Monday, November 27, 2006

Martha, Martha, Martha!

As you may have gleaned from the information contained in some of my posts, I enjoy Martha Stewart. Okay, you might even call me a fan. Guilty. Last week I went to a taping of the Martha Stewart show. (The show aired today.) It was actually the third taping I've attended in a year which is the maximum allowable according to the fine print on the MSO Studios release form they make you sign when you go. It's also something I'm addressing with my therapist, so thank you very much for your concern but please leave it out of the comments below. Anyway, one of my dearest, oldest friends in the world, Jonathan, was in town for the day from Nice (that's France, ya know) and I thought it might be fun to have lunch, go to the taping and spend some time together over coffee catching up.

Outside of my love and admiration for all things Martha, there's another reason I like to go to the live tapings--for the free stuff. Daytime shows give away tons of free stuff these days. Rosie O'Donnell had a policy of giving away something at every single show and of course Oprah's much ballyhooed "Favorite Things" episodes are legendary among American housewives.

During the last two Martha tapings I attended I remember sitting there in the studio waiting area enjoying one of the complimentary freshly baked lemon squares (Martha's recipe) along with the Long Island soccer moms and smartly dressed gay couples from Chelsea thinking "I wonder what she'll give away today. I could sure use a really good top of the line Waring blender. Or even an Ipod nano or something would be cool. Didn't Ellen DeGeneris give away cruises last week? I wonder if Martha has any deals brewing with one of the cruise lines." The possibilities are endless. That Martha always has to promote.

The first taping I attended was with my mother, my sister Diane and Scott. It was almost a year ago--such an exciting time! Martha was fresh from parole, the show was in its infancy and things were looking up for the old girl. We didn't complain about our soap star B-list celebrity guest. We sat through a segment about painting a wall which actually involved watching paint dry. We listened attentively to a chef promoting a cookbook. (A cookbook--that could be nice, right?) With each passing segment our anticipation built. We kept waiting for those magic words every studio audience member longs to hear: "and for everyone in our audience"...but alas, those words never came. We got bupkes. Nothing. Not even a lemon reamer. My mother has yet to forgive Martha for this oversight. ("So much for being the perfect hostess!") Oh well, wasn't seeing Martha in person reward enough? I'll leave that for you to decide.

The second time I went to a Martha taping was with my friend Mark who is a certifiably insane Martha fanatic--even worse than I am. He worships the woman. We're talking restraining order here. Again, the audience got nothing. But coincidentally both Mark and I won a studio drawing for a free Vax 5 vacuum cleaner which is worth something like $300. Not bad, right? But since the total retail value of the carpets in my studio apartment is approximately $98 it hardly seemed worth the precious storage space to keep the enormous thing. So I sold it on Craigslist.

By last week's taping I knew not to get my hopes up too high. Martha's no Rosie O'Donnell. She likes her money and doesn't give stuff away free quite as often as other shows. But the first glimmer of hope came when we were informed that the taping would be airing the Monday after Thanksgiving: the first show of the holiday season. Hmmm. Jonathan and I mulled this over as we sat in the studio waiting area surrounded by huge photos of Martha everywhere--Martha with her dogs, Martha in 1968, Martha decorating a door with a wreath, Martha, Martha, Martha. Finally Joey Cola, the show's comedian warm-up guy whose job it is to work the audience into a hysterical frenzy over things like perfectly beaten egg whites entered and gave us even more hope, saying things like "you know we like to give stuff away" and "we like to be generous with our audience," and the clincher "I don't want to say anything but we're doing a segment on must-have tech toys for the holidays--wink, wink."

That's it. We're getting something. Something GOOD. I know it! We will not be going home empty handed this time!

As Jonathan and I entered the studio we were hit with an arctic blast from the air conditioners. Then it's sort of of like in the "Wizard of Oz" when it goes from black and white to technicolor, only instead of Oz you enter stunningly tasteful Marthaland: the muted colors, the gleaming state of the art appliances, the Ironstone earthenware--shelves of it! We found a pair of seats where we'd be no more than a couple of rows from Her presence during the taping. We discussed the fact that it seemed odd there was no celebrity guest this episode, just a couple of chefs who'd be doing recipes with Martha. Perhaps it's hard to book someone so close to Thanksgiving or someone had to cancel last minute. But who cares--we're going home with a must-have-tech-toy-for-the-holidays and doesn't that beat the hell out of some soap star anyway?

