Monday, December 29, 2008

year in review

My husband Peleg came to church on Sunday and brought a friend of his who is visiting from Israel. He also brought his video camera with him and made a video of my sermon. It's posted here if you want to take a look. The manuscript, as always is posted on

The sermon, titled "Happy Endings" starts with a review of the year just past. Then I go on to notice how except for the end of the year we don't take much time to notice the endings of things. Sometimes things just fade away unnoticed without really giving the important experiences of our lives the respect and honor they deserve. And sometimes experiences linger on too long because we don't know how to bring them to an end.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Rev. Ricky's take on Rev. Rick

Obama's choice of Rick Warren for his inaugural invocation disappoints me but doesn't anger me. Obama has said repeatedly, and confirmed in light of the Rick Warren invitation, that he is on the right side of many issues important to me as a gay man. He's for the repeal of the (absurdly) so-called "Defense of Marriage Act." He's for full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the military. And he's for federal recognition of civil unions (which would be a huge benefit if he can do it). Rick Warren's invitation is a symbolic blow to gay and lesbian rights but it isn't a policy statement.

Although I personally am disgusted by Rick Warren I also understand and support Obama's principle of inclusion. I do feel spiritually called to love my enemies. And what I'm seeking, even in the case of gay rights issues, is not to gain rights by law that aren't actually supported in the hearts of Americans. While I'm willing to leave out the irredeemable bigots who will never get it, I want to engage the basically good but ignorant people and persuade them to change their minds. That won't happen if we demonize folks and leave them out of the conversation.

In response to a colleague who was seeking advice on how to offer pastoral care to gays and lesbians in her congregation I suggested, "I believe the best pastoral care at this point is to express your disappointment without cutting down Obama who we still need to be our hero. And to recognize that civil rights struggles take years and that not only are you supportive now but that you'll continue to be supportive for as long as it takes.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

charity begins at the gay religious liberal home

In the middle of a feel-bad editorial in the New York Times by Nicholas Kristof Bleeding Heart Tightwads, December 20, 2008 about how liberals don't give as much money to charity as conservatives, Kristof shares these three paragraphs that made me feel a lot better.
Looking away from politics, there’s evidence that one of the most generous groups in America is gays. Researchers believe that is because they are less likely to have rapacious heirs pushing to keep wealth in the family.)

When liberals see the data on giving, they tend to protest that conservatives look good only because they shower dollars on churches — that a fair amount of that money isn’t helping the poor, but simply constructing lavish spires.

It’s true that religion is the essential reason conservatives give more, and religious liberals are as generous as religious conservatives. Among the stingiest of the stingy are secular conservatives.

As a childless, gay, religious liberal I'm quite happy with my level of giving. And quite happy with the level of giving in my mostly-straight church, as well. God bless 'em

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Board Room

Sunday I spent all afternoon in bed and watched two old movies Peleg and I have in our DVD library: Sabrina (the original version with Audrey Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart, and William Holden) and The Hudsucker Proxy (Coen brothers' film from 1994).

I'm always looking for synchronocities. Both movies extensively feature Boards of Directors. Bogart is the head of his family company (Larrabee Enterprises). Tim Roth becomes the President of Hudsucker Industries. Both Boards look like every other board in the movies: a long polished table, surrounded by men smoking cigars and drinking, both boards completely manipulated by the one man in the room who actually has any power.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

web fiction

I came across two stories on the web last night that made me think about the blurring of fact and fiction and the way we know the difference.

The first story was about the strange circumstances of the suicide of Ronald Opus. The second story was about a pair of twins into extreme body modification. Both stories have been around the web for years. Both stories are false. The Ronald Opus story is on Snopes. The twins' story has the big hint of being published on April Fool's day.

Fiction is almost always presented as true. Nowhere in Moby Dick does Melville announce that he's making it up. Shakespeare's plays, both those based on historical characters and those based on romantic stories, are presented as though they really happened. And yet, even without Snopes, we know that Moby Dick and MacBeth are fiction.

We know this because the genre of novels and plays (and movies also) are assumed to be fiction unless labeled otherwise. But the default assumption for the internet is that what we read is true. We don't expect the internet to tell us stories. But slowly we're beginning to learn to doubt what we read and sites like Snopes have emerged to help us confirm our hunches.

The situation of internet fiction is much like the current status of photography. We had learned to assume that photographs accurately captured reality. Photography was a recording medium, by nature, not a storytelling medium. Now we're beginning to become familiar with photoshop and we're learning to question that assumption. Soon perhaps we'll learn to do that with the Internet as well bringing us to question our assumption that internet journalism for instance is really journalism, or that internet experts really have the facts.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


Robert Epstein argues in today's Los Angeles Times that Californian's were correct in constitutionally defining marriage as only between a man and a woman. Interestingly his problem is not that same-sex unions shouldn't be legally recognized, rather that there are many other kinds of adult relationships that ought to enjoy state recognition. Money quote.

Let's fight a larger battle, namely to have government catch up to human behavior. That means recognizing the legitimacy of a wide range of consensual, non-exploitative romantic partnerships, each of which should probably have its own distinct label.

While admirably inclusive, his argument makes no sense in several different ways:

Recognizing same-sex marriage does not preclude discussing other kinds of romantic relationships beyond marriage (co-habitation, polygamy) if that's what someone wants to do at a later point. Why not move the argument forward by addressing the issue that's actually on the table?

On the other hand, recognizing same-sex marriage does not automatically lead to recognizing other kinds of romantic relationships if we would prefer not to. The primary benefit to society when couples marry (opposite-sex or same-sex) is that they agree to take responsibility for each other and any progeny relieving the state of that burden. Relationships that can be easily undone (co-habitation) or that confuse the issue of personal responsibility (polygamy) are less desirable for the state and Epstein is wrong to equate them.

And lastly, the issue of what to call these different arrangements comes down to three options: either we call every relationship marriage, or we call every relationship by some other term (civil union, perhaps), or we call each kind of relationship by a different uniquely descriptive word as Epstein suggests. But Epstein's idea is inherently discriminatory. The word marriage itself carries societal benefits that other labels do not convey, even if every legal benefit is included. So if the only other option is to call everything marriage or everything something else why not just call everything by the word that people already use and understand?

Friday, November 28, 2008

i have a problem with wine

Hi, My name is Ricky, and I'm not an alcoholic. My problem is not drinking wine but buying it. And it's not really my problem so much as I see it as a huge problem for the wine industry. Eventually somebody's going to figure this out and make a fortune. Here's the problem.

Unless you're an experienced wine drinker most people can't tell the difference between expensive wine and cheap wine. In fact blind taste studies even show that regular-folk wine drinkers actually slightly prefer cheap wine over expensive bottles. (On the occasions that I drink expensive wine I feel I can taste the difference, but the difference isn't significant enough to me to justify the extra expense - so I stick with the cheap stuff.)

On the other hand most people don't want their friends to know they're a cheap wine drinker. So in order to fool our friends we avoid buying wines that everybody knows are cheap and instead seek out obscure wines, where, when we set the bottle on the table our guests might just think we spent a lot of money on it. The problem for the wineries then, is that as soon as they develop a brand that people recognize people stop buying it, even if they like the taste.

So wine has a unique marketing problem. How do they attract consumers looking for low-priced wine, without gaining a brand identity as a low-priced wine? The problem for me, the consumer, is that the more information I tend to have about a bottle of wine the less likely I am to buy it - if I've seen it advertised I tend to regard it as "common" and not something that would impress my friends. So I buy a lot of wine I end up not actually enjoying and seldom am able to buy a kind of wine I do enjoy more than 5 or 6 times before everybody knows about it and I need to move on.

One could regard this as a spiritual problem. It's clearly a case of a super-sized ego working against my own joy in life. But it's also interesting that an advertising industry that has become masters at manipulating or even creating spiritual deficiencies in order to boost sales has just the opposite problem in the case of wine: our egos in this case keep us from buying your product.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

let it rest

It disturbs me that in the face of an economic slow down that our first and only response is a panicked rush to inject more money in an artificial stimulus package. There are times, of course, when emergency care is vital, CPR and so on. But there are also situations where the best response is to do nothing, to recognize that there are seasons and cycles in everything, to note that constant one-directional forward progress with all the time more and more and faster and faster is not natural and not healthy. Even in an emergency medical situation the initial treatment is followed by weeks or months of recuperative rest. After a long day of activity we take a night of sleep. After a long week of productive work we take a Sabbath. After spring and summer and the harvest, the ground needs a season of stillness. In winter we learn to live on what we stored from before rather than new production, and we simply live on less.

Perhaps this economic crises could also be an opportunity to question the fundamental assumptions of an economy who's only measure of health is constant growth. If we consumed less we would also not need to produce so much. We could learn to repair what we have instead of throwing away and replacing. Labor would become cheaper meaning that industry could hire more workers and become less reliant on fossil-fuel burning machines. Hiring craftspeople and making by hand might become as cost effective as mass production. Family farms might replace factory farms. Rather than some who are over-employed and others who are unemployed we could shorten the work week and allow people more time with families, and for vacation and spiritual and creative pursuits. We could re-discover the glory of libraries full of books that are free to borrow instead of expensive entertainments. We could become friends with our neighbors and enjoy staying at home instead of clogging the roads and highways.

I'm not an economist I'm a minister so this is strictly a pastoral response.

Friday, November 21, 2008

what about the children?

