BRIEF BLOG INTRO:
I'm a man on a mission. A mission to convince everyone I meet that life is worth living, no matter how many obstacles are placed in your way.

I'm a singer/songwriter and actor from Texas "Living in the Bonus Round" in New York City. That is my way of describing how I feel having cheated death. (In a game show, the Bonus Round is where time speeds up and the prizes are better.) Accepting my death changed me. Now, I'm consuming life as quickly and as fully as I can, while still taking time to breathe and appreciate every single day as an utter miracle.

Last year, I turned 60 and I had a set of goals, all of which came true, including composing -- and performing in -- a Mass, recording a solo album (selling 10s of copies), headlining to a sold out house at a major night club in New York City and played the lead role in a staged reading of a play not written by myself. I update a few times a month these days, and I don't spam. So it's easier to keep up with me by following by Email. When this blog began, it was to track my death. I'm told it was the first AIDS blog. You can start at the gruesome beginning if you want. Or just jump in and maybe we can learn some life lessons together. Welcome to the Bonus Round. I'm Steve [SHACK-lin].

Friday, January 30, 2009

For Bev (Who Loves "24").

24: 1994 Pilot




(from CollegeHumor -- its a hilarious parody of 90s "technology")

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Favorite Thing I Heard Said Over The Holiday.

"This is your life! Participate!"

Doing Maintenance.

Pardon me for taking a day or two, but I'm in the midst of re-installing operating systems and and software and generally reorganizing my computing life, which is jury-rigged to within an inch of its life. Once I get it all back in shape, I will cross my fingers, push a button and hope it all works.

Meanwhile, someone posted this on one of the discussion boards I frequent. And it just sounded really good to hear this old song. Thunderclap Newman. Their only hit.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Antarctic Diary Pt. 1

Go here and click on "high quality" for a sharper image.

Mike Jones Speaks Out About Haggard.

How Marty Delaney Changed Medicine.

From my friend, Ken McPherson, who was one of the first AIDS activists. Ken migrated to San Francisco early in the 80s and set up an information table at "Hibernia Beach," a corner in the Castro.
I just went to your blog and learned about Marty Delaney.

He really was an extraordinary person. I spent two years on the board of directors of D.A.I.R. (Documentation of AIDS Issues and Research) with Marty in the late 80s. He wrote about my work in his autobiography.

I was there when he began smuggling ribavirin and isoprenizine over the Mexican border to begin testing the validity of combination therapy. The doctors wouldn't do the testing, "too risky". Yeah. Tell that to people who are dying... That really pissed him off.

So he rented the office next to DAIR and began Project Inform. At the time, it was almost impossible for PWA's to get in-depth information on the epidemic. People forget how paternalistic the medical community was at in those days. Patients were expected to do what their doctors told him and otherwise, keep quiet.

As a result of Marty's work, PWA's soon stopped thinking of themselves as "victims" and began taking personal responsibility for their health. Project Inform played a major role in the patient's rights movement by providing a model in which doctors and patients were a team; something we now take for granted. What an amazing legacy.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Story You Knew Was Comin'. (with updates)

Ted Haggard is back. He is about to promote a big new documentary on HBO -- and another young man, a volunteer at the church, has come out of hiding and says that Haggard is still lying. That he himself carried on with Haggard. He came forward at the same time that Mike Jones came forward, but the church basically paid him off to keep his mouth shut.

But he feels that he can't stand by and watch Haggard continue with his deception.

The article.

Mike Jones told me himself not too long ago that Haggard is still lying about his sexual activities. He was trying to get people to remind the media that he has the real story behind this guy. Me, I don't care what anyone does with or to themselves. My objection to Haggard is that he was engaging in same sex activities (and drugs) while leading a crusade against it.

Haggard is about to do a media blitz. Everyone -- all you news bookers -- should make sure Mike Jones is added to your telecasts.

EDIT: Mike has just written me and said this:
thank you. also if people would be reminded of why I titled my book "I Had to Say Something". My god, I always knew there were others.
A lot of people owe Mike a big apology.

