Friday, April 29, 2005

Gov. Kulongoski on civil unions

We don’t need no piece of paper
From the city hall
Keeping us tied and true

Joni Mitchell

That was the 1970s, but it has become a sudden and urgent need among homosexuals for that piece of paper from the city hall.

Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski and at least some of the Legislature are trying to give it to them.

In November, Oregon (Oregon!) passed a constitutional amendment clarifying that when we're talking about marriage in our state, we mean one man and one woman -- and not various alternative configurations. The tally was 57% in favor of the traditional marriage format and 43% against.

The clarification became necessary because a handful of Multnomah County (site of Portland, Oregon's largest city) Commissioners met behind closed doors (but definitely not in a smoke-filled room -- although medical marijuana is legal in this state, I have no reason to believe any of the commissioners had a prescription for it) and decided that the phrase passed in 1969 wasn't exactly clear about the required combinations of men and women in marriage.

The issue went to the people, and the people, surprisingly, voted to maintain the traditional definition.

When the Oregon Supreme Court failed to strike down the law, the governor and his allies turned to the Legislature.

I've been interested in a discussion of civil unions, because while I don't believe two people of the same sex can be married (a matter of definition, tradition, the fundamental structure of most multicellular animal life on this planet), I'm also enough of a libertarian to consider facilitating legal documents such as inheritance, survivor benefits, joint ownership and so forth for people who are not married but living together long-term (which would include siblings, parents and children, Platonic friends, as well as homosexual couples).

Well, our governor opened the discussion of civil unions in Oregon by admitting that they're a back door to gay marriage. (I received the entire text of the speech as a press release, but it hasn't appeared on his website, yet. If it doesn't, I'll make it available. E-mail me if you want to see it.) It's long, and I'm skipping down to the part about civil unions.

He opens by talking about "gay rights": "Privacy, liberty, dignity, and equality -- not bigotry -- are what this country is really all about." Noticed that only one of these is in the founding documents; one is a product of late-20th-century exploration of the emanations of the penumbra of the Constitution; one is part of a French Revolution slogan that was never in the U.S. Constitution; and the other is a character trait that history has shown, no one can either give or take away from a person.

Oregon is a very homosexual-friendly place. There are prominent, public homosexuals in all levels of government and industry. At my daughter's middle school one year, a teacher stood up in the orientation assembly and announced that she was a lesbian and hoped all the kids were OK with that. It's true that not everyone considers the homosexual lifestyle copacetic, but what some "victim" groups don't understand is that everybody is disliked by somebody.

So, skipping the first two-thirds of the governor's speech to Basic Rights Oregon, April 27:
As everyone in this room knows, Senate Bill 1000 has two parts. The first is the anti-discrimination provisions that I’ve been talking about. The second is the creation of civil unions in Oregon.

I want you to understand: It is the policy of my administration -- and my deep personal belief -- that creating civil unions for gays and lesbians is no less important than ending discrimination against gays and lesbians. As far as I’m concerned, they stand on the same moral plane.

It is also my deep personal belief -- as well as my view as a lawyer and former Oregon Supreme Court justice -- that denying same sex couples the benefits and protections accorded to opposite sex couples violates the Oregon Constitution. The Oregon Legislature now has the opportunity to remedy that violation by providing same sex couples all of the legal benefits and protections accorded to opposite sex couples.

I know that there is disappointment -- even anger -- among many BRO members over the passage of Measure 36. Defining marriage in the Constitution is wrong for Oregon. I opposed it last year -- and I still oppose it. But we should not let our long-term goal of undoing Measure 36 stand in the way of our more immediate goal of according equality of rights and benefits to same-sex and opposite-sex couples. And we don’t have to.

The Oregon Supreme Court did not answer the question as to whether the Oregon Constitution requires civil unions. However, the Court clearly left the door open for the Legislature to create civil unions. And, frankly, that’s their responsibility. The Legislature can fulfill this responsibility by approving and sending to my desk Senate Bill 1000. This is an opportunity they must not miss!

SB 1000 sets up a legislative structure for civil unions that mirrors, almost word for word, the legislative structure for marriage. Civil unions are not perfect equality. I understand that. But civil unions will provide the same benefits, protections and responsibilities that are incident to marriage -- and will align Oregon with Vermont and Connecticut, and put us light years ahead of every other state except Massachusetts. Let me explain what I mean by “same benefits, protections, and responsibilities.” This is what Section 67(1) of SB 1000 says: “Partners in a civil union have the same privileges, immunities, rights, benefits, and responsibilities under the laws of this state, whether derived from statute, administrative or court rule, policy or common law, as are granted to or imposed on spouses joined in a marriage.”

And Section 67(5)(a) says: “Whenever the term ‘marriage’ or any other term that denotes or includes the marital relationship or the status of marriage is used in the laws of this state, the term includes a civil union.”

