Gender Bending Through the Ages: Mozart gives us Cherubino

>> Sunday, November 30, 2008

In early 1786, Mozart and his brilliant sidekick, Lorenzo DaPonte, collaborated to bring us what has become one of the world's most beloved comic operas, Le Nozze di Figaro. Along with a host of popular and endearing characters in Susanna, Figaro, Cherubino, and the forlorn Contessa, Cherubino stands in the forefront as probably the most popular and beloved of any single character in the history of opera.

Mozart and DaPonte knew the sexual power that androgyny held over persons of the 18th century and so they sought to entice their audience with that power by using a woman in the role of a 14-year-old boy. The audience, knowing that they were seeing a woman in breeches, were treated to what were then, sexually explicit scenes where Cherubino was seen breathing heavily over both Susanna and the Contessa in the Contessa's bed chamber and even frolicking "innocently" with them upon the bed. It no doubt drove audiences mad, and perhaps forced many a man to cross his legs or lay his hat discretely upon his lap to conceal his excitement.

In this scene, the amazing Frederica Von Stade, (affectionately known as "Flicka"), is Cherubino along with Ileana Cotrubas as Susanna in the 1973 Glyndebourne Festival production of Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro.


So I'm a sucker for baritones: Gordon MacRae as Curly

>> Saturday, November 29, 2008

Being from Oklahoma, I'm just a bit partial to the Rogers & Hammerstein musical Oklahoma!. And my favorite "Curly" has always been, (and probably always will be), Gordon MacRae. With those silky-smooth portamenti, and that Hollywood Okie twang, he makes me melt every time. When I starred in a stage production of Oklahoma!, years ago, as "Laurie", I was sorely disappointed that my "Curly" couldn't live up to my standards, set by Gordon MacRae. (Poor guy. But then, I probably didn't measure up to Shirley Jones either!)

Featured here in one of my favorite scenes from Rogers & Hammerstein's Oklahoma! are Gordon MacRae, Shirley Jones, and the incomparable Charlotte Greenwood as "Aunt Eller".


Music of the '80's: Devo

>> Friday, November 28, 2008

I never was able to really figure these guys out and I always thought this song was weird, but I liked it anyway. But I really liked it when the cow sang it in the Gateway computer commercials!


I'm Thankful for You

>> Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving is the appointed time
for focusing on the good in our lives.
In each of our days,
we can find small blessings,
but too often we overlook them,
choosing instead to spend our time
paying attention to problems.
We give our energy
to those who cause us trouble
instead of those who bring peace.
Starting now,
let’s be on the lookout
for the bits of pleasure in each hour,
and appreciate the people who
bring love and light to everyone
who is blessed to know them.
You are one of those people.
On Thanksgiving,
I’m thankful for you.
Happy Thanksgiving!

By Joanna Fuchs


Cheer up Charlie, it's Thanksgiving!

>> Wednesday, November 26, 2008

How about a good old fashioned Thanksgiving meal of poached shoe leather? (And make sure you ladle on plenty of those good drippings!) Watch this scene with Charlie Chaplin, from The Gold Rush, where he cooks his shoe and shares it with a friend for Thanksgiving dinner. Classic Chaplin.


Things I've done in my life

>> Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I found this over on Aurel's Laurels and thought it would be fun. Post it on your blog if you'd like. The things I've done are italicized.

1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community.
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo's David
41. Sung kareoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London "Guard")
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a lawsuit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Read an entire book in one day
101. Seen more than 5 movies in one day
102. Spent a night in jail
103. Ridden a unicycle
104. Slept on the floor
105. Passed out drunk
106. Cheated a railway company
107. Lied about my age
108. Been South of the Equator
109. Been baptized
110. Been to Japan


Steph's gonna love this one...

The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter.
~ Mark Twain

This one's just for you, my love.


Laughter sets the spirit free!

>> Monday, November 24, 2008

Laughter sets the spirit free to move through even the most tragic of circumstances. It helps us shake our heads clear, get our feet back under us, restoring our sense of balance and purpose. Humor is integral to our peace of mind and to our ability to go beyond survival. ~ Captain Gerald Coffee


So I'm a sucker for baritones: Nathan Gunn, the boy from South Bend

>> Sunday, November 23, 2008

When it comes to baritones, we Americans know how to make 'em. Ooooh baby! I challenge you not to melt into a puddle in your chair as you listen to this honey, Nathan Gunn, from South Bend, Indiana.


Gender Bending Through the Ages: The Birdcage

>> Saturday, November 22, 2008

In his brilliant performance as "Albert" aka "Starina", in the 1996 film comedy, The Birdcage, Nathan Lane gives us an insight into the life of a drama/drag queen in South Miami Beach who meets head-on with right-wing conservative American politics.

The Birdcage met with mixed reviews ranging from praise to condemnation in both the mainstream press and the gay press for the portrayals of its gay characters.

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) praised the film for "going beyond the stereotypes to see the character's depth and humanity. The film celebrates differences and points out the outrageousness of hiding those differences."

Hal Conklin and Denny Wayman, writing at, said, "though the film is a comedy and could be excused as just a way to make people laugh, the humor is in fact the ultimate facade. Underlying the comedy, The Birdcage is a deeply disturbed representation of humanity. This film is a vacuum of spiritual values as depicted by the characters whose extreme behaviors are played out for their comic appeal. In reality, acting out a facade rather than being honest in relationships robs those who do so of their intimacy as well as their integrity."

