Thursday, March 31, 2005

Stop Asking Me When I Find Out About the Job

I withdrew my application this morning.

What!?!?!?!!??!?! Are you NUTS!?!?!?!?!!?!

No. Well, maybe a little. But it was a carefully considered decision. Look, I know I need the money, the benefits were great, and the insurance part was crucial. (I'm officially uninsured as of tomorrow.) But there have been a number of little red flags about this job. Yesterday there were not only flags, but bells, sirens and flashing signs that said, "RUN AWAY."

I won't go into details, but it became apparent yesterday that the boss is not a trustworthy person. I had heard as much from other people here, but now I've seen it for myself, and I didn't appreciate it. This job is really hard, lots of work, and definitely requires overtime hours. I'm willing to do the hard work, even on something I'm not interested in -- hey, I did apply and I've been here a month -- but in order to sustain that energy and dedication over any period of time, I've got to at least be able to trust the boss.

I was super-stressed out when I got home last night because I was quite angry. I did some yoga, I meditated, I prayed, I took a hot bath, I talked to my mom, I emailed my dad...and all were in agreement that, financial issues aside, it was better to back out before I got stuck here.

When I arrived this morning, the other secretaries were gathered around the xerox machine drinking coffee and gossiping.

"Hey, you look kinda stressed out," said T.

"Yeah, I didn't sleep well last night, " I said.

"Oh, well, if it's about yesterday, don't worry about it. He does stuff like that all the time. You can't take it personally." Then the secretaries began to regale me with stories about things he's done to his previous assistants. (He's had four in two years.)

So...if there was any doubt on my part -- and there was -- that little conversation cemented it. I know some of my friends will think I'm CRAZY to turn down a job with this kind of compensation, but to my way of thinking, what's truly crazy is taking a job when you know there's a big huge problem.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Verdict: Guilty. Charge: Didn’t Read the Whole Book

The Colorado Supreme Court upheld a ruling by a lower court yesterday that a death sentence leveled against a convicted murderer must be thrown out because the jurors consulted the Bible during deliberations.

The court considered it “improper reliance on an outside authority.”

No doubt, Christian conservatives will point to yet another instance of America’s activist liberal judiciary working to diminish the influence of faith in our country.

But that’s not even remotely where the outrage should be directed. One of the jurors testified that she referred to Leviticus chapter 24 while deciding on the verdict. Verse 17 says, “If anyone takes the life of a human being, he must be put to death.” Verse 20 contains the famous phrase, “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” That, as the saying goes, leaves the whole world blind and toothless. (The juror was not Jewish; for the record, the New York Times says she also consulted the book of Romans but did not specify which part.)

No, Christians should be appalled by the blasphemy. What other word could you use to describe an act of direct defiance of Jesus Christ?

I refer you to Matthew 5:38-39: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth,’ but I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

Jesus has clearly invalidated Leviticus 24:17. This doesn’t mean that we just let murderers go free. We have a right to separate dangerous people from civil society to protect ourselves and others. But Jesus expressly forbids vengeance and retaliation for crimes. We are not allowed to answer one crime with another.


So I had a video conference interview today with two people in the San Francisco office with whom I’d be working closely if I were to go permanent in my current temp job. It went pretty well, I’d say; interviews don’t intimidate me very much, probably because I’ve done so many auditions and those are SO much harder. Plus, with this I really don’t care – that makes it very easy.

I stumbled a bit at the question, “So, why do you want to work for Joe Schmoe Partners?” Hell, I don’t even know what they do.

They also asked, since my background is entirely in music, if I would feel intimidated by the investment banking scene. “No,” I responded, sounding perhaps a bit too unimpressed.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

My other work related-story for the day: this guy calls for my boss, who was out today. I take down his name and number and then he asks for mine.

“Irish boy?”

“No, Scottish.”

“Oh. My family lived on the border of Scotland and Ireland.”

Umm…yeah, okay...

How to Tell Time on Your iPod

A trip on the A train between 59th Streets and 125th Streets usually takes about 10 minutes, or one “Tu che le vanità.”

The ride uptown tonight was so slow it took the entire mad scene from Lucia di Lammermoor, Largo al factotum, and half of Berlioz’ “La mort d’Ophélie.”

Saturday, March 26, 2005

When Friends Give Up on You for Lent

I gave up alcohol for Lent.

As I am a frequent social drinker, this change in my behavior was hard to hide from my friends. Why would I hide that, you ask? Was I embarrassed? No. The reason is that Jesus taught us, “When ye fast, be not as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face, that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.” (Matthew 6:16-18)

Since my friends won’t buy “Oh, I don’t feel like drinking tonight” for six weeks, I decided the best policy was just to be honest about my abstention but try not to make a big deal of it. Some friends were more supportive than others.

Few of my friends are people of faith, so it’s only natural they have questions. I explained that, as a Protestant, Lenten fasts are not required but rather a symbolic tradition; by giving up something trivial for a period of time, we are able to remind ourselves of Christ’s much greater sacrifice. But many of the questions that were posed were mocking in tone; one person even said, “You’re wasting your time.”

“Jesus doesn’t care if you drink or not,” said another. They all want to know exactly what time tomorrow I can start drinking again, as if God is up there with a stopwatch.

Today I saw a woman wearing a t-shirt that said, “Beware Christianity.”

