell found himself caught up in the Stonewall riots of 1969.
It was Rodwell who taught Milk his politics, but Milk brought a generosity and pragmatism to politics that Rodwell lacked, and made it successful beyond all expectations.

Craig Rodwell in his bookstore about 1972

Rodwell is now largely forgotten except by a few historians. But, he played a very key role in the formation of Harvey Milk and of the modern LGBT movement.

A lot of the surviving Stonewall era activists complain about being forgotten and taken for granted these days.  Their complaint is just, but it's also a sign of success.  That younger generations take for granted things the earlier generations had to fight so hard for is a measure of real accomplishment.  Gay America, just like the rest of America, thinks history is bunk and a bore.  But as nasty old Freud always said, the past is there for us to trip over.  It is also there to encourage us.  It reminds us how far we've come, and shows us that even the worst obstacles can be overcome with courage, persistence, and solidarity.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Autumn in New York

TDan's African Journey

Saint Louis du Senegal, from Wikimedia

I've been following Toujoursdan's fascinating daily posts on his trip to Senegal (where a lot of my students come from). He also has a lot of splendid pictures from Senegal posted as well. Senegal might well surprise you. It's not quite what I expected.

It's a lot more interesting, and enlightening, than keeping track of the Anglican Wars these days, and I'm more than a little tired lately. I'm looking forward to Thanksgiving, not for Turkey dinner and Michael's family, but so I can get back into my studio and have some undisturbed time to work there.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

It's also a Wonderful Wonderful World!

The Show Me state is full of delightful surprises.

It's a Strange Strange World.

Well what do you know? Jewish Nazis in Israel!

And the irony is that their beloved Fuehrer would have shipped their Jewish asses to Auschwitz faster than they could say, "88!"  ("Heil Hitler!" in skinhead code).

Only in the Epicopal Church...

Only in the Episcopal Church do the executives quit, then get fired, then scream bloody murder when they are canned.

Only in the Episcopal Church would resigned/fired executives try to take the branch offices, and all of their assets down to the staplers, with them out the door.

Only the Episcopal Church would allow executives determined to destroy the organization to remain in it for years and years, and plead with them to stay.

Only the Episcopal Church would suffer its generals to speak to and cut deals with foreign invaders, and not drum them out for treason.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Anglican Wars

Goya, Duel With Cudgels, ca 1820-1823

I think that the warfare in the Episcopal Church and in the Anglican Communion will end the same way that the Reformation/ Counter-Reformation ended, in perpetual stalemate. After almost 2 centuries of bloody warfare all over Europe, the wars ended because people got tired of fighting. Nothing was resolved. The Defenders of Holy Mother Church did not succeed in stamping out the Heresy. God's Chosen Elect did not vanquish the forces of the Roman AntiChrist. And here we are today in a secular world of religious pluralism, the Defenders of the Faith long ago replaced by constitutional social contracts.

I anticipate a similar end to the fighting in the Anglican Communion. We will simply get tired of fighting, excommunicate each other, declare victory, and go home. There will be no resolution. At best there will be some kind of grudging modus vivendi. I think this will all end in a kind of Lutheran stalemate with 2 or 3 or more parallel "Anglican" communions, none of them recognizing each other, or speaking with one another. About the only thing they will have in common is some kind of use of some version of the Book of Common Prayer.

I have skin in this fight. I'm not willing to fall on a sword for the sake of "peace." I agree with Dr. King when he said that peace is more than the absence of war, it is the presence of justice.

However, there are days when I think that the whole of Christendom is like what an Israeli friend said about modern Jerusalem, a city full of people absolutely convinced that all of their neighbors are going to hell.

"No kingdom is more given to civil war than that of the Prince of Peace" --Montesquieu

Dallas Local Coverage 45 years ago today

This is from the Local ABC affiliate (WFAA as I remember, though I could be wrong). The eyewitness being interviewed is none other than Abraham Zapruder of film fame.

My, how television has changed.

For those of you who must, here is Mr. Zapruder's film.

45 Years Ago Today

I wonder if they still sell these things in Dallas? What are you going to write on it, "Wish you were here?"

Has it really been that long ago? I was in Dallas at the time, 5 years old, eating a bologna sandwich in front of the cartoons when it happened. I hardly remember it. My cousin remembers it vividly, as does my mother who worked at Parkland Hospital at the time (and is everlastingly grateful that she was off work that Friday).

Where's My Government Bailout?

Counterlight International is simply too big to fail.

