Saturday, October 30, 2004

What Jackson Missed in Tolkien

The imminent release of the final extended DVD in the trilogy has put me thinking about the themes I most wish had made it into the movies (or had been better portrayed). Of course, there is always more in a movie than there is in a book, and no doubt if I had made the movie I would have left out themes that resonated deeply with someone else. I won't pick on any of the little details, just the big ideas that I think the movies missed.

The Sorrow of the Elves
The elves were tinged with sadness and a sense of loss in the movie. But the movies didn't really capture how central the elven sorrow was to Tolkien's mythology; I have always felt it was as great in importance as the whole good versus evil conflict. It colors the whole struggle with Sauron, because the elves know that in destroying the ring they will themselves lose their ability to preserve the beauties of their own land. It is the same reality that Frodo eventually must accept: that one often cannot destroy evil without losing all else that one values as well.

But I think Tolkien portrays something even bigger with the elves. For the elves, immortality is as great a sorrow as mortality is for humans. It is indeed sad to leave all one's works and joys and go we know not where; it is just as sad to see all the things one loves decay while you live on. We desire immortality, but the immortality we desire is not just an endless lengthening of our mortal lives. It is something altogether different; it is not something that could be enjoyed or even imagined in a dying land. Both elves and men must, sooner or later, give up the limits of Middle Earth in order to enjoy the immortality for which they long.

The Maturing of Eowyn
The initial Eowyn is portrayed quite well. The only trouble is that the movie never lets her grow up. Watching the actors being interviewed, it seemed to me that nobody had a clue that she even needed to grow up. (I still have a faint hope that we'll see a little more of that in the extended version.)

Everyone sees Eowyn as a heroine, a great woman. She is a heroine and she has the makings of a great woman. But she's not one yet. She's not comfortable with herself as a woman. She chafes at her assigned responsibilities, no matter how important and honorable, because they lack the glamour and excitement she wants. She gets a schoolgirl crush on Aragorn. She is an adolescent, and I mean that in the nicest possible sense.

Eowyn doesn't yet know that the greatness of a woman comes not from what she does, but from who she is. She doesn't see, for instance, that being her uncle's one link to sanity until he could be freed from his oppression was as valiant and vital a task as all the orcs her brother could kill.

In the book, we get the chance to see that Eowyn after doing the second-greatest feat in the entire war--which ought to fulfill all her dreams of greatness--is still not happy. It's not just disappointment over Aragorn; as Aragorn points out, she didn't know him well enough to love him as a person, just as an ideal. Only after Faramir declares his love does Eowyn realize who she is meant to be and accept it:

Then the heart of Eowyn changed, or else at last she understood it. And suddenly her winter passed, and the sun shone on her.

"I stand in Minas Anor, the Tower of the Sun," she said; "and behold! the Shadow has departed! I will be a shieldmaiden no longer, nor vie with the great Riders, nor take joy only in the songs of slaying. I will be a healer, and love all things that grow and are not barren." And again she looked at Faramir. "No longer do I desire to be a queen," she said.

Eowyn grows up at last and finds joy in being a woman. In the movie she stays a feminist heroine. Indeed, much of what is human and even good in feminism is simply an adolescent desire to prove one's self. But women are never going to find peace in copying the male path to maturity, achievement.

Eowyn has always resonated deeply with me because I was her. I always wanted to prove myself better than the boys. When they got too big for me to beat at arm wrestling, I took to besting them at slaying law exams. I tried to minimize my enjoyment of "girl stuff." But I think Eowyn helped me with the process of realizing I didn't need that; that being a woman was as worthy a calling as being a hero. (And I have to admit that, like Eowyn, it was a certain young man who triggered the change.)

I'm sorry they left out the grown-up Eowyn.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Food stuffs

Check out the new cooking blog, Cooking With Martha Stalwart. (That would be the Martha of Bethany in the Bible. Nothing to do with that other Martha.) It was started by SaraJ but has multiple contributors. The high-tech version of a back fence.

And my sister brought the online Carrot Museum to my attention. It includes people who make me look quite normal, by comparison. At least I don't have a carrot tattoo on my belly. (And if I did, it wouldn't get photographed.) But still, perhaps I should submit my carrot collection--once the kitchen is sufficiently finished that I have most of it displayed. In the meantime, here is a small sampling (photo courtesy DOB):

Heading off the cliff

OK, one more opinionated post and then I'll go back to baby pictures and household misadventures.

Another argument I've often heard used by third-party advocates is, "The Democrat wants to go off the cliff at 85 mph while the Republican wants to go off the cliff at 55 mph. We shouldn't be going off the cliff at all." This is true, but they fail to complete the analogy, which is that the third-party candidate generally wants to suddenly erect a concrete barrier between the car and the cliff. On the whole, I think I'd rather go off the cliff. But I still think the best plan is to slow the car down gradually.

In other words, if the third party really could implement their plans with the speed they claim, the country would be instantly plunged into chaos and civil war. That's not good government.

Biblical guidelines for voting

Those arguing that Christians should choose a third-party candidate are wont to rely on the Scriptural standards for choosing leaders in arguing that their guy is superior. Do those standards really warrant decrying George Bush as evil and voting for whoever the Constitution Party is running? (This year it's a Maryland lawyer named Michael Peroutka.)

Now, although I believe the Mosaic governing structure is in many ways limited to that specific time and place as God prepared the world for the coming of the Messiah, I do think the standards set down for their rulers are persuasive if not binding for Christians today. So let's look at them:

Ex. 18:21 Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place [such] over them, [to be] rulers of thousands, [and] rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens:

Deut 1:9 Take you wise men, and understanding, and known among your tribes, and I will make them rulers over you.

The first qualification we see here is "able." Able to do what? Able to rule well. How do we know ability? By testing it. Even rulership of a family or church well is not a good measuring stick for this qualification, because the pressures are totally different. Anyone who's been around politics for long has seen perfectly good, well-meaning people get into office and cave in once they get there.

Proponents of the third-party candidate are wont to imply, "Well, Candidate X has compromised on issues A, B, and C, but our candidate will never compromise." How do they know? Has this man been tested in the incredible pressures of national politics? Does he even know what he is doing? It's easy to say our government should be thus and so--does he have a viable plan for getting it there without destroying it in the process? Does he have the people on hand to put in place to carry his ideas into reality? If he doesn't, then I seriously doubt whether he fulfills this primary characteristic of ability. Indeed, I would doubt the political ability of anyone who seriously expects to bring political change about by running as a no-name for president.

