Saturday, May 27, 2006

The Best Town for Movies

It isn't LA. It isn't New York. From my point of view, it's Palm Springs. Why? The theaters. Perhaps it's because the mercury regularly hits 110+ during the summer and people spend a lot of time at the movies, but the theaters in Palm Springs are some of the most comfortable, best-equipped anywhere, and you can see an enormous range of films, from the latest blockbusters to independent -- even arty -- films.

The Regal in Palm Springs, on Tahquitz Canyon Way, has nine auditoria, all stadium seating, but the ones you want are numbers eight and nine, tucked in the back of the facility. These feature wide leather seats, with two armrests for each seat, plus a center row of tables for your popcorn and snacks. It's like a screening room. The Regal plays mainly mainstream films.

Then there's the Camelot, also in Palm Springs (on Baristo) which has a small restaurant tucked into it, where you can get decent sandwiches and soup and salad and carrot cake, etc. Upstairs is the lounge, where you can get a cocktail or glass of wine. And everything -- even the drinks -- are allowed in the theaters. The Camelot is run by a wealthy retired man who wants to create a great space for movies, and he programs mostly independent and art films. Now playing -- The Proposition, Boynton Beach Club, Beauty Academy of Kabul, Three Times -- plus they host several film festivals throughout the year.

Finally, there is the Palme d'Or, in Palm Desert. The facility is nothing special, but they have a great programmer, who brings in tons of independent films. Now playing -- Water, Akeelah and the Bee, La Petite Jerusalem, Duck Season, Friends With Money, Kinky Boots, Thank You for Smoking, The Sentinel, Art School Confidential, Keeping Up With the Steins, Wah-Wah.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

I'm in a black mood...

...but that's OK, because black is slimming, right?

Which commandment is it...

...that forbids lying? Because Pat Robertson is telling a whopper in order to sell protein shakes.

The claim is made on this site that Pat Robertson can lift 2000 pounds in a leg press. However, some people have done some fact-checking on this outrageous claim. If this statement were true, it would mean Robertson had broken the Florida leg press record to the tune of 665 pounds. What's more, the machine used to set the record of 1335 pounds had to be modified because it wasn't set up to hold even that much weight, let alone 2000 pounds. And the guy who set the record, Dan Kendra, burst all the capillaries in his eyes in the attempt.

A call to CBN brought back a response that Robertson did indeed lift all that weight, he just needed a little help to get it started. Baloney. If he'll lie to sell shakes, what wouldn't he lie about?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

NYC Theater Report - Spring 2006

I’m hard pressed to think of an enterprise more fraught with peril than commercial art. Oh sure, there’s salvage diving and halibut fishing and CIA “wet work,” but those are perilous primarily for the workers; the investors generally do fine, thanks for asking. In commercial art, especially the peculiar sub-specialty we call Broadway theatre, the inverse is true. The workers – the actors and musicians and set designers and house managers and lighting techs – toil in relative safety and enjoy a weekly check that will almost always clear, even if you wait until Monday to deposit it. The angels of Broadway, the investors, on the other hand, part with their checks with absolutely no expectation of any return. Why should they? Broadway productions cost millions to mount, millions to promote and the vast majority never return a dime of profit.

Part of the reason for this ongoing avalanche of failure is that Broadway shows, like any form of commercial art, are still art. And good art, art that – even through all the layers of artifice – touches you in a human way, that manages somehow to reach into your soul (or your spirit or your mind or whatever name you give the intangible, ineffable part of yourself) to scratch your particular itch – and at the same time manages to scratch someone else’s completely different itch – is maddeningly difficult to create.

To achieve its goal – even if the goal is only to provide pleasant diversion – a theatrical production must cast a sort of spell over the audience, drawing us in to a new world. Although this is not the most of original of thoughts, I find the theater I like best is that which transports me. Not only in the sense of taking me to another world, but in occasionally bringing me into a different consciousness, so that I feel almost as if I am sitting with the characters. That I am part of their experience.

