Wednesday, May 31

How Not to Win the War on Terror

A probe into the November 2005 deaths of 24 civilians in the Iraqi town of Haditha has determined that the 24 did not die as a result of a roadside bomb as previously reported by the U.S. military, but were gunned down in an unprovoked attack led by the U.S. Marines.

We cannot claim to have brought either security or democracy to the victims of the Haditha massacre. Our presence in Iraq did not improve their lives. They are not better off because we chose to invade their country. While some might argue that the unprovoked killing of several dozen civilians neither reflects the war as a whole nor undermines all the good we have accomplished in Iraq, I disagree. I would argue that the reverse is true. Whatever good we have accomplished there does not make up for the fact that innocent civilians were killed in what the military has determined to have been an unprovoked attack.

Accidental deaths—collateral damage as it’s euphemistically called—are difficult enough to justify. Those whose lives and families are destroyed cannot be expected to see beyond their loss to the bigger picture. There is no justification for deliberately targeting innocent civilians, any more than there could be justification of the humiliation and torture that took place at Abu Ghraib. Perhaps the bigger picture here is one of the United States as a rogue state.

Many will be quick to dismiss these deaths as tragic, but somehow inevitable casualties of the war in Iraq, which is, they will argue, a just and necessary war. I would argue that the correct response to the revelation that innocent civilians were gunned down in what amounts to a massacre is not to place their lives in a scale and see if they outweigh or are outweighed by the greater good. Rather, the killing of innocent civilians—not accidentally, but deliberately—must be considered on its own, apart from the larger discussion of whether the invasion of Iraq was justified or whether we have accomplished any good over there.

Even if the war in Iraq were just and necessary, the unprovoked killing of civilians is evidence that something has gone terribly wrong. However, when the larger war itself is both unjust and unnecessary, gunning down innocent civilians must be seen as an act of terror—mass murder. Rather than trying to deflect the moral outrage at unprovoked killings with a litany of our other accomplishments in Iraq, we should take this opportunity to ask ourselves whether we are really any better than the brutal dictator whom we toppled. After all, surely Saddam’s regime wasn’t bad for everybody. If we can justify our acts of terror, why can he not justify his in his trial that is taking place right now? If a case can be made for atrocities committed by the U.S. military, this is indeed good news for Saddam’s lawyers seeking to defend his own misdeeds. They’d better be paying close attention.

Apart from the moral ramifications of killing civilians, there is also the important question of what such acts of terror will mean for the American people. The Haditha massacre did not make the world a safer place. It has very likely sown the seeds of despair and hatred that will bear bitter fruit for the American people. In a cosmic sense, the marines who committed this atrocity will be responsible not just for the lives of the Iraqi civilians gunned down, but also for the hundreds (if not thousands) of American lives lost in retaliation, even if retribution is slow to come.

Free Speech for All

Last Friday, a federal judge was asked to decide whether Poway High School administrators acted properly when they pulled a student from class for wearing an anti-gay slogan on his T-shirt back in 2004.

As much disgust as I feel for Tyler Chase Harper, the high school student who was disciplined for wearing a “Homosexuality is Shameful” T-shirt, I feel that he has a constitutional right to put whatever hateful message that he wants on his clothing. It is not for school administrators to determine what messages are suitable and which aren’t. Rather than engaging in censorship, administrators at Poway High School outside of San Diego, California, should have simply let Harper face the consequences of promoting a message of hate and intolerance. Offensive speech is still protected speech. In the end, my reluctance to support legal consequences for offensive speech arises in part from my confidence that the social consequences of espousing such backward views will be much more onerous to bear for bigots like Harper.

Harper wore the shirt in response to a “Day of Silence” organized by the School’s Gay-Straight Alliance to raise awareness of GLBT issues. He was issued a dress-code violation, but not suspended. Predictably, local evangelicals sued, and in a 2-1 decision, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals held that a T-shirt proclaiming “Be ashamed, our school embraced what God has condemned” on the front and “Homosexuality is shameful” on the back was “injurious to gay and lesbian students and interfered with their right to learn.” Wearing such a T-shirt can be barred on a public high school campus without violating the First Amendment, the Court ruled.

While I sympathize with the desire of school officials to protect students from harassment, they must balance that desire with the constitutional right to free speech. This is not an easy task. However, the Culture Wars are not going away any time soon. I would argue that school officials could have used Harper’s offensive T-shirt as a valuable opportunity to engage queer students in a dialogue about bigotry, intolerance, and the hurdles they will face in their struggle to achieve dignity and equality as adults. And while the law can and must often be used to protect the rights of GLBT people, I don’t feel that school officials should have put their stamp of approval on censorship as an appropriate tool.

Besides, if I were a queer student at Poway High School, I’d have worn a T-shirt that read “Bigots Suck.”

Weekend Wrap-up

Why can’t every weekend be a three-day weekend? A four-day work week is so much more humane. Joe and I gigged last Thursday (Meze) and Friday (Café Apollonia) nights, so we were pretty exhausted by Saturday. Nonetheless, we worked almost non-stop in the yard. I had a ton of planting to do. I’ve been working steadily since late March to have the yard prettied up by the start of June, but there was still lots of work to do this weekend. I also had a ton of laundry to do. With so much gigging and rehearsing, the dirty clothes were really beginning to pile up.

That evening, we had a very late supper with K and our housemate G, who treated us to some delicious Caribbean takeout from a new establishment to open in our neighborhood. I think the owners are Dominican. They make really good cubanos, and I’ve become something of a regular there. Joe likes the mofongo, which is mashed fried plantains and a traditional Puerto Rican dish.

On Sunday, we took off to Martha’s Vineyard on the motorcycle. It’s a not a bad ride for us down to the Woods Hole ferry. The beautiful thing about the motorcycle is that they treat it like a bicycle. No advance reservations are required, unlike for a car. The only problem was that after working outside all day on Saturday and then sitting on the back of a bike for an hour-and-a-half left me a bit stiff (not the good kind of stiff). We took the ferry to Oak Bluffs where we grabbed a quick bite before heading down to Aquinnah. The ride to Aquinnah is one of the best parts of the trip. “Up island” as the south-western corner of Martha’s Vineyard is called, offers some of the island’s most scenic views, especially along the south side of Menemsha Pond.

I love the lush path behind the dunes that leads to Moshup Beach. It was too early in the season for all the beach roses and honey suckle to be in bloom, but in mid summer, the sweet fragrance along the path fills your head until you reach the end and your eyes are rewarded with the rich colors of the cliffs further down the beach. It was like we were just there yesterday. Our last trip was with K in November, when it was warm enough for us to get naked and swim. Surprisingly, the water was too cold to swim on Saturday, though I did venture in for about 30 seconds. We’ve been to Gay Head once before on Memorial Day—a memorable trip with M several years ago—and the water was warm enough for us to take a 15-minute or so dip. I was expecting the same on Sunday, so I was a little disappointed when I found it too chilly to swim. Instead, Joe and I dozed peacefully on the beach and later took a long walk down to the old World War II bunker that tumbled from the cliffs many decades ago and now sits at the water’s edge.

