Monday, December 31, 2007

love the sinner

in the context of the 2008 presidential contest, andrew sullivan once again discusses constitutional amendments, same-sex relationships, and religion in a way very few others can. i may not be a fan of his hillary-bashing, but on this subject, no one is better.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

"...since the dawn of time."

last november i posted this about a new amendment to the wisconsin state constitution, banning gay marriage (59% of voters supported the amendment, compared with 41% against it.) i was surprised to find that it's author, rep. mark gundrum, attended catholic memorial high school, a place i'd worked off and on for nine years, way back when. not sure if i ever ran into mark when he was in school. but i'm certainly still close with many of his classmates.

rep. gundrum believes that marriage is and should only be between a man and woman. "that's what it always has been since the dawn of time."

anyway. here's another wisconsinite, uw-oshkosh professor bill mcmonkey, standing up and saying "hold on". (something he's done before -- bill's got a bit of a history of political activism.)

i'm happy there's at least someone who isn't standing idly by.

UPDATE / 11:15 pm -- another wisconsinite who is standing up. one of my political heroes, actually.

UPDATE / 12.31.07 -- as long as we're (i'm) on the subject: when promoting his amendment, rep. gundrum used a recent new jersey state supreme court ruling to help justify (scare?) the folks in wisconsin into voting for it --

"today, the new jersey supreme court handed down a ruling that changes the definition of marriage and orders the state of new jersey to begin marrying same-sex couples. once again, an activist court has imposed its own liberal agenda on citizens who get no say in the matter."

problem is, gundrum's statement was patently false. that's not what the new jersey supreme court did. in fact, even conservative groups in new jersey realized that, and began pushing for civil unions as opposed to gay marriage. from the associated press, nov. 28:

TRENTON, N.J. - conservative groups in new jersey are pushing a proposal that would grant the rights of marriage - but not the title - to gays, siblings and others involved in domestic partnerships. the plan comes in reaction to a landmark supreme court ruling last month that said gay couples in new jersey should have access to the same rights and benefits as married couples. whether to call those rights marriages, civil unions or something else was left up to lawmakers.

in december 2006 the new jersey state legislature passed a bill providing for civil unions, it was signed into law by governor jon corzine, and the "civil union act" came into effect on february 19, 2007.

UPDATE / 12:47 am -- okay, plenty of others stood up in wisconsin.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

snippets pt. 1

part of a conversation i just overheard, between an employee at gnc and a customer:

gnc: where were you?
customer: atlanta. for a week.
gnc: wow.
customer: i know. and i couldn't wait to get back to new york.
gnc: really?
customer: ohmygod yes. i mean, they're's just different there.
gnc: different?
customer: yes. i mean, i couldn't wait, you know, to get back to new york and the dirt and the trash on the streets, and the people here. just rude, you know? i love it. i love new york.
gnc: uh-huh.
customer: people in atlanta, they look at you. and i'm like "stop lookin' at me!"
gnc: they look at you?
customer: yeah. they, like, look at you and say hello and shit. i couldn't wait to get back to new york.

Friday, December 28, 2007

dear jeff

my friend jeff has his own blog too. it's really great.

there's about fifty times more stuff on his blog than there is on mine. widgets and gadgets and...stuff. some irish music that drives me batty. and lots of pictures of brett favre (jeff is a little obsessed with brett favre - something i totally understand.)

i sent him an email tonight, 'cause i miss him. jeff. and after writing it, i thought, "hey, why don't i post this email to my own blog?" and since i have nothing else to say right now, i'm going to. here it is:.

hey dude.

i've been thinking about you a lot lately. hope you're well.

your blog is so jam packed with stuff...i can't read it all. i love your obsession with favre though. gotta say, you know i'm not the biggest sports nut in the world, but he's a pretty hot guy. i mean hot in a gay way, too.

AND he's a pretty great guy. and pretty. man, he got some pretty lips. he got a pretty mouth, too.