For this to happen, though, almost everything about a production has to be done well. It’s like Donald Rumsfeld says about terrorists attempting to breach our borders: we have to be right every minute of every day, they only have to be right once. Anyone putting a show up on Broadway faces a similar sort of daunting challenge. There are so many ways a production can go wrong. Not even necessarily wrong, just…not right. Or at least, not right enough. A production can begin with a terrific script, like “Defiance,” and then falter because of a directorial misfire or two. Or it can feature a brilliant actress like Lili Taylor in “Landscape of the Body” (by the even more brilliant John Guare), and still have me glancing at my watch. Or the whole thing can be cocked up completely, as the people behind “Clocks and Whistles” managed to do. Occasionally, however, everything comes together almost perfectly and you get a splendid evening of theater that entrances you.

I had high expectations for our most recent trip to New York. Given the word of mouth and positive reviews of many of the shows we planned to see, I thought perhaps four or even five had the chance of transporting me the way “Doubt” or “I Am My Own Wife” or “Urinetown” did. In the end however, only two productions – “The Drowsy Chaperone” and “The History Boys” – broke through the barriers of artifice and encompassed me completely within their worlds. If at all possible, you must see both of them.

“The History Boys”
Alan Bennett’s most recent work was a critical and box-office smash in London. Thanks to an apparently rare d├ętente between British Equity and Actor’s Equity (the British and American stage actor’s unions), the original National Theatre production has been imported to Broadway intact. This means American theatergoers can see one of the most amazing ensemble casts ever, performing a play that both entertains and enlightens. Though it can be intellectually demanding, with dozens of literary and cultural references ranging from Auden to Hardy to Shakespeare, and one scene conducted entirely in French (which also happens to be perhaps the funniest scene in the play), it’s amazing accessible.

The story takes place at a private boy’s school somewhere in England. Hector is the sort of teacher I wish I could have had in my youth: passionate, demanding, a force to be reckoned with…but with a touch of rebellion with which a teenage boy can identify. Hector’s students are seniors, preparing their applications for Oxford and Cambridge. To help them achieve this goal, the school hires Irwin, a young teacher whose job is to coach the boys as to what the admissions boards at the Oxbridge colleges are looking for.

When they are with Hector, the boys are encouraged to gain knowledge simply for the sake of knowledge, to think critically and to enjoy the ineffable mysteries of life. His classroom is a sort of sanctuary of learning, a place where real-world practicality has no place. Challenging as it is, Hector’s class is about joy, about embracing all that life throws at you.

Their work with Irwin, on the other hand, is all about conformity. Not that he’s teaching them to conform; in fact, he’s doing just the opposite – encouraging them to look at every question that might come up on an essay or in an entrance interview from an alternative angle. He wants them to take contrary points of view – not to encourage freedom of thought, but to help them stand out from the crowd. Truth, honor, morality – these things don’t matter. Only the ultimate goal – admission to Oxbridge – matters. He teaches them that “lying works.”

We know where this leads for Irwin: in the very first scene of the play, we see him in his later life, working in government, spinning an increase in police powers and a reduction of civil rights as actually increasing personal liberty. We know where it leads for Hector, too – as he has a few secrets he’d like to remain hidden. The big question is where this will lead the boys. But that’s a question Bennett leaves us to work out on our own.

If you can’t get to the Broadhurst Theater before “The History Boys” closes in September, you can see the movie that will be released this fall. Same cast, same writer, same director – so I’m hopeful.

“The Drowsy Chaperone”
Like the creation of the universe, “The Drowsy Chaperone” begins in darkness. But instead of “let there be light,” the voice we hear says, “I hate theatre.” In truth, the owner of this voice loves theatre – but the theatre of another time. He longs for a time when people sat in the darkness as a show was about to begin and thought, “What do George and Ira have for us tonight? Can Cole Porter pull it off again? Now we say ‘Please, Elton John, must we continue this charade?”