Friday, November 21, 2008

How Have I Been Spending All This Time?

I've been busy teaching since September.  The semester is almost over, and if you want to see the filth that I've been teaching them, then go here, the blog I keep for my students.

The Club Says Farewell to a Member

Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, convicted on 7 counts of corruption, and thrown out of office by his own constituents, gets a standing ovation:

Go figure.

I've always said that Obama having relatively little experience in the US Senate is an ASSET, not a liability. So many of these rich old white guys see their office as a sinecure rather than a public trust, and forget just who it is that they are supposed to be working for. I think John Kerry was undone by his long years in the Senate. The Kerry of the 2004 presidential race was definitely not the Kerry of 1968. The advocate had long ago become a club member.

There are times when I think Quebec had the right idea when their parliament got rid of its upper house, and turned the chamber into a formal reception hall. Maybe Nebraska's unicameral legislature is not such a bad idea either. We don't need an American version of Lords.

They used to say about the Senate that it was the South's revenge for Gettysburg. For decades after the Civil War it was dominated by Southern interests, and obstructed progress on Civil Rights. It took a combination of threats and deals from President (and former Senator) Lyndon Johnson to finally break the log jam on that issue.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

"They say..."

Buddy Cole on our precious precious little prejudices:

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Night Out on the Castro

Some religious folk show up one night on the Castro to save the queers, and look what happens:

Some people, and people whose views I respect greatly, find this deeply disturbing. We haven't seen this kind of visceral anger in gay folk in 10 years, not since the murder of Matthew Shepard. A credible argument could be made that this kind of rage is counterproductive.
And yet, these good Christian people knew what they were doing. They knew that their presence in the Castro would be provocative, and surprise! They got a reaction, and not a nice one.

As far as I'm concerned, this is the same as walking down 125th street in Harlem waving a Confederate battle flag. People will respond, and in ways that are more visceral than thoughtful.

Thanks to Toujoursdan for finding this and posting it.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

No More Mr. Nice Gay!

Here is an alternative view on the whole issue of payback for supporting discriminatory legislation aimed at LGBTs.  

I must confess to being of 2 minds on this issue.  Yes, I am in favor of a positive campaign for gay marriage and gay civil rights.  However, though I may be skeptical of the effectiveness of boycotts, I'm not willing to spend my money with a business that believes that I'm not, and shouldn't be, a full and equal citizen.  
The reason those big rallies on Saturday were so necessary is because politicians and businesses pay attention to numbers, and numbers mean power.  Why should we be reluctant to use that power?
The boycotts of businesses during the Civil Rights campaigns of the late 50s early 60s hurt the economies of many towns in the South causing foreclosures and layoffs.  I'm sure Dr. King did not get much good will from the unemployed workers or bankrupt owners of many businesses.  But, Dr. King understood, as Gandhi understood when his boycotts hurt British industry, that nonviolent struggle is still struggle, it is using your power.

Indeed, payback is a bitch.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

"Sign me up in the Book of Love! Civil Rights Now!"

The rally that I thought would have a small turnout because of the weather turned out to be huge. I got there 30 minutes early, and there was only a handful of people with signs on Broadway by City Hall. They were having to dodge the occasional heckler on the sidewalk. My heart sank. Within a half hour, the crowd was so big the cops had to close off 2 or 3 lanes of Broadway. I couldn't see from where I was, but I could hear the sound of cheering and chanting from quite a great distance. I was told that the crowd stretched all the way up Broadway to outta sight. I have no idea how big the crowd was, but it was definitely in the thousands.
I enjoyed 2 lovely little bits of serendipity. The first was the weather. This morning, it was pouring down rain. It was still overcast and threatening when I left the house. When I arrived at City Hall, the sun started to break through. There were lots of remarks about this being a sign from God about what He really thinks of His gay children. The second was the sign that I was handed. It said the very thing that I would have written myself, "Did we vote on YOUR marriage?" I still have it here with me.
The crowd was overwhelmingly young, though there was a respectable turnout of us old timers.
The best most thoughtful speeches, I thought, were from some of the younger speakers. The emphasis in nearly all of them was on embracing the positive and leaving aside anger and vindictiveness. My long standing wish that progressives embrace national symbols, and reclaim them, may finally be coming true. This is the first protest rally I've ever been to that began with The Star Spangled Banner (sung by the Gay Men's Chorus). The people around me in the crowd took it seriously and doffed hats and sang along. That may be a change wrought by the Obama phenomenon. The reason people winced at patriotism for so long is because they felt it didn't belong to them, that they weren't part of The White Christian Republic as defined by the formerly dominant party for the last 30 years. That has suddenly and dramatically changed over the last 2 weeks.
Another effect of the Obama phenomenon were numerous admonitions to the crowd to reach out to constituencies other than the LGBT community. They pointed out how Obama won in states, and in constituencies, where experts long said a Democrat could never win (and certainly not a black Democrat). We were urged to reach out to family and co-workers, even those we assumed to be hostile.
As always, these big gay political affairs are happy and festive instead of angry, and this was no exception. I remember when activists used to complain about people turning political rallies into parties. I've always thought that's as it should be; the struggle is hard, but there's no reason for it to be anything but joyous. One of the things that I will always say for politics, this is one of the few areas in life where just showing up really matters. Alas, I went by myself. Significant Other had to work, and he hates these rallies anyway. They send his agoraphobia into over-drive. However, he's entirely supportive and glad I went. I'm glad I went.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Get Up Off Your Butts and Fight For Your Homes and Families!