This language is sweeping, and it has real practical effect. To take some of the more obvious examples: Civil unions will require a state issued license and can be solemnized by a member of the clergy or a county clerk.
Have you got that, Oregonians? You voted for the marriage amendment, but Kulongoski and the Legislature waited hardly six months before beginning a work-around.
Civil unions will give gay and lesbian partners the same right to make end of life decisions as married spouses. The same right to workers’ compensation survivor benefits and to collect insurance proceeds. The same right to statutorily guaranteed health and disability benefits. The same right to create a family and parent children. The same right to protection under Oregon’s intestacy statutes. The same right to sue to for wrongful death that spouses currently have. And, yes, the same right to dissolve the union with the help of lawyers and the courts.
Wait, didn't he use the term "committed couples" above?
I ended my list by mentioning lawyers for a reason. The whole issue of same-sex marriage and civil unions is practically drowning in a sea of legalisms and legal strategies. That’s true for all three branches of government. I’ve had my say. The Attorney General has had his say. The courts have had their say. And the Legislature -- as it debates SB 1000 -- will have its say.

But what we’ve been debating for the past year is not just about constitutional theory, legal analysis, separation of powers, and who has the best legal argument on their side. This is about the human heart -- and being free to answer its call.

It is hard for me to imagine what my life would like without this freedom. But it is not hard for me to understand how fundamentally unfair it is to deny this freedom to others. To tell another human being: Your longings don’t matter. Your choice of who to love is illegitimate. Your family isn’t a socially acceptable family. All of this is wrong -- and I think ultimately hurts not just gays and lesbians, but our entire community.
It is not the job of the State to validate people's feelings. Some people think heterosexual love is illegitimate. Some people think Christians are enemies of society, and some people think space aliens have landed. The only way to guarantee that homosexuals -- or anybody -- will never feel rejection is to organize the Thought Police.
Fredrick Douglas once said, “No man can put a chain about the ankle of his fellow man without at last finding the other end fastened about his own neck.” Bigotry against homosexuals is not slavery. But it is a chain that keeps both gays and non-gays from moving forward.
The fact that Gov. Ted cites and yet apparently doesn't understand the difference between a literal shackle and a metaphor run wild is troubling in itself. So the chain is tying gays and lesbians to -- what? Kept from moving forward -- where? Held back in what condition?
We need to break that chain -- and free ourselves from the burden of trying to dictate the wants of another person’s heart.
The only one I see dictating here is Gov. Ted.
It is wasted energy that could be much better spent rewarding all committed relationships,
Wait, I thought he wanted them to be able to get divorced
which will in turn improve Oregon’s quality of life by making our children healthier, our communities safer, and our spirits pointed in the direction that I believe they are intended to point, toward finding greater unity among the human family by ensuring greater equality among all its members.

Thank you.
And thank you, Gov. Kulongoski, for clarifying the civil unions debate for us.

UPDATE: This post is also at Blogger News Network.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Enemies of Society

At National Review, Stanley Kurtz talks about troubling trends illustrated by Harper's Magazine's “The Christian Right’s War On America.”
The phrase "campaign of hatred" is a strong one, and I worry about amplifying an already dangerous dynamic of recrimination on both sides of the culture wars. I don’t doubt that conservatives, Christian and otherwise, are sometimes guilty of rhetorical excess. Yet despite what we’ve been told, the most extreme political rhetoric of our day is being directed against traditional Christians by the left.

A man I know asked me the other day what I thought of Anne Coulter. I said I thought she was funny. He said he thought she was an enemy of society.

He's prone to exaggerated rhetoric, but he's not the only place you hear such stuff. The New York Times, and its columnist Frank Rich, are horrified that Christians would gather in a church to discuss national issues important to them. Rich uses terms like "lynching" and "mob" and "demonization" to describe a group of people gathered to hear speakers discuss their point of view about the judicial veto in the Senate. He summarizes by recounting -- as "the closest historical antecedent of tonight's crusade" -- a corrupt televangelist of the 1950s and 1960s.

In the meantime, when the Democrats wanted to have a rally protesting the Justice Sunday rally, they met in -- a Presbyterian Church.

In our time of political correctness and sensitivity, there are a handful of groups around that it's OK to insult -- back in the '90s it was the Serbs; since 2000 and possibly peaking in 2004 it was Bush and his supporters; and, as Kurtz points out, a rising drumbeat of rhetoric against traditional and conservative Christians.

No wonder Leftist Christians want to stand as far away from "fundamentalists" as possible.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Walter Inglis Anderson

Someone prompted me to think of Walter Inglis Anderson this evening. The Mississippi artist, naturalist and Barrier Island pilgrim made a deep impression on me for someone whose book I ran across in a university library about 30 years ago.

The book was The Horn Island Logs of Walter Inglis Anderson, and I can't even remember what prompted me to pick it up on that distant day. He was trained as an artist and did ceramics, sculptures and WPA murals in the 1930s, married and had children. And then mental illness struck -- nervous breakdown, depression, even schizophrenia are cited as diagnoses -- it's enough to say that he couldn't function as an everyday "adult" in a busy world.

