Friday, October 23, 2015

Vladimir Horowitz on Tour - 1966-1983

Sony has released their remaining cache of Vladimir Horowitz's post-1965 recordings (minus two, which were held back at the request of the estate).  Potential purchasers should be aware of the disclosure below.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

TeMPO's end, and Telling's new beginning

As was reported by the media several months ago, the Telling Mansion Preservation Organization disbanded early this year.  It has been over a year since I posted about the Telling Mansion, and I was reluctant to reenter the fray.  But after careful consideration, I have decided to speak now and henceforth hold my peace – at least for the foreseeable future.  As one of the founding members of TeMPO, I believe I have earned this right and that my opinions are founded on facts, not suppositions.

Let me make it plain, the disbanding of TeMPO was the direct result of two disruptive members who poisoned the atmosphere and refused to depart gracefully from the group, abetted by a third member who was unwilling to stand up to their inappropriate behavior.  When TeMPO’s bylaws were written, there was no provision for terminating a membership.  It simply never occurred to us that such a provision would be necessary.

When TeMPO was formed in late 2012, there was no notion of who might purchase the Telling site – although it was becoming increasingly clear that it would be sold and the library moved, despite the efforts of the Save the Mansion Library Group.  TeMPO formed to, hopefully, demonstrate that there were those who were concerned about the Telling Mansion and, while not necessarily supporting the Cuyahoga County Public Library’s decision to move, were willing to work with them to ensure the building and property were preserved.  As one member put it, we were the “sane” alternative to the Mansion Library group.  But how well can sanity work when we live in insane times – when a sizeable portion of the country believes the President is an illegal alien, that teachers ought to carry guns, and that Chem-Trails are the cause of many of our troubles? 

Upon the formation of TeMPO, I accepted the position of Vice President.  During that first year, TeMPO formally incorporated, created an action plan, raised initial funds, applied for 501(c)(3) status, and reached out to the library board and, eventually, the prospective owner.  All of us at TeMPO, particularly the board, put our hearts into the effort, but never let our passion devolve into the hyperbole and inappropriate behavior that characterized the Save the Mansion Library group which has, to date, accomplished nothing positive.

Upon the election of new officers in April 2014, I resigned as Vice President of TeMPO.  I did not offer my own name for consideration.  At the time, I announced my decision to scale back my activities in TeMPO due to career and personal considerations.  I did my best to ensure an orderly transition by turning over all materials I had in relation to TeMPO to the new President and Vice President.

Unfortunately, the new President and Vice President were met with hostility by a few other members – despite the lack of alternative candidates.   The new leadership’s efforts to get TeMPO moving, to apply for grants to renovate the gatekeeper’s lodge, to establish a fundraising apparatus, and for public outreach were stymied at every turn.   Between April, 2014 and March, 2015, I did not attend any TeMPO meetings - although I received updates from several group members.  I kept in contact with the group’s new communications director, who had come over from the Save the Mansion Library group, and about whom I felt wary.  Despite my concerns regarding her intentions, I assisted her in putting together a press release – which was never issued.  After receiving conflicting information from multiple parties with differing viewpoints, I was persuaded to attend TeMPO’s March 2015 meeting.  The tension was so thick I could barely stand to remain in the room.  It became obvious that the group’s new secretary did not have the mental stability needed to do the job.  Particularly galling was the demeanor of the very person I assisted with the press release.  Upon the expiration of TeMPO’s webdomain, she purchased it, and in a process known as “cybersquatting”, initially pointed it to her own personal website, then for use by the Save the Mansion library group – a nonsensical idea as the new library was already under construction with no chance the move would be prevented.  As it turned out, my suspicions about this woman, which I had made known to the former President of our group and others, proved exactly correct – she had originated as a leading member of the Save the Mansion Library group and her intentions were anything but benign.  On top of all this, one of TeMPO’s most influential members,  who ran for mayor several years ago, was unwilling or unable to stand up to the misbehaving members.  In my opinion, while a competent CPA, he has all the fortitude of a spineless jellyfish. 

