Books I Read in 2015

Time for my annual list of the books I read in the past year. As usual, it was mostly history and nonfiction, with a smattering of fiction, mainly sci-fi this year. My reading fell off in September, when I began my three-month coding bootcamp at The Flatiron School. I haven’t finished a book since September, although I started a few that I got tired of.

By far the best book I read this year was Mark Lewisohn’s two-volume, 1,600-page story of the Beatles from their ancestors and childhoods up through the end of 1962, when they were on the brink of nationwide fame. (Beatlemania wouldn’t come to the U.S. for more than another year!) Reading this took two months and some discipline, but it was so worth it, and I look forward to parts 2 and 3 of Lewisohn’s trilogy.

In fiction, The Martian was great, as were parts 1 and 2 of Cixin Liu’s trilogy, and Hugh Howey’s Wool.

Here’s the list:

  • Franklin Pierce (The American Presidents Series: The 14th President, 1853-1857), Michael F. Holt (1/1-1/7)
  • Washington: A Life, Ron Chernow (1/8-2/2)
  • James Madison: A Biography, Ralph Ketcham (2/2-2/20)
  • Empire on the Edge: How Britain Came to Fight America, Nick Bunker (2/24-3/7)
  • A Monarchy Transformed: Britain, 1603-1714, Mark Kishlansky (3/8-3/16)
  • Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul: Church, State, and the Birth of Liberty, John M. Barry (3/18-4/3)
  • Bigger Leaner Stronger: The Simple Science of Building the Ultimate Male Body, Michael Matthews (3/26-3/27)
  • How to Change the World: Reflections on Marx and Marxism, Eric Hobsbawm (approx. 1st half) (4/5-4/12)
  • Stalin: Volume I: Paradoxes of Power, 1878-1928, Stephen Kotkin (4/13-5/16)
  • The Three-Body Problem, Cixin Liu (5/18-5/25)
  • The Martian, Andy Weir (5/25-5/29)
  • Wool, Hugh Howey (5/30-6/5)
  • The Beatles – All These Years – Extended Special Edition: Volume One: Tune In, Book 1, Mark Lewisohn (6/10-7/5)
  • We Don’t Need Roads: The Making of the Back to the Future Trilogy, Caseen Gaines (7/2-7/3)
  • The Beatles – All These Years – Extended Special Edition: Volume One: Tune In, Book 2, Mark Lewisohn (7/5-8/4)
  • Catch a Wave: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson, Peter Ames Carlin (8/12-8/23) (about 30%)
  • The Dark Forest, Cixin Liu (8/24-9/18)
  • Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel (9/21-?) (first few chapters)
  • Alexander Hamilton, Ron Chernow (10/5?-?) (first few chapters)
  • Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush, Jon Meacham (11/10-currently reading)

On Marriage Equality

As of today, thanks to the United States Supreme Court, gay Americans are fully equal citizens, nationwide.

In his 1995 book Virtually Normal, Andrew Sullivan called for an end to all public – that is, government-directed – discrimination against gays and lesbians:

What would it mean in practice? Quite simply, an end to all proactive discrimination by the state against homosexuals. That means an end to sodomy laws that apply only to homosexuals; a recourse to the courts if there is not equal protection of heterosexuals and homosexuals in law enforcement; an equal legal age of consent to sexual activity for heterosexuals and homosexuals, where such regulations apply; inclusion of the facts about homosexuality in the curriculum of every government-funded school, in terms no more and no less clear than those applied to heterosexuality…; recourse to the courts if any government body or agency can be proven to be engaged in discrimination against homosexual employees; equal opportunity and inclusion in the military; and legal homosexual marriage and divorce.

We’re there.

In 2003, gay sex was decriminalized across the country. In 2010, we were permitted to serve openly in the military. In 2013, the federal government recognized our marriages. And as of today, we can get married and stay married all over the nation. Legal gay sex, legal military service, and legal marriage; we’ve won.

Private discrimination still exists in housing and employment, and we’ll see what happens with private parties who provide wedding services. But when it comes to how our governments directly treat us, the governments we fund with our taxes and support with our allegiance, we are equal.

I’m a married gay man, and now Matt and I are married all over the country, even when we visit Matt’s family in Tennessee. When I was young and alone, and scared of these strange feelings about other boys that wouldn’t go away no matter how hard I tried, worried that my parents would disown me if they ever knew, I never could have imagined that I’d live in a world like this – a world where a majority of the Supreme Court supports my equality and the president of the United States (a black man, at that) praises that decision.

I wish I were 20 years younger. Maybe 30 years younger. I wish I’d grown up knowing that I could marry a man as an adult, that I’d live in a country where our public institutions and the head of our government supported my equality. I wonder if my parents would have been more accepting more quickly. I wonder if I wouldn’t have had to come out to them at 19 only to go back into the closet for another five years because they couldn’t accept it for so long. I wonder if I would have started dating earlier than age 24, gotten more relationship experience under my belt, been able to live it up in my college years, enjoyed more of my youth. Maybe I would have even gotten into more than one college if I’d been openly gay; maybe I’d have gone to a school more accepting of gay people than the University of Virginia in the early 1990s. Maybe I wouldn’t have put so much of my life on hold for so long.

But you can’t choose when you are born. You can only choose what to do with your life today, now. There are people older than me who didn’t live to see this day, people who never even found someone to marry. I’m glad I’ve got a long life ahead of me, knock wood.

I’m glad I’m young enough to live in this world and appreciate the rights I have – today.

Thoughts on “Falsettos”

“Falsettos” is coming back to Broadway next year.

I have complicated feelings about this show.

“Falsettos” was the first Broadway show I ever saw by myself. It was May 1992. I was 18. I’d just come home from my first year of college in Virginia a week and a half earlier. I’d only recently started to deal with my sexuality; toward the end of the academic year, I’d made my first gay friend — a fellow student named Kirk — and come out to him. He was the first person I’d ever come out to besides my therapist. I wasn’t sure whether I was gay or bi, but I knew I liked guys. I’d still never had a sexual encounter with anyone, but I was excited to have told someone, yet terrified of what my parents would think if I ever told them. Would they hate me? Disown me? Stop helping me financially? I’d grown up following the rules, staying within the lines. I didn’t know if I wanted to live a “gay life,” whatever that even was.

And then one Wednesday morning I took the bus into the city by myself and bought a matinee ticket for “Falsettos.” I can’t remember whether Kirk had told me about it or I’d read the review in the paper myself the previous month, but it was a gay musical and I wanted to see it.

I was probably one of the youngest people in the audience. For someone who was 18, sexually ambivalent, worried about going against what his parents wanted, and scared of AIDS, it was overwhelming. A story about a man who leaves his wife and breaks up his family so he can be with his lover, and then the lover dies of AIDS at the end? How was that supposed to make me feel? I was terrified. If that’s what it meant to be gay, no thanks.

