Molly Ivins' m.o. these days is to show up the annoying self-importance of the religious right. She does this by saying over and over, in many different ways, "I'm religious and I'm not annoyingly self-important. Nyaaah."
It's impossible to argue with such logic, so I won't even try.
In Ivins's latest column, she continues her theme, writing, "Dragging God into partisan politics is, in my view, a sin."
I actually almost agree with her there, except she's got her terminology backwards. The truth is, dragging party politics into the realm of God is a sin.
In Joshua 5, when Joshua sees a man standing in his way with drawn sword, the great military and spiritual leader asks, "Art thou for us, or for our adversaries?"
Are you with us or against us? Whose side are you on? It's one of the most natural human questions. But the man answers:
"Nay; but as captain of the host of the Lord am I now come."
God is with us in that He is present with us, and He wants what is good for us. But He's not "with" us. He doesn't choose sides. It's not for Him to choose.
The choice is, are we with God, or are we against Him?
That's why it's no coincidence that Joshua, after his encounter with the angel, went on to say, "...choose you this day whom ye will serve;...but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. "
Contrary to what Molly Ivins and others of her ilk believe, faith is not something that one only applies in the small sphere of home and hearth. The Ten Commandments don't have a geographical boundary or a sell-by date.
I'm proud to be an American. I'm proud of the freedoms and protections this country offers, and I want to preserve them. And part of being an American is supporting the party that best represents one's own convictions.
I don't believe that God loves the members of my party any more than He loves the other party. But I do believe my party's convictions on the most pressing issues—particularly issues of life and morality—are more in line with God's word than those of the other major party.
And if you don't agree, well, to paraphrase my favorite Gore, it's my party and I'll pray if I want to.
Wednesday, June 30, 2004
Molly Ivins' m.o. these days is to show up the annoying self-importance of the religious right. She does this by saying over and over, in many different ways, "I'm religious and I'm not annoyingly self-important. Nyaaah."
The fact that two people on different continents wrote to me pretty much simultaneously to say they were praying for me made me feel that God is really working a beautiful thing in my life. Right now, I am feeling happy and very blessed. I hope that God will lead me to a congregation soon and give me the fortitude to stay there, because at this moment I feel very thankful and want to hold onto this grateful spirit, and maybe even put it to some use.
Tuesday, June 29, 2004
Of course, as so often happens, this particular witty headline was for a story that is terribly unhappy. It's what the paper calls the "scrambled eggs" case—the case of the white mom who was implanted with a black couple's embryo, which led to a custody fight and lawsuits all over the place.
Well, one of the suits was settled today. And I had three lines of nine picas (that's very short—one column across) to write the headline. And so:
Although Valerie invites readers to share their earliest thoughts about the world and how it worked, I would rather refer you to her own recollections than offer my own. The only one I can remember off the top of my head was that there was an evil monster with sharp teeth in the toilet bowl that would bite my butt if I stayed on the seat too long. And please don't tell me that this probably explains many of my recent posts.
I received two responses after writing here the other day, "I wish that on those occasions when I remember to pray, 'Please, God, let me be chaste,' a nasty voice in my head wouldn't remind me that the last word of my prayer is a homonym." One was from a woman who wrote, "Me too.". The other was from a male friend who suggested I ask God to "sustain my chastity."
The problem with that solution is that it implies I'm already chaste. I'm not.
If you want to get technical about it, in my quest to refrain from physical contact with a man outside of a relationship, I haven't kissed a man intentionally on the lips in "x" months, haven't spent the night with one in "x+y" months, and haven't led one to home plate in "x+y+z" months. Put all those numbers together and they add up to the age of a dog that is past its Purina Puppy Chow stage. But it doesn't make me chaste.
The object of chastity is not to refrain from sex. It's to refrain from thinking and doing things that damage the dignity of the mind and body of one's self and others.
That doesn't sound like something that should offend people, does it? But it offends some people very much.
One of the main accusations leveled at those who value chastity is that they are afraid of sex. That they're afraid, in fact, that they might like it.
But casual sex is not like calories. You can lose weight, but you can't lose memories. And you can't get back what casual sex takes from you.
The great lie of the sexual revolution is that having casual sex increases one's chances of emotional fulfillment. I attempted to believe that for several years. The only way to believe it is to detach, to see one's sexual partner as an object to act or be acted upon—not a human being.
This kind of detachment is most necessary when one is in a dating world where commitment is nonexistent and the fear of separation underlies all contact. Yet it exists as well in sex between partners who "respect" each other—even more so, in fact. The concept of passionate friendship requires two people to agree that they are not going to be in a real relationship but will take advantage of the opportunity to respectfully use one another's body.
I had a number of pseudo-relationships like that, where there was no real commitment to building something greater. I won't say how often the decision to keep it noncommital was mine and how often it was the other person's. But either way, to have that additional layer of emotional closeness with a partner, and yet not have a genuine commitment with him, was in some ways more painful than just using someone for the night.
The other accusation leveled at chastity proponents is the opposite of the first—that sex has no attraction for them.
That is the criticism of people who wish to justify their own unchaste behavior. Speaking for myself, and knowing how I was before I had faith, I know that any ability at all that I have to resist temptation comes from God, not me. In fact, I never feel God's presence more clearly than when temptation is strongest and I resist it.
The reason I feel God's presence in resisting temptation is that the sense of frustration and loneliness that I feel upon passing up an opportunity for physical closeness makes me cry. And I know Jesus cries with me.
The Lord knows that chastity is not an easy choice. Paul showed such understanding when he advised unmarried women, that if they could not remain chaste, they should marry, "for it is better to marry than to burn." He clearly wasn't referring to burning in hell—he meant intense emotional pain. The word he used for "burn" appears only one other time in his epistles, in 2 Corinthians 11, where he writes of his anguish for the suffering members of the church: "Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is offended, and I burn not?"
No, people who work at chastity aren't bored with sex, and they don't think it's unimportant. On the contrary, they think sex is one of the most wondrous, most beautiful, and most blessed aspects of God's creation. Which is why it pains them to see it turned into something that debases people and is itself debased.
I can't say that striving to keep my mind and body chaste has made me measurably happier. In some ways, I'm trading some obsessions for others, missing out on certain kinds of loneliness or mental preoccupations and gaining others. I'd like to think that I'm gradually learning self-control and growing closer in my walk with God—at least, I don't feel I'm further from Him—but my opinion on this is not reliable.
What I do know is that, more so than at any other point in my life, I am learning who I am. I'm learning to see myself as being valuable in and of myself, and not only in relation to my social circle. My life is richer. Strangely enough, when I look in the mirror, I actually feel prettier—much prettier—than I did when I was only thinking in terms of whom I wanted to attract. Instead of being the most obvious romantic reject, I've become the best-kept secret.
I think these things, and then I'm tempted to fantasize about whom I'd like to impress. Nuh-uh. Please, God, let me be chaste...and ignore that homonym.
Monday, June 28, 2004
My proudest headline moment on my blog was when I linked to a story about a Disneyland-style fun park in East Germany that harked back to the glories of the Stalin era (an actual news story).
My headline: "Who's the wielder of the club of that's made for you and me?"
The gay-pride parades held over the weekend on the anniversary of the Stonewall riots showed just how dishonest the homosexual-marriage movement has become.