RE-EDIT: Truth Wins Out Calls for Investigation

Truth Wins Out Calls On Authorities To Investigate Ted Haggard's Former Church

Hush Money Scandal Emerges From New Life's Closet, Says TWO

NEW YORK - Truth Wins Out (TWO) today called on Colorado officials to investigate New Life Church, after the Associated Press revealed that New Life paid money to keep a male volunteer from publicly disclosing a romantic affair with the church's former minister Ted Haggard.

According to the AP, New Life's current Senior Pastor, Brady Boyd, said that the church reached a legal settlement to pay the man for counseling and college tuition, with one condition being that none of the parties involved discuss the relationship publicly.

"Until conservative churches stop shaming gay people and learn to accept them, we will see more tawdry scandals," said Truth Wins Out's Executive Director Wayne Besen. "These calamities are a direct result of the closet."
Rev. Boyd denied that New Life paid hush money and said, "Our desire was to help him. Here was a young man who wanted to get on with his life. We considered it more compassionate assistance - certainly not hush money."

I have a feeling Rev. Boyd believes what he's saying. Apparently, they can sue the young man for speaking out. But that means they all signed a nice document. You stay quiet. We'll give you money. Rev. Boyd says they will not sue.

At this point, I have no idea what kind of person Ted Haggard is, but if the goal here is higher ratings for the HBO Special, well done! The question is whether they'll address this new allegation when it finally airs. I would hope that they would.

Sondheim and Rich at Avery Shreiber.

Stephen Sondheim.

This is an article based on notes taken during a conversation between Frank Rich and Stephen Sondheim. Rich wrote in his autobiography that he made his reputation when he wrote a review, while still at Harvard, of Sondheim's "Follies," my favorite musical. It drew the attention of Hal Prince and the rest is history. Rich became the NY Times lead theatre critic. He was brutal but honest, and his reviews were the best read in town. He retired from that position and is now writing an influential weekly political column.

When he and Sondheim sat down for a chat at Avery Fisher Hall, this writer took notes. For theater fans, this is cocaine and heroin.

We've heard most of the Merman stories. Jimmy tells most of them in his lecture series. But I loved:

Sondheim noted that he didn’t think that Merman would be able to act when he wrote most of the show. As such, he designed “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” as a song in which Merman could belt to the rafters while Louise and Herby would do the real acting. Furthermore, “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” was designed to be similar to “Blow Gabriel Blow,” another famous Merman number, so that she would feel comfortable in the moment. Sondheim then admitted that, “We found out later that she could act.”

I also related to this as a writer:
There was also a production of “Company” in England where Bobby shot himself at the end. Rich then asked, "He shot himself after 'Being Alive'?"

Clearly upset, Sondheim said, “These directors feel they can improve a show. They have such contempt for the authors. We (the authors) know what we’re doing and they don’t. It’s contemptuous of them.”

But this one was my favorite because it's about a friend of ours. Rich asked him to cite his favorite auditions. He mentions, here, Pamela Myers, who sang a song called "I'm Not Getting Married" in the show Company. It's a song with a gajillion words sung as quickly as you possibly can because it's about a nervous bride having a nervous breakdown over the ceremony that's moments away from happening.

Marta was originally envisioned as a Jewish girl. But after Myers, a Midwesterner, auditioned and stunned all of them, the creators agreed to rewrite the role to fit her personality and background..
Yes, we from the Middle Lands of the United States can get just as crazed as any New Yorker. And it's impossible to listen to that song and not hear her voice. I didn't grow up in theater, so it all came to me second hand and, even before I became friends with her, all I needed was to hear it once.

Enjoy the article.

(I kinda met Sondheim once. We met him in the lobby of the City Center. I mentioned "The Big Voice" to him and I think we even gave him a flyer, but I don't think he would remember. He was being approached by a lot of people that night. Someday, I'd love for him to see one of my own musicals.)

Rest In Peace HIV Hero Martin Delaney

From Project Inform:

Project Inform announces the passing
of founder, Martin Delaney

Friday, January 23, 2009

Dear Friends —

It is with profound sadness that Project Inform announces the passing this morning of our Founder, Martin Delaney. He was 63 years old.

