Tuesday, January 30

Φάμε, αγάπαμε

An interesting article from my friend G.

Pursuing Happiness, Greeks and Turks Find One Another (New York Times, 1.30.07)

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The Doomsday Clock and Chef Boyardee

Parenthood has been a real joy thus far. I mean it. Little Joe is an amazing boy. The biggest challenge is being able to fit in all my old activities, like blogging, with all the new activities associated with raising a child, like reading with him, game nights, and teaching him the Greek alphabet.

Some highlights from the past few weeks: Our ensemble was a big hit at Golden Fest. Even though we went on two hours later than last year, we had what everyone agreed was an even bigger crowd dancing. Little Joe took lots of photos and videos of us. He said afterwards that he didn’t really like the rest of the music too much, but he seems to like ours. He’s still getting used to the unusual sounds. I think he was also a bit overwhelmed by the variety of bands and the large crowds. I was a bit overwhelmed myself, even though I’ve been many times before.

Our Boston friends L and M were down in New York for the weekend, so we had brunch with them on Sunday. We also got to spend some time with Dr. Mike. Little Joe has become very attached to our friends in a short span of time, and they all adore him. After brunch we walked around the city, but it was overcast and foggy, so we didn’t do as much as we’d planned. On Monday we visited the Statue of Liberty, and I was disappointed to learn that one can no longer climb up into the crown. I suppose I should have known that was to be the case in the aftermath of 9/11 and the ever-present War on Terror. Feh.

Somewhere in Connecticut on the way home on Monday (Martin Luther King Day), Joe was listening to the radio, channel surfing, and because we had been talking about MLK’s legacy, when he came to an NPR station broadcasting an excerpt from on of MLK’s speeches condemning the Vietnam War, he stopped on his own and turned up the volume. I didn’t ask him to stop and listen. He did it on his own. I’m not sure how much he understood, but we chatted about it afterwards. I’m glad we listened. Although I knew about MLK’s condemnation of the Vietnam War, I don’t think I’d ever heard one of his speeches on the subject. It was very powerful and very timely.

Since that time, Joe and I have had many conversations about the war in Iraq, the situation in Afghanistan, the War on Terror, and the Bush administration. We usually talk about these things in the morning when I’m driving him to school. I have the radio tuned to NPR and he often asks questions about something in the day’s news from the Middle East. We’ve also had many conversations about the Doomsday Clock and how it was pushed five minutes to midnight a couple of weeks ago.

He became a bit obsessed with it, not in an alarming way—it wasn’t keeping him awake at night—but he seemed fascinated with the idea of a symbolic clock whose minute hand reflects the variety and severity of threats to human existence. He seemed to understand that the purpose of the Doomsday Clock isn’t simply to frighten us, but to raise awareness of the need to change our behavior. One of the things I’ve really enjoyed about parenthood in general and Little Joe in particular is that we can joke about farts and boogers one minute, but then have a serious conversation about current events.

We have had many humorous moments as well. One such occurred the other night at dinner when Joe was recounting how at the supermarket last week, to his horror Little Joe went and got a couple of cans of Chef Boyardee ravioli for the cart. Joe would make all his pasta by hand if he had the time, and while he isn’t able to do that every day, he’s certainly not going to turn to Chef Boyardee for his pasta needs.

Rather than simply explaining to Little Joe that Chef Boyardee is ghetto—and potentially hurting his feelings as well as coming off as food snobs—I told him that during World War II Chef Boyardee was a Nazi sympathizer and that if you google him, you’ll find pictures of him standing side-by-side with Mussolini on the Palazzo Venezia in Rome.

Little Joe also likes KFC, and although we’ve indulged him a few times, he’s not going to be having it very often. So in addition to telling him that Chef Boyardee was a Nazi, I also informed him that Colonel Sanders was a grand wizard of the KKK. I think it went over his head.

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Thursday, January 18

Karma Chameleon

I know that this clip has been getting lots of hits on YouTube. It would be great if even more people saw it, so I’m posting it here. It’s quite amusing.