How is it that among intelligent, well-educated, urban Americans, it’s socially acceptable to ridicule someone’s deepest, most personal beliefs?

It’s a question that has been in my head for the last forty days or so.

The answer is that many of American Christianity’s public faces have turned our faith into a joke.

Public Face Number One would have to be George W. Bush: a man who publicly and repeatedly accused a foreign government of an atrocity it did not commit, while his administration was largely made up of people from a previous administration who failed to act when real atrocities were taking place. He accused this government of possessing and manufacturing weapons it no longer had, and took our nation to war on a demonstrably false premise, which he has neither confessed nor apologized for. Indeed, when challenged on the issue he is proud and defiant, and maintains that no mistakes have been made.

He is a man whose faith-based priorities include banning gay marriage and cutting short a vacation to sign an unconstitutional law, but somehow don’t include banning the sale of guns to known terrorists or cutting short a vacation to investigate urgent warnings of imminent attacks. He says his faith guides him, as he pays for tax cuts for the ultra-wealthy by cutting funding for programs for the poor. Saying that we must always err on the side of life, he executes the mentally retarded.

Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania is actually worried about “man on dog” sex, and, apparently without irony, warned that gay marriage would lead to polygamy, even though it was a common Biblical practice.

Proclaiming his innocence, Tom DeLay weakens congressional rules on ethics.

James Dobson warns Congress about SpongeBob Squarepants.

Catholic bishops move to deny the Eucharist from John Kerry during his presidential campaign because of his stance on abortion; no move to withhold the sacrament from people who support George Bush’s war, which the Pope said was immoral. A Vatican official warns that The DaVinci Code is full of lies.

And recently, self-identified Christians have taken up the cause of Terri Schiavo, accusing the judge in the case of “judicial homicide” and threatening to kill him, again, without apparently seeing any irony.

Christian America, wake up. Stop thumping on your Bible, and open it up. Read it. Ask yourselves if your leaders know what’s in there. Being a Christian is hard. You are required to love your enemies; you are required to be generous; you are required to forgive; you are forbidden to judge. Take up that challenge.

Secular America, wake up. Many of the values you hold dear for yourselves are contained in the Gospel. Don’t mock what you don’t understand and haven’t bothered to learn about.

It is finished

Well, it took me almost a month, but it's done.

I have finally finished putting my CD collection into my iPod. Not the whole collection, mind you, just the songs I like.

I've got 3,264 songs on it. ("Song" is an inaccurate term, as my iPod's repertoire spans everything from medieval troubadour chansons and Gregorian chant to Indian ragas, Beethoven symphonies, Brahms sonatas, Bellini cabalettas, Elvis Presley and Cher.) If I were to just let it play until it ran out of music, it would take ten days, eight hours and twenty-four minutes.

And I still have almost 6 GB of space on the thing.

Friday, March 25, 2005

On This Day in Middle Earth

The Host is attacked by the forces of Morannon.
Frodo and Sam reach The Cracks of Doom; Gollum seizes the Ring and falls.
Downfall of Barad-Dur and the passing of Sauron.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

On This Day in Middle Earth

Frodo and Sam reach the slopes of Mount Doom.
The Host reaches The Black Gate.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Flip Flop King

I invite you to think back to those heady days in the fall of 2004 when it was possible to believe that John Kerry might just squeak out an electoral victory over George Bush. In the debates between the two candidates, Bush constantly talked up his consistency while accusing Kerry of changing positions.

Bush argued -- apparently effectively -- that in this time of crisis, a leader who strikes a position and sticks with it to the bitter end is the one best suited to govern. He talked about having the strength of his convictions. It didn't matter, I guess, that he had famously reversed himself on numerous issues and that Kerry was, in fact, the more consistent politician. (It didn't help that Kerry was pathologically inept at defining his stances.)

Commentator James Ridgeway wrote in this week's Village Voice, "Attorneys in Texas claimed that Bush, while governor, had signed a law that would have indeed permitted removal of a feeding tube in situations similar to Schiavo's. If so, that would make Bush look like the most cynical of politicians. "

Well, James, here it is:

166.039. (a) If an adult qualified patient has not executed or issued a directive and is incompetent or otherwise mentally or physically incapable of communication, the attending physician and the patient's legal guardian or an agent under a medical power of attorney may make a treatment decision that may include a decision to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatment from the patient.

On This Day in Middle Earth

The Host passes out of Ithilien; Aragorn dismisses the faint-hearted.
Frodo and Sam cast away their arms and gear.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Things to Ponder

Letters to the Editor published in today's New York Times are among the very best I have ever read. What an incredibly complex issue this is! Here are some of the more profound sentiments:
  • She has a family willing and able to care for her, she is in no physical pain, and we have no way of knowing what she would choose for herself.
    What harm is done by letting her parents care for her, and whose rights are we talking about? The right to die is one thing; the right to have one's spouse pull the plug is quite another.
  • Thus, a woman is permitted to die because the system could not prove that she wanted to live. Shouldn't it be the other way around?
  • Three and a half years ago, the president received a memo warning of a noted terrorist's determination to attack America within its borders. He remained in Crawford, Tex., and did nothing.
    But to sign cobbled-together legislation to interfere in a matter that should have remained a personal family tragedy and to appeal to his religious political base, the president flew to Washington immediately.
  • The only person qualified to make a decision in this tragic situation is her husband. So much for the sanctity of marriage.
  • Removing her feeding tube so that she dies a slow death through starvation and dehydration - this, supposedly in the name of mercy - is intensely brutal and barbaric.
  • It is an accepted medical practice to withhold tube feedings and intravenous fluids from terminally ill cancer patients. In 23 years of oncology practice, I cannot recall a patient whose suffering was increased by withholding tube feedings and intravenous fluids. In these cases, patients generally die from renal failure, which is perceived to be a painless way to die.