So we sat and smiled as Martha looked right into the camera and lied to America about what she did the day after Thanksgiving. ("We ate turkey sandwiches and went horseback riding. Oh, we had so much fun!") We endured a segment involving Joey Cola on how to sew a button in which Martha used an oversized novelty pin cushion, needles and buttons. She was not amused. ("How are you supposed to tie a slip knot with a ridiculous needle like this?") We learned two new French recipes and finally--the tech toy segment came.

The precious items were lined up on a table in the craft area. We were on the opposite side of the studio and couldn't quite make out what they were. Once the segment began we learned the first item was some high-tech pair of sneakers from Ipod that has an internal pedometer and plugs into your Ipod which will choose mood music as you walk based on your logarithms or something. Whatever. The next was a GPS tracking and navigation system which works for pedestrians as well as automobiles. You can find directions to somewhere either on foot or by car. That's pretty cool, right? The third item was a brand new state of the art 7 megapixil digital camera that comes with its own wi-fi built in so you can upload your photos onto the internet from anywhere! From ANYWHERE! SEVEN MEGA PIXELS! (Oh please, oh please, oh please!) The last item was a home theatre projector/DVD player with a built in sound system. It gives you the ability to have a big screen movie experience anywhere you have a blank wall and it's from Hasbro. As the segment drew to a close we were still waiting to hear those magic words. At last they came "And for everyone in our audience...a $50 GIFT CERTIFICATE FROM HASBRO TOYS!"


Well that's nice, too.

It's no digital camera, but that's nice, too. Thanks, Martha.

To reserve tickets for the Martha Show, click here.
Or, click here to view the episode.

Check back for photos of Michael and Jonathan's trip to the Martha Show!

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Name that Stereotype!

I regret to inform you of a disturbing addition to the mind-numbing abyss of reality and game shows on television. This one is from Lifetime (television for women) and is called "Gay, Straight or Taken." I first read about this over at Joe.My.God who is often the first to raise red flags about this sort of thing.

From what I can tell from the descriptions I've read online, in "Gay, Straight or Taken" a "bachelorette" will go on a date with three men (one straight, one gay and one taken) and based on her instincts from being raised in a homophobic society the bachelorette will reveal who she believes to the gay, straight or taken men. If she guesses correctly she and the straight man will win an all expenses paid weekend of meaningless sex at some exotic locale. If she guesses incorrectly, the straight and/or gay man will win a weekend away with his significant other.

In its quest for ratings-grabbing, lowest common denominator entertainment, Lifetime will do its best to further stereotypes so that we all may continue to label people who are different from us thus, insuring division and fear in our society, an American tradition we hold dear. Oh sure, Lifetime will undoubtedly try to fool our crafty bachelorette from time to time by throwing in a few "straight-acting" gay men who will be probably be screened for their ability to dress badly and burp and fart in public.

Sadly, Lifetime probably thinks they are doing the gay community some kind of service by proving to middle America that "gay people are just like us." Well, here's a newsflash, Lifetime: we're not just like you. We're different. We come in all walks of life, all colors, shapes, sizes, religions and professions. We are a culture of extremes from the very flamboyant to the hyper-masculine--polar opposites we are driven to from living in a repressed society. Rather than parading gay men on television who fit some restrictive, stereotypical ideal sex role of Western masculinity we should be celebrated for our diversity. The more America is exposed to that the sooner they will get past it and start accepting us for who we are so that we may all get on with our lives.

I'm sure you can all draw your own conclusions as to just how toxic and damaging this kind of show can be, so I suggest you all tell Lifetime just how you feel simply by clicking here.

Next season from lifetime: "Black, White or Racist" in which a black and a white telemarketer will call contestants at home who then must guess which caller is black and which is white based on the caller's accent and education level. If they guess correctly, contestants win a trip to a Ku Klux Klan convention.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Whom can we thank for Thanksgiving?

I'm up to my eyeballs in holiday prep right now, so the posts may be slow in coming till after Thanksgiving. My sister and her husband are hosting this year. I've been drafted to bake 2 pies and come up with a centerpiece. It's cool though, I love this stuff. Really. I do.

