Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Coupla Little Poems

i still seem to be on this odd jag of writing haiku-esque poems.  the first one here i'm sure is a genuine english-language haiku.  the second is interesting: i have 2 different versions, both of which i like. the 2nd rhymes--can a haiku rhyme?  whatever it is, since i can't choose [and come to think of it, why should i?], here are the first poem, the 2nd poem, and the other 2nd poem. [did i  just sound like the old bob newhart show?]

                                       Window View

                       first day of summer.
                       sky dappled leaves.

                      Great Book List [1]
                   Look, there's Charlotte!
                   Passing out cigars
                   to a roomful of men.

                 Great Book List [2]

  Look, there's Charlotte again:
 Passing cigars to a roomful of men.

Marriage has always been....

`~well, that part is right.  marriage has always been.  it's the next part that's tricky.  what, precisely,  has marriage always been?

  marriage has changed over the centuries, which is why it still exists.  i loved listening to mitt romney  proclaiming that marriage has always been between one man and one woman.  he, at least, should know better, since he is a member of a religion for whom marriage in the not-too-distant past was between one man and several women.  for many cultures at many times, that was the norm.

marriage has also been, in various times and places:

~an economic arrangement, with no concern about 'love.' or even 'like'. for women in particular it wasn't about choice.  your parents decided, for reasons having little to do with your personal emotions, who you were to marry.  marriages were often arranged before the betrothed had even met each other.  for men trapped in such marriages, there was at least the counter-institution of prostitution, which, as saint augustine and later thomas acquinas explained, was necessary to the family as the cesspool was necessary to the house.

~a transfer of possession.  the father 'gave away' his daughter, to her new owner.  like any slave, the woman was then given the surname of that owner.  the woman wore white because she was a virgin; men didn't like to buy used goods.

~an excuse to pay female workers lower wages than male workers, because she was being supported by her husband, or would be when she married.

~an assurance of a  man's ownership of the children he sired.

~an institution available only to members of the same race--if, indeed, the oppressed race was given the possibility of marriage in the first place.

those are a few of things marriage has been over the millenia.

none of this is new information.  in itself, it's not a good argument for or against gay marriage.  its relevance to that issue is only that the lie about the immutable nature of marriage has been used to argue against gay marriage.  i suppose you can't blame the homophobes for using it, since  there really isn't any sensible reason to ban gay marriage, and they have to say something more convincing than 'i think it's creepy.'

nor, by the way, do i think it necessarily proves the contention of the few of us who would like to see marriage as a legal institution be abolished--although it's a pretty good start.

it's just that it's always good to base one's arguments on truth.  call me old-fashioned, but i'm pretty fond of honesty.  

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

the marriage game

i have no idea what happened, but i wrote and posted a long entry about marriage. kept saving along the way.  just looked now, and it has totally disappeared.

the gist of it was: just as months ago i wrote a post on the irony of intensely supporting repeal of don't-ask-don't-tell when i do not support militarism, i am finding it equally ironic that i am so joyful about, and supportive of, gay marriage, when what i'd really like is the end of marriage as a legal institution, for anyone.  since it does exist, i am convinced that it must exist for everyone who wants it.  and the legal goodies that come with it shouldn't be withheld from a couple because their genders are the same.

i like some of the ideas that have become attached to the institution of marriage--monogamy, permanence, a love strong enough to carry it through difficult times with that same fierce fidelity.  what i don't like is the government being part of the business.  i would like for everyone the reverse of what we have achieved for homosexuals in some states.  public ceremonies acknowledging and celebrating a couple's commitment are lovely.  they should remain, always, an option.  this option can be played out in churches and other religious institutions, in one's own home, in a rented hall--however the couple chooses.  it can be, as weddings are, either simple or huge.  it simply shouldn't involve the law.  this would put it in the same category as other such ceremonies--ordinations of priests, bar mitzvahs, memorial services for the dead.

as i envision it, all the useful provisions that go into the marriage contract can be parsed out and offered separately, or in various combinations, as the particular situation calls for.  any adult who has children, either through sex or through adoption, needs laws to protect the children.  such laws already exist, but not only in marriage. a single parent is legally responsible for the care of their child.  a parent who separates from their family has legal obligations to help support and raise the children.  the laws around parenting can be expanded, clarified, whatever is needed.  other, less crucial but still significant legal concerns exist around who has rights to make decisions for a person unable through illness or injury to make their own decisions.  every adult should have some form of proxy, living will, etc., and the law should accept that. but the proxy doesn't need to be a blood or legal relative.  property sharing, etc., can be worked out by individual contract.  taxes should not be different for individuals who are married or who are single.

