Sunday, November 22, 2009

Dallas November 22, 1963

Forty-six years ago, in the autumn of 1963, I was in ninth grade. I had Miss Mildred Brown again as homeroom teacher for the third year in a row. She was a rather plain looking geography instructor. But I guess she liked me. For citizenship she gave me an A double plus. That's really rather embarrassing.

My brother Sherry (Sheridan) was a senior at Princeton. For his junior year thesis, he had written a paper on Laos and Vietnam. Sometime when I was in elementary school, Sherry had suggested a future career for me. I should go to Princeton, of course, major in Arabic studies and become an expert in petroleum. This was 1960 or 1961. Today, Sherry doesn't recall suggesting that to me, but it was rather prescient for the time. Needless to say, I didn't do any of that. Although, for years I did have my heart set on going to Princeton for undergraduate studies.

Senior year, Sherry escorted Madame Nhu (the Dragon Lady) and her very attractive daughter (who later died in a Paris motorcycle accident) around the Princeton campus. This was just before the coup, which toppled the Diem regime in early November.

Friday November 22 started as an ordinary day. In second year Latin class with a severe Miss Halbert –while we were translating Julius Caesar's Gaul Commentaries— Miss Halbert started fiddling with the radio. As murmurs arose, she snapped at us: "For your disorderly information…... the President has just been shot!"

The class went into an uproar. Students screamed and sobbed. But we went on to the next class, typing, I believe. Finally, an announcement came from the Principal on the intercom that we were excused to go home early.

As I walked past Italian Lake, toward the Zembo Shrine Mosque, and the Scottish Rite Temple— just before the McFarland Rose gardens— my Dad came by in his Ford, looking for me and drove me home.

Remembering the events of that weekend, I regret I didn't insist on going to visit Aunt Marg and Uncle Elmer Staats in Washington. I should have liked to have gone to the viewing in the rotunda. Instead, like everyone else, I stayed transfixed to the television screen, and watched Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald in real time.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

11th Annual National Survivors of Suicide Day ~ November 21, 2009

Each day in the U.S. more than 80 people take their own lives, leaving behind loved ones to struggle with the loss, grief & all of those questions that begin with “Why . . .?”

The holiday season can be particularly difficult for survivors, but there is help available. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention will sponsor the 11th Annual National Survivors of Suicide Day on November 21.

National Survivors of Suicide Day is a day of healing for those who have lost someone to suicide. It was created by U.S. Senate resolution in 1999 through the efforts of Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, who lost his father to suicide. Every year, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention sponsors an event to provide an opportunity for the survivor community to come together for support.

There are three ways to participate in this year’s conference.

· Attend a local conference from 1:00-2:30 pm local time

· Watch the live webcast from a home computer from 1-2:30 pm Eastern Standard Time and then join in a live online chat immediately afterwards, or

· Watch the webcast later “on demand” from a home computer.

To find a complete listing of the over 175 locations where the local conferences are being held, or to register for the live webcast, please go to

Suicide touches everyone. Come together on this day in an effort to comfort, support, heal, and inform.

Courtesy of CBP website

Friday, November 20, 2009

"ROSE" ~ December 29, 1998 ~ November 20, 2009

Rob just returned from dinner at an Irish pub, THE LIBERTIES, with his brother Sherry (Sheridan), who's in town for a couple of days with a group from his Meridian foundation in Washington. The last time I ate there with him was the evening after my partner Dennis died three and a half years ago. Sherry had arrived the afternoon before. Today Sherry arrived at the house about forty-five minutes after my beloved Ruby Cavalier, dear ROSE died of heart failure.

Rose, whose pedigreed name was Stellar Coeur de la Mer, had had a heart murmur for several years. In fact a year and a half ago, I decided not to have Rose undergo dental cleaning because the anesthesia would have been too risky. Then last December Rose nearly died after it turned out she had swallowed a peach pit. A month's salary paid for the surgery which gave her a good additional eleven months. Since my Dad survived a good five years after his cardiac arrest when he was sixty-eight, I think that by doggie calculations, Rose had him beat.

I had concerns about Rose's condition this morning, and after an important meeting at work, returned home in late morning to spend the day with her. We took several naps. She lay ensconced on the sofa in the Red Room with her black and tan brother Rupert, and pesky Blenheim puppy Renzo for most of the afternoon. Early in the evening she left the sofa to go in the bedroom. A minute or two later I followed her and found Rose gone in the airline kennel under the drop-lid Biedermeier desk.