When the lights come up we discover the voice belongs to a character identified only as “Man in Chair,” sitting next to his phonograph in a drab bed-sitter apartment, feeling blue. (Perhaps fueling the pessimism behind his rant about the state of musical theatre.) But when he’s blue, he likes the cheer himself up by playing his favorite scores of years past. Today he’s turning to his favorite musical of all time, Gable and Stein’s 1928 classic, “The Drowsy Chaperone.” “Remember?” he says, looking to us expectantly. Of course we don’t, because “The Drowsy Chaperone” is an entirely fictional construct, a musical-within-a-musical, intended to pay homage to and send up the sorts of shows one might have found on the Great White Way pre-Depression.

When he drops the needle on the record (and is enraptured by the scratching and hissing of its contact with vinyl), the show comes to life in his apartment. As it unfolds, he comments on the action, almost like a DVD commentary track – but with far more wit and grace. He stops the action from time to time to join in the dancing or give us background on the “real life” romances of the actors in this fictional show, or to explain a bit of the action.

My initial notes about “The Drowsy Chaperone” say this: “It’s almost entirely frivolous. There’s not an important thing about it. The show within the show might be about true love and living one’s dreams, but the show itself is just about a man in a chair feeling blue and seeking diversion. It doesn’t hope for a better future – it yearns for a time long past.” Now I think the opposite might be true: that the show within the show is the frivolous bit, and the show itself actually does have something important to say – about loneliness, or how we distract ourselves from the hard truths of life in order to make it through the day.

Fortunately, “The Drowsy Chaperone” achieves its escapist goals, and does indeed transport us to a lighter, more frivolous place. All in 100 minutes. Bravo for Drowsy.

“Awake & Sing”
This is a Clifford Odets classic from 1935, a bit of a polemic about the workers’ need to rise up and shed their chains, told through the struggles of a working-class Jewish family in the Bronx. The cast, which included Ben Gazzara, Mark Ruffalo and Lauren Ambrose (“Six Feet Under”), was excellent (especially Gazzara and Ruffalo) and the staging and direction first-rate. What I found perhaps most fascinating about this revival is that it was staged in the same theater in which the show had its premiere, the Belasco. Though I had never before been inside the space, it may now be my favorite Broadway theater, with its beautifully detailed interior, featuring murals by Everett Shinn and lighting by Tiffany.

The thematic and emotional resonance of this play from 1935 to now may be found in the character of the grandfather, who rails most against the establishment, and inspires his grandson to “Wake up, boychick!” In the original, he was likely the heart of the play, but in this restaging, his character comes off as a metaphor for an ideal that has failed history’s test.

“Defiance”
John Patrick Shanley’s follow-up to his Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning “Doubt.” Like “Doubt,” it takes place in the somewhat recent past (1971, as opposed to 1964 for “Doubt”), and like “Doubt,” the setting is an environment where strict discipline and deference to authority are the order of the day. For “Doubt” it was a Bronx Catholic school. In “Defiance,” the setting is the Marine base at Camp LeJeune, North Carolina. Although the story is ostensibly about race relations at the camp, the play is not really about race at all, but duty, honor, idealism – and the human frailties that make those qualities so hard to maintain.

The play itself is excellent, nearly the equal of “Doubt.” Unfortunately though, director Doug Hughes (who also helmed “Doubt”) seems to have missed the rhythms of the piece. Shanley has important things to say, but Hughes dulls the points he is making by letting lines – or even whole scenes – gallop off into the distance in a misguided attempt to maintain momentum. I’d be interested to see someone else take it up again and give it a slightly more relaxed pace.

“Faith Healer”
This is one of those shows that I think is well-acted, well-written, well-staged, well-directed – but that never hooked me. Ralph Fiennes plays a man with – apparently – a true gift for healing, but one that is subject to inconsistency; he never knows when he steps onto the stage and begins bringing the halt and lame to him whether or not he can deliver a cure. Cherry Jones (one of the stage’s greatest talents, but oddly off in this performance) is his long-suffering wife, and Ian McDiarmid is stunning as his manager.