the institution of marriage would doubtless continue for decades or centuries after such a change in the law occurred [and since that could only occur in decades or centuries, no one is in any danger yet!]  i think it inevitable that enough people would choose the traditional way that the old legal contract could be maintained as one unit for those who preferred that.  they would simply have no more or no fewer rights than others with a more varied need.  and again, all the traditional forms of celebration would continue to exist in religious institutions or secular ones, as already happens....
and here, for now, I'm closing. part 2 will get done soon, looking at the 'marriage has always been...' narrative.  but for now, it's bedtime, and i want to sit here till this thing gets posted!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Yay yay yay new york

gay marriage just passed in new york. so i'm alone in my apartment cheering and clapping. so little to cheer about in politics lately! tomorrow i may have something logical and analytical to say; now i can just say hip hip hip hooray!  wonderful watching rachel maddow being so professional and calm about something that must thrill her. wonderful!!!!!!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Truly Presidential

okay, i disliked obama's speech tonight for the same reasons many people did--i don't want the US staying in afghanistan, policing the world. i cringe at the blatant dishonesty in the phrase 'our heroic troops,' when those troops are sent there to kill.  i also don't like the fact that this diverse bunch of men and women--heroes, cowards, good, bad, complex and ambivalent as all humans are--dying or being physically and emotionally maimed. i don't like the grandiose rhetoric about america's place in the world.  everything that you've already heard from most of the liberals and progressives.

but something else struck me tonight.  maybe i've missed it in earlier speeches; or maybe this is the beginning of an interesting and disheartening symptom.  it was a dull speech.  ordinarily i expect that from a politician, and above all from a president.  somewhere there's a handbook for presidential speechwriters, with a list of mandatory expressions and a chapter on how to say nothing while pretending to say something meaningful.

but obama isn't just a politician; he's a  wordsmith.  he writes like a writer; he thinks like a writer.  he uses language gorgeously.  or at least he did. tonight he was simply another politician.  no subtle, exploring mind; no clear, meaningful language. he labeled those americans who wanted to get out of this war as 'isolationists.' not in itself a bad word--and it has at least three more syllables than his predecessor could have managed.  but it was too easy, too glib; i flashed back on lyndon johnson and his 'nervous nellies' 40 years ago.  at one point, obama spoke of the dead soldiers whose 'memory won't be forgotten.'   a stupid phrase, the phrase of a college kid who uses dramatic-sounding words without attending to their precise meanings.

i started to feel like a picky english teacher: i wanted to explain to obama how memory by definition isn't forgotten, that there was a better way to say what he was trying to get at.  again, i thought of lbj--a shrewd, perhaps brilliant man, but not an especially literate one--and how some of us would catch each other mocking his language. i remember saying to someone, 'it doesn't matter if he sounds like Li'l Abner; it's his killing people that matters.' so why was i now feeling distressed at obama's lousy diction?

but there really is a reason.  obama's eloquence, his feel for words, his ability to always find the precise  word to capture exactly his intention, were part of why he got elected.  he was a thinker, and after eight years of a clown in the white house, a thinker seemed important.

i never expected a president who had a strong capacity for morality, even while i was cheering obama's victory.  and of course he'd be fairly conservative in order to win.  in america, lefties don't get near the real political power; it's pretty amazing that we have a bernie sanders in congress. and in fairness to obama, he was honest in his campaign about his intentions with afghanistan. [not, however, with iraq, in spite of the pretense that that war is over].  but i still respected his intellect, and i hoped that would guide him in some way in his approach to politics. i thought that, to whatever extent the real power structure-- that murky combination of politicians, big money, and the military--would permit, he would retain something of the soul he seemed to have.

maybe he never had it; maybe he was just very good at playing the game.  but for all my unhappiness with his sucking up to the right and calling it 'bipartisanship,' with his lack of interest in anything really progressive, something new hit a nerve for me tonight.  it felt like he was crossing over a line from which he could never return.  i listened to those facile, cookie-cutter presidential words and watched his expressionless face.  foolish as it may sound, obvious as it should have long since been, it seemed that i was looking at someone who was in that final stage of the faustian  transition:  i was looking at a man who had sold his soul.