Voice the view that marriage should remain a bond between one man and one woman, and homosexual-marriage apologists like Andrew Sullivan will go, "I'm rubber, you're glue" and throw Britney Spears up in your face. How dare heterosexuals claim that they are capable of preserving the institution, they say, when celebrities think nothing of having blink-and-you'll-miss-'em marriages in Sin City?
Well, if you want to see what a world of legalized homosexual marriage would be like, just look at the photos of the weekend's parades—all of which were themed around the celebration of homosexual marriage.
You'll see thousands of Britney Spears. And I'm not referring to the artificial chest matter.
A newspaper account puts it mildly: "There were marching bands, politicians including Mayor Bloomberg and, as always, plenty of men wearing G-strings and towering heels."
The parade photos show millions of yahoos celebrating not love, but sex. In the middle of all the public nudity, surgically and hormonically altered bodies, and other grotesquerie are floats bearing "married" couples. One is left wondering, where does marriage fit into this at all?
Certainly, a homosexual couple is under no societal pressure to get married in order to show their love. They might want to marry in order to raise kids, but there's nothing in the nature of these public celebrations of sodomy and mutual masturbation to suggest that the sybarites taking part in these parades could ever be trusted around children.
In fact, judging solely on the basis of the paradegoers' behavior, it would seem that the only reason why homosexuals want marriage rights is the most cynical one possible—financial benefits.
I don't really believe that all homosexuals are as superficial, sex-obsessed, and exhibitionistic as those who put themselves on display at parades—no more than I believe all heterosexuals dress or act like Britney. And I admit that even if gay-pride paradegoers all dressed in Brooks Brothers suits and Ann Taylor dresses, I would still oppose homosexual marriage. (Maybe even more so.) But there's one thing I would grant the paradegoers, if they took away the blatant displays of perversion from their gatherings.
I would grant them my respect.
I would believe that they were serious in their desire to uphold the institution of marriage, and that they had no hidden agenda.
But in the face of the paradegoers' farcical displays, the rubber/glue insults from gay-marriage proponents seem more than a little Krazy.
UPDATE: Mark Shea quoted from this entry on his own blog, leading to a heated discussion in his comments section. Makes for interesting reading if you have time, as it wanders off into talk about the origins of Christmas and Mardi Gras.
Sunday, June 27, 2004
Usually, one doesn't discover one's own tears. One feels them coming on, and probably makes a futile effort to stop them. But this time I was unconscious of them until I felt them on my face.
It's also a little unusual to cry while reading Lewis. I know I blubber while reading the emotional scenes at the end of the Narnia books—like that part in The Magician's Nephew where Digory dreams of seeing "Mother well again"—but Lewis's theological works usually go for the brain, not the gut.
What set me off was a passage where he recalled playing with blocks as a child. The thought of such simple toys suddenly brought back a memory from 25 years ago, something I'd never analyzed seriously until now.
I was 10 years old, living in Galveston, Texas. Those were the lost years. I was a precocious New Yorker fighting my way through chicken-fried schools that made me play dodgeball and watch "The Little Rascals" when all I wanted was to spend my life in the library. Needless to say, I was not very popular.
One day, my mother, a psychologist who was then working with autistic children, had to go to a meeting with parents right after picking me up from school. I went with her to the meeting place at a school, and she left me in a playroom for an hour or so while she did her work.
With me in the playroom was a delicate little blonde girl a couple of years younger than me, to whom I was instructed to be nice. I needed the admonishment, because I already had a famous hatred of children. My mother claims that when I was some absurdly young age, I derided my peers as "nonverbal."
This girl was nonverbal, all right. She was autistic, and, my mother told me afterwards, emotionally disturbed as well. She didn't talk.
I was used to being around developmentally disabled children. Since I was ostracized at school, practically the only peers who were nice to me were the special-ed kids. On top of that, my do-gooder mom was always trying to teach me tolerance by showing me how to be sensitive to people who had problems. So, being reluctantly left alone with this strange silent girl, I resigned myself to my fate and tried to play with her.
I talked to the girl as I would to one who could speak, offering her dolls and other things from the playroom's stores and inviting her to play along with me. She took the toys and pretty much went off in her own world with them. I played alongside her and pretended that we were playing together even though we weren't, keeping up my end of the friendly chatter just because she was there and I was bored. And I wondered what was taking my mother so long.
After an hour or so, I got this weird idea to play telephone.
I don't know what came over me. Maybe I was trying to trick the girl into talking. Or maybe I just felt like doing something creative and figured that even if she were silent, she might at least enjoy pretending someone was phoning her.
I remember giving her a toy phone. I don't remember if I had one myself or if I just mimed a phone at my ear. I do remember picking up the toy receiver or my clenched hand and saying, "Ring? Ring?"
And the next thing I remember is her picking up her phone, as natural as can be: "Hello?"
I was stunned, but managed to say something. And she just started chattering away, in her sweet little-girl voice. Her speech sounded perfectly normal; anyone hearing her at that moment would have thought she was an ordinary kid.
Once she got started talking, the girl pretty much went back in her own world; we didn't really have a conversation so much as she talked at me. But she did give that initial response, and she seemed to really enjoy the "game." My mother was shocked when I told her about it.
This was what flooded back to me on the train, and I cried thinking about that little girl who was so hard to reach. And yet, even though she had problems, she was easy to reach if one knew the right way.
I think that must be what it's like for God, trying to reach us.
God is communicating with us all the time. Just as that little girl understood speech even though she wouldn't speak, we perceive God's presence but the gap between us and Him is so wide that we can't or won't respond. Yet His speech is not in vain, for it gives us knowledge and understanding of Him that equips us to answer Him when the time comes.
And He doesn't give up. Through Jesus and the Holy Spirit, God comes down to us on a level that we can understand. I think of that girl again—how she was so unreachable through ordinary conversation, and yet, once I "phoned" her, the floodgates were open. That's what God does. We don't perceive Him when He's at our gate, so He has made himself small enough that we can see Him. He has made himself human.
The hard part for me, as for that girl, is to go from micro back to macro—to have that sense of trust that is necessary for "the called." To see God not only in the sense of my personal salvation, but also as Lord and Sovereign. To realize that there is never a time when He is absent or not in control. And to understand that, once He's made the call, the lines of communication are always open—even if I rarely hear his "ring."
For some bizarre reason, The Dawn Patrol is the No. 1 Google search result for "Michael+Moore+homosexual." I discovered this while checking my site's stats to see how people found this page. You can see which Dawn Patrol entries sparked that result here.
Saturday, June 26, 2004
Friday, June 25, 2004
The story itself was at once tragic and disgusting. A middle-aged woman died after throwing herself from the balcony of her aunt's apartment. Her aunt, a legally blind woman in a wheelchair, happens to be a famous voyeuristic photographer in the Robert Mapplethorpe vein, whose work has appeared in Playboy and Penthouse.
When the aunt heard her niece had killed herself, she grabbed her press ID, got her wheelchair into the elevator, and rushed down to the scene—with her camera. She proceeded to photograph her niece's body. And she wasn't doing it to help the investigation—just as a matter of routine, because she photographs what happens to her every day of her life.
So it was in a fit of horror and disgust that I wrote the headline that the copy chief rejected: PHOTO FINISH.
A friend writes:
This Village Voice article is just begging to be commented on in the blogosphere: "Transmale Nation: Remaking manhood in the genderqueer generation."One thing that I find interesting about the Voice piece is the description of the transgendered woman who considers herself a gay man. I've read about this phenomenon before, and can't find any biological basis for it.
