Tuesday, June 24, 2003

so jane roe's a christian

Norma McCorvey (famously known from Roe v. Wade), recently filed suit over her original suit that ended in the Roe v. Wade decision. (McCorvey is now a Christian and pro-life.) A correspondent of mine complains that this is "the most ignored story since Alan Keyes ran for president!"

Yeah, yeah. It's that liberal bias again.

Gee, perhaps it was ignored because it isn't really much of a story. As the judge notes, petitions such as McCorvey's are meant to be filed in a more timely manner than the one she filed. It's a symbolic thing that's likely to get a lot of attention within activist circles, but has little to no news value outside those circles.

If I were editor of a national newspaper, I wouldn't assign a reporter to cover it. At best, it might make the news briefs in a metro daily I were editing. (Of course, if she lived in our coverage area, I might ask for a feature on what has prompted her turnaround -- although, again, the time for that feature really would have been 10 years ago when she adopted a pro-life philosophy.)

As to Keyes, I don't buy that reflects a media bias against him either. Major news media do cover the presidential primaries -- sometimes with a little too much attention, such as the way we're already starting to hear about the 2004 and even 2008 (!) races -- but after a while it gets to be pretty obvious who the major contenders are. It's not usually a wise allocation of resources to devote equal attention to dark horses as to front runners. I've seen papers do it -- I've done it myself when it's happened within my coverage area -- and contrary to what the "slighted" candidates and parties say, it really doesn't have a substantial effect on the end count.

Still, it's an unusual situation, since it involves the plaintiff in a Supreme Court decision appealing a ruling that went in her favor. Here's how I would develop the story from that angle:

1) Plaintiff in case is seeking reversal of decision that was in her favor.
2) Explanation of legal process, why and how such filings are made.
3) Talk about the arguments pro and con for the judge's decision to throw out this particular request.
4) Quote a few legal experts for their perspective on the whole thing, like "Did it ever stand a chance?"
5) Find any other unusual precedents.

Pretty dry stuff, of little interest to the average reader. If an editor assigned it to me, I would write it, but I wouldn't volunteer to do it, except as a sidebar to a larger story, which as I said, this particular filing didn't warrant in my judgment. As an editor, I wouldn't assign it, unless I'm the editor of a legal journal -- and even then, since the judge made the only decision you could expect, I doubt I would think it's worth much more than a footnote.

Which is what it appeared to have received.

Friday, June 20, 2003

loving god

Desiring God is good. It's not always possible, though, which I think is one of the reasons the Bible calls the fear of the Lord the beginning of wisdom and describes fear and obedience as the whole duty of man. If you can learn to love him, so much the better, but too often we toss that phrase around without ever really understanding what it means to love.

As a result of the struggles committed couples experience in marriage, they understand what a burden love really is, and they understand how it's a burden that can be joyful but still remains a burden. It's the same in our relationship with God. Often what Christians call loving God is just an infatuation because we don't let ourselves get close enough to deal with God in real intimacy and discover the wild and uncontrolled depths of his passion for us.

God's love is a dangerous thing; experiencing it is like swimming in a cataract with only a life vest.

So how do you do that?

Luke 10:25-37
On one occasion an expert of the law stood up to test Jesus.

"Teacher," he asked, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?"

"What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?"

He answered," 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind' and 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"

"You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live."

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"

In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he had compassion for him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'

"Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"

The expert in the law replied, "The one who showed compassion." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."

Luke 18:18-22
A ruler questioned Him, saying, "Good teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"

And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.

"You know the commandments, 'Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not bear false witness, honor your father and your mother.'"

And he said, "All these things I have kept from my youth."

When Jesus heard this, he said to him, "One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me."

Sunday, June 15, 2003

crop failure revisited

So far so good. My Yukon gold potatoes have a stack of three tires now. I just added some more compost to the mound this morning, so hopefully things are going well and new potatoes are growing even as we speak. (If I find myself with an overabundance, people are always welcome to come by this fall and share the joys of the harvest.)

The red potatoes haven't done as well. Even though I planted them the same time as the Yukon golds, it wasn't until some time last week that I saw the first sprouts poking through the dirt. Not sure why that would be. To the best of my knowledge, they hadn't been treated with anti-root growth hormone.

Ah well...