For dinner, we headed to Menemsha for seafood and sunset. Menemsha is one of the few places on the entire East Coast where one can watch the sun set over water. It was a bit overcast, but there was a break in the clouds just above the horizon through which the sun came into view. Joe and I debated whether what we were seeing was the sun or an image of the sun that lingers after it has already set. I thought I had read somewhere that this happens, and Joe said I was nuts. In reality, certain atmospheric and meteorological conditions can cause a distortion of the setting sun where the top half is a true image while the bottom half appears to become flattened as the rays pass through thicker, denser atmosphere. This happens when the bottom half of the sun is already below the horizon, but the bending of the light rays tricks us into thinking that the sun is still over the horizon. But that doesn’t happen all the time, and it probably wasn’t what we were seeing as we sat on the jetty at Menemsha eating our fried clams and fish and chips.

The other problem about taking the motorcycle to Martha’s Vineyard is the ride home. We missed the 8:30 boat, so we didn’t get off the island until 9:30, which put us on the road home at 10:15. It’s a long, cold ride once the sun has gone down, worse for Joe than for me, since sitting behind him, I’m shielded from the full brunt of the wind. It’s worth it though. Spending the day on Martha’s Vineyard is like visiting a foreign country. It’s distant enough and its sights different enough to seem truly foreign, but close enough to do as a day trip. If we lived further north, I’m not sure we’d be able to squeeze in a visit in a single day.

More work in the yard on Monday, mostly filling pots and various containers with flowers and herbs. I drove out to Russell’s in Wayland, which is certainly not the closest nursery to where we live, but it is one of the nicest. Their selection is unbeatable. I really wanted to make sure that what I planted was suitable for the mixture of sun and shade our yard offers. In the past, I’ve been a bit careless about what I plant, and as a result they don’t always thrive because the conditions are wrong. It’s usually about how much sunlight a particular spot offers, and I haven’t always paid attention to how might light each plant needs. Russell’s offers plants and flowers matching a wide variety of conditions. You just have to read the tags.

We had planned to go to Ten Tables with K and another friend for dinner, but both ended up having other plans and the restaurant ended up being closed for Memorial Day. Joe and G made a nice dinner at home instead, which we enjoyed out on the back porch. Our housemate D joined us as did another friend. We all agreed that we were dreading work on Tuesday, but were grateful that it would be a short week.

Thursday, May 25

A piano should fall on their heads.

Once again, this month’s “A Piano Should Fall on His Head Award” goes to two individuals. I couldn’t decide which of them is the bigger loser, so I’m going to name both of them.

Last month on Good Friday (not Greek Orthodox Good Friday, but the other one), Bishop Alfred A. Owens Jr., the pastor of Greater Mount Calvary Church in the northeastern section of Washington D.C., issued an altar call—you know, one of those fire and brimstone sermons during which the preacher urges all those unrepentant sinners to come forward and claim Jesus as their Lord and Savior. One question: If an altar boy responds to an altar call, does that make him an altar call boy?

Anyway, Owens’ altar call contained an interesting and rather disturbing disclaimer. Apparently, there are some sinners that are just so far gone in their wretchedness that they’re beyond salvation. Yes, brothers and sisters, you know who I’m talking about: those nasty homosexuals. Well, at least that’s what Owens thinks, because in his invitation to the altar, he made it clear that

“It takes a real man to confess Jesus as Lord and Savior… I’m not talking about no faggot or no sissy… Wait a minute! Let the real men come on down here and take a bow… all the real men. I’m talking about the straight men.”

Sigh. I guess gay men just aren’t welcome at God’s lunch counter. Then again, conservative African-American clergy are among the most homophobic of the evangelical fold, so perhaps we shouldn’t put too much stock in Owens’ notion of who is eligible for God’s grace and who is not.

Moreover, Owens’ machismo is completely absent from Jesus’ own sense of what is required to enter the Kingdom of God. In one of the most enigmatic passages in all the Gospels, Jesus says to his disciples

“For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it” (Matthew 19:12)

I don’t want to assume that everyone knows what a eunuch is. It’s a man who has undergone castration (i.e. whose testicles have been removed, though I have read that some eunuchs had their penises removed as well, but this was less common). Less clear is what is meant by this passage. Many commentators have concluded that Jesus is making a statement advocating celibacy. After all, eunuchs had no libido, which is why in the ancient world they served as the trusted guards of the women’s quarters, right? Actually, men who undergo castration after puberty do not always lose their libido. Many are able to experience arousal. More importantly, eunuchs were not always celibate.

The equation of eunuch = celibacy in many commentaries on this passage arises from a fundamental misconception about the sex lives of eunuchs in the ancient world. The reality is that eunuchs quite often played the passive role in sexual intercourse with other men. They got fucked, in other words. In this way, in the eyes of the ancients they suffered a twofold loss of their masculinity: first the loss of their balls and then by playing the woman’s role in sex. Eunuchs were also known for their “softness” and effeminacy.

So what did Jesus mean when he said that anyone who can make himself a eunuch for the sake of the kingdom of heaven should just do it? Everyone knows that Jesus spoke in parables and riddles, so it’s doubtful he was advocating that his male followers hack their nuts off. So what did he mean then?

He meant the exact opposite of what Owens said in his altar call. In Jesus’ version of the kingdom of heaven, complete gender equality would be the norm. Therefore, in order to enter the kingdom of heaven, a man must put aside his gender and all the privileges of patriarchy, which was the established order in the Mediterranean world of Jesus’ day. This is also what Jesus was trying to convey, among other things, when he washed his disciples feet. He was attempting to overturn and subvert the prevailing notions of gender and gender roles. In other words, it’s those very sissies and faggots rejected by Owens that will be entering the kingdom of heaven much faster than “the real men” he invited to the altar. It’s a radical notion, but one that is not at all inconsistent with the Historical Jesus.

As reprehensible as Owens’ sermon was, he is going to have to share his piano with The Most Reverend Benjamin Nzimbi, the Archbishop of Kenya’s Anglican Church. Earlier this week, Nzimbi withdrew his invitation to meet with The Right Reverend John Gladwin, Bishop of Chelmsford in the United Kingdom, who was recently named as one of four new patrons of Changing Attitude, the campaigning group that aims at equality of opportunity for GLBT people in the Anglican Church. Gladwin was traveling with a contingent of 20 other Anglican clergy in Africa on a trip whose mission was to strengthen ties between four dioceses in Kenya and Chelmsford, when he was informed that hospitality had been withdrawn by the Church of Kenya on account of Gladwin’s support of greater inclusivity and equality for GLBT people.

The Anglican Church of Kenya has been rather fickle in the support it has shown for tolerance and equality. Not surprisingly, Kenya bishops applauded Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams’ call for greater tolerance of religious minorities in the predominantly Muslim country of Sudan, where violence against the Christian population has taken on the dimensions of genocide. “The question is how will the government of this country in the years ahead make sure that Sudan is known for creative, democratic tolerant policies that will work for the good of an entire population,” Williams said.