Men of truth, hating covetousness, fearing God
These are all important matters of character and I even will concede for the sake of argument that Mr. Peroutka probably scores better on some points here than President Bush. But I would ask his supporters: Do you think you are voting for Jesus Christ? Of course not (heresy, heresy). Then guess what? You're voting for a sinner. That means you're voting for someone who sometimes stretches the truth, sometimes covets, and who doesn't fear God as he should. The lesser of two evils is indeed still evil--and it's a pretty basic Christian doctrine that we're all evil. That means it's a matter of weighing the degrees: trying to choose someone who does indeed have some fear of God, who tries to be truthful and who avoids corruption, but realizing that just because a person is a better person doesn't mean they're a better leader.

Yes, I disagree with President Bush on some points of theology. But then, I disagree with practically everybody on some points of theology. That doesn't mean they don't fear God. It's OK to support someone who disagrees with you on some points and pray for God to guide him.

Would Mr. Peroutka's supporters have voted for King David?

Wise and understanding
Wise: skillful, shrewd, insightful. We're not just talking about people who know the Bible here. We're also talking about people who have practical insight into reality. A person may have a great knowledge of God and how to apply His Word and still be a lousy plumber if he doesn't have wisdom at plumbing. A person may have a great knowledge of God and still be a lousy leader if he doesn't have wisdom at politics. As noted below, I'm not at all concerned about the theology of my plumber. I'm a little more concerned about the theology of my President, but not that much. I'd rather elect a President I disagreed with on theology but trusted to make good decisions when it counted than one I agreed with on theology who didn't have the experience and advisers to guide the largest country in the world.

Known among your tribes
That's right, name ID is important to God. Why? My guess is it's to ensure those chosen as leaders have some history behind them--that they've done something to prove their worth. Usually, this is because they've worked their way up in the ranks of leadership, or served bravely in war. They need to be well-known and have a good reputation.

In response to critiques that they are throwing their vote away on a third party candidate, supporters are prone to argue that God is able to accomplish things despite their apparent impossibility. Quite true. But just where do they get this promise from God telling them that they can win with this particular person by this particular method? It seems an act of gross presumption to me. Yes, God works miracles, but He doesn't command us to jump off cliffs so we can see more of them. Our duty is to work faithfully in the best way that we can.

In short, I did not vote for President Bush because I figured he was the lesser of two evils, while secretly thinking some third-party candidate would be better. Does he fall short in a lot of areas? Of course. I pray God keeps working on his heart, as He already has. But I voted for President Bush because I thought he would make the best president among all the choices on the ballot. I voted for him because I thought he was the most qualified by the Biblical standards.

(Note: I was going to console myself with the thought that a lot of these Constitution Party supporters seem to be tending to the idea that only heads of households should vote, but I think when I do the math it seems that voting for a third-party candidate and not voting would have the same effect. Oh well.)

Thursday, October 28, 2004

In defense of Pope Gregory and his much-maligned monks

Pope Gregory I, that is, who in 601 instructed the missionaries to go convert old pagan practices into Christian ones. Evil syncretism? Mixing of paganism with Christianity? The source of elements which must be expurgated from our celebration of holy days? I'm not so sure.

Pagans, after all, were not necessarily anti-Christians. They were pre-Christians. They did not have the full revelation of God in His Word; yet they had the partial revelation of God in nature. They did not yet know of redemption; they did at least know of sin. Just because they did something doesn't mean it was an evil thing to do.

It is God who created times and seasons and days and years. And celebrations, pagan or Christian, are tied to seasons and times. Certain times of year seem more suitable for celebrations than others: the return of life in the spring, the completion of harvest in the fall, the renewed lengthening of the days in the dead of winter. Yes, the pagans may have worshipped their false gods on these days, but the days themselves were important because of the way God made the world.

If one was reaching out to these pagans, what better way to connect with them than to tie into the things they knew, in a manner like that Paul used on Mars Hill: "You celebrate the rebirth of the god in the spring? Well, let me tell you of how the One True God really did come to life in the spring." "You remember the dead in the fall? Well, let me tell you tales of the dead who followed Christ."

Even if a day had been used for out-and-out Satan worship (an unlikely situation, since those who did not know God would also not know about his adversary), what better time to celebrate Christ's defeat of Satan and all his works than on the day formerly devoted to his honor? The devil shouldn't get to claim any days for his own; all days belong to God.

There was, of course, a danger of syncretism. I do hope the monks were careful to draw distinctions; I'm sure some were more so than others and some people listened better than others. However, modern westerners are as unlikely to be lured into ancient religions from practices with a tenuous connection as they are likely to be lured into worship of the Greek gods from reading The Odyssey. The real danger of syncretism today is from pop psychology, feel-good theological fuzziness, and the omnipresent worship of self. That's where we should be concerned. We don't need to fight battles that died out a millenia ago.

In which I ride again

This afternoon I had to run errands. Never my favorite activity, it has acquired a whole new dimension with the addition of D1 to the mix. Now I have to carefully time them to coincide with a time when neither food nor naps will be needed, and must transfer D1 from car seat to Snugli and back to car seat with each stop. (And for the next ten years or so this is only going to get more complicated.)

Furthermore, the courthouse (where I had to stop to vote) was parked up to the hilt. Not wanting to risk the peril of being towed by parking in the employee lot, I circled the courthouse again and again.

In despair, I at last decided to park on the opposite side of the one-way street. This meant parallel parking the opposite direction from the way I was (very inadequately) accustomed. Sure enough, as I struggled to squeeze in between the van behind and the station wagon before, I felt a far-too-familiar jerk. As I was struggling to get back out of this, the van left and I had lots of room to maneuver.

I got out and examined the bumpers. Mine was intact. The other's was decidedly caved in, yet it was a car even older than mine and the bumper looked quite solid. Could I really cause that much damage without hurting my own? I reached in my pocket for my cell phone to call DOB and ask for an opinion on what to do.

It was at this moment that I realized the comforting weight in my pocket was not my cell phone, but the camera. Alas, at that moment taking a picture would not have been particularly helpful. (A picture taken before I started parking might have helped document it, but it was too late.) And driving home to get the cell phone seemed both irresponsible and unduly time-consuming.

I did leave them a note with a phone number, so I am left with waiting and hoping either that it was an honest person whose bumper was already caved in, or a merciful person whose bumper was not yet caved in, or a forgetful person who loses the note before they call me.

Bib Mysteries

In defiance of gravity and the wishes of mothers everywhere, bibs inevitably wind up backwards on the baby a few moments after you fasten them. My theory is that D1 believes converting the bib into a cape will give her superpowers--or at least make it easier for her to roll over.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Sports Fandom

DOB brought up the question this morning as to why people develop such rabid loyalty to one team or another. Often the loyalty is geographic, of course, but even that doesn't really explain why--and of course many people are fans of teams from far away, or maintain their childhood fandom even while living in exile. The loyalty is not to the people involved, because players get traded and coaches leave, yet the fans remain. Nor is it tied to winning; indeed, commiserating in team losses is part of the point. It's certainly not considered part of fandom to pick whoever is winning as "your team." No, the idea is to have a team (for whatever random reason) and stick to it, through thick and thin.