Rose will be cremated at Pets Rest in Colma tomorrow morning after my brother takes Rupert and me to the SPCA vet hospital to have his left eye checked out. I'm afraid Rupert has gone blind in that eye. Then Rose will join her predecessors Nell, 'Libet, Dundee, India and even Dennis in the Buddha Box (home Japanese Buddhist temple) in the Red Room.

Tomorrow night I go to a Chinese Wedding Banquet in the East Bay. Life goes on.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Possible Day in SIENA

The shell-shaped Piazza del Campo, the town square, which houses the Palazzo Pubblico and the Torre del Mangia, is an architectural treasure of Siena, and is famous for hosting the Palio horse race. The Palazzo Pubblico, itself a great work of architecture, houses yet another important art museum. Included within the museum is Ambrogio Lorenzetti's series of frescos on the good government and the results of good and bad government and also some of the finest frescoes of Simone Martini and Pietro Lorenzetti.

Siena's cathedral, the Duomo, begun in the twelfth century, is one of the great examples of Italian romanesque architecture. Its main façade was completed in 1380. It is unusual for a Christian cathedral in that its axis runs north-south. This is because it was originally intended to be the largest cathedral in existence, with a north-south transept and an east-west aisle, as is usual. After the completion of the transept and the building of the east wall (which still exists and may be climbed by the public via an internal staircase) the money ran out and the rest of the cathedral was abandoned.

Inside is the famous Gothic octagonal pulpit by Nicola Pisano (1266–1268) supported on lions, and the labyrinth inlaid in the flooring, traversed by penitents on their knees. Within the Sacristy are some perfectly preserved renaissance frescos by Ghirlandaio, and, beneath the Duomo, in the baptistry is the baptismal font with bas-reliefs by Donatello, Ghiberti, Jacopo della Quercia and other 15th century sculptors. The Museo dell'Opera del Duomo contains Duccio's famous Maestà (1308–1311) and various other works by Sienese masters. More Sienese paintings are to be found in the Pinacoteca.

On the Piazza Salimbeni is the Palazzo Salimbeni, a notable building and also the medieval headquarters of Monte dei Paschi di Siena, one of the oldest banks in continuous existence and a major player in the Sienese economy.

Housed in the notable Gothic Palazzo Chigi on Via di Città is the Accademia Musicale Chigiana, Siena's conservatory of music.

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(More likely we'll spend two days in Siena starting tomorrow. As of this writing, today is an unplanned day. Perhaps we'll be in Vicenza or Verona and spend the night in Bolgogna.)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Post Birthday Dinner with Justin and Adam

Tonight I'm taking Adam and Justin to the buffet at the Olympic Club in downtown San Francsico. I can only do this in August when my club is closed. The picture shows Justin last night at his birthday dinner with Adam at Zuni's.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

BATTLE of BLENHEIM ~ August 13, 1704

The Battle of Blenheim (referred to in some countries as the Second Battle of Höchstädt), fought on 13 August 1704, was a major battle of the War of the Spanish Succession. Luis XIV of France sought to knock Emperor Leopold out of the war by seizing Vienna, the Habsburg capital, and gain a favourable peace settlement. The dangers to Vienna were considerable: the Elector of Bavaria and Marshal Marsin's forces in Bavaria threatened from the west, and Marshall dôme's large army in northern Italy posed a serious danger with a potential offensive through the Brenner Pass. Vienna was also under pressure from Rákóczi's Hungarian revolt from its eastern approaches. Realising the danger, the Duke of Marlborough resolved to alleviate the peril to Vienna by marching his forces south from Bedburg and help maintain Emperor Leopold within the Grand Alliance.

A combination of deception and brilliant administration – designed to conceal his true destination from friend and foe alike – enabled Marlborough to march 250 miles (400 km) unhindered from the Low Countries to the River Danube in five weeks. After securing Donauwörth on the Danube, the English Duke sought to engage the Elector's and Marsin's army before Marshal Tallard could bring reinforcements through the Black Forest. However, with the Franco-Bavarian commanders reluctant to fight until their numbers were deemed sufficient, the Duke enacted a policy of spoliation in Bavaria designed to force the issue. The tactic proved unsuccessful, but when Tallard arrived to bolster the Elector's army, and Prince Eugene arrived with reinforcements for the Allies, the two armies finally met on the banks of the Danube in and around the small village of Blindheim.