And although some of the music was lush and complex, much of it was irritating, like jackhammers in my brain. And I didn’t like the Jewish stereotypes: a number called “Four Jews In a Room Bitching,” a number about how Jewish kids couldn’t play sports, Chip Zien’s entire character.

I came home that night and my parents asked me what show I’d seen and I told them, and they joked about how the audience must have been filled with male couples. I laughed, uncomfortable inside.

A few weeks later we watched the Tonys, which included an excerpt from the show. A few days after that, we got together with my aunt and uncle, and the Tonys came up in conversation, and they all said how terrible the show seemed from that baseball song. I cringed, because although I thought maybe they were right, I also felt like they were unknowingly insulting me.

The summer went by and then I went back to college, where I now lived across the hall from Kirk. He had a copy of the Falsettos double album, and I borrowed it from him and listened to it by myself a lot. That fall he went up to New York and saw the show by himself, and, as he later told me, he sat in the front row and bawled. (His father had died the previous year.) Michael Rupert made eye contact with him from the stage. When Kirk got back to Virginia, he wrote Michael Rupert a heartfelt letter, enclosing a play he’d written and his phone number. Michael Rupert called and left a message on his answering machine – he said he’d read the play and it was quite wonderful. He played me the message.

That’s about it. I bought the “Falsettos” CD for myself and played it occasionally, until I eventually moved on to other things

More than 20 years later, I’m still not sure what I think of the show. The score is alternately beautiful and annoying. The Jewish stereotypes irk me. The show takes me back to when I was 18 and confused and was shown a vision of gay life that was scary and sad and too much for me.

I’m sure I’ll see the new production next year. I’m curious to see if my opinions will have changed.

Getting Back in Shape

My belated New Year’s resolution was to go back to the gym. After being asked by three different doctors in the last few months whether I exercise, and sheepishly answering, “well, I walk sometimes,” and being told in response that regular cardio is important, I decided it was time to get back in shape. I have a decent body to begin with – high metabolism, pretty lean — but I’m 41 and not getting younger. Fortunately, there’s a gym right across the street from my Manhattan office, so I joined it last week, which has made it really easy to go.

Originally I was just going to do cardio. But my gym membership included a free training session, and I guess the business model succeeded, because the free session made me realize that I missed working with weights, and I wound up buying a package of sessions. So in addition to cardio, I’m going to try to build muscle tone and strength.

I enter into this warily, because when I tried putting on muscle several years ago, I couldn’t. I exercised regularly, I drank protein drinks, but I couldn’t seem to put on any muscle.

Maybe I didn’t eat enough. One problem for me that I have IBS, so it’s hard for me to eat large quantities of food without various types of discomfort. Thus, in addition to the gym, I’ve also begun trying the low-FODMAP diet to see if it helps me. It hasn’t alleviated my symptoms yet, but it’s only been a couple of days.

Anyway, I want to look good, and more importantly, I want to feel good. I’m an anxiety-prone overthinker, and if I can shunt some of that mental energy toward physical energy, that can only help, right?

I’ll see.


Books I Read in 2014

Here’s my annual list of books I read this year. I tend to read mostly nonfiction, but this year I read six whole novels, which is a lot for me. As always, I followed my interests wherever they took me.

Early in the year, during the Oscar season, I got into books about movies. Early spring was dominated by Richard Evans’s Third Reich trilogy, about 2,000 pages in all, but worth it. In late spring/early summer I got into science and communications; summer was history and fiction; after a fall trip to Walt Disney World, I re-read a terrific Walt Disney biography; and the last part of the year was British monarchs and more fiction.

Here’s my list:

  • Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light, Patrick McGilligan (first few chapters)
  • How to Read a Film: Movies, Media, and Beyond, James Monaco (first half)
  • Final Cut: Art, Money, and Ego in the Making of Heaven’s Gate, the Film that Sank United Artists, Steven Bach (1/27-2/8)
  • Pat and Dick: The Nixons, An Intimate Portrait of a Marriage, Will Swift (mid-February to 3/6)
  • Those Angry Days: Roosevelt, Lindbergh, and America’s Fight Over World War II, 1939-1941, Lynne Olson (3/9?-3/23)
  • The Coming of the Third Reich, Richard J. Evans (3/23-3/28) (re-read)
  • The Third Reich in Power, Richard J. Evans (3/28-4/6)
  • The Third Reich at War, Richard J. Evans (4/6-4/24)
  • Thinking the Twentieth Century, Tony Judt with Timothy Snyder (4/24-5/3)
  • The Story of Earth: The First 4.5 Billion Years, from Stardust to Living Planet, Robert M. Hazen (5/11-5/18)
  • The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation, Jon Gertner (5/24-6/3)
  • The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires, Tim Wu (6/5-6/14)
  • Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age, Susan Crawford (6/17?-28)
  • The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914, Christopher Clark (7/1-7/25)
  • The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan, Rick Perlstein (7/29-8/24)
  • Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, Haruki Murakami (9/1-9/8)
  • 10:04, Ben Lerner (9/8-9/12)
  • The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell (9/14-9/27)
  • Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination, Neal Gabler (10/4-11/4?) (re-read)
  • Victoria: A Life, A. N. Wilson (11/8?-11/23)
  • The Heir Apparent: A Life of Edward VII, the Playboy Prince, Jane Ridley (11/24-12/6)
  • All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr (12/6-12/12)
  • The Metropolis Case, Matthew Gallaway (12/13-12/22)
  • The Good Lord Bird, James McBride (12/22-12/27)
  • Ecstatic Nation: Confidence, Crisis, and Compromise, 1848-1877, Brenda Wineapple (currently reading)

(Here’s last year’s list.)

Working in Midtown

A month ago I began working in midtown Manhattan. This has long been a dream of mine – at least since 1999, when I finished law school and moved back up north – but things kept getting in the way.

First, after law school I didn’t have a job lined up. I eventually wound up working for a family friend in central New Jersey, so I moved down there; it took over an hour to get to Manhattan by commuter train. After a year, I got a legal clerkship in Newark, but it was a state job that required New Jersey residency, so I stayed in New Jersey but moved as close to Manhattan as possible: Jersey City, right across the river via PATH train.

I stayed in Jersey City for five years. During that time I met Matt, and eventually we moved in together in Manhattan — but I was still working in New Jersey, as a lawyer for the state.

I looked forward to my next job being in Manhattan, but: no. My next job – my current job – was also based in Newark. I couldn’t seem to escape the Garden State. Eventually that job moved even further into New Jersey; I had to commute an hour and 40 minutes out to the suburbs (via subway, New Jersey Transit train, and company van), but only twice a week; the rest of the time I could telecommute from home.

