Sunday, September 30, 2007

MUSIC: Glendale City Church Inaugural Organ Concert

This afternoon brought the long-awaited inaugural recital for the new organ at Glendale City Church. (Actually, those of us who attend the church have been having previews for months, but this was the formal inauguration.) The new organ is quite an impressive instrument, a 4-manual, 150-rank Colby/Harrah symphonic organ, a combination of digital technology and real pipes. Kemp Smeal, Glendale City's organist, showed it off to great advantage in an impressive program, opening with Edmundson's majestic Toccata on "Von Himmel Hoch" and closed with the exquisite Prelude and Fugue sur le nom d'Alain by Duruflé. We were treated to Bach, including the Prelude and Fugue in E Minor ("the wedge fugue"), a multi-stylistic interpretation of "Amazing Grace", and even "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" as an encore. Throughout, Kemp literally pulled out all the stops, showing off the pipes, the trumpets, the reeds, strings, and even bells at different times. There were moments when the whole sanctuary rumbled. I think my favorite part, though, was when Kemp had the congregation sing along in the traditional and stately hymn "All Creatures of Our God and King", including a special "additional" verse written especially for organ dedications.

There are many good reasons we love attending Glendale City Church, but it sure doesn't hurt that our congregation takes the music program so seriously. We have a top notch choir and organist (and now a top-notch organ!), and there are times I pinch myself, thinking wow, this is as fine a quality performance as you'd get in a concert hall. But I guess since so many of the great works have been created in a sacred context, there's something very appropriate about that. Great music is a blessing.

OPERA: Fidelio

Wow! Just got home from a breathtaking Los Angeles Opera performance of Beethoven's Fidelio. The music is unmistakably Beethoven, beautiful and heroic, and the theme of his only opera is a suitably heroic theme: the wife of a "disappeared" political prisoner who disguises herself as a young man to find and rescue her husband. The heroine is positively inspirational in her first aria, after she's just overheard the corrupt governor and the jailer talking about killing a secret prisoner, when she sings:
Come hope, let not the last bright star
In my anguish be obscured!
Light up my goal, however far,
Through love I shall still reach it.
I follow my inner calling,
Waver I shall not,
Strength I derive
From faithfulness and love.
It is amazing how this story, so informed by Beethoven's experiences with the hope and terror of the French Revolution, and the hope and subsequent new terror of Napoleon, has so many contemporary echoes. Thoughts of Guantanamo, and of Burmese monks, kept crossing my mind as I watched. There is a great moment where, upon seeing one of the secret prisoners, and not yet knowing whether or not this one is her husband, she resolves to risk her life to save him, "whoever he is". The world could do with more of that. After seeing this opera, if I had a daughter, I would name her Leonore.

Soprano Anja Kampe was tremendous as the trouser-role heroine, with a voice that soared to all of Beethoven's lofty humanistic heights. She was marvelously paired with tenor Klaus Florian Vogt as her noble-souled imprisoned husband, whose golden pure voice dispelled darkness, and their voices blended so sweetly in their duets. There were many lovely trios and quartets, with bass Matti Salminen as the good-hearted jailer, soprano Rebekah Camm as his daughter, and tenor Greg Fedderly (well known to us here in LA) as the jailer's assistant, and a couple of memorable choruses. Some of the quartets could have been from a Rossini or Mozart comedy (though with distinctive Beethoven texture and harmonies), and this opera starts on a light note, seeming to be a comedy about crossed love interests and hidden identity (he loves her, but she loves "him", who's really a "her"), before elevating to its more serious and inspirational theme. The music throughout is sublime, and we got the added bonus of the Leonore #3 overture as an interlude between scenes of the second act. The beautiful music and gorgeous voices were enhanced all the more by an excellent staging job, with a well-designed set, and some excellent lighting techniques to conjure up the darkness of a Spanish prison and the cold depths of a Spanish cell without actually being too dark to see (a mistake that has detracted from other productions). The use of projections on a translucent screen was used to great effect. When the triumphal finale came to its magnificent end, the audience rose to its feet in applause for two full curtain calls.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Shame on Jena

Everybody seems to be shocked, shocked that racism is alive and well in the deep South. If the events as summarized byMegan McArdle are accurate, this is truly appalling. That sort of institutional racism ought to be so long over. At least a few people in that town (like the school principal who got overruled by the school board) see clearly, but an apparent majority of the Jena townsfolk seem to be so benighted that they can't even see their own racism. Talk about a log in your eye.