Romney is clearly an ideological chameleon. That’s bad karma for someone trying to win a national election. I believe that he’s going to come across to the vast majority of voters as someone with an obvious lack of credibility and integrity.

It really doesn’t matter that he’s disavowing his former positions, telling everyone to trust him now that he’s “wiser.” Back then, he told voters to trust him that he wouldn’t waver on issues like a woman’s right to choose, but that didn’t stop him from moving to the far right on abortion. You simply can’t trust someone who promises you he’ll be steadfast, when his past promises obviously meant nothing.

Check out the very humorous op-ed entitled “Romney vs. Romney” by Scot Lehigh in today’s Boston Globe.

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Wednesday, January 17

wanna rassle?

my good friend j sent me this today. it’s wicked hot, no?

Thursday, January 11

A Ho Chi Minh Trail for the 21st Century

In last night’s speech announcing the much anticipated U.S. troop surge in Iraq, President Bush declared: “We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria.” This is a far cry from the more conciliatory tone that one would expect were the United States serious about heeding the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, which called for negotiations with Iran and Syria as a way of bringing greater stability to Iraq and the region.

Instead, what we got from Bush was talk that was eerily reminiscent not only of escalation in Vietnam, but of spreading the conflict into neighboring countries suspected of providing supply lines to enemy forces. In the case of Vietnam, the neighboring countries were Laos and Cambodia, through which the Ho Chi Minh Trail ran. Situated along Vietnam’s western border, the trail was vital to the movement of men and supplies from the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) to Viet Cong forces battling U.S. forces in the south.

The result was a covert war in Laos conducted by the CIA and merciless bombing of the trail beginning in 1965. To U.S. forces, Laos constituted what was referred to as the “extended battlefield.”

In the case of Iraq, the Ho Chi Minh Trail runs through Iran and Syria. In last night’s speech, Bush accused both countries of aiding attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq:

“These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops.”
Those accusations might be true, but the solution is not expanding military operations into neighboring countries. After all, bombing Laos didn’t lead us to victory in Vietnam. Instead, it fueled the resistance. Our bombs were useless against a well-organized and dedicated insurgency. This is the situation we are facing in Iraq. For those who doubt that the insurgency in Iraq is well-organized, consider how they have infiltrated the country’s security forces.

As poorly conceived as a troop surge might be, the real danger here is not simply escalation, but a widening of the conflict. In spite of the lessons of Vietnam, last night’s speech hinted at just such an “extended battlefield”:

“We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.”
The very ominous suggestion that the U.S. is on the verge of a much wider war involving Iran and Syria should be taken very seriously. Were that to happen, the results would be disastrous, given how overextended our military is at the present time. More importantly, the subsequent radicalization of moderate elements in the Muslim world and the intensification of anti-American sentiment is not going to make us safer, or the Middle East more fertile for democracy.

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Wednesday, January 10


A couple times a month I have a close encounter with one or more of the red-tail hawks that live in or near Boston Common, but I never seem to have my camera with me. But this morning, I took it with me, feeling somehow that this would be the day. And it was.

I took a bunch of photos and some videos of a beautiful specimen. I’ll be posting more of the photos in the coming weeks along with the videos once I’ve uploaded them to YouTube.

I guess the photo below shows that hawks and squirrels can be friends after all.

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Tuesday, January 9

Thank you, Rabbi.

Rabbi Jonah Pesner was kind enough to send me the text of the invocation that he delivered at last week’s inaugural ceremonies for Deval Patrick. Rabbi Pesner is the founding Director of Just Congregations. He has graciously allowed me to post his inspiring words here.

Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner
Founding Director
Just Congregations
Union for Reform Judaism

Inauguration of Deval Patrick

Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
January 4th, 2007

Governor Patrick, Lieutenant Governor Murray, elected and civic leaders, people of the commonwealth, I am most deeply honored to offer these words of invocation to open this sacred assembly.