Blenheim has gone down in history as one of the turning points of the War of the Spanish Succession. The overwhelming Allied victory ensured the safety of Vienna from the Franco-Bavarian army, thus preventing the collapse of the Grand Alliance. Bavaria was knocked out of the war, and Louis's hopes for a quick victory came to an end. France suffered over 30,000 casualties including the commander-in-chief, Marshal Tallard, who was taken captive to England. Before the 1704 campaign ended, the Allies had taken Landau, and the towns of Trier (Trèves) and Trarbach on the Moselle in preparation for the following year's campaign into France itself.

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

PIMM'S & ASCOT revisited

Before dinner tonight with my good friend Adam Kozlowski on the third anniversary of our friendship, I had a Pimm's at Cortez one of our favorite restaurants. Tasting the Pimm's reminded me of horse races. Below is a reposting of one of my first from last September.


Early last May 2008, I flew to Philadelphia for my second Point to Point steeplechase in Wilmington, Delaware at Winterthur, one of the DuPont estates with  a wonderful American furniture collection. This was only my fifth horse race. All have been specialty races.

The first two were at Ascot in 1987 and ’88. They weren’t Royal Ascot, but instead the Diamond Stakes sponsored by DeBeers in honor of King George VI. Because of that, Dennis figured the Royal Family would attend—and he was right. We paid extra to be in the Reserved section next to the Royal Enclosure. Queen Elizabeth, Prince Phillip, Charles and Diana and the Queen Mum were sitting only a few hundred feet from our seats. Anne, the Princess Royal, rode and won one of the races. I shouldn’t have been surprised—but as the English drive cars in the opposite direction— they run horse races clockwise, rather than counter clockwise as we do. When Anne won, we followed the crowd to the paddock to watch the Queen award the prize to her daughter. Elizabeth II was wearing a handsome yellow silk outfit with matching hat. Dennis remarked how the Queen was perfectly at ease and adjusted her belt just like anybody else. Why not? We had the mandatory Pimm’s cup and spent a glorious afternoon at Ascot.

The next summer we returned for the same race. We walked by the Queen Mum’s stately Daimler with its sterling silver Lion hood ornament. Because of our experience the previous summer, I knew to go to the paddock to watch the Queen award the prize after a race. In my attempt to stride ahead to get to the paddock to watch the Queen I nearly had a very close encounter with her Britannic Majesty. All of a sudden two-well dressed men grabbed me & pulled me aside. They must have seen that I was looking several hundred feet ahead to the paddock, and that I didn’t notice that the Queen and her Lady-in-Waiting were roughly four feet in front of me. Elizabeth II is rather short and I was stretching my neck to look over her head. This was before 9/11 and I wasn’t even interrogated. No doubt today I’d be taken away.

Friday, July 10, 2009


Today is my dear friend Mary Ellen's birthday. I guess I met her when she used to go Scottish Country Dancing with Dennis at the Noe Valley Ministry off 24th Street. She had been a professional modern dancer in New York in the seventies. Mary Ellen was part of the "Gang of Four" (along with Debbie Cornue and Joan Marsh) when Dennis was chair of the every member canvas committee at Grace Cathedral many years ago. Originally from West Virginia, she is a special friend to now retired Episcopal Bishop William Swing, also from West Virginia.

Mary Ellen has lived again in New York for several years. She was a volunteer chaplain/counselor to survivors and families of victims from 9/11 at ground zero. Despite the distance, we talk regularly and see each other several times a year.

Mary Ellen went with me to New Haven for the Spizzwinks(?) 95th Reunion last April, and came out to San Francisco to help me prepare for my 60th birthday party. She made two lamb cakes with our good friend Deb Cornue (cakes in the shape of sheep, because that's what my Mother made for me as a child since her family was in the woolen business, and I was born the day before Easter -- one was white with coconut for wool, the smaller was chocolate to represent a black sheep-- no comment!) In addition she polished most of my silver hollowware-- at least all that I displayed.

Last year Mary Ellen came out to visit from the 4th of July through her birthday. She was concerned about me. She wanted me to set up an appointment with my cardiologist, get on the schedule for an internal defibrillator implant, take anti-depressants and see a therapist again. I guess she batted a thousand!