Gay writer Michael Bronski, writing in Z Magazine, said, "The Birdcage is simple-minded, uninformed, laugh-track Hollywood junk and trades on the trendiness of certain aspects of gay male culture without ever understanding them. It also trivializes and diminishes gay lives by refusing to take them — or homophobia — seriously."

Information Source: Wikipedia

I've featured one of my favorite scenes from this comedy classic, also starring Robin Williams as Albert's partner, Armand. This is actually one of the few films that I could watch over and over again and never grow tired of it. If you've never seen The Birdcage, go out to your favorite video store and rent it. It's a must.


Let's dance! Music of the 80's.

>> Friday, November 21, 2008

You've just been Rick Roll'd!


"Liberal": It's not a dirty word

>> Thursday, November 20, 2008



Function: adjective


Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin liberalis suitable for a freeman, generous, from liber free; perhaps akin to Old English lēodan to grow, Greek eleutheros free

Date: 14th century

1 a: of, relating to, or based on the liberal arts barchaic : of or befitting a man of free birth2 a: marked by generosity : OPENHANDED, a liberal giver b: given or provided in a generous and openhanded way, a liberal meal. c: AMPLE , FULL 3obsolete : lacking moral restraint : LICENTIOUS 4: not literal or strict : LOOSE, a liberal translation: BROAD-MINDED ; especially : not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy, or traditional forms a: of, favoring, or based upon the principles of liberalism bcapitalized : of or constituting a political party advocating or associated with the principles of political liberalism ; especially : of or constituting a political party in the United Kingdom associated with ideals of individual especially economic freedom, greater individual participation in government, and constitutional, political, and administrative reforms designed to secure these objectives
synonyms LIBERAL , GENEROUS , BOUNTIFUL , MUNIFICENT mean giving or given freely and unstintingly. LIBERAL suggests openhandedness in the giver and largeness in the thing or amount given, a teacher liberal with her praise. GENEROUS stresses warmhearted readiness to give more than size or importance of the gift, a generous offer of help. BOUNTIFUL suggests lavish, unremitting giving or providing, children spoiled by bountiful presents. MUNIFICENT suggests a scale of giving appropriate to lords or princes, a munificent foundation grant.


The music of Black America: The Fabulous Louis Armstrong

One of the most popular and beloved of all American musicians, Louis Armstrong remains "the standard" of jazz. Born to a very poor family in New Orleans on August 4th, 1901, Armstrong came into prominence in the 1920's as an innovative coronet and trumpet virtuoso. He was also known for his "scat" singing, or wordless vocalizing.

Renowned for his charismatic stage presence and deep, instantly recognizable voice, Armstrong's influence extended well beyond jazz, and by the end of his career in the '60s, he was widely regarded as a profound influence on popular music in general: critic Steve Leggett describes Armstrong as "perhaps the most important American musician of the 20th century."

Armstrong died of a heart attack on July 6, 1971, at age 69, 11 months after playing a famous show at the Waldorf-Astoria's Empire Room. Shortly before his death he stated, "I think I had a beautiful life. I didn't wish for anything that I couldn't get and I got pretty near everything I wanted because I worked for it." He was residing in Corona, Queens, New York City, at the time of his passing. He was interred in Flushing Cemetery, Flushing, in Queens, New York City.

Information source: Wikipedia

He's featured here in one of his most thrilling trumpet "jam sessions" ever, in Paris Blues with Paul Newman and Sidney Portier.


Ode to Joy

>> Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Remember the things that gave you joy as a child. Incorporate them into your life now. Find a way to have fun with everything you do. Let yourself express the joy of living. Laugh. Rejoice, and the Universe rejoices with you! ~ Louise Hay


Happy Talk

>> Tuesday, November 18, 2008

We tend to forget that happiness doesn't come as a result of getting something we don't have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have. ~Frederick Keonig


The World's most beautiful music: Karl Jenkins' Adiemus

>> Monday, November 17, 2008

Dr. Karl William Jenkins OBE D.Mus.(born 17 February 1944), is a Welsh musician and composer. Jenkins was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the New Year Honors list for 2005.

For the bulk of his early career, he was known as a jazz and jazz-rock musician, playing variously: baritone and soprano saxophones, keyboards, and oboe, an unusual instrument in a jazz context. He joined jazz composer Graham Collier's group and later co-founded groundbreaking jazz-rock group Nucleus, which won first prize at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1970. Later he joined the Canterbury progressive rock band Soft Machine in 1972 and co-led their very last performances in 1984. The group defied categorisation and played venues as diverse as the Proms, Carnegie Hall, and the Newport Jazz Festival.

As a composer, his breakthrough came with the innovative crossover project Adiemus. Jenkins has conducted the Adiemus project in Japan, Germany, Spain, Finland, the Netherlands, and Belgium, as well as London's Royal Albert Hall and Battersea Power Station. The Adiemus: Songs of Sanctuary (1995) album sold well enough where it topped the classical album charts. It spawned a series of successors, each revolving around a central theme.

