Friday, August 31, 2007

In Vino, Veritas

Okay, I am (likely) drunk off my ass (if one is drunk, how can one tell?). I started the bottle (a fine bottle of granache, cabernet, and some other things that escape me at the moment) at my grandmother's. You see, the wife & chillun are away--the painters are scraping and sanding and the wife wanted to minimize the possibility of lead exposure.

And I am a mess. And, well, proud of it.

You see, I am at a complete loss when the wife is away. Where, exactly, does food come from? And cash--where does cash come from? Okay, those are details--the bed is a mighty lonely place when alone. If any over-40 men are reading this--and you are unattched--by gum man, what are you thinking? (btw: while typos are minimized, you, dear reader, have no idea how many corrections I am making at this time...). Get thee to a nunnery! If, for nothing else, to find thee a wife!

Yah, so, my wife is out of town--and she has the children. Wow. My life right now really does revolve around FAMILY. How unlike my own parent, with their cold marriage + lots of business trips (really, it is taking me several passes to remove the typos; have I mentioned that I have downed a bottle of vino, and then some?).

At 40+, what the hell ELSE would I, a man, be doing w/o a wife? Yah, sure--hang-gliding, harley-riding, and sky-diving (lots of hyphenation there, huh?), but, seriously, would any woman take me seriously? I pine for my friend (name typed then redacted) whose wife left him (for a woman!): now he worries about gold-diggers. Sheesh.

I am in love with my wife (have been, really, since I met her at age 16). Have I mentioned that I am, uh, satisfied? (We'll see if this post outlives my sobering-up period.) My running club includes many guys who complain about...insufficiency. Praise d-rwin I can remain silent.

On a different topic: yah, too bad I do not have a boy to raise right. My girls are being trained (karate, charm school) to be heartbreakers, but it might be a public good to provide the world a right-thinking boy-o. Ah, well: c'est la vie. Of course, you boys out there--look out! My girls are gonna kick your azz!

Memo to self: do not drink + blog.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Ordering Wine With Dinner

Waiter Rant offers some good advice on Ordering Wine with Dinner without Looking Like an A-Hole.

Short form: there is always the "Fonzie" method ("#11"). A slightly more subtle version consists of tipping the wine list toward the sommelier (or, barring that, the waitron), running your finger up and down your preferred price range and saying "I was thinking of something along these lines; what do you think?"

Other methods include the "third up from the bottom" technique (or, if you are going to be cheap, choose the cheapest wine, not the second cheapest; you have a higher chance of getting something palatable, believe it or not--it has to do with restaurants anticipating your cheap-but-self-conscious habits...).

Best, of course, is the "expense account" method, but only use it when you actually have an expense account. This consists of alerting your sommelier that you are, well, on account, and that you would like something memorable--but justifiable. This usually puts you around the $50 to $80 range (higher in New York); that is, around the cost of an addition to your party (which, if the wine is good enough, it sort of is).

Friday, August 24, 2007

View of Men

Thirty years ago (!), feminist polemicist Marilyn French wrote The Women's Room, in which she stated, "All men are rapists." When I was in college in the 1980s, photocopies of our "Face Book" appeared around campus with the caption "Potential Rapists." The photos were, of course, of men only. The usual uproar ensued, with no action taken by the college to remove, discourage, or otherwise hamper this exercising of free speech (the college took similar non-action in the regular removal and destruction of the one or two conservative papers on campus, but that is a different story).

Yesterday's Moving On column in the WSJ was on the current state of aversion to men. My intent today is not (necessarily) to decry the ongoing denigration and devaluing of men in society; rather, I am (ironically) in solidarity with my sisters on certain points.

While the article points out the usual insults and betrayals (e.g., the coach who dares not hug a player, the requirement of a "female parent" on the sidelines at all times), amidst the pain are some stark truths.

The article points out that "[g]uidelines issued by police departments and child-safety groups often encourage [children lost in malls] to look for 'a pregnant woman,' 'a mother pushing a stroller' or 'a grandmother." These are examples of "low-risk adults." Men need not apply.

Child Advocate John Walsh, of America's Most Wanted fame (and who tragically lost a child to a stranger), advises parents to "never hire a male babysitter." (Duh!)