Only an Hour Late on the Day I Apply for the Job

Thank you, New York City Transit.

Okay, it wasn't really their fault. I haven't had to blog about my commute in a while, so I guess I'll count my blessings.

I was totally on time this morning -- even had enough extra to walk in the bright, mild morning spring sunshine from Columbus Circle to the office.

And then we stopped in the tunnel at 72nd Street. "Ladies and gentlemen, due to a police investigation, we are being held at this time."

Five minutes go by. Ten. Fifteen. "Ladies and gentlemen, due to a police investigation, we are being held by supervision, please be patient." Twenty. Thirty.

Slooooowwwwwly we roll into the station. The platform is swarming with police officers.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we are unable to open the doors until we get permission from the police."

This being New York, the passengers who've now been delayed half an hour on a crowded train (memo to self: offer sacrifice to the gods of public transportation for granting me a seat this morning), begin to talk.

"This shit is fucked UP, yo!"

Cops are circling our train like blue sharks on a dying whale.

One woman pounds on the subway door. "ExCUSE me, can someone tell us what is going ON, please?" The cop says, "Looking for someone."

A D train lumbers in on the local track. After a few moments, the doors open, passengers come and go, and it rolls out.

"Aw, come ON!"

"Why they let those people go, we been sittin' here for forty damn minutes!"

Says a distinguished-looking gentleman in a low voice, "Because whoever they're looking for is on our train."


"Okay, listen up, y'all. If you be the killer, you better just give yo'sef UP, because I am LATE, you hear? You surrender or imagonna beat cho ass!"

"Mommy, is there a killer on the train?" Little girl starts go cry.

"Okay, can we watch our language, please? There's children present. We don't know it's a killer."

"It could be a terrorist."

"Mommy, a terrorist!" (wails)

"Thanks, that was a big help."

"Maybe it's Ken Lay."

Within a few moments the doors opened. No further information was given other than there would be no downtown train service at this time. So I got my walk from Columbus Circle after all.

On This Day in Middle Earth

Third assault on Lorien.
Frodo and Sam leave the road and turn south to Mount Doom.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Job Search Update

Thanks to everyone who gave such good advice on the post below.

I met with HR today and I think it went well. The salary and benefits package was more than I was expecting. That still doesn't make me love the job, but as I said, I had a price in mind, and they named it. I asked for a day or so to think about it, which they said was okay.

I still need to consult with a couple of advisors (um, Mom, Dad, the dog) but I will probably let them know tomorrow that I would like to be considered. They are still interviewing other candidates, so it's not an "offer" as yet. The advantage is mine, though, I would guess; they already know I can do the job, and they don't have to train me.

This office is just two blocks away from a beautiful chuch, St. Thomas Episcopal, that I stumbled upon during my first visit to New York back in August of 1993; at that time I had come to audition for the Manhattan School of Music, but wasn't at all sure that this radical uprooting of my life and plans was what I wanted. After my audition I spent time in prayer at the church, and felt that the answer was just to see what the outcome was: if I was accepted, I should go. If not, worries, then.

So I went back there today. I have struggled long and hard for years to avoid doing exactly what I'd be doing here, but I find myself in a situation of need. Once again, the answer came back to just step forward and present myself for the opportunity, and trust God that the outcome will be the right one. It always has been before.

HELLO, SPRING!: On this, the first full day of Spring (though...someone forgot to tell the Dude in Charge of Weather for NY) I thought I'd say TFN to Winter 2004-05 with this nice shot of me and some friends frolicking in the snow. L-R is yours truly with pals Jesse and Audrey and Jesse's friend...umm...I forgot. Audrey and Jesse and I are all old friends from Beaverton, Oregon, but we grew up to be fabulous anyway. Posted by Hello

On This Day in Middle Earth

The Host of the West marches from Minas Tirith.
Frodo comes in sight of the Isenmouthe and is overtaken by Orcs.

TRUTH IN ADVERTISING: My friend Audrey discovered this store in lower Manhattan during a recent visit. Don't you wish every company were this honest? Posted by Hello

Saturday, March 19, 2005

On This Day in Middle Earth

The Host comes to Morgul Vale.
Frodo and Sam find the road to Barad-Dur.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Open Forum

I have an appointment Monday to speak with HR at the current temp job to explore the possibility of going permanent. I welcome your advice.

Volunteers Needed

Oh, those wacky Virginians are at it again. First it was anti-gay vanity license plates -- your first line of defense against accidental fellatio -- and now it's a whole gaggle of bizarre legislation including a ban on gay adoption.

The bill states, "No person under this statute may adopt if that person is a homosexual" and requires that the circuit court inquire as to whether the potential parents "engage in current voluntary homosexual activity."

Voluntary homosexual activity? As opposed to involuntary, you ask? Yes. See fellatio, accidental.

The best part is, the circuit court is required to ask. "Are you or are you not currently engaging in voluntary homosexual activity?"