That was my schedule until a month ago. Our Manhattan office moved to a new space, and it has room for people from my division. My division has no assigned cubicles here, and I still have to go to the New Jersey suburbs once a week, but the rest of the week I’ve been working in the Manhattan office – and it’s been terrific.

My commute is 25-30 minutes by subway. I don’t have to sync my schedule to a New Jersey Transit train that leaves once an hour. There are people around. Lunch options abound — and since a lot of people I know work in midtown, maybe I can be more social, both during lunch and after work. When the theater season starts up in the fall, I’ll be able to meet Matt at the theaters nearby.

The office is newly renovated. It has a nice color scheme. It’s environmentally friendly. It has a coffee machine that grinds Starbucks beans for you. One side has a great view up Park Avenue. All the cubicles are within viewing distance of windows.

It’s so nice to have an alternative to either schlepping out to the suburbs or working from home. Telecommuting could be great, but it was isolating. I could sleep in, but then I’d sit at my laptop in my sleep clothes until noon, when I’d finally realize I should shower and get dressed.

I’m 40 years old and I’ve wanted to work in this neighborhood since I was 25 or younger. I’m so glad I can finally do it.

Better late than never.

Why I Like Twitter More Than Facebook

I like using Twitter, but I never post on Facebook. In fact, I dislike Facebook. There are a few reasons why I prefer Twitter.

One, I’m a news junkie. Other than the New York Times, I get most of my news from Twitter. People do post links on Facebook, but they’re usually just links to viral quizzes or Upworthy-style listicles, and I’m not interested in those. Twitter has a higher substance-to-fluff ratio than Facebook.

I rarely go to Facebook just to see what random people in my feed are saying. If I go there, it’s to check up on a particular person. I type the person’s name into the search box, bring up the feed, and see what he or she’s been up to. Of course, that requires going to the Facebook homepage first, and I usually see a few status updates from other people that catch my eye. But I rarely go there just to pass the time. I use Twitter for that.

Two, I feel like Twitter approximates the community that used to exist around blogging. I miss that community; I met lots of interesting people back in the ’00s, all because of blogging. (Including my husband!) Many former bloggers are now on Twitter, especially the gay blogging circle that existed 8-12 years ago. People who took the time to maintain blogs back then had interesting things to say, and now those interesting people on Twitter.

Meanwhile, Facebook is what AOL used to be. Everyone is there: family members, distant relatives, New York friends I haven’t seen in ages, random acquaintances from high school and college. If I were more of an extrovert, perhaps I’d be be more interested in knowing about the random facts of all these people’s lives. But I really only want to know what’s going on with my closest friends. If you want me to know something, you should tell me directly.

That’s one reason I follow only about 100 people on Twitter. I would probably feel overwhelmed if I followed, say, 200 people. But maybe that’s because I’m sensitive to information overload; I’m an addictive link-clicker, but I’m also very wary of getting too sucked in to the internet and falling into a timesink. A shorter feed keeps me from drowning in internet stuff.

Three, I feel silly posting Facebook status updates. Unless it’s about something major, like getting married, or posting my thoughts about a college reunion where the people who will want to read it are fellow alumni who will only find it via Facebook, I don’t know why everyone in my life could possibly care about my thoughts or actions. Because of the larger, unfilted audience on Facebook, status updates feel too much like self-conscious performance. Tweeting feels a litlte bit like that, but not nearly as much. I can avoid all the awkardness by not posting on Facebook at all.

On the other hand, at least Facebook users are nicer about giving you feedback and gratification when you write something. On Twitter, I’ve written countless tweets that I think are funny or interesting only to get completely ignored by my followers. No favorites or retweets or anything. I guess I must have a weird sense of humor, or a weird sense of what’s interesting. I should probably be more thick-skinned about being ignored, but it’s hard.

The final reason I don’t like Facebook is because I don’t trust it. I know that Facebook basically exists to mine my data for advertisers. That makes me uncomfortable. On Twitter I don’t even have to use my real name.

We live in weird, weird world.

Richard J. Evans, The Third Reich Trilogy

I spent the last few weeks reading Richard J. Evans’s masterful trilogy on the history of the Third Reich.

The first volume (which I had previously read a few years ago but decided to reread), The Coming of the Third Reich, covers the origins and causes of Nazism, culminating in Hitler’s rise to power in 1933. The second, The Third Reich in Power, covers Nazi Germany from 1933 to the onset of war in 1939. The last, The Third Reich at War, covers Nazi Germany from the invasion of Poland to the end of the war, with a little bit of what happened after.

This was almost 2,000 pages of reading. Here is a short summary, for my own benefit, of what I took away from these books. Some of this I already knew, but it was useful to see it all connected together in book form.

Volume 1, on the origins of Nazism:

Nazism was not inherent in German history or philosophy or in the German people. In fact, historically there was a strain of human rights in German thought. But we can’t escape the fact that Nazism happened in Germany, not elsewhere. Why? It wasn’t until the late 19th century that the ingredients really began to take shape under Bismarck; militarism, German nationalism, an overheated political atmosphere, the rise of science and a “scientific” approach to racial hygiene, antisemitism not just as a religious concept (which could be avoided by religious conversion) but as a “modern” racial concept (something inextricable from one’s identity). Hitler grew up in this milieu, absorbed it, and synthesized it into something that could appeal to people as a unified concept, and it came at a time when people were looking for a solution to their problems. Would Nazism have happened without Hitler? Perhaps or perhaps not, but all the ingredients were already there. He didn’t create them.

The post-WWI Weimar Republic never had much of a chance; few people truly loved it, and it was actively undermined by communists on the left and by conservative German nationalists on the right. Once the Depression began, any hope for its success disappeared; the political center disintegrated, leaving the Nazis and the Communists to fight each other for power. The Nazis won through shrewd use of propaganda and the political system, although interestingly, they never actually received majority support in any popular election; but they received pluralities, which was enough. Once Hitler gained power, he ended elections, and eventually most people were willing to accept Nazi dictatorship if it meant German economic improvement and success. Much of the population was actively pro-Nazi, but many were just going along, not fanatically in support or opposed. (And there were those who were quietly opposed, or even not so quietly – and some who were not outright opposed but at least uncomfortable with them.)

Volume 2, on Nazi Germany before the war:

What was Nazism about, once in power? Quite simply, it was about the alleged superiority of the German “race,” and about preparing for war in order to achieve “living space” (lebensraum) for the German race; and it was also about hatred of Jews more than any other group of people. While other racial groups, such as Slavs and gypsies, were seen as racially inferior and wholly dispensable, the Jews were seen as worse: not just racially inferior, but dangerous villains bent on subversive and insidious world domination, the “Jewish bacillus.” The Slavs, the gypsies, the mentally and physically handicapped, and the homosexuals were seen as obstacles to the propagation of the superior German race, but the Jews were seen as terrible villains bent on world conquest.