The Adiemus series include:

Adiemus: Songs of Sanctuary
Adiemus II: Cantata Mundi
Adiemus III: Dances of Time
Adiemus IV: The Eternal Knot
Adiemus V: Vocalise

Information source: Wikipedia

This video recording features a live performance of the first movement of Adiemus IV: The Eternal Knot. Conducted by Karl Jenkins and featuring the vocal talent of Miriam Stockley, I found this piece to be both stirring and inspiring.


Tulsa turns out for the Nationwide protest against marriage inequality

>> Sunday, November 16, 2008

Don't tell Tulsans that they're living in the reddest, most socially backwards state in the union! They'll just tell you that it's time for that to change! ROCK ON, TULSA!


I always wanted to be a famous opera singer

Now I am!*

*Go here to make yourself famous, too! Thanks Willow!


So I'm a sucker for baritones: The voice that made me fall in love

Eighteen years old. Never seen a live opera. Tulsa Opera, 1978. Mozart's Don Giovanni. Sherrill Milnes. I was hooked.

Featured here with Edith Mathis singing the duet from Act I of Don Giovanni, "La ci darem la mano".


Gender Bending Through the Ages: Farinelli, the man with a woman's voice

>> Saturday, November 15, 2008

During the Baroque period -- from 1600 to 1750 -- male sopranos and altos comprised about 70 percent of all operatic singers.

Male sopranos in opera were a matter of necessity. Women, especially in countries where the Catholic Church had firm control, were forbidden on the stage so castrati played both the women’s parts and the hero as well. Nearly every church choir used pre-pubescent boys to sing the high parts in choral works because women were also not allowed to participate in church services. Thus, the finest of the boy sopranos were picked by music masters for castration.

During puberty a boy’s vocal chords enlarge enormously, caused by an increased production of anderogen hormones. Castration prevented the necessary flow of hormones and arrested growth. Afterwards the castrato would have the high voice of a boy soprano, but the lung power of a full-grown man.

Although castration did little to damage a castrato's intellect, it did pose serious health and emotional problems. Most castrati suffered from the effects of developmental hypogonadism, including infantile penis and an underdeveloped prostate. They also had more developed subcutaneous fat than the normal male, fat deposits localized on the hips, buttocks and breast areas, fatty deposits on the eyelids, and skin that sometimes appeared wrinkled or swollen. The arms and legs
of many castrati were unusually long as compared to the torso (the long bones never stopped growing), which made them look distorted.

Many of the castrati’s well-documented personality disorders were a direct result of their disfigurement, as well as their inability to lead normal sex lives. They were neither man nor woman, but something in between. On one hand they were much admired for their singing, but on the other they were taunted unmercifully about their condition.

Castrati tended to be fat, volatile, conceited, and almost impossible to get along with. Composer George Frederick Handel’s notorious shouting matches with his castrato Senesino, for instance, were well-known throughout England.

On the other hand, especially when it suited their purposes, a castrato could be entirely charming. Sometimes they were so respected and adored that they were able to gain great political influence. Farinelli, for instance, soothed the king of Spain with the same four songs every night. This gave the castrato a decided advantage for the king’s attention and literally made him a power behind the throne.

There were other ways in which the castrato reigned supreme. On the stage, he was the undisputed star. A composer was merely hired help who labored at the castrato’s pleasure. If, for example, the arias written for a castrato did not please the singer, he could demand -- and receive -- a complete rewrite. If the composer balked, which he seldom did, then the castrato would take the music and libretto to his own composer for the necessary alterations.

Farinelli was the least troublesome of the castrati, but even he had his moments. One night he was performing in an opera in which one aria was accompanied by the orchestra and a solo trumpet. The trumpeter was a man of great skill who had been brought in especially for this performance. In the middle of the aria, Farinelli decided it would be fun to challenge this renown trumpeter to a musical duel. On they went for some time, each matching the other note for note, the audience cheering them on. The trumpet would play a difficult flourish and Farinelli would follow. Then Farinelli would perform an impossible run that the trumpet would duplicate. Just as the contest appeared to be a draw, the trumpeter faltered on a very high note and Farinelli won the contest. The crowd went wild. The trumpeter, like the good sport that he was, leaped on the stage and shook Farinelli’s hand. Only after the audience had composed itself was the opera allowed to continue.

Farinelli was the last great operatic castrato. Audiences were beginning to tire of Italian opera seria (serious opera) by 1760 because plots were getting sillier and sillier. The comic opera and the ballad opera were gaining in popularity and there was no place in those genres for the castrato. And the new generation of composers, now coming into favor, refused to put up with the shenanigans of a castrato.

From Castrati History

The following is from the 1994 Italian film by Gerard Corbiau entitled Farinelli Il Castrato.


I wanted to be like her

>> Friday, November 14, 2008

She was my childhood idol. From almost as far back as I can remember I imitated her singing, her way of speaking, everything about her. I'm speaking of Julie Andrews. I think the first time I ever saw her was in Disney's Mary Poppins, (I was five, I think), and then of course, who could forget her as Maria in The Sound of Music? You name it, she's done it. From The Boyfriend or as the unforgettable Liza Doolittle in My Fair Lady to a woman, playing a man, playing a woman in Victor Victoria. But yesterday when Willow did her piece on Camelot, I was reminded once again, of how I adored my recording of Julie Andrews as the first Guenevere, in the original Broadway production featuring Richard Burton as King Arthur and Robert Goulet as Lancelot.

