Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Dance-Along Nutcracker 2011

I recently joined the SF Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band, which is an impressive community ensemble that has been making beautiful music and supporting queer visibility since 1978.

This weekend, we'll be doing three performances at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts that all add up to the band's one BIG fundraiser of the year. The money raised from this event will keep the band doing things like marching in San Francisco's first ever Veteran's Day Parade (11/11/11) in honor of the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell.

The show is a Dance-Along Nutcracker set in the most holla-dazed and confused decade of 'em all: the 1960s. The story of Clara's Magical Mystery Tour will be acted out by a great cast of local celebrities, including DJ Flynn and comedians Fifi & Fanny. We're replacing the traditional harp with live electric guitar solos by Woodstock veteran Harvey Mandel. The Christmas tree will be incredibly high and the dance floor big enough for all the Mamas and the Papas and those of us who flew in on Jefferson's Airplane. Costumes of any kind (love beads, surfer girls, go-go boots, Supremes, sugar plum fairies, rat kings...mashups thereof) are encouraged. Tutus available for rent on site!

I'll be attending the Saturday night (8pm) performance as a guest and performing (representin' in the flute section) in both the Sunday morning (11am) and Sunday afternoon (3pm) shows. The Sunday shows are super kid-friendly, and there is a lot of extremely adorable footage of kids getting all of their wiggles out on the dance floor.

For tickets and more information visit: http://www.dancealongnutcracker.org

See you there!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Does the Future Hold Ever-More-Inclusive Family Names?

Woke up this morning wondering about whether any of the people born with hyphenated last names have decided to further hyphenate their last names post-marriage or post-other-family-oriented-union. Am I the only person on the planet who would enjoy getting holiday cards from the Mendoza-Smith-Berkowitzes or the Chesterfield-Lee-Meyerses? A facebook search might get me some easy answers; but, surely, someone must be doing sociological studies related to trends of chosen last names in the US! There are so many interesting questions related to this topic, and what better way to answer them than with statistics?
  • Of those who change their hyphenated last name during an interpersonal merger, is that group more or less likely than other similarly merged folks to chuck their given names completely?
  • Of those who opt for a name change of some type, is that group more or less likely to go in for the patriarchal standard convention of adopting a male partner's name or to go in for the radical-style invention of a new name for both partners?
  • Which name(s) do the kids get?
  • Are people born with hyphenated last names more or less likely to change their last names in their lifetimes at all?
  • Are they more or less likely to enter into a marriage/partnership for that matter?
This started out as totally idle curiosity, but the questions raised feel culturally important. The proprietary history of marriage and the powerful nature of naming imbue the choices people make about their names with profound social significance. Behavioral trends in naming must tell some fascinating stories about private identities and public acceptance. Maybe the hyphenated demographic could give us a particular kind of "state of the union address." Just looking at marriage certificates alone would be interesting enough, but I'd be especially interested in comparing them between states who have (or have had) marriage equality and states that have not. It seems obvious to me that the institution of marriage has changed in response to various civil rights and feminist movements over the past 50 years, but has it become linguistically obvious yet?

I know that semantic change takes time, discourse, dispute, and a lot more time--I read a bit of structuralist theory and cultural criticism in graduate school--but the redefinition of marriage in at least the legal system feels long overdue. Indulge me in a little impatience, but couldn't the rate of change itself be accelerating as we fly through life on the 4G wings of the Information Age? When Ferdinand de Saussure died in 1913, he was supposedly depressed by his theories not having become widely acknowledged over the course of his career. As much hope and freedom as one might find in the idea that the connection between the signifier and the sign is arbitrary, waiting for a particular change in the connection can still be terribly depressing.*


So, I sat down this morning with these questions and curiosities over coffee and a long-held but, until this weekend, unread copy of The Best of Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, and the universe totally thwacked me upside the head! The next story after where I'd left off yesterday was "An Open Letter Concerning Sponsorship" by Margaret Muirhead. Since it was one of the early LCRW stories, I expected it to be somehow related to the topic of keeping the zine afloat (see the appendix in the back of the collection for true subscription antics). Instead, it's a hilarious and not entirely implausible request for bids on the naming rights of the narrator's progeny in exchange for lifetime financial support of the same. In the letter, the narrator explains that she and her husband have chosen to keep their given names "like many modern couples," and choose a different last name for their children:

"We considered splicing and grafting our names, all to hideous effect. We then bandied about the names of our favorite composers, poets, filmmakers, and household appliances. We are especially fond of our toaster oven and are grateful to its manufacturer. We are also fond of the verb bandy."