I am not complaining about these portrayals, but I am asking/hoping that we change them We could start off with a simple admission: Men and women are different.

I have unwittingly agreed with John Walsh on these very pages: of COURSE you would not hire a male babysitter (despite what the liberal nags online and in town say; and how easy it is for them to say so, given the tiny odds of a male being sent--or even HIRED--by a babysitting agency) or male-run daycare center (would such a thing even be allowed?).

How has the status of men fallen so low? Why does the death spiral continue? How have we let this happen? And why are men excused from adulthood?

Fact is, as we allow men to run amuck, to extend indefinitely their adolescence via, e.g., unwed motherhood or, yes, same-sex marriage (in which the complementarity of parenting is destroyed, replaced with the false notion of the absolute interchangeability of male/female roles or more pointedly, given the ratio of M/M to F/F unions and the intentions of those units, the supposed dispensabilty of the male input altogether). Modern feminism decries the former burdensome role of women, where they were expected to be the moral influence of society (expected by themselves, it appears, given that since their abdication the position goes unfilled), and yet women accrue greater and greater responsibility.

Liberal policies on criminals place individual privacy concerns over community safety (in my opinion); pornography pervades every aspect of our "culture," sex sells. [I state again, that I now sound like the Apoplectic Lutherans I ridiculed in high school causes me no end to amusement and pain.]

I was thinking last night about the purpose of marriage: one purpose, really, is to tame men. A countries proportion of unattached men has a direct effect on its propensity to make war (duh!). Yet we allow men (encourage them, one might say--that is, the absence of peer pressure against unwed motherhood is pretty much the same as encouraging men to forego the whole marriage thing) to remain war- and whore-mongerers. (Let's here it for equality!) And then those who DO care are browbeaten into submission.

Men dare not touch their students or athletes (and, ironically, research shows that girls need physical attention more than do boys). If you review the picture at the top of the page, you will see that some might choose to refrain from touching their own daughters. The picture--a BILLBOARD program in Virginia--is supposed to urge women to follow their gut instinct, and the program directors deny that the picture could be interpreted to call into question any adult/child interaction, right down to father/daughter.

[As an aside, yes, this is concerning to me because I am the father of daughters, and lemme tell you--they need attention! Tickling, rough-housing, hugging, and whacks on the bottom. If I am not affectionate enough, they let me know, climbing into my lap, wrassling me around the house. And I revel in it. But no way in heck am I going to coach a girl's team, teach a class, or do anything that would put me at risk with anyone else's children. What the WSJ deems the "predator panic" is just too prevalent. Oh--so, THANKS to all you 1980s campus Feminists: I hope you are happy with what y'all have wrought (and, sadly, maybe you are).]

A Feminist I knew once stated that it was acceptable if, in the name of equality, men be brought down. "If that's what it takes." (Strangely in line with communism--where everyone is equally miserable--I might point out.) Well, looks like she got her wish. Men are ignored, discarded, exempted from their societal requirements to mature (themselves) and nurture (others). Weird (to me) that because men cannot nurture as well as women then they are no longer required to do it at all.

My other diatribe, by the way, is that in order that a (very) few may succeed, all must suffer. I have written before how the "freeing" of a few professionals and academes has enslaved the other 90% of women, shackled now as they are to jobs. Just. Like. Men. [I forget where I was going with this: I had another "success for the few = failure for the many" epiphany, but it escapes me at this moment.]

I am petering out here; my question is this: why are men "allowed" to be different (which we all know anyway, really) when it comes to crime/rape/predatory behavior, but we are said to be exactly-100%-the-same when it comes to our value as parents or, lately, as humans? I would think that, logically, if one accepts the first proposition (which I do), then one must accept the second. How do we re-integrate men into an increasingly segregated society?

Oof. e-NOUGH.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Wine Club Review - Redux

Up to the age of forty eating is beneficial. After forty, drinking.
--The Talmud

Never been much of a drinker: I never really cared to lose control of my surroundings. Also, I am pretty cheap.

Never much of a wine drinker: while I might be a skinflint, cheap wine is not (in) my (brown) bag.

