Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Laptops And Fertility

Last evening we were sitting in our living room, and I had the laptop open on my lap, reading headlines on CNN.

Sarah watched me for a moment and said, "Do you think there's any truth to the rumor that having a laptop on your lap causes infertility?"

I looked from her, to our sleeping newborn, and back to her.

Then we discussed dinner.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Django Therapy

The baby was fussing and squalling. He had eaten, he had offered up a lusty belch, and he had a fresh diaper on. He was simply awake and discontent. No-thank-you to the pacifier, and the bouncing and usual noises were not doing anything for him.

What to do?

We've known since the pregnancy that this little pooper has a thing for music, and it was to music I turned this time. I put on Django Reinhardt.

Within seconds, he stopped crying and opened his eyes wide, following the music intently and startling with every new instrument and opening his eyes even wider when the Red Hot Jazz Quintet crashed together into complicated chords.

The kid has good taste. His favorite music so far seems to be from Hamza El Din, the Gipsy Kings, Roderigo y Gabriela - and Django, cool!

So, please enjoy a little bit of Gabriel's music:

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Indiana Jones Has Nothing On Me

Dear Dr. Jones,

Thus far I am unable to follow your new adventures in search of the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (and the longest movie title ever) as I have been very busy with adventures of my own.

What do you know about dodging peril and uncovering dangerous artifacts, Indy? Do you know what I have been through this week?

Let's talk about ducking geysers of pee!

Let's talk about diaper changes that would scare off all those ghosts inside that ark you found.

Let's talk about baby screams so high-pitched and loud that the ficas tree bleeds.

You? You join some amulets to staffs, load your gun, coil up your bullwhip. I had to assemble a baby swing with illiterate instructions and inscrutable diagrams! There is no language, living or ancient, that makes sense of an artifact like this.

And the weeping, Indy! Mama weeping, baby weeping, while the cat and I look helplessly at one another.

It's a demanding existence, Dr. Jones, but at least I can look down at my lap and see where my treasure lies (sleeping contentedly - for the moment).

* * *
Speaking of Indiana Jones, this is really funny:

Friday, May 23, 2008

We're All Just Sexist

It has nothing to do with her flaws as a candidate. Apparently, there are no legitimate concerns about Senator Hillary Clinton. According to a new movement of Clinton supporters none of that stuff is important. The only reason she has not been crowned as the Democratic nominee is that we're all just sexist.

Funny, I thought I was concerned about her record on foreign policy. I thought I was put off by transparent lies and evasions. I thought I was dismayed by her outright reversal on the Florida delegates and the overblown rhetoric covering up the fact that she is breaking a pact she entered with her rivals, and blowing it up as a civil rights issue, comparing to landmark liberal struggles in the United States and the crisis in Zimbabwe!

But no, that's not really it. It has nothing to do with policy or leadership style or substance. I'm just a sexist creep who wants to deny Pat Schroeder her lifelong dream of seeing a woman President.

Oh, and according to these folks, there isn't really much racism in the campaign.

Okay, bringing the sarcasm down: History has been made by this woman's candidacy. There is no longer any question that a woman can present as a credible and popular candidate for President of the United States. A new doorway has been definitively opened for women. It's good news and high time. It's worth celebrating - but this rhetoric is not really about that. It is still one more campaign tactic.

To hear Gloria Steinem and Pat Schroeder talk about it, we should simply put all our concerns aside and elect this woman President because she is there - even if she is, by the standards of a great many voters, not fit for the office herself. Their personal desire to see a female elected President trumps everything else. Moreover, they elevate the sexism Hillary Clinton has encountered ("Iron my shirt!" signs at the campaign rallies and pundits comparing her to a nagging wife, and of course the sexism that doesn't show its face so clearly) yet ignore the racism that confronts Clinton's rival for the nomination.

Digusting, disgusting, disgusting; and utterly demeaning to an intelligent politics. This threatens to become Hillary Clinton's legacy, and she is capable of so much more, so much better.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

You Might Think This Is The Year of Change

...but don't count the Democrats out yet. I keep seeing developments suggesting, in this of all years, the Democrats seem determined to pull themselves apart and lose the general elections.

They have had me worried this spring. It looked to me like they were about to nominate a talented, charismatic, and sensible politician for the Presidency after a long and historic primary campaign that reached all fifty states. (Thereby encouraging the nominee to begin campaign organizations in every state and U.S. territory.)

It was looking that way, but I'm getting a funny feeling those fussy Dems are going to eat each other - and their nominee - alive yet again, lose an election they have no excuse for losing, and subject us to another Republican administration controlled by authoritarian personalities pledged to dismantling Constitutional rule, expanding the powers of the president, and fomenting ideological wars regardless of their consequences for the United States.

