Tuesday, November 30, 2004

California vakay blogomatic

After doing due diligence with both sets of folks for Thanksgiving, Greg and I are winding up with a little business and pleasure combination in San Diego and flying back Thursday. All of this gives me the occasion to get in a little time in one of my favorite cities and do blogging from another locale while on vacation, which I always think should count in double-coolness blogosphere redemption stamps.

So after depositing Greg at his workplace du jour, I left the car and hoofed it to my nearest Kinko's. This enabled me to get in a little walking time in downtown San Diego. It's a lovely area -- full of enough coffee houses and little ethnic restaurants to fulfill the needs of the perpetually sunglass-wearing crowd but masking its density and high-rise profile behind historic charm. You encounter a lot of the beautiful older stone and brick facades that are in such short supply in southern California, which gives the little blocks enough personality that you don't mind the inevitable bother of one-way streets and endless construction. And there's life on the streets, unlike the wide and unpopulated sidewalks in my old home base of Orange and LA counties. (Though the life manifests itself in interesting ways, as I remembered on the way here when a fairly normal-looking fifty-something woman in a Santa hat straightened up as we walked past each other and said to me with great sincerity, "How do you know I'm not married?" I shrugged with feeling. You got me there.)

So here's a few odds and ends before the new keyboard and the silly Kinko's chair that wants me to be fully reclining while I type annoy me too much and I have to find a Starbucks to rejuvenate myself.

***

On blogosphere numbers:
Greg the Husband sent me this article about the expanding world of Blog. There's nothing new in saying that new blogs are being added on at an astronomical pace, but I appreciate a little perspective on that, like this bit of context by Weblogs Inc. founder Jason McCabe Calacanis:
There are millions of blogs, but I would say less than 1 million are updated
regularly. So less than 1 percent of the country is blogging, but that figure is going to grow over the next five years to some percentage of the folks who e-mail today.
***

Democrat crisis control:
Interesting editorial in today's Wall St. Journal from Joe Trippi who managed Howard Dean's campaign entitled "Only the Grassroots Can Save the Democrat Party" (subscription only, so I can't link to it). Leaving aside for a minute why the Democrats should pay a lot of attention to the manager of a presidential candidate who, y'know, failed, it's still worth considering his bullet-pointed list of how to save the day. It's probably worth even less for The Most Republican Woman in Ortho-blogosphere to add my thumbs up or thumbs down, but keeping my opinions to myself isn't a strong-point:

* Don't ignore the base. The heck with centrists and swing-voters. -- Thumbs up. I would say the same to the right. Be what you are -- stop pretending to be everything else in between. You don't fool anyone and you look like you don't like being what you are.

* "Democrats must reconnect with the energy of our grass roots." -- One thumb up while the other one scratches my head. What does that mean exactly? All through the article Trippi invokes "grass roots" and the benefits to be derived therefrom without ever quite saying what he means by that. I suppose it might be best defined by what it's not. Grass roots aren't Hollywood left, academician left, pundit left or any of the other high-profile movers and shakers that shape the party. Grass roots are those who don't feel addressed by any of the bombast of the elite wing and those who don't have much money to give. It probably is a good idea to involve those people, but it seems to conflict with his first point. Many of these are not the types that are willing to say "I am a Democrat" (or Republican for that matter), and view themselves as centrist.

* Host and moderate Grassroots Councils in every county. Take politics out of Washington D.C., and into Bat's Grommet, N.M. etc. -- Thumbs stuck up my nose. Grassroots Councils? Sounds like an Amway party without the personal warmth. Goodness knows stuff like this sometimes works, but I don't know how.

* Don't ignore state and local DNC. -- Thumbs twiddling. Don't know enough to comment, though it sounds like a good, if obvious, idea.

* Find innovative ways to support organized labor's growth -- One thumb up, one down. I feel conflicted. The part of me that thinks that the conservative agenda works better for the country than liberal agenda hopes that they waste a lot of time on this hopeless goal. But if I was trying at all to be objective, I'd tell them that trying to engineer the entire economy and workforce to the days when labor unions were necessary and effective -- let alone hold back the forces of global communication and commerce that have resulted in massive outsourcing of non-professional jobs -- is like trying to hold back a tidal wave by hitting it with a stick.

* Be the vehicle for changing our failed political system by placing stricter money restrictions on candidates -- one thumb up. Likelihood that the DNC will actually do this: virtually nil. Turn down all that shiny money from George Soros? Yeah, right.

* Develop bold ideas and challenge people to sacrifice for the public good -- two thumbs totally up. Going back to the first point -- be liberal. Go ahead. My thought is that once the experiment is tried it will be clear to everyone what works and what doesn't about a pure liberal agenda, but if we never try, we'll never know.

***

Lunch critique:
Lunched with Greg at one of the small taco places that he loves. Two words of advice for the owners:
* a fish taco is a lightly battered, herb-seasoned ounce or two of fish in a taco filled with cabbage. It isn't a plank of Long John Silver's cod with lettuce all over it on a tortilla. Let's get right.
* if you have a cousin who paints badly, you don't owe it to them to hang their stuff on the wall. If you paid anything for the paintings of deformed people in serapes, you were robbed.

***

Summing up Orthodoxy for non-Orthodox:
Karl's anniversary list of favorite posts continues to provide fascinating observations, particularly as every post has links to other posts. In this post about the cult of the nice, there was this thought from SockMonk:
Orthodox Christians have no grounds to be proud of their own accomplishments or lofty spirituality. But please forgive us if we insist on pointing to the most competent and effective hospital we have been able to find for our own diseases and hurts.

