Thursday, June 30, 2005

What Do You Want?

My friend Jennie at TrimandFashionable had the idea of asking people for lists of favorite kind of gifts they like to receive. In addition to being fun, it could be really helpful for me to have such a list from my friends and family, so I would love to have them. Even if I don't know you, you're still welcome to post your list. You may inspire other gift givers.

Here's mine:

1. Cotton table linens, napkins, placemats, and/or table cloths. Fancy or plain.

2. I love stationary, especially nice plain cotton paper. Foil lined envelopes are extra nice. No pictures, maybe a monogram, though I've always been a little too shy to buy monogrammed anything for myself.

3. Interesting postage stamps. I admit to color coordinating stamps with my stationary when possible.

4. Fresh flowers. I never get them. I think people have a thing about buying guys flowers.

5. Booze. I like good scotch, bourbon, and gin. I don't drink often, but I'm still just Southern Baptist enough not to want to spend money on alcohol.

6. Crisp cotton bed linens.

7. MAC accessories. John keeps me pretty well stocked in these.

8. Good olive oil. Can't ever have enough.

9. Fruit baskets from Harry and David especially at Christmas time (Alternative: any fruit basket with crinkly celophane wrapping). I like healthy, consumable gifts that I don't have to find a place for later.

10. "Caldrea" home cleaning products--any of them, dishwashing liquid, spray cleaner, doesn't matter and any of the fragrances will do (I am partial to Green Tea Patchouli though).

11. Good cheese.

12. Recipes that mean something to the giver. Doesn't have to be gourmet. I have a congealed cherry salad recipe in my collection that I love! Rev. Mike, your mom's hushpuppy recipe would definately be on my wanted list.

Spain: From Inquisition to Inclusion

From The Gaurdian, Spain shows the U.S. what freedom really looks like. The nation that once killed thousands in its efforts to encourage people to follow Christ the "right" way, has passed a law that allows same-sex couples to marry.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero noted this in debate before the vote.

``We were not the first, but I am sure we will not be the last. After us will come many other countries, driven, ladies and gentlemen, by two unstoppable forces: freedom and equality,'' he told the chamber.

Zapatero said the reform of Spanish legal code simply adds one dry paragraph of legalese but means much more.

He called it ``a small change in wording that means an immense change in the lives of thousands of citizens. We are not legislating, ladies and gentlemen, for remote unknown people. We are expanding opportunities for the happiness of our neighbors, our work colleagues, our friends, our relatives.''

No courts and no apologies. Viva P.M. Zapetero and Spain!

Billy Graham Rocks the Country with Little Effort

Billy Graham refuses to rollover for the religious right and it has their heads spinning. This article at the Conservative Voice is amazing. Graham didn't endorse anything or anybody, but just being a registered democrat and within five feet of Bill Clinton was enough to freak some people out and lead them to believe he is picking up Judas's bag of silver and heading up Hillary's campaign for the presidency.

I love how one appearance in public with Clinton for these folks can undo 60 years of integrity, while the shady dealings and hateful speech of people like Falwell, Lahaye, Jims Baker and Swaggert don't matter as long as they are towing the party line.

Even if Graham does privately hold radical positions like "segregation is bad" and "democrats are not the antichrist", I wonder if it ever occured to people that 60 years of studying the Bible might have something to do with his ability to interpret it in a way that is more holistic than the piecemeal-verse-plucking methodology a lot of Christians use.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The College Republican War Recruitment Effort

Well, we wondered why no one had thought to go straight to the College Republicans to get new recruits. Max Blumenthal The Nation (click here) goes straight to the source, a College Republican convention, to find out.

Perfectly good reasons, like "I got into a good school" and "I need to stay over here to convince people why we need to be in Iraq". Read the article and behold, the "I got mine" Republicans of the future.

Thanks to Americablog for the heads up.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

All's Fair in Unconditional Love and War

This from the Agape Press, which rarely if ever seems to publish anything having to do with unconditional love. In this article, Gary Bauer blames the press for the shortfall in military recruitment goals because it insists on reporting on our nation's losses and not as much on our troops' heroism.

Here in Indiana our media does a pretty good job of documenting our troops' generous sacrifices. I'm not sure what Bauer is missing, but if we are short on troops I do have what I believe are some helpful ideas. We have an all volunteer military, right? Able bodied people whose conscience tells them this war is right and good should be filling it up.

