Thursday, December 4, 2014

Charles Rosen's Epic & Columbia recordings

Sony has reissued pianist Charles Rosen's complete Epic and Columbia Masterworks recordings. Rosen, who was a pupil of Moritz Rosenthal, attended Princeton at the same time as my teacher. Click here to read my review.


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Horowitz on HMV, or EMI, or Warner, 1930-1951

Warner now owns EMI's Classical recordings, and they've reissued their Horowitz holdings. I'm hoping they'll issue their complete recordings of George Szell with The Cleveland Orchestra. Meanwhile, click here to read my review of the Horowitz box.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Lorin Maazel in Cleveland

Amazon has published my review of Lorin Maazel's complete Decca recordings with the Cleveland Orchestra. For those interested in purchasing, I recommend shopping around, including at Amazon's European sites. The current price at Amazon's American site is outrageous. Click here to read my full review.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Decca Phase 4 boxed set

My review of Decca's new Phase 4 boxed set has been published. It's not exactly an unqualified rave. Click here to read my review

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Election Endorsements - 2014

Federal:

There are no Senate elections this year.

U. S. Congress, District 11: Marcia Fudge is the incumbent, and has held the office since the death of Stephanie Tubbs Jones in 2008.  She has represented the interests of her district with integrity.  Her opponent is a graphic designer with no experience in public service.  I recommend Fudge’s reelection.

Ohio:

GovernorJohn Kasich has been, by most standards, a mediocre governor – and that’s a generous assessment.  Ohio still lags behind much of the nation in job growth, despite his much touted JobsOhio initiative –the executive board of which is loaded with political cronies.  (It must be noted, the improvements seen in Cleveland over the last two decades happened under the auspices of Democratic County and City administrations.)  While Kasich boasts of a balanced state budget and income tax cuts (aimed at the top income brackets), he avoids mention that it comes at the cost of a sales tax hike and cuts to state aid for cities, which local municipalities have counted on since 1934.  Since cities have had to enact tax increases to make up the shortfall, on balance most Ohioans are paying the same or more taxes than in the past – unless you’re very rich.  This is the same trickle-down economics that have increased the gap between rich and poor and have squeezed the middle class – and it’s hurting places like South Euclid.

Ed FitzGerald has had a rapid rise up the political ladder.  One short year after he moved back to Cleveland from Washington, DC, he was elected to Lakewood City Council, becoming that city’s Mayor in 2008, Cuyahoga County executive in 2010, now running for Governor.  FitzGerald reminds me of all too many co-workers I’ve encountered over the past 30 years; people who are too busy aiming for their next promotion to do their jobs.  Inevitably, people such as these leave a mess in their wake and FitzGerald is no exception.  He has been secretive about his comings and goings as county Executive, used a county employee to vet political donations, and drove for several years without a valid license.

Much has been made of these controversies surrounding FitzGerald, while the media has continually looked away from Kasich’s use of JobsOhio as a holding ground for political cronies.  As a case in point, the media covered with salacious interest an incident when FitzGerald was questioned by police while a woman was in his car.  But no mention has been made of long standing rumors that Kasich, who was divorced from 1980-1997, was in an intimate relationship with his male chief of staff – with whom he also shared a home.  It goes without mentioning that Kasich holds anti-gay political positions.

Even though I agree with many of FitzGerald’s political positions, his foibles continue to nag me.  Ohio does not need another laughingstock politician to replace the recently deceased James Traficant.   Therefore, I am offering NO endorsement for Governor.

Attorney General:  Mike DeWine is the incumbent.  DeWine is a career politician who has been in politics since 1976. He has spent most of his time as Attorney General feathering his own nest and denying marriage rights to same-sex couples.  I endorse his opponent, David Pepper.

Auditor:  David Yost is the incumbent.  For the record, he is a Republican although personally I believe the Auditor’s office and elections should be non-partisan.  Yost has lauded South Euclid’s city government for maintaining its finances despite a challenging economy (and, I might add, his boss’s decision to slash $800,000 in state aid).  Yost is a rarity, a public servant who puts his job before his party, and I urge Yost’s reelection.  

Secretary of State: The primary job of the Secretary of State is to supervise Ohio’s elections and ensure fairness.  Despite the slick ads being run by John Husted’s campaign, the incumbent has spent the last four years making it harder for poor and minority voters to exercise this precious Constitutional right.  I endorse his opponent, Nina Turner.

Treasurer: The incumbent, Josh Mandel, has brought dishonor to Ohio since he ran a mendacious campaign against Senator Sherrod Brown in 2012.  He has also stocked his office staff with political cronies and his fellow frat boys.  It’s time for him to exit public office – permanently.  I endorse his opponent, Connie Pilich.

Cuyahoga County

Executive:  A few days ago, I saw old George Voinovich on TV endorsing his friend Jack Schron, the Republican candidate for county executive.  While the retired career politician droned away, footage of Ed FitzGerald appeared.  It may interest some to know that FitzGerald is not a candidate for county executive, but if you need to tour your candidate by referring to another politician who’s not part of the equation, it brings to mind the relevance of the candidate you’re endorsing.  It would be like Hillary Clinton running against Ronald Reagan.  Schron’s campaign has lacked specifics, instead trying to “feel-good” his way to victory.  But when his own campaign website refers to Natural Gas as an “alternative fuel”, he tips his hand as yet another Republican who will be controlled by big money and corporatism.  Armond Budish is not a partisan, career politician as Voinovich implied.  Until 2006, he worked as an attorney who advocated for the elderly and consumers.  He continued working for ordinary working people in the Ohio House of Representatives, and I am confident he will continue to do so as County Executive.  I encourage Cuyahoga voters to support Budish.

Council, district 11:  Sunny Simon hails from South Euclid and has served her first term on county council with distinction.  Simon is a realist who leads with an eye on the long term benefits to the people of her district and to the planet in general.  As part of that, she was the incorporator of TeMPO – which is aimed at preserving the Telling Mansion after the library leaves.  While a number of local politicians either ignored the Library controversy, or attended a few TeMPO meetings and did nothing concrete, Simon has regularly attended meetings, advised the group on how to move forward in applying for grants to renovate the Mansion, and has helped put together a plan of action for maintaining the Mansion as a viable space going forward.  Simon also pushed for and obtained a domestic partnership for county resident and same-sex domestic partner benefits for county employees.  Even though I am employed by a private company (which just so happens to provide such benefits) and not covered by this legislation, as a gay man I’m very appreciative of the support Simon has shown for our community.

