Friday, November 07, 2008


Great lady, artist, mezzo -soprano Jane Struss sends this report of election night:


We were at a young friend's house, who is a community organizer, now at the Heller School at Brandeis and he had a projector with different stations screened on the wall. All the 20-somethings had gone...they didn't remember the awful election of 2000 when we went to bed thinking to wake up to President Gore and got something else instead. We weren't about to leave until McCain made his concession speech. So there were me and Rudy, both Davids, Hank and David's father (an Episcopal priest who is a riot...and he had brought a bottle of good whiskey and one of champagne for either eventuality. We ended up with the champagne, thank God, but we each had to try a little whiskey...I still can't stand the taste.) When they announced for Obama at 11:01 I started crying, as did everyone else, as we watched the crowds in Chicago and Jesse Jackson standing there with tears streaming down their cheeks and looking like he couldn't believe the miracle. I called my granddaughter Heidi in Utah, who had been so excited about the election and her first time voting and she was asleep! How innocent they are in a way, and how idealistic too. Then McCain's very gracious concession speech, then drove home to hear Obama's. A message on the machine from my 11 year old granddaughter Elizabeth: "Where are you Nona, Grandpa, he won, he WON!" This form an 11 year old in Flagstaff, AZ. Afterwards great noise from Harvard Square...apparently streets blocked off and everyone crowding into them. I sort of wish we'd gone down, or at least out to Mass. Ave. Rudy and I certainly didn't sleep much. Anyway, in the words of my student Abby Rockefeller (and she should know) "I took my first real breath in 40 years." It really is a new day when anything is possible (in the best sense). And in Michael Moore's words: "Wow! Wow!!"

Much love, Jane

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


I sent out an e mail to friends all over the country asking them how the voting process was going in their neighborhoods. I didn't ask for political affiliations and I tried hard not to proselytize. Here are some responses:


GROVE CITY, OHIO: We voted early, on Friday at 5:30 in the morning. The line was long and though no obvious electioneering was going on, I had a strong sense of Democratic leaning in the crowd. Not to mention we were among the color minority in line, which is an odd and yet appreciated experience having grown up in white middle class America.

NEW YORK CITY: Dirty trix. Voter fraud. Fascist chicanery. Let us pray. But to whom or what?

BROOKLINE, MA: No problems at all where I voted this morning: arrived at 9:20, was on my way to work 40 minutes later, which is the same amount of time it typically takes in my neighborhood. ....totally sick of paying attention to polls, commentators, etc.

TUCSON, AZ: I was at OSU for grad school in 1969-70 and was vice chair of the local chapter of the SDS, organizing a dozen bus loads of Buckeyes for the Vietnam moratorium in Washington, DC in Nov.'69....Arizona is actually in play for Obama. I voted early so avoided today's long lines. I'm a lawyer volunteering for Obama and I have had no calls today about any serious problem at the local polls.

CALIFORNIA: I had no wait when I went to vote between 3:30 and 4:00, actually had a choice of two booths. The line where I was to sign my name was more than halfway down the page and every name above mine was marked as having received a mail-in ballot. The state is expecting more than a million voters over the 2004 level. There was lots of sign waving on street corners as I went about my day...An article in today's paper is predicting tomorrow as the biggest "day after Christmas" letdown. The presents were more interesting before they were opened.

VIRGINIA: Thank you, Ohio. Virginia helped too, turning Blue for a nice change from its customary Red.

WEST CHESTER, PA: I did what the collective wisdom called for....waited for the poor bastards who have to commute to work to finish their early AM voting. I arrived at the polls five minutes before nine. I had peed...and brought a book, a tiny portable TV, my blackberry, bottled at er and a snack. I wore my most comfortable shoes, but left home the little fold up camp stool...that was a little to geek wimp. I was ready to vote! MY polling place is typical Chester Springs....located in a private country school. I had amazing parking karma...a young woman who was leaving told me the wait was two hours. She was appropriately dressed to stand in a long line with heels that would only be loved by a fan of "sex and the City". OUCH. But you had to give her credit, she voted and she wore her Dolce and Gabbanas.....Everyone i line was animated and uncharacteristically chatting with everyone and anyone as a long wait was anticipated. To my astonishment a poll worker came down the line to tell us that anyone whose name was between N and Z could move up to the right....My vote experience lasted all of ten minutes. I took my time to fill in EVERY vote and went over it three times to make sure my vote COUNTED with a SHOUT when it went through the scanner. My receipt was torn off the bottom of my vote and I took it in both hands like I had been handed the original copy of the Declaration of Independence.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK: I just learned that two members of my family voted for McCain and two didn't vote at all. I am horrified. HORRIFIEDDDDDDD!