I guess the correct answer would be, "No, your honor, I'm standing here in your court room while you waste my time and publicly insult my integrity as part of a state-sanctioned anti-gay witch hunt, by which means you intend to deprive me of my civil rights."

Thank You For Feeling Our Pain

Former First Lady Barbara Bush got into the Social Security act today in Pensacola, Florida. According to the A.P., Mrs. Bush had this to say, appearing with her sons George W. and Jeb:

"I'm here because your father and I have 17 grandchildren -- all born after 1950 -- and we want to know is someone going to do something about it," she said, referring to Social Security.

Give me a freakin' break. Like anyone in the Bush family is going to find themselves reliant on Social Security. I mean, the whole thrust behind the idea of personal accounts is that people should be responsible for their own retirements, right? Well, hello, if Barbara Freakin' Bush is so concerned about her grandchildren, she should set up a trust fund or refer them to an investment banker. I'm sure she knows a few.

Now, bloggers, here's where we do our job. The President went on to say this: "A mix of conservative bonds and stocks will get you a better rate of return on your money than that which you're going to get inside the government." (Emphasis mine.)

There you go. That's a lie, plain and simple. Is it possible that retirees could do better under a private account plan? Yes. Is it a guarantee? No. But the President just said, unequivocably, that you will do better with private accounts.

He also fails to mention, of course, that privatization does not address the social security shortfall, and he conveniently leaves out that his idea costs trillions more than a tax increase aimed at fully-funding the program.

Bowling Pin-yasa

I got in touch with my inner straight man last night at a bowling alley in Greenwich Village.

It had been a long, boring day at my job and I was feeling somewhat drained. After work I raced home to eat something, shower and change clothes and hoped that I’d find the energy to stay awake and be polite for at least a couple of hours at my friend’s birthday event. I didn’t really plan on bowling myself; I was so tired I wasn’t sure I could even a lift a ball, and the joys of public humiliation are fairly limited.

Bowling seems to be the recreation of choice for the “King of Queens” demographic, so I was also feeling cautious about hanging out in such a testosterone-heavy environment, especially on St. Patrick’s Day, when perhaps some of the patrons had been drinking for hours. Nothing quite shouts “screaming queen” like prancing down the lane and awkwardly tossing the ball into the gutter.

Well, I had a blast. I decided I needed to bowl at least one game for form’s sake (you don’t go to a bowling party and just sit there, right?), but I surprised myself. Not only did I bowl 113 my first time, I won.

My second game was a little off; I only got to 89 after I unfortunately suffered through a frame where I guttered twice. The third game was quite exciting; I developed a knack for picking up awkward spares and was well ahead of the pack until this girl came from behind with a strike and a spare and edged past me by two pins in the final frame. Bitch. But losing 112-110 isn’t so bad.

Now, this might sound kind of, oh, I don’t know, queer, but I actually used yoga in my game. I found that taking a moment to stand in tadasana, or mountain pose, and taking a good long inhale through the nose helped to block out distractions, calm the body and focus the mind. Then, as with ashtanga, coordination of breathing with physical movement proved crucial: inhale through the nose long and slow, and exhale the ball down the lane. Also, never take your eye off the pin you want to hit. Forget those silly arrows on the floor and don’t watch the ball, just the pin.

Finally, I found that releasing the ball as fluidly and gently as I could garnered the best results. Any time I tried to put “strength” into it, it would go off course and end up in the gutter. I think there’s a lesson to be learned there.

Altogether I bowled three games and finished up around 11:00. Far from being exhausted, I felt exhilarated and could easily have stayed for more. We also had a good time looking over the alley’s impressive collection of autographed bowling pins: Monica Lewinsky’s was greeted with the appropriate reverence, but I’m afraid we failed to summon anything but derision for Star Jones. Everyone else’s autograph basically read “thanks had a great time” or something like that. Star’s said, “Enjoy the View!” View this, Star.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

The Saga of Terri

This afternoon, the U.S. House of Representatives stepped in to introduce legislation to delay the removal of Terri's feeding tube.

I won't go into the core issue itself because I have conflicting opinions on the matter, and anything I could say would just open myself up to criticism from both sides.

However, I have to say that I am most concerned about this latest development. The Republican party has always been a leading voice for states' rights; twice now federal courts have rejected appeals on this issue, ruling that this matter belongs to Florida and Florida alone. The new legislation aims to give Terri's parents legal standing in a federal court.

It seems the Republican party has a more nuanced stance on the role of the federal government than they like to let on. Apparently government has no right to regulate business, no right to collect taxes, no responsibility to protect the environment or any authority to regulate gun ownership. But when it comes to your personal life, it's the individual who has no rights and the government which has full authority.

Worse, there is now reason to suspect that our favorite bait-and-switch hypocrites in the House are taking advantage of Terri's tragic circumstances to force upon this nation legislation that advances their agenda of eliminating civil rights.

The New York Times reports that Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York criticized the legislation and called it "a dangerously reckless way to deal with some serious issues.''

"It does not deal just with feeding tubes. It would allow intervention in any decision affecting any kind of medical care. Read the bill,'' Nadler said.

Terrific. Republicans will claim they are just protecting the sanctity of life, and they've framed the debate in terms of Terri and Terri alone; anyone who tries to oppose the legislation will therefore be forced to vote "against Terri" and will surely be lambasted for doing so. Meanwhile, your right to determine medical care and course of treatment for yourself or for loved ones is about to be taken away. The advice of doctors and experts will be officially rendered irrelevant.