He would row from his home in Ocean Springs, usually to Horn Island, 12 miles out, and he might spend weeks there, camping, painting on typewriter paper or in spiral notebooks, sometimes using his art to start fires. His logs tell of finding a can of beans on the beach and attributing it to a gift from Providence. During the 1965 killer storm Hurricane Betsy, he tied himself to a tree on Horn Island to watch the storm.

In the meantime, his wife worked as a teacher and provided a stable home life from which to work, an outbuilding -- garage or glassed-in greenhouse -- for his studio, his wife and daughters giving up what they might have expected from life to accommodate their talented, eccentric father.

When he died, he left tens of thousands of paintings in stacks and piles of notebooks in that studio, as well as his logs, with insights, poetic and profound, like this:
Man begins by saying of course, before any of his senses have a chance to come to his aid with wonder and surprise. The result is that he dies, and his neighbors and friends murmur with the wind, of course! The love of bird or shell which might have restored his life flies away, carried by the same wind which has destroyed him. The bird flies, and in that fraction of a second, man and the bird are real. He is not only king, he is man. He is not only man, he is the only man, and that is the only bird, and every feather, every mark, every part of the pattern of his feathers is real, and he, man, exists, and he is almost as beautiful as the thing he sees.
Maybe he was saner than most of us.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Depend on the Scotsman for details like this

Some background -- a mass grave containing at least 22 bodies of Serbs, murdered apparently by the Kosovo Liberation Army during the 1998-99 war (Clinton's good little war, according to most of those who think we had no right to attack Iraq, but that's a side shot -- back to the point).

Anyway, writes The Scotsman, while international forensics teams dig through garbage for the hidden bodies and while the families of the dead wail and mourn, members of the international "peace"-keeping force lounge around watching the action, taking photos and eating culturally appropriate lunches.

What a world.
"The scene around them on the ridge was one very typical of internationally-administered post-conflict areas like Kosovo.

German NATO soldiers were responsible for providing the physical security of the site; as The Scotsman arrived, a German paratroop lieutenant snapped to attention and saluted smartly.

Trim and dapper Indian riot policemen in blue and black camouflage had escorted the Serb families, and sat quietly in their white UN armoured vehicles eating picnics from lunch-boxes.

German soldiers served up fish-burgers with tartar sauce from a mobile canteen, Swiss soldiers lounged by a stone wall, a polite Nepalese UN policeman noted everybody’s names down on a clipboard, and two Italian soldiers stood around taking pictures.

As the Serb families were led back up the slope, their screaming and wailing grew louder, culminating in an apogee of grief when one woman, sobbing hysterically, dramatically fainted. 'She wanted to kiss the bones,' said Ms Boskovic, standing nearby and watching."

I dreamed . . .

Mesa Verde brick
Originally uploaded by janbear.
I was writing to my blog.

But I neglected to dream what I was writing about.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Look out, Oregonians

Your state is thinking about protecting you again.

You know that peculiar hat you got you got from Great-aunt Velma from a store in the same chain as Meier & Frank? You know how M&F kindly accepted it as a return and issued you a $24 gift card, of which you've gotten around to spending $20 (or even the whole $20, if you haven't gotten around to that yet)?

Well, Senate Bill 845, affectionately known as "Uncle Charlie the moocher," says that since you're not using that $4, he can keep it for you, safe from all those maurauding gift-card suckers, also known as the issuing businesses. He'll just invest the money and collect the interest until you ask for your money back. Unless you forgot to ask to spend that $4 for the next three years, in which case, Oops!, Uncle Charlie sucked it dry himself.

Let's see. This is the party that doesn't like the anti-privacy provisions in the Patriot Act, but they're going to keep track of the funds on all my gift cards? They'd have to add another department for bookkeeping alone. -- provided that the businesses didn't simply stop issuing gift cards in the state.

"It's for the children," is always the excuse.

Thanks, Uncle Charlie. If I want to give it to the children, I'll spend my own $4 on them.

Just because . . .

I like it.

UPDATE: I suppose I should be more specific.

It's a statue of Albert Einstein in Washington, D.C., and what's striking about it is that it's so casual.

I mentioned earlier John McWhorter's book on the dearth of formal speech. Well, this is an informal statue. In another time, we'd have had a dignified bust of the great scientist; more recently, we'd have had an inscrutable mishmash that no one could have recognized without the brass plate identifying the sculpture. Now he's recognizable, and he looks like a grandpa -- or like a child -- and he seems to be watching in indulgence and wonder the people who come to the circle and gaze at the stars. He also seems to be looking inward, as if he's comparing the map of his own soul to the notebook on his lap (if you click through the picture, you'll come to a larger one).

In no other time would the statue of the great scientist seem to invite passing children to be photographed on his lap. McWhorter laments the loss of formal speech, and I think he's right. I also think this statue is beautiful.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

What does this gesture mean?

Can anyone tell me what this gesture means? It looks like he's trying to remove the front spigot cover from a fire hydrant, or maybe he's adjusting the horizontal and vertical hold knobs on an old television set.

I'm sure that both topics are far from the matter at hand, and I've seen the gesture before in lecturers making earnest pronouncements, but I never thought at the time about the meaning of the gesture. I'm sure it's clear in context, but the news story gives only the general context, and the photo caption doesn't say, "Bishop So-and-So gestures as he describes the difficulty of getting balance and fade adjusted after his teen-agers give back the car."

