Saturday, August 23, 2008

I'm Back In Catholic Education

I'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Kathleen Parker nails it

I think this pretty much sums up my feelings on the matter.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

I Got The Saddleback Blues

To messers. Nehemiah Dodge, Ephraim Robbins, & Stephen S. Nelson, a committee of the Danbury Baptist association in the state of Connecticut.


The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which you are so good as to express towards me, on behalf of the Danbury Baptist association, give me the highest satisfaction. my duties dictate a faithful and zealous pursuit of the interests of my constituents, & in proportion as they are persuaded of my fidelity to those duties, the discharge of them becomes more and more pleasing.

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.

I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection & blessing of the common father and creator of man, and tender you for yourselves & your religious association, assurances of my high respect & esteem.

Th Jefferson
Jan. 1. 1802.

Indulge the Balabusta for second here, folks, while she swoons. God in heaven, that man could write.

This is, of course, the unfortunately not so famous letter to the Danbury Baptists, in which Th. Jefferson appears to have coined that lovely phrase "separation between church and state". (This is the letter I referenced in this post.)

So, believing that Man "owes account to none other for his faith and his worship," the Balabusta and Mr. Jefferson would like Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain to explain why the hell each of them thought it was a good idea to give a well-known, likeable evangelical pastor an hour to grill each of them on TV?

Am I the only person out there who's, frankly, appalled?

I have nothing special against Rick Warren, who seems like a sincere and well-intentioned man, and really, everything I know about megachurches I learned from the King of the Hill episode where Hank and Peggy get into a snit at their pastor and join the local one--and Peggy, natch, goes a little overboard. ( "Come on, let's get home and get some sleep! Church starts again in six hours!") The one they joined seemed very nice, if a little exhausting. They even had a Starbucks.

But I have two separate and very specific gripes about this particular event.

Gripe Number One (the less important gripe): Who gets to host such a thing? Saddleback Church is an overwhelmingly white church (based on the photographs on their site), in affluent Lake Forest CA, which is also pretty white, in a state that isn't. Lake Forest is well-off, educated, and rather insular. This is the kind of place which, if it was in the Bay Area, would be drawing heavy fire for being 'elitist', and out of touch with the common American experience. Somehow, perhaps because it is also a heavily Republican area, it's avoiding that label.

But it's not just that they're wealthy people in a wealthy area, it's the assumption that fundamentalist Protestant religious concerns are the ones that matter in an election. The archbishop of Chicago is not doing this interview, and neither is the rabbi at Temple Emanu-El. This is a pure display of deference to a particular religious group whose concerns are seen as "American" concerns.

Which leads to Gripe Number Two (the important gripe): I wouldn't care if they did it at Glide Memorial in San Francisco, this is not what we do in the United States. You do not get the candidates for president up on a stage in a church forum so they can tell a famous pastor what their faith means to them.

We do not do it like this. And I am thoroughly hacked at both candidates for agreeing to this appearance.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

This Is Why God Invented Folk Dance Festivals

OK, so the Russians are invading Georgia. I watched the News Hour with Lehrer, so I feel slightly more up on the whole thing than your average box of rocks, but I have very little to say on the subject that you can't read elsewhere from, oh, people with PhDs on the subject, so I'm not going to get into Russia wanting to block Georgia from active engagement with the outside world, or my sense of nausea about Russia these days in general, or the geopolitical adjacency to Iran and Afghanistan and such places. I'm not even going to tease The Departing Mr. Bush for having publicly announced that he could see Vladimir Putin's soul. Lots of people see things that aren't there after a long plane ride.

However, I am going to say this: Europe needs to get the hell over the idea that differences in traditional embroidery patterns are some sort of rational basis for border establishment, and the rest of the world needs to stop indulging them in this stupidity.

What, you say, is the Balabusta ranting about now? She's ranting about the phrase, heard several times during last night's news coverage, that the South Ossetians are 'ethnically distinct'.