PHOTO: Martin Delaney

Martin Delaney,
Founder, Project Inform

When the full history of the HIV/AIDS epidemic is written, there can be no doubt that Marty will rank as one of the greatest contributors to ending this great human tragedy. Those of us living with HIV, and all of us who care about people living with HIV, mourn the loss of this great leader, lifesaver and wonderful human being.

Marty’s activism is legendary. He was a true David among many Goliaths. He has assured that government, researchers and pharmaceutical companies understand and respond to the needs of HIV-positive people. He heavily influenced the development of the strong arsenal of medications we now have to prolong life for millions of people worldwide.

Personally and through Project Inform, Marty has educated or counseled tens of thousands of HIV-positive individuals and their caregivers about how to treat HIV. A day does not pass in the life of this agency that we do not hear from a person living with HIV or a supporter about a life lengthened or saved as a result of Marty’s efforts.

Intellect, activist, diplomat, mentor, friend — each of us will remember Marty for the great attributes he brought to his lifesaving work. We will miss him terribly.

Project Inform’s offices will be open today, Friday, January 23 until 7pm and on Saturday, January 24 from 10am to 4pm so that friends can drop by to be in community with one another in response to this great loss. We are located at 1375 Mission Street at 10th Street in San Francisco.

We will provide information as quickly as we are able about the date of a public event to memorialize Marty. Emails can be sent to Project Inform, and cards can be mailed to Project Inform, 1375 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94103.

The Staff and Volunteers of Project Inform

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Obama, Africa & The American System.

The real miracle of this day is not just that he's African-American, but that he's really African, his father being born in Africa.

For most of its history, America has been a very Euro-centric and then Asia-centric (where every electronic item we use seems to be made).

But Africa has been this big blind spot.

Now we have a president who is a son of that continent in a very direct way. I think that's a remarkable testament to democracy, free enterprise and the personal initiative (that the system rewards it rather than punishes it as in an authoritarian system) and abilities of a little Black kid whose mom was on welfare -- an American "slumdog," if you will -- that he could rise to the top of his class
in Harvard and then become president of the United States, married to a daughter of the daughter of slaves. This is the promise of America, spelled out for real. This is the tangible proof of the effectiveness of the American constitution and way.

I am unhappy with some of the things around Barack Obama. But as a symbol of hope to the rest of the world, that we aren't just talk, that we have risen above class and created an egalitarian society, you don't get a better story than this.

Additionally, no longer can someone say that America is just "white men telling non-white people what to do." This is a game changer in so many ways, most of them we haven't even thought about yet.

UPDATE: In re-reading his speech, this stuck out:
“Because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.”
"The lines of tribe."

An African brought into slavery would have seen the White man as just another tribe to fight against. Now the "ruler" of the all the tribes of this land is an African man. An African man dedicated to dissolving the lines of tribe.

It's poetry.

There is a New World Waking.

On this inauguration day, I will quote from the lyrics of "New World Waking." These are the words written by Rev. Peter J. Carman, pastor of the Lake Ave. Baptist Church in Rochester, NY, which was the inspirational spark that lit the fire.
There is a new world waking
Though nations fail to hear
There is a world of justice
Unstained by power or fear

And though the mighty traffic
In greed and pain, somehow,
There is a new world waking

There is a new world waking
Within my heart right now

c2008 Peter J. Carman/Steve Schalchlin See No Evil Music/Lil Shack O Tunes/ASCAP
And it's that last line, "within my heart right now" -- that was the line that resonated so strongly with me because it parallels the same theme expressed in "Sometimes When I Pray" from The Big Voice: God or Merman?, the phrase most cited by people when they talk about the score.
If God has hands
They're your hands
If God has eyes
They're your eyes
And if God is love
It's your love
It feels very right to be returning to The Last Session at this point in my life. It was a show based on music that literally saved my life -- or kept it going long enough until Dr. Bruce Dorsey at Merck put some Tinker Toy-shaped molecules together and turned it into Crixivan, which came to me solely because I got picked randomly in a lottery (all documented in the original online diary in real time).

At this moment of renewal and rebirth, the bonus round, I love the idea that I'm going back to the beginning, the source -- and to do it in the city where Rev. Peter is minister.