In the course of my profession in recent months, however, I have been treated to some fairly fine wines (strike that, some stupendous wines)--and it turns out I like wine--good wine, anyway.

In my quest to secure good wine AND remain cheap, I signed up for several wine clubs simultaneously (penny wise, pound foolish):
4Seasons Wine Club
Wine Insiders (formerly A Taste of California)
My Wines Direct
Wine Library
Wine Woot

Addendum: Wine Buyer: free shipping section and sort by rating: some real bargains there!

Addendum the Second: Wines 'til Sold Out! is like Wine Woot for the ADD crowd; instead of one deal a week, the site offers one deal a day, shipping included. Offers reviews and tasting notes, as well as retail value and "Best Web" comparison.

Following are my thoughts, my wine club reviews, or at least my review of wine clubs in which, so far, I have participated. I will update as I drink more (although my typing may deteriorate). I started with discount wine clubs, but have moved up the scale a bit in terms of price and quality. As it stands now, I am bumping up against my supply/demand limits (i.e., I am cheap by nature, and wine ain't cheap).

Folks join clubs for a variety of reasons: local availability is slim; snooty stores can be intimidating; things are cheaper on line; whatever. Often, newbies are looking to be led by someone with greater experience (regardless of the endeavor), so clubs that tout their expertise and "insider" status and elitism will always have new adherents (uh, like me, apparently). On to the club reviews:

Four Seasons Wine Club has, by far, the best marketing (their wine is a different story...). The 4Seasons pitch is that they send a case a quarter (get it? Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter!). To entice new sign-ups, they offer the first case at half price AND deliver your choice of a "connoisseur" wine opener (with wooden box), a tabletop corkscrew, or a six-bottle wine fridge (yes, yes they do!). The also include some really nice write-ups of their wines, the region, the background, whatever. Useful information.

The wine, on the other hand, while...serviceable, has been nothing spectacular. Generally, their wines are "private label," that is, 4Seasons (or, more accurately, their much larger parent) contracts with vintners to produce certain wines. (And you thought that only vineyards produced wine! Oh foolish ingenue: grapes are just a commoditized fruit, and fruit can be produced anywhere--and trucked anywhere. Some "vintners" may "consult" to any number of wineries: it's almost incestual.) Also, while I am not sure whether the outcome is intended, this does mean that one cannot G--gle the wines for a review.

The wines did not make me gag but, at first, they did make me wonder whether my palate was simply...unsophisticated (more on that in a minute).

Wine Insiders niched me, too. They sent a similar advertisement/enticement: half price on a case of "the perfect combination of taste and value," of "both well-known and hard-to-find wines" chosen by "an expert tasting panel" to ensure delivery of "only the best wines."

Ugh. Really just...bleh (my apologies for my inarticulateness). I mean, again, I didn't gag (and I have had wine that made me gag), but it was so...innocuous, so inoffensive and timid: it was as if it were afraid to be wine. I could barely distinguish among their (again, private label) merlot, cabernet, and shiraz. And then it hit me: The Emperor Has No Clothes!

If one had but little frame of reference, if one were a mere neophyte among oenephiles, tipping that first toe into the ocean that is wine (or, as Homer put it, "the wine-dark sea"), one might be a bit...intimidated to say "But there's no there there." That would be me (was me, in fact--until just last night), had I not benefited from some really great, really (dare I say) moving wines. The swill I was quaffing from WineInsiders and 4Seasons was built for the fattest part of the American market, i.e., it was not very challenging; not bad (but not good, either), just...nothing special. Really, I might as well have been drinking water.

Both of the clubs above do not sufficiently exceed my local shoppes 3/$20 special; I would *never* pay full price for offerings from these two (and have cancelled).

For value-oriented clubs, that leaves MyWinesDirect. My Wines Direct sends real-label wines (so one can research actual reviews), often pre-packaged in "themes" (e.g., Barbecue Bests, Red Gems, etc.). They do not market themselves as a discount purveyor, but G--gle can find dollars-off coupons and Fatwallet delivers Fatcash (discounts), so one can realize something approaching 30% off fairly easily. So far, their wines have been...good; definitely better than the other two. I am not ready to declare them stupendousextrasuperspecial, but as discount wine clubs go, they deliver real wines with real tannins and real structure and real grapes. I have only worked through three bottles, but I have already ordered my second half-case, and give them a cautious bottoms-up. They at least exceed my local 3/$20 comparison.