I've argued elsewhere that the issue of whether homosexuality is an immutable characteristic or a choice should be irrelevant to the discussion of civil rights. The only valid reason for denying any person civil rights would be that the person poses a danger to society.

But some people do hold that gays and lesbians pose a danger to society, and that part of the danger is their belief that homosexuality is a choice. One of the most effective lines of argument in the recent Proposition 8 argument warned that if marriage equality were allowed to stand in California "gay marriage [would be] taught in our schools." Although that isn't in fact true, it's also hard to see the problem in that except for the real point of the argument. The Yes on 8 ad showed a young girl coming home from school and excitedly telling her mother, "At school today we learned that when I grow up I can marry a princess."

The main argument from the Yes on 8 side was that allowing gays to marry supposedly weakens the institution of marriage such that the next generation will not take marriage seriously and will choose not to be married at all. But this ad shows a different and probably more common fear: that hearing about same-sex marriages will entice otherwise heterosexual children to enter same-sex marriages.

So the case against marriage equality boils down to this: because homosexuality is a choice we must make homosexuality unattractive and therefore for the safety of our children we can legitimately make life more difficult for gay and lesbian adults. Notice that there's a circular feedback in that argument: because homosexuals are second class citizens I must strive to prevent my child from choosing to become homosexual, therefore I will work to make sure homosexuals remain second class citizens.

Even if you stubbornly continue to believe that people choose their sexual orientation (against all evidence and common sense) wouldn't it be better for your children to help create a world where all people are treated with dignity and respect just in case you child happens to make a "bad" "choice"?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

post-election interfaith prayer

I shared this prayer tonight at an interfaith community thanksgiving dinner held at our local LDS Stake building.

Holy Spirit of Life and love, whom we know in so many forms and whom we name with so many names,

We come together this evening to share in the bounty of this earth, to celebrate the fellowship of this community, and to re-orient our lives to align again with your ideals.

We’ve recently ended a contentious election season.
Many of us worked hard and passionately in support of our candidates and causes.
Many of us felt that important aspects of our faith were bound up in the issues and people coming before our vote.
We invested ourselves fully, and exhausted ourselves with work and worry because we felt that your divine ideals were at stake in the outcome of our choices.

And although we celebrate the democratic process, and cherish our right to decide important issues through debate and vote, we also note with regret that every election pits party against party, and neighbor against neighbor, and some people of one faith against other people of other faiths, and every election ends with winners and losers: the exhilarated and the sorrowful, the ones who are sure we’ve done the right thing, and those who feel we may have made a grave error.

We come together then, this evening, facing the great task of reuniting our community, as you would have us united.
We seek to feel again that we are one, and that we walk together toward your ideals, as we must.
We ask your help in pouring out your love on every one of us, and encouraging us to love all our neighbors as you love all your children.

Forgive us where we have boastfully claimed to know your will more truly than we actually can know.
Forgive us for insulting the values and motivations of others, instead of recognizing the great longing toward you that speaks to all of us but is heard in different ways.
Forgive us for arrogantly feeling that we alone were the wise and the just and the good and that we knew better and knew more than our fellow citizens.

Help us now with equal parts humility and compassion to reach across the divide we’ve created and to bring back into community those we’ve excluded. Let us gently seek out the people who have turned away from us. And let us not refuse the invitations of those reaching out to us.

We go forward from today into the same task that is always our task, to move our world from the place it is into that place it will be when your ideals are manifest “on earth as it is in heaven.”

May that day come soon. And may all of us soon dwell there in joy and peace and love, together.

We pray in all your holy names, Amen

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

the red herring of gay "choice"

William Saletan posted an article titled, "Original Skin: Blacks, gays, and immutability" on Nov. 13, 2008. In it he argues that the reason blacks are less likely to support marriage equality is that they are more likely to believe that sexual orientation is a choice. Saletan argues that the way to win black support for marriage equality is to educate them with the science that shows sexual orientation is not a choice, but is, in fact, an immutable characteristic just as is a person's race.

that's probably a good strategy, but my problem with this approach is that it continues the false position that discrimination is unacceptable only if the discrimination is based on an immutable characteristic. This is untrue. A Christian who converts to Judaism (a choice) should not be discriminated against based on their new religion. A transgender man who chooses to become a woman should not then have to accept sex discrimination. On the other hand, a pederast may argue that they were born with a sexual orientation toward children but that should not prevent society from discriminating against the man in terms of where he can live or work.

The important issue is not choice but whether the discrimination serves a purpose in protecting society from some danger. The only important argument concerning marriage equality is whether same-sex marriages present a danger to society (clearly they don't) not whether the persons seeking same-sex marriage chose to be gay or lesbian. Although I didn't choose to be gay, it shouldn't matter if I did. Society has no legitimate purpose in denying homosexual persons equal rights and protections because society gains nothing by its discrimination while its homosexual citizens are gravely damaged.

Friday, November 14, 2008

lay off the mormon church

OK. You've vented your anger. Now do something appropriate and effective in the marriage equality fight.

The Mormon church is not our target. The Mormon church does not decide who gets married or not in the State of California. It will be a long time before any gay couples get their marriages sealed in the Mormon Temple and who cares? What we want is for the State of California to recognize our marriages, so why are we protesting in front of the Mormon Temple?

Yes, I know, they funded maybe 40% or so of the Yes on 8 campaign. That's infuriating. But it's not illegal for churches to be involved in political issues (not candidates and only up to 5% of their church budget including time spent). And individual church members can give as much of their personal money as they like - just like anybody else. It doesn't help our cause to make churches a target when we have progressive, liberal churches on our side who we want to help fund and organize and speak out on this issue. We need to be seen as the people who are supporting rights, not taking them away. The right of churches to be minimally involved in politics helps us at least as much as it hurts us. Don't eliminate that right.

Instead let's be visible at government offices. Let's have sit-ins at the marriage license window so that no heterosexual couple can get a marriage license without stepping over 6 same-sex couples holding up signs that say "Why can't we be married?"

Sunday, November 9, 2008

politics and religion

I'm disturbed that some of the legitimate anger over the massive Mormon funding for the Yes on 8 campaign is leading to anti-religious statements that will hurt our own progress forward on the marriage equality issue.

Let's remember that many religious folks and religious institutions were our powerful allies in this work, including Unitarian Universalist congregations, major help from The Episcopal church, reformed Jewish synagogues, and large numbers of pastors and congregations from mainline Christian denominations, and even some Mormons and Catholics. Calls to "tax the church" would take away money and organizing help from people who worked very hard on our side, as well as against us. Liberal religious organizations and liberal religious persons (remember MLK?) have been on the side of every civil rights struggle in our history and we need them in this one, too.

Religious organizations are allowed under the tax code to contribute up to 5% of their budget toward political causes (but zero to candidates or partisan issues). And individuals within congregations are free to give as much of their own money as they like, just like anyone else. The Mormon church as an institution did not give to this cause although they did spend some time and money encouraging their members to give. But as long as their organizational involvement wasn't greater than 5% (highly unlikely) and as long as members weren't coerced to give (they say they weren't) no laws were broken.

Instead of trying to silence one religious group (which if successful would silence our allies as well) let's work on gradually persuading people of all faiths to see that their religious principles are best honored by supporting marriage equality not fighting against it.

52 and 48

I posted the text of my sermon for today on my website. I preached about the remarkable civil rights progress of black Americans symbolized by the 52% vote for Obama for President, and the disappointing civil rights set back for gay and lesbian Californians symbolized by the 52% vote for Proposition 8. In either case the work is not done.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

a legislative solution for California marriage

Now that our California constitution has been amended to include a restrictive definition of marriage the legislature can no longer pass legislation that would offer marriage to same-sex couples (as they had done twice before only to be vetoed by the Governor). But they could address the issue in another way, working within both the new constitutional definition of marriage and the prior constitutional guarantee of equal protection under the law.

The legislature could enact a law that says the state of California will henceforth no longer marry anyone. Instead they will offer only civil unions (or Domestic Partnerships, if they prefer) and these will of course be available to any adult couple regardless of sex. If a couple so recognized by the State also wanted to be married they could find a religious institution to bestow that purely ceremonial and religious status on them. And of course the new constitutional definition of marriage being only between a man and a woman would have no bearing on private religious organizations which would as always be free to marry whoever they like.

The Yes on 8 folks consistently argued that they were happy with same-sex couples having all the protections of marriage, just not the word marriage. For my part it was never the word marriage I particularly cared about it was equal treatment before the law. This solution would allow us both to have what we wanted.

It would never pass but purely as a symbolic gesture I'd love to have Sheila Kuehl or Mark Leno introduce the bill.

I Do Not Concede

I've posted the text of the homily I preached last night at a post-election vespers service organized by the San Fernando Valley cluster of Unitarian Universalist congregations. Read it here.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

post prop 8

Clearly we lost this round. I’m not depressed. Personally my marriage is sound and is just as valuable and sacred to me in all the ways that matter. My marriage is recognized and honored by my friends, my family, my church, my faith. No person I ever talk to ever bats an eye when I refer to my husband, and I will keep using that word, and the word marriage because the law has no power over the way I speak. Someday, inevitably the State of California and the United States of America will recognize what many already do. And with President Obama nominating Supreme Court Justices for the next 8 years we may even have some chance there. In the meantime Domestic Partner laws protect Peleg and I as much as State civil marriage could anyway.