Later in the twentieth century some political scientists tried to categorize Nazism as anti-communist and pro-capitalist; but Nazis saw Jews as controlling both the communists and the capitalists. Hitler purposely appealed to (non-Jewish) business leaders to win their political and financial support, but Nazi Germany was not philosophically a pro-capitalist free-market economy; big business and industry was useful only as a way to build up armaments for war. When government control and direction of industry became necessary to further the military buildup, so be it. The ultimate goal, again, was war in order to achieve living space for the superior German race. The overriding philosophy of Nazi Germany was not about the role of government; it was about race.

Volume 3, on the Third Reich at war:

The Nazis went to war in 1939, but they had essentially lost by 1943. At first Germany had the advantage of surprise (in the blitzkrieg), but ultimately Germany never had a chance against the industrial and demographic power of the United States, Britain, and — importantly, as we in the West often forget — the Soviet Union. The last two years were a slow, but expected, German defeat. As Germany began to lose, and the Western allies began to bomb German cities, German morale deteriorated and Nazi Germany collapsed, but not before millions of Jews, and smaller but still substantial numbers of others, were horrifically murdered. The book goes into grim detail about the Holocaust, which makes for difficult reading at times.

We must always remember Nazi Germany, but there will never be a Fourth Reich; if Nazism revives, it will more likely happen elsewhere. The Nazis are a cautionary lesson not just for Germany, but for humanity.

Observing Passover

Last night was the end of Passover. This year I stuck to the holiday’s dietary laws more closely than I had in a long time: no bread or other products with leavened flour, no corn or rice or oats. (So much for my morning oatmeal.) I did eat beans, and we had a container of eggplant spread that apparently contained breadcrumbs, although I couldn’t detect them. But this was the most strictly I’d followed the laws of Passover in many years.

I think it’s because we hosted our first seder this year. It was small, just me and Matt and my immediate family, but it made me more aware of the holiday than usual. Even though I don’t believe in God, I’m still Jewish, and it was nice to be reminded of the cultural traditions in which I grew up.

Of course, the best part of following the Passover laws is the end of Passover. I had a burger last night on a bun. I had oatmeal for breakfast. I had a sandwich on a bagel for lunch today.

Delayed gratification never tasted so good.


Thoughts on the “How I Met Your Mother” Finale

Sometimes you just connect with a TV show. Something about it just works for you, even if it’s not always perfect, even if it sometimes frustrates you. It just clicks for you. There are only three or four TV shows in the last decade that I’ve really loved like that. Lost, Mad Men, maybe The West Wing… and How I Met Your Mother.

In fact, there’s no show I’ve ever watched from beginning to end as long as How I Met Your Mother.

It seemed promising even before it premiered: a sitcom featuring an endearing Buffy alum, a former child star and theater performer who was rumored to be gay, a cult TV actor — and a cool storytelling gimmick to boot? Sign me up.

It hooked me from the start. Unlike other sitcoms, it was unabashedly heartfelt and sincere, with a romantic, idealistic main character — who, refreshingly, was a man. The unconventional, witty flashback narrative structure, the quick scene cuts, the Lost-like mini-mysteries… it all pulled me in. Not to mention the infectiously catchy theme music.

Surely it would be canceled, just like every other quirky show that was too good for TV, like Wonderfalls. In the first few years it was always on the bubble. But miraculously, it survived — for a whole season, then two seasons, then three, and eventually, improbably, it became a hit.

In later years it went downhill. Barney went from endearingly irritating to repellent, Ted got pompous, the plots got ridiculous, the jokes got crude. Ted fell for an annoying environmental activist. I never cared about Barney and Robin as a couple.

But even when I didn’t like the show, I still loved it. It was still special to me. I still loved Ted and Marshall and Lily. There were still inventive episodes and moments that made me laugh. Never for a moment did I consider giving it up. It made me look forward to Monday nights. (It was the rare long-running show that aired the same night during its entire run.)

And then… last night.

This entire final season was problematic and misconceived from the start. The writers brought in the wonderful Cristin Milioti at the very end of last season, only to almost completely waste her. After eight years of buildup, there was no way the mother could live up to the hype — but miraculously, she did. She lived up to all expectations. She was perfect casting, the perfect match for Ted. Her few scenes with Josh Radnor were magnetic. How often does something actually succeed like that? Their scenes were tantalizing hints of the season that could have been.

But instead the writers squandered this terrific gift they’d been given, all in the service of a rigid, preconceived, off-key ending, not to mention an interminable season-long wedding weekend for a couple that, after all the buildup, got divorced in the very next episode.

Up until the ending, I actually enjoyed the finale. It was a nice tribute, with lots of callbacks to various running jokes over the course of the series. As we saw the characters’ future lives, I felt happy that we didn’t really have to say goodbye to them, reassured that they’d continue on without us. There were a couple of moments that got me teary: Robin and Lily arguing in the eerily empty apartment, Marshall telling the young guys at MacLaren’s about what a special place that bar was.

Barney and Robin’s divorce was shocking, but I went with it. But then — Barney getting a woman pregnant? Maybe it was supposed to be ironic that after years of consequence-free sex, he finally had A Consequence, but it seemed inconsistent with the spirit of the show: he never got an STD, but he got someone pregnant? (And his announcement of impending fatherhood — that would have been a better moment for Marshall’s Final Slap.)  His emotional breakdown in front of his new baby daughter was sweet, but too sudden and rushed for me. And we never see the baby’s mother?

And Ted. Are we really supposed to believe that Ted Mosby, the crazy hopeless romantic, would put off marrying the love of his life for five years? That he wouldn’t immediately marry her upon learning she was pregnant?

And then — just as had been hinted at — we learned that she was sick. I hoped it wouldn’t happen, but it did, and it hit me in the gut. Right then I broke into sniffles and tears and little stifled sobs. I was so sad that I had trouble focusing on their very first conversation in the next scene.

And then, insult to injury. Instead of getting to mourn this wonderful woman whom we’ve been conditioned over the last nine years to adore and idolize and worship — because our protagonist kept telling us how wonderful she was — we see her just tossed aside, and suddenly the kids and Ted are all in love with… the emotionally immature Robin? Seriously?

Yes, the characters had six years to mourn and accept the mother’s death and move on. But we didn’t. It was jolting, tone-deaf and cruel. Yes, it’s just a TV show, but it was cruel. I can’t imagine how much worse it would have been if they hadn’t hinted at her death a few weeks ago.

I guess this worked on paper. And given these characters and their history, I can see how it could have ended this way. But it didn’t feel real. TV characters are different from characters on paper. They’re played by flesh-and-blood human beings, actors who either have chemistry or don’t. Whatever chemistry Ted and Robin might have had early in the series (and they had some) had long dissipated over years of drawn-out plot points and character developments. Ted and Tracy – they had the real thing. Alan Sepinwall has the best analysis I’ve read of the finale so far: the writers should have seen what was organically happening, adjusted their plans, and gone with it. Instead they gave us an ending that was an emotional betrayal. Fan-service pandering is lame, but giving your audience a huge middle finger is worse.

