Sunday, November 30, 2008

Why the fear re: gay marriage?

Can anyone help me to understand this video?



I just don't get this. Why are these parents so afraid to talk to their seven year old about gay marriage? If my 6 year old came home from school talking about a book called "King and King", about two princes who married each other, I would consider that a priceless opportunity to talk about homosexuality and heterosexuality--about human sexuality, about safe bodies, about wise choices, etc. etc. Because to me this is a huge difficulty/danger zone for people in general, and the problems/dangers aren't really about homosexuality vs. heterosexuality. The problems are about boundaries, and clear communication, and the long term results of short term choices, and so forth.

I wish my parents, or some caring adult, had been willing to talk openly with me about human sexuality when I was six and seven years old, and when I was 8 and 9 and 10 and 11 and 12. I think such conversations would have prevented a lot of problems for me.

Do you understand this? Can you enlighten me a little. I wish I could sit down with this couple and just ask them lots of questions. It sounds like they are ... afraid about something. I want to know what that is. I'm curious as to whether their fear is justified, and whether it is effectively directed (that is: I wonder if their fear is really about what they think it's about.). They also seem to be under the impression that they can protect their children. But I agree with Dan Allender. We can't protect our children, we can only enstory them. I wish that this couple would focus less on protecting, and more on enstorying. Or maybe they aren't afraid at all--maybe it's something else. They seem like a fairly reasonable, nice couple. I just don't get what they are talking about.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

"Why don't you just ..."

You need to know up front that my 6 year old daughter, E, hasn't really been exposed to much "Christianese" in her short lifespan. Note, as you read, the text I've bolded. It helps at the end.

The other day I picked her up from school and the following conversation ensued:

me: So E, I was talking to your teacher and she says that you and L. are the two best readers in the class. That's awesome! Way to go!

E: Yeah, and actually, I'm really the best reader, 'cause sometimes L. doesn't know a word and I help her.

me: You know why you're like that--so smart and good at reading? It's because of your genes.

E: What are genes?

me: Well, your whole body is made up of millions of tiny cells ...

E: (interrupting, and rolling her eyes) oh, *that* again!

me: (thinking "I'm losing her. Must regroup!") Ok, well, everybody has this special thing inside them called DNA, and it's kind of like your own special library. When you're born, your mom gives you half of her library, and your dad gives you half of his library, and it become your very own special library, and it tells you how to do everything!

E: Everything?

me: yes. and part of the reason your the best reader in your class, and you're so smart and so forth, is because your mom and dad are both so smart at that stuff, so when you were born, and got your DNA library from us, you got one that made you really smart too.

E: Ohhhhhhh! So L.'s mom isn't as smart as Mum?

me: (backpedaling). Well, it doesn't necessarily mean that. There's some variation. But essentially, yes, if your parents are really smart, then you're likely to be really smart, and if your parents aren't that smart, then you're likely to be not that smart. But sometimes you can be really different from your parents. Like for instance, you have this thing called "emotional intelligence".

E: Emotional intelligence???

me: yes. it means that you're smart emotionally. You're really good at being kind to people and connecting to them and so forth. It's important to have emotional intelligence to go along with academic intelligence

E: Academic intelligence?

me: Yes. That's like being really good at reading and understanding things. But it can lead to arrogance and obnoxiousness.

E: What's "obnoxiousness"?

me: that's a bad attitude where you think you're better than other people and then you're not kind to them.

E: That's what I thought you meant.

me: You don't have that. You have emotional intelligence, which means you're kind to other people and good at connecting with them.

E: Ohhhh! You mean like in class when L. doesn't know a word, and I kind of whisper it to her, but I don't try to take over the reading from her or anything.

me: Yes, exactly. You're good at that. I'm not very good at that at all. I have high academic intelligence, but low emotional intelligence. I wish I was more like you and had higher emotional intelligence.

E: Well, Why don't you just get born again?

me: (pondering) E, You're awesome. You totally rock. I'm glad you're my daughter.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A rant re: The Shack

Proof that Americans are just plain wierd (not to mention f***** up) (of course we humans in general are like that, aren't we?) can be found in the recent history of book sales in America.

Okay, maybe these book sales don't just represent purchases by Americans. But .. I'm willing to bet that they *mostly* do.

Right now at Number 8 on Amazon.com's sales ranks for all books (and number one on New York Times' paperback trade fiction) is William Young's The Shack. To (slightly mis) quote the brilliant Dick Staub (I mean I misquote the letter, but I get the spirit of what he said just right), "The Shack is another book in the vein of 'The Prayer of Jabez' and 'The Left Behind Books'."

Oh, by the way, here's my actual review of the The Shack.

The Shack is probably either rapidly approaching or has already left behind the one million in total sales mark.

The 16 Left Behind Books altogether have sold some 65 million copies. At the top of the news section of the web site: "Dating the Book of Revelation--Why it matters."

The Prayer of Jabez sold 9 million copies.