Perhaps it ties into some deep human need to be loyal to something regardless of the outcome. In most areas of life, the advice is now to insist on your own happiness whenever things begin to go awry. Sticking with something or someone regardless of how they perform is considered ill-advised with one's family, and uncouth with one's political party or country. What's left but one's favorite sports team?

Yet it's somehow deeply satisfying to stay true to something for no reason than that it is yours, even if it disappoints you time and time again. And if it ever does reward you with success--well, it's all that much sweeter.

Of course, with sports, you have all the fun of the payoff, while the suffering really doesn't hit you in real life. Go join the fight on Amy's blog if you want to debate whether this is a worthwhile place to devote your energies.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Life in a swing state

Living in the all-important state of Ohio, we have turned down countless opportunities to see various figures of national importance. The president is in Cincinnati--again? Ho-hum.

No, not until at least the vice-president came to our very own town (pop. 7500; home of Kurt Blom, 1987 backstroke champion) could we be bothered to travel to an event. Which was the case yesterday. And it was highly enjoyable, even with the standing in line. One can get away with more with a baby--despite the edict against any food or drink, the lady inspecting bags didn't even bother to inquire whether one four-month old really needed two 8-oz sippy cups full of water and a bag of trail mix.

For a presidential campaign event barely a week from election day, it was surprisingly substantive. I like Dick Cheney because he's so not a politician.

We are, of course, from the greatest of us even unto the least of us, going to be heavily involved in GOTV activities next week--we are staying in Dayton the night before the election in order to participate in inputting who-voted data there. (What is D1 doing to help? Cooperating, of course.)

And just in case you're still undecided:

Monday, October 25, 2004

The tree I wanted to remove

When we first moved in, this tree had to go. It covered the entire back yard with spiky balls that imperiled its use for any outdoor activity. Fortunately we didn't leap into the complex action of removing the tree (power lines on three sides and a house on the fourth). Now is the first fall we've spent here, and I have changed my mind. The tree can stay; we will buy a rake.

In other horticultural news, my $25 worth of free bulbs (tulips and alliums) from Breck's has arrived, and I hope I can get them in this week while the weather is good. It came with another $25 coupon for more bulbs. I think this time I'll get gladiolus--the winter-hardy kind that don't have to be dug up every year. I feel about flowers as I do about children: Once I get them in the bed, they had better stay there. I'm not sure when Breck's is expecting to make money off me at this rate, but I'll enjoy this while it lasts.

Baby Party

Saturday evening we had our birthing class reunion to show off the babies we didn't think would ever come the last time we all saw each other. Fortunately there were no conflicts resulting from the pride of first-time parents; everyone simply remained convinced that their own baby was vastly superior. D1 proved to be, though as tall as anyone, much lighter than the other babies, who were all boys. We tried hoisting them and are not looking forward to the impending weight gain.

For a natural-childbirth class, the statistics were not too great: out of four births, two epidurals, and one of the others still swears he's an only child. So we were the only ones there who both made it through naturally and are still convinced we want to have more. The teacher claimed that, among students in her next class, everyone had four-hour labors and breezed through. Guess we should have gone to that class.

Water Conservation

DOB periodically gets after me for my habit of waiting until the water in the shower has warmed up before getting into it, maintaining that this wastes water. This habit dates from my childhood, when one could easily get hypothermia while waiting for the hot water to wend its way from the basement to the second-story bathroom. Admittedly, our current water system does not take so long, nor is the water initially so cold, but there are still a few moments of chilliness before the hot water takes over. So I wait.

I countered that my water-wasting was miniscule compared to his, because he is prone to taking twenty minutes in there whereas I'm usually done in five minutes. So he bargained that if he could take a shower in five minutes, I would have to get in the cold water. Yesterday morning he took one in four.

Today, though, he had a stiff neck and a headache, so he took a very long shower to relax the muscles. I think we should have clarified whether this was a one-to-one correlation or whether one quick shower has doomed me to a lifetime of cold ones.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Baby Stuff

D1 and I survived her first vaccination yesterday. It was much more traumatic for me; I'm not positive she even flinched. She seems to have inherited His Majesty's pain tolerance; he is the sort of person who could drive himself to the ER to get a leg reattached, as long as he doesn't have to drive a stick.

She is 25.25 inches long, if you insist on that angle of measurement.

I'm considering relenting on the matter of exersaucers. I was convinced that they were a bad idea because (a) they were detrimental to proper bone and muscle development and (b) we didn't have floor space for one. However, having seen how much fun D1 had in one the other day, and having talked with the chiropractor about how to properly modify the seat, I may go ahead and make room for one. Now we'll have to see if one of those free ones I turned down are still available.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Stop me before I bake again

Yesterday I spent the afternoon at a friend's house, sorting through her tubs of baby-girl clothes for the next few sizes for D1. It was fun and breathed new life in an idea that has lurked at the back of my head for awhile: what if I had the two other SAHMs in the church--and all their kids--over to bake cookies in early December?

This would be three preschoolers, two toddlers, and two infants, in a small ranch house whose only workspace is the kitchen table. (If I put down dropcloths, I think I could impress the dining room table into service, too.)

I can hear my aunt and sister snickering now. Here I complain about the extreme labor of their cookie bake (in which small children are only invited for brief times and there are lots of other people and places to pack them off to when their attention wanes), and at the first opportunity I go running off to conduct an even more difficult one! I would not try to do the level of complexity they have, however. Two or three varieties at most, and no fussy ones.

Maybe I was just smoking too many french-toast fumes this morning.

The one downside to yesterday's activities is that I am not used to driving that far anymore and my back is killing me this morning. Fortunately tonight is chiropractor night.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

I'll be home for Christmas

Friends and relations in Washington, take cover. We have purchased our tickets. We are now scheduled for a week and a half of baby-exhibiting, present-hoarding, and consuming more cookies than any fuzzy blue creature could imagine.

We never had the legendary holiday difficulties that are reputedly common for young couples. His family celebrates Christmas much like they celebrate several other holidays during the year; my family celebrates Christmas as a six-week extravaganza. No contest. Besides, his family gets us the rest of the year round; my family only gets us for a short visit.

Last year was nice. Last year the first trimester was just over, so I was down to throwing up every other day, a great improvement. I hadn't seen any family members since early November and hadn't been in Washington since two days after the wedding.