This is the way civil rights battles go. We move forward; we’re pushed back. And when people of conscience see the pushing back some are awakened for the first time to the real pain and injustice of discrimination. This is a conversation that we are slowly winning. Real justice is accomplished not when it is forced upon people who still have oppression in their hearts, but when hearts are changed and justice follows.

8 years ago 61% of Californians voted for Prop 22. Today we’ve shifted 9% of those to our side. We’ve also mobilized an incredible community of first time activists who now know how to do this work and will be waiting for the next call and ready to answer. It’s thrilling to be part of the work. That the struggle is difficult will make the prize sweeter, and that we’ve invested so much, will make the ownership more complete.

Monday, November 3, 2008

ballot review

Every election my husband and I host a ballot review party where we invite friends to come to our house and over a meal we go through the ballot together sharing what we know and our opinions about each of the issues.

Last night we had 18 people to the house. Peleg made three kinds of soup. Our friends brought desserts and a couple of bottles of wine. The California ballot has 12 statewide propositions this year, plus city and county issues, and community college and school district issues. I made up a flip chart with the official titles of every issue, and noted whether each issue was a proposed statute or constitutional amendment. For the bond issues I noted the dollar amount of bonds at stake, and for taxes how much that would cost.

And then I threw the floor open. Each of our guests had been asked to come prepared to present on an issue that interested them. We had a really great discussion. I was very impressed actually with the level of preparedness, and the seriousness, and the smarts that were in the room. I changed my mind on at least one of the Propositions. In the end we presuaded each other to unanimous positions on nearly every issue (well it was a like-minded group of friends to start with).

One of the guests blogged about the evening here and she also recorded the positions that we advocate on each of the 12 propositions. Check it out and remember to vote tomorrow. No on 8.

last minute weddings

I married a couple at Starbucks this morning. They decided at the last minute that they shouldn't risk not being able to get married after tomorrow. We'd been trading email and phone messages since Friday. I had never met them. But one of the guys told me that he had attended Sunday school at a Unitarian Universalist church when he was a kid and he wanted a Unitarian Universalist minister to sign his wedding license. He found me online. They had already been together 25 years, they didn't need a ceremony or a blessing (I gave them a blessing anyway) they just wanted legal recognition.

They picked up their license this morning and then we met about 11:30 at a Starbucks near my house. One of the baristas volunteered to be the witness. She was very excited. The manager came over to congratulate the couple and then he bought us all hot chocolates. They were a great couple. Really good guys. Obviously in love. Obviously a secure and productive relationship. I was so happy to help them make it legal.

I'm signing another marriage license for another male couple later tonight.

I'm optimistic that Proposition 8 will be defeated tomorrow but I still think it's wise for these couples to take no chances.

Pray for us.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

UUs at marriage equality forefront

please take a moment to watch this video and then donate. This is not a California issue; it's a faith issue: your faith, mine. In four days we'll have won or lost.

last phone bank

My church held our last No on 8 phone banks Tuesday and Wednesday evening. We've been holding twice a week phone banks for the last four weeks.

Throughout the month we've been working from the same set of call sheets. Most of the time when you call a number there's no answer, an answering machine, or sometimes you get a wrong number. We note if it's a wrong number so we don't call again, but in the other cases we would just move on and call the next person, actually having conversations with about 1 out of 10 numbers we dial. If we do talk to someone we mark a code as to how they've told us they're going to vote and then we move on. And then week after week we keep using the same sheets, continuing to try and reach the people that we didn't reach in previous weeks.

Well by Tuesday night, our seventh time through the call lists we had pretty much reached every person we were going to reach. It seemed like the only names left on the sheets were people who were never home in the evenings, or never answered their phone in the evenings. In two hours I only spoke to two people and I was feeling pretty frustrated. Other folks had the same experience. We also noted that even those people we did talk to had already been overwhelmed with messages from TV ads and newspaper coverage and so on, so there wasn't much likelihood of catching an undecided voter we could persuade to vote No.

For the Wednesday night phone bank we decided not to frustrate ourselves further with unproductive phone calls. Instead we had a nice chat. We encouraged each other to come out this weekend for some visibility demonstrations, to donate (again). And we also promised each other to contact every person in our personal email and phone lists and make sure they will vote and know to vote NO. I feel like I've done all I could. I hope it's enough.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

No on 8, final week

After taking a week's vacation I'm back home and back into the final week of the No on 8 campaign.

I was driving around Santa Clarita this afternoon with my back seat full of about 50 No on 8 campaign signs that I had picked up earlier this morning at the campaign office near my house in Silver Lake. Silver Lake is quite liberal and is one of the two main "gay neighborhoods" in Los Angeles, though much less so than West Hollywood. So it's no surprise that there's a campaign office near my house. Santa Clarita, where my church is located, is another story: highly conservative, a large Mormon population (the majority of Yes on 8 money comes from Mormon donors) and the original Proposition 22 sponsor (the proposition from 7 years ago that created the one man/one woman marriage law that the California Supreme Court recently overtuned) was a state senator from the Santa Clarita area named Pete Knight.

I turned the corner at one busy intersection and was surprised to see about 6 teenagers holding handmade signs. I slowed down enough to read one of them and was pleasantly surprised it read No on 8. I gave a thumbs up and then turned into a parking lot, grabbed a half dozen professional signs from the back of my car and gave them to the sign wavers. A few miles away I drove through a second intersection and came across an even larger number of No on 8 teenagers. I gave them signs too. At last I arrived at Starbucks, my destination, went to the bathroom and saw that someone had stuck a handmade sticker on the wall using a mailing label on which they had written, "Be fair, be equal, No on 8."

I'm on my way tonight to our phone bank. Phone bank again tomorrow. Then demonstrations and press conferences the rest of the week and weekend until election day.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

weekend in Lubbock

Our Unitarian Universalist congregation in Lubbock Texas invited me to participate in a weekend of events celebrating their church achieving official recognition as a "Welcoming Congregation." I was happy to go and had a great time.

The main events were a dinner on Saturday night honoring two folks in the community who had founded the city's PFLAG Chapter 15 years ago and been GLBT supporters ever since, and then Sunday morning worship. I said a few words at the dinner and preached on Sunday. But it would have been tight to try to have my fly in on Saturday so I flew on Friday instead. And then there were no planes I could take Sunday afternoon that would get me home the same day so I stayed an extra night on that end too.

The extra time provided several opportunities to meet with many members of the congregation. Dinner on Friday at a Mexican restaurant. All day Saturday at the church rehearsing with the choir and consulting with the congregation President. Sunday night I had dinner again with several members of the congregation and we talked about the goals and challenges of the congregation. I really enjoyed my visit and wish them all success.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Mormons Against Marriage Equality

It's now being reported that 43% of the money supporting Proposition 8, the California initiative that seeks to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry is coming from members of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. This despite the fact that only 2% of Californians are members of the LDS faith. Earlier this week Mormon elders in Utah also communicated by close-circuit television to Mormon congregations in California asking that every congregation identify 30 members to donate 4 hours per week to the Yes on 8 campaign.

Meanwhile the No on 8 side shows a broad coalition of diverse groups including not just gay and lesbian rights organizations but many minority rights advocacy groups, labor unions, the ACLU, the editorial boards of dozens of major newspapers, democratic party politicians and organizations, and a long list of progressive faith groups and congregations.

It's starting to feel like it's the Mormons against the rest of us. And they're winning.

Click here to donate.

WIll the Conneticut marriage ruling help or hurt in California?

The No one 8 forces can argue, as does Geoff Kors a No on Prop 8 Executive Committee member, that the decision in Connecticut echoing the California supreme court decision of 5 months ago shows that the idea of marriage equality is gaining traction Nationwide, and isn't the aberration of a rogue California court:
“Today, another state recognized that same-sex couples have the fundamental right to marry,” Kors said. “We believe – as do millions of our fellow Californians – that laws should not treat people differently, and we’re thrilled that loving couples in Connecticut now have the same fundamental rights as everyone in California.”

But the Yes on 8 side will probably counter that the Connecticut court decision, also a 4-3 split as in California, is further proof of the out of control, activist judiciary that the people must rein in. The difference is that California initiative process allow a simple majority of voters to change our constitution, leaving minorities vulnerable. In Connecticut the ruling will likely stand. The outcome in California remains to be seen.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

new wedding, old marriage

Tonight I married a couple who had already been together 41 years. Two guys approached me after I spoke at a Community Forum on Proposition 8 last Monday. Prop 8 is the California constitutional amendment that would eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry. They asked me how to go about getting married and shared that they were worried about the upcoming vote and wanted to get married ASAP. I explained how they needed to get a license at the court house and then have someone sign it, and I told them I would be happy to sign it for them.

Tonight I drove over to their house and we sat in their living room and talked a little. They met at a bar in downtown Los Angeles in 1967 when they were 25. Within the year they were sharing an apartment and then bought a house together. Later they bought the house they live in now in Santa Clarita where they've lived for 21 years. Raised Catholic and Lutheran they both spoke of being hurt by religion and abandoning it.

Instead of a prayer or blessing I just told them how I felt. That I was honored to marry them. That I could see their relationship was already a marriage of beauty and worth. That I was so pleased for them that after 41 years the state would finally recognize what they already knew in their hearts and lived in their lives. And then I signed the license and we took some pictures and I drove home.

Please donate here to help preserve the right to marry for all Californians.

second night of phone banking

My church is hosting phone banks every Tuesday and Wednesday evening for the rest of this month for the No on 8 campaign. We had our first on Tuesday and I went again last night.