Featured here is Julie Andrews singing one of my favorites from Camelot, "I Loved You Once in Silence".


The music of Black America: Marian Anderson

>> Thursday, November 13, 2008

Marian Anderson (February 27, 1897 -- April 8, 1993), was an American contralto, perhaps best remembered for her performance on Easter Sunday, 1939 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C..

Anderson was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of John Rucker Anderson and the former Anna Delilah Rucker. Two sisters followed young Marian, Alice (later spelled Alyce) (1899-1965) and Ethel (1902-1990) who also became singers. Ethel Anderson was mother to James DePreist. Marian Anderson joined a junior church choir at the age of six, and applied to an all-white music school after her graduation from high school in 1921, but was turned away because she was black. The woman working the admissions counter replied, "We don't take colored" when she tried to apply. Consequently, she continued her singing studies with a private teacher. She debuted with the New York Philharmonic on August 26, 1925 and scored an immediate success, also with the critics. In 1928, she sang for the first time at Carnegie Hall. Her reputation was further advanced by her tour through Europe in the early 1930s where she did not encounter the racial prejudices she had experienced in America.

The famed conductor Arturo Toscanini told her she had a voice "heard once in a hundred years." In 1934, impresario Sol Hurok offered her a better contract than she had previously had with Arthur Judson. Hurok became her manager for the rest of her performing career.

In 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) refused permission for Anderson to sing to an integrated audience in Constitution Hall. The District of Columbia Board of Education declined a request to use the auditorium of a white public high school. As a result of the ensuing furor, thousands of DAR members, including First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, resigned.

The Roosevelts, with Walter White, then-executive secretary of the NAACP, and Anderson's manager, impresario Sol Hurok, then persuaded Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes to arrange an open air Marian Anderson concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The concert, commencing with a dignified and stirring rendition of "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" attracted a crowd of more 75,000 of all colors and was a sensation with a national radio audience of millions.

The concert mentioned above was held on Easter Sunday in 1939. Anderson was accompanied by the Finnish accompanist Kosti Vehanen, who introduced Marian to Jean Sibelius in 1933. Sibelius was overwhelmed with Anderson's performance and asked his wife to bring champagne in place of the traditional coffee. At this moment Sibelius started altering and composing songs for Anderson, who was delighted to have met a musician of Sibelius' magnitude, who felt that she had been able to penetrate the Nordic soul.

In 1939 Sibelius made a new arrangement of the song Solitude and dedicated it to Anderson. Originally The Jewish Girl's Song from his 1906 incidental music to Belshazzar's Feast, this later became the "Solitude" section of the orchestral suite derived from the incidental music.

In 1943, Anderson sang at the invitation of the DAR to an integrated audience at Constitution Hall as part of a benefit for the American Red Cross. By contrast, the federal government continued to bar her from using the high school auditorium in the District of Columbia.

On January 7, 1955, Anderson broke the color barrier by becoming the first African-American to perform with the New York Metropolitan Opera. On that occasion, she sang the part of Ulrica in Giuseppe Verdi's Un ballo in maschera.

In 1958 she was officially designated delegate to the United Nations, a formalization of her role as "goodwill ambassador" of the U.S. she played earlier, and in 1972 she was awarded the UN Peace Prize.

After an extensive farewell tour, she retired from singing in 1965. However, she continued to appear publicly, narrating Aaron Copland's Lincoln Portrait, including a performance with the Philadelphia Orchestra at Saratoga in 1976, conducted by the composer. Her achievements were recognized and honored with many prizes, including the Kennedy Center Honors in 1978 and a Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1991.

In 1993, Anderson died of heart failure at age 96 in Portland, Oregon at the home of her nephew, conductor James DePreist. She is interred at Eden Cemetery, in Collingdale, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia.

Information source: Wikipedia


When hate is taught in the classroom

>> Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I was only just made privy to an incident which took place in an 8th grade classroom right here in Oklahoma last week. It seems that an 8th grade home economics teacher in Kansas, Oklahoma informed her class that although she was a registered Democrat, she could not vote for a Muslim. She went on to tell her class that Barack Obama was an atheist, (how one can be both an atheist and a Muslim simultaneously is a new one on me), and that his wife, Michelle, only said that he was a Christian to get votes. This misinformed hate speech then prompted several members of the teacher's class to announce that they wanted to "assassinate Obama".

I don't know about you, but this kind of thing really gets under my skin. This woman has been given a tremendous responsibility in the teaching of our young people and to visit hatred, ignorance, and lies upon her charge is not only unthinkable and irresponsible, but illegal. This needs to be brought to the attention of her superiors and this teacher needs to be severely disciplined. I have therefore provided information below where her superiors can be contacted. Let them know that this kind of hate speech coming from teachers in our Public School classrooms will not be tolerated!

Have at it!

The teacher in question is:

Beth Williams
Family & Consumer Science
Kansas Middle School
Kansas, Oklahoma

Bryon Arnold is the Kansas Middle School Principal
Position: Principal

Burgess, Jim This is the Superintendent's email address.