Of course, the other question is how the Church of Kenya can encourage the pursuit of “creative, democratic tolerant policies that will work for the good of an entire population” in a place like Sudan while supporting discrimination against sexual minorities at home. Are they not part of the population?

There’s also the thorny issue of polygamy. Prior to the 1990s, Anglican bishops in the West turned a blind eye to African polygamy as long as African bishops toned down their criticism of the divorce rate among Western Christians. Recently, however, African Christians have been criticized by the West for taking a hard line against homosexuality and same-sex marriage, while defending the practice of polygamy. In 2002, the Anglican Church of Kenya finally issued a statement condemning polygamy, arguing that monogamy is God’s plan for marriage.

Support for polygamy by African Christians has been something of an embarrassment for conservatives who insist that marriage is properly defined as the relationship between one man and one woman, while liberals have pointed to the basic hypocrisy of condemning same-sex marriage while tolerating (or defending) polygamy. Although the Anglican Church of Kenya has officially condemned polygamy, unofficially there remains a high degree of tolerance for this deeply rooted practice.

The Kenyan statement takes a pastoral stance where polygamy still persists. While it teaches monogamy, the Church must be “pastorally sensitive to the widespread existence of polygamy.” The Kenyan Church understood that if a polygamist became a Christian and put away all his wives but one, the rest could face the immanent danger of becoming prostitutes. Therefore the slow fading out of the practice was encouraged.

Why has the Kenyan Church chosen to take a pastoral approach and reach out to those who engage in one officially condemned practice—let’s call it a lifestyle—while refusing even to meet with those who disagree with them on the subject of another condemned practice? This is the classic double standard of African Christians. It probably doesn’t help that they view polygamy is an indigenous custom, while homosexuality is viewed as a foreign practice.

I am not advocating that the Kenyan Church take a hard line approach to the unfortunate and vulnerable wives of polygamists. Doubtless, it was their social and economic powerlessness within a patriarchal social structure that put them in their predicament in the first place. There was a reason Jesus told his disciples that all men should become eunuchs.

Tuesday, May 23

Blue Hills and Red Cliffs

I came across a great online article on the Blue Hills, where Joe and I frequently take walks on the weekend. The vast, wooded reservation is full of trails and hills, some of which offer amazing views of Boston and Dorchester Bay and the surrounding area. Check out the link, which outlines some of the most noteworthy points of interest.

Also, has created a cool interactive New England beach guide, which lists some of the region’s best beaches, and Moshup Beach at Aquinnah (Gay Head) on Martha’s Vineyard was designated the best beach for nude bathing:

New England is skimpy when it comes to clothing-optional beaches, but among the few, the unofficially nude area of Moshup Beach in Aquinnah on Martha’s Vineyard is tops, with warmer water than other island beaches. And it’s small enough that it doesn’t draw crowds. Just be sure to cover up as you walk to and from the nudity-friendly areas near the cliffs marbled with clay; the other side of the beach attracts fully clothed families. There is parking for nonresidents, but it’s limited, whether you’re naked or not.

Fortunately, most people would rather spend their weekend at the mall or in front of the television than hiking the Blue Hills, which is fine because the solitude is lovely. The past few times Joe and I have been there, we’ve come across maybe one other person. And as for Gay Head, Martha’s Vineyard isn’t exactly easy to get to. Once you’re on the island, moreover, Aquinnah is one of the more remote spots, and there are more accessible beaches than Moshup, which serves to thin out the crowds. In other words, the challenge involved in getting there means it’s never overrun with tourists or gawkers, though every summer Joe inevitably laments that there are fewer naked people and more swimsuits. I don’t see the swimsuits trying to reclaim the beach, but Joe often detects a conspiracy of prudes where I don’t (of course, in the case of Cummington Beach, there actually was such a conspiracy). That said, we wouldn’t mind seeing a few more hot guys enjoying the surf at Gay Head in the buff.

Anyway, to me it doesn’t matter. As long as the Wampanoag permit us to swim naked and stroll beneath the cliffs wearing nothing but a strand of seagrass tied around our waists, we’ll do it, even if we’re the only ones.

Monday, May 22

Losing One’s Marbles

may 15

hi dean,

i saw the elgin marbles (finally)—
they need to be sent back to greece. in a way, the british museum has done a very good job at preserving 19th-century british imperialism. still, i was very moved to finally see them. they are truly amazing...

can’t wait to see you both. let’s try to meet up for a bite a night soon.

lots o love,

Tech Update

My attention was brought to some problems with my previous post, May’s Rembetiko of the Month, but I’ve since fixed the problem, and the song file for Ο Ψύλλος should now be working properly. Let me know if you continue to experience technical difficulties.

Thursday, May 18

Rembetiko of the Month

I figured I should write something about the song to which I alluded in last month’s post, since it’s one of my personal favorites and, as I’ve said previously, it was my first real introduction to Rembetika as an adult.

The song is Ο Ψύλλος (O Psilos), or “The Flea.” It was written by Stavros Pantelidis and recorded in Athens in 1932 by Rita Abadzi and Kostas Masselos (aka Nouros) on either bouzouki or guitar. Like Abadzi, not much is known about Nouros other than that he was born in Smyrna around 1892. I asked my cousin G, who is quite knowledgeable and has a sizeable collection of Rembetika 78rpms. Here’s what he said:

Kostas Nouros was an early singer from the 20s up to the mid 30s but primarily early to late 20s—known for αμανέδες (amanedes) but certainly not the best—he cut a ton of αμανέδες and a few songs, one of them Ο Μυλωνάς (O Mylonas) with Roza Eskinazi and Στελλίτσα (Stellitsa), which is a take-off on Τσακιτζής (Tsakitzis)—also with Roza. I’ve never seen any pictures of him playing an instument. He seems to have been full of himself and had a penchant for young boys. On one record I have you can hear Stellakis Perpiniadis saying “Νά πεθάνεις, πούστη” (Drop dead, faggot) at the end of the record.

It might be more accurate to say that Nouros had a penchant for young men, but who’s to know? Similarly, I don’t know for sure what it is that Nouros is playing, but we know he’s playing something in Ο Ψύλλος because at the end of the song, Abadzi says “Γειά σου, Νούρε μου” (Yassou, my Nouros). She was nicer than Perpiniadis.


When I was a kid, we listened to a lot of Greek music at home (in addition to Sinatra, whom my father loved). While there was some traditional island music, mostly what I heard would be considered Laïka (λαϊκά), which is the term generally used to describe Greek urban folk or “pop(ular) music,” as opposed to Greek urban blues, which is Rembetika. While there are clearly differences between Rembetika and Laïka—namely, Laïka, to my knowledge, never bore the stigma of unsavory associations as did Rembetika—I often think of Laïka as the child of Rembetika. The situation is similar to that of immigrants and their children; the first-generation parent (Rembetika) bears the taint of being foreign and “other,” while the second-generation child (Laïka) is accepted and assimilated by the dominant culture, while retaining something of its roots. That’s not a perfect analogy, I know.