Her opponent, John Currid, hails from New Jersey and moved to South Euclid a few years ago.  He has not served in elected office before.  In fact, I can find nothing Currid has done relating to public service – even volunteer work.  Currid’s lack of experience shows in a number of posts on his campaign website.  For example, he’s called for removing Ohio from Common Core educational standards, railing against them as “anti-American” and “anti-Israel” – one of the Tea Party’s prime talking points.  But the Cuyahoga County council has nothing to do with public education, so how does he propose to stop common core within the Constitutional boundaries of the office he seeks?  Currid has also derided Simon’s proposal to eliminate non-biodegradable plastic bags as “San Francisco liberalism”, which brings to mind what John F. Kennedy said of Liberalism: “If by a "Liberal" they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people-their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights and their civil liberties-someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a "Liberal", then I'm proud to say I'm a "Liberal.”  The truth is, many forward thinking municipalities have been doing away with these bags and NorthEast Ohio would benefit by getting ahead of the curve – instead of falling behind as usual.

Currid’s main accomplishment in South Euclid has been forming the South Euclid Republican Club.  While I have written of the need for more political diversity in South Euclid, Currid’s brand of Tea-Party Republicanism is the very thing that has degraded the political debate in the United States, and is part of the reason why the Republicans remain doomed to minority status in Cuyahoga County in the foreseeable future.  While there are local Republicans who are worthy of office, and I’ve even endorsed some of them in the past, John Currid does not belong to that select group.     

Simon deserves to be reelected.

Ohio State Senate, District 25: Kenny Yuko has served ably in the Ohio House of Representatives and deserves to be elevated to the State Senate.

Ohio House of Representatives, District 8: Kent Smith is running to succeed Armond Budish and would carry on in his tradition.  His opponent, Mikhail Alterman, is a hard-right Tea-Party type who makes John Currid seem like a moderate.  I urge voters to support Kent Smith.

Ballot issues:

Issue 6: Tax Levy for Cuyahoga County College.  They are really putting property owners to the screws here, because this not only renews the existing 1.2 mill levy, but also tacks on an increase of .9 mills.  It would have been more ethical to ask for the mill increase in a separate ballot issue.  CCC claims this is to improve college education.  But my experience working at a college leads me to believe much of the additional levy will go to administrative overhead.  I reluctantly urge a No vote.

Issue 11: This common sense issue requires a two year residency requirement for County Executive and Council members.  I urge a Yes vote.

Issue 12: This would remove the County Executive and fiscal officer from the audit committee, and replace them with a council member and citizen approved by council.  Since council appropriates money, oversight should be managed by another branch – and the fiscal officer should always remain as the responsible party.  I urge a No vote.

Issue 13: Allows the County Charter Review committee an additional three months to appoint and confirm officers.  I urge a Yes vote.

Issue 14:  Republicans across the country have tried to make it harder for people to vote, all in the name of preventing voter fraud.  They will never admit, and the media has been shamefully lax in reporting, than voter fraud has not been a serious matter in any election over the last 50 years – while voter suppression has reared its ugly head in every election since 2000.  I strongly urge a Yes vote.

South Euclid City CharterPeriodically, city charters require review. This is done by a nine member elected panel.  I am endorsing eight candidates which constitute, in my opinion, a good balance between experienced elected officials and citizens. 
 
  • Dennis Fiorelli
  • Marty Gelfand
  • David Miller
  • Diane Mullally
  • Moe Romeo
  • Mark Sanderson
  • Robert Schoenewald
  • Georgine Welo

There are several other candidates on the ballot.  Frankly I don’t know most of them well enough to speak to their qualifications, but I caution South Euclidians against voting for Grant McCallum, who is a flat-out Tea-Partier who is merely looking for personal political gain. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Nelson Freire on Columbia Masterworks

Sony has just reissued Nelson Freire's complete Columbia recordings, made when he was a clean shaven young Brazilian. Click here to read my review.

Monday, October 6, 2014

The expansion of Marriage Equality

Today's decision by the Supreme Court to decline hearing appeals in seven marriage cases clears the way for recognition of same sex marriage in eleven more states - meaning there will be a total of 30 states (and the District of Columbia) which honor marriage equality. Here are two maps which detail the current, and rapidly changing situation. The second map, which resizes each state according to population, is particularly illustrative.

 

But where is Ohio? Arguments were heard in the Sixth Circuit court in August pertaining to several marriage cases. If the court rules in favor of marriage recognition, it's unlikely a stay will be granted. Full marriage equality across all 50 states can't happen too soon.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Ken Burns' The Roosevelts

 
 
Ken Burns' magnificent 14 hour documentary The Roosevelts has been issued on Blu-ray. Click here to read my review.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Reflections on Gay Games 2014



The Federation of Gay Games took a leap of faith when they chose Cleveland and Akron to host the 2014 Games, bypassing such larger cities as Boston, Washington, DC, and Miami. 

Make no mistake: Ohio is a right-of-center state.  Not extremist like Kansas or Mississippi, but certainly no Massachusetts or California either.  Same-sex marriage remains unrecognized here, and with the exception of a few forward thinking municipalities, you can still be fired from your job for being gay.  I’ve stated it before and will do so again: the thing I like least about our city is that it’s part of Ohio.  At times, I wish the Cleveland-Columbus corridor could secede from Ohio and form our own state; West Connecticut, perhaps.  That said, Ohio’s anti-gay element largely remained at home and vented their homophobia in the Cleveland.com comments section, save for one lonely sign-holder, Courtney Hayes of Washington, DC, seen on the corner of East 9th and Lakeside.  

I find it amusing that the Cuyahoga County GOP is portraying itself as open because it did not oppose the Gay Games coming to Cleveland.  In essence, the GOP position is: “Come to Northeast Ohio and spend your money here, but don’t expect your marriage to be recognized and if you move here, it will be legal to fire you from your job for being gay.  Better yet, just come here, spend your money, and leave.”  I hope Northeast Ohio’s LGBT voters will bear that in mind this November.