The story is told, Rashomon-like, from the viewpoint of each of these characters, in four separate monologues, book-ended by Fiennes, with one appearance each by Jones and McDiarmid. Because of this, the play takes a great deal of concentration and intellectual effort in order to assemble a sense of what really happened, of what is really true. Not that I don’t mind an intellectual challenge, but with such a dark and brooding subject matter, I’m perhaps not as motivated to stay tuned.

Still, the critics have loved it, and you may, too.

“Tryst”
Can the leopard change its spots? This seems to be the question at the very dark heart of a new play by British playwright Karoline Leach. “Tryst” is the story of Adelaide Pinchin, a milliner with very low self-esteem, who is content to work in the back of the hat shop, where she has no contact with customers who might be disturbed by what she perceives as plainness and clumsiness of manner. One day she is chosen by a con man to be his next mark. George Love finds women with a little bit of money, gets them to fall in love with him and marry. Then, after a single night of wedded bliss (George is always careful to satisfy them sexually – it’s a point of honor with him. Perhaps his only point of honor.), George absconds with whatever assets they have.

Adelaide, it turns out, has hidden depths, a reserve of confidence and self-esteem – and insight – that George hadn’t expected and proves to be more than he seems capable of handling. In the second act, when she turns the tables on him, the plot begins to charge forward: will Adelaide be able to change this man for whom she has unexpectedly fallen? At one point, she says “I’ve seen time going backwards,” and milk is spilled. I’ll leave it to you to discover the result of her rescue efforts, and whether or not the milk is successfully put back in the bottle.

“Based on a Totally True Story”
The territory here – Hollywood corruption of young talent – was handled far better earlier in the year by “The Little Dog Laughed.” But the story of a playwright whose work is solicited by the sharks on the left coast certainly has its laughs, and an appealing nature, but why not wait for “Little Dog” to transfer to Broadway? Especially since the magnificent Julie White will reprise her role in that play as the Hollywood player with the sharpest of fangs.

“Landscape of the Body”
John Guare wrote one of my favorite plays (though I’ve seen only the movie version, unfortunately), “Six Degrees of Separation.” Described once as “the Jackson Pollack of playwrights,” Guare splatters the canvas with multiple ideas and multiple points of view that come at you from many different angles. Lili Taylor, who was a revelation in “Aunt Dan and Lemon” a few seasons ago, seemed oddly disconnected from the role of a mother accused of murdering her son. However, Stephen Scott Scarpullo, who plays the teenage son in question, showed a great deal of power and presence for such a young actor.

Ultimately, “Landscape” never came fully into view for me.

“Red Light Winter”
In this three-hander by writer/director Adam Rapp, two college friends share a hostel room in Amsterdam. One is a slick, fast-talking editor at a publishing house who discovered the “next big thing.” His friend is a struggling novelist, at work on a book – though at the beginning of the play, he’s given up on the book and is attempting to hang himself, but is interrupted by the entry of his editor friend, who brings along a little something to cheer him up: one of the girls from the windows in the red light district. Of course, Christina is not all she seems. Not even close.

There are no glaring problems with “Red Light Winter,” other than a plot that moves rather languidly and ultimately never finds a path worth treading. It simply fails to truly engage. So, no green light for “Red Light Winter.”

“cagelove”
Christopher Denham, who played the troubled writer in “Red Light Winter” turns playwright here. (Adam Rapp, writer/director of “Red Light Winter” also pulls directorial duties for “cagelove.”) His concept is an interesting one: how does a couple on the verge of a new life together cope with a brutal rape by an ex-boyfriend? The answer is, not well.

“cagelove” is not recommended, though there was one very funny line: “Katy cares about you – in the same way a heroin addict cares about methadone.”