What I really like about My Wines Direct is that they limit their selections, giving at least the impression that their offerings are, indeed, carefully selected. 4Seasons, for contrast, offers over 200 wines (research shows what we all know: consumers are overwhelmed with choice), making no choice "special." Wine Insiders limits their offerings, but I don't want to drink what they have! (Oh, and their shipping is super slow and their customer service, while pleasant and responsive, takes a long time to fix any problems...).

The real winner here is Wine Library. I love Wine Library TV; Gary Vaynerchuk is a hoot! And he is a great marketer: very believable, makes you think that $60 for a bottle is the STEAL OF THE CENTURY! Funny thing is: he's RIGHT! When he tells you a wine is massive, the thing is freakin' MASSIVE; when he tells you to cellar a bottle as an investment, by gum, you would do well to buy half a case! The downside? Did I mention the $60? Or the $30? Per bottle? NOT a discount seller--more of a guide to "the good stuff." And they do have sales. Shipping isn't cheap, but it's fair. They have earned my (occasional) business, especially for the special.

Lastly, there is woot! (or, more accurately, wine woot!). I have not yet ordered from them (I am still in the research phase), but they seem, for the most part, to dig up little-known West Coast wineries. Their format is to offer one deal (or "woot") a week. The best part, though, is that in their forums the winemaker will answer any and all questions (some quite sophisticated--ranging anywhere from business questions to sun/slope equations). The forumites are a wealth of knowledge and amusement. I also recommend the main site: W00T! which offers one (usually tech-geek) deal per day.

So, there you go. If any of you (two) are looking to join a wine club, you can take my experience (for what it's worth). I'll report back some day when I have tried Woot! [ed. note: at this time, I have finally begun receiving my woot purchases, but, to pervert the words of John Paul Jones, I have not yet begun to drink). And if I come across any other clubs, I'll let you know [ed. note: see below].

UPDATE--Clubs in the Pipeline:
Doorstep Wine (
Cellar Brokers (

I have signed up for the above two clubs' email hot-deals; once I purchase (and drink) something, I will update the review. Hmm... I wonder whether I should begin adding exactly what I am drinking here... BTW, I have never really had an addictive personality (too cheap for that), but this whole wine thing has really begun to bump up against my rev limiter.

What does this have to do with the search for man's essentiality? I am not sure (and I may be simply justifying some nascent alcoholism), but I think a man should know something about wine.
Search terms: woot ( wine til sold out ( wineinsiders (, mywinesdirect (, 4seasonswine (
I tasted - careless - then -
I did not know the Wine
Came once a World - Did you?
Oh, had you told me so -
This Thirst would blister - easier - now -

--Emily Dickinson

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Consequences for Effective Fatherhood

From Maggie Gallagher, author of The Case for Marriage, writing in the Louisiana Law Review:

Once we sever, conceptually, the sexual alliance and the parenting alliance, we sever children from their uncontested claim to their parents’—especially their fathers’—care and protection.

And of course it is the fathers who disappear, because while fathers and mothers are equally beloved and important to their children, fatherhood and motherhood are not equally inevitable. Far more than mothers, reliable fathers are cultural creations, products of specific ideals, norms, rituals, mating and parenting practices.

Good fathers are made, not born.When family and sexual norms are weakened, it is generally children’s access to effective fathers, not mothers, that is most at risk. When we tell adults that parenting obligations are created by free choices of adults, and when the law’s role is limited to sanctioning and affirming all adults’ choices equally, the well-being of children is put at risk.

Can a society or culture reliably make men into good fathers while at the same time affirming in its governing family law that children do not need mothers and fathers, i.e., that all intimate sexual unions are equally valuable, regardless of their effects on child and social well-being? Will a society that adopts the set of ideas and ideals driving the post-modern family over the long march of generations ultimately even survive?