All these strike me as at least bordering on drivel. Sorry to be harsh. I mean drivel has it's place, I suppose. But with this many people paying to read it, it's frightening drivel. I absolutely cannot picture Jesus being into any of this stuff.

It almost makes one want to become Roman Catholic. Or Muslim. Or Australian. Or Welsh. Or something. I bet Muslims and Roman Catholics and Aussies and Welsh, by and large, don't buy this drivel. Or anything much like it. BICBW.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Thursday, November 20, 2008

"post-marital sex in a different sex marriage"

I found this, from Barry Sanders, incredibly funny.


Although Mr. Obama drew scant support form the Religious Right during his campaign, Fundamentalist Christians would have no objection to the president having post-marital sex in the White House according to Focus on the Family's James Dobson. "Intimate relations in the context of a different-sex marriage is just not something we have a problem with, despite what the liberal media would have you believe," he said.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Rick Warren gets it wrong on Prop 8

I suppose this shouldn't be news. But since the writing of the unbearable "Purpose Driven Life", Warren has wiggled his way back into Benjamin's good books with his advocacy over some of the same social justice issues about which I am concerned.

However, he got it badly wrong on this one. And not just because he is promoting the patently unChristian agenda of further oppressing the already oppressed. Also because he is just ... plain old incorrect. He claims that every culture and every religion for five thousand years has supported the "definition of marriage" as being between one man and one woman.

This is seriously problematic on three fronts. First of all because it's too narrow. Christianity of course springs from Judaism, and all its roots are in Judaism, including many, if not most, of its heroes--guys like Abraham, Moses, David. Too many of Christianity's story's heroes were into one man, *many* women marriages.

Second of all because it's too broad. It was totally against the rules for Jews, back in the day, to marry non-Jews. And much more recently, some *very* large segment of Warren's recentish American Christian forefathers argued very strongly against the marriage of one "white" man and one "black" woman. Or even worse (gasp!) one "black" man and one "white" woman (as in, for instance, Barack Obama's parents, whose marriage would have been illegal in 16 U.S. states when Obama was born).

The worst problem of all, of course, with Warren's argument is: So what? What if it was true, and every culture and religion for all time had cherished and promoted a "definition" of marriage which involved one man and one women. Is this a strong argument for that definition? Hardly. Nearly every culture and religion of any consequence in recorded history has promoted warfare as the ... normal, or at least best-we-can-do -- way of life between humans. Kill rather than be killed, for sure. So is Warren advocating such a stance? Is Warren willing to adopt any and every stance that has been promoted or lived out by the vast majority of cultures and religions in recorded history? I seriously doubt it.

I mean it's just a silly argument on it's face. If all those cultures and religions are just wrong, then who cares if they all agreed? Warren is arguing "tradition" (culture) and "morality" (religion), which is exactly the same sort of argument used against "blacks" marrying "whites", and not that long ago in this nation.

Just as all those anti-miscegenation people turned out to be wrong, so will Warren, Dobson, and company. And just as interracial marriage didn't destroy the fabric of society, neither will gay and lesbian marriage. Warren will turn out to have been just as wrong as another big-time Christian leader, Martin Luther, was about Jews. At one level one wants to give him some leeway, and acknowledge that Warren, like the rest of us, can't escape his own time and culture beyond a certain extent. But on another level, I feel like howling with rage and sadness. Warren and his friends have contributed to a horrible wrenching of 18,000 couples in California--couples, many with families, who have only recently been married, who are still in that amazing first year of marriage where anything is possible and the joy and the beauty and the glory are all still so fresh. There is enough in our culture and in human nature warring against love and life and beauty and glory--to see those who should be promoting and engendering these things doing exactly the opposite is untenable. It reminds one of this passage from the Hebrew Scriptures:

Doom to you who call evil good
and good evil,
Who put darkness in place of light
and light in place of darkness,
Who substitute bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter!

Doom to you who think you're so smart,
who hold such a high opinion of yourselves!
All you're good at is drinking—champion boozers
who collect trophies from drinking bouts
And then line your pockets with bribes from the guilty
while you violate the rights of the innocent.


Warren and company have become the very religious leaders Jesus spoke so devastatingly against--the "pharisees" whom they pretend to so look down on.

Jesus had something to say to such.
You're hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You keep meticulous account books, tithing on every nickel and dime you get, but on the meat of God's Law, things like fairness and compassion and commitment—the absolute basics!—you carelessly take it or leave it. Careful bookkeeping is commendable, but the basics are required. Do you have any idea how silly you look, writing a life story that's wrong from start to finish, nitpicking over commas and semicolons?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The floating meadow

 


This is the view from the meadow at the top of the hill at the bottom of our street--just below Bag End, at Dusk.
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Saturday, November 08, 2008

elephant in the room

It seems we are entirely capable of continuing to pretend it isn't there, or that it's not really an elephant, even after the elephant has died. We make the vaguest of possible references, along the lines of "There were times in my life when I sensed a certain ... grayness in the room." Meanwhile, the room continues to stink from the elephant's shit, which some of us are still trying to clean up, with limited success.