It cannot all be blamed on a megalomaniac candidate who is doing her damndest to assure that her party will lose if it does not nominate her. It's what Democrats do often. They don't lead - and they regard true leaders as persons who invite backlash and cost them elections. They look down on and fear rural voters and even the working class. They quibble with one another, lose the big picture, vote to approve and fund wars they know are unjustified, and they lose the damned elections anyway.

Am I hard on them? Yes. In a republic shackled to an undemocratic two-party system, one of our two "permitted" parties is inept and ineffective. It will take a lot to undo a politician with the momentum and the unique opportunity possessed by Barack Obama - but if anyone can squash him, the Democrats can.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

State Supreme Court Rules: Society Must Perish

Cue the wailing and gnashing of teeth. The California State Supreme Court says that two men or two women who love each other should have the right to get married.

I gaze worriedly out the window for signs of chaos, but so far the world is quiet. Traffic seems to be moving along at the usual pace for a Saturday morning. There is nothing in the news about an explosion of immorality and wantonness. People are getting up, brewing coffee, and frying bacon like they usually do.

This ruling does not mean, as some have argued in the past, that religious institutions would be forced to perform same-sex weddings. That argument has always struck me as a transparent lie. Churches and their clergy always have a right to make their own rules about who can get married by them. My friend Rabbi Borak cannot be forced to marry me and Sarah - we're not Jewish. We could walk over to the Our Mother of Good Counsel Church on Vermont Avenue and ask to be married there, but we would likely be asked to convert and go to confession. They could ask that we live apart for some time before the marriage. They can refuse outright.

That right is protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution. It covers me, as well, as someone who performs marriages. The Kwan Um School of Zen is not required to offer marriage to anyone who walks in and asks for it. The School can require that the couple be members of a local Zen Center, or maybe take the five precepts first, and yes, it could refuse to marry same-sex couples. Happily, it has not.

But just in case, California's Supreme Court addressed this concern specifically:

“[A]ffording same-sex couples the opportunity to obtain the designation of marriage will not impinge upon the religious freedom of any religious organization, official, or any other person; no religion will be required to change its religious policies or practices with regard to same-sex couples, and no religious officiant will be required to solemnize a marriage in contravention of his or her religious beliefs.”

In other words, your church can still be anti-gay if it wants. Hooray for freedom.

Wouldn't you think people who are frightened of gays would want them to get domesticated and settle down into stable marriages? Aren't the advocates of marriage saying that marriage is a good thing for society? Why not proliferate it?

Here's why: because there are a great many people who do not want to treat homosexuals with dignity. It boils down to that. A great many people want to make sure homosexuals remain second-class citizens, for no valid reason.

Yet the Supreme Court has ruled, and the legislature has twice voted to approve a civil right of marriage (and yes, it should be called marriage) despite the state ban which has now been struck down. It will no doubt be challenged again, taken to a higher court. Let us welcome the dialogue. And may California join Massachusetts in taking a step away from ignorance and irrational prejudice.

Treating homosexuals as full citizens of our republic has nothing whatsoever to do with approving or "promoting" a homosexual lifestyle. Gracious me, it's none of my business! It is past time and shamefully overdue that we accord these men and women dignity and respect as human beings and fellow citizens.


One hour later, still no chaos or signs of divine retribution.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Let's Try This Again...

Let's make another attempt at the post that blogger irretrievably ate earlier today.

Here's the show, followed by a tell:

With this speech, following his speech in North Carolina when he won the primary there, it looks to me like Barack Obama is shaping up as a candidate.

Mind you, during this speech, I did yell at the screen when he complained about the money spent on the current wars. Senator Obama did not vote against a single appropriation for this war, and did not demonstrate leadership in the Congress as some of his colleagues did, attempting to utilize the power of the purse to curtail this disaster while providing for the security of our soldiers in Iraq. Obama was a critic of the occupation, but not much of an opponent.

If he prevails in the election, this speech demonstrates how he will do it: calling these bullshit negative attacks out for what they are, returning to the record, and talking sense. I am not in love with Obama, nor do I agree with him about many things. If he can maintain this demeanor and intelligence, maybe a more wholesome style of politics will prevail.

It's going to be a very ugly campaign. There will be race-baiting. There will be fear-mongering. Obama will be declaimed as a radical muslim in one ad, and taken to task as a bad Christian in the next. It doesn't have to make sense. But Obama must, and more importantly, so do we.

If Senator McCain wins this election, there is an excellent chance my boy will not only have to help pay for the Iraq occupation, but actually go and serve there when he's of age. That's bad enough but there is more. The Cheney Doctrine of Madness has got to be stopped for the sake of our Constitution itself. This is no exaggeration. The invasive powers granted to the Department of Justice and to Homeland Security are a material threat to the identity of this country. Executive power must be restored to a proper balance with the other branches of the government.