Iraq Veterans speak out

>> Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Army Interrogator, from Seattle, Washington

In Iraq I operated on a tactical interrogation team while attached to tactical infantry units. Throughout my training, very appropriate guidelines for the treatment of prisoners were set. However, I witnessed the baseless incarceration and harassment of Iraqi civilians in addition to an innocent teenager that was shot before me. I saw firsthand the abuse of power that goes without accountability.

Eventually, I began to ask my unit the same questions I had been asking myself. Wearing the uniform demands subordination to your superiors and the orders passed down. But what if those orders violate morality, ethics, and even legality? If those orders go unquestioned down the chain of command, are we exempt from reevaluating them?

Finally I came to the conclusion that I could not train or be trained under a false pretense of fighting for freedom. We as Americans have found ourselves in a peculiar era where we have traded humanity for a patriotism. We're trading our civil liberties for a false sense of security. In the the words of Henry David Thoreau… we must not lend ourselves to the same evil which we condemn.

Army Scout & Sniper, from Manitou Springs, Colorado

After serving as a U.S. Army cavalry scout and sniper in Iraq, I now suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, as do many of the people I served with. Recall where you were last year today, and now try to imagine the last entire year you were in a combat zone in Iraq. Imagine you are in constant danger from hidden road-side bombs and exposed to ambushes and sniper fire. Imagine that your home is constantly harassed with mortar explosions and rocket attacks while you try to sleep. Imagine you witnessed your closest friend being torn apart by enemy fire. Imagine you discover that the person you thought was an insurgent that you killed turns out to be an innocent child, or some one who looks similar to your own mother.

For many decades, we have seen the dire impacts of war on those who serve and those who are close to them. I don't understand why the VA has no plans for addressing the needs of the thousands of veterans like me who have served our country proudly and now find ourselves without the help we need. Despite being in the middle of two wars, our government is actually scaling back on services that are critical to the men and women trying to re-enter civilian society.

Army 1st Armored Division, from Lexington, Kentucky

I went AWOL from the military and spent two years in exile. In October 2006, I came back and turned myself in at Fort Knox.

I am not politically anti-war. I didn't go to Canada to talk about politics. I went to talk about war crimes. Because no matter what we're doing or what we're trying, it's inevitable that if you participate in an occupation, you will commit war crimes. Even in World War II, or any of the just wars we speak of, we killed innocent people.

From my experience in Iraq, I believe there is no way I could go back to Iraq and follow procedures without killing innocent people, committing war crimes, and eventually reaching a point where I'd commit massacres because enough of my friends had died.

It is my duty as a solider to refuse this illegal war and refuse to commit war crimes. And it is my right as a human being to choose not to kill innocent people.

Bringing the War Home

The soldiers most often heard in the media say some variation of: “We've got a job to do, and I am here to do it.” But an increasing number of veterans disagree with U.S. military involvement in Iraq. “The real issue I want to raise is why are we there in the first place,” says former Marine Captain Anuradha Bhagwati. “Why is it so easy to get Americans to believe that military use of force is the only way to feel satisfied, secure, or whole?”

The stories soldiers tell us can also challenge our own culture, assumptions, and societal beliefs.

I am ashamed and embarrassed, because I joined the Marines to prove myself,” says Bhagwati. “This is a very American thing: be all you can be. I wanted to do something where I was better than others. That's my personal growth, but at whose expense? At the expense of people in villages around the world. It's not the way I hope humans can become fulfilled.

Most Americans will never serve in Iraq, but if we choose to hear the stories told by veterans, the war may finally penetrate the American consciousness. When that happens, veterans of this war can help us to collectively end it.


We remember

I hate war. I believe it is a useless and pointless way of solving our problems. I was born in 1960 and grew up during the Viet Nam war. My children were born at the dawn of the wars in Iraq, and have known nothing else but that pointless war. So you might see why I feel as I do. I pray that one day we will find another way of settling our differences with one another.

With that said, however, I do recognize a war in our recent history that had we not fought, the world would have fallen to a totalitarian, fascist, regime. So this is my tribute to the veterans of World War II, and to all the veterans who stood and do stand ready to defend our nation and the entire world from those who sought/seek to destroy liberty. We remember you and we honor you.


Isn't she beautiful?

>> Monday, November 10, 2008

Okay, sometimes I just have to brag about my kids. This is my oldest, Lauren, pictured here at a Marie Antoinette Soiree with one of her friends at the University of Oklahoma where she is a freshman majoring in International Studies and French. She is so advanced in French after her year in France as an exchange student that she has been placed in junior and senior level classes. Her goal is to go on to graduate school to become an interpreter/translator, possibly for the UN. She's quite the intelligent, loving, kind, outstanding, and lovely young woman, and Mom couldn't be more proud!


We love each other, but it's the laughter that keeps us together

Willow made a post yesterday about laughter and challenged all her bloggy friends to find a picture of themselves laughing and post it. Most of my readers know that laughter is the cornerstone of Steph's and my relationship. If it weren't for the sense of humor that we've been able to display through some really rough times, I seriously doubt that I would be sitting here still crazy in love with this person whom I claim to be my best friend and the love of my life.

The above photo was taken at Laxenburg, just about 10 miles outside of Vienna, Austria a little over three years ago. Steph and I were in the middle of being filmed for the documentary "Mozartballs". Our screenwriter, Thomas Wallner, caught Steph and me in a moment of silliness and captured it on his camera phone.