In the Talmud, the ancient rabbis teach that whenever we encounter a large gathering of people, it is appropriate to offer the following blessing:

“Blessed is the Wise One
Who understands secrets
For the mind of each
Is different from the other
Just as the face of each
Is different from the other.”

Source of all life,
Out of many,
You have made us ONE.
You have created us splendidly
In our distinctiveness:
You have made us a spectacular,
Living tapestry
Many colors and complexions
Rich in languages and beliefs,
Varied in our blessings,
And challenged by our curses.

Indeed the face of each one
Is different than the other –
And here we gather
Face to face.

Look around! See the beauty of the faces,
Each one unique
Reflecting the very image
Of the divine
Each one from a common source
A single, sacred family.

Yet behind every face
Hide so many secrets.
Private, painful secrets of suffering.
If only we would find your Wisdom O God
Revealing all the secrets,
The pained suffering
Of parents who watch helpless
As their children are plagued
By guns, drugs, and gangs
The private pain
Of children struggling to care for their parents
As they age and grow frail,
The secret suffering of immigrants
Who like us came to this place
To seek a better life
And labor hidden and underpaid in jobs
Upon which the rest of us depend,
But won’t do ourselves
Of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters
Who daily confront blatant discrimination,
Inequality and humiliation
Of those who sleep in the streets,
Those who are overworked and underpaid,
Those who are abused in their own homes
Those who are left behind
By their disabilities.

So many secrets,
Private sufferings.

Yet we have hope.
Yes we have faith.
Because we have each other.

Assembled here in the light of day
Bathing in the unseasonable warmth of your presence,
We affirm that democracy
Is not built with bricks and mortar;
We know your ancient wisdom
Is found in no cathedral,
Nor shrine –
It is here,
Face to face
It is everywhere humanity gathers
And out of many,
Makes one.

Let our secrets of suffering
Give way to stories of
And Redemption

Stories of redemption
Like a kid from the South Side of Chicago
Becoming the governor of Massachusetts
Representing the people

We the people;

Let us never forget the faces
The secrets
And the stories

God, grant us your wisdom
That we may never forget that
Democracy happens out here –
Face to face –
Among the people
As we join together
In one spirit
And write one shared story:

The story of a commonwealth
That acts like a commonwealth
Where secrets of private suffering
Where tales of lonely languish
Are joined
Through the power of the people
Rising up
Encountering one another
Face to face
And writing a new story
One story

Echoing Isaiah’s ancient call:

“If you banish the yoke from your midst
The menacing hand
And evil speech
And you offer your compassion to the hungry
And satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
Then shall your light shine in the darkness
And your gloom shall be like noonday…

You shall be like a watered garden
Like a spring whose waters never fail.
And you shall rebuild ancient ruins
You shall restore the foundations of many generations
You shall be called the repairer of the breach…”

This is the story of redemption;
The story of a true commonwealth
And Redeemed.

Amen. May this be God’s will.

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Bid on this.

I love eBay. I don’t spend hours on end or a ton of money on it, but I have managed to find quite a few gems there, including some lovely old maps and Joe’s Christmas gift, which consisted of a dozen or so old 78rpms featuring Greek and Turkish oud masters.

However, I found out this morning that Meg Whitman, President and CEO of eBay Inc., was chosen last week by Mitt Romney to serve as a national finance co-chair for his presidential exploratory committee. She was present at yesterday’s Mitt-a-thon, where $6.5 million was raised to finance his bid for the White House in 2008.

I simply cannot stomach the thought of contributing even one cent to the salary of someone who turns around and uses that wealth to further the campaign of a dishonest, bigoted, homophobic, xenophobic fascist like Romney. Until such time as Romney is defeated in the Republican primary (he’ll never make it to the ballot in 2008), I am hereby boycotting eBay.

I invite you to do the same.

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Monday, January 8


Saturday was unusually warm. Everybody who lives here knows that already. But if you’re not from here, you might not realize that it reached 70º Fahrenheit. A record high, I believe. Maybe it made the news in other parts of the world, who knows.