[My approach to marriage thinking is from the ground--or the child--up. If you are reading this, then the odds are overwhelming that A)you were once a child, and B) you are the product of one man and one woman. It is my view that, to the extent possible, each and every offspring deserves to be born into a unit that protects and supports the man and the woman that made it. I acknowledge that other structures exist, but I think, if we are honest, we can see that some ranking exists (e.g., having at least one parent is likely superior to being raised in an orphanage, more often than not), but a "stable, low-conflict union" composed of a child's progenitors is, both intuitively and statistically, superior to all other available structures.]

Monday, August 20, 2007

Us and Our Parents

Why are we so different from our parents?

I was just reviewing my childhood summercamp, and looking forward to next summer when Daughter A will be old enough (in my estimation) to spend the summer there: and I am so deeply excited for her that tears come to my eyes. I even look forward to Parents' Day, so that she can take me sailing.

Was it this way for MY parents? I don't think so. My depression-era father and cold-war mother were much when I was a child (the irony being that my mother has regressed; my father, of course, is dead). They did not scamper about excitedly showing me what they had done as youths; they did not ask me to include them in my adventures. Not a criticism: the hands-off style of my parents was better than the helicopter-hover we see too much of today. With my own children, even though they are free to fail, I still must consciously construct (and maintain) an easy-going attitude--one that can encompass the sending of a pre-adolescent girl away from her family for a month (believe me, she'll be thrilled).

Friday, August 17, 2007


All, all that I had
Was yours more than mine.
All my best intentions
Were thine, thine, [and] thine.
Karin Boye (translated)

(Hat-tip to Joan)

Tangential string: Strindberg, in breaking with his theretofore hyper-realism, captured part of the human experience in A Dream Play when he had the bill-poster say of his heart's desire (a green fish-tank dip-net), "yes, it was supposed to be green, but not that green."

Ain't it the truth?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Quickthought: Fathers

My approach to fatherhood is, to date, deliberate and intentional. Whether my choices and approaches succeed in the long run remains to be seen.

That said, it occurs to me how many women (maybe men too, but men just don't talk about such things) have described their fathers as, for lack of a better term, "bad." Bad in the sense of self-indulgent or narcissistic or near-abusive or simply...absent. Indeed, I can think of a very few women who go out of their way to praise their fathers (praise be that my wife is one of them!).

What is wrong with the world that my marriage, my fatherhood is relatively decent?

What are you people (Teddy? Gloria? that-missing-person-atheist-whatsername? Margaret Marshall?) DOING to this country?

Where have all the fathers gone for D-rwin's sake?

Tangent alert: in addition to my rant against Feminism (as opposed to "human" rights), I offer the following food-for-thought vis-a-vis the benefits of homogeneity or, more accurately dangers of (cultural) heterogeneity. The WSJ published a (somewhat...angry?) piece by Henninger on the topic, summing it up as (their words, not mine), "People in ethnically diverse settings don't care about each other."

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


I do not like to hurt anymore, or at least not at the level required for improvement.

What I mean is, for years I could a)forego temptation (sweets, let's say), and b)use pain as a measure (e.g., track repeats HURT). For the past year or so (as I accept "middle age"), I have been less willing to forego smaller sins (lifestyle creep, e.g., good wine; more-than-occasional ice cream; deep, dark chocolate...); similarly, I am less willing to run in a way that hurts (or, indeed, to slide, kick, jump, run with the abandon to which I had heretofore been accustomed).

This scares me. Comfort, the love of comfort, the eschewing of self-sacrifice (or the shift away from "service to others") is, to me, a slippery slope.

Speaking of slippery slopes (an extended metaphor here follows), terrorism works! (But at least a few folks are outraged. Oh, and in case you think it can't happen HERE, well, it can: state--i.e., public--universities to accommodate the religious needs of Muslim students by installing footbaths; the ACLU approves.)

[Addendum: maybe this explains it...]

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Ubi all the Hippies?