***

A Very Un-PC Christmas to you:
This reprint from Huw brings up a good point for those people, myself included, who are still trying to arrive at the best answer of what to say (if anything) along the lines of 'Merry Christmas'.
A Christian wishing the "greetings of the season" wishes to say, "Your religion maybe good enough for you so, enjoy it". It is not what is heard by the other party, however. What the Christian should say is "The Incarnation is not just for me, but also for you if you will accept it..." and so "Merry Christmas" or "Christ is Born!" is the right thing to say -- that or nothing. The Non-Christian will hear such a sentiment even if all we say is "Happy Holidays".

I'm inclined to agree. People will hear "Christmas" in whatever you say -- why not actually say it? What's the worst that could happen? I think we "sensible" Orthodox are afraid of looking like we're coming on too strong (like those frightful Protestants) but somewhere along the way, I often feel guilty of being ashamed of Christ, let alone being a man-pleaser.

Something to work on, and only 26 Repenting Days till Nativity!

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

When cubicle-dwellers have issues

Orthodox salmagundi (Advent fast-friendly, of course)

Some odds and ends from here and there.

***

This, from the Orthodox convert list-serv, which was asked the Orthodox view on the anti-Christ:

From Fr. David Moser:

It is certainly an Orthodox belief that just before the second coming of Christ, the end of all things and the great judgement there will be a man who is "the antichrist" who will deceive many (in fact most) and claim the "place" of Christ. But there is nothing that "identifies" who this is to be ahead of time, nor is there any reason or encouragement to "indentify" him. The way that law enforcement agents are taught to identify counterfeit money is not by studying counterfeits, but by learning to know the "real thing" -- the counterfeit is then exposed by what it is not. Our task is to learn to know "the real thing" that is Christ and then the antichrist will be obvious by what he is not.


From Silouan

I kinda like to stick to the stuff I DO understand but can't do. GK Chesterton said "St. John saw many strange things in his revelation, but nothing as strange as his interpreters."

***

The biggest story you'll never read: It may already be old news on the Ortho-blogosphere that the Pope is returning these stolen relics, but it amazed me to think that the Western Church is making a gesture to make amends for the injustice done during the Crusades.

***

Angry Catholics have apparently vandalized their own cathedral trying to purify the church against the incursion of gay Catholics.

There's a right way to do things and a wrong way. This is the wrong way.

****

There's a fine post from the Magazine That Shall Not Be Mentioned concerning a proper perspective for Thanksgiving. (If you're a born skimmer, like I am, you can skip to the last graph.)

And so the virtues of patriotism are secondary but real---as real as any of our loyalties, short of those to God Himself. We should be thankful for the peerless gift of this rich and abundant land. With all its faults, it has been a refuge for all of humanity—an island of prosperity and order and democracy in a cruel and violent world, and a place where the most vital of all liberties, the freedom to worship God in spirit and truth, has been cherished and enshrined in our fundamental institutions.

We constantly fail to appreciate the magnitude of this legacy---and the responsibilities entailed in it. We should live in gratitude and faithfulness to it, even as we built upon it in our own ways. We should strive to be worthy of our forebears’ hopes, their dreams, their sacrifices, and their love. We should pray for the strength and wisdom and discipline to be good stewards of this gift. And yes, we are obliged to improve and purify and preserve it, so that the generations to come will also have reason to be thankful that we were here.

Yet even as we give thanks for our nation, the example of the Pilgrims reminds us that this beautiful place is not our home. That we were made not for it, or for any other earthly nation, but for God alone. That even this great nation, like all things here below, is imperfect, and will perish someday. That even as we make our homes, plant our gardens, and raise our families here, there will come a time when those families are no more, when our yet-unborn grandchildren will be vanished, our houses torn down, every earthly grace and beauty decayed into dust and scattered in the air. That this city on a hill is, like every earthly city, not a city for us to abide in.



Happy Thanksgiving, all!

Adventures with dog -- first snow

WHOMP!

It must have made that noise, though I slept through it. But we got so much snow in such a short time, it had to have sounded something like that. I took the dog out at nine-ish last night and there was no snow. We'd been hearing that we would get snow, and so I bothered to remark out loud to the dog, "We're not going to get any snow tonight." She looked unimpressed with my prognosticating abilities, but then she had found some new junk to smell, so I didn't think anything of it.

I took her out at ten-ish, and there was some sleety rain falling. She must've been sleepy when I took her out, because she's religiously opposed to being out in any watery precipitation. But she didn't notice until it was too late, and I was too grateful for that to think any more about the weather.

And the next thing I knew, I looked out the window and there was six inches of snow on the ground. Clementine was still sleepy this morning when I took her out, and so she missed her usual response to snow and just did what she had to do and returned to the warmth of the house. It was only on her second morning trip that she did the Hound-dog Happy Dance of Snow.

Since I haven't had a dog since I was a kid, I don't know whether all dogs love this time of winter or whether it's only the hunting dogs. (Clementine is half coonhound and half Brittany Spaniel, which is like having a dad named Bubba and a mom named Tiffany.) I keep thinking that she'll be thinking den animal coccooning thoughts in these cold, gray November days. Shows what I know. She doesn't want to hibernate -- she wants to chase after ALL the smells. If she ever does track one down -- some trespassing cat or slow-moving squirrel -- it is very, VERY exciting and we have to bark a LOT. But she doesn't really have any ideas other than that, which is what happens I suppose when a dog hasn't been trained to hunt and isn't stimulated by hunger.