Friday, September 21, 2007

BOOKS: Crisis of Abundance

On a non-fiction kick lately, I read Arnold Kling's Crisis of Abundance, in which he clinically diagnoses the problem with America's healthcare system. I believe he's hit the nail on the head in pointing out the irresistable forces and immovable objects that shape America's healthcare dilemma (or rather, "trilemma"), namely, (1) unfettered access (we should have access to any treatment that the patient and doctor agree may be beneficial), (2) insulation from cost (patients and doctors should not have to factor cost into their decisions), and (3) affordability (the healthcare system should be efficient and not require an inordinate amount of public resources). We currently have (1) and (2), with (3) running further and further out of reach. Kling's been thinking about this for a good while now, and he has some keen observations. Some of the key points he raises:
  • insurance vs "insulation". A viable insurance market is one in which consumers pay a premium in exchange for financial protection against an unlikely but severe risk (e.g., an auto accident, or your house burning down). What we call medical insurance in America today is really more like "insulation" rather than insurance. We are protected from all costs, including routine and predictable ones. This tends to foil the normal market mechanisms, because consumers are completely disconnected from their actual costs. Kling makes this amusing analogy: suppose we had something called "food insurance", where you (or your employer) paid a regular premium, an in exchange, you can eat for free as much and as often as you want at any restaurant (or maybe any restaurant in your "network"). How well would that work? Do you think that would encourage the highest quality restaurants? Do you think people would see the connection between eating with abandon and their rising premiums?
  • lack of cost-benefit analysis. In our medical system today, neither the doctor nor the patient gives any thought to cost-benefit analysis of various treatments and procedures. Most everyone would agree that people ought to get treatments that are necessary, and should not seek treatment that is unnecessary or whose cost and/or risk clearly outweigh a small benefit. But Kling argues that the majority of treatments fall in some gray area in between clearly necessary and clearly not worthwhile. Unfortunately, our current system doesn't incentivize doctors or patients to care about cost-benefit trade-offs.
  • rise of premium medicine. He describes America's growing consumption of what he calls "premium medicine", meaning increased use of specialists, advanced diagnostic techniques, and surgeries. In many cases, expensive diagnostics make little or no difference in treatment and outcome. Yet the doctor has no incentive to be concerned with cost-benefit analyses, he's more incentivized to take the extra precaution to avoid any possible malpractice exposure. And the patient says, sure, let's have the MRI if it increases my chances of health as much as a lottery ticket increases my chances of riches, who cares what it costs because I'm not paying for it. So part of this goes back to not caring about the cost. But Kling sees that as compounded by a cultural component, having to do with higher patient expectations and more availability of technology and specialists, and doctors wanting to meet patients' high expectations.
Kling is a professional economist turned professor turned think-tank wonk, focusing on health care (he is a regular contributor to TCSDaily), and he does a great job of explaining economic theory in layman's terms. He aims to delivering something respectable to professional economists while also comprehensible to non-PhD's. It's a fine line to walk at times -- we amateurs have to wade through a few more charts, figures, and supporting evidence than we might require to be convinced, while the pros must be patient with a few more analogies explaining things they already know -- but on the whole I believe he succeeds in satisfying both audiences.

So what is Kling's prescription? He lays out some innovative and sensible recommendations, starting with matching appropriate funding sources to groups based on their needs. His relevant demographics break us down into the very poor, the very sick, and the rest of us. (He also gets into the different but predictable needs of the elderly, and the special needs of the "permanently sick", e.g., those with diabetes, but the three broad categories are the gist of it.) He shows how if the government paid for the very poor, if catastrophic insurance (i.e., really high deductibles) paid for the very sick, and if the rest of us paid for a moderate and predictable amount of medical expenses out of pocket, we could all be paying a lot less and get a more efficient system. He has some intriguing ideas about new forms of insurance, and some other good recommendations like establishing a Medical Guidelines Commission (i.e., somebody who would care to figure out how often various procedures really are worthwhile). Now you know that if someone from the Cato Institute is advocating both a new government spending program (albeit in place of some existing ones) and a new government commission, then he really does think it would be better than what we have now, or the other alternatives floating around.

