Not at all sure I remember how to do this. And Typepad looks completely different in the year that I've been away. Someone commented out of the blue on my last post this morning — a cute Beverly Hills plastic surgeon...are you you single, Dr. Calvert? If not, maybe you could give me a little nip/tuck. It got me thinking that I miss blogging. No big promises, but I thought I should have at least one post dated 2010.
Yesterday, I spent the day at House of Mouse with my 13 year old daughter. It was her very last day of summer vacation. She started 8th grade this morning. It is somewhat of a tradition of ours to have a Disney throw down the day before school starts. It seems some how rebellious to play with abandon when most people would be getting serious. Well...fuck gravitas. We had an epic day together — one of the best ever. Investing in my relationship with my daughter and ending a great summer with a crescendo seems perfect to me.
In the time that I haven't been blogging, I have been to St. John, Florida, New York and San Francisco. I swam with manatees, moved to a new apartment and visited with many old friends thanks to Facebook. In the last several weeks, I have been moved to blog several times. So, here I am breaking the ice. More anon.
Last Summer, I had the privilege of attending the wedding of two dear friends. Theirs is a beautiful story. They met in Boston while in law school and medical school. They have supported each other through thick, thin, good, bad, sickness and health. They are one of those couples you want to spend time with in the hopes that something rubs off. The love and respect they have for each other is apparent and enviable. They are bright, generous, successful, socially responsible and gay.
Their wedding was presided over by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in his chambers at Los Angeles City Hall. It was a moving ceremony as they had been together for 12 years prior and were finally able to choose to marry in the way that most of their friends had years before. We celebrated with an intimate dinner later that night. Not a single one of us in attendance was anything but thrilled for Joe and Paul and grateful for the rights they had finally been granted on that day.
That was July 08. In November 08, Prop 8 was passed and the validity of their marriage, like many others in California, hangs in the balance. Paul shared with me an open letter that he wrote to President Obama. I am reprinting it here and asking you to consider sharing it with whomever you think would be interested or would listen.
Dear President Obama,
I’m writing to you, as a member of a minority group, seeking your opinion regarding your views on “equal protection under the law”. I am a citizen of the United States, I am gay, and therefore am a member of a minority group. The debate regarding same sex civil marriages has recently hit fever pitch in this country. Recently, Maine Governor John Baldacci signed his state's same-sex marriage bill less than an hour after the legislature approved it. He stated, "I have come to believe that this is a question of fairness and of equal protection under the law, and that a civil union is not equal to civil marriage."
Why is it that Federal Law does not seem to uphold the same high standard of fairness and equal protection under the law? In fact, Federal Law actually pro-actively discriminates against couples that legally have same-sex civil marriages. The fact is that the federal Defense of Marriage Act defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. The act also specifically denies federal benefits to same-sex couples that have legally state sanctioned civil marriages. The act further dictates that any federal law that applies to married couples does not apply to same-sex couples with legal civil marriages. Furthermore because of the federal Defense of Marriage Act the United States Census Bureau is currently “editing” the 2010 census responses of same-sex couples that married legally in California, Massachusetts, Iowa, Maine, and Connecticut. Does that sound like the United States of America? When asked to describe their relationships to others in their household, if a respondent refers to a person of the same gender as their "husband/wife" on the 2010 census form, the Census Bureau will automatically assign them to the "unmarried partner" category. Legally married same-sex couples will be indistinguishable in census data from those who chose "unmarried partner" to describe their relationship. The federal government does not count us, and apparently according to the government we don’t count.
As a physician radiation oncologist who treats hundreds of indigent/ un-insured, as well as, insured patients (straight and gay) annually at the Los Angeles County + USC Medical Center and the USC/Norris Cancer Hospital, I am particularly outraged at the fact that the federal government continues to discriminate against legal same-sex couples and their children and family members by specifically leaving them out of the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This Act requires covered employers to give eligible employees up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave for their own serious health condition or to care for a family member with a serious health condition. Currently, the FMLA does not require employers to provide leave to care for a legally married same-sex spouse. Are we not human? Do we not deserve the same compassion and assurances from our government to which we pay taxes, as other citizens of the United States? Is this consistent with “fairness” and “ equal protection under the law”?
How would you feel if this country still denied inter-racial marriages simply because 51% of the population felt they were immoral or un-ethical or unnatural? The state of Hawaii, not the United States of America, allowed your parents to marry in 1961. There was a lack of federal leadership, yet finally in 1968 all state inter-racial bans on marriage were thrown out. This was a very long time to wait for equality, in fact, as I’m sure you are aware the fight for inter-racial marriage began in 1948, it took 20 years of states arguing, state constitutions being “amended” to allow discrimination (sound familiar), until all the madness was finally overturned by the federal government because they finally did the right thing and gave these citizens equal protection under the law.