I don't know why she goes a little nuts in the snow. She's so short on brains sometimes, I could almost imagine that she starts running because it's cold, without realizing that if she'd run back in the house, she wouldn't be cold anymore. But I think that's just me assuming she's being dense. To judge by appearances, there's just something about the snow everywhere that overawes her senses, or maybe it's just that running in the snow is the greatest of joys. But anyway, this morning she bolted around and around while I laughed. If snow had still been falling, she'd probably still be running, but as it was, I was able to get her back into the house after only five or six laps.

That extra exercise came in handy, I think, because when I took her to the kennel for boarding, she was actually somewhat calm in the car. Hopefully, the run in the snow will continue to warm her heart and calm her spirits while she's boarded for a couple days. Then her pet-sitter comes to take her to her home away from home (two other dogs and two ***cats*** that she gets to play with) and after that life is once again as good as it can be.

How good it would be to be a dog.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

A reason to live

Redford has decided not to move to France.

(Best quote in the story comes from the Calgary columnist who said, "Stay home, you pathetic, whining maggots!" Sorry, Huw, I know you don't like the snarky stuff, but this one was too good to pass up.)

Friday, November 19, 2004

Cue the Apocalypse

Uh-oh. Locusts in the Holy Land. Abandon ship.

Flying Dutchmen

Does anybody else think the developing situation in the Netherlands is one of the most interesting things going on right now?

If so, here's another tidbit.

***
And besides all that, does somebody want to explain to me why Holland is also The Netherlands but the people and language are Dutch? Those aren't even close! By golly, you don't get cheek like that from the other Northern Europeans -- Finland, Finnish; Sweden, Swedish; Norway, Norwegian. I'm a C student -- consistency, please.

Prayer request

I'm asking for prayers for the priest of my new church, Fr. John from Holy Trinity OC in Kansas. He had been having stomach pains, and now they've determined that he has a tumor in his pancreas. It isn't the extremely fast-spreading and indestructible kind of cancer (thank God!), but a very rare type that isn't quite as dangerous but unfortunately isn't quite as well-known and understood. So tests proceed to determine the best course of action, but in the meantime, he's in substantial pain since the tumor is pressing on some nerves. Please pray for him and his wife, and also for our church.

Thank you, brothers and sisters.

Londonderry Air

I keep meaning to mention, I'm going off on a trip to London from Dec 27-Jan 9, and I wondered if anyone's got suggestions of places to go and things to see that might not have made it into my "London for Dummies" book. (Yes, they have a "London for Dummies" book. Is there any limit to the things that are for dummies these days? "Channel Flipping for Dummies" "Staring into Space for Dummies" "Trying to Think of the Name of That Guy in That Movie for Dummies" Of course, I bought the silly thing. So "Book Publishing for Dummies")

And to the Ortho-blog crowd, any Orthodox churches to look up? I don't know if I'll be able to attend a service (my mother would explode), but I'd love to poke my head in.

Thinking it through with Bill

America has two great dominant strands of political thought ... conservatism, which at its very best draws lines that should not be crossed, and progressivism, which at is very best breaks down barriers that are no longer needed or should never have been erected in the first place.

Bill Clinton said that at the opening of his library yesterday.

I'm so weirded out. What -- I'm agreeing with Bill Clinton now?

But this is exactly the way my thoughts have been inclining since the election. I've been sort of flailing at the point, and I hate to say it but Bill Clinton put it simpler and more elegantly that I've been able to. And of course, he might actually know what he's talking about, whereas I can never be sure.

The point is: what if there is a need in our society for both liberals and conservatives? We've gotten so used to going at each other with picks and shovels that we never stopped to wonder what's at risk if either side succeeds in eliminating the other. Suppose that the questions of our communal life together ("How do we govern ourselves?", "How do we care for those in need?", "How can we protect ourselves without impinging on our freedoms?", "How can we promote commerce and trade?", "How do we ensure the best quality of life for ourselves and others?" and the big one: "What is our plan for the future?") aren't best answered by strict conservatism or liberalism, but by a combination of both? Suppose we should be interacting as St. Paul exhorts in I Corinthians 12 , and not each seeking total control?

But the important part of the picture is implicit in the phrase "at its best". Is the Democratic Party at its best right now? Is the Republican?

The conservative side has overstepped its original bounds. Conservatives never used to worry about telling our side of the story or getting our slice of the pie; it wasn't worth making a stink about to us. But I think that we started doing it because of the rank unfairness of being so underrepresented and misrepresented in our own culture by people who couldn't see any way but their own. However it came about, it may be now that we whose job it is to "draw the lines that shouldn't be crossed" are over-reacting, and drawing too many lines. Maybe we need to pick our battles better. Maybe we need to consider places where we can compromise territory without compromising our principles.

And the progressive side is broken. I don't know why it happened, and I don't know how. But if we're positing for the moment that the country does best with a balance of conservative and progressive, it can't be right that the self-restraining and humanity-edifying qualities of Christianity have mostly gravitated to one side of the equation. (And apparently the trend has been increasing in recent years.) And leaving religion aside for a minute, the liberals are lacking grown-ups these days. They're even lacking idealists.

At one time, liberals were the bleeding hearts; they were the people that wanted to save the world. Now their favorite pasttime seems to be arguing for the sake of argument. What happened? They seemed a tender-hearted lot, inclined to want to read poetry and find daisies to lie down in.

Or dandelions. Maybe that's it. You've got the Berke Breathed "Bloom County" branch and the Garry Trudeau "Doonesbury" branch. You've got one that can actually still laugh at themselves and who fall down in the dandelion patch for spiritual rejuvenation, and then you've got the ones who haven't had an original thought since Watergate and whose entire message has come down to pontifications against conservatives.