This year will (I hope) be even better. I don't expect to be pregnant to any degree. We have the world's most intelligent and adorable baby to show off. We haven't been out there since last Christmas, and no one has been to see us since August.

Maybe I should relax up on my no-Christmas-songs-until-the-day-after-Thanksgiving rule.

Plumbing and Predestination

We got the visa bill last night, and on it was the charge from the plumber for installing the water heater. Apparently his company goes by the name "The Elect Group."

DOB had mentioned that this plumber was a die-hard Calvinist--but even so, that seems a bit much. I hadn't even thought to be concerned about the election of my water heater.

Thin Blue Line

Last night was the GOP fall dinner in the county, an event that brought back many memories. Not that the dinner itself was that memorable, this year or last (that would be contrary to the rules of political dinners).

On the way home from the fall dinner last year, we stopped at a drugstore and bought a pregnancy test. It was embarassing. (I don't know why it should be more embarassing than carrying a baby around--I guess it's the proximity of cause and effect at that point.) DOB tried to hand it off to me to pay for, but I couldn't do it because he hadn't put the credit card in my name yet.

The instructions said to take it at the first trip to the bathroom in the morning. This is a confusing instruction to a pregnant woman. The 1 a.m. trip? The 3 a.m. trip? The 5 a.m. trip? The 7 a.m. trip? I compromised on 3 a.m., because that was about as long as I could stand the suspense.

Here's what mystifies me: Last year, just suspecting I was pregnant, I felt free to consume as much food as I felt like at the dinner. This year, still the sole source of nourishment for a baby now hundreds of times larger, I felt constrained from going back for seconds.

Monday, October 18, 2004

If you don't usually check DOB's blog . . .

. . . you really must check out this link. (Caution: Some minor language.)

And here we are dressed for the Fifties for "Homecoming Day" this Sunday. No, we don't have costume parties at church every month. Posted by Hello

Here's the picture of us in "western" attire from September. DOB's mom is not in costume, but she wouldn't let go of the baby. Posted by Hello

Psychological Mysteries

Sometime late last week I took my shoes off and kicked them under the edge of the bed. One of them caught on the cord to the lamp, causing it to hang out in prime tripping zone. I tripped over it several times over the next few days, causing the lamp to jerk perilously close to the edge. Each time, I thought, "You know, I really should put those shoes away, or I'm going to break the lamp."

This morning, I tripped over the lamp cord, yanked the lamp off, and broke one of the glass panes in the shade.

Sometimes I'm as mystified as to why I do (or don't do) things as everyone else is.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Animal, Vegetable, Mineral

For those really slow days at work, there's an online artificial intelligence game of Twenty Questions. It incorporates the information from every game played to help it guess in future games.

I was interested to see that the "breadbox" standard unit of measurement is being gradually supplanted by the microwave--which puzzles me, because I would have thought a microwave was quite a bit larger.

At the end of every game, the program posts the answers on which it disagrees with you. It said that when the item was "carrot" that the answer to "Does it bring people joy?" should have been "no."

I didn't think this was right. Carrots bring me joy.

But I've never heard anybody else use that question in playing twenty questions, anyway.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

The Will of God (How imposing of a title can you get?)

In the discussion below, Kevin argues that a single guy should not be looking for a wife, per se, but should be looking to find the will of God. Of course I agree with that. But the question then arises, how does he know the will of God in this area? In most areas of life, there is no "default setting"--if you are not married, you are single; if you are not keeping yourself open to getting married, you are committing yourself to staying single for the indefinite future. Which one should it be?

The primary place to go to find the will of God is not our feelings or impressions of what God might be saying to us. (Some might say we should never look there. I'll leave that argument for the more learned.) We can all agree that the primary place to know the will of God is from the Bible.

Now of course there is no passage that says, "Thou shalt get married"; as Paul says, every one has their own gift from God. But that does not mean the Bible gives no further guidance on the topic. Starting in the first two chapters of Genesis, we see that God does not think it good for a man to be alone and that the first command he gives to humans is to be fruitful and multiply, an activity that requires two. Throughout the Scripture we see that the exhortations to marry are applied to broad groups of people over broad swaths of time for reasons tied into human nature (Jeremiah 29:6, I Corinthians 7:2, I Timothy 5:14). Singleness is spoken of as an exception, given to specific people for specific purposes or circumstances (Jeremiah 16:1-4, Matthew 19:10-12, I Corinthians 7:26).

So which should be considered the default? My argument is simply that, unless God gives specific direction otherwise, Scripture indicates that His will is marriage. Now of course when and how that happens requires further seeking of God's guidance. We are also permitted to use our brains and look to how God has made things to help us discern His will on timing. One of the primary purposes for marriage, having kids, can only be accomplished when one is young; another, avoiding fornication, is at least more pressing when one is young. Therefore, one can deduce that God's will--usually, unless indicated otherwise--would be for marriage to occur sooner rather than later.

I'm not saying that somebody better be out scoping out women day and night or else they are sinning; on the other hand, we shouldn't have the mentality of the guy stuck to the top of his roof in the flood who turned down all passing boats and helicopters because he was trusting the Lord. In the vast majority of cases, God works through the actions of people. Including our own.

I think a very close analogy to marriage would be the matter of work. Like marriage, we can see that God made man to work from the very beginning (Genesis 2:15) and that the general command is to work in order to obtain what we need. (Genesis 3:19, 2 Thessalonians 3:10, Ephesians 4:28) On the other hand, there are certainly times and places where God provides people's needs without their labor (I Kings 17:4) or where he even commands people to rely on the generosity of others to provide for them (Mark 6:8). But most of us realize that unless God gives us specific direction in that area, we ought to be working to take care of ourselves, while trusting God to take care of us even if we are unable to obtain work.

Look at it like this: Suppose you came across an able-bodied man and asked him where he was working these days. "I'm not," he says.

"Oh, are you going to school? Or doing some ministry?"

"No, I don't think that's where God wants me."

"Are you looking for a job, then?" you ask, at last.

"No, I'm praying about whether God wants me to look for a job, but so far He hasn't lead me to. So I'm just sitting around until He tells me what to do next."

Now it's possible that he might have some good reason you haven't asked about. But would it be out of bounds to say that something smells a little fishy there?

Bumper sticker I need

Smile . . . It kills time between disasters.

The Sound of Doom

We have radiant baseboard heaters, which has to be the oddest sounding way to heat a house. Instead of the cozy sound of a crackling fire or the logical sound of rushing air, it makes an assortment of gurgles, knocks and bangs like malfunctioning pipes.

The weirdest one is the one in our bedroom which, after careful contemplation, I have finally determined sounds like the drums in the deep in Moria. At least I think that noise is the heater.