There are probably many such groups that start with high hopes and enthusiasm for the hard work necessary to keep the vision going – only to dissipate due to internal squabbling.  But this is the only case I know of where a group such as ours was deliberately infiltrated by someone with a destructive agenda and sabotaged from within. 

As I have stated before, the notion that Richard Barone’s motive in purchasing the Telling Site is merely a ruse to flip the land is nonsensical on its face.  The very limited return on investment he would receive for the rather small portion of land would simply not be worth the time he’s put into the effort.  As a seasoned investor, Mr. Barone could easily make that money with a few clicks of his computer mouse over the course of a lazy afternoon – and save himself the trouble of dealing with the hysterical ire of a few self-appointed community guardians.  I have no doubt that Mr. Barone’s decision to purchase the Mansion and grounds was made with the best intentions.  This is demonstrated by the work he’s already done to hire a permanent, live-in custodian; the replacement of the failing gutters with historically accurate copper gutters; and his work with the South Euclid-Lyndhurst Historical Society to renovate and expand their space.  It’s true that part of his purchase agreement called for the Library to repave the driveway – and why shouldn’t they?  CCPL’s neglect of the property has led to so many issues with this Library that I stopped using it as such well before they closed.  Mr. Barone recently purchased a New Jersey porcelain art manufacturer, which certainly gives the lie to the ridiculous accusations hurled by the Save the Mansion Library Group – which recently filed another lawsuit in a desperate grasp for relevance.  Indeed, a former member of that very group told me that their “leader”, a Cleveland Heights based activist with a knack for garnering publicity for herself, admitted that she didn’t really care about the Telling Mansion, and was just trying to stick it to the CCPL.

I’m certain Mr. Barone knows that decisions are not made, nor public opinion particularly swayed, by online click-baiting or by comments made at and other sites – especially when many of the comments obviously come from the same person posting under multiple sock-puppet accounts.  Decisions are made and actions are undertaken by those who show up and do the hard work.  I was and remain proud of my work for TeMPO.  My only regret is that others were more interested in getting themselves publicity than in moving forward with positive action.  

Creators, Re-Creators, and Regurgitators

In Classical Music, there are Creators, Re-Creators, and Regurgitators. 

The Creators are, obviously, the Composers – along with those tangentially involved in the creative process: Librettist if an opera, Choreographer if ballet score, and so on.

Then, there are the performers, who fall into two categories: Re-Creators, and Regurgitators.

Up until the mid-20th Century, most performers (including singers, instrumentalists, and conductors) were Re-Creators.  They often took what are today disdainfully described as “liberties” with the printed text and dared to “impose” their own personality.  This was not only permissible, but expected by the audience – and more importantly, by the composers themselves.  It’s not for nothing that Mozart, for example, submitted the barest writing in the central movements of his piano concertos, and left blank areas for the performer to insert his own – usually – improvised cadenza.  When Beethoven specified in his “Emperor” concerto that the performer ought not play a cadenza but immediately attack the next passage, he did so because such a procedure was unusual.  Beethoven broke precedent – but that didn’t mean he was setting a new precedent, or intended to.

It’s worth pointing out that Rachmaninoff, a noted composer, pianist, and conductor, was both a Creator and Re-Creator.  This is an important distinction because, unlike Mozart and Beethoven – who almost exclusively performed their own music – Rachmaninoff had a wide ranging repertoire, particularly as a pianist.  In his time, he was considered something of a purist in his approach to interpretation.  But by today’s standards, he took “liberties” that few pianists today would dare, including altering the dynamic scheme of Chopin’s Funeral March and inserting his own cadenza in Liszt’s Second Hungarian Rhapsody.

