Friday, February 27, 2015

Broccoli and garlic

Yeah, the last time I posted something was more than a week ago. There are a dozen things in my browser tabs to mention. I may get to some of them eventually, others may have to be passed over. I usually write for this blog in the evening, but I've had events every evening since I last wrote. Some of it was the usual rehearsals. Other things were concerts in the Detroit Symphony Orchestra Tchaikovsky Festival (of which the event describe here was a part), and the showcase event at the college where I teach that gave the music and dance students a chance to show what they can do (so perhaps now they'll come back to class).

About six weeks ago I took swabs from the inside of my cheeks to send to a company to have the genetic material analyzed. This was recommended by my nutritionist, mostly because she thought there was some missing detail preventing a stable weight and optimum health. Thing are getting better – my skin rash, usually worse during cold weather, is showing improvement. But there appear to be lingering toxins or parasites.

This genetic test did not screen for genes associated with disease (such as cancer). Instead, it correlated genetic markers with components in exercise and diet. It came up with these recommendations through a compilation of research into such topics.

After some delays (they later sent me a note apologizing that their computer didn't tell me the report was ready) I was able to see my Action Plan. There is a long section of the genes they test, whether I have a variation, and how I should change my diet to compensate for it. Fortunately, most of them said no action required. More useful was the summary, the list of things I should do. They include such things as getting enough A, B, C, D, and E vitamins as well as omega-3. A few other recommendations were:

* Reduce smoked meats, including meats grilled over an open fire. Alas, most hams are smoked and my favorite cheese is too. I should also avoid second-hand tobacco use. Now that Michigan restaurants are smoke-free, that's easy to do. I think the reasoning is my body treats the smoke as a toxin.

* Eat lots of broccoli or cauliflower. Not a problem.

* Eat lots of garlic and onion. Oops, big problem. My nutritionist suggested garlic pills that don't have a taste or stink up my skin.

* A single daily serving of alcohol (and red wine in particular) may help with cholesterol. I don't drink, so it will be quite a while before I try it (if at all).

* Use enough olive oil every day. Not a problem.

* Reduce saturated fat. I can easily switch from coconut oil to olive oil in most of my cooking. But the recommendations cut into the fat from meats and cheeses. My nutritionist said their guideline is too low. Then she said something a bit troubling – some of the studies included in their compilation were probably from the Food Industry and Diet Industry with biased results. These are the same studies my nutritionist has been contradicting for the last 18 months. If I had known that I may not have paid the big bucks for the genetic test. I hope the reduction in smoke and the garlic pills are the answer.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The hotness factor

About a month ago I had said that our society has equated thinness with health and that perhaps we have done that because we equate thinness with sex appeal. I used that as a comment on another blog and the response was essentially, well, duh! In addition, I was told, what we consider appealingly sexy is culturally conditioned, and driven by the Diet Industry and Fashion Industry. And here comes a study that shows just that. Participants were asked to rate the "hotness" of people in a series of photographs. The results changed when participants were first told how others rated the same photos.

A Texas one-step

A state district judge ordered the Travis County Clerk to give Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant a marriage license. The couple promptly got married. This came after a Travis County probate judge struck down the state's same-sex marriage ban. A federal judge had struck down the ban a year ago, but that decision is before the 5th Circuit Court. The Travis County Clerk has said marriage licenses to same-sex couples must be court-ordered. So only one couple for now.

As expected the state Attorney General is in a tizzy and asked for a stay from the state Supremes. The Texas Supremes granted that stay, but did not invalidate the one marriage. That didn't satisfy the AG, who is considering other ways to invalidate Sarah and Suzanne's marriage. Grinch.

It is cold enough in America that residents in Atlanta are complaining of the cold and there is significant ice on Niagara Falls. Detroit is forecast for -9F tonight.

A Richland, Washington florist refused to do the flowers for a gay couple. A county court has now ruled against the owner, saying that while religious beliefs are protected by the First Amendment, actions based on those beliefs aren't. An appeal is likely.

Two bills made it out of Oklahoma's House Judiciary Committee. The first bill would (1) fire any gov't employee who gives out a same-sex marriage license, (2) bars public money to enforce any court order that requires giving licenses to same-sex couples, (3) fire any judge who tries to enforce same-sex marriage, (4) declares itself above "any contrary federal court ruling." They mean business. The second bill would get rid of marriage licenses, replacing them with marriage certificates, which only certain people could submit to the state.