Well, I'm in no position to counsel them, but I'm sure rooting for the Berke Breathed guys. I'd even lie down in the dandelion patch with them -- what the heck.

The testimony of numbers

This fine entry on OthodoxyToday.com called "Tripartite Formulations: The strengths of threes" says something that doesn't get said enough: that the evidence of God and the beauty of His craftsmanship exist in math and geometry.
The ancients understood the strength of things arranged in threes, and the thesis that “a threefold cord is not easily broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12) expressed a truth that no one in olden times was prone to doubt.

A simple deference to geometry sufficed to settle the question. The triangle, after all, is plain geometry’s only stable figure with straight lines. Geometry–literally, the measuring of the earth–is solidly founded on trigonometric functions, and the surest way to calculate the earth (or the heavens!) is by trigonometrical survey.

I wish I were good at math and science. It is not my strong point. (I'm not sure what my strong point is yet, but I think it's going to turn out to be something silly like blowing bubbles.) I would think that for those Christians who had the aptitude, the study of physics and biology would offer jewel-like proofs of God's omnipresence. I would think that you would constantly have the delight of seeing His fingerprints in the laws of nature by which we're all bound and by which we could all learn.

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of His hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world. (Psalm 19:1-4)


Thursday, November 18, 2004

Out of the mouths of babes

Orthodixie has a good list of short letters that children wrote to God. They'll all make you smile, but this one also sounded seemed to carry a little bit of bigger truth:
Dear God, I bet it's very hard for you to love all of everybody in the whole world. There are only 4 people in our family and I can never do it. Nancy

Watch what you ask for

Haven't I been saying that the Democrats need to find those poor little Christian Democrats they've had hog-tied in Terry McAuliffe's garage and let them out? But this from the New York Times isn't quite what I had in mind:
Bested by a Republican campaign emphasizing Christian faith, some Democrats are scrambling to shake off their secular image, stepping up efforts to organize the "religious left" and debating changes to how they approach the cultural flashpoints of same-sex marriage and abortion.
Well, ... no. It's not about bringing in the Christian Eye for the Secular Guy group to re-do the kitchen with fish symbols. It's about liberating the souls that you've kept bound and gagged for ... well, for how long?
No prominent opponent of abortion has come anywhere near the podium of a Democratic convention since 1992.
Thank you. Since 1992. But in any case, it doesn't look like it's ever going to happen. Those that want the party to stay monotheist-free are vehement:

"Our platform and the grass-roots strength of the party is pro-choice," said Elizabeth Cavendish, interim president of Naral Pro-Choice America. The party needs more religious language, Ms. Cavendish said, but not new positions.

Many Democrats agree. ... they argue that the party can reach religious voters without flinching from its current stance on abortion rights ..

Why is it that Kerry could change his stand on any issue four times in the same debate, and these guys can't possibly take in a new thought for 12 years in a row?

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

And this ...

... just makes me sad. Garrison Keillor, who I remember seeing when he brought Prairie Home Companion to a California theater -- and who got the audience to sing an old hymn called "Tell Me Why" that was simple and uplifting and sweet -- apparently has decided on a scapegoat:
Not one to shy away from speaking his mind, Keillor proposed a solution to what he deemed a fundamental problem with U.S. elections. “I’m trying to organize support for a constitutional amendment to deny voting rights to born-again Christians,” Keillor smirked. “I feel if your citizenship is in Heaven—like a born again Christian’s is—you should give up your citizenship. Sorry, but this is my new cause. If born again Christians are allowed to vote in this country, then why not Canadians?”

(sigh)

It hasn't been a good day.

Monstrous

The events in Iraq are hideous. I think that those that killed Margaret Hassan may have overstepped the bounds even of what the other insurgents will tolerate (this article mentions that al-Zarqawi actually told these kidnappers not to execute her), and so I hold out some small and probably over-optimistic hope that this slaughter of hostages will lose momentum.

And of course, the unfolding story concerning the soldier who shot the wounded terrorist is terrible to contemplate. But I have my reasons for not commenting on it here, and if there's anyone who is violently opposed to the war and the spreading violence, I hope that I can make an appeal that reaches beyond politics.

The pursuit of justice that we Americans are used to seeing on every screen and hearing on every airwave -- let alone weighing in on through the blogosphere -- is not as important right now as the lives of the troops, their allies and the civilians at risk if we insist in replaying the footage and reacting violently and publicly. Remember that Nick Berg was beheaded in response to Abu Gharib. That our enemies would take this merciless action is something we can't control. But we can control at least one of the catalysts that lead to those actions.

All terrorists feed on extremism and covet publicity. Don't provide it. Those with strong opinions can say them, they can phone friends, they can e-mail and say what they need to say privately. But I really believe that this is not the time when honorable people either create or participate in a media firestorm. The effects of that storm won't be felt here where we're safe, but overseas where men, women and children are at risk. The armed forces are investigating this -- the soldier is innocent until proven guilty. Please don't compound this tragedy with others.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Quick blogger apology

Since this post got so much attention (Thank you kindly, Mr. Reynolds. The check is in the mail), I really feel like I need to apologize for the fact that I don't have a list of links on my page. That's not because I don't want to be a Good Blogger; it's due to my pitiful grasp of all things on a computer that don't involve the touch of one button. My tech guy -- who I cleverly married -- is on the job readying the bigger, better version on MovableType, and when I get that up, I'll have a list. So in the meantime, many, many thanks to those who decided to link to the page. I'm trying to keep track so I can link.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Adventures with dog