Again I started out feeling nervous, like the last thing I wanted to do was start dialing stranger's phone numbers from a call sheet. But after a few no answers I was actually starting to hope someone would pick up the phone. Through the course of the evening I dialed 72 numbers. Most were no answers or answering machines. But I talked to 13 people who by the end of our conversation told me they were voting No. That included some people who knew they supported marriage equality but were confused about whether that meant a Yes or No vote, and also a few who told me they were unsure at the beginning of the phone call but solidly no when I hung up. Only 1 person told me she would be voting Yes on 8, and even she was polite.

Phone banking is really making a difference. Phone banking makes me feel like we really might win this. There are a lot of good people out there. Let's talk to them.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

marriage snafu

In the midst of all the work Californians are doing to preserve the right to marry for all, or to eliminate the right for some, I had my personal marriage set back yesterday.

My relationship is fine, but the paperwork got screwed up. Peleg and I picked up our marriage license on the morning of November 4 and then took it over to the church office of a minister friend of mine. He signed the license for us in his office. A friend of ours joined us to be the required witness. When we got home with the license I noticed that the minister had put the wrong date on the form. He had written 8/4/2008 instead of 9/4/2008. While I worried what to do Peleg simply took a pen and wrote a 9 over the 8. It didn't look great but it seemed pretty clear what we were trying to do. So I mailed it off.

Yesterday (after waiting more than a month) we got an envelope back from the Registrar-Recorder County Clerk telling us that they were unable to process marriage licenses that had been altered in any way. I had to go back to the minister's office (fortunately that wasn't too difficult in my case) and have him sign an affidavit and then mail that back with an additional $30 check.

You can understand that with the November 4 election looming I'm anxious to get this all accomplished and official as soon as possible.

church camp

My denomination owns a camp in the woods near Big Bear in southern California. There's a big lodge with a kitchen and a huge fireplace. There are 8 cabins with bunk beds, heating, bathrooms, and two cabins even have their own small kitchens. There's a swimming pool and a hot tub. And then there's the surrounding woods and a lake and lots of great hiking.

My congregation joined with four others near us to have a camp weekend last Friday through Sunday. My husband came with me this year. We had about 90 people total including a lot of kids. A fellow minister and I led a workshop Saturday morning on Spirituality Types using the Enneagram and Myers Briggs. We also led an outdoor worship on Sunday morning.

The weather was great. The food was great. I even slept well which I can't say is always the case at camp. It was a thorough delight and even a pleasure, I have to say, to be away from my cell phone and lap top for two days and my incessant checking up on the latest polls.

my first phone bank

Last night I attended a phone bank making calls for the No on 8 campaign, the California measure that would eliminate the right to marry for same-sex couples.

I had never done phone banking before and was terrified. I'm not generally comfortable on the phone anyway, and calling strangers, and particularly strangers who might be hostile to me, vastly raised my anxiety level.

But the night before I had spoken at a community forum discussing Proposition 8. The lead speaker for the No on 8 side shared that her son was fighting in Iraq. It is his mission to defend the constitution against all threats foreign and domestic. He sees Proposition 8 as a threat against the California constitution because it would eliminate a fundamental right for one group of people and treat them unfairly and differently from other citizens. He's voting No on 8. That made me think of all the soldiers over the decades who have fought so hard to defend my liberties. I would not be a good soldier. Thank God I've never been asked to be a soldier. These people have slogged through the desert and faced enemies who would kill them. The least I could do was sit in an air-conditioned room for two hours and make phone calls.

We had a half hour of training. We had an excellent script to read that gives us all the important points to make in the language that has been focused-grouped to be effective. I made 68 dials, actually spoke to 12 people, and 11 told me they would vote no.

I'm going again tonight.

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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

No on 8 Speech

I spoke at an Interfaith Forum last evening in Santa Clarita addressing California's Proposition 8 which seeks to eliminate the rights of same-sex couples to marry in the State of California. I was one of a panel of 3 on the No side. Here is the text of my five minute prepared speech:

My husband and I were married two years ago in a Unitarian Universalist Church. We had about 170 guests, my family, my husband’s family, our friends, some of his work associates, and members from my church here in Santa Clarita. My mother and father walked with me down the aisle. My husband’s mother and father walked with him. The congregation sang a hymn from our Unitarian Universalist hymnal titled, “Let Love Continue Long.” To honor my husband’s Jewish heritage his two brothers held the tallit shawl over our heads as his mother performed the Havdalah blessing for ushering in the Sabbath, and symbolically for us ushering in a new way of living, thereafter, as a married couple.

Marriage is more than a couple pledging their mutual love. We didn’t need a wedding to prove our love. Marriage is more than a couple committing to support each other. We had already been together ten years at the time and were registered domestic partners. We understood that a marriage is something more: more than an expression of love and commitment, much more than the legal arrangement of domestic partnership.

For the ten years I’ve been a minister I’ve told every couple that I marry, that a wedding is the spiritual act of taking the private relationship of a couple and setting it into the context of something larger than just the two of them. It’s about creating a covenant: first of all between the couple and God, secondly between the couple and the two families that their marriage unites, and lastly a covenant between the two of them and the larger society that depends on the institution of marriage for stability and progress. The married couple agrees to take on the responsibility of not just loving each other, but for using the strength of their marriage to contribute to the larger good: the happiness of their family and friends, the health of society, and to further the divine goals of God.

We were married that day in the eyes of our faith. We were married with the enthusiastic support of our families and friends. We were married in the eyes of God. But in our case, two years ago, we were not married according to the laws of our state.

I can’t say that the lack of a marriage license did anything to diminish the joy of the day. But lack of legal recognition from the state where I’ve lived for more than forty years did hurt. The Sunday after the wedding I explained to the children in my church that my husband and I had been married spiritually but not legally. After the service one of the children came up to me and said, “When you said your wedding wasn’t legal, does that mean it was illegal?” And I explained to her no, my husband and I hadn’t done anything against the law, but in this case the law had done something against us. It’s wrong for our state to deny any of its citizens the same fair and equal treatment guaranteed by our foundational, constitutional principles.

That’s a mistake that our state has at last corrected. Our state supreme court has recognized the right for all Californians to receive fair and equal treatment under the law. It is that basic right that Proposition 8 would eliminate.

My husband and I were legally married last month. It is my marriage and the marriages of thousands of other couples who had been waiting 10, 20, 30 or more years and were finally wed this summer that are threatened by Proposition 8. It is the equal right of all young people throughout California to look forward to their wedding day that is threatened by Proposition 8, and a yes vote would destroy that hope and dream for some of them.

My Unitarian Universalist faith tells me that the laws of our state should be as inclusive as is the love of God: no one left out, no one pushed aside. My faith tells me that it is our responsibility to care for the least among us, for the powerful to defend the weaker, for the majority to preserve a place for the minority and to invite them to a seat at the big table. My faith tells me that while my religious beliefs may differ from yours that both your beliefs and mine are best protected by a government that favors neither religion in crafting its laws. My faith tells me that God seeks our joy, individually and universally, and that God sees love in all its forms as the surest route to joy. The God I worship celebrates love wherever it appears, nurtures love and protects love, and uses the love God finds to further the progress of love throughout all creation, leading us all eventually back to the one love that gave us all birth.

If you haven't yet made a donation to the No on 8 campaign you can do so here. If you've already given please give again. We really need your help.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

first rehearsal

Can you have a "re" - hearsal when you haven't heard the music before?

Anyway, Tuesday night we had our first rehearsal for the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles Holiday concert. I took the evening off from the minister's retreat and drove up to LA for the rehearsal. We took a brief look at the music we'll perform in December but also had a lot of business to take care of, not the least of which was greeting all our chorus friends after having not seen people over the summer. The first two rehearsals in the fall are also when prospective members are invited to sit in with us and get an idea of what the chorus is like before they audition. We had 28 new guys sit in on Tuesday.

I was assigned to be a "Buddy" to one of the news guys checking out the bass section. My Buddy had never sung in a chorus before and did not know how to read music. But he had a very good voice and could quickly pick up our part from listening to those of us in the section who could read music. A very nice guy. I hope he does audition.

it's going to be a great concert. And it's great to be singing again.

minister's retreat

I returned home yesterday afternoon from a three-day minister's retreat. We meet three times a year: fall, winter, and spring. The fall and winter retreats are always held at the same retreat center operated by the Daughters of Mary and Joseph in Palos Verdes just a little south of Los Angeles. The spring retreat is held in conjunction with the DIstrict Assembly which moves to a new location in the District every year.

The retreats combine a lot of different kind of activities. It's a chance to check in with colleagues and here news of churches around the district as well as personal events in the lives of our colleague ministers. There's usually a little program, although by convention we make the fall retreat less heavily program than the January retreat. This year's program including an update on the No on 8 campaign and what we all and our congregations can do to get involved. And we also had a program on creating a ministry of joy within our congregations led by Rev. Tom Owen-Towle. And we always take one morning for a business meeting as we are the PSWD Chapter of the UUMA.

i enjoy the retreats but I usually find myself getting a little overwhelmed by the continuous interaction with so many people so I usually find myself taking a few hours off every day for some alone time.

New Year's Dinner

Peleg and I had his family over Sunday evening for a Rosh Hashanah dinner - technically Monday evening but who wants a big party on a Monday night? We had 16 people, including 4 kids. The food was excellent, pot luck. To accommodate 16 we carried our dining room table outside and set it against the end of the patio table, and then set a card table at the other end of the patio table and covered the whole thing with three table cloths.