When comparing two of the most prominent pianists whose careers strode most of the 20th Century, Arthur Rubinstein and Vladimir Horowitz, it’s customary for some of the “purist” school to opine that Horowitz was the better “pianist”, Rubinstein the better “musician”- a statement so vague that it almost nullifies itself.  I beg to differ with the conventional wisdom.  True, Rubinstein’s playing was more in sync with contemporary standards: he generally played what was written, played reasonably well, and his tone was gorgeous.  But it was Horowitz, who trained as a composer, whose playing was more involved, more involving, and often wrung the most meaning from the much of the music he played.  Compare Horowitz against Rubinstein in Schumann’s Kreisleriana or C major Fantasia, and you’ll hear the difference between someone whose recordings you can play as background music while you’re dusting, and someone who will pin your ears to the wall.  This is not merely a question of recordings either.  Compare Rubinstein’s traversal of Scriabin’s Nocturne for the Left Hand with Horowitz’s rendition of the same composer’s Prelude for the Left Hand: Rubinstein glides over the notes and bathes the audience in pretty, but innocuous colors; Horowitz brings the audience into proximity with Scriabin’s anguish.  It goes without saying that Horowitz’s left-hand technique is infinitely more honest and sophisticated than Rubinstein – with Horowitz cannily separating each line so it sounds at times like he’s playing with three hands, yet scrupulously observing Scriabin’s markings.

 In the second decade of the 21st Century, Rubinstein’s way is closer to what’s being taught in conservatories.  But the Regurgitation route is, in the final analysis, a dead end.  Between the lack of new music that audiences want to hear, and performers who are sounding increasingly alike, it’s no wonder that even the most talented musicians have a hard time sustaining a viable career.  Nor is it a surprise that supposedly “sophisticated” audiences are drawn to the circus act antics of Lang Lang – not because he’s praiseworthy, but because he’s “different.”  The same old, same old, gets old awfully fast.

There was a time, from the early 1980s until about ten years ago, when I listened to Rubinstein incessantly.  That’s not the case anymore.  Beautiful tone only gets one so far – just like a pretty face.

So, to me, it was Horowitz who was both the greater pianist (in his prime), and the better musician – because he played from within the music looking out – not the other way around.   Rubinstein was, occasionally a Re-Creator.  But most often he was a Regurgitator – although a supremely charismatic one.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Stephen Kovacevich - complete Philips recordings

Universal music has issued a box with pianist Stephen Kovacevich's complete Philips recordings.  Click here to read my review.

Monday, October 5, 2015

2015 Election Endorsements

2015 is an off-year election, meaning there are no Federal or State officials on the ballot.  Turnout in off-year elections tends to be low, so every vote counts.  This is a particularly important election for South Euclid: Not only is the mayor up for reelection, so are two incumbent at-large city councilors – with a third seat open after the retirement of Council President David Miller.  Additionally, there are several important Charter issues which will help determine the direction of South Euclid for the next generation.

For Mayor:

Georgine Welo is running for a fourth term as South Euclid’s mayor.  Her challenger is Ward 1 councilperson Ruth Gray.  Mayor Welo successfully shepherded South Euclid through the Great Recession, the worst economic storm to hit the United States in over 70 years, to safe economic harbor.  Welo’s steady leadership has been noted not just by her fellow mayors and members of the local Democratic Party, but by Ohio’s Republican State Auditor, Dave Yost, who presented South Euclid with an award for accurate and transparent record keeping practices.  South Euclid’s bond rating is currently Aa2 – meaning High Grade – which is another indicator of Welo’s fiscal leadership.

As I have noted elsewhere, my family moved to South Euclid in 1971.  Only someone delusional would deny that South Euclid is a very different community than it was then – as is every inner-ring suburb.  Population has been declining since the 1980s – although South Euclid’s rate of population loss is less than, for example, Cleveland Heights or Cuyahoga County as a whole.  No doubt, South Euclid has endured some tough times, but over the past three years I have noticed improvements.  I walk the streets of my neighborhood every day, and drive many other streets on a regular basis.  I see once distressed housing steadily being rehabbed or removed, fewer for sale signs, greater levels of occupancy – both residential and commercial, the creative rebranding of neighborhoods, and the creation of pocket parks - along with smaller amenities like the new Pump Track at Bexley Park.  South Euclid’s troubles will not be over tomorrow.  There are still important issues which need to be addressed more effectively, such as neglectful out of town residential and commercial landlords.  But the city is headed in the right direction.

