Chicken sandwiches, gay marriage, and freedom of speech

Sarah-palin-chick-fil-a-facebook


I wrote last week about Dan Cathy, CEO of fast-food chain Chick-fil-A, who made a big contribution to an anti-gay-marriage organization, and bragged about his morals as he did so. (He made a comment about “all of us here being on our first marriages,” which I think is pretty comical.) He and his company promptly got dumped upon, most publicly and most appropriately by the Henson Company, which broke ties with Chick-fil-A (Henson used to manufacture toys for their children’s meals).  The Hensons then contributed the money they’d received from Chick-fil-A to GLAAD, a prominent gay organization.

 

 

All of this I love.

 

 

The next part becomes more complex.

 

 

Leaders in four American cities – Denver, Boston, San Francisco, and Chicago – have talked about forbidding the expansion of the Chick-fil-A chain in their cities. Is this okay? I’m not sure. I dislike homophobes and prudes, of course, but I can’t forbid them to own businesses, and I’m not sure if I can justify zoning them out of whole cities.  If they were openly flouting the law – refusing service based on sexual preference, or something like that – I might think differently.

 

 

This is the lovely thing about America. You can be as ridiculous as you like, and no one can really tell you to shut up about it. You can be against gay marriage, or women’s suffrage, or the Emancipation Proclamation if you like, and you can even put up big banners in your place of business announcing your political beliefs.

 

 

You’d just better be prepared to lose quite a bit of business.

 

 

To be sure, the homophobes are rallying around the chicken place. Mike Huckabee, the Christian zealot, and Rick Santorum, the animated sweater-vest, have encouraged other zealots and bigots to join them at Chick-fil-A on August 1, to show their “support.” (It’s like the Civil Rights Movement in reverse: lunch counter sit-ins to deny people their rights!) I also saw a lovely photo of Sarah and Todd “Secede From America” Palin picking up their chicken sandwiches and smiling pretty for the camera. (CNN played Pink’s song “Stupid Girls” as background as they relayed the story. Excellent commentary.)

 

 

The natural response for the gay and gay-friendly communities is to boycott Chick-fil-A. Some organizers, more interestingly, are organizing “Gay Day at Chick-fil-A,” to be held on the same day as the Huckabee/Santorum hate rally. This will create, um, an interesting dynamic.

 

 

Myself, I’m with the boycotters. This will be easy for me, because there are no Chick-fil-A franchises in Rhode Island.

 

 

(I was never much for chicken sandwiches, anyway. I’m more of a burger queen.)

 

 

Theater review: “Timeshare,” at Brown/Trinity Playwrights Rep

Btprep


Partner and I saw the last play in the Brown/Trinity Playwrights Rep series, “Timeshare,” on Saturday night.

 

 

I love a good farce. I have a very childish sense of humor; I love it when people run in and out of rooms, and scream, and dress in ridiculous outfits, and hide inside coffee tables. (Of course, it has to be done well.  Silly is good; stupid is quite another thing.) Also, you need actors with good timing, who can scream, and cajole, and wheedle, and make funny faces, and do long ridiculous takes.

 

 

We were fortunate to have pretty much all of the above on Saturday night.

 

 

This is a traditional mixed-up family comedy: everyone (mother, father, married daughter + husband, unmarried daughter + boyfriend) shows up at the mountain cabin on the same weekend. Misunderstandings ensue. Two engagement rings are hidden, misplaced, given to the wrong recipients.

 

 

As in all good farce, there is a happy ending.

 

 

I especially liked the use – and subtle subversion – of stereotypes. There’s an unbearable Jewish mother, who turns out to be a convert. The whiny emasculated Jewish dad is also a stoner. The handsome black boyfriend (a shaygetz if I ever saw one) is Jewish. The banker son-in-law is as dumb as a bag of hammers.

 

 

All in all: nicely done.

 

 

(This is a brand-new play, and a very nice one. It takes a teeny bit too long to set the scene in the first act; I think we could have met the characters more speedily. I kept wanting it to be funny during the first few scenes, but it felt sitcom-watery. Once all six of the characters were introduced, however, the fun began in earnest, and there were few dull moments after that.)

 

 

I give high marks to three of the performers: Mark Cohen, the father; Anne Nichols, the mother; and Ben Chase, the goofily stupid/charming son-in-law. (He was my favorite: he’s tall and lanky, with an expressive face and a voice that goes from cornball to Yalie to falsetto seamlessly. We got a lot of laughs out of him.)