The people of Cleveland proved that we’re up to the task of hosting the Gay Games with style and a sense of friendliness that would have left the other contenders in the dust.  Attendees from all areas of the country – indeed the world – commented on what a fine city Cleveland is and how friendly the people here are.  One attendee from England summed it up nicely when he told me “Every negative thing I’ve heard about Cleveland over the years is a bloody lie – this is a lovely city”.  I think one of the reasons why the games were so successful here is that Northeast Ohio – and Cleveland in particular – were hungry to prove they could host, with distinction, an event which drew people from the world, and thus demonstrate to the world that the Cleveland of burning rivers, a deserted downtown, and defeatism are part of a past which has deservedly been buried.  I doubt Boston, Miami, or the District of Columbia would have been so hungry to please.

The welcoming atmosphere was enhanced by the many local organizations that lent their support.  Among these was the Cleveland Orchestra, which performed a concert at Severance Hall that was attended by many GG9 participants.  This was part of the orchestra’s Summers at Severance series, where they played an abbreviated program (one hour, with no intermission), serving cocktails before, and with a party afterward.  The all-Beethoven program included the Creatures of Prometheus Overture, Symphony No. 4, and the ChoralFantasy.  I was amused by the reaction of the largely out of town audience, which applauded between the Symphony’s movements.  At one point, I overheard a couple from New York, praising the visual and aural beauty of Severance Hall, and commiserating about how poorly the New York Philharmonic sounded compared to the Cleveland Orchestra.  It was all well played, of course, but I was left wondering about the program:  Beethoven is certainly easy to market, but wouldn’t it have been more appropriate to include LGBT composers, like Tchaikovsky and Barber?

There was another area where there was room for improvement: There were no food concessions at the Cleveland Convention Center, despite all-day events there.  Nor were any of Cleveland’s renowned food trucks to be seen.  Since outside food was prohibited at the Center, participants and spectators were compelled to trek to nearby locations – impractical when the weather didn’t cooperate.  Ironically, food trucks and increased food concessions were in evidence at the festival area on Mall C during the closing ceremonies, by which time a number of the participants had left.

It has been reported that the attendance was lighter than at previous Gay Games in Chicago and Cologne.  This is not surprising.  I’d wager that most of the reduction in attendance was not from the athletes, but from those for whom the Gay Games are more of a party and a week-long opportunity to “hook-up.”  Certainly, all the team athletic events we attended appeared to have a full complement of participants.  But there is a certain breed of gay man who exists only to party, and I saw a number of those over this past week.  I spotted one such person as we made our way to the opening ceremony at the Q.  He was wearing a cut-off tank top, flip-flops, and shorts so skimpy I was tempted to ask him if he’d dare dress that way in front of his mother.  Then there were the 40 and 50-somethings who were trying (and failing) to pass for their counterparts of a younger generation.  There’s little in life as tragic as an aging boy-toy.  They reminded me of Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, concealing her age with ten inches of makeup.  While such characters as Desmond are regarded as camp icons, let us remember the character herself is delusional, homicidal, and not someone to emulate.  (In similar fashion, it’s amusing to see angry white men post pictures of Howard Beale in “I’m mad as hell and not going to take it anymore” mode, not realizing the character is a suicidal paranoiac who’s being used as a tool by his corporate masters.)

But I digress.  Let's get back to the subject at hand, the Gay Games.




Dan & I attended a number of the athletic events, particularly volleyball where the Puerto Rico Golden Boys earned the division Gold medal. 
We also saw the wrestling clinic where Hudson Taylor was a special guest.  It was moving to see this straight founder of Athlete Ally speak with simple eloquence about acceptance of gays in the sports world. 




Northeast Ohio’s successful hosting of the Gay Games augers well for the 2016 Republican National Convention.  While I don’t plan on supporting their ticket, I’m delighted they’ve chosen Cleveland; to quote their former party leader, “Bring ‘em on”.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Lazar Berman on DG



Deutsche Grammophone has reissued Lazar Berman's complete recordings with that company. Click here to read my review

Monday, July 28, 2014

Nature versus Music at Blossom

Saturday evening, Dan & I made the journey to Blossom Music Center to hear a mixed concert with the Cleveland Orchestra, their featured soloist Stephen Hough, along with the Kent/Blossom Chamber Orchestra.  It was a memorable concert.

I will confess that, even though Blossom is one of the premiere outdoor locations for concerts, I am not overly fond of the outdoor concert concept – particularly as it pertains to Classical music.  Weather was a distraction at a Blossom concert we attended last year.  This year, the main reason I went was to hear Stephen Hough – one of my favorite living pianists.  This was the fifth time I’ve heard him in person and the third time at Blossom.  I wish the orchestra would bring him to Severance Hall more often.  Before the concert began, I briefly observed Hough consulting with the piano technician about the pedals of the piano – who made several adjustments while Hough tried out various passages.

The concert began earlier than usual, at 7pm, with a performance by the Kent/Blossom orchestra, primarily made of music students.  Led by Brett Mitchell, the performances of Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll and Ravel’s Le tombeau de Couperin were on a high level – only some uncertain string intonation revealed that a student orchestra was playing.  The Siegfried Idyll possessed a remarkable sense of stillness, with expansive phrasing and a slower than usual tempo.  Le tombeau de Couperin bathed the listener in piquant harmonies and the emergence and submergence of orchestral textures. As with many pieces, Ravel wrote both piano and orchestral versions of this memorial to Couperin.  I’ve long held the piano versions of many of Ravel’s piano works in high esteem, but I prefer the orchestral in this piece.

After a brief intermission, the Cleveland Orchestra was onstage to begin the concert with Beethoven’s Overture to Fidelio, in a taut performance led by John Storgårds.  This was the fourth overture Beethoven wrote for his only opera, which was initially called Leonore and had a difficult performance history.  While observing the strings play several intricate passages, it occurred to me that the composer probably worked these sections out on the piano before he orchestrated the piece.  They would sit well under the hand if played on the piano.