WAYLAND, MA: Voted after the commuters, at ten. No lines in our leafy village, but a steady stream of people at the town building. All the UUs were out, singing sixties songs and marshaling the sign of these good Christian types tried to draft me into the UU choir, nothing doing buddy, my choir days are over.
We all awaited the arrival of local state senate hopeful, on Ms. Orozco, for whom we have worked and upon whom we have showered our largess. A greenie. No show. Phooey. I just realized I voted with my Obama button in plain sight which is against the law but I assume vote will count. Nobody wrestled it from my grandmotherly boozum....Not that voting Dem around here means much. But it was sooooooo satisfying to make my little Sharpie marks...Maybe I'll finally sleep tonight; hopefully after the long awaited dance in the streets.

WASHINGTON, D.C.: The war is over. We have overcome.

SEATTLE: I live in the bluest area of a cobalt blue city in a blue state.
This morning at 10 my son and I (my wife voted absentee) waited for 15 minutes to vote, something that has never happened to me in the 25 years I have been voting in the same precinct...I was upset about Barack's grandmother too. I thought she would hold on, as old people often do, until after the election. It must have been really painful for him, but as my assistant said maybe she thought she could do more good up there than in Hawaii.

MASSACHUSETTS: I voted at 7:30 AM, expecting a certainly wasn't empty but no lines. Since I can walk there, I was going to take the dog but at the last minute, thought better of it. Here in MA, we voted not to get rid of the state income tax, and to lighten the crime of marijuana possession and to ban greyhound racing. I'm all in favor of dogs, but I fear the animals will jut be shipped to a state where they have fewer retirement benefits...nothing is all that simple.

COLCHESTER, CONNECTICUT: Here on the street word is that the Irish guy is going to win here. No, not the Mac guy. O'Bama. Chances are, anyway. Double digit leads in the polls, and all....My wife and I, along with out 19 year old daughter, braved the epic lines at Colchester Town Hall to cast our ballots. There was one other dad-about-town approaching the front door as we arrived....he made a big deal about how there was no line to wait in. He'd been there since 6 and the line was ridiculous. Sue and I marked the appropriate ovals on the 8-1/2 x 11 card ($.025 each the registrars told us when Cait registered last month) and fed them through the scanner. We greeted friends and neighbors and waited for our college kid to complete her ballot. Taking a long time here, what's up? Oh, turns out the kid marked a couple of names on one of the major party lines and then realized that they were endorsed by third parties, and wished she had marked those ovals instead. Oh, well. Vote and learn. I walked out of Town Hall because my oldest kid had voted. My life has served a purpose.

CHEMNITZ, GERMANY: Enough of this e mail shit. I need a telephone number! Please send me yours!

Monday, November 03, 2008


Louis ("Studs") Terkel, broadcaster, oral historian, raconteur and Chicago fixture for over seventy years, died last Friday at the age of 96.
You can learn more about him from

In 2005 when he was promoting his book "And They All Sang: Adventures of an Eclectic Disc Jockey" I spoke to Studs Terkel. I was promised ten minutes and we went on for over half an hour. He was still quite young then, 93.
Our talk will be a podcast at shortly.

Meanwhile, here are
some written selections:


"I was an asthmatic little boy, eight years old when I was brought to live in Chicago in 1920. The smell of the stockyards cured my asthma right away."

In our talk, Mr. Terkel goes on to explain the 75 year love affair he had with Chicago. He made me want to move there.


"Every radio soap opera back in those days had three gangsters.
The bright one, the middle one and the dumb one. I was always the dumb one.
And I always died, just before the first commercial break...Later hey wanted us to wear tuxedos for the studio audience. You looked like a gangster going to his sister's wedding. But I became a disc jockey before the term was invented."


"Raisa! How does someone your age know Raisa? You are the first person your age to ask me about Rosa Raisa! What a great, magnificent voice. She was the greatest Norma ever, better than Callas....She loved to sing with Caruso. He invented the gramophone, you know. Any immigrant who could scrape together a quarter could buy a recording of Caruso singing 'Celeste Aida'....