It just shows that "tolerance" was really a canard for "embrace and acceptance," just as it was for gays in general way back when. The first few movies that came out about gender changes were all about hateful crimes toward transgendered people—"Boys Don't Cry" and the like. But now it has morphed into, unless you think we are completely normal with our mix-n-match body parts, you must be a bigot.
Isn't it also hypocritical for this same community that shuns people who are even the slightest bit out of physical shape (see all of the other ads in the Voice for buff bodies and laser treatments for everything and the like), but to insist that a very looks-oriented culture accept people who have voluntarily made themselves into, well, freaks?
I wonder if it is the porn culture that exploded over the Internet over the past 10 years that has contributed to this incessant desire for something new to shock. Is anyone at all titillated by the regular human body anymore?
The idea that a woman would have her breasts removed so that she could have sex with a man as though she were herself a man, cannot be identified within the bounds of healthy human psychology. The definition not only of gender but of mental health itself has to be twisted beyond recognition to accommodate a person like that.
Such a sad perversion does not strike me as any different, fundamentally, than a woman desiring to have sex—or a lifelong sexual relationship—with another woman. Rather, it's homosexuality taken to its logical extreme.
At the root of homosexuality is a desire to avoid true human intimacy. The Voice article, showing just how far people will go to avoid such intimacy—to the point of changing not the object of their desire, but their own gender in relation to that object—is a stark reminder of the crisis we and our children face when society allows such behavior to be the norm.
Thursday, June 24, 2004
Going through my rock-journalism archives, I found an article I wrote for Mojo that they never used, on legendary L.A. session guitarist Mike Deasy. Among other achievements, Deasy was part of Phil Spector's "Wrecking Crew," played on the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, and backed Elvis Presley on his '68 comeback special. I plan to put the article online, but in the meantime, here's something that jumped out at me, on how, during the psychedelic era, the guitarist found a new niche as one of L.A.'s hottest sitar players:
When he was hired to play sitar, he would charge double his usual rate. But he gave added value: "I would take a goatskin rug and burn incense."
Last night,* I was telling a friend about one of the things I love about my job as a newspaper copy editor and headline writer: I don't have to take my work home with me. Not only that, I can't.
"The paper's like God's mercies," I explained—"new every morning."
*Photos from the lovely evening should appear here on Saturday, after I get my camera back from a pal.
South Africa's Gay and Lesbian Alliance, which calls itself the "lesbigay political voice" of the country, is banning "cross-dressers and transvestites" from its membership. (Why transvestites don't fall under the umbrella label of cross-dresser, I can't tell you, other than that the word sounds more pervy.)
"To cross dress or change one's sex is not seen as a qualifying factor to be regarded as part of the lesbigay orientation," it said in a statement."Lesbigays" are "average people." Just like in Mayberry. Isn't that amazing. Kick out the obviously unnatural people from a gay and lesbian group, and no one will notice that the entire lifestyle is unnatural.
"Men dressing as women or women dressing as men harm the image of the lesbigay community beyond doubt."
Lesbigays were "average people" with only a single identifying aspect, namely same-sex orientation.
"We believe that the majority of South Africans will welcome our decision to clean our party ranks of cross-dressers and transvestites."
If all efforts fail with John Kerry, here's a Sunday Mass in the nation's capital that'll take Senator Flapjack with open arms.
Wednesday, June 23, 2004
The house "Bridget Jones" at the newspaper where I work just quit writing her dating column after three and a half years, having taken a new assignment. Her farewell piece was outwardly triumphant, but her regular readers must have found it somewhat sad. I'm sure many of them were rooting for her to end her run by finding a boyfriend—not by finding a gossip gig in the Hamptons.
She talked about the memories from her column's tenure that stuck out in her mind—various trysts, some pleasant, some not so. It struck me that I had similar memories from my years spent a-whoring—or would, if I hadn't blocked them out.
But I can understand B.J.'s wanting to dwell on her conquests. I could remember mine much better when I was in that mental framework—that is, when I still followed the Cosmo dating rules of "sex first, relationship afterwards (maybe)." Back then, at the times when I felt insecure, I wanted to remember the occasion when I walked into a bar and snagged a guy with five words. When I felt lonely, I wanted to replay the night I spent with a guy who was so gorgeous that I adored his image as though it were a painting.
Like a painting. That was another thing. I had to distance myself from those guys by imagining that every kiss or touch was somehow artful, cinematic. It couldn't be real life&8212;that would have required me to look at them and myself as human beings and take responsibilty for my actions. Likewise, they were all "guys" to me. I couldn't bear to think of any of them as "men." That would be too grown-up.
But I don't replay those memories anymore. For a while, after my newfound faith altered my priority to "relationship first," my mind did return to such images occasionally. But the memories gradually lost their appeal, because they all ended unhappily. Even the warm, fuzzy flings with sensitive guys who respected me ended unhappily. Everything's unhappy that entails placing emotional limits on an act that's designed to be part of a continuum of commitment which lasts for the rest of your life.
Here's a quote: Casual sex with someone who "respects" you is like taking a bath with your clothes on. Awkward barriers prevent you from fully enjoying the experience, and—despite your best efforts to let it wash over you—when it's over, you still feel dirty.
So, anyway, for a while now, I've been sending the newspaper's features editors periodic e-mails with writing samples, in hope they'll let me write the dating column. So far, they've greeted my missives with complete and utter silence. Which is too bad for them, as I know they'd get loads of attention if they gave me a shot, especially since they're trying to make the paper more edgy.
Can you imagine? Every Sunday, I'd have my column about how I didn't have sex that week. What could be more cutting-edge than that? That's so edgy, it's got four sides.
Tuesday, June 22, 2004
The story is accompanied by a photo of Contreras' wife in a Miami refugee-services daughter. She's hugging her daughter and they look tired but happy. For the photo kicker—the boldface part that starts the caption—I wrote: RELIEF PICTURE.
Caren Lissner today calls 1987 "the year pop music went bad." Now, as far as I'm concerned, 1969 is the year pop music went bad. But I have to say that for my generation—which is Caren's as well—she does have a point.
I remember 1987 as the last year that I seriously thought my ideal career would be as an A&R woman. There were two bands I was following who were each gaining notice on the basis of a debut album released the previous year on an independent label: the Smithereens and They Might Be Giants.
Both acts would soon move to a major label and would eventually have Top 40 success, but in 1987, they were on the cutting edge. And they made great pop music—highly commercial and highly creative at the same time. (Yes, the 'Reens borrowed right and left, but usually in such a charming way that it qualified under the time-honored adage, "Great composers steal.") Moreover, neither act was concerned with looking pretty or bizarre; substance triumphed over style.
I can think of a lot of great artists who emerged after 1987—the Rooks, Dave Rave, Frank Bango, Michael Lynch, and Richard X. Heyman, to name a few. But I can't recall another year since then with such hope and excitement—when not one, but two of the best "pop" artists around were on the brink of actually becoming popular.
Among the members of Planned Parenthood's online family—that is, the members that the organization hasn't killed off with a virtual scissors shoved up the cranium—is the activist-organizing site SaveROE.com.
The name sounds faintly ridiculous. I mean, these days, not even Roe wants to save Roe.
On the site's front page are pro-abortion quotes from the media. This one caught my eye, from the Illinois Journal-Standard:
In response to all the abortion letters: While I myself could never have an abortion, I support the rights of women to choose. Is it murder? That is up to our Creator to decide, but I have one question for those of you who say it is murder, no doubt about it. If it is murder for a woman to have an abortion, how is it not murder for say, a 9-year-old rape victim?First of all, our Creator's already decided. It's murder. As for the rape-victim question, in three words?