Image by nickandmel2006 on flickr, licensed as described here.

If I may be so bold: At least the damn thing is dead. Or as a very wise one whom I admire said "One down, 90,000 to go" (or something like that)

Note to elephant lovers: this post has nothing to do with elephants, and I apologize if it has offended your sensibilities.

34 stories for my 34th birthday, final installment

33. My oldest friend with whom I am still regularly in contact is Laurel. I'm fairly certain I met Laurel via the Thomas family (they of the quadruplets). There are lots of stories about Laurel. She was part of a group of us who all learned square dancing together, back in ... golly--mid-90s-ish? That group also included David, Ian, Janan, Christa, Kat, Brandie, and me. Wow, that list of names brings back a *lot* of memories. Laurel and I joined MV LOGOS II together, quite unwittingly. We bumped into each other at some meeting for people who were planning to join the ship, and were quite surprised. Laurel and Megan and I were part of a smallish group (a group which also included Matt Triplat) who held the top 4 spots on the "broke curfew the most times" list on LOGOS II. Wow. That opens the door to a lot more stories as well. Laurel is a dancer and actress and singer and artist, and she ... rocks. She works for a really kewl little organic produce company in Seattle. Laurel attended Seattle Central Community college slightly before I did. Then she transferred to Seattle Pacific University, which despite valiant attempts and a relatively few kewl people is still far too whitebread and conservative and "Christian" in the worst sense of the term. Fortunately (IMO), Laurel didn't last too long at SPU, and she's now at the far superior UW (that's University of Washington the uninitiated). Laurel is married to the totally awesome Chris, one of whose attributes is that being around him makes me feel relaxed and sort of ... makes me like myself more, somehow.

34. I'm an owl. I've been this way as far back as I can remember. I'm sort of the opposite of my dad in this sense. Given my druthers (that is such a delightful old word, "druthers"), I stay up half the night (or most of the night) working, or writing, or reading, or doing homework, or talking, or ... anything, really, and then sleep until noon. Or two PM. It's not that I can't operate on a more ... "normal" schedule. I can, and have, and do. It's just that if things can be arranged to have an owl schedule, without too much trouble, then I'll thus arrange them. I naturally *tend* (or to use a nautical term, *list*) that direction. Hence it's 1:32 AM, and here I am writing. My wife and our older daughter also have owl tendencies, although theirs are not as pronounced as mine. Our younger daughter, on the other hand, is a lark, and lists toward "early to bed, early to rise". Which reminds me of the old Proverb:

Early to bed, early to rise
Makes a man stupid, and blind in the eyes.

Here's Ben Franklin's original version of the proverb.

If you came to this string of posts somewhere in the middle, here's a link to the beginning.

Friday, November 07, 2008

34 stories for my 34th birthday, penultimate installment

32. I love to sing. I learned to sing from Cheryl Minnick, the pastor's wife in the sect in which I grew up. She and her husband both had music degrees, and they sang really well. In fact, here's a funny story about them singing. They loved to sing southern gospel style music. I used to love to listen to that music. It's sung in multiple part harmony. Here's an old favorite of mine from the fairly well known, in southern gospel circles, Cathedral Quartet.



I also learned from Cheryl's daughter Tiffany, who sang *rather* beautifully. When I was on LOGOS II, I became part of an 8 member ensemble. We sang in Italy and Albania and Turkey. There was Marco, from Italy, me, Simon from Scotland, Christine form Germany, and alas 4 others whom I cannot at this moment remember. It was enormous fun.

In summer of 2000, at a baptism, which was a bit of a party, the entire Minnick family, Cheryl, Tom, Chad, Shawn, and Tiffany all gathered in semicircle to sing a little song Cheryl had written in acapella 5 part harmony, for my soon to be fiance Megan. The song had been written by Cheryl for her then fiance Tom years previously, at Bible College, and involved two character who were worms, one of whose names (the male character) was "Willy". Willy worm and his amour (Wanda, perhaps?) fall in love with each other in this cute little song. I had been innocent enough, at some level, that, having heard this song several times growing up, it had never occurred to me that there were any ribald possible implications. Megan, on the other hand, instantly saw such implication (Willy Worm????), and was sort of forced, by politeness, to stand and listen to the entire pastor's family singing the entire song acapella. It's actually quite hilarious. There were even little hand movements involving a forefinger pretending to be Willy worm, singing his little heart out.

33. must off to see magic show and dinner at community center. will be back later with 33 and 34.