As Americans did we not learn from our ugly history? As an African American growing up in the United States, you of all people, should recognize the need for federal regulation to protect and treat all citizens equally. Why do you feel gays who chose to have a civil marriage, should be treated differently than inter-racial couples? Why does the “equal protection under the law” clause in our constitution not apply to us? If you think homosexuality is a lifestyle choice that can somehow be overcome, and therefore not be given an equal if not protected status, then I ask you to think about this. Suppose someone told you, you could not have federal recognition and rights under marriage, you could not be counted in the census and that your responses to the census will be edited, and you could not benefit from the Family Medical Leave Act, unless you were forced to separate from Michelle, the person you love dearly, and marry another man. If you did that then you would be recognized as married. How unnatural would that feel for you? Get the point? We are born gay, just as you were born black. No difference. Just as you had no choice in being born black, we had no choice in being born gay. Furthermore, you certainly can't argue that you "chose" to be heterosexual; it is a ludicrous argument when people say we "choose to be gay". We certainly have more similarities in our plight for equal protection under the law than differences. Remember, this is not a religious argument, it is a civil rights argument. We don’t want to force religions to accept gay marriage; we just want equal protection under the law. We don’t want to force anyone into saying they believe in gay marriage, everyone has the right to believe what they want. We want to be treated equally and with dignity; and not ostracized by our federal government.
President Obama, I am asking you to think about your own experiences growing up in this country as a minority, and how helpful the federal government was in assuring you equal protection and equal rights under the law. My husband and I are law abiding, federal tax paying citizens, who contribute greatly to our community and society at large; we along with millions of other same sex couples are simply asking to be treated equally by our government. Is that too much to ask for in the country for which you are president? I am calling upon you, President Obama, to stand up to the narrow-minded bigotry that has made its way into federal law and to do the right thing. I am calling upon you to forcefully overturn the federal Defense of Marriage Act. I am calling upon you to be the agent of change, which you had talked about during your campaign. I am calling upon you do to do what is right and just, and treat all Americans equally. I am calling upon you to help secure passage of the bill now moving through Congress imposing new federal penalties for anti-gay hate crimes, as well as legislation allowing gays to serve in the military. I am calling upon you to call for vast federal civil rights legislation, outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation and granting us a basic umbrella of protections in employment, education, and housing.
Like you, I believe that everyone can help contribute to change for the better in our country. Change we can believe in. Five states have legalized same sex civil marriages; several are well on their way. We need a leader to insure equality. It took twenty years for the federal government to put an end to all the anti inter-racial marriage bans in this country, how long we will have to wait?
Paul G. Pagnini, M.D. Los Angeles, CA
Paul G. Pagnini, M.D. Assistant Professor of Clinical Radiation Oncology Radiation Oncology Residency Program Director Keck School of Medicine University of Southern California Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital
This is my sister Laurie's response to my dad's letter about Truth in Art. I love my sister too.
I agree so much about how the beauty in a great work of art "holds the universe." One of the great tasks life is to learn to see and appreciate and express the beauty/truth that is inherent in a sunset, an orchid, you, me, and all things natural. Lucia brings out in us the experience of the essential beauty of the universe; it is the music but so much more. And that beauty is not only in the arts but it is in each of us at our best. Self-actualization is one of the ultimate goals of our lives, and to me that is what self-actualization is — learning to live and appreciate and be a conduit for what is most beautiful and true in humanity, nature and the arts. I think it also ties in with Erickson's stages of development, the highest being Ego Integrity vs. Despair — accepting yourself, seeing/feeling/knowing the beauty and connectedness between yourself and others, the greater universe and experiencing peace and fulfillment.
Following is an excerpt from an email my father wrote to his brothers this morning. I love my dad.
A few days ago Bobbie and I looked at a Live at the Met telecast of Donizetti's opera "Lucia di Lammermoor" starring the fabulous young Russian soprano Anna Netrebko in the title role. The entire cast sang well, and the production was excellent. The music of "Lucia" is of such transcendent beauty that it catches ones heart moment after moment. I found myself thinking, " How could someone write something as glorious as this?" ... What kind of species are we humans, who can bring forth a Michelangelo, a Charles Dickens, an I.M.Pei ... and also an Adolf Hitler, an Idi Amin? It's an unanswerable question, I suppose.... and, yet, it's something that skips around in my mind from time to time. The beauty of great art, it seems to me, resides in the unity of a work, the sense that all of the elements of any one work, in whatever medium, work together in a unified structure reflective of the unity of structure that, in a way, holds the universe and all that's in it bound together chemically, materially, and even emotionally. Any one element askew makes that particular cohesion fall apart. Somewhere buried in all this is something that I think of as the Truth in art.