That last sentence was the idea--did you miss it? The best ideas are so simple, aren't they? I can't believe no one thought of it sooner.

And no offense to our recruiters, who I'm sure are beating the bushes as best they can, but I believe our soft military numbers are a result of inefficient marketing.

How about if Pat Robertson, Gary Bauer, Rick Santorum, and all of those people who think this war is what our country should be spending its young people's lives on put their money where their mouth is and start asking their eligable followers to enlist? "Agape" Press could become that heroic media outlet Bauer so desperately wishes was out there and a real helping hand to military recruiters at the same time.

I'm just warming up! How about this? James Dobson has a HUGE family audience, right? Some of those folks must have uber-righteous kids between the ages of 18 and 25. Surely college can wait if you really believe what we are doing in Iraq is God's will. I hear Jenna and Barbara are still looking for jobs. (I don't actually know how helpful they would be to the cause, but they are the president's kids and I think everybody would forgive him for pulling a few strings to get them in.)

According to Bush, he got a mandate from the voters last November that said he was right on track. Every day on the interstate I see a whole lot of folks with "W" and "Support our Troops" stickers. They should be recruiting and/or enlisting, too! I know--you can't believe you haven't thought of any of this before, can you?

And those fake town hall meetings Bush hosts are just chock full of "pre-approved" Republican Bush supporters. There should be a recruiter's desk at every one of these homogenous hootenanies! One Republican Roadshow in Oklahoma and we'd be covered for at least another year. And while we're at it, the military should set up booths at College Republican chapter meetings! Surely there are some military-aged Iraq war enthusiasts at these!

You see, mine is a very simple plan: if you truly believe in this war, fight it! I mean really go for it. Our professional troops are already paying a high price. We'll all be paying the financial part of it off for decades. So you see, now is not the time for buyer's remorse. If you still believe this war was about getting rid of weapons of mass destruction, making America safer, and fighting allies of bin Laden, you'd be silly not to sign up. Or if you've bought into the notion that Iraq, for some inexplicable reason really needed to jump to the head of the "embrace democracy" line even though several other countries were closer to the front, then you have every reason to buzz that gung-ho head of yours and hop that bus to boot camp.

Now that I've stated the obvious, your course of action should be pretty clear. If you support the war and are at all eligable and able to fight, stop making excuses and blaming everyone else but yourself for the increasing shortage of troops. Get in there, you arm-chair hero, you! Don't be some disingenuous poser. Be all that you can be, unless when push comes to shove you really don't believe in this war after all.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Texas Governor Rick Perry

Two words: dumb ass

Sunday, June 12, 2005

A "Christian" Gulag in the Culture War

I feel very sad for this boy (his blog name is Zach and links to his story are everywhere). His parents have sent him to an ex-gay ministry for teens in Memphis sponsored by "Love in Action." Before he entered the "program" he posted on his blog a list of rules he will have to follow that he stumbled across by accident (see the above link). He is not allowed internet access now, so as far as I know he has not posted since he was admitted. The list is completely cult-like, garden variety brain-washing as someone else put it. A religious extremest anomaly? The sponsor of the "ministry" is Germantown Baptist Church, a prominent church in the Southern Baptist Convention.

Here are some highlights of what Zach has to look forward to:

For the first two or three days he is not allowed to talk to another human--no family, no friends, not even LIA staff folks. He is not allowed to journal ever. He can't listen to Bach or Beethoven (they are not considered Christian music, I guess Bach's Magnificat is satanic). He can't go to public bathrooms without his parents (he's sixteen). The parents can't tell him who has called to ask about how he is doing, not even when it is another family member. He has to wear a certain type of underwear and maintain a clone-like haircut. He is physically searched each morning. He can't discuss therapeutic issues at home even with his parents (which would scare the bejeebies out of me if I were them); all conversation has to be "positive".

There is much, much more.

The Moonies have nothing on these folks. I have mixed feelings about most ex-gay ministries, but I have a pretty one-sided view of this one. Pray for this kid and the others who are going to internalize so many negative messages about themselves at such an early age that they will need REAL counseling when its over.

More on Downing Street Memo from the U.K.

Picked this up from Americablog. From Michael Smith at the London Times OnLine paper:

MINISTERS were warned in July 2002 that Britain was committed to taking part in an American-led invasion of Iraq and they had no choice but to find a way of making it legal.