Just wondering.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

An open letter to Sen. Gordon Smith

Dear Sen. Smith --

I wrote to you a few days ago expressing my support for upholding the majority vote on judicial nominees in the U.S. Senate. I assumed that you had already decided not to allow Senate Democrats to use this anti-historical and untraditional means of blocking the judicial appointments of the elected chief executive.

Now the New York Times reports that you are one of a handful of Republican Senators preparing to hand to the likes of Joe Biden, Barbara Boxer and Ted Kennedy an un-Constitutional minority veto power over judicial nominees who would certainly be passed by a majority of the Senate.

Sen. Smith, I don't know if you're drifting leftward because you are aware of how Blue a state Oregon is, but doing this thing will alienate your base more than any other action you have ever taken in your career. I am a staunch conservative, and I simply will not vote for you again under any circumstances if you do this.

On the other hand, if you have any expectations about the loyalty of the Blue State Leftists to a Republican in Name Only, you need only consider the end of the career of Sen. Bob Packwood, who after nearly 30 years of unbroken loyalty to the abortion lobby was pitched out on his ear over actions that would be covered over and forgotten in a Democrat. I don't think you're guilty of Packwood's failings, but as the Bolton hearings show, a man can be blasted into oblivion for putting his hands on his hips and huffing. And everybody has huffed on occasion.

The word is getting out to the party base that this is not about the legislative veto, and Mr. Smith hasn't been in Washington in decades.

Fix the rules, please, and let the Democrats prove their principles by changing them back when they get into the majority.

Thank you for listening.

Monday, April 18, 2005

You Will Be Absorbed

I know that Christ prayed that "all would be one," but I get chills when I hear "unifiying" statements like this one from Cardinal Ratzinger.
Rome must not require more from the East with respect to the doctrine of primacy than had been formulated and was lived in the first millennium. When the Patriarch Athenagoras, on July 25, 1967, on the occasion of the Pope’s visit to Phanar, designated him as the successor of St. Peter, as the most esteemed among us, as one also presides in charity, this great Church leader was expressing the essential content of the doctrine of primacy as it was known in the first millennium. Rome need not ask for more. Reunion could take place in this context if, on the one hand, the East would cease to oppose as heretical the developments that took place in the West in the second millennium and would accept the Catholic Church as legitimate and orthodox in the form she had acquired in the course of that development, while, on the other hand, the West would recognize the Church of the East as orthodox and legitimate in the form she has always had.

So what's the big deal? Isn't he giving in on papal primacy? I'm sure that in the depths of his heart, he's making all the allowances he can. But notice the directions: East and West:
. . . the West would recognize the Church of the East as orthodox and legitimate in the form she has always had

That means Russia can still be Russia and Greece Greece and Romania Romania. But --
the East would cease to oppose as heretical the developments that took place in the West in the second millennium and would accept the Catholic Church as legitimate and orthodox in the form she had acquired in the course of that development

My little parish with its 100 or so families and its married priest and its Orthodox hymnography would be folded into the local archdiocese. And rather than influencing the worldview of that great and large body, its worldview would disappear. The building could probably keep its iconography, as a tribute to its "rich history," and if it remained in the archdiocese at all it would probably function as a wedding chapel rather than a parish -- it's just around the corner from a large Catholic parish, and there aren't enough Catholic priests to staff the parishes the archdiocese has. (I'm not referring to the current archdiocesan administration, because this is not a current possibility.)

Or perhaps the parish would be allowed to become part of the Eastern rite of the Catholic Church. The Eastern rite was permitted in America only because the Eastern European immigrants had an alternative. With "unity" as Cardinal Ratzinger envisions it, there will be no alternative, and the Eastern rite in the United States will wither away.

These developments would not stem from ill will. There's no malicious plot in mind to destroy the Orthodox Church as it exists in America. We are, however, weird and incomprehensible to anyone who has not entered the life, and weird and incomprehensible translates to administrative difficulties -- the same difficulties that Archbishop Ireland and St. Alexis Toth faced at the turn of the 20th century.

I'm not worried about this; there's blessed intransigence on both sides. But when people talk about their earnest desire for unity between East and the West, I thank God for my disorganized religion.

H/T: Fr. Joseph

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Astounding Revelations

I just got a copy of a transcribed meeing between from the producer of the television "religious drama" Revelations and the directors, dated Nov. 4, 2004:

PRODUCER: The network boys say that people in the audience want "values."

DIRECTOR: "Values"? What kind of "values"?

PRODUCER: They didn't say. They thought I'd know what they were talking about and they were in no mood to explain. Something about the election.

DIRECTOR: Republican values?

PRODUCER: Nah. That can't be it. Religious values. That's what it was. Christian values.

DIRECTOR: Christian values? You mean like handling snakes and killing abortionists?

PRODUCER: No. Been there, done that, pissed off the Christians. That's not what we want to do this time.