Part of Mayor Welo’s leadership has required taking stands which have not been universally popular: the purchase and redevelopment of Cedar Center North; advocating for the Oakwood Commons development; and increasing property taxes to compensate for shortfalls caused by decreasing property values, declining population, and the elimination of State aid to Cities by Governor Kasich – which has been a problem throughout Cleveland’s inner-ring suburbs.  It’s very easy for politicians to say “Vote for me and I will lower your taxes”, but it’s not so easy to live with the consequences those tax cuts - which are often geared toward the wealthy - have on urban and inner-run suburban communities like South Euclid.

Some supporters of councilperson Gray have criticized Mayor Welo’s stances on these matters – while failing to note that Gray also favored the aforementioned efforts.  They also conveniently fail to note that councilperson Gray, in her position as Director of Community Life for Bedford Heights, was a co-defendant in a racial discrimination lawsuit which resulted in an award of $1.83 million to the plaintiffs.  The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, and if such a suit were to happen in South Euclid it could have catastrophic consequences.

We feel Mayor Welo has performed as well as anyone could have, given the economic and demographic realities of the time.  Further, we see Mayor Welo’s vision and hard work that have gone into developing the city’s new Comprehensive Plan as the best way forward for our community.  We enthusiastically favor Mayor Welo’s reelection.

For City Council, at-large:

South Euclid’s three at-large council seats are up this cycle.  Two incumbents are running for reelection.

Marty Gelfand was elected to city council in 2011.  Marty, a Navy Veteran and former aide to Congressman Dennis Kucinich, has served the city ably over the past four years.  While some of his colleagues have engaged in divisive tactics, Marty has been a calming force in getting council to cooperate on several important issues, including the Safety Forces Levy.  Marty was of great assistance to the Telling Mansion Preservation Organization by drafting our by-laws and giving our group direction.  I am privileged to call Marty Gelfand a friend and I strongly recommend his reelection.

Dennis Fiorelli was appointed at large-councilor in 2010 when Sunny Simon stepped down to take her seat on Cuyahoga County Council, and was elected in his own right the following year.  He has served with distinction.  Fiorelli was the force behind South Euclid’s refuse collection contract with Kimble company.  This contract provided for separate refuse and recycling containers for each household – large enough to accommodate the needs of most residents – who do not have to sort between different types of recyclables (e.g., paper, plastic, cardboard).  The convenience of the Kimble program has resulted in a 40-60% increase in recycling citywide and a savings to the city of $280,000 from 2011-2013.  Recently, several cities, including Highland Heights, have adopted this method based on South Euclid’s success in this matter.  There are numerous candidates who like to boast how “green” they are.  Fiorelli has walked the talk, and deserves to be reelected.

There are four non-incumbent candidates for the council: John Currid, Ron Sabransky, Andre Reynolds, and Jason Russell. 

In 2014, John Currid unsuccessfully contested Sunny Simon’s reelection for County Council representative.  Currid hails from New Jersey and moved to South Euclid several years ago.  He has not served in elected office before.  In fact, I can find nothing Currid has done relating to public service – not even volunteer work.  Even though South Euclid’s local election is non-partisan, it should be noted that Currid is a very conservative Republican and leader of South Euclid’s Republican Club – so he’s already out of step with most voters in South Euclid.  In 2014, he called for removing Ohio from Common Core educational standards, railing against it as “anti-American” and “anti-Israel” – one of the Tea Party’s prime talking points.  But City County council has no jurisdiction over public education, so how does he propose to stop Common Core from within the boundaries of the office he seeks?  Although I’ve endorsed Republicans in the past, there’s no indication Currid is open minded enough to listen to South Euclid’s voters – most of whom do not share his philosophy.  