I have a shofar that Peleg and I bought years ago when we were in Israel. Before we ate I told everybody that every good thing we want for the coming year is waiting out in space and the good things will come if we invite them, but all the good things are sleeping so the first thing we have to do is wake them up. I told them that's what the shofar is for, to wake up the good things so they'll come to us next year. Then we passed around the shofar and people named some good thing they wanted in the coming year and had a crack at blowing the shofar.

I blew for the shofar for my hope that every person will be treated with the same constitutionally guaranteed equal rights.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Pitt, Spielberg and...?

After Brad Pitt contributed $100,000 to the No on 8 campaign, Steven Spielberg and his wife Kate Capshaw contributed another $100,000. But since then the liberal Hollywood, works everyday of their lives with gays and lesbians, rich and powerful haven't contributed to the cause. I hope they'll find their checkbooks soon because we need them involved.

Apparently billionaire liberal Ron Burkle has plans to host a celebrity-studded fundraiser at his home in October. It won't come a moment too soon.

Meanwhile America's favorite lesbian, Ellen DeGeneres, despite getting married herself, has not been a leading voice against Proposition 8. She has included a call to vote no on her website blog, but she could do more. The LA Times reports she's hosting a fundraiser supporting Proposition 2 which would improve conditions for farm animals (a good cause) and she recorded automated phone calls for Breast Cancer Awareness month (also good). But we need her in the No on 8 fight as well and the clock is ticking.

So. Cal Rabbi Board Opposes Prop. 8

Southern California Rabbis from all four major branches of Judaism voted Wednesday to oppose Proposition 8, the California constitutional amendment initiative that would eliminate the rights of same-sex couples to marry in California. The Board of Rabbis of Southern California brings together more than 290 rabbis representing the Conservative, Orthodox, Reconstructionist and Reform streams of Jewish life. 93% of the roughly 120 Rabbis who voted supported the resolution to oppose Proposition 8.

The Board is not a political body and there was some feeling of the membership that the Board should avoid moving into controversial political territory. However, the Rabbis saw how the political issue directly affects the lives of persons in Jewish congregations and that the resolution was not a vote on the religious sanctity of same-sex marriage, but a statement of the importance of preserving constitutionally protected rights.

The mission statement of the the Board of Rabbis, includes social justice advocacy. "The Board promotes and enriches Jewish learning and living through programming and leadership in the areas of Community Learning, Social Justice, Healing & Spirituality, Professional Growth, Interfaith Activities and Media Relations."

blessings of exercise

After a month with my arm in a sling on Tuesday I transitioned to a brace with some metal pieces integrated into it to keep the wrist immobile and supported, but also some lovely velcro straps that allow me to take the thing off for a shower and for some light physical therapy. The first thing I wanted to do (after the shower) was to start exercising.

On Thursday I went to the gym. I can't do arm or upper body exercises yet because I don't have the hand strength. But I did a few leg exercises and then I rode the stationary bike for 40 blissful minutes. Exercise is my primary spiritual time, and the way I combat stress and depression. To be stressed and depressed about my physical problem and then to have that same physical problem prevent me from dealing with my stress and depression has been a double hardship.

I still can't ride a real bike. I don't have enough strength to hold myself up on the handlebars. The stationary bike is a good substitute but I was really craving getting outdoors again. So yesterday I took a run, which I had really given up doing since running the LA Marathon in March 2007. I got my old running clothes out of the drawer, and my shoes out of the closet and then I ran from my house down to the lake, around the lake and back. It took me about 40 minutes to run about 3 miles. Not fast but it felt really good. Running will be a good option for me until I can start riding again.

the debate

I watched the debate with about 20 Obama supporters (and a dozen children) at a house party in Pasadena. We had a lovely evening. One television outside, a second television in the living room. I watched inside because I was worried the kids playing in the backyard would make it too hard to hear.

Several of the other folks afterward wished that Obama had more forcefully responded to McCain's attacks. I felt he handled it exactly right. Obama needed to look controlled and Presidential, he did. He doesn't need to convert any of the McCain supporters, just prove to the undecided that he would be an effective leader. He obviously was. And both candidates avoided any "gotcha" moments so it will be hard for the cable news outlets to reduce the whole thing to a few unbalanced seconds. It was boring, which is a good thing for the candidate who's already ahead in the polls.

I was pleased that during the program I continued to feel respect for both candidates. There was none of the smirking, or belittling, or the blatant miss-characterization of the other man's opinions that have made past Presidential debates excruciating for me. I felt that this debate actually approached the level of thoughtful, respectful civic discourse that is essential to our democracy and that we haven't seen in years. (McCain's repeated, "He doesn't understand" being an exception.)

Most people don't really listen to debates, they watch them. The visuals are always more important than the content. The level of discourse was way over the heads of most Americans, particularly those who haven't yet decided on a candidate. In the visuals Obama was the breakaway winner. He looked into the camera; McCain never did. Obama spoke directly to McCain; McCain never spoke to Obama. Even when shaking hands McCain turned away from Obama. McCain looked prickly. Obama looked secure, Presidential.

Friday, September 26, 2008

No on 8 speech

I had my first chance to do a public speech against Proposition 8 last night. I was invited to the Santa Clarita Democratic Alliance for Action regular membership meeting. They had arranged a forum for several democratic candidates for public office and judge candidates to introduce themselves to the group. And there were also a few of us invited to speak to some of the 12 statewide propositions that California will be voting on November 4. I spoke against Proposition 8, the initiative that would amend the California state constitution to eliminate the (currently enjoyed) rights of same-sex couples to marry in California.

There was no speaker in favor of the Proposition, and the Democratic club was largely with me before I even began. So it was a good practice crowd for me to speak on the issue before I face a mixed crowd October 6 at an Interfaith Council sponsored community forum. At the end of the meeting the club voted to endorse the No on 8 campaign. Victory.

Technically I had already spoken once on the issue. Peleg and I hosted a house party last Sunday and I spoke on the issue to about 30 guests. There again it was a friendly crowd. But in both cases I do feel I accomplished something. Some people had not yet heard about the Proposition, and some don't know they need to vote "No" in order to preserve marriage rights. At the house party I was able to raise a little money and distribute lawn signs and bumper stickers. At the Democratic club I was able to earn an endorsement that will appear on the No on 8 website.

I've set up a little website to collect donations to the No on 8 equality for all campaign. I'd love your support.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Gently, gently

Thank God. I'm out of the split that I've been in since the wrist surgery August 27. I saw the doctor this morning. The new x-ray continued to show bone healing, and the skin blisters that had been there two weeks after surgery when we first took a peek under the bandages had mostly healed. So the doctor approved me for a black cloth brace, the same brace I had been wearing before in June and July, with some metal pieces sewn into the sides for support. But the whole thing attaches with velcro straps so I can take it off for a shower and to do some exercise. He emphasized "gentle" exercise. I think I may have been pushing too hard the first time around which might even have contributed to the dislodged bone that required the second surgery.

So I'll be gentle, I promise.

And I start my twice weekly appointments with the physical therapist again.

Monday, September 22, 2008

donate to No on 8

I set up a little website today to collect money for the No on 8 Equality fo All campaign. I would love to have your support.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

9 to 5; 8 to 10:45 PM

Peleg and I went with two of our friends to see the new Dolly Parton musical version of the 1979 movie "9 to 5" now playing at the Ahmanson theater in Los Angeles. The movie version starred Jane Fonda, who had the original idea, with Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton. Now Parton has teamed up with the original story writer, Patricia Resnick, to create the musical. The book draws heavily from the screenplay, which is appropriate and welcome. Parton wrote the score, and her presence dominates, but she doesn't appear.

It's a great show, with Parton's music being probably the weakest part of the mix, but completely up to the task. The song "9 to 5" starts the show and keeps re-appearing in different versions with different lyrics throughout. The performances were excellent, particularly Megan Hilty in the Dolly Parton role and imitating her down to the hitch in her get-a-long. She also gets one of the best songs, "Backwoods Barbie" which will undoubtedly be a staple of drag shows for the next thirty years. Allison Janney, in the Lily Tomlin role, is not much of a singer, but these aren't gorgeous songs that demand great singing, and Janney serves the character very well. The production is excellent: beautiful, versatile sets, that give just enough realism without overwhelming, and great use of a video wall that fills the back of the stage and presents suitable backdrops for the various scenes and light shows during the big production numbers. I especially enjoyed the choreography which is seamlessly employed throughout. I constantly had the sense that I was simply watching a busy office, but wait, "why is that guy doing a kick turn off the corner of the desk?" It was brilliant.

Stephanie Block plays Judy, the Jane Fonda character. A delicious Marc Kudisch is the sexist, power-hungry (and secretary-hungry) boss. It's easy to see both why the main characters all despise him, and why the sycophant office manager Ross pines for him. Her lament of the hours she isn't at the office, "5 to 9" was especially witty.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Captain Peleg

Peleg is my husband. It's an uncommon name even in Israel, where he was born, and I've never met another Peleg. The name appears in the Bible, but only in genealogical lists (Genesis 10 and Matthew 1 and Luke 3), with no story attached so the name isn't memorable. The word Peleg means a branching stream, or anything that divides, and in Genesis we're told that Peleg lived when the earth was divided. Some Creationists think that refers to when the techtonic plates moved apart to create the continents. Most biblical scholars think it refers to the story of Babel, when human languages and cultures were divided.