There was a bit of musical chairs while the orchestra shifted to accommodate the piano.  Then, Hough strode onstage and began the most memorable part of the concert.  The orchestra began the very brief tutti for Liszt’s Piano Concerto No.1 in E-flat major, followed by Hough’s crisply pedaled rendition of the work's bravura opening passage.  About two minutes into the piece, as Hough was playing a poetic transitional passage, I saw what I thought was a flashbulb to my left.  As I was about to turn my head to glare down the photographer, I heard a tremendous BLAM! – realizing it wasn’t a flashbulb, but a lightning strike just outside the pavilion.  Audience and orchestra were startled, and even Hough reflexively ducked.  A lesser performer might have started over, but Hough never took his hands off the keyboard.  Instead, he preceded to a high trill and held it while the audience calmed down.  The performance then continued while low rumbling thunder served as reminder that, at the end of the day, Mother Nature does what she does.  The Liszt is not an easy concerto to perform.  It seems all too many pianists either turn it into a display for technical trickery, while others drain the life out of it to make it sound “musical” – and then there are those (who shall remain nameless) who can’t play the piece but insist on doing so anyway.  Hough has the chops to dispatch the work’s technical hurdles – wide octave leaps, repeated notes, staccato jumps – while giving poetry to the concerto’s nocturne-like sections.  The discreet pedaling (in a concerto where many pianists bluff through difficult sections by holding the sustaining pedal down) demonstrated why Hough worked with the technician before the concert.  It was thrilling from beginning to end, and the audience rightly rewarded soloist and orchestra with a standing ovation.  This was a performance that gave life to the maxim “the show must go on” and indeed it did as we were favored with an encore.  I’ve long held Hough in high esteem as a pianist and musician, but Saturday night he demonstrated his grace under pressure and nerves of steel.  (Hough has also recorded this concerto, which I heartily recommend.)  

Following intermission, the Kent/Blossom orchestra joined the Cleveland Orchestra for a joint performance of Sibelius’ Second Symphony.  Here’s where I will confess that I am not a huge Sibelius fan – not that I dislike his music, but it simply does not particularly stir me.  Nevertheless, the work’s massive orchestral textures benefited from the “super-sized” orchestra.  While students sat side-by-side with the orchestra’s tenured players, one had a sense of great traditions being passed on.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Liberty versus Anarchy in our community


I’d like to take a moment to address the series of incidents which took place several days ago at the Sacred Heart of Jesus festival.

First, a bit of history: My parents moved to South Euclid in 1971.  I went to Anderson elementary school, then Memorial and Brush.  After graduating, I moved to Massachusetts - returning nine years later and living in various parts of the Cleveland area.  I moved back to South Euclid in 2008.  The convenience of South Euclid for me, in terms of being close to my job and an easy drive to our area’s cultural and entertainment hub, is an attraction that’s very enticing.

I have never felt unsafe walking my dog or otherwise going about my business in South Euclid. My neighbors are polite and friendly.  But it's appalling to learn of the sort of behavior reported at the festival taking place in our city.  Two years ago, a resident was murdered in front of her home, and the perpetrators’ presence in the city may have been connected to the festival.  Last year, there were multiple incidents of violence at the festival.  And this year, the incidents involved more people, covered many blocks, and there were even reports of shots fired.  Even though the majority of the perpetrators were from outside South Euclid, it's alarming to learn these events are on the rise a short walk from where I live.  The pastor at Sacred Heart of Jesus church, Father Ireland, has been seen in several interviews complaining that the activity of these youths threatens attendance at the festival.  He seems less concerned about the danger to the community as a whole.  I’m certain that Father Ireland wants what’s best for the community.  But, as President Kennedy said “Sincerity is always subject to proof” and the efforts of this church, thus far, have fallen short.  I’ve read that the church provided only 12 security personnel at this year’s festival – and it’s unlikely that all 12 were on duty at any given time.  If Sacred Heart of Jesus church is unable or unwilling to provide adequate private security for their festival, then permits for future festivals should be denied.  There is now a pattern of neglect on the church’s part and they should not be accorded more lenient treatment simply because they’re a church.  If this festival had taken place at a mosque and there had been similar incidents, it would have been shut down long ago. 

I supported Issue 65, South Euclid's safety forces levy – and I shudder to think what might have happened if there had been fewer officers available over the weekend.  But I do not want our cops put in harm's way when it's avoidable, and I want to live in a community where citizens have a reasonable assurance of safety.  I also demand, as a citizen, that our police department be permitted to post information without censorship by city officials.  It disgusts me that the South Euclid Police Department, for whatever reason, deleted their post about the events Saturday night.  

Above is a screen grab of a post made by a South Euclid police officer which appeared on the department's facebook page, then was deleted.  Thankfully, a citizen saved this picture before the post was yanked.

As I mentioned earlier, I moved back to South Euclid six years ago.  For the first time since I moved here, I am questioning the wisdom of that decision and seriously considering leaving - and I know I’m not alone in that regard.  South Euclid cannot afford to lose more taxpaying, law-abiding citizens.

New and upgraded shopping centers, pocket parks, and neighborhood rebranding are all very well and good – and I have supported these efforts.  But we also need to focus on basic issues like safe neighborhoods and crime prevention.  There is a growing feeling that South Euclid is no longer a safe place to live – at least in certain areas.  The events over the weekend demonstrate that this is more than an issue of mere perception.   I don’t blame anyone in South Euclid’s government for what happened.  But how we respond is key.  We have to face these issues head on and combat them.  Chief Neitert must not be selective about which laws he enforces.  He needs to start applying the broken windows theory.  When we tolerate activities such as allowing dogs to roam unleashed, people texting while driving, speeding on residential streets, "music" blasting from car stereos at all hours of the night, aimless loitering - it leads to a general impression of disorder in the community.  There is a fine line between Liberty and Anarchy, and we must not allow South Euclid to cross that line. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Lorin Maazel: 1930 - 2014

Lorin Maazel, principle conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra from 1972-1982, died on Sunday, July 13th, at the age of 84. 

Sadly, I never saw Maazel conduct in person.  He was scheduled to conduct in Cleveland several years ago, but he cancelled.  I saw him on television numerous times and took note of his unshowy, natural baton technique.  Not for him the marionette on strings approach of Furtwangler or orgasmic histrionics of Bernstein.  Maazel was a born conductor, and probably the most prominent example of a prodigy conductor in history.  He was also, according to those who heard him, a damned fine violinist – and was fluent in at least six languages.  The man was off the charts brilliant.