This all might sound overwrought. I know it’s just a TV show. But it’s a show I cared about, with characters I cared about, for nine years.

Somewhere in an alternate universe, someone has recut this season and deleted some scenes near the end. Robin finds love and happiness with a great guy. Ted marries Tracy, and they grow old together.

In my dreams, I guess.

On Rod Dreher and the Futility of Arguing

I read something like this about same-sex marriage and my mind just boggles:

Civilization was made possible by controlling and channeling sexual desire, and harnessing it to a framework that makes for stable communities. My side believes that the liberation of sexual desire that this culture has embraced, and the obliteration of the traditional family as the ideal, will in time have devastating consequences for us all. There is no institution more important to conserve than the family. As has been widely acknowledged by our side, heterosexuals have done a terrible job of living out our convictions. Even we Christians have internalized the Sexual Revolution to an appalling degree. Nevertheless, normalizing SSM really is the Rubicon on all this, because from our point of view, it fundamentally changes the definition of marriage and the family, and with it, definitively topples the cultural authority of Christianity, which was the basis for Western civilization after the fall of Rome. That’s not nothing. This matters. 

How does one even begin to argue with someone, like Rod Dreher, who thinks this way? I guess you can’t. Logic doesn’t work, because a person’s beliefs are a product of one’s own psychology, one’s own biochemistry, one’s own history, and those are deep-rooted and powerful things. It’s like thinking all you need to do is repair a patch in the ceiling, and realizing you actually need to tear the whole house down to fix the problem.

Anyway, to counter Dreher: he really thinks that letting five percent of the population get married is what will “topple the cultural authority of Christianity”? Does he not realize that centuries of epochal change in our understanding of the universe and ourselves have already toppled it? Galileo, Newton, evolution, the germ theory of disease, Freud, brain science, the whole scientific revolution — no, apparently gay marriage is the Rubicon, the final straw.


I don’t understand how someone who is intelligent can think this way. It’s not like Dreher is some rube who can’t string sentences together. He can obviously write and he’s obviously smart. But his world view is so thoroughly different from my own that I wouldn’t even know how to begin to convince him.

I used to think logical argument could be enough to change people’s minds. Eventually I learned that it doesn’t always work.

It’s discouraging. But I guess we just have to work around people like him.

The Next Marriage Debate

We seem to have moved into a new phase of the marriage equality movement. Gay couples will probably be able to marry nationwide by the end of this decade, perhaps even before Obama leaves office. The people arguing for public discrimination — that is, discrimination by the government — have repeatedly lost in court; there have been no anti-equality court decisions since the Supreme Court overturned DOMA section 3 in U.S. v. Windsor last summer.

Having lost the debate over public discrimination, opponents of equality have moved on — or retreated — to arguing for the right to private discrimination, couched as “religious liberty”: the right of bakers, photographers, florists, and so on, to refuse to provide services for same-sex weddings. First the opponents feared that churches would be forced to marry gay couples, but most of them soon realized this was ridiculous, since the First Amendment prevents the government from forcing churches to perform particular religious services. So they moved on from defending religious institutions to defending businesses owned by religious individuals.

That’s a murkier issue. Whether private businesses have the right to discriminate is something on which I haven’t completely made up my mind. My gut and my heart firmly oppose such discrimination; I don’t see why a private business has any more right to discriminate against gay couples than it has the right to discriminate against a particular race. If you choose to enter the public marketplace, you must play by public rules. Adults should know that they can’t always do what they want. It’s the price for being a member of society.

But part of me can see the other side. Photography and baking and flower arranging are not just business practices; they are also forms of artistic, personal expression, expressions of one’s selfhood. And if someone really, truly opposes gay weddings, should we make that person take part in such a wedding?

It would be a simple question if the only issue were liberty. The photographer’s liberty is at stake here; the gay couple’s is not. A photographer’s refusal to take pictures doesn’t affect the gay couple’s freedom to get married. It does affect the photographer’s freedom to choose clients. If liberty is the only issue, the photographer should be able to say no.

But liberty is not the only issue. Equality is important, too. Liberty and equality are both cherished American principles, but they often conflict. When it comes to race, we realize this. Few people except Rand Paul these days would publicly defend the freedom of businesses to deny service to blacks. We believe that people should be treated equally in marketplace.

Why do some of us, even some of us who are gay, struggle more with the right to deny service to gay couples? Is it internalized homophobia? Are we too used to walking on eggshells? Are we trying too hard to be magnanimous, generous, taking too much care not to offend others, even those who spent decades opposing our human rights?

All I know is, it’s a harder question than the simple one of whether we should be free to marry. But that doesn’t mean the question isn’t answerable.

It’s okay for a healthy democracy to discuss these things. In a way, it makes me happy, because it’s just another sign that we’ve already won.

Thoughts About Hobbies

I’d love some insight from my readers on something. (Those who are still out there, anyway.)

I’m obsesed over whether I’m good enough for my hobby. I don’t know if I can clearly put all of this into words, but I’ll try.

My interest around this time of year is film – probably because it’s awards season and this is when most of the good films come out. But I don’t want to see just the Oscar nominees. I want to become a film expert. I want to know all the good and great films of the past. I want to read books about what makes a film great, I want to see all the great films, I want to be able to write about them. Especially older films – silents; black and white films from the golden age of Hollywood; foreign filmmakers; the great films of the 1970s; and so on.

And yet I don’t seem to have the patience for it. Sometimes it’s hard to sit down for 90-120 minutes or longer and immerse myself in a movie. After about 90 minutes, I get the urge to look at my watch. I’m sometimes annoyed to see that less time has gone by than I’d thought.

It can be especially hard to watch more than one movie a day. Especially if, instead of sitting in a movie theater, I’m at home and there are other distractions. Watching a movie at home, I’m a lot more tempted to bring up the progress bar and see how much of the movie is left.

And I fear this means I’m not good enough to have this as a hobby. I’m not good enough to belong in the elite club of movie people. The real experts are telling me: “Give it up and find another interest, and leave film-watching to those of us who actually love it. You obviously don’t love it as much as we do. This obviously isn’t your calling and you should find something else.”

Okay, but I still like it and for some reason I still keep wanting to try.

My therapist tells me it’s okay to not purely enjoy a hobby. He says it can be healthy to engage with an interest rather than just enjoy an interest. Engaging with it means there is some challenge or work involved, rather than just pure pleasure. And that’s okay.

But I still feel like true movie people never look at their watches, they love nothing better than sitting in a dark theater for three hours and immersing themselves in the screen, even two or three times a day, that for them it’s no challenge. And therefore, unlike them, I’m never going to make anything of this hobby and I should just go find something else.