Laïka was heavily influenced by the Rembetika tradition (both the Piraeus and the Smyrnaïc Schools). Moreover, Laïka retained much of Rembetika’s style, rhythms, and instrumentation, like the bouzouki, accordion, and violin. There’s even an occasional sandouri thrown in. However, Laïka was embraced by the dominant culture in Greece in a way that Rembetika never was. In some ways, Laïka could be considered “Rembetika-Light.” Some might say that as soon as Rembetika moved away from the margins, it became tamer and less edgy, and Laïka was born.

Nonetheless, I myself have a difficult time distinguishing late Rembetika from early Laïka. I consider artists from the post-War era (late 1940s and early 1950s)—artists like Stelios Kazantzidis (1931 – 2001), Marika Ninou (1918 – 1956), and Rena Dalia (1934 – 2000)—as having a foot on either side of the line separating these two musical traditions. These are artists about whom I plan to post at some future point, because their music, residing in the transitional zone between Rembetika and Laïka, is worth celebrating in its own right.

What does all this have to do with Ο Ψύλλος? The point is that the Laïka to which I was exposed as a child retained enough of its Rembetika roots that when I first heard a genuine Rembetika song like Ο Ψύλλος, I was immediately hooked. Although I had never listened to real Rembetika as a kid, both the melody and overall style of Ο Ψύλλος was similar enough to what I had grown up listening to that the song—and the other Rembetika tunes that I began to discover—seemed instantly familiar to me. Plus, I fell in love with Abadzi’s voice. It wasn’t long before I came across her αμανέδες as well as other songs by other artists from that era. It was around that time that I started playing the sandouri and began exploring Rembetika in earnest.

In Ο Ψύλλος, Abadzi is accompanied by the bouzouki as opposed to the kanonaki, outi, and violin that often characterized the music of the Smyrnaïc School. Also, Ο Ψύλλος is an aptalikos dance, which is in 9/8 time and sometimes referred to as a fast Zeïmbekiko. The makam used here—Houzam—was a common Rembetiko makam. Another example is Eskenazi’s Gazeli Houzam, recorded in 1933 with Dimitris Semsis on violin and Agapios Tomboulis on oud.

While it probably is a stretch to put this tune in the Piraeus School, to my ear it has more in common with the less polished, more raw, and edgier music of the τεκέδες (te-KE-dhes)—or hash dens—and bordellos than it does with the Café Aman establishments of Smyrna, Constantinople, and Athens in which the Smyrnaïc School flourished.

Finally, the song’s reference to a flea is itself a nod not only to the gritty themes that characterized Rembetika, but also to the seedy and squalid conditions of the shantytowns that sprang up around Athens and Piraeus following the Asia Minor catastrophe of 1922.

One of the things that I like about Ο Ψύλλος is its playful and provocative lyrics. In fact, they’re downright kinky.

Click here to listen.

Νά ήμουν ψύλλος, μάτια μου, αμάν αμάν,
θά’ρθώ γιά νά τρυπώνω τό τρυφερό σου τό κορμί
νά στό κεντώ με πόνο.

Ψύλλος θά γίνω, άσπλαχνη, αφού δεν με λυπάσαι,
καί θά’ρχομαι νά σ’ενοχλώ την ώρα πού κοιμάσαι.

Άχ, πές τό ναί, τσαχπίνα μου, αμάν αμάν,
γιατί θά μετανοιώσεις.
Ψύλλος θά γίνω, άπονη, καί δεν θά μου γλυτώσεις.

Ρέ, μήν μου κάνεις τσαλιμιές καί άσε τά γινάτια.
Γιά σε καί τίγρης θά γινώ γιά τά γλυκά σου μάτια.

I wish I were a flea, my darling, aman aman,
so that I could burrow into your tender body
and embroider it with pain.

I’ll become a flea, you heartless bitch,
because you don’t care for me,
and I’ll come to molest you while you sleep.

Oh, say yes to me, you little flirt, aman aman,
or else you’ll regret it.

I’ll become a flea, uncaring bitch,
and you won’t escape me.

Don’t try your tricks on me;
you’re only doing it to spite me, so stop it.
I’ll become a tiger for you; for your sweet eyes.

Abadzi was a favorite of my mother’s older siblings, who were born during Rembetika’s heyday. As a result, their earliest musical memories were of artists like Eskenazi, Abadzi, Semsis, and Ogdontakis. She’s probably my favorite too. I am fortunate to own a 78rpm of Ο Ψύλλος from the 1930s. My cousin G—not the one whom I quoted above—gave it to me. It had been lying around in his garage ever since his father-in-law had given it to him. I find it interesting that on my copy, the title is misspelled. It’s written as Ο Ψίλος.

Shown above is Rita Abadzi at the height of her popularity. Below her is Kostas Nouros (seated on the right) with an unnamed friend in 1938.

Recommended Listening:
Rembetika: Historic Urban Folk Songs from Greece

Wednesday, May 17

Aklını başından almak

On Friday Joe and I went to see Water at the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline. We wanted to see Brick with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Lukas Haas, but we arrived late and it was sold out. Water looked interesting, so we decided to give it a shot, since we were already there and had nothing else to do. I guess it was appropriate given the deluge to hit eastern Massachusetts.

Directed by Deepa Mehta, Water is the final film in the Indian-born Canadian filmmaker’s trilogy that began with Fire in 1996 and Earth in 1998. The beautifully filmed story is set in 1930s India during British colonial rule and the rise of Gandhi’s nationalism. At the time, child marriages were still common, and Chuyia, an eight-year-old widow, is taken by her father to live in an ashram, as prescribed by the ancient Laws of Manu, to live out her years in chastity and social isolation. Hindu widows were forbidden from remarrying, were shorn of their hair, wore bland and colorless saris, and depended upon charity for their survival.

In Water, one young and attractive widow named Kalyani is allowed to keep her hair so that she can be pimped out by the head of the ashram, a foul-mouthed woman who, like the evil stepmother in Cinderella, locks Kalyani away in the attic to prevent her from marrying Narayan, the tall, dark, and handsome pro-Gandhi Brahmin intellectual who has become captivated by Kalyani’s beauty, in spite of the fact that, as a widow, she is off-limits.

For all its beauty, Water is a dark film. It is an indictment of a religion and a social order that condemns the vulnerable and less fortunate to a life of exploitation and social ostracism on the margins. Its portrayal of the plight of Hindu widows is heartbreaking, and the doomed romance between Kalyani and Narayan ends in tragedy. However, the film’s end offers hope with Gandhi’s rise to power holding out the promise of liberation for the emerging nation’s widows, while one of the film’s more ambiguous characters places Chuyia in the care of Gandhi’s followers as his train passes through their town, so that she can escape Kalyani’s fate.

On Saturday, I did some errands and practiced in the afternoon. That evening, we had dinner at our home with a friend, who brought us some fantastic rakı. I had about six shots in all—three before dinner with our μεζέδες and three after dinner. Had I imbibed more I would have started removing my clothes or our guest’s.

The next morning we drove up to Lynn to visit my parents. My dad wanted us to help them install some new combination smoke/carbon monoxide detectors after we all went out to brunch for Mothers Day. We were hoping to avoid the lunch crowd, plus we had to be back in Boston by 5pm to get ready for our gig that night at MEZE Estiatorio in Charlestown.