It is bad enough - it is inexplicable - that this President will be allowed to finish his second term without so much as a censure. He will never be punished for his crimes or the damage he did to this nation. The best we can ask for, then, is for this party to be turned out of office and for the country to move on and start repairing the damage done to our union.

Who else can do it? The Greens are going to run Cynthia McKinney. The Libertarians are offering us Bob Baar. No thanks. I'm not enchanted by Obama, but he is willing to talk sense. What a giant step that is. How far we have fallen.

Shaping Up As A Candidate

All right, Blogger, where is my post?

What have you done with it?

It's not saved to drafts. It's not on my clipboard. You ate it, didn't you?

Nice going. Forget it, folks.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Come, Gabriel

We're going to run a triathlon today. A swim in the ocean, a run from Santa Monica to Newport Beach, and then we're going to wrestle on a trampoline on the back of a truck as the truck drives across Compton.

If that doesn't work, then I think Sarah's not really pregnant. It's all a prank.

Wait, she's coming in the door now - and she is unloading - oh no. No. It's scuba gear. Oh God, Gabriel, for the sake of your poor non-swimming father...!

While Sarah does jumping jacks, let me upload pictures of the finished bed.

Uncle Chris working under mama bear's supervision

We had to wash the bed's linen because, um, there was an incident...

Of course, Schroeder. Always Schroeder.

Freshly washed, the bed now hangs next to mama bear, with a baby mattress designed and sewn by Sarah herself while running a treadmill at full speed...

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

No Baby

The bed is hung, the swing assembled, the house remodeled, we've gone for bouncy rides on Los Angeles side streets, taken long walks, and suddenly - well, the contractions have subsided and there is no baby.

We'll keep updating you. Now pardon me, I have to make a late-night run to the hardware store. Sarah wants to replace the kitchen floor.

Guerilla Acupuncture

True story:

We went out for a walk, as the contractions seemed to be backing off. Walked down the hill to the grocery store, got some fruit salad, returned a movie, walked back up the hill.

Walking down the street, we spotted Jorga. Jorga! An old tai chi buddy and practicing acupuncturist. He hadn't seen Sarah in a little while so he walked over and admired Sarah's belly. "Definitely a boy shape," he said, and then an idea occurred to him.

"I've just treated a patient, so I've got my needles with me. Want me to do a little work to help things along?"

Sarah did not hesitate to take him up on the offer. Right on the street, Jorga opened his black bag and Sarah experienced her first acupuncture treatment - in public!

Gabriel Is Coy

"Well, of course he's not Jewish!"

"No no - COY. He's being COY."

"Oh. Well, speak up, why don't you??"

We were up a good part of the night as labor seemed to be progressing. Sarah's burst of activity escalated to building a new wing onto the house, which will probably annoy our landlord the next time he visits the premises (next Easter, I think).

To hang the baby's bed, we needed to find ceiling joists in which to anchor the eye-hook. Lacking a stud-finder I resorted to holding a lamplight across the ceiling, measuring 12, 16, 18, 24 inches from a corner, and palpating the ceiling for some sign of a beam. Near as I could tell, the ceiling was domed, so I summoned a friend with more tools.

Chris came over and we blundered about, finding a beam and securing the hardware so the baby's bed now hangs at the right height next to where mommy sleeps. Whew. We rewarded Chris with beer and then settled down to long, rambling conversations about ethnology, the psychology of myth, and string theory. Schroeder participated in his own way by crawling into the kitchen cabinets and eating the shelf paper. Sarah, meanwhile, re-tiled the kitchen counter and planed a closet door using a cheese grater, occasionally enquiring how late the hardware store stays open. She paused at some point to consume a chicken.

This morning labor seems to have backed off a bit. Thus far, Gordon Brown has not returned my phone call and Sarah actually thought about going to work. (A waste of gas, this, as they would promptly send her back home, and Gabriel would no doubt be born somewhere on the 91.)

As I write, Sarah is consuming a pig, and eyeing the shelf paper herself. On her orders, I am getting our shoulder pads and helmets ready - we are going to play a game of tackle football.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Gabriel's Coming

The baby is definitely preparing to meet us, and we are preparing for him. Sarah is experiencing increasingly frequent, increasingly intense contractions. The baby's bed is hung, the overnight bag is packed, everything is ready.

I suppose women will react in their individual ways to the beginning of the process. Some might lay down. Some might be tempted to have a drink. Sarah has been rearranging the house. I have to watch her, or else she might go rent equipment and sand the floors.

So I am physically sitting on her as I type this update. We will keep you informed.