I'm sure they are. However, there are 70,000 of them, and according to some counts, 1500 civilians have already died in this hoe-down, so why don't we agree that the Ossetians can have a separate dance category at the all-Georgia folk dance festival, that the Tblisi government will deliver their mail and fix their roads, and that Russia will get back across their border and get the hell over it?

I'm sorry, but every time you see this 'ethnically distinct' thing accompanied by tanks, it never turns out even vaguely well. Words like 'Sudentenland' and 'Srbrenica' come floating up in my mind, accompanied by a nauseous memory of watching talking heads explain how the same Yugoslavians who'd lived perfectly calmly next door to each other for generations now had to rip one another to shreds, often literally, because of Important Ethnic Rivalries.

People, people, I got more ethnic distinctions going on in my APARTMENT BUILDING than the entire nation of Georgia's got, and so far no one has opened fire. (The people next door have thrown dishes, but that was an internal affair, and no one else was involved.)

Talking heads of the world: I will accept any explanation other than this. Tell me that Russia wants Georgia's Reese's Pieces stockpiles and I will nod wisely. But no more ethnic. No more distinct. Not once we've got tanks rolling. Persist in this nonsense, and I shall throw stuff at my TV.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Disgruntled Hillary Supporter Here

In November, 2008, God willing, I will cast one of the most important votes of my life, for freedom to marry to remain a right of all Californians.

Unfortunately, we're also voting on some other stuff come November, and I don't have nearly the sense of purpose about those that I have about voting against Prop. 8. You see, I am a Disgruntled Hillary Supporter. And I'm giving Barack Obama the doubtful fish-eye, trying to figure out if I'll have endless buyer's regret if I pull the lever on his behalf.

Please understand, this is sort of a big deal. I'm a Democrat, and a daughter and granddaughter of Democrats. At my grandfather's military funeral, my grandmother was annoyed because the young officer who presented her with the folded flag gave it to her on behalf of the President of the United States and a grateful nation. Why, she wanted to know (later), did Mr. Bush have to be invoked? We decided, after some thought, that the president the young man was referring to was actually FDR, under whose command-in-chief my grandpa actually served--or possibly Josiah Bartlet.

I have voted without pain for the guy with the Democratic nomination in each presidential election since I was eighteen. I loved Bill Clinton--I will always love Bill Clinton--but Gore never interested me that much, and I would have taken Edwards over Kerry, although Kerry seemed like a perfectly fine candidate. But I never wasted a moment's thought on the decision. The Democrats pick a guy, and you vote for the guy. End of story. But Barack Obama makes me twitchy and irritable.

Now, I never thought we would get to this point. In fact, I recall, year before last, catching a ride to BART with Mirele the Coworker, and laughing with her over the idea that either a woman (Hillary in particular) OR a black man was going to get the Democratic nod this time around. At the height of the nomination campaign, I recalled that conversation with wonder. How fast times change.

I'm not totally sure why I've taken so completely against Obama. Hillary is part of it, but I'm fairly sure that just about any Democratic governor out there could have kicked her behind in the primary and I would have cussed for a bit and then voted for him/her without pain. I don't think he's secretly a Marxist, or a jihadi, or a cocaine addict, (as a remarkable number of people at LGF do). I think he's inexperienced, full of himself for no apparent reason, and kind of blahhh.

I cannot vote for John McCain. I suppose I WILL vote for Obama, but he annoys me so very much.

Perhaps I need to redefine myself. Instead of being a disgruntled Hillary supporter, I can be a begrudging Obama voter. Or something.

Is anyone else having this problem?

Tuesday, August 05, 2008


My grandmother, Mr. Bluejeans' mother, always said that if she came back she'd come back as a pelican.

She wasn't entirely sure about reincarnation, but the way she saw it, it would be foolish to take your chances and not have something good picked out in case you were asked what you'd like to be next. She also thought she stood a good chance of getting what she wanted. Other people would want to be rock stars or something. "Pelican," she would say, quickly, and go on to Heavenly Central Processing.

As she explained it, pelicans could fly, and she loved to travel, they lived by the ocean, which was a constant love of hers, and they got to eat a lot of seafood.