The North Shore was a real mess on Sunday. In Saugus we hit major traffic on Route 1, which had already begun to flood. We arrived at my parents’ house to discover that their basement was beginning to flood. It was less than an inch, but it was enough to upset my dad. In thirty-four years, their basement has flooded only one other time. We managed to coax him out of the basement and get him to agree to leave the house to get some food, and we foolishly tried to drive to the Brothers’ Restaurant and Deli in Danvers Square. We couldn’t access Route 128 because of flooding in Peabody. We then tried to go through Peabody Square, which was already under water by that point. Somehow we managed to make it to the Brothers’ Deli in Salem, where we had a nice breakfast. I was a little concerned that we were going to end up getting stuck in Salem or, worse yet, being stuck on the North Shore and missing our gig, but we made it back into Boston without incident.

That evening we had our first gig at MEZE. Joe and I had spoken to both the owner and general manager last week, and they hired us on the spot for Mothers Day and also for a wine tasting in June. Playing at MEZE is a big deal for us. The dining room is spacious and beautifully designed, it’s always crowded, and the food is fantastic with a much more creative menu than other Greek restaurants in the greater Boston area. We played from 6 to 9pm on Sunday, and in spite of the rain, the place was packed. There were lots of families with younger children, and kids always love our exotic instruments and sound. Overall, we got a great response. We even got people up dancing, including some of the wait staff. I’m excited about the prospect of us playing there on a regular basis.

Tuesday, May 16

Georgia on My Mind

When I read about people like Fulton County (Georgia) Superior Court judge Constance Russell, I never fail to be impressed. Today Judge Russell threw out the amendment banning same-sex marriage approved by Georgia voters in November 2004. Last November, Georgia was one of eleven states to amend its constitution to define marriage as consisting solely of the union between a man and a woman.

The problem was that the ballot question put to Georgia voters sought not only to put a protective fence around traditional marriage, but also to prohibit civil unions and domestic partnerships (i.e. unions that approximate marriage or confer the benefits of marriage). Judge Russell ruled that this violated the “single-subject rule” in the Georgia Constitution, which prohibits multiple questions from being presented to voters in a single proposition or ballot question.

Although 76% of Georgia voters supported the same-sex marriage ban, Judge Russell point out in her ruling that “the test of a law is not its popularity.”

Amen, sister.

Monday, May 15

A New Third Party?

Let me get this straight… It seems that America’s conservative Christians are upset with the Republicans for not doing enough to religiouslate morality and halt the course of same-sex marriage.

You’ve got to be kidding me. I didn’t realize that same-sex marriage had made such enormous progress, what with it being legal in but 1 state out of 50, while 45 out of 50 explicitly deny marriage rights to same-sex couples. Bush has repeatedly voiced his support for traditional marriage, and in June, for the second time, a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage will be brought to the Senate floor. A similar amendment was defeated in the Senate last July.

Maybe the evangelicals are angry with Laura Bush for coming forward recently and stating in that oh-so-matronly way of hers that the highly divisive issue of same-sex marriage should not be used for political gain. Tell that to Karl Rove, Laura. Poor thing. She doesn’t realize how stupid she looks saying something like that after the fact. Where was she back in 2004 when 11 states put forward ballot measures banning same-sex marriage? Oh right, she had her head up her ass.

Evangelicals have gone so far as to threaten to withdraw their support—to take their Bibles and go home. Gee, if I were Bill Frist, I’d be shaking in my boots. Perhaps the Republicans can borrow a page from the Democratic Party’s strategy book. In other words, they should take the evangelical vote for granted, just like the Democrats take the GLBT vote for granted. After all, to whom will evangelical voters turn if not to the Republicans? Surely they won’t wander into the fold of the godless, pro-abortion, pro-gay Democrats. Would they? I only wish that the Democrats kissed GLBT ass with the same fervor that the Republicans do evangelical ass.

Maybe it’ll be like after the catastrophe of the Scopes Trial when fundamentalists more or less withdrew from the public square (only to reemerge again during the morality crusades of the 1970s). Or maybe they’ll enter the realm of third party politics. I can see it now. They could create the “Feeding the American Soul with Christianity, Intolerance, Salvation, and Terror” Party; or FASCIST for short.

Thursday, May 11

Prepare the Sphinx

Anyone who has ever been to our place for dinner knows how raucous and ribald the conversation can get. Joe and I live with two great guys, G and CL, and we try to have meals together whenever our schedules allow. Of course, with four guys, things can get a bit bawdy. We’re working on censoring ourselves; or, more accurately, we’re cognizant of the fact that when our family expands to include a child, we’ll have to be more mindful of our language and our tendency to engage in conversations of an adult nature at the dinner table.

Anyway, tonight G was talking about a Cypriot girl he dated back when he was in graduate school. He mentioned that she was a bit squeamish when it came to sex—about fucking in particular—and he thought she might have been a virgin, and I asked half jokingly if he went in through the, er, back door so that she could preserve her virginity until marriage. It seems this is a still a big concern for Mediterranean girls.

I’ve heard stories about how for centuries, mothers throughout the Mediterranean world—from Spain to Syria—have instructed their daughters to take it up the ass when their boyfriends insist on sex before marriage. G couldn’t confirm this since he doesn’t have any sisters, but he did say that the few times he tried anal sex with Turkish girls, it was painful and uncomfortable for them. He explained that it was back when he was younger and less experienced. It was, in his words, back before he knew how to “prepare the Sphinx.”

I think he meant sphincter.

A Tale of Three Deans

I never liked Howard Dean. Call me crazy, but long before his infamous scream, I felt that his liberalism was smoke and mirrors. To me, he has always been exactly what conservatives accuse the Democrats of being: a waffler whose positions shift with the wind and who can always be counted on to tell liberals what they want to hear, while pandering to more conservative elements. Howard Dean embodies everything that is wrong with the Democratic Party. His recent remarks on the Christian Broadcasting Network in support of traditional marriage demonstrate his belief that GLBT Americans have nowhere else to turn but to the Democrats, so it’s safe to throw them under the bus every now and then. Like so many Democrats (including John Kerry), Howard Dean takes the GLBT vote for granted.

Way back in 2004 when the opponents of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts were beginning to amass their minions and an amendment was proposed within the state legislature to replace marriage for same-sex couples with civil unions, civil unions were quickly denounced by the equal marriage forces as inherently “separate but equal.” While I agreed with them, I found it more than a little ironic that back in 2000, many of those same GLBT leaders had sung the praises of Vermont and its governor Howard Dean for signing into law the pioneering legislation creating civil unions for same-sex couples. Many GLBT leaders were too busy celebrating to realize that by creating civil unions instead of same-sex marriage, Vermont was reinforcing the notion that gay and lesbian couples are second class.