Last night I discovered the name Peleg in an unexpected place, Moby Dick. Moby Dick is one of my favorite books but I had only read it once, about 25 years ago, long before I met Peleg. So yesterday I decided it was time to read it again. And there on page 71 in my edition, halfway through chapter 16, I see my husband's name. Captain Peleg is one of the two owners of the Pequod, the ship Ishmael will sail on under the command of Ahab. Peleg is a significant character for the next several chapters until the ship leaves Nantucket.

So 25 years ago I read that name with no special meaning, and promptly forgot about it. And then 12 years ago I met my Peleg and thought I'd never heard the name before. Now to find my husband in Moby Dick gives me one more reason to love the book.

Friday, September 12, 2008


I saw the title of this post on a vanity license plate as I was driving north on Interstate 5 yesterday afternoon going up to Santa Clarita for a series of church meetings. It was a California license plate on the back of a white Mustang convertible. I didn't see the driver.

At first I was surprised that you could even get such a message on a license plate, but it's really a free speech issue so God Bless America. And then I thought with some disbelief that anyone could be that commited to that particular critique of government that they would want that message permanently attached to their car for years and years in all variety of circumstances.

The most interesting thing to me though was that the car had zero bumper stickers. No other statements for or against any other candidate or issue, just "W LIED."

Thursday, September 11, 2008

re-living high school

For the past twenty-five years I've been involved in a large study of sexually active gay men. Originally, and primarily, the study was organized to provide data for AIDS research. In 1983, when the study began the HIV virus had not been identified and the routes of transmission were still unclear. Now beyond tracking the direct medical consequences of the disease, the study group provides access to a stable group of test subjects with a long data history, so the study center often asks us to participate in other related research projects.

I had one of my twice yearly visits to the study this morning. And this time they were starting a study that looked at the possible connection between childhood and youth life experiences and drug use in later life. The main study has already been recording our drug use history because of the connection to AIDS (both as a direct transmission route and as an inhibitor of commitment to safe sex practices). So this round of questions asked about our feelings and experiences as children and youth.

Boy was that tough. I had a happy childhood. I grew up in a very stable, caring, well-educated, solidly middle class family. So the first section of questions were easy and I was mostly thinking about how blessed I was as a child. But when the questions switched to teen age years I was forced back into a time period that was really difficult for me. I was not a sissy so I avoided overt verbal and physical attacks from others. But inwardly I was filled with shame and self-loathing of my sexuality and I saw no hope for a happy adulthood. Those were awful years. My life now is so distant from the way I felt then. It felt horrible to have to confront those feelings again, and through the detail of the extensive questionnaire to have to really feel those feelings again.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

sugar tong splint

After examining my most recent wrist x-rays my doctor told the technician to put me in a sugar tong splint and that he'd see me in two weeks. I thought he said "a sugar tongue splint." After he left the room I asked the technician what that was. He said, "sugar tongs, like to pick up ice." Or sugar cubes from a bowl if you're dainty.

He laid out several long strips of bandages on the counter, and then on top of the bandages laid wet strips of a pliable material that hardens as it dries. Then he picked it all up and brought it over to me sitting on the examining table. I held out my arm with my elbow bent 90 degrees. He wrapped the long strip of material with the mid point of the strip at my bent elbow and the the length running along the top and bottom of my forearm up as far as my hand. Like a long U, or a pair of tongs.

Then the whole arm got wrapped in gauze and held together with medical tape. The sugar tong hardened on the top and bottom of my arm immobilizing the wrist. The sides of the splint are just soft bandages. Because the sugar tong goes around the back of my elbow I also can't move my arm out of the 90 degree position. So even with my fingers free and fairly strong, as they are, I still can't get them in position to type or do a lot of other tasks that would otherwise not be a problem.

Plumber Bible Study

I had a plumber out to the house today to root out a pipe. Two plumbers actually. The first told us the pipe was full of roots (no surprise) and then wanted to charge us $1200 to put a camera down the pipe (why?) and then replace any portion of the pipe that was damaged. The second guy rooted out the pipe and fixed the problem for $90 and no fuss.

As he worked we chatted. I told him my husband's name was Peleg, and like a lot of people he thought it was Pele like the soccer player. I explained it was Peleg with a G on the end and that it was an old Hebrew name, appearing in the Bible. The guy tried to think but couldn't remember where. I told him it was in Genesis 10, one of the generations between Noah and Abraham (also in the genealogies of Matthew and Luke). It turned out the guy actually knew his Bible very well. As an adult he had heard a call from God to go back to school and he had studied three years at Loyola Marymount and received a certificate in Biblical Studies. He told me about his extensive involvement as a lay minister in his Parish, leading Bible study and encouraging others in various lay ministries.

It was moving to me to hear this man's stories, of his very personal and close relationship with God, of his sense of God's love and abundance in his life and his sense of being called to bring that sense of God to others, both through the church and in practical acts of help and charity. His faith helped me connect again with my own sense of faith, not through theology but through the heart. He cleared out a blocked place in my spiritual pipe for no extra charge.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

mummy hand

I had my follow-up visit to the doctor who did my wrist surgery two weeks ago. This was my first chance to see beneath the bandages that somebody wrapped me ni while I was still under the anesthesia. Not pretty. The technician thought I might pass out. He kept asking me if I was feeling OK and told me if I was dizzy to lean back against the wall. I had developed a couple of huge blisters at the wound site that were very tender and pink, one on the under side of my wrist, a second on top. He said they might have been an allergic reaction to the bandages or just that the guaze in the splint had been pulled too tight.

The bad news is that the condition of the wound is going to keep me in a splint for another two weeks. The good news is that the x-ray showed the surgery to be very successful, with the bone healing nicely. It feels like I've turned a corner with this saga now.

Monday, September 8, 2008

old car, new lock

I drive a 1999 Protege. It runs fine, gets good gas mileage, but I do have to put up with a few inconveniences where the car has broken down over the years. One, is that the lock on the driver's side door has been broken for a few years now. The key fits in the lock but it doesn't turn. So I simply unlock the car on the passenger side, and walk around.

This morning I drove over to a neighborhood diner and had breakfast. I locked the car. After breakfast I walked back to the car thinking about the next item on my morning agenda, which was to go the bank, and then some other errands. I came up to the car with my key out and without thinking approached the driver's side door. It wasn't until I already had the key in the lock that I remembered it wouldn't work, but by then I was already turning the key. And it did work. The lock popped right open. At first I felt a slight hesitation as though something were jammed, but I quickly overcame whatever that was and the key turned just as though there had never been a problem with it. After the bank I tried the lock again and it continued to work with every indication that the problem was permanently solved.

Sometime in the past several years since the lock broke (and I last tried the lock) the problem had fixed itself. Maybe I had driven over a pothole or slammed the door and whatever had been jamming it came loose. Maybe it was only a few days ago, or maybe it was years ago. If not for an unconscious moment of doing anyway what I knew wouldn't work, I would have continued to unnecessarily inconvenience myself by using only the passenger door. What else is fixed in our lives but we continue to act like it's broken? Where else are we continuing to make life harder because we're following an old routine and haven't noticed that circumstances have changed?

Friday, September 5, 2008

cancel that

My broken wrist especially the first month, and now again after the second surgery, meant adapting to a life when I simply could not do some of the things I could do before, and what I could do with just my left hand (like typing) I have to do a lot more slowly than before. It was depressing but was also a good spiritual lesson for me of having to consciously re-engage with reality instead of moving through life by habit.

Then in July I gave up coffee. The primary reason was that my husband didn't like the way my breath smelled. But with the wrist experience I also saw this as a way to break a habit and see what reality felt like when not met through the filter of a caffeine buzz. It was surprisingly easy to quit. I still use Starbucks as my office but I just buy a bottle of water instead of coffee.

And then in August I decided to cancel my New York Times subscription. I've read a daily newspaper since High School. But I started to notice how much time I was spending on it, and reading a lot of things like movie reviews that I don't really care about just so I would be in the know at social gatherings (ego). And I also saw how the newspaper was distancing me from reality. The newspaper fed my addiction to "knowing" but I was letting my quest for understanding reality get in the way of experiencing reality. The newspaper had become a filter that stood between me and the world and I wanted to try to live more directly in the world.

Giving up the newspaper is an ongoing experiment. I want to stay informed. And I'm still reading news online. So it may take awhile to find the balance I seek.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

nature stinks

My dog got sprayed by a skunk last week. We have them in the neighborhood and smell them fairly often. This one was probably on our back patio when the dog encountered her. I didn't see it. I was sitting in the livingroom reading when the dog comes running in rapidly followed by the most awful smell. It's not just a stink when it's that close it's also eye-stinging and throat constricting. The dog was blinking its eyes and shaking it's head and trying to make a sound like clearing its throat.

Fortunately this was the day before my wrist surgery so I still had the use of both arms. I scooped her arm and got her in to the tub and shampooed her twice. Then I dried her off and threw the towel and all my clothes into the washing machine. She still smelled. Then I took a second to do some internet research and found that tomato juice and most other things don't work. Following one piece of advice I found I rubbed her with dishwashing liquid and baking soda and then I shampooed her a third time.