I guess if orcs break into our room one night, we can't say we weren't warned.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Copy Books

Comments on the post below have led to yet more intriguing thoughts (I love this kind of discussion. Everyone has time to think things through and actually say what they otherwise might not think of until the discussion was already over.)

I implied below that some of the reasons people choose for not getting married and/or having children were selfish. As others have pointed out in comments, people may also do so for unselfish reasons or get married and/or have children for selfish reasons. Quite right. No one has a monopoly on selfishness or selflessness.

But that doesn't mean the character qualities have no connection whatsoever to the natural course of family life. Rather the relationship is more complex and subtle, but ultimately very important.

The end goal of everything we experience, good, bad, and indifferent, is for us to know God and be like Christ. With this goal, God has set up the world to teach us these things. The way He has hard-wired human beings for family life is one key way He both reveals himself to us and teaches us to be more like Christ. That's why He constantly uses it as an analogy: "You have been like an unfaithful wife." "I pity you like a father pities his children." "I will remember you even more than a mother remembers her nursing baby." Then he turns the analogy back to us and says, "Now you live in your lives after the Great Pattern of my love."

Each area of family relationships is designed to teach us things. For instance, being "in love" was always a term I despised and would have avoided at all costs as meaningless emotional blather. Then I read someone--I think it was Elisabeth Elliot--define it as "seeing another person the way God meant them to be." That made sense. Some people go overboard into a love-is-blind situation, but if you keep your wits about you and both genuinely love as you are "in love," you know the one you love has many flaws yet, but your desire to see them become the person they were made to be overrides that.

It's like God gives, at least to some, a chance to glimpse things from His perspective. That glimpse then provides us with something to hang on to during the times when the realities of living with a fellow sinner overshadow the grand vision we had at the first. Because in reality, that perspective is the one we need to learn, not just with our spouses, but with everyone.

The love between husband and wife, however, doesn't necessarily teach us the sacrifice that love requires. For most of us, investments in our spouse pay off rapidly. We help and are helped. We receive back in similar kind what we give. When we do have to give in an area where our spouse doesn't give anything back, it's hard to do.

But then come babies. For nine months you haven't even seen this person, yet they rearrange even the most intimate aspects of your life. For weeks on end you care for their every whim, devoting yourself around the clock to their needs. And then one day, they give you the faintest glimmer of a smile, and you go bonkers with delight. Why? Because somehow God puts into new parents the willingness to serve their children and not get anything back. The slightest glimmer of appreciation seems like ample repayment.

These natural drives are amazingly powerful. But they are only natural. Left to themselves, they quickly either fade away or turn to poison--and the stronger the love, the stronger the poison: jealousy, nagging, possessiveness, manipulation, idolatry. In The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis has some insightful passages where a woman's love for her son is the very thing that keeps her from heaven, whereas a man's lust, submitted to God, becomes the very thing that carries him there. All natural desires are good or bad only as we allow them to draw us closer or farther away from God.

The purpose of the natural drives in family life is rather like those little letters made of dotted lines at the top of penmanship pages. They are meant to provide us with a practice area for learning the genuine love that God desires us to show. We don't keep writing on dotted lines forever--eventually, we have to learn the shapes on our own. Similarly the natural passions by themselves aren't enough to sustain us through the difficulties of life. But they help us learn the pattern, if we look at them as revelations from God and submit them to His sovereignty.

It's quite possible to learn Christ-like love outside of the family, just as it's possible to learn good penmanship without ever tracing anyone else's letters. It's also quite possible to be married and have kids and never learn a thing about love, just as there are plenty of people who started out with good patterns but now have deplorable penmanship. Yet it's no accident that there are traceable letters in penmanship; nor should we ignore the connection God has designed between our families and the Family of God.

New Plan for Wealth Redistribution

As we were driving about admiring the scenery yesterday evening, some particular houses we passed caused me to consider that the problem is not that some people are rich and some are not, but that the wrong people are rich. It's despicable when someone who has poor taste becomes rich and then wastes piles of money building a huge, elaborate, hideous house that is a blot to the landscape.

So what we should do is find out who these rich people with poor taste are and take their money away before they can misuse it. Then we can give it to some deserving poor person with excellent taste. Like me, for instance.

Except DOB said that if I succeeded in implementing this, I would be evil and he would be obligated to fight against me. Rats.

More pictures available in the usual place. Posted by Hello

An impromptu sightseeing trip to Caesar Creek lake. Posted by Hello

Thursday, October 14, 2004

The Black Box

In an effort to watch the presidential debates, we have for the past week or so borrowed a TV and VCR from DOB's younger brother, who appears to be preparing to open a used-electronics store in their parents' basement. We didn't succeed in actually watching a debate on it, because they come on after our bedtime. But we might have recorded last night's, if it got reception for long enough to record. Peter Jennings was a fuzzy gray blob when we went to bed, and by this morning there was only solid gray.

In the meantime I've had this giant ugly black box in my living room. I do not like it. I recall hearing of a decorator's comment that in the olden days living rooms were designed with the hearth as the focal point; modern living rooms are designed with the TV as the focal point. What a tradeoff: the beauty and magic and warmth of a fire for cold blue light from a square black box.

Forget the moral or intellectual debate over television. It's just plain ugly. (I have similar feelings about computers, which is why they're in the office, not the living room. Or bedroom.)

There are, of course, ways to conceal a TV in cupboards and the like. In our current living room, however, that would require giving up either the piano or the books, something we're not about to do. So to this TV set I say: Be gone! And good riddance!

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Word Games

Not having much experience in applying names to the various forms of infant garments, DOB required an explanation when I referred to D1's new cold-weather garment as a romper. However, he gamely accepted this new term and attempted to add it to his vocabulary.

A few hours later I asked him to carry her back to the changing pad and keep her distracted while I finished putting away leftovers. He picked her up and asked, "Do you want me to take her out of her bouncer?" For a few moments I thought he was confused about our baby equipment and was going to tell him that she wasn't in a bouncer, just a playpen.

Also, one evening this week we were in the back of the house when we suddenly heard loud bangs from the living room. We were startled for a minute, and then I relaxed as I realized what it was.

"It's just the CD player," I said.

"What on earth is it playing?" DOB asked.

"I think it's a Haydn symphony."

"I can certainly see why."

And now, pictures on the blog! Posted by Hello For those who want more, they are here.

To the Bachelors, to make Much of Time

Anthony Bradley's post complaining about parental expectations for adult children touches on a train of thought that's been running around in my head for awhile, which I will now try to halt at the next station and write down. He's got a point about the brokenness that exists in many parent/child relationships that extends into adulthood. But his post also implies that it's somehow wrong and selfish for parents to hope their children grow up, get married, and have children of their own. (He's probably a bit sore on this point since he's still a bachelor himself.)