Cognitive Dissonance, Anyone?

So the Times reports this morning that the judge in the Terri Schiavo case has been receiving death threats.

"The case has made him a target of religious conservatives and others who object to ending any life prematurely," says the paper.


On This Day in Middle Earth

Battle of Dale, in which Brand and Dain fall.
Shagrat brings Frodo's cloak, mithril-coat and Sam's sword to Barad-Dur.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Buh-Bye, Bernard

At the risk of indulging in Schadenfreude, let me say I'm delighted with yesterday's conviction of Bernard Ebbers, the former CEO of WorldCom.

His defense that he was unaware of the accounting shenanigans that resulted in an $11 billion fraud, that his role was more of a "cheerleader," was ludicrous; all the more so if it was true.

What part of Chief Executive Officer don't you understand, Bernie? You signed off on the reports your CFO Scott Sullivan gave you. Either you approved what was being done, or you simply weren't doing your job. Gross incompetence on that scale is also a fraud. If all that's required to be CEO of a global communications corporation is to be a cheerful, motivational-type person, well...let me know where to send my resume.

The saddest thing is, Bernie and all the other fools like him from Enron to MCI and TYCO would have been millionaires or billionaires had they engaged in honest accounting. Those companies still would have turned enormous profits. But no, that wasn't enough. They had to fudge the numbers, hide this, shift that, in an obscene orgy of greed.

Ken Lay: You're next.

On This Day in Middle Earth

Aragorn, Gandalf, Eomer and Imrahil debate.

* * * * * * * * * *

Today's is a special Middle Earth post. As my long-time readers know, this blog takes its name from the above event, which occurs in Chapter 9 of The Return of the King, entitled "The Last Debate." Read my suggested re-write of this scene from the film!

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

What a Scoop!

Definition of a New York Post "Exclusive": something so stupid no one else will waste paper on it, let alone a front page.



Coming tomorrow: John Wilkes Boothe's great grand-niece alive and well and living in a trailer park in Davenport, Iowa!

Get Over It!

The New York Times today carries an article on little things that bug people and the "inventive" methods they create to exact some toll of vengeance.

One person interviewed is bothered with the way Starbucks refers to the sizes of their drinks as "tall," "grande" and "venti." He would prefer small, medium and large. He insists on ordering a "medium."

Fine. Here's my Starbucks pet-peeve. People who can't properly pronounce venti aren't worthy enough to even patronize Starbucks. Venti, with a long, closed "e" vowel (pronounced, VAYN-tee) means "20," as in, the number of ounces in that particular size. Venti, with a short, open "e" (like a heater "vent-ee") means "winds." So I'm just going to start blowing on the next person I hear who orders winds. Puff, puff. There you go.

Let's not even talk about the people who ask for a "ven-tay." They should be sterilized.

On This Day in Middle Earth

The Gates of Minas Tirith are broken; Denethor burns himself alive.

The horns of the Rohirrim are heard; the Battle of the Pelennor; Theoden is killed. Aragorn raises the standard of Arwen.

Frodo and Sam escape north along the Morgai.

Thranduil defeats the Orcs of Dol Guldur; Lorien is assaulted a second time.

Monday, March 14, 2005

A Word About Activist Judges

I have a feeling we are about to be bombarded ad nauseum, again, from right-wing talking heads on the airwaves and in print with the phrase "activist judges."

A Superior Court judge in California, Richard Kramer, ruled this afternoon that California's ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional.

It's not the end of the road for this battle, that's for sure. It will certainly be appealed to the state supreme court, and groups are trying to get a measure on November's ballot which would give voters a chance to establish a ban, as 13 other states did last year.

Judge Kramer wrote, "It appears that no rational purpose exists for limiting marriage in this state to opposite-sex partners." Well, no rational purpose unless you're one of those worried about survival of the species.

Yet I have no doubt that conservative pundits will be outraged over this latest example of judicial overreach. Right-wingers are just big into "traditional" marriage -- heck, Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh are such staunch supporters, they've tied the knot three times each -- and some of them go so far as to claim that "redefining" marriage will result in the collapse of civilization.

Of course, by "traditional" we're referring to the millennia-old practice of bartering adolescent or pre-pubescent girls as property to be traded in financial and/or political contracts. But never mind.

What is an "activist judge"? This case was brought before the court system, assigned to Judge Kramer and tried, and he retired to ponder the arguments and evidence presented, and then rendered a verdict. Isn't that a judge's job?

If you're a right-wing nutcase, an "activist judge" is any judge who reaches a verdict with which you disagree, despite overwhelming evidence, logic, morality or plain common sense.

If you're a clear-thinking, rational person (aka "progressive" or "liberal"), an "activist judge" would be someone with a demonstrable, ex-curia track record of advocating certain ideas or agendas and a habit of reaching verdicts that support those same ideas. For example:

President Bush has renominated William G. Myers III to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. (He got blocked last time.) His resume consists largely of lobbying for mining, timber and oil companies and he once compared government management of federal lands to the tyranny of King George III. (Which was nothing in comparison with King George Bush II.)

Re-nominee Janice Brown of California called The New Deal the "triumph of [America's] socialist revolution" and has criticized worker health and safety laws as infringements on the rights of business.

Re-nominee Claude Allen is reponsible for removing language about condoms from the CDC website.