I also have many of his recordings – most with the Cleveland Orchestra.  It cannot have been easy for Maazel to take over the orchestra, which had been without a regular conductor for two years after George Szell’s death in 1970.  His selection, made by the board without consulting the orchestra, was controversial.  
 
Maazel maintained the technical quality of the orchestra (first raised to top five in America status by Artur Rodzinski, then elevated to top five in the world by Szell), while broadening its sound and diversifying its repertoire.  With a few exceptions like the Barber Piano Concerto and selected works by Dutilleux, Szell left most newer music to guest conductors like Pierre Boulez – while he concentrated on the core 18th and 19th Century Austro-Germanic repertoire.   Thus, when Maazel started programming showpieces like Respighi’s Pines of Rome and championed Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, the more conservative types in Cleveland’s music scene brought their knives out.  One critic even took to referring to Maazel as “childe Lorin” – a snide reference to his prodigy years.  The truth is, Maazel was magnificent in these works, and his recordings of them - along with his Shostakovich 5th Symphony, Tchaikovsky 4th and Romeo & Juliet, and Scriabin Poem of Ecstasy - remain well-nigh definitive.  But there were other instances where he seemed to be going through the motions, such as the 1970s Beethoven Symphony cycle and Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique.  Further, some interpretations were downright wayward, including Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.  Everything was, of course, fabulously played.  While it may be fashionable to give all credit to the Cleveland Orchestra, it’s also worth pointing out I heard numerous fluffed brass notes and splattery entrances under Maazel’s successor, Christoph von Dohnányi.  As an NBC Symphony player once remarked about Toscanini, “He spoke with the stick, and you just couldn't miss with that stick”.  The same could have been said of Maazel.  The New York Philharmonic and Pittsburgh Symphony seldom played for anyone else as well as they played for Maazel.    Most conductors bust their behinds to memorize scores and arrive at an interpretation.  Not so for Maazel.  In a way, it could be said that Maazel’s incredible facility – the ease with which he memorized scores, his perfect rhythmic sense, his unerring ear for balance – came at a cost.  Without the struggle inherent in the work of most musicians, his music making sometimes lacked the last sense of depth in the music that most required it.  But when he was “on”, it was an astonishing experience.


I am including here reviews which I wrote for three of Maazel’s Telarc CDs.  They provide an interesting glimpse of his Cleveland years.






Sunday, July 13, 2014

LeBron's return - icing on the cake

It was inevitable, I suppose, that I would comment on what’s been hyped as the Cleveland news story of the century (which, I remind all, is only 14 years old): LeBron James is returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

I am neither elated nor particularly surprised by his return. The story of LeBron’s departure, self-discovery, and return to the home of his birth is neither revelatory nor especially unique. Even as he made the announcement four years ago that caused Cavaliers fans to set his jersey alight, I thought "he'll be back". I know of countless people who left Northeast Ohio, only to return when they realized much of the rest of the country is too expensive, too congested, and populated with people less friendly than we.

I’m one of those boomerangs. I left the Cleveland area, fresh out of high school, for New England. For nine years, I studied, struggled, sowed my wild oats, loved, had my heart broken, enjoyed a brief taste of success, experienced failure, and generally learned those facts of life which weren’t taught in school. Family obligations brought about my return to Cleveland, and when I came back, I had an air of condescension along with a new assertiveness that bordered on abrasiveness – the result of living nine years in greater Boston. The place, like any place, rubs off on you.

 A year before I returned to Cleveland, I visited to bury my mother. Even through my grief I could discern the beginning stages of the rebirth of downtown Cleveland. That rebirth continued in starts and stops over two decades, and in the four years before “the Chosen One” announced his return, became a juggernaut. That’s why I object to the notion, perpetrated by the national media, that LeBron James' return is single handedly "rescuing" Cleveland's economy. Rescuing it from what? Cleveland’s decades long resurgence has continued whatever the performance of the local sports teams - and that recovery would have continued even if James' hadn't made his very welcome announcement. The national media's tendency to focus on one man merely betrays their ignorance of anything that happens in flyover country. There's more to America than the I-95 corridor on one side and California on the other, and in the final analysis, James’ return is icing on the cake.

I have blogged before concerning my reservations about how Cleveland and Cuyahoga County have given away the store to recruit/retain professional athletic franchises. Despite my happiness at LeBron James’ return, I continue to hold those opinions. Sports teams are only one aspect of downtown development. First Energy Stadium has a capacity of 71,516. Last season, the Browns played 16 games, about half of which were played at home. Assuming the stadium is filled to capacity, that’s about 572,000 visitors over the course of a year. That’s the equivalent of 2,200 employees working in Cleveland five days a week – a figure which is easily accomplished if Cleveland’s civic leaders put their minds to it. As I've said elsewhere, Cleveland needs to do a better job of recruiting businesses, in which people come downtown for work every day.  George Voinovich really blew it when he wouldn't play ball with Peter Lewis, who wanted to build Progressive's headquarters downtown - and there are other examples. It's all very nice that Progressive’s east side employees can enjoy an easy commute to Mayfield Village, not so nice for those on the west side. That is but one of many examples. But enough griping about the past. We can file that under “lessons learned”.

 On behalf of the boomerang club: Welcome home, LeBron.  At least his return is a distraction from that annoying Johnny Manziel.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Home Projects - bathroom

The Hippocratic Oath cautions doctors to “do no harm.” I wish home renovators, from Do-It-Yourselfers to professionals, were required to take such an oath.

Our home was one of the last houses begun in South Euclid before the United States entered World War II on December 7, 1941 - and was completed in 1942. From then until VJ day in 1945, very few private homes were built in the United States. Following the war, the baby boom led to a need for many houses in a limited timeframe, which led to the suburban housing boom. Frankly, the build quality of those rushed houses was generally lower than their pre-WWII counterparts.

There are a number of advantages to living in an older home. For one thing, an older house has stood the test of time. Pretty much every natural event that can happen, has happened: Severe thunderstorms, minor to moderate earthquakes, severe heat and cold, along with huge piles of snow and ice – our house has withstood it all. True, even the best built houses are not immune to the ravages of time, and our home has its share of character lines. The hairline cracks in our plaster walls remind us we’re not the first family to live here. Nor do the many changes made to the house over the years, including a 12’x16’ extension built around 1970 which serves as our media room. Unfortunately, not all of the “improvements” were satisfactory. The damage a succession of owners has done to our home, under the guise of improvements, makes the damage wrought by nature pale by comparison.