Next

Thursday, November 06, 2008

34 stories for my 34th birthday, installment 7

28. My sister and I raised rabbits as pets for two years, as a business. We raised Holland Lop and Mini Lop rabbits. They both have floppy ears. It was a lot of fun and a lot of work. The bunnies are astoundingly cute. Here's a photo. Here's another. The bunnies sold for between 8 and 14 dollars each to the pet stores, who then, I suppose, sold them for a lot more. If I had it to do again, I'd focus on selling them directly. The mother bunnies pull lots of fur from their own chest area to line the nesting box with. The pregnant and nursing mothers, as well as the young bunnies, eat astounding amounts of food. Which is only to be expected, I suppose. Of course if it's to be expected, it's not astounding, is it? Ah well. When the babies are born they are actually really ugly, like little hairless rats, with closed eyes. But after a couple weeks they get fur and their eyes open, and you can hardly stand to part with them. Except that there are just so *many* of them. The does would have 5 to 8 bunnies per litter, and they could have multiple litters per year.

29. My sister raised male dairy calves for a while, and I helped. You can get them basically for free from the dairies when they are 1 day old. You have to buy 50 pound bags of powdered formula, which you then have to mix up and feed to them by bottle 3 times a day. You begin with a two quart bottle, but eventually you graduate to a 2 gallon bucket with a big nipple sticking out of the bottom edge. Finally there comes a day when you convince the calf to drink out of the top of the bucket, rather than the nipple. This is a great day because then you can just sit the bucket down and let them drink. You must be very careful to keep the whole area clean, or they will get sick. This, no doubt, is related to the fact that they are not drinking their mother's milk--becasue *we* are drinking it. Which is a bit horrible, if you think about it. When they get to the right age, you call they butcher, and he comes and kills them, and hauls them off to his shop where he chops them up and wraps them in butchers paper and freezes them. Then you put all that beef in you chest freezer, and you have plenty of beef to eat for a long while. All sounds a bit vicious, somehow, doesn't it? We always named the calves names that would remind us of their eventual fate, like "Cheeseburger" or "Stroganoff". =)

30. I was a fan of a lot of books in my childhood that I never read anymore. I liked the Hardy Boys books, and I liked all Marguerite Henry's books, and Jim Kjelgaard's books, and the Sugar Creek Gang books, and (ah groan, here comes true confessions) Janette Oke's books, and Frank Peretti's books, and I actually read the first several Left Behind books. Don't stone me. And Albert Payson Terhune's Lad books. And many Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan books. Among all those, I wouldn't mind at all revisiting the Kjelgaard's and Henry's books. The Big Red Series and the Chincoteauge series are just delightful. I wonder if someday I'll be admitting, with groans, the books I tend to currently like? I doubt it.

31. I'm very good at math, and always have been. In grade school, learning long division and muliplication left me weeping with frustration because I got it, completely and thoroughly got it, way before it was over. Which mean I kept having to do the homework, and the long sets of problems, long after it had lost all interest to me. That's a brutal thing to do to a child, in my opinion. I loved algebra, and trigonometry, and geometry, and mathematical proofs. Maths is one of the more beautiful things in the universe. I remember back in 2005, doing Calculus 2, and coming to understand the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus, and just being wowed and mesmerized by its simplicity and beauty and power. It was at university of Washington that I finally ran into a maths that was really really hard for me, in the form of differential equations, which I dropped out of (and hence didn't finish the math minor, alas). But I still totally want to go back and do diff EQ sometime. After Arabic, perhaps =).

Next

34 stories for my 34th birthday, installment 6

22. I remain deeply cynical about political solutions in general and about Barack Obama in particular. Earlier this year, I was completely sold on Obama. But that has been going away and going away. The level of narcissism it surely takes to run for and win the presidency of the United States is almost frightening. I'm disgusted with the American ludicrously pro-Israel (and by implication hate-Palestinians) take on the whole thing, and the way Obama has at best totally sold out to it. Beyond that, it's just not in my nature to believe to much in anything, or to see anything in black and white terms. But this deserves it own post, and I'll do that sometime in the next few days.

23. My memories of preschool are these: My dad would drive me to preschool in the morning. We'd stop at a donut shop and get two donuts and coffee and milk. This is a ritual my dad had from before I was born, and which he still keeps to some extent--getting up in the morning well before whatever it is you actually have to get up for, and going somewhere to drink coffee and talk or think or read or what have you. We'd sit in the donut shop and consume the food and drink, and then off to preschool. My pre-school teacher was Miss Kathy. We tended to have canned fruit in a bowl as part of our lunches at that preschool. We took a nap in the middle of the day, on a mat reserved for that purpose. Each of us got one mat. You didn't have to sleep, but you did have to lie quietly. Twice a week we had gym, which I rather liked. I suspect someone was helping us learn to read and write, but I don't remember such. I remember there was a pretty young secretary in the lobby of the preschool. When I was 5, I'd walk over every day from pre-school to Kindergarten. I think an adult walked me over. It was a Catholic preschool, and we learned this little prayer:

God is great, God is good.
Let us thank him for our food.
Dear Jesus, Thank you for our food.
Amen.

We'd say this little prayer every day before lunch, and at some point I introduced it before dinner at home. My parents acquiesed to this, but I'm guessing they didn't feel super comfortable with it. Now, when I write it, in my head I can't help but mockingly force "food" to rhyme with "good", which makes me chuckle every time I think it.