Mary Ellen Blizzard is a talented writer, and has been a wonderful support to me. I wish Mary Ellen well on HER day and always!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

On TRINITY SUNDAY ~ CONSTANTINE continued from October 28, 2008~Repost from November 1st

Emperor Constantine seeks absolute power…with Unity of Empire, Faith and Family. Ossius wants Christianity to breathe the fresh air outside the catacombs – to be established and accepted in the open. Each uses the other as a means to his own goal. Each achieves that goal – but as is often the case in real life – gets more than he bargained for as a result of the new cliché: the “law of unintended consequences.” The scene between Ossius and Constantine just before the Council of Nicaea is the heart of the play.


It is essential that we deal with this Arian heresy.


Yes, his ideas are dangerous. Arius preaches that Jesus is our brother— that we are all brothers.


Exactly! If Jesus is not Divine, on what basis do we owe him allegiance? If all men are brothers, on what basis do they owe ME allegiance? Anarchy- that’s the result of his ideas. The very integrity of the Empire is at stake.


I agree. We need hierarchy to maintain order. An ox will submit to his yoke, if he knows who's in command-- and if there’s a dog beneath him can kick.



Things are not always

as they seem.

The DREAM was

full fraternity;

But the folly

of that ideal

has only now

become too clear.



too disorganized.

It would be



The need...

is for



With recognition--

The Church has responsibilities

for Stewardship of resources.

We cannot afford

to squander Authority.

Hierarchy enhances Power--

Power for the

Greater Good.


Would that it were different.

The Situation’s changed.

Constantine: TRUTH is an ABSOLUTE

Ossius: (Though in practice it is not.)

Constantine: Truths, perhaps, are relative.

Ossius: (Indeed, some can be bought.)

Constantine: POWER is a process.

Ossius: (A means for good or ill.)

Constantine: UNITY is our purpose

Ossius: (Meaning submission to HIS will.)

Constantine: UNITY of EMPIRE

already is achieved.

Ossius: UNITY of FAMILY --

substantially, believed.


is the matter here at hand.

Without IT, all may crumble...

to blow away like sand.


(C): One EMPIRE, (O): One EMPEROR!

(C): One FAMILY, (O ): One FAITH!

Duet: Our DREAM is Salvation (Subjugation)

for the whole Human Race.


Good friend, I would like you to chair this Council on my behalf.

It is of utmost import that we reach consenus. Above all--Unity.

Constantine puts on his crown and an elaborate robe and leads Ossius to the main stage set up for the Council.

Soldiers with swords drawn flank the entrance for the procession of Bishops.

At the beginning of that scene, each of the two main characters has already accomplished most of his principal goals. Constantine has absolute power in a unified empire (after his son, Crispus, had won a great naval victory in the Hellespont, where he defeated the superior fleet of Licinius, Augustus in the East). Ossius is a bishop in a recognized and powerfully established Christian Church. But here is the fatal flaw— hubris. Constantine’s quest for Unity had three elements: Empire, Family and Faith. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” The operative word is foolish. Consistency in itself may be a noble goal; but the word ‘foolish’ implies an unreasonable consistency. By imposing conformity at the Council of Nicaea and excommunicating those with whom they disagreed – by being exclusionary with people and texts – Constantine and the Church cut themselves off from collective wisdom. Selecting four Gospels may appear to be balanced; but prohibiting other writings is a foolish consistency. Arius may indeed have been a heretic and worthy of excommunication. It is clear to me, however, that the Church has not had a monopoly of those seeking truth. Further, it appears that some of the most profound thinkers have been rejected and persecuted by institutions. The classic example is Jesus.

In the play, the character Arius is one of my heroes. His view is that Jesus is a great man, and not a deity. His song is one of the few that I chose to write in a regular –almost sing-song – rhyme scheme… largely because the historical Arius was known to preach in such a style. I called Arius’ piece “Heretic’s Song.”

(Dennis didn’t like that title and preferred the first line “Jesus is our Brother” and thought the theology expressed in the lyrics was actually fairly mainstream. I’m not so sure. In any case, as he lay dying, Dennis asked me to play Robby’s song— and along with the Bach unaccompanied 'cello suites— was one of the last things he heard. Dennis also requested that my recording be played during communion at his funeral at Grace Cathedral. The sound person at the Cathedral, however, got a mixed signal and didn’t play the CD at the right time. I had to get up and go back to the sound booth more than halfway down the nave to ask her to begin. But it probably turned out for the best, since then there wasn’t the clicking sound of high heels and shuffling of feet during communion).