For example, the bathroom. Our home has only one, and it has required more attention than any other room in the house. As originally built, the bathroom had a toilet (American Standard, Cadet model, with the year 1939 stamped on the underside of the tank lid), one sink, and one bathtub – no shower. When we moved into the home in fall 2008, the bolts that hold the toilet tank onto the bowl had rusted and a small amount of water dripped from the tank onto the floor, and the mechanicals were worn down resulting in an improperly seal for the valve flapper and a noisy, leaky tank. That was the first item we fixed – with new bolts and new innards for the tank. Same toilet, new parts, with quiet operation and no leaking. Further, we were able to make it more water efficient by simply adding a filled bottle to the tank. Over the sink was a mirror hanging from a peg, covering a hole in the wall where the medicine cabinet should have been. Correcting that was the next step, and fairly easy.
Rusted light fixtures above the sink were activated by a wall switch – but there was neither an outlet nor a vent fan. Since experiencing an electric shock in childhood I’ve avoided working with anything electrical. I made sure the power was turned off, gritted my teeth, and installed new light fixtures. But left the installation of the vent fan and a new outlet to our neighborhood repairman.

But the bathtub was the real challenge, and it was nearly six years before we got around to fully correcting the numerous issues. At some point, a previous owner added a shower to the bathtub, along with plastic tile cut with an X-acto knife, poorly fitted around the glass block window – so that when warm the tile separated from the glass block, causing water to leak down the wall. This left a lovely stain on the living room ceiling, which is beneath the tub. No amount of caulking or duct tape could reliably seal the tile, and it was so tacky looking.

Part of being a successful homeowner is knowing whether a job is a DIY candidate, or whether the professionals need to be called in. Repairing a toilet, I can handle. Installing a medicine cabinet, check. But I knew the bathtub/shower renovation was beyond my DIY abilities. After checking several options, I settled on Cleveland Glass Block. After viewing their brochures and speaking with their consultant, I made it clear I did not want a “modern” looking bathroom. Instead, I wanted to make the bathroom appear as if it always had a built in shower, with subway tile to near the top of the stall. A classic look suited for a home built in the 1940s. Cleveland Glass was able to walk us through the process of what would be done and how long it would take. They suggested replacing the existing glass block with a new, better sealed version; also, the cupboard door was in poor shape and needed to be replaced; finally the whole room would be brightened up with a coat of lighter paint.


The process of re-tiling the wall was the most time consuming. The old tile was removed, as was much of the degraded plaster. New plumbing was installed allowing for new faucet controls and a higher showerhead – I frequently bumped my head on the old one. New drywall was installed, and the tile was then meticulously placed and grouted. We had our choice of grout colors, and opted for a traditional off white. After the work was completed, we had to wait for two days before we could use the shower. Fortunately, we have gym memberships. The final product was worth both the cost and the wait.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Health and the Presidency

The bulk of this post was written before Karl Rove made several idiotic comments relating to Hillary Clinton's health.



Today would have been the 97th birthday of John F. Kennedy. Even if JFK had not been stolen from us, he would almost certainly not have lived to our era. He suffered from a genetic defect (probably Autoimmune polyendocrine syndrome type II – also known as Schmidt’s syndrome) which decimated his immune system and adrenal glands (Addison’s disease), and caused a plethora of other maladies – leaving him subject to every bug that came along, and chronically deprived of energy. Kennedy was also born with one leg shorter than the other – the root cause of his back pain, which was exacerbated by a football injury, a war injury, medications he took for his Addison’s disease, and two steel rods which were inserted in 1954 to shore up his spine. He was given Last Rites three times during the course of his short life. The host of medications necessary to keep him functional - including Cortizone (both oral and injected), Lomotil, Peregoric, Phenobarbital, Testosterone, Trasentine, Tuinal, and various amphetamines – would keep your local pharmacist in business. Needless to say, very little of this information was shared with the American people during Kennedy’s lifetime. Just as most Americans of FDR’s time thought the 32nd President had mostly recovered from polio and merely walked with a limp, JFK’s contemporaries thought he was in fine health, save for back pain he suffered as the result of war injuries.

I share this information to make two points:

1). Historically, a President’s physical health has had almost no impact on job performance. Consider our leaders who faced serious illness while in office: Grover Cleveland (cancer), Franklin Roosevelt (paralysis, heart failure), Eisenhower (heart attack, stroke, ileitis), and Kennedy. Now consider those who were physically healthy: Herbert Hoover, Jerry Ford, George W. Bush

2). Whatever the defects in JFK’s character, and they were considerable, he was still a great and heroic man. It would have been the easiest thing for JFK to live the life of a charming invalid; coasting on his father’s success and money, and taking a meaningless desk job. No one would have questioned if this sick young man chose to languish in quiet insignificance. Instead, Kennedy pursued what Theodore Roosevelt (another sick young man who willed himself into action) called “the vigorous life”. During World War II, Kennedy pulled strings to get into the Navy despite physical issues that disqualified him, and became a genuine hero when his ship was sunk by a Japanese destroyer. As President, he projected an image of youth and vigor that was in contrast to his sad medical reality. President Kennedy inspired a generation to national service, fought for civil rights, skillfully negotiated a peaceful settlement to the Cuban Missile Crisis, encouraged the arts & culture, and set man on a course for the moon. Can anyone imagine what would have become of the United States, the world, if Richard Nixon - a physically healthy but mentally and emotionally unstable man – had been elected in 1960?

Our nation is better off for having had JFK’s leadership – and worse off because he left us far too soon.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

20th Century Presidents and LGBT rights.

There was a minor kerfuffle in the media a few days ago when Luci Baines Johnson and Lynda Bird Johnson Robb, daughters of President Lyndon Baines Johnson, told Katie Couric that their father would support same-sex marriage rights if he were alive today.  It’s important to remember that LBJ's daughters were stating contextually that if their father was alive today he would favor gay rights – in other words, they believe he would have evolved with the times.  How, some asked, could his daughters speak on his behalf when he’s been dead for 40 years?  Johnson was the President who used his considerable powers of persuasion – including invoking the memory of his slain predecessor, arm twisting, intimidating, and even threatening Congresspeople -  to get the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed.  Johnson also knew he was potentially jeopardizing the Democratic Party’s decades long position as America’s majority party, and commented to an aide “we’ve just lost the South for a generation” after he signed the bill.  LBJ was hardly free of prejudice himself, but as he himself stated, racism was a “crippling legacy” that would hamper America’s greatness in the long term.  Johnson’s work for Civil Rights was an admirable stand on principle which has unfortunately been overshadowed by his decisions in Vietnam. 