And then there's Priscilla Owen of Texas. She was once admonished by Alberto Gonzales, of all people, for "an unconscionable act of judicial activism."

When someone who authorized torture said you did something "unconscionable," you KNOW you crossed a line.

So hurray for Judge Kramer, whose verdict clearly reflects the intent of the equal protection clause. It's a sad state of affairs when a legal opinion based squarely upon one of the great principles of democracy -- that everyone is equal in the eyes of the government -- is denounced as an act of radical fringe activism.

Living the Gospel

Preach the Gospel every day. Use words if necessary. -- St. Francis

Hurray for the courageous Ashley Smith of Atlanta, who was taken hostage by quadruple-murderer Brian Nichols.

St. Matthew recorded that Christ taught, "Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles." (Matthew 5:39-41)

In the wee hours of Saturday morning, Nichols confronted Smith in the parking lot of her apartment complex and forced his way into her apartment at gunpoint, where he tied her up.

While she was being held hostage, she read to him from the Bible. "God led him to me to tell him that he had hurt a lot of people," Smith said. She advised him to turn himself in, and then made him a pancake breakfast, which "overwhelmed" him. Having gained his trust, he allowed her to leave to visit her young daughter and even gave her some money.

"You need to go to prison and share the word of God with all the prisoners there," Smith told him.

Well done.

On This Day in Middle Earth

Samwise finds Frodo in the Tower.
Minas Tirith is besieged.
The Rohirrim, led by the wild men, come to the Grey Wood.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

What a difference an S makes

Anyone else ever done this?

I was just sitting down on a quiet Sunday afternoon to go through the new job listings on Craigslist. Unfortunately I was careless and typed in Ooops. Not what I was looking for!

On This Day in Middle Earth

Frodo and Sam attacked by Shelob; Sam takes the Ring, Frodo is captured by the Orcs of Cirith Ungol.

The Pelennor is overrun, and Faramir is wounded. Aragorn reaches Pelargir and captures the fleet. Theoden reaches Druadan Forest.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Uncensored News from Beirut

One of the most interesting blogs I've come across is Matthew in Beirut; he's an American working for the U.N. in Lebanon, and of course right now there's major international news coming out of that country. If you're at all interested in current events, I highly recommend checking out his blog for a first-person on-the-ground look at life in Beirut right now.

Just today he posted news about the murder of a Syrian merchant.

I Can't, I have a Cialis-Induced Headache

When I went next door to get coffee this morning, they had the TV on and there was an ad for Cialis running. It made me not want to have TV, ever.

"Cialis allows me to be the man my wife depends on -- for up to thirty-six hours!"

On a friend's blog recently I complained about the pharmaceutical industry; this is exactly what I was talking about.

The President and his allies are working hard ( pun intended, really) to "strengthen" marriage by preventing more people from getting married. They're also doing their best to censor everything within their grasp to make entertainment conform to their neo-Puritan "values." Yet they let the pharmaceutical industry -- one of their most important donors -- get away with promoting this patently offensive sexist crap on the air.

It's not offensive because they're talking about sex or even erectile dysfunction. When you have a man in a television commercial say, "Cialis allows me to be the man my wife depends on," it's clear that what she "depends" on is a hard cock, and without a stiffy, you're not a man. Without that boner, you're just not fulfilling her needs and your marriage is in jeopardy. She doesn't need you to help support the family financially, she doesn't need you to remember birthdays or anniversaries or even to pick up that gallon of milk on your way home. She doesn't need you to take out the garbage or fetch her mother from the airport. She doesn't need your love and emotional support: all of that is meaningless without an erection, apparently.

Problems with your marriage? Ask your doctor if Cialis is right for you, and your problems will go away. For up to thirty-six hours!

At the end of the commercial, they cut to a different man's voice at a lower volume and more rapid speed who rattles off a statement they're required to share but hope you don't hear: "Side effects may include headache, nausea, indigestion and back pain."

So you've got an erection, but you've also got a headache, you're gassy, you feel like you're gonna barf and you've got back and muscle pain. Yeah, that'll be a great lay.

On This Day in Middle Earth

Gollum leads Frodo and Sam into Shelob's lair.
Faramir retreats to the Causeway Forts.
Theoden camps under Minrimmon.
Aragorn drives the enemy toward Pelargir.
The Ents defeat the invaders of Rohan.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Speaker Phones Suck

Currently the guy in the office next to my cubicle has his door open with a conference call on speaker phone on full volume.

The office is empty.

On This Day in Middle Earth

Gollum visits Shelob, but seeing Frodo asleep nearly repents.

Denethor sends Faramir to Osgiliath. Aragorn reaches Linhir and crosses in Lebennin. Eastern Rohan is invaded from the North. First assault on Lorien.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

On This Day in Middle Earth

Dawnless Day. The Muster of Rohan: the Rohirrim ride from Harrowdale. Faramir rescued by Gandalf outside the gates of the City. Aragorn crosses Ringlo. An army from Morannon takes Cair Andros and passes into Anorien. Frodo passes the crossroads, and sees the Morgul-host set forth.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Syria's Questions

Okay...well, looks like things in Lebanon might not quite be going the direction we thought after Hariri's assassination and the resignation of the pro-Syrian government. It seems that the pro-Syrian demonstrations absolutely dwarfed the opposition. The photo on the front page of the New York Times had a picture of the march which conveniently featured placards written in English for the western media. Among the many captured in the camera's frame was one that said "Thank You, Syria!" and "America is the Real Terrorist."