But until things calm down a bit, I thought I'd leave you with a few thoughts about the person responsible for Thanksgiving being declared a National Holiday in the United States. Until 1863 Thanksgiving was a holiday celebrated differently throughout the country often on dates varying from the end of October through the end of November. But there was one individual who spearheaded a campaign to unify the Thanksgiving holiday and bring the entire country together on the same day for the biggest family dinner of the year. Not surprisingly that person was a woman. A mother. A single, widowed mother in fact. Her name was Sarah Josepha Hale.

Sarah Hale found herself widowed at the age of 34 with no visible means of income to support her four young children. She began to write and sold a novel called Northwood at the age of 39 in which Thanksgiving was a theme. She was then approached by a British publisher to start and edit the first ladies' magazine in the United States. She accepted the post and became the first female magazine editor in the country. The magazine covered everything from recipes and sewing tips to architecture and politics. With her magazine Hale now had a platform in which to advocate the celebration of Thanksgiving as a National Holiday as early as 1827.

Her efforts picked up steam with the country's growing tension over slavery during the 1850s. Ms. Hale felt it critical during those tumultuous years before the Civil War for the entire country to put their differences aside for one day, break bread and give thanks together. She wrote letters every year to every governor of every state urging them to celebrate Thanksgiving on the 4th Thursday of November. Her campaign gained such momentum that it eventually reached the ears of President Abraham Lincoln himself who in 1863 made his now famous Thanksgiving Proclamation.

Click here for more information about Sarah Josepha Hale. You'll find that Thanksgiving's status as a national holiday is just one of the many accomplishments by this remarkable woman.

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

TomKat's CRAZY for Flowers!

Well, never in a million years did I think I'd be blogging about the nuptials of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, but here it is. I was prompted after I heard a blurb on one of those horrible tabloid tv shows that claimed that Cruise spent $500,000 on flowers alone for his wedding ceremony.

FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS! As in half a million. That's a lot of daisies, my friends!

Well, as a former florist I started foaming at the mouth at the thought. Lord, I can't imagine having to fill an order like that! But then I thought--this could be really great for the floral industry! Just imagine all those silly brides out there wanting exactly the same kind of wedding that Tom and Katie had minus the 15th century Italian castle of course and a few thousand scented candles (can you imagine?) The only problem is that everyone knows Tom's a crackpot now so those who would want to emulate his wedding are probably few and far between. Oh well.

This wedding of course has been highly suspect ever since Mr. Cruise began courting Ms. Holmes a while back. There have been rumors swirling around that Mr. Cruise was "in the market" to for a beard...or should I say "beautiful young starlet to be his wife" and hopefully squelch those pesky homosexuality rumors once and for all. It was further rumored that several other actresses turned down the "role" of Mrs. Cruise before Katie accepted.

Once Katie signed the contract...uh, or rather...agreed to be his wife, Cruise commenced to jumping on Oprah's couch and in general making a spectacle of himself. To prove he was serious about this young lady and to further affirm his virile heterosexuality, he made a baby with her right away: the much heralded "Suri". (To which my mother would say "What's her middle name? Withafringeontop?")

However, in doing some research on the wedding, I found a couple of quotes which indicate Mr. Cruise's proverbial "slip" may be showing where the wedding preparations are concerned. Tom may have trouble squelching the aforementioned pesky rumors after people read Stuff like this:

"Tom Cruise is famously controlling, and he's certainly been in charge of this wedding. Not only did he help choose Katie's wedding dress, but he's been on top of every detail from the menu to the gift bags."

Oh lord. And this:

"Tom has reportedly been very hands-on with the decorations, and is said to have ordered thousands of candles for the ceremony."

Well, you know how we queens love to decorate! And on Katie's gown:

"Katie went on a Paris shopping spree in October, where she reportedly settled on a Georgio Armani wedding dress, said to be a diaphanous and delicate white lace strapless dress. Supposedly, Tom Cruise himself helped design it!"

Well of COURSE he did! Wouldn't you???

Finally I thought I'd include a photo of the happy couple on the way to their ceremony. I wonder if Armani designed a special Pack n Play for baby Suri to amuse her during the nuptials.