Monday, September 17, 2007

FILM: Stardust

Saturday night we saw Stardust. It's been out for a while, which is a good sign these days when films are often so short-lived on the big screen. I'd been hearing good things about it and we were not disappointed. Everybody compares it to The Princess Bride, and I can see why. It has that same winning combination of a good fairy-tale adventure story with a self-conscious sense of humor. The plot has enough moving pieces in it to keep it quite interesting (though not overwhelming), and enough turns to keep it not entirely predictable (even though I did figure out the gist of the end before it unfolded, it was still great to see how it would unfold). The actors all do a great job: Michelle Pfeiffer is divinely wicked as the vain witch Lamia, and Robert de Niro is a crack-up as a cross-dressing gay pirate. (Yeah, his gay play is flamingly stereotypical, but it's what the sensibility of the film calls for.) Clair Danes is a nice balance of sweet and spunky as the "damsel in distress", and Charlie Cox is perfectly charming as the village boy turned hero. Peter O'Toole takes a nice little turn as the vicious dying king, and his seven equally ruthless sons (including Rupert Everett and Mark Strong) provide some great dark comic moments. The film has no shortage of villains, all racing to get a piece of Clair Danes, and it squeezes in a bit of heart and inspiration, all while not taking itself too seriously and allowing us to have a good laugh while enjoying the story. Very fun!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

DeathStar Lands In Downtown LA

New CalTrans Building
Originally uploaded by TomChatt
The other week, I was at a reception on the 18th floor of the California Plaza, and enjoyed great views over downtown Los Angeles. Looking eastward, I saw an empty city block with some cranes on it, in front of a huge metallic framework. "What's that going to be when it's done?" I asked.

"Well, the empty block is the site of the new LAPD headquarters, and that monolith behind it is the new CalTrans building. But they're not working on that. It's already done."

"Er, are you sure?"

The building is appallingly imposing in scale and cold in demeanor. Imagine a VHS cassette box, standing up on its long edge, and you've got the proportions. Now imagine those proportions 13 stories tall, twice as wide, but only one-fourth as deep. Now imagine it made of cold gray steel, with no apparent windows, the façade like a giant steel plate with no features other than a few braille-like bumps. Standing in front of it (or is it the back?) is like standing at the base of an aircraft carrier, except that it's a bit more glossy. On closer inspection, there are a few interesting details on the edges, but they are lost in the overall Orwellian nightmare impression. It's just too hard to get past the psychic assault of that immense flat gray wall. It looks like it would leech all the happiness out of anyone who entered it, like the sort of place people go into and never come out of. A place only dementors or the Borg could love.

As if the ugly exterior weren't bad enough, it seems the building suffers in functionality as well as form. Even though the imposing face appears to have no windows, in actuality it's all windows with some sophisticated system of screening panels that filter the light, repositioning themselves automatically based on how much light there is. Unfortunately, I guess they didn't bother to try the concept out on a smaller scale before spending all the money to install them on two 200'x400' walls, because it turns out that the effect of the screened light inside is so nauseous and dizzying that they can't put any desks within 10 feet of the windows. (That's approximately 65,000 square feet of office space rendered unusable.) Then there is the side of the building covered in solar panels to provide some of the building's electricity. Unfortunately, it's the skinny side of the building that faces the sun, so it only generates 5% of the building's electrical needs, whereas it might have generated closer to 30% if the building had been oriented or proportioned differently. (To his credit, it should be said that the building was reported to have been constructed on a very tight budget and schedule, which are also an important part of architect's job from the client's perspective. And the requirements for office space given the footprint were a formidable challenge.)

It's not that I'm anti-Modernist. I'm delighted to see some bold modern additions to Los Angeles' increasingly exciting downtown. Love the Frank Gehry concert hall, love the Rafael Moneo cathedral. It's not that I dislike Thom Mayne (the architect of the CalTrans building). From the photos I've seen, his US Courthouse in Eugene is seriously cool, as is his university rec center in Cincinatti. That just makes it all the more a shame that Mayne's most prominent contribution to his home town is so dismal.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Wiki wiki