I MEAN he's really inspiring. and i'm really proud. truthfully now. how seldom is it that a super-athlete like him comes along, who is not only, well...a super-athlete...but also a super human being. not super human like he can melt steel just by looking at it. but super, like...great.

he's a super, great, pretty guy, that brett favre.

and fuck those bears.

now, if i had some balls, i'd copy this email and post it to my blog.

come visit soon.
and happy new year friend.


by george! pete who?

not terribly surprising, these results (from our first official online poll.) interesting that both george and ringo are at 11%. also interesting (to me, anyway) that no seemed to know who pete best and george martin are. (george martin is widely considered to be the "fifth beatle". and pete best actually was a beatle...albeit for a short time.)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

men singing together

one last holiday post...

telling reactions

pakistani opposition leader benazir bhutto was assassinated near pakistan's capital, islamabad, this morning.

within moments, rudy guiliani had released an official reaction. soon after, the other presidential candidates, republican and democratic, began issuing their own statements.

read them here, and as you do...try to find one (maybe two?) that doesn't tell you to be scared. try to find one (maybe two?) that offers heartfelt condolences. try to find one (maybe two?) that doesn't tell you how this woman's death will affect "america".

then read this political blog's headline and tell me about the sad state of politics in this country.

UPDATE / 11:41 am -- the above mentioned political blog - chris cillizza's the fix - has since changed that headline. earlier this morning it read: "could bhutto's death help giuliani?"

UPDATE / 12:17 pm -- and then there's this video from msnbc's joe scarborough (via josh marshall's talking points memo.)

UPDATE / 2:19 pm -- the reactions continue. this from andrew sullivan (the discussion, he admits, seems absurd to him. but he still jumps in.) at least he first posted this quote (and this video.)

"if it means sacrificing our lives, if it means sacrificing our liberties to save pakistan, then we are prepared to risk our lives and we are prepared to risk our liberties, but we are not prepared to surrender our great nation to the militants." - benazir bhutto.

UPDATE / 9:12 pm -- don't miss this wonderful (and frightening) play by play from fellow wisconsinite ann althouse.

UPDATE / 12.30.07 -- the washington post rates the candidates responses to bhutto's death:

"one candidate, democrat john edwards, passed with flying colors. another, republican mike huckabee, flunked abysmally. democrat hillary clinton and republican john mccain were serious and substantive; republicans mitt romney and rudy giuliani were thin. and barack obama -- the democratic candidate who claims to represent a new, more elevated brand of politics -- committed an ugly foul."

Monday, December 24, 2007

for the dogs

my family does a christmas number.
p.s. yours can too...

bored christmas googling

pretty strange, this.

in a feeble attempt to find something...ummm...interesting to post for christmas, i googled my own name (don't tell me you haven't) along with the word "christmas".

literally the first image i found was this photo, from it's an irish shipping vessel called "the irish poplar", bound from geelong to dublin, christmas day 1958. the life ring the men are holding shows the name of the ship, and "waterford" -- where the ship was registered. waterford, wisconsin is my hometown. there are three apprentices aboard, shown kneeling in this photo. the one furthest to the left is tony "clem" clements.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

christmas with aunt barbara

with a list of special guests like this, aunt barbara's holiday special would be required viewing at my house. (more aunt barbara here and here.)

Friday, December 21, 2007


it's your patriotic duty to vote in our online poll.
(it's in the dark green sidebar over there to the right.)

don't take your time. don't consider the choices.
don't look at each candidate clearly and objectively. don't do any of that bullshit.

snap judgement. ready, go.

and no -- i'm sorry but you can't pick two, even though i know you want to. and wait a minnit...our poll? right. like there's a staff of writers sitting in my living room. who am i kidding?