I intend to sing as much of "New World Waking" as I can at his church and anyplace else who will have us, with as many people as will join me. Cast, friends, choir, kids, dogs.

I keep thinking of Bob Dylan's lyric, "I was so much older then. I'm younger than that now."

It feels good to start over. A new President. A new show. A new production of an old show. In the bonus round, time speeds up and the prizes are better!

From the Epilogue:
Somehow it all must come down to one person
Or the human condition will gradually worsen
Not him
And not her, Lord,
But I

(Oh, I just looked up and saw Michelle's dress. Wow. She does look good.)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Rock and Roll "Big Voice" in Indio.

Halfway to Indio, Jim asked me if I had packed the keyboard stand.

"No."

"The sound cues."

"No."

"I asked you about the sound cues last week."

"Oh. I thought we had a disc in the folder."

"What folder?"

"Don't we have a show folder?"

"No, we don't have a show folder."

He pulled over into a foreign grocery store parking lot -- not foreign language, just not in our region -- and called Rick, the stage manager.

"He has a recording studio. He'll bring a keyboard stand."

We get to the theater. It's an old movie complex turned multi-stage performing arts center. Still new in its conversion, it's much changed since the last time we were here with "Zero Hour" where Jim's dressing room said STORAGE on the door.

The script was being printed out as we arrived.

Rick said, "I just take 'em in order. If I tried to read ahead, I'd never get anything done."

Shamedly, I said to him, "I don't have sound cues. But I can get them if I can get on the net."

He said, "Good omen! When everything's going bad it means you'll have a good show."

My laptop wouldn't connect because of the city firewall -- it's a city building -- so I had to download an FTP program, get the mp3s, and burn them to a disc -- thank god I'm a computer geek. The disco would not play in the CD players. At that point, I gave up. I knew he had a recording studio of his own, so he would know how to make it all work.

And he did.

But by then, it was 4pm. Too late for a tech. So we set the sound cues.

Then we met the -- I don't know his title -- general manager for the facility, a charming British fellow who told us a funny story about Princess Margaret. (Back in the 80s, he ran ran the hospital where Princess Diana kissed the man with AIDS, thus making us positoids visible and touchable in the world. He was there.)

As for lighting, we had a general wash plus two volunteer senior citizens on spotlights.

We decided that the Stage Manager, who acts as a traffic cop shows, anyway, could just wing it. And since he could only talk to one of the spotlight operators, we said to just assign each of us a spot and tell that person to follow us.

And that's what we did. Rick cued the one spotlight operator, punched the sounds cues (perfectly, I might add) , hit the lights and ran the show like a bus driver seeing the road for the first time. He was reading and seeing the show as it ran!

Totally guerilla.

And it totally worked. The audience went nutso / crazy, leaping to their feet.

I did not tape anything or take any pictures. Something told me to play this one in real life. It was like a white knuckle ride all day long and I didn't want to make it worse.

But tomorrow! Tomorrow I bring it along and we have some fun. You have to meet these fabulous people.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Last Session in Rochester, NY in February 2009

I guess Chris & Ann Marie decided that I didn't get enough cold down in the Antarctic, so they asked me if I would be interested in reviving The Last Session up in Rochester, NY -- where the Arctic freeze is currently focused -- starting in a couple of weeks.

Happily, we're going to reassemble our previous cast -- Amy Coleman from the original off-Broadway cast, Danette Sheppard as Tryshia, Jay Falzone as Buddy and Chris Burley as Jim in the booth.

Also, we're going to be doing it on a different stage, if it all works out -- over at the fabulous Geva Theater.

I'm really looking forward to doing TLS again.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Fear of Rebirth.

I had a conversation with a very intelligent young woman recently, and I said that because so many people fear religious "born again" evangelicals (I know born again evangelicals who fear other supposed born again evangelicals), it almost feels like it's morphing into a larger cultural fear of talking about rebirth, renewal and, yes, feeling or being born again.

For the record, this blog is secular. If I have personal religious beliefs, I have found here in my hoary old age that it's better to just keep them to yourself. Once, when refusing to answer direct queries by a very intensely religious Christian about my beliefs, I finally said in exasperation, "If I ask you what kind of position you and your wife have sex in, would you consider that too personal?"