24. I've known several dogs well over the years. My story about dogs goes like this. The first is Chuka ("CHUCK uh"), whom I meant at perhaps the age of 5. I think Chuka was a mongrel. I loved her, and she loved me, which seems the proper way for kids and dogs. She had puppies in our den (the same den where my parents liquor cabinet was, before they were teetotallers). She started having the first one in the hallway, which freaked me out. She quickly moved to her bed in the den. I remember the puppies were in their placental sacks, and thinking how wierd they looked, and then Chuka ate up the placental sacks (yum!), and magically, there were several little adorable puppies. Chuka actually belonged to my cousin Kelli, two years my senior, but I guess her mom, my Aunt Carol, was in some kind of tough transition and so we ended up looking after her. Unfortunately, after we'd had her a while, she got out one day and started chasing a car and got run over and died.

25. The next dog after that was a Cocker Spaniel named Oscar when I was 11. We kind of inherited him because his owner, another military family, had to move back to the States and couldn't or wouldn't take him. Oscar was fun, but he had the highly embarrassing habit of "humping" people's legs. I don't understand why I feel compelled to put the word "humping" in quotes.

26. The last dog I ever considered "mine" was a huge-pain-in-the-ass Shih Tzu named Scruffy. My parents didn't like us to say "shit", so we had to pronounce Scruffy's breed name "SHEET soo", which my sister and I found my highly amusing and incredibly obnoxious at the same time. Scruffy liked to pee on our hallway carpet. Over the years that we owned him, he peed on it so much that when we left that house and sold it, we had to tear up the carpet and sand about 3/4 of an inch off the hardwood underneath. That was some seriously smelly sawdust. Wow. Scruffy also had skin problems, which are endemic to the breed, and he would scratch himself until he bled. So sometimes he had to wear a ridiculous and obnoxious white plastic cone thing around his neck and head so that he could not use his teeth to scratch any part of his body. I think we were partially relieved when one day a completely intoxicated and weeping woman pulled up in her enormous 1970's style car to say she had run him over and killed him and she was so sorry. She had his body in the trunk. I guess, looking back, she was frightened, as well, that we'd call the cops over her drunk driving. But we didn't. We just buried Scruffy in the back yard, and that was that.

27. Wow, I have a lot of dog stories. When I was 6 years old, there was a little black boy who lived down the street. I don't remember his name, although I think I knew it then. I'm guessing it was semi-tough to be black in Wichita Kansas. Anyway, he had a German Shepherd that looked really scary to me, which hung out in their back yard. There was a sign on the gate into the back yard which said "Beware of dog", and I was! This kid always tried to convince me to go in the back yard, that the dog was safe, etc. but I never would. Then one day, the dog wasn't back there. He told me it was locked in the basement. So I acquiesed to go in his back yard. Almost immediately that dog bounded out of the basement and attacked me. It bit me 17 times. Not that I was counting, but this is what I was told later. That kid's big sister carried me home and delivered me to my parents, and my dad put me in the car seat and took me to the ER. I remember him putting the seat down so I could lie instead of sit. I remember being really scared and in a lot of pain. At the ER they gave me a rabies shot in my butt cheek, which I remember thinking was kind of kewl.

Ever after that, I've never been frightened of dogs. If a dog seems to me to have a threatening posture, my immediate reaction is to be doubly threatening back. Of course I'm a lot bigger now. But I'll go up to strange dogs to say "hi", and hold out my hand and stuff for them to sniff, when other people are a bit afraid. Wierd, huh?

Next

34 stories for my 34th birthday, installment 5

18. I am part of an elite group of people who do something rather difficult and amazing, and I am very likely one of the top 50 people in the world when it comes to this activity. (Is that mysterious enough for you) By the way, if you know what I'm talking about, please don't let on in the comments.

19. Last year Megs and I went down and toured Theo's chocolate. They are down in Fremont, in the old Red Hook Ale brewery. They are one of only a dozen or so places in the U.S. that produces chocolate all the way from bean to bar all in one place, and they are the *only* one in the U.S. that does it totally organically and all fair trade. Their chocolate is simply divine. It's also somewhat more expensive that brand name chocolate like hershey. But it's worth it--it's *so* much more delicious, and you know that no child or slave labor went into growing or harvesting the cocoa beans.

20. Van Gogh is my favorite painter. I didn't get much, if any, education in the arts during my growing up. So I don't have a wide knowledge of art, painters, and so forth. But Megs introduced me to Van Gogh, and I got to see several of his paintings at the big art museum in London, and I just find it .... real. His paintings seem to literally go beyond two dimensions in a way that other painters' works don't. he kind of applies paint like God applying reality to the universe. Yeah. And I feel like I understand, a tiny bit, his depression, being a dysthymic melancholy myself.

21. When I was about 24 or 25 years old, Chad and I got invited onto KIRO radio, one of the bigger AM stations in Seattle, to talk about why we were against a ballot initiative that have given minority status to gays. On the way over there, we decided that our two main points would be: 1. Homosexuality is just abnormal. Just look at the plumbing. and 2. Giving minority status to gays is like giving minority status to hot air balloonists. It doesn't make sense to give minority status to a group of people based on a certain type of activity that they engage in.