What has happened in the world that I am "the conservative?" Not only is there very little in my past that would indicate a concern for social mores and moral continence (trust me on this one), but I am an outright:
earth-shoe wearin',
breast-feedin' (well, supporter anyway),
organic-food eatin' (complete with organic vegetable garden and chemical-free lawn, mind you),
animal-rights lovin' ("no gun should ever be turned on an animal"),
midwife-lovin' (again, a supporter on that one...),
assault-weapon controllin' (no civilian needs an assault weapon),
helmet-wearin' (motorcyclists w/o helmets, in addition to staining the pavement, increase insurance rates),
local buyin',
tree-huggin' (although, 'cept for, you know, that murder and all, I found the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior damn near amusing...),
UNITARIAN (AUC, not, for cryin' out loud!

And I am the conservative? Moi?!

Kee-RIST! For the love of D-rwin what has gotten into the FUV (or Prius) drivin', latte-lovin', fat-arsed, lily-livered, so-called liberals? Yah, sure, maybe they donate more $$$ to Greenpeace and MoveOn than I do, maybe they applaud the UN and Bush I's "New World Order," maybe they talk more about diversity and tolerance (from the comfort of Georgetown or Hyannis), but do they actually DO anything anymore?

Hey, JLH, if you ever stumble across this site: I mentioned years ago--and it remains true today--despite your leftist ways, I retain more respect for you and your "I am spending the summer re-building a girl-scout camp"ism than the outrageous "Open and Affirming" self-aggrandizement of my local community (What? Were we draggin' 'em out behind the woodshed an' beatin' 'em afore this here ONA--which I prefer to pronounce as "Onan," although no one ever gets the joke--initiative? And what about those of the Jewish faith? Don't we love them, too? But I digress...).

This world could use a little more hardship, in my opinion. No, I don't want all-out war, but worldwide peace and plenty (at least for the lucky few) seems even more harmful. (Hmm, that get's me right back to the old: why are we here?)

Whew! Now there's a good rant. Thanks, I feel better now.


Mr. Conservative

P.S. Maybe I should move back to MIT, the last community of free-wheelin', free-thinkers I knew--real tolerance there boy-o. Capital "T"Tolerance...

Monday, August 13, 2007

Other Isms

Anyone read Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale? [ed. note: originally typed "tail"; what would Freud say?]

1985 5-Minutes-Into-The-Future dystopia of the United States under right-wing control. Library Journal reports: The resulting society is feminist's nightmare: women are strictly controlled, unable to have jobs or money and assigned to various classes: the chaste, childless Wives; the housekeeping Marthas; and the reproductive Handmaids, who turn their offspring over to the "morally fit" Wives.

So, folks get in a tizzy about the future of the U.S.; meanwhile, an elephant in the room goes unaddressed. The latest example of Islamic intolerance directs that "women are given a verbal warning on the street. If the problem is not resolved there, they are taken to the police station for "guidance" and to sign a vow not to repeat the offence. Should this be unsuccessful, their case is handed to the judiciary."

And Feminists et. al. worry about the U.S.?! Too weird.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Pandora's Legacy

Pandora's Box
One evening, with Epimetheus absent, curiosity regarding Lord Jupiter’s gift overwhelmed her, for something in the box spoke. "Pandora, dear Pandora, have pity upon us! Free us from this gloomy prison! Open, open, we beseech you!”

And she opened the box.

Out spilled evils theretofore unkown: Pain stung her hand; Disease plagued the lands; Hatred filled Man with disgust for all that he did not understand; Anger swept out as a cloud of poison; Sickness spewed forth with a feverish speed. Pandora wept with Sadness as Despair shoved itself into the world.

She slammed the lid.

Epimetheus reproached his wife in bitterest terms, and thus was born the first quarrel, now bane of all marriages. In the very midst of his vituperation they heard a sweet voice entreat for freedom. The sound proceeded from the unfortunate box. "Open, open, and I will heal your wounds!”

And they [ed. note: the fools] opened the lid once again. Thus was set forth Hope, healing their wounds as promised, and giving Man a small glimmer of what could be.

The lid closed quickly behind Hope, and all that remained in the box was Foreknowledge. He alone could doom man beyond any other vile beast that escaped, for he knew mankind’s future, mankind's fate. He could grant the ability to see beyond the beyond, allow the knowledge of whatwas to come. For it is said, to know one’s future, to know the moment of one’s demise, to know the ill that will come and the fate of the lands, would bring the greatest sorrows known, and would send a mortal mind to the brink of insanity, or beyond.