There will be a rally here in New York and in cities across the country to protest California Proposition H8. The protest here in NYC will be Saturday at 1:30 at City Hall and Broadway. For more information, go here.

I hope to see all my New York and New Jersey friends there.

I'm predicting a low turnout today.  It's pouring down rain here in New York.

Low turnout my ass!  I just got back from the rally, and it was packed packed packed!  The crowd by City Hall Park was so big they had to close off lanes of Broadway.  The crowd stretched up Broadway from City Hall to outta sight.  What is more, just before the rally started, the sun came out!  God answered Pat Robertson's prayers (though not with the answer Pat wanted).

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Write Me In The Book of Love

Keith says it all:

When asked to choose between doctrine and love, I hope that I will always choose love.

So, what's it to ya?

Armistice, 90 Years Today

Today, ceremonies are being held across Europe to mark the 90th anniversary of the end of the First World War.  In the USA, what was once Armistice Day is now Veterans Day.  I don't know of any observances of the anniversary in this country, where that war is largely forgotten.  Yes, American involvement came late and was brief, but the losses were very high for so short a campaign.  Besides, some of us had family who fought in that war.

See my post below.

Monday, November 10, 2008


One of my suburban students told me today that she has to give a 10 minute presentation in her dietary class on Russian food, and that she is terrified.  She wanted to know how I did it, how I got up there and talked for an hour and 15 minutes in front of chatting, sleeping, and slouching kids, and how I seemed so at ease.  I told her that they were just as terrified as she, since they all know that they're next.  The heart of that cool and affectless pose of youth (which goes back to The Days of the Pharaohs) is not confidence, but panic.  It's the figleaf that hides their terror of each other's regard.  That knowledge gets me through the day.
On the subway home, I looked at all the very young and very pretty hipsters on the L train to East  Williamsburg, Brooklyn in their stylishly eccentric clothes very publicly reading deep-think literature (the young man sitting next to me was absorbed in Thomas Mann's Doctor Faustus, I usually see Derrida, Beckett, Joyce, and Dostoyevsky on the L train) and I thought to myself how glad I am to be 50 years old, especially these days.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Christendom in a Nutshell

Take a look at this, good Christian friends, an ecclesiastical brawl in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

Another Whose Star Has Set

Ayn Rand

The voters, worried about losing their jobs, their homes, and their savings selfishly chose "socialism" this year. The Little People resent the Masters of the Universe squandering all the wealth that their hard underpaid labor produced. They really resent being left holding the bag and paying for the clean up.

Atlas shrugged indeed.

Partisan Gloating

Here's my salute to all the over-paid clowns who told us all for 2 decades that us Yanks were too bigoted, racist, stupid, lazy, selfish, and easily frightened to be governed by anyone other than Big White Daddy Republicans. You guys were always so wrong about everything, and now your world lies in ruins around your ears. You've been forsaken by the very blue collar males that you claimed to speak for. More of them voted for Obama than voted for Kerry or Clinton, or Carter. All those rust belt states where they live, including very Republican Indiana, went for Obama. Very Southern Virginia, Florida, and North Carolina went for Obama. Obama won blue collar Pennsylvania with a double digit lead. Only 4 states turned more Republican; Tennesee, Arkansas, West Virginia, and Oklahoma. Obama, a black Democrat, was only 4 percentage points behind McCain in Dubya's own Texas. Obama won every major city in Texas except Fort Worth. The kids you said were too lazy and self absorbed to vote formed the backbone of Obama's grass-roots operations. The secret racism of American voters that you so counted on never materialized. As you pass into the odium that you so richly deserve, all I can say is "You have no power here! Be gone before someone drops a house on you!"