I thought that the weather was going to be lousy, so when it turned out to be such a lovely day, the Joes and I took off to Walden Pond. I grabbed two towels before we left, hoping for a swim if the sun stayed strong.

The sun did stay strong, and I did go for a swim (the Joes did not), and basically froze my nuts off. The water was much, much colder than I thought it would be. Cold, but exhilarating. And very painful. It was worth it though.

Saturday, in addition to being unseasonably warm, was also Epiphany. For Greeks Epiphany is a celebration of water, commemorating Christ’s baptism in the Jordan. In certain parts of the Greek-speaking world (including the Greek islands, Istanbul, and Tarpon Springs, Florida, where there is a large Greek community from the island of Kalymnos), crowds gather at the pier, from which a priest hurls a gold cross into the sea, whereupon dozens of adolescent boys and young men―women are excluded from this ritual―dive into the water hoping to retrieve the cross as it sinks to the bottom. Whoever returns to the surface with the cross in his hand receives a special blessing and the accolades of the community.

At Walden this past Saturday, there was no gold cross, no priest, no cheering crowd. Just me in wet boxers, my Joes, and a few curious onlookers. But I’m glad I did it. I felt amazing afterwards. The air was warm and as soon as I dried off, my skin felt all tingly. Afterwards, we went for a lovely walk around the perimeter of the pond. Little Joe loved it, even though he thought I was nuts for swimming.

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Aman Yala

I’ll be performing with my ensemble at Golden Festival in New York this Saturday. We’ve put a nice (albeit short) set together, but as much as I’m looking forward to playing, I’m even more excited to see and hear all the really great performers that will be there. The dancing is fun too.

Check it out if you’re in the area.

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Friday, January 5

Save Pinebank

I only recently discovered Pinebank (pictured above) during a walk along Jamaica Pond this past summer. I was instantly taken by its grandeur, even in its current state of severe disrepair. The City of Boston is planning to demolish it and has already begun to dismantle the structure, but an eleventh hour effort to save the historic building is underway.

Pinebank was completed in 1870. It remains the only original building in Boston’s Emerald Necklace Park system designed in the 1890’s by Frederick Law Olmsted.

I took the above photo today at dusk, while walking around Jamaica Pond with Little Joe.

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Hello, gorgeous

Little Joe (my son) and I listened to today’s inauguration from my workplace across from the State House. Today’s ceremony was about a fresh start for Massachusetts, just as Little Joe is getting a fresh start.

We listened to Deval’s speech, and it was moving for what it said, disappointing for what it left unsaid. Although I wanted to feel upbeat, I found myself wondering why he neglected to mention the GLBT community, which he also left out of his victory speech on election night.

Far more inspiring, I felt, was Rabbi Jonah Pesner’s invocation. His words represented all that is good—in fact, the very best—within the Judeo-Christian tradition. Integral to Pesner’s faith is a longing for social justice and a deep awareness of our connectedness. For me, these are the most important elements of divinity. I tried to find the text of his prayer online, but met with no success, so I’m going to write him a letter.

I took the above photo as the crowds were gathering on Beacon Street. I don’t know if the man asleep here even knew that such a historic event was taking place less than a hundred feet away while he dozed. I do not know his story. Nor do I know if Deval Patrick’s promises of hope and change will improve his situation and the lives of those like him. I suppose that depends upon whether or not Patrick wil repair the holes left by the Romney administration in our Commonwealth’s safety net.

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Wednesday, January 3

Buh-bye, douchebag

Sitting in my office on Tremont Street just after 5pm, I heard Romney’s nineteen gun salute as he left the State House and for a brief moment, I thought that a bomb had gone off in Downtown Crossing. Then I realized what it was and suddenly I wished it were a firing squad.

Good riddance. I am so looking forward to this douchebag getting his ass kicked in the Republican primary.