"MEOW!"--I know.

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Friday, November 17, 2006

Channingate Update

Okay, so I guess the old girl is losing it after all.

It appears Miss Carol Channing has released her own written statement via her publicist over the flap her recent interview with the Gay People's Chronicle created. You can tell ol' Carol is not all there because the statement doesn't make much sense. But I suppose one must give her credit where it's due for trying to save face with the gay community. From what I could discern between the lines her message seems to be a pretty positive one.

Here it is (via Modern Romantic):

I know that in an attempt to write the best article possible some things do get confused.

My life is my record. I have tried at all times to lift the lives of all peoples and have been rewarded many times over.

For the first time in my life it has been challenged because I believe the most important commandment ever given to human kind, as quoted in the Bible, to "Love they neighbor as thyself." Should we do less? At times this seems difficult but I try.

Is there not enough hate in this world? I will not and cannot do and say different things to different people. We are here together and I plan to do as much as humanly possible to further the arts and the humanities so that a better social, educational, successful culture will raise the quality of all peoples lives.
--Carol Channing

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Let 'em Eat Bundt Cake!

I'll bet you didn't know that today is National Bundt Cake Day. Well, it is! Who knew there was even such a thing, but it seems Nordic Ware, the company that introduced the bundt pan back in 1950, has proclaimed it to be so. I happen to know this because I caught a bit of the Martha Stewart Show this morning and she was practically wetting herself over the fact. Well, you know I love me some Martha, so in honor of National Bundt Cake Day and Martha, I thought I'd post one of my favorite Bundt cake recipes.

My grandmother used to make this recipe and I remember it from when I was a little kid so it's at least 35 years old--probably more. Since it's a doctored up version of a boxed cake mix I imagine it first appeared in a ladies' home magazine or on the back of a box of Duncan Hines at one time. Anyway, it's delicious, easy to make and has been a staple in our family for years. Enjoy!

Sherry Cake
1 pkg. Deluxe yellow cake mix
1 pkg. Vanilla instant pudding
4 eggs
1 cup sherry
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine ingredients in a bowl and mix with an electric mixer for 2 to 3 minutes on high speed. Pour into a greased bundt pan and bake for 45 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool cake in pan for 10 minutes then invert on a cooling rack, remove pan and continue to cool completely. Dust with confectioners sugar and serve. This cake is particularly nice served with fresh berries and a dollop of whipped cream or the ice cream flavor of your choice.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Goodbye, Dolly!

Well, I had hoped not to have to report this story when I first read about it on Friday afternoon. I had hoped that somehow it wasn't true. But now it seems there is more information available and it is with the heartbreak of a shattered illusion that I must inform you: Carol Channing doesn't like the gays.

(I know. Take a moment. It's okay. Breathe.)

In the past Ms. Channing has been known to support gay causes even appearing in gay pride parades and the like. Just last year she told the Windy City Times:
“Gay people are my favorites. Gay people just know people that are talented. They just know. I'’m their queen!”

It's true. The gay community has always figured prominently among her fan base, a fact of which she is obviously well aware. Some silly showtune queen-types even seem to deify her for her role in musical theatre history. Can you imagine?

Alright, alright, I confess I'm one of them! My friend Chuck and I decided in college that she was part of the Holy Triumvirate of Broadway Leading Ladies. "In the name of the Channing, and the Merman and the Mary Martin. Amen." So you can imagine how devastated I was to read about her rift with the gay community.

Apparently she gave an interview to a reporter named Kaizaad Kotwal of the Gay People's Chronicle. Ms. Channing is now 85 years old and apparently didn't realize at first that this phone interview was with a gay publication. During the course of their conversation she revealed her true feelings about her rather large gay following saying:
I don'’t think about them. I'’m grateful that they seem to like me. They'’re terribly loyal to me. But I'm knee-deep in the Bible and you know what it says about that.
And on gay marriage:
I don't think about it. If they can'’t take care of their own problems, why should I bother. It'’s not my problem.