DIRECTOR: So what kind of stuff do Christians like?

PRODUCER: That's why I called this meeting, for God's sake. I don't know any Christians. Do you?

DIRECTOR: My parents' neighbors in Omaha go to church.

PRODUCER: Good. Now we're getting somewhere. What do they like?

DIRECTOR: Oh, you know. The Left Behind crap.

PRODUCER: Don't call it crap. We're trying to make nice here. (noting) Left Behind crap (erasing). OK. Books. That's a good place to start. What other books are Christians reading?

DIRECTOR: Well, the Da Vinci Code is all about Catholicism and that's selling like lattes in Seattle.

PRODUCER (noting): Da Vinci Code, Catholicism. OK. Let's see what we've got so far: end of the world, Catholics, puzzles. Where can we go from here?

DIRECTOR: I've got it. It's almost the end of the world. And there's this nun -- that's your Catholic angle -- and a physicist who doesn't believe in God just yet -- that's your values angle -- and there are all kinds of signs that they go chasing around the world after.

PRODUCER: Good. Good. Let's run with this. Isn't there a book in the Bible called Revelations?


PRODUCER: That'll be our title.

DIRECTOR: Oh, oh. It was written on the island of Patmos off the coast of Turkey.

PRODUCER (looks at him in awe): Where do you get this stuff?

DIRECTOR: I just remembered somebody saying that when my wife and I were on our Aegean cruise last year.

PRODUCER: Brilliant. Patmos. We'll have Jesus born on Patmos.

DIRECTOR: That'll be expensive.

PRODUCER: Are you kidding? It's cheaper to film in Turkey than in Manhattan. Anyway, we'll just find a dark little Greek church and put some Gregorian chant in the background, lots of ladies in long dark dresses lined up to touch his hand. Give it the spooky, religious flavor.

DIRECTOR: Oh! and we'll have this devil kind of guy quoting Scripture.

PRODUCER: Could work. Better have the nun quote Scripture, too; don't want to piss off the Christians.

DIRECTOR: My writers can't keep up that level of Scripture quoting. They'd have to read the Bible.

PRODUCER: OK. Have the physicist tell her to can it in the first episode.

DIRECTOR: We can do that. I'll get a couple of writers together and set up a meeting through your secretary. When do you want to roll it out?

End of transcript.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Highway avatars

The blue boat of a car came onto the freeway in the morning traffic and slipped in between two trucks. I was in the center lane, and although the left lane was clear, I was not traveling as fast as the cars that had been coming up in that lane all morning. I stayed put. A few carlengths ahead, the blue car put on its left blinker, then turned it off. I thought the driver had seen me coming and decided to wait.

As I came into the car's blind spot, it started coming into the middle lane. I swerved left, missed her, and honked. Even though I could have prevented it by moving left earlier, I muttered, "You're supposed to look before changing lanes."

A mile or so later I'm still in the middle lane, and the boat pulls alongside me and slows to my speed. I look over, and there's a lady driving, early 60s with big hair, and she's waving her forefinger and mouthing the word, "Sorry."

I waved back -- all my fingers.

It's easy to forget sometimes that those inanimate objects of steel and glass and plastic are in a sense the highway avatars of real people. And then a big-haired lady comes along in a blue boat to remind you of errors and repentance and forgiveness -- all at 60 mph.

Ah, the Divine Comedy

Thomas at Endlessly Rocking has characterized the Great Story as a Shakespearean comedy:
Think about it. From the moment of the Fall, what do we see? A villain who seems a prince of light; a merciful King who must disguise himself at various times as now a beggar and now a horrible judge; mistaken identities among lovers; it’s all there. In the end, after all the sorrow, all the mayhem, all the confusion, the King is revealed, loves are sorted out, and there’s a great and marvelous wedding, as befits the end of a comedy. I won’t go into this any farther at this point, but trust me, the Bible tells a comic tale, and we my friends are right in the middle of it.

I think he's onto something.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Sugar and spice and everything nice


Three girls from our town were sentenced recently for chiefing and sexually abusing another girl at an after-prom party last year. Two of them were on my daughter's soccer team back in grade school. They are strikingly pretty, financially well-to-do girls who have never had anything denied to them.

"I still have concerns about their lack of empathy and remorse," Judge Gleason said. "They need evaluation and treatment."

The judge was extremely angry and "nearly threw the book at the girls." I'm not sure which book it was -- maybe a Betty and Veronica comic book. One of the girls has been seriously grounded, at least according to her parents. The one who actually perpetrated the sexual crime had to spend the night in jail. She and the other juvenile are sentenced to 100 (for the "badder" girl; 80 for the "nicer" girl) hours of community service and five years of probation. They have to write a "sincere" letter of apology to the victim (how is that enforceable?) and, like, never do it again.

The dad who provided the alcohol at the party got 24 hours of community service and a $626 fine.

In the meantime, my daughter frequently sees one of the girls buzzing around town in her ever-so-cute chick car, and she's very likely shopping for this year's prom dress.