God, I was an obnoxious, blind little bastard. I'm not saying Chad was. I'm just saying I was. I just didn't, and still to some extent don't, have any understanding of what it's like to be a discriminated against minority. "Discriminated against" sounds so ... clean. But it's not clean. It sucks and sucks and sucks. And then it sucks some more.

Next

34 stories for my 34th birthday, installment 4.

13. For story 13, I was going to attempt to narrate a fictionalized and somewhat more detailed version of the first time that my grandfather, David "Buddy" Eaton, raped my mom, Susan. Probably when she was 12 or 13 years old. Or maybe the 10th or 20th time. But I find I don't have the stomach or heart for it today. I still think this story is part of my story. Maybe I'll attempt it later.

14. I used to like to play basketball. There was nothing really like organized sports in the smallish "Christian" school where I did middle school, nor in the "homeschooling cooperative" that turned into when I was in high school. But the guys did get together and play basketball. I enjoyed it, although I was never super good at it. I tended to try to make up for my lack of skill by being as rough as possible. We never had coaches or refs, so it was "call your own fouls", and/or "no blood, no foul." This generally worked reasonably well. One time, though, the pastor's daugher, Tiffany, who was very pretty and very ... saucy--in the sense that she wasn't really having any of the sort of general-putting-down-of-woman that took place in that sect, played with us boys. My memory is somewhat vague, but I believe she got her nose broken, and I believe I might have been somewhat guilty in the incident. Not on purpose, you understand. I wonder if my memory is vague because I felt really really awful? Can't remember. Poor Tiffness, as we used to call her, had, I believe, several incidents with her nose throughout her growing up, and as a teenager, she had to have this horrible surgery where they rebreak your nose and insert a big nasty plastic thing up inside to give it shape while it heals to it heals in the correct shape.

15. Chad Minnick was, I'm thinking, my best friend in high school. I remember lots of things about Chad. He was one year older than me, and was thus somehow part of a group of older boys that i was never really a part of. Back in the late 80's this rather pretty girl named Danica (Hey Danica =) (by the way, you simply must pronounce it "duh NEEK uh") came and joined our tiny "Christian" school. Chad had a terrible crush on her, and he had a pair of New Balance Sneakers that he wore, which have a big "N" on the side. So above the "N" he wrote, with a pen, "I heart" (that is, a little blue heart he drew), and below the "N" he wrote "ikki". So his sneakers read "I heart Nikki". Which I thought amazingly bold of him. Chad was always somewhat more charismatic and well spoken than I was. He became a politician when he grew up. A few years after the I heart Nikki thing, about 6 or 8 of us, all teenagers, went and camped on the shores of Lake Chelan together to celebrate Nikki's birthday. Chad dared me to propose a toast to Nikki at the birthday meal. I remember getting the impression that he was rather egging me on and thinking I'd embarrass myself. (Realize, of course, that we were all teetotallers, and more or less very good boys and girls all round, and there were of course, adult chaperones on the camping trip. So the "toast" was with juice or something. =)) I thought about it a bit and wrote down a little something and acquitted myself excellently, which I think left Chad both delighted and chagrined.

16. My best friend recently is Russell, whose dad was a New York communist, which among many other things makes Russell amazingly kewl. Russell, more than anyone else in my life, has introduced me to the delight of hanging out at a bar and imbibing good beer and just talking. This is something I missed out on altogether in the teetotalling family and teetotalling sect in which I grew up. Russell is the only person I know who has a greater actual grasp on the dark reality of the world than I do. Despite that, he's much more of an optimist than I am. You rock Russell.

17. I voted, in this recent election, for Washington Initiative 1000, which passed with nearly 60% in favor. It changes the law in Washington state in such a way that terminally ill individuals with predicted less than 6 months to live can request and self adiminister lethal medication. It strikes me as simply absurb that we wouldn't allow people to do this. We are kinder to our dogs than we are to ourselves. This is, of course, true about dogs in other ways than just this. My thoughts about suicide were shifted somewhat by a vignette in Helen Dewitt's The Last Samurai, which you must read if you haven't yet. Note: i just attempted to foist a "must" on you. Consider yourself notified. When I was younger, if I had thought about suicide at all, it would have been in terms of "sin". Now I find that "sin" is no longer a useful paradigm for much of anything, for me. However, I never did think of suicide as some sort of ultimate or unforgiveable sin. I have learned over the years that many people think that way--that if you commit suicide you go straight to hell. This strikes me as absurd on muliple levels, but back when I used the "sin" paradigm, it mostly struck me as absurd in that it was ridiculous to think that God couldn't or wouldn't want to love and help and receive a person who had such extreme pain. By the way, I still think suicide is a pretty bad idea for most people, and if you or anyone you know is contemplating suicide, I'd love to talk to you before you do it.