In response, President Bush said, "All the world is witnessing your great movement of conscience."

I know he doesn't read the papers, but maybe his advisors want to clue him in that Lebanon's conscience seems to not be moving at all.

Which brings me to the following questions:
  1. How does Bush feel about democracy in Lebanon if a clear majority of Lebanese support the current relationship with Syria?
  2. How is Syria's occupation of Lebanon really that different from our occupation of Iraq? You have to admit, Beirut is looking a lot better than it did twenty years ago.
  3. Why is no one in the Bush administration calling for the return of parts of Lebanon occupied by Israel?

On This Day in Middle Earth

Gandalf and Pippin arrive in Minas Tirith.

Faramir leaves Henneth Annun. Aragorn leaves Erech and comes to Calembel.
At dusk Frodo reaches the Morgul Road.

Theoden comes to Dunharrow. Darkness begins to flow out of Mordor.

Bad Dream

So I had this dream last night that I cut off my left thumb. Here's what the folks at Swoon had to say about that:

  • A lost (or missing) finger predicts legal troubles concerning money matters.
  • If, in your dream, you were specifically aware that the finger involved was a left-hand one, you are being warned that any illicit affair (whether business or love) could have a very unpleasant backlash.


Tuesday, March 08, 2005

On This Day in Andy's World

So sorry, I've been suffering from blogus inactivus for days now. I've just started a new temp position where I'm actually kept busy throughout the day. Worse, their network blocks web access to AOL, so I can't check email. It's like being in prison, except I have a fabulous 16-story view up and down Park Avenue at 54th Street. The girl in the cubicle next to me is from my hometown of Beaverton, Oregon, but she went to Aloha High School, which explains so much.
I'm only temporarily sitting by her, because the person I'll be replacing is still there, and I'll take over her spot on Friday. But this Aloha HS chick thinks I'm her assistant now by virtue of proximity, even though she already has one. Today she asked me to make 30 copies of a document and paper clip them. "Paper clip them?" I asked. "Yes," she said. So I did that and then gave them to her and she said, "You know what? Maybe these should be stapled."

Tomorrow I'm pointing out that her assistant is that blond chick by the ficus.

Anyway, in addition to being deprived of checking email, I only barely had time to glance at news headlines. So here's what's been going on in the past couple of days:

Congress is poised to pass sweeping new bankruptcy legislation that will protect the poor, defenseless credit industry, which only made a paltry $30 billion profit last year, by making it harder for individuals to declare bankruptcy. This despite the fact that research proves that the vast majority of new bankruptcies in America are due to medical debt (and 75% of those people had insurance, by the way), job loss and divorce. Yes, there are irresponsible people out there spending more than they can hope to pay back, but they're statistically insignificant.

As with all acts of Congress, there's a loophole. If you're fabulously wealthy, you can put your money in a special bank account in any of five states -- and you don't have to be a resident of the state -- or you can deposit it overseas, so that when you declare bankruptcy the courts can't touch that money.

Just to make sure that you stay in debt for the rest of your life and then some, Congress also today nixed two separate proposals to raise the minimum wage. Republicans say keeping the minimum wage at $5.15/hr is good for America. Fellow blogger Thunder Jones did a little math and discovered the average CEO makes over $4,000 an hour.

President Bush has nominated John Bolton to be the new American ambassador to the United Nations. This is a guy who thinks international law is irrelevant. This is a guy who opposes the bans on chemical and nuclear weapons testing, opposes the ban on landmines, opposes Kyoto, opposes the anti-ballistic missile treaty, and is also opposed to teddy bears and sunny days. So much for the warm-fuzzy feelings of optimism after Bush's European Fence-Mending Tour: nominating this guy to represent us at the U.N. is tantamount to mooning the rest of the world.

In international news, Michael Jackson is demanding Martha Stewart's immediate withdrawal from Lebanon after she apparently shot an Italian journalist in Baghdad.

On This Day in Middle Earth

Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli and the Rangers take the Paths of the Dead at daybreak; they reach Erech at midnight.

Frodo leaves Henneth Annun.

Monday, March 07, 2005

On This Day in Middle Earth

Frodo taken by Faramir to Henneth Annun. Aragorn comes to Dunharrow at nightfall.______________________

** Sorry I haven't written anything at all in days. I think my brain has melted. I also just started a new temp job where it looks like they actually expect me to DO something, so I can't just sit and blog like I used to. Anyway, I'll be back soon, I promise. All is well.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

On This Day in Middle Earth

Aragorn overtaken by the Dunedain in the early hours.

Theoden leaves the Hornburg for Harrowdale, and Aragorn departs later in the day.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

On This Day in Middle Earth

Theoden reaches Isengard at noon. Parley with Saruman in Orthanc. A winged Nazgul passes over the camp at Dol Baran.

Friday, March 04, 2005

On This Day in Middle Earth

Theoden and Gandalf set out from Helm's Deep for Isengard.

Frodo reaches the slag mounds on the edge of the desolation of Morannon.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

On This Day in Middle Earth

Theoden retreats to Helm's Deep. Battle of the Hornburg begins.

Ents complete destruction of Isengard.