Monday, June 20, 2011

for watson on father's day

i never cared much for hallmark-holidays like father's day.  but seeing a bunch of lovely tributes to their fathers by facebook friends,  i remember what i never forget--how lucky i was to have had my father for 50 years.  he died in 1994. someday i may be able, or moved, to write about him.  he was in his way an amazing man, and most of who i am, positive and negative, comes from being his daughter.  this photo appeared, surprisingly, a few years ago, in a local newspaper in north carolina, as a new ad. my uncle in charlotte came across it. i knew they kept files of model's pictures and often used old ones, but this one is from the early 1950s.  how pop would have enjoyed the fact that this was in an article on finance!  he never used the word capitalist, but he despised the idea.  he found it ludicrous that he would get paid hourly what the workers who made products he advertised were paid weekly.  it never made us rich; he rarely got all that much work, but he raised a family in lower middle class comfort on his earnings. he taught me, again never using the words, to be a leftist. he taught me to distrust the motives of business and government, and to enjoy things for their use, not their prestige value.  he taught me to love reading, and frequently brought me books from a second hand book store.  to this day i love the fact of a second-hand book more than the fact of a new book. the new book brings its contents; the old book brings its contents and its history.  each page contains the knowledge that someone long ago read the same page and went on to a life i knew nothing about: this stranger who touched me and through whom i touched the page. it's a strange and delicate but deep intimacy.

  pop also taught me a huge loathing for predigested truths; think, question everything. ( sometimes as i grew up it became painful for us both when my thinking produced different answers than his did.)  not least of all, he taught me some of his own tastes: he gave me j.b. priestley and p.g. wodehouse.  now when i read a new second-hand wodehouse novel or short story, i am experiencing not only wodehouse and the previous owners of the book, but pop as well.  we make a wonderful company...we make, as priestley might write, 'good companions.'  happy father's day, pop!

Friday, June 17, 2011

p.s.--conzept and kids

there really are themes that emerge at different times in one's life.  i learned that early in my tarot-reading days, when i worked at psychic fairs and in a given day got several customers who didn't know each other, and no matter how much i shuffled the decks, several cards would come out for almost everyone.  that still happens when i read for my students in the castle in nederland.

opera is as regular a part of my life as i can make it, and conzept [or 'regie' or, as some of my american opera fans call it, 'eurotrash'] always pisses me. it pisses me equally in theatre.   but i don't always rant about it.  this past two weeks seem to offer more occasions than usual for such a rant.

catching up on magazines i've put aside for months, i read today an article in a college alumni mag about how successful emerson's theatre program has been for many of its graduates. cool--very cool.  but it seems to be a major theme for the graduates who are now teachers and directors that, at least for kids, a classical play must be set in another time.  one director/teacher talks of setting romeo and juliet in the early 1990s, 'the pun vs. the grunge scene." another did twelfth night using all beatles music. "we turned it into a british rowhouse," he explains.

so i put aside the magazine and thought about it.  maybe, i tried to grudgingly to see it their way.  maybe it was a good way to get kids into shakespeare--the '90s one used skateboards, surely familiar to any high school student today.  the version of 'much ado' i wrote about in an earlier post was also centered on kids as both actors and audience.  in a production of 'twelfth night' i saw one summer on the boston common, the setting was New York's Central Park in the 1960's. okay, maybe that wasn't as terrible as my friend and i thought, fleeing during the intermission.

but there are a couple of problem with that idea, even on its own terms.  to a kid in high school or middle school in the second decade of the 21st century, even the 1990s are ancient history.  and the 1960s?  i was a teenager in the 1960s, and we thought World War II was as historic as World War I.  kids today know they are influenced by '60s music, but the culture itself? they weren't born until 25 years later.  [the Central Park idea still baffles me. i spent time in central park over many years, and never ran into deer hunters there. the play was on the Boston Common; one might have thought.....oh well...]  to be really 'relevant,' wouldn't you set it in the present?

but here's the other thing.  kids like the 'olden days'; they like figures of fantasy.  disney company makes fortunes on 'the little mermaid' and 'pocahuntis';  fairy tales take place in a highly stylized middle ages. look at popular tv shows for kids:  teletubbies. barney the purple dinosaur.  that ghastly spongebob creature.  kids have imagination.  if they have trouble understanding shakespeare it's because the language is so strange to them, not the costumes.  it's great to get them into shakespeare, teach them how to speak and hear and get that astounding language.  skateboards and beatles tunes can't do that. good teaching can.