He sputtered, unbelieving I would even raise the subject.

"Well, that's how I feel when someone asks me about my relationship with God. It's like they're asking me what I do in bed."

He still didn't get what I was trying to say to him, but my point was that we can talk about issues usually associated with spirituality without necessarily having to get into theology.

(For those who still need to know my religious beliefs, buy "Creating Harmony, SFGMC's new limited edition CD containing New World Waking. Or find a production of TLS or The Big Voice. They won't answer you directly, either, but you'll be plenty entertained).

[Speaking of which, a mystery has arisen over the article written in the SF Bay Times about the Christmas Eve concert which supposedly depressed the writer of the article. Turns out said reviewer was probably not in attendance at all. Why? BECAUSE THE CHORUS DIDN'T SING THE FULL NEW WORLD WAKING THAT NIGHT. The review was a cut and paste from both the program and her earlier review of the Dec. 1st concert.

When I wrote New World Waking, I made it intentionally modular and scalable -- meaning you don't have to perform the entire 45 song cycle, and you don't need a big chorus of singers. I told Kathleen at the very beginning that the last section, called "The Awakening Suite," could be pulled from the overall piece and performed by itself.

Which is exactly what they did on Dec. 24th.

So, the reviewer reviewed a show she did not attend and made a negative comment about songs that were not sung.

And BTW, I still don't think that New World Waking is "inappropriate for the holidays" or, as was put in the banner headline "Has the SFGMC Gone Too Highbrow?" over the heads of most people in the audience.

I've been asking members of the chorus to tell me what they themselves observed as they performed the full piece in a series of concerts around the Bay Area for Christmas and holiday celebrations. The responses have completely blown me away. Not only did holiday audiences receive New World Waking well, they were cheering it. They were cheering sometimes in the MIDDLE of songs.

New World Waking seems to provoke a kind of catharsis for many, pulling up deeply held emotions, and then setting them free. And that's another thing.]

Also, to belabor the point just a bit, the writer of the article said that the finale was the "classic" song "My Rising Up."

"My Rising Up" is not a classic. It's brand new. It was written by Peter J. Carman and Steve Schalchlin for New World Waking. That it plays like a "classic" is great. (Googling NWW I discovered a blogger who said he or she loved "My Rising Up" and, apparently, mistakenly, maybe from reading about it, said she "hadn't heard" of this song but wanted to look it up.

Hey, Peter! We wrote a classic!)

(And yes, that was a several paragraphs long parenthetical statement with a bracketed inner thought.)

Fear of the language of rebirth. That's what I was discussing with this young lady.

Me, I think rebirth should be constant. For me, it is the essence of actually learning how to live. Morphing out the old and morphing in the new. That's how you keep your mind and everything else about you healthy and clear, especially if you do it on a continual basis.

Longtime readers of the old Bonus Round diary (a classic!) will remember that I used to retitle the new "books" of my life constantly. In one instance, one person actually objected to my starting a new book because he liked the old one and didn't want things to change. True story.

Me, I feel like I'm just getting started in life. But I feel a rebirth happening right now at this very moment. We were at sea -- "water is the symbol for birth" (line from The Big Voice) -- and we were looking at the Antarctic.

What I observed felt profound. I am still unable to put it into words, so reader, you'll have to bear with me as I dole out these feelings over the next few weeks.

But talk about rebirth. I saw rivers of ice -- the oldest ice on the planet -- pushing out towards the shore of the S. Shetland Islands. Through binoculars, I saw penguins in their mating season, lined up on a beach of the almost steaming caldera of Deception Island, by the tens of thousands, only to discover that all those white spots on the dull green plateaus and hills were tens of thousands more.

Birth. Rebirth. The oldest alongside the youngest.

It was as if I could see the planet's beginnings on one island, and its newest babies on the other.

Rivers of ice. Moving so slowly.

A planet constantly being reborn. Life constantly being reborn. My heart feeling the pangs of rebirth.

I have videos. I have pictures. I will share them soon.