I had reported the Arkansas legislature had passed a bill banning local non-discrimination protections for sexual minorities. Gov. Asa Hutchinson is torn – between burdensome business regulation and the loss of local control. That gays and lesbians lose protections escapes his concern. So Hutchinson is conflicted enough he won't sign the bill – but he won't veto it either, letting it become law.

A similar bill was approved in Arizona last year. Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed it at the urging of business leaders. But in Arkansas the business leaders are strangely quiet.

As for same-sex marriage in Alabama, a few of the current crop of GOP prez. candidates aren't exactly thundering in their condemnation. They seem to be reduced to claiming it is something that states should decide.

An Arkansas Supreme Court Justice (not Roy Moore) has given his opinions on same-sex marriage. Somehow allowing gays to marry completely voids the entire marriage law in the state and nobody should be able to get married. It seems gay marriages threaten the constitutionality of all marriages.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Tchaikovsky's closet

Yes, it has been a while since I had time to write to this blog. Last Wednesday I left the Ruth Ellis Center early to head down to Orchestra Hall for a bit of the Tchaikovsky Festival, now underway (I went back Friday evening for a concert that featured his 6th Symphony). However, the Wednesday event wasn't music, it was a panel discussion about Tchaikovsky's "rumored" homosexuality, as the advertising put it. The panel was moderated by Dr. John Corvino, the Gay Moralist, though I wish he had been given a larger role – all he did was introduce the others and try to signal when time was up.

The first speaker was Leonard Slatkin, artistic director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the one conducting the concerts of the festival. He talked about why Tchaikovsky is worthy of being featured in a three week festival – the first Russian symphonist, one who excelled in symphonies, concertos, tone poems, ballets, operas, chamber music, and songs.

The second panelist was Dr. Jonathan Anderson, Assistant Professor of Composition at Wayne State University (just up the street from Orchestra Hall). I worked with Anderson for one semester as I was working on my thesis composition and my advisor took a sabbatical. It was Anderson's first semester on campus. He still isn't telling his students he is gay just to make sure it doesn't mess up his chances to get tenure (so I didn't know when I worked with him). He talked at length about Tchaikovsky's homosexuality – no "rumor" here. There is lots of evidence in the letters between the composer and his brother Modest, who was also gay. Anderson said Tchaikovsky wasn't as closeted as one might think he needed to be in Russia of the late 19th Century (and certainly in Russia of today). It also appears he did his best work after his disastrous marriage, after which he became more accepting of his orientation. Between the Lines has a nice story of Anderson talking about Tchaikovsky, which covered many of the points that were covered in the panel.

Since Tchaikovsky's death in 1893 at the age of 53 there have been riddles on how and why he died so young and unexpectedly. I'd go through them, but Anderson says most of them have been disproven, leaving us simply wondering. We're not sure he was killed by cholera, as had been believed. There has also been lots of discussion about whether the Pathetique 6th Symphony is a suicide note of sorts. It has an unusual gloomy last movement rather than the expected triumphant ending, and Tchaikovsky conducted the premier just 10 days before he died. But Slatkin says the symphony was completed in August that year and after that Tchaikovsky wrote a movement of a third piano concerto in a bright and upbeat mood that does not sound like someone considering suicide.

The third panelist was Nancy Schlichting, CEO of Henry Ford Health System. I was puzzled why she was on the panel and what she might add to the discussion. Actually, quite a bit, but not directly. She is a lesbian who is leading a corporation. She talked about needing to be closeted while younger, of being outed, and of making sure her current board of directors didn't care she is a lesbian – of course, it helped that the chairman of the board was Alan Gilmour, who is gay.

Slatkin said that over the course of a long career conducting many pieces of music from gay composers he hasn't found any gay notes. He hasn't found any female notes either (he is married to a composer).

Who decides?

Justice Antonin Scalia was at an event at George Washington University. One of the things he said:
The issue of gay rights, on abortion, on many of the issues in which [Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg]'s opinions and mine differ does not pertain to the substance. It doesn't pertain to whether gay people ought to have those rights or whether there ought to be a constitutional right or a right to an abortion. That isn't the issue. The issue is who decides. That's all. I don't have any public views on any of those things. The point is who decides? Should these decisions be made by the Supreme Court without any text in the Constitution or any history in the Constitution to support imposing on the whole country or is it a matter left to the people? But don't paint me as anti-gay or anti-abortion or anything else. All I'm doing on the Supreme Court is opining about who should decide.
I'm not sure whether I should rant in outrage – or laugh. Don't paint him as anti-gay? What about his rants in dissents to pro-gay rulings over the last 20 years? Isn't one of the tasks of the Supremes to prevent tyranny of the majority? But enough. Melissa McEwen of Shakesville and her commenters do a much better takedown than I want to bother with.