Why do I have to “make anything” of it? Why can’t it just be a hobby? Because I need something in my life that can be more than just a hobby. I want something I can pursue with dedication. I don’t have that in my career. I don’t have it in any other area of my life. I want to dedicate myself to something.

But in addition to fearing I’m not cut out for it, there’s another problem: I don’t like the feeling of obsession. I’m very uncomfortable with falling down a rabbit hole and losing sight of everything else in the world. The internet made that seem abnormal anyway, because it’s so much easier to tweet and click and multitask, and my brain is forgetting what it’s like to singlemindedly focus on something. So dedicating yourself to something feels weird.

Matt has no problem sitting down and working on his website for several hours at a stretch. I want to be able to dedicate that amount of time to something as well, without feeling weird about it.

And I’m afraid of people telling me I’m weird and obsessed, and I’m afraid my strong interest in it will annoy them. I myself get irritated when someone else is obsessed with something I’m not obsessed with. But aren’t all happy people weird in some way? Aren’t all happy people kind of obsessed with something? Why do I worry so much about what other people might think? And more importantly, how do I make that worry go away?

I’d love any insight any of you might have on all of this. Often when you write about your thoughts online, nobody responds, and it just makes you feel alone. So if you have anything at all to say, I’d really appreciate it.

The Day Before the Oscar Nominations

The Oscar nominations come out tomorrow morning. Last year, for the first time, I decided to see all 53 nominated films — everything, in every category, including documentaries (full-length and short), animated films (full-length and short), foreign films, costume nominees, makeup nominees. It was stressful as hell, partly because I tend to make things stressful when they don’t need to be. I would lie in bed at night, worrying about how many films I had left and how many days were left to see them.

I didn’t start out planning to see everything. It just sort of happened. In the past, I hadn’t even made a concerted effort to see all the Best Picture nominees. But last year I decided to do that, and it gradually grew from there until I realized it seemed possible to see everything.

Here’s the chart I made and used last year to keep tabs on everything I saw. At the bottom of the page is the calendar of what I saw and when.

I saw some good films I wouldn’t otherwise have seen. In documentaries, I got to see The Invisible War, Searching for Sugarman, and The Gatekeepers, but I also had to sit through 5 Broken Cameras. The only foreign film nominee I really liked was Amour, which I would have seen anyway because it was also nominated for Best Picture. A Royal Affair was entertaining but a potboiler, and I didn’t get much out of the other three.

I’ve decided I’m not doing it again this year. I will try to see all the major nominees, and all the good nominees, and I’m going to keep track of what I’ve seen and what I haven’t. But I’m not going to see Bad Grandpa just because it gets nominated for Best Makeup, and I’m not going to sit through a movie just because it got nominated for Best Original Song. I don’t care about predicting winners or competing in an Oscar pool; I just like seeing great movies. But just because something gets an Oscar nomination in a minor category doesn’t mean it’s one of the best movies of the year.

So, I’m not doing it again.

Of course, I say that now. We’ll see how I feel in a month.

Books I Read in 2013

Here’s a list of books I read in 2013, in chronological order. Pretty much just nonfiction, as usual. Actually, a couple of weeks ago I started reading The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt’s new novel (I really enjoyed The Secret History way back when), but for some reason fiction never absorbs me anymore, and instead I found myself pulled into a biography of Alfred Hitchcock.

Anyway, here’s what I read in 2013, starting in January. (Here is last year’s list.)

  • The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy, David Nasaw (started at end of 2012)
  • The Eve of Destruction: How 1965 Transformed America, James T. Patterson
  • George F. Kennan: An American Life, John Lewis Gaddis
  • The Big Screen: The Story of the Movies, David Thomson (first third or so)
  • Inferno: The World at War, 1939-1945, Max Hastings
  • Communism: A History, Richard Pipes
  • Ancient Philosophy: A New History of Western Philosophy, Volume 1, Anthony Kenny (almost finished)
  • On Politics: A History of Political Thought: From Herodotus to the Present, Alan Ryan (2 vols.)
  • Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815, Gordon S. Wood
  • The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery, Eric Foner
  • Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861-1865, James Oakes
  • The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England, Dan Jones
  • The Norman Conquest: The Battle of Hastings and the Fall of Anglo-Saxon England, Marc Morris
  • Foundation: The History of England from Its Earliest Beginnings to the Tudors, Peter Ackroyd
  • Tudors: The History of England from Henry VIII to Elizabeth I, Peter Ackroyd
  • Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Vincent Bugliosi (all except first part, which I’d previously read)
  • The Kennedy Half-Century: The Presidency, Assassination, and Lasting Legacy of John F. Kennedy, Larry J. Sabato
  • Ike and Dick: Portrait of a Strange Political Marriage, Jeffrey Frank
  • (Passage of Power – reread various parts of it – intro, JFK assassination, transition)
  • The Hidden White House: Harry Truman and the Reconstruction of America’s Most Famous Residence, Robert Klara
  • Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House, Peter Baker
  • The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America, George Packer

Text of our Wedding Ceremony

Here is the text of our wedding ceremony, which took place in Sakura Park in Manhattan on Friday morning. It was performed by Dan Epstein in the presence of our families. Dan sent us the text of some ceremonies he had used in the past, and we took some stuff out and added some of our own touches to create a ceremony that spoke to us.

I discovered beforehand that the introductory quote, provided by Dan, has actually been misattributed to Dr. Seuss over the years and is really from Robert Fulghum. But Dan said “Dr. Seuss” sets a better atmosphere, so we kept it that way.

* * * * *


According to Dr. Seuss:

“We are all a little weird. And life is a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutually satisfying weirdness and call it love.”

This past June, the United States Supreme Court granted federal recognition of marriages of same-sex couples. This is a quote from Edie Windsor, the plaintiff in that case:

“I ask all gay couples who have lived together a long time and got married, ‘Was it different the next morning?’ And everybody says yes, and they don’t know how to explain it. Marriage itself, you know, it’s a magic word, everybody knows what it means, it means love and commitment and trust… but there’s this extra thing when it was always denied to you. But it’s profound. Whatever loving was there, it becomes really profound loving.”


Life isn’t measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the number of loving moments that take our breath away.

You can have those moments. You just have to get over the jitters and let the dreams show you the way. Tie your kite to reality… check your gut whenever it says “hey, wait”… take action when the time is right… remember and treasure what life shows you… but don’t ever stand in the way of what you really love. As far as we can tell, dreams are nothing more than love trying to take wing and soar. Imagine for just a moment, the thrilling, distracting, wonderful, odd, unusual sensation of new love. You immediately begin dreaming of life together… of where you will go… of what life will mean for the two of you. Live in that moment every day. Fall in love with new ideas, new opportunities, and new places all the time. Trust it, live it, don’t say no to love or crush a dream that wants to live. It isn’t that hard to give yourself over to it. You just have to say yes to life and love. Love will never lead you astray.