So I'm a sucker for baritones: Bryn's a babe as Figaro

>> Sunday, November 9, 2008

Ranking up there as one of my all time favorite baritones, the Welsh-born Bryn Terfel sings my favorite of Figaro's arias from my most beloved opera, W.A. Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro. This charming 1998 Met production also features Cecilia Bartoli as Susanna, and Fredericka von Stade as the delightful Cherubino.


The darker side of hope

>> Saturday, November 8, 2008

Racism doesn't end with the election of a black president. Already President-Elect Obama has been the target of two assassination plots by white supremists and was the most heavily guarded Presidential candidate in U.S. history. He gave his acceptance speech at Grant Park from behind a two-inch thick bullet-proof glass and his security team includes a Police S.W.A.T. team of heavily armed guards. Family outings are a thing of the past. This is the price of being the first black president in our history.


Letters to President-Elect Obama from Harlem 4th graders

>> Friday, November 7, 2008

Dear President Obama,

I am so happy you are our new president! And it is not just because you are black, it is because you have some great ideas! And I wanted to be a singer, dancer, and actress but you open new doors for me. You open the doors for everybody. Now I think that now I can be the first female black president! And we went from black people not being able to vote and that changed and then black people never got a chance to be president but you changed that. And for that, it is like you are my and the whole world's hero!

Love (a 9 year old),

P.S. I won't put TV before homework.

Dear President Obama,

Congratulations. I'm glad we have our first black president and I'm glad we all (the United States) have a great president like you! I am very sorry about what happened with your grandmother, but I know if she was here right now, she will be very proud of you! I am very sure you will make the best decisions for all of America! I was hoping you can make a recycling rule to help something called Global Warming.


Dear President Obama,

I want to say you are the bomb. I love all your speeches. Even my grandma does. I feel sorry for your grandmother but she's there up in heaven watching over you. When you get to the white house you will have our help.

I'm so happy that you are becoming president. Can you make a change about the cops? They need to pay more attention at the Lincoln Tunnel.

Write back.

Your friend,

Dear President Obama,

I like the way you think about turning off the T.V. and letting kids do their homework. I know so many things that the people in the world want you to fix. Do you think you can do it? We CAN make change. I believe you. Everybody believes you. Barack, we can do it. Yes, we can.
Don't forget leadership and responsibility is what we are looking for.

Change we make. Change we believe.


Dear President Obama,

I knew you would win. You easily won by a landslide. Do you think you can lower taxes? Just 20 dollars. My mom wants to move. I do too. The house we want to move to cost twice as much. So, can you please do that? I hope you have a good time being president. I know I would. I also hope you get free time. How did you get to spend time with family and do the election? Also can you really bend the rules? If you can please make children do less homework. Especially on holidays. On holidays they load us with homework. One last request. I promise it's my last one. Can you make Friday a weekend like Saturday and Sunday?


Dear President Obama,

Congratulations on your win to be president of the United States of America. What are you going to change about littering, gas, and wars? Are you going to make hunting stop? Are you going to lower taxes? Are you going to give more money to schools? What are you going to do about stock markets? What are you going to do about parking spaces? What are you going to do about more jail time, book store prices, gas prices, robbers, the laws, houses, and long lines in Pathmark?

Your Biggest Fan,

Dear Barack Obama,

My name is Shareef and I am writing to you to say congratulations on being the first black President. Your wife must be very proud of you. Also your kids too must be proud. Also I'm African American too and I might be just like you. When you get to the white house please try to stop the war for once and for all. Obama I'm very proud of you especially my mom. She's really proud because she woke up 5:30 AM to go vote for you and I went with her. Please write back to me when you get a chance. To tell you, I'm nine years old in the 4th grade. Obama, you're the man.



California's LGBT's are not silenced!

>> Thursday, November 6, 2008

Video from last night's protest of the passing of Prop 8 on Santa Monica Boulevard. Proof that gay marriage is taking center stage as the new Civil Rights issue.


A message from a former Republican to the Republican Party

When I registered to vote in 1978, at the age of 18, I registered as a Republican. I remained a Republican until four years ago, when I changed my registration to the Democratic party, just prior to the 2004 elections. My reasons for changing parties? One simple reason--you have forgotten who you are and who you represent, and that you are bound to the principles upon which this nation was founded, of liberty and equality for all, no exceptions.

You have forgotten the "People" in "We The People" and have abandoned your defense of and duty to the great Constitution of the United States of America for "the win", even at the cost of the freedom, liberty, and equality that our Constitution guarantees each and every citizen of this great nation. You have allied yourselves with and identified as the "base" of your once great party, the Christian Religious Right, and abandoned the principles of the separation of church and state for theocratic dominionism. Your abandonment of the principles laid out in The Establishment Clause found in the First Amendment of our Constitution has been disatrous for our nation, and if you continue to abandon the Constitution for religious ideology as an essential and central aspect of our laws and foreign policy decisions, it will spell the end of this once great Democratic Republic.