Ron Sabransky was a member of South Euclid’s Planning Commission until he was dismissed by Mayor Welo in 2014.  Sabransky threatened legal action in the wake of his termination, but nothing came of it.  He was also the Treasurer for John Currid’s unsuccessful 2014 campaign, which can be taken as an indicator of his political sympathies.  Sabransky doesn’t appear to have distinguished himself during his time on the Planning Commission and has not specified what he’d bring to the table as a member of city council.  His candidacy is a non-starter.

Andre Reynolds was an Accounting major at Howard University - available documentation does not state whether he received a degree.  Much of his career has been split between private sector banking and mid-level public management.  Reynolds advocates for the set-aside of $100,000 in safety levy monies for programs that focus on youth job creation and retention; for further infill housing/condominium development; and greater access to public parking.  I support the first effort – with the qualification that money should not be diverted from the Safety Levy, but rather obtained by aggressively pursuing grants.  Reynold’s other two proposals, however, leave me puzzled.  There is very little developable land remaining in South Euclid.  True, there are scattered single lots which dot the city – leftovers from the Recession.  Those are not candidates for condominiums or townhouses, but would be practical for single family houses.  There are also two larger parcels of land within the area bordered by Monticello, Parkview, Ammon, and Trebisky - which could contain small condo/townhouse communities.  Development of those parcels would be tricky, and previous proposals were unpopular.  Further, whatever was developed would doubtless be tax abated and fail to help fill city coffers in the near term.  Finally, with South Euclid’s population historically on the decline, it makes little sense to add to an already oversupplied housing stock.  Better to provide amenities that will draw more potential residents.  Regarding parking, for the most part South Euclid has a more than adequate supply of spaces.  Indeed, I have seldom seen the parking lot behind Maymore Shopping Plaza filled beyond one-third of its capacity.  While there are occasional storefronts on Mayfield Road which do not offer off-street parking, nearby side streets have plenty of spaces. 

Jason Russell, a native of Hudson, Ohio, also lived in various Ohio communities, including Shaker Heights, before moving to South Euclid.  As someone who has lived as far east as Haverhill, Massachusetts and as far west as Half Moon Bay, California, I consider diversity in life experience to be a positive thing.  Russell also holds a Master’s Degree in Urban Planning from Cleveland State University, a skill which is greatly needed in a community which is trying to reverse decades of decline.  Currently, Russell is a member of the Planning Commission for both South Euclid and Lakewood, which puts him in a unique position to assess the situation and weigh options in two inner-ring, yet very different communities.  Russell advocates for thinking outside the box to incentivize small businesses to rent the empty storefronts along Mayfield Road.  In other words, Russell wishes to bring the amenities that make communities attractive to potential residents.  As I’ve said previously, the Mayfield-Green intersection, despite recent improvements, remains an embarrassment that needs to be addressed – and Russell seems to agree.  He has also stated the need for more rigorous code enforcement and I agree – particularly as it relates to commercial structures. 

For those reasons, we endorse Russell.

Ohio Constitutional Amendments:

Issue 1: Redistricting Reform: Ohio has some of the most gerrymandered districts in the nation, the result of the state’s current laws which allow the Governor, Secretary of State, and State Auditor to draw the district lines.  It will establish a seven member, bipartisan commission, and require public meetings and open display of proposed districts.  We favor passage of this amendment, which will put the needed tools in place to correct this problem.

Issue 2: Anti-Monopoly: This amendment would prevent “a monopoly or a special interest, privilege, benefit, right, or license of a commercial economic nature” from being enshrined in the state Constitution.  It was created in response to Responsible Ohio’s amendment (see Issue 3, below).  If both amendments were passed, the inevitable outcome would be a litany of litigation which would tie up both principles for years.  Whether for the legalization of Marijuana or in more standard business, monopolies are inherently bad for consumers.  One need look no further than the recent airline mergers - resulting in rising prices, declining service, and reduced choice – for an example of how lax and unenforced anti-trust laws have harmed the average American.  Thus, we strongly favor passage of this amendment. 

