Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Clueless Bashing

Add this to the list of general cluelessness of Democratic leadership when dealing with matters of faith:

Mike Branhom of the Associated Press reports that John Kerry is trying the new Democratic strategy of "speaking to people of faith" by trying to bash Republicans with the Bible:

ORLANDO -- Former Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, who lost this crucial swing state in November, sounded Friday as if he were still stumping for Florida's votes. The Massachusetts senator, at a National Head Start Association conference to tout his plan to provide health care for uninsured children, hammered on familiar themes of values and unity while repeatedly criticizing the Bush administration and Republican leaders in Congress. "I went back and reread the whole New Testament the other day. Nowhere in the three-year ministry of Jesus Christ did I find a suggestion at all, ever, anywhere, in any way whatsover, that you ought to take the money from the poor, the opportunities from the poor and give them to the rich people," Kerry said.

Now, I don't object to the senator giving as well as he got, but he's so remarkably inept about it.

Let's check out the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-­30:

His lord answered and said unto him, "Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundantly: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matthew 25:14­30). (empasis mine)

Now this is a hard parable to hear. It upsets our preconceived ideas about what a fair God would do and say. But the parable is not about fairness; it's about justice.

Whether you believe the Bible or not, the existence of this rather well-known parable shows Mr. Kerry's rereading of "the whole New Testament the other day," to be at best shallow and cursory, and at worst a rhetorical falsehood.

Perhaps you would argue that Joe Blow's only brush with the Bible was seeing it on a stand in Grandma's house or in a drawer in a motel room, but if the target of Mr. Kerry's remarks were "people of faith," he has (speaking as one of those people) failed again.

UPDATE--James Taranto at OpinionJournal.com's Best of the Web (fourth item down) notes a flood of people pointing to this parable in refutation of Kerry's remarks. He also notes Jesus' anoiting at Bethany in John 12:1-8 can be taken as inconsistant with Kerry's remarks.

Back from the Weekend

Memorial Day weekend was a four-day affair for the Islander household (I took Friday off) . But before you curse me for a lazy lout, listen up. We had houseguests.

Now, we love these guests. These guests are more like family than guests. We got to spend hours talking late into the night with people we love and respect. And yet.

As I drove into work this morning I came around the Island's last hill and saw the ferry loading line stretching back a half-mile. At least an hour's wait. At first I felt chagrin--I was late for work as it was. But then I realized I was alone in the car with the radio off. As I coasted to a stop, put on the parking break, and switched off the engine, I drank in the silence.

Mrs. Islander and I have begun adapting to the life of a couple again. All the Islander children have grown and are raising their own families. Some evenings we sit and watch a favorite movie on DVD. Sometimes we just sit and read or watch the sunset over the Olympic Mountains. But these times are with the companiable presence of a person with whom we have spent 33 years getting used to. It can be hard to adapt to different voices in that space.

But now we are back to normal. Until the next houseguest, scheduled for mid-June.

As for the rest of the weekend's events, including a baby dedication at church and Mrs. Islander's test for black belt in Kenjutsu, that must wait for another post.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Black Belt?

When you get old enough, you see many things that you never though that you would.

Last Saturday Mrs. Islander and one of the Islander daughters (the non-blogger) were tested for black belt in the Japanese sword art of Kenjutsu.

You must believe me when I tell you that this is a sign of the coming Apocalypse. I am 6'5" and weigh in at a Falstaffian 280 lbs. Mrs. Islander is a twig, a breath; yet after a couple of years of Aikido training she can drop me like bad sushi. Now I find that she can cut my head off and spit down my neck (if she has a ladder handy.)

Last Saturday (after a week of nights of tossing and turning and waking her long-suffering husband) she stepped onto the mat and showed her stuff.

She was the second person that day to test. The first person to test was "Chainsaw," a graceful and energetic young man. He moved through the katas and forms smoothly. As he stepped off the mat there was polite applause. The Mrs. Islander stepped onto the mat.