With the days getting shorter and Clementine the Dumb but Pretty Hound-dog unable to grasp the concept of Daylight Savings Time, she's been bugging me for the end-of-day walk earlier and earlier. Today it happened to fit in with some afternoon apathy about work, so we did the rare 4:00 walk. It was a good afternoon for it. We've had a wonderful Indian summer -- without which it seems nearly impossible to say goodbye to autumn. But now the sky is getting more overcast. Birds aren't singing anymore, and the crickets don't chirp at night (although by Paul Harvey's folklore, that should mean it's 40 degrees out, right?). I felt like altering the scenery from our usual walk, so I took Clem up a different street. And then the Afternoon Barkfest Lollapolooza started. Our first contestant was a terrier who was on lookout, as terriers always are. He turned out only to be the Early Warning Device for a large brownish-mass of dog and several auxillary dogs. As Clementine passed by, they set up a barbershop quartet, with the terrier getting in four clarion notes for every one cannon blast of the mass.

This alerted a matching pair of light and dark labradors, side-by-side in chain link enclosures, and they immediately weighed in with an almost identical baritone bark only slightly off tempo from each other, like an irregular heart beat. For some reason, the light lab decided that the dark lab was really the bigger threat and turned to direct all future exclamations to him, with him returning the favor. They looked like a pair of bookends turned toward each other.

We rounded the corner of the short street and entered the homestretch only to encounter the Mutt and Jeff team -- big black mutt and lhaso apso. Both had ample warning of our approach from the 21-gun salute around the corner, and they lost no time in setting up their own protective barrier of sound, managing between the two of them to make a nearly continuous noise that hiccuped high and low. In this part of the pageant, the visual is more impressive, I think, because the lhasa apso gets so incensed that the force of the bark seems to lift it off the ground. The mutt-basso carries further, but it's not half as interested, and its tail is usually wagging, spoiling the effect.

And then -- yes, it's the crowning achievement. A Brittany spaniel across the street whose bark has such a high and cutting edge to it that it actually makes Clementine whip around as if it's the first one she's heard all day. I don't know what it is that's so particularly piercing about that one, but it has the effect of setting all the contenders -- terrier, mass, others, yin/yang labs, Mutt and Jeff -- back into full cry. It's like the last incredible fusillade of fireworks before it's time to go home.

Eventually though, they fade. The Brittany with the descant lasts the longest, but finally when it has neither sight nor smell of Clementine -- that impertinent strumpet! -- it wuffs a last time and trots away.

That was fun, guys. We'll do it again tomorrow.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Red state, blue state, me state, you state

Since there is obviously a great amount of pain and suffering over the whole redstate-bluestate thing (or, more exactly, redcounty-bluecounty), and since the Blues are grumbling about packing their bags and leaving, or staying where they are and seceding (with bright political lights like Geraldine Ferraro reminding them that they have all the talent and creativity in their blue boundaries), I think they really ought to consider making us sign a contract so there won't be any more misunderstanding about what's expected of everyone. Consider this modest example:

***
We, the bold, free-spirited peoples of the Diverse Lands of Blue America, hereby contract with you, the safe, ordinary drabs of the Nearly-contiguous Lands of Red America to exist peaceably and amicably in the manner to which we've become accustomed.

We will continue to exist in heavily-impacted urban centers in areas where our explosive growth and profligate lifestyle are completely unsustainable -- deserts, swamps, mountains, frozen wastelands, coasts and islands -- and so we will be needing to pull heavily from your water and other natural resources. We will need you to have power plants, waste recycling plants and refineries in your areas, since we can't stand to look at the ugly things.

We will need to convert some of the more inhabitable areas you have into parks and bedroom communities for us, since our cities are too disgusting for any of us to consider living in them. We will come out in droves, build densely and go elsewhere to work. We won't care about these communities or put any work into their governance. You are welcome to stay if you'd like -- and if you can afford the housing costs once we're there -- but please don't alter the opinion landscape that we'd like to exist in. In other words, please either be like us or aspire to be like us ... or shut up.

We need a tremendous amount of ever-changing, ever-improving goods and services. We will need you to provide manpower for industries and meet these needs. As such, we will need you to raise respectful, honest, hard-working children. We don't care how you do it, but please don't tell us how. If it has anything to do the preservation of the "traditional family unit" or instilling "moral values" we really, REALLY don't want to know.

We will raise our children to be untethered, free spirits with no boundaries like ourselves. In other words, spoiled, bored, self-centered, angry, dispirited, whiny and uncontrollable thugs, sociopaths and cowards. We will want to shape their beautiful little minds into carbon copies of our own, in order to ensure future creativity (and socio-political continuity), but you can help us raise them if you want, as long as you don't impose any limitations on them. Heck, you can even have them in daycare and private schools. Goodness knows we can't stand the little monsters. Ha ha. We're kidding. Okay, we're not.

We love our pets. We own our children (and invoke their name to our own political ends). Don't ask why.

Because of our precious children, and because it is unconscionable to us to ever frown upon any activity of our populace -- criminal or otherwise -- we will need you to have prisons and drug rehab centers to house our miscreants. Also, it pleases us to maintain a constant supply of non-incentivizing social programs, so remember to pay your taxes promptly and vote in every new bond.

Though we hold the brave and unique opinion that wars are a bad idea, we will occasionally sanction aggressive action. We will need you and your children to defend us, since we're not very good at the whole macho thing. Be assured that we support the troops, though we're not really sure what that means. We think that it means that we will denigrate their efforts constantly by putting on chic protest events with cutting jibes and clever costumery and a LOT of drugs and alcohol. If so, we support the troops. If it has anything to do with not encouraging the enemy with treasonous talk and the leaking of sensitive information, we don't support the troops. (Sorry. That would just be asking too much.)