But the pain that I bear, more than anything, is that no picture, no video, no words and no music will ever be able to recreate what came over me as Smith Island (S. Shetland Islands) came into view. It was 7am. Few guests were awake. No claxon rang. No warning light went off.

It just appeared off the port side. From horizon to horizon I saw a wonder that gripped my heart and stilled the waters. That morning was a glorious morning. The sun was out. One in 20 chance since this land is usually draped in icy, gray mists and dark low-hanging clouds.

I didn't even know it was coming. We couldn't know in advance what we'd see because the weather dares you defy her to even get there. (We actually went through a hurricane in Drake's Passage down below South American and saw the windows in three cabins shattered by a rogue wave, causing us a one day delay for repairs).

As the oldest ice on earth became reborn as new icebergs and then new water, I realized that birth is not always by fire. Sometimes birth is by ice.

Rivers of ice. Moving so slowly.

How do I know the pictures are inadequate? Because later, when I looked at them, with the memory of how they made me feel freshly imprinted upon my entire DNA, I felt like I was looking at grade-D backlot fake recreation, like the wave in the movie "Soapdish." In fact, the moment I looked at the videos, I shut them off. They degraded the experience so much, I stopped looking at them so that I wouldn't lose the wonder of the real thing.

Then, oddly, a week later, I looked at them again and thought, "Wow, these look great."

But that's only because the actuality of what it made me feel had finally faded enough that this tinkertoy version could stand on its own.

It reminded me of hearing Joseph Campbell talk about someone trying to describe a feeling of transcendence (which is exactly what I had just experienced). You cannot convey it because a listener only gets it third or fourth hand. Or:

1. Your experience.
2. Your memory of the experience.
3. Your description of your memory of the experience.
4. The listener's perception of your description of the memory of the experience.

Weak tea.

I cannot bring you there, reader. It absolutely tears away at my guts that I cannot describe for you what I've been through in the past few weeks. That's why my blog seems so totally silent.

I'm still recovering from awe.

Did you ever need to recover from being awed?

If I had a new years resolution, it would be to slow down even more. To remember that birth happens in ice just as much as it happens in fire or water.

I would step out of the rushing stream of news and commentary and analysis and judgment, just as I did on this cruise, and turn off the noise. Just shut it off. What we put into our brains, you know, also affects our bodies, and just because news runs 24/7 doesn't mean they are actually describing the world. This is a whole different blog, but I want to put that meme in your head.

Real life happen off-camera.

I have new music being born. Music that came as a result of seeing the wonders that I saw. Some of it is choral, but I'm also writing what appears to be just music, something I've rarely done in my life.

I will show you the pictures and the video. Soon.

You know what I learned in the Antarctic? That there are huge, massive portions of this planet that are not careening. They're taking their time to just be.

So, maybe I have been reborn -- as a river of ice. Moving so slowly. Moving so slow.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

What Was Orson Welles' Last Film Appearance?

In this video blog, attorney and magician Rich Bloch, who was an advisor to Orson Welles on magic illusions, tells Jim Brochu about meeting Welles, and about Orson's last film appearance, which was not in a feature.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Atheist and the Rabbi.

He is still in the Angry Stage.

He is bright, hilarious, compassionate, caring, joyful, and a total mensch who takes care of the people around him. He's the guy you go to when no one else will help. (He's paid a high price for this, by the way. Sometimes when you "help" people, and it doesn't fix things, they blame you. )

But he's really angry. He is not just an atheist. He is what some in the blurbosphere call the Angry Atheist, and he'll admit it. He'll say the words calmly, "I am an Angry Atheist." He will tell you a story about his synagogue. He was quoting Dawkins and made references to Hitchens. (I've read Dawkins' The God Delusion).

I love this man with all my heart. I also love his wife, who is bright, educated, intellectual, and giggly. They have become family to us.

I played him the rehearsal footage video of "Holy Dirt" and watched his reaction. (I did not tape his reaction because Real Life Happens Off-Camera. I did not want a performance.)

It made him laugh. In fact, he laughed out loud. Then he became serious and it led to a long discussion about morality and religion.

But, ultimately, he saw the song as an indictment of religion (not his words, but close).