Phew--that's 17 of 34. yeehaw.

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34 stories for my 34th birthday, installment 3


9. I'm having a really excellent brilliant birthday. Yesterday my yotta brilliant counsellor helped me partially convince myself that I'm not as horrible a person as I tend to secretly believe. This morning I got a birthday gift that made me cry. It was a card that said that Gretta, David, and Rachel had purchased, from TEAR fund australia, safe drinking water for one family in Bangladesh, Ethiopa, Laos, Cambodia, or Afghanistan. Actually there were a couple other countries mentioned, but I can't remember them. I was overwhelmed with gratitude for all that I have. It kind of blows me away that one can give a bit of money and see to it that someone who formerly didn't have access to safe drinking water now *does* have that access. I also got a really kewl and enigmatic little magnet, with two words in Thai and the numbers 10 and 26. This from Rachel and Victor, my Thai brother in law, whom I've never met but who is by all reports an amazingly kewl person. Does anyone know what this says? I also got a really kewl book called "Eats, shoots and leaves", which is a funny title which does *not* use the Oxford Comma, the name of which I learned from Gretta. "Oxford Comma" is the antecedent of the second "which" in the preceeding sentence. I read chapter one aloud to Megsie and we laughed and laughed. The author reference the Apostrophe Protection Society, but claims they are too polite and suggests a new militant wing of the organization. One of the things this new militant wing will do is issue stickers which say "this apostrophe is unnecessary." This is such a marvelous idea that I'm going to go order some right now.

10. I have hiked up to and stood directly under Maracas waterfall in Trinidad. It's 91 meters tall. The water thunders down on you, and it's so refreshing cause it's *hot* in Trinidad. I went up there twice back in '98 with other Logoids. It was awesome. If you ever get to stand under a waterfall, go for it.

11. When I was six years old, I ran all over the neighborhood with my friends Jennifer and Sammie. We rode bikes together, and built snowmen, and made little secret houses in the wheat fields at the end of the dirt road. We played in my sandbox, which my dad built for us. There was little or no adult supervision. Recently I have found this amazing, as I would never let my six year old go anywhere without adult supervision. Period. I can't figure out if only our attitudes have changed, or the actual danger level has changed. The thing is, there was *rather* a lot of danger involved for Sammie, Jennifer, and I. More than you could probably imagine. I could tell you more about that sometime, if you like.

12. In third grade I was at McCarver elementary in Tacoma Washington. Our teacher, whose name, alas, I don't remember, gave us an amazing and incredible gift. During second grade, the whole year, she read us 3 chapter books out loud. she read The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe. And she read Sounder. And she read Pippi Longstocking. I wish I knew her name so I could track her down and thank her.

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34 stories for my birthday, installment 2.

5. At some point in my early 20's, I decided to go on a 40 day fast and spiritual retreat. It turned out to less a "spiritual retreat" and more just a sort of adventure sans eating. I went and "camped" (in a pop up tent trailer) in Conconully all by myself. I consumed only fruit juice and water for 40 days. I generally had a grand time. I went down in the evenings to watch the basketball playoffs at the bar. Where I also drank only juice or water. I think that wierded them out a bit. During this time I acquired an 8 week old kitten whom I eventually dubbed "Ana", which was short for "Anaidia", which is Greek for "importunity". I named her this because at night, when I was trying to sleep, Ana would cuddle up to me, purring intensely. I didn't like this, so I would gently sit her to the side a bit. And back she'd come. And back i'd put her. this vignette must have played out thousands of times. Thus at some point I named her.

6. Here's a story I've been told, which I don't remember. Apparently, as a young boy of 4 or 5, one day while my mom was sleeping I found a 2000 foot long roll of aluminum foil. That's "aluminium foil" for the Aussies. Our house in Kansas was arranged in such a way that one could go fromt the living room, into the hallway, through my bedroom, through the bathroom, through the kitchen, through the dining room, and back into the living room. Apparently I attached one end of the roll of al foil somewhere and then proceeded around this loop again and again until the entire roll was gone. I used to have a lot more energy than I do nowadays, I guess.

7. I recently purchased my first motorcycle. I've driven over 700 miles on it already. when I'm driving it, I feel more alive than I do most of the time. I have nice riding gear that keeps me warm and dry even in endless Seattle downpour.

8. Up until recently I always thought I was pretty much way smarter than nearly everybody. I had a 4.0 grade point average through high school, and finished my university degree with a 3.92. I remember even in late grade school kind of knowing that I found learning and test taking easier than nearly everybody else. Recently I've had to do some redefinition in this area. Firstly, I've gradually realized that the kind of intelligence I have isn't really all it's cracked up to be. It will take you so far, but ... then, as it turns out, you need a big helping of something lately called "emotional intelligence", an area where I fall definitely below the average, rather than over it. Secondly, I took the LSAT, which is the law school entrance exam, and scored in the 71st percentile. I didn't do any study or preparation for it, thinking I'd do better than than, since generally I score above the 90th percentile on just about every such standardized test. I realized that "nearly everybody" is rather loosely defined, and that actually there are a whole group of people who are actually as smart or smarter than I am, and that among these people, I have to work a lot harder to come out on top. Such as, for instance, LSAT takers.