I end this with a quote from one of your party's greatest, Barry Goldwater. *

The religious factions will go on imposing their will on others unless the decent people connected to them recognize that religion has no place in public policy. They must learn to make their views known without trying to make their views the only alternatives... We have succeeded for 205 years in keeping the affairs of state separate from the uncompromising idealism of religious groups and we mustn't stop now. To retreat from that separation would violate the principles of conservatism and the values upon which the framers built this democratic republic.

Heed his warning, or your party will fail.

*Thanks to RW


In celebration of our 44th President: The Music of Black America

In honor of our new president, I am going to start a series entitled, The music of black America. I will feature the music, artists, the struggles, unique culture and perspective that black Americans have brought into the American experience and thus contributed to our musical heritage as a nation.

Lena Mary Calhoun Horne
(born June 30, 1917), is an iconic American singer and actress. She has recorded and performed extensively, independently and with other jazz notables, including Artie Shaw, Teddy Wilson, Billy Strayhorn, Duke Ellington, Charlie Barnet, and Billy Eckstine. She currently lives in New York City and no longer makes public appearances.

She was originally considered for the role of Julie LaVerne in MGM's 1951 version of Show Boat (having already played the role when a segment of Show Boat was performed in Till the Clouds Roll By) but Ava Gardner was given the role instead (the production code office had banned interracial relationships in films). In the documentary That's Entertainment! III Horne stated that MGM executives required Gardner to practice her singing using recordings of Horne performing the songs, which offended both actresses (ultimately, Gardner ended up having her singing voice overdubbed by another actress (Annette Warren (Smith)) for the theatrical release, though her own voice was heard on the soundtrack album).

*Information Source: Wikipedia

Ms. Horne is featured here singing what has come to be known as her signature song, Stormy Weather.


Reactions in pictures from around the world

>> Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Sydney, Australia

Jerusalem, Israel

Manila, Philippines

Jakarta, Indonesia

Athens, Greece


Obama, Japan

Obama's former school in Jakarta, Indonesia

Barack's step-grandmother Sarah Obama in Kogelo, Kenya


The World celebrates with us

PARIS – Barack Obama's election as America's first black president unleashed a renewed love for the United States after years of dwindling goodwill, and many said Wednesday that U.S. voters had blazed a trail that minorities elsewhere could follow.

People across Africa stayed up all night or woke before dawn to watch U.S. history being made, while the president of Kenya — where Obama's father was born — declared a public holiday.

In Indonesia, where Obama lived as child, hundreds of students at his former elementary school erupted in cheers when he was declared winner and poured into the courtyard where they hugged each other, danced in the rain and chanted "Obama! Obama!"

"Your victory has demonstrated that no person anywhere in the world should not dare to dream of wanting to change the world for a better place," South Africa's first black president, Nelson Mandela, said in a letter of congratulations to Obama.

Many expressed amazement and satisfaction that the United States could overcome centuries of racial strife and elect an African-American as president.

"This is the fall of the Berlin Wall times ten," Rama Yade, France's black junior minister for human rights, told French radio. "America is rebecoming a New World.

"On this morning, we all want to be American so we can take a bite of this dream unfolding before our eyes," she said.

In Britain, The Sun newspaper borrowed from Neil Armstrong's 1969 moon landing in describing Obama's election as "one giant leap for mankind."

Yet celebrations were often tempered by sobering concerns that Obama faces global challenges as momentous as the hopes his campaign inspired — wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the nuclear ambitions of Iran, the elusive hunt for peace in the Middle East and a global economy in turmoil.

The huge weight of responsibilities on Obama's shoulders was also a concern for some. French former Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said Obama's biggest challenge would be managing a punishing agenda of various crises in the United States and the world. "He will need to fight on every front," he said.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said he hoped the incoming administration will take steps to improve badly damaged U.S. ties with Russia. Tensions have been driven to a post-Cold War high by Moscow's war with U.S. ally Georgia.

"I stress that we have no problem with the American people, no inborn anti-Americanism. And we hope that our partners, the U.S. administration, will make a choice in favor of full-fledged relations with Russia," Medvedev said.

Europe, where Obama is overwhelmingly popular, is one region that looked eagerly to an Obama administration for a revival in warm relations after the Bush government's chilly rift with the continent over the Iraq war.

"At a time when we have to confront immense challenges together, your election raises great hopes in France, in Europe and in the rest of the world," French President Nicolas Sarkozy said in a congratulations letter to Obama.

Poland's Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski spoke of "a new America with a new credit of trust in the world."

Skepticism, however, was high in the Muslim world. The Bush administration alienated those in the Middle East by mistreating prisoners at its detention center for terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and inmates at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison — human rights violations also condemned worldwide.

Some Iraqis, who have suffered through five years of a war ignited by the United States and its allies, said they would believe positive change when they saw it.

"Obama's victory will do nothing for the Iraqi issue nor for the Palestinian issue," said Muneer Jamal, a Baghdad resident. "I think all the promises Obama made during the campaign will remain mere promises."

In Pakistan, a country vital to the U.S.-led war on the al-Qaida terrorist network and neighbor to Afghanistan, many hoped Obama would bring some respite from rising militant violence that many blame on Bush.

Still, Mohammed Arshad, a 28-year-old schoolteacher in the capital, Islamabad, doubted Obama's ability to change U.S. foreign policy dramatically.