I don't know if she also knew that in medieval iconography they are symbols of charity, and of deep care for one's children, but in that sense pelicans were also an appropriate bird for her to relate to.

The pelican thing was a running sort-of-joke for decades, but since my grandmother's death last summer it has become a lovely, unexpected reminder of her. On her yahrtzeit in June, my mother spotted a v of them flying down by Ocean Beach. At my cousin's wedding, pelicans flew back and forth all day, guests at the wedding. (It occurred to me, watching a pair flying together, that my grandfather has undoubtedly been roped into being a pelican as well, and is considered odd in the flock for wanting to fly to Kansas, and preferring steak to fish.)

Whenever we see them, now, they are significant and wonderful, and I'm amazed by what a beautiful gift this has become for our family.

Monday, August 04, 2008

That Was The Simcha That Was

I mentioned some time back that one of my cousins was engaged to a lovely young woman he'd been courting for a number of years. Well, the wedding was Saturday. Some details follow:


Since the kids themselves and most of the family live in San Diego, and part of the bride's family lives in Mexico, it seemed smart to have the simcha at a resort in Baja. My cousins spend a lot of time in Mexico, on various vacations and outings and family visits anyway, and both the chasan and the kallah are fluent in Spanish. You get a lot more bang for your buck in Mexico, and there was this resort they like--Las Rocas, in Rosarito Beach. So it was announced that the wedding would take place at Las Rocas.

This presented a certain amount of stress for the San Francisco branch of the clann Bluejeans, because we a. never go to Mexico (since it is rather far for us) and b. were assured by reliable sources that it would be hot. Hot. Hot. Hot. But the kids were getting married, so away we went...


We rented a car, and headed from San Diego for the border. We bought Mexican car insurance. We had our passports. We even had lovely photo-capture directions from the bride and groom.

We reached the border, drove right into downtown Tijuana, and promptly took the wrong exit. Then, we realized that the road we were supposed to take was closed. Then we realized that we were doomed.

For reasons you'd have to ask Mr. Bluejeans about, I'd been appointed navigator, and official translator for the operation. This would have made more sense if I actually spoke Spanish. I don't. Or, rather, I speak about three hundred words of Spanish, and have basically no grammar. I have a terrible accent (I fear that I sound like Peggy Hill), and my vocabulary is weirdly skewed by my profession. I know "estudiante muy bueno", and "no chicle en la sala!" and "el necesita hacer tarea". I also know a staggering range of cuss words, particularly including any form of the verb chingar, all of which I react to by yelling "watch your language!" in English.

So we worked our way through the traffic in Tijuana and I stuck my head out of the window of the car and yelled hopeful things like "La playa Rosarito--donde?" at people in cars next to us. Thank God, the people of Mexico sensed that we had to get to a wedding on time, and rose to the occasion. People pointed, and pointed, and all pointed the same way, and eventually we were zipping down the coast with the beautiful gray Pacific to our right, and not too long after we saw the giant statue of Jesus my uncle informed us overlooks Las Rocas resort.

He sure does. The statue stand seventy-five feet high on a hill overlooking the ocean, and holds his arms out directly at the resort. One of my cousins inquired about the thing sticking out of Jesus' head (you may not be able to see it in the photo above), and was informed that it lights up at night so that low-flying planes don't hit the statue.

We had made it.


Please understand that the heat of the northern Mexican summer had been obsessing us for months, literally. Never mind that this place is fifty miles south of where my aunt lives in San Diego, we were freaked. Shopping revolved obsessively around whether we could find formal clothing light enough. We were afraid.

It was a humid eighty degrees, with heavy marine layer. No one got heatstroke.


Las Rocas is a lovely little resort on the cliffs of Rosarito Beach. The wedding was at five, and took place under a sort of chuppah made of bamboo poles and gauze draping with Gerber daisies. Very pretty. There were seven groomsmen, all in Mexican shirts, khakis, and matching brown Vans, several bridesmaids in pretty brown tea-length dresses, three junior bridesmaids in goldy-tan satin, and two flower girls in white with brown sashes, plus a ring bearer who seemed kind of terrified--possibly because he got stuck on the men's side, away from the other small ones.