so no, there's no need to dumb down great theatre, or great opera. not for kids, and not, i hope, for adults.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Stand by your Man.....

i will admit that at this stage, anthony weiner gives me the creeps.  so what?  the democrats are creeping me out in another way.  rachel maddow was great tonight.  and correct.  the democrats could have instantly responded to the republicans, 'we have been following your excellent example, and accepting the bad behavior of our own.  if you would care to lead the way, we will demand mr. weiner's resignation, as soon as mr. vitter offers his.' and maybe spout some stuff about christian forgiveness.

the fact that the weiner case became 'a circus' and distracted people from the serious political issues is hardly his fault. he wasn't the one making big publicity about his secret emails.  he didn't help himself at all by his aggressive lying, it's true.

maybe president obama is whistle-clean, if self-righteous. but even he can't believe congress is full of faithful spouses and unwed virgins.  i don't feel all that much sympathy for a nearly middle aged man who chooses to engage in variants of cybersex.  but i feel sorry for a country that allows that to determine the man's political fate.  and i hope that the next unfaithful husband in the GOP turns up sooner rather than later, so the democrats can demand the he resign, just as weiner did.  but the democrats probably won't bother.

The Ghastly Concept of Conzept

I am a lover of shakespeare. i am a lover of opera.  i have relatively loose standards.  give me a decent production of a good work and i'm happy.  if the actor can act and the singer can sing,  i can always enjoy it, even when i've seen far better productions with far better performers.

but what i can't stand, what infuriates me, is mucking around with time periods.  a production should suggest either the era in which it is composed or the era in which it takes place. it doesn't have to do that perfectly.  indeed if budget or space limitations prevent a fully realized production, i'm happy with minimal semi-staging. i have always enjoyed staged readings of plays, and have grown to like even concert operas, if i have access to the story and the singers can act enough to convey emotion through facial expression and body language.  formal wear or street-clothes are fine by me.

but why, oh why, do directors think they can improve on a work of genius?  in opera, it's called conzept, or anyhow i think that's how the german word is spelled.  i don't know if it's called conzept when it's a play rather than an opera, but it might as well be.  personally i have a different word for it in either case.  but i'll try to remain civilized.

the idea of concept as i understand it is to show the universality of the work. or to make it more interesting. or more 'relevant.' mostly i think it's to [a] caress a director's ego or [b] to dumb it down to an audience.  if hamlet is hanging out in a laundromat with rosenkrantz and guildenstern, presumably a modern audience will understand the play better.  if brunhilda is a suicide bomber on a motorcycle, the audience will relate to her.  and they will also admire the stage director, because only an original mind could come up with the idea of brunhilda as a suicide bomber.  wow, look at that motorcycle blow up!

the first time i was exposed to this was in a stratford, connecticut, production of the tempest in the mid-1970s. it was the scene of the tempest itself.  everyone was in renaissance costume, except the sailor on the right end, who was wearing jeans and a t-shirt. i thought the  poor actor had been stuck in traffic and had no time to get into costume when he arrived. but the program explained that this was done deliberately, to remind the audience that it was make-believe.  this frightened me, because it made me wonder if the whole audience except for me and my friend had been carted over from an insane asylum.  would anyone think that a stage full of men falling on the floor in front of a waving piece of blue cloth was actually sailors drowning in an ocean?  i thought it was a dumb-ass thing to do.  40 years later i still think it's a dumb-ass thing to do.

for the most part, i've learned how to deal with it, if it's a work i really love or one i've never seen before and would like to experience.  i grit my teeth and close my eyes through the worst scenes.   this past winter when i lived in the netherlands, there was a terrific tv channel called mezzo that did an opera almost every week, all beautifully sung and well acted.  most of them were conzept. i was grateful to see the  operas, many of which i'd never seen before [i know the word is 'heard' for opera, but in my case, seeing matters enough that it's the  appropriate word.]  i learned the trick of watching long enough to see who was singing and what the framework was, then closed my eyes until it sounded like a scene- or mood-change.