Karl Rove HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA!

William Kristol, HA! HA! HA! HA! HA!

Bill O'Reilly, HA! HA! HA! HA! HA!

Anne Coulter, HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA!

Sean Hannity, HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA!

Rush Limbaugh, HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA!

Pat Robertson, HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA!

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Great War

The First World War, the "War to End All Wars," ended 90 years ago at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. In the United States, World War One is almost forgotten, the last veterans long dead and buried. My students have never heard of it. Mysteriously, they've all heard of WWII, but it never occurred to them that there was a WWI before. My grandfather was on the front in France as a medical officer from 1917 to 1918. Since American involvement in the war came late and was brief, it is hard for us to realize the magnitude of that conflict for Europe and the Middle East.
A friend of mine, who is a historian, always said that those who complain about Western Civilization coming to an end are wasting their time. They're too late. It's already over. It ended in August 1914. The First World War was humanity's first taste of mechanized warfare and industrialized death. The surprise and the shock of it is hard for us to imagine. No one was prepared, including the generals.

A military parade in Berlin, August 1914

A German recruitment rally, 1914. People on all sides were eager for the war. Every nation was convinced that it had been wronged, and young men poured into recruitment offices out of patriotism, and in search of adventure. The war was anticipated as though it was some kind of great football game. No one believed that it would last longer than a few weeks.

Trench Warfare, Cheshire Regiment of the British Army, Somme, 1916. Soldiers arrived on the front to find not glamorous hand to hand combat and cavalry charges, but the squalor and horror of the trenches.

Tank Warfare, A British tank coming over a German trench. The tank made its debut in the war.

Austrian Uhlans, 1915. The First World War was the last major conflict that saw extensive use of horses. Once fearsome cavalry charges meant nothing in the face of machine guns and...

War in the Air, British fighter planes.

Chemical Warfare, British soldiers wounded in a gas attack, Ypres.

British and German wounded, Bernafay Wood, July, 1916

Paschendaele Ridge, Belgium, 1917. There were miles of northern France and Belgium where the ground was dug over by explosives to a depth of 10 feet.

Disabled German war veterans marching on the War Ministry, Berlin, December, 1918. The war decimated an entire generation of young men. Millions died in a span of 4 years (a million died in the Battle of Verdun alone). Thousands more were left maimed. In the later years of the war, anger and disillusionment spread rapidly in the ranks on all sides. Pacifist and revolutionary literature circulated freely among British and German troops. In 1917, an entire division of the French army mutinied and threatened to march on Paris unless peace talks began. The entire Russian army walked off the front and began marching home toward Moscow and St. Petersburg, eventually forcing the Tsar to abdicate.

The German military cemetery at Ypres, Belgium

The Menin Gate at Ypres, a memorial to British war dead covered with the names of thousands of British soldiers who perished near Ypres, and whose bodies were never recovered.

Every evening at 8PM, buglers sound The Last Post at the Menin Gate at Ypres, a ritual performed since the end of the First World War, and interrupted only by the German occupation of Belgium in World War II.

The beginning of the war was ambiguous and it ended ambiguously. It was an unambiguous catastrophe. It radically redrew the map of Europe and the Middle East. The German Empire collapsed during the war. Ancient monarchies and empires perished in the 4 years of the war: the 500 year old Russian monarchy ended, the centuries old Hapsburg dynasty ended with the Austrian Empire in 1918; the 700 year old Ottoman Empire collapsed because of the war.

The First World War was a baptism in blood into the 20th century and the modern era.

The REAL Meaning of Proposition H8

LA cops beat a gay protester during an anti-8 rally.
That's what it's all about folks.  Keep the faggots in line.

And as for all the priests, pastors, and preachers who stampeded their flocks into voting for this thing with all kinds of stories about the state requiring congregations to perform gay weddings, Atrios got it right when he called them Liars for Christ.  In all Christian charity, eat shit and die you bastards!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The NY Times on Proposition Hate

The Times devotes their lead editorial this morning to anti-gay ballot measures in 4 states, and says that there is no cause for despair.

The Times has long supported gay marriage.  Governor Patterson supports gay marriage and has said so publicly, so has Mayor Bloomberg.
And yet, it's a very safe bet that there will be gay marriage in California BEFORE New York, even after (and maybe because of) the narrow victory of Proposition Hate.