My theory runs somewhat opposite: it's wrong and selfish for young people to purposefully avoid the responsibilities of marriage and child-rearing in order to pursue fun, careers, or just because they're too lazy or timid to try. Now before everyone gets up in arms, note the term "purposefully" and the three qualifications on the end. People to whom God does not give the opportunity to marry or have children are not included in this statement; God has called them to something else. People who are giving up or delaying marriage because of a clear call to a ministry that is inconsistent with raising a family (say, constant treks into hostile territory) are also doing fine.

But I suspect many Christians are staying single or childless for the same reason a lot of non-Christians are remaining single or childless: it's easier and more fun. Those are not legitimate reasons. You don't need a special sign or calling from God to marry and have kids. Read Genesis 1:28. Marriage is the rule; celibacy is the exception. It is often a God-given and God-blessed exception, but it is an exception.

I'm going to aim this at guys because it's primarily their duty to take the initiative. Women chasing men isn't pretty (although there are times when standing where someone will trip over you isn't out of place--go read Ruth). A Christian guy who has an education and a job, who finds women attractive and has no specific calling to celibacy, ought to be looking for a wife. If you don't want to be "hunting," you can at least go for long walks in the woods with your gun handy. This is not advocating desperation, which is most unattractive: the goal is not to get married because you're the black hole of emotional need, but because getting married is a good and worthy thing to do.

It's your duty as a human being. To quote Benedict, "Nay, the world must be peopled!" It's your duty as a Christian. What's under attack from Satan these days? The family. The best thing most of us can do right now to advance the kingdom of God is not running around trying to ban gay marriage or change the divorce laws, or even evangelism, but to have good marriages and well-raised children. That's how we can show that the gospel has power.

All right, that's enough ranting. Think I'll go put on a poncho for the flying tomatoes soon to descend.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004


We watched Ben-Hur over the weekend and the making of it last night. We always turn movies into unit studies anyway: researching the setting, looking up the past and future of the actors, debating the artistic and moral implications of the plotline. We can't help it, we were home schooled. All those extra features on DVDs just provide greater fodder.

For those of you who get annoyed with the Christian bandwagons rolling through town, did you know that back in the day Billy Sunday urged people to go see the stage production of Ben-Hur? Apparently the phenomenon has been around awhile. The stage production must have been something to see, though, with up to five chariots racing on mechanized tracks. One time the machinery malfunctioned and Messala won.

The first time it was filmed the producers decided to save themselves the trouble: they just filmed someone else's chariot race. That film provoked a lawsuit which ultimately established authors' copyrights to the film versions of their work.

In light of the Worldview Fiction contest, what really struck me about Ben-Hur is that the compelling thing about the book is the story. Lew Wallace was not all that great of a word crafter; nothing he wrote sings in my head years later like lines from my favorite authors. But things happen in Ben-Hur. Exciting things. Compelling things. Characters love and hate and seek revenge and encounter insurmountable obstacles and succeed and fail. That is what people respond to.

Reading both the stories and the critiques in the contest, I've come to realize that the problem with most of them is that they aren't stories: some of them are interesting character sketches or colorful slices of life. But nothing really happens. I wonder if an actual story is the most difficult thing to write.

The Virtue of Resentment

One of my nursing-reads (what sort of boring people only read one book at a time?) is a battered paperback picked up for free at a garage sale entitled Foreign Policies of the Founding Fathers. It's intriguing if you like that sort of thing, which I do. Anyway, within it I came across a quote from John Adams:

"Resentment is a Passion, implanted by Nature for the Preservation of the Individual. Injury is the Object which excites it. . . . A Man may have the Faculty of concealing his Resentment, or suppressing it, but he must and ought to feel it. Nay he ought to indulge it, to cultivate it. It is a Duty. His Person, his Property, his Liberty, his Reputation are not safe without it. He ought, for his own Security and Honour, and for the public good to punish those who injure him, unless they repent, and then he should forgive, having Satisfaction and Compensation. Revenge is unlawfull. It is the same with communities. They ought to resent and punish."

This certainly doesn't seem to be a Christian perspective, yet there's some truth in it somewhere. If not appropriate personal policy, is it good foreign policy? And if resentment is not allowed, how do we ensure that evil does not go unchecked?

Monday, October 11, 2004

General Developments

Our hot water heater gave up the ghost on Friday, as DOB learned by walking down the hallway in his stocking feet. I would say "blew up," my standard term for any significant malfunction, but I find that when I say "Our hot water heater blew up" people get the mental image of a gaping hole in the side of our house with shrapnel everywhere. So no, it merely rusted away. Quite dull, but still expensive. The plumber has come and gone and replaced it, a difficult task because the house builders forgot to put in a place for a hot water heater and wound up stuffing it in the intended linen closet, for which it was too large.

While the heater was draining we collected a great deal of water in all our pots and bowls, which are now all over the kitchen. I was supposed to use these to distill, but I find I cannot remember to put them in the distiller; as soon as I have it scrubbed out, I automatically fill it at the tap. So I will see if I can remember to throw the extra water in the laundry.

That's a water distiller, not the other kind.

We went to the library book sale on Saturday--the event of the year in the Duchy--and returned with three boxes of books, including several excellent children's books for the day when D1 learns to prefer interesting stories over Motortrend and the Wall Street Journal.

D1 could roll back to front if she wanted to, but she doesn't. She rolls all the way up on her side, teeters on the edge, and then thinks to herself, "Why should I roll over on my tummy when I'll just immediately wish to return to my back?" So she stops.

And speaking of D1, thanks to a generous friend we now have a digital camera. (O joy! O rapture!) More frequent picture postings after I dig out from under the weekend mess and learn to use the thing.

Yesterday afternoon DOB sprained his ankle. (OK, it was during a football scrimmage, but he vows he placed his feet very carefully. It's just that his footgear was too slick.) The weird thing is that it was his good ankle, so he's having a terrible time using crutches in the opposite way from what he usually does.

It's very difficult to make popcorn when all your bowls and pots are full of water.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Literary developments

Looking at the Worldview Fiction contest finalists, I was struck by one literary question: What is it with the first person? Of the six stories posted so far, five are in the first person, and several are also written in the present tense. Is the third person past tense now passé?

For some of the stories, it makes some sense, but this one (one of the better ones, IMHO), for example, would lose nothing if you just went through and changed the pronouns and verb tenses.

Maybe it's part of the narcissism of modern society, or it's a peculiarly Christian phenomenon stemming from the concept of giving a testimony. Or maybe it just seems easier and is common in amateurs.

