Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Unexpected Is Always Upon Us

I had to do some Christmas shopping today so I took the Metro to Pentagon City. That was my first mistake, because the train was insanely crowded for a Saturday. Then the mall was packed, so I quickly passed through it and headed out to Hudson Trail Outfitters, where I could not find any gloves. Then, on the way to buy a Christmas card, I crossed the parking lot and was almost flattened by a car backing up - the driver wasn't looking where he was going, and when he saw me he yelled at me for getting in his way.

At that point I gave up and came home, not willing to take on any more madness. On the way home, three young ladies in traditional Santa Lucia costumes boarded the train and sang Swedish carols, which would have been nice if the Metro's tunnel roar hadn't drowned them out.

It was all quite like Luciano Berio's take on the Mahler 2nd, 3rd movement I wrote about a couple of days ago. In the third movement of his Sinfonia, Berio takes the Mahler scherzo and runs it through a blender, feeding in other pieces and quotes from Samuel Beckett, among others. According to Wikipedia, "Berio himself describes the movement as a "Voyage to Cythera", in which a ship filled with gifts is headed towards the island dedicated to the goddess of love." Well, there were no gifts in my afternoon and precious little love! Here's the first part of the Berio:

...and here's the second part.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

16 Things I Hate About the Holidays

Everybody hates fruitcake, New Year's Eve, and Secret Santa gift swaps. They're easy to despise, and few will argue for them. But don't we each keep our own list of festive things that seriously test our goodwill? As today in D.C. is wet, cold, (now dark), and miserable, here are mine:
  • "O Holy Night."
  • Melismatic pop singers lugubriously mangling "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," "The Christmas Song," and "White Christmas."
  • Those gigantic red bows on gift cars in commercials.
  • "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer."
  • The Perfect Gift.
  • Rankin-Bass holiday specials (except for Rudolph. And the Rankin-Bass logo tag.)
  • Virginia.
  • Holiday movies in which a mysterious package appears under the tree Christmas morning which signals either that Santa exists or What Happened To The Hero The Night Before Wasn't Just A Dream.
  • Office building holiday dessert receptions in the lobby.
  • Midnight mass.
  • Darkness, cold, and those illnesses that spring forth this time of year.
  • Those who try to make other holidays into the alternative Christmas (let those holidays be what they are!)
  • Office decorations.
  • Whimsy.
  • Traveling.
  • 24 Hours of "A Christmas Story."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Whole Lotta Resurrecting Going On

It seems unprecedented, how every day seems to bring yet another bout of bad bad news. And it's not just a spate of unfortunate current events - the very foundations of our society are quaking, and so many people in various towers of power who once said "trust me, this is working" are now saying "you know, we need buckets and buckets of help." Heck, even Tom Peters is depressed.

So it's interesting how much I've been reading about Gustav Mahler's 2nd Symphony ("Resurrection") and Gilbert Kaplan, a businessman who, without formal classical music training in his early life, became a remarkable orchestral switch-hitter, focusing exclusively on this massive work, learning how to conduct its forces...because he wanted to. And he did it again last night, with the New York Philharmonic, 100 years after Mahler himself conducted the same symphony with the same group.

I found references in The New York Times and The Economist, as well as a number of other unusual places that I should have written down. A coincidence of my own making perhaps.

Mahler's 2nd is a huge work that famously builds to a massive, transcendent climax, beginning, in my opinion, with the chorus singing "What has been created must pass away, what has passed away will rise again."

What's been taking my mind away from it all is the knowledge (hope) that one of the major driving forces of society is currently being resurrected. That, and the 3rd movement of the Mahler, in which the huge orchestra dances lightly, a bit sardonic and not entirely carefree. Here's Simon Rattle embodying the rhythm in the score while he barely conducts :

Here's part 2 of the 3rd movement.

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Less Media More Social Part 1

I shared my building's elevator tonight with a resident who I've seen quite a few times but never spoken with. And for a couple of decent reasons, I've wanted to. Trouble is, in my neighborhood, you can see someone for years and not speak. Washington's a busy place, and everyone seems to go about with this aura of "don't bother me" emanating from them. Plus there's the memory of those times I did strike up a conversation, and was met with a cold stare, or a monosyllabic answer. Granted, there's also been times when a friendly moment resulted...but we all seem to bring up the negative memories first.

Which is why I really liked Chris Brogan's extremely short yet precise video on the subject:

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Asleep at the Wheel - Time to Drive Again, But Maybe We Need a Smart(er) Car

By now it's generally understood that the gay community was asleep during the recent Proposition 8 debacle. However, we've woken up somewhat, enough to swerve and miss plowing into a tree and totally wrecking everything. Just take a look at some of the media that's been created lately.

There's Proposition 8: The Musical, which is the most talked-about thing online right now. I admit I only watched half of it - I think it speaks more to the already converted, while those who still believe homosexuality is morally repugnant will find in it further justification for their [_____________] (insert euphemism for bigotry.)

I prefer this piece, which asks everyone to sign a petition protecting marriage. It's sneaky, it's smart, it's somewhat argument proof:

There's a feeling here in D.C. that HRC wasn't doing its job in letting the California vote go the way it did. That's probably true, but I believe it's because they're a large organization, and large organizations are almost always more concerned with keeping themselves going, consequently making decisions that try to appease many instead of creating real change.

The real stuff that's going on now isn't the result of one advocacy organization. Even the recent nationwide demonstrations were grassroots affairs, linked under the online banner of Join the Impact, an organization that looks to have risen in the days after the election. They say they're a nonprofit, but they're a .com and not a .org, and probably haven't had time to apply for 501(c)(3) status. If I'm wrong, then somebody tell me...

Join the Impact's next steps include Day Without a Gay, a national food drive that will target faith-based emergency food providers as the recipients of goodwill, and Light Up the Night for Equality.

Finally, we need a radically redesigned communications strategy. We need to stop debating in forums where we can't win. In today's NY Times op-ed "Showdown in the Big Tent," Caitlin Flanagan and Benjamin Schwarz write "Although it has come as a shocking realization to many in this community, a host of sociological studies confirm that many blacks feel a significant aversion to homosexuality itself, finding it morally and sexually repugnant." It's time to bring in some big gun "new marketing" gurus to massively reframe the dialogue, take over the debates and focus exclusively on civil rights. But not before somebody does some research on why so many people find homosexuality morally and sexually repugnant, so we can target the cause of hatred and not the symptoms.

In the meantime, how about a national "Day With A Gay?"
OK, this post is entirely too long now...but I had to find a place for the following video I found on YouTube. Where to start? The background music is wonderful...