Issue 3: Marijuana legalization: Marijuana has been illegal under Federal Law since the 1930s.  For decades, advocates have called for legalization – a chorus which has risen over recent years.  On principle we have long agreed that Marijuana ought to be legalized, regulated, and taxed - more or less like alcohol and tobacco.  The fact that Colorado and Washington have legalized cultivation and possession of marijuana, with benefits which have outweighed adverse effects, further bolsters the case for legalization.   The snag with the amendment offered by Responsible Ohio is that it would restrict the cultivation and sale of Marijuana to a small group of investors – effectively giving them a monopoly over all but those who purchase a permit to grow a limited number of plants for strictly personal use.  For this reason, we urge a No vote on Responsible Ohio’s irresponsible amendment.  Then, we advise advocates for legalized marijuana go back to the drawing board and craft a legalization amendment more in the spirit of those from Colorado and Washington.

Cuyahoga County:

Issue 8 - Cuyahoga County Arts tax renewal: The so-called “sin tax” collects money from the sale of cigarettes (30 cents per pack).  Some have complained that this tax is regressive and amounts to “corporate welfare for the Arts.”  No one is being forced to smoke, and smoking cessation programs have never been so available or affordable.  If keeping the tax persuades one smoker that their habit has become too costly and that they should quit, then renewing the tax has merit - with support for the arts a worthy fringe benefit.  Making cigarettes more affordable by eliminating the tax benefits no one, except for tobacco farmers and corporations like Altria and R. J. Reynolds.  So eliminating the tax is its own form of “corporate welfare”.  The levy has raised over $125 million since 2008, which was resulted in over 1,200 grants through Cuyahoga Arts and Culture to more than 300 organizations within the County – not just large organizations like the Cleveland Orchestra and Cleveland Museum of Art, but to smaller entities like the Near West Theatre which has used the funds to engage with low income kids.  With the crucial role the Arts have played in drawing visitors and residents to the county, and the importance of maintaining Cleveland’s status as a cultural center, we strongly favor its renewal.

Issue 9 – Proposed Charter Amendment: This will amend the County charter to require the County Audit committee consist of President of Council (or Council member appointed by the President), four residents with auditing experience – along with the County Executive and Fiscal Officer.  We favor passage of this amendment

South Euclid Levy:

Issue 102 - Road Tax Levy Renewal: Anyone who has driven in South Euclid, a community whose roads receive more use than most other suburbs, knows our roads need continuous maintenance.  The Road Levy Renewal is not a tax increase, merely a renewal of an existing levy and we endorse its passage

South Euclid Charter Amendments:

South Euclid, like most other communities, periodically updates its charter to meet the needs of changing times.  Here are the proposed amendments with our endorsements:

Amendment 103 changes pronouns in South Euclid’s charter from male to gender neutral.  The original language was doubtless drafted by men, and back in the day when women were supposed to confine themselves to birthing, cooking, and housework.  While some may feel this is a trivial matter not worth bothering over, it should be noted that the Founding Fathers strove to use gender neutral language in the American Constitution.  The current verbiage is an embarrassment and needs to change.  We favor passage of this amendment.

Amendment 104 changes the law director’s term from two years to four years.  Some background: for decades, South Euclid's law director has been appointed by the mayor, with council having no say.  In 2012, an amendment requiring council confirmation was drafted by a "committee" of two council people, their spouses, and a friend - placed on the ballot, and greatly trumped.  As the law director is an appointed, not elected position, requiring city council to confirm the appointment every four years is more logical, as it is concurrent with the mayor's term.  Therefore, we support this amendment.

Amendment 105 lowers the signature requirement for charter amendments to be on the ballot, from 10% of the total electorate to 10% of those who participated in the last election.  The proposed change would bring South Euclid in line with the Ohio Constitution, and would also lower barriers to participatory democracy.  We favor its passage.