At the risk of sounding smug, I was not one of those people. At the time, I had just begun working at the Boston University School of Theology (a United Methodist seminary) whose courageous dean had taken on the Methodist leadership for their stalwart position against the solemnization of same-sex unions and the ordination of openly gay men and lesbians. I remember a frank conversation with the School’s trustees who were called upon to back the dean’s controversial stance in support of GLBT rights, and during the conversation the subject of Vermont’s recently enacted civil union law came up. Many of the trustees (mostly all of whom were former Methodist pastors or bishops) were still uncomfortable with the idea of same-sex marriage, but they supported civil unions as a good “middle of the road” position. I diplomatically pointed out to them that to me, civil unions, while well-intentioned, bore the taint of separate but equal. The dean agreed.

The point here is not that I’m smarter than everyone else. I don’t believe that to be the case. Rather, it is to say simply that I’ve been suspicious of Howard Dean ever since he signed Vermont’s civil union bill into law. When given the choice by the Vermont Supreme Court of legalizing same-sex marriage or creating civil unions, the Vermont legislature chose what they perceived to be the less controversial of the two—civil unions—and Dean supported this decision. Many praised him for taking the path of least resistance in order to ensure that gay and lesbian couples be afforded some legal recognition and protection. At the time, many claimed Vermont as a victory for GLBT rights. Progress, they argued, needs to happen incrementally. The traditional wisdom tells us that making too much progress too quickly is sure to produce a backlash.

What Howard Dean, the Vermont legislature, and GLBT advocates everywhere who initially praised civil unions seem to forget is that most Americans who oppose same-sex marriage also oppose civil unions. And it’s not as if everyone in Vermont was happy with the law that created civil unions, just because it reserved marriage as a special right for heterosexual couples. In the following election year, seventeen Vermont lawmakers who supported civil unions lost their seats, and the newly-elected Republican majority in the House attempted to impeach the Vermont Supreme Court and overturn the civil unions law. Ultimately their efforts failed, and perhaps the backlash would have been fiercer had the Vermont legislature and Howard Dean opted for same-sex marriage when given the choice by the Court. However, it remains to be seen whether or not the backlash against same-sex marriage in Massachusetts will be any more successful than the backlash against civil unions in Vermont.

The point is that incrementalism doesn’t work. It too produces a backlash. In the end, how much did John Kerry’s statements in support of traditional marriage help him in 2004? Not an iota, I would argue. But I know they made me never want to support another Democrat. Call me stubborn, but I’m not willing to support a party that’s willing to sacrifice my rights in order to appeal to conservative voters. I’m not Mary Cheney.

Howard Dean and the Democrats are often in the unenviable position of being too liberal for conservative Americans and too conservative for liberals like me. Does Dean really think that he’s going to successfully woo evangelicals and other conservative voters into the Democratic Party by reminding them that he defines marriage as the relationship between one man and one woman? This seems to me to be the classic mistake made by the Democrats in recent years. They try so hard to lure conservative voters, that nobody knows what the Democrats even stand for anymore. Plus, they risk alienating progressive voters who want their party to stand for genuine equality, and not some watered down version that the party thinks is going to fool conservatives into abandoning the Republicans.

It’s not like I believe that Howard Dean secretly loathes GLBT people. I just think that he’s fallen prey to a failed political strategy. His statements in support of traditional values mean nothing to conservative voters. They do nothing to strengthen the Democrat’s support base. If anything, such statements serve to weaken the party by making genuinely progressive voters like me more willing to abandon the Democrats for a third party alternative. Even those liberal voters would never think of “throwing away their vote” by casting it for a third party candidate end up supporting the Democrats only reluctantly because they feel like they have no other choice. The Democrats want GLBT Americans to believe that we have no choice but to vote for them. “We know we have your vote in the bag,” they say to themselves, “so we’re going to devote our energy to courting the Right.”

Howard Dean’s remarks prove once again that the Democrats continue to take us for granted. I long for the day when liberal voters wake up and realize that the best way to effect change is to withdraw their support from pseudo-progressive Democrats like Howard Dean and John Kerry. Once the Democrats have been abandoned in favor of a genuinely progressive alternative (or alternatives), perhaps then they’ll go back to courting us for a change.

Tuesday, May 9

From One Fanatic to Another

To read the text of Iranian president Mahmood Ahmadi-Nejad’s letter to Bush, click here.

Monday, May 8

Αΐντε γαμήσου, ρε μαλάκες

I would like to take a moment to express my utter disgust with the 80% of Greek Cypriots who believe that homosexual relationships are morally wrong. The findings were part of a state-commissioned survey conducted by the Cyprus College Research Centre. More than half of the respondents claimed that they are uncomfortable in the presence of GLBT people, while 76% expressed opposition to same-sex marriage.

The survey demonstrates that public opinion often lags behind the Law. Although consensual homosexual activity in Cyprus was decriminalized in 1998, it appears that the vast majority of Greek Cypriots have yet to make the leap to acceptance of the GLBT people living in their midst. As far as this Greek is concerned, the survey shows them to be small-minded bigots who are ignorant of their own history.

However, the real lesson here is that the Law does not necessarily need to reflect popular sentiment. In fact, there are instances in which it must not. If it were up to the people of Cyprus, gay sex would still be a crime. In certain parts of the United States, it would still be a (lynchable) crime for an African American man to marry a white woman. While our laws often reflect the less noble side of human nature, it is a victory for justice and humanity whenever the Law can rise above our petty prejudices. In Cyprus, the Law currently reflects the European Union’s commitment to equality for all, including sexual minorities. That’s the way it should be.

This is indeed the case in Massachusetts, where the Law is more in tune with the principles of justice and equality than is the citizenry as a whole. The state’s highest court has ruled that, in spite of the fact that there are many in Massachusetts who oppose homosexual relationships, for the state to continue denying marriage rights to same-sex couples violates the basic foundational principles underlying our Constitution.

The people cannot always be trusted to defend those principles. On the contrary, as the debate over same-sex marriage in Massachusetts so clearly demonstrates, the people are often far more eager to defend their own beliefs and prejudices, even when they conflict with the broader values on which our government rests. When that happens, it is the right and responsibility of the courts to defend those foundational principles from popular assault.

As Margaret H. Marshall, chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court, asked assistant attorney general Peter Sacks during a hearing to determine the legality of a recent initiative petition seeking to undo same-sex marriage, “If this court rules that slavery is inconsistent with the Constitution (can) the people of Massachusetts through an initiative petition say that it is permissible to have slavery in Massachusetts?”

It is up to the courts to ensure that the Law is immune from the insidious influence of bigotry and popular prejudice. This is precisely what happened back in 1998 when the European Court of Human Rights forced Cyprus to decriminalize homosexual activity and in November 2003 when the Massachusetts Supreme Court held that the state must extend marriage benefits to same-sex couples.

Only a vile distortion of democratic and populist principles would seek to strip the courts of their right—and their duty—to test the Law for its faithfulness to the Constitution and the principles it upholds.