Saturday, June 14, 2003

'the two towers' extended DVD

I'd be waiting for the extended DVD in any event, but the news that the extended footage includes scenes that will explain the change in Faramir's characterization, has really cinched it for me.

And on a completely random side note, I wonder how the LotR movies are affecting the names people are giving their children. A few years ago, "The Matrix" led to a burst in the use of "Trinity" as a girl's name, and "Morpheus" actually had five uses in a single year, enough to put it on the list of active names. (No joke; somebody for some reason actually keeps track of the names people give their kids, probably for demographic purposes, and cuts it off at five. "Morpheus" had been unknown as a name since mythological times, and now it's back.)

We named our daughter Eowyn, but that was just because we love Tolkien's books and we picked the name nearly three years before the first movie came out. But I'm wondering now if she's more likely to run into other girls named Eowyn, with or without the diacretic, and if she's going to bump into a boy named Faramir and have to enjoy the obvious jokes. As long as his name's not Grima, I suppose ...

heroes and villains

The American Film Institute has issued its lists of the top 100 heroes and villains. Interestingly, Atticus Finch is their top hero -- most of the list consists of characters from action movies. What I find most interesting is the juxtaposition of hero and villain, and the stories those placements suggest, such as:

James Bond and Darth Vader
Rick Blaine and the Wicked Witch of the West
Clarice Starling and Mr. Potter
Rocky Balboa and Alex Forrest (who would have my complete sympathy)
Oskar Schindler and Hal 9000
Han Solo and the Alien
Robin Hood and the shark from Jaws
Spartacus and the Terminator
Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, and the Martians
Lassie and Cruella DeVille
Zorro and the Joker

I'm sure there would be other amusing combos if I had seen all the movies in question.

On villains, I have to flat-out disagree with them on No. 7: I do not consider Alex Forrest (Glenn Close's charcter) to be the villain of "Fatal Attraction."

Why do I say that? Because Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas) used Alex for a one-night stand, a fling. She's also guilty of wrongdoing in that initial encounter -- she had an affair with a married man -- but as evidenced by the next step in the movie, where she tried to continue the relationship, she wasn't looking for one night of sex. Not that the Gallaghers deserved having their bunny roasted or having their daughter abducted, but a great villian needs a good victim, and Dan Gallagher.

Gallagher used her, and in doing so, he exposed his family to tremendous risk. She should be held accountable for her actions, but since she's mentally unstable, she's also not entirely accountable for her actions once she was set off. Note I didn't say Douglas' character is the villain. I just don't think it's entirely fair to say that Alex Forrest is the villainess.

The original ending had Douglas' character shooting Forrest and being charged with murder. It was either one of the actors or the director who objected, and they changed it so that Douglas' wife fires the fatal shot, and it's viewed as an act of self-defense, or at least protecting the home from an invader.

I would have put John Malkovich's character from "In the Line of Fire" up there before Alex Forrest.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

going union

I'm starting to think I really should be considered more liberal than I usually am. Tonight I found myself in the middle of a discussion with three other editors about why — not if, but why — we should form a union in the news room. I've been given the duty of contacting the state Department of Labor to see what our legal options are, as well as some of the ramifications of each approach.

Then we have to go about building consensus. We were trying to determine whom we could approach down the road to get the necessary votes to unionize, and whom would be dangerous to approach. Naturally if the owners or management finds out, there's a good chance we'll either be given our walking papers or strongly encouraged to leave...


Silly me and that whole James 5:1-6 thing...

Thursday, June 05, 2003

baby names

Back when we were expecting Evangeline, we shared our name choices with our families and received a litany of horrors that would be visited upon our daughter if we gave her such a name.

I actually hung up on my brother during one such discussion because he was being so stinking rude. As a result, we didn't tell anyone the names we picked out when we were pregnant the second time, even though some family members and all our friends had been much more appreciative of the name we gave Evangeline.

The irony of course is that we decided almost right away that if we had a second girl, we were going to name her Rachel Helena, after my paternal and maternal grandmothers -- about as inoffensive a name choice as you can get. What can you possibly find to object to in someone naming a child after his grandparents, especially when they had such traditional names?

I shared the story with two of my friends online, and they both have opted not to tell anyone their name choices either. I must tell my brother that he has ruined it for three families, not just our own.