Absolutely it's murder.
The overwhelming majority of pro-lifers would allow for an abortion to occur when it is necessary to save the life of the mother—though, according to the Christian Medical Fellowship, that's only necessary in .013 percent of cases, and, as Dave Munger wrote in American Partisan, maybe even less often than that:
Abortion is never necessary to save the life of the mother. The term 'abortion' refers to an intentional procedure, not a miscarriage. The notion that abortion is sometimes necessary to save the life of the mother is based upon the fact that some therapeutic techniques incidentally kill the fetus. Chemotherapy can also be fatal, but that does not make it euthanasia. The statement "Abortion is sometimes necessary to save the life of the mother, implicitly concedes that a child exists only in reference to "the mother."But an abortion for a victim of rape creates two victims: the raped girl and the murdered child.
The image of a 9-year-old rape victim forced to endure pregnancy because cruel politicians and judges won't let her kill her unborn child is heartbreaking. That's all the more reason why we have to stand firm. We can't let the manipulative minds of Planned Parenthood turn a violated child in pigtails, holding a doll, into the pro-life movement's Willie Horton.
One thing that especially made me happy was that two strangers wrote in to compliment me on my headlines. Being myself a longtime fan of great headlines (particularly Taranto's gems), it means a lot to me that some people look for news of my latest headlines on this blog.
Today's paper features a banner headline I wrote for the story about the first-ever privately financed manned rocket flight:
So I wrote in the place where the boldface name would normally go: "GIANT PANDA".
And under that, where the brief description would go—
You can see this coming, can't you?
Yup. "Eats shoots & leaves."
Believe it or not, I had to convince my editor on that one. He said,"It's cute, but is it backed up in the story?"
"Yes, right at the bottom, where it says they eat bamboo," I said pleadingly. "Bamboo has shoots and leaves." Then he relented. Whew!
Monday, June 21, 2004
The other night, I ran into a woman I know who informed me she was so dissatisfied with the caliber of men she was meeting through her social circle that she had joined a personal-ad Web site.
Unfortunately, she added, the Web site—one of the biggest in the business—had thus far turned out to be a bust. The five responses she'd received in her ad's debut week ranged from the perverted to the inane. But what could she expect? According to a survey on the site, she was compatible with only 4 percent of its members.
Just a lonely little 4 percent. How sad. I gave her the requisite "poor baby" platitudes. It wasn't until I got home that it hit me.
Assuming that the Web site's statistics hold true for real life—which they probably do, given the large sample—and assuming what I learned in fifth-grade math still holds, Personal Ad Gal can theoretically walk into any room containing 25 men and discover one case of mutual boat-floating.
It boggles the mind.
Certainly, 4 percent is a far higher number of potential Mr. Rights than I want or need. In fact, I can't imagine being happy in a world where the odds of a man's being my lifemate were greater than 1 in 1 billion.
In the film "Big Fish," a boy sees a vision of his own death. That knowledge gives him marvelous confidence throughout life. In his moments of greatest fear, he can reassure himself by remembering, "This is not how I go."
Single women are told to view single men with an open mind, as though each one might be The One. I submit that this is counterproductive. When the difference between the right man and the almost-right man is analogous to that between lightning and the lightning bug, and when one faces the daunting task of weeding out 999,999,999 million almost-right ones, the answer is not to keep playing the field.
Until lightning strikes, the answer is to keep remembering: "This is not how I go."
Sunday, June 20, 2004
That's not a joke. It's a real Associated Press headline. The copy chief at the paper where I work couldn't believe it when I told him; the words are so ill-chosen. It invites the response: "Johnson Head Justifies Targeting Al Qaeda."
Saturday, June 19, 2004
Blogger Joe Territo reads my post about the AMA's endorsement of same-sex adoption and writes, "So what?"
I had cited a 2001 study by by sociology professors at the University of Southern California which found that previous studies of children raised by homosexual couples had failed to notice that such children were different from those of heterosexual couples: different in their levels of sexual adventurousness (e.g. daughters of lesbian couples were more likely to act out sexually) and in their gender identification (sons of lesbian couples were less masculine); as well as different in terms of their sexual experience. Such children were also more likely to have had homosexual experiences, even though they may not have identified themselves as homosexual.
These are the things to which Territo writes, "So what?"
I'm not going to attempt to convince someone who takes a different view of homosexuality than I do that children should not grow up in an atmosphere that fosters sexual ambiguity. But in order to have an honest debate about homosexual marriage and child-raising, the least that's required is intellectual honesty. As the USC researchers wrote, "It is difficult to conceive of a credible theory of sexual development that would not expect the adult children of lesbigay parents to display somewhat higher incidence of homoerotic desire, behavior, and identity than children of heterosexual parents."
For a psychiatry delegate to the AMA to state, as he did, that "all the scientific evidence points to no differences among children raised in heterosexual or homosexual families," is dishonesty in the extreme.
UPDATE: Turns out that Territo and I are on the same side of the fence where the AMA is concerned; he's posted an enlightening follow-up with another example of how the association "often is more fixated on making money for doctors than making Americans healthier."
Last month, I wrote about Nobelist James D. Watson's telling me of his belief that science should make it easy for mothers to abort "imperfect" babies.
If you've read my account of the encounter, which referenced similar Watson quotes in the press, you know that I'm not exaggerating. The co-discoverer of DNA's double helix told me that if he'd had the opportunity, he would have had his own son aborted rather than raise a mentally handicapped child.
Well, I'm sorry to say that the spirit of Dr. Watson thrives in the medical industry, and it may be seen in an article in tomorrow's New York Times: "In New Tests for Fetal Defects, Agonizing Choices for Parents."
Since this is the Times, the "agonizing choices" angle is played for sympathy: Every parent deserves a perfect child. If that requires destroying an imperfect one or two or three, it's a necessary tragedy. Moreover, according to the Times, it's a decision that should be made only by the parents themselves—not fettered by government regulations—and based only on their own interests.
None of this should be any surprise to Times readers. But for me, there was one particularly galling part of this galling story:
Quest Diagnostics, a leading provider of medical tests, said prenatal and genetic mutation tests were one of the fastest-growing parts of its business.The Michael Moore fans think that conservatives own big business. Well, let me tell you, I need to get a routine blood test next week, and there is no way that I can do so without putting money into that sc*mbag Charles "what can you do for me" Strom's pocket. Here in the New York City area, as well as much of the rest of the country, Quest is the only game in town for medical tests.
"People are going to the doctor and saying, 'I don't want to have a handicapped child, what can you do for me?'" said Charles Strom, medical director of Quest's genetic testing center.
What the Times doesn't tell you is that Strom has a long history of eugenicism that makes James D. Watson look like Jaye P. Morgan. A few years ago, when he was director of medical genetics at the Reproductive Genetics Institute in Chicago, he was one of the first doctors to genetically engineer a baby so that it could donate blood to a diseased sibling. To do that, he grew several embryos and killed the ones that had the hereditary disease. From Family.org:
"We had no ethical concerns whatsoever," Strom said. "They wanted to have a healthy baby; that's what we do."At Quest, Strom's agressive efforts to make it easier for parents to have their imperfect unborn babies diagnosed and killed has earned him coverage in Fast Company, which reported, "Quest has opened three walk-in clinics in Colorado, where curious people can order workups on themselves without a doctor's order. Look ahead, says Strom, and genetic testing could become a routine part of a pharmacy visit."