It reminds me of the way in The Moffats the children would race home from the library and quickly peek in their new acquisitions to see which books were "I" books. Those were then put to the bottom of the pile to read, because although a few favorites had been found that way, in general it was a sign to them of a book that was not going to be as good.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Works for me

You're Hobbes!
You're Hobbes. First of all, the makers of this
quiz would like to congratulate you. You have
our seal of approval. You are kind,
intelligent, loving, and good-humoredly
practical. You're proud of who you are. At the
same time, you're tolerant of those who lack
your clearsightedness. You're always playful,
but never annoying. For these traits, you are
well-loved, and with good cause.

Which famous feline are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

And DOB, of course, will play Calvin. It would be perfect except we've got the relative heights backwards.

Paths back to joy

I've been thinking about the discussion on the desperate-housewife story. (Both here and at worldmagblog.) And I realized I have two big advantages in staying out of the slough. Two things that help me set aside the bad things, savor the good things, and enjoy life. Even on days when the baby is sick and I'm sick and the house is an intractable mess and I do something really stupid that costs us all the money I've managed to save.

They're not nice things. Nothing cozy and fun like calling up a friend and having a good chat, or raiding a secret stash of chocolate. They are, in fact, the two most difficult things in my life. The two things that if I could wave a magic wand and change, I would.

One is DOB's physical problems. Now granted, there are times when they just add to the things I have to whine about. But they also help me in several ways. I'm sure it would be difficult for me (and I suspect that it is difficult for many young mothers) if my husband were still bursting with all the youthful vigor that I had before I started having kids, coming home from a day of desk work full of pent-up energy while I just wanted to collapse in a puddle. There are days when I think this would be nice--"Why can't my husband have the strength to wait on me hand and foot, like everyone else's? Oh wait . . . "--but on the whole I think the contrast would be depressing, especially since I've always felt the need to keep up with anyone in the vicinity. It's not a problem around here. If anything, I have quite a bit more stamina and energy, and the greater physical demands of my work make things just about even, leaving us both collapsed in a puddle simultaneously. Logistically it causes some problems, but emotionally it makes things easier.

DOB's challenges also help me put up with the physical difficulties and changes that come with bearing children. There will come a day when I give birth for the last time, wean my last baby, and am not constantly tied down with little children. There will never come a day when he can walk freely or run. If he can deal with permanent handicaps, I can deal with temporary ones. His attitude also encourages me (not that he doesn't gripe occasionally, too): he never gives up on doing something he loves just because it's hard. If he can't run, at least he can pitch and bat. If he can't do sales appointments all day, at least he can make the calls. It encourages me to find ways to keep up on the things I want to do, even if I can't right now do them to the extent I would like.

The other thing that helps me keep looking back up is my mother's death. Coming when and as it did, it overshadowed our whole courtship, engagement and marriage. Every time we were together, we were acutely aware that we had no idea, and no right to demand, that we would ever see each other again. All we had was right now to enjoy. Add to that the paranoia of early parenthood, and hardly a day goes by when I don't ponder how fragile life is. I don't know if I'll have seventy years more to spend with these people, or only today; I do know that however long I have, it won't be long enough. So when I pick my baby up or see my husband drag home exhausted, I smile. Every time (well, almost). Because I don't know if it's the last smile I'll be able to give them.

Life is too short to be miserable. I want to keep remembering that.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Problem Solved

Square containers are great for freezing things. But their lids always look like all the other lids of other square containers that are very similar but not quite close enough to swap lids with. And since no one ever acquires their lifetime supply of square freezer containers at once, any attempts at freezing must be prefaced by matching up every possible container and lid until one finds a match.

Today I wanted to freeze chicken broth, in a quantity suited to two of my larger square containers. I found a lid for one. On the second, I found a lid that I thought might work, with coaxing. So I poured away, put the lid on the first container, and started to put a lid on the second container.

Coaxing availed not. Instead the pressure induced the container to tip and skitter away, dumping the broth all over the stove. (Once again I gave thanks for a smooth-top stove.) So I had a lot of broth to clean up but I could now easily fit the remaining broth into a smaller square container, for which I had plenty of lids.

Privileges of Age

From last night's speaker, the local party chair:

"And then . . . have you all heard this story before?"

"You all have. Well, I'm going to tell it again, anyway."

Cleaning update

Superglue eventually just absorbs into your skin, right?

Mini-blinds wash up quite easily in the bathtub. They also scratch the bathtub just as easily. Our bathroom fixtures are a) an ugly color; b) very easily scratched; c) very solidly attached.

I've decided this is my practice house.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Unless ye become as a little child

DOB's mother is giving me Suzuki piano lessons. This both lets her learn the lesson-giving technique and lets me prepare for the eventual day when D1 gets piano lessons. (In Suzuki the mother has to learn the first book before the child, and the child can start just about as soon as she can reach the keys.)

So, after having played the piano for twenty years, I'm taking beginning lessons again. It's painful. (This has nothing to do with the teacher, who is doing fine--it's the thing itself.) It's like having someone come in my kitchen and say, "This is a half cup measure. Put in exactly half a cup of flour. Don't spill any. Now take the teaspoon measure and put in two level teaspoons of cinnamon." And I just want to grab the stuff and dump the cinnamon in, like I always do.

It's hard to start over from the beginning. Hard to undo bad habits. Hard to learn things you already thought you knew. But it's also rewarding to swallow my pride and take things like a little kid again, one concept at a time.

And who knows, maybe it will carry over and make me neater in the kitchen.

Fall Cleaning

This week the weather is clear and crisp and I have a source of free labor. That makes it time to do fall housecleaning. High time, since I never did spring cleaning, and I'm not sure how much the previous occupants (we bought from the realtor) did, as the junk mail indicates their baby would be about a year old now.

The free labor is DOB's youngest brothers. We get a lot of help from DOB's family, which we repay by producing grandchildren.

Yesterday we did the windows. We discovered that they are the kind that tilts inside and is very easy to clean, which was good because they were utterly filthy. They needed several preliminary scrubs with Bon Ami and a Super Scraper before window spray could even be considered. I used up my entire rag collection on them and the frames.

Today it was--and still is, though my help has gone and I must carry on alone--blinds, mini and vertical. Thanks to my sister's suggestion, I have figured out how to shorten the mini blinds so we don't have an extra two feet of blind that keeps falling off the windowsill if you don't balance it right. I don't know if the vertical blinds are washable or not, but if they dissolve while soaking in the bathtub, good riddance. I am beginning to suspect they were not originally light gray.

Is it OK if I be happy?

I may be misinterpreting this story from among the Worldview Fiction contest finalists, but I find it very hackle-raising.