UPDATE / 12.28.07 -- oops! too late, too late! voting has ended in this poll. you can see the results here.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

xmas lights

today we're listening to frank, tina, nancy and frank jr. sing "i wouldn't trade christmas" (one of my all-time favorites.) plus "i'd like to hitch a ride with santa clause" by the andrews sisters, "christmastime" by aimee mann, and "nigh bethlehem" by singers unlimited.

and stringing lights on the tree.

just in time.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

what did you like most about japan?

i've tried to answer this question about a half dozen times in the past couple of days. through my jet-lag haze (it is SO much worse coming back) i don't know how coherent i've been.

but this recent post on ann althouse's blog got me thinking.

no matter where i went in japan -- big city tokyo, small town masuda, temples, shrines, airports, train stations, restaurants, post offices, hotels, the seven-eleven -- every person i came into contact with was kind, courteous, and helpful. every person. the teenage girl working at the convenience store takes such pride in her job. imagine that. (and p.s. the japanese don't accept tips. many japanese people consider tipping to be rude.)

"...every person i came into contact with was kind, courteous and helpful."

we all did better than most with the language. but when we couldn't speak enough japanese to get by? no one mocked us. no one treated us differently.

okay, wait. that's not true. they did treat us differently...

when we were trying to make arrangements for ten of us to have dinner at a small restaurant in tokyo and no one on the staff
spoke enough english to actually help us, a waiter called his english-speaking friend on his cell phone to translate.

when blake and tobi were lost, looking for a specific local eatery, they stopped an older man riding by on a bicycle to ask for directions. the man didn't speak english, so he phoned a friend. the friend didn't know the restaurant, so the man on the bike took blake and tobi to a nearby police station and explained to the policeman where blake and tobi wanted to go. the policeman then drew a detailed map.

contrast those experiences with this one: at JFK last sunday, our cabbie looked at our five huge suitcases, looked to the back of his taxi, and pointed -- as if to say "i ain't pickin' those up." and at the end of the ride home the driver announced angrily, "that'll be $49.50...PLUS TIP!"

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Sunday, December 9, 2007

airport sushi

before this trip, i’d never eaten sushi.

sure, i’d had an avocado roll, or a shrimp tempura roll. but no raw fish. it all goes back to a warning i'd heard years ago, about runny eggs, raw fish, and immune systems.

well. when you’re in japan, and you visit the tsukiji fish market, i’m not sure you have a choice, really. it’s probably the freshest fish in the world – why wouldn’t you eat it? and as a friend said to me, “isn’t that just like you?! you don’t eat sushi until you’re in the best place in the world for it”. yeah. that’s just like me.

so on our layover at tokyo’s narita airport today, we had time enough for a “last meal” in japan. what else would i have?

it got me thinking about the other interesting foods i’d eaten in japan, that i’d never eaten before. like…

  1. ramen/soba noodles. ramen – wheat noodles. soba – buckwheat. simple. easy. served in fish or pork broth. not very adventurous. but good.
  2. eel pie. crispy, sweet, cookie like. made with ground up eel. i’m bringing some home.
  3. eel. delicious. one of the best meals i had in japan.
  4. eel liver. in soup. eh.
  5. yuzu. a citris fruit about the size of a tangerine and very tart. i enjoyed it as yuzu-cha, or yuzu tea. the rind is chopped and mixed with honey to create a syrup. about a teaspoon of the syrup in a cup, mixed with hot water, makes for a delicious, comforting treat that brings to mind the holidays.
  6. katsu-kare. a breaded, deep-fried pork cutlet served with rice and japanese curry sauce. yum-diddley-yum-dum. blake ginther’s fav.
  7. octopus. as the japanese would say, “maa maa”. which means “so so”. not bad, but sort of what you’d expect. raw, rubbery, chewy. not a lot of flavor.
  8. sushi/sashimi. most of the sushi we ate in japan was quite different from what you find in the states. not a lot of typical rolls (makizushi) that you might order on 93rd and amsterdam. a small hand-formed clump of vinegared rice is topped with a bit of wasabi and a good size piece of raw fish – tuna, salmon, amberjack, snapper, mackerel. this is not sashimi (slices of raw fish served without rice) which we ate as well. some of my favorite was from conveyor belt sushi. small plates with one piece of sushi each travel around a diner-like restaurant on a conveyor belt. as they pass your booth, you pick up what you want, and pay at the end according to the plates you have left. sort of genius, actually. and often cheap.

