Wednesday, October 26, 2005

To the loved ones, departed

I have been light on my writing, due to some serious events here.

The first was fairly mundane, I started my new job last Monday, and I have frankly been too preoccupied with learning the processes to spend a lot of time writing.

But much more serious, was hearing my uncle had died of emphysema the 15th, 2 days before I started that job.

As a matter of background, my father's family is very large. He is second eldest of 13 children. The children arrived from around 1932 to 1953, and all 13 lived and grew into adulthood, despite 3 of them serving in the Marine Corps in Korea (my dad included); despite a much high mortality rate from childhood diseases; and despite having 11 rowdy boys, a feat that I consider to be somewhat blessed all on it's own.

My grandmother is, or should be, a certified saint, having raised these 11 boys and 2 girls. (don't pity the heavily outnumbered girls, they are today two of the most amazing and strong women I know) Grandmother was named Mother of the Year in San Jose California in the mid 50s, a title she earned many times over.. She was also on her own from the mid 60s or so when my grandfather died. I hardly knew him really, but she remains a firm memory.

Allen, my departed uncle was the 4th oldest, age 69. He had been a smoker since high school, apparently, and it caught up with him. I wont repeat his obituary, but suffice to say he marched to his own drummer. For example, he loved motorcycles, and after leaving the Marine Corps he rode for a while with the Hells Angels in LA. Allen never did anything in a conventional fashion. He later became a tax assessor, the only family member I know of to serve in a public office. Consider the extreme changes from Marine, to biker to politician. This was the complex man Allen was.

He eventually married, raised three great kids and upon his death had several wonderful grandkids.

My aunts and uncles descended on Redding this weekend. One of my aunts came up earlier in the week to share her sorrow, but had to depart. One uncle dropped by the night before the service to my cousins house where we gathered, but also had to depart. At the service though, my father, 8 his brothers and one sister all were gathered, along with Allen's children, a couple more cousins besides myself, and some close friends.

The sad part of the whole event came as Allen's mother not only could not come, but has not been told. She is very old now, her memory failing. The decision was made not to tell her, because it would really serve no purpose as it is unsure how much she would understand, and how she would respond, as well as the fact that her health is too fragile for her to have been able to attend even if she had understood.

To me that was the saddest part.

My father's family has been a joy to me, for they embody so passionately what we all strive for: Love. And with this tragedy, they again have fallen back to that foundation of love and support that all seem to
naturally feel.

When my step mother died in 1999, the reaction was the same as it was here this weekend, the gathering from all corners of the country to share the memories of a loved one, and to show support and love as all shared my father's grief.

This weekend, even as all grieved the loss of a father, or a loved one, or a brother, they also rejoiced in a life filled with memories and laughter as they recalled their favorite moments of his life and events they all shared with him.

I still struggle with life, its mysteries and death. I still have a hard time reconciling my feelings on the whole subject.

What I did recognize on Saturday however gives me hope and a lot of comfort. It was a concept so simple in its nature, and so deeply profound in its effect.

Imagine, if you will, my father and his siblings all standing in a circle, holding hands. When Allen was lost from that circle, a gap now existed. But only momentarily, as all stepped slightly forward, shortening the length of the circle. The two open ends joined hands, and once again completed the circle.

The circle has changed, yet remains a circle. And as an ironic bonus, all are a little closer together then they were before.

In the circle of our family, where some families fracture with deaths, ours just draws closer together.

Rest in peace Uncle Allen, you will never be forgotten, for you live in our hearts and we hear your voice in our laughter.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

PETA strikes again

There has been a crime committed. A heinous act of deliberate violence, that resulted in the death of a living creature.

This on its own is disturbing, but it gets worse, much worse. The crime was committed by students, and even worse yet, on school property, during school hours, in full view of not only students but teachers and faculty.

What makes this even more disgusting, even more appalling, is that the students who could have stopped, instead cheered. They applauded and laughed.

It’s hard to describe the brutality. In fact PETA received complaints from several horrified students, and immediately intervened. Their actions were too late to bring back the dead, but they may prevent it from happening again in the future.

In their letter to the principle PETA said:

“If the reports we received are accurate, this cruel spectacle has no place in Federal Way public schools. Given the proliferation of violence in the schools, it is imperative that we teach compassion for all living beings rather than publicly encouraging cruelty to animals,"

They went on to point out that:

“…the incident may have been in violation of Washington’s cruelty statute, which tates that a person is guilty of cruelty to animals when "he or she … inflicts substantial pain on … or … kills an animal by a means causing undue suffering …."

So we have an act of deliberate brutality, and as yet no charges have been filed. What manner of miscarriage of justice is this? Has our culture really sunk so low?

Are Goldfish no longer safe?

Yes, Goldfish. Two students did this on a bet, that if one of them got elected a class officer, they would swallow Goldfish at an assembly. He did and they did.

I am gonna be honest, and say “so what?” Look, I understand what PETA represents, but honestly this just seems silly.

If PETA wants to campaign against animal cruelty, that’s fine. I even support them in principle on two issues. First I don’t have a need for fur, since there are enough synthetic alternatives. And I wont order or eat veal if I can help it. I see no use for killing calves for food, I draw the line there. Those are just my opinions.