once years ago i was spared the horror of conzept because i arrived just as the play [much ado']  was starting and didn't have time to look at the program.  this was an outdoor performance in the middle of an august heat wave.  the young actors--it was one of those programs to get young people to do theatre--were dressed in street clothes.  the women wore light sleeveless dresses and the men wore summer pants and short-sleeved shirts. the two guys who played the guard wore shorts and spaghetti-strap type t shirts.  fanning myself madly, i was glad to see the kids were dressed comfortably for the weather, and i hadn't expected costumes in this sort of bare-bones production. the set was simply a wide light wood background with doors for the actors to go and out of, and they had painted rough depictions of trees in the middle and two other things on either side.  they identified them with signs on top -- the tree one was 'the garden'.  again i approved; it was clearly cheap, likely painted by the company itself, and gave visual clues to what was going on.  then came the intermission and i read the program.  the play, it told me, was about the head of a movie studio in hollywood, whose daughter and niece lived with him. the guards were lifeguards, and the characters were at a beach resort.  'the garden' and the other doors were doors to some sort of carnival games.  oooo-kaay.... i ignored all that and enjoyed the rest of the show.

another outdoor production in another summer had as you like it set in the american old west.  everyone wore jeans and cowboy hats and there was a big american flag in the background.  when the cowboys sat around the old campfire and began to sing, one of the friends i was with whispered, 'hey nonny Whoa!'

opera was a later love for me, and i am forever grateful that the first one i saw [or anyway paid attention to] was the franco zefferelli production of la boheme at the Met.  zefferelli may be excessive, to the point of pulling the audience into the scenery when we should be focused on the music,  a criticism i've heard several times.  but at least the scenery you're pulled into is consistent with the music and the story. i was, as zefferelli and, i'm sure, puccini, meant me to be, totally enchanted.   lord knows what a passion i would have lost if this were, say, the royal opera's 'twilight of the gods.' [that was the one with the biker/suicide bomber brunhilda].  or even if it was 'boheme,' with a director who thought mimi should be a call girl in a bordello in outer space.  it could happen....

when i discovered the joys of semi-staging [which i have written about on one of my early blog posts], i felt safe.  here, when singers picked their own clothing and if they and the director were clever enough, might include a hint of the character [in monteverdi's glorious coronation of  poppea, a male would-be killer disguises himself as a woman. in the boston baroque's production, the singer, bearded and wearing a tux, appeared with a shawl worn by a female character.  it did the trick.]  until a few years ago, indeed, the boston baroque had consistently had the best and most creative semi-staging i'd seen.  it was a place i felt safe from conzept.

alas, poor fool!  in recent years even they have been sucked up into the trend.  somehow 'baroque' now seems to mean set in the 20th century.  thus their beautifully sung and played version of rameau's 'les indes gallant' [roughly translated as the noble indies, i think]--composed as a frothy amusement for the king of france--was full of suitcases and short skirts and modern dance.  the dance is often important in baroque operas, and could have added to the performance---but not mark-morris type dance!  it was all pretty visually bad, but the worst came at the end, when rameau's very 18th century vision of the noble savage indians in the americas turned into a bunch of 20th century hippies, smoking not a peace pipe but a marijuana pipe which made them act giggly--and wearing t shirts with big peace signs drawn on them.

this struck me even more a couple of weeks later, when i saw the Boston Early Music Festival's fully staged niobe,  from the same era.  at first it seems absurd to compare a semi-staged production with a full scale, lavish one. boston baroque had neither the space nor the funding for anything like that.  but i've seen pretty badly staged operas with big budgets.  the 'niobe' was exquisite--and exquisitely consistent with its era.  [i would guess that one of their costumes would eat up the entire budget of the Boston Baroque.]  but it led me to think of what the Boston Baroque could have done.  it would have been fairly easy to adapt the minuet style to the tiny stage space, even using just one couple.  men in tuxes and women in gowns--the staple of concert and semi staged opera-- would have had at least the air of formality the context deserves.  and it might have been even less complicated than Boston Baroque's former style of semi-staging.

so what did i do earlier today?  i ordered my ticket for a local company's mid-july performance of verdi's 'falstaff'  set, the publicity gleefully told me, in the 1970s.  but opera is scarce in july and 'falstaff' is so wonderful.  if the orchestra is half good and the singing competent, i'll get through it.  i'm thinking of removing my glasses; that might just be the trick i need to get through conzept.  i'll see enough shapes and colors to know what's going on, but not enough to see their costumes.  unless there's a motorcycle on stage, or a chevy.   still it's verdi....

but oh, iago--the pity of it!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

another adorable baby

okay, i won't turn this into the gushy-old-spinster-lady blog, i promise....

but this is my friend riemer and his year old son Cyriel -- how could i resist??

i promise i'll get back to searing indictments of the human race.  just not right now.......