Saturday, May 6

No Iraqi Left Behind

In the past, while I have been openly critical of the Iraq war, I have tried to focus on the deceitful and undemocratic process that brought us to Iraq in the first place. I have argued that it doesn’t matter how tyrannical Saddam Hussein was or how much better life is for the Iraqi people now that he’s gone, because the present administration, which continues to justify our presence there based on these things, must be held accountable for circumventing or, worse yet, subverting the democratic process in the weeks and months leading up to the invasion, regardless of how much good we may have accomplished. In a previous post, I wrote:

“I do not deny that Iraq is better off without Saddam Hussein, but how we got there does matter. My own opposition to the war and the American occupation of Iraq does not require either a demonstration that Iraq is somehow worse off or a denial of the good that the American presence there has accomplished… [I am] not hoping for a bad outcome of the American occupation in order to bolster the argument that the invasion was a mistake. I myself hope that the occupation is the best thing that ever happened to the Iraqi people and that it brings both stability and democracy to the region.”

In other words, I have not needed bad news coming out of Iraq to fuel my critique of the war. I have hoped for good news, because I sympathize with the Iraqi people, who have suffered much. I have tried to tell myself that their lot has improved as a result of the U.S. occupation. Again, I have not been afraid to say that, because such an admission in itself does not exonerate those who broke the law to put us in Iraq in the first place. Fabricating intelligence and lying to a nation in order to wage war—this is not how democracy works.

Neither is the killing of homosexuals the way democracy is supposed to work. Has our government not claimed to have brought democracy to the Iraqi people? Are Iraq’s homosexuals to be excluded from this bright future? In the past few months I have become more aware of the stories coming out of Iraq, stories that tell of a brutal campaign of intimidation and violence against Iraq’s GLBT community following the U.S. invasion. It appears that the Shias, much persecuted under Saddam Hussein, are exercising their new-found freedom to persecute Iraq’s GLBT population. As has often been the case throughout history, the oppressed, once free, becomes the oppressor.

Last September, Hayder Faiek, a transsexual, was burnt to death by members of a Shia militia in the main street of Baghdad’s al-Karada district. In January, suspected militants shot a gay man in the back of the head. This morning I read of the murder of 14-year-old Ahmed Khalil, who was shot on his doorstep at point blank range by Iraqi police for the apparent crime of being gay. It is believed that Khalil slept with men for money to support his poverty-stricken family.

Khalil’s murder is one more than a dozen recent killings in Iraq motivated by homophobia. Following the U.S. invasion, prominent Shia leaders issued a series of fatwas calling for the elimination of homosexuals. With the murder of Khalil, there is mounting evidence that Islamic fundamentalists have infiltrated government security forces to commit homophobic murders while wearing police uniforms.

Ali Hili, the coordinator of a group of exiled Iraqi gay men who monitor homophobic attacks inside Iraq, has argued that U.S. coalition forces are unwilling to try and tackle the rising tide of homophobic attacks. “They just don’t want to upset the Iraqi government by bringing up the taboo of homosexuality even though homophobic murders have intensified,” he said.

This is tragic, but not surprising. Nor is it accidental. Indeed, both our born-again president and the radical Shia clerics issuing the fatwas view homosexuality as an abomination. While Bush hasn’t called for violence against the GLBT community (either in America or Iraq), the safety of GLBT people (either in America or Iraq) is not one of his priorities. Neither does the current administration recognize the rights of GLBT people, but instead has put its stamp of approval on discrimination. The United States is ostensibly in Iraq to tutor the Iraqi people in the subjects of freedom, democracy, and human rights. How can we expect more from the pupil than the teacher?


I would like to dedicate this post to Ahmed Khalil’s memory. Poverty robbed him of his childhood; bigotry and hate robbed him of his life. For Ahmed, I offer the words of Khalil Gibran (1883 – 1931) on death taken from his best-known work, The Prophet, a collection of twenty-six poetic essays.

On Death

You would know the secret of death.
But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?
The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day cannot
unveil the mystery of light.
If you would indeed behold the spirit of death,
open your heart wide unto the body of life.
For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.
In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge
of the beyond;
And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart
dreams of spring.
Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.
Your fear of death is but the trembling of the shepherd
when he stands before the king whose hand
is to be laid upon him in honour.
Is the sheered not joyful beneath his trembling,
that he shall wear the mark of the king?
Yet is he not more mindful of his trembling?
For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind
and to melt into the sun?
And what is to cease breathing, but to free the breath
from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand
and seek God unencumbered?
Only when you drink form the river of silence
shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top,
then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs,
then shall you truly dance.

Friday, May 5

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary

From Mary Cheney’s interview with People magazine, when asked to comment about her position on same-sex marriage:

“I am in favor of legalized same sex marriage. I make it clear in [my] book I passionately disagree with President Bush on the issue of the Federal Marriage Amendment. But I also make it very clear that I had no doubt, even with that disagreement, that President Bush was the absolute best person to be leading us at this time in our country’s history. It would be great to have the luxury of being a one-issue voter, but I didn’t, and quite frankly, I don’t think our country does.”

Well said, Mary. I could not agree more; because God knows, quite apart from Bush’s endorsement of the Federal Marriage Amendment, there were plenty of other reasons not to vote Republican in ’04.

Thursday, May 4

Outiboy weighs in

Outiboy left this comment in response to the dialogue inspired by my last post. I felt that it deserved to be quoted in full in a post of its own because it captures that blend of intelligence, humor, and sensitivity that makes Outiboy so damn special. Here it is with an occasional comment from me:

I can only second everything Dean has posited (and posted) on this issue; primarily because I feel comfortable saying that perhaps a good deal of the fabric of his well-stated position was crafted over several months, as a team effort with me.

[This is indeed true.]

What I wish to underscore emphatically is Dean’s last point to L, which is to carefully discern between parents’ discomfort with any gay-related issue and love between parent(s) and a gay child. I would also like to view the “discomfort” and “love” issues together with the premise of “meaningful dialogue toward common ground.”

Consider: we have a parent or parents that are uncomfortable with some aspect of their gay child’s life as a gay person, and/or the general concepts surrounding their child’s existence on the planet as a gay individual. The child in turn has some discomfort about their parent’s or parents’ discomfort. Discomfort all around. But, at the same time, there is the profession of love all around.

So, what does that profession of love really mean? Well, if it provides a foundation for putting respective discomforts aside enough so as to genuinely open doors to substantive dialogue toward finding common ground, mega kudos to that. Indeed, that sounds like love, or at very least mutual respect (arguably, a key component of love).

But what if there are profuse professions of love from parent(s) to child, but the buck stops there? That is to say, what if the word “love” is tossed around ubiquitously and with great emotion and fanfare, but yet no one wants to speak substantively about underlying issues of discomfort? What if real dialogue is off limits as “too uncomfortable” for the parent(s), or worse, deemed by them to be “unnecessary”?

What if, coupled with this, not only is there no movement to find common ground via dialogue and little if any willingness to do so on the parents’ part, but moreover an insistence by the parents that they can continue to support institutions, fully and unabashedly and without accountability, that clearly and undeniably undermine or, worse, intend harm in some fashion to GLBT people (e.g., the Catholic church, the president and his administration, much of the Republican agenda in general, etc.)—while at the same time claiming unwavering love for their child?