 

 

From “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”:

 

 

No royal curse, no Trojan horse –

And a happy ending, of course.

What is the moral? Must be a moral . . .

Here is the moral, wrong or right:

Tragedy tomorrow – comedy tonight!


 

For Sunday: A shelf cloud over a 7-11 in Norfolk, Virginia

Shelf


We have had all kinds of crazy weather here on the East Coast over the last few weeks.

 

 

Here is a wonderful video from YouTube, from Norfolk, Virginia, of a rare “shelf cloud.” This is a subtype of “arcus cloud,” just in case you’re wondering. (Look it up on Wikipedia, or buy yourself a copy of the very entertaining and informative “Cloudspotter’s Guide.” I have a copy. I like clouds.)

 

 

(Note: the language in this video is not terribly proper, so if you’re sensitive to casual obscenity, handle with care.)

 

 

But the camerawork is masterful. And the cloud is beautiful.

 

 


No one thinks old people are funny

Images


Apollonia and I were laughing ourselves sick the other day, trying to remember that stupid song that Strawberry Alarm Clock sang back in the 1960s.  “O god,” she croaked.  “I just thought of another one.  Remember Question Mark and the Mysterians?”

 

 

“O god,” I groaned.  “What did they sing?”

 

 

She Googled it quick as a flash. “’96 Tears,’” she said, and we began hooting with laughter again.  I started to sing: “’I’m gonna cry, cry-cry-cry – “

 

 

Suddenly Apollonia stopped laughing and became almost solemn.  “Have you noticed,” she said, “that we just kill one another?”

 

 

“No kidding,” I said, wiping tears of laughter from my eyes. “We’re both hysterical.”

 

 

“And have you noticed,” she said, “that no one else laughs when we tell our little amusing stories?  Everyone gets very quiet.  They wait for us to calm down.”

 

 

“So they don’t get the jokes,” I said. “To hell with them.”  (Actually I didn’t say “To hell with them.”  I was far ruder, if you see what I mean.)

 

 

She smiled.  “Yeah,” she said.  “To hell with them.”  (She also used the ruder expression.)

 

 

It’s a privilege you gain as you get older: the right to laugh yourself silly over stupid things that kids just don’t understand.  They just haven’t lived long enough.

 

 

They’ll figure it out, if they live long enough.

 

 

In the meantime: to hell with them!


 

 

Listen to the mockingbird

Mocking

Sometimes, on weekend mornings in spring and summer, when the windows are open, I lie in bed and listen to the birds outside: repeated notes, strange sliding calls, Morse-code beeping, alien whoops. 

 

 

I can recognize a crow.  Bluejays have a distinctive hoarse call, and I know the rusty-screen-door screech of a cardinal.  I know the scream of a hawk; believe it or not, there are hawks here in Rhode Island too. 

 

 

And I know the mockingbird.

 

 

I didn’t at first.  Then, one day, sitting in a folding chair in a local park, reading a book, I was absent-mindedly listening to a bird singing in a nearby tree.  It went on and on.  It was pretty, in a way, but it had no continuity.  It’d tweet a few times, and then warble, and then do sharp repeated notes, and then peep, and then coo.  It never let up.  It went on for twenty minutes, and never repeated itself once.

 

 

It was like reading a story with the pages scrambled. 

 

 

This is the mockingbird’s survival strategy.  A lot of birds sing to mark territory: Get out of here! This is my turf!  The mockingbird memorizes every birdsong it hears, and plays them all back in an endless random loop, and keeps all the other birds away, some through challenge, some through confusion.

 

 

And then it has all the delicious bugs in the neighborhood to itself. 

 

 

Mockingbirds are good at their work.  I heard one imitate the caw of a crow once.  Citydwellers have reported hearing them do the beep-beep-beep of a vehicle backing up.

 

 

 

They are dismal-looking, dull-colored, nondescript.  They perch high up in the branches, or on the tops of telephone poles, or on traffic lights, above the action, looking down.  I’m sure it’s to ensure maximum coverage.

 

 

They drive me mad. 

 

 

I really sympathize with the other birds, who must really hate them. 

 

 

In “To Kill A Mockingbird,” Atticus tells Scout and her brother that it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird, because it just sits in its tree and sings all day long.  And what’s wrong with that?

 

 

Oh, Atticus.  I wish you were here right now. I could explain it all to you. 

 

 

And then I would eradicate all the mockingbirds.