Here's a map from the Times of how all the counties in the USA shifted this year from Republican to Democrat and vice versa.  Note where all the counties that became more Republican this year are concentrated.  I'd say Howard Dean's 50 state strategy really paid off this year.  So, who's screamin' now?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Still Partyin'

Here's some Obama reggae from Cocoa Tea:

I heard a discussion on the radio about a "new Progressive patriotism." Huh? We were ALWAYS patriotic! We went to all those protests, signed those petitions, wrote all those letters to the editor, canvassed door to door, worked phone banks, did fundraising, organized unions, and sometimes sat in jails and got beat up because we ALWAYS LOVED this country! If we really hated America like the right wing always said we did, we'd just stay home while they fucked it up.

"Loyalty to country always, loyalty to the government only when they deserve it."
-- Mark Twain

Tomorrow is a national holiday in Kenya, Obama day.  The radio stations in Nairobi have been playing Cocoa Tea's song constantly.  

FURTHER UPDATE:  I've been hearing a lot of talk that Obama won BECAUSE he's black, that mobs of squishy guilt ridden white people were eager to vote for any black candidate.  If that was the case, then Alan Keyes should have been President a long time ago.
It ain't no mystery why he won folks.  We're sick of Dubya, we've had it up to here with the Republicans, they've got nothing to offer anymore, and Barack Obama came from behind to demonstrate to us all that he is abundantly qualified to lead the nation.

How Can I Keep From Singing?

A Journey to a Star Would Not Be Very Far...

It looks like Proposition Hate won a narrow victory in California.

That anyone's marriage should be up for a vote is a bitter and absurd injustice.  What's really galling is the hypocrisy of the Democratic Party on this issue.  At least the Republicans can make some claim to "principle" in their opposition to gay marriage, but for Democrats, that opposition is purely a matter of political expediency.  They have no reason to oppose it other than it's politically risky for them to support gay marriage. 
I see a lot of silver linings in that cloud out in California.  I can remember when initiatives like this would pass as a matter of course by huge majorities, and I can remember back to Anita Bryant days.  That the haters had to work so hard and to spend so much money to eek out a narrow victory means that they hear their death knell ringing.  We know, and they know, that their victory is fleeting, that next time, and soon,  justice will prevail.

Meanwhile, Love endures, and we can all enjoy timeless love songs in Technicolor that the haters can never take away from us.

Here's one for IT and BP:

Don't despair my dears.  Piss off the haters by enjoying your love and having a long and happy marriage.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

When the Lights Go On Again...

Something that I think is appropriate tonight:  Here is Vera Lynne's famous song about hope in a very dark time, darker than our time:

I'm so happy to be alive to see this. I've waited a long time; 8 years of Bush II and 30 years of Republican rule. I'm sorry Barack's Grandmother is not here to see this.  However, she is in the Great Beyond with some other souls who are smiling broadly tonight: Harold Washington, Studs Terkel, and Paul Wellstone. I'm sure they are sharing celestial cigars and champagne right now.

And Lord knows, this song now has a whole new life and meaning:

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I am indescribably happy tonight. I can only imagine how my Bronx students must feel.

Congratulations Mr. President!!!

Now don't disappoint us.

Another Election Update

Just came back from teaching in the Bronx.
My students are so excited and preoccupied with the election that I had to let them go a little early.  They are all thrilled at the prospect of winning, and these are folks who are not used to winning much, especially in politics.  They had lots of stories of lines at the polls as early as 5AM and of lots of people young and old who are voting for the first time.  They are very excited at the prospect of a president who looks like them.
Can't say I blame them.

Let America Be America Again

This Election Day brings this poem by Langston Hughes to mind:

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed--
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek--
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean--
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today--O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That's made America the land it has become.
O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home--
For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa's strand I came
To build a "homeland of the free."

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we've dreamed
And all the songs we've sung
And all the hopes we've held
And all the flags we've hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay--
Except the dream that's almost dead today.

O, let America be America again--
The land that never has been yet--
And yet must be--the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine--the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME--
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose--
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain--
All, all the stretch of these great green states--
And make America again!

Election Day

The liquor stores are closed.


I'm getting reports that there are already long lines of people waiting to vote here in NYC, and it's only 7:15AM.