Saturday, June 11, 2011

great baby picture

one of the world's cutest babies--abby, daughter of my friend jennifer.  this is a photo of a photo, so you can't see abby's incredible face.  but look at the stance!  unposed; she just decided to try this out herself...and she's not quite  a year old....

Monday, June 6, 2011


i built up a great argument for the guy.  oh, well, innocent until proven guilty is always a good policy.  it still amazes me that politicians do this sort of thing in the internet era.  [well, i suppose this particular thing could only be done in the internet era...].  you would think they'd get it by now: what goes on the internet will make its way into the press, if you're someone of any claim to fame.  and if you're a politician, it can hurt your constiuents and your party.

i like weiner's politics. i still do.if i had a chance to vote for him, i would.  if i were his wife, i would probably reminisce about lorena bobbet, and take it on myself to make sure this particular misdeed could never be done again.  but i'd still vote for him.

because the voter's expectations can't be the spouse's expectations.  it's really none of our business.  yes, i enjoy it when a political lifestyle moralist gets caught doing things they're busy telling the rest of us not to.  that shows a large degree of hypocracy. [and to be honest, that politicizing of personal morality tends to be more of a conservative than a progressive habit.]  otherwise i don't want to know about the sex lives of people i've never met.

what disappoints me about weiner is twofold. one, it's sad to see someone who seems worth respecting acting like a drunken frat-boy.  frankly, i can see a kind of poignance, even drama, in falling in love with someone other than one's spouse, and having to decide what to do with those passions.  but sending crotch shots over email?  the guy is at least 20 years too old for that.  and then caught...well, not quite with his pants down, but metaphorically, yes....and lying about it for a week to the media is almost as stupid as doing it in the first place.

so now he has to do what damage control he can, leaving the democrats with egg on their faces.  and very possibly, depriving the country of an important progressive politician.  that does make me angry.  if he doesn't have the self respect to refrain from such shenanigans; if he's willing to risk his wife's embarrassment and anger and to undercut his own career---too bad.  but in a time when there are so few strongly liberal politicians and when that scarcity affects the lives of the poor, the working class, and minorities in our own country and abroad, he should have made a choice: play little sex games, or be a vocal and ambitious politician.  it's silly that personal sexual behavior can destroy a political career,  but it can. he should have known that.    

Thursday, June 2, 2011


sigh.  this is not what i want to be writing about. or thinking about.  but here i am writing and thinking and trying to dismiss every idiotic but unavoidable pun that invades my mind.

i watched weiner on the rachel maddow show last night--which was the first i'd heard about the nasty picture. he sounded uncomfortable with the subject but determined to address it.  i thought he did, albeit without his usual wit and grace.  one can see why.  the picture, i learned today, was a shot of a pair of underpants covering a bulging and presumably large penis.  what seems to upset people is that he told maddow that he couldn't absolutely swear that it wasn't a picture of him.  he didn't think it was, he said, and added that he certainly didn't send any picture of himself to any twitter fan.

the hesitancy to swear it wasn't his picture didn't seem to me to suggest that it was, or even could be. it sounds like the sort of thing one's lawyer says not to admit or deny till everything has been investigated. probably smart:  it might be that someone found a picture from a drunk college episode years ago,  or some other long-forgotten event in his life. if so, with the ease of altering pictures that the computer provides, the original could have been something in context utterly innocent--a bunch of roommates in their undies, all posing laughingly together.  since there's no face or other bodily part in the picture found on twitter, it does make sense that he can't say with absolute certainty that it isn't him.

admittedly, i want it not to be him, and i want the story to be total bullshit.  i like weiner; i like his politics.  i would still like his politics if he engaged in anything as sophomoric and self-destructive as twitting someone a picture of his crotch.  so i'm predisposed to trust him.

actually, a couple of things he said on the maddow show give me reason to hope that he's telling the truth.  one is his wry observation that with a name like his, you get a lot of jokes from a lot of people.  [even with as innocent a name as watson, my father spent a lot of his life fielding jocular questions about the presense of sherlock.  he got very weary of the remarks long before i was born. with a name as suggestive as weiner,  i can only imagine the amount of  hilarity this man has faced over the years.]  it seems odd to imagine that he would invite another slew of jokes by tweeting a picture of .....yeah, right--his weiner.