Jeff and Matt, before you are joined together in marriage, in my presence, and in the presence of these witnesses, I will remind you of the serious and binding nature of this relationship. The traditional right of marriage, as most of us understand it, is the voluntary, deliberate, and full commitment of two individuals to one another to become partners for a lifetime. Jeff and Matt, have you come here freely and without reservation to enter into this marriage?

[Jeff and Matt] We have!

Great! Then let us begin the celebration of love and life!

Welcome to the guests

We welcome you, the families of Jeff and Matt, who have come to share this wonderful morning. Nothing is as hopeful, as joyous as a wedding. Getting married is the supreme act of trust; it is as much a union and a move of independence. It takes an absolute confidence in oneself to be able to give fully to another. This partnership is not new; it has been a journey of ten years.

In fact they met ten years ago on this very day, October 4, 2003. It seems that Jeff, living in Jersey City, and Matt living in Kirksville, Missouri, had discovered each other’s blogs, and had each been reading the other’s, commenting, and corresponding for a couple of years. When Matt moved to New York City in July of 2003 it was only a couple of months until they realized that this friendship rooted in an online correspondence should progress to meeting in person. So they got together for coffee…and a relationship developed from there. It means a lot to both of them that as their relationship progressed both sets of parents enthusiastically embraced it.

And so today is the beginning of a different journey for Jeff and Matt as a married couple. It is so meaningful that you can share this day with them as they make public the commitment which they have already made to each other in their hearts. For marriage is more than simply an agreement between two people; it is a chance for us to embrace them as a couple, as a family and as part of a larger community. They have been inspired by all of you. You have touched their lives in ways that have changed them forever.


Matt and Jeff are big Stephen Sondheim fans. Well, as Jeff says: “I’m a fan; Matt is a huge fan.”

Sondheim in his song, “Being Alive,” describes what it’s like to have someone important in your life:

Someone to hold you too close,
Someone to hurt you too deep,
Someone to sit in your chair,
To ruin your sleep…

Someone to need you too much,
Someone to know you too well,
Someone to pull you up short
And put you through hell…

Someone you have to let in,
Someone whose feelings you spare,
Someone who, like it or not,
Will want you to share
A little, a lot…

Ellen Pontac and Shelly Bailes, who have been together for nearly 40 years, married in 2008. Ellen said this:

“Being married changes not only the fact that you can say, ‘I’d like to introduce you to my [husband or] wife, but it changes the way you feel inside, and the way the world perceives you.”

The Asking

Jeff, do you take Matt to be your husband, to love, honor, cherish and keep for as long as you may live?

[Jeff] I do.

Matt, do you take Jeff to be your husband, to love, honor, cherish and keep for as long as you may live.

[Matt] I do.

The Vows


I, Jeff, take you, Matt, to be my husband.

I promise to share your joys when you are happy,

to lift your spirits when you are down,

to laugh with you and cry with you,

and to love you in good times and bad.

I give you my hand, my heart, and my love, from this day forward.


I, Matt, take you, Jeff, to be my husband.

I promise to share your joys when you are happy,

to lift your spirits when you are down,

to laugh with you and cry with you,

and to love you in good times and bad.

I give you my hand, my heart, and my love, from this day forward.

The Ring Exchange

May we have the rings please?

Matt, as a token of your promise to Jeff, place the ring on the fourth finger of his left hand and repeat after me:

Jeff, I give you this ring as a symbol of my love and commitment and as a token of the promises I have made here today.

Jeff, as a token of your promise to Matt, place the ring on the fourth finger of his left hand and repeat after me:

Matt, I give you this ring as a symbol of my love and commitment and as a token of the promises I have made here today.

In his Supreme Court opinion this past June, Justice Kennedy described marriage as

“a far-reaching legal acknowledgment of the intimate relationship between two people, a relationship deemed by the State worthy of dignity in the community equal with all other marriages. It reflects both the community’s considered perspective on the historical roots of the institution of marriage and its evolving understanding of the meaning of equality.”


Jeff and Matt, you have proclaimed your love for one another. You have agreed to share your lives and hopes and dreams together. In this circle of community, in this embrace of spirit, you have created a union marked by taking vows and exchanging rings. As a civil celebrant, authorized by the state of New York, it is my honor and my joy to pronounce you married.

You may kiss!

Final Reading

Now you will feel no rain, for each of you will be the shelter for the other.
Now you will feel no cold, for each of you will be warmth to the other.
Now there will be no loneliness, for each of you will be companion to the other.
Now you are two persons, but there is only one life before you.
May beauty surround you both in the journey ahead and through all your years
May happiness be your companion and your days together be good and long upon the earth.

[Followed by the ceremonial breaking of a glass]

Almost Married

At long last, this Friday, October 4, Matt and I are getting married. It will be the tenth anniversary of our first date.

Matt and I were aware of each other for quite a while before we first met in person. For a couple of years we read each other’s blogs. Matt was living in Kirksville, Missouri, and I was living up here in the New York area. The gay blogging circle was pretty small back then in 2001, small enough that most LGBT bloggers were aware of each other. Then, in the summer of 2003, Matt moved up to New York to take a job, and after a couple of months we decided we should finally meet in person, since we were living in the same area. So we got together for coffee at the Starbucks at Astor Place in Manhattan. It was Saturday, October 4, 2003.

Technically it wasn’t a date; it was just a meetup. But I thought Matt was cute, and more importantly, I felt immediately comfortable with him. I remember that he pulled out his phone and started showing me something cool on it, and there was something so cute and charming about his enthusiasm for gadgets. I just found him really appealing. We just kind of clicked.

After we left Starbucks, we walked around for a while, and then we parted ways but planned to meet up again soon. We had our first real “date” the following week. But we’ve always considered that first meetup to be our first date in retrospect, and we’ve always celebrated it as our anniversary. So we thought it would be special to get married on the same day. (It also means we get to keep the same anniversary, which is a nice benefit.)

Matt would have been happy to just go down to the Manhattan Marriage Bureau and get married by ourselves. But I wanted something a bit more celebratory. So we’re doing something in between: a small ceremony in the park with just our families, and then a somewhat larger party that night, although still not big by most wedding standards (though Matt might beg to differ). The wedding planning has made me very anxious over the last few weeks — I’ve been worried about what could go wrong, worried about my sleep, and so on. The planning has been rather, er, hit or miss (pardon the pun), and it has kept changing over the last few months. Toward the end of last year we decided we’d get married in 2013, since we predicted the Supreme Court would overturn DOMA Section 3 and our taxes would be easier this year. We thought we’d do it this past spring, but we decided we needed more time to plan and that it would be nice to get married on our anniversary. I think it was last February that we settled on this date. Back then it seemed so far away. Now it’s almost here.