The Rabbi is equally an intelligent man. He is funny, liberal, quick-witted and very serious about his religion, about being Jewish. We have become friends over the years.

(He told me he had attended the Christian holy services this year out of respect. So, I attended one night of the Hannukkah celebration out of respect to him. I smelled the spices -- complete with a very volunteer-oriented pair of brothers -- watched two women light the 6th candle, sang in Hebrew -- which I pronounce like Spanish -- and then ate fried food. That's the part I liked. Reminded me of Baptist dinner on the ground.)

I asked him if I could play the "Holy Dirt" video for him. I did not tell him that I had played it for the Angry Atheist. (They know each other.)

He said, "Hm. Holy Dirt. I don't know. I don't want to see something cynical."

"No, no!" I said. "I'm not cynical." (And I'm not. I have been cynical, so I know cynical. I'm not cynical.)

He watched it. His friendly, chatty wife sat next to him as he intently watched.

I also did not tape this. (RLHO-C).

He sat for a moment and said, "Very powerful. You went right to the edge. No, I think this is a very strong spiritual message."

So, the atheist and the rabbi saw the song as speaking truth. As, in fact, a statement of their beliefs. But aren't we being told that there's a war on and that people have to choose up sides?
(On a discussion board I inhabit, someone mentioned the book "Life of Pi." My favorite scene in that book is early on when all the ministers of each respective faith realize, to their sputtering, spewing horror, that Pi has joined up with all of them, Hindu, Muslim and Christian.)
I will re-post that rehearsal video of "Holy Dirt" here, but remember the sound on this is terrible. It's just my camera sound.



So, order "Creating Harmony" CD and hear the real sound. I haven't even heard it yet and it's KILLING ME. Maybe we should schedule a mutual listening party of some kind.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Did The Catholic League See "The Big Voice" Before Condemning It?

As I mentioned yesterday, with slight tongue in cheek, Jim and I were proud to accept the condemnation from The Catholic League for The Big Voice.

But, in making a joke, I didn't actually respond to the specific charges. In the spirit of fairness, lets review what's written on their site, an annual report:
August
San Francisco, CA
– "The Big Voice: God or Merman?" was performed at the New Conservatory Theatre Center. The two-man play, described by the San Francisco Chronicle as a "very funny chamber musical about growing up gay and religious," stars gay men who grew up Baptist and Catholic respectively. In the play, one character achieves a "spiritual epiphany" during a religious pilgrimage when he sees a performance by Ethel Merman.
We're not just funny. We're VERY funny! Thanks for including that. But that plot summary is not precisely correct, although the image of Ethel Merman in the niche is a video that needs to be made.
[For my Baptist family:
Ethel Merman was a singer from olden days up in New York who sang very loudly. The "niche" is referring to a "holy place" as designated by the Roman Catholic Church because an actress named Jennifer Jones... No, wait. This peasant girl in France, in way WAY olden days saw a vision of "Mother Mary," who Baptists see as just a nice girl who gave birth to Jesus, but who Catholics see as the Mother Of God. The whole town turned against her, Bernadette, especially the ugly, hard-eyed Mother Superior (played in the movie, with grim, stone-faced and heart-breaking authority by our beloved Gladys Cooper -- one of the greatest performances in any movie ever.) In the niche, as Mother of God was the uncredited Linda Darnell. So, when I pictured Ethel Merman as Linda Darnell as Mother Mary and it made me laugh... Watch "Song of Bernadette" -- which, by the way, is Jim's favorite movie because Jennifer Jones makes him cry. I like it because of Vincent Price. Then watch "Call Me Madam" where Ethel deafens Donald O'Connor by singing "I Hear Music" into his ear and you'll laugh uproariously in retrospect.
My point is that that's not exactly what happens in The Big Voice: God or Merman?.

Yes, Jim goes on a pilgrimage to Rome and Lourdes, but he doesn't see Ethel Merman in the niche. He meets Ethel Merman after a matinee of "Gypsy" at the Broadway Theatre on 53rd because her father knew his father. And, as he hilariously relates in "The Big Voice," -- playing this weekend for three performances only at the Indio Performing Arts Center -- as he stood on that stage talking to her, the curtain rose -- and it became the moment he knew what his destiny would be: Working in the theatre.