The Meaning and Purpose of Art

What a difference some snow makes! I think I went to see The Gates on the wrong day! They're gone now, but will live on in photographs and the memories of people who saw them. This picture was taken by a friend of mine, and it was so much better than anything I took, I felt obligated to post it. Click to enlarge, it's worth it!

Of course one of the oldest debates known to man is, what constitutes art? I think one aspect that everyone could agree on is that art should be, to some extent, inspirational. The Gates were certainly inspirational! If you need proof, click here. There was another popular "spin-off," if you will, The Somerville Gates, which even gotten written up in the New York Times. Unfortunately, as with Christo's Gates, it was a temporary installation and the photos have now, sadly, been removed from the internet. I bet you can still find some around somewhere, though. Posted by Hello

South Beach, WeHo, Fire Island...Spokane?

An interesting article in Salon today talks about a movement to create a "gay business district," a la Chelsea or the Castro, in Spokane, Washington.

Conservatives, naturally, are none too thrilled with the proposal. Evangelical groups have distributed antigay literature to city officials claiming that "gays will bring disease and mental illnesses into Spokane."

Penny Lancaster, leader of Community Impact Spokane, has said the city risks becoming a "gay Mecca."

Penny darling, I think I speak for gays the world over when I say you don't have a thing to worry about.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

On This Day in Middle Earth

Frodo comes to the end of the Marshes.

Gandalf comes to Edoras and heals Theoden.

The Rohirrim ride west against Saruman. Second Battle of the Fords of Isen. Erkenbrand defeated.

Entmoot ends and the Ents march on Isengard, reaching it at night.

Have You the [Right] Wing?

I've commented before that the arguments put forth against gay rights -- especially marriage -- don't seem to be either rational or intelligent. Here's a couple of letters to the editor that appeared in a recent issue of The New York Post:

Children need a mother and a father to come into existence. Two women or two men cannot have children. It's discrimination to intentionally deny a child both parents. All people deserve to be treated with love and respect, but not all choices merit the same distinction. Perhaps some tax-code revisions are what's needed.

Mary-Cecilia Kelly
Rye, New York

Is this woman under the impression that we are lobbying for the legalization of impregnating gay men? Being capable of reproduction in no way guarantees that you make a good parent. Gay people have to really want children in order to get them, and have to satisfy state and local requirements to prove to adoption agencies that they're qualified and stable. Heterosexuals only have to forget to put on a condom. In fact, most gay couples are raising adopted children that you heterosexuals didn't want.

I love this new argument that gay people discriminate against children by "intentionally denying" them "both parents." (This also implies that single-parent families should be illegal, and ignores the fact that Jesus was essentially raised in a foster home.) She makes it sound like we're snatching babies away from loving, stable heterosexual homes so we can raise confused, maladjusted kids. But, as was revealed by President Bush's recent gaffe, scientific studies conclude that children raised by same-sex couples don't turn out any different than their peers. Amazing how suddenly it's the gay people who are the bigots. This is akin to the argument that any criticism of idiots like Condoleezza Rice must be motivated by racism.

Also, honestly, what does having children have to do with the right to marry? I'd like to have a committed relationship someday, but I don't have any intention at all of having children. A lot of heterosexuals can say the same, but no one would dare try to deny a straight couple the legal right to marry simply because they didn't plan on breeding. And doesn't the equal protection clause mean, in fact, that all choices do merit the same distinction? She says everyone deserves to be treated with love and respect, but then she argues for different rights for different people. What does "respect" mean to her? I guess it means a tax cut.

Marriage is not a "right," it is a sacrament defined in the Bible. It is the job of the government to protect rights, it is the job of the church to protect sacraments. If a couple — gay or not — is unwilling to live up to the biblical definitions (all of them, not just the gender specificity), then they should unite in a civil contractual agreement produced by government, with whatever rights citizens vote to attach. Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's (rights), and render unto God what is God's (sacraments).

Carolina Garza
Sudbury, Mass.

She's almost on to something. I wonder if she'd be horrified to discover that her position basically aligns with Howard Dean, who said that he didn't think the federal government should recognize anything called a "marriage," and that everyone should have civil unions instead. He regards "marriage" as a purely religious term.

But if marriage is exclusively a sacrament defined by the Bible, then what of secularists or people of non-Judeo-Christian beliefs? You don't hear conservatives arguing that a heterosexual Buddhist couple shouldn't be allowed to marry, nor are they arguing that whatever their relationship might be, it shouldn't be called a marriage. She seems to be calling for federal civil union legislation that would define such a union as any relationship that doesn't meet sacramental standards. That might be hard to achieve, since defining marriage in that way would be a clear violation of the separation of church and state.

It's also more than slightly ironic that someone who insists that what constitutes a marriage be nationally defined by Christian standards would then commit the blasphemy of deliberately misrepresenting Scripture. In the passage she quotes, she fails to mention that Jewish leaders asked Jesus specifically, "Is it lawful to pay taxes?" (And Jesus said, yes, it sure is.) Her interpretation is categorically wrong.

I'd like to see her argue with the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., that civil rights is not a religious issue.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

On This Day in Middle Earth

Frodo, Sam and Gollum begin the passage of the Dead Marshes at dawn.

Entmoot continues.

Abstinence-Only Education

Abstinence is the only 100% effective way to avoid being shot in the beaver.

Finding True Love

I don't care what Fred Phelps, George W. Bush or Rick Santorum say about marriage being only between a man and a woman, I'm in love. I'm going to marry my iPod.