The ceremony was very brief, sweet and funny, and conducted by a buddy of the groom's, whose role as officiant had been kept a secret from the other groomsmen. He has a reputation as a clown, so they all panicked a little when he took center stage under the chuppah.

My aunt looked wonderful.

My other cousin, the groom's sister, looked wonderful, and delivered a fabulous toast at the reception.

The food was good.

I encountered the usual run of cousins of my father's, friends of my aunt's, etc., who all told me I was just so high when they saw me last. When you are twelve this is annoying. When you are thirty-five it is kind of surreal. I stopped growing about twenty years ago. (Although I promised one such encounter that I would hit six feet by the time we next met.)

One of said cousins is planning to retire to an island on Puget Sound and raise chickens and foster a horse. Sounds idyllic.

The groomsmen, as a surprise treat, got someone to come after dark and set off fireworks.


This had to happen, didn't it? The return trip seemed like a freebie. We pulled out and headed up the coast, following the signs that said "San Diego" straight up to Tijuana. It was at this point that things began to go wrong.

Basically, there is a huge amount of road work happening in Tijuana right now. There is also a bottleneck, caused by the fact that on a Sunday afternoon there is a huge number of people entering the United States, and we don't just let anyone enter the United States, meaning that each car has to produce suitable paperwork. This take a lot of time. This causes backup. Tijuana is not equipped to deal with backup. So we have a tidal wave of cars heading toward the border, and about three harassed-looking traffic cops trying to get them all through a regulation-sized intersection.

Vay's mir.

We somehow got waved into the morass, but realized right away that something was terribly wrong. We were in a side lane, with some taxis, and we were going too quickly. Wayy too quickly. Everyone else was completely stalled, and we were driving on the open road. Something was wrong.

We finally got a hold of traffic cop who confirmed that, yes, we were in the wrong lane, and were about to drive back down into Tijuana proper, where we would have to try again. This would have meant the loss of only a few minutes--nothing ventured, nothing gained--except that at the bottom of the go-round we quickly found ourselves driving on a two-lane freeway out of town--retracing our steps towards Rosarito.

Turn around, you say? No can do. There's a giant concrete divider down the center.

We drove helplessly south, until we finally spotted a sort of tourist stop--bathrooms, teeny snack bar, water. "Habla ingles?" said Mr. Bluejeans hopefully. The teenage girl behind the counter at the snack bar shook her head. "Nooo." OK. My turn.

OK, enough with the broken phrases, this time I was going to do a complete sentence..."Somos..." I began, and then gave up. "San Diego?" I said charmingly, making arm gestures to indicate that we were helplessly driving away from San Diego.

You know, Barack Obama is right. We need to have our children learn Spanish. Then they can translate for me.

The kid managed, through sign, several slowly repeated sentences, and the magic of my remembering that 'izquierdo' is 'left', to let us know that about 1 kilometer down the road we would be able to make a left turn and go back. At least that was what I thought she was saying, and I was, thank God, right.

We went back to Tijuana, found our intersection and tried again. This time a traffic cop waved us into another lane...that wasn't the right lane either. This time we stuck to our guns, and, thank heavens, a nice young woman let us merge into the real lane.

After that it was just an hour and a half of slowly inching forward, rolling down the windows to give money to small children begging, admiring the plaster Catholiciana, Azteciana and turtles for sale, and showing our passports to a crabby border control official, and we were back on our way to the San Diego airport.


It was a nice wedding. The bride was beautiful, the groom was glowing. (If there's such a thing as a radiant groom, he was. I don't ever remember him so happy.)

It gave me a lot to think about, some of which will probably spill over into this space.

My branch of the family has determined that when my little cousin gets married (no, no announcements have been made, and I should mind my own business), we want Christmas in Seattle.

Mazal tov!