C. Ben Mitchell, Ph.D., senior fellow at the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity, said he sees plenty of ethical problems.
"We ought to treat human beings as ends in themselves and not means to some other kind of end, even if it's a therapeutic end-to help another child," Mitchell said. "The genetic-screening technology raises new issues, because now someone has to make choices about who lives and who dies."
This guy is like one of those scary Cold War-era "Better Living Through Technology" types, with his sunny vows to give people what they want. He reminds me of Tom Lehrer's characterization of Wernher von Braun:
Don't say that he's hypocritical,Search for Strom on the Web and you find that, like Watson, he's a cartoon. In his relentless pursuit of press, he's even used his genetics expertise to help a wacko artist who went on to have scientists create a glow-in-the-dark rabbit. Admittedly, Strom worked with the artist just before the rabbit project, but he was well aware of the artist's desire to play God.
Say rather that he's apolitical.
"Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down?
That's not my department," says Wernher von Braun.
Are our life decisions going to be guided by people whose only gods are consumerism, irony, and, ultimately, nihilism? These are questions that the Times doesn't ask, let alone answer. But they're clearly ones you and I should be thinking about now.
I was sad to hear earlier this week that Richard & The Young Lions singer Howie "Richard" Tepp has died.
Richard & The Young Lions were extremely rare among Sixties bands—a group that had achieved cult success and much airplay with singles like "Open Up Your Door" (anthologized on the genre-defining Nuggets collection), that reunited 35 years later with nearly the same lineup and took the garage-rock world by storm again. A review I wrote for Mojo of the Cavestomp 2000 festival gives an idea of the enthusiasm people felt among the group's return.
Recently, the Young Lions had completed a new album with the help of Steven Van Zandt, who had championed them on his syndicated radio show, Little Steven's Underground Garage. They also have a new documentary DVD due out next month.
I remember what a joy it was to see Richard & The Young Lions perform their first reunion show at Maxwell's. Try to imagine a room full of about 75 people, all wondering if this group of guys in their 50s are going to sound anything like they did when they were in their teens. One of the songs that the hipsters are hoping to hear is the soundalike follow-up to "Open Up Your Door," "You Can Make It," which is marked by prominent chimes—the kind that are struck by a hammer.
Richard & The Young Lions set up their gear—and there, off to the side of the stage, is one huge, dinosaur set of chimes. The anticipation builds.
Sure enough, not only does the group do note-perfect versions of all six of their 45 sides and other classics of the era, but on "You Can Make It," the indomitable Richard gets out a hammer and bashes those chimes perfectly, in time, while singing. Who in one's life has the pleasure of watching someone sing and play chimes—doing both beautifully—at the same time?
Nowadays, bands get a sideman just to play one lick on an instrument so that the lead singer doesn't have to interrupt his strut. Richard's chimes were a throwback to the age when John Lennon or Bob Dylan would warble a line into the microphone in between blows on the harmonica. Or to when the Turtles' Flo & Eddie would make time stop so they could play three cowbell beats in "She'd Rather Be With Me." They don't make lead singers like that anymore.
Friday, June 18, 2004
Remind me of that one when the Port Authority transit cops finally bust me for eating on the PATH train. "This is clearly discrimination, officer, as you are arresting me just before lunchtime. This is appetite profiling!"
Through Charles of Dustbury, I learned of an Andrew Sullivan post on "the real source of [heterosexual] male slovenliness."
Hmmm. Whom do you think Sullivan would blame for heterosexual men's resolute refusal to shave all that icky man hair off their chests so they can don the latest open-collar Kenneth Cole shirt? And whom does he blame for heterosexual men's failing to cover up their yucky man smell with Hugo Boss Baldessarini Eau de Cologne Spray?
Of course. Heterosexual women.
"If women weren't so damn forgiving of slobbiness," Sullivan writes, "...men might have to shape up a little."
Now, regardless of what actually causes manly men to be less well-groomed than those who look to the pages of Details for their masculine ideal—and there's plenty of evidence that men's style through the ages has been primarily to impress other, heterosexual men—Sullivan is engaging in blatant anti-woman bigotry.
I say anti-woman because, to back up his argument, he goes out of his way to note that lesbian women are no paragons of fashion. (Yes, that's a paraphrase, but it's actually far more diplomatic than Sullivan's actual words.)
I have no problem accusing Sullivan of bigotry because I've already earned the bigot label from him myself, by proxy: He's stated again and again that anyone who is opposed to homosexual marriage on principle is a bigot. With his stance on this—the "deal-breaker" that's caused him to oppose President Bush's re-election—he doesn't deserve any slack when he makes cavalier putdowns of an entire gender.
What's most telling is that, in his rush to reinforce stereotypes about heterosexuals, Sullivan lets slip an honest admission about homosexuals—something you won't see in his daily screeds in favor of homosexual marriage. He writes: "Since women find monogamy easier, [heterosexual men] slide into the I'm-married-so-what-the-hell-have-another-pretzel syndrome."
Compared to whom do women find monogamy easier? Why, homosexual men of course. It's right there in Sullivan's post. A couple of sentences before the pretzel line, he writes, "Gay men are—on the whole—better turned out than straight men is because they have to appeal to other shallow, beauty-obsessed males to get laid, find a mate, etc."
Granted, Sullivan's got his tongue in cheek when he calls homosexual men "shallow." But he routinely uses sarcasm to make his points, and his resentment of women comes from a very real place. Which is why I don't doubt that he means it when he says "women find monogamy easier" than homosexual men. And it's why he's not being intellectually honest when, carping about J.Lo and Britney, he portrays homosexuals as being more devoted to the institution of marriage than heterosexuals.
Gay culture encourages men to be shallow, beauty-obsessed, and polygamous. Hey, I didn't say it. Andrew Sullivan did.
Wednesday, June 16, 2004
STATESBORO, Ga. — Seven teenagers who beheaded two chickens because they were curious whether they would run around with their heads cut off will soon learn a lot more about the birds.Needless to say, those teens deserve to be punished, and maybe reading about animal cruelty will do them some good. But why, then, if such a sentence is considered reasonable, do people consider it so outrageous for the law to require that a woman considering an abortion be taught about human cruelty?
A judge ordered the five boys and two girls — ages 17 to 19 — ....to read a book about animal cruelty and turn in a report on it. They were also ordered to perform community service hours cleaning chicken houses.
From a National Right to Life Committee press release:
On May 20, 2004, Senator Sam Brownback (R-Ks.) and Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ), with the strong backing of the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), introduced a major new pro-life initiative, the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act (S. 2466, H.R. 4420).How any human being other than the Peter Singer-led "animals are superior to humans" crowd can oppose the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act is beyond me. A living, growing human being is worth more than a chicken.
"There are numerous laws to prevent cruelty to domestic and wild animals, but no law to prevent well-developed unborn children from suffering excruciating pain as they are torn limb from limb or crushed during abortions," said NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson, who joined Brownback and Smith at a press conference in the U.S. Capitol announcing the introduction of the bill. Statements endorsing the bill were also issued by the Family Research Council, Christian Medical Association, Southern Baptist Convention (Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission), and U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
This bill would require every abortionist to provide, whenever a woman seeks an abortion past 20 weeks after fertilization, specified information about the capacity of her unborn child to experience pain during the abortion, after which the woman must either accept or refuse (by signing a form) the administration of pain-reducing drugs directly to the unborn child. The bill would apply to all abortions past 20 weeks, regardless of the method used.