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34 stories for my 34th birthday, installment 1

1. My earliest memory, I believe, is when I was 3 years old and found my dad's stash of pornographic magazines and took them into the living room, where my mom was asleep on the couch, and spent the next few minutes looking through them and trying out poses, on my own, in imitation of the "models".

2. I used to hunt deer. To me, deer hunting is not associated with deer killing. When I was ... 15 years old (or so), I attended a gun safety course in rural Bothell, at a gun range. We had to bring a rifle the second day of the course. I borrowed an old 30-06 with steel sights from someone. The first day was just classroom. Learning things like "Never point your gun at anything you don't plan to shoot." I think the instructor was probably very slightly terrified about the second day, although I didn't know that then. The second day we took our rifles out on the range, put on our hearing protection, and fired live ammunition at targets some 60 yards distant. I performed reasonably well.

During the late 80's/early 90's, I went on several "hunting trips". These involved several teenage boys and a couple dads. The dads tended to be the pastor of the sect I grew up in, Tom Minnick, and ... another pastor named Gary Prisk, and my own dad, and ... I can't remember who else. We all drove over to eastern Washington to the tiny town of Conconully, in the Autumn. It was cold. We camped, and spent our days driving and/or hiking through the national forest, hoping to find deer. You are only allowed to shoot bucks, not does. We occasionally saw does, and saw lots of "sign". "Sign" means, mostly, deer poop. You were supposed to feel it to see if it was warm.

I only ever saw one buck in all those years. He was a big one. He had 4 or 5 points on each antler. He was about 300 yards away at the bottom of a ravine, while I was at the top. I was going to attempt the shot, a rather long one, but while I was lining up the sights on my rifle, he ran away. That was my one big shot at killing a deer. Ah well.

Still, we had a lot of fun. We also went fishing, and caught lots of lake trout, which we would fry up in the evenings around the campfire. For breakfast we went down to Vicki's restaurant, and ate enormous lots of biscuits and gravy and eggs and pancakes and bacon and sausage. The food was really good. My dad used to play the pulltabs in there and once he won a kewl hunting knife, which he gave to me. In the afternoons sometimes we went down to Mr. Magoo's restaurant. The owner, Jack, was a strange character who'd spent his life collecting all manner of strange things, all of which were on display in his restaurant. There was a small train which ran between the kitchen and the booths, and he'd put your food on the cars and run it down to you on the train. There was an arcade game in there called joust that we'd play. See a screen shot here. It involved flying ostriches with riders on board who would joust with each other. It was fun.

3. I remember deciding, quite ... consciously, back when I was about 10 or 11, that I was never going to have a girlfriend or wife. I was a student at a tiny "Christian" school called Faith Baptist Academy in Waldorf Germany, just outside of Frankfurt. There were maybe 20 students of all different ages, most of whom were the children of American military personnel stationed in what was then West Germany, and the rest of whom were the children of American missionaries "serving" in what was then West Germany. (I suppose the American military personnel were "serving" there as well.) I noticed, as time went by, that among the older students there were these pairings that happened between boys and girls, which inevitably ended in breakups and then awkwardness and trouble all around. I thought "Who needs that? It's ridiculous". This eventually turned into "I'm never going to get married.". The things we tell ourselves do have consequences, and as it turned out I technically never had a "girlfriend" until Megsie, when I was 25 years old. Although I guess it's reasonable to say there were a couple close calls before that.

4. I started learning Spanish in 1st grade at South Hill Side elementary in Wichita Kansas. I was part of a special advanced class of super smart kids. One of the things we did as super smart kids was start learning Spanish. I also memorized the entire poem "The Night Before Christmas" as part of this class. Shocking waste, that. They should have encouraged me to memorize a better poem. Ah well. In this same class we made our own sun dials one day. We cut out circles of cardboard, inserted a short stick in the middle facing straight up, places them all outside in the middle of the playground, and went out every hour to mark where the stick's shadow was at the top of each hour. It's interesting how this early training/exposure came to fruition, as I now speak Spanish reasonably well, and am starting in on Arabic.

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Sunday, November 02, 2008

Edgar Sawtelle

I just finished reading Wroblewski's "The Tale of Edgar Sawtelle". Best story I've read in years. Since ... I guess since Helen Dewitt's "Last Sumarai" and Chabon's "Kavalier and Clay".

Totally totally moving.

One thing it made me realize. This is kind of strange. But it made me realize what unbelievable CRAP Young's "The Shack" really was. It's like eating a really good meal makes you realize what unbelievable crap some of the meals you've eaten recently have been (that's when *I* do the cooking, most of the time, and then afterwards eat Megan's cooking. I think "Why the frack do I even try to cook"?)

Are all the books Oprah picks of this caliber?