Pandora's Box has been of interest to me since I first fell for Greek myths as a youngster. I formed my own thoughts about the story's meaning, unaware--until the advent of the Intertubes--that some debate exists along these very lines.

One version of Pandora's story has Zeus, in a last-minute tender turn of heart, relenting in his attempted destruction of Man, inserted palliative Hope into the box of ills. Sometimes Pandora slams the lid on Hope, then releases her such that she can benefit Man against sin, pain, and pestilence. Sometimes she closes the lid and thus Hope is held by Man.

In another version, Pandora slams the lid on Despair (or, more accurately, Foreknowledge, especially as it pertains to one's own mortality, which would drive Man to madness or despair), thus protecting Man for the worst of all evils (Despair as folly seems, to me, a rather Christian notion).

But my take is a little different: in many contexts Hope is an evil, a bewilderer, a tempter, leading Man to sub-optimal choice. It is one thing to take a "calculated risk," a weighing of probability; it is quite another to plan or act upon groundless speculation. My mother, for example, uses the Lotto Retirement Plan, that is, she has no retirement: she is counting on winning MegaBucks. This "hope" allows her to e.g., continue smoking, fail to pay off her mortgage, buy new cars, and other financially wasteful actions. How many lives their lives this way, leaving all to merest Hap.

C.H. Moore: "[Pandora] opened a jar containing every kind of evil, which straightaway flew out among mankind. Only Ελπις [Elpis] remained therein — a word hardly equivalent to our Hope, but rather meaning 'anticipation of misfortune'. It is then the only plague to which man is not subjected."

Pietro Pucci: "Ελπις properly means a larger set of expectations than our 'hope', for it implies hope, expectation, and even fear... Hope [Ελπις] is a bad companion for the man in need who sits in an idle place, when he has no sufficient livelihood".

More discussion (not necessarily mine):

In "Endgame, Vol. 1: The Problem of Civilization" Derrick Jensen describes hope as: "a longing for a future condition over which you have no agency." In other words, I do not hope to eat tomorrow, I just do it. On the other hand, I hope my plane will not crash, but I have no agency over that. Derrick Jensen believes we hope too much for things we have some power to change (but are too lazy to take action).

In Judaism the line between human agency and hope is not so clearly drawn. In Pirke Avot (Sayings of the Fathers) - a 2nd century Jewish work - Rabbi Tarfon is quoted as saying "You are not required to complete the task, yet you are not free to withdraw from it."

Hope is what motivates us to act even when we know we are not in complete control. This hope can take many forms: the hope that others will have the same vision and join in, the hope that good eventually wins, the hope that one will become a better person through doing even if the intended goal is never reached, the hope that one's small act fits into a larger whole, and yes, sometimes the hope of assistance from a transcendent being.

However, this assistance is not one-sided. In Judaism, hope is often understood as a reciprocal relationship between G-d and human beings. In Marc Gellman's children's story "Partners" from Does G-d Have a Big Toe?, G-d tells human beings they are His partners. When the first humans ask what that means, G-d explains that 'A partner is someone you work with on a big thing that neither of you can do alone. If you have a partner, it means that you can never give up, because your partner is depending on you.'

Later when the angels ask if creation is done yet, G-d says "Go ask my partners."

Some do not Jensen's definition fits very well with the Christian understanding of hope either. One of the classic Christian definitions comes from Romans 8:25 "Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience." (RSV) Here hope is defined in terms of seen and unseen, not agency.

On first reading, the word "wait" would seem to imply passivity and hence lack of agency. However, if we take the verse in context, we discover that the preceding verses describe the entire creation in travail, i.e., in the throes of labor. Labor is a very active and involved form of suffering and the unseen thing, a baby, will never come to light without some very active involvement of the mother. Once again, it appears that hope is understood as human involvement in the face of uncertainty.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Random Bits

Will be traveling next week to some of our other offices, so posting will be spotty.