Unfortunately, once I got home, I discovered that not only is it dreadful, but it's actually on a compilation of "The World's Worst Records" (along with the far more listenable Mrs. Miller).
The record is "Hands," by one Debbie Dawn. If you would like to take it off my hands, I might—just might—be convinced to pay the postage, depending on the level of your enthusiasm.
UPDATE: We have a winner: Peter Horvath of the Anderson Council. No postage is involved, as I'll give it to him when I see him July 9 at the book-release party at Jersey City's Uncle Joe's for the new rock-criticism anthology to which I contributed a chapter, Kill Your Idols. His band and others will be performing songs from albums reviewed in the book. There will also be a reading at Housing Works Bookstore in Manhattan earlier that night, and a reading/party July 10 at Sin-e—for more information, check the Kill Your Idols events page. No idols were harmed in the writing of this announcement.
TRACKBACK: Charles G. Hill says no thanks—but not for the reason you might think.
Tuesday, June 15, 2004
My least favorite part of my commute is the late-night walk from Rockefeller Center to Herald Square—walking, because it's no less safe than the subway and burns more calories. I was on the home stretch at 11:15 last night, just two blocks short of my destination and managing to avoid the drunks and skanks, when a neatly dressed, olive-skinned young woman called as I passed her: "Excuse me."
I turned around to see if she meant me. First mistake.
"Excuse me," she called again. She wore a tight skirt, but it was mid-length, and she looked too well put-together to be a prostitute or drug addict—especially with her black hair in a perfect early Elizabeth Montgomery flip. It's a tourist-infested area, and there was the chance she might be lost or in trouble. So I walked up to her.
She spoke quickly, her eyes meeting mine in an expression of concern. "I'm a psychic, and I can see that you are trying to find happiness—"
"I am—" I interrupted, and began to speak without really thinking. I think I had actually rehearsed the words in my head some time ago. When you do a lot of walking around by yourself, you have time to think about what you'd say if you were collared by some ardent young clairvoyant.
"—but I'm a Christian," I continued, "and seeing a psychic is against my religion. Thanks anyway. God bless."
I gave her a New York nanosecond to either reply or be the first to run off. She did neither, so I zipped away.
I know I did the right thing, but to tell you the truth, I'm bummed. I used to be a perfect rube for those charlatans, and I miss being told that a handsome stranger is just around the corner—never mind that my wallet will be lighter when I get there.
At least I can take comfort knowing my action was wise not only according to my current faith, but my former one as well—that being Sixties pop music. Going by the Gospel According to Murray the K, if I'd used the gypsy's services, I would have either started kissing everything in sight, watched her bawl her eyes out over my tragic fate, learned that my baby (when he shows up) is gonna leave me, or—worst of all—gone to Massachusetts and married the poor witch.
Monday, June 14, 2004
I actually didn't think the headline would make it past my editor, but it gave him a giggling fit, so I think it's staying. You could call it revenge for the way Hilton dissed my mom. The photo shows the ditsy heiress signing autographs, and she's got a pen in one hand and a cell phone, pressed against her ear, in the other.
I wrote: "Nicole, quick - how many 'd's are in 'congratulations'?"
My friend and Dawn Patrol jingle writer Michael Lynch just sent me an item he posted to the Bomp mailing list as part of a discussion of the Beach Boys' Smile, and I wish I'd had it when I wrote my chapter on the unreleased album for the upcoming anthology Kill Your Idols.
If you're not familiar with "Vegetables," a Smile tune that went on to appear (in a truncated version) on Smiley Smile, it's a barbershop-quartet-style tune about the joys of eating those flavorless things that grow in the ground and are supposedly good for you. And, like its namesake, "Vegetables" is indeed flavorless.
I mean, I'm not fanatical about Sergeant Pepper, which to me is the "Seinfeld" of rock—a very listenable, beautifully made album about nothing—but if I have to hear druggie music, I'd rather it be the kind that one can enjoy even if one's not on drugs. And I'm sorry; even though I adore Chesterton and other people who find the truth in small things, there is nothing about "Vegetables" to make carrots and celery sound nearly so appealing as they seem to be to the hashish-addled Brian Wilson and Co.
Which brings me to Michael Lynch's observations about Paul McCartney's reported contributions to the recording. Reportedly, he can be heard making on it munching noises—some say he even co-produced it. Michael writes:
What a relief that must have been for Paul. Imagine Paul's situation: You're in the biggest group in the world, and you're working on your next album, which you're planning to be something that's gonna be a phenomenon that's going to take the world by storm...but meanwhile, you know that there's this very popular American band that England now loves to death, and they're working on their next album, which they anticipate will be a huge phenomenon as well...and remembering how amazing their last album was, you think that they very well could pull it off, and this concerns you...And then you happen to visit them at one of their sessions, and you hear one of the recordings from this forthcoming masterpiece of theirs that you've been worried might outdo the one you're making...and the song you hear is..."VEGETABLES!"
Here's an official product of the online shop of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation: a homosexual-marriage T-shirt for dogs. It bears the slogan of the group's "I Do" propaganda campaign: "I Do: take a vow for equality."
I really can't think of a more appropriate medium for the message, since homosexual marriage represents a cultural breakdown that opens the door to state-sanctioned polygamy and bestiality.
Hoover Institution research fellow Stanley Kurtz has described the state of affairs well, including in his Weekly Standard piece "Beyond Gay Marriage," which used sound reasoning to back up up the slippery-slope argument against homosexual marriage. He wrote that "the core issue here is not homosexuality; it is marriage. Marriage is a critical social institution. Stable families depend on it. Society depends on stable families. Up to now, with all the changes in marriage, the one thing we've been sure of is that marriage means monogamy. Gay marriage will break that connection. It will do this by itself, and by leading to polygamy and polyamory [group marriage]. What lies beyond gay marriage is no marriage at all."
These threats to marriage are not imaginary, but are occuring right now, as my friend J.R. Taylor wrote in an e-mail that I published here back in February: "Andrew Sullivan"—the blogger and same-sex marriage apologist—"is ignoring a lot of questions nowadays. For example, I've asked him about my lesbian friend who wants to marry both her female partner and her male slave. That's no hypothetical slippery slope. It's a real situation for a woman who's closely following the events in California. I'd like to know if Andrew will go on record as wanting to deny this loving woman her complete marital rights. I've given up on his site, but he'll likely never reply. He's too busy putting up mail from fictional lifelong Republicans who've suddenly decided that national security is secondary to Andrew's right to share his frequent-flyer miles."
UPDATE: J.R. Taylor, who reports on entertainment and entertainment-industry events for New York Press, adds a postscript: "I sent you that original note just around the time of the Academy Awards. I was attending several gay-themed events that week, and I asked a lot of people about how the institution of gay marriage would treat this lady who wanted to marry her lesbian lover and her male slave. Everyone I asked, whether reluctantly or eagerly, said that she would be able to legally affirm her loving relationships. Slightly more than half of them added (often in anger) that this lady needs to sit down and shut up for the next few years. I'm not particularly invested in this issue, but I'm certainly convinced that one side isn't participating in honest debate."