Last night I went to record kirtan with Dave Stringer at Kula in Santa Monica. For the uninitiated, kirtan is a form of call-response chanting of sanskrit mantras. It's roots go back 500 years to Renaissance India. The chants are both led and accompanied by musicians and singers with traditional raga instruments. Each chant begins at a slow tempo and accelerates into a rhythmic locomotive and accompanying ecstatic state. It's not unlike a great gospel experience.
I was introduced to Dave Stringer's work by my friend Mark Gorman who often plays bass with him. He wasn't there last night because he is on tour with Krisha Das. They happened to be recording a CD of the evening and although the logistics and constraints of capturing sound inhibited the pacing of ecstasy, it was a privilege to participate and offered and opportunity for performer and audience (a distinction blurred anyway in kirtan) to connect on an alternate level.
One of the evenings best surprises was my introduction to a woman who I have heard about. Her name is CC White and she has an auspicious musical career. Though Dave was the star of the show, she sat at the apex of the line-up. In her brilliant red turban and her warm presence, she was the soft sweet center of a chocolate covered cherry. If Dave was the brain, and the drummer was the bones, CC was the heart. Her beautiful voice added a rich, sensual undercurrent — a subtle femininity. And though every person in the room last night felt the rhythm pulsing through their body, it seemed to originate in CC. She seemed a font of luscious, creative life-force.
The word Shakti comes from the Sanskrit shak — "to be able". It is the sacred and primordial creative force, the mother goddess, the source of all. She's that deep earthy energy that makes you at once become lanquid and energized. Acutely aware of existence yet consciously on the brink of transformation. No more exciting place to be, really.
After the show I had the opportunity to hang with CC for a while. There was a small group of us basking in the sensual energy of the evening. In her I recognized what I love about my favorite women — a combination of strength, softness, confidence, vulnerability, sagacity and authenticity. She is the kind of woman who makes me proud to be her sister. Thanks, CC for the gifts you bring.
Finally a Microsoft spot I can get behind. I am a devoted Mac user since the beginning. I was even interviewed by CNN.com about it for their article on the 25th anniversary of the Macintosh launch. I have an iPod, an iPhone and if I could, I'd have a iBrain. It would certainly have a better UI than the one I was born with. On the other hand, like most of my kind, I am not a fan of Microsoft. Their ad agency, though, ROCKS. Crispin, Porter + Bogusky is responsible for some of the most innovative work in recent history for clients like Burger King, Volkswagen and Geek Squad. Look up "Whopper Freakout" on YouTube and witness some great shit.
By comparison, CP+B's first attempts at rebranding their new tech client were astonishingly unimpressive. Jerry Seinfeld bonding with Bill Gates over buying cheap shoes. Not funny, not appealing and not effective branding of anything other than geeky old men. Then there was the Mojave Experiment. Not sure how involved the agency was in the development of the concept, but they at least handled the commercials. Still yawning at this point.
It's an interesting assignment. Microsoft competes with Apple, yet they make software only, whereas Apple makes soft and hardware. People who buy Apple products think in terms of the hardware they are choosing — not so much the operating system. What has made Apple so incredibly successful, to a large extent, is the the melding of the two to create and impeccable brand experience. Even their stores are a branded experience. So now Microsoft has employed CP+B to improve the Q rating of their PR-challenged OS, Vista. It's an interesting challenge because to sell the software, one must sell the hardware. The PC experience is not a cohesive brand in the Apple sense. When all is right in the world of personal computing, the operating system is invisible. It is the infrastructure that you can — and should — take for granted, not unlike the plumbing in your house. Having to sell what should be a behind-the-scenes automatic support system, means bringing consciousness to something that should just happen.
On Friday, my colleague —a confessed Alex Bogusky groupie — sent me a link to the latest Microsoft commercial. Finally, I think they've got it. In spite of myself, I love this spot (partly because Lauren reminds me of girl crush Claire Fisher of Six Feet Under)! C,P+B is finally approaching the product as part of the larger experience, and they do it cleverly. I am wondering if HP chipped in. They get a shout out. If I were going to move to the land of the previously unhip, I would definitely look into those fab looking bright orange laptops.