So ten years later, here we are. Matt started as my online acquaintance, then became my friend, my boyfriend, and then my partner, and soon he’ll be my husband. We’ve both grown and changed a lot over the last decade, and we’ve learned a lot, too — about relationships, about ourselves about each other. Our relationship grows richer by the year.

It’s been a decade, but it’s just the beginning of our life together.

My Doppleganger Plus 50

We like to commemorate the half-century mark in our culture. It seems it’s always the 50th anniversary of something: next week is the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. In three months we’ll observe the 50th anniversary of the assassination of JFK. The very next day is the 50th anniversary of the premiere of Doctor Who.

The first 50th anniversary I remember was that of DC Comics in 1985, which released its first comic books in 1935. Since then, I’ve experienced numerous 50th anniversaries over the years.

It strikes me that there’s someone out there who was born exactly 50 years before me, at the very end of 1923, who is my “doppleganger-plus-50,” as it were. At the same age as I experienced the 50th anniversaries of various events, he lived through the actual events. He’s living a life parallel to mine, just shifted 50 years.

In 1985 I discovered comic books when DC Comics celebrated its 50th anniversary. I was 11 years old and reading Crisis on Infinite Earths, and Superman, and Batman. I fantasized about going back in time to the 1930s and buying now-rare comic books for a dime. When my double was that age, he might have read those actual comic books. He’d soon encounter Superman and “The Bat-Man” as they hit the market.

In 1987, the Lincoln Tunnel had its 50th anniversary. I was 13 or 14. I remember being in a car approaching the tunnel entrance around that time, on a gloomy, cloudy weekend afternoon, and noticing its Art Deco influences and thinking about the Depression. At the same age, my double was a young teenager living through the gloomy Depression itself, and Art Deco design was all over Manhattan.

Two years later, in 1989, the media covered the 50th anniversary of the German invasion of Poland that began World War II. I was 15, in high school. My double was 15 and hearing about the invasion on the radio.

On the 50th anniversary of Pearl Harbor in December 1991, I was 17 years old, in college, living a carefree life. We had a chorus concert that night. My double was 17 in 1941 and worried about being drafted and going to war.

I was 20 years old on the 50th anniversary of D-Day, in June 1994. I was still in college; a friend of mine and I were driving back to Charlottesville from an overnight road trip to Gettysburg, and we listened to coverage of Bill Clinton’s speech on the car radio. My double was 20 years old and might have been at war overseas.

Assuming he survived the war, my double came home, got married, and started a family in prosperous postwar America. At that age I was in law school in the prosperous late 1990s. He discovered television in his 20s, around the time I discovered the World Wide Web. At the start of 1950, he was 26, the same age as when I celebrated the year 2000. He grew older as the 1950s continued. He turned 30 in 1953. He raised children and saw them enter adolescence. On the night that Sputnik launched and “Leave It to Beaver” premiered (both on the same night, which was also Erev Yom Kippur!), he was 33. He was 37 when JFK was inaugurated; he was 38 when John Glenn orbited the Earth. I remember news coverage of the 50th anniversaries of all of these.

Now he is 39, almost 40, and it’s the late summer of 1963, and JFK will be assassinated in a few months. Shortly after he turns 40, the Beatles will hit America. Then there’ll be another war, along with a cultural and musical revolution, but he’ll be too old to get it. (He’s a couple of years older than Don Draper.) He’ll be 50 during Watergate, around the time when I’m born, and our lives will begin to overlap.

I like reading about anniversaries of news events and imagining how people experienced those events when they happened. Picturing my time-shifted doppleganger is a cool way to do it, because it helps put various events into a chronological context. Looking back on 1985 from 2013 is the same as looking back on 1935 from 1963.

And just over 10 years from now, a baby will be born, and I will be his time-shifted doppleganger. And the cycle will continue…

Back to the Future Part III Soundtrack Tracks in Order of Appearance

Warning: geekery ahead.

For some reason, the tracks on the soundtrack for Back to the Future Part III do not appear in the order in which they appear in the movie. They’re in movie order on the Part II soundtrack, but for some reason that’s not the case with Part III. I guess when they put together the Part III soundtrack, the producers thought the tracks sounded better in a different order.

But sometimes you just want to experience the movie through the music, and you want to hear the tracks in order. So I’ve managed (I think) to figure out the order in which the Part III tracks appear in the movie:

1 – Main Title
6 – Indians
3 – Hill Valley
4 – The Hanging
14 – We’re Out of Gas
12 – Doc to the Rescue
5 – At First Sight
17 – Doubleback
13 – The Kiss
10 – The Future Isn’t Written
7 – Goodbye Clara
15 – Wake Up Juice
11 – The Showdown
16 – A Science Experiment? (The Train Part I)
2 – It’s Clara (The Train Part II)
9 – Point of No Return (The Train Part III)
8 – Doc Returns
18 – End Credits

If you own the soundtrack, you can create a playlist of the tracks in the above order on iTunes or whatnot. Then you can just close your eyes and imagine your way from 1955 to 1885, and then back to good ol’ 1985.

I’m posting this in case anyone happens to Google the title of this post or something similar. I did my own Google search and couldn’t find anything.

This is How My Brain Works

I bought a Rubik’s Cube on Saturday, because we’re going on a Disney Cruise for our honeymoon.

What’s the connection, you ask?

On Saturday afternoon, we were talking about where to stay the night before our cruise. Our cruise sets sails from Port Canaveral in Florida, and we were thinking of staying in Cocoa Beach. Cocoa Beach made me think of “I Dream of Jeannie,” which is set in Cocoa Beach. I decided I need to hear the theme song, so I found it on YouTube. Then I thought about “The Brady Bunch,” because “I Dream of Jeannie” overlapped with “The Brady Bunch” by one season. That made me think about “The Brady Brides,” the “Brady Bunch” sequel from 1981. Then I started to think about how weird the very early ’80s were, which made me think of Pac-Man, which made me think about the Rubik’s Cube, and I got caught in an online memory hole. I found virtual Rubik’s Cubes online, started reading about Rubik’s Cube solutions, and thought about how my solution book, The Simple Solution to Rubik’s Cube by James G. Nourse, got stolen when I was in third grade. I suddenly decided I wanted a real Rubik’s Cube. So I put on my shoes, walked a few blocks to the nearest toy store, and bought one.

I also found my old solution book online. (Ignore the green arrows – the whole book is on one page, just scroll down.)

Apparently Nourse’s method is the simplest, but not the shortest or most elegant. In third grade I couldn’t quite figure his method out, but on Saturday I did, and now it’s fun to solve the cube with the book’s help. But I’m interested in looking up more elegant methods now.

Oh, and we still need to book our hotel.