"It is true that Bush gave America a very bad name. He has become a symbol of hate. But I don't think the change of face will suddenly make any big difference," he said.

Obama's victory was greeted with cheers across Latin America, a region that has shifted sharply to the left during the Bush years. From Mexico to Chile, leaders expressed hope for warmer relations based on mutual respect — a quality many felt has been missing from U.S. foreign policy.

Venezuela and Bolivia, which booted out the U.S. ambassadors after accusing the Bush administration of meddling in their internal politics, said they were ready to reestablish diplomatic relations, and Brazil's president was among several leaders urging Obama to be more flexible toward Cuba.

On the streets of Rio de Janeiro, people expressed a mixture of joy, disbelief, and hope for the future.

"It's the beginning of a different era," police officer Emmanuel Miranda said. "The United States is a country to dream about, and for us black Brazilians, it is even easier to do so now."

Many around the world found Obama's international roots — his father was Kenyan, and he lived four years in Indonesia as a child — compelling and attractive.

"What an inspiration. He is the first truly global U.S. president the world has ever had," said Pracha Kanjananont, a 29-year-old Thai sitting at a Starbuck's in Bangkok. "He had an Asian childhood, African parentage and has a Middle Eastern name. He is a truly global president."


AP correspondents worldwide contributed to this report.


Ladies and Gentleman, the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama



Meet Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States!



"Please don't screw this one up!"

>> Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I belong to an online list called "Oklahomans for Obama". For the past several months I have been sharing with 366 of my fellow Oklahomans. We've shared our hopes and fears, we've organized voter registration, we've passed word along about various rallies and events. We've been in the trenches together and we've grown close. This morning this message was in my mail box from one of our members who has never disclosed himself, until today. I was so touched by it that I had to share it with you.

You guys don't know me but I have been here from the beginning, always silent but always reading. The reason I have not been involved up until this point is due to work reasons which I will not go into detail but all I ask is one thing. Please do not screw this up. There is so much at stake and the feeling like the walls could come tumbling down any minute all around you only proves that there is much need for change. This is why I believe an Obama presidency would make everyone's lives better. So I beg of you for the sake of your friends, families, co-workers and yes even your government, please vote. That's it, don't vote because I asked you to or because Obama has asked you to, vote because the lives of everyone I mentioned are affected by this one shining moment in history when the world turns its eyes to America hoping that it will wake from its destructive coma and become the shining beacon the world once turned to in times of crisis. I myself have never voted even though I was eligible in 2000 and 2004 nor have I even been registered to vote till recently. I am voting for my unborn daughter and the woman that I love so that our lives can be just a little bit easier and safer. Whatever your reasons are please think of them when you experience long waits at the polls and are thinking of leaving because the wait is too long. Thank you for your time and please vote.


Today's the Day!

Today is the day we can make history! Today is the day we can begin to rise from the ashes of the last eight years! Today is the day we can come together as a nation and roll up our sleeves and work together for change! Today is the day that we can elect Barack Obama the 44th president of the United States and set the world on its ear!



I cast my vote today...

>> Monday, November 3, 2008

...for OBAMA/BIDEN! And then I went and bought a magnum of champagne for when the Democrats KICK ASS tomorrow night!



A call to Californians to vote "No" on Prop 8

If you're from California and you're reading this, I encourage you to think long and hard about the important decision you're going to make tomorrow regarding not only the future of GLBT's in your own state, but for the entire nation. California is the trend-setter. Whatever California does, the rest of the nation eventually follows suit. If you, one of the most progressive states in this country, write discrimination into your state constitution, it will make it easier for the radical right to do the same to ours. However, if you vote to uphold equality and freedom, then you will pave the way for our great nation to do the same. Please continue to be the fair, equality-loving, progressive and trend-setting state that you have always been and reject discrimination. Vote "No" on Proposition 8.


The World loves Obama

>> Sunday, November 2, 2008

Just yesterday I was reading that the entire world is watching the U.S. presidential elections with great anticipation and that when Barack Obama wins the U.S. Presidency, the people of all nations will embrace him as the World's President. What an awesome and incredible honor and responsibility that will be. I believe this behooves us to lift this man up in prayer, to pray protection, guidance, compassion, wisdom, and strength upon him and upon his entire family.

The following is an African song in honor of Obama simply entitled, The Obama Song, expressing the gratitude and hopes of the world for this incredible man, the man destiny has called to pave the way for peace and healing for a broken world.


So I'm a sucker for baritones

>> Saturday, November 1, 2008

I admit it. Nothing can make me swoon like the sound of a dark chocolate silky-smooth baritone voice. Among my faves are the great American Sherrill Milnes, the popular Welsh baritone, Bryn Terfel, and the Kansas born Samuel Ramey. However, a few months ago, as I was doing my usual YouTube surfing for new videos to share, I came upon an incredible Scottish baritone by the name of Richard Morrison, and the swooning began all over again. This guy really has it--the chocolately darkness with a "ping" at the end, the smoothness, the richness--that thing that makes me want to curl up and die in his arms while he sings to me.

He's featured here in an audio clip from a live performance in Scotland in which he sings one of my all-time favorites, "So in Love" from Cole Porter's Kiss Me Kate. So get out your smelling salts, ladies, 'cause this one's gonna make ya dizzy!


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