“Passion”
This short run of a dance performance was actually quite engaging. The dance troupe Momix is a fascinating group of physical artists, creating forms that range from organic to architectural. This time the music was one of my favorites recordings, “Passion,” Peter Gabriel’s soundtrack for “The Last Temptation of Christ.”

What I found most fascinating about the evening was after the performance, when I was drawn into a conversation on the street with a pair of Australians who had also attended. In California, no one starts conversations with strangers, but in New York, interesting conversation is happening all the time. One of the reasons I’ve grown to love the city so much.

“The Wedding Singer”
The word of mouth had actually been good on this musical adaptation of the Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore film – funny, cute, entertaining. I need to pay closer attention to whom I listen: this was about as entertaining as trimming the hedge. The Jersey girls behind us seemed to like it, though: “Oh my god – that was AWESOME!” I wonder if they realize they were the demographic that was actually being mocked?

“Clocks and Whistles”
A tiny, off-off-Broadway production, imported from England. I have no idea why it was produced there in the first place, let alone being plucked from across the pond. One of the very first rules of drama is that something should be at stake. The only thing at stake in this soggy mess was how fast I could get out of the theater once the torture was over.


Although not everything we saw was successful, I applaud the bravery of those who take the risk of creating art, even when it fails.

Here’s hoping you are all well and happy, and that many of you get the chance to see some of the great work being staged in New York, both on and off Broadway.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Call Monitoring

In the days since USA Today broke the story about the NSA's efforts to analyze telephone traffic, I've come to the conclusion that, for the moment, I'm not upset by it. The content of the calls is not being monitored; only the traffic itself is being analyzed to see if patterns can be discerned. If the NSA can discover potential terrorists who might be operating in the US, or using US-based telephony equipment, good for them. And good for us. Unlike the previous furor over wiretapping, no actual eavesdropping is taking place. In that instance, I think the administration was wrong not to obtain warrants to listen to the phone calls of American citizens.

The problem for in this instance is precedent. Given the very real threat of terrorism, I think it's only prudent to use a technique that doesn't actually step into American's private lives. But given this President's flouting of law and flaunting of executive privilege, I'm not sure where he would draw the line. Would he decide at some point to apply the same techniques in order to, say, prosecute the continuingly ill-conceived drug war? What's to stop the administration from analyzing phone records to determine who's making calls to many different drug stores searching for ephedrine (used to make crystal meth)? Or, for that matter, to determine who might be paying a little less tax than they ought to, or...

Friday, May 19, 2006

Le Mot Juste

Over the past few months, certain writers and columnists have been discussing a phenomenon called "Christianism." Andrew Sullivan says "Christianism is an ideology, politics, an ism. The distinction between Christian and Christianist echoes the distinction we make between Muslim and Islamist. Muslims are those who follow Islam. Islamists are those who want to wield Islam as a political force and conflate state and mosque."

But some would prefer a term other than Christianist: "Christianists...seek to apply their own narrow interpretation of God's law to society at large, punishing those who disagree, and emphasizing adherence to rules over grace and mercy. They might even invent new laws based on their understanding of scripture. Folks like that were called Pharisees back in Jesus' time. Maybe it's just as good a name for them today."

Pander Bear Redux

The pandering continues. This time it's the leader of the Democratic party, Howard Dean. Howard paid a visit to the 700 Club, trying to reach out to evangelical voters. Nothing wrong with that, of course. The problem comes when he misrepresents his party's position because he knows it will be unpopular with his audience, which is pretty much the definition of pandering -- changing your position to suit the audience you are addressing.

While on the show, Dean said the Democratic Party's platform states that "marriage is between a man and a woman." What it actually says is: "We support full inclusion of gay and lesbian families in the life of our nation and seek equal responsibilities, benefits, and protections for these families." Just the tiniest bit different.