NOTE: Rosa Raisa (1893-1963) born Raissa Burchstein in Poland. Dramatic soprano.
Prima donna of the Chicago Opera, 1915-1940. Puccini wrote the title role in his final opera, Turandot for her. She sang the premiere in Milan in 1926, two years after Puccini died. Although her career was international, Raisa, like Terkel, was a Chicago institution.


People want to know how to survive with dignity...remember I told you there was a machine that saved my life? And there's a machine that can destroy us all. And this is our choice. We live in a world of sanity. There's enough imagination in the human race to create this world that makes me, at ninety-three, live with a new kind of verve..."


This is the first election I've really looked forward to in a long time.
Here in Columbus, Ohio we are the blue dot dead center in a red state.
My neighborhood, zip codes 43202 and 43214, is the blue dot in the center of the blue dot. It's a very blue dot,so the pundits tell you.
I'd say the lawn signs on my street and to a few streets north are evenly divided.
Go one block south, and continue on for two miles and you are Obama Obama Obama. I refer to the neighborhood as our version of Cambridge, MA when it was funky.
Same gender households, university faculty, there's even a food co-op (with labor problems!). All we need are a few Hare Krishna.

We have lines upon lines of people are voting early. Part of me thinks that its a mistake to vote early. It is such a privilege in this country to vote that it doesn't have to be comfortable of convenient. On the other hand, if more people are voting, if its giving us a huge turn out, so be it.

We have a sign in our yard for a Republican candidate for state senator. I've gotten looks. Nothing more, just looks. Said candidate was very supportive of my daughter's school and came to visit immediately when asked. He was very open to talking about special needs kids and he listened carefully and respectfully. His opponent didn't respond to the invitation. So this guy gets my vote for office.

I hope to be at my polling place at 6 am and I'll hardly be the first in line.
Good luck to us all!


Music by John Adams
Libretto by
Peter Sellars

First performance: San Francisco Opera, September 1, 2005
In performance now at the Metropolitan Opera
Live HD transmission to cinemas world wide, Saturday November 8th at 1 PM EST.
For theater near you:

A New Englander named John Adams who writes operas might cause audiences some confusion. The composer John Adams was born in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1947 (and up home we say 'Woostah'). To my knowledge he's never held elected office and he's very much a man of the 21st century. His early pieces, 'Grand Pianola Music', 'Harmonium' and 'Shaker Loops' positioned him as our most performed living American composer. Adams won the Pulitzer Prize for Music for his cantata 'On the Transmigration of Souls', written for the New York Philharmonic to commemorate the 9/11 attacks. He has long left behind the label minimalist composer as his own voice has taken over, and his works enter the mainstream.

Doctor Atomic is Adams's third opera. The first, 'Nixon in China', attracted attention not just for its subject matter but also for Alice Goodman's biting libretto and the inventive staging of Peter Sellars. The Adams-Goodman-Sellars collaboration continued with 'The Death of Klinghoffer'. This opera is the subject of a recent (and brilliant) film by Penny Woolcock, who has directed Doctor Atomic at the Metropolitan.

The task of setting the story of J. Robert Oppenheimer and the development of the atomic bomb to music was the suggestion of Pamela Rosenberg, then General Director of the San Francisco Opera. Adams long ago earned the dubious title of "King of the CNN Operas". The characters you meet in his operas are well remembered by many,
and they often turned up in the papers or the evening news. What has always impressed me about Adams's operas is his insistence on the humanity of all of his characters. You may not like his politics, but Richard Nixon was presented with the dignity due the President of the United States. 'The Death of Klinghoffer' remains very controversial not only for the horrible death of the title character but for the humanity with which Goodman and Adams depicted the Palestinian hijackers. Adams and Sellars avoid caricature in 'Doctor Atomic.' Sellars ads verses of John Dunne, Muriel Rukeyser and the Bhagavad-Gita to his libretto, since these are poets and works known to jhave been dear to Oppenheimer.

Central to this opera is the relationship between Oppenheimer and his wife, Kitty. Imagine the conflict, creating something whose sole purpose is destruction on a massive scale. What does the do to the inventor? To his marriage and his loved ones? What about those who support the invention and argue that its necessary for the end of war and the safety of the world? The engine of Adams's music will tell the story of these characters in an opera that will I'm sure leave you impressed, and moved.

John Adams's new memoir 'Hallelujah Junction' is a good read.
His web site is