 

 

Scowling all the way

Lotcake


I come from a long line of scowlers. My maternal grandmother had a scowl that could peel paint (see above, scowling over her birthday cake). My uncle Primo (who wasn’t a bad-looking bloke) ranged between a frown and a scowl most days. Grandma’s father, whom I never met, had one of those melancholy Polish faces that seemed to be set permanently on “unhappy.”

 

 

This is fine with me.

 

 

I stick to the scowl as much as I can. It keeps people off-guard. I work with people who are grinny and cheerful all the time; some of them can’t say “Good morning” without giggling. I abominate this. I have worked for years on my scowl and glare, and I have it almost right; it’s nearly at Grandma intensity, and (if I live long enough) I may get it up to an even higher power level.

 

 

There have been times when I think we’re one of those families who have the gift: the Evil Eye, the malocchio. We can blight your cattle and stunt your children and make your well run dry with a single glance.

 

 

You think that’s silly? Here’s a testimonial.

 

 

A few weeks ago, as I’ve already written, Partner and I were at a play at Brown. There were two clueless women sitting behind us, passing a bag of potato chips back and forth. I turned and gave them The Scowl, and it silenced them (mostly).

 

 

A few days later, I received this email from Joe Zarrow, who wrote the play we saw that night:

 

 

Loren,

 

I was, as playwrights tend to do, googling around for review quotes I could pull on Principal Principle when I came across your blog. Thanks for your thoughtful review, but extra double thanks for getting those women with the potato chips to be quiet. I was glaring at them impotently from one of the other seating sections, and I totally saw you turn around and give them the evil eye. You are a hero.

 

Best,

Joe

 

 

 

Moral: don’t belittle the evil eye. It has its uses.

 

 


 

 

Sally Ride, gay marriage, the Muppets, and Chick-fil-A


I was saddened when I read that Sally Ride, first American woman in space, passed away a few days ago. She was a role model, certainly; back in 1983, science and engineering were still distinctly woman-unfriendly disciplines. (The Russians had Valentina Tereshkova all those decades ago, but never really closed the gender gap.)

 

 

Astronauts were never really my heroes. They were too bland. When I was a kid in the 1960s, I used to be irritated when all those Gemini missions kept preempting my favorite programs. And then – these guys went into space, and came back, and never had anything interesting to say!

 

 

Then, the other day, I learned that Sally was in a relationship with a woman, Tam O’Shaughnessy, for the last 27 years of her life.

 

 

Now I’m interested.

 

 

The astronaut business was intensely macho. The original astronauts – Mercury, Gemini, Apollo – were mostly test pilots and Air Force hotshots, and most of them were insufferable boors. (My favorite reference text on this subject is Michael Collins’s lovely book “Carrying the Fire,” about his own time as an astronaut. He was the guy who circled the moon back in 1969 while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were traipsing around in the Sea of Tranquility.  He describes the psychological tests, and the physical training, and the sometimes-not-very-friendly sparring between the astronauts.)

 

 

 

Now: imagine being Sally Ride, competing in that macho environment.

 

 

I would have wilted in five seconds under that pressure. In the words of Tony Kushner, daisies would have sprouted out of my ears.

 

 

But Sally made it. She even married (for a few years in the 1980s) one of the other astronauts, Steve Hawley, who seems nice enough.

 

 

But she ended up with Tam O’Shaughnessy, who lived with her for over two decades, and worked with her, and co-authored several books with her, and was with her through her final illness

 

.

Bravo to her.

 

 

And what does Tam get?

 

 

Why, nothing! No death benefits. The U. S. Gummint don’t recognize non-traditional relationships.

 

 

(Mitt Romney recently posted a fatuous/obvious comment on Twitter about Sally being a “pioneer.” Here’s how that went:)

 

 

Tweet

 

Which brings me to Chick-fil-A.

 

 

We don’t have this particular chain in Rhode Island, thank goodness. I say “thank goodness” because Dan Cathy, the company’s CEO, recently made a large donation to an anti-gay-marriage cause, and made some nasty comments to accompany his contribution.

 

 

The Jim Henson Company, which made toys for Chick-fil-A’s kids’ meals, broke with them over this. They made a wonderful statement about it, and they gave the money they’d earned from Chick-fil-A to GLAAD, a gay organization.

 

 

Tee hee!

 

 

And here’s a pictorial version of the victory:

 

 

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All of this means we still have a very long way to go.

 

 

But there’s light on the horizon.

 

 

Maybe.

 

 

(Rest in peace, Sally. Tam: best wishes, and stay strong. Lisa Henson: you go, girl. Dan Cathy of Chick-fil-A: go to hell, rapidly, now.)


 

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