Monday, August 03, 2009

Next stop, Sox? Or Celtics?

Here's the latest post White House Brew Fest UPDATE from "Skip" Gates, speaking from his summer place on the Vineyard. Funny the little things that bring us together. This whole situation has me reflecting back on my first few encounters with law enforcement officers in my youth, and discovering that little things like the fact that I was an Associated Student Body Officer at my High School didn't really cut it much during a traffic stop, and that in retrospect mentioning it at all simply seemed stupid and naive. Or hearing from my cousin (a sworn officer and retired Sgt. of Detectives in Spokane) that probably the most antagonistic thing you can say to a cop is "I Know MY Rights!" (when the BEST thing to do would be to remember that you have the Right to Remain Silent, and to use it); or hearing from my wife (an administrative law judge and former trial lawyer) about the seven-figure damages award granted by a jury to an African American airport traffic cop who asked a wealthy white physician to move his car, only to have the latter threaten him personally and refuse to comply on account of the differences in their incomes (and one assumes, their race, social class, and relative importance), and then was hit by the fender of the physician's vehicle as the officer reached for his ticket book, and the doctor angrily pulled back into traffic.... Gosh I wish I could remember more of the details of THAT case. Meanwhile, here's all best wishes for smooth sailing from now on for both Officer Crowley and Professor Gates. Now, about Harvard....

Friday, July 31, 2009

Report from the Rose Garden

This just in. Professor Gates enjoyed a Samuel Adams Light, while President Obama opted for a Bud Light. Sergeant Crowley indulged in a Blue Moon Pale Ale, while Vice-President Biden contented himself with a "near-beer," Buckler. I'm not certain that their beverage choices really give us much insight into issues of race, class, and police power/authority in our society. But they do perhaps provide some small insight into the personality of each individual.

Sam's Light is, to my taste, probably the best light beer being commercially brewed in America today. Samuel Adams is a growing regional brewery based in Boston, and produces a wide variety of ales, lagers, and seasonal brews, all of which are of high quality. "Skip" Gate's selection of Sam's Light is the educated choice of a calorie-conscious connaiseur, and is admirable in that regard.

Bud Light, on the other hand, is simply piss. Not even Clydesdale horse-piss (which all needs to be reserved for the regular Budweiser), but rather something that came out of a Dalmation after a long, leisurely lope through middle America. Although to be fair to Anheuser-Busch, they do produce very clever advertising...about half the time. The other half they are just down-right annoying. But Barach's choice of a Bud Light shows him as attempting to show himself as a "man of the people," who really understands what a beer or two (or twelve or twenty...) after work can really mean.

Blue Moon is a very respectable Cambridge microbrewery with a brewpub (as I recall) right in Harvard Square. The Sarge really knows his suds, plus he works out often enough that he doesn't have to worry about a few extra calories. As for the Vice-President's choice, I kinda wish he'd gone for something a little more in the line of a Raspberry Lemonade, rather than following the near-beer route. Although maybe now thanks to his example I'm going to have to try a Buckler's myself, just to see what it's like. This is, after all, BBQ season. And there's nothing like a cold brew on a hot day with a freshly-grilled brat in hand.

All in all, I think this was a very nice gesture on the part of the President. And I'm glad to hear that Skip and Jim are planning to do this again on their own. Who knows, this could turn out to be a regular Thursday afternoon event at Grendel's Den? And we could ALL probably learn something from that....

Saturday, July 25, 2009


Now here's a little breaking news that should make just about everyone just a little happier. And it will probably end up just being a Bud....

Friday, July 24, 2009

Louis Gates and Walter Begaye

And what do THESE two cases have in common? Not much (actually) which is a whole other issue, but not really what I wanted to write about this morning.

I sure wish everyone would just accept the last word on this incident, which is that it was unfortunate and regrettable, that apologies are doubtlessly due all around, and that it's time to move on, without necessarily ignoring the underlying issues which this incident has once again raised.

I wish people (Professor Gates in particular) would acknowledge that the ONLY reason the police were at his door that day was to protect his life and his property. I wish Professor Gates could acknowledge that he was tired, that he was perhaps hypersensitive (I know I will be criticized for the use of that word) to the deeper social implications of this encounter, and that he did indeed lose his temper and behave in a disorderly manner, whether or not it was truly worthy of his arrest. I ALSO wish people could acknowledge the underlying Class issues of this incident: that Professor Gates clearly attempted to use his perceived position of privilege within the Harvard community in order to intimidate Sgt. Crowley, and that this tactic didn't really go over very well, and never does.

As for Sgt Crowley, I suppose it would have been easy enough for him to walk away after seeing Gates' ID in the kitchen, with a quick apology for interrupting his day, and wishes for a good night's sleep. The fact that he didn't is in itself a clue that there was more going on there than meets the eye, but I doubt that underlying personal racism had anything to do with it.

Finally, I really like Chalice Chick's analysis of this entire situation, especially her early tongue-in-cheek advice that "Unless you’re Stephen L. Carter, be nice to the cops anytime you interact with them." I mean, let's face it: it doesn't really matter who you are, it is ALWAYS a bad idea to get into an argument with someone wearing a uniform, carrying a badge, and in possession of a loaded firearm.

Meanwhile, let us not forget that my friend Walter Begaye just spent two months of HIS life in jail (without trial) on a bogus weapons charge, and for the "crime" of being a drunken Indian sitting in the wrong place with the wrong person at the wrong time. Nough said?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

"That's one small step..."


and then another, and another after that, and another and another and pretty soon don't you know it but you're walking. I've always loved this "Earthrise" photo -- I've used it as a meditation mandala, and as a central focal point for a meditation altar, and have always found lurking near it both a strong source of inspiration, and also a sense of cautionary humility. For millennia humanity has been gazing up at the night sky to contemplate the vast infinity of which we are such a small and unintrusive portion. And then, for a brief moment in history some four decades ago, a handful of lucky individuals had the opportunity like Prometheus to ride the stolen fire once more into the heavens for a God's eye view of our tiny island in the vast darkness. And the outcome, if anything, is even MORE humbling than the view from around our solitary, stone age campfires.