My daughter was out driving around with a friend of hers, who is a neighbor of one of the perps. The friend is a good Christian, sweet girl, also very pretty and also never had anything denied her. They passed one of the perps and the friend waved. My daughter was outraged. She thinks there should be social consequences -- glares and coldness and certainly not smiles and "Hi! How's it going?"

I'm inclined to agree. (I'm also inclined to envision a firing squad, but that's probably out of proportion.) But we're so damned non-judgmental that we treat the perps like princesses and the victim like a traveling tinker.

Why people look at me funny

I used the word "arguably" in a spoken sentence yesterday, and my boss looked at me quizzically and said, "Did you just say 'arguably'?"

Well, yes.

But this isn't really about my odd speech patterens; rather it's about John McWhorter's Doing Our Own Thing: The Degradation Of Language And Music And Why We Should, Like, Care.

McWhorter laments the fact that Americans have lost appreciation for the beauties of formal rhetoric. He doesn't diss spoken language, and as a linguist, he respects the grammatical fluidities of spoken languages, as well as the rhythms and timing that arise out of a communication that comes out of the speaker unedited and goes into the hearer with no opportunity for reflection.

All the same, America's tradition of rhetorical appreciation is lost to a false idea of democracy and a rejection of formality as artificial and thus bad (actually bad, and not good "bad").

And all my life I've been trying to incorporate elements of polished speech into my daily conversation. Not that I've succeeded -- I have been known to forget the word "potato" -- but if a four syllable word seems to fit what I'm saying, I'll use it. Now I understand why people have always looked at me as if I were brandishing a loaded weapon.

Think how much better adjusted I'd be if I had understood this concept in fifth or sixth grade. Well, too late now. The geek synapses are too firmly set, and the amusement I've gotten over the years has more than paid off the exchange.

But now I understand why I got those looks.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Another dissenting voice on applause

Fr. John Whiteford also thinks applause at Pope John Paul's funeral is weird. Fr. John writes:
It seems to me that applause during a worship service is the final step in the process of making the services a show. This is not unconnected with the innovation of the pew, which invites people to sit and watch, rather than to stand and pray. In the Scriptures, it is clear that public worship was always done either while standing, or bowing, but never while sitting.

OK, now there's two of us. It's the beginning of a revolution.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Finding the value of failure

I arrived in speed building in my court reporting class last week. I had gotten to the end of Phoenix theory, theoretically having learned all I needed to record anything in the English language -- all, of course, except speed.

So I went into the first speed-building class, the one where they test at 60-80 words per minute. You do a few practice runs at increasing speeds, take the dictation, type up your notes and hand it in. The teachers say you should always type up your notes. You can't lose anything by it, and when you pass two tests in each of three categories at 95%, you move on to the next speed.

It had been so comfortable before. Finishing the book. Focusing on accuracy rather than speed. Doing . . . the . . . dictation . . . at . . . a . . . speed . . . like . . . this (30-40 wpm). Now, I'm back at the bottom, and the dictation moves along at double the pace, though still more slowly than anyone actually speaks.

There's a guy in my class who had never turned in a test, though he's been in the class at least a couple of months. He just never felt that he had done well enough to make it worth typing up the notes. But I, on my second day, turned in a test. Though I knew I had left some stuff out, I had nothing to lose, I thought. If I make 50%, I told myself, that's halfway to the next level.

Tonight I got my test back. I had done the format all wrong -- and one of the school administrators came in during class to give me a packet of information I had received but had failed to memorize -- and the grader gave up less than halfway through the test. Still riding on my earlier optimism, I said to my classmates, "Less than 71%. That's progress." The guy who hadn't taken the test before seemed thoughtful. "You know where you're starting from."

When the testing came around this evening, I knew which were the 80 tests and which were the 60 tests. It wasn't Q&A, so I couldn't get the format wrong. I had practiced over the weekend and noted a miniscule improvement. But when the time came to turn in the test, I had lost my nerve.

The guy turned his in, though.

I hope he gets a 95%.

Memory Eternal

To Archbishop Iakovos of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in America, forced out of office in 1996 by the Patriarch of Constantinople for calling a meeting of Orthodox bishops at Ligonier, aiming for Orthodox unity in the United States.

The multiple Orthodox jurisdictions in America are a heresy and a scandal; we are bedeviled by cultural misunderstandings, quirks of history, turf wars, and fears of losing American funding for strapped Old Country churches. Archbishop Iakovos acted with great courage and then accepted his punishment gracefully. I hope that his name appears prominently in the history of that search for unity.

UPDATE: This column by Terry Mattingly is a good overview of the archbishop's life and witness.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

The Bishop of Cyberia strikes again

Bishop Tikhon (my bishop, if you want to know how loyal I am to the Church that glimmers like a mud-spattered diamond through time and space) has given us another argument for his retirement:
I don't like much about our times. All this humbug about the corpse of another Pope. The world is not that much diminished by his passing. The world was, however, diminished by the passing of Ray Charles and J. Hunter Thompson. As far as the Christianity of the USA goes, it is not the Pope, but Jimmy Carter who, as the only truly devout Christian President in our time, keeps the memory of a country with Christian aspirations alive, even when its present government is busy abolishing the freedoms of its citizens, and its adherence to decency, as well as morality in government.