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No Crystal Ball

I can’t predict the future. Now that the Massachusetts legislature has voted to advance a ballot initiative banning same-sex marriage, it is not clear (at least not to me anyway) what will be the future of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts. The initiative still needs to survive another round of voting on Beacon Hill before it can be placed on the 2008 ballot.

I don’t share the optimism of some who believe that in spite of yesterday’s setback, those defending marriage equality will prevail in the end. At the same time, I was somewhat bolstered by Jon Keller’s analysis of yesterday’s vote as the end of the “rogue court” argument against same-sex marriage.

While Keller’s assessment might be true, the court’s December 27 ruling that legislators have a constitutional duty to vote on initiative petitions also means that during the next constitutional convention, legislators will be much more reluctant to kill the initiative by a parliamentary maneuver (such as adjournment), which seems to be the only way this thing will be prevented from going before the voters. Even with Deval Patrick in the governor’s seat and some new GLBT-friendly legislators being sworn in, marriage equality does not seem to have gained enough support on Beacon Hill to survive another vote like yesterday’s.

Certainly, some of the newly elected legislators to be sworn in tomorrow—seven of them, I believe—favor marriage equality. Yesterday’s final vote—there were two votes—was 62 to 134. Only 50 yeas were needed to advance the ballot question. Seven more marriage equality votes would make that 55 to 141, but I’m not sure where the four legislators who didn’t cast their vote yesterday stand on the issue (For a list of how the legislators voted, click here). Over the course of the next six months, there will be lots of lobbying on both sides, but whether or not the balance on Beacon Hill will tip in favor of marriage equality before the next constitutional convention is difficult to say with certainty. It’s too close to call at this point.

More importantly, if same-sex marriage is put to a popular vote in 2008, I honestly don’t know what the end result will be. I would like to believe that there are enough fair-minded and progressive citizens in Massachusetts to uphold the validity of the Goodridge decision. However, as a gay man, I know firsthand what a powerful force bigotry is. Anti-gay sentiment may not be as strong here as in other places, but I can’t really say with any certainty how comfortable my fellow citizens are with gay marriage. It certainly doesn’t help that 2008 will be a presidential election year and is likely to see higher than normal voter turnout at the polls.

With so many other pressing needs, it is truly a shame that we need to spend more time and energy on this issue. However, I reserve that criticism for those who have lead the crusade against same-sex marriage. For those of us committed to GLBT equality, we have no choice but to fight on.

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Tuesday, January 2


“Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, Malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”
Virginia trial court judge Leon Bazile in 1958 after sending an interracial couple, Mildred Jeter and Richard Perry Loving, to jail for one year for violating Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924.

“Marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man,’ fundamental to our very existence and survival... To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law.”
Chief Justice Earl Warren in Loving v. Virginia (1967)

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Monday, January 1


Joe and I just put our son to bed.

One year ago, we rung in the new year with friends and said goodbye to what had been our most challenging year together. The memories of our experience in Ukraine were still fresh in our minds. After three long years trying to adopt from overseas, we found ourselves no closer to parenthood than when we first met.

Part of Ukraine is still with us, so much so that we returned to Kiev this past September. We did not return for a second shot at adoption. Rather, we went back in order to strengthen a connection that we forged while we were there last year—a connection that was both transformative and, in many ways, prophetic.

A year later, almost everything has changed. We are parents to a twelve-year-old boy from Maine, who has turned our lives upside down. Our time is no longer our own. All of our priorities have shifted. We have no idea what new parenting challenges tomorrow will bring. We couldn’t be happier.

What has not changed is that our home is still a place where our friends gather and connect with one another. We still depend as much as ever upon our friends and family for support and encouragement, and they have not let us down. There were a few bumps—nothing that a little patience and understanding can’t fix in due time. As always, new people entered our lives. These human connections, new and old, are no less than our sustenance.

Goodbye, 2006. You were a year that changed us forever. We will never forget you.

The top photo was taken at Cape Elizabeth in Maine. The bottom picture shows the coffered dome of the seventeenth-century Boyim Chapel in Lviv, Ukraine.
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