Just finished voting.
I voted for Obama on the Working Families Party ticket, and my Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez on the same ticket.  Very liberal, and very pragmatic.
The polling place was the most crowded I've seen since the 1992 election.  Unlike 1992, it went very smoothly and the election officials were all relaxed and friendly.  In 1992, it was chaos, and the poor old election officials and volunteers were swamped.  They had to call the cops to help control the crowds.  Nothing like that this year.  They are apparently prepared for a big turnout here.  In 1992 I had to wait almost 2 hours to vote.  This year, I don't think I had to wait more than 15 minutes.
The crowd was overwhelmingly young, mostly hip 20 somethings.  I was surprised.  The hipsters for all their cool and studied indifference, really want to vote this year.  I was one of the oldsters this year.  New York still uses those ancient voting machines with the switches and the crank.  My parents voted for Eisenhower, Nixon, and Goldwater on those old machines.  As one of the poll workers said, there's no way you can turn a switch for one candidate and another pops up.  They still work well and leave a paper trail.
I also remember that my parents used to dress up to vote.  I certainly did not, nor did I see anyone else of any age dressed up.  And yet, the whole process still retains its majesty.


Just listened to a Bulgarian immigrant calling in on a radio show.  She said that this was the happiest and most important election since she voted back in Bulgaria in 1989.  She said she was as happy to be voting out what she called anti-democratic reactionaries in the Bush administration as she was to be voting out the Communists in Bulgaria in 1989.


Heard on the radio that if Obama wins, Kenya will declare a national holiday tomorrow.

Monday, November 3, 2008

David Sedaris on The Undecided Voter

David Sedaris in the pages of The New Yorker writes of the Undecided at this point in the campaign:
I look at these people and can’t quite believe that they exist. Are they professional actors? I wonder. Or are they simply laymen who want a lot of attention?
To put them in perspective, I think of being on an airplane. The flight attendant comes down the aisle with her food cart and, eventually, parks it beside my seat. “Can I interest you in the chicken?” she asks. “Or would you prefer the platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it?”
To be undecided in this election is to pause for a moment and then ask how the chicken is cooked.
I mean, really, what’s to be confused about?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Open Studios

For those of you in New York, or in the area, the artists in my building will be having OPEN STUDIOS next Saturday, November 8 from noon to 8PM. 

You are all welcome to come and see my work (a lot of it unfinished at the moment) and the work of a lot of the outstanding artists in my building.  They range from obscure cranks like myself to genuine stars like Inka Essenhigh.  All of them are worth a visit.  You can find out more here.

The studios are at 107 Suffolk Street on the corner of Suffolk and Rivington in The Lower East Side, across the corner from Streit's Matzoh factory.  The closest subway stop (very close) is the Delancey/ Essex station for the F train and for the J,M, & Z trains.  

I promise, I will take a shovel and try to clean up my studio before Saturday.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

For All Souls

At this time of year, we remember our good and dear dead.
Here are mine:

Frank Hancock Blanchard
my father
November 13, 1927 - December 14, 2000

Paul Christian Epstrup
My step grandfather
died 1972

Nell Works Blanchard Epstrup
my grandmother
died 1975

Ray Blanchard
my uncle
died 2005

Helen Dollarhide Schumacher
my grandmother
died 1983

Dorothy Dollarhide
my great aunt
died 1971

Edith Dollarhide
my great aunt
died 1970

Paul Schumacher
my cousin
died 2003

Betty Schumacher
his wife
died 2008

Father Charles Graham Bewick
a good friend
 died 1989

Father William Chapman
my former rector at Trinity Church, Saint Louis

Clare Menking
an old school friend
1958 - 1988

Howard Maclean
another old school friend
1958 - 1976

Fabian Bunten
a friend from St. Louis
died 1988

Dr. Lawrence D. Steefel
a mentor from grad school
died March 3, 1992

Henry Shields
an old school friend

Margaret Fury
and friend from St. Louis
died 1990

Anthony Gawron
a long time studio mate and fellow artist
 died 2005

JeDon Washington
the first artist that I ever knew, and whose work made me pick up a brush


 And here is a very old song for all of our departed:

May they all rest in peace, and know that I still think of them.

Credit to Garrison Keillor for directing me to this song.

All Saints

Some favorite pictures for All Saints and All Souls:

From the Saint Sever Apocalypse, 12th century

Albrecht Durer, The Landauer Altarpiece, 1511

Jan Van Eyck, The Mystic Lamb from The Ghent Altarpiece, 1432

Studs Terkel 1912 - 2008

Thanks, and Rest In Peace