Jesus is our Brother

He teaches us the way

To reach our heavenly Father

By learning how to pray.

Note well, he says OUR Father

Not merely his own.

To be a model for us mortals

What good is a God alone.

Oh yes, Jesus is our Brother,

Jesus is our Brother,

Jesus is our Brother

But more than this

Jesus is our Friend!

Jesus is our pastor

A shepherd to his flock.

Not only is he master

But paschal lamb; take stock

Of what he offers

A means so we’ll atone—

Be one with God creator

Round an inward heavenly throne

For the kingdom is within you

The kingdom is within you

The kingdom is WITHIN YOU

And through the end

Jesus is our Friend.

Our Brother Jesus

Is our Friend!

The tragedy for Constantine in terms of the play is that by insisting on complete unity in matters of faith, he depends more completely on Ossius’ corrupted, incomplete wisdom. Arius is truer to the ideals expressed by the younger Ossius in his song “Blessed are the Poor” but Arius is excommunicated and his writings banned. So complete unity of faith leads eventually to disunity of family and the tragic execution of Crispus. Therefore, the Fausta/Crispus story in part four is a necessary dramatic consequence to the scene at the Council of Nicaea.

The main external villains are the anti-Christian Emperor Maxentius, defeated by Constantine at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, and his sister Fausta – Constantine’s second wife – who plots the downfall of Crispus, Constantine’s heroic, virtuous son. The Crispus/Fausta story is based on legend. What is clear is that Constantine ordered the execution of both. For my play, I chose to adapt a variation of the Greek myth about Hippolytus & Phaedra, that is: the virtuous son, who rebuffs the sexual advances of his step-mother, and is then jealously accused by her of rape. Constantine learns the truth too late, after his son is already executed on his command. Fausta is then crushed beneath shields as in Richard Strauss’ opera based on Oscar Wilde’s Salome.

No doubt one of the most controversial elements of this play is my choice of Sophia as the name of the third part of the Trinity. It may sound like New Age or feminist jargon. I believe, however, it is correct historically that it was not until the latter part of the Fourth Century (two generations later than the events of the play) with the translation of the Bible and liturgy from Greek to Latin by St. Jerome that spiritus sanctus acquired its masculine character. In Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, and other Middle Eastern languages, the equivalent word is feminine. Hagia Sophia, Justinian’s great church is Constantinople, does not mean Saint Sophia, but Holy Wisdom. And so I have used the names Holy Wisdom and Sophia interchangeably as the third part of the Trinity, which gives a rather Zen-like balance to the concept.

The play ends as it began— with Constantine’s baptism on his deathbed. In death Constantine is finally reconciled to his executed son, Crispus. The anachronistic, bejeweled Byzantine angel from the vision the night before the Battle of the Milvian Bridge returns and stands in benediction above a kneeling Constantine and Crispus to form a visual tableau of reconciled Unity—a Father, Son and Holy Wisdom.

Chi-Rho image:

Friday, June 5, 2009


Harriet Beecher Stowe's anti-slavery serial, Uncle Tom's Cabin or, Life Among the Lowly started a ten-month run in the National Era abolitionist newspaper on June 5, 1851.

Harriet Beecher Stowe (June 14, 1811 – July 1, 1896) was an American abolitionist and author. Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852) depicted life for African-Americans under slavery; it reached millions as a novel and play, and became influential in the U.S. and Britain and made the political issues of the 1850s regarding slavery tangible to millions, energizing anti-slavery forces in the American North, while provoking widespread anger in the South. Upon meeting Stowe, Abraham Lincoln allegedly remarked, "So this is the little lady who started this great war!"
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Thursday, May 28, 2009

My New Blenheim Cavalier Puppy ~ RENZO

Just four weeks from today, my new red-and-white Blenheim Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy, Renzo, will arrive from New York City with my nephew Sheridan and his wife Sylvie. They're flying out for a family wedding in Tahoe that weekend. Renzo's currently with the breeder, Mary Louise Gregg, from whom I found Rupert and dear Rose. ML now lives near Newville, Pennsylvania, where my Mother spent her last years at Green Ridge Village. She had previously lived in Dillsburg, PA where my Mother spent many happy years on the golf course. S & S will pick up my new little guy the weekend before, and he'll spend a few days with them in their new apartment in Manhattan near St. John the Divine.