The name "wiki", used to describe a community-maintained content management system (Wikipedia being the most famous example), comes from the Hawaiian word for "quick". Tom Chatfield (no relation :-)) of Prospect Magazine makes this observation about how fast Wikipedia gets updated (hat tip Andrew):
Ever wondered how fast a page updates on wikipedia nowadays? It took all of three minutes after Roger Federer’s victory in the US Open for this to appear on his biography there:
In the 2007 US Open, Federer beat 3rd seed Novak Djokovic in the final in straight sets 7-6, 7-6, 6-4 WOOHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!.
And within the time it took me to copy and paste that extract, the offending exclamation had been removed. Clearly, there’s no such thing as too many editors.
Earlier this year, I had my own experience with the amazingly rapid updating of Wikipedia. A day or two before we were to leave on our vacation to Spain, I was trying to figure out the logistics of getting from Madrid's airport to our hotel in the city. Rick Steves' guidebook informed that the metro connected directly to terminal 2, and a hook-up was expected to the new international terminal 4 sometime in 2007. So I figured I would check Wikipedia to see what it said about Madrid-Barajas Airport, and it said simply that the Metro runs to terminal 2 and terminal 4. Wanting to get independent confirmation, I Googled, and discovered that indeed the connection was open to T4. In fact, the ribbon-cutting ceremony had occurred, oh, a few hours previous. So the ribbon had barely hit the floor before someone had updated Wikipedia. We were some of the first arriving passengers to use the new metro station, and Wikipedia already had the scoop. Wiki wiki indeed.

Oprah, Obama. Obama, Oprah.

So Oprah has decided to throw her considerable influence behind Obama for President. Just this weekend, she already raised some serious bucks ($3 million) at a shindig at her Santa Barbara home. But the bigger contribution will be her influence. Lady O reaches over 8 million people on TV, and millions more via her magazine, website, and other media. She's never endorsed a candidate before, and it seems she may be willing to seriously go to bat for him. Not clear yet whether she would take an active role in his direct campaign, or simply do her own thing (as a 527). Either way, this is great news for the distinguished gentleman from Illinois (and in my opinion, great news for America).

I haven't heard yet if Letterman (or Uma Thurman) had any comment.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

STAGE: Confessions of a Mormon Boy

This afternoon we were treated to a one-man autobiographical show called Confessions of a Mormon Boy. It's the poignant story of a boy on track to be the perfect Mormon -- missionary leader, BYU grad, married with two kids -- except for the nagging problem that he is gay. Steven Fales, the writer/actor/protagonist, tells his story engagingly, with a healthy blend of humor and pathos, of his struggle to be straight -- trying all sorts of counseling and reparative therapy -- to his eventual excommunication from his church, divorce from his wife, and exile from the only life he knew. The latter phase of his life leads to New York City and a dark path of being an escort, doing drugs, and living a life of decadence, before bottoming out, and ultimately, a revelation of self-acceptance. Given this history, Fales could be forgiven for falling into polemics or bitterness, but he rises above those temptations, keeping the story focused on his personal experience and development, and keeping his delivery genuine and heartfelt. He has obviously done a lot of soul-searching, and the play offers some great insights and profound quotes. (One that sticks in mind: after being excommunicated by a horrible tribunal, Fales hears the voice of God in his head saying "I know who you are, and I am bigger than all of this.") The minimal staging -- a bench and a few costume changes -- is used to good effect, and the primary narrative style of talking to the audience is broken up by well-enacted vignettes. While gay people who have suffered an unhealthy religious upbringing will recognize a lot in Fales' story, I don't think you need to be Mormon or gay to appreciate the self-examined humanity in his tale. (The play is running at the Elephant Lab Theatre through September 30.)

FILM: The Bubble

We had enjoyed gay Israeli filmmaker Eytan Fox's previous film Walk on Water, so we were eager to see his new one, The Bubble (or "ha-Buah" in Hebrew). It is a vivid and moving view of life in Israel, as seen through the eyes of three young friends who share an apartment in Tel Aviv, and the dramatic chain of events put into play when one of them falls in love with a Palestinian. The opening sequence shows a West Bank checkpoint, and the tension of Israelis imposing necessary security measures on Palestinians entering into Israel, who suffer hassles, indignities, and sometimes worse, even those who are innocent. This serves as a checkpoint of perspective against the lives of the protagonists in Tel Aviv, where they are relatively insulated from danger, and can pursue liberal activism, hang out in trendy cafes, dance to good music (the film has a great soundtrack), and live their "Sex In the City"-style personal dramas. This is life in "the bubble". After Ashraf, the Palestinian boy, hooks up with Noam (one of the flatmates), he assumes an Israeli identity for a while, but must eventually return to his family in Nablus, providing a view into a very different life in the West Bank. The bubble eventually bursts in unexpected and dramatic ways, as the relationship between these star-crossed lovers unfolds. The characters and events in this film obviously carry heavy political symbolism, but they don't collapse under its weight. The filmmaker keeps the characters real and believeable, and there are only a few plot/character points molded for allegorical necessity that require much willing suspension of disbelief. We found ourselves swept up by the story, enlightened by a glimpse of the tension underlying daily life in Israel, and the realization that we here in America are truly the ones living in a bubble.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Some Calculating, Some Ignorant, All Pandering