Fearing the gays might turn on Ms. Channing the way we did last season's American Idol contestant, Mandisa, after her ad libbed "lifestyle" remarks, Ms. Channing's publicist, Harlan Boll, released a statement in which he says:

(Kotwal) says he is quoting from a transcript he doesnt have. He was asking questions of Carol that were clearly traps. She initially thought she was doing an interview with The Springfied Times. I hadn't told her I had switched the two and when the reporter started asking questions about her gay friends, she thought it was going to be one of those interviews where she would have to defend her friends, but when she realized it was a gay trade, her defenses were already up and confusion ensued.

I don't know--the Kotwal interview seems pretty straight forward to me.

So, why would Carol Channing suddenly change her attitude about the gay community? Well, this is just a hypothesis, but you may recall back in 1998 Ms. Channing abruptly filed for divorce from her then husband of 42 years, Charles Lowe, over his alleged homosexuality. In interviews at the time Ms. Channing complained openly about their lack of marital relations during the course of their marriage ("Twice in 42 years!"). It could make a girl bitter.

Or maybe she's just losing her marbles.

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Some Catholics Get It

Well, it's no surprise that the US Conference of Catholic Bishop's have their heads up their a*s where most things are concerned, but it's always refreshing to find an opinion in the clergy that really seems to come from a place of love and acceptance and seems to truly understand the message of Christ which was "above all else, love one another."

After reading yesterday's post, Mom sent me this quote from a book she's reading by Franciscan priest, Richard Rohr. From "Simplicity" :

"Bishops sanctimoniously proclaim their pro-life stance and calmly sanction the murder of Iraqis by the U.S. government. They claim to be certain about God's will in regard to birth control, married priests, women priests, and all manner of sexual conduct (about which Jesus says little or nothing) and yet live in comfortable doubt about God's will in regard to war, riches, and nonviolence (about which Jesus is absolutely clear)."

Unfortunately priests and nuns like Rohr aren't in the public eye very much. For one thing, I don't think they seek it like some others do and they're probably way too busy doing stuff like feeding the poor, sheltering the homeless and caring for the sick. Ya, know--all that Jesus stuff.

Below: Fr. Richard Rohr


Monday, November 13, 2006

God Help Us

It seems the Catholic Church in its infinite wisdom is doing its best to alienate even more of its dwindling flock. It's not enough that attendance at Sunday mass is at an all time low across America, that there is a shortage of priests or that diocese left and right are filing for bankruptcy protection what with all those pesky sex abuse suits pending, but now the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is voting on "Guidelines for Helping Catholics Prepare for Receiving Communion."

"Helping"--isn't that nice of them?

At the conference the bishops will be discussing how to teach core (read archaic) Catholic values to the otherwise uninvolved of the faith. In other words they will be making sure that marriage is restricted to one man and one woman and teaching people to use the rhythm method of birth control (or "Vatican Roulette" as my mother's OB/GYN used to call it). Sure boys, that'll pack 'em in!

In terms of who is "eligible" to receive communion, there are no surprises here:

The statement reiterates Church teaching that with few exceptions, only those who are members of the Catholic Church may receive Holy Communion at a Catholic Eucharist...but should refrain from the sacrament when they find themselves no longer in a state of grace because of mortal sin...Catholics who are conscious of committing any mortal sin must receive the Sacrament of Penance before receiving Holy Communion. Catholics should also refrain from Holy Communion...when they lack adherence to what the Church authoritatively teaches on matters of faith and morals...

Now, what is a mortal sin exactly? As I recall from my Catholic upbringing that's the big stuff. You know, murder, birth control, etc. I'm not sure if "sins of the flesh" are venial or mortal, but certainly gay sex is a no-no. So basically even though none of us are murderers no one in my family with the possible exception of my parents will be going up for communion at midnight mass this year.

I also recall from my Catholic upbringing the mass already takes into account those souls who may not be in a state of grace upon receiving communion by having the congregation say "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed." As I understand it, this acts as a green light for pretty much anyone in the church. I also recall that in a pinch saying a quick Act of Contrition will clear your soul for a direct flight to heaven in the event of any life threatening situation. So I imagine it would work for communion, too. (By the way, did you know that anyone can perform an emergency baptism? Well, it's true.)