There are four color varieties in the breed: Blenheim, Tri-Color, Ruby, and Black-and-Tan. I've had all four at different times, but only three at the same time. With Renzo I'll be lacking only a Tri-Color. But I have wonderful memories of Lord Dundee and Elizabeth Lady St. Albans (named by Dennis).

I was going to name my new puppy Roger. (It had to start with an 'R' so we would then be 4 R's.) But my friend Adam objected and suggested Renzo instead. Dennis would have approved since it's Italian. :-) The photo above is not Renzo; but from having seen pictures of his champion parents, I think it's probably a decent likeness.
Photo:courtesy A.Kozlowski

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

California State Supreme Court Upholds Prop 8

Below is a re-posting of my comments just after the November 2008 election. This morning the California Supreme Court announced its six-to-one decision upholding Proposition 8, yet not invalidating the eighteen thousand same-sex weddings performed after June 16, 2008 and before the November 4, 2008 election. What a curious state of affairs; but this could be the grounds for an appeal.


Sadly, but not unexpectedly, California State Proposition 8 passed by a clear majority – 52 percent to 48 percent. I say not unexpectedly, because millions of dollars from the Mormon Church poured into California for slick, misleading television ads. The purpose of Prop 8 was “to enshrine bigotry in the state’s constitution by preventing people of the same sex from marrying. The measure was designed to overturn May’s State Supreme Court decision, which made California the second state to end that exclusion of same-sex couples. Massachusetts did so in 2004. The firmly grounded ruling said that everyone has a basic right ‘to establish a legally recognized family with the person of one’s choice,’ and found California’s strong domestic partnership statute to be inadequate.” So proclaimed the New York Times editorial this morning.

It continued: “We wish that Tuesday’s vote of 52 percent to 48 percent had gone the other way. But when those numbers are compared with the 61 percent to 39 percent result in 2000, when Californians approved the law that was overturned by their Supreme Court, it is evident that voters have grown more comfortable with marriage equality.”

As I wrote on October 19 with my Blog posting 
Ballot Initiatives, Amendments & Taxes, the major issue for me is procedural. I think it is completely out of kilter that it takes a two-thirds super-majority to pass an ordinary California State Budget, yet it requires only a majority of a single citizen’s vote to amend the state constitution, and in this case take away a civil right. In the federal constitution, one of the major objectives of the Bill of Rights is to protect minorities from the tyranny of the majority.

A curious sidebar: although Great Britain still has no written constitution, the precedent for our own Bill of Rights came from the 1689 English Bill of Rights, a result of the so-called “Glorious Revolution” of 1688. My Schola friend, Sam Smith, referred to it as the “Bloodless Revolution,” but I would contend that name wasn’t used until after the bloody French Revolution of 1789 and particularly the “Terror” of 1793-1794. (Refer to my September 21 Blog posting 
Evolution of Meaning and Two Flip-Flops.)

Still, we’ve made progress. Thirty years ago we celebrated the defeat of Proposition 6, the Briggs Initiative, which would have banned gays and lesbians from working in California's public schools and came on the heels of a highly explosive conservative campaign in Dade County, Florida to repeal one of the first gay rights ordinances in the U.S. With Anita Bryant as their spokesperson, the initiative temporarily passed. I remember how thrilled we were with the defeat of Proposition 6 and celebrated with a march in the Castro. Only a few weeks later we marched again with a candlelight procession down Market Street to City Hall after the assassination of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk— and that was only days after the horror of Jonestown!

I heard on NPR this morning that there have been disruptive marches in Los Angeles in opposition to passage of Proposition 8—also, that there has been a legal filing to the California Supreme Court to overturn the ballot initiative. One had been filed before the election to remove it from the ballot, but the court decided to defer until after the election. I think there could, in fact, be valid judicial reasons to overturn Prop 8, but the State Supreme Court has now let itself be subject to even greater rightwing criticism if it rules against the ballot initiative after the fact. It would have been much cleaner to act before. Again, I strongly assert that ballot initiatives passed by a simple majority are no fair or proper way to amend any constitution!