My younger brother, Ward, actually had been fine with the name Evangeline when we first mentioned it. When I told him that we weren't giving out names for Baby No. 2, he immediately started pleading to be told anyway and found himself extremely frustrated when I refused to budge. Our discussion went like this:

"Is it a Bible name?"
"Well, I guess it depends on your perspective."
"Are you naming the baby after anyone?"
"I suppose that depends on how you look at it."

When Rachel was born last Halloween, I called Ward and told him we had named her "Spock." It took him a little while, but he finally decided I was (probably) pulling his leg, and asked what her name really was.

In retrospect, I wish I had thought to tell everyone a different name when we called to let them know.

(Oh, and of course, true to form, Natasha's grandmother found a way to complain about "Rachel Helena" and what an ugly name it is.)

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

jayson blair

What it boils down to is this:

The editors at The New York Times should never have promoted Blair to the position he was in with the track record he had. Period. Blair falsified expense vouchers, regularly turned in inaccurate and poorly written copy and was still promoted to one higher beat after another.

Utterly disgraceful.


As long as I can remember, I've been reading ancient stories about humanity's distant origins and our relationship with the gods.

I started in ancient Europe, but I've traveled North to lands of frost and ice giants; and I've journeyed south, to where the Nile flows and floods. I've traversed the seas in long canoes guided by Maui, and listened to the tales of Mȃth as sung by Celtic bards. I've drawn swords with Arthur and fought the devil in Brazil. I've seen floods caused by gods distressed at humanity's wickedness or tired out by all their noise and once by a monkey who pulled a cork from a bottle.

I love mythology.

It started back when I was a kid. The elementary school had a large yellow book of D'Aulaires' "Book Greek Myths" that I probably checked out more than any other volume while I was a student there.

The most important stories to the ancient Greeks were Homer's poems about Troy and Odysseus, but the bulk of the myths the D'Aulaires told came from writers other than Homer, who told tales about the Argo, about Heracles and Theseus and Orpheus, with the result that "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey" feel like afterthoughts to me. They're the Greek myths I'm least familiar with.

I got turned on to Norse mythology through Marvel Comics and its superhero Thor, particularly when Walt Simonson wrote and illustrated the comic in the mid-1980s. He was on the title for about five years, and wrapped his entire run around the mythic Ragnarok, the Twilight of the Gods where the Nine Worlds perish in flame.

Simonson had a deep passion for Norse myth that redefined the series. I think he's also a Christian, or at least is very familiar with Christian thought, based on the ways he reinterpreted some of the myths and Thor in particular.

One of these days I want to get a translation of the Elder Edda, since that's our only source of Norse mythology outside the comics.

I've read some Egyptian mythology, but since their cycle of mythology was thousands of years old, I can't even pretend to have more than a passing familiarity with it. It was also years ago. The only Celtic myths I've read are contained in "The Mabinogion," and my interest in that primarily is due to its contributions to the Arthurian cycle of literature.

Polynesian myths also are interesting. I have a collection of Maori myths compiled by Anthony Alpers that I picked up while I was living in New Zealand. It features Maui, a trickster similar to the Coyote of American Indian lore.

The little American Indian mythology I've been able to pick up has been snippets here and there, since it really wasn't in vogue to teach back in the 1970s, when I was in elementary school.

On the other hand, I did manage to find and devour a book on Latin American mythology when I was in high school, and got to read the myths of the Incans, Aztecs and Mayans. It was interesting, although I'm afraid I don't recall much of it.

What was striking was that the Mayans appeared to have had contact with Christian missionaries before the Europeans officially arrived, based on the Christian symbolism and motifs already found in their myths, such as the Devil and the use of the cross as a holy symbol.

I don't know much about Celtic myths, but I heartily recommend "The Mabinogion." It's a collection of Welsh tales with names many fruit-smoothie people have tried to appropriate, such as Rhiannon, Annwn and the horned god whose name escapes me at the moment, but it's still interesting reading.

The myths about Mȃth and Gwydion gradually give way to some of the oldest known Arthurian legends we have, old to the point you're not likely to recognize the names of most of his knights and companions unless you're already familiar with the cycle of literature. "Cei" is relatively easy to figure out (because it's also spelled Cai, which suggests Sir Kay the sensechal, and he acts as boorish), but there are others like Gwalchavad, Gwalchmei, Peredur and Bedwyr that aren't as easy.

These are some of the storis that have enthralled, shaped and defined me for a season or for longer. As God is my witness, they are stories that my daughters will know too.