I also have respect for my friends who are Vegans. I prefer a Big Mac myself, but they have the right to chose their own diet.

But goldfish? I mean these kids likely heard about it from parents or saw it in movies. I remember some Young Life leaders doing this at a fund raising carnival. Swallowing goldfish is practically an American tradition. OK., I will grant that in a school assembly may have been ill advised. But to equate this to Washington’s cruelty law? The representative I heard on the radio didn’t quite come out and say fishing should be criminalized, but she came close. In fact there is a webpage PETA runs called which nicely promotes it.

What bothers me is how often political groups intrude in our schools (and lives), often representing a minority faction. Not that I believe anyone’s rights are open to abuse, but in a democratic environment, where majority rules, the minority is often denied something, and suing is not always a viable option.

This begs the question:

Are we teaching them to protect their rights or to demand excess rights? Are we creating rights out of whole cloth? I personally think that sometimes that is exactly what we are doing.

It makes me wonder though. One of the biggest rights based groups is the ACLU, and they often support the oppressed, often when a minority is oppressed. One of their favorites is freedom of expression as a subset of freedom of speech. One aspect of that is living art or performance art.

Could their acts have been performance art, or freedom of expression? Would the ACLU come to their defense? Hmmm.

So if I decided to make a public statement by swallowing some goldfish on the capital steps- heck I’ll bring some friend and have goldfish swallowing event, to protest…errr…well to protest something. Would the ACLU come to my defense, and would PETA try to suppress me?

It would almost be worth it to see these two titans battle it out, but it wouldn’t happen. The ACLU has already gone to court to defend PETA

So, nevermind. I'll just chow down my Big Mac instead.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Commander in Chief


Flagging ratings have shelved the show till summer, but an interesting tidbit turned up.

Turns out there is a Clinton connection to the show after all...3 of them in fact.

The show’s lead writer, Steve Cohen, served as the then-first lady’s deputy communications director in the 1990s.

And two advisors have ties to the Clintons, former national security adviser Sandy Berger and Capricia Marshall, the former social secretary for the Clinton White.

I wouldn't call this a smoking gun by any means, and it isnt truly a direct connection so it does not fully justify my suspicians that this was a pre run for Hillary 2008. But it does explain the liberal tilt I noted below.

I also found it interesting that a group trying to get Rice to run was using the show also, with targeted advertising.

I think both parties want to test the water of a woman candidate.

I have approached this show from a fairly cautious standpoint for a couple reasons.

First, Hollywood has shown a marked tendency to trash conservatives, and applaud liberals, so in trying to discern whether to take it seriously or not, I have to bear in mind that bias.

Second the premise of a woman is not distant reality in my opinion, particularly with Ms Clinton staging herself so carefully for what many see as in inevitable 2008 run.

In fact it would not surprise me to think they are paving the way with a safe Hollywood drama to grease the idea into the American consciousness. How many other concepts has the TV brought to day to day mind that later turned true?

In fact, as my memory serves me, it seems there was already a Democratic President who was aided greatly by television, both during his campaign as advisors and before hand with a little sitcom name dropping. In the sitcom Designing Women, one of the characters casually drops Clinton's name as Governor of Arkansas in several episodes. Now granted this was not as high rated as other shows, but still can we ignore this considering the Producer, Linda Bloodworth-Thomasan and her husband are long times friend of the then presidential hopeful?

And their influence was certainly felt as Clinton used a very savvy handling of the media to advance his campaign. Some of it was likely his own charisma, but he also had great advisors.

So now we have the president, played by Geena Davis. Is she the stand in for a new agenda? According to some articles I found, yes. Geena herself has been quoted as saying:

'We're making this as entertainment. But God willing, if this show stays on and people see a woman in that office for a while, I think it will help people become more used to it. It's certainly about time that we had a few female presidents.'

Now this seems more of a feminist agenda then a democratic, but the two camps share a lot of the picnic blanket, so I cant count it out.

And looking at the plot I am slightly more convinced this has an anti conservative agenda.

First, the Republican President picks her, a registered Independent as his running mate, reportedly as a way to score points with women voters. Of course, the republicans are tapped to be some what self serving here.

Of course the staff all has ideological issues with her. Of course the evil Republican Speaker of the house wants her to resign so he can ascend. Naturally the republicans resent her and want her gone. It's a a bit too simple of a stereotype.

They could have played her and the president as democrats and showed her to be a remarkable woman deserving of the office, truly the best choice. Maybe that would feel too obvious. I don't know.

But my early impression is not very positive.

One thing they show well is the struggle to decide what to do with the first husband.

All I know is that women are making more and more serious contributions to American politics, and Hillary Clinton is not the only woman seen as a contender. The powder puff presidential battle of Hillary vs Condi Rice is being whispered in many places.

The concept of Mrs President is certainly overdue, and should be taken seriously. If the show seeks to forward that, I applaud it, as I think a woman could bring some needed changes to the country, and I just don't see gender as being an elminating factor.

I just hope that C in C treats it as a serious issue, and doesnt degenerate it into a DNC tool.

To fight for a woman president is fine, if she has to be a democrat then I think you are again forcing limits where none need exist.