Both parents are well-educated, employed, and able to make a fairly comfortable life for themselves in an urban area, but they are "remuneratively challenged" and have come up with a creative financial strategy for funding the extremely expensive endeavor of procreation by taking notes on the tactic employed by many of the nation's ballparks and stadiums. In real life, the author and her husband (who share the names of the parents signing the letter) seem to have found some way to pay for the two kids they've had since the original publication in Volume 4 of LCRW in 1999. How did they do it: writing a series of children's books, moving away from the city, or naming the kids after the highest bidder? I suspect a combination of the first two, since the kids' last name is not listed on Margaret Muirhead's website and her letter clearly stated that no name-dropping opportunity would be missed had they actually found a sponsor.


Synergy can really freak me the fuck out sometimes! After I finish reading this collection, I'm considering either pursuing a career in sociology or semiotics, adding a corporate dimension to my kid-contingency financial plan, calling up all of my hyphenated friends in an informal pole of their thoughts on gender equality in family nomenclature, or maybe just going back to that copy of Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose that I put down some time during junior college.

Wish me luck, internets!

*True Fact: the last time I was able to post anything in this blog--or write anything longer than a poem really--was in the crushing month of November 2008 when most of my immediate family joined the slight majority of California residents in voting for the removal of marriage equality from the state constitution. It was a crushing blow to my already fragile feelings of self-worth, empowerment and hope for the future. Eh...it's also true that the election coincided with my 30th birthday, coming to the unsettling realization that Harvey Milk was killed only a few weeks after I was born, and the theft of my Scattante road bike (a.k.a the beloved extension of my body from 2006-2008). So, the roller coaster of emotions was definitely accentuated by personal context, but the voter approval of Proposition 8 really did send me into a depressing tailspin.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Moody Post-Election News

I had no idea that wikipedia was brought to us by a nonprofit organization. Turns out that they're called wikimedia and have other charitable wiki projects out there running on their open source wiki software. This is the kind of thing that helps cheer me up after the passage of Prop 8 here in California and all the other appallingly discriminatory propositions passed in other states this month.

Of course, knowing that wikipedia has a lot of good will for society behind it isn't quite as encouraging on the human rights front as the Florida court decision earlier this week. It really shouldn't be such a relief to hear this type of rational statement in a court of (supposedly separated from any church's pulpit) law:

“It is clear that sexual orientation is not a predictor of a person’s ability to parent.” --Judge Cindy S. Lederman, Miami-Dade Circuit Court

Sadly, the Flordia law banning homosexual couples or individuals from adopting children has been on the books for 30 years and the state will appeal the decision in the Florida Supreme Court. The idea of the state making a case that people like me have a "higher incidence of drug and alcohol abuse among same-sex couples, that their relationships are less stable than those of heterosexuals, and that their children suffer a societal stigma" (NYTimes article above), is chillingly reminiscent of 20th Century arguments made about the intelligence of black people and women based on cranial size. Using pseudo-scientific studies to justify racist/sexist/homophobic beliefs is the pathetic flail of the ruling class as they feel their means of oppressing the rest of us slip through their fingers. It's disgusting, but it's also extremely revealing of the unfair bias of the claim. Accepted scientific inquiries have that inconvenient attribute of objectivity and are not touted as facts but rather theories that are not only provable but also disprovable. Science allows itself to change and reminds its community to keep an open mind, to consider all possibilities, to think outside the given box. In this case, the sweeping, scientific-sounding claims made by the state's "experts" were refuted by studies of individual families showing "that children raised by gay parents fare just as well or better than children raised by straight parents” (same article). I don't know how much the experts vs. studies argument will bear on the Florida Supreme Court's decision when they are eventually obliged to hear this case, but it's good to see signs that the quality of life is improving and will continue to improve for unconventional families in this country. Just as the ability to score well on an IQ test will go up when one is no longer forced into manual labor or domestic servitude, the ability to create a safe, stable family life will increase when one is ALLOWED to have a family. Makes sense to me.

The scales are tilted and we all need to pull our weight in balancing them. The news that wikipedia's mission to allow free access to the sum of human knowledge to all and sundry is a hefty addition to the underserved side of the scales. They are running on donations and are about half way to their 2009 goals now. Maybe my money would be better spent by supporting literacy programs or by helping more poor people & communities gain access to computers, but wikimedia does a lot of good and every little bit of good helps.