We must be clear: you are racist, sexist, xenophobic and narrow-minded. We know there have been attempts on your side to dialogue about our stereotypes of you that haven't changed since the 50's, but remember -- we are the definers; you are the defined. We will let you know if things ever change, but there are some sizable voting blocs at risk here, so don't hold your breath.

On the subject of homosexuality, we must be very firm: you absolutely must not maintain the standards of behavior which your religion dictates and which have been the norm throughout human history. We believe that sexuality is a complex and complicated aspect to our humanity, and so we know that we're right and you're wrong. Anybody ought to be able to do anything to anybody else as much and as often as they please. (Also, there is the question of another voting bloc here, and so we will be referring to anything less than total approval as ignorant homophobia. Don't sweat it.)

Since we are too intelligent and enlightened to tolerate mere Christianity or any other traditional religion, we will offer instead our own religious beliefs, which are that good and evil are almost interchangeable, stuff is good and basically there isn't anything to believe in. And you can believe us on this. In fact, we insist that you do. Your religion leads to peace of mind, human dignity and theosis; ours promotes spiritual decay. You see the problem.

We are your story-tellers, and we will present constant meretricious offerings concerning nihilism, the insanity of living and the horror of dying. And just to let you know that we're in touch with your boring little lives, we will occasionally tell you your own story through movies about people that can't wait to leave their backwater towns and girls that have babies in Wal-Mart. Please attend these movies in herds so we can turn around and do ones about the salvific qualities of lawlessness, sexual promiscuity and abortion.

Speaking of Wal-mart -- STOP GOING THERE. We are really, really serious. We would never set foot there ourselves, but it bugs the crap out of us that they exist, seeing as how they run out of business your quaint little shops that we also were never going to.

And STOP driving SUV's. We hate those things too. Don't you realize that your conspicuous consumption will overshadow ours if you drive those boats? Plus, they're big, which just means we have to find something even bigger to drive.

We don't have to be the only ones with strong emotions. We encourage you to despise rich people, who are greedy and mean. But please target rich businesspeople only -- not celebrities or moguls or rock stars or sports figures or recording executives, or anyone who might vote Democrat. They're not despicable -- they're your paisanos, man.

Question authority, but not ours. Hate the man, but we're not him.

You won the last presidential election by a large margin. That means we're going to have to ask you to unconditionally surrender. Put down the mandate and back away slowly and no one will get hurt. You really blew it, but we've got more "education" for you on the way -- Michael Moore has kindly agreed to do another Fahrenheit movie. Viewing is NOT optional.

If you don't vote for a Democrat in 2008, we will break your stubby, coal-blackened little fingers. Ha ha. Kidding again. Well, sort of.

Sign here. Or, if you went to public school, make an 'X'.

*****

That's the basic idea. The language probably needs some cleaning up, but I'm thinking they won't have too much difficulty finding a lawyer.


Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Orthodoxy in the light ...

Thinking about this post of Hannah's about her being told she's a hippie because she gets overwhelmed by the joys of living and God's creation, I came across this quote by Elder Porphyrios:
Christ is our Friend, our Brother; He is whatever is beautiful and good...
Christ is joy, life, light, the true light, which makes man glad, makes him fly,
makes him see all things ...


Sounds like another hippie to me. ;-)

Monday, November 08, 2004

... and in the shadows

This follows up the entry above.

I've also been thinking about entries like this one by Alexey. I know the type of thing. I think one of the defining characteristics of my personality is that at a relatively early age I knew really black moods. It's not something I can say I've totally conquered. I've just learned to live with it, (hint: laugh, and the world laughs either with you or at you, and if you're laughing hard enough, you don't care which.) And I learned not to believe in the moods, which takes more work than it might sound like.

It's very hard to describe to someone who is blessed enough not to have experienced it. The closest I've heard is a quote from Nietsche: "The problem with looking into the void is that after a while, it looks back." (I apologize if that's not quite right. I heard it second-hand. I've never quite felt like I could handle Nietsche.)

And, interestingly enough, the same quote from Elder Porphyrios that gave me Hannah's conjoining thought provided some thoughts about the dark places. Here is the complete quote with the additional portions italicized:

Christ is our Friend, our Brother; He is whatever is beautiful and good. He is everything. In Christ there is no gloom, melancholy or introversion, whereas man suffers from various temptations and situations which make him suffer. Christ is joy, life, light, the true light, which makes man glad, makes him fly, makes him see all things, see all people, suffer for all people, and want all people to be with him, close to him.

This is the reason I would never make a good Baptist or evangelical. I need the Church to understand that I live my life both in light and shadow, and give me a context for understanding both.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Will they get religion?

After my failed attempt here finding a pundit that wasn't talking about religious people as if they were idiots or Martians, I had a little more luck with this article from Slate.com. The cautiously-worded advice that it might be prudent to consider the Christian vote doesn't sound like rocket science to us, but then ... we're Christian. We're aware of the fact that our churches aren't actually filled with bigots, prudes and morons. If that one tidbit of information can be leaked plausibly to the left, my heart will be glad.


Democratic politicians should never forget something simple: Most Republicans and most Democrats are religious. Using faith language is not just about sucking up to their voters, it's about talking to your own base, too—and those Catholics who abandoned the party this year.

On some level, the hardest thing that Democratic leaders, activists, and journalists have to do is honestly ask themselves this: Do you hold very religious people in contempt? If you do, religious people will sense it—and will vote against you. And there are more of them than there are of you.