In the silent dojo, the "Whommm" of her bokken slicing the air announced that her moves had content. I spied Sensei nodding his head as Mrs. Islander repeatedly showed that she was not just waving a stick around, she was cutting. Though the results of the testing must be confirmed by the headquarters dojo in Japan, I have no doubt that my wife will wear the black belt in our family.

(And yes, I said that my daughter tested. Her and Mrs. Islander have been working together on the test materials for months. She also did a wonderful job. Her husband must look to his own life.)

A few months ago I yeilded to the inevitable and began Aikido training myself. As a newly-old guy, I had made peace with my aches and pains. Now I wake up after class nights with entirely new sets of grunt and groans. But, I also wake up limber. I guess that, as in all life, compromises must be made.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

No matter where you go...

There you are.

James Lileks has had just about enough of Minnesota weather:

I left Fargo for a reason, after all.

But of course you’re running away from yourself when you do something like this, right? Well, no. Wherever you go, there you are. But at least in Arizona, you’re warmer, and CRIMINEY JUDAS I’m tired of being cold all the time. You oughtn't be cold in May. I walk outside to the gazebo – can’t sit down, the seats are wet – and I can see my breath. Which is nice, because it means I’m alive. But still.

All I know is that I’m coming to the end of a line, somehow. All I know I don’t want to die in a place where you can’t wear shorts in July. It’s 54 degrees here right now, and 95 in Scottsdale. The forecast here: cloudy and 10 degrees below normal into June. The forecast in Arizona: sunny and hot into the 29th century. If I spent my days in an office I might be less peeved, but even so I’d be ground down by the drizzling weekends, the panic that a cold July brings, the sense that winter is ready to slam the hand down again at the earliest possible opportunity.
As they say, read it all...

I was struck by this bleat, first because of the feelings that I expressed in my posting from a couple of days ago: In some ways my daily life is like a vacation. Secondly, I was struck because I left the desert southwest for the damp, gloomy Pacific Northwest.

Until I left home, I had never experienced seasons before, just the cool time (November to March) and the hot time (April to October). The cool time means that it gets cold at night, and make no mistake, night on the desert can get COLD. But it was normal for children to run outside with our Christmas toys on Christmas morning and play in the mid-70s sunshine.

The hot time needs little explanation, just a reminder of the Santa Ana winds. Refer to the works of Raymond Chandler.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005


I once heard Billy Joel interviewed and he said something re-occurs to me now and then. Mr. Joel said that sometimes, when he is alone, he sits down at the piano and delights in the fact that he gets to hear Billy Joel live, taking his requests.

Though it can read as though it was arrogance, at the time that statement stuck me like a small boy's exuberant daydreams come true. Many of us (males) have stood alone in the backyard weilding a bat and ball, but in our mind's eye we were at home plate in the bottom of the seventh inning of the World Series, bases loaded, two outs. We were not alone, but in the center of a hurricane of cheers, catcalls and whoops.

Sometimes, in the midst of the most mundane aspects of my life, I am struck that I am living a dream come true.

I grew up in what was then a small town in (whisper it!) Southern California. Hot and dusty, what grew there grew because people intended it to grow. If a patch of ground wasn't gardened or paved, it was dust and sand. The air was dry and brown.

I now live on an island in Puget Sound. At least once a week, while driving to catch a ferry to work or driving from the dock to my home, I find myself driving down an island road hedged on both sides by lush green that needs to be mowed back by the county, lest the road disappear. I look at the green, as my drive winds through a state park and remind myself that seeing this kind of scenery once meant I was on vacation. In some ways my daily life is like a vacation.

I look at my wife of 32+ years and think "I married my childhood sweetheart."

I look at my daughters and think, "How can women so beautiful and strong and true come from someone like me?"

Life in all its humdrum and disappointments is chock-a-block with delights.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Guilt Drives Me

So here I am, a person who makes a living putting words on a page, and my daughter shames me into starting a blog.

No, she didn't say anything. She didn't roll her eyes or shrug her sholders.

She started her own blog and has posted some good readable entries.

So my choice was to just leave smart-alec remarks in her comments, or start writing myself.

Guilt is a terrible thing...

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