The warning, in a leaked Cabinet Office briefing paper, said Tony Blair had already agreed to back military action to get rid of Saddam Hussein at a summit at the Texas ranch of President George W Bush three months earlier.

The briefing paper, for participants at a meeting of Blair’s inner circle on July 23, 2002, said that since regime change was illegal it was “necessary to create the conditions” which would make it legal.

This was required because, even if ministers decided Britain should not take part in an invasion, the American military would be using British bases. This would automatically make Britain complicit in any illegal US action.


Saturday, June 11, 2005

The Downing Street Memo

Go HERE for the most clearly outlined discussion of the Downing Street Memo. Haven't heard of it? The media is only now starting to tiptoe into these troubled waters. I don't think anyone wants to face the reality of the memo's implications. The DSM is the undisputed (at the time of this writing) record of a meeting with Bush, P.M. Tony Blair and several other high level officials where Bush's plans to take military action against Iraq are discussed as a certainty even though Bush continued to tell the American people he was still open to peace with Iraq for almost a year after the meeting took place.

I don't know exactly what to make of all of this. I know we were all sold a bill of goods about Iraq's (non-existent) weapons of mass destruction and its (non-existent) ties to bin Laden in an effort to justify the war on Iraq, which by the way seems to have no end in sight. But for the U.S. citizenry to be manipulated in such a blatant way for a year raises my cynicism-levels to new heights. England also seemed very concerned about the lack of planning in terms of ending the U.S. involvement in the conflict, a fear that seems to have been justified.

Someone please convince me this is not real. I don't want to believe Americans were consciously deceived for months so that tens of thousands of lives, billions of dollars, and the world's opinion of Americans could be destroyed over issues that didn't even exist. An honest mistake is hardly forgiveable under these circumstances. I don't know what a dishonest mistake means for us and our president.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Trip to Winterthur and Longwood

Docent Tour
Originally uploaded by Troy Smythe.
John and I took a vacation to the Brandywine River Valley (close to Philadelphia) to gawk at Winterthur Estate and Longwood Gardens. The photo is us on a guided tour at Winterthur. The tour guide reprimanded me for lagging behind to take pictures. Despite being bossed around, it was not a bad tour. And in her defense, I am a slow photographer. If you are at all interested in gardens or furniture, this is a trip you must make. Winterthur is a decorative arts and design mecca, and Longwood is the same for garden geeks.

Fern City

March Bank
Originally uploaded by Troy Smythe.
This spot's official title at Winterthur is the March Bank. But it is so Jurassic looking I felt like a T-Rex was going to lope into the scene and eat John at any moment.

Silver Garden

Agave Plant
Originally uploaded by Troy Smythe.
This agave in the Silver Garden at Longwood was HUGE! The Duponts would never be short on tequila with this pointy guy around.

From the Conservatory at Longwood

Originally uploaded by Troy Smythe.

A Hut for the Wee People

Originally uploaded by Troy Smythe.
This was part of the "Enchanted Garden" at Winterthur. I loved that it had a real thatched roof. I'd never seen one.

Lost in Space

Hagley Museum
Originally uploaded by Troy Smythe.
If you spend anytime in this part of the country you realize that nearly all the museums are about the Dupont family. This is me at the Hagley Museum--the site of the gun powder mills that started the Duponts on the road to wealth and ended the life of more than one unfortunate mill worker. This particular museum exhibit is about all of the Dupont chemical innovations over the years--celophane, nylon, and spandex!

Big Bird

Worm Ready
Originally uploaded by Troy Smythe.
One of Winterthur's gardens was designed for children where this outsized bird nest was created. We loved it. I made John get into the nest so I could take his picture. The original idea was for him to be in there with a bunch of kids doing the same thing. We waited and waited, but no kids came (it was kind of rainy out). It is probably for the best. Any responsible chaperone probably would have thought we were weird.

Single Pink Peony

Originally uploaded by Troy Smythe.
It was chilly and rainy during our entire trip, but the weather actually made it fun to take pictures. I love the water drops on this peony's petals. This flower is begging for a haiku.

Go Hogs!

Hog Tureen
Originally uploaded by Troy Smythe.
This was one of about a hundred soup tureens in an exhibit at Winterthur. I think it is from 18th century France. If you needed a gift with style for that over the top Razorback fan, a hog soup server would be hard to beat. Great for Rotel Dip, too.