Yesterday the Australian Parliament gave final approval to the passage of the Same-Sex Relationships Bill 2008. The legislation and related attachments, all of which take effect once Royal Assent has been given (a formality), not only allow people to name their same-sex partners as beneficiaries of retirement plans, but provide a revised definition of "de facto" spouse to include same-sex partners.
This is important and exciting news for all Australian gays and lesbians. It is also a giant step forward for the entire Australian population, for it hammers yet another nail in the coffin of discrimination.
We owe a massive thank you to all the MPs who voted to approve this Bill. And to GLRL for representing us in a crucial and effective manner. Let's hope the way is now paved for even more anti-discrimination reforms!
Unfortunately, my inbox this morning also contained a newsbyte about the sudden death of renowned English conductor, Richard Hickox. He was found in his hotel room in the Welsh town of Swansea, where he had been working on a recording project. Reports indicate he suffered a fatal heart attack.
Hickox had moved with his family to Australia in 2005 to assume the position of Music Director of Opera Australia, a company suffering from the fall-out brought on by the ousting of its former Director over contentious issues. Hickox encountered some difficulties recently when two of his OA singers quit the company and filed an official complaint to the Board, claiming artistic standards had been severely lowered since Hickox's appointment.
I remember Hickox fondly. He conducted a performance of the Mozart C Minor Mass in Washington DC when I lived there, and I was singing in the ensemble. He was warm and kind to everyone involved, and his musicianship and conducting impeccable. His death is a shock to the entire music community.
As a voice student at university, I remember sitting at parties with fellow students, marveling at this woman's voice. She had a vocal range as big as the Earth's diameter, and boy could she use it. Despite the mystery and intrigue surrounding Yma the person, her exotic lounge music remains some of my favorite tunes on the iPod.
I hope her life over the past years has been fulfilling.
So the concert went well, thanks very much and even garnered some high, local praise. The ensemble ended up with a pretty good sound, as well as the confidence to pull off the Paert, a challenging work for even the very best of vocal groups. Overall, it was a rewarding experience, some of which I thought was really stellar. Eric, the director and, formerly, a fellow UA choral conducting grad student of mine, was poised, friendly and committed to his artistic vision. And he's easy on the eye.
But oh, it was a tiring gig. I'm glad it's over, so that I can either catch up with people, episodes of Life and My Own Worst Enemy on Hulu, or blog reading in the evenings. I'll get there.
This morning, Homer took me to his most recent archaeological dig site, which is located only a few blocks from the casita, and showed me the excavations they had done. As I have mentioned before, the area we live in, at the base of "A" Mountain, is also where the earliest occupants of the area lived well over a thousand years ago. Homer and his crew unearthed many ancient dwellings dating centuries apart.
First we drove up "A" Mountain to get an aerial shot of the site.
(click to enlarge)
Pit-house floor. The big round hole was for food storage; the smaller one is a hearth.
Another pit-house, dating from 1150 to 1300 and occupied by the Hohokams.
A round structure that would have had wooden posts all around and a domed roof. You can see the post holes, the hearth and food-storage hole.
These round homes are very old, dating back circa 2000 years. Yep, old. I think Homer said the occupants would have been the people of the Early Agricultural Period. He'll correct me if I'm wrong.
It's odd for me to think that I'm walking around on a site where, way back
in Year 8 AD, other people were doing the same thing as me, only in a
pre-Modern context. We are all simply living life, wending our way
through this limited amount of time we have on the planet. We're no
other than the grasshopper, right? We can just make it more fun.
What were they like, I wonder, those ancient humans? Would they be as
other-worldly and hesitantly intriguing in person as they are in
history-book texts? Would they laugh with me? Invite me to a meal? Or would they
just kill me on sight?
Alphabeat, 10000 Nights.
They're Danes, they're young; they're hip; they're wonky.
I posted my favorite song of theirs on Banal Chew in May. This one's not as good, in my opinion, but I still like their music a lot. Very wonky.