All Presidents - indeed, all human beings - are products of their generation. Likewise, those who lead people are often willing to overlook inconvenient facts in order to achieve their overarching goals.  This is as true with the issue of sexual orientation as elsewhere.  Benjamin Franklin alluded to rumors about Baron von Steuben’s private life being the cause of his fleeing Germany, but that didn’t stop General George Washington from hiring von Steuben to train the Continental Army into a fighting force that could defeat the British.  And nobody raised a ruckus when Steuben was accompanied by a young man who was generally assumed to be his lover.

Let’s review the actions of our modern Presidents with regard to the issue of homosexuality – and engage in informed speculation as to how they would approach the LGBT issues today.


Back to LBJ: Walter Jenkins was a top aide to him from 1939 until 1964.  Just weeks before the 1964 election, Jenkins – who was married – was arrested for public sexual conduct with another man in a Washingon, DC, YMCA men’s room.  As the press got wind of the incident, they dug deeper and learned it wasn’t the first time Jenkins had been busted on such a charge.  It seems highly unlikely Johnson – who maintained close ties with J. Edgar Hoover (another closeted homosexual) –  was not aware of the earlier arrest.  Yet he later stated  "I couldn't have been more shocked about Walter Jenkins if I'd heard that Lady Bird had tried to kill the Pope." As the story went public, Johnson was forced to accept Jenkins’s resignation.  But after he left the Presidency, Jenkins was a welcome guest in the Johnson house for the rest of his life.


This campaign button is an example of how desperate the Republicans were in 1964.

Similar to LBJ, Franklin Roosevelt tried to suppress knowledge of an incident in which his assistant Secretary of State, Sumner Welles, made a pass at an African-American male porter while on route to Speaker of the House William Bankhead’s funeral in 1940. The story simmered until 1943 when Welles rival in the State Department, William Bullitt, passed the information to a Republican Senator – forcing FDR to let Welles go. When FDR learned that Bullitt was the source of the leak, he fired him and told Bullitt he should "go to Hell" for trying destroy an able man who made an error in judgment.


Sumner Welles with FDR.

The same can be said, based on contextual evidence, for Truman (who knew about J. Edgar Hoover's relationship with Clyde Tolson and didn't care), Ike (who had several lesbian assistants during WWII), and JFK (whose best friend, Lem Billings, was gay).

Jerry Ford endorsed same sex marriage rights shortly before he died, hardly surprising since a gay man, Oliver Sipple, saved President Ford from an assassination attempt in 1975. And we know Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton are for gay rights, despite having grown up in the old South.

Even the elder George Bush has shown more comfort with LGBTs recently, attending a same-sex wedding.

That leaves Nixon, Reagan, and the young Bush as the odd men out.  It’s not hard to infer that LBJ’s daughters are right: Those with an open mind are increasingly supporting marriage equality and LGBT rights in general.  There’s no logical reason to suspect their father would have been an exception.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

A 32 Hour Ohio Trip

Viewing the Presidential Planes gallery from the entry to SAM26000. I could definitely get used to this view.

Just before 7:00 AM Sunday, Dan & I bundled into the Element for a quick trip to Dayton. (Mason was boarded in a home provided by FlipFlop dogs, a wonderful service which I heartily recommend to dog owners.)

We arrived at the National Museum of the United States Air Force around 10:00 AM, giving us some time to look around before boarding a bus to another section of Wright-Patterson Air Force base.

The World War II hangar displays planes and other artifacts from the war. Not just American planes, including the Bockscar, which dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki, but German and Japanese planes are included as well.
Plane nomenclature was not politically correct in the 1940s.

After about an hour, we headed out to view the Presidential Plane and Research & Development hangars. Billed as the Presidential Airlift, the former contains several prominent planes used by Presidents from Franklin Roosevelt to Bill Clinton.

The Sacred Cow was a modified Douglas C-54 Skymaster which carried FDR to the Yalta conference in 1945. (The aircraft which took him to Casablanca in 1943 was a modified Boeing 314 flying boat, but the Secret Service was leery of that model’s poor safety record and mandated a better plane for further Presidential flights.) The entry way to the Sacred Cow was short and I banged my head as I entered it. That was not something FDR would have had to deal with as there is an elevator that lifted him, in his wheelchair, from ground level to the flight level. As I walked through the fuselage, I was struck by how modest the interior was. The CEO of even a mid-size company would have more luxurious accommodations today.
The entryway to the Sacred Cow. Watch your head.

FDR's accommodations on the Sacred Cow were very modest by today's standards.

As the presidency grew, the Sacred Cow was outgrown and Harry Truman commissioned a C-118 Liftmaster, which he christened the Independence and outfitted with a color scheme which presaged today’s Air Force One. The plane had better accommodations, including a multi-line intercom.

The Presidential plane continued to grow as Eisenhower commissioned a Lockheed C121 Constellation, named the Columbine III by his wife Mamie, after the official state flower of Colorado. I suspect Mamie Eisenhower had a hand in decorating the interior of the plans as well, outfitted with chintz sofas and drab colors – no style at all. (I didn't bother taking a picture.) 

SAM26000, a modified Boeing 707, is arguably the most famous of the Presidential Planes. Jacqueline Kennedy recommended the designer who came up with details including the font on the exterior (based on the font used on the Declaration of Independence), along with the exterior and interior color scheme – both of which have been carried over into the present day Air Force One. First used in 1962, SAM26000 was seared into our national memory in archival films of President and Mrs. Kennedy exiting the plane to a cheering Dallas crowd On November 22, 1963 - with his coffin being carried onto the plane a scant three hours later. Members of President Kennedy’s staff had to remove four of the seats and saw away part of the bulkhead to accommodate his coffin.