That was the best I can do. The smell still lingers, especially if you rub her head or neck. We've bathed her think three more times in the last week. She seems not to mind but hoo-boy.

the groom wore white

Me: a white tee shirt with an Obama pin, over brown pants, white socks and grey sneakers. Peleg, aka "Party A" wore a black tee shirt and jeans. We met our friend/witness, Debbie, in front of the MCC-LA church where my friend/officiant Neil Thomas is the Senior Pastor. We were a little early for our 11:15 appointment but he wasn't busy so we went right into his office. Peleg and I had already had our big church, spiritual wedding two years ago at the UU church in Santa Monica, so this was just a legal affair. Neil had Debbie sign first (great job - Debbie!) and then he filled out his part and we were done. Very pleasant, very easy. Neil automatically went into his explanation of what to do next with the forms but of course I already knew.

Then we took Debbie for a thank you coffee. While chatting I pulled out the forms and noticed Neil had dated them wrong:8/4 instead of 9/4. When we got back home Peleg corrected the mistake making big scribbled 9's. I'll mail it in this afternoon.

I've never been exactly sure when a couple is legally married. Is it when the officiant and witness sign, or is it when the registrar receeives the forms and records them? Or is the marriage in sort of a limbo state between the signing and the recording that will retroactively become legal once the form is recorded? Well I'm used to having my marriage in a limbo state, 12 years now, so another few weeks isn't too bad.

license to marry

Peleg and I picked up our marriage license this morning. In about an hour we'll be married, at the office of an MCC pastor who's a friend of mine from the Gay Men's Chorus.

We filled out the application form yesterday online. Peleg was "Party A." I'm "Party B." They ask where your parents were born. Peleg answered Russia and Iraq. I answered Ohio and Ohio. There are no questions about the sex of the applicants.

This morning we drove down to the Beverly Hills County Court House. We had to pass through security and the guard guessed we were there for a marriage license and then kidded us about my arm in a sling telling Peleg, "You didn't have to break his arm!" We were the fifth couple waiting: another male couple and two inter-racial couples, and a straight couple. The women at the window treated us all equally. Everyone was friendly. It all went very quickly. Because we had filled out the form online the clerk simply retrieved the record, checked our IDs and printed it out. Other folks were being told to wait half an hour while they typed out the forms.

We paid $70 by check. We had to swear that the information we had given was true. Peleg asked the clerk to take our picture. And that was it. I've seen the marriage license forms many times, and signed quite a few as well, but my name and signature were always on the Officiant line before.

Monday, September 1, 2008

what astounds me the most is that Sarah Palin didn't just say no

Once the flattery of being asked has worn off wouldn't there have been one night when she woke up in bed thinking. "Am I really ready to take over as President if John McCain dies in office? Do I even want the responsibility for making decisions on National issues I've never much thought about until now?"

"And if I do want to pursue this path is this really the right time when my husband I have a new special needs baby, and my unmarried, still in high school daughter will be giving birth to her own child later this year? I'm still young. Maybe there will be another opportunity in a few years when I've completed a term or two as Governor, got involved in National politics, got my family in a more stable place."

Even if John McCain didn't think this through, and it is really on him where the criticism should land, Palin could have said, "John, thank you but I'm going to have to pass."

what's the point.

Bristol, the 17 year old unwed daughter of Sarah and Todd Palin is 5 months pregnant, a fact that McCain knew when he invited Sarah to join the GOP ticket as Vice-President. CNN reports, a "McCain aide insisted a key point to keep in mind is that Bristol decided to keep the baby, a decision "supported by her parents." Deciding to keep the baby is Bristol's choice to make and it's not anyone's place to second guess. Certainly it will be a help to her to have the support of her family. I'm glad for that.

But her decision to keep the baby is not the only key point here. What to do after a woman (or a girl, in this case) becomes pregnant is not the only issue. What are we doing to give our children the tools of sex and sexuality education, contraception, and self-empowerment they need to post-pone pregnancy until they are adults themselves and able to raise healthy children from their own resources without sacrificing their own productive lives?

In a 2006 Eagle Forum questionnaire she filled out while running for Governor, Palin indicated that she supported funding abstinence-until-marriage education programs instead of teaching sex-education programs. "Explicit sex-ed programs will not find my support," she wrote.

Friday, August 29, 2008

it's not experience, it's qualifications

no one has presidential experience, except an ex-president. We're not looking for someone who did the job before; we're looking for someone who can do it now. We're looking for someone who has shown by their life of activities, and words, and thoughts, and relationships, and accomplishments, and challenges and successes; and also failures and what they learned from them, that a person is qualified to be President.

It made no sense to me when Hilary Clinton made an issue of experience, and the issue failed to persuade voters and she eventually dropped it. Now John McCain is trying the same issue (in fact so far his whole campaign has been lifted from Clinton's playbook: experience, elitism, and now an appeal to feminist identity politics - and remember, she lost). Clinton and McCain don't have presidential experience, neither do Obama and Biden, but all four of them are qualified to be President.

The question is not whether Sarah Palin's two years as the Alaska state governor gives her presidential experience, of course not, but that's not the issue. The issue is whether she is qualified to be President. And here the answer is obviously, and dangerously "No." To demure and say she was picked only as the Vice President, takes a very reckless approach to our nation's future. And that degree of recklessness from John McCain then raises doubts about his own qualification for the job of President.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


I had my second surgery on my right wrist yesterday. It all seems to have gone well, although the arm is in a cast so I can't see it. I have a follow-up appointment with the doc two weeks from now.

In the meantime I'm back on percocet for the pain, sleeping a lot, and typing with one-hand. Peleg's brother gave me a ride home from the hospital and then he and his girlfriend came back in the evening and spent the night. So I'm well taken care of. I'll just take it easy for a few days and start working my way back to wellness.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

My Disney Hall Debut

Last night the Gay Mens Chorus of Los Angeles sang at the Frank Gehry designed Disney Hall in downtown Los Angeles. What a fantastic experience. I have been to the Hall a few times as an audience member and love it. It is visually beautiful and aurally stunning. It's not as crazy on the inside as it appears on the outside. Basically all the twisting metal is just stuck onto the sides of what turns out to be a normal theater-looking wooden cube inside. Everything is symetrical. But the wood work is still gorgeous. The stage is thrust into the middle of the room with some seats behind and on either side. And the acoustics just blow you away. I was able to hear myself and hear the other parts of the chorus as I've never been able to before. And because we're standing in the same room as the audience everybody hears what we hear without the need for amplification.

The program was a Gala to kick off the 30th anniversary of the chorus. We sang songs we've sung over the last few years. Plus we had several celebrity guests who spoke or sang with us. Christine Chavez (Cesar's granddaughter) and Donzeliegh Abernathy (Ralph's daughter) put the gay rights movement in line with the Civil RIghts struggles of other people. And we did an extended section of songs and words about the marriage movement. George Takei was there with his soon to be married same-sex partner, and the Executive Director of the LA Gay and Lesbian Center gave a great speech about the importance of the No on Proposition 8 vote in November.

We sold out the house and raised a quarter of a million dollars for the chorus. And everybody seemed to have a great time.

surgery tomorrow

My follow-up wrist surgery is scheduled for tomorrow morning. When I had the initial surgery back in May it was only 4 days after the accident. My arm was already in a cast from the procedure they had done in the Emergency Room. It all went by very fast and I was in a bit of a daze from shock and just doing what I had to do. So there wasn't time to be nervous.

This time is different. I've had several days now to think about the surgery. And my hand actually appears to be mostly well. I'm not in a cast or brace of any kind. I have most of my strength and mobility back. I'm typing obviously. And I'm certainly not in shock.

So I'm just looking at my apparently healthy wrist and thinking about the flesh being cut open and all the tendons and muscles exposed, and the blood, and that one piece of bone floating out there that is the point of the surgery. The scar on the inside of my wrist looks even more like a zipper to me now as the surgeon told me he would make the incision in the same place. But all in all my reaction isn't really fear, or disgust, it's just amazement at the fact that a doctor can do this, and relief and optimism that this will really help me get not only well but whole, and I'll finally be able to get back on my bike.

Friday, August 22, 2008


Bad news at the orthopaedic surgeon's office this morning. He's going to need to re-open my hand and repair a bit of broken bone that hadn't healed properly. The surgery is scheduled for Wednesday.

A month ago at my last check up, he noticed on the x-ray that one corner of the bone at the top of the radius had separated slightly from the rest of the bone. At the time he said he was concerned but wanted to wait and see. When we re-took xrays this morning the problem had not fixed itself and so surgery is now required. When I broke my radius on May 17 there was a long fracturing running the length of the bone and then several fractures at the top of the bone where it meets the wrist. The original surgery placed a T-shaped piece of metal into the arm; the long part of the T (with 4 pins) holding together the long fracture and the top part of the T (with 7 pins) holding all the shattered parts of the bone in place. But one corner of this top part of the bone had slipped out of place, rotating slightly and moving down. Instead of fusing with the bone and healing it's just sitting out there. And meanwhile the wrist bones above it have started to move down into the empty space. Although I'd been able to make quite a bit of progress with strength and mobility the surgeon warned that the wrist was unstable and would cause a lot of problems and pain throughout the rest of my life unless dealt with now.