Two different candidate quotes on page 14 of this morning's LA Times were the sort that made me want to retort. First, I see the headline "Clinton rejects raising age for Social Security benefits". Apparently, this is yet another Clinton gambit to position herself as "more experienced" than Obama. (Ironically, when it was the nuclear kerfuffle, Clinton chastised Obama for taking options off the table, but with Social Security, he's apparently naïve for leaving things on the table.) According to the article:
Clinton aides drew attention to a television interview Obama gave in May, where he refused to rule out raising the retirement age or boosting payroll taxes to ensure Social Security remains solvent over the next few decades.
"Everything should be on the table," Obama told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos in that interview.

In her speech, Clinton took the position that certain solutions should be off-limits.

"I'll tell you, putting everything on the table is not the answer," she said. "Raising the retirement age is not the answer. Cutting benefits is not the answer."
This is just plain pandering. Clinton is a smart wonk, and she's undoubtedly aware of the dimensions of the Social Security disaster-in-waiting. There are only three ways to address the problem: have workers pay more (raise taxes), have retirees get less (reduce benefits), or change the ratio of workers to retirees (raise the retirement age). While it's unpopular to talk about cutting benefits or raising the retirement age, that's frankly what needs to be done. I'm much more impressed with Obama, who is willing to tell us what we need to hear, than Clinton, who, like most politicians, is just saying what she thinks we want to hear. (Sure, Clinton was addressing the AARP. But Obama isn't afraid to address hot topics, regardless of the context of his speech, as he showed earlier in the year when he spoke about merit pay in addressing the NEA.)

Then in the next story, I read about Fred Thompson's ignorant comments about same-sex marriage:
Denouncing judges in Iowa, Massachusetts and other states for decisions opening the way to same-sex marriage, Thompson called for constitutional amendments to curb judges' power to do so.

"What we're seeing here is a totally judicially created problem," he told a crowd in Sioux City.

"You know how many states have affirmatively approved gay marriage? State legislatures? Zero."
Um, better check your facts, Fred. Although it's been vetoed by the governor, the California Legislature has approved same-sex marriage not just once, but twice, as of yesterday. (Of course, Thompson might be excused for not knowing about yesterday's news, if other newspapers buried it as the LA Times did.) In Massachusetts, although gay marriage was ushered in by their high court, it has been effectively ratified by the legislature in voting down a proposed amendment to override the court decision.

Two examples of pandering. Clinton knows better. Thompson is just ignorant. Either way, these illustrate why Obama looks so refreshing.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Restroom Round-Up

What to think about Senator Larry Craig's "disorderly conduct" in the airport men's room? I admit I felt some schadenfreude(*) at seeing such a die-hard anti-gay legislator suffer such an ironic fall. (The man scored a complete zero on the HRC gay policy report card. That's not just incidentally anti-gay, that requires real focus.) But the episode elicits a complex mix of reactions.

Is Craig guilty? You bet. His immediate reactions unquestionably belie his guilt. There are a number of unbelievable aspects to Craig's version of the story. For example, he says he has a "wide stance" when going to the bathroom, and may have unknowingly put his foot into the next stall. Right. I don't think anyone has that wide of a stance. Moreover, Craig wasn't standing, he was sitting. But the real clincher for me was his immediate reaction when the officer flashed his badge and asked him to leave. Craig said "No!". Think about that. An innocent person would never have said "No!", they would have said "Huh??". But as soon as Craig saw the badge, he knew exactly what he was being busted for. Why? Because he knew what he was doing in that restroom, and it wasn't the nominal innocent purpose. And then this business of the guilty plea, hoping to make it go away quietly, without even talking to an attorney? Is that the reaction of a falsely accused Senator? I think not. Why on earth would Craig have attempted to just handle this himself without consulting with legal and political advisors? There's only one reason. He was scared to death to talk to anybody about it. Guilty, guilty, guilty.