Also on the agenda at the conference: Guidelines for Ministry to Persons with Homosexual Inclination. When I first started reading this article I was actually pretty encouraged by things like this:

The document says the Church teaches that persons with a homosexual inclination must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity, and it condemns all forms of violence, scorn, and hatred, whether subtle or overt. Those who would minister in the name of the Church must in no way contribute to such injustice, the guidelines state.
But alas, a few paragraphs down they hit you with this:
The guidelines state that while the Church teaches that homosexual acts are immoral, there is a distinction between engaging in homosexual acts and having a homosexual orientation. While the former is always sinful, the latter is not.
So, go ahead, Mary--be gay as a clutch purse on Tony night! Just don't have any sex. Or better yet, join the priesthood, be celebate and pretend you don't have a sexuality at all. We all know how well that works.

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Saturday, November 11, 2006

Veterans Day

I blush to admit that I did not realize that today was Veterans Day until I noticed that the alternate side of the street parking rules were suspended yesterday. Technically today is Veterans Day but yesterday was Veterans Day "observed". That's when we take a legitimate holiday and turn it into a three day weekend--although I don't know anyone who actually had the day off yesterday. Oh, well. At least we didn't have to move our cars which seems to me a sad way to celebrate our Veterans who have so bravely served our country over the years.

Come to think of it, even holidays like Memorial Day and Labor Day have lost all their meaning other than being an excuse for a weekend getaway, family barbecues and once earmarking when one could and could not wear white.

Anyway, in case you were wondering about the origins of Veterans Day or how it was meant to be commemorated, here's a little history on the subject:

The United States Congress officially recognized the end of World War I when it passed a concurrent resolution on June 4, 1926, with these words:

Whereas the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed, and

Whereas it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations; and

Whereas the legislatures of twenty-seven of our States have already declared November 11 to be a legal holiday: Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), that the President of the United States is requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.

So, get out there and hang a flag and commemorate the day with thanksgiving, prayer and exercises. In fact I think I'll head to the gym now.

In honor of Veterans Day I thougth I'd include a photo of my friendly neighborhood war memorial: The Soldiers and Sailors Monument, NYC.


Friday, November 10, 2006

They're dropping like flies!

Well, well, well. What a week for the GOP. First they lose control of both the House and the Senate, then they send ol' Rumsfeld packing and now Chairman of the Republican National Committee, Ken Mehlman has announced that he will be "resigning". Dogged by rumors about his sexuality lately, Melhman (pictured left looking cozy with Jason Shepherd, chairman of the Georgia Federation of Young Republican Clubs--*shudder*) claims he made the decision to step down last summer.

"It is true," Mr. Mehlman told The Washington Times when asked about reports last night that he would resign. "It's something I decided over the summer. No one told me I needed to. In fact, folks wanted me to stay."
Right. I'm sure it has nothing to do with what a liability closeted Republicans have become to the party, OR that BlogActive's Mike Rogers has been digging up some dirt on Mr. Mehlman's past "friendships" OR that Bill Maher outed Mr. Mehlman on Larry King the other night (which CNN promptly censored for the West Coast broadcast).

And if you believe that you probably believe that Ted Haggard threw away that meth he bought.

I know the posts have been pretty political lately, but I guess I'm still just basking in Tuesday's big Democratic victory. (Woo-hoo!!!)

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A Banner Day

Well, not only have the Democrats taken control of the House and look like they are on their way to taking control of the Senate as well but this past election day marks several firsts, namely the first black governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick, the first female speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, the first Latino senator elected in New Jersey, Bob Menendez among other firsts. Also, an unprecedented 67 openly gay and lesbian candidates endorsed by the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund have been elected to local, state and federal offices in 2006.

But perhaps the best news of the day is that DONALD RUMSFELD, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY IS STEPPING DOWN!!! The buzz is that Rumsfeld (shown here after his corneas were burned watching last night's election returns) will not be doing so voluntarily.

As my mother said about the news today: "the only thing that could make this day better is a picture of Cheney in ladies' panties." I'll do a google image search, mom.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

We don't need no steenkin' computers

Here in New York I'm lucky enough to get to vote in one of those old fashioned voting booths. You know the kind I mean--a gigantic iron lung of a machine with gears and levers and a privacy curtain. It's the same kind pictured in the School House Rock cartoons of 1920s suffragettes voting for the first time. Indeed their design dates back to that era. Supposedly they jam easily and there are no companies left who manufacture spare parts to repair them, but still there is something that feels secure about them. No hanging chads, no corrupt Diebolds machines.