And by the way, if an article like this ever mentions the Orthodox, I think I'll just die a happy woman. But one thing at a time ...

On this same note, Peter Alexis talks about a little of the one-way street Christians encounter in trying to dialogue with the faith-impaired, and ends with this excellent point:
We are forty percent of the population. We are not shrinking and we are not growing more liberal. They need to deal with us. We hope they do. It is not wholesome that three-quarters of traditional Christians are in one party.

BTW, I'm still thinking about how to talk about the relationship between Christians and the two parties. I understand the sensitivity some feel to the labels, because it can come off sounding as if God abides with one people and not with another, which is insulting, ridiculous and may even be heretical. I trust that none of the people in my religious blogosphere would hold such an opinion, but it may be a time be sure to use the most accurate words. That's something for another entry.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

"Kill me now" update

Odds and ends from the people that want to stick a fork in their head to stop the pain of George Bush's America:

* Come for the maple butter, stay for the political asylum -- Apparently, some of the disgruntled are considering moving to Canada -- famous for geese, bacon and William Shatner. As this article notes, Canada isn't going to do anything particular to speed their entry, but considers itself underpopulated and might benefit from the influx of new people. Though I'm not happy about it, a mass egress from the urban centers to the Land of Bears and Beers would mean two things: (1) I might finally be able to find a parking space in front of Crate and Barrel, and (2) a couple totally hysterical "Green Acres"-style reality shows. (On a side note: need someone to watch your cat, Ms. Sarandon? Can I get those bags for you, Barbra?)

* Confound those Red State homophobes! -- This article from David Brooks provides all the help you'll ever need in combatting the myth that Bush won because religious people turned out in higher numbers to vote down gay marriage. It was really a pretty stupid idea, when you think about it. There were only 11 states that had those measures, and Bush's margin of victory in those states wasn't markedly higher than in the others. The idiocy of thinking that a concern for "moral values" in exit polls must have meant a concern about gay marriage just shows that the left is a little out of touch.

* Scariest quote of the Day After -- Matt Foreman, director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, after noting that activists remain "on the offense" after the election setbacks, added:
What this really demonstrates above anything else is that basic rights should never be put up for a popular vote. That's why we have a Bill of Rights.
Well, since marriage is a cultural institution and not a "basic right," there's absolutely nothing in the Bill of Rights that would apply here. But I doubt if that's the point for Mr. Foreman. What is the point is that what fails with the public can be forced on people through the courts and that, obviously, is the next step.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Thought I found a smart pundit. My mistake.

This article by Edgar Rivera Colón at Salon.com had a tantalizing intro: Bush, God and Democrats: This country isn't secular or rational. And if the Dems want to win, they can't be either.

I thought for a minute he was going to say something that no one else seems to have grasped, that if the Democratic Party wants to win, it will have to abandon its virtual agnoticism and admit that not only do reasonable, intelligent, socially-responsible, devout Christians and Jews exist, but they will VOTE FOR YOU if you give them half a reason to. But alas...

In a country where upward of 75 percent of the population believes in God and an afterlife (in its decidedly Christian registers), only fools do not avail themselves of such a diverse and vibrant rhetoric for communicating concerns around a whole host of issues concerning justice and what possible ethical and social meanings can be attached to our sojourns here on earth.

Well, the Democratic Party leadership is such a collection of secular and rational fools. There are obvious exceptions in the black churches and the mainline Protestant denominations, but the religious rhetorics of these communities have rarely taken center stage in the last decade or so.

In short, the Democratic Party needs to stop pretending it lives in a secular country. Until French citizens are allowed to vote in U.S. elections (as an old-time Socialist, how I would welcome the advent of that political impossibility), the Democratic leadership will have to fashion its messages for the deeply religious country it presumes to lead one day.


Translation: talk Bible talk to these strange and simple folk, and you'll have them eating out of your hand. From making the point himself that the Dems don't give a voice to religious people, he concludes only that they should adopt the language of religion. So basically offer up the same sound-bytes in some tasty II Thessalonians sauce.

Amazing. Don't they understand that we use the language that we do because we believe it, not just as a mind trip or a posture or a power play? Do agnostic liberals (let's just be crazy and assume the author fits in this category) really not believe that religious people truly and simply believe in God, the Bible and their church? Maybe not.


...Democrats need to make judicious use of the irrational. People are not rational, nor do they make their political choices out of some logic model. Americans voted their fears, their fantasies, their hopes, and their irrationalities. The Republicans banked on these factors and won.
Now that I look at it, I realize that the author isn't even talking about winning over Jews and Christians with this oh-so-subtle verbal masquerade, just the swing voters, undecideds, independents. So even though 75% of the country believes in God, we're still not going to track their messy theism into our nice, clean house.

So, false alarm. I still haven't seen a single commentator on their side that sees any need to give religious people a voice in the Democratic Party. Well, I'll have to search elsewhere for some sign of intelligent life. If they can get this point, I think they'll have a shot in two years of re-taking some of the lost ground. Otherwise, I don't think they will. There. It's that simple, if you ask me.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

November 3

Well now! I know that there are a lot of my brothers and sisters who are either conflicted or downright depressed over these election results, so I'm going to resist the impulse to say "yippee" in all caps. But, y'know, it's been a looonnng darn couple months so I think I get to ... y'know ... yippee

Lots to parse out and lots of info still to trickle in. BTW, here's a fine little map to keep track of the stories as they unfold. And don't forget to take note of what's happening with the gubenatorial and Congressional races, because that's the stuff that will be affecting things more in the immediate future.