I love the music of Ray Charles, and I think Hunter Thompson was a tragic story in the full meaning of the word, and though I think Jimmah Carter is slimy, mean and stupid, and on a short list for the worst president in American history, when he dies, I will keep my mouth shut and let those who admire him have at least 40 days of grief before I reiterate that I think he's slimy, mean, stupid, etc.

Nevski at Novae Militiae said, "Someone has suggested, in light of Vladyka's gift of being able to offend someone somewhere every time he opens his mouth, that he should be renamed Tikhoff."

H/T: Orthodox Net.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Maybe it's working

In a story datelined Myrtle Creek, Oregon, the Associated Press reports that public school districts are trying to woo homeschooled familes back into the schools.

Here are the highlights:
In Myrtle Point, the district is trying to phase in some courses that could prove particularly appealing to home-school parents, such as forestry, ecology and computer science.

Superintendent Robert Smith said the school system is also willing to adjust the curriculum -- for example, by allowing discussion of creationism in biology class, or biblical literature in English courses.

"We're not setting up a church steeple. But students want academic freedom enough to encourage different things, and that should not be stifled by relying on exclusive treatments," Smith said.

Myrtle Point, with an enrollment of 779, is not the only district pursuing such a strategy.

In Walla Walla, Wash., school officials have launched plans for a new learning center that they hope will attract at least 30 home-school students, to help cope with a projected $200,000 in budget cuts next school year.

A school district in Fort Collins, Colo., started a program aimed at drawing home-schooled youngsters into the system with two days a week of art, science and music. In 2003, it earned the district an extra $203,341 in state funding.

Of course it's not enough for some familes, because the lack of enhanced subjects wasn't why they left in the first place, and there will be others like the Myrtle Creek school board member who accused homeschooling parents of "cherry-picking" music and sports.


If school boards are asking, "Why did they leave?" they might learn something useful. If they're asking, "How can we help give families the education they want for their children?" they might find ways for everybody to gain. And the ones who seek to cooperate with families instead of trying to make them fit into some kind of mold will see the flowering of a lot of different kinds of educational experiments.

My own favorite of the "experiments" is Portland's Agia Sophia Academy, an Orthodox Christian classical school. I wish it had been around when my kids were young enough for it.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Satire or a lovely daydream?

It's hard to tell, as Fr. Joseph Huneycutt breaks the news that Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople has been elected to be the next Pope of Rome.

Reconciliations all round, as the MP and ROCOR kiss and make up, the Greeks are permitted to be part of the American Church, and the OCA and AOA say, "Heck, why not?"

What he doesn't cover is the rage and anguish among the the advocates of women priests, rock'n'roll Masses and "applause prayers." That, however, could be the best part.

Some kinds of prayer I don't understand

A Catholic priest from a "traditionalist" parish was keeping vigil in St. Peter's Square with thousands of others when the announcement came that the pope was dead.

To pick up the story:
Within moments, a cardinal announced to the crowd that the pope had "gone home to his Father's house."

After a moment of stunned silence, a reverent round of applause swept the plaza.

"It was not the raucous clapping like you might have at music events or something like that," the priest wrote. "It really was a prayer for the pope."

I don't doubt his sincerity or love or loyalty, but how weird is it that smacking one's hands together to produce a noise has become a form of prayer? I could expect it from American Pentecostals maybe, since that faith tradition has grown up in the shadow of the American popular culture. But Catholics, and among them a "traditionalist" Catholic, in Rome?

Maybe it's just me -- and I know I have my quirks -- but this seems to treat the pope's life and death as a long and successful performance, rather than a life of ministry.

Here's a BBC piece on applause, from Caesar Nero to the present time. It's all about performance, but not about prayer.

Mothers and daughters

The girl sitting across from me on the bus doesn't remember me, but she was on my daughter's third-grade soccer team eight years ago.

She was a beautiful child, with a mass of thick, wavy, blonde hair, which she wore in a long braid. Her mother had a no-nonsense appearance -- comfortable shoes, no makeup, no jewelry, and well-made, practical clothes. There were some moms I could imagine dressed for a cocktail party, but she wasn't one of them.

One day my daughter waved good-bye with a cheery, "Bye, Jessie!" The mother corrected her sternly: "It's Jessica, or Jess if you must, but not Jessie." Well, oooooookay.

For soccer picture day, the mother held her daughter in place so that she could braid her hair into an ornate French braid. I was surprised at this woman who dressed so plainly being so decorative with her daughter, and I wondered if maybe, like me, she dressed plainly because she gave up following the fashions, but wanted to emphasize the beauty she saw in her daughter.

Eight years later, the girl is wearing dark cargo pants and a black sweatshirt, her hair pulled back in a ponytail, no makeup. She looks a lot like her mother. She is a pretty teen-ager who will be a handsome woman, but she is not at all frou-frou -- except for professionally shaped eyebrows.