When you enter the booth, you pull a huge red lever the size of an eighteen-wheeler gear shift from left to right which causes the privacy curtain to close with a squeak. Then you review your candidate choices pulling a lever for each one where a huge "X"slides into place next to their name. If you change your mind, you just push the lever back to its original position and the "X" disappears. Makes sense, right? Once you've pushed all the levers for your candidates of choice you once again slide the huge red gear back from right to left this time. And with the mechanical din of gears shifting into place and the smell of freshly oiled cogs the curtain squeaks open and your vote is recorded. I have never once worried that my vote was not counted. And I like it that way.

Voters at voting booths, 1945.

Update 11/21/06: A report today said that out of 7,000 "old, gray clunker" voting machines city wide in New York, only 9 broke down on election day. Compare that with 15.4% of computer touch machine booths nationwide that failed to count votes at least some of the time.

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Today is Election Day

Get out and VOTE!


Monday, November 06, 2006

The Parking Ritual

If you are like me and thousands of other New Yorkers who cannot afford a $350 a month parking space in a safe and cozy garage but insist on keeping a car in the city, you must learn to dance the delicate dance of alternate side of the street parking.

Now, allow me to explain that term for those of you who are unfamiliar with it. In most cases alternate side of the street parking is to allow for street cleaning. All the cars on one side of the street, say on Monday and Friday, must move...well...somewhere else, to allow the street cleaners to come through and clean that side of the street. Alternately, the cars on the opposite side, say Tuesday and Thursday must do the same to allow their side to be cleaned. The time allowed for the street cleaner to come through is generally an hour and a half which is down from the 3 hours it once was a few years ago. Failure to move your car will result in a $65 parking ticket. And depending on the degree of illegality of your parking space (being too close to a hydrant or having your bumper hang over into a crosswalk for example) will result in your vehicle being towed at your expense which, the last time I checked, was your $65 parking ticket plus $185 tow fee, a $70 "execution" fee, and $10 a day storage fee which increases to $15 on the third day. All this must be paid in cash, plus you have the added treat of dealing with the ever-so-pleasant impound lot personnel.

But the truth is, once you've lived here for a while, understand the parking signs and are on top of things, keeping a car in New York is not that difficult--provided of course you don't want to go anywhere. Also it depends on the neighborhood you live in and how that particular neighborhood handles their alternate side of the street parking rules. The handling of this situation can differ block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood and can be as diverse as New Yorkers themselves. I am very fortunate that in my particular corner of the Upper West Side, tucked away between Westend Avenue and Riverside Drive, we handle it in a most civilized manner.

On my street the street cleaner comes through between 11 AM and 12:30 PM. Somehow our neighborhood has fallen into a kind of gentlemen's agreement with the parking officials. We are actually allowed to double park for that hour and a half provided we leave a nice little note on the dashboard with our phone number in case the vehicle we're blocking in needs to move. Now, competition for the double parking can be, like so many things in Manhattan, rather cut-throat. It requires that you be outside at your car no later than 10:45 AM to find a spot to double park. Then you are not to leave your car until 11:00 AM on the dot. Failure to do so can result in a parking ticket.

So, like clockwork, every day at 10:45 we intrepid New Yorkers who refuse to give up our cars, the last vestige of our once suburban lifestyles, come out of our brownstone flats, our pre-war co-ops or doorman digs, get into our vehicles and pull them to the opposite side of the street to double park where we sit until 11:00 AM sharp. Then we go back to our homes and try to live a relatively normal life until 12:15 PM when we must all trek back outside and move over to legitimate parking spaces once the street cleaner has come through. Once again we must stay in our cars until 12:30 and not a moment before.

These 15 minute periods at the beginning and end of the street cleaning can be a great time to make phone calls, catch up on periodicals or read the paper. In the summertime we'll even venture out onto the side walk and exchange small talk with the neighbors. Or we'll roll our windows down and open the sun roofs where one can hear in unison all the car radios our block of uber-liberals tuned to NPR.