Bring it on!

The Arkansas legislature has passed a bill that prevents cities and counties from enacting their own anti-discrimination laws that protect sexual minorities. No governor veto is expected. Lawmakers say the bill created uniformity (so much more important than rights). Some things just need to be uniform across the state – along with murder and fraud. Yep, our desire for rights was just compared to murder and fraud. Democrat Representative Clarke Tucker challenges the claim that the bill would be good for business.

Hours after the state Senate passed the bill (and before the House did) the city of Eureka Springs, "the gay capital of the Ozarks," did exactly what the bill banned. Though the state may not sue, a right-wing group likely would. Council member Mickey Schneider said, "Bring it on!"

The little town of Thrumond, West Virginia passed passed an ordinance banning discrimination of sexual minorities. How little? There are only five residents in Thurmond. With a voting population that small it is easy to get a unanimous vote. But with a town that small and no news whether any of them are gay, why bother? The area is a big tourist draw for rafting and fishing and the ordinance will demand equal treatment by any business working through the town. In addition, it sets a great example.

JONAH stands for Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing, the Jewish counterpart to Exodus providing services "for those struggling with unwanted same-sex sexual attractions." Meaning they attempt to make a gay person become straight. Through a lawsuit a judge in New Jersey has declared that JONAH has violated the state's Consumer Fraud Act for advertising they provided a service they could not deliver. Hopefully, this will set a precedent against conversion therapy clinics across the country.


Yes, same-sex couples in Alabama have started to marry, though – considering it is Alabama – the process hasn't been smooth.

The 11th Circuit denied a stay. So did the Supremes, though Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia dissented. This time Thomas wrote 3 pages for his dissent, saying that since the matter is before the Supremes it is improper for the court to allow marriages to proceed. Yes, he was criticizing his colleagues. And, yes, allowing Alabama same-sex couples to marry makes it harder for the Supremes to come to the conclusion he wants.

You may remember Roy Moore, Chief Justice of the Alabama Supremes. He was the one that installed a big Ten Commandments monument in the lobby of the Alabama Judicial Building. More than a decade ago he refused an order from a federal court to remove it. As a result he was removed. But in Alabama Supreme Court Justices are elected and in 2013 voters returned him to their high court. They like their bigots. So in a state where its Marriage Protection Amendment was approved by 80% of voters in 2006 Moore feels he is on safe political ground when he announced an order prohibiting probate judges from issuing marriage licenses. We don't need no stinkin' US Constitution! Comparisons were quickly made to George Wallace standing in the schoolhouse door to prevent integration.

Moore posted on his Facebook page that citizens who see a judge breaking Moore's order should tell the governor (since Moore can't dish out punishment himself). Gov. Bentley responded by saying he will take no action against judges who defy Moore's order.

Some of the probate judges apparently liked the cover Moore gave them and have been refusing licenses to same-sex couples. And to show they aren't bigoted, some of those have decided to not issue marriage licenses to anyone, gay or straight. It didn't take long for one of the judges to be sued. It also didn't take long for the federal judge who overturned the ban to order that sued judge to issue licenses, and same-sex marriages have begun in Mobile. Even so, perhaps about 50 straight couples are being denied licenses each day this mess continues.

As all this confusion plays out, a same-sex couple in Autauga County did get a license, but the judge refused to perform the ceremony. If I do it for one couple I have to do it for everyone! Rev. Anne Susan Diprizio saw the couple's distress and offered to perform the ceremony. Proceedings began and she was arrested.

Gay couples in Texas are asking the 5th Circuit that since Alabama didn't get a stay, could you get rid of ours? Couples in South Dakota and Missouri are asking the 8th Circuit the same thing.

As of yesterday 47 of Alabama's 66 counties have marriage equality. Another 6 aren't issuing licenses to anyone, 8 give licenses only to straight couples, and the last 5 aren't telling reporters.

And the marriage map is looking pretty good – now if we could turn the red areas to purple...

Of course, we're not done with the crazy. Liberty Counsel petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court to stop same-sex marriages. The court agreed to take the case on a 6-2 vote (Chief Justice Moore didn't vote). It could be entertaining since a state court can't trump a federal court on issues of the US Constitution. So a ruling that Liberty Counsel likes could be swiftly smacked aside.