For those of you who don't follow links, the tale is entitled "Wanted: Perfect Life (Will Settle for Mediocre)." It follows a young mother who has awoken from her dreams of marrying Prince Charming and raising beautiful children to realize she is married to an emotionally distant boor, has bratty kids, hates her life, and especially is annoyed at her apparently-perfect friends. She finally blows up at a ladies' meeting and tells them all how she feels, thus losing some friends and regaining others who finally confess that they feel the same way.

Now there are some good parts to the story: quite a bit of humor, some clever insights, and the point that plaster sanctimony is a great evil. There are also some artistically bad things: a fair amount of cliche and sterotype, and a sloppy writing style that isn't justified by a quasi-stream-of-consciousness perspective. But it's the apparent final message that really bugs me.

Maybe I have an unusually wonderful husband and child (but of course). Maybe it's just that I'm still (practically) a newlywed and only have a remarkably angelic 3-month-old so far, and in five years I will hate my husband and children, too. Maybe it's because I haven't had post-partum depression. (From the way I used to get post-Christmas depression, I fully expected to.) Maybe it's just that I've never really gotten into the whole "girlfriend" thing.

But honestly: my life is not this bad.

Sure I have my grouchy days (or at least grouchy minutes--I try not to drag it on all day). That's life. But I don't find myself wishing desparately to escape, like, well, like the feminist stereotype of a housewife. I don't envy DOB leaving for work every morning. I've worked at a job, a wonderful job that I loved, with great co-workers (I have to say that, they read this). But in every job there are going to be parts that you hate. I've had morning sickness, and I've written grants: I'll take the morning sickness.

From the way the story is written, the author doesn't appear to be suggesting that there's really anything wrong with this attitude: the woman doesn't stop griping, she just finds friends with whom she can get together and complain about their husbands and wonder why the dishes never get done. Now, I'm sure real friends are great, and definitely superior to fakers, but is that really all the hope there is?

Isn't it possible to be real and be happy? Isn't it possible to be pleased when your husband is feeling romantic? Isn't it possible (do I ask too much?) to teach your children to eat their supper and not to barge into the bathroom?

Frankly, I'm not certain her new group of friends would necessarily be any more real. I'm not sure, for instance, that I'd feel comfortable announcing among them, "I did the dinner dishes before bedtime every night this week!" (Not that that has happened yet, but in case it did.) I've been in situations where I felt guilty for having anything good going on or doing anything right, and it's just as unpleasant as situations where everybody was pretending life was unflaggingly wonderful. The only difference is, it's easier to meet the group standards when they're set at failure.

Come to think of it, I've known and admired a lot of women who were real and happy. Who still liked their husbands and their children. (And whose children, though not perfect, were not brats either--I know, I babysat them.) Who could weep with those who weep, but didn't have to wallow with those who wallow.

I hope this story is just the first chapter, and that the woman goes on to find a better life. Whether she does or not, though, I'm not going to give up hope on having, not a perfect life, but a good one. Because that's what I have.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Not that liberal

Last night while we were staffing the GOP HQ, a student from the local college came in to get a sign. As she babbled on about her great affection for Bush and the political climate of the college, DOB asked her how the professors stood on the upcoming election.

"Oh, they're mixed," she said. "Even though it's a liberal arts college, they're not all liberal."

Apparently no one at the liberal arts college had bothered to explain to her that the "liberal" there had nothing to do with ideology. Then again, maybe the current state of academia is the result of an innocent semantical confusion.

Two, Four, Six, Eight

More fun from the WSJ: an article on the cost of having a third child.

It seems that if you have a third child you need a house with more than three bedrooms, which is hard to find. You don't fit at restuarant tables, not even at Burger King. You can't fit all the car seats in your convertible, so you have to buy a minivan. You can't put five people in a room at fancy hotels.

Having grown up in circles where a family with three kids was considered small (and being the fourth child myself), I was highly amused by these challenges. But now my mom's statement that three children was the worst number to have makes sense. At three you outgrow all the things meant for families with two children. After that, it doesn't really matter how many more you have.

Either that, or life just got better when I came into the world.


Last night we watched Spiderman. (We rarely watch movies until they have been out so long we can borrow the DVD for free.) This was definitely not my typical movie genre. I don't do action and I don't even read that type of comics. (That's a comic strip? But it's not funny!)

But I liked it. Good and evil weren't just abstract concepts or arbitrary delineations, but specific choices people made. The hero respected his authorities (and they deserved it). Sure the villain was an executive, but it wasn't portrayed as if being in business was bad, but that choosing money and prestige over what is right can take you farther down the road of evil than you ever thought possible. Which is certainly true.

I did find it scary in parts. For some reason surreal, creepy violence is much more disturbing to me than realistic violence. D1's birth has also made a difference. If we watch a scary movie I have to check her much more often.

Friday, October 01, 2004

You don't know Mary Poppins

There's an article in yesterday's WSJ about a new TV reality show called "Supernanny" in which a strict British nanny tells parents how to make their kids behave. (I don't know yet if they have a call-in number where you can nominate other families--you know the ones--to appear on the show.) A line from the article:

"Many Americans, for whom the words 'British nanny' tend to conjure up Mary Poppins, may find some of Ms. Frost's take-no-prisoners methods surprising."

Now anyone who thinks of Mary Poppins as opposed to strictness clearly knows nothing about Mary Poppins. Even the movie didn't soften her up much, and in the books she is a Terror. She hears no nonsense, brooks no opposition, and when it is Time To Go Home you go home, even if you were bobbing up and down on the ceiling a moment before.

Jane and Michael do love Mary Poppins, of course, in part because she is so strict (though fair)--knowing what the rules are is much more comforting than the typical modern parenting style of "do what you want until I blow a fuse." But in that time and place they would have had that (though perhaps not the fairness) from any nanny. The primary thing is the utterly unpredictable and delightful things that happen around her, which she offers no explanation for and often does not even seem to remember.

Predictable rules and unpredictable fun. Not a bad goal to shoot for.

Foreign Policy, unencumbered by knowledge

Not that I know what I'm talking about, but it seems to me that North Korea, even if its weapons program is more advanced than Iraq's was, poses less of a threat. Kim Jong Il strikes me as someone who has taken over a country and is running it for his own personal profit and finds that quite adequate. He doesn't seem to have ambitions to blow up everyone else. (Though of course he might find selling weapons accrues to his advantage.)

On a side note, doesn't it seem from both the professional and--ahem--personal lives of power-grabbing tyrants that they have an unusually high level of testosterone? Maybe if we got them some sort of treatment for that they would pose less of a threat.

For actual analysis of the debate (and our bipartisan top 10 lists), go read the Duke's blog.
How weird is it that Blogger's spellchecker doesn't include the word "blog?"