There are occasional bonuses, too. For example, there is no street cleaning on weekends or Wednesdays citywide and parking rules are suspended for every obscure holiday of every possible world religion. Holidays like Diwali, Shemini Atzereth and Idul-Fitr bring with them the childhood joy of an unexpected snow day. Oh, we get actual snow days, too.

All in all though, when the rules are in effect, it's not such a bad thing for New Yorkers to be forced to sit still for 15 minutes twice a day a couple of times a week. It's amazing what you can notice in that time: the turning of the leaves, newly planted window boxes, who has a new baby, a new puppy or a new boyfriend. You start to match faces with cars, people with buildings and occasionally even learn a name or two. Suddenly this city of strangers becomes a little less strange and that much more human.

The photos below are: A street cleaning sign on my block, and Double Parking--the Upper West Side's dirty little secret.

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Saturday, November 04, 2006

Go Doogie!!!

Responding to this article at

Nepotism is alive and well in Hollywood. Former Doogie Howser star Neil Patrick Harris, 33, recently got his longtime sweetheart David Burtka, 31, a guest role on his series How I Met Your Mother...
Neil Patrick Harris' publicist apparently released a statement saying that his client was "not of that persuasion" without consulting ol' Doogie first. So, Harris went to People Magazine (following T.R. Knight's lead from two weeks ago making People the coming out publication of choice these days) and released this brave and succinct statement:

"The public eye has always been kind to me, and until recently I have been able to live a pretty normal life. Now it seems there is speculation and interest in my private life and relationships. So, rather than ignore those who choose to publish their opinions without actually talking to me, I am happy to dispel any rumors or misconceptions and am quite proud to say that I am a very content gay man living my life to the fullest and feel most fortunate to be working with wonderful people in the business I love."

BRAVO DOOGIE! I imagine he is now in the market for a new publicist. Below is a photo of Harris in the road company of Cabaret or last night at Barracuda Bar--you decide.

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A Little Late to the Party

I know it's been all over the news and according to my friend Joe over 2,500 blogs mentioned the story the day it broke, but I am really enjoying the fall of Pastor Ted Haggard by his male hustler, Mike Jones. I guess I've been too busy watching the coverage on television, clapping my hands and throwing my head back in maniacal laughter ever since Mike and Ted's Excellent Adventure first hit the news to write a post about it. Let's face it, this one speaks for itself. Truly, one could not craft a better gay sex scandal. It's got everything--sex, drugs and gospel music, a holier than thou preacher with a direct hotline to our homo-hating president and a hunky male escort with pretty damning evidence in the way of phone messages.

I know it's a sin to delight in the misfortune of others, but it's only fair. Ol' Ted is getting his just desserts. Without rehashing the details of the story which you all undoubtedly know by now, I'll just include a photo of the happy couple.


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

My Demographic

I find it a little unnerving while ordering a book on when those suggestions of other things to buy pop up based on past customer sales. It can sure make a guy insecure about his masculinity when he reads "Customers who bought Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook also bought Treating Menopause the Natural Way."

Recently I was excited to see the new film starring Helen Mirren called "The Queen." (Insert obvious wisecrack here.) I didn't think much about who else might be at the theatre that night although I was not surprised to find the entire audience filled with gay men of all ages, but leaning toward the squirrelly bookish type and dozens of middle aged women, albeit many at "the far edge of middle age" as Ethel Thayer in On Golden Pond would say. ("Ethel, people don't live to be 150.")

Last week I attended a book signing and talk with Ellen Burstyn at the Barnes and Noble at 66th and Broadway. She has a new memoir out called Lessons in Becoming Myself. The talk was fascinating by the way. But once again the room was filled with middle aged women who perhaps recall seeing themselves in "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore" back in 1975 and of course there were gay men of all ages. Some of these were skinny young actor/hippie types but most were that really squirrelly old theatre queen type who holds up the line at the Duane Reade with a million cat food coupons and lives in a cluttered studio apartment which, when you visit, he will not let you leave until he plays the 1953 recording of Joan McCracken singing "It's Me" from Me and Juliet for you. (Oh wait, that's me. Never mind.)

My god, I'm becoming "the man in the chair."*

*From The Drowsy Chaperone.

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