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Two-Headed Girl: Story No. 9

Okay, okay. Here's the thing: She dared me to do it! She dared me.

Well, that's interesting. Are you going to go through with it?

Okay. So, yes? Maybe. I don't know. Maybe?


Well, It's just... I'm not really sure whether it's something I should be doing right now.

Hmm.... I don't want to overstep my bounds here, and you can tell me if I'm off-base, but that sounds like a bit of a cop out to me.

What? A cop out? Come on! It's completely reasonable to worry about what consequences your actions could have, especially on a dare.

Listen, I'm as cautious as the next person--god forbid that person does Xtreme Sports or something--but, I really don't see why you need to feel like you "should" or "should not" be doing something you obviously really want to do. (Don't look at me like that! You are DYING to do this. You've been waiting for the motivation for years.) It just sounds a little bit like you're worried about the outcome because you don't want to be personally held responsible for whatever happens.

Wow. You think I've been personally shirking responsibility, huh?

No, that's not what I--

Yeah, yeah. Okay. I appreciate your honesty. But, while we're being honest, who really wants to be held responsible for anything anyway? With this, it's more that I just don't feel like I'm particularly qualified. It's like I've just told a funny joke and now I've been asked to do an HBO stand-up special, and I know that I'm not able to perform at anywhere near feature-length. I'm afraid I'll end up like every Adam Sandler movie you've ever seen, repeatedly kicking people in the balls in search for a laugh as good as the first one.

I'm sure you won't have to go as far as that! And, of course, there are ten people on every bus that are more qualified and have more will to follow through with this than you. So what? They laugh when Adam Sandler kicks them in the balls. You're the one who's been challenged. She did you a huge favor and laid down the gauntlet for you. Are you going to run it or not?

Well, okay. But I'm going to need new shoes.


Yeah, the tread is completely worn on these.


And...yes! I'll do it. Yes. Definitely. I'll do it tomorrow.


No. Scratch that. I'll do it tonight! Yeah! I'm ready.

Really? You're up for getting this show on the road tonight? How about right now?

Yes! Now. All systems are go!

Alright, then. I'm in.



Yeah! Wonderful! Hey! This is really great news. I'm psyched! With the two of us doing it, how can we go wrong?

I can't imagine.

We'll kill.

You mean: "Make a killing?"

Quite possibly, my friend. Quite possibly. But, in the meantime, there are at least two of us who can take the blame, and another can be held as an accomplice. We should decide right now who should take the fall, if it comes to that, and who should get away Scott free.

Friday, October 10, 2008

How I would take off the peel of an apple all in one go

I've been practicing this magic trick for a while now. It's more slight of hand than magic, but, if you get the slight just right, it's more magic than anything else.

The magician places the apple in a boiled egg holder that has been fitted with a small length of wire under the base of the stand. One end of the wire should be attached to the base, and the rest of the wire should be coiled lightly underneath. This allows the magician to show the boiled egg holder to the audience without revealing the trick.

Once the magician shows that she has no wires up her sleeves, she uses her pinky finger to secretly unravel the wire and release it onto the table behind the holder as she sets it down. Then, she uses one hand to steady the stand while she uses the other hand to place a perfectly normal apple on top. Keeping her steady hand in place, she slides her other hand along the table, quickly picking up the free end of the wire between the index and middle fingers. If she keeps her attention focussed on the apple, she can make this motion mysterious enough to lull the audience into not noticing the wire. The motion of picking up the wire should also be smooth, quick and seem to be nothing more than a prelude to moving her hand up to hover just above the apple stem. This motion will straighten the wire and the magician must take care to bring it into firm contact with the backside of the apple.

The dramatic conclusion:

Uttering the magic words and creating the correct tension in the wire, the magician grabs the stem, pushs down, twists, pulls up with a flourish, releases the wire and triumphantly raises a perfectly peeled apple that can be presented to a lucky audience member by the stem.

The slight is more in the wrist than in the hand and more in the elbow than in the wrist.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Days, Months, Years: Story No. 8

Days, months, years--all the same thing, really. Just different denominations of time passing. Samples of arbitrary size brought into being for the purpose of defining reality.

He often thought about things like "the arbitrary nature of time" and "the absurd notion of reality" when he was running late to work.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Tangled Legs: Story No. 7

The azure voice of the singer slid up and down my pant leg. I coughed and shifted my weight against the wooden arms of the old-fashioned bar stool.