COMMENTS: From Richard J. Stuart:
Matthew 11:2-6: "When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples to ask him, 'Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?' Jesus replied, 'Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.'" (NIV)
I think another way to objectively ask whether a questionable action under Scripture is a good idea is to take a hard look at the consequences and the results of the action. When John was in doubt, this was how Jesus answered him. As you point out, I don't see good things happening in the wake of leaglizing gay marriage. Where this sort of thing has been tried what happens is we get "marriage lite" and marriage collapses. A generation from now, I see more and more problems as children are not raised by their parents. I don't see good things coming fromt this.
Sunday, June 13, 2004
Friday, June 11, 2004
Seeing the Clintons sitting on the front row with George and Laura at today's memorial brought this inevitable comparison and contrast to mind: As a President, Clinton made a fine actor. As an actor, Reagan made a fine President. I know which I prefer.
It's frequently mentioned in remembrances of Ronald Reagan that, although he was a believing Christian who prayed regularly, he was not an active churchgoer.
Similarly, G.K. Chesterton, before his conversion to Catholicism—which is to say, for most of his adult life—was not an active churchgoer. His writings often mention churches—particularly the Gothic architecture of cathedrals, which he loved—but they almost never mention attending a service.
What's interesting about Chesterton's references to churches, and I think you'll find this in Reagan's references to them as well, is that even when he's not actually moved to enter one, he's fascinated by the idea of what goes on within. He seems to see them as these wondrous places that are bigger on the inside than the outside.
Here's an example from Tremendous Trifles, at the end of an essay lamenting the fact that people in modern-day professions such as banking don't sing as they work, as old-time sailors and reapers did:
At the end of my reflections I had really got no further than the subconscious feeling of my friend the bank-clerk—that there is something spiritually suffocating about our life; not about our laws merely, but about our life. Bank-clerks are without songs, not because they are poor, but because they are sad. Sailors are much poorer.There's a deeper truth here, which shows why Christians who don't believe in attending church—like those who claim we are at the end of the "church age"—are wrong.
As I passed homewards I passed a little tin building of some religious sort, which was shaken with shouting as a trumpet is torn with its own tongue. They were singing anyhow; and I had for an instant a fancy I had often had before: that with us the super-human is the only place where you can find the human. Human nature is hunted and has fled into the sanctuary.
A relativist—or a libertarian—will tell you that things have no intrinsic value apart from their recognizable utilitarian purpose. They are valuable only in terms of their usefulness to the individual. By their standards, if you have no particular use for roses—if you don't own any rosebushes or wish to buy some cut roses—then the buds that inspired Shakespeare's verse are worthless, period. There is nothing special about a rose if it is not wanted at this moment or in the forseeable future by you.
I personally don't think about roses much. OK, maybe I fantasize every day I go to work that a dozen scarlet ones from a secret admirer will be waiting on my desk. But other than that, if roses were erased from my life, it would be a long time before I noticed they were missing. Yet, were I to suddenly see one after going without for a while, I would immediately feel that I was in the presence of unspeakable beauty. As long as they exist somewhere, they go on being beautiful regardless of whether I have any use or longing for them.
That's how I feel about churches, and that's why, ultimately, it's better to be part of one than not—even if you admire them for many years on the outside before finally entering one. And they don't have to be perfect. Whether they're Spirit-filled sanctuaries or drab stucco rooms with little more than some Bibles and a cross—the world needs them as a reminder that there exists wondrous beauty greater than anything we can experience in a purely materialistic life.
Thursday, June 10, 2004
My friend Bill Inglot sends a photo (above) and a moving report from the Reagan Library:
I went to the Reagan Library on Tuesday morning. It was about a seven-hour wait to make the five-minute walk through the viewing area. I think it was worth the wait. I was very moved by some of the notes and offerings people left at this area by the library. Quite a lot of them were from immigrants from Asia and Eastern Europe written in somewhat poor English thanking him for making their lives better and allowing them to achieve the American dream.
Some people do get it.
Wednesday, June 9, 2004
It's not every day that one's writings drive a talented pretty-boy MTV rocker to senseless bloodshed, but that is apparently what has happened with Kill Your Idols: A New Generation of Rock Writers Reconsiders the Classics, the rock-journalism anthology for which I wrote a chapter. The book, which comes out next month, contains essays by Generation X critics who each take apart one of the most respected albums in the rock pantheon. (Mine is the Beach Boys' unreleased, much-bootlegged Smile.) Yesterday, Jim Testa wrote to his fellow Kill Your Idols contributors in an e-mail:
I gave a copy of the book to a friend of mine, Val Emmich, who'sLeanne Potts responded:
current on tour with his band.
Val just wrote and informed me that the book has already caused two full-fledged fistfights in the van, and several heated discussions backstage with other groups.
I think we have a winner here.
Two fistfights! My god, in the rock journalism world that's better than being named a New York Times Book of Note!At this point, I have no plans to wear body armor to the two Kill Your Idols readings slated for New York City, but we'll see what happens as the reviews come in. Details of those readings, as well as several others taking place from coast to coast, are on the book's Web page, plus I'll post information as they get closer. But if you'd like to mark your calendar, I'll be reading at Housing Works Bookstore on July 9 at 7 p.m. and at Sin-é July 10 at 8 p.m. Both of those readings will also feature other New York-area contributors, as well as bands performing songs from the albums that the book lambastes, such as Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Tommy, Pet Sounds, and Imperial Bedroom.
A friend of mine who moved to New York City last year from the even more liberal city of New Orleans has an odd little habit. When she mentions National Review in conversation, her voice suddenly drops to a barely audible whisper.
If I were to visually depict the volume change in her conversation, it would look something like this:
BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH National Review BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAHSince I believe that fondness for National Review should be shouted from the rooftops, such timidity bugs me.
But in a way, it's kind of cute and romantic. In an age when we have a conservative president, and when public demand has forced the media to offer more conservative voices, it's fun to pretend that conservatives in New York City are still, as Jonah Goldberg once put it, "like Christians in ancient Rome."
Tuesday, June 8, 2004
The main headline for the story is proof that some of the corniest clichés make the best headlines:
Ready to Iraq'n'rollIn the later editions, they added a photo of President Bush clowning around in an electric car. It's from the same occasion as this photo, only he's got a goofy expression. For the kicker to the photo caption, I wrote, "GEARLESS LEADER."
My friend Jim Friedland, a screenwriter and librettist, met Ronald Reagan twice at social events and had the opportunity to talk to him about his Hollywood career. Although Jim came from a different side of the fence politically, he had a great deal of respect and fondness for Reagan and his convictions. He wrote me today with a memory of discussing "Kings Row" with Reagan.
Most of Jim's recollection is about what he said to Reagan—which makes me happy to see that Reagan received such appreciation, since the president made it clear that he wanted people to remember him as more than a B-grade actor. But there's one telling line from Reagan himself about how he used the strain that he was under while making "Kings Row" in order to deliver a better performance. It's clear that wasn't the last time that he would work through his own pain and discomfort in order to reach a higher goal—and, ultimately, create a thing of beauty.
I did ask him about Sam Wood's nervous but effective approach of calling for as many takes as the schedule could bear, particularly with as complex and long a film as "Kings Row." He felt that it gave his Drake character something to chafe against in the second half of the picture.
I told him he gave one of the greatest performances in that and was a brilliant counterpoint to the tragic darkness of the Claude Rains subplot—which I told him I loved but that his Drake gave me the way to go in life.