And I wonder why I am becoming cynical.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The New Actor's Studio

If you're looking for examples of overacting, professional soccer is the place to find it. Last night I happened upon the Champion's Leauge Cup, the final game of the championship of European soccer clubs, pitting Barcelona against Arsenal. For soccer fans, it's a big deal.

The overacting comes primarily in the form of players feigning injury in order to stop the game to get a little rest (no timeouts in soccer), or to fool an official into calling a penalty on another player. This last ruse actually worked in last night's game, and resulted in the first goal for Arsenal. An official called a foul, which led to a free kick, which led to the goal. But a review of the play shows the Barcelona player made no contact.

At various other times throughout the game, players went down, thrashed on the ground, clutched at their knees or ankles or backs -- and then two minutes later were up and down the pitch as if nothing had happened. One player was barely touched by another, but ended up barrel-rolling across the ground five or six times, as if he'd been thrown from a speeding car.

To those in charge of soccer -- fix this. It's embarrasing, and degrading to the game.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Last Day in New York

The remnants of my baked eggs (delicious!) at Extra Virgin in the Village.


Goods at a Village antique store.


A woman and her crown.

Friday, May 12, 2006

A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief

Last night I went to see a performance by the modern dance troupe, Momix. (A semi-complete review will come after I return from New York.) The music for the piece was "Passion," Peter Gabriel's soundtrack for Martin Scorcese's "The Last Temptation of Christ," one of my favorite records. If you remember, there was a huge furor at the time of that film's release, with Christian groups calling it blasphemy, and expressing horror over the depiction of Jesus as having a relationship with Mary Magdelene. I remember at the time thinking how incredibly wrong-headed and short-sighted the Christians' protests were, as that film came closer to making me a Christian than any other piece of media, including the Bible. (Perhaps especially the Bible!) For me, the power came in that last temptation: Satan came to Christ and showed him what he could have if he denied the cross. He showed him a normal, ordinary life: a loving wife, children, happiness. And yet, Christ chose to make the sacrifice. I found it deeply moving.

Now the Christians are at it again, raising a furor over "The DaVinci Code." This time, I think their case is better, since "The DaVinci Code" is primarily about humanizing Christ, and pays no attention to sacrifice or atonement. Still, I think all they are doing is playing into the hands of the film's publicity machine.

With all the furor and zealotry that is inflamed by media depictions of Christ, it makes me wonder about the true Christian nature of many Church leaders. Does Christ really need their "protection"? Is this the best way to spend part of their limited time on Earth? And that got me thinking about the "Christian" nature of our political leaders, especially our President.

It all put me in mind of a hymn: "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief." The song tells of meeting a man in need: hungry, beaten, in prison, condemned. Each time, he is helped, lifted up, released. In the last verse, the man's identity is revealed:

Then in a moment to my view
The stranger started from disguise.
The tokens in His hands I knew;
The Savior stood before mine eyes.
He spake, and my poor name He named,
“Of Me thou hast not been ashamed.
These deeds shall thy memorial be;
Fear not, thou didst them unto Me.”

The idea behind the song, I was told in church, is that Christ might return in any guise, and that we must therefore treat all humanity with love and respect and dignity. Last night, sitting in the darkened theater, listening to Peter Gabriel's powerful music, I wondered: what if this man was Christ returning to live among us?:

Monday, May 08, 2006

Taking Christianity Back

An excellent piece in Time Magazine by Andrew Sullivan, about the co-opting of Christianity by the Republican right wing.

Required reading.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Midnight in the Goldfish Bowl


David Blaine, last night about midnight, resting on the bottom of his large water-filled sphere on display at Lincoln Center. Blaine will emerge from aquarium tomorrow, after spending eight days inside.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

The Perfect Urban Park

I've been to many urban parks around the world -- Hyde Park in London, the Englischer Garten in Munich, Luxembourg Gardens in Paris, Golden Gate Park in San Francisco -- but none measure up to the overall appeal of New York's Central Park.