Vanessa Amorosi, Perfect Australian singer with a truly amazing instrument, evolving over the past few years from bubble-gum popstar to a mature rocker. The best female rocker I've heard since Chrissie Hynde.
Ever since I first came to the desert over a dozen years ago, Tucson has been struggling with the fact that the sound of its downtown has gone from the boom of merchants (ages ago), to the boom of cars backfiring as their owners revved engines and headed for the mythical comfort of the suburbs, to the dull boom of loudspeakers funneling rock music from within ubiquitous, dark bars and nightclubs to the vacant sidewalks outside.
With the exception of said drinking holes, commerce-based institutions, a couple of landmark restaurants, and many state and county offices, Tucson's CBD was more ABD (all but deserted). Buildings decayed. Vagrants and panhandlers milled about in a perpetual state of heat or substance-induced delusion. Cars raced along the two main east/west arteries at breakneck speed, trying to beat the timed stoplights while pedestrians and (heaven forbid) cyclists feared for their lives. Not pretty.
Having said that, Tucson's downtown precinct has always been charming in its own way. Within the past 5 years or so, the Rio Nuevo endeavor has brought revitalization to Tucson's CBD. Although it has certainly not been without frustration for planners, developers, funders and city officials, the slow rebirth is heartening to watch. The old train depot has been completely refurbished and, for the most part, tastefully enlarged. New pedestrian and cycling routes are being planned. Mixed socio-economic living spaces are being built. The historic Fox Theatre has been renovated and is now offering a mix of movies and live music. Restaurants and cafes with outdoor seating areas are appearing. The Old Pueblo Trolley tracks are being extended through the downtown area, presumably to end up only a few blocks from Casita Palomas, although not anytime soon.
It's taking place slowly, but at least it is happening.
On Friday, Homer took me to the inaugural Presidio Night. This event, sponsored by the downtown alliance and the Old Tucson Artisans, is a way for inner-city merchants and cultural organizations to show off their digs. We spent most of our time at the new Presidio San Agustin del Tucson Park. (Homer actually designed the park, although he's much too humble to demand the notoriety.) Members of the Tucson Presidio Trust for Historic Preservation were there in costume, re-enacting the various activities of 18th-century Presidio dwellers, such as tortilla making, spinning, and the firing of the cannon. It was charming.
(As always, click to enlarge)
Loading the cannon. (See, some soldiers aren't afraid to hold hands.)
Homer chats with his Presidio Pals
As a bonus, they were handing out the newly minted Arizona state quarter that evening. It's a handsome coin. With the issue of this particular quarter, 48 of the 50 have now been represented. I wonder which two are left.
My sexy new quarter, probably worth about 10 cents in Australia now
I went from cannonballs on Friday to volleyballs and, um, balls of quite a different sort on Saturday. Yes, it was my first attendance at the fabled Naked Pool Volleyball gatherings Homer has both written and talked about. As it turns out, I had a blast. I am so glad I was taken along. So much laughter and good company. With enough liquid refreshment and yummy food, I soon lost all concern over the bad case of George Costanza Syndrome from which I was suffering by standing nipple-deep for hours in fairly cool (but refreshing!) water. Everyone suffered similar symptoms to one degree or another.
This afternoon it was lunch with Lani and then attendance at a concert in which she was participating. The group was Musica Sonora. The program, titled My Thinge is My Own: A Raucous Renaissance, comprised a batch of songs that, some of which, given the really dirty nature of their texts, might require some balls to sing.
Yes, the Renaissance certainly had its bawdy and lascivious side. Unfortunately, however, too many American vocal ensembles veer greatly toward the side of soft and pretty when performing anything written before 1700. I'm sorry, but songs like these lose their humor and raw impact when sung too prettily. I prefer not to hear someone portraying text about a randy dandy butting all night like a ram, yet sounding like they are singing about unspoiled maidens dancing in the lea and sniffing buttercups. Still, it was an enjoyable concert with an enthusiastic audience.