I found the R&D hangar to be less interesting. Most of the aircraft were one-offs which never got put into actual production – and probably shouldn’t have made it past the drawing board. Viewing some of the bizarre looking planes, I could only muse at the huge tax expenditures for the military-industrial complex. It served as a reminder that while the United States spends more on the military than the next ten nations combined, we still can’t provide full health care for those who serve – to say nothing of countless uninsured civilians.

From the museum, Dan & I went to a concert with the Dayton Philharmonic, led by Neal Gittelman, at the Masonic Temple - a beautiful building containing a lovely hall with fine acoustics. The music included Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro overture, the Piano Concerto in C minor, K. 491 - with my friend Zsolt Bognár as soloist - and Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.

In my opinion, the C minor is the greatest of all Mozart’s piano concertos. It’s highly innovative, with an opening theme which covers all twelve notes of the chromatic scale. The central Larghetto is one of the few slow movements in a Mozart piano concerto which doesn’t need embellishment. The finale, a theme and variations, is among the darkest movements Mozart ever wrote, and the minor key ending is a rarity in a piano concerto. The whole work carries an emotional resonance that most of the other piano concertos, beautiful and finely written as they are, lack. Zsolt played the cadenza by Hummel, which Rubinstein also used – although the elder pianist trimmed a few bars toward the end. Zsolt’s performance was very fine, exquisitely scaled and balanced, with just the right amount of dramatic tension and pointed phrasing. The Dayton Philharmonic is a fine regional orchestra, with a surprisingly strong string section.

If there’s any piece of classical music one can refer to as overplayed, it’s Beethoven’s 5th. Not merely is the 5th overplayed in terms of frequency, but often it’s over-interpreted. For example, there is a phrase in the third movement where Beethoven indicates a ritardando toward the end. In too many performances led by too many conductors (who shall remain nameless), the pulse starts to slow early on in the phrase, well before the spot in the score where the composer placed the ritardando indication. In effect, the conductor is telegraphing Beethoven’s punches! I was relieved to hear that Maestro Gittleman interpreted the work as indicated, as did Toscanini before him. The work on the whole was briskly paced, with a riveting finale.
Zsolt signing copies of his CD after the concert.

After a relaxing evening and good night’s sleep, Dan & I headed to the Book Loft in Columbus. This is the kind of book store I’d have loved to work in, rather than the purgatorial chain store where I wasted four years of my professional life. The set of historic pre-Civil war buildings, with its 32 rooms of books and cubby holes, is the ideal place to browse away one’s day. After shopping there and leaving with an armful of literary booty, we strolled the German Village neighborhood. It’s ironic that, even as I have embarked upon more distant travel recently, there are nearby regions I have not explored. My parents used to regularly take the family to Columbus when I was a young child to visit my great aunt and her husband. But I can count the number of times I’ve been to Columbus as an adult on the fingers of one hand. It’s a lovely, ideally sized city, which I intend to visit more often. Indeed, from what I’ve seen were it not for my job and the Cleveland Orchestra, I could well envision myself living in Columbus.

We arrived home in South Euclid a few minutes before 3:00 pm, St. Patrick’s Day. A whirlwind trip!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Is 2014 the year for marriage equality in Ohio?

My spouse and I just filed our tax returns. Thanks to the 2013 Supreme Court ruling, for the first time, we were able to file our federal return as a married couple. Because of Ohio’s retrograde restrictions on same sex marriage, we had to file separately in Ohio - along with a special form advising why. Without delving into too much personal detail, the process was far more costly and time consuming than in the past. But it was worth the time and money involved, knowing that our 2010 Vermont marriage is recognized by the Federal government. It’s also worth the effort we’re putting into getting our end-of-life documents in order – something opposite sex married couples don’t necessarily need to do.

One group, FreedomOhio, has been collecting signatures to get the Freedom to Marry amendment on the ballot this year. FreedomOhio has received a great deal of pushback from state and national LGBT organizations, including Equality Ohio, the Human Rights Campaign, and even the American Civil Liberties Union. These groups contend that there are problems with the ballot language and the timing, and prefer to wait until 2016 to push their own amendment.

 As is often the case, there are valid arguments on both sides.

The verbiage of the proposed amendment IS poor. The religious exemption could be used in ways that are harmful to the LGBT community, particularly given the growing prevalence in religiously affiliated hospitals here. On the other hand, HRC and the other big money gay groups have lawyers on hand who could have hammered out the correct language before the petition drive began. Why didn’t they? That’s open to speculation, and I have my own opinion - which I will expand upon below.

 The argument that one can get married in another state and have it recognized Federally, or that 2016 is only two more years, gives little comfort to those with a dying loved one or otherwise going through a life changing event.

 I believe if Ohio voters had a chance to vote on the issue this year, 2004’s Issue 1 would be repealed and same sex marriage legalized – so long as the ballot issue received adequate support from the larger LGBT organizations. This isn’t based on some Pollyanna notion that all of Ohio has suddenly become enlightened, but on hard data from numerous polls. Indeed, as Ohio is a microcosm of the country as a whole, there are parts of the state that are shockingly backwards, as well as more progressive areas. But the tide has shifted in Ohio as it has in much of the country.

The last few years have seen tremendous progress for the LGBT community: Hate Crimes Legislation, two historic Supreme Court rulings, and the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. In all cases, it took the activists to get the ball rolling, often with HRC and the other high profile groups cautioning that it wasn’t time yet before finally being dragged into the party. When HRC’s Joe Solomonese was replaced by Chad Griffin, I had faint hopes that HRC would start to push more – but thus far that hasn’t been the case. They continue to take the “wait for the perfect time” approach, hunker down in their $16 million headquarters, and plan their next black-tie fundraiser. But there is seldom a perfect time in politics – and we oughtn’t let the perfect become the enemy of the good. The optimal time could sneak up on us when we least expect it, even in Ohio. Like it or not, Ohio is a bellwether state. If SSM passes in Ohio (specifically by vote, rather than a judicial ruling), it would have a huge impact on the national marriage debate. The dominoes would start to fall very quickly. 

Essentially, there are two pieces of unfinished business remaining on the LGBT political agenda (as opposed to social issues, like bullying and teen suicide, where we still have a long way to go): nationwide marriage equality, and equal accommodations in employment, housing, credit, and the like. Once these political hurdles are jumped, there will be little reason for groups like HRC to exist. And I think they fear that even more than anti-gay discrimination.