On my first day of the semi-annual "fill the well" trip to Manhattan, the weather was stunning -- clear skies, mid-70s -- and the park was filled with people enjoying the pleasantness of a spring day. Those who say New York is a tough place weren't in the park today. It was an absolutely delightful day to be alive. I saw dozens of people holding hands, or walking arm in arm. Couples relaxed in each others arms under the trees. A man strolled with his guitar; another played his alto sax at the base of a hill. Children clambered over rocks, dogs on leash took in all the aromas bursting forth. People did yoga on the grass.

If ever there was a day to sell me on the idea of living in New York, Saturday was it.

Friday, May 05, 2006

The Pandering Continues

John McCain, who at one time seemed like a leader who could seize that middle ground that the Democrats and Republicans have left behind in the search for lucre (instead of common sense and respect for American values), is fast becoming just another right-wing theocrat, hungry for power. Why? His willingness to speak at Falwell's Liberty University -- after comparing Falwell's extremism to that of Louis Farrakhan.

Andrew Sullivan (link at right) states it well (as usual): "Falwell and the forces of intolerance he represents control the base of the GOP; and McCain simply has no choice but to kowtow to them. But that in itself is surely an indication of how far right the Republican center has now become. Farrakhan is a religious anti-Semite. Falwell is a religious homophobe. Falwell, however, also blamed Americans for 9/11. He did so while the ashes of many such Americans were still in the air in Manhattan. If he isn't beyond the pale, who is? And if he represents the key to being nominated in the GOP, what has happened to conservatism?"

Thursday, May 04, 2006

More Gay Hoopla

In Massachusetts, a handful of parents are suing a school board because a second-grade teacher read a book to her class called "King & King," about a prince who doesn't like any of the princesses and decides to marry another prince. The parents believe this is the first step of indoctrinating children in immorality. "My son is only 7 years old," parent Robin Wirthlin said. "By presenting this kind of issue at such a young age, they're trying to indoctrinate our children. They're intentionally presenting this as a norm, and it's not a value that our family supports." The suit says the school violated a state law which requires parental notification if sex education is being taught.

The thing is, the book doesn't delve into sex any more than "Rapunzel" does. It's merely a picture book that happens to be about two princes falling for each other and marrying. This is clearly an attempt to marginalize gay relationships and make sure they maintain second-class status. Let's hope the court hearing this suit sees it that way.

On the other side of the country, California is considering a law requiring that the accomplishments of gay people be included in history textbooks. State law now requires that "men, women, black Americans, American Indians, Mexicans, Asians, Pacific Island people and other ethnic groups" be included in textbook descriptions of "the economic, political and social development of California and the United States of America, with particular emphasis on portraying the role of these groups in contemporary society." In that context, I don't have a problem with adding gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people to the list.

However, my problem is that there shouldn't be a law like this at all. The criteria for getting into a history book should be, oh, I don't know...making history?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

George Bush, the Pander Bear

After getting all worked up about the thought of the national anthem being sung in Spanish, it turns out W sang the song in Spanish HIMSELF while on the campaign trail, pandering for Hispanic votes. Personally, I don't see any need to translate the anthem -- English should work just fine for all Americans, no matter what language they grew up speaking -- but it's just another example of how completely disingenous our President is. I also think it's another example of how the administration uses cheap tactics (in this case, jingoism) to distract people from larger, more important issues.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Lemonade Recipe

On last night's episode of HBO's "Big Love" (better than most TV, but not up to HBO shows such as "The Sopranos" or "Deadwood), one of the characters uttered the cliche "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade." There was always something about that statement that bugged me, but I didn't figure out what it was until a few years ago -- you need SUGAR to make lemonade. If life isn't giving you any sugar, then you're going to have a hard time making lemonade, aren't you? Of course, you could always use the lemons in your tea, or to squeeze over some fresh-cracked dungeness crab, or polish your copper. So really, if life gives you lemons, you have options.