Was there really any crime committed? I don't think so. While I'm certain that Craig's intentions for using that restroom are everything that he's denying, I don't see how that amounts to a crime. What he is being accused of is sticking his foot and his hand slightly into the next stall. While most would find this behavior bizarre and off-putting, I doubt most would view it as criminal. The charge behind the charge comes from the meaning behind these coded rituals, making them something akin to winking at someone. But is winking a crime? Insofar as these actions were coded communication, they were a more subtle equivalent of of going up to someone in a restroom and baldly saying "you're hot, I'd like to give you a blow job". But even that, while many would find it quite disturbing, is not criminal. Freedom of speech, you know. One might argue that Craig was looking to have sex right there in the public facility, which would be illegal. Admittedly, but things never got that far, did they? Perhaps in Minnesota they do things differently, but generally one can't be charged for something one merely intends to do, but doesn't actually follow through with. Making a larger point, Arianna Huffington asks whether such sting operations aren't an obvious misallocation of law enforcement resources (especially in an airport, where far more ominous potential crimes weigh heavily on all our minds).

Is Craig a victim of anti-gay animus? Indeed he is. The double-standard is painfully apparent. We have the contrast in Craig's fellow Senator, David Vitter, who just a couple months ago was exposed as having used the services of a prostitute in DC. Apparently, heterosexual prostitution is a forgiveable sin, as nobody is looking for Vitter to resign. But what Craig did was "so reckless and repulsive as to demand an immediate exit" (in the words of Hugh Hewitt). This contrast has been pointed out, and various excuses are offered, such as that no charges have been brought against Vitter, or that Vitter's offenses were years ago. But let's cut the crap. This is about the gay stigma. What has been Craig's most vehement public denial? "I am not gay." Note that he seems far less concerned with countering charges that he has been having sex outside of marriage, or engaging in extra-marital affairs via particularly seedy avenues. One gets the distinct impression that if Craig could somehow trade his peccadillo for Vitter's, he'd put his name on the DC madam's list as fast as you can tap your foot. (Hilary Bok also is right to point out the double-standard of men vs. women suffering sexual harrassment.)

What's the appropriate Christian response to this sort of thing? I think we saw that last year with Ted Haggard. He confessed (eventually), and he was forgiven by his family and church, not rejected by them. Contrast that with Craig, who is embracing denial, and the likes of Mitt Romney, who quickly threw Craig under the bus. Bill Clinton (who knows a thing or two about peccadillos) was far more charitable: "Well, first of all, I think we ought to recognize that this is a very traumatic time for him and his family. And whatever happens or doesn't, most of his political career was behind him. So whatever your party, we should be hoping that he and his family can work through this in a way that leaves them as whole as possible. I think that that is more important than the politics of this."

(*) If you don't know what schadenfreude is, then you need to go see Avenue Q.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

A Wisconsin Boy Dreams of Marriage

Excellent editorial in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel last week written by a high school senior. Money quote:
I believe in the sanctity of marriage; in fact, it's a tradition I aspire to emulate. For me, marriage is more than just a word; it's the embodiment of an idea to which I am deeply loyal. Marriage sanctifies the love and commitment that form the basis of a strong, morally upright family.
"Civil union," by contrast, is a sterile and relatively meaningless term. Those who support civil unions and oppose gay marriage, including nearly all of the Democratic presidential candidates, fail to understand that nobody views marriage in terms of government benefits.
Marriage is really about carrying on an honorable and meaningful tradition. The benefits are superfluous. The word is indispensable.
I emailed him this response:

Hi Jonathan,

I just read your editorial in the Journal-Sentinel (courtesy of link from Andrew Sullivan), and I wanted to send my congratulations to you for having the courage to speak out (and so eloquently!). I hope that you have hope in equal measure to your courage. For what it's worth, I can well recall feeling very much like you did when I first came out some 25 years ago. When I first came to the realization that I was gay, I felt as if all of my lifelong dreams of family and marriage were torn to shreds in front of my face, with nothing to replace them. It took a while for me to integrate a new dream, very similar to the old one, informed by all the same values I was raised with, but with another man instead of a woman to share my life with. Now, though we lack state recognition, I have a very wonderful husband and six happy years of being married. We had a relatively traditional wedding, exchanging vows surrounded by family and friends. It can happen -- it will happen for you, and by the time it does, you may even be able to get that wedding license. In the 25 years since I came out, I have seen amazing changes in America's acceptance of homosexuality. There's still a ways to go, but we're moving in the right direction, and there's no turning back. Know hope.

Best regards,
Tom Chatt