We spoke about the setting Korngold made of Whitman's "I Am The Captain of My Ship/I Am The Master Of My Soul" for the film's penultimate and ultimate scenes. And he spoke of the poetry of his boyhood with such feeling.
Dawn, I learned to never judge Ronald Reagan, and to give leaders the benefit of being an active citizen who can differ with them but treat them with the respect both leaders and citizens deserve. As I've grown older, I've felt increasingly that he really has had no successors on the national scene—that "Reaganism" had turned into another name for the kind of conservatism which conserves less and less and less every year. I hope that people make the benefit of his death a renewed sense of hope and openness—and of idealism with open ears and a sense of the pragmatic—and to look for those qualities in their candidates, whatever their politics may be.
I think we're all due for a good laugh right now—especially one that simultaneously makes fun of the news media's credulity and the French. It's one of the greatest pranks in New York radio history, and it can be heard at this great archival site. Follow that link, scroll down a little more than halfway, and start reading where it says 'On May 28, 1958.' Then play the clip. (Don't scroll down further to the newspaper clipping on the page until afterwards.)
Hat tip: Michael Lynch.
Monday, June 7, 2004
My friend Jim Friedland describes my favorite novel, G.K. Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday, as "that most merry, absurd and bewildering chase...in which what you are pursuing with fear and desperation is what seeks you with love."
I call it a paradox, because seeking implies an elusive object, and, assuming God exists, there would seem no reason for Him to be elusive. We think of seeking as part of a game—hide and seek. The idea that the all-powerful Creator would treat His relationship with us like child's play seems almost vulgar—like divine dodgeball. It also leaves the door open for cynics like Randy Newman to argue that a true Maker would not hide himself.
Even stranger is the way God wants us to seek Him—not like a child at play, but like a lover. The Song of Songs is filled with this longing, this painful incompleteness, manifested in a desperate, pavement-pounding search for the Beloved: "I will rise now, and go about the city in the streets, and in the broad ways I will seek him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not."
The nature of seeking is that it requires an object. That is why Paul describes such longing as a test of faith: "He that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him."
Faith always requires a leap, and a leap can only be made from solid ground. We are expected to start each day standing on God's promises, and step out into the world confident that He will provide a lamp unto our feet.
But what are we to do if we long for God desperately, passionately, and yet find ourselves unable to continually see His hand in our daily life?
I used to think that the answer to such unresolved longing was to pray for God to strengthen my faith. I still think that is a good prayer. But as I read Scripture, I find that perhaps the problem isn't that I'm longing for God, but that I'm not longing for Him enough.
Jeremiah 29:13: "And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart."
When I pray, I often feel as though I'm a CB radio operator, sending out signals to God but unable to find the right frequency. I have to trust that He hears me through the static, even though I can't hear His 10-4.
On a deeper level, I realize that, as my friend Jim says, I am seeking God in fear and desperation while He seeks me in love. And as much as I wish I could have a ascetic serenity, blissfully returning God's love in perfect confidence, I suspect that's not what He wants or expects from me at this time in my life.
I believe that when God says that I must search for Him with all my heart, He wants me to be more desperate for Him, not less.
I don't believe He wants me to feel pained; yet, if I have a wound, it must be so that He may heal it. I also have to trust that His promise in 1 Corinthians not to allow me to be tempted more than I can bear extends to the temptations of frustration and self-pity.
So I believe it is time to take a real leap of faith and ask God to grant me not just more faith, but more intense longing for Him. "As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God."
Sunday, June 6, 2004
This morning, I did something I've been meaning to do and spent a little time cleaning out old Dawn Patrol files. That involves looking at several months' archives and, if I'm lucky, finding a couple of entries that I can bear to remove. I do it because I figure that if people are reading those archives, the least I can do is make them a tighter read.
I'd like to remove the entries that refer to men I've dated—to take away nearly every one of them, in fact. It's hard to look at the photos of me happy on the arm of someone special and think about how much I miss that feeling. But I can't do it—at least, not now, when I'm not dating anyone. It's too much like tearing pages out of a diary. More than that, it feels dishonest, even Communist—like rewriting the history books.
TRACKBACK: Charles G. Hill can relate.
In light of last week's ruling by a San Francisco judge against the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, as well as Nancy Reagan's painfully misguided choice to support embryonic stem-cell research, the nation needs more than ever to remember the clarity and wisdom with which Ronald Reagan approached issues of human life. Here is an excerpt of his 1983 essay "Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation":
I have often said that when we talk about abortion, we are talking about two lives—the life of the mother and the life of the unborn child. Why else do we call a pregnant woman a mother? I have also said that anyone who doesn't feel sure whether we are talking about a second human life should clearly give life the benefit of the doubt. If you don't know whether a body is alive or dead, you would never bury it. I think this consideration itself should be enough for all of us to insist on protecting the unborn.
The case against abortion does not rest here, however, for medical practice confirms at every step the correctness of these moral sensibilities. Modern medicine treats the unborn child as a patient. Medical pioneers have made great breakthroughs in treating the unborn—for genetic problems, vitamin deficiencies, irregular heart rhythms, and other medical conditions. Who can forget George Will's moving account of the little boy who underwent brain surgery six times during the nine weeks before he was born? Who is the patient if not that tiny unborn human being who can feel pain when he or she is approached by doctors who come to kill rather than to cure?
The real question today is not when human life begins, but, What is the value of human life? The abortionist who reassembles the arms and legs of a tiny baby to make sure all its parts have been torn from its mother's body can hardly doubt whether it is a human being. The real question for him and for all of us is whether that tiny human life has a God-given right to be protected by the law—the same right we have.
Saturday, June 5, 2004
I have a headline in the second edition of today's paper that I'm particularly proud of, as it's probably the closest I will ever come to channeling Ogden Nash. It's for the true story of a man who confessed to a reporter that he killed his fiancée's cat:
The Rev. Barry Lynn is mad because the government isn't infringing upon religion.
Since Lynn, a United Church of Christ minister, is the executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, one would think he'd oppose government interference with religious practice. And he does oppose it—when it interferes with his own religion. What he wants is for the state to infringe upon others' religion, while endorsing his.
The minister, whose group convinced a number of religious organizations to sign a letter against the Federal Marriage Amendment, yesterday told The New York Times, "I am disturbed that even though I can perform a religious ritual to unite a same-gender couple, the state won't recognize it because some different religious group thinks I am theologically wrong."
Take a look at that statement. First off, Lynn admits the state is not preventing him from performing "a religious ritual to united a same-gender couple."
As for the state's not recognizing the ritual, it's not because "some different religious group" thinks it's "theologically wrong." It's because the majority of voters in this country think it's completely wrong.
Let's not muddle things here. Under the First Amendment, any religious group can "unite" any person or group of people, so long as the group does not imply that such a ritual in and of itself confers legal privileges.
So who's oppressing Lynn here? He's pretending that because people of "some different religious group" than his own are backing the Federal Marriage Amendment, the amendment itself must be A Bad Thing. But those same religious groups—including the Roman Catholic Church, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations, and the Southern Baptist Convention—back plenty of causes that Lynn's left-leaning organization supports. The Roman Catholic Church, for example, lobbied strongly against removing Saddam Hussein from power, a position with which Lynn agreed—yet the minister never whined that "some different religious group" was trying to influence the government on that account.
Really, I can't even believe this guy's a minister. Something tells me that he's got a piece of faux sheepskin on his wall that says "Acme Divinity School."