Friday, May 8, 2009


Handel Fireworks Celebration

George Frideric Handel’s life has been celebrated for centuries by countless performers and devotees of his unsurpassed musical legacy. In 1784, twenty-five years after his death, the first of many spectacular commemorations was produced in Westminster Abbey.

In the style of that famed event, Grace Cathedral's Choir of Men and Boys and American Bach Soloists will collaborate in a pair of performances that will feature some of Handel’s finest choral works along with his celebrated Water Music and Music for the Royal Fireworks. The Choir of Men and Boys, conducted by Canon Director of Music Jeffrey Smith, will join the American Bach Soloists (ABS) in performances of grand compositions, including Zadok the Priest, that resound perfectly in the architectural splendor of the Cathedral. In addition, ABS conductor Jeffrey Thomas will lead an unusually huge array of instruments assembled especially for this event, (including a drum corps in Georgian military costume) and accomplished soprano Abigail Haynes Lennox will be the soloist in the piece Laudate, Pueri. And if that wasn't enough, there will be a live laser show during the Fireworks Music! This is truly the premier musical event of the season!

Text courtesy Grace Cathedral

I will be singing in the chorus for both performances. Handel was Dennis' favorite composer. He never let me forget that Handel was an ENGLISH composer. After all he IS buried in Westminster Abbey!

One of two musical plays I'm working on -- currently on the back burner -- is called "HANOVER" and features a young Handel in two of the scenes. It's the story of Sophia Dorothea of Celle, divorced wife of George, Elector of Hanover, who became George I of England. It's an expanded musical adaptation of the 1948 English film SARABAND. I intend to complete it when I retire in about two years. It may never be produced, but at least I'll have a mixed media presentation on DVD.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Dan Reid Memorial BAGPIPE Challenge Recital




This unique event is presented by the St. Andrews Foundation of San Francisco.

The 2009 DRM will be held on May 2nd at the

Marines Memorial Club and Hotel.


Initiated in 1997, the Cameron/Gillies event was named after P/M Alex Cameron, piper to the St. Andrews Society of San Francisco for 31 years, and his Father-in-Law, the renowned P/M John MacDougall Gillies.

The DRM Mission

The objective of the Dr. Dan Reid Memorial Challenge Recital is to maintain and preserve the classic compositions of the Great Highland Bagpipe for future generations of pipers throughout the world. To provide a forum in which the instrument, the recitalists and the judges have the advantage of best possible conditions in which to practice their art. To present, through it's restrictive tune list, tunes that are classic in their composition and to make available a musical audio library of these compositions as played by the finest exponent of the art in the modern era.

The DRM is now in it's seventeenth year and still going strong. With the support of our patrons, recitalists and judges we hope to continue long into the future. We have been able to provide a wonderful collection of recordings of the Masters of the Highland Bagpipe.


Tonight I am going to the Awards Banquet for the Dan Reid Memorial Bagpipe Challenge Recital, as a guest of my St. Andrew’s Society friend and fellow Bohemian, Bruce McCubbrey.  Bruce originally sponsored both Dennis and me for membership in the St. Andrew’s Society of San Francisco. I have occasionally been a tenor soloist for some of their annual events, such as St. Andrew’s Day in November and Robert Burns’ birthday in January. 

Dennis loved bagpipes. In fact he bought me a trainer set as a birthday present many years ago. He drove all the way to Mendocino to get it. I had a few lessons with an eccentric piper from Dundee. But I’m afraid my plate was already full, and learning to play bagpipes was a bit beyond my patience at the time. I gave the pipes to an eclectic musician friend from the Bohemian Club. 

I’ll wear one of my kilts tonight. I have four sets-- two of my own and two from Dennis. I was just going to wear my tux with a tartan vest and tie, but Bruce let me know that I’ll be sitting at the table with the British Consul General, so I suppose I should do all nine yards. (I believe the expression has something to do with kilts, anyway.)


The picture above shows all four of my tartans. My nephew Matt is wearing my Dad's Gunn tartan kilt. I'm wearing the relatively new Bell Family tartan, from which Dennis had a kilt made for me in Edinburgh. Our friend Lyle is wearing his Graham of Menteith tartan, which matched one of Dennis'. Then Dennis is wearing his other Graham tartan kilt with a custom vest and matching hand knit socks. The photo was taken five years ago at the annual St. Andrew's Day Banquet in November. I actually look younger today without my beard.


Titian in the Frari (Venezia)