  9. natto. this is something every japanese person wants you to try because, i think, most americans react badly to natto (fermented soybeans which, when stirred, create an incredibly sticky, semi-sweet paste with spider-web like strings.) i can’t say i’m craving it, but i didn’t hate it either.
  10. bean paste. none of the sweets in japan are as sweet as an american palette expects. the cinnamon rolls are not cinna-bun-ee. they are light and…ah…gentle. but i was surprised to find donuts i expected to be raspberry or strawberry filled, to be filled instead with bean paste. it is exactly what it sounds like – a sweet paste made of beans. i grew to…like is not the word…i grew to not be disappointed to find bean paste used in many ways.
  11. cold kidney beans. speaking of beans, dessert last thursday night was a dish of local sweet potato ice cream, chewy rice balls and kidney beans in a light syrup. cold, kidney beans. yummmm.
  12. pig’s ear. this is not what i give my dog as a treat (or is it?) it is the cartilage of a pig’s ear (in okinawa the saying is “we eat every part of the pig but the oink”.) it is almost like small, somewhat crunchy noodles served in a peanut sauce. again, not craving it. but it wasn’t bad.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

to my japanese friends...

we are done. it is 2:42 a.m. we leave for the airport in okinawa at 9:30 a.m. first we fly to narita airport in tokyo; a bit of a layover; then it's on to jfk. a total of 16 or so hours in the air.

i will miss the many friends i've made here. i hope to see them all again soon.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

reggie hates snowmen

this is charlie. the mass of tan hair charlie is hugging is our dog reggie. with some help from his mom anne marie and his dad starmer, charlie's been taking care of reggie while we've been out of the country.

anne marie sent this email update today:
so it snowed here yesterday, and quite a bit by deleware standards. a few inches of accumulation. charlie and starmer made a snowman, which is charlie-size (that is to say, two and a half feet tall.) and reggie did something so funny last night i had to share.

i was going to bed at about midnight and reggie was standing by the back door growling. he had just gone out, so i wasn't sure what he wanted, but i let him out again, at which time he sprinted (yes, sprinted) down the stairs and headed over to the snowman and let loose. just barked, barked, barked.

he hates that snowman.

actually, i think he was guarding us. he is our guard dog against two and a half foot snowmen. i couldn't get him to stop and come inside...i had to get starmer up and out there to drag reggie away from the snowman. too much. i'm still laughing about it this morning.

good boy reggie. good boy.



japan just got beachier.

dewa mata tokyo

the view from our window at the tokyo dome hotel this morning was somehow more colorful and vibrant and bittersweet than it has been over the last two months. it also included a stunning view of mt. fuji -- strong, quiet, and enormous -- bidding us farewell.

it was our last morning in tokyo. as i write this we are flying to okinawa for a couple of days off. on saturday we have two concerts. sunday it’s back to the u.s.

i think we were all a little more nervous than usual for last night’s performance at suntory hall. the crowd included not only important execs from disney, but several audience members wiping away tears. that surprised us (the tears, not the disney folk) and it’s easy to be flip about it, but people were clearly moved.

this morning, the weather forecast for okinawa was 68 and sunny, a welcome change from the blizzard we left in aomori on monday.

our time in japan is nearly over.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

adding on

for the last eight weeks we've been performing with a fifty piece orchestra -- much of the tokyo philharmonic -- as we traveled from fukuoka to tottori to masuda to kobe to nagoya, singing "someday my prince will come", "a dream is a wish your heart makes", "once upon a dream", "belle", "be our guest" and more.

for tomorrow's performance at tokyo's suntory hall, the orchestra will grow to about eighty pieces. the rehearsal yesterday at tokyo opera city was at times overwhelming and awesome. (how exactly did i get here?)

Saturday, December 1, 2007

a kobayashi issa haiku for today

a world of dew,

and within every dewdrop

a world of struggle