Amendment 106 would bar elected officials from serving on future charter commissions, except the Mayor and Council President who could serve in an advisory position.  I can see why people feel the passage of this Amendment would encourage private citizen participation.  The sad reality is evidenced by what happened last year, when a very poor selection of private citizens was offered on the ballot – only two of whom I could bring myself to endorse (neither of whom I should have endorsed in retrospect).  Voters should have the freedom to elect anyone they want to the commission – from private citizen to Mayor to County Councilor.  We oppose this amendment.

Amendment 107 would require elected officials to sign a conflict of interest statement each year, and to disclose any potential conflicts of interest.  This is a no-brainer, and we favor its passage.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Matt Damon – both right and wrong on coming out

Daniel and I saw The Martian yesterday.  It’s easily the best science fiction film to be released since last year’s Interstellar.  It’s also the rare example of a film which is neither ascetic nor padded, with the right balance of character moments and action.  Go see it.

We would have not seen it had we been paying attention to the activist types who were calling for the film’s boycott after Damon was quoted in a Guardian article opining that LGBT actors who came out of the closet were less likely to have blockbuster careers – citing Rupert Everett as an example.  (I would point out that the less than stellar career Everett has experienced is more likely due to his prickly personality and limited acting chops – has he ever been able to play a heterosexual man convincingly?)  I’m more than willing to pass on a bad film which bastardizes our history, like Roland Emmerich’s Stonewall – particularly since there’s a vastly superior film of the same name from 1996.  I’m less willing to boycott an excellent film like The Martian – particularly when the activists, or more precisely "hacktivists", conveniently forget that Damon has been a stalwart friend to the gay community for decades and has proven his willingness to play gay roles.  How quickly some of us are willing to tar & feather our own friends.
I would advise Damon that it’s always risky to give members of another community advice – no matter how well-intended.  I’ve no doubt that Damon was maneuvered into addressing the subject by the Guardian interviewer – in a never ending quest for “click-bait.”  However, no straight man, even an ally, should advise LGBT actors on whether to come out, just as no white person should be telling people of color how to run their community – nor should men be trying to regulate the reproductive rights of women.  But before I digress, let’s return to the subject at hand.
Damon was certainly factually correct when he opined that openly LGBT actors are less likely to have the blockbuster careers of their heterosexual or closeted counterparts.  Here’s where his logic breaks down, however.  It took generations of African-American film and television actors, from Hattie McDaniel, to Ossie Davis – often playing thankless roles, before Sidney Poitier could break out as someone with appeal beyond the African-American community, and another generation for mega-stars like Denzel Washington and Will Smith to appear. 
Such progress will only be made in the LGBT community as more stars “come out” as openly gay.  It has already happened throughout much of corporate America – as evidenced by Tim Cook, CEO of Apple.  The march toward equality in the work place started with Frank Kameny, who lost his job in 1957 after coming out.  Doubtless, Kameny, an astronomer for the U. S. Army, could have had a lucrative career if he’d kept his nature hidden.  But he chose principle over money, went on to lead the Washington, DC branch of the Mattachine Society, and by his example inspired others to come out.  In the 1970s, Harvey Milk’s example inspired the next generation of lesbians and gays to come out.  Tragically, Milk paid for his activism with his life – but stirred many more to action.  It was people like Milk who inspired me to come out in 1985 – while still in high school.  And openly gay people of that generation spurred on the following generation – which has led to the further mainstreaming of LGBT people in American society.
Each generation stands on the shoulders and accomplishments of its predecessors.  The number of openly LGBT actors is increasing so rapidly that news of another actor coming out tends to elicit a collective shoulder shrug and “So?”.  But Hollywood executives don’t think like ordinary Americans, and if given the choice of an openly gay actor and apparently heterosexual one, the executive will bet his money on the hetero.  So, in that sense, Damon is right.  There’s also the legitimate question as to whether movie stars will exist a generation from now: movie theatres are closing left & right, and the most interesting stories are now being told on television – which has entered a new Golden Age thanks to cable and streaming options. 
But for now, forget the angry activists and go see The Martian – a true epic made for the big screen, and the collective experience of old fashioned film-going.