So on Wednesday he'll open me up again. He'll take out the old plate and put in a new one with a shorter vertical piece (the long part of the bone has healed nicely) but a wider horizontal piece to secure that wayward bone fragment. He's also going to insert some synthetic bone graft material to make up for the bone that's been lost in the four months since the accident. He said he's likely going to have to open the wrist on both sides this time in order to capture the bone that has moved so I'll have a scar on top of the wrist as well as underneath. After surgery I'll start over with a cast for two weeks and then a brace and then physical therapy.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

half way to normal

I had my eighth physical therapy appointment this morning. I'm definitely seeing signs of improvement but there's still a long way to go. So I'm both relieved and anxious depending on which measure I'm focusing on. The movement of holding my elbow at my side and rotating my hand palms up and palms down is the most improved. I can get nearly to flat now in both directions. But the movement of bending the hand forward and backward at the wrist is still very limited: about 45 degrees forward and 30 backward, where normal for me is 90 degrees both directions.

The physical therapy consists of several different treatments. One thing I do is a series of exercises where I use various grips to turn a pole at the end of which is attached a weight hanging from a rope. As I turn the pole the rope wraps around lifting the weight off the floor. It takes about 40 turns for the rope to be completely wrapped around the pole. Then I let the weight back to the floor and do it again, 10 times. The first day of physical therapy I used only a quarter pound weight. This morning I did 5 pounds. So pretty good.

The therapist says that I'll soon be finished with the official therapy visits, then within two or three months she predicts I'll be doing everything with the hand that I previously did, but she predicts it will be a full year before the hand feels completely normal again. I see the orthopaedic surgeon again tomorrow which will be another point of information on my progress.

Monday, August 18, 2008

definition of marriage

During the interviews with Obama and McCain conducted last weekend, Rick Warren asked the candidates for their definition of marriage. Both candidates are against same-sex marriage. It's a gotcha question. The words "definition of marriage" lead naturally to the language that has been written into DOMA and many state constitutions over the last few years. It's easy to fall into the trap, as Obama did, by starting your answer with, "Marriage is the union of one man and one woman." But there's a much better way to answer that question, both more accurate and more open.

Marriage is at the same time, a legal contract administered by a state, and a religious covenant sacralized by a faith community. As a legal institution the state is required by our laws and our American principles of fairness and equality to extend the benefits and responsibilities of marriage to any two adult persons who wish to make the pledges of mutual support that constitute legal marriage. As a religious covenant each faith community is free to define for itself what marriage means spiritually and which marriages they will recognize. At this time many religious communities will only bless the marriages of opposite-sex couples, while many other religious communities joyfully bless the marriages of same-sex couples as well as opposite-sex couples.

birth, marriage, death

Not only do I share my birthday with Madonna, August 16 is also the day in 1977 when Elvis died. And now, apparently, August 16 is also the wedding anniversary of Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

bike hospital

I finally took my bike into the shop this morning. Since the evening of the accident, May 17, the bike has been in my garage. While I've gone through surgery, two casts, a splint, and now physical therapy for my broken wrist and forearm, the bike has been hanging out with an obviously busted front wheel and possibly other damage undiagnosed. I'm hoping that the frame is OK. I'll find out later today after the technician has a chance to look it over and get back to me.

I'm still hoping that I and the bike will both be ready to ride come September.

Monday, August 11, 2008

how do you get to Disney Hall?

The Gay Mens Chorus of Los Angeles is kicking off our 30th anniversary season with a concert August 25 at Disney Hall. That's the Frank Gerry designed concert hall with the perfect acoustics in downtown Los Angeles. It's certainly a thrill to get to sing there.

The program will be a kind of greatest hits selection of songs we've performed over the last couple of years, plus a few new ones, and also several "special guests" who have performed with us over the years or been regular supporters of the chorus. If you're interested in tickets click here.

12 Pound Weakling

My wrist is slowly healing. I had my physical therapy appointment this morning and the therapist complimented me on my improvement. That was nice to hear because I'm frankly still fairly anxious about getting all of my movement back. She said she could tell that I've been working hard, which I have. The physical therapy exercises that we started on a few weeks ago with 1/4 pound weights we've now pushed up to a pound and a quarter.

I also went to the gym today and decided to give a try to some of the old free weight exercises I haven't been able to do in three months because they require strength in the hand. I tried four exercises: bicep curls, arnold presses, an exercise that's like a bench press but done with two hand held weights, and a tri-cep extension. I could do all four exercises with a 12 pound weight where formerly I did those exercises with 30 to 45 pound weights.

So it felt a little pathetic to be so disabled. But it was a relief to be working those muscles at all. And slowly by slowly I know they will come back if I work at it.

good will hunting

My local Good WIll is the Nordstrom's of second hand stores. Big. Open space. Smells nice. I decided several months ago that the next time I needed some new clothes I would be green and also save some money by buying from Good Will instead of new. Today I gave it a try and had mixed success. I needed three things: some dressy short sleeve shirts for those occassions that need more than a tee shirt but less than a dress shirt: a couple of pairs of casual pairs of long pants, and a pair of everyday sneakers.

The short sleeve shirts were a big success. I bought 4 really nice shirts, cool styles, one is even a Ben Sherman, which is my favorite clothing line. Each shirt was only $4.49. But buying pants was impossible because they're not arranged by size, and some don't even have the size marked inside. It would have taken me hours to go through all the pants and then try them all on to see if they fit. Not worth it for pants that didn't look that great to start with. The shoes, too seemed pretty worn out and I can go to Payless and buy a new pair of sneaks for $10.

So I bought the 4 shirts plus a small glass vase all for less than $20. I paid with a credit card. And I donated two old wheelie suitcases that Peleg had thrown in the trash bin a few weeks ago but I rescued. The guy said they were really nice and was happy to get the donation. And I got a tax receipt.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

it's my birthday, too, yeah

When you're cutting the cake for Madonna's birthday on August 16, save a piece for me. She'll be 50. I'll be 46.

August 16 is also the day that Elvis Presley died, in 1977. He was 42.

lost and found

The streets in my neighborhood are narrow with no sidewalks and with cars parked on either side only enough room in the middle of the street for a single car. So there's a lot of good natured maneuvering and waving involved. So I'm walking my dog this afternoon, walking in the street and I hear a car coming up behind me. I pull my dog over to the side of the road to let the car pass. But instead of passing the car slows way down and pulls over behind me. I realize the car isn't trying to drive but to park and I'm still in the way.

At the same time I see an interesting object in the road, lying where the guy will park on top of it. It's a small tear-shaped piece of pearl gray plastic, about three inches long, and maybe an inch or so thick. I thought at first it might be a head set for a phone. With the guy in the car right behind me I stop and bend down and pick it up. I can't figure out what it is. There's no screen, but there is a battery door on the back so it's obviously electronic. I couldn't figure out what it was so I just put it back on the ground and got out of the car's way. Then as I walk off I hear the car behind me pull into the parking space and then this:

From the door of a house across the street a girl emerges and shouts, "Get back in the car, we're going right away!" From the driver of the car, "OK, Get my jacket." The girl calls into the house, "Mom, get dad's jacket." And then from the driver again, "Honey look what I found!" The girls answers, "OO where was it?" The dad answers, "Right here lying in the street."

I like to think the guy only found it because he saw me stooping to pick it up first and wondered what I was doing. I still don't know what it was.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Same Sex marriage on November 5

Peleg and I plan to be married some time before the election. We already had our big church wedding two years ago to mark our tenth anniversary. So this event will be strictly a legal affair of having one of my minister friends sign our license. But then comes the question of what will happen to that marriage if on November 4, California voters approve Proposition 8, which would "eliminate the right of same sex couples to marry" (as titled by Jerry Brown, our Attorney General). Would a marriage that was legal in June, July, August, September, October, or the first week of November, still be legal after November 4, or would our marriages be nullified?

Jerry Brown has said that the State's legal position will be that the existing marriages would stand. Thus he would defend couples like Peleg and I if anybody sued to dissolve our marriage. I appreciate his support but I think he's wrong, legally. The text of the constitutional amendment we're voting on is clear: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." The amendment doesn't talk about weddings, it talks about marriages. It's not just the "right to marry" that is being eliminated, it is the right to have that marriage "recognized" in California. If Peleg and I wanted to receive any of the State-granted benefits of marriage after November 4, the State would have to recognize us as a married couple, which the Constitution (if Prop 8 succeeds) would expressly forbid.

The final decision will be made by the Courts, if Proposition 8 passes, and I am completely convinced that Prop. 8 will not pass. And it is partly the prospect of forcibly invalidating so many thousands of loving, legal marriages, that makes the Proposition so unattractive.

opening ceremony - not so much

It feels a little curmudgeonly to say anything bad about the Olympic opening ceremonies in China last night. I did enjoy it. Although I have to say the music throughout was awful. But I finished the evening unmoved. It was all spectacular and I kept waiting for beauty. The nearest thing to beauty was the precision tai chi masters. Amazing. Take that Rockettes! But the most moving was the 9 year-old student who saved two friends in the earthquake walking beside towering Yao Ming.

Everything else I found eye-poppingly big, but emotionally thin except to overwhelm. The screen on the floor was a marvel, but the images projected on it were dull and confusing. Same thing of the scrim/screen around the top of the stadium (except for the "waterfall" which was beautifully done). A pretty girl in a dress? lets have 2,000 of them! But more doesn't equal better. The point about the vast number of human resources available and how well they can work in synchronicity was best made in the opening number with the "movable type" boxes. Genuinely creative and lovely to look at. Unfortunately that same point of many acting as one was then made again and again, and only the Tai Chi Masters were as interesting as the first example.

The two most moving parts of the evening for me involved just a single person. The young boy with Yao Ming, as I've said, and then the lighting of the torch and the athlete's thrilling "run" around the dome of the stadium. Spectacular but also human-scaled.