He goes on to talk about how Ethel volunteered at hospitals, and how one can "minister" without actually being a minister. (At the time, he was deciding between acting and being a priest.) But the point is that it was a metaphor. For an awakening to one's destiny, as it were.

Do we poke fun at Catholicism? Absolutely. We also poke fun of ourselves and we poke fun at Baptists. But The Big Voice is not anti-Catholic and it's not anti-Baptist. I'd do this show for my parents. We had priests who recommended us to their congregants in New York.

We had a lot of Baptist fans in Houston. We did our show for the Unitarian Universalist national convention. We had a houseful of Mormons one night in Houston -- and they loved us. They totally loved us. Mormons!

We also have a huge Jewish following, just to try to get this into a larger context.

And to get this into an even larger context, some of the show's fans are atheists.

Magic trick?

Nope. Storytelling.

Okay, seriously. The point of our show is this: Here is who we are. This was our experience. This is what it felt like, and since we're only humans describing human emotions, maybe you'll recognize yourself and feel inspired.

And we sing.

And we really like each other.

And if we're VERY funny, it's because there's truth behind it all. Little-t truth. If you're looking for capital-t Truth, that would be beneath my pay scale.

The Catholic League, however, claims that they are speaking capital-t Truth, so I wanted to take this moment to argue my case. If you change your report, you make us less press-worthy, of course, so I'm only hurting myself, but I honestly don't believe anyone from your group actually saw our show. I swear, Jim and I are the two most lovable human beings you'll ever meet.

If you're going to put a black mark on our work, make sure you've actually seen it. But you'll have to come this next weekend because Jim is gonna start doing "Zero" in Florida. I'll buy your tickets. We're in Palm Springs. Indio Performing Arts Center. January 16th - 18th
Friday & Saturday at 7:00 pm. Sunday matinee at 2:00 pm.
(By the way, reader, on the Catholic League's Annual Report page there's a big naked chocolate Jesus. If not for the League, I'd never have seen it -- kinda like Porno Pete who shows gay porn on his Christian site so that people can see how horrible gays are. We Baptists didn't have naked Jesus' on our walls, so this kind of iconography is weird to us to begin with. Worse, I'm diabetic, so I couldn't eat Jesus if I wanted to.)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Condemned By The Catholic League!

I'm baaaack.

In short, I survived a hurricane that blew out three windows in three cabins, saw the single most astonishing natural wonder (which I never expected to see, nor was it ever described to me beforehand, which led to my beginning the writing of "The Antarctic Suite"), rode horses just outside Montevideo, and came home to a condemnation from the Catholic League -- and a review from a critic which said that "New World Waking" is "inappropriate for the holidays." You know, because it's filled with religion and politics and violence and depressing things. Maybe she's got a point, but I happen to think my songs are funny. I have stories to tell about this, too, by the way, involving a devout atheist and an even more devout rabbi.

(I'm thinking I want to go back to SF and do a solo show called "Inappropriate for the Holidays.")

I find it amazing that people are finding my work to be so scary to children and animals. And Catholic audiences love us! The Catholic League, if it's going to condemn a work, should try seeing it first rather than simply going by some blurb, not that I'm not flattered by the publicity.

So, I have lots to tell and lots to show.

P.S. I told all this to my friend, the infamous journalist/critic David Ehrenstein, who said, "Congratulations on your condemnation from the Catholic League. It's awards season and that's the Gay Oscar. "

I humbly accept this award.

Friday, January 09, 2009

New World Waking! CD NOW AVAILABLE.


Now you can purchase the full "New World Waking!" along with a fantastic selection of songs sung over the 30th anniversary season of the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus. I'm especially thrilled that they're including the luminous "Safeer el-Layl (ambassador of the night)" -- probably the first song created by a gay man in Arabic, sung by a gay chorus. I wrote about this magnificent creation when I heard it performed last Spring.

This is a limited edition CD. I think they only pressed a thousand, so go now to the site and get a couple of them. One for you and one for a friend.

I promise you'll enjoy this.