Mount Rainier finally had the good manners to peek its nose out on my last full day at Camano. I've already mentioned how invigorating and rejuvenating those two weeks were, and I just wish there could have been a few more of them...maybe toward the end of the summer, after I've had a little more opportunity to settle in here in Sacto and get myself unpacked. Had my first visit with my new Doctors today (more on that later), and there's certainly much awaiting me there. And the unpacking, of course, always goes more slowly that anticipated. If I'm LUCKY I'll be fully unpacked and moved in by the end of October, just in time for my 53rd birthday.

Drove down to Portland Friday with my son Jacob's fiancee Shelly, who had already driven to Seattle earlier that morning to obtain an expedited passport so that they can elope to Italy the week after next. But of course in the process of developing this wonderful plan, they discovered that it's a lot harder to get married in Italy than they thought, so now the plan is simply to go to Italy, and then get married at some later date back here in the States. I don't know what it is about my family. Margie and I essentially eloped to Atlanta back in 1985, while Steph and Craig have actually been married for months (for insurance purposes involving the baby), but put off having an actual public ceremony and reception until now. We all seem to enjoy the party part (when it finally happens), and the chance to get together with friends we otherwise might not see so often, but we are also all basically of the opinion that a big, fancy wedding is a huge waste of money that might well better have been spent on something else.

"Steph-n-Jen" -- my joined-at-the-hip daughters by mutual discernment. Looks like they may have picked up a new admirer.

In any event, as someone who at one point in his life earned a significant portion of his livelihood by officiating at weddings, I knew better than to offer any advice or make any critiques of the Judge who actually officiated at both the ceremony last Saturday and the earlier one down at the courthouse some months ago. And as a professional, I LOVE large weddings, think I do a pretty amazing job when it comes to "solemnizing" them, and always used to consider the big party afterwards as part of my compensation (although even just 5% of that in cash would have generally been more than satisfactory). Weddings, Child Dedications, and Memorial Services -- those sacerdotal milestones by which clergy share the lives of their people, regardless of their specific faith tradition.

Meanwhile, we were confronted with a little mystery Sunday morning: "the decapitation of Saint Frank." One of Margie's garden statues had its head go missing at some point during the weekend, while we were all off celebrating the union of Steph-n-Craig. The head was eventually recovered, but the culprit is still at large; meanwhile, this reminds me of one of Steph's favorite cartoons growing up, of a monk walking out of a devestated barroom, beaten-up bodies littering every broken chair and table, while the caption reads "After that, no one dared call Francis a Sissy again."

Flew down to Sacramento Sunday night, and was picked up by my Dad at the airport here right on time. As I mentioned earlier, still plenty of details to be worked out about unpacking and the like -- Debra and Jerry are in the process of moving into a new house they purchased about a year and a half ago only a few miles from here, while most of my things are still in storage waiting to space to open up here. And I truly am guessing it could easily be another month or more before I'm really unpacked and up to speed.

In the meantime though, I have new doctors and I have a new view, plus clean clothes, a comfortable bed, a functional desk (and internet connection!), and even a new dog! Well, not exactly, but the next best thing -- a calico cat named "Lou Lou" who belongs to my father, who dotes on her shamelessly, and provides us all with hours of fascinating entertainment.

When she's not sleeping, that is....

[cross-posted from One Day Isle]

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

"A Perfect, Whole, Healed World."

Hurray for Mary Harrington, minister emerita of the UU Church in Winchester MA and this year's preacher at the Service of the Living Tradition in Salt Lake City last month. This is part of a much longer post that originally appeared on the UUMA chat, and was later reposted (with permission) at Kim Hampton's East of Midnight blog. And I'm reprinting this last paragraph here because, quite frankly, I COULDN'T have said it better myself, and it's a message that is well worth hearing. So thank you Mary, again and again and again, not just for your willingness to speak the truth in love to power, but for your ability to speak up on behalf of the rest of us who feel as though maybe we have lost our voices, or that people are just sick and tired of listening....

"...One reason you might not hear as much about people’s physical needs and struggles as exists is because of the high price involved in speaking up and then not being heard or helped, being ignored, being pitied, being condescended to or patronized, being accused of costing others too much money/being too expensive, being impatient, being fawned over or its opposite- having others refuse to even see you’re there or make eye contact- I have experienced all of these from my colleagues, from other ministers, not just ordinary citizens. It can be awkward, embarrassing, insulting, offensive, infuriating, heartbreaking or humiliating, depending on the situation. It doesn’t make you want to go back for more. I’m saying this now, out loud, so you can’t say you didn’t know, from now on. And because I don’t want to say it again, I don’t want to have to say it again, even though I know that’s not realistic or even fair, it’s still what I want. A perfect, whole, healed world."

Yours always, Mary

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bastille Day

And thanks to James Ishmael Ford for posting this clip: one of my favorite film moments in one of my all time favorite movies ever.  Vive la France indeed!

Monkey Mind: Briefest Rumination on the 14th of July

The French Revolution had some small impact of the emerging Unitarian movement in the United States.  That famous "Unitarian by Myself"-- Thomas Jefferson -- was very closely tied ideologically to the French Republicans in the minds of many, while many expatriate French aristocrats somehow found their way to the South Shore of Boston, where they were often taken under the wing of the soon-to-be Unitarian congregations there.  Don't ask me why, or how significant this really was.  Just something I stumbled over in the course of my research