the other thing was the joke he started to make when he was introduced by maddow, and caught himself when he realized it sounded tawdry--"I'm tempted to say, 'I wish!'", he half muttered.  maddow graciously ignored that.  but the fact that he'd even start to verbalize that quintessentially male wistfulness suggested his innocence: a man who'd send a strange woman a picture of his huge penis isn't a man who'd tell a live audience that his penis was smaller than the one on the picture.

of course, recent years have shown us that when it comes to sexual issues, american politicians can be unbelievably stupid.

it didn't used to be stupid for a pol to have affairs.  however 'yellow' journalism may have been in the old days, there seems to have been a gentleman's agreement.  surely the washington press knew about FDR's affairs long before the public did, as was also the case with JFK's extra-curricular life.  this reluctance to broach the personal peccadillo's of the powerful played out comically in england in the edwardian era.  edward vii was notoriously adulterous, but the press apparently remained discreet.  many years ago i saw a photograph from a contemporary newspaper, in which His Majesty was strolling down the Riviera in the  company of a very shapely ghost.  reporters had seen the king with a woman not his wife, and juggled the social value of a story about the king on the riviera with the scandalous fact of his being with such a companion. so they did the only form of photo-shopping available at the time: they carefully erased the picture of the woman, leaving white space in her place.  [yes, i'ved googled to find that photo, but so far unsuccessfully.]

for better or worse, that quaint bow to conventional morality has gone.  it vanished from england sooner, i think, than from the US.  the first example i recall here was in the late 1980s, when handsome, married young senator gary hart, who was considered a good contender for the next presidential election, was rumored to be having extramarital affairs. questioned about this at a press conference, he indignantly  denied his infidelities, then challenged the reporters to follow him and prove their insinuations.  so they did follow him--straight to a yacht party that consisted of the senator and several scantily dressed young women.  the pictures were all over the press, and none of the ladies appeared especially ghostlike.

then came that glorious moment in american history when president clinton found himself confronted with accusations of an affair with one of his interns --'that woman,' as he so elegantly dubbed her while vehemently denying the affair.  we were treated to the edifying experience of a presidential impeachment, during which the tv-watching public heard words like 'fellatio' and 'semen' for the first time in the medium's history.

the in-office sessions with monica lewinsky, tacky though they might have been, weren't necessarily stupid. in spite of hart's experience, clinton probably believed that the old gentleman's agreement still held. hart, after all, had invited the media to follow him.  clinton had been more discreet.

but in the wake of the impeachment and all its implications, such naivete should have been impossible. everyone now knew that what the press found out, the press reported.  if clinton's affair had nearly ruined his career, it stood to reason that an ambitious politician would attempt to behave the way americans expected politicians to behave.

apparently not.  in the past few years we've learned a lot about the real lives of the mighty.  for a time it seemed that most of the shenanigans came from conservatives who, between visits to their mistresses or the local massage lads, gave stirring speeches about the evils of any sex not between one man and one woman who were properly married to each other.

and then came the 2008 elections.  i watched the democrat primary, devoutly hoping that...john edwards would get the nomination.  he had very liberal politics and he was white and he was male, so, i thought, he had a chance of beating the republican candidate.  [never ask my advice in a political race.]  when lovely liberal stoops to folly....he stoops low.  knowing what could be found out about him, he not only ran for the nomination, he used his love and concern for his terminally ill wife as a political tool.  i shudder to think of what would have happened in that election if he'd been nominated.  no one could be that stupid.  edwards could.

so i can't give in to my temptation to believe that weiner is too intelligent to be sending crotch shots to pretty twitter buddies.  still, i'm not cynical enough to be convinced of his 'guilt.' he has, after all, hired detectives to find the culprit, and has firmly denied that he sent the picture.  he seems annoyed rather than blustering, and cautious rather than ambiguous.  i hope i'm right.  at this stage, no one with as little sophistication about the internet should have any role in making decisions that affect people's lives.

and  it's hard to ignore that it would be awfully convenient for the right to have one of the more articulate left-liberals turn out to be an overgrown frat boy. i doubt the conservatives would be quite as forgiving to an erring democrat as they have been to the sinners among their own ranks.