I know I'll be treated to a flaying of the following demographics in the mainstream news:
* young voters ("Lazy, do-nothing pups! Why, when I was their age, I'd have voted seven or eight times in one election!!")
* religious people, mostly evangelical Christian. Why do they pick on the evangelicals, do you suppose? They forgot about Catholics? They didn't forget about Orthodox, of course, because they still don't know we're here. But considering the blame-game they want to play, I'm just as glad to escape notice.
* non-urban voters, which is increasingly coming to mean "in-bred, unschooled imbeciles" to blue-staters.
* conservatives -- blah blah blah. Nothing new there.

So in the end, was this the important do-or-die election that it was supposed to be? IMHO, yes, it was. I still maintain that the fever pitch of pure bile that was being spewed into the Democratic Party by left-wingers is what begged an answer from the American people. Not because of Bush or Kerry, but because of what the left's radical elements made of this race. It was obvious that they were demanding vindication of an entire laundry list of left-of-center agenda with this one fell swoop. They gambled big-time ...

... and now they've lost big-time. Presidency, House, Senate -- including the first Senate leader to be voted out in a half century. I don't think the Democratic Party should dry up and blow away -- and in spite of what a hot-head I sound like sometimes, I don't even want that to happen -- but I do think they need to stop kidding themselves. They need to re-invent themselves. They can't keep preaching a lot of things that haven't worked in sixty years and then try to force them on people by a combination of class warfare and petty moralizing. They need to stop thinking that shaking people up is the same thing as inspiring or convincing them.

But I know my take on it is always going to sound like I'm just going for more shots, so I'll leave it at that.

Couple happy surprises out of the election:
* I thought Kerry showed real style to concede without putting the country through weeks of nasty, chad-counting baloney. I'll be honest -- I didn't think he had it in him. But maybe Garry Trudeau did, judging from today's "Doonesbury", which of course he penned weeks ago without knowing how things would go. A day when I agree with Garry Trudeau. The age of miracles is upon us for sure!
* An answer to prayer. Here's my wish from mid-October:
If I can end with one faint conciliatory note, can we please all agree to pray very, VERY hard on Election Day that whatever the results are, they would be decisive? Even if I have to live with President Kerry for four years, I don't want a replay of the 2000 election.

Definitely one of the places where spirituality trumps partisanship. I don't see how anything good could come from a repeat of the weeks of contentiousness after November 2, 2000. I know it sounds like more gloating to be so incredibly pleased that the popular vote was as high as it was, and I'll never know if I really would have been okay with it if Kerry had won, but in any case, I'm so very grateful to everyone that turned out and did their bit.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Election night kibbles and bits

So at 10pm Central Time, we don't know who the winner is, but the loser is definitely ... the polls.

Good riddance. I sometimes make wild guesses about complex issues just based on my own anecdotal evidence and personal feelings (VERY bad habit. Shows a lack of breeding), and my wild guess for years has been that the more you poll people, the less accurate the results get. People start reacting to poll numbers as if they're real, and changing their opinion -- or saying they're changing their opinion -- from a lot of emotional reasons that don't have bearing on the final result.

And if I'm totally wrong about that, here's my back-up scientific premise: I'm sick of polls. Knowing a whole lot about what a poll said is only one step up from having a lengthy interview with the psychic lady with the bad Jamaican accent.

***

So what about other victory stuff? Well, too early to call at this point. The surprises right now are that New Hampshire is even close (did they secede from New England and forget to tell anyone?) and that Missouri was closer than expected. So considering that the Kerry guys pulled all their ads weeks ago figuring they'd lost Missouri, you can bet there are ritual head noogies being administered over that one.

I'm enough of a simp to be looking at one of the online maps and trying to see how numbers could work. California just went to Kerry (little cries of pure shock fill the nightime skies) which means he's up in electoral votes for the first time in hours. But Florida seems like it's going to go Bush, and so ... whoops, in the time it took me to type that Bush picked up Arizona and I think Idaho, and so now he's ahead 207-197, and he's at about 51-48 for popular vote. So this particular reporter is thinking (a) Bush will win and (b) it's not too late to make marshmallow rice krispie treats if I get on with it. But I might be wrong about (a).

***

So what'll they be talking about tomorrow?
* Gay marriage measures -- not much to talk about other than what we already knew. The American people are largely opposed to the idea of women marrying women and men marrying men. Thank the good Lord for whatever modicum of common sense we still possess. Let's just hope that judges in Ohio, Kentucky and the rest don't overrule.
* Wrong polls, bad polls, polls you can't take ANYwhere -- I'm already seeing the rumblings of this in the blog world as I heard it on Fox news.
* George Clooney's dad isn't going to be a Congressman in Kentucky -- Darn. Bet he's cute. But Democrat. But -- you know -- cute.
* Voting nonsense -- Supposedly new electronic voting machines in Pennsylvania with thousands of votes already in them? Thousands of absentee ballots in Florida that never arrived? And a pool of registered voters here in Missouri that was reported once as being higher than the available population? Hoo boy. It makes you wonder whether these shenanigans always went on or whether a lot of new trick-or-treaters are out for the first time. Anyway, for once I agree with the experts I heard on MSNBC. If the margins of victory are so wide that the goofs don't matter, the stories probably won't have much of a head of steam. And, of course, if none of them plays into minority paranoia about being disenfranchised.
* My marshmallow rice krispie treats -- they always win the popular vote. Ha. Threw that in just because it's late and I'm punchy.

G'night, fellow Ortho-bloggers. Remember, in church I'm friends with people on both sides of the aisle. :-)

Um ...

... waah.