As a closet hippy freak, I am today wearing my new Earth Shoes. Did I mention that my parents ran a leather-and-jewelry shop in the '70s?

Last evening, in steaming, above-90 temperatures, two of my daughters managed to capture garlands for themselves: Daughter B took first in the 5-and-under category in a 3/4 mile race, while Daughter A took second among the 6-8 crowd. Hooah!
[ed. note: in no way do I push them to do this sort of thing; indeed, I discourage while they demand. I give them major kudos for setting their goals and following through.]

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Pause for Reflection; Topic: Debt

[ed. note: I have written about this before, so the following will just be a synopsis.]

It was the mid-80s. I was entering my junior year in college when my father went bankrupt. Up until then (and, indeed, even today), I referred to my ATM card as my "Magic Money Card," because there was always money there (I was a ghost employee at my father's firm, making $8.00/hour, deposited--by magic--on a weekly basis). Even before that, I carried a significant amount of debt (having to do with business machinations on my father's end--a story in itself; I myself was rarely profligate with finances, a skinflint even then; did I mention that in high school I used to forego lunch to save the 75 cents my mother gave me every day?).

My college roommate still recalls the late-night phone calls from debt collectors: a literal wake-up call! Even post-graduation, living more or less for free on floors and in basements (to include a coal cellar--can you say pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis?), it took some doing to reduce my debts. I entered the military with $13,000 to go (sounds so small these days, but it was big back then!) and the motto "Debt Free in '93." Goal achieved, and the rest is history. In the grad skool round, I managed to MAKE money while studying. Those were the days...

In any case: here is a more extreme example, and food for thought (and reflection) on your own situation. How bad off are YOU? And, no matter how bad, you can still fix it. As my father used to say when things went wrong (or broke or were destroyed) "Anything can be fixed." What he meant was "any thing" (i.e., humans--especially human hearts--are more difficult/costly to mend/replace than situations or "stuff").

So, read on from the blog Make Love, Not Debt about one member of the pair's wicked, horrific spending addiction (and it's metamorphosis) here.

Six more stories about extreme savings.

Related topic: Greed, or Bad People Acting Badly.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Everything Rolls Downhill

I was thinking today of a post-graduate interaction with my college dean. Apologies in advance that I forget the main topic or the advice rendered, but maybe five years after graduation my college dean met with me to discuss my life. After our meeting, he sent me a letter with some more advice as well as some contacts he had made on my behalf. Again, I forget the exact circumstances, but I remember responding with a question: how does one repay the extension of assistance?

He replied that there was no need, that the assistance should extend downward, that I was..."obliged" might be overstatement but let us say "expected" to, in turn, help someone else further down the chain, in an appropriate way at an appropriate time.

You see: that's how it works, dear people.

In a local context (and the trigger for the memory): now and again my in-laws help with our life (because they can, because it pleases them, because we house their grandchildren, because we are family, your reason here). In some ways, such help is near awkward (I earn a good living and I do not let others know of my finances one way or the other), but of course, we are grateful. And their help is consonant with my own goals/beliefs. I am here to guide, instruct, counsel, aid, and defend my offspring. I fully intend to do so until Death. Indeed, their needs come before my own in many important ways.

Please do not construe the following in anything other than cultural terms:

Apparently, when veteran aid workers were re-deployed from Africa to Bosnia (Remember Bosnia? *I* do.), they were confused by what they saw. They had shown up with all sorts of supplies, medicines, and foods for the children, but the children looked, for the most part, well-fed and reasonably healthy and happy. Their parents, on the other hand, often suffered malnutrition; why? Because they put their children first, foregoing their own food for the benefit of their children (you know, their future and all...).

That is how it is supposed to be. D-rwin would have approved.

We must find the grace to accept help from those ahead of us, and remember to, in turn, help those behind us. That is how it is supposed to be, and it may require a reduction in personal consumption to effect meaningful exchange.

I am surprised at how often I need to re-learn this lesson, first inculcated by my dean (Thanks, Dean F!). Oh, and thanks to my in-laws.

Have I mentioned how lucky, how gosh-darn lucky I am? Really, I am. And grateful for each day, mindful to approach each day with wonder.