We try so hard to give our children what we lack, but end up giving mostly what we have an abundance of.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

That's it

Outer Life has captured what I'm trying to get from court reporting school He calls it superfluidity: (as good a name as any):
Not to be confused with superfluity, a very different goal, superfluidity is an unusual state of matter characterized by a frictionless flow. This state of matter has so far been observed only in liquid helium cooled down near absolute zero, but I hope over my remaining years to develop my own permanent state of frictionless flow.

Superfluidity is like the Taoist ideal of wu-wei, action without action. It's akin to what athletes call the 'zone,' their elusive source of effortless achievement. It's losing yourself, it's a state of grace, it's nirvana, the ultimate melding of thoughts, senses, abilities and actions into a perfect harmony of living.

Superfluidity applies to more of life than taking down other people's conversations, but as Outer points out in his sports examples, there are different ways to pierce the bubble. I think stenography is one of them.

Trying to pass my 60 wpm tests, so I have a long way to go.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Ah Spring!

It was a crazy morning. Young-adult daughter's car is in the shop, and we're sharing a vehicle. I dropped her off at school, ran across town for an interview for the day job, went back to pick her up at school and leave her the car for the rest of her afternoon work.

I arrived at lunchtime, and found a pretty blonde (my daughter) and a pretty brunette (a schoolmate of hers) waiting. Daughter would give schoolmate a ride home after they dropped me off at the Oregon City transit mall, but I had some intervening stops. First, the gas station, where daughter got the attendant, a goateed 20-something, talking about the most recent time a car's gas tank caught fire. Her friend teased her about flirting, which she insisted she wasn't, and then pointed out as we drove away that he had gone back into the office and pulled his shirt off.

Next stop, Taco Bell, where we arrived at the same time as the Oregon City High School lunch break. Three guys in a headache-mobile behind us in the drive-through started off by saying what cute girls were in the car ahead (that would be daughter and friend), then hopping out of the car to "test" the volume and quality of the speakers, and then, when that didn't work, the driver shouted, "West Linn sucks!" I would have questioned the effectiveness of insulting the girl's home town as a pickup line, but I guess if the speakers don't impress her, you just go for broke.

Then I stopped at the Oregon City transit mall so that I could catch a bus (it's good to be back on the bus). Daughter came around to get into the driver's seat, and friend got out and into the passenger seat, and as I crossed the street, the slackers standing waiting for the bus asked me, "Is that your daughter? Can I have her number?"

Ah, spring, when a young man's heart turns to love -- and his brain turns to mush.

Monday, April 04, 2005


Your womb became more spacious than the heavens . . . .

She had been through a rough time, partly of her own making, and she had come home -- to the place where "if you have to go there, they have to take you in." We took her to the emergency room to be checked out, and the doctor found something none of us had expected.

During Lent in the Orthodox Church, at every Liturgy, we sing a hymn that draws out the mystery of the Incarnation:
All of creation rejoices in you, O full of grace,
The assembly of angels and the race of men,
O sanctified temple and spiritual paradise, glory of virgins,
From whom God was incarnate and became a child, our God before the ages.
He made your body a throne and your womb he made more spacious than the heavens.
All of creation rejoices in you, O full of grace, glory to you.

They took her in for an ultrasound and found a new little person, just a few weeks along, a 3 mm. black dot against the speckled white backdrop of the screen. In the image, the blood flow to the new life appeared as yellow and orange flashes, the color of fire.

My browser's home pages is the Astronomy Picture of the Day. Every day, I see pictures of earth, Mars, distant moons, dying suns and sprouting galaxies, and often, the starry sky looks just like the image of that 3 mm. "clump of cells," already unique, already of the same species God became, already in the grand scheme of things, Somebody.

"He made . . . your womb more spacious than the heavens . . . ."

Of course, it's uniquely true of Christ and the Theotokos, His mother, but if each person is made in the image of God, then each person is a universe, bigger on the inside than on the outside, bearing the "logos," the identifying mark of the Creator.

And every womb that bears a child is more spacious than the heavens.

"All of creation rejoices . . . ."

Sunday, April 03, 2005

You thought it couldn't happen here?

My parish was one of the venues for the Valaam Ensemble, singers who support the Valaam Monastery in Russia. We only had numbers 1, 3 and 5 in the photo above, because the other two couldn't get visas to come to America.

The tenor, baritone and bass came to the United States on business-tourism visas. The other two, because they are full-time professional musicians, would have had to get performance visas, and for that, they would have had to have an agent or to be hired at musicians' union wages -- no free concerts in churches and colleges to share a wealth of Russian music and collect free-will offerings to rebuild a historic monastery in Russia.

This is their fourth trip to the United States, and the first time they've had this problem.

Which brought to mind a recent article about an opera conductor who was arrested for bringing Eastern European musicians to put on operas in small towns in France. These towns couldn't afford to host operas staffed by French union musicians, but this touring company, staffed with musicians from Ukraine or Bulgaria, bring great music to the towns. The conductor was arrested for violating France's union-protection laws.

Let's just hope our State Department is as serious about keeping out terrorists as it is about outlawing renegade musicians.