Is it not reasonable, at this point, for the child to be a bit confused? Is it that unseemly for the child to dare question what, then, love means? What if the meaning of what constitutes the purported “love” is questioned, and the reply from the parent(s) is merely a hearty insistence on the truthfulness of the naked word itself, and nothing more?

OK, so I know I am a wingnut generally, but objectively speaking, I think this is a very confusing situation for the child—and, unfortunately, not uncommon. Humans have an uncanny capacity for unreconciled realities, and an even greater uncanny capacity to doggedly refuse to explore unreconciled states. “I love you, my dear GLBT child, but President Bush is the best president we’ve ever had, Scalia is an Italian-American hero, and, by the way, did you go to Mass this week?”

So, to sum up—I understand Dean’s statement when he intimates that perhaps it takes more courage than the average person can muster to question what parental or familial “love” really means. We instinctively want such love, from the day we’re born we’re programmed to crave it, and throughout our lives we often go to incredible efforts to maintain whatever we think we have of it. And, as a result, as long as many of us hear at least the naked word from a parent or parent, we are satisfied, and that is generally enough.

So, Mary got her word. Would that I were so easily satisfied.

[Bravo, Outiboy.]

Wednesday, May 3

Love has its limits

In her new memoir, Now It’s My Turn (Simon & Schuster/Threshold Editions, 2006), Mary Cheney writes that when she told her parents she was gay, the first words out of her father’s mouth “were exactly the ones that I wanted to hear: ‘You’re my daughter, and I love you, and I just want you to be happy.’”

Unless of course being happy requires that Mary be afforded the freedom to marry another woman. In that case, Cheney doesn’t want his daughter to be that happy.

Although both Dick and Lynne Cheney made statements during the 2004 presidential campaign suggesting that they disagreed with Bush’s call for a federal amendment protecting traditional marriage, they stand by their belief that it’s a matter for the individual states to decide. In other words, if a state chooses to deny marriage rights to same-sex couples (and currently 45 out of 50 have done so in some form or another), the Cheneys support that decision as a matter of states’ rights. That doesn’t exactly amount to a ringing endorsement of the right of same-sex couples to marry. Depite their desire to appear supportive of their lesbian daughter, the Cheneys support the right of individual states to discriminate against same-sex couples.

In her memoir, Cheney also writes that her mother hugged her, but then burst into tears, worried that she would face a life of pain and prejudice.

You mean like the kind of prejudice embodied in the Republican party’s narrow definition of family and the kind of pain caused by legislation that marginalizes GLBT people, restricts their rights, and undermines their dignity? That kind of pain and prejudice?

Perhaps what the Cheneys should have told their daughter was, “You’re our daughter, we love you, and we want you to be happy, but don’t expect us to change our politics or our ideology or advocate for GLBT rights on your account.”

I’m sure it was implied.

Tuesday, May 2


bou ● bo (bū´ bō)

1. Bourgeois-Bohemian. Possessing both bourgeois and bohemian attributes. Combining a bourgeois love of fine living with bohemian irreverence and disdain for traditional values and conventional behavior.

2. The art of being both urbane and counter-cultural.

Oscar Wilde was wonderfully Bou-Bo in both his writings and deportment.

(Not to be confused with the term “Limousine Liberal,” or “Li-Li,” which denotes a wealthy person who espouses liberal politics and concern for the poor, but who is not engaged with the poor on a daily basis and is far-removed from the class struggle. Moreover, a Limousine Liberal sometimes suggests a wealthy liberal who might devote a portion of his/her wealth to charity, but who is not interested in altering exploitative social structures or addressing the unequal distribution of wealth or the underlying causes of poverty.)

Weekend Wrap-up

On Friday, Joe and I played at Café Apollonia with Mike the drummer and K on accordion. It was the first time K joined us, and it was lots of fun. We played a pretty decent set, and the place was packed. I think I need to practice more frequently though. I probably should spend less time blogging and more time practicing. That might mean fewer posts from me for a while until I can establish a regular practice regiment.

We were out of the house early on Saturday to attend a “meet and greet” adoption open house, which provided an opportunity for prospective adoptive parents to meet waiting children along with their foster parents and case workers. This one was for older children, aged 12 to 18. We also attended one last fall, right after our return from Ukraine. Many of the children have profiles available online through a partnership with the state’s adoption resource exchange and the department of social services.

That evening we attended the final concert of the Boston Turkish Film and Music Festival. The concert featured the duo of Deryan Türkan and Sokratis Sinopoulos on kemençe (πολίτικη λύρα). The two performed a mixture of Ottoman classical pieces, Aegean folk songs, and recent compositions. Some of the pieces were selections from Letters to Istanbul, a collaborative CD project of theirs from several years ago. I stumbled upon the CD by accident a while ago, and it’s become part of our regular rotation. The music was a wonderful manifestation of the common cultural inheritance that Greece and Turkey share.

I did errands on Sunday. I took a trip to Home Depot to buy some hinges for a new screen door and ended up buying a gardenia and some kind of fern (at least I think it was a fern) and a large pot to transplant the beautiful meyer lemon tree that Kate gave Joe for his birthday. Later we went for a walk in the Blue Hills. Recently we’ve been trying to take more walks. We climbed Hancock Hill, which offers the most spectacular sweeping views of the Boston skyline and Dorchester Bay. It’s an amazing spot. It’s covered in wild blueberries and lichens and would make a great picnic spot. We took a short nap up there and then headed down as the sun was setting. A group of deer ran by about forty feet away from us. Right after that we got a bit lost, but eventually found our way out.

We ended up at Ten Tables for dinner. We had a superb meal several Sundays ago after a similar hike through the Blue Hills. This time the food was just as good, and Shane, who manages the dining room with grace and ease, had us both swooning.

Tonight I taught a Greek dance class in Watertown. I haven’t done that in a while and I missed doing it. Joe and Mike the drummer came along to provide some live music. I was thrilled to see Mary Vouras there. Between the mid 1970s and the late 1980s, Mary worked with the eminent musicologist Simon Karas to produce a series of field recordings of traditional Greek music for Greece’s Society for the Dissemination of National Music. It’s a remarkable series that captured a musical tradition that has already begun to disappear since the recordings were first made. I was just listening to one of the CDs (they were originally released as LPs) in the car on Saturday. I think Mary came to the class because she heard that there was going to be live music. Whatever the reason, I was glad she was there. She’s a delight, and her love and knowledge of Greek music and dance is truly inspiring.

I taught some dances from Lesbos, the way I learned them when I was in Greece studying sandouri. I didn’t live on Lesbos, but I attended many dances hosted by native inhabitants of the island, who had migrated to Athens. I have a peculiar style of teaching. I tend to give lots of historical background and spend a lot of time dissecting the rhythms and emphasizing subtle stylistic elements. It probably drives some of the students crazy, but they keep inviting me back.

Monday, May 1

Ο Μάης ο γλυκός

Tsarouchis’ ΜΑΗΣ (May) is my absolute favorite of all his Twelve Months. He’s beautiful and just oozes eroticism and desire. And it’s not everyday that a hot boy offers me